Hello again. I bring you the second part of Chapter 29 today, which contains the accounts of ShirleyAlcott’s experiences during the Second World War, with Walter Gavigan and Howie Alcott’s storiesinterwoven, as they’re both important men in Shirley’s life.For all the War Chapters, the warnings are the same: language, subject matter, and character casualties.War is not pretty, so there are parts of these chapters that will deal with difficult subjects.I think that’s all. Please enjoy Part Two of Chapter 29: The War Years.
Alice,Here’s my contribution to your war memories project, or whatever it is you’re calling it. I’m leaving it up toyou to edit out what you don’t feel’s appropriate. Some of what Walt and Howie contributed is prettygraphic, and there’s a few things that I included that you might not want to include. You know I’m not oneto censor things, unlike Mrs. Prissy Pants.Hope you and the family are well. We should do lunch sometime – I feel like we never see each other, nowthat the war’s over.Love,Shirley
Shirley Alcott rolled over onto her side so she could look at Walter Gavigan, who was lying on his back,gazing at the stars. He was leaving for basic training in the morning, so the couple was spending theevening on the beach. Shirley had been certain that he was going to propose to her, as Nick had withAlice, but he’d had something different in mind.She flopped back onto her back, internally cursing herself for losing her temper when he’d explained hisreasoning for waiting. Since their fight about why they should or shouldn’t become engaged before he left,they’d mostly been silent.
“You done sulking yet?” he asked.“Almost,” she replied with a small smile.“Let me know when you’re done, but don’t take too much longer. Your dad’ll skin me if I don’t have youhome before midnight.”“I think, given the circumstances, he’ll understand.”“Not sure I’m willing to take that chance,” Walter smirked.“Honestly, it’s my mom you need to worry about. She’s the mean one when it comes to disciplining Howieand me.”
Walter smiled, and gestured for Shirley to come closer. She quickly snuggled up to him, resting her headon his shoulder.“Shirley, I know you don’t agree with me, but you have to understand where I’m coming from. My situationis different from Nick’s; he won’t be fighting, and he won’t be on the front lines. I probably will be. Youdon’t deserve to get one of those telegrams if something goes wrong.”“No, but I don’t deserve to have to beg your mother for news either. You know she doesn’t really like me.”“She doesn’t dislike you, Shirley. She just wishes that you were more…ladylike. But I don’t. I like you justthe way you are.”
“Seeing as how it’s your last night here, we can let the subject drop, I suppose. But you better believe,mister, that as soon as you come home we’re resuming our debate,” she said.“Thanks,” he replied, relaxing a little bit.“So, where do you think you’ll end up?”Walter shrugged. “SimEurope, somewhere. That’s where most of the army guys are headed, it seems.Maybe I’ll get to help liberate SimFrance. That would be kind of cool.”Shirley narrowed her eyes. “Looking forward to meeting a SimFrench girl?”Walter snorted. “Shirley Alcott, you know you’re the only girl for me.”“And don’t you forget it,” she said as she crawled on top of him and began to kiss him.
I knew it wouldn’t be any easier to let Walt go if we were engaged or not. It certainly didn’t help that weended up going all the way in the backseat of his car before he took me home. But I’d already made up mymind that if he tried, I wasn’t going to stop him like I usually did.Mom had already lectured me about the unreliable nature of any form of birth control, and reminded methat if I were to “get in trouble” how that would affect me for the rest of my life. Didn’t change my mind. IfWalt was going off to war and facing death, I wasn’t about to send him off a virgin. In my mind, that washanding him an excuse to run into the arms of a Simlish or SimFrench girl. And no way in hell was I doingthat.
That morning at the train station was the hardest I’ve ever experienced. Walt’s parents were there too, andI had a sneaking suspicion that his mother knew EXACTLY what we’d gotten up to the night before by thelooks she was giving me. Then again, it could have just been her usual dislike for me coming through. Atleast his dad was there to play buffer. Walt’s dad and I got along fine, but then again I’d always gottenalong better with the men folk than I had with women. He promised Walt that he’d make sure I had anynews they got from the army straight away. That made me feel a little better. If had been up to Mrs.Gavigan, I wouldn’t have known anything until I heard it through the very active town gossip mill.I managed to send Walt off with a smile before skulking towards Alice’s house. I knew she was packingNick up for a similar scene the next day, but I didn’t want to go home. If Mrs. Gavigan could tell what I’ddone the night before, I knew Mom would be able to in a second. I didn’t feel like facing another one of herpropriety lectures. It would be waiting for me soon enough.
Shirley unpacked her trunk in the boarding house with a heavy heart. Alice was no longer her roommate,but she’d prepared for that since Alice had graduated already. But Rosalie wasn’t there to pick on either,not since she’d decided to drop out and get married. As much as she hated to admit it, she missed hercousin, even if the prim and proper young woman did drive her batty.At least Dotty was in college now, having started her freshman year. She and the younger Bradford hadnever been exactly close, but it was nice to see a familiar face on campus every now and then. Maybeshe’d have a chance to get to know her younger cousin a little better now. That thought gave Shirley thestrength she needed to hang her clothes up in the wardrobe and put her school supplies in the desk.
Her days soon filled with classes, papers, and schoolwork. When she wasn’t busy with academics, Shirleywas busy with Red Cross meetings (which Rosalie had roped her into) and writing to Walter. He’d finishedhis basic training, and somehow ended up getting assigned to a military police outfit. Shirley had snortedwhen she’d read that; it had Mrs. Gavigan’s fingerprints all over it. She was clearly trying to keep Walterout of harm’s way for the time being, and using the Gavigan family connections to do so. Walter must bethrilled that he’s still tied to his Mommy’s apron strings, she thought.
“What do you mean I’m not going to Simtaly?” Walter boomed.“You forget your place, Sergeant,” the colonel replied.“Yes, sir,” Walter immediately responded. “But I was under the impression that our unit was headed for thefighting is, hence Simtaly.”“No, Sergeant. You’re an MP now. Your job will be to make sure the GIs we’ve sent to Simland inadvance of the invasion are behaving themselves.”Walter must have made a face, because he got a black look from the colonel. “Something to say?”“Only that I was looking forward to shooting some Simmans, sir.”The colonel cracked a smile. “Don’t worry, Sergeant. You’ll get your turn.”
Dear Shirley,I’ve arrived safely where I’m supposed to be. I’m not allowed to tell you outright where I am, but I thinkyou’ll get an idea when I say they’re obsessed with tea (I’d give a year’s pay for a good cup of coffee;there’s none to be found anywhere), and even though I’m told we speak the same language I’m notconvinced.I’m sorry again that I couldn’t catch up with you before I shipped out. I only had 48 hours leave. Maybe itwas better that way. I’m not sure either of us would have been up to a goodbye like the one we had inSimsfield.
I’ve kept busy so far, even if it’s not exactly what I pictured my role in the war being. I go on patrol to makesure that all our Simerican boys are behaving themselves over here. For the most part, they do. Butsometimes, they can’t help rubbing it in that they’re better paid than the soldiers here. And that gets themgirls. Which makes them brag even more. You can see how it can get a little crazy kind of quickly.How’s school? You must be nearly done by now. Any plans for the duration? Keep me posted and writeoften. If it wasn’t for your letters, I don’t know what I’d do.Love,Walt
What am I doing to do for the duration? That was the question that was on everyone’s lips when they sawShirley. At first, she’d thought that she and Alice would end up doing something. But Alice had littleSteven to worry about now. Shirley snorted. As much as she loved her honorary nephew, she wished herbest friend had a little more time to spare for her.But now, with Alice busy playing Mommy, Shirley was at a loss. Rosalie was trying to recruit her intohelping organize a Red Cross in Simsfield, now that the newly minted Mrs. Thorne was back with herparents for the duration, but Shirley was not tactful enough to navigate the ins and outs of making theladies of her hometown play nice in the name of the war effort.
She thought about Audrey Lajoie, nee Pasang, who had delayed college so she could go on tour with theUSO. Last Shirley knew, the blond bombshell was on her way to entertain the ever-growing number oftroops in Simland. Maybe she could join the USO, and get sent to Simland which was where Walt was.Shirley quickly shook the thought out of her head. She had no performing talent to speak of, save for hervast knowledge of off-color jokes. Besides, her mother wouldn’t hear of her unmarried daughter goinganywhere further than Portsimouth without proper chaperonage.
There was the option of joining the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps like Nancy Phoenix, rather, NancyHogan had. Shirley had run into her old acquaintance not too long ago and had been shocked to see her ina uniform. Nancy had been happy to tell Shirley all about her new job over some cake. She was headedto training shortly, and then would be stationed somewhere stateside doing clerical work. The pay wasgood too, according to Nancy.But still, it meant going away from home, which her parents wouldn’t like. Plus, it meant enlisting, whichShirley wasn’t crazy about either. She’s be property of the Army for the duration plus six months, and ifsomething happened and Walt came home sooner, she wanted to be there to welcome him home. No,becoming a WAAC wouldn’t work either.
Dear Walt,Well, graduation is over and done with. Mom and Dad came, as did Alice, Dotty, Uncle James and AuntCindy. Mrs. Thorne couldn’t be bothered; I imagine there was a bandage crisis she had to deal with thatwas more important. I’m enclosing a snapshot of me in my cap and gown – don’t’ I look all smart andstuff?Before you ask, no, I don’t know what I’m doing for the duration yet. Mom and Dad (well, mostly Mom)have been pestering me like crazy. I’m just at a loss. All of the options don’t seem to be a good fit for me.I’m sure I’ll figure something out. Hopefully soon. I can’t keep giving Mrs. Prissy Pants excuses for notbeing part of her Red Cross organizing committee.All my love,Shirley
A few weeks after graduation, I was bored. Mom was driving me crazy with her “what are you going todo?” questioning, so I asked Dad if I could hitch a ride into the city with him when he went to work. Ifigured I could pass a good portion of the day at the library and escape from the Inquisition.The library held my interest for a few hours, but then I got hungry. I went into the diner across the streetfrom the library and ordered some lunch. When I was done and went to pay, I noticed a poster hangingbehind the counter.
“Find your war job,” I muttered, “Industry, agriculture, business.”I left the diner, thinking. Business and working in an office didn’t sound like something I’d like. Neither didagriculture, as I hated helping Mom with the victory garden. But industry, industry was something I hadn’tthought about. And Silas Alcott, a cousin of the family, had a major stake in the Portsimouth Shipyard, andthey had just gotten a bunch of contracts from the War Department. Even though we weren’t exactly close,we were still family. I was hoping that would be enough to get me into his office.
I still had a few hours before I was due at Dad’s office to go home, so I hurried towards the shipyard.Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have been a journey that I would have wanted to take alone, but with the majorityof the men in the service, it wasn’t what it used to be. I quickly found the office of the shipyard, and wentinside.An older lady was sitting at a desk, and she looked up when I came in.“You here about a job, dear?”
I hadn’t expected for it to be so easy. “Yes, I am.”“Wonderful. What’s your name?”“Shirley Alcott, ma’am.”She looked up at the Alcott name. “Any relation to Mr. Silas?”I nodded. “Cousins, of some sort. My dad’s grandpa and his grandpa were brothers.”“Well, that’s nice. Here’s an application. I’ll let you fill it out, and I’ll see if Mr. Silas can squeeze you in fora quick interview.”
The whole scheme went better than I could have planned. Uncle Silas, as he insisted I call him, was morethan happy to take me on as a ship builder. He gave me a shift where I could catch a ride with my dad,even, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about taking the train alone.I headed off to Dad’s office, my step a little springier than it had been earlier in the day. I knew that Momand Dad would be a little apprehensive about my newfound employment, but I was hoping that I’d be ableto bring them ‘round.
“Absolutely not,” Viola said, her expression fixed.“Well, it’s already set so there’s not much you can do about it,” Shirley retorted.“Your mother’s just worried about how dangerous industrial work can be,” Sterling said, raising hiseyebrows at his wife.“Look, I understand that you’re concerned. Both of you. But you’ve both been pestering me to findsomething to do for the duration, and I have. And you’re complaining about it!”
Viola glanced at Sterling. She could tell by the way his jaw was clenched that he wasn’t quite sure what tosay. She then glanced at her daughter, who had the exact same set to her jaw. When Shirley got that lookin her eye, Viola knew it meant the younger girl had made up her mind and there was no changing it. Violarepressed the urge to snort. She imagined she’d had a similar expression in her youth.Sterling took a deep breath. “Before you rush into this, I want you to understand how dangerous factorywork can be. There have been reports of all kinds of accidents. I just don’t want to see you get hurt,Shirley.”
Shirley’s faced relaxed just a little. “I know it can be dangerous, Dad. I do. But most of those accidentshappened in factories that produce munitions; I’m going to be helping to piece together new destroyers,and occasionally repairing ones that come in damaged by U-boats. Plus, Uncle Silas isn’t letting anyonenear the ships or the riveting tools until he’s satisfied they’re fully trained. Besides, is what I’m doing anymore dangerous than what Howie or Walt are doing? If they’ve got the courage to face the enemyfirsthand, the least I can do is make sure they have the supplies to do it properly.”
Sterling opened his mouth to speak, but Viola held up her hand. “You have a point, Shirley. I’ll give youthat. Still, factory work of any kind is dangerous. I want you to promise that you’ll be careful, and that you’llgo to and from the city for your shifts with your father, Silas, or Clarence. And if your father or I get theslightest hint that something unsafe is going on in that shipyard, you’re done. Does that sound fair?”Shirley nodded, knowing it was the best deal she was going to get. “I’m going to head up to the attic androot around the old trunks up there. I need overalls or something like them to wear. I start on Monday.”“Bring what you find down and I’ll help you fix them up.”Shirley smiled at her mother as she turned to head up the stairs. “Thanks, Mom.”
Sterling watched Shirley vanish up the stairs. “You know, I’m the attorney and skilled negotiator.”Viola slipped her arms around her husband. “Yes, but Shirley inherited my temperament. I think, in thiscase, I was the more appropriate negotiator.”Sterling pressed a kiss to the top of his wife’s head. “Fair enough, dear.”
Dear Walt,What do you think? Do I look like the Rosie the Riveter poster or what? I’m learning to build ships. Sortof. I’m learning to weld and rivet, but obviously until I’m better at it I’m not allowed to touch any of the shipswe’re building or that are in for repair just yet. Soon, I’m hoping.There are a bunch of other girls working in the factory with me. I’m not actively making friends, but thereare one or two that I usually sit with at lunch break. Once and a while, we’ll go out after shift but that’spretty rare. Mom especially is insistent that I come home with dad, Uncle Silas, or Clarence. I kind ofunderstand why, gas rations aside. Even with most of the men gone off to fight, the shipyard’s still not in agreat part of town.
Has anything changed for you? I know you can’t tell me too much, but you can at least give me the “sameold same old” line and I know what you’d mean. I hope you’re not getting too bored, and that the Tommyboys aren’t giving you too much trouble. And you damn well better not be keeping company with anySimlish girls. If I hear that you have, you’ll have to answer to me.If my letters get any less frequent, I apologize. Work is tiring, as is the Red Cross stuff Mrs. Prissy Pants ismaking me do. I suppose that I should be helping with it, but Rosalie’s even more insufferable now thatshe’s a Mrs. instead of a Miss. I know she looks down on me because of it. And Alice is busy, what withSteven and all. So I just feel so alone sometimes. Maybe I should make better friends with some of thegirls at work.Didn’t mean to end on a note like that. Overall, things are looking up, especially since Mom’s notconstantly bugging me about what I’m going to do for the duration. Hope things are good with you. I’llwrite again soon.Love,Shirley
Walter smiled as he read over Shirley’s latest letter. He was glad she’d found something to do for theduration of the war. And in a strange way, it was right up her alley.At least she won’t have to deal with her mom’s nagging anymore, he thought as he folded her letter andprepared to go out on patrol, hoping that his night would be blissfully uneventful.
Dear Shirley,You’ll never guess who I ran into last night. Nick. As in Bradford, son of James and Cindy, husband toAlice. The circumstances weren’t ideal, but I’ve got to tell you, it was nice to see a familiar face.I’d been out on patrol when we heard a ruckus coming from one of the many pubs there are. A couple ofGIs and Tommys had gotten into it over a few Simlish girls, and I got stuck in the middle of it trying to breakit up. I took a couple of good hits to the face and chest, and I won’t lie – it hurt. It hurt enough for me to goto the hospital and get it checked out.
At the hospital, Nick was the doctor who treated me. It was weird in a lot of ways. I mean, he’s a realdoctor and all now. But he’s still Nick. Does that make any sense? I hope so.Anyway, I’ve got a cracked rib and a cut near my eye that Nick had to stitch up. He says it shouldn’t scar,but I’m not sure I trust the new doctor’s skills. I’m on rest for the next two weeks, and desk duty until the ribheals up. No more patrols for me for a while.Nick says to say hi, and to let Alice and his parents know that he’s fine. And he does look good, just a littlethin, but the food will do that to you. It’s okay, but it’s not home cooking.By the way, can you send me a new photograph of you? When I was getting my head stitched up andcleaned off, it was in my front pocket and it got dripped on. I’m sorry.Love,Walt
Shirley walked in the front door, exhausted. She’d stayed late at the shipyard and caught a ride home withher uncle and cousin. She was looking forward to nothing more than a hot shower, a hot meal, and herwarm bed.She stretched out the kink in her back, and realized that the blackout curtains hadn’t been disguising thelights from the house as they usually did.“Mom? Dad?” she called, flicking on the lamp on the hall table.
When she got no response, she moved into the living room, flicking on lights as she went. As she wasabout to head up the stairs when she heard voices coming from her father’s study. She changed her pathand knocked gently on the door.After a moment, the door opened and her mother greeted her with her finger pressed to her lips in agesture of silence. Her father was on the phone and his brow was furrowed.
“I understand that. But this is my son we’re talking about! The ship that he was assigned to was lost andhe’s been injured. I’m just trying to find out more details.”Shirley started to gasp, but silenced herself with a soft squeak. She turned to look at her mother, silentlyasking if it was true. Viola simply nodded, and put her arm around her daughter.
Sterling sighed. “Well, I’d appreciate a call if you hear anything. I don’t care how late it is. Yes, thank youagain.”He turned to face the two ladies. “They don’t know anything more than the telegram did.”“And what did that say?” Shirley demanded, raising her eyebrows as if to remind her father that she’d justgotten home.
“Howie’s ship, the Simcago, was lot during a battle. The neighboring ships picked up survivors, yourbrother among them. We got a telegram telling us that, and that he was wounded in action. We don’tknow any more than that. Since I’m on the draft board, I was calling in a few favors I had with the WarDepartment to see if I could find out anything more.”“And judging by the expression on your face, you didn’t,” Shirley stated.Sterling nodded. “They were…let’s say less than helpful.”Shirley snorted. “Damn bureaucrats.”
Sterling opened his mouth to gently rebuke his daughter, but stopped when he saw the look on his wife’sface. Instead, he went over and pulled her into his arms.“I’m sure he’ll be all right.”“I wish I could be so certain,” Viola mumbled.Shirley was inclined to agree with her mother, but she went and put her hand on Viola’s shoulder. “Well,there’s nothing we can do, so worrying isn’t going to help.”
Viola nodded, and pulled away from the embrace. “I’m sorry, Shirley. You must be starving after your longshift. Why don’t you go upstairs and get cleaned up, and I’ll have something on the table by the time you’redone.”Shirley shook her head. “I’m not really that hungry anymore.”Viola put her hands on her hips. “Young lady, go wash up and then come downstairs for supper. Youneed to keep your strength up to build those ships.”Shirley gave her mother a salute, a smirk on her face. “Yes, ma’am.”
Half an hour later, Shirley came down the stairs freshly washed and scrubbed. She entered the diningroom to see that her mother had used some of their precious cheese rations to make Sterling and Shirley’sfavorite meal. She joined her parents and quickly devoured two sandwiches.“I knew you were hungry,” Viola said as she collected her daughter’s plate.Shirley opened her mouth to reply, but a huge yawn came out instead.“Go to bed, honey.”
Shirley’s sleep that night was fitful. She keep seeing her little brother as he struggled to stay afloat in thewater, awaiting rescue. Except the water wasn’t the pretty, calm blue Howie wrote about – it was red withblood.As the sun began to peek through the blackout curtains, she got up. Knowing she had a long day ahead ofher, she headed downstairs to start the coffee.
She found Sterling, also still in his pajamas, nursing a cup of coffee at the dining room table. She pouredherself a cup, making a face at the fact that she couldn’t load it up with sugar the way she liked.“Where’s Mom?”“Still asleep. I don’t think she actually got there until close to dawn, so I left her alone. I figured I couldhead into the city and see if I could find anything more out about Howie. It’s hard to say no to someone inperson, as you’re well aware.”Shirley nodded, and took a sip of her coffee.
“Do you think…is Howie going to be okay?”Sterling sighed. “I don’t know, honey. He’s a fighter, so I know he’s not going to give up. But withoutknowing how badly he’s hurt…”Shirley said nothing; there was nothing she could say.Sterling rose. “I’ll knock together some breakfast if you’ll clean up, and then we’ll head into the city.”“All right. Just don’t leave me a gigantic mess in the kitchen like you usually do when you cook.”
Dear Walt,It’s been one of the longest weeks of my life. Ever since I got home to hear about Howie being wounded, Idon’t think I’ve gotten a decent night’s sleep. I wish we’d heard something, but news travels slowly fromthe Simcific, I guess. I feel the worst for Mom; she’s been distracted so much that she can’t even paint.Dad’s been working his many connections, looking for news. So far, we know that Howie made it onto ahospital ship. That’s it. We’re hoping that he’s able to write himself soon enough, but so far nothing.Nothing is the worst.I feel horrible, dumping all this on you when I’m supposed to be the supportive girl back home sending yougood news to keep your spirits up. Well, how about this? My crew finished our 10th ship yesterday. We’reall new at shipbuilding, so it’s a pretty big accomplishment. There’s still a lot more work to be done, but I’veno doubts that we’ll meet our quotas and then some.Love,ShirleyPS – He’s okay! Howie, that is. We finally got a letter from him. I’ll write more when Mom give me achance to read it.
Viola came rushing into the house, waving a piece of paper before her.“It’s from Howie!” she exclaimed, causing Sterling and Shirley to look up from their reading and writing.“It’s dated after the attack, so he’s all right.”“What does it say?” Sterling asked.
Dear Mom and Dad and Shirley,Before you ask, because I know you’re going to and because you’re worried, I’m okay. A little banged up,but still in one piece.By now, I’m sure you’ve gotten a telegram. I hope it didn’t scare you too bad. I tried to get them not tosend one, to let me write and tell you what happened, but I was informed it’s standard procedure. At least Ihope this letter doesn’t follow too far behind it. I’ll try to explain what happened, but I don’t know how muchthe censors will let through. So if it’s full of big, blacked-out sections I’m sorry. But I figure you guys haveas much of a right as anyone to know what happened, so I’m going to risk it.
It started out as a mostly normal day. We knew that there was action coming, but we didn’t know howclose it was. We were able to take out a few Simpanese planes, but eventually we got torpedoed. Theship was damaged, but not bad enough to sink us, just stop us. The rest of the fleet came to our aid, butwhen you can’t move you’re kind of like a sitting duck. Everyone did what they could, but it wasn’t enough.The Simpanese came back and we got hit four more times. That’s when we got the order to abandon ship.One of the four torpedoes that hit us the second time around hit a little too close to where I was, and I gothit with a bunch of debris in my leg. I couldn’t walk, but some of my shipmates dragged me out, into thewater, and we eventually got picked up by a destroyer. My ship sank about twenty minutes after thetorpedoing.
After discovering that one of my legs was broken, I got transferred to a hospital ship, and from there, weheaded for land. And let me tell you, land was quite the welcome sight after all my crew and I had beenthrough. I can’t tell you were I am, but know that I’m safe. They’ve done a formal evaluation of my injuries,and I’ll be out of action for a while. From that, I get the feeling that it might be worse than they’re letting on.Try not to worry about me too much; despite the leg injury I’m doing okay. Though if you could, I’d lovesomething to read; there’s not too much to do while you’re sitting around and waiting.Oh, and Shirley? I’m sorry we lost a ship. I know it’s not one you built, but I’m sure you’ll have to make itup by building a new one.Take care, and keep writing. Remember, I’m okay.Howie
After finishing the letter, Viola let out a breath she’d been holding since the telegram came.“He’s okay,” Sterling said, taking her hand.“What an idiot,” Shirley muttered. “Worrying about losing a ship instead of himself.”“That’s your brother,” Viola replied. “I think I’ll ask Cindy if she wants to go into the city with me tomorrowso I can get some books to send to Howie.”
After Howie was injured, things seemed to move by so quickly. Dad went to work, mostly drafting wills forboys going across one ocean or another as he had for Nick and Walt and Howie before they had done thesame. Mom tried to paint, but mostly threw herself into Red Cross work as did Aunt Cindy, Alice, andRosalie. I went to work, placing rivet after rivet after rivet as we struggled to meet the War Departmentsdemands for more and more ships. Once and a while, I’d go to Red Cross meetings myself, but mostly Ikept my involvement to supporting whatever project Mom was working on at that moment. With Howie hurtand Walt overseas, it was getting harder and harder for me not to resent the fact that Rosalie’s husbandwas sitting in an office somewhere in Washsimton, safe and warm and not at all affect by the war otherthan not being able to live with his wife.I made friends with the ladies at the shipyard. We’d share news, trade luxuries, and compete to see whocould get the most done during one of our shifts. Like everyone else, I lived for war news. Things seemedto be progressing in the Simcific, with Simpan getting pushed back closer to their homeland. InSimEurope, however, the Big Push had yet to occur. Walt was back on his feet, busy breaking up barbrawls again, chomping at the bit for the chance to play an actual part in the war. I didn’t blame him, butafter what happened to Howie I wasn’t eager to see him in the middle of the action.
It was early June, 1944, and a rare day off for Shirley. She was sitting by the small pond in the front of thehouse when her father’s car passed by.As Sterling got out of the car and headed into the house, he waved her over. She got up and hurried over.“Where’s your mother?”“Inside, I think. Why?”Sterling said nothing, just gestured for her to follow.
They found Viola in the dining room, getting it ready for dinner. Sterling pulled out a chair for each of them,and then sat down once they had.“I’m home a bit early for two reasons. First, the invasion of SimEurope has begun. The allied forceslanded on the beaches of Simandy yesterday. They’ve got a good foothold into SimFrance now, but therewere heavy casualties.”“Do we know any of them?” Shirley asked.“It’s too early to tell, but I imagine that before it’s over we will.”Shirley paled, thinking of Walter.
“Walter won’t cross the channel until they’ve got roads and such for his unit to secure. It will be similar forNick; he won’t go until they’ve gotten far enough inland for them to establish field hospitals and the like.”“What’s the second thing?” Viola asked.“It’s about Howie. His leg isn’t healing the way they’d like, so he won’t be seeing any more active dutyservice.”Viola sighed in relief. Shirley raised an eyebrow.“I sense a ‘but.’”
“Because there is one. He won’t be put back on a ship, but he’s not coming home yet either.”“Why not?” Viola demanded. “What’s keeping him from that?”Sterling put on the face he often used when about to question a particularly difficult witness. “This cannotleave the room; a lot of people, including me, could get into a lot of trouble if it does. Understood?”The two women nodded.
“Howie is staying in Ausimtralia because of his Navy assignment. He was part of communications on theship, and he was involved with decoding messages and orders and such.”Viola gasped. “Howie’s involved with intelligence?’“Apparently. I guess his aptitude at math paid off.”“But what does that have to do with him not coming home?”Shirley snorted. “That’s easy to see. The Navy doesn’t want to lose someone already trained to readcode, and that’s not affected by a busted up leg.”“Exactly.”
Shirley nodded. “Well, Ausimtralia’s safe enough now that the Marines have done their jobs, so I’m sureHowie will be fine. As long as he doesn’t come back talking funny, he’s in as good a place as any for theduration.”“It would have been nice to have him here,” Viola muttered.”“You know as well as I do that he would have been miserable here, sitting around doing nothing. This way,he’s safe and playing an important role in the war effort,” Sterling replied.“How did you find out about Howie, Dad?”Sterling shook his head. It’s probably better if you don’t know the answer to that.”
Dear Shirley,Ooo la la! Je suis en, uh, well, I can’t say où je suis, but I hope you’ll figure it out as you’re très intelligente.Things are much busier now, though that must seem strange. Even though I don’t have to break up barfights because of bored GIs anymore, there’s still plenty to do. I secure roads that have been captured,man checkpoints to make sure it’s just our guys passing, and stuff like that. All in support of our boys andtheir march towards Berlsim!Sorry to hear that Howie’s not coming home just yet. But I’m sure he’s doing important work. I’m glad youwere able to help your mom understand that. Things are turning in our favor, I think, and fast. With anyluck, it won’t be too much longer before there are a lot of happy homecomings to celebrate.Let Dotty know that we’re marching towards SimParis, so her city of lights should be free before muchlonger. If the Simmans haven’t left it in complete disarray by the time I get there, I’ll see if I can snagsomething for her. And for you, ma bien-aimée. Au revoir, pour l’instant.Love,Walt
“Damn censors,” Shirley muttered as she refolded Walter’s latest letter. “If they think I can’t figure out he’sin SimFrance on his way to Berlsim via SimParis, they’re dumber than I think they are.”“Really, Shirley. Walter should know better than to write about sensitive details,” Rosalie chided.“Does the Simerican government really think that the Simmans don’t know we’re marching towards theircapitol?” Shirley retorted.
“Would you two knock it off for once?” Alice snapped. “Can’t you even have a conversation withoutbickering?”Both Shirley and Rosalie looked at Alice, mouths gaping.“I’m sorry,” Alice replied instantly. “I shouldn’t have…”“No, it’s us that should be apologizing to you, Alice. We know how stressful the last few months have beenfor you,” Shirley said.“Yes, Alice. We’re both sorry.”
Alice nodded, and got up. “I should be getting home. Steven has far too much energy, and I hate to leaveCindy with him for too long.”Rosalie got up as well, and followed Alice out the door after giving Shirley a look that clearly indicated whoshe felt was at fault.After they’d gone, Shirley slumped against the front door. How had she been such an idiot? Everyoneknew that poor Alice’s nerves were shot as of late, but bickering with Rosalie was such second nature thatshe hadn’t considered how it would affect her friend. Making Rosalie mad was fun, but Alice was so sweetand kind, and never tried to get Shirley to be something she wasn’t. She’d have to do something to make itup to her friend.
Dear Walt,I know I’m supposed to write to you about happy stuff, keep your spirits up and such, but somethinghappened that I think you’ll want to know about before you come home.Gilbert Seiff was killed in action on Iwo Sima. Aunt Calla’s devastated, obviously, and Uncle Taddy’s doinghis best to put on a brave face for everyone’s sake. Rosalie…well, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I feelsorry for her.
My bickering with Rosalie resulted in Alice snapping at us both – completely understandable given thecircumstances – so I’d been trying to play nice. Mostly, that meant avoiding her completely because wecouldn’t snip at each other if we weren’t in the same room. So it had been nearly a month since I’d actuallyseen Rose when I got the news. And it had taken about that amount of time for the battle to happen andthe Seiffs to get the telegram.I knew I had to do something to express my sympathy to her, so I did the only thing that I knew Rosaliewould understand – I cooked some food. It wasn’t fantastic, but it was something, and I did it all myself.She accepted it without a snarky remark, and I knew she’d accepted my apology.
Walt, do your damnedest to wrap things up over there. This war had been dragging on for far too long. Iwant you and my brother, and all the other boys I know to come home so we can get on with our lives.Even working in the shipyard is getting to me, as it feels like I’m doing all this work and it’s not making theslightest difference.I should close this on a happier note. I just can’t work myself up to happy right now. I love you, and I wantyou to come home. Soon. Now.Love,Shirley
It was an ordinary day in early May. Shirley had a cold, which had kept her from going into the shipyard asshe normally would have. Consequently, she wasn’t in the greatest of moods as she moped on the sofawhile her mother stood at her easel, dabbing away at her latest masterpiece.Shirley groaned. “I can’t breathe; my nose is all stuffed up.”Viola looked up. “Poor thing. I’ll go make you some more tea. The steam should help loosen things up abit.”Shirley smiled weakly in thanks. This would be the fifth cup of tea she’d had that morning so far, and noneof the other ones had helped so far. Still, it was nice to have her mom take care of her like she had whenShirley was a little girl.
The front door opened, and Alice let herself in, breathless.“Alice?” Shirley asked as she got up from the sofa where she was lounging.“It’s over!”“What?”“Simmany surrendered. Unconditionally. The war’s over in SimEurope.”
Shirley stared at Alice, unblinking. Then her mouth turned upward into the biggest smile she’d had sincethe announcement of the bombing of Plumbbob Harbor. She let out a shriek of joy that might have beenheard in SimEurope itself.From the dining room, the two ladies heard the crash of china.Shirley blushed. “I think I owe my mom a new tea set.”
Alice laughed, the happy laugh that she’d had in college, and Shirley joined in as she bounced up anddown like a child would. It was how Viola found them when she rushed into the living room.“What’s going on? Alice, I didn’t hear you knock.”“I didn’t, Aunt Viola. I was at the store when James got a call from Uncle Sterling. He’d been trying to getthrough for the past hour – the phone lines have been jammed because everyone wants to share the newsof Simmany surrendering.”Viola let out a cry of joy. “It’s over, then?”“In SimEurope, yes, it’s over.”
Viola threw her arms around Alice. “This is the best news I’ve heard in a long time.”“It really is.”Alice extracted herself gently from Viola’s hug. “I need to go home and tell Cindy, and I’ll probably swingby Rosalie’s and let her know as well. I’m sorry I made Shirley yell which made you drop the tea set.”Viola shrugged. “It was Sterling’s mother’s, and I was never too fond of it. Now he’ll have to buy me a newone.”With that happy thought, Alice left.
Shirley followed her mother into the dining room and helped her pick up the shards of china.“You know, this means the boys in SimEurope will start to come home soon. I imagine the ones that havebeen there since the beginning will be pretty eager to get back on Simerican soil.”Shirley felt her stomach flutter. “I hope so. I know Howie won’t be back until Simpan surrenders…”“But Walter might be home before the year’s over. Have you thought about what that might mean for you?”Shirley let herself think about that for a moment. “He said that we’d get married when he got back, butbeyond that…”Viola nodded. “Well, make sure that he’s going to keep that promise.”
Dear Shirley,I’m coming home.No, you didn’t read that wrong. I’ve got my points (more than what I need, actually), and I plan on gettingthe next ship back to Simerica that I can. I can’t wait.The Army’s been trying to get some of us to reenlist, but I’ve had enough of the Army to last me a lifetime.I can’t lie and say I wasn’t tempted. They dangled a three month furlow and three thousand simoleans infront of me to reup for fifteen months, but I said no thanks; I’ve got a girl who’s been waiting for me for threeyears and she’d kill me if I signed up for another tour.Once I get back, it’ll be a few days at a separation center before I’m on a train home. I’ll send you moredetails as soon as I have them. I can’t wait to see you.Love,Walter
After Simmany surrendered, things began to change around Simsfield. The first thing that happened wasat the shipyard. Uncle Silas called us into his office one by one. I had no idea what was going on in there,but I could tell that it wasn’t good. Most everyone, especially the ones close to my age, came out with sourexpressions on their faces. When my turn came, I was weary, but I wiped the grime off my face as best Icould and went into the office.
“You’re FIRING me?!?”“Shirley, there’s no need to shout.”“Like hell there isn’t. I’m one of the best damn welders and riveters you’ve got, and you just said you’reletting me go.”Silas muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like, “This is what we get for lettingwomen into the workforce in the first place.” His words only fueled Shirley’s anger.“Give me one good reason, Uncle Silas.”
Silas rubbed the back of his neck. “The war’s nearly over. Soon, the boys who have been overseasfighting will be home, and they’ll need jobs. You girls have done a great job stepping up and filling in forthem while they’ve been gone, but it’s time for you to go back home and put your focus back on beingwives and mothers where it belongs.”Shirley glared at him as she crossed her arms. “So that’s it. ‘Thanks, Rosie, but it’s time to put down yourwelding torches and pick up your cooking pots again?’”“Exactly,” Silas sighed, thinking that he’d gotten his point across.
Shirley picked up the lamp on the edge of his desk and hurled it across the room.“To hell with you! And your damn shipyard. I’m not waiting for the work to dry up. I quit! Today. I’ll goclean out my locker. You can bring my last paycheck by my father’s office.”With that, Shirley turned on her heal and slammed the door as she stormed out.
She was supposed to catch a ride home with her father, but upon stopping at his office she found that hewas still in court, so Shirley left a message with his new secretary and took the train home.As the train gently rocked her, the gravity of what had happened and what she’d done began to sink in.Shirley wasn’t much of a crier, but she gave into her tears that afternoon. She ignored the mixture ofpuzzled and sympathetic looks she received from her fellow passengers. What did she care what theythought? It wasn’t as if she’d be taking the train anymore; she no longer had cause to go into Portsimouth,as far as she was concerned.
Viola was painting when Shirley walked into the house. Upon seeing the state her daughter was in, Violadropped her paintbrush, thinking the worst.“No, everyone’s fine. Except me. Mr. Alcott’s firing all the women who’ve been working for him so he cangive the jobs to the boys returning home. He said I’m supposed to be happy that I can go back to being “awife and mother.’”Viola made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a snort. “I never did like that cousin of your father, andthis proves I was right not to.”
Shirley cracked a small smile. “That’s not all. I…may have lost my temper.”Viola raised an eyebrow. “You? Lose your temper? Never. What did you do?”“Threw a lamp at his head.”Viola doubled over from laughter. “Serves him right. Wait until your father hears about this.”“He’s not going to be mad at me?”“I doubt it. He and Silas never were what you would call close, and Sterling suspects that he may havepaid off the doctor who diagnosed Clarence with a weak heart.”
Shirley was shocked by that revelation. “What a bastard.”Viola gave her daughter a look that clearly said what she thought about the language she had just used,but said nothing. “He can’t prove anything, of course, so keep that to yourself.”Shirley nodded, and sank down onto the sofa. “So, now what do I do?”Viola sat next to her. “First, you go upstairs and get cleaned up. Then, you start planning a homecomingparty for Walter. I was going to surprise you with this at dinner, but I think you need the cheering up now.”Viola handed Shirley a scrap of paper. A telegram. From Walter. She read quickly with hungry eyes.“He’ll be home next week!”
Shirley stood on the train platform, a few steps away from where Cordelia and Harris Gavigan stood. Shewas anxiously waiting for the train to pull in, bringing Walter home. He was the first of the Simsfield boys tocome back, and the town had wanted to go all out for him. But Shirley, with the help of Cordelia, hadconvinced them that the best thing to do would be to let his family greet him at the train station, and have abigger party for the whole town when more of the boys came home. Shirley couldn’t believe that she andCordelia had agreed upon something.The sound of a distant whistle caused the whole platform to come to attention. The train was approaching;their boys would soon be home.
Everything suddenly seemed to move in slow motion. The train came to a stop, brakes screeching. Thedoors opened and boys in various military uniforms began to spill out. Harris began waving, trying to catchsomeone’s attention. And then there he was. Walter.As he hugged his mother and father hello, Shirley took a moment to study him. He looked mostly thesame, a little thinner and there was that faint scar from Nick’s stitches on his forehead only noticeablebecause she was looking for it, but he appeared to be the same person she’d sent away all those yearsago.At last, Walter move away from his parents to stand in front of Shirley.“Hey.”“Hey,” she replied.
“Is that the best you can do?” he asked, smiling.“Well, your mother is watching.”“To hell with what she thinks.”
“I brought you something back from SimFrance,” he said when they finally pulled apart.“Oh, what’s that?”“It’s in my bag. Give me a second and I’ll get it out.”He dropped to the ground and began rooting around in his duffel bag.
“Here you go,” he said.Shirley gasped. “Walter Gavigan, is this what I think it is?”“If you think it’s an engagement ring, then yes, it’s what you think it is.”Shirley grabbed the ring out of the box and put it on her finger.“You certainly didn’t waste any time putting it on,” he smirked.“It took you long enough to ask,” she retorted.
Viola was ecstatic. Not only was her daughter getting married at last, but her son was home at last. Hishomecoming had been more than she had hoped for, as it turned out he’d met an Ausimtralian girl, marriedher, and brought her home with him.“I still can’t believe you deprived me of seeing you get married,” she scolded gently.“And I told you that she couldn’t travel with me unless she was my wife. Logistically, it made sense to getmarried there. When Shirley and Walt get back from their honeymoon, you can throw us a party. That wayeveryone can meet Jessica.”
The night before the wedding, Shirley found her way up to the attic to escape the last minute details andscrambles that were going on downstairs. She really wanted to see Walt, but her mother was insisting thatit was bad luck to do so.As Shirley leaned against the wall and stared out the window, she was startled by the sound of someoneopening the trap door.“Sorry, just me,” Howie said. “Mom’s run out of wedding stuff to worry about and started to fuss over meand my leg again.”“Pull up a box; she never comes up here anymore.”
The brother and sister sat together in silence for a while. Absently, Howie began to rub his leg.“Does it still bother you?”“Sometimes,” he admitted. “The rain today didn’t help. At least I don’t need the wheelchair or crutchesanymore.”Shirley nodded. “That would be difficult, living here with all the stairs.”
Howie turned and looked out the window. Shirley followed his gaze; he was watching the lights in the Seiffhousehold.“It still doesn’t seem real that Gil’s gone,” he said softly.“I know.”Howie was silent for a long time before he spoke again. “I almost wonder if it’s better this way.”“Huh?”
“When I was in the hospital, there were guys, Marines, who’d been fighting the Simpanese firsthand. Theywere…they were different.”“What do you mean?”“They had this, I don’t know quite how to say it, haunted look about them. I know they kept a lot of it fromyou back home, but the Simpanese used brutal war tactics. Some of the guys that saw too much of itcracked.”“Oh.”“So I wonder if it isn’t better that Gil didn’t survive in some ways. He doesn’t have to live with thosememories, unlike some of his comrades.”
Shirley frowned, and Howie shook his head.“I know what you’re thinking. You’re worried about what Walt saw. Well, let me tell you this: the Simmanswere gentlemen compared to the Simpanese. I’m sure he saw some pretty horrific stuff, but nothing asbad as what those of us in the Simcific did.”“It just made me think, there’s so much I don’t know about him. He’s hardly talked about the war at allsince he’s been home.”“Well, he’s only been home about a month, so I wouldn’t be too worried about that.”“But what if he’s changed?”“Shirley, he has changed. War does that to a man. But the important stuff hasn’t, like the fact that hewants to marry you. The rest, you’ll figure it out as you go.”
Shirley kept her brother’s words in the back of her mind as she marched down the aisle towards her futurewith Walter the next day. She couldn’t help the huge smile that was on her face; she’d imagined this dayfor so long and it was finally happening. All those long days and sleepless nights worrying about Walthadn’t been for nothing. Soon, she would be Mrs. Walter Gavigan. The thought made Shirley’s step movea little quicker.It didn’t hurt that being a Mrs. at last would put her back on equal footing with Rosalie, either.
*****That’s the conclusion of part two of the war years chapter. I hope you liked it. It was a lot more fun to writea chapter with a happy ending this time!Shirley’s a lot of fun as a character, and I had a great time writing her. Considering how much of a tomboyshe was in her youth, it only made sense to have her be my Rosie the Riveter.During the war, the percentage of woman working outside the home increased from roughly 25% to about36% (depending on what source you look at). Women were told it was their patriotic duty to go to work, sothey did. Some did factory and industrial work, as Shirley did, while others took clerical positions, joinedthe Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, and the Women Accepted forVolunteer Military Service. Shirley won’t be the only member of Generation 7 who goes into the workforce.I made Walter an MP because he ended up pretty low on the randomizer list. I know I was horrible for notgetting him and Shirley married before he went away, but not every couple rushed into marriage before theman shipped out.Howie’s ship is based of the Chicago, a destroyer that was sunk in 1943. He was one of the ones whocame up as wounded when I ran the randomizer.
CreditsI had quite a few guest stars this chapter. In the top row, we had Ray Geebiv from Annie, Captain CookPenguinio from Pen, Riley Wheedon from Rose, Daniel Wheedon also from Rose, Stanley Legacy from Di,Maddie Doran from the Boolprop RR generation 8 and Erin Devereaux from Ang. They were all fantastic!Next up is the biggie – Nick & Alice’s chapter. Considering I’ve got most of it planned, I hope to have it outsoon.You can leave comments on the Bradford Legacy thread at Boolprop, on my Live Journal, or on myDreamwidth, whichever you prefer.