Time to write….

…finally a chance to work on this over the summer.

RIVETS

A Historical Fiction Novel

“As time to time it occurs, in the course of history, that an individual is driven to achieve more in one lifetime than even imagined, so it was with one woman’s journey that embodied the spirit of an entire nation.” George Larkins

The snow drifted silently, as in a dream, onto the porch steps of the Tudor style home. Its glory days had long since passed, and while some homes on the street had been abandoned, it remained stoic and well attended. Inside a small spaniel, her muzzle white with the age, stared up at the sleeping woman. It inched forward to nuzzle the old ladies palm with its wet black nose. Without opening her eyes she spoke to her longtime companion “Okay girl, let’s get a move on”. The bedside clock read 5:00 am, although, she had never used its bell, relying instead on her own internal clock. Sitting up, she placed a worn pair of slippers onto her feet. Reaching for her bathrobe, she gasped when a sudden twinge of pain in her side began and then subsided. “I guess we’re not as young as we used to be, are we sweetheart?” Her companion wagged a stubby tail as she looked toward the bedroom door. Rosie had found the little dog fourteen years before begging behind the café bar that bore her name in downtown Detroit. She was all “skin and bones” then, but with love, shelter and choice scraps brought home nightly, she had quickly recovered. Rosie made her way down the little hallway and through the living room. Its handsome crafted woodwork was a reminder of Detroit’s days as a power town of automobile manufacturing. The built in oak cabinetry of the fireplace mantle held three photographs in silver frames. A black and white wedding snapshot of she and Edwin, Her rocking their baby Joseph, and a more recent picture of her son, his wife, Abby, and her granddaughter, Grace Jack.

She passed through the kitchen and opened the side entry door for the little dog. The dog looked up at her and cocked her head to one side. “Well, are you going or not? Make up your mind” The dog reluctantly ventured out into the cold as was her routine. This was a little game they played. Turning on the tap and loading the chrome coffee maker were also part of the routine, as were the newspaper on the front porch and a hot breakfast of oatmeal, milk and pure maple syrup. Once these tasks were complete, the little dog was allowed back inside; she was given a treat and settled down at her master’s feet.

Rosie pulled on her thick wool coat, rubber boots and knitted hat. She waved goodbye to the sad face in the window and made her way to the garage. The inside lit up a workshop that would make a master mechanic take note.  Rows of every imaginable tool lined the walls in a neat and ordered system. Fasteners and essential materials to keep a home and automobile in good repair stood ready for the next minor or major emergency. Against one wall was a welding unit and laying on the bench beside it a welding mask and thick leather gloves. Against the opposite wall a motorcycle perched on its stand covered by tarpaulin. The primary occupant of the building was a near mint condition 1972 red convertible Ford LTD. She had purchased the car with cash off the lot and had rigorously maintained it. As She slipped behind the wheel and inserted the key, she paused a moment to look around. Content that everything appeared in order she turned the key, and with a soothing roar the big eight cylinder motor began to warm Michigan’s frosty March morning air.

The car left the enclave of North Rosedale, a neighborhood community of home preservation supporters within the city limits, and made its way to the Polish neighborhood of Hamtramck.  The big ford pulled curbside in front of a large well-lit storefront, its protective grate rolled up and wide windows revealing rows of fresh baked goods. The smell of Kowalski’s bakery enveloped Rosie as she entered like a warm blanket, breads, cakes, cinnamon rolls and assorted pastry items beckoned from the display cases. The two fat ladies, aprons dusted in flour stopped their bantering and looked up with smiles to greet her “Oh, Goood Morning! How are we today Rosella. You look beautiful today!” Rosie smiled back “Thank you, Jolanta. I’m a little tired today. I guess it’s just old age creeping up on me”. Jolata stepped lively, for a woman of her girth, from behind the counter and swept Rosie into one of the small dining chairs reserved for those patrons who found time to sit and enjoy a coffee with their pastry. “Sit, Sit, Zofia! get her order. Come, come, now. Don’t worry. We take care of everything”. Jolata returned to the back of the bakery and emerged with a warm danish and milk and sat beside Rosie. “See you just need slow down, little bit. You rest for now. Zofia and I, we load your order. I take keys”. She quickly snatched the keys and shouted something in Polish to Zofia in the back. The ladies emerged and loaded rolls and doughnuts into the trunk of the LTD. Once Rosie had rested to Jolata’s satisfaction, she was walked to her car and handed the keys. The fat ladies eyes welled with unexpected tears as she embraced Rosie in a hug that drew the breath from her. “It’s okay, it’s okay now. We see you tomorrow, same time. You take good care. If you need something at bar, you call. Zofia and me, we come help. Goodbye, goodbye now”.

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September Twelfth

 

September Twelfth

George A. Larkins

 

The corridor stretched endlessly as he made his way along it. Moving slowly, he followed the color coded signs that pointed all but the most confused towards their intended destinations. His was the hospital cafeteria. It had been twelve hours since he had eaten, still there was no desire for a meal, his mind and his stomach seemed disconnected. Perhaps it was the thought of comfort that food brought or the need to surround himself with other human beings. The people passing by him had expressed worried looks of contemplation and an occasional brave smile. They drifted  past as he made his way, like ghosts from a dream.

The sign’s pointed to the beginning of the cafeteria line and he followed it’s direction, he got in line. In front of him, a group of nurses quietly chattered something about plans that they had made for this weekend. They spoke of how they would need to be changed, arrangements would need to be made. The words drifted in and out of his mind as he began to feel the shudder and grasped the chrome tray rail to steady himself. He moved along and noticed the food. It was not the usual desire to satisfy hunger, but the colors, the textures and the smell of it. Reaching out he chose an orange from the fruit display, it just seemed happy somehow. Next, he drew a cup of hot coffee because it was morning and that was routine and routine was good.

He absently handed a bill of some denomination to the cashier and took the change without counting, trusting that he would not be cheated, not this day. Sitting alone at the table, he cupped the coffee in his hands and the shudder grew stronger. Not like the shudder he could feel when a cold was coming on, that external chill that warns of an oncoming fever. This shudder was deeper, it emanated from his core. The dining room took on a fish-eye lens distortion as his eye’s welled with tears. The diners eyes all were glued to the endless looping video of the towers crashing down.

In the room upstairs his wife was lying in the hospital bed. She had experienced hell over the last twenty-four hours. He had never known that she was so strong or that her body could endure so much. She had lost a lot of blood near the end and the reality that they could lose her had hit him hard. When she could take no more, they had sedated her. She was stabilized and resting, they had said he should take a break and he followed their instruction. He would return to stand vigil beside her soon, but for now, he was in limbo. His mind retraced the years they had spent together and the plans they had made for the future. The clock on the wall played tricks, one moment not moving at all and then suddenly an hour. It was time to return to her.

He entered her quite darkened room and moved towards her reaching out and stroking her forehead. She breathed softly and he sat in the chair beside her, resting his eyes but not sleeping. Five hours passed and she began to stir. She momentarily began to panic being unaware of her surroundings, then she saw him and relaxed her mind. He reached for the water beside her bed and placed the straw in her mouth, she sipped. “Are you awake?” He asked. “Yes” she replied weakly. “I have something to show you” he said as he turned away and reached down picking up the bundle. Her eye’s widened and a smile crossed her lips as he turned to place the newborn baby in her arms. The small fingers grasped her mothers hand as he looked at her and said “She is one day old today.”

Sixteen Weeks

 

 

Sixteen Weeks

George A. Larkins

   The sweat beaded upon Dr. Sanborns forehead. “I don’t know what your getting at”. He spoke in an agitated tone. “Just answer the question, Doctor” replied James Giroux.

The video camera heightened the tension in the sterile boardroom. A court stenographer silently click-clacked into her alien looking keyboard, she had assumed a tantra like state, unaffected and distant. The deposition was now entering it’s sixth hour and the witness was beginning to soften up. Giroux was an expert at softening them up, he began slowly, friendly and methodical. “If you don’t understand my question, please tell me and I will repeat it for you”. “If you need a break at any time Doctor just let me know”. “Please keep your voice up so that the jury will understand your answers”. These were the ground rules. Giroux was an expert at the rules, right down to his cufflinks. The witness however, was clearly out of his element and it was beginning to show..

“Would you have performed this operation on your own wife or daughter” repeated Giroux. “I object! That is completely improper counsel!” said Mark Brent. “Are you instructing your witness not to answer the question, Mr. Brent?” Giroux’s eye’s sharply shifted and now focused on Brent, piercing, leaden. “Because I will get a court order, in fact, we can call to the Judge right now if you would like” he continued. “Answer the question” Brent instructed his client. “Well, no because..” the witness sputtered. Giroux interjected “Because you know now, that performing an exploratory laparotomy in a sixteen week pregnant mother can result in sudden death for the mother and the unborn child, right Doctor”. “That’s not what, I meant, your twisting my words” he cried, like a rabbit in a snare the witness shifted in his seat, his eyes pleading to his attorney who sat helpless aside him.

“Doctor, please describe Mrs. Jenkins for the ladies and gentleman of the jury” demanded Giroux. The Doctor reached forward to the voluminous stack of medical documents. “Doctor, What exactly is it that you are looking for?” asked Giroux, feigning a sigh. “My chart, ah, here it is. Let’s see. White female, age twenty-eight, five foot seven inches tall and one hundred forty-five pounds”. “That’s nice Doctor, now can you answer my question?” he persisted. “I thought I just did” responded the witness. Giroux, leaning ever so slightly forward and in a voice starting off at a whisper and building in intensity with each word asked the witness “What color were her eye’s, Doctor?” The paper rustled while he flipped through his chart, “That’s not listed here” he replied. “What about her hair, what color was her hair, is that listed?, Would it surprise you Doctor if Mr. Jenkins described her as having the most beautiful brown eyes and silky brown hair that he had ever seen in his entire life. That she would lie and twirl her fingers in it while she read quietly on rainy days. That he looked to those eyes as the only place he could trust to find honesty and peace in his chaos filled world. Is that in your chart Doctor?” Sanborns face went momentarily slack before he regained his composure. “No, of course not!” answered the Doctor. “I’m sure your attorney has informed you that two weeks following your failed operation, Mr. Jenkins purchased a shotgun, returned to his home and proceeded to load it with shells. He then placed the barrel of the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.” asked Giroux. “Yes, he has informed me of that.” answered the witness with indifference. Giroux stood “I’m finished with this witness.”

The Pod

The Pod

George A. Larkins

They moved quickly now just below the water’s surface. Tahlini’s lungs burned hot fire as she broke the wave to take in cool pacific salt air. Ahead of her Bohla dived in a quick arc and reversed to shoot straight up spinning into the sun. He cut deep into the break of the wave behind her and pinged her “Pace yourself Tahlini!” Bohla was magnificent and strong with scars on his smooth gray and white sides where he had fought to protect her from males of another pod long ago. The first migration they had shared together had been over four thousand tides ago. The little sonar clicks from their one year old offspring Kayha caused her to slow her pace a little. She whistled to him “This is your first of the big journeys, it will grow easier as you become stronger,” the young one whistled back joyfully, he was fast but she still worried of the rare natural dangers of the beautiful sometimes violent ocean world they called home. “Keep on swimming, we are almost there” whistled Bohla. They swam for another hour and Bohla clicked “Ready, Now! Dive deep! They drew air in before plunging down into the cold waters where their sonar filled with the cloud of herring moving in one giant mass before them. The pod of sixty-two bottlenose dolphin encircled the mass directing it and controlling it. Clicks emanated between the older dolphins that contained the herring as the remainder of pod swam directly into the swarm and filled their bellies. It had been six days into the journey and the herring was a welcome source of energy. The schools of tens of thousands of herring which always fed the migratory pods had grown smaller in years past but were showing slow signs of recovery. This infinite source of life that sustained the pods had been over fished by the land walkers to a point that threatened the dolphin’s existence.

The light faltered on the calming ocean and having filled their bellies the pod came to rest. Tomorrow they would leave the Sea of Japan feeding along the eastern shore of the islands before entering into the open Pacific. The destination of warmer southern waters had been the migratory promise for many generations. The journey would last two months; during these rest periods following the herring feeds the history was passed down to the younger generation as they floated in the peaceful sea. The dolphins gathered as the solemn elder began the sorrowful tale. “We must always remember the pods that have fallen before us. Through no fault of their own, they have suffered at the hands of the land walker. We must tell their story so that our children may survive and know that it is unwise to trust them”. Silence and sadness overcame the pod as the story was told.

“On the journeys of the tides before your birth our pods traveled along the coast of the land called Japan. It was near the warm water shallows of the Taiji land walkers that the horror began. Above the surface twelve blood ships encircled the small bay affixed with sixty foot aluminum poles having flared ends to maximize the poison vibrations they spewed into the sea. A clanging pulse ripped into their sonar causing fear and confusion in the pod. Land walkers aboard the vessels pounded the ends of the poles with steel hammers creating the dark curtain of noise from which our pods tried to escape. Our brothers and sisters swam furiously to avoid the sound as the ships closed ranks behind them dragging deep nets along the floor of the sea. A few smaller female dolphins immediately became entangled within the nets and struggled to reach the surface in a lost attempt of life giving air. The cry of clicks, whistles and screeches of the dolphins thrashing in panic was not unlike that we have heard from land walkers whose ships we have seen swallowed by our mother ocean. We had hoped the land walkers would remember how we helped them, some we nudged to shore or fought off the savage sharks, but their memory is short and their greed is too strong. The nets slowly forced the pod into the trap cove that was surrounded on two sides by sheer rock wall and a small sand beach at one end. Then the slaughter began, sharp long poles fixed with cruel hooks and blades cut into the pod. Lungs and brains were penetrated or bludgeoned as the men went about their work occasionally stopping to smoke their ugly burning sticks. The lagoon grew bright crimson in the sunlight as the warm red blood of our grandfathers and grandmothers mixed with our mother ocean. Some tried to reach the surface as the spears tore into their flesh and held them below until the drowning mercifully came to them. One young male was badly cut from the iron blade but managed to leap over the net and swim for the open ocean. His wounds were too deep and his life flowed from him he struggled for a final gasp as he sank below the surface for the last time. All the children watched as their parents were murdered before their eyes and then they too were destroyed. Some of the young females were spared to be sold to the highest bidding land ocean parks, confining them and training them to perform for stinking dead herring. The land walkers laugh and cheer all the while being fooled into believing that our sister prisoners were happy by their dolphins mimicking smile. They stand and clap in ignorance of the bloodshed and cruelty endured for their entertainment and pleasure. The dolphin flesh eaters among them are poisoned by the mercury sickness that is now within us. They have poisoned our home and herring by the burning of mother earths black rock. They are blinded in disbelief that its poison causes the deformations of their own offspring. The legend tells of a few of the land walkers who are trying to stop to the killings and for a time we hope the pods are safe. We must always remember that the land walkers hunger knows no end. He will kill any creature and poison the the land and water and it may destroy him if not all of us.” The elder grew silent and then quietly dismissed the dolphins one by one.

A few circling dolphins watched over the pod as they drifted to sleep with their heads slightly above the surface dreaming and breathing in the cool night air. A half-moon lit the ocean as iridescent phosphorus followed them in a trail of miniature stars. Tomorrow the new tide and the new journey would begin.

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