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.

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