Rumor and Hearsay

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A brother's failure.

Jimmy looked out of his cockpit on the deck of his carrier towards a young soldier he knew well. He and Mark had grown up together on the same street in Alabama. Both had joined the Navy after the monsters from Japan had taken the lives of their American counterparts when they attacked Pearl. Even though seen as brothers from a young age, the skill sets, personalities and capabilities they brought to the Navy were vastly different. Mark was an eccentric gear head, his abilities first displayed when he dismantled the engine of the family car, and upon re-assembling it, miraculously had the vehicle running better. This talent came in handy with Mark's dating life as he swooned the fathers of girls with his technical know how while also taking their daughters out for drives later. James, on the other hand, had been the more reserved of the two young men. A prized student and natural athlete, his physical ability had garnered his name despite his soft spoken nature. The two had spent many days and nights adventuring as children and teens, a mutual respect and admiration of each others differences.

How they got grouped together in a battle group, let alone the same carrier, was at best a shot in the dark, no doubt James' father, a retired Colonel from the Great War, had something to do with such an arrangement. Once James had been selected for the flying program in training, Mark had been determined to improve the aircraft that would bring the war back to Japan. To say that Mark was amazing at his job was an understatement in itself. He had risen quickly by training other mechanics to repair and improve the fighting flyers, now he proudly wore the bar designating him as Ensign. James had a similar career to this point, relying on instinct and an analytical mind to quickly become a well known pilot in the fighter group, also training other pilots whenever he could.

"Lieutenant Dorman, come in, Lieutenant Dorman.." Rang over his headset as he sat on the deck of the carrier.

"This is Dorman, confirm takeoff clearance, over."
"Cleared for takeoff, take it to those jap devils for the boys at Pearl."

He saluted his younger brother as he prepared to power his Corsair into the red early morning skies near Okinawa.

Mark responded by tapping his uniform where he held letters for James' family and girlfriend, should anything happen, then saluted his brother. James returned the gesture, his more symbolic than anything since the letters he held for Mark were tucked away in his quarters.

James placed the picture of a girl near his instrument cluster, a sigh accompanied it. The letters she once wrote had become cold, distant, shorter and arrived with ever increasing intervals between. Even the letters from his father had shifted from home life, she and her family weren't mentioned at all anymore, now they focused on James' health and morale during the war and how the boys were doing against the japs. Even the letters from her family had stopped abruptly.

Mark had noticed a change in Jimmy, he seemed aggravated, angry almost. The once calm and relaxed pilot had become increasingly anxious, he'd snap on occasion out of frustration. But as his personality dictated, he was stubborn, more willing to suppress his thoughts and emotions than to talk about what was happening in his mind.

The young Lieutenant powered his war machine into the air, followed by the rest of the fighter wing. As the radio check-in started he allowed himself to remember the last day home, in that burning Alabama sun. He promised Mark's family that he'd take care of his brother, much as he had done during their childhood. The neighborhood had a block party for the boys being shipped off, several Marines and Army boys littered the group of young eager soldiers as a group picture was taken. Afterwards, pictures of the fighting men and their families were collected, as well as the boys and their girls. She and James looked so in love, her brunette hair draped on his shoulder in his presentation uniform, her intoxicating smile.

He angrily forces the image out of his head as the last of his fellow flyers finish checking in. He noticed a squall forming to the rights, it looked particularly foreboding he thought.

"Damn, I hate flying in shit like that Jim." rang over the radio.
"Oh, come on Akers," Jimmy responded, "that is what makes things interesting."

Slight laughter cluttered the radio from multiple planes.

"Alright you scoundrels, remember the briefing and remember your wingmen, we aren't scheduled to die today."

"Roger that sir." fluttered multiple times through the radios.

"For God and country boys, let's show these monsters what Uncle Sam has coming for them." Jimmy sternly voiced. "For those boys at Pearl."

The battle was exhilarating, the enemy Zeros closed in furiously over the island and surrounding ocean. The Lt and his Blue Knights fought the enemy ferociously as the battle raged around them. Smoke, bullets, explosions filled the air as planes started going down, the lighter Zero fighters burning brilliantly as they descended to ocean graves. Occasionally pilots would have to break off from the major fighting to accommodate the addition of more enemy and friendly war birds.

Then the call came.

"Blue Knights, Lt Dorman come in this is Enterprise, incoming enemy fighters, do you copy? Over"

"This is Dorman, eta to contact over."

"Contact minus one minute, no current air support, you're the closest, over."

"Shit." He thought as he whipped his bird around in support of a fellow aviator.

"Boy's they are going after our home, I need some support until the others can rendezvous, follow my six!"

He broke off from the spiraling air battle as several other planes followed his lead, the Enterprise visible in the distance.

"We aren't going to make it in time to stop them." he thought as he pushed his engine to the limit.

Then, he saw the flashes, flight deck, superstructure, the fireball was tremendous.

The Blue Knights made contact as the japs started the second strafing runs. They came in guns blazing over the sea surrounding their floating home. Several flyboys split off in pursuit of torpedo planes incoming to dispense their deadly payloads, the japs never made it into range as the planes plunged as fireballs into the deep Pacific.

The instant seemed like eternity as Jimmy whipped his machine around again towards the Enterprise and a lone Zero closed in, flying low, flying heavy. He knew it was a Kamikaze, those suicidal cowards who thought it was glorious to die instead of fight. He knew the plane was going to strike, he knew it was disaster waiting to happen.

"MARK!" he helplessly yelped as the Zero collided into his ship, the following explosion was massive, the following fires more so.

Angrily he tore through enemy fighters, as they started to retreat, blood thirsty to say the least. Four more of the Japanese monsters lost their lives to his guns that day. His anger, frustration and fear for his brother only magnified by the fact his guns were silenced due to his ammunition stores being empty. He could only watch as the floating city burned underneath him.

Once the battle was over, the sweaty, exhausted flyboy could only stare numbingly at the photo on his instrument cluster as he approached a nearby carrier. He landed sloppily and nearly collapsed out of his Corsair as he vomited seeing the enterprise still burning near him. "I need to get to the Enterprise, NOW!", he snapped to crews on the deck. "Lieutenant, the only way we can get you..." "Shut up screamed the young flyboy,"I said now, and I mean it!" "Sir it's not possible becau..." "I know it's not possible", groaned the pilot as he slumped down into the flight deck, "I know", he sobbed.

When he was eventually able to get to his beloved home, the fires had ravaged her. He desperately demanded information on the dead and wounded, his pain showed through his blood shot, weary, yet fiery eyes. It would be hours before any word came in, and a day before any news on Mark.

As he was able to recover some personal items from his quarters, which barely survived, a sailor approached him.

"Sir, Ensign Murray is confirmed as killed in action, I'm sorry."

Jimmy stood silently and still, holding the letters Mark had given him.

"He was in a store room near the attack point of the Kamikaze fighter that struck the sh..."

Jimmy raised a hand and dismissed the sailor as tears streamed down his face.
His over aggression had put him to far from the ship to stop the fighter, his over aggression killed U.S. sailors, he failed to protect his brother, he had killed his brother.

James was rotated out of combat shortly after the Battle of Okinawa, he returned to Pearl harbor to train pilots until the end of the war. He never wrote home after the battle. He sat drinking whiskey as news of the surrender of Japan flooded the radio. He simply walked back to his quarters and went to sleep. Pilots he trained before the end of the war described him as a cold, despondent man, although gifted as a teacher and pilot. He arrived back to the states, through the ticker tape parades for those fighting in the Pacific. A bus dropped him off back home in Alabama where he got a hotel room instead of returning home. He sat on the patio as a torrential downpour surrounded him, the faint smoke of a Lucky Strike wafting through the air as he stared into the darkness.

The following day, he shaved and robed in his presentation uniform. A taxi took him to the Murray residence, where he had the taxi wait. He approached the house as Mark's mother ran out towards him sobbing as he embraced her and tears formed in his cold, dead looking eyes. He stayed and spoke to them and explained his shortcoming and apologized for his failure as they tried to assure him that Mark's death wasn't his fault. He left them with the letters Mark had written them in the event he didn't come home. Back in the taxi he lit a Lucky strike and instructed the driver where to go next.

They pulled up to a house about five minutes later, the flag for his wing was no longer posted in the front yard. As he exited the taxi he told the driver he could go, the driver refused to take his money citing he was a hero, "I'm no hero," Jimmy responded with a clenched jaw ,"just a flyboy." He felt uneasy as he stood in front of that house, alone in the Alabama heat.

Her father seemed apologetic to see him at the door, he shared his condolences for Mark's death and tried to catch up with Jimmy in a cautious manner. His wife walked in and seemed flushed to see him back in their living room. She walked over to him with watery eyes, "Oh my, James is a Lieutenant now, I'm so proud of you sweetheart, so proud." He could sense some hesitation in her voice and both seemed slightly on edge as she joined her husband.

Awkward silence.

"So," the silence was broken by the wife, "do you have any stories?" Her husband cleared his throat as to cut her off as she avoided eye contact with James as he swallowed hard.

More silence.

"I guess I'll be going now," the flyboy quietly stated as he began to rise from his seat, "good to see you are in good health."

The husband stood up and shook his had, "I'm sorry Jimmy, sorry for what you boys had to do, but I'm glad you're home."

"Yes sir, I am too." He hugged the man's wife and reached for a small bag he had brought with him when a car was heard pulling into the driveway. The husband and wife looked at each other as Jimmy turned towards the door.

The door swung open.

That intoxicating smile.

His heart skipped a beat, then felt like it would burst from his chest.

That gorgeous brunette hair.

A smile started to creep over his mouth as his expression softened.

Their eyes locked for an instant before hers grew large, fearful, ashamed.

His smile faded, his clenched jaw solidified as they stood there in silence.

It seemed like eternity. Eternity until another young man followed her into the house.

 Awkward silence.

She introduced the young man to Jimmy as Matthew Jacobs, a teammate of Jimmy's when they were in high school.

Jimmy nearly crushed his old teammates hand as he shook it.

Matthew grimaced as Jimmy released his grip, "So Jimmy, what service were you..."

"Navy" Jimmy cut him off, "What have you been doing with your life? working with your father at the dealership?"

"Yes sir!" Matthew responded with a mock salute. "What did you do in the war?"

"I got revenge for our boys" Jimmy sneered, "I killed the monsters that murdered our boys."

Jimmy turned to her parents and wished them a good day and strode between her and Matthew Fucking Jacobs as she followed him out.

"Jimmy....Jimmy....Jim.... JAMES DORMAN!" she finally screamed.

James stopped in his tracks reaching into his bag and pulled out a stack of letters he had never sent home. He weighed them in his hand and he turned to her, tears streaming down her face.

"I thought you weren't going to come back, Matthew was always there..." she started to sob.

James approached her slowly and dropped the letters at her feet, she rested her head on his chest, decorated with accolades and medals.

"Well, I came back. And now I know for sure that these letters get to you and its not the damn mail service."

As he walked down the street in that hot Alabama sun, she slumped over the letters, halfheartedly sorting the letters, she found the picture of her and Jimmy they had taken before he left, the picture he flew with, the edges frayed. They had looked so happy, her tears began to fall onto the picture as she flipped it over to see her handwriting was still visible.

"Until the day you come home, I'll wait for you, until the day I die, I'll love you."

She wiped the tears from her eyes and looked for the flyboy, but he was already gone. 

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