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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Surrender: Preamble

“All of this next part,” I said, “came earlier.”

Noreen groaned, and Carley laughed.

“Can’t you tell it in order?” Noreen demanded.

I shook my head. “Apparently not.

I have to tell it as it comes to me.”

That afternoon the weather had turned cold

with a vengeance, a sudden frozen blast across

the sky. We’d fired up the wood stove set

into the wall between the living room

and dining room, and shut the metal grate

and wooden shutters on the other side.

Now, ensconced in old easy chairs

pulled close to the stove, we held our mugs

on knees or set them on the hearth to warm.

Tea being much too thin a brew for

this bitter cold, the smell of chocolate

curled up from our mugs, almost in

itself enough to beat back the cold.

Noreen sighed and shook her head, eyes down.

I don’t know why Noreen’s flair

for drama didn’t bother me; instead,

it filled me with a passionate and poignant

ache, a wildly protective urge.

She sighed again. “How much earlier?”

                    “Let’s see.” I counted days

on my fingers. “It was a Friday night

when I met your grandfather, so this

would be the Tuesday before that. That’s right:

we got the news that afternoon.”

                                             “What news?”

“Take pity on the girl,” Carley said,

holding up her knitting to the light.

“She’s going to blow a gasket. Oh hell, I’ve dropped a stitch.”

I took pity on the girl. “The news

that the Japanese had surrendered.

That the war was over. But I’d better

tell you about Dewitt.”

                              “Who’s he?”

I turned to Carley. “Help.”

She shook a knitting needle at Noreen.

“Be nice to your grandmother,” she said.

“Let her tell the story.” And to me:

“Who was DeWitt?”

                              Glaring at Noreen,

(who glared back, sticking out her little

stubborn jaw at me) I said,

“He was the General put in charge

of the defense of the west coast. During

World War II. When I was a nurse.

In San Francisco. Clear?” I raised

my eyebrows at Noreen. She did not deign

to answer, but stuck out her chin. I stuck

out mine. We waggled chins at each other.

”Some people called him ‘Witless Dewitt,’

and for good reason.”

                              Noreen chuckled.

“‘Witless Dewitt.’”

                              I nodded. “He

was always warning that the Japanese

were poised to attack San Francisco,

at any moment! Tomorrow! Tonight!

Maybe today! Of course, the Japanese

had attacked us once—not San Francisco,

but Pearl Harbor, which was what

got us into the war. And they did

sink a couple ships just off the coast.

That’s all they did. But we had years

of curfews, blackouts, air raid drills, alerts,

the whole shebang, not to mention what

the Japanese-Americans went through.

No, I can’t tell that today; just wait.”

Noreen nodded, one brisk movement of

her head up and down.

                              “Okay. Then

I’ll tell the story. If that’s okay with you?”

Again she nodded once. “Whew.”

               I began.

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