The Radio - A Short Story- Conclusion
For weeks, Danny slept fitfully; waking occasionally to look up at the ceiling, but the only glow was from the dim streetlight. The radio still worked fine, but all the facets on the crystal were a dull lead color. There was no yellow glow.
There was no further word about his father from the Army, and his mother’s face was now pale and drawn. He had heard others say it was easier to hear that someone was lost than to wonder what became of them. He would not allow himself to think his father was not coming home. He simply could not imagine life without him.
His paper had been entered in the scholarship contest, and Mrs. Hartman had seemed pleased, although she had said nothing. He supposed that she did not want him to get his hopes up, and he understood. He had little chance no matter how good it was, and he knew it.
Late August in Iowan was always hot and sticky, so most people slept with the windows open. To the south, heat lightning flashed soundlessly, and Danny was hoping it would develop into a cooling rain. Around midnight, he got his wish, when the first sprinkles blew through the open widow and onto his sleeping face. He got up, and for several fascinated minutes, he watched the lightning and the sheets of rain. Then a close bolt of lightning lit up the room, followed almost immediately by a loud clap of thunder. He hastily closed the window, and was ready to return to bed when he realized that the room was still lit up from the yellow glow of the lightning flash. Then reality dawned on him, and he ran to the radio. The facet was glowing a brilliant yellow. He slapped on the earphones and put the cat’s whisker on the yellow dot.
“Well Danny, this is it. We are ready for the final dash to our lines. I’m in a horse drawn cart, inside a wooden box and the whole darn thing is covered in horse manure. Not exactly pleasant accommodations, but it sure beats a German war prison. God is with me, Son. God is with me.”
He logged it and placed it inside the binder with the others. He was baffled by what was happening with the radio, and he even wondered if he was crazy or something. He had told no one about the strange messages, but he was absolutely certain that they came from his dad.
Fall in Iowa was beautiful, with crisp days, fall colors, and of course, the harvest and the fairs. Melissa wanted to go to Hawkeye Downs for the fair, and she wanted Danny to take her. She did not mention that Ruth Devers was going too, or that Ruth had a huge crush on her brother. Danny agreed to take her on the bus. There were several exhibits he wanted to see.
He was instantly alarmed. His mother’s quavering voice was on the edge of a sob. He ran to the window that faced the street, and his fears were realized. Another Army staff car was at the curb.
He ordinarily took the stairs two at a time, but he saw the same redheaded Captain solemnly standing in the hall looking up at him, so he slowed down, approaching cautiously.
To his amazement, the Captain suddenly grinned. “Your dad is in the hospital here in the states, Danny. He’s recovering from his wounds, but he escaped from behind enemy lines, and I’m sure there’s a medal in his future. He should be home in time for Christmas.”
It was better than that. Danny’s dad was home for Thanksgiving, and other than a pronounced limp, he was no worse for wear.
A full week went by before Danny asked his dad if he was well enough to negotiate the stairs.
“I built a crystal radio, Dad, and I want you to see it.”
His father grinned at the radio, and slapped him on the back. “That’s a great job, Danny! Neat and well built as anything I’ve seen. How does she work?”
His father was seated in the chair in front of the radio, so Danny handed him the headphones. He fiddled with the cat’s whisker for a moment, and the suddenly turned and glanced up at Danny, with a big smile on his face. He listened a moment and then removed the headphones. “WMT, loud and clear! Congratulations son! You are a radioman!”
Danny said nothing, opening the binder with the logged messages. He read them one more time and then handed them to his father, explaining the circumstances and the glowing facet. For a moment, his father just stared at him, and then his eyes dropped to the logged messages. He read them silently and then read them again, slowly. Finally, he looked at Danny, awe in his eyes.
‘I remember these! I remember these exact words. They were silent prayers I was uttering, and I have no idea how they could possibly have come to you.”
He turned and stared at the silent radio. He caressed the crystal with a fingertip, and then looked again at his son.
“And you never said a word to your mom?” Danny shook his head.
“So you carried this burden all alone?” Danny nodded.
“I’m probably the proudest father on earth right now, Danny."
The doorbell rang, jarring the moment. It was Mrs. Hartman, and she congratulated Danny’s dad on his safe return home and his pending medal. Then she turned to Danny, her hand extended. Bewildered, Danny took it and, she shook his hand vigorously, a huge grin plastered on her usually stern face.
You won Danny! You are going the University of Iowa on a scholarship!
The week before Christmas, the family drove to the lot through gently falling snow to pick up their annual Christmas tree. Danny and his dad tied it on the top of the car and they were still several miles from home when his dad grumbled that a tire had gone flat. They were in the process of changing it when a patrol car pulled in behind them, his red light on. The officer got out of the car and approached them, one hand on his service revolver.
He shined his flashlight inside the car, and then on Danny and his father. He stepped back and addressed Mister Langford.
“You folks aren’t from around here. What’s your business?’
Danny’s father grinned. “Just taking our Christmas tree home, Sergeant.”
“What? How do you know I was a sergeant? Do I know you?” He shined the light directly into Mister Langford’s face and peered closely. Then he did a very strange and astounding thing. He put his hand to his mouth, and large tears welled in his eyes.
“Oh my Lord! It’s the Major!”
He dug into his back pocket, and pulled out his wallet. He took out a picture and handed it excitedly to Danny’s mom in the car, shining his light on it.
“See? That’s me and the Major here, shaking hands!”
He wiped his eyes, suddenly embarrassed.
“I was a tail gunner on a B-17, ma’am, and we were getting the sh…hell kicked out of us by a flight of ME-109’s when your husband here and his flight of 51’s jumped them and saved our asses! Well, I'm sorry for the hard language, ma’am and kids, but we were on fire see, and your husband escorted us all the way back to base. He was low on fuel by then, so they gassed him up and our entire crew went over to meet him and thank him. That when I got my picture took with the Major here!”
He turned to Mister Langford.
“I know your fighter group was the three thirty second, Major, but what was the name you boys went by? I forget.”
Danny’s father smiled. “We were called the Tuskegee Airmen, Sergeant.”