Thursday, July 20, 2017

Interlude #1

It was December 1945 and our nation couldn't be happier. WWII had just ended and our boys were coming home. Of course it wasn't just all boys coming home. Senior Leader, or 1st Sergeant had she been a man, Carmelina Di Palma was too. She had been assigned overseas with the WAAC (Women's Army Auxiliary Corps) to help with the Allied efforts, specifically language translation. After being gone for almost three years, Carmelina was finally home. Initially there were parades and celebrations but all Carmelina wanted was to be with her famiglia. While stationed in Sigonella, Sicily she did have some distant relatives that, by order of her mother, took very good care of her. Between the Army and her relatives, Carmelina probably had one of the most comfortable experiences one could hope to have during the second great war but it only made her want the comforts of home even more.

She returned home two weeks before Christmas. It had been a Thursday and after almost drowning in baci e vino that evening, Carmelina slept all day and night that Friday. It was the best sleep she had had in two year. When she woke that Saturday morning, there was a letter on her nightstand. It said it was from CPT Luca Santoro and that was a name she had not heard from in a long time.

Long story short, Luca and her had a whirlwind weekend affair. Neither had known the other prior to that unexpected granting of weekend leave or furlough. Home addressses had been exchanged but this had long slipped her memory. She did remember his smooth jet black hair and gentle smile though. He had a kindness in his eyes that immediately made her trust him. Yes, the slip of paper with Luca's address had been lost to time but his memory lived strong in Carmelina's heart and now he was back, address and all. With nervous excitement she opened the letter. Luca was coming home on Monday...two days from now. He wanted her to meet him at the train station but how did he know she was already home? That wasn't important. Now she needed her mother's help to welcome home her future husband, another little something Carmelina's mother had been working on behind the scenes.

Carmelina met Luca right on time and they celebrated 1946 by getting married on January 1st, right at midnight. Within a few years they had two children, a son and a daughter, and both were successfully happy with their lives and careers. By the time 1950 rolled around, Luca started suffering from terrible headaches and anxiety attacks. He would yell, run, and hit things as if he were somewhere else. It became too violent for Carmelina and the kids, especially when Luca turned to alcohol to try and soothe his pain. She moved them into the house on 1414 Carroll Way because it was closer to her mother who helped while Luca was getting treatment. Luca's condition did not improve and on December 31, 1950, minutes short of their five year anniversary, Luca passed. The mental stress of his condition pushed his heart beyond its limits. Carmelina was now a single parent with the love of her life gone.

Time passed and Carmelina's children completed school, moved on into college, the first in their family, and eventually started their own careers and families. There was the occassional letter with some pictures but they never visited. Time had stopped in Mrs. Santoro's house. It stopped when Luca stopped. It was still December 31, 1950 and while it was a clean and tidy home, it was one her children no longer felt comfortable in. Mrs. Santoro continued to live within herself, and the past, until one day the doorbell rang.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Part 2

The captains for the two teams were Eli and Slips. Automatically Little Sandwich went to Eli's team before it was even decided who would pick first. Roland whispered to Stencils, "What gives?" "They are sort of a package deal, even when one of them isn't a captain," she whispered back. Slips spoke up and called dibs on first pick and took Stencils so it was me and the other three. When all was said and done, Slips reluctantly sighed,"Alright. Guess I got the newbie. Let's go kid."

We all stepped out onto the court, eyeing up our opposition. Of course Eli had to say something. "I got new guy. I don't feel like workin' today," he said with a casual confidence. Everyone was matched up and the game started.

"Check."
"Ball in."

The scramble to get open was on. Eli slid around Little Sandwich, who set a pick, and took the ball from the top of the key. Roland knew he was in trouble because now he was guarding Little Sandwich and that's where the next pass went. Roland was facing him as Little Sandwich took the pass in the far corner of the court. He dribbled in a couple steps, gave him a head fake, and spun back down the baseline for the dunk a la Brice Johnson on Lonzo Ball. Pretty sure the rim wasn't regulation but it didn't matter. This was not the first impression Roland had been hoping for. Slips was immediately in my face. "What are you doing? At least foul him if you can't guard him." He fired back, "How 'bout a little help?! You were right there, too." They stared at each other. Slips was slightly taller but Roland didn't back down. Walking backwards away from each other, eyes locked, they got set. "You guys good?" asked Stencils, not really sure of what exactly was going on. She saw them nod and play resumed.

Eli was bringing the ball in and passed to his teammate. He tried the same play but Roland saw the screen coming and ran behind it. This left Eli open for a split second and when he caught the pass he pulled up and fired a three. Roland made a jump to block, desperate for redemption, and connected. The ball went flying out of bounds right over the top of that old fence with the barbed wire. Roland was pumped! He turned to celebrate but there was no response except the vacant looks on their faces. "Nice block," Stencils mumbled, her words dripping with sarcasm. "Now you gotta go get it."

Roland knew he was missing something. Why was he not being cheered? The ball is just on the other side of the fence. What was the big deal? They all turned their heads up to the open window on the other side of the fence. The curtains fluttered in the breeze but there was no one to be seen. "She's watching," said Slips. Little Sandwich was moving his head side to side, trying to get a better view, "I don't see anything....WAIT!" Time froze on the court. There appeared to be a passing shadow that paused, maybe to look, but that was all. A few of us took a step back or two. Roland didn't move because he was still lost to this whole situation. "So how do I get it?" he asked. "Is there a gate or something?" Slips answered as if the words she spoke were sacred, "There is no gate. Her section of the alley is fenced on both sides. The only way in is through the front door...through her.  Mrs. Santoro."

All the stories Roland's new friends had heard about Mrs. Santoro were all "true." Each of them knew someone who had heard from someone else a shocking and disturbing truth about this mysterious woman who inhabited 1414 Carroll Way. There were even some images pulled up on their social media accounts that claim to be images or recordings of #MrsSantoroSightings.

Roland made his way around the block to her front door and with a bit of courageous fear, as the others all followed from a safe distance, he pressed the doorbell.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Part 1

Roland's new home wasn't anything spectacular but it was better than boy's home. Him and five other boys were stuffed into three sets of bunk beds in a single room. That gets crowded real quick so automatically this was an upgrade because his room was just that. This wasn't Roland's first go round at a foster home. He lost count of how many times he almost had a home, a family. Roland just tried to be himself. With a little luck the paperwork would be good, they all would get along, and then Roland would have a new family in a month or so. There had been a few months of visitations leading up to this test drive to see how all of us would fit together. His room was like any boy's room that was his age. Bed, dresser, couple of windows, closet, and a laundry bin. There were no posters yet as Roland had not entirely revealed his likes and dislikes. He emptied all his laundry, clean and dirty, out of the duffle bag to be cleaned to start his potentially new life as fresh as possible. The duffle bag was a standard issue Navy gear, a drab green, with someone else's name and information spray painted on in the usual military stenciling. Roland had crossed out their name and wrote his above it but left everything else. Made him feel like he was important, that he belonged somewhere.

Roland heard voices out the far window and peered down. There were seven kids playing basketball on a half-court in the alleyway. Currently one was waiting as the numbers only allowed teams of three for maximum players. If he was going to be here for a while he might as well get to know the locals. So Rolnad asked permission from his "parents" and went to find them. He walked out the front door, even though the back door went out into the alley way, and casually sauntered towards the voices. Roland did all the usual checks for a middle schooler:

  1. cool clothes - check
  2. cool shoes (freshly cleaned & not fake) - check
  3. fully charged cell phone (newest iPhone) - check
He was ready.



When he turned the corner he got a close up of what he had seen from the window. All the kids were still there except now Roland could see the backdrop of the court. There was a portable basketball hoop held down by five or six hardened bags of concrete. Behind that was a wooden fence with barbed wire spiraling across the top while a fresh set of laundry flapped harmlessly in the early summer breeze drying in safety. Not what he expected but whatever. He just wanted to show off his skills to these kids and chill for a while. That's when someone noticed Roland and yelled,"Hey! Who's the new kid?!" He swallowed hard as they ran up and circled around. Roland tried not to fidget and play it cool. They curiously looked him up and down.

"You new here?"

"You seen'em before, stupid?! Watchu think?!"
"Easy guys. Don't freak'em out."

He told them his name but no one else had told him theirs. They asked where he was from, how he ended up here, were his shoes real, the usual getting to know the new kid stuff. It wasn't long before someone said let's play a game, four on four. That's when Roland learned some of their names.


There was Eli, short for Elijah, who shot off at the mouth all the time. He had a little bit of an attitude, probably because he was the shortest. Eli talked big and that was about it because he had Little Sandwich to back him up. Now Little Sandwich wasn't exactly as "little" as you might think. His name was Oliver Subramanian, which is a pretty long last name that has a type of sandwich in the first three letters. I guess it is meant as more of a joke because his nickname is about as long as his given name and since he stood 6'4" at age 13 it was even funnier. Stencils, or KayLynn, was next. Again, a nickname that didn't fit because she was a tremendous artist for only being 12. She went to the private art school in town and even had her own blog with original drawings and clothing designs. You'd have never guessed she was a baller by looking at her. Finally their was Aylis, or Slips as she was known by on the court. No one within four blocks had her style, moves, or quickness. She set the bar in our neighborhood, on and off the court.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Reflection

The past few days have been better from a writing point of view. I enjoy getting lost, even for a few moments, in what I am creating. I also am learning that finding time to write can happen anywhere. Even if it just scrawling notes, a few lines, an idea, whatever. It is what I want it to be.

Just. Write.

Swimming Hole

The sun felt warmer that morning for some reason. The Lieutenant couldn't quite put his finger on it but it was different. As he stretched out last night's cramps, all four hours of sleep, he did a quick head count to make sure all his men were present.

Kingston, Smokey, Williams, Hernandez, and so on down the enlisted paygrade scale. That's how the LT remembered everyone. It made things simple in a world that seemed to have it's own set of rules and even those seemed to change daily if not hourly. Lopez, McIntyre, Hauck.....Hauck....where is Hauck?

"Great", LT whispered, "probably a head call."

He spotted a semi-worn trail a few steps from where they camped and figured that it made sense for Hauck to use that. Easier to find your way back in this God forsaken jungle. Hopefully. LT grabbed his helmet, his M1 Garand and cautiously started making his way towards the path. LT wasn't new to country so he this was not the best of ideas for him or for Hauck. Being alone was always bad so LT knew this had to be resolved quickly. As he walked he heard what he thought was a waterfall in the distance and made his way there.

The sounds grew louder and reminded him of the swimming hole back at the farm. Swinging off the rope, the sensation of ice water over his skin, the huge splash and eruption of laughter he heard when he broke back through the surface of the water. Up until a few months ago, this was how LT and all his friends would spend their summers and it was these fond memories that temporarily erased some of the more gory recent images. While LT searched through the jungle for Hauck, ironically he noticed a little bounce to his step. As the waterfall came into view, a little grin even broke out. LT heard the sound of some others from the platoon headed this way and turned around to try and get a visual. It was then he felt it. More like LT heard it. The juicy sound of his last breath. The warm flood down his chest merely served as a visual aid to what had just happened. LT never saw his killer's eyes but as his fought to remain open, they locked with the cold stare coming from Hauck in the bush. The world faded as LT joined Hauck at the swimming hole, waiting for the others that would inevitably follow.