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Just Like Her Mom

Story ID:9064
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Fiction
Location:Caldwell ID USA
Year:1946
Person:Fiction
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I was entered in the Writer's Weekly 24-Hour Short Story contest this weekend. Here's the topic I had to work with and my entry.

I admit I found two small errors in my entry and corrected them in this version. It happens every time I rush for this contest.

TODAY'S TOPIC!

~~~~~

Holding the sleeping infant on her shoulder, she
gazed peacefully at her surroundings. Tourists
wandered in and out of stores, an old man was
setting up his easel by the lakeshore, and a
child's balloon escaped into the breeze. A
moment later, she looked up as shouts startled
her and the baby. Everybody was running in
her direction...

~~~~~

WORD COUNT: Stories for today's topic must not exceed 950
words.

Just Like Her Mom


July 1, 1946 – Dominion Day – a day to celebrate Canada. This year was special.
The Second World War ended only eight months before. The town folk and tourists were
jubilant.

Barbara had the day off from the diner where she barely made enough money
for her and her child to survive. Her husband, John, went missing during the last days
of the war. In the summer of 1945 his B-29 Superfortress was shot down over Japan.
The entire crew was missing and presumed dead.

She remembered their last night together – their wedding night. As soon as he
was old enough, John joined the Air Force. He wanted to marry before he was shipped
overseas. Their wedding was a celebration of their love and a farewell. Her father, the
mayor of the small town of Lake Shore invited the whole town to attend.

Nine months later, Barbara gave birth to their daughter Susan – a child who
would grow up fatherless.

Barbara watched happy couples holding hands, full of joy for the first time since
the war began – young couples in love and free to start their lives. They had a future.

What did the future hold for her and Susan? She didn't know. The uncertainty
of what was to come sucked the joy of the day out of her. She wanted to go home and
cry, but her father made her promise to come to the speech, where the recently returned
war heroes would be honored. There would also be a memorial unveiled to honor the
men and women who didn't make it home. Jim's name would be there – a reminder of her pain.

After the speeches, there would be a picnic on the commons and a dance in the
evening at the town hall. Barbara planned to return to her tiny room over the diner where
she worked. It wasn't much, but it was hers.

Children played on a raft on the lake. They had a future too. What did Barbara
have?

Holding the sleeping infant on her shoulder, she gazed peacefully at her
surroundings. Tourists wandered in and out of stores, an old man was set up his easel by
the lakeshore, and a child's balloon escaped into the breeze. A moment later, she looked
up as shouts startled her and the baby. Everybody ran in her direction.

Behind her, her father called the town to gather around the makeshift stage to
begin the day's festivities. She sighed, "Let's get this over with."

Her father stood on stage in his sky blue suit, a size or two too small for his
growing girth. She made a note to speak to him about this later. "Ladies and gentleman,"
he said as red and white ribbons, attached to string over the stage, flapped in the
warm breeze over his head, "please give a huge hand of applause for these gentleman."
A curtain dropped to reveal ten men in uniform. Two were supported by crutches,
one pant leg pinned up. One had only one arm. Another wore an eye patch to cover
an empty socket. Several stared straight ahead, not smiling. The horrors of war still
tortured them.

The whole town cheered. She stood on trembling legs.

Her father spoke again. "Thank you, Lord! Thank you for bringing these men
home." He paused and looked out over the crowd. "These men made it home, but many
didn't. We've lost fifteen men from our fine community. Their dedication and sacrifice
will not be forgotten." He nodded to two men standing to the right of the stage, next to an
eight foot shaped covered with a sheet. "Gentleman …please!"

The two men pulled strings and the sheet fell away to reveal a pyramid of
stone with a bronze plaque mounted in the center. It listed the men who didn't make
it home.

The soldiers on stage saluted their lost brethren. A small band played Taps.
Family members of those lost stood in line to place flowers at the base of the monument
and to trace the engraved names of their loved ones with their fingers.

Barbara was in shock. She didn't want to do this. It would mean an admission
that Jim would never return, but she was expected to do it. She joined the back of the
line.

She watched each family turn with tears in their eyes, hug a family member
and walk away sobbing.

It was her turn. She shuffled forward. All eyes followed her. Her father came,
handed her a small bouquet of flowers, put his arm around her shoulder and led her
forward. She lay the flowers down, looked at the plaque and read the names: John
Duggin, Stephen Niles …the list went on, but Jim's name wasn't there.

She turned to her father, "Dad?"

He looked down at his grieving daughter.
As the gathered town began to cheer, she heard a voice from the grave behind her.
"Barbara?"

She turned to see the smiling face of her dead husband, only he wasn't dead.
"Jim?" Her grief turned to joy and she grabbed him into her arms, the daughter
he never met between them. "How?' she managed between sobs.

He kissed her. "I was in a prison camp and wasn't found until two weeks
ago. Your father and the whole town knew, but decided to surprise you. I know it
was cruel not to tell you as soon as I could, but I just got back to town yesterday."

She slapped him, began to cry and then hugged him again. Her emotions
bounced in several directions.

Jim held her and looked at their baby for the first time. "My gosh! She's
beautiful … just like her mom."

Michal T. Smith