A story that takes place in Oregon in 1939 a fictional tale about the love between sibling, the loss of their father and the hardships that took place during that time. A historical fiction about Alice and her brother Arthur.
When the Second World War began in 1939, we weren’t worried about being attacked because it was so far away and we didn’t think it was our war. We were wrong. But when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, most Americans felt that something needed to be done; my father was one of them. Dad died soon afterward in March of 1942, leaving me in the care of my older brother barely 18 years old and me of a little girl of 15. They never retrieved his body. Less than a year later, my brother was drafted.
When he received his commission through the mail, I was devastated. Many Americans had died at Pearl Harbor. I was worried that I would lose the only family member I had left; he had resigned to his fate because he knew that he couldn’t do anything to change it. When you received your draft notice, it was final.
I spent many nights crying before he left, and afterward too. The morning right before he left, he said “Alice, my dear sister, can you promise me something?” I looked at him with dread and despair because I didn’t want to lose anyone else close to me; not again. “No,” I said complaining like a little girl not wanting her brother to leave. “Oh alright then, I’m leaving” he said in a disappointed tone. “No, don’t leave. I’ll promise anything. Just please don’t leave me brother” I said, holding him tightly. He patted my head as if I were a little girl, and said “You know I can’t do that.” I simply nodded and tears streamed down my face as I held him tight, never wanting to let him go. “I know.” “Alice, I want you to promise me that even if I die…” “No, please stop” I scream, not wanting to consider the possibility. “Alice,” he said so softly as if it were truly the last time, “promise me” he said looking me in the eyes, “promise me you’ll be happy. Can you do that?” “Yes” I said. He smiled and said “I’ll be back soon.” And then he was gone. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep” I murmured to myself.
I was left in care of my distant aunt and cousin, who were both indifferent to me. I constantly worried about my brother, always fearing the cruel horror of the news of his death; then I truly would be alone. The days slowly turned into weeks, then months and then years.
It was April of 1945 when the war finally ended. We rejoiced and celebrated, but also cried and mourned the deaths of all the fallen, including my father’s. My brother was one of the lucky ones; he got to come back alive. My worry over his death was finally over but for many people it was a reality they faced.
At the train station in Oregon City, I waited impatiently for him and his fellow soldiers to arrive. I stood alongside worried mothers, sisters and wives. It seemed like the train was late as usual; some were beginning to worry. Suddenly we heard a faint train whistle off in the distance. We all looked at each other with grins on our faces knowing that soon we would be with our loved ones.
As the train whistle slowly grew louder and louder, the grins on everyone’s faces became bigger. Many of us cheered as the train pulled into the station; many of the men held their faces out the windows. Once the train came to a stop, they quickly descended and began madly hugging the family that came to greet them.
Looking for my brother in the crowd, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and it was him. I recognized those beautiful dark green eyes instantly with his dark brown hair. I hugged him so tightly I didn’t give him any room to breathe. I felt a wave of relief I simply couldn’t believe it, I tears of joy were streaming down my face. I wasn’t going to let him go; not again.
But he looked different somehow; he looked much older than he should. He had a small cut on his eyebrow; he looked more serious and grim. “Hi” he said, his voice a lot rougher than it used to be. “Welcome back, Arthur” I said with a grin spread across my face. “Come on brother, let’s go home” I said, walking ahead. Then he quickly said “Wait, please.” As I turned around to see what was wrong, I saw that he was limping and using a walking stick. I looked at him, worried. “Don’t worry Alice, it isn’t as bad as it seems.” “Alright, if you say so,” I said. “Brother, can we go to the state fair? It’s June, so it will happen soon.” He smiled and said “Of course darling, anything for my little sister. How old are you now anyway?” I smiled and faced him. “Brother, you must be joking?” “Nope, I know a few eligible bachelors that you might be interested in.” “Oh really, playing matchmaker are you now? I am 18 years old and perfectly capable of finding myself a good partner.” “Alright” he said. My brother had come back home to me I thought, as we walked all the way home.
The Oregon State Fair was a week later. I was so excited. It was the closest thing I had that resembled my life before the war. I made sure I put my hair up, to look good and to not look cheap; I put on my new black slacks and white blouse that I’d bought special for his homecoming. Arthur wore his usual white t-shirt. We entered the fair through the back entrance, which was much less crowded and led right to the Ferris wheel. We walked holding hands and were even mistaken for a couple. Many of the bright lights seemed to bother my brother but I barely noticed until later on when we got back home. I was filled with the simple joy of just having him there beside me.
I had fallen asleep when a scream suddenly woke me up. “Noooo, nooo no no. Please, we need to get his body. We can’t leave him here all alone in the middle of a battle field.” I quickly entered his room. “Brother, brother, what’s wrong?” Tears streamed down his face which was odd because men never show weakness. I cradled him in my arms and held him until he stopped shaking and screaming like a baby.
I asked him in the morning what it was about and he told me how dying in the war is a cold and cruel fate that nobody deserves. He told me how he met someone in his artillery unit. Who he became friends with called Richard and had saved his life on multiple occasions. He died in the trenches and his commander wouldn’t allow him to retrieve the body for fear of losing another man. And how many of them had lost arms and legs and were all casualties of the war.
They say that war changes people. It's true. When he returned, I quickly saw that the carefree boy I once knew was now a man with physical and emotional wounds that might never heal. I could still see parts of my big brother peeking through under all those scars, but I could also see the damage; the changes; the parts that were gone and the ways he would never be the same. But I didn’t care one bit. He was home. In one piece, and we had spent time together more than we have in years. He will always be my beloved brother.