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Activation

As a thank you for all the readers of the Order of the Air, I thought I'd give you this very non-spoilery look ahead, to December, 1941. (The only spoiler is that obviously all the characters in it are still alive then and not killed in the intervening books, which isn't much of a spoiler at all.)

I wrote this a few years ago to be the prologue to Night World, which will be book eight of the Order of the Air, but I've since written a much better prologue that grabs the reader better and lays out the problem in the book, rather than this which is mostly a character piece. Now this scene goes between books and probably won't be used. So I thought I'd share it! (Warning for one period ethnic slur.)




"You're messing up my snowflakes!" Merilee's voice rose over the radio, perfectly clear in the kitchen where Stasi was adding carrots to the roast nearly done in the oven.

"I am not!" Douglas said. "I'm fixing them."

"Well stop fixing them! I like them like they are!"

"They're dumb like they are. They need to be more pointy. Real snowflakes aren't round."

"I like them round!"

Behind them the radio belted out, "Oh you better watch out! You better not cry! You better not pout! I'm telling you why!"

"Mama, he's messing up my snowflakes!" Merilee stuck her head in the kitchen. "Make him stop."

Stasi paused, one hand on the oven door, to yell down the hall, "Douglas, leave Merilee's snowflakes alone. Make your own."

"I'm helping!"

Merilee's head disappeared again. Stasi opened the oven door.

"Santa Claus is coming! Santa Claus is coming to toooooown!" The big band went off on a long saxophone solo.

"Ow!" Douglas yelled. "Ma! She hit me!"

"He wouldn't leave my snowflakes alone!"

Stasi shut the oven door again. "If you don't stop fighting, Santa Claus will skip this house!" she yelled back.

"Santa Claus isn't real," Douglas said, sticking his head around the door.

"That package in the garage is, and it can go straight back to Sears," Stasi said. "So if I were you, kiddo, I'd leave the snowflakes alone and behave like Santa Claus can hear you."

Silence fell momentarily, punctuated only by "He sees you when you're sleeping! He knows when you're awake!"

Stasi slid the roast into the oven, humming softly. "He's a creepy stalker, so be good for goodness sake!"

The doorbell rang.

She froze, one hand on the pan. Six pm on a Thursday night in December, an ordinary day as much as any could be. Her heart pounded. The children had suddenly gone quiet. Mitch's footsteps sounded in the hall. The front door opened. "Western Union."

She made herself close the oven carefully. She straightened up and took off her apron, folding it neatly over the chair back.

"Thanks, Tom," Mitch said. "You have a good night now." She heard the door close.

"The boys and girls in toyland will have a jubilee," the radio sang on.

She went into the living room. Mitch was standing by the door, the telegram envelope in his hand while he read the paper, Douglas and Merilee sitting frozen on the floor in a sea of white paper snowflakes. Douglas's mouth was open.

He handed her the telegram wordlessly.

Dec 18 1941 Lt. Col. Mitchell T. Sorley US Army Air Corps Reserves The War Department informs you that you are called to active duty effective immediately. Report McChord Field WA no later than Dec 20 Western Defense Command.

"Well," Stasi said, hoping her voice sounded bright. "We've been expecting this for eleven days."

"Yeah," Mitch said. "Longer than that." His eyes didn't leave her face.

"What happened?" Merilee asked.

"You're going to go fight the Japs, right?" Douglas bounced over the back of the couch. "Pow! Pow! My dad'll give them what for! Are you going back to Hawaii?"

"I'm going to Tacoma, Washington," Mitch said. "Which isn't nearly as exciting."

Douglas frowned. "There aren't any Japs in Tacoma, Washington! There isn't anything in Tacoma, Washington!"

"I'll find out why when I get there," Mitch said.

Merilee's eyes were huge. "Before Christmas?"

"Yeah, tomorrow morning." Mitch came over as she jumped up to hug him. "I was here through your birthday, but I think I'm going to miss Christmas this year. But it's ok, baby. I'll be here for a lot more."

The phone jangled in the hallway. Stasi bit her lip. "That will be Lewis," she said.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
lferion
Dec. 22nd, 2015 08:40 pm (UTC)
The absolute interruption of the telegram is very effective. I love the family dynamic, and Stasi's soto voce bit about Santa being a stalker.
jo_graham
Dec. 28th, 2015 08:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Mitch and Stasi have been dreading this for a long time. It's almost a relief to have it finally happen.
squishydish
Jan. 4th, 2016 04:33 am (UTC)
I'll be interested to see your new, improved prologue, but I liked this one a lot!

Re WWII, I'm very annoyed to hear that WASPs have been re-banned from Arlington:
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/female-wwii-pilots-barred-from-arlington-national-cemetery/
(links to text, not autoplay)
jo_graham
Jan. 4th, 2016 08:40 pm (UTC)
The new one is more exciting and directly sets up the main plot, which is Alma and Jerry's rather than Mitch's. So I think it will work better as a lead in for the book. But oh Mitch and Stasi! Knowing it was coming doesn't make it easier.
selki
Jan. 6th, 2016 01:13 am (UTC)
I just came across James Nicoll's reviews of the first three Order of the Air books: http://jamesdavisnicoll.com/reviews/contributor/1618
Fun and mostly positive, though he gets names wrong a couple of times.
jo_graham
Jan. 30th, 2016 01:03 pm (UTC)
He did some really nice reviews. I'm so pleased he enjoyed them!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )