Friday, April 18, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - Composed - 4/20/08


It was a beautiful summer evening. The sunset casting long shadows across the lush green fields. Hot and humid, but not unpleasantly so. A slight breeze aiding the retreating sun in cooling the couple sitting in the porch swing. This was a quiet time, before the dark brought the cacophony of sound from the night creatures that hated the heat of the day as much as the farmer. This was the best time of day, as any rural South Carolina native will attest.

Something disturbed the silence. It was a car, still a couple of miles away but definitely heading their way. That was obvious because theirs was the only house the dusty road led to. They loved the fact that they could not hear highway traffic from their porch. It was rare that anyone came out here without calling. It was a long way to come to find out they were not home. But they always welcomed visitors with a smile and a glass of sweet tea.

Jack Francis immediately had a thought that struck him like a blow to the stomach. It was a flashback to an evening very similar to this in 1968, when down this very road came a visitor that he would never forget. Though forty years ago, he could recall every detail. It was a navy blue sedan with an eagle on the front of it. Jack’s dad had told him later that they always sent a colonel to give the family the condolences of the President of the United States. His older brother had been killed in Vietnam, in something called the Tet offensive. He remembered how composed his father had been when he shook hands with the Colonel and accepted the letter from President Johnson. Dad was not one to show emotion or weakness, but Jack knew in his heart that his dad had died that evening. He drew breath for nearly three more years, but he was never the same man. That evening did what 40 hard years of working a farm could never do. It broke him. His dad once confided in him over a too-large glass of Kentucky Bourbon that he was glad Jack’s mom had died two years before. "I am glad she was spared this. No one should have to bury their children,” he added with eyes misting. "They say God never gives you more than you can handle. They are liars."

Jack wanted to follow the path of all the men in his family and serve in the military but by the time he was old enough his dad had passed away and someone had to run the farm. He married his childhood sweetheart and though they would never be wealthy, they had a good life. They raised three wonderful children, who they were extremely proud of. All grown and gone, they now had only each other and these pleasant summer evenings together.

Their daughter, Charlotte (who they called Charley), was now a doctor in Charleston. Their youngest son, Taylor, was an architect in Raleigh. Their oldest son, Carey, was a marine. It was hard to keep up with where he was. They received tapes and letters but he didn't talk much about what he was doing. He didn't like to worry them.

Jack's thoughts were disturbed as the car came into view out of the dust. They had walked down the steps towards the road. He recognized the car immediately, though his wife, Dianne did not. He knew that because she was still smiling, ready to greet their visitors. No one else but the government bought a car like that, not these days. A late-model navy blue Crown Victoria. Nothing good ever comes out of such a car.

Even before the dying sunlight reflected on the silver eagle placard on the front of the government issue car, he knew. He knew what his dad knew 40 years ago. As he embraced Dianne, he only hoped he could be as composed.

19 comments:

anthonynorth said...

Heart wrenching. A salute.

GreenishLady said...

That's a heartbreaking - and still very composed - piece of writing. Your choice of photos was perfect too - some of them alone could bring a tear.

Shyam said...

*sniff*

Redheels said...

A touching story, it brought tears to my eyes. You have a way with words.

It reminded me of a story my Mama told me.....
the government sent telegrams to notify families when soldiers were missing or killed in action during World War II.

She recalled the night she saw the car from the telegraph office slowing driving down her road, checking addresses on each mailbox. "She couldn't breath, her heart in her throat." He was past her driveway; relief was spreading over her, all was okay.

In a second, she realized the car stopped at her sister's house. The dreaded telegram.....we regret to inform you.

paisley said...

my stomach is in knots.. that was so painful,, and so beautifully written....

Anonymous said...

Excellent Composing.
Amazing tale telling.
Miss Rose

Greyscale Territory said...

O help, this really moves the soul.

You have wrtitten this narrative so beautifully and the images add some extra atmosphere.

Gemma

Awareness said...

incredibly powerful piece....

a parent's worse nightmare. i cant imagine it, let alone imagine that I could maintain any sense of composure.

beautifully written.....thank you for taking the time to pull it all together. What is very clear to me is that you have written this from your heart.......

forgetfulone said...

What a well-written story. I love the word cacophony, and the details, like "sweet tea" (definitely a Southern thing). You had so MANY great details! And what a touching story. Sad, but satisfying.

Lucy said...

This was not the type of story I should have saved for a Sunny sunday morning. Oh my Rick.. this was so touching and so heartbreaking. I agree that god DOES sometimes give us more than we can handle. The details and imagery in your writings makes me HAVE to advise you again... PLease.. Write a book! I think all your fellow bloggers would be on line behind me at the book store. ♥

myrtle beached whale said...

Lucy:

I am not sure about my ability to sell books. Only 10 people read me here and it is free. LOL

Jennifer Hicks said...

touching and honourable. wonderful post.

annieelf said...

Life is simply a series of circles. This is one of the painful ones.

Amber said...

Words cannot express how I am feeling at this very moment after reading this post.

tumblewords said...

Heart breaking. You write so well! This piece brings lumps and tears.

Tammie Lee said...

That is one heart break of a story.
A tale well told. A tale I wish no one had to tell. Photos are amazing and perfect with this piece.

myrtle beached whale said...

Thanks so much for your comments. I had this story in my mind for a long time and thought it would be a good screenplay that would never get written.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you should put a warning on posts like this one. I am at work and totally choked up. :) Great story. Carly

Marsha said...

Terrific story! I came here from your post on Laura's 15 Words or Less Challenge and found an unexpected treasure!

Nice work!