Tag Archives: Novels

Watch RWISA Write: Marcha Fox

August is Watch RWISA Write month. Today, we celebrate author Marcha Fox!

Your Wildest Dreams

I inhaled sharply when I recognized the introductory riff wafting from my favorite 80s station as Your Wildest Dreams by the Moody Blues. Even though I had the original 45 RPM record, the album on cassette tape, and more recently, the CD, I kept them safely locked away so I wouldn’t binge on it. Nonetheless, when KPLV, 93.1 FM in Vegas, got around to playing it every few weeks or so, I’d indulge in a break, a delicious reminder of why I was here.

Consumed by ethereal and intimately familiar soundwaves, I got up, closed the blinds, and even though it was unlikely the song’s strains would penetrate my office’s cinder block walls, plugged in my headset so I could crank it up—I mean really up. I melted back into my chair, eyes closed, with what was probably an idiotic smile on my face, savoring each note as the song segued into its lively, 142 BPM tempo. The next three minutes and forty-one seconds, I’d be in heaven.

Even though this song came out eight years after she left, the first time I heard it, back when I was still in college in ’86, I knew two things: One, it would always be “our song”; and Two, I had to find her.

My heart leapt with visions of galaxies beyond, of what might be out there, where she might be. I plunged headlong through space and time, besieged by memories burned into my heart as permanently and painfully as branding was to a newborn calf. Did she remember? Feel the same thing I did? Sense the enchantment of fate-entangled lives?

I memorize pretty easily, which comes in handy, especially with things like the Periodic Table or Maxwell’s equations. And of course, favorite songs. These particular lyrics struck me, hard and personal, from day one, certain it’d been written exclusively for me.

As my eyes teared up, logic intervened and yanked me back to planet Earth.

Grow up, Benson! What are you, a total schmaltz or what?

We were kids, for heaven sakes. A teenage crush. I should’ve gotten over it, but never did. No wonder. Girls like her are rare. One of a kind. She’d already experienced things I never would. Things that were part of my wildest dreams.

The admonition failed, pushed aside by that part of me that felt alive again, jammin’ like a total jerk, mouthing the words as I sang along in my head. It’s not like I’m a teenager anymore, though at the moment I felt like one. No, memories of the heart never die—can’t die, evereven if you try to kill them.

I’d give anything to talk to her. Which of course I have, numerous times over the years, if only in my head. Okay, aloud more often than I care to admit. I could swear it even felt as if she answered a time or two. I suppose that’s how it is with your first love. Or your first kiss, even if it was only a peck on the cheek. It penetrates your soul and stays there forever.

That mid-summer day in ’78 hauling hay was as vivid as yesterday in my mind’s eye. The cloudless sky, sun hot on my neck, the aroma of first-crop alfalfa sweetening the mountain air. I scratched my shoulder, a reflex memory of itchy, stray leaves sticking through my T-shirt. My chest ached as I remembered tear tracks streaking her dust-covered face at something I’d said. Then, days later, that withering look when we lied about her ship.

The one we still have. What’s left of it quietly abandoned beneath a tarp in Building 15, here at Area 51.

How she knew we weren’t telling the truth, I’ll never know. Pretty funny it’s still sitting there. And I’m sure she’d think so, too. I can just hear her saying, “Stupid snurks, I knew they’d never figure it out.” Though actually they did, just didn’t find technology worth pursuing. Even contractors didn’t want it.

I had to admit it was pretty crazy, but she was my motivation to get where I was today: just short of a decade of college linked with serendipity that put me in the right place at the right time, hoping someday I’d find her. My life had changed a lot since then. How much had hers changed? Did she make it home? Was she still alive? With the effects of relativistic travel, which I understood only too well, she could still be a teenager, while I was easing into the infamous dirty thirties.

Not good. If I ever did find her, she’d probably think I was some lecherous old fart. Either that, or, with my luck, she’d be married with a bunch of kids. I winced with the thought.

My sentimental reverie vanished when my office door slammed open and Hector Buckhorn rolled in. Literally. Hec’s been stuck in a wheelchair ever since he crashed his hang glider into a New Mexico mountainside during spring break his last semester of college. He ridge soared a lot, particularly around Dulce, over restricted areas where he wasn’t supposed to be. Got caught a couple times, but being Native American, never got in trouble, even though it wasn’t his home reservation. He’s amazingly good at playing dumb, in spite of—or possibly because of—his 150ish IQ. He never talked about his accident, said he couldn’t remember. Makes sense, actually, given he suffered a massive concussion. The only time I ever saw him pissed him off was when he woke up in the hospital and discovered they’d shaved off his hair, since grown back beyond shoulder length.

I dropped the headset around my neck and faked a frown. “Don’t you ever knock, butthead?”

“Hey, man, wazzup?” he said, giving me a funny look. “You okay?”

I laughed. “Of course. Just thinking. Remembering. You know.”

Ahhh. They played that song again, didn’t they?”

“Can’t hide anything from you, can I, Chief?”

“Nope. I figured you were up to somethin’ with your blinds closed.”

He wheeled over to the grey metal, government-issue table on the other side of the room and helped himself to a handful of peanut M&Ms. Once I’d realized during my PhD days at Cal Tech that, in a pinch, they made a pretty decent meal, I’d kept that old, wide-mouth canning jar full. He dumped them in his mouth, perusing me with knowing, dark eyes.

“You were sure enjoyin’ that song of yours,” he said, not even trying to stifle his crooked grin as he munched away.

“Yeah,” I replied, uncomfortable with the conversation’s direction.

“We’ve known each other a long time, Allen,” he said. “Don’t you think it’s time you told me about her?”

“Not much to tell.”

He let fly with a popular expletive related to bovine excrement. “C’mon! What’s her name?” he persisted.

I blew out my cheeks and sighed, knowing resistance was futile. “Creena,” I answered, surprising myself when, again, I got a little choked up. I avoided his eyes by likewise heading for the M&Ms.

“So find her,” he said.

“It’s not that simple,” I replied, pouring myself a handful. “I don’t know where she is.” A statement that was truer than he could possibly imagine.

“I have some resources who could help,” he offered with a conspiratorial wink.

I shook my head, then stalled by popping a few colorful orbs in my mouth.

“Why not? If she’s anywhere on this planet, these guys’ll find her.”

I swallowed hard and paused; met his gaze. “She’s not.”

He scowled, making him look a lot like those old pictures of Cochise. “Say again?”

“She’s. Not.”

“Oh! I’m sorry.”

“Why?”

He shrugged. “I assumed she’s dead. She must’ve been quite a girl.”

“She was. Is. She’s not dead. At least as far as I know.”

His jaw dropped, shocked expression broadcasting the fact he’d caught the implications. “You’re not kidding, are you?”

“Nope.”

“Abductee?” he whispered.

“Nope,” I answered, raiding the candy jar again. “Immigrant.”

His eyes widened as he spewed an expletive that elevated excrement to sanctified status. “Don’t tell me she’s an EBE!”

I nearly spewed partially chewed M&Ms across the room. Extraterrestrial biological entity, indeed! Yet by definition, actually, she was.

I chuckled at his expression and shook my head. “No. Quite human. At least as far as I know.”

“Are you?” he added, chocolate-colored irises rimmed with white. His reaction surprised me—UFOs, even aliens, were no big deal in his culture, just business as usual with the Star People.

“C’mon, Chief! You’ve known me since tenth grade, running high school track!”

He leaned back, searching my face with more solemnity than I’d seen since I told him how Dad died. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, bro,” he said finally, shaking his head.

“You have no idea,” I said, throat constricting as scratchy lyrics from the headset, audible only to me, issued another reminder of why I was here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Marcha Fox

 

[NOTE:–This is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, Dark Circles, a slightly dark, hard sci-fi love story. No release date has been set.]

Marcha Fox, RWISA Author Page

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Watch RWISA Write: Nonnie Jules

August is Watch RWISA Write month. Today, we celebrate author Nonnie Jules!

PRISON WIVES

 

I am an unlikely character to tell these stories, but, I do know that each day that we are blessed to open our eyes, we never know what surprises, good or bad, that day will bring. No matter how much and how well we plan, the universe always steps in to show us just how much, we are not as in control of things as we thought we were.

These are real stories of moms, wives, spouses…those significant others who are left behind; those innocent, and maybe even not-so-innocents, who are left to pick up all the pieces that are shattered when their husbands walk out the door and don’t return in the time frame in which they are expected to.

No, he didn’t run off with another woman…he was apprehended somewhere between here and there by a law enforcement officer, and, for whatever reason, he’s now being held behind bars…property of the city until the state steps in to claim ownership. And, although these men are the ones incarcerated, it is the entire family that serves the time.

These are not sob stories to drum up sympathy for the accused. But, this book will serve as a doorway into an open dialogue, so that we are all aware of just how much children suffer when their dads are taken away.

These stories are but small ways to shine light on the effects of imprisoning low-level offenders for long periods of time, ripping them from their children’s lives, and the negative imprints left behind. This is a plea for reform of a justice system that will quickly parole a drug dealer, murderer, rapist or child molester, who will more than likely repeat-offend, yet hangs on to low-level offenders who may have made a one-time mistake or even worse, was forced to take a plea for a crime which he is innocent of, simply because he was too poor and couldn’t afford top-of-the-line defense. We do know that this happens, don’t we?

Lastly, this is so that we don’t forget those that are forced to soldier up and walk into battle each and every day, standing on the front lines of a war that they have been shielded from for far too long. These soldiers fight daily just to keep a roof over the heads, food in the mouths, and hope in the spirits of the children who are also being penalized in this war.

These are the stories of PRISON WIVES.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE – SAMMIE

Sammie was so excited about their upcoming road trip. Not for the travel element, but, because their son Jeremy, was about to lead his team to another high school championship for a third straight year. Jeremy was a senior and also big man on campus, as Rozdale High’s, 6’3, All-American Quarterback. The one drawback to Sammie’s excitement, was they had to travel cross country to play. Sammie hated to travel, she also hated to fly, so road trips were always the name of the game for her family. This year, she was especially apprehensive about their road trip and yet, she had no idea why.

The drive would take them 21 hours and 32 min to reach their destination of Clearwater, FL. from Lubbock, TX. And, since Jeremy had to be there on Friday, this would mean a full day and a half of travel prior to. Sammie, mother of three daughters and one son, knew that her husband Josh had a suspended driver’s license, yet, he would have to share the drive time with her anyway.  This was not an option as none of their children were of legal driving age, and Jeremy, the oldest, would not get his license until he turned 18 in the following year.

On that hot July morning as they backed out of their driveway, Sammie sat in the passenger seat and prayed. “Dear Lord, guide my family safely from this place to the next and back again. Return us all safely to our home…together. Amen.” Sammie wasn’t what you’d call a deeply religious woman, but she embraced her spiritual side and she strongly believed in the power of prayer.

The family drove along Interstate 20, then passing through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, they finally entered into the state of Florida. There were many stops along the way, but it was the last one that they would never forget. With almost seven hours left in their journey, they heard the sounds of a police siren behind them. When Sammie looked over her shoulder from the backseat, which she’d retired to hours before to stretch her legs, her heart sank so low, she could almost hear it hit the floor of the rental van.

Pulling over into the gas station they were headed to for their next potty-break, Sammie’s mind raced wildly. Not only did Josh have a suspended license, but he also had an outstanding warrant back home for a false probation violation, which they were aware of.

“I know I wasn’t speeding, officer,” Josh offered as the policeman approached his door.

“Yes, you were, sir,” the officer responded, surprisingly with a smile. A lie, I thought. “License and registration, please.”

Knowing all too well that it was going to take a miracle to keep him from being arrested right there, Josh, ever-protective of his children and family, asked the officer if they could get out of the van to use the restrooms.  If the worse happened, he didn’t want his children to see him in handcuffs or in the back of a police car. The officer said “Sure,” again, with the same smile on his face.

With his entire family inside, Josh tried to convince the officer to please let him get his family to safety and then he would return home to deal with the issue. His wife had no idea how to make the rest of the long journey without him, he shared.  But, still being kind, the officer said that he just couldn’t do that. He had to take him in.

Sammie’s phone rang from inside the gas station. “He is arresting me,” came Josh’s shaky voice through the phone. Her heart sank again. “You are going to have to make the rest of this trip without me. Sam, you can do it.” His voice quickly changed and now held a firmness to it. He knew he had to appear strong or she would quickly become unraveled.

Tears filled Sammie’s eyes. She’d been married to this man for 15 years and for 15 years he’d taken care of her, done everything for her…made her life so easy. Now, he was telling her she had to continue on this long journey without him. OK, but when they arrived, what then? Josh had shielded her from the real world for so long, she wasn’t sure if she could take a breath without him. But, she had to…for their kids. If she had been alone, she might have given up right then and there.

Sammie stood in the parking lot and watched the officer drive away with her husband in the back seat of the car, while she had asked the kids to stay inside and away from the windows.

When she realized that she wasn’t dreaming, she wiped her tear-stained face with the tissue in her hand. Composed and in brave face, she walked back inside to collect her children, as they were now both her reason and her strength to get them through this long, arduous journey –  a weekend without their father and then back to Texas, safe and sound.

Sammie had no idea how hard it would be once they headed back home five days later with the questions and comments from the kids about their father.  “We can’t leave here without him,” said 8-year-old Vanessa. “How is he going to get home?” asked 12-year-old Maggie.  “Why can’t we just stay here until this is straightened out? It can’t take that long,” added 16-year-old Zandra, the sassy one of the bunch. Sammie was thankful at that moment that Jeremy had chosen to remain silent. His un-asked question was one less stab to her heart.

Not knowing the severity of the situation, Sammie drove along, oblivious to all those words that could cut deep into her heart. How would she find the words to tell these kids, who had never gone more than 7 hours without seeing the dad they worshipped, that she didn’t know when he’d be coming home again?

Nonnie Jules, RWISA Author Page

Watch RWISA Write: Ron Yates

August is Watch RWISA Write month. Today, we celebrate author Ron Yates!

THE LEGEND OF TOKYO ROSE

By Ronald E. Yates

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

During a 27-year career with the Chicago Tribune, much of it as a foreign correspondent in Asia and Latin America, I encountered my share of remarkable and unforgettable stories.

Some came out of the horrendous suffering I witnessed while covering the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Afghanistan. Others were generated by the bloody revolutions in Guatemala and El Salvador. Still others sprang from the wrenching political upheavals I reported on in places like The Philippines, Brazil, China and South Korea.

But there is one story in my journalistic career that I treasure above all the others. That is the story of a Japanese-American woman named Iva Toguri. You probably don’t recognize the name and if you don’t, that is perfectly understandable.

You and millions of other Americans know her by another name: “Tokyo Rose.”

That’s right, “Tokyo Rose.” The so-called “Siren of the Pacific” who sat before a microphone in Tokyo and told GIs on a 25-minute show called “The Zero Hour” that their homes, their girl-friends and even apple pie weren’t worth fighting for. Tokyo Rose, the legendary “seductress of the short wave,” whose broadcasts between 1943 and 1945 for Radio Tokyo were meant to demoralize the American fighting man and undermine his will to fight.

Remember all those World War II era movies with GIs gathered around short wave radios listening to a sultry “Tokyo Rose” intone such phrases as: “Come on boys, give up. You haven’t got a chance against the Imperial Japanese Army. Why throw your lives away?”

There’s just one problem. There was no “Tokyo Rose.” Nor were there ever any treasonous broadcasts like the ones described above. At least not by Iva Toguri.

Following is her remarkable and poignant story and my involvement in it.


 

It was the summer of 1941 and for a young California woman named Iva Toguri it was a time filled with promise and endless possibilities.

 

The previous June Iva had graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in zoology, she had a shiny Chrysler, and she was planning on attending graduate school in the fall so she could begin a career as a medical researcher or perhaps even a doctor.

 

The daughter of hardworking Japanese immigrants, Iva had been brought up to be a confident, optimistic American. And why not? After all, she was born in Los Angeles on the 4th of July–and you can’t get more American than that.

 

But in the summer of 1941 the world was not a place that could easily match the hopes and expectations of a 25-year-old UCLA graduate.

 

In Europe, a war was raging and the forces of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich occupied or controlled most of the continent. In Asia, Imperial Japan, under the leadership of a clique of hardcore militarists, was in control of China, the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan and a segment of the South Seas ceded to it after World War I.

 

Conflict and discord were the prevailing truths of the day, and as Iva Toguri stood on the brink of her future an ominous cloud of world war hung in the warm summer air.

 

Thus it was not without some trepidation that Toguri’s ailing mother asked Iva to represent the American side of the Toguri family at the bedside of a dying aunt in Tokyo. It was a bit risky, but someone had to go; and on July 5, 1941, one day after her 25th birthday, Iva was on a slow boat to Japan. She spoke no Japanese, had never been to Japan and had never met her aunt.

 

It would be a fateful journey, one that would alter Iva Toguri’s life forever and eventually introduce to the world one of its most enduring and erroneous myths: The Legend of “Tokyo Rose.”

 

Less than five months after arriving in Japan and not long after her sick aunt had recovered, Japanese warplanes swooped down on a place called Pearl Harbor. For Iva Toguri and millions of others, the future went from bright to black in a matter of moments. And the lights would not come back on until August 1945, when Japan surrendered.

 

But for Iva Toguri, the war did not end in 1945 as it did for so many others. Four years later Iva Toguri would stand in a San Francisco courtroom, one of only a few American women ever convicted of treason. In the minds of millions of Americans Iva Toguri was the one and only “Tokyo Rose,” the name American GIs in the Pacific had given to several women radio announcers who played scratchy Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman records during propaganda radio shows broadcast in English from Tokyo and elsewhere in Asia.

 

Iva’s conviction on just one of eight counts of treason came despite the testimony of G.I.s who called the Radio Tokyo “Zero Hour” broadcasts she made morale boosters and despite evidence which showed she was just one of 13 English-speaking women announcers broadcasting from Tokyo at the time. Another 14 women had broadcast from cities throughout Asia and the Pacific that were occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army.  Interestingly, not one of them called herself “Tokyo Rose.”  (The only radio alias Iva Toguri ever used during her 15-minute segment of popular music was the name “Orphan Ann” because, as she often said during her broadcasts, she was an announcer who had been orphaned in Tokyo by the war.)

 

Not even the absence of a written record or an electronic recording of the single “treasonous” broadcast she was supposed to have made stopped her conviction. That broadcast came after a crushing U.S. Naval victory in Leyte Gulf of the Philippines in which she allegedly said:

 

“Orphans of the Pacific, you really are orphans now. How will you get home now that all your ships are sunk?”

 

Most Americans listening to that would have seen through the facetious tone of those words, no matter who said them, and understood that it was a broadcast meant more for members of the defeated Imperial Japanese Navy than for the victorious U.S. Navy. Even more important, however, was the fact that Iva never said those words.

 

Nevertheless, in 1949 in a San Francisco Federal courtroom as she, her family and her corps of defense attorneys led by the late Wayne Mortimer Collins looked on, Iva was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. She served six years and two months of her sentence in the Alderson Federal Reformatory in West Virginia which would much later house Martha Stewart. But more importantly her conviction sentenced Iva Toguri to a life of disgrace and deep inner pain that only those falsely accused and convicted can ever understand.

 

Some vindication came in a series of exclusive stories I reported and wrote in 1976 while serving as the Chicago Tribune’s Tokyo Bureau Chief and Chief Asia Correspondent.

 

Two key prosecution witnesses, after 27 years of silence, wanted to ease their consciences. They admitted to me that they were forced by U.S. Justice Department and FBI officials to lie, tell half-truths and withhold vital information at the trial. It was on the basis of their coerced and false testimony that the jury had found Iva guilty. (Article 3 of the Constitution states that treason shall consist only in levying war against the United States or in giving aid and comfort to its enemies and that conviction may be had only on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or on confession in open court).

 

The two witnesses, Kenkichi Oki and George Mitsushio—both California-born Japanese-Americans—were Iva’s superiors on Radio Tokyo’s “Zero Hour” radio program. Oki was the show’s production manager and Mitsushio was program director. Oki and Mitsushio testified they had heard Iva make the so-called “Orphans of the Pacific” broadcast about Leyte Gulf in October 1944 when in fact she never did.

 

The “Zero Hour” was produced under coercion by Allied prisoners of war, and while the Imperial Japanese government saw it as a way to broadcast propaganda to American GIs fighting in the Pacific, the POWs and Iva saw it as a way to sabotage the Japanese war effort.

 

That’s the way the occupation forces of Gen. Douglas MacArthur saw it too when on April 17, 1946, following 11 months of Iva’s incarceration in Tokyo’s Sugamo prison along with such Class A Japanese war criminals as former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, the U.S. Army Legal Section issued the following report:

 

“There is no evidence that Iva Toguri ever broadcast greetings to units by name and location, or predicted military movements or attacks, indicating access to secret military information and plans.”

 

Then, in October 1946 a U.S. Justice Department investigation of Iva concluded:

 

“Iva Toguri’s activities, particularly in view of the innocuous nature of her broadcasts, are not sufficient to warrant prosecution for treason.”

 

It was obvious that the U.S. authorities in Tokyo were willing to let bygones be bygones. And they were willing to accept the reasons for Iva Toguri’s voluntary participation in the Zero Hour show: that like most of the 10,000 Japanese-Americans stranded in Tokyo during the war, she had taken the job to sustain herself while she was basically a hostage in a hostile environment.

 

Furthermore, she had been assured by the American and Australian POWs who wrote the scripts she read, that she was doing nothing unpatriotic–and indeed that what they were doing might even help the allied war effort.

 

That was especially important to Iva, because unlike all the other Japanese-Americans who participated in the Zero Hour broadcasts, she had steadfastly refused to give up her American citizenship, despite being threatened and pushed to do so by Imperial Japan’s dreaded “kempeitai” secret police. In fact, her pro-American sentiments often got her into arguments with Japanese members of the Zero Hour staff. On several occasions she risked arrest and even death to smuggle food and medical supplies to Allied POW’s in Tokyo.

 

In 1948, Iva petitioned to return to the United States and Chicago, where her family had resettled following the war.

 

When word leaked out that the notorious “Tokyo Rose” was trying to reenter the United States, much of the U.S. press took exception. Radio columnist Walter Winchell unleashed a series of broadcasts attacking then U.S. Atty. Gen. Tom Clark for “laxness” in dealing with “Tokyo Rose.” Pressure steadily built on the Truman administration to “make an example” of somebody. That “somebody” was to be Iva Toguri.

 

It made no difference that Iva Toguri bore no resemblance in appearance or deed to the fictitious and seductive Oriental woman American G.I.s fantasized about while sitting in their jungle foxholes. Nor did the fact that U.S. Occupation forces already had investigated Iva and cleared her of any activity that could be construed as treasonous.

 

It was an election year and the administration of President Harry S Truman could not afford to be seen as being soft on alleged wartime spies and turncoats. Atty. Gen. Clark dispatched investigators to Tokyo to look into the Tokyo Rose case. They found that Iva Toguri was the only person associated with the “Zero Hour” show who was still an American citizen and hence, still subject to U.S. law. So Clark began to build a case against Iva and told justice department attorney Tom de Wolfe to “prosecute it vigorously.”

 

In 1945 Iva had married Filipe J. d’Aquino, who was born in Yokohama of a Portuguese father and a Japanese mother. In 1948 the couple’s child, who Iva desperately wanted to be born in the United States, died at birth. The two remained together until her conviction and then, following decades of forced separation, they divorced in 1980. After Iva’s release from prison, she could not get a U.S. passport to travel and d’Aquino, while in San Francisco for the trial, had been told by the FBI never to return to the United States, “or else.”

 

The case against Iva Toguri was flimsy at best. Something had to be done to strengthen it. So FBI agents in Tokyo rounded up all of those involved in the “Zero Hour” broadcasts and applied the kind of pressure that most any Japanese-American at the time could understand.

 

“We had no choice,” Oki told me in 1976 after I had convinced him and Mitsushio to meet me in Tokyo. “The FBI and U.S. Occupation police told us we would have to testify against Iva or else they said Uncle Sam might arrange a trial for us too—or worse.  We were flown to San Francisco from Tokyo and along with other government witnesses, we were told what to say and what not to say two hours every morning for a month before the trial started.

 

“Even though I was a government witness against her, I can say today that Iva Toguri was innocent: she never did anything treasonable…she never said the words that got her convicted,” Oki said. “It was all a lie. Iva never had a chance. And all I can say now is that I am truly sorry for my part in her conviction. I hope she can find it in her heart to forgive us.”

 

My stories containing details of Oki and Mitsushio’s confession of perjury, as well as interviews with her former husband Phil d’Aquino and others who had worked with Iva on the Zero Hour, appeared in March 1976 and were carried around the world.

 

On January 19, 1977, President Gerald Ford, in his last official act in office, granted Iva Toguri a full and unconditional pardon. While the historic pardon was an attempt to correct the injustice done to Iva Toguri, the individual, it also served to raise awareness of the unfair treatment Japanese-Americans received at the time from the federal and some state governments.

 

The fact Iva Toguri became the first person in American history to be pardoned following a treason conviction, speaks volumes about her own indomitable spirit and the determination of those who supported her crusade for justice, say leaders in the Japanese-American community.

 

Others say the pardon also says something about the deeply-ingrained sense of fair play that permeates American society and which manifests itself, albeit sometimes belatedly, in the media, the courts and, in Toguri’s case, the White House.

 

July 4, 2006 marked Iva Toguri’s 90th birthday and for almost 65 of those 90 years she had to live with the myth that she was “Tokyo Rose.”

 

Some vindication came in January 2006 in a quiet, private ceremony held in a restaurant on Chicago’s north side when Iva received the Edward J. Herlihy Citizenship Award from the World War II Veterans Committee. (Herlihy was a radio broadcaster who was known as the “Voice of WW II” for his narration of Universal Newsreels). It was a twist of irony not lost on those in attendance.

 

I was privileged to be one of those invited to the ceremony, along with members of Iva’s family and a handful of close friends like former CBS news anchor Bill Kurtis, who has known Iva since the late 1960s, and Hollywood producer Barbara Trembley, who is working to produce a major feature film about Iva and her struggles.

 

Iva pushed back tears as she accepted the award.

 

“This is such a great honor,” she said. “For so many years I wanted to be positive about this whole thing. I wanted to honor my father and my family. They believed in me through all the things that happened to me. I thank the World War II Veterans Committee for making this the most memorable day of my life.”

 

In 1991 Iva and I met in the same restaurant. She had invited me to dinner to thank me for the series of stories I had written that resulted in the Presidential pardon. Incredibly, even though Iva and I were linked by the stories I had written we had never met face to face.

 

“You know, if it hadn’t been for your stories I never would have received my pardon,” Iva told me. “I would still be a criminal. You started the ball rolling. And now, after all this time, I just want to say thank you. It’s long overdue.”

 

I hadn’t come to dinner in search of any recognition or thanks. I just wanted to meet the woman whose story had fascinated me years before and sent me on a search for the truth. I wanted finally to separate the woman from the myth; to detach Iva Toguri the person from “Tokyo Rose” the World War II caricature. I wanted to meet the woman that fertile G.I. imaginations had turned into some torrid kimono-clad Mata Hari.

 

The woman sitting across from me was certainly no Mata Hari. Here was a woman with kind eyes, a gracious smile and an admirable ability to put things into perspective.

 

“I’ve put all that behind me now,” Iva said, speaking of her ordeals in wartime Tokyo, in San Francisco’s federal court, and in prison.

 

“I’m only sorry that my father never lived to see me pardoned. He died in 1972. But he believed in me until the end.

 

“‘I’m proud of you Iva,’ he used to tell me. You were like a tiger…you never changed your stripes…you stayed American through and through.’”

 

“Am I bitter? No, what good does it do to be bitter?” Iva said. Then she thought for a moment. There were exceptions to that blanket forgiveness.

 

“In your stories Oki and Mitsushio asked for my forgiveness. But how could I ever forgive them for what they did to me?”

 

Both Oki and Mitsushio are dead now, as is Iva, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 90.

 

During one of our many meetings, Iva told me that her biggest wish was to have her story told accurately someday in a film or play. There have been a few books written—most of them unauthorized—about Iva’s ordeal, but they have done little to set the record straight.

 

“People tend to remember a story when it is dramatized and told in a theatrical way,” she said. “As for a book, I would like to tell my story in my own words.”

Iva may finally get her wish. A play about the Legend of Tokyo Rose is currently in the works and I plan to write a book using Iva’s first person narrative based on hundreds of hours of recorded interviews and my personal notes.

 

Finally, after years of disappointment and heartbreak, Iva’s story will be told the way she wanted it told—truthfully and conscientiously.

 

But most important, the Legend of Tokyo Rose will finally be put to rest along with other historical myths and deceptions such as Big Foot, the Piltdown man, and the Loch Ness Monster.

 

My only regret is that Iva will not be here to experience her vindication.

 

Ron Yates, RWISA Author Page

Watch RWISA Write: Jan Sikes

August is Watch RWISA Write month. Today, we celebrate author Jan Sikes!

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Henry Jacobsen ran gnarled fingers through 84 years of living and swatted at a fly that buzzed around his head. The sun warmed his old bones and he turned to face his longtime friend. “You know, Aaron, what the world needs now, is for people to show a little more respect to each other. Back in my day, if I acted or talked disrespectful, I got my hide tanned.”

The wooden boards underneath Aaron’s rocker creaked in syncopated rhythm with his movement. “Yep, Henry. Times are different nowadays.”

Henry timed his chair rhythm with Aaron’s. “Before I came to stay here, I had a house over on Boulder Street. There was a family a few doors down that was always borrowing things from me, but somehow they never remembered to return any of them.”

Aaron nodded. “I’ve had it happen to me many times.”

“I pulled into the driveway one day just in time to see the oldest kid unscrewing my water hose. By the time I parked the car and got out, he had it slung over his shoulder.” Henry’s frown deepened. “It’s frustrating when you can’t move like you used to.”

He gazed across the green manicured lawn of the Post Oaks Retirement Center as if viewing some long-ago forgotten scene.

“Well?” Aaron prodded. “What did you do?”

“I hollered at him and asked what in the world he thought he was doing. And you know what he had the nerve to say to me?” Henry screwed up his face.

“Nope.”

“He said that he was taking my water hose so he could wash his motorcycle.”

“Don’t that beat all? Aaron clicked his tongue. “Didn’t even bother to ask you.”

“I saw red. I lit into him like nobody’s business,” he growled. “The nerve. Take a man’s things like they meant nothing.”

Aaron shifted to take the weight off his bad hip. “There was a day when I would’ve jumped a guy for pulling a stunt like that. But those times are over for me. At this point, I’m doin’ good just to make it from the bed to the bathroom without embarrassing myself.”

“Yeah, me too. But, I tell you, I didn’t take it lying down. I told him what a rotten, no good, worthless human being he was and that he’d better put the water hose down or I’d call the cops and turn him in for stealing.”

“What did he do then?”

“He laughed in my face…told me I was too old to use the damn water hose anyway and he needed it.”

“Why, the nerve!”

“I marched myself inside and called the cops. When they came, I gave them a list of everything they had so-called borrowed and said I wanted it all back.”

“Did you get it?”

“Yeah. In pieces. The weed eater was battered and wouldn’t start. My shovel was broken in half. The water hose was split in two pieces. All of it was in shambles. Just no respect. That’s what the world has come to.”

Silence spun a web between the two old-timers who’d seen more than a lifetime of battles.

“I remember when I was in the Army. Nobody ever pilfered in someone else’s belongings. I did two tours overseas, fighting for this country and now I have to wonder what for.” Henry’s voice trembled. “The way folks carry on is a shame. Just no regard for one another.”

Aaron halted the rocker and leaned forward. “You’re right, Henry. The mess things are in is downright disgraceful. Take for instance the presidential election. Now, I can’t say I agree with the candidate who won, but for people to go out and tear stuff up, turn on friends and family who voted for him, and get consumed with hatred is ridiculous. No one is willing to bend.”

“Never saw anything like it,” Henry agreed. “I remember when John F. Kennedy won the election in 1960. People spoke out against him because he was catholic. But, they weren’t filled with the kind of hatred they are today. It pains me to think about what kind of society our grandkids are growing up in. For old geezers like ourselves, it don’t really matter all that much. We’re on our way out.”

“Dinosaurs. Men like us with backbone and decency are disappearing just like those prehistoric creatures did. I’d sure like to see something that would give me hope for the future. Hope for our country.” Aaron’s rheumy eyes glistened.

Henry pushed up from the rocker and stretched. It troubled him more than he could say that his grandchildren were growing up in these unstable times. A tired old man needs salve for his weary soul.

Just as he was about to shuffle inside, he saw his grandson, Micah, bounding across the lawn.

Micah waved. “Hi, Grandpa.”

Henry waved back.

Breathless, Micah reached the two men. “Hey, Gramps, look at this beautiful spring day. How about I bust you out of here and we go fishing?”

Henry chuckled. “That’s the best idea I’ve heard in a long time.” He turned to Aaron and winked. “There’s our hope. This young man knows how to respect his elders.”

With that, he joined his grandson. It didn’t escape his notice that Micah slowed his steps to match his grandfather’s or that he held the door while they went inside.

Respect. That’s what Micah demonstrated.

And, it’s precisely the healing the world now needs.

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

JAN SIKES, RWISA Author Page

Watch RWISA Write: Wendy Scott

August is Watch RWISA Write month. Today, we celebrate author Wendy Scott!

Navigator

Luke’s body whirled through the portal in a kaleidoscope of starlight and rainbows. Burnt ozone stung his nostrils, and his stomach roiled as if live dragonflies flitted inside. He clutched his grandfather’s palm tighter, the only connection anchoring them together while they spun into the void, guided by the compass in his grandfather’s other hand.

“We’re here.” His grandfather’s words whistled with wheeziness.

He released Luke and turned away, pocketing the compass, but his old man’s movements weren’t quick enough to hide the tremors or his shortness of breath.

A mountain breeze, tinged with smoke ruffled the tussock grasses underfoot. In the valley below, Luke pinpointed a chimney on a cluster of shacks beside fenced paddocks. Had the old man’s sense of direction faded and cast them adrift?

“Follow me.” His grandfather rolled his shoulders back, lifted his head high, and led the descent.

Mindful of their journey’s mission doubt dragged at Luke’s feet. At only twelve, would he be found worthy? He didn’t want to think about his grandfather’s declining health if their bid was rejected.

Metallic scent tainted the air as they skirted past the dwellings; a one-room cottage, barn, and a smithy. Orange coals smoldered on the forge, hammers, and tongs lined up in military precision, but the pockmarked leather apron hung empty from a hook on the open door.

Without pause, his grandfather guided Luke out the back to the horse corrals. A bear of a man with arms like anvils leaned against the fence. Leather pants and knee-high boots sheathed his legs, but his chest was bare except for a star patterned tattoo, staining his chest muscles indigo and cobalt. At their approach his head swiveled, snaring the pair with a deep ocean gaze. Dryness etched Luke’s throat.

“Navigator, so many years have passed, I feared you would not return.”

Luke’s grandfather bowed his head. “Farrier, events have been unkind, but I keep my promises. My grandson had agreed to assume the responsibility in the place of his father who died when he was a babe.”

The men spoke as if Luke were a phantom, but he remained silent, remembering his grandfather’s instructions only to speak when asked a direct question by the otherworld farrier.

Grass scented warmth huffed through Luke’s hair. A midnight coated horse towered above his head. A white star marked the stallion’s forehead.

Luke clambered up the railings, but he still had to stretch to trail his fingertips along the horse’s snout. His breath caught when he gazed into the depths of the creature’s starlight eyes.

Firm fingers clasped Luke’s shoulder, and the farrier bowed towards the steed.  “Kasper approves of you. Come inside.”

The temperature in the smithy scorched the hairs inside Luke’s nose, and sweat trickled beneath his tunic, but the farrier worked the bellows until the coals combusted into flames. Next, he sprinkled a handful of sand into the hearth, and the fire danced into violet and malachite hues.

“You understand, old friend, without the enchantment your life span will be reduced to mortal years?”

My grandfather nodded.”These old bones grow weary, and the pathways are becoming muddled. My time is past. Luke is young, but he is pure of heart. ”

The farrier studied his friend for a moment before he reached out with his palm. “Navigator, of your own free will do you relinquish your powers to your grandson?”

The old man answered by dropping his compass into the farrier’s outstretched hand. “I do.”

The farrier’s otherworld stare scrutinized the boy, and although the being didn’t touch him, a prickling sensation rippled up Luke’s spine. After several heartbeats, the farrier inclined his head. “Your soul is free of darkness, but perhaps you are too young yet for any temptations to have challenged your values.”

“He’s a good lad. I vouch for him and will guide his path.” His grandfather squeezed Luke’s shoulder.

Calloused fingers gripped Luke’s chin. “Are you sure you want this? It’s not too late to back out and live a normal life. Be warned, once you accept you are bound for life. Each time you enter here seeking my help a non-negotiable toll must be paid.”

Before crossing over doubts had plagued Luke’s thoughts, but after tasting magic, he couldn’t settle for a dull life on the farm when his world had been opened to the lure of other realms.

Luke moistened his lips. “Navigator blood runs in my veins. I’m young, but I’m ready.”

The farrier released him. “Do I have your solemn vow you will only guide your passengers by the way of the light?”

Heart thundering, Luke focused on the compass. “I swear I’ll follow the true pathways.”

Light glinted off the chain as the farrier dangled the compass into the sparking coals. “Hold out your hand.”

Luke flinched, expecting his skin to sizzle when it touched the metal, but the compass was cool. He didn’t feel any different. Had the transfer worked?

The farrier clasped forearms with the older man. “You owe me one last favour, but I will redeem what’s due at another time.”

“As always it will be an honour to serve.” Luke’s grandfather stepped away.

“Navigator, peer into the fire.”

Several moments passed before Luke responded to his new title. Within the flames, he spied a young woman’s face, whose striking features seared into his memory.

“One day she will seek your skills, and when she does you must bring her to me.” The farrier crossed his arms.

Questions burned in Luke’s mind, but he’d been schooled on the protocols, so he suppressed his curiosity, and lowered his eyes. “As you command.”

The farrier ushered them into the yard and bid them farewell. “Keep your promises, follow the light and your direction will always be true.”

Outside Luke paused, blinking. A glittering path lit the way up to the portal.

Unshed tears gathered in his grandfather’s eyes. “The navigator’s sight is now hidden from me.”

Grasping the compass in one hand, Luke held out his other hand. “Come grandfather, I will guide you home.”

***

(Navigator is a prelude and companion scene to Fire Hooves – yet to be released by Wendy Scott).

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

WENDY SCOTT, RWISA Author Page

 

Watch RWISA Write: Gwen Plano

August is Watch RWISA Write month. Today, we celebrate author Gwen Plano!

Love at First Sight

 

“It doesn’t seem real. It just doesn’t seem real.” Mom muttered as she ran her hand over the curves of dad’s headstone. Sighing deeply, she stared blankly into the horizon.

After a few minutes, she turned and faced me. “I tell myself that it must be real.” She seemed to want my approval. “The stone says we were married 70 years. It must have happened; I must have been married. But, but…why can’t I remember?” She searched my face for answers.

Stooped from the burden of years now elusive and sometimes vacant, mom held my arm while she walked to either side of the monument.

“I saw him in a dream. Did I tell you that?”

“No, mom, I don’t think you did.”

“He was young, like when we first met.”

“Really? Could you tell me about how you met?”

“How?” Mom’s eyes darted to and fro as she struggled to answer. Then, as though the curtains lifted, she responded.

“Yes…yes, I can tell you how we met.”

“Let’s sit here, mom.” I led her to a cement bench under a tall oak tree near dad’s grave. “Now tell me how the two of you met.”

Mom took a deep breath and began. “It was during the war. I remember it now. It was 1944. There were posters in our high school which asked us to sign up to work at the Consolidated Aircraft factory in San Diego. They needed help building B-24 bombers. We called the bombers the Liberators. My sister and I and several of our girlfriends decided we wanted to help our country. Most of the boys in our class were enlisting in the army or navy. We wanted to do our part too.”

“Like Rosie the Riveter?”

“Oh, yes! We all wanted to be Rosie. Your grandparents didn’t much like the idea, but they knew the families of the other girls, and since we’d be living together and would watch out for one another, they finally agreed. After all, it was the patriotic thing to do.”

I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of mom being Rosie and asked where she lived.

“We lived with Aunt Lena on India Street in San Diego. She put in bunk beds for us. At night, we’d wash out our clothes and tie the pieces to the bedsprings so that they could dry overnight.”

“When we arrived at Consolidated, they gave each of us a uniform – blue pants and jacket. And, we had classes for a week or two. Most of us were assigned the job of riveting. It’s hard to believe, but there were about 20,000 women working at the factory. The assembly line was a mile long, and believe it or not, we built about nine bombers a day. Isn’t that amazing?”

“That is amazing, mom.” Pride glowed from mom’s face, and I couldn’t help but feel proud of her as well.

“I was assigned to the wings. I hate heights, but I’d climb on top of those wings and pretend I was sitting on the hood of a car. I didn’t get afraid that way. One day, when I was sitting up there, holding a riveting gun, your dad came by.”

“Hey,” he said. “What’s your name?” I thought I might be in trouble, but he smiled, so I smiled back.

“It’s Lauretta.”

“Well, Lauretta, you’re doing a great job. If you need anything, let me know. My name’s Jim, and I’m the foreman for this area.”

I put my arm around mom’s shoulder. “My goodness, mom, you were on the wing of a bomber when you met dad?”

“Sounds funny, doesn’t it? But, yes, that’s the first time we talked. I didn’t pay much attention to him, but my sister would whisper to me, “There he is again. I think he likes you. He keeps looking this way.”

Mom lowered her eyes and giggled. “Of course, I didn’t believe her.”

After pausing a bit, she continued. “Your dad started walking home with us in the evening. He lived further up the hill from us, so it wasn’t out of his way. Mind you, I was wearing the company uniform and had my hair in a bandana, so I was hardly a beauty.”

“Anyway, one day he asked if I’d like to come up to his place. And, I was stupid and said okay. That’s when I learned about the facts of life. You know, sex.”

“You didn’t know before then, mom?”

“No, but he taught me that night.” Mom giggled and put her hand on her face. “He wanted to get married right then. But, I told him no, he had to talk to my parents. We needed to do it right. Besides, I hardly knew him. There were a lot of shot-gun marriages those days. We all thought the end of the world was coming, and well, young lovers didn’t hold back.”

“So, you and dad became lovers?”

“You know the answer to that, don’t you? When I didn’t have my cycle, I knew I was pregnant. Your dad was elated and didn’t hesitate to talk to your grandparents. Of course, I was ashamed. But, I want you to understand something. You might have been the reason we married, but you were not the reason we stayed together for 70 years.”

“Did you love him, mom?” The question came out before I could filter it.

“I did, I just didn’t know I did. Your dad would tell anyone who would listen, ‘When I saw Lauretta on the wing of a B-24 bomber, I knew that she was the one for me.’ He’d say it all the time, ‘She’s the one for me!’” Mom giggled as she thought about this story. “Your dad always said it was love at first sight. But it wasn’t that way for me.”

“What do you mean by that, mom?”

“Well, love is a strange word, isn’t it? Your dad seemed to know from the first time he saw me that he wanted to marry me. I didn’t feel that way. I think my focus was romance or dreams. And, your dad wasn’t the wooing type.”

“I believe I fell in love with him after you were born. He thought you were the most beautiful baby in the whole world. In fact, I think he was happiest when he was holding you. He’d sing to you and rock you to sleep every night.”

She dropped her head, and tears rolled down her cheeks. My tears fell as well.

“He was a good man, a faithful man. Did I tell you his promise?”

I shook my head, and said, “no.”

“You know that he grew up hungry, right? During the Dust Bowl, his family barely survived. In fact, two of his sisters died.  Well, your dad promised me that his children would never go hungry. He would make sure of it. And, he did. He worked two jobs most of our marriage, and you kids were never hungry.” She paused and looked into my eyes.

“Your dad kept his promises.”

Mom grew silent. Her face turned from animated to expressionless, and I did not know what to think. She whispered something that I had to ask her to repeat. She sighed and looked at me again.

“It just doesn’t seem real.”

 

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

GWEN PLANO, RWISA Author Page

 

Watch RWISA Write: Laurie Finkelstein

August is Watch RWISA Write month. Today, we celebrate author Laurie Finkelstein!

Bulletproof Vest

The bulk, padding, and steel plates weigh me down. The protection of a bulletproof vest is necessary. No matter the weather, I wear the cloak. The weight is a burden, but I trek on because wrapped is the only way to navigate my journey. The jacket protects my heart from being blown to crimson shards of death.

A direct hit is avoided for days and nights, lulling me into calm and complacency. “All will work out fine,” I tell myself. The truth tells a story I want to change. All my will and might does not make an impact to stop the bombardment.

Experience and time separates me from tragedy. At any moment, the bullets strike. Inside or out. My house cannot provide security, nor can a million people surrounding me. With nowhere to hide, I am a target. Shelter and safety are nonexistent.

Discharges are held back while luck and grace harbor me. The slugs will come, however, in a piercing barrage without warning, and will pummel me.

Knocked to the ground, I am immobilized and rendered helpless. My breathing is halted. My movements are stopped, and I understand what assaulted me.

The shockwave subsides, and in small increments, I am able to take in air. Incapacitated, I continue to lie until I am rescued by the rational thinking buried under an avalanche of pain, doubt, and fear. My thoughts check my vitals to make sure I am in the here and now. “Stay in the moment,” I tell myself. “I can manage this. I will persevere.”

“Rise,” I command. The mass of the garb constricts my movement, but I stand, analyze what must be done, and begin to act. The warrior in me comes out. Battles will be fought. My impervious attire gets me through another crisis, and its weight comforts me. Without the guise, I am unable to prevail against the onslaughts, which pop out of the dark corners of another day.

Yes, my vest is cumbersome, but without my swathe I will not withstand the painful projectiles. Clips are filled, ready to punch and knock me down, disabling me should I forget for a moment to cloak myself within my protective armor.

My bullets are not made of lead, surrounded by a dense metal. The projectiles do not come from terrorists intent on decimating me. The ammo does not come from a police state or a dictator’s command. A barrel is not involved.

My bullets are made of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Composed of irrational thoughts, insipid ideations, and ignorant rationalizations, they are crushing invisible forces. The capacity to shatter my resolve and render me dysfunctional invades me.

My unsociable enemy is treatable, but never disappears. My therapists validate my experiences of being trapped, resentful, guilty, shameful, ill-equipped, grief-stricken, lost, uncertain, and disabled. My growth in therapy helps me accept the challenge with compassion and empathy in my heart.

Throughout my lifetime three stages will haunt me.

Stage one is the onslaught of rounds. The crisis mode. The shock and pain.

Stage two is being slammed down, breath taken away. Sabotaged. Terms and feelings of the emergency are acknowledged.

Stage three is advocacy for myself. Stand. Breathe. Make decisions. Tools in hand to counteract the depression and anxiety and OCD. Utilize appropriate response and care.

Encouraged by others, I enroll in Toastmasters. Time for me to improve my public speaking and thinking on my feet. Professional and compelling ways of expressing my views is a talent I want to possess. Persuasive interactions are in reach. My computer with Google as my guide, I find the Toastmasters website. The rules and guidelines answer many of my questions. Ready to take on the challenge, I enter my credit card information and become a member. A direct thrust knocks me down.

At first, I don’t understand what attacks me. My heartbeat begins speeding up. My gasps for air speed up. My head spins with dizziness. The mighty effects of terror hammer me to the ground. Despair sinks me deeper into the attack.

Stage one. The thought of standing before people enunciating in a clear voice avoiding “ums” and “ahs” strikes with negative force. In a semi-frozen state of fear and regret, I struggle to make sense of my attacker. Groups of Toastmasters are warm, safe environments to learn public speaking and leadership skills. “Warm and safe,” I remind myself. Still my heart beats faster and my breath diminishes by the second. A ghost of recognition appears before me. Panic is familiar.

Stage two. My history tells me to take an extra Klonopin. Scared to death is not an option. Upon reaching my medicine cabinet with weak, wobble-producing legs, I discover my pill case empty. In my next move, I check the bottle. Empty. My heart beats faster and my limbs go numb. Sweat trickles down my forehead. My last attempt before I collapse in a heap of despair, I call my pharmacist. My trembling voice separated from my body explains my attack and lack of pills. “How fast can you fill the prescription?” my quivering voice speaks out. “Is ten minutes okay?” the pharmacy technician asks.

Stage three. My inner voice tells me to be brave. Think of a serene place. My happy place. Take deep soothing breaths. My toolbox is ransacked for more options until I come to grips with the present. The dispensary is too far to hike, so I must drive to pick up my pills. Cranked engine. Foot on pedal. Brake released. My self-talk takes me on a wild ride to the drug store. My trembling legs walk me to the back of the aisles. The friendly face of the tech reassures me. The credit card transaction is signed with a jellylike hand, completing the purchase.

Back in my car, I down the remedy with tepid water from an old bottle sitting in my trash. My panting is steadier, my heart pounding a little less. Within thirty minutes, I am relaxed, able to pursue my day. Ready to reassess my decision to become a Toastmaster. The choice is sound and important.

My bulletproof vest is worn as a badge of honor and survival. Without my garb, I would be a prisoner in my house, hiding in bed. Sick to my stomach. Useless.

The stigma of mental illness must be broken. My vest is worn with pride. I am a survivor. I am the voice of one in every five Americans experiencing the assailant. I am not alone.

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

LAURIE FINKELSTEIN, RWISA Author Page