1936

Returning Home

Henry watched the rows of lush Iowa corn flash by as he drove. Feeling the touch of Maria’s hand on his, he looked over at her. Her long black hair was whipping in the wind from behind her white Garbo style hat, but she wasn’t looking back at him. Henry followed her gaze forward through the partially opened windshield. He could see their farm in the distance and a smile grew on his face as he sped up. The red and black 1928 model A fishtailed a bit as he slid into their driveway. He looked at Maria to gauge her reaction. She was smiling back at him, but then she slammed her hand against the dash. “Henry!!” Henry looked forward to see a large branch laying in the driveway. He jammed on the brakes, but it was too late. Part of the branch smacked the front windshield shut with a bang as the front wheels hit the main trunk. The front tires bounced high into the air and the center of the car crashed back down on the main trunk of the branch, bringing them to an abrupt halt. The sudden stop made the car stall and it suddenly became quiet.

Henry reached up to his throbbing forehead and looked at his hand. “No blood.” He then looked over at Maria who was shaking her head and massaging her wrist. She looked back at him with her right eyebrow raised as to scold him for being an idiot, but she couldn’t maintain the look. A smile erupted and quickly became laughter.

Henry tried to open his door, but it was blocked by part of the branch, so he pointed at Maria’s door and they both scooted out her side. Maria watched as he walked around the car inspecting the damage. He bent down looking under the car and then walked around to the front. He stood on the branch, leaned on the radiator and looked at her while he rubbed his forehead. “Well, it actually doesn’t look too bad. Bumper’s bent and the running boards, but ..” He pointed at the windshield. “…it didn’t even break the glass.” Henry stepped off the tree and walked around to Maria. He put his hands on the front of her hat. “Looks like you bent it a bit.” She slapped him in the stomach. “No. It was you who bent it!”. He smiled and put his arm around her. “It’s good to be home! Come on. I’ll take care of this later.”

They walked together up the dirt and stone driveway to their two story house with its wrap around porch. The grass between the ruts had gotten pretty high since they had been gone. In fact, the grass had gotten pretty high everywhere. As they stepped up the 3 stairs that lead from the driveway onto the front porch, Henry noticed branches and debris everywhere. “Must have had a hell of wind storm while we were gone.”

Henry pushed the front door opened, and with the sound of its familiar creak, they stepped inside. Maria immediately walked over to her piano as Henry took a deep breath of cherry wood smell that permeated the house. Maria grabbed a cloth and wiped the dust off the keyboard cover and then opened it. The floor creaked quietly as Henry walked into the kitchen. He looked around, but everything seemed to be just as they left it, with the exception of the dust. The GE refrigerator door was still open and he spoke up. “Hon, we’ll have to go to town tomorrow and get some food.” She didn’t respond, but instead “You Made Me Love you” began coming from the piano. He walked back into the front room. She looked up at him and smiled as he leaned on the piano. He sat down next to her, pushing her white dress aside. She pecked him on the cheek and kept playing, but he returned it with a passionate kiss. Her right hand left the piano and wrapped around his neck. She continued trying to play with only her left until Henry put his arm around her and pulled her forward. The music stopped and then a stream of descending notes as she dragged her hand across the piano to meet his face. She began to enunciate her pleasure when the slamming of the door against the wall made them both jump. A large cloud of dust whirled across the room as the curtains lifted. They both looked over and Henry said “Well, it looks like we are going to have to do some serious clean up work around here.” He looked back at her, but noticed the long shadows forming out the window behind her. “I better get the car off that log and bring in the luggage before dark.”

She pecked him on the lips.”Come on. I’ll help.”

They got up and walked to the door. Henry grabbed his old hat off the rack as he walked out. “I missed this thing. My new one just isn’t the same.”

Maria looked up at his hat. “It’s got a least three holes in it. It’s shot dear.”

Henry stepped out onto the porch and looked over at the barn. “Well, at least I can still wear it at home.” They walked out to the large barn and, with his key, unlocked the padlock. The large heavy wooden door rumbled as he slid it aside to reveal a huge dusty dark green tarp. Henry stopped and stared. Maria put her arm on his shoulder. “Take a look. You haven’t seen your baby in half a year.”

He glanced at her and smiled and then like a child at Christmas, grabbed the tarp and pulled it off. As the tarp slid away, the unveiled bright yellow Stearman biplane glistened in the sinking Sun. Henry stood for a second and then ran his hand down the front of the wing as he walked around her, feeling her leading edge as though he was caressing a woman.

Maria let him have a minute with his plane and then grabbed his hat. “Hey! Your making me jealous!”

Henry grabbed for the hat back. “Well, she is beautiful”.

“And I’m not?!” She dodged and took off with the hat in hand.

He ran after. “Yes, but you’re a pain in the ass.” They chased each other around the plane twice until she tripped over a chock and fell against the plane.

Henry pressed up against her and pushed her arms outward. “Gotcha!” Her gray eyes softened and she looked at his lips as a drop of sweat ran down to meet them. She imagined tasting its saltiness and the feeling of his stubble against her face. Her smile faded as her desire grew, and then he kissed her, but she suddenly snapped out of the trance and ducked away. “It’s getting dark. You have work to do!”

Henry stood there still leaning against the plane with both hands. She popped up from in front of the wing with his hat still in hand. She laughed. “Here’s your hat.” She threw it through the wings and Henry caught it suddenly with his left hand. He gave her a look as to intend to chase her some more, but she turned coy and pointed to the tractor. “Work.” Henry glanced over at the tractor and nodded.

She watched from a distance as he fiddled with the tractor. After a few tries, he got it started. Blue and white smoke poured out followed by black as he rev’d the engine. He put it in gear and looked up to see the setting Sun behind Maria. The orange red light was shining right through her dress and he could see every outline of her. She saw him staring and cocked her head in puzzlement. He reached back over and shut off the tractor. He stepped off, put his hat on the cowling and walked up to her. His hands embraced her waist, ran around to her back and then down. He lifted her lips to his and kissed her. She didn’t say a word, but she could feel the passion and it overwhelmed her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and shoulder and pulled him in tight. They stumbled back into the barn locked together. Henry pulled her towards his plane and lifted her onto the wing. Maria pushed his suspenders to the side and let them drop. His hands receded from her soft buttocks down her dress and back up again. Still locked in a kiss, he pulled her panties down her legs, while she unbuttoned his trousers.

They stopped for a second and took a breath. He stared into her eyes and could see the glow of her silky black hair being silhouetted by the setting Sun. But, she wanted him. She put her arms around his back and pulled him back to her. Then she reached down and pulled him into her. The Stearman rocked back and forth against its chocks as their passion poured forth. They both moaned as the outpouring of their love ended with a release of all their tension and stress, and the relief of being home…together.

They finally collapsed onto the dusty tarp that had been over the plane. Henry watched Maria’s soft, gently smiling face turn to an orange hue as the Sun set. She pulled him next to her and his arm over her breast. They laid there and fell asleep to the sound of lonely frogs and crickets. An hour or two later Henry awoke to see Maria laying on her back looking at the Milky Way covered night sky. He scooted close to her and she glanced over at him. “Henry, do you want to have a child?”

Henry hesitated, not knowing what to say. “Well, yes…someday.”

Maria rolled onto her right side and put her left hand on his chest. “We’ve been on been on plenty of adventures and we have enough money now. Why don’t we settle down and have one?”.

Henry pulled away and sat up, feeling uncomfortable from the conversation. “Well, we don’t have enough money yet. You know how this depression has hit everyone. We are so lucky to get the jobs we do and the future is so uncertain, but we have to earn more.”

She sat up and clasped her hands between her legs. “But, we are doing very well.” She then waved her hand at the plane and into the darkness where the car and house were. “The future will always be uncertain.”

Henry looked down and tilted his head off. “I…I’m just not ready. We’re not ready yet. We have to…” Maria interrupted and tried to comfort him. “But we are. We would make wonderful parents and we would love every minute of it.”

Henry stood up while pulling his suspenders back on.

She looked up at him. “Henry?”

He didn’t return the look. “No. I…..I….”. He grabbed his hat and walked off into the darkness toward the house.

Maria sat staring into the dark hoping he would return, but her hope faded when she heard the slam of the house’s screen door. A tear ran down her cheek. She wiped it, stood up, and composed herself. She looked down at the ground to find her missing shoe and panties. The starlight was just bright enough to see the white of the panties, but she couldn’t find her black flat shoe. She searched , feeling the ground for it, but she was very worried about Henry. She became impatient, not wanting Henry to stew on the anger, so she limped across the yard with only one shoe. The pain of sharp rocks made walking slow but the thought of Henry made her walk faster.

Henry heard a yell from the front yard and he ran down the stairs and the screen door banged the outside wall as he flew through it. “Maria! Are you alright?!”.

Henry jumped a little when she responded from only a few feet away. “Yes, I just stepped on something.”

Seeing her outline, he put his arm around her and they took a step, but she yelled out again. Henry put his right arm under her legs, picked her up and carried her through the open screen door to the couch. He reached over to the lamp and turned it on. The brightness of the light made them both squint and look away. As his eyes adjusted he could see her bare foot. “Where is your shoe?”.

She pointed over her shoulder back toward the barn. “I don’t know.”

Henry lifted her foot. “Ooo..looks like you stepped on a spiney seed. It’s still in there. Hold on.” He sat down on the floor, Indian style, and pulled her foot toward the lamp. He grabbed the seed and pulled it out. “Well, it looks like there is still a small piece in there.” He reached into his trousers and retrieved his pocket knife.

Maria pulled her leg back instinctively, but Henry held tight to her foot. “Hold still.” With the tip of his bone handled knife he tried to jab the small sliver and slide it out. After two unsuccessful tries and hearing Maria’s almost inaudible protests, he grabbed the blade itself for more precise movement. He carefully pushed the tip into the seed sliver and slid it out. “Got it.” He folded his knife and kissed her foot. He then looked up at her and gave a slight smile.“Good as new!”

He let her foot down and stood up, offering her his hand. “Let’s go to bed. Shall we?”

Maria reached up to meet his hand and smiled as he pulled her off the couch. She leaned on him as they walked up the stairs together.

The Telegram

Henry awoke to the sound of a car horn. His eyes came to focus on the sunlit white curtains. Their small floral patterns were swaying to the morning breeze coming in through the window. Upon hearing the car horn a second time, he sat up with a start and searched for his pants. He looked over to find Maria gone, but then heard her yell. “Henry, someone’s here!”.

As he ran down the stairs still putting his suspenders on, he smelled eggs cooking. He looked back at the kitchen as he put on his shoes and went out the front door, wanting some of whatever she was cooking. As he walked out onto the front porch, he could see the Western Union man standing next to the Model A, which was still stuck on the tree. The man raised the usual yellow envelope in the air and Henry quickly made his way down the driveway to meet him.

As he got close, the man walked around the tree to meet him. The man pointed to the car. “Bit of pickle, eh?”.

Henry chuckled. “Yeah, didn’t see it coming into the driveway last night.” Henry signed a form and the Union man gave him the envelope. “Thank you.”

The Union man said “Thank you sir..and good luck with the car.”

Henry smiled and nodded. He flipped over the envelope, but the thought of food made him run back to the house.

As he came into the kitchen, Maria slid some eggs and bacon onto his plate. Steam was rising from them and Henry’s eyes got big. “Where did you get these?” With her spatula still in hand, Maria pointed to East. “Mr. Weaver, next door. I saw him this morning. I told him that we had just gotten back from Antarctica and that we had a lot of work to do to fix the place back up. First of which was to go to town and get food. I thanked him for keeping an eye on the place and he offered me some of his eggs and bacon.”

Henry devoured his food while he nodded. With his mouth half full he said “We will have to do something nice for them, they have been good neighbors. Wait..what were you doing up so early? What time is it?”

Maria sat down smiling. “It’s after 11 dear. I got up around 8, but didn’t want to wake you, so I went for a walk. Hey, what’s the telegram?”

Henry looked at the yellow envelope still clutched behind the handle of his fork. “Oh.” He put the fork down and opened it.

“Its from Chicago.” He looked up for a second and then read. “Henry. Have new job for you in Manchuria. You should be back from Antarctica now. Meet me in Chicago this weekend. 7 pm Saturday, Palmer House. Bring wife. Your Uncle, Jimbo Mata”

Henry looked up. Maria’s expression was that of disappointment. His hand sank until it touched the table. “What’s wrong?”

Maria reached out and put her hands around his, partially crushing the telegram. “I thought we were going to stay home for a while. I thought….thought we could finally have a family.”

Henry closed his dark brown eyes and took a deep breath. “If I know my uncle, this is a good pay job. We aren’t free yet, and we need this.”

“Henry, we have this place, we are hidden and no one knows about it, well, except your uncle. How could they find us?”

Henry opened his eyes and stared at her in disbelief. He stood up and walked to the sink window. “You know these people. If we don’t pay them back, in full, by the end of the year….they’ll find us.” He turned, looked at her, raised his finger. “And we are not having a child until this is cleared up! The discussion is over!” He walked out of the room and threw the crumpled telegram at the table.

She heard him slam the front door open against the wall as he yelled “God damn it!”

Maria looked down at the food, but wasn’t hungry. She sat there for a few minutes staring out the window. Eventually, she whispered “shit…” and got up. She heard the tractor start up as she got to the front door and she squinted from the reflected sunlight as she watched Henry hook it up to the car. He pulled it off the tree branch and angrily attached the tractor to the branch, dragging it out of the driveway. Maria slowly walked down the driveway to make amends. When Henry had pulled the branch clear, he stopped the tractor and got off. Maria was getting close, and jumped when he hit his fist on the tractor’s cowling. He was about to get into a fight with the branch when he turned and saw her approaching. His shoulders sank and he put up his right hand. Upon seeing the gesture, Maria ran the rest of the way to him. He hugged her. “I am sorry. I am so sorry, I got us into this mess. I worry so much about you and I just couldn’t stand to worry about you and a baby too. And I couldn’t live if something were to happen to you.”

Maria put her hand on his lips. “No…it’s my fault. I know what we have to do and….and I don’t know why I pressure you so much. I know that you love me and just want to protect us. It’s just I want the dream so much. And when I am here, on the farm, it gets the better of me.” She took a step back and looked up at his eyes. “Let’s go meet your uncle, get the money we need and end this.” Henry grabbed her and pulled her in tight to his chest with his large hand around her head. “I love you!”