The Radio - A Short Story - Part Two
The Radio - Part Two
“A penny for your thoughts.”
Danny looked up from his cereal. “Mom, do you ever dream about Dad?”
His mother walked behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders. “I dream about him day and night, Danny. I never thought I could miss anyone so much. Why do you ask?”
“No reason,” he lied. “I was just wondering is all.”
Had it all been a dream? It seemed so real, but he had no memory of going back to bed or going back to sleep. He examined the radio before coming to breakfast, but it looked like any other Boy Scout radio. Still, it seemed so real.
Amy was five, but she missed the cutoff date, so she would start school next fall. Danny and Melissa attended the same neighborhood school, so he walked with her. On the way, they each ran into friends, and while Danny and his friends talked about boy things, the girls whispered about the boys and Danny in particular.
Danny nodded at Mrs. Hartman, his homeroom teacher, and she smiled a faint smile in response. Several months ago, she made him stay after school, and he wondered why. He was careful not to cause trouble and to do his work. She seated herself on a corner of her desk with folded arms, and regarded him for a few moments.
“You are not doing well in school, Danny.”
He was stunned. He had all A’s, and his report card always thrilled his mother.
“I don’t understand, Mrs. Hartman. My grades are good, and so is my conduct…most of the time”
“Yes, I know that Danny, and that is commendable, but every so often, I have this same conversation with a student I deem special. This time it’s you.”
"You see, Danny, you are capable of much more than just a good report card. You are capable of doing really big things, but to do that means doing more than only what is required. What I want you to do is pick something that really interests you and pursue it above and beyond school. I want you to pick a topic and I will teach you how to research it, how to come to a reasoned conclusion, and how to write a scholarly paper on it. We will then enter it in the University’s scholarship program. I will say nothing about it if you wish.”
Danny blinked again. Attending the University of Iowa was a secret but impossible dream, and here was a path being offered!
Mrs. Hartman spoke again, “Can you keep a secret, Danny?”
“George Holliman was my last special student.”
George Holliman graduated with honors and received both an academic and a sports scholarship to a university in Georgia. To Danny, George Holliman was just one step down from being a god. And now he was being offered the same chance.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hartman. I’ll do my best.”
“You’ll have to Danny. It will take your very best.” She stood and walked to him, extending her hand. He had never shaken hands with a woman, and he hesitated. “It’s a formality, Danny. We shake on a deal.” He shook her hand, and she smiled. “It’s a deal, then. Now go home and discuss it with your mom.”
His chosen topic was television. It was a new and exciting field, and he had some ideas on a better system. He researched at the library, and the librarian had ordered several books on the topic. Danny had never seen a television, but that made it all the more exciting. The notion that a moving picture could be sent through the air fascinated him, even though he now knew quite a lot about how it was done. His paper on it had been written and rewritten several times, and he was surprised at how knowledgeable Mrs. Hartman was. His respect for her had grown enormously.
Another week passed quickly and Danny was still a block from home when he spotted the Army staff car in front of his house. He grabbed Melissa’s hand and began to run.
His mother was seated in the parlor, her face ashen. There was an officer standing in front of her when Danny burst through the door.
“These are my other two children, Danny and Melissa. They are perfectly capable of hearing the news for themselves, so would you kindly repeat it, Captain?”
The Captain was a redhead, and it looked like he had not yet started to shave. He nodded at Mrs. Langford and turned to Danny and Melissa. Danny was sure he already knew what was about to be said, and he was right.
“Captain Langford was escorting a flight of bombers when his aircraft was hit and set on fire. I can't be more specific that that. Other members on his flight saw him bail out and confirmed that his chute did open. In the ensuing battle, they lost sight of him but he is presumed to be down safely. That is all we know at this time.”
Danny nodded without replying, and rare tears welled in Melissa’s eyes. Danny put his arm around her. The Captain approached and offered his hand to Danny. “Your mother speaks highly of you, young man. I’m proud to meet you.”
Danny shook his hand awkwardly. He was surprised that the Captain even offered it, but he was both grateful and proud that he did.
“So that means that my Dad could be OK?”
“He sure could be, son. All we know is what we received this morning.” The Captain smiled. “I’m amazed at how far we have come. Something happens halfway around the world and we already know about it here the next week.”
Supper that night was subdued. Doris Langford was deep in thought, as was Melissa. Only Amy was happily unaware of the day’s events, and Danny idly listened to her chatter as he wondered whether to tell his mother about what he had heard using the glowing yellow facet. Like his father, he kept a log of important communications, so he had carefully written down what he heard his father say:
“Well Danny, looks like you’ll be taking my place for a while longer. I’m hit and I’ll need to jump. Take care of mom and the girls, son, and I’ll get back to you when I can.”
In the end, he decided to keep it to himself. He wasn’t even sure that it actually happened. Maybe it was just a dream.
He listened that night, and fiddled with the cat’s whisker and the facets, but all he could get was WMT, Cedar Rapids. A winter storm was brewing, and reception was poor, so he said his prayers and went to bed.
He wasn’t sure if it was the shriek of the blizzard outside his window or the strange yellow glow on the ceiling that woke him up. For a moment, he waited, clearing the fog from his brain, and then he bolted to his desk. The facet was glowing a bright yellow, and his shaking hand guided the cat’s whisker to the facet. He put on the headphones and listened.
“Well Danny, your old man is in a bit of pickle. I broke my right ankle on landing, and part of my foot on my left leg was shot off before I bailed. I didn’t even know it until I looked down while still in my chute and noticed part of my boot was missing and there was quite a bit of blood. I was a little worried, but some good folks picked me up and hid me. A man who speaks a little English has contacted someone else who is supposed to get me back to our lines, but everything is real hush-hush. What I don’t know I can’t tell if I’m captured, I guess. I understand that. God is with me. I’ll be fine, son.”
The glowing yellow facet flickered again, and then slowly faded away.
Danny logged what he heard, and that was that for the next two months.
- To be continued