Mountain Ridge, Michigan
I am not sure if you remember me. We met at Ezekiel’s funeral. I sometimes bought corn, cucumbers, tomatoes and eggs from you. My older sisters, Elsie and Mary, are the busiest busy bodies in town. My younger sister, Alice, does her share of getting into everyone’s business too. She will be married in the spring if her fiancé can get a furlough. They were planning the wedding, and then the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor.
I don’t know if you want me to write to you or not. If not, just say so, or throw away the letters. But if you would like, I can keep you up to date on Mountain Ridge news.
That Indian girl, Danni is going to become a doctor. She is studying at Michigan State. Imagine a lady doctor. Imagine an Indian doctor? But she is smart. She will make a great doctor. My pa and I already said we wouldn’t mind going to her. Dr. Tracie is getting up in age. Someone has to take over. Doc’s son is at Michigan State too. Maybe we will have two doctors here in town. Young Dr. Tracie and Dancing Bear. Wouldn’t that be something?
Do you need anything? Cigarettes? Candy? Newspapers? They’re starting to ration, but dad and I don’t need much. Dennis is doing such a great job on the Cheney farm that he could feed the entire county.
Please write if you have a mind to. Otherwise it’s okay. Dad and I are working extra shifts at the mine, so if I don’t answer right away, it is not because I do not want to.
Of course, I remember you. You and your dad and your sisters and your entire family were always so nice.
Please do not go out your way for me. My brother brings me books and candy. There is this great mystery writer, John Byrnes. Have you heard of him? Jack gets a copy of his books as soon as they come out, and he brings me copies. I love his writing. Jack brings me other books too. I have enough reading material. If you haven’t read Byrnes yet, I can send you copies of his books when I finish reading them.
I work for a few hours each day in the laundry, but I tend to be very tired. The pills they give me help me sleep. I no longer have nightmares, but I get so tired.
I know you said I should not go out of my way, but Vonnie said she thought it would be okay if I visited. I’ll be driving to Marquette, to check out a problem Mr. Rinaldi is having shipping the ore. It would be no problem to stop by and see how you are doing.
Please do not come. It’s not that I would not like to see you. I would. But like I said, I am always so tired, and I am not a good conversationalist. I don’t know what to say to anyone. I would be very nervous to have a visitor other than Jack and Vonnie.
Jack asked Dancing Bear if she could meet him at the Red Swan for supper in Detroit. “This place is beautiful,” she said after they were seated.
He agreed. This was his favorite restaurant. “Almasy House in its day was elegant, but it couldn’t match a place like this.”
She laughed, “I didn't get to see Almasy House in its prime. Anyway I don’t think Indians would have been allowed inside. Did you know they had Klan meetings there?”
“Yes, I heard that jack said. It’s probably true. Almasy House was before my time too, but my sisters and I got to stay there once. It was the night my mother died. We stayed a few days after that.”
“That must have been so awful for you.”
“It wasn’t a good time.” He sipped his wine. “How are the studies going?”
“Good. I can be a doctor eventually. Or a nurse.”
“In case you didn’t notice I am a woman and an Indian. Nobody is going to go to a woman doctor, much less an Indian one.”
“Well, I would. And if I had you, I’d have the best.”
A waiter came and freshened their wine glasses. Jack said, “Rumor has it you visit home every break you get, and that you and Dennis Cheney are more than just good friends.”
“My home is in Mountain Ridge. My family lives there. I like Dennis a lot. I can’t see being a farmer’s wife and a doctor though. Maybe I should change my major to veterinary medicine.”
“Do what you think will make you happy,” he said.
“How’s Lisa?” Dancing Bear asked.
“That is what I want to talk to you about. She had a bad nightmare the first night she was there.”
“She’s still in Newberry then.”
“They’ve been drugging her. “ Jack unfolded a sheet of paper from his pocket and slid it across the table to her. As she read the list of drugs Lisa was taking, Dancing sighed.
Their food arrived. Lobster bathed in a buttery sauce; green beans cooked with slivered almonds sprinkled with lemon; and garlic mashed potatoes. “Does this restaurant know there’s a war on?” Danni asked.
Jack nodded at the list of drugs. “What do you think?”
“I am not a doctor yet; I am not her doctor; I have not examined her.” “I know. But I also know Lisa used to be such an intelligent girl. She knew about politics; she could discuss Roosevelt’s policies; poetry, history. She read lots and she is very smart. Now she just yawns when I visit her. She can barely make it through a John Byrnes novel.”
“What about her traumas? The nightmares? Lisa’s been through so much.”
“It’s no reason for those doctors to turn her into a zombie.”
“I can’t go to war with her doctors. You know that.”
“Tell me what you think,” Jack asked. “It’s just between us.”
“Those drugs are a powerful cocktail. If I were treating her, I would give her something a lot less powerful. But remember I’m not a doctor yet, and I am a long way from becoming one.”
Again Jack nodded. “I talked to her doctors. I suggested taking her here to Detroit to live with me. That would be one alternative. Vonnie still has that house near Dennis’ farm and she says Lisa could live there again. But after what happened there…” Jack didn’t finish the sentence.
“She probably should have someone with her. I’m not sure if the farmhouse is a good choice for her, especially if she’ll be alone.”
“The doctors suggested an operation. They call it a lobotomy.”
Danny stopped eating. She knew of this operation. “Did they explain this operation to you?”
“Yes; they said it was safe.”
“Some of the medical literature does suggest that it’s safe.”
“What about the rest of the medical literature?”
“A lot of these surgeries are being done.” She paused staring at a clamp of mashed potatoes on her fork. She had observed such an operation just weeks ago, and it had not gone well. Danni didn’t hesitate. “If it were my sister, Jack, I wouldn’t let her have the operation, and I would get her out of there right away. Sometimes they get a confused patient to consent. And if Lisa is a ward of the state…”
“She isn’t. I’m paying for her hospitalization.”
“If you think you and Vonnie can care for her yourselves, you should do it. But it may not be easy.”
I have been drafted. My dad and Mr. Rinaldi tried very hard to keep me from the army. It is not that I am a coward. I keep thinking about how many Americans died at Pearl Harbor. I keep thinking about how many are dying in Europe and in the Pacific. But I just don’t think I can take a gun and shoot someone. I can’t imagine myself doing that.
I report for basic duty next week.
Maybe I will go to Europe. I wonder what Paris is really like. Perhaps my letters will get better. I’ll have more interesting things to say.
If you want to keep writing to me, send the letters to my my dad. He will make sure they get through.
I am so sorry to hear you will be leaving for the war; I know you didn’t want to be drafted. I am not sure our paths will cross again.
Jack signed me out of Newberry, and he took me to live with him in Detroit. I visited Jack’s office. It’s in the Penobscot Building, which is one of the highest buildings in Detroit. He’s a consultant, but I didn’t meet any of his clients.
“What do you consult about?” I asked.
“Crime,” he told me. “The police ask for my help sometimes.” “And they pay you? Jack, that almost makes you a cop.”
“It makes me an ex-con who has some useful connections,” he answered.
That made me sad because Jack should never have gone to prison. He shouldn’t be an ex-con.
Jack gave me a copy of John Byrnes latest book. It’s not even in the bookstores yet, but Jack says Byrnes is one of his clients. I would love to meet John Byrnes, and I told Jack that. But Jack said that Byrnes is a recluse and doesn’t like to meet strangers. There aren’t even any pictures of him on the book jackets.
I don’t have enough to do. I clean Jack’s house - Boy was it messy, and I cleaned his office which was neater because he has a cleaning lady who comes in once a week.
Jack has all of the Agatha Christie, Earle Stanley Garner and John Byrnes books. He has quite a few other titles too. Of course, I had already read many of the books. Jack and I like the same authors.
I am feeling so much better now that I’m not taking all those drugs. Jack keeps a night light on and he keeps his bedroom door open, so I don’t get scared at night. But I miss Vonnie. She drives downstate sometimes. Lucinda Rinaldi even came to visit.
Carol Ann Davies, the senator’s other daughter, was two years old when she came to live with the Rinaldis.
It was Vonnie who met the child and her companion at the railroad station. The woman hung onto the child. She didn’t want to let go. And Vonnie knew this was the mother. She and Lucinda had expected a maid to deliver the child.
“Her name is Carol Ann,” the woman said.
“I know; we read about her birth in the newspapers.”
“Are you Mrs. Davies?” the woman asked. “Because if you are, I’m so sorry. I know I shouldn’t have…”
Vonnie motioned for her to stop, “ I’m just a maid; I’m Yvonne Cheney, and Lucinda prefers her maiden name. Rinaldi.”
The child clung to her mother. “You must go with this lady now.”
Vonnie saw the love between the child and her mother. And she knew how awful it was to lose a child. She had lost Little Louis, and the memory hurt her terribly. “If you don’t mind my asking, why are you giving up Carol Ann?”
“I can’t keep her. I have this cancer and I don’t know if I can beat it. I’m going to the hospital.”
“He doesn’t want her. After Lucinda left him, he started thinking about another wife. And that wife wasn’t me.”
Vonnie didn’t know what to say. She knew how miserable Lucinda had been during her marriage. “When you get out of the hospital…”
“I can’t keep her,” the woman said. And she hurried away without a backward glance.
Carol Ann, screamed ,“Mama.”
Vonnie held her close.
Please share this letter with dad and the family. I only have time to write one letter.
They wake us up at five a.m. and march us five miles before breakfast. That’s the easy part of my day. They say no one flunks basic training. I think I might be the first.
Rifle practice. I like the part about standing up straight and moving the gun from shoulder to shoulder and center. It seems like a big waste of energy, but I do it. I like the salutes and neatly-made bunkbeds and polished shoes. But I am awful at gunnery practice. I can’t hit the target. In fact, I scare the instructors who are afraid I will shoot myself in the foot or worse, shoot someone else. But I can’t hit anything. I should be embarrassed by my target shooting scores.
Still they are not letting me out of this army. The sergeant called me in and said I was clearly not cut out to be a fighting man.
Instead I am going to start training with the Red Cross. I’ll be an ambulance driver. That’s not a profession that I would have picked for myself. The iron ore mines are deep and scary, but so is picking up soldiers who are half dead on a battle field. I don’t mind helping the wounded. I just wonder how much help I’ll be.
I hope the war ends, and not just for my sake. I think about the hundreds of thousands who are dying, and I just want this madness to be over.
I won’t be able to write you much after we ship out. My letters will be censored then. Maybe I can tell you generally where I will be. Europe or Africa or the Pacific, but most likely I won’t be more specific than that. I am told my letters might have holes cut in them by the censors.
Tell Dad I think about him often. Please send news about home. How is Elaine doing? What about that nice Brianka girl? The last I heard she was living in Detroit. I wasn’t sure of her brother’s address, so I sent a letter care of Jack Brianka at the Penobscot Building. He has an office there.
Do you believe all that gossip about him being part of the Mafia? I know he was in prison, but I don’t think he is a bad sort. Do you?
Give my love to all.
The little girls, Carol Ann and Starr, slept with Lucinda, so there was little for Vonnie to do in the mornings. There would be more to do in the afternoon. She got up and started breakfast. She could clean the kitchen today. The rooms were easy to keep clean, but there were so many rooms.
Lucinda walked into the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee. “Something smells heavenly,” she said.
“Blueberry pancakes. The syrup is off the farm. Dennis brought me a new keg yesterday afternoon.”
“Bless him.” Lucinda poured cream and sugar into her coffee.
“How are the babies?” Vonnie asked.
“Sleeping. They usually sleep in the mornings. It’s around midnight when they want to be up and out of their cribs.”
“They seem to get along. Just like sisters.”
“That’s how I intend to raise them,” Lucinda said. “Where is your helper?”
“She’s not here.” Vonnie didn’t want the new girl, Elaine Mynter, to lose her job, but she was not a good worker. In fact, Elaine was never around when there was any work to be done. She would pose in front of a bathroom mirror, trying on different make-up and admiring her pretty face and body.
“We’re going to have to let her go,” Lucinda said.
Vonnie didn’t say anything. If Elaine Dabb Mynter lost her job, it would not be because of anything Vonnie said.
“You don’t know anyone who could come here and work with you, do you?”
Vonnie didn’t get a chance to answer. At that moment, Elaine hurried through the door. She made no apologies for being late. “Is Mr. Rinaldi up yet?” she asked.
Vonnie and Lucinda shared a glance. The girl had been openly flirting with Enrico and he had let Lucinda know he didn’t like it.
“You were supposed to be here an hour ago to help get breakfast ready.’ Lucinda said.
“I’ll serve,” Elaine decided. “Just as soon as Mr. Rinaldi is ready.” With that she hurried into the bathroom to fix her hair.
“She seems to have a romantic interest in my father,” Lucinda said.
Vonnie folded a dish towel and looked away.
“He told me to fire her.” Lucinda said.
Vonnie was vacuuming when news came that the president was dead. Lucinda rushed into the room. “It can’t be,” she said. “It just can’t be.” The two women hugged, and cried. The babies started crying too.
“The war must have taken a lot out of him.” Lucinda said.
“It’s been what? Four years? This war just can’t go on much longer.”
Jack drove Lisa north to help Vonnie.
Lisa was glad things had not changed much at the Rinaldi mansion. She would work with Vonnie, and she decided she would not be nervous like she used to be. She was even surprised Mr. Rinaldi allowed her to come back.
The sisters kept up with the war news by listening to the radio and reading the newspaper everyday.
They read the lists of local boys killed. Thank heavens none of the Mynter boys were on those lists. Lisa didn’t know many people, but she had met most of the the Mynters, and they were always nice to her. Dylan Mynter had even written to her until he got sent to Europe or Africa or wherever the army sent him. He said to get news from his dad, and that he would write again when he could.
One August day Vonnie picked up the newspaper after Mr. Rinaldi was finished with it.
A terrible bomb had dropped on Hiroshima, and the city had been destroyed. Vonnie remembered Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had picked this fight, but imagine a bomb so terrible, it would destroy an entire city. She thought about the people living there.
What had they thought when they heard the news of Pearl Harbor? Did they know this war would destroy them and everything around them? The innocent died with the guilty. Vonnie thought about the babies and, dogs and cats. She thought about the trees, and the flowers. Everything had been destroyed. Those poor people, she thought.
President Truman had made the decision to drop this bomb.
Vonnie was so haunted by the news of the terrible new bomb that she carried her sadness with her to the grocery store.
She saw Mary Mynter Smith, Dylan’s sister, shopping across the aisle. The two women both had their ration books out. “Maybe we’ll be able to buy silk stockings again,” Mary said.
“You think the war is really over?” Vonnie could hardly believe it.
“I hear the Japanese are surrendering right now.”
“Your brothers. How are they doing?”
“They should all be coming home. We were lucky. We didn’t lose anyone.”
“I’m so happy for you and your family. Dylan wrote such nice letters to Lisa when she was in Newberry.”
“How is Lisa?”
“Jack signed her out of the hospital. They really weren’t doing much other than sedating her. She lived with Jack in Detroit for awhile. But she wanted to come back here. We’ve been staying with the Rinaldis. It made sense with gas rationing and everything. She’s working with me”
Mary smiled. “If you don’t mind my asking, what ever happened with Elaine?”
Vonnie hesitated. She didn’t like to speak ill of anyone.
“It’s okay;” Mary prompted. “Elaine is not my favorite person. You know she was married to my brother, Dylan.”
“I heard they got a divorce.”
“Thank heavens we got that witch out of the family.”
“She didn’t work out at the house either. Lucinda had to fire her.”
“Did she think Enrico Rinaldi was going to be her next husband?”
“She flirted with him, which he didn’t like. She’s even younger that Lucinda. But she just wasn’t doing the work, and I needed some help. We have two babies there now.”
That puzzled Mary. “Did Lucinda have twins?”
Again Vonnie hesitated. She knew Mary wasn’t trying to pry or gossip. “Yes, Lucinda has twins.” It was true. The girls would be raised as if they were indeed twin sisters. But one girl was blue eyed and had hair the color of summer wheat; the other had black hair and eyes like Lucinda. They didn’t look like sisters.