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Restless Hearts will captivate your heart and allow you to spend the day with characters that were given the names of real live heroes who once fought for our country covering the period of WWI to current day. This story will take you to the depths of your ...
Restless Hearts will captivate your heart and allow you to spend the day with characters that were given the names of real live heroes who once fought for our country covering the period of WWI to current day. This story will take you to the depths of your emotions of sorrow for those who are gone and joy for the outcome of the choices in their journeys.
Make this a part of your recognition for those who have served and are currently serving this country.
Endorsed by Lieutenant General Snowden, the oldest surviving Marine Officer who fought on Iwo Jima, Korea, and Vietnam. Also endorsed by Rear Admiral James H. Flatley, recipient of the Navy’s prestigious John Paul Jones Award for inspirational leadership.
Buck sat on the bench under a sign that read, "Saint Mary's Catholic Boys Orphanage." It was an ivy-covered stone building that stood a couple of blocks away from Main Street. He was tossing pebbles into a puddle that had appeared early that morning from the hard rain the night before. Buck would close his eyes and dream of a better life far away from New Orleans. He was thin, quiet, and except for infrequent celebratory moments when new children would arrive, he stayed preoccupied in his dream of the future. His clothes were tattered and unwashed. His hair was thick and cut in a bowl-like fashion.
It was common knowledge that most of the children who arrived at the Ninth Ward Orphanage came from the ladies of the evening. The ladies would become pregnant by visiting sailors or affluent cheating husbands, but when they either couldn't afford, or for reasons of influence, did not want to raise their little prizes born out of the lusty, whiskey soaked nights. So the orphanage with the hard-working women of religion would bear down to provide basic survival needs to these little less-fortunates.
Each ripple in the rain puddle carried him like a ship to distant oceans and for the adventure for which he so yearned. He had lived his fourteen years at Saint Mary's, with the ever-revolving carousel of transient brothers and guardians. This particular morning would be life-changing, though, and would take him away to places never dreamed. His home reference was a run-down shanty crowded with sibling tenants. He had recently become increasingly nervous that his day of exodus would be imminent because past experience was that the older boys left to make way for new additions.
Buck wasn't like the others. He thought about who his parents might be and how he would find them someday. He longed to be loved by someone and hoped to find a family, and an order of existence that was difficult for most during the onset of World War I. He ached for the next chapter in his life, yet he was fearful at the same time.
The heavy wooden door of the orphanage behind him creaked open. A bulky figure donning a habit stepped through. Buck looked up, and his lip began to quiver. He sensed that the time for change was here and all that remained were the spoken words. Although he had been abandoned before, this would be the time that he would feel it to his core. The seeming contradiction for him now was that he was ready for change but so afraid to go forward. Mother Rosalie stretched her winged arms toward Buck. He hesitated, thinking that if he didn't touch her, her message wouldn't penetrate his being. He reacted slowly with the hope that the words would never come; anything to prolong his stay in what had served him his entire life.
Mother Rosalie gave her normal spirited salutation.
"Good morning, Buck. Are you ready to go?"
Buck tried to smile, hoping for a new life and new opportunities, but deep within he owned an overpowering feeling of being lost again and starting all over.
She smiled as she sat beside him on the bench.
"We'll miss your help with the younger children. You have been with us for near on fourteen years."
Buck only knew the orphanage as his family. He had been abandoned as a baby, and, since his earliest recollection, had seen a revolving door of transiting, unconnected characters.
Mother Rosalie smiled, and then with her pudgy digits gestured to him for a hug.
Trembling deeply, he tearfully responded. "Please let me stay. I'll Do Anything You Want."
She quickly rebuffed. "Buck, you have to start a life of your own. You'll meet new people and learn to make choices that will change your life. You'll see many years of happiness and prosperity. God will watch over you."
Buck stood hopelessly, wiping his tears with his ragged sleeves.
Rosalie chirped again. "It wouldn't be fair to turn another away to make space for you, Son. Now, please get going before the storm comes again. Here is two dollars to get you through the next week."
He turned and walked down the street in the direction of the train station under a darkening sky. He still didn't fully comprehend that this evening he would be alone, no shelter, no food except the few pieces of bread that he had stuffed in his pockets while the others weren't looking. He wasn't far from the train station and would make his arrival there in about thirty minutes if he picked up the pace. He felt a couple of raindrops and began running to find the closest cover.
The gloominess of the day reflected his sad state of mind. His melancholy spirit was a great beginning reference, he thought, because he knew that his life could only get better. He didn't wallow in self-pity or wonder about the prospects that might become him because he had never had this freedom of feeling before. The choices that followed wouldn't be based on any experience he had known. His ignorance put him at an incredible disadvantage, and he only hoped that the world would be kind.
As Buck got closer to the train station, he marveled at the masses of men gathering. He wondered where they were all going. Mothers hugged their young sons, while young ladies kissed their husbands goodbye. Sadly, many of them would never be seen or heard from again. The conductor began to corral the young men onto the train as the outstretched arms were ripped from their loved ones. Buck wasn't sure where they were going, but he saw that they resembled him. They seemed to be going through the same process that he had experienced earlier with Mother Rosalie.
He walked out from behind the tree and headed for the train, blending in with the sea of those heading out. So, without any hesitation, he ran to catch the last open door. It all happened so quickly that he didn't think of where he was going or why. As the train departed, fathers and brothers cheered them off to war. The lost faces filled the windows as they pulled away on their journey to find their place in history. Buck sat alone, head down, and never looked back.CHAPTER 2
Chief Petty Officer Charlie Koberlein rested against the corner of the garage waiting for the charcoal to turn white. He pulled a pack of Chesterfields from his cuffed cotton t-shirt, tapping a cigarette out the end into his nicotine-stained fingers. As he lit the end, his mother and sister, Helen, walked out the back door carrying corn on the cob, baked beans, and rolls.
That evening in Chicago was incredibly gorgeous. Charlie threw the hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. The smoke billowed, and he jumped back. Helen giggled.
Just then, his dad pulled up into the driveway with a six pack of Schaefer next to him on the seat. He leaned out of his truck window, smiling.
"You'd think that a big bad Chief could handle a simple grill. It'll be much easier handling the beach in Hawaii and sailing around the South Pacific."
Charlie hollered toward the house. "C'mon Granny, we don't have all night!"
His mom stood at the screen door wagging her finger. "I'll give you granny, young man. You're not that big that I won't put you over my knee."
They sat and ate quietly as the evening sunset colored the table. Charlie broke the silence. "It'll be hell for those Japs when we steam that way. We'll kick ass and then take names." His mom imparted one of her famous looks of disapproval and then looked away with sadness in her eyes. Then the discussion began on world events and what the future would bring.
Helen spoke up. "I wish they'd stop all the fighting and bring those boys home."
Charlie returned with his tough guy response. "The Arizona will sink everything in her sights. We'll make history!"
His father began scolding him. "Charlie, knock it off."
Mrs. Koberlein stood up and began picking up the plates, but Charlie pleaded. "Mom, Helen and I will get it. Go relax and we'll be in soon."
He took the plates from her hands, set them on the table, and apologetically hugged her.
"I'm sorry, Mom. I'll be okay, and we'll be home before you know it."CHAPTER 3
A young, spirited couple sat at the table in the corner of a smoky, old juke joint in Vernon, Texas. Their silhouettes were colorfully projected on the wall by way of the lights of the jukebox animation. Tony Burr was leaning into his girl, Ruth, as they listened to a barely audible Jane Froman's "I'll Walk Alone."
Young Tony tried to brave the remainder of the evening with smiles and kisses while the love of his life mimicked his resolve. She was that gorgeous, wholesome girl that every mother wanted her son to bring home. Ruth was impassioned with her soldier-to-be.
As they sat blindfolded to what life had prepared for them, their romance brewed greater with every passing moment. They ignored the dangers that would mark their path. They couldn't have picked a worse time to live and love than in 1944. It would only be a couple more hours of gazing into each other's eyes and then one last romp literally in the hay. They had planned the next part of their evening where the farmer at the edge of town would be quietly tucked in his home, and the animals soundly stalled. It would be then that they would perfect their love one more time.
Tony looked at his watch and smiled big. Ruth batted her eyes, blushed, and looked away with all the innocence that came easily her way. In truth, though, her feelings were more like, "Let's get it on!" They practically ran out of the honky-tonk, slipping through the trees and side streets, evading the view of any spies in the night. It took five long minutes before they ended up at the entrance of the barn. Tony scanned the street to see if anyone had caught their movement, and within seconds they were through the door, laughing and grabbing each other. They stopped only to see the big brown eyes of the cattle noting their every move.
Ruth anxiously reached up, smiling in anticipation for Tony to pull her dress up over her head. Tony accommodated her lead and in one fell swoop had her down to panties and bra. Tony reached up into the rafters and grabbed a blanket that they had planted on a prior soiree. Ruth hated the prickly straw sticking her in the backside. Tony normally obliged his girl taking bottom to absorb the pain.
They shared an incredible passion for each other; one that most couples dream of. Tony's departure would be a new experience for them. They were childhood sweethearts and had never endured separation, but for the time left, they had agreed they would not talk about or think about the next morning. Tony and Ruth normally stayed out late so their parents would be asleep when they returned. On this night, though, they would stay gone all evening.
As they lay there in the night, they couldn't help but think about and talk about the future. After all, what is life without the dreams of a new day? Ruth insisted that regardless of the outcome, she would be right there waiting. Tony reassured her that there was no need for worry.
Ruth held Tony's chin. "I just can't stand it."
Tony lay there silent. Inside, it was like he knew that the future would take them on a path which wouldn't return them to the place from whence they had come.
Again Ruth expressed her concern. "Tony, what if?"
"Ruth, I don't know. I do know that we are strong enough to beat anything that this world has to throw at us. You know we have always been there for each other. Our relationship is built on a true love with heaps of trust on top."
Her look of terror, and the tears that slid down her cheek, prompted Tony.
"Ruthie, let's not talk about it anymore."
"I'll be waiting here for you, Tony, always."
The two stretched their arms around each other in a deep embrace, passionately kissing, and beginning their next and final act of love. There was not time for sleeping that evening. The animals grew restless, which was their signal of pre-dawn. Ruth got up while Tony lay there. He had to have one last look-see of her delicious outline presented against a background of stars shining through the boarded cracks.
"We'd better skedaddle before we get found out."
"I don't really care, Ruthie. When I get back, we'll have a house of our own and can sleep together. You can bring me breakfast in bed and then we can play all day long. Then I'll make dinner and serve you. A little dancing in the parlor and life will be so grand."
He hesitated and then followed. "But, if I don't get back ..."
Ruth touched his lips. "Shhh."
Tony grabbed her arms and began. "Ruthie, please promise me that if I don't come back, you will go on and live a happy life. It's all I will ever ask of you. It's what I want."
Before she had a chance to respond, he opened up the barn door and looked out. They snuck back to their homes undetected.
Tony planned to meet Ruth at her parents' home at 8:00 a.m. Shortly after Tony arrived home, his mother summoned him to the kitchen for a hearty breakfast. She hoped it would hold him over for the long bus ride. While his mother made conversation, he was preoccupied with leaving Ruth. Tony's father came in from the barn and sat down for the last meal with his son. He had noticed a blanket in the hay but didn't speak of it to Tony.
"Son, I think Mom has outdone herself this morning on the chipped beef on toast. Of course it will look, taste, and be called something entirely different in the mess hall."
Mrs. Burr was pleased to see her son devour her cooking but knew that it would be his last good meal for a while. Tony stopped shoveling it in just long enough to wash it down with a cold glass of milk. They could tell that he was preoccupied, and they never gained his complete attention.
Finally, he came back to the conversation. "I guess it'll take a few days to get to base. I hope that we get this over with in short order."
"We just hope that you make it there and back safely. Your father and I will be checking the mail every day, so please write."
Her voice cracked and tears welled in her eyes. Tony got up immediately to comfort her. She felt that this was the time in life when she could no longer protect him from the struggles or dangers that life would be serving up. This was the first time that his father couldn't provide relief to his mother.
"Mom, Dad, I'll be fine. You taught me how to take care of myself. I promise to come back in time to take in the hay next summer. Besides, I can't keep Miss Ruthie waiting too long because she might find another man. That can't happen."
His mother responded with a smile. "That little lady won't even look at another boy. She'll be here whenever you return."
"I don't think that I would want her to do that Mom. That wouldn't be fair if I never came home."
His mother's finger drew quickly in his direction and wagged. "Don't you."
"I'm sorry. I will be home sooner than you know."
Tony angled in for one of his famous mother-son hugs and extended his hand to his father.
"I've got to be going. I'm meeting Ruthie at her house, and then we're heading to the bus station. I've got to be there by noon."
His father looked at his pocket watch. "That's three hours from now."
"I know," he responded with a sheepish grin.
They stood silent for a moment, and then his parents reached out their hands for family prayer. They bowed their heads while Tony read their faces with his eyes affixed to their expressions. He realized that they had never faced this kind of pain before. He captured this in his memory. It would serve as incentive for him to come home safely. He was struck by the power of the moment, the eloquence of his father's words, words that he had never heard from his father's heart before. He sensed the hope and prayer through his dad's tightly clenched hands and trembling voice. It was as if death was imminent, and this was a step in the process of acceptance.
"God, we ask that you provide safe passage for our son and bring him back to his loving family to live a long and prosperous life. Amen."
Tony hugged them both again, reassuring them of his safe return.
"I've got to go. I'll write as soon as I get to my unit and know where we are going."
His mother's voice trembled. "We love you, Son. Be careful. We'll be sure to have Ruthie over from time to time for dinner."
He headed for the door and turned to wave goodbye. He wondered if he would ever see them again but quickly changed his thoughts to Ruth. He realized that saying goodbye to her would be tough. His heart was hurting from the pain he had seen in his parents' eyes, yet he was smiling with the hope of a lifetime with Ruthie. He ran the gambit of many emotions.
Excerpted from Restless Hearts by Dennis O. Baker. Copyright © 2013 Dennis Owen Baker. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
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Posted June 16, 2014
Posted August 5, 2014