I have long suspected that I'm a “Sugar Baby”. What does that mean? Well, let me tell you a story...
Sugar rationing during the war, World War II that is, fell heavily on my father. No, he didn't fight. He was born earlier than the Greatest Generation. Most of them were born during the Great Depression. He was born during the Great War, the War to End All Wars, World War I. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, my father was already a family man with a wife and a young son. However, I suspect that he wanted another son to increase his sugar ration.
A cool breeze ruffled the surface of the bay, but it failed to stir the Stars 'n Stripes as they were lowered into the waiting hands of the sailors who stood at attention on the fantail of the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy. A lone bugler played taps as it descended.
Another group of sailors from the Peoples Republic of China stood by holding their own flag, folded in readiness. Their band stood ready to play their national anthem when it was raised.
The ship's name and number had already been replaced. Within hours, it would depart San Francisco as The People's Revolution. It would be accompanied the same task force that had sailed with it since its launching, all similarly re-flagged, renamed, and crewed by Chinese sailors.
Joe pushed the cart along the dimly lit corridor while Eddy steered. Although every step was monitored under the baleful eye of strategically placed cameras, their conversation was private.
“Well, he's gone,” Joe said.
“Where do you think he ended up?”
Eddy shrugged like a person who didn't know, wasn't supposed to know, never expected to know.
Joe paused in his labor to adjust his collar. “Damn starch,” he muttered. The reflex to unbutton it was frozen by the stare of the camera. He resumed his labor and the conversation. “Hank went back, right?”
“Yeah, the past. That's all he could talk about. No fingerprints. No DNA. The cops won't catch him again.”
“Yeah. That's what I'd choose.”
“You plan on gettin' back in the business when you get out?”
“What else? I don't know nuthin' 'bout nuthin' else.”
“If you get caught again, it'll be your third strike. The death sentence.”
“Or I can take the time machine.”
“You'd go back, like Hank?”
“Sure. Gimme the past. Same reason.”
Elly looked exhausted sitting alone at her husband Brad's beside in the ICU.
“No, I haven't eaten yet.”
I had left Elly the night before after Brad had been wheeled in from the OR
“Did you get any sleep?”
“Sort of,” she responded tapping on the arms of the chair.
“Why don't you get something to eat and some sleep?”
Elly hesitated and agreed with a weak nod.
I helped her up and set her on her way to the cafeteria before taking up her station in the chair.
Imagine my surprise when, early in my sixth decade, I discovered that I had an aunt and twelve cousins of whom I had never even heard. I found a faded black and white photograph of two boys about seven or eight years of age, one who grew up to be a Nazi-sympathizer, my father. Before you condemn him, remember that he was in good company with people like Charles Lindbergh and Joseph Kennedy, father of President Kennedy. On the back of the photo someone had inscribed that the other boy was his nephew. I never really put it together that my father's nephew would be my cousin.
Several years ago I was speaking with an aged aunt, my father's sister. “Speaking with” does not quite describe it. Conversations with Anna were more like being spoken to. Sometime during the telephone call she mentioned that she had been talking to her sister's daughter. It took me about fifteen minutes to stop her and guide her back to that point.
“Your sister's daughter? I didn't know you had a sister.”
“Of course,” she explained, obviously perplexed that I didn't know. “Your Aunt Mary.”
I had never heard of Mary.
When I asked my father, he merely flipped his hand dismissively and said, “Oh her, she married a drunk and we never talked about her.”
Being a Nazi-sympathizer was the least of my father's failings.
Julia cried out and tried to follow her grandfather but her mother held her back.
“Grandpa's going to a new home, honey.”
“But I don't want him to go.”
Her mother searched but couldn't find an answer.
The man with the clipboard looked on, unmoved by the anguish in little Julia's cries.
“She seems very attached to her grandfather.”
Julia's mother smoothed her child's hair.
When she glanced up she saw that the man was writing something on his clipboard.
“Well, not that attached.”
Barbara relaxed at the word.
She pulled up a chair and sat at his bedside while the nurse finished her chores.
When she turned back to her husband she found him smiling at her.
“Is it morning?”
“Thank God for another day.”
Barbara returned his smile and placed her hand on his. His felt cold.
“How are you feeling?”
“Ready for it to end.”
“What's wrong with grandpa?”
Helen looked over her shoulder at her husband sitting on the floor, playing Go Fish with the grandchildren whose computers had mysteriously lost their Internet connections.
Turning back to the sink she continued peeling potatoes and shrugged with a glance towards her daughter.
“Nothing. Why do you ask?”
“He hasn't said a word since we got here.”
“He just said 'Go Fish'.”
Helen's daughter Rachel studied her father and frowned.
“That's not really talking,” she responded with emphasis on “really”.
“I've noticed it too,” Helen's other daughter Kristy chimed in.
Helen bent her attention to the potatoes.
“Seriously, mom,” Rachel persisted. “He's going to ruin Thanksgiving.”
Nick Andrews hasn't killed yet.
He carries one of the finest infantry rifles ever made, an M1 Garand.
He's on the high ground in a target-rich environment.
But he can't pull the trigger.
One shot, he knows, just one would unleash all hell on him.
The Chinese Communist Army that swarms the roads in the valleys below know he's there. However they have a mission and it doesn't include chasing around the Korean mountains after stragglers, especially those who don't annoy them. Sooner or later they expect him to die of the cold or starvation, or simply wander down and surrender. That's what so many other American stragglers have done since the Chinese invaded across the Yalu River and defeated the Eighth Army and their UN allies.
Dick Latham is a United States Marine whose story is missing a chapter. Members of every branch of the United States military wear their story upon their chest. Each chapter is written in a language of ribbons colloquially known as brag rags. In addition to tales of valor, meritorious service and achievement, almost every war, battle, campaign, and victory has its own distinctly color encoded ribbon. Almost, but not quite, and therein lies the gap in Dick's tale.
Dick has a collection of brag rags that one might expect of a veteran Marine of his age with more than 11 years of active duty. World War II Victory Medal: American Theater. China Service Medal. Good Conduct Medal with two bars. National Defense Service Medal. Korean Service Ribbon. United Nations Service Ribbon, Navy Operation. Marine Corps Security Guard Ribbon. Each tells a story. However, one chapter transcends all the others. Dick is an Atomic Veteran, one of nearly 300,000 who were witnesses, some would say guinea pigs, at atmospheric tests of nuclear devices. His close encounter with an atomic bomb occurred somewhere in the deserts of Nevada, but no acknowledgment was ever forthcoming, no award recognizing it ever existed.