Thursday, April 26, 2012
A week of highs and lows. First, I discover that my car won't start because rats have built nests in the engine compartment and eaten the wiring. I persuaded that strange, nearly silent electrical engineer Dwight Gray from the Boeing factory to come over to help me fix it. I'd like to drive to Portland to visit my mother - she doesn't sound well on the phone. Our gasoline supplies are due to be cut in half here in Seattle in a week; the merchants say it'll work out to about 25 gallons per driver per month. So if I want to get behind the wheel for any distance it's now or never.
Speaking of rats, it turns out we've got one in human form working right here in Boeing! That suave riveter Grant Wilson was courting my friend Susan Johnson for the last several weeks. My former tormentor Frank Lomax, of all people, got concerned. He took me, Betty and Jane to an old, nondescript apartment building across the street from the plant. Turns out those Lester Apartments used to be an infamous whorehouse! when They were built 30 years ago by a corrupt Seattle police chief, who actually got a percentage of the girls' earnings if you can imagine such a thing! Frank says that's all in the past now, but evidently a couple of "working girls" were still using the place. Who should pop out of their door at lunch but our very own Mr. "I'm named after two presidents" Wilson! Caught red-handed (to put it politely), Grant agreed to break things off with Susan, though evidently he told her some cockamamie story about needing to marry within his church. Some church that is!
I just remembered something Grant said when we first met: Jane asked him why he wasn't in the service. His answer: "Heart trouble." Indeed.
On the happier side, Betty got another letter from her husband Joe in Alaska. He's contending with mud and an unbelievable profusion of mosquitoes. I was jealous at first, but then on Sunday, my first wedding anniversary, I was astonished and thrilled to get a radiotelephone call from Bob, all the way from Australia! He was only able to talk for a few minutes and I could only hear about every other word, but it meant so much to me to hear his voice for the first time in four months.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I had the strangest dream last night.
Most mornings my clanging alarm clock crashes through visions of fighter planes roaring and circling over forests of coconuts. I don't really know what Bob's world looks like, but my restless mind does its best to fill in the gaps.
But today is different. For weeks now we've faced growing shortages and restrictions here in the Northwest. I read the Seattle Daily Times every evening and I know that our "hardships" are nothing compared with the suffering in Europe. We have sturdy roofs over our heads, clothes on our backs and more than enough to eat. But it's a strange feeling to have money in my pocket and little to buy. My job at Boeing pays 60 cents an hour, which is a great wage, but sugar, gasoline, cars, tires and clothes are all rationed or restricted in one way or another. The paper says there's talk in Washington, DC of creating a system of stamps and ration cards. For now the shops are simply forbidden to sell more than certain amounts to a customer. For cars, washing machines, refrigerators, bicycles and most other large metal items its even simpler: They're not being manufactured any more.
Last night all the missing luxuries flooded back into my mind. There were sleek new automobiles and gleaming washers. Three-layer chocolate cakes with deep swirls of buttery icing. A thick, soft wool coat swept out of the closet to envelop me, and boxes of new sweaters and skirts in the latest styles were stacked on the sofa.
Then as quickly as they appeared, all the forbidden fruits drained away and transformed themselves. Into bombers and guns and explosives and uniforms and soldiers' rations; the things the posters and magazine ads constantly remind us we need to win the war. It seemed every material thing in the Northwest was snatched away by a tornado like Dorothy's house in "The Wizard of Oz" and dropped on distant shores. Salmon and lumber and ships were all scattered from Scotland to the South Pacific.
Then my dream turned to my own house. Our car rolled out of the garage driverless, sprouted wings, and turned into Bob's P-38, flashing and diving over New Guinea just as it did in all my usual dreams.
By the time Stormy's hungry meows woke me, the alarm had been ringing for so long that the clock was almost completely unwound. I dragged myself out of bed, pulled on my chenille robe, poured a cup of cold coffee and got ready for another day in the bomber factory.