Saturday, November 12, 2011

Story Eleven: Life in Wartime

This turns out to be another snapshot of a much, much larger piece. Which surprised me as this was not the story I originally sate down to write with the prompt of someone from a U-Boat watching a game. One of the kids had heard his grandfather tell him about German sailors wandering around places like Revere Beach, Coney Island and other landmarks during WWII. What could have been a cute story wants to be a much larger arc around real spies that came through during Hitler's obsession to attack New York. Now I will have to go and read and research about German spies who were caught in the US during those years as well as the various U-Boats sunk or pursued off the east coast in the 40's.

So this is one that will get filed until the characters want to tell me what they want to do and where they want to go. But in the meantime, here is a snapshot of a wartime scene that happens, first at Fenway and later elsewhere.


Sitting in the oaken seats at the ball park, Eric and Will tried to look as though they fit in with the people around them.

“I don’t understand,” Will whispered to Eric, “why are we here?”

“Because there is nothing more American than baseball and you need to be able to speak intelligently about the game with people,” he hissed. “Now pay attention.”

William was uncomfortable with interacting with Americans. Ever since they had rowed ashore from the U-Boat a few nights before, he was subject to Eric’s lead. Eric had been born in Philadelphia and went to school in Boston before moving back to Germany and joining the spy corps. William had preferred his initial introduction to the spy corps when he spent his time at cocktail parties listening to conversations and reporting back to shadowy figures wearing Homburgs. He missed sleeping in late, beautiful women and cocktail parties. He understood that Hitler wanted to attack New York, Boston and Philadelphia to make a statement but he missed the good life.

Eric seemed to enjoy the men on the field in their white woolen uniforms with crisp red piping. Every so often he’d shout out encouragement or punch Will in the arm to recount what just happened on the field.

By the third inning, Will had had enough and got up to seek out the men’s room. He stood at the trough hating this assignment even more. He hated the cramped quarters of the sub. He hated the weather. He hated the trains and having to sit on his suitcase because the compartments were full. He hated the boarding houses and he hated this game.

As he headed back to his seat, when he noticed the woman. A tall willowy blonde that spilled down her back. Her floral dress fit her like a glove. Her long legs seemed even longer in the heels that matched her dress and her blue eyes. She was was handing a hot dog to a young boy with her. He looked just like her. He could have been a younger brother or, heaven forbid, her son.

He decided to take a chance.

“Excuse me Miss,” he said relying on his British training. “I seem to be lost. Would you know where section 14 is?”

The boy eyed him suspiciously but said nothing. The woman flushed a little.

“If you go that way,” she said pointing away from where they were standing, “just a couple of ramps, then you’ll see the sign for section 14.”

“Thank you,” he said kissing the back of her hand.

“Ah,” she stood a bit flustered.

“My apologies, was I too forward? I just arrived in your country and my cousin thought it would be a good thing for me to learn about baseball. Perhaps you and your…” his voice trailed off.

“My brother,” she said. There was a bit of a giggle to her voice. “His father is fighting in Europe and I thought it would be nice to give my sister a break.”

The boy looked at her and then back at Will. Will could tell the boy didn’t like him, but if he was going to be stuck in this town, he might as well enjoy himself a little.

“My name is William, William Black.”

“I’m Rachel Goldman.”

He kissed her hand again. “Perhaps you could show me where this section is?”

Rachel blushed again, when her brother piped up.

“I’m sure any one of the ushers could show you where you need to go. C’mon Auntie Ray, we should get back to our seats. I’m missing the game.” He pulled on her hand.

Will shot the boy a look.

“Stop being rude Joshua,” she hissed.

“Auntie Ray, the game.”

“I can see you have obligations,” William said. “Perhaps another time.”

Rachel smiled. “Perhaps, here,” she took a pen and a pad of paper out of her purse and wrote down her phone number before giving it to him. “Maybe you can give me a call sometime?”

“Maybe,” he smiled. “I’m going to be in Boston for at least another month or so.”

Josh pulled on her again. William tipped his hat and moved off in the direction she had pointed. When he was out of sight, Josh looked at his aunt.

“I don’t like him.”

“Josh, don’t be silly.”

“His accent slipped, twice, while flirting with you. He’s not a good man.”

“I think you’ve been in the sun too long.”

“I think mama’s right, you’re lonely.”

“Joshua Goldman!”

“It’s true. Ever since Sol and dad went to Europe to fight.”

She looked at her nephew. He had grown up so much since the men left for war six months ago. He took his father’s charge of being “the man” of the house seriously.

“Just because someone has an accent doesn’t make them German.”

“I’m telling you he’s not a good person.”

“Let’s go back to the game.”

Back in the stands Eric looked at Will.

“What took so long?”


Eric looked at his colleague. “If you’re not careful, we’ll have nothing but trouble.”

Will smiled. “Don’t worry, sometimes you need to live a little. Besides, a pretty girl could be a nice distraction in a boring town like this.”

“You can’t afford to be distracted Will.”

“Stop being such a stick in the mud. Here we are in this little cow town at least we can have a little fun. Don’t you think that it would help us understand things just a bit better.”

“I know where you’re going with this. I’m telling you to focus.”

“Just like you’re focusing on this game.”

Eric stared at Will.

“Trust me when I say this, the second your need for fun interferes with our work, it will end immediately.”

“Of course, of course,” Will smiled, “but I wouldn’t worry if I were you. I know how to handle myself.”

“Be sure you do,” Eric warned, “be sure you do.”

They watched the rest of the game, Will thinking about the young woman he just met and Eric sensing trouble ahead for them if he couldn’t keep Will focused.

That night, when the phone rang, Rachel hurried to it answer.

“Good evening, is Rachel home?”

“This is Rachel.”

“Rachel, this is Will. We met earlier at the park.

“I remember. How are you Will?”

“I was wondering, would you like to go out to dinner sometime? Perhaps tomorrow night?”

“How about lunch? I work downtown.”

“Lunch is good. Lunch is friendly.”

“Meet me in front of Liberty Mutual at noon and we’ll maybe go to the lunch counter nearby.”

“That would be nice.”

“Tomorrow at noon it is,” he said.

As Rachel hung up the phone, she saw her sister-in-law’s disapproving stare.

“Josh told me about that man.”

“Josh is a boy who is taking his duties as the oldest man in the house too seriously.”

“He’s right, you need to be more careful.”

“Do you honestly think a German spy asked for my phone number?”

“No, but I think there are bad men in this world and you need to be careful.”

“I miss them too Sarah but my life isn’t over because my boyfriend went to war.”

“No, but you shouldn’t be making time with some new boy while he’s fighting over there.”

“I’m not making time with a new boy.”

“You’re having lunch with him.”

“Sarah don’t be silly. If I were making time, I’d go to dinner with him.”

“Does he know you’re Jewish?”

“With a name like Goldman, how can he not know.”

“Take my advice, stay away from him. I agree with Joshua, something just doesn’t feel right about this.”

“Why? Because he called and asked to have lunch?”

“Just call it a hunch. Think about what Sol is fighting for over there. What happens when he comes home?”

“I’ll find out when that happens now won’t I?”

“Will you be here for Shabbat or will you be with this Englishman?”

“You know what Sarah, sometimes you can be a real jerk.”

Rachel turned and headed off to her room, slamming the door behind her.

Sarah sat down at the table, her head in her hands. She wasn’t sure how long she could hold things together. With two children and a husband at war, she had her hands full. Now that she was working at a local school she was able to make ends meet while her husband fought overseas. Rachel living in the spare bedroom and her work as a secretary made things easier and allowed them some luxuries on occasion.

She didn’t like Rachel’s boyfriend, Sol, but he was her husband’s friend from way back. If Ethan trusted Sol with his sister, then Sarah would have to trust him as well. But she also trusted her son’s judgement. Joshua had a sense that most men wish they had and if he didn’t like this new man courting Rachel, then she had good reason to question him as well.

“Sarah,” it was Rachel’s voice. Sarah looked up at her sister in law and friend.

“I need to get dinner ready. Sometimes I just feel so tired.”

“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fight with you. It’s just, well, I feel so lonely sometimes. It’s nice that there’s a man that makes me feel like I’m worth getting to know.”

“I know we’re not Orthodox Rachel, but being Jewish is a big part of who we are and how we live. I worry that this man won’t understand that about us.”

She sat down at the table and took Sarah’s hands in hers.

“You’re my sister in more ways than one. I don’t mean to hurt you.”

“I know. I just worry, I can’t help it.”

“I’d worry if you didn’t”

The women smiled.

“So I can meet this man for lunch?”

Sarah smile. “Of course you can. I couldn’t stop you if I wanted.”

“I promise it will just be lunch.”

“Just promise that if he seems off that you’ll trust your instincts and go.”

“I promise.”

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