Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I thought this post would be about gardening (sort of a sequel to my last one) but that was before I failed to post yesterday, August 5. So it will have to wait.

Today, August 6, is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima - when fertile gardens turned radioactive, countless lives disintegrated in a flash, and a dark cloud spread across our world.

In addition to writing what we know, we writers are admonished to write our passion.

So today I will not post about wholesome gardens and other forms of niceness. I will acknowledge to you that, for me, war is not an answer. Yesterday, I heard an NPR interview in which Robin Young asked Howard Zinn if we had any choice about going into Afghanistan. Didn't we have to respond?

I have not read Zinn's book. I am not making a statement for or against his version of history. But to me, his answer made sense.

Zinn's answer was basically that: We had to respond. But we struck out blindly. As a result, there are more terrorists in the world today. We have not found Osama Bin Ladin.

It is incomprehensible that our responses to crises are so petty and childlike. We are not playing with sticks and waterguns. We are destroying innocent lives. But we seem to lack the ability to empathize with pain that does not affect us personally.

I hesitate to continue because focusing on American lives almost glosses over the loss of life in other places. Such as Japan in 1945.

But I need to say that war destroys our lives too. It's inevitable that a soldier who has witnessed the atrocities of war will come home a different person.

The stories of war trauma I've heard and read while researching my BLUE sequel are terrifying. PTSD affects the entire family and generations to come.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs many veterans who fought in WWII are living with war trauma more than 50 years later.

I hope that Ann Fay's daddy is not one of those. I hope he gets the help he needs. Ann Fay surely does her best for him.

Here's the scene from Comfort in which the bombing of Hiroshima hits home.

So this time, when Ellie switched it on during dinner, Daddy didn’t tell her not to. He just said, “Ellie did you ask to get up from the ta…?” He never even finished the question on account of he realized that the regular program had been interrupted for a special announcement by President Truman. In the middle of the day even!”

The president said that the United States had dropped a bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

Our boys had been dropping bombs on Japan for weeks. But according to the radio, this wasn’t any ordinary regular old bomb—it was an atomic bomb with more than two thousand times the power of the British “Grand Slam”.

I could see right off that my Daddy knew what a Grand Slam was. And I saw how knowing that, made him real worried about this new bomb. He had just picked up his knife and was fixing to spread a glob of mayonnaise on his light bread. But when he heard that, he jerked – as if the explosion had gone off in Hickory, North Carolina. His knife clattered to his plate, his face went tight at first, and then slack. I saw the light go right out of his eyes. And all of a sudden I got a real bad feeling - like my daddy had got hit with that bomb.

The man on the radio told us that the Japanese would not be able to withstand another such assault and that the war would likely be over real soon.

Well, Ellie for sure didn’t ask could she get up from the table this time. And Ida didn’t either. The two of them jumped up and took each other by both hands and danced around the kitchen like that. They were a-whooping and a-hollering and I felt like doing the same thing—at least until I saw my Daddy’s face.

Then I was confused. If the war was ending shouldn’t I be on my feet— on my crutches I mean—dancing and singing? But if I was to go by Daddy’s reaction, there wasn’t nothing to celebrate.

Momma reached over and put her hand on Daddy’s and said real quiet, “Leroy, this is good news – the war is nearly over. It’s just a matter of time.”

Daddy didn’t say a word. He just stared at the glob of mayonnaise on his light bread. I noticed it quivering ever so slightly. But Daddy was so still, I wasn’t even sure he was breathing.

I didn’t bother reaching for my crutches. I just hung onto the kitchen table and scooted back my chair and pulled myself to my feet. Then I locked my leg brace so I wouldn’t collapse onto the floor. I grabbed onto Daddy. And I hung onto him like he was the bread and I was the mayonnaise—and it had already been spread.

Most times when I hug my Daddy he pulls me up against him and lets me feel his heart beat. But this time he just sat there with his arms resting on the dinner table and it was like he didn’t even notice that Momma had took his hand and I had wrapped my arms around the front of his shoulders.

I could feel his Adam’s apple working up and down under my hand. And that scared me a little. So I put my head against his.

He just sat there. He didn’t turn and hug me. He didn’t even squeeze Momma’s hand. Or move at all. Not on purpose anyway. But then, I felt him shaking. The day was so warm and humid we were both damp with sweat and I was practically sticking right to him. But still yet, he was shivering.

I looked at Momma but she wasn’t looking at me. She was staring at him and I saw a kind of fear in her pretty brown eyes. They should have been crinkled shut with smiling on account of the war being almost over. But she was studying him so hard I could almost see the worry wrinkles being made.

It scared me to see my parents like that. I didn’t know what to do so I just left them be. I worked my way around the corner of the table and sat on my chair so I could pick up my crutches. Then I headed for the back porch.

Ida and Ellie were still dancing and singing some stupid made-up song about the war is over. I couldn’t get to the door on account of them jumping around.

“Stop it!” I said. “That man did not say the war is over! This is not something to be whooping and hollering about!”

I don’t know why I said that. But I knew it was true.

The man on the radio had said that we had more power than ever to destroy our enemy. He did not say that we were destroying ourselves in the process. But I was watching my Daddy when he heard the announcement. Without saying a word or hardly moving a muscle he had let me know that killing someone you hate isn’t the same as living in peace.


  1. Joyce, this is one of the beautiful things about writing. Literature can say things for us that people in ordinary conversation often don't say - but sometimes should. This is a great post! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Thanks, Janelle - I agree about the unspoken things that literature is able to express. Hopefully it also reaches people in ways that nothing else will!

  3. Joyce,
    I think of you as my mentor as I rove into the realm of historical fiction, but when I read this excerpt from Comfort I feel like I am waaay out of my league. It is wonderful written. I can't wait to get the whole book. You will autograph a copy for me and one for Anna Sattler too, right?
    in appreciation of your example, carol

  4. Oh, Carol - thanks for your kind words! We both do what we do and what would I do without you?

    Your love for research is all over you - that passion will shine through your writing!

  5. Oh my -- what a delicious taste of what is to come. I can't wait to read COMFORT. You have whetted my appetite to be sure. Like Naomi said, "I know it will be good".

  6. Thanks, Jeannie,

    I'm glad you liked it. I kind of hope people will like Comfort better than they do Blue.