Value of a Silver Star: A Short Story

Cecelia scattered yellow, crimson, and orange leaves into the Pohantas River below the frozen banks. All night, she had huddled inside the abandoned brick electric company station. Pleasantville, ironically named, had been abandoned after all the factories had closed and relocated to third world countries where labor was cheap and easily exploited.

She drew her U.S. Army jacket closer to her sides. Ten years earlier, as an eighteen year old, she had escaped the humdrum existence of her hometown. Now, she yearned for that existence, but nothing except abandoned store fronts and burned-out factories remained.

Grandma and Grandpa Hutchinson’s gravestones marked the end of her family’s bloodline. They had raised her to be patriotic, to love God, and to love family. And, she did. Her Silver Star for Bravery in Battle had floated down the cold Pohantas River and careened over a rotted log. Her frost-bitten fingers, the night before, had struggled to hold onto that one concrete vestige of the person she had been at twenty-two.

Squatting down on a tree log, she watched rays of sunlight scatter along the tree line in the far distance, just beyond the hills. How had her life come to this? She rolled the question around in her head. Hadn’t she done everything right? Hadn’t she bravely served her country?

Her stomach ached from hunger pangs. She no longer felt her toes inside her wet tennis shoes. Ice had formed a layer over them. Inside her left hand, she held onto a yellow leaf, unable to toss it. Numbness had finally claimed her hands.

Lying back against a tree trunk, she pulled the U.S. Army jacket closer around herself. Frozen raindrops turned to snowflakes. Above her, a nightingale tweeted its song, fluttered its brown wings, and hopped to the lower branch. A blanket of snow laid itself across her.

Her final thought was of living in a musical snow globe. “Thank you for your service. . .” played inside her head.

Jenny W. Andrews copyright 2022

Note: In my community, I have noticed an increase in homelessness. I have noticed an uptick in the number of homeless people holding signs noting that they are homeless veterans. Of course, I have no way of verifying the truthfulness of their veteran status one way or the other. I found a website which I am including here. According to their website, an estimated 40,056 veterans are homeless in the United States each night. This statistic was cited from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. On the website, there are statistics about the root cause of homelessness among veterans. There is also a toll free number provided for veterans who need help.

My short story is written to put a face on homelessness. I tried to envision how a homeless veteran would feel returning home to a small town that had been essentially abandoned due to outsourcing of jobs. Driving through small towns in the United States there are a lot of abandoned towns with boarded up buildings. This is unfortunately the case for many urban areas, as well.

Ask yourself how you can help the homeless population in your community. Ask yourself how you can advocate for our veterans who gave so much for us and our freedom.

Thank you for reading. Please reach out to veterans in your own families and your communities. Leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

God’s blessings to all.

Envision Your Revision: A Short Story

It had started off well enough, as these such affairs often do.

Henrietta pressed her lips tightly. She did this whenever she was in deep thought. How exactly had she come to this moment? Certainly, it had not been her intent. The affair with Jasper Jackson, that is. J.J. as she had chosen to call him.

Not a particularly handsome man, nor a particularly prosperous man, nor a particularly intelligent man, neither.

Mississippi summers, it had been told to her by her grandfather Clem, could literally fry the brain. Or, had he meant figuratively?

Well, no never mind. Pastor Jenkins had advised her that it didn’t really matter how it had all got started. The why was the worrying part, and she being a lady, wasn’t about to divulge those details, especially to a Baptist minister who would most certainly turn her personal failings into a Sunday morning series with allusions, hyperbole, parables, metaphors, and all manner of semantic acrobatics, while just barely not revealing her identity.

But, she knew full well that the entire congregation at Mount Gilead Baptist Church would most certainly recognize her. She, as Martha Hennessy had told her, was the train conductor in her own wreck. According to Martha, she had overshot the trajectory of the route, had veered completely off the track, and toppled her own caboose over into the ditch.

“It was the heat.”

“Excuse me?” Mr. Littlefield, her legal counsel, peered over his bifocals at her.

“I had a migraine from the one-hundred and twelve degree temperature. You see I was sweating.”

“The heat is no excuse. We all live here, Henrietta.” Mr. Littlefield sopped his forehead with a white handkerchief.

Judge Claxton thumped his gavel. “Mr. Littlefield, how does your client plead to these charges?”

“J.J. was driving the car.” Henrietta blurted out. “The heat was just too much.” She smiled. Maybe, just maybe, if she could deflect any blame from herself to J.J., then maybe Judge Claxton would just let her go.

Judge Claxton removed his glasses and stared at Henrietta. “We are not talking about him; we are talking about you.”

Henrietta suddenly dropped her head against the table and covered her head with her arms. Hopefully, when she woke up, Judge Claxton and Mr. Littlefield, would have disappeared, just like that self-help book had promised. “Envision your revision,” she began to chant in whispers.

She envisioned a complete revision of the past eighteen months. She laughed, and waited.

Jenny W. Andrews copyright 2021

“Suitable” A Short Story

Doors weren’t supposed to be that shade of blue. But, this, this door, like a passageway to rebellion, beckoned those huddled on the front steps, to turn and stare.

Around the plaza, the other doors were black. Solemn, hauntingly void of cheer of any kind.

Tilda peered through her white lace curtains at the women, men, and children in their ragged clothes. Pure white snow floated slowly to the red cobblestone path in front of her house. Swirling snowflakes awoken childhood memories of ballerinas pirouetting on that stage her grandfather Gustave had taken her to in Paris.

Her husband Abner’s pipe remained on the mahogany table in the cherry wood paneled drawing room. Just exactly where he’d always left it.

Within the beautifully appointed walls, she stared out her dormer window at the women, children, and men who had chosen to position themselves over the heating grate.

Lifting her crystal wine glass to her lips, she took a sip. Warmth washed over her. Tilting her head, she peered curiously at the crowd just outside her window. “I wonder why they just don’t go to their own homes and then go to a proper store for suitable attire.”

Jenny W. Andrews Copyright 2021