A character named Frank has featured heavily in my art. Last year, I drew a series of primarily pencil drawings regarding a pig-nosed man I identified as Frank, who was always depicted either as trapped or running away from something. The following story is about a character also named Frank, who seems to be a reexamination of all the name means to me.
Frank, young, bright-eyed, stared at the flock of geese flying overhead in the pale dawn light. Up and away they flew, beyond the family's fields, over the fence, through the horizon. He dreamed of flying, droning engines in the night, those awesome airman's flight goggles. He dreamed of flame and glory and bravery.
Boom. Boom. Boom. The explosions reverberate through the frigid air, far away but powerful enough to make the airframe shudder. Frank is in the pilot's seat, surrounded by rushing air and the roar of massive engines. The goggles he once dreamed of are on his forehead. They don't really do anything--certainly not save you from death.
The flight group is a a low sortie today, suicidal. Ahead, the black bursts of flak fill the sky, their dark tendrils reaching out like clawed fingers. From his vantage point, Frank can see an incongruous flight of geese, frantically flapping away from the aerial combat. Oddly enough, all he wants is to be with them, flying away from the war rather than towards it. He wants to soar to the beat of feathered wings back over his own family's farm, see the fields and the fences from above. He grits his teeth and slides the goggles over his eyes.
Years later, Frank will stand again in the field. He will be old, bearing scars from the war, bent over. He will again watch the geese, the setting of the sun reflected in his eyes. He will dream of nothing.
I greatly enjoyed writing Frank's story. World War II has always been my favorite historical subject and I also have wanted to experiment with the past-present-future structure presented within. It provides an interesting way of observing Frank's life and how the results of the actions he takes causes a sort of parallel between its beginning and end.
All of this of course ties in with something else. The story I wrote today is also about the impact of war--in this case, how our acceptance of war is not reflected in American society and what the implications of what could happen if it were. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," by James Thurber, was not the inspiration for today's writing. I will not deny, however, that Mitty's exploits influenced the course it took. This story is intended to be humorous, in a Walter Mitty kind of way.
Sammy Berg had 14 years to pretend he was normal before he became possessed during the 15th. He first noticed it walking out of geometry class. His heavy math book took a new form in his hands and he shifted its weight to a more comfortable position, instinctively knowing what he held--an M4 carbine with an M203 grenade launcher and folding stock, the standard iron sights complemented by a green laser which was playing over the walls of his school. He experimentally peered down the sights when he noticed that the other kids were watching him do funny things with his geometry book. He walked to his locker with short, fast, embarassed steps.
He felt as though he could hear every little noise, even over the din of the halls. Someone dropped a stapler on the ground and Sammy felt the uncontrollable urge to dive for cover. So he did, screaming "Grenade!" as he went. He whipped out his paperback edition of Hamlet and aimed down the hallway, checking angles of attack and lines of fire. And then realized that everyone was staring at him. Again.
The principal found time to meet with him.
"What's going on, son?" asked Mr. Sternwood, glaring over his horn-rimmed glasses. Sammy started to answer but another voice took over his.
"I am Sergeant Randy Baird, serial number 40075962. According to the Geneva Convention, I don't have to tell you another goddamned thing."
Sitting outside the principal's office, Sammy wore a fatalistic smile as he felt the classes and the teachers and the stresses and the shit all closing in on his position. Flicking his paperclip, he lit his last pencil and took a drag. He wondered what he must look like--tired, dirty from fighting all night and day, still covered in the blood of his fallen comrades.
This is when the AP reporter takes my picture and I get into one of those damn compilations to be hung up on someone's wall, he reflected bitterly, or it would've been if any of those little girls had been man enough to get all the way to the front lines. He was staring at a mirror directly across the hall and it showed him a young teenager, clean, white, and in pristine school clothes. Nerdy, even. Sammy didn't see any of that.
He took a last drag on the pencil, breathing out smoke and hefting his geometry book.
"Come and get some, boys," he muttered under his breath, then opened fire.
Sammy's story is naturally one I sympathize with because my inspiration for it came from when I realized that I was wielding a school book like it was a gun, all the time. Possessing spirits of soldiers past aside, Sammy's anguish over the stress of school is very real to me.
Until next time,