Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Home Front

A short, silent walk brought us to Ina's doorstep. Jane rang the bell, then pushed inside, dragging her suitcases. "Mother," she yelled, "I'm back! And I'm not leaving."

"Go away," said a thin, whispery voice from the parlor. "I have no daughter."

"Yes, you do!" said Jane, dropping the suitcases with a dust-stirring "whump."
"And like it or not, it's me."

I looked around. The house had grown shabbier in the servantless months since Pearl Harbor. The clock longer ticked, laundry was heaped on the fading mahogany furniture, and the houseplants were mummified into dry, brown stalks.

Jane stormed  into the parlor, her shoes raising little puffs of dust like the mortar shells in the newsreels. "Mother, you've got to face facts. Dad's gone, David's gone, and the money's gone. We both know that Tad's no help, so like it or not I'm all you've got." Ina's face crumpled. Tears of anguish or rage or both flooded into the lines creasing her cheeks.

Jane's voice softened. "You raised me to be proud of my family and I am. These are harsh times, but we're still Sullivans. We were here in Seattle long before those upstarts like the Boeings and we'll be here long after. I'm fighting to end the war for David's memory, and I won't rest until it's over. Every Flying Fortress dropping every bomb on every Jap and every Nazi had Sullivan hands on it, and I'm making damned sure those planes are worthy of the name."

A long silence. I notice a few leaves on the Japanese maple outside the window have the faintest hint of red.

Then Ina sobs. "Come here, I'm so sorry!" She hugs Jane tightly. I can't say for sure, but I thought something glistened on Jane's cheek.

I let myself out and walked back home though the warm, still evening.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Material Things

Ever since I went shopping with Susan downtown last week I've been feeling sort of blue. Even with the war on there are still plenty of temptations in places like Nordstrom's, Frederick & Nelson's and the Bon Marche. August is the usual time to buy furniture at the big sales, and I've got heaps of money from my job at Boeing. I heard one of the girls at the plant announce with amazement that she's earning more than her enlisted-man husband, and I suppose that's true for a lot of us.

But my heart's just not in it for shopping. All the coats, shoes and bedroom sets in the world aren't going to bring Bob home any quicker, and I don't seem to have room in my mind at the moment for much else.

What little attention I do have remaining is taken up by Jane, my unanticipated roommate. She's a diversion, no question about that. But whether she knows it or not my sympathy for her plight is in a race with my impatience, and the latter is gaining with every stride. She may have failed as a Hollywood starlet but her life has enough drama for three movies, and it's taking up more space than my bungalow can accommodate.

I'm going to have to figure out a way to "encourage" Jane to straighten out her situation with her mother before I go completely batty. My furniture may be old, but I'd rather be the only one using it until Bob returns.