Mannequin Monday – Read One Book Before I Die
A Monday that stands out. Memorial Day. Starting the week with story. Clothing the naked form with our words, images, clay, pencil. To honor our fallen military heroes, I found a couple of stories you may enjoy. One about an old veteran who never forgets, that comes from Daily Kos, May 2015. Another is from The Week. Also about a WWII veteran.
And I include another sample of my own writing: a stripped down Porsche chassis.
This Week’s Reading
From Daily Kos comes What a Waste…Memorial Day, a touching story by Mark E. Andersen of a WWII veteran placing individual American flags on the many graves in a military cemetery.
“The grizzled old man arrived at his destination, his back hunched over and using a cane. He surveyed the scene before him with what combat veterans describe as the thousand-yard stare, a gaze that looks right through you, a look that says he has seen the horrors of war and that he cannot forget them some sixty years later. A vast sea of white lay before him. It was as if someone had planted the seeds for the garden of stone that was before him, ready for harvest.
‘How many?’ He asked himself, knowing that while there was no finite answer, the true answer was too many.”
The old veteran begins his daunting task. A flag for every grave. For every fallen soldier. partway through his efforts, someone steps up to him.
“‘Excuse me, sir, may I help you put those flags out?’
‘Son, this is something I have done every year since I got home in 1946. There were a lot fewer stones then, every year it seems like more and more stones are here. And every year this mission takes me longer and longer to complete. This old vet would appreciate any help you could give me.’
‘Sir, I have fallen brothers here as well. It would be an honor to help you’.”
I can picture the scene Mark Andersen describes. An old man, hunched yet proud, with a cane, hauling a sack full of flags. Bending over each grave to plant a small flag. A small tribute. His way of saying thanks that he survived a war when so many fellow soldiers did not. Partway through his task a young man joins him. Offers to help him. They talk as they finish the job of laying out the flags. The dialogue is strong. Touching. Sharing memories of wars, of assignments, of comrades.
The story ends on a haunting note. Again, strong. Poignant. Full of pride and fellowship. Read all of it here.
The 89-year-old veteran who finally learned to read
“Ed Bray stormed the beach at Normandy during World War II, earning two purple hearts. And yet, the toughest thing the 89-year-old said he had to face in his life was his illiteracy. For decades, Bray went to extraordinary efforts to keep his inability to read or write a secret… At home, his wife [helped] for 62 years until her death in 2009. Finally, the determination to shed the shame and learn how to read broke through. ‘I want to read one book,’ he said. ‘I don’t care if it’s about Mickey Mouse. I want to read one book before I die.'”
Storming the beach at Normandy. One version of the horror of that day is captured in Saving Private Ryan. Here is a man who survived that nightmare. Survived to live 89 years. And now he faces an enormous personal challenge. “I want to read one book before I die.” Courage to the end. a determination that never flags.
The opening sentence says it all. “Ed Bray stormed the beach at Normandy during World War II, earning two purple hearts.” A warrior. In the author’s eyes, Ed Bray stormed the beach. No mention of anyone else. He stormed the beach. And he earned two purple hearts for his valor. That’s the kind of man who now, at 89, tells himself he will learn how to read.
My Current Writing
The Green Porsche
Two teens posed for a selfie in the chassis of a dark green Porsche. A chassis so out of place in the middle of beach dunes. The Porsche had been stripped clean. Engine gone. Tires. Doors and seats. Front and rear windshields. Hood and trunk lids. Steering wheel. Danny stood inside the car, feet planted on the floor, his back leaning on the wide chrome strip that ran across the top of the car. Emily squeezed in next to him, her long arm outstretched with the phone camera. She shifted the camera frame to include as much of the Porsche as possible without showing the missing parts. She captured the surrounding beach grass and sandy mounds behind the car.
She took a half dozen shots, then showed them to Danny.
“Not bad. Send it to Christine. She’ll be sorry she didn’t ditch classes with us.”
Emily sent the message and photo to their friend.
“This is really cool,” Danny said. “Ditching, coming to the beach, finding a chopped Porsche in the dunes. I wonder who owns the car.”
“Probably the insurance company now.” Emily laughed.
She climbed out of the car, sat in the sand next to a rear fender. “Take my picture here. Get only the fender and the chrome strip.”
Danny shot her pose. Then sat down next to her.
The sun beat down on them, hot for an April day.
Danny grabbed his backpack, pulled out a couple of water bottles.
Emily took a bottle. “Thanks…I wonder how long this car has been here?”
“Not long. It’s still clean, no dirt on the outside.”
“How did they get it in here?”
“Good question. I don’t think they could have driven in. Too much sand. Too far off the road.”
“But there’s no sign of it being dragged in by a truck.”
“Did they strip it here?”
“I doubt it. They’d need a hoist to lift the engine out. Probably did it in a garage, then dumped it here.”
“The owner must be going crazy,” Emily said. “This is a vintage car, isn’t it?”
Danny pulled out his phone, keyed in a search.
“Yeah, it’s a Porsche 911. This would be worth a fortune if it was intact.”
Emily scrunched down in the sand, leaned against Danny. “Six weeks and we’re done with high school.”
“I can’t wait. I’m so tired of it.”
“I’m kind of scared.”
“I’m not good with new situations.” She opened her phone. Flipped to her photos. “Here’s a picture of my new roommate.”
“You got that settled already?”
“Yeah. With early admissions I got more choices than the other freshmen.”
Danny looked closely at the photo.
“She looks cool. A tat on her arm. A high fade on one side of her head.”
“Her name is Kelsey. I hope she thinks I’m cool.”
Danny looked off to the side. “I won’t have a roommate. I’m doing community college, and there’s no boarding.”
“Sorry, I don’t mean to…”
“It’s cool. I’ll get my core courses out of the way, then transfer in two years.”
Emily reached back and tapped the Porsche fender. “This thing is kind of a metaphor.”
“Wait. Are you saying you learned something in high school English?”
She smiled. “Our basketball season ended the other night.”
“And that night at home I cried. It was my last team sport. I’m not good enough to play in college.”
“I can relate…my lacrosse season is done. I’m not good enough to do it in college either.”
Emily wrapped her hands around her water bottle. “We’re just like this car. Stripped down. All the good stuff gone. By graduation we’ll just be shells of who we were in high school.”
A tear worked its way down Emily’s cheek. “We just ruined our ditch day, didn’t we?”
Danny wiped her tear off with his finger. “Nah, we’re good. We get to start over. We can put new engines in our stripped down chassis.”
Emily smiled. “Let’s do another selfie.”