A literary sketch depicting a slice of life in 500 words or less.
Published weekly at 2PM each Tuesday.
To view the works of Stephen P. Byers visit www.booksbybyers.us
In January 1942, Captain Agnes Seagrave, a straight-laced sister-of-mercy accompanied the first contingent of medical personnel to initiate the organization of medical services for the US forces in Europe. The twenty-two year old quickly learned to fend off fervent young men who felt freed from the bonds of social restraint. She would have none of it, demanding courtesy, and condemning the morality of her associates who held different views. She returned home in early 1946 with her head held high, proud of her unsoiled military service.
A year later she married Brian Landis, a thrice-wounded veteran whom she met in a Belgian hospital. She admired his conduct and conversation, but never a word passed between them concerning romance, or their futures. Thus, his unexpected letter excited her and she welcomed his visit. In a sense, the courtship resembled revisiting an old friend for indeed their wartime conversations had explored each other’s backgrounds. In due course they married, moved to Washington State and produced two children; a boy named Albert and, two years later, a girl named Brenda; two, normal, healthy children who did well in school and social development, guided by caring parents.
At the appropriate age, Brian and Agnes instructed their offspring concerning relationship between the sexes, preaching abstinence as the proper conduct before marriage. They considered teaching their children the facts of life at home to be imperative in view of the abhorrent conduct they had observed during their military careers. Agnes worried about the mores of the changing society, the ever-increasing freedom of language and proliferation of sexual innuendoes. She had confidence in Brian, but she found shades of doubt in Brenda’s conduct. Brian brushed them aside.
“You worry too much,” he said. “Look at Albert; he’s had a steady girlfriend for years. I’ve talked with him man to man, and I tell you there’s nothing to worry about. If you like, I’ll talk with Brenda, but I’d think it better if you talked to her instead.”
Agnes hesitated, biding her time, waiting for the right moment.
“For heaven’s sakes, Agnes, you’re a nurse, you’re the girl’s mother! If you’re worried, talk to her. I don’t know why you should be. Have you any reason for your doubts?”
“Well … no. not really. It’s just that … well I don’t know.”
“Is there something you’re not telling me?”
On and on the conversation went, until Brian lost his temper. At the first opportunity, that happened to be driving Brenda down town on a shopping expedition, he asked about her friends at school, male and female.
She responded freely about her acquaintances, imparting the sense she had nobody special in her life, leaving Brian satisfied he had performed his parental duty, and again the subject died.
Brenda attended college, majoring in social science, found summer employment, ultimately graduating with a 3.74 GPA.
“I’ll be leaving soon,” she said during a visit home.
“Oh! Where you going?”
“I’m getting married.”
“Married!” they shrieked. “Who to?”
What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it's curved like a road through mountains. ~ Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire