wasn’t sure where the unction had come from to take it up again, but Heath loved the release of physical work. Somehow, carving skimmed away another layer of the dull pain around his heart and found the fresh surface of hope. Day by day, he was starting to believe he could be happy again.
Tracey-Love shivered and moaned. Heath arched forward and snatched the afghan from the back of the couch and draped it over her. The early spring evenings were damp and cool.
Back to his blank page, Heath searched for the story brewing beneath. Closing his eyes, he let his thoughts wander. A picture of Granddad, a man of many adventures and stories, floated past his mind’s eye. Stationed in the Aleutian Islands during the war, he’d flown P-36s and P-40s for the Army’s 11th Air Force.
He’d been a tall, athletic, good-looking flyer with lots of charisma. When Heath was about fifteen, Granddad came to New York for an 11th Air Force reunion and invited Heath to tag along. That evening, Heath learned his granddad’s exploits extended beyond taming the wild brush of Edisto Island.
Into his college years, Heath made a hobby of collecting and reading World War II books.
The first hint of a story settled in Heath’s mind based on two of his loves, Granddad and history.
The Alaskan day was cloaked in its usual darkness and the few hours of light that dawned midday barely disturbed the hovering canvas of night. Captain Chet McCord of the 18th Pursuit Squadron entered the mess hall on Elmendorf Air Base, grabbed a dark mug of joe, and straddled a chair at one of the card tables.
“Tired, Captain?” asked First Sgt. Lipton in charge of the ground crew. He winced at his cards and tossed them to the table. “I got nothing.”
Yes, Chet was tired.
“They keep you boys flying, don’t they?” Lipton again.
“Can’t let the Japs catch us on the ground.” Chet sipped the coffee, then made a face. It had to be three days old. He’d give a month’s pay for his mama’s coffee.
Since the Japanese had bombed Pearl, “Yellow Peril” rocked the northwest, including Alaska and the Aleutians Islands. Bogus wave radio reports about a U.S. invasion kept citizens on edge and the Army Air Corps flying.
(Note to self: do more research on the army’s position tactics in the Northwest.)
Across the mess hut, a boyish, carefree flyer from Oklahoma stood on a chair, pounding his palm.“All right, who has news from home? Come on, somebody, something, anything.”
“Sit down,Wilkins. Stop tormenting the boys with your ugly mug. You know nobody has a recent letter from home.”
Lieutenant Wilkins wasn’t easily deterred. “Then who has old news from home? Stone, didn’t you have a girl writing you regular? Alice whatshername, right? Long legs, Betty Grable figure.”
Sgt. Stone shuffled cards. “Found herself an officer at the USO.”
A few of the boys patted his shoulder.“Sorry, Stone.”
“What about you, Captain McCord?” Stone shifted the attention away from himself. “Someone’s always writing you.”
“Yeah.” Wilkins jumped off the chair. “Aunt Bess. Did she send you any cake lately?”
The men erupted with laughter. Aunt Bess was a camp legend. But not for her cake—for her face.
Wilkins circled the table, bringing the new recruits up to speed. “Boys, Aunt Bess ain’t like my Aunt Bess.” He formed an hourglass in the air with his hands. “Not a sweet little old lady, stooped over with a few teeth missing. No sir, McCord’s Aunt Bess is a smart, good-looking doll with perfect teeth and hair like the rays of sun over the wheat fields. But she’s the worst cook this side of the Mississippi. Sent us a cake once and we all ended up calling for the medic. Chet, I heard CINPAC is thinking of commissioning her cookies to fire at the enemy.”
“What do you say, McCord? Any news from Aunt Bess?” called a private across the room.“I’d kill for one of her cookies.”
More laughter. Chet surveyed the boys,
Master of The Highland (html)
Reshonda Tate Billingsley