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By Phillip A. Elwood
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Phillip A. Elwood
All rights reserved.
The long black Packard sedan rolled silently to a stop outside the opulent ivy covered home in Arlington, Virginia. The bright winter sun glinted off the chrome trim and polished fenders, suggesting careful and constant attention. Small muddy splashes around the wire wheels were all that spoiled its pristine beauty.
The thick ivy on the house clung to red Georgia clay bricks laid with careful precision nearly a hundred years before. One of Robert E. Lee's neighbors built the home with skilled slave labor. Glistening white pillars flanked the golden knobbed door, silently standing guard with perpetual patience. A Civil War mini-ball had chipped a rib on the right pillar which, since it held historical significance, had never been repaired.
The brown winter grass of the manicured lawn spread down a slight hill to the front gate. Encircled by an oval driveway, the gardener always clipped it to a carpet-like perfection.
Senator Clayton Storm opened the back door and climbed out of the huge Packard. His football-ravaged knees protested with loud pops and painful twinges. Impeccably dressed, his black shoes reflected as much sun as the Packard's fenders. His tailor-made suit and overcoat fit his square shoulders as if he'd been born in them.
"Take the car on around James," he told the chauffeur. "I won't be going anywhere else today." The driver nodded and silently slipped the big car back into gear, gently steering it toward the garage. A quiet purr and the crunch of the tires against the pavement were the only sounds the magnificent car made. Once under the protective roof of the garage, James would clean the muddy wheels and ready the car for the next day.
Once again fully erect, the Senator's knees loosened as he strode toward the door. Removing his hat, he pushed open the heavy oaken portal. "Margaret!" He called. "I'm home!" His wife of thirty years didn't answer. He checked the den, then the bedroom, and finally decided to look out back. There he found her, bundled against the December chill, kneeling over her prize-winning rose bushes. "I should have known," he thought, smiling.
He silently crept up behind her and with a devilish grin, stroked his thumb ... well, where he shouldn't have. "Yeek!" She screamed. Potting soil flew in several directions as she leaped forward into the soft black dirt of the flowerbed, burying her hands up to the wrists. She flopped over onto her bottom and glared at him through a tightly restrained grin.
The Senator chuckled as he reached to help her to her feet. Black earth stained her soft cotton gloves and then the Senator's hand as he effortlessly lifted her up. He wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her softly on the cheek. "I'd think you'd not be so tender down there after having had five children my dear."
She pushed him away in mock anger and growled, "Having had five children is what made it tender you old ass." At forty-nine, she was still a beautiful and vital woman. Her honey-blonde hair reached below her broad shoulders through a red bow at the back of her neck, the tiny shock of gray circling her left ear enhanced rather than detracted from her beauty. "What are you doing home so early?" She asked him.
"Slow day," he sighed. "Thought I'd spend it working on the speech."
"Then I'll clean up here and fix you a snack," she told him.
"Aw splendid m'dear, splendid," he drawled, trying to mimic his favorite comedian, W.C. Fields. She swatted his hand away as he squeezed a handful of her firm buttock. He slapped on his gray felt hat and waddled, Chaplinesque, toward the house. She smiled behind him and felt the flush of true love yet again in her heart.
Returning to the flowerbed, she lovingly rearranged the straw to protect the plants from the cold, then gathered up her gardening tools. She tossed them into her wooden toolbox and carried it to the small potting shed near the patio. She couldn't see the dirty handprint on the cheek of her butt.
Senator Storm entered his study and tossed his hat onto the tall teakwood rack in the corner. He seldom missed the gleaming brass pegs, and once again his aim was perfect.
Slipping off his jacket, he fell into the leather chair and shuffled the stack of notes into a coherent order. He jammed a fresh sheet of paper into his new Royal typewriter, took a deep breath, and laboriously began to peck away with two fingers. Typing was grueling for him, but he always insisted upon doing it himself.
Like his wife, the Senator looked younger than his fifty years. The wisps of gray in his thick brown hair merely added to his classic good looks. Between the obligatory golf games twice a week and the obligatory tennis matches on Saturdays, he stayed in fairly good shape, though if he sat in one spot for more than ten minutes his knees stiffened up. Still tall and robust, he drew more than an occasional admiring glance from the young ladies who worked on Capitol Hill. But, he knew; he would always be a one-woman man.
Margaret entered the study with a thick roast beef sandwich and a cup of coffee and placed them on the edge of the desk within his reach. She circled behind him and read over his shoulder while massaging the tight muscles in his neck. "That's really good," she whispered, her voice deep and throaty. The touch of her cool fingers relaxed him.
"I hope so," he muttered tiredly. He took a deep breath and settled his head back onto her chest. Her large breasts framed his head like pillowy bookends, warm and soothing. He could feel her beating heart against the back of his head, bringing memories of many passionate nights over the years. Fighting arousal, he patted her hand and reluctantly returned to his pecking. Realizing the gravity of his work and not wishing to distract him, she kissed the top of his head, patted his shoulder, and left the room.
He concentrated on the words of dire warning he rapped upon the paper. He reminded his audience of the threats around them. He told them of the nightmare in Europe and the carnage in the Far East. Sooner or later, it would drag the United States into the conflict, despite the opinions of many of his colleagues. The Isolationists had preached the litany of non-involvement, of peace at any price. But he disagreed with them.
What was now being called The Battle of Britain had been an impressive victory for the British. The RAF with its Spitfires and Hurricanes dealt the Luftwaffe a definite pummeling. But the rout at Dunkirk and the fall of France had been an equally impressive dose of reality.
But even with the Lend-Lease Program, England could not go it alone against Herr Hitler and the Senator knew it. He had to convince those who disagreed that America could no longer wait on its laurels. She had to arm herself for war, and do it now.
The Japanese aggressions in Indochina were equally disturbing to him. His few friends in the War Department kept him clued in on the almost daily intelligence on Japanese atrocities in Burma and China.
He knew of the American Volunteer Group or Flying Tigers. Claire Chenault's band of mercenary pilots risked their lives every day in hopes of slowing the advance of the Japanese. But he also knew they weren't very successful. Undersupplied and out-gunned, they could do little to repulse such a huge enemy.
Storm sat back in his chair nibbling on the sandwich, deep in thought. His greatest worry wasn't so much about whether the United States would enter the war, which was inevitable; it was his sons, who would most probably be participating in some way or another.
Ray, the oldest, was twenty-eight and too old for combat. His physics work at MIT would be considered valuable to the war effort and probably keep him at home in any case. The fact that he was married and had a child on the way would also provide a deferment. His brownish hair had thinned lately and he had a habit of hunching his shoulders when he drifted away in thought.
Roland, twenty-five, already served in the Army. Although Storm never considered Rolly's OCI posting as particularly dangerous, it could get that way in wartime. Army boot camp had toughened him physically and even though his non-combat job kept him behind a desk most of the time, he remained quite fit.
With dark brown hair and eyes, a high forehead and bushy eyebrows, he reminded Storm of his own father, dead now for twenty years.
Storm's major concern was Ross. At twenty-one and about to graduate from engineering college, he was a prime candidate for the Army Air Corps. The kid's love of flying is what sent him to aeronautical school in the first place.
He'd passed his pilot training at sixteen, without his parent's knowledge. At seventeen, he somehow wrangled a beat-up old bi-plane for sixty dollars, also without their knowing. He'd earned the money delivering groceries and mowing lawns and any other odd job he could get. It took six months and a ton of sweat, but he'd put the old girl in the air. Though Storm acted fiercely angry over it all, he was inwardly very proud of the boy.
Of course there were other reasons for pride in Ross. He excelled in football and track in high school and his grades were always above average. He had the looks of a Hollywood star. At six-foot four he could be quite imposing when he wanted to be. His hair was blonde, like his mother's. And he shared her quick infectious smile.
Raymond, Roland and Ross were three of the best sons any father could ask for. And here he was, Senator Clayton Storm of the Senate Sub-committee on Military Affairs, recommending that his government send them all to war.
His single consolation was that all his children weren't boys. Barbara and Sue were fraternal twins with absolutely nothing in common but their birthday.
Barb grew more serious every year while Susan never had a care in the world. Barbara loved politics; Susan couldn't care less. Barbara finished prep school on the dean's list while Susan barely passed. Barbara had never had a date while Susan had been chasing boys since she was thirteen. Lately she slipped out the upstairs window at least twice a week to see a half-Mexican auto mechanic five years her senior. Storm knew of the affair but after talking to the young man, and a discreet background check, decided not to interfere.
Susan glowed with life, her reddish hair always hanging loosely about her shoulders. Voluptuous, though far from fat, she filled out her clothes with soft round curves that made the young men around her sweat with longing.
Barbara was thinner than her sister and her dark brown hair never just hung loose. She buried herself in books and never giggled or twittered like her sister sometimes did. Seriousness had become a way of life to her. Since her ninth birthday it had been "Mother and Father" and never "Mom and Dad". Storm didn't think he could remember the last time she'd called him "Daddy".
He didn't know exactly how a major war would affect the girls, but he was certain it would. But despite the back stabbing, the horse trading, the ass kissing and the blatant hypocrisy of pork-barrel politics; he was still a very decent man deep down inside, who felt that the horrors of what was going on in the world had to be dealt with.
So he returned to his speech. Monday morning he'd read it before an undoubtedly thin audience in the Senate chamber and pray someone remained awake long enough to hear what he had to say.
Long red hair billowed into Ross' face as he tried to bank the old Jenny into the wind and slip it onto the runway. He banged on the canvas fuselage to get the girl's attention and the green faced co-ed turned shakily around to face him. "Don't puke in the plane!" He yelled. "Lean over the side!"
She merely glared at him and screamed, "Get me down!" He reluctantly nodded and used his hands to tell her to hold her hair down so he could see. He rolled the creaking plane into his down-wind leg and cut the power. Turning base, then final, he set the old plane down with only a hint of a bump.
The wheels had barely stopped turning when his girlfriend of the past three hours leaped out onto her hands and knees and vomited into the grass. "Thank God," he thought. He hated cleaning puke out of the front cockpit. He watched with some sympathy as the girl staggered to her feet.
Turning to glare wet-eyed at Ross; she wrathfully threw her goggles at him and yelled over the idling motor. "Don't ever ... speak to me again!" She spun on her heel and groggily stormed across the grass toward her car. Halfway there, she doubled over and retched heavily onto her expensive leather shoes.
"Well, scratch another one," Ross muttered as he watched her retreating bottom swinging toward the parking lot. If a girl doesn't love flying, he couldn't love her. He shrugged his shoulders and jammed the throttle in again. The old motor roared and the yellow biplane began to rumble down the grassy runway. At fifty-eight knots, he eased back on the stick and the Jenny lifted into the sky.
"Boppin' Betty" arched across the cowling of the old plane in fat red letters. He'd painted it there himself. He didn't really know any Betty, let alone a "Bopping" one. He just thought the name was catchy.
The plane had been in poor condition when he bought her. He'd repaired the torn canvas, rebuilt the aging engine, and rewired the entire wing structure all by himself. Several old 'Aces' had helped him along the way of course, with advice, a third hand or a scrounged part or two; but he did all of the work he could himself.
Unlike anywhere else, Ross felt free in the air. He imagined more than one dogfight with the Red Baron as he practiced his stalls and rolls and loops. But daydreaming in a biplane can get chancy as he'd learned two weeks before. In a lapse of concentration, he banged the plane down too hard and cracked a landing strut. He never told anyone about it, except Sue. It seemed his sister was the only one who understood how he felt about flying.
He and Sue were close in age and often conspiratorial. She covered for him when he flew and he covered for her when she screwed Carlo. At least he thought she was screwing Carlo. Truth be known; Carlo was a shy and honorable young man who loved Susan very much. He demanded they wait until marriage for sex, though Sue, deflowered three years before at summer camp, was ready now.
But Ross didn't know this and at the moment didn't much give a shit as he rolled Betty onto her back and grinned as the ground slid by above his head. Edging slowly toward the dusty airport road, he saw the girl again, zooming down the road in her father's convertible. He flipped her a wave as he roared three feet above her head, nearly causing her to sideswipe a truck.
He climbed back to five hundred feet and leveled the plane out. Rolling back to right side up, he checked his altimeter and was pleased to see he'd only lost about twenty feet doing the maneuver. He figured he improved with every flight, which was just what a good pilot is supposed to do.
Glancing at his fuel gauge, he decided to swing back to the hanger for a Coke with Bert and Clyde before heading home to supper.
His turns were smooth and effortless as he banked back toward the airfield. He lined the plane up for a textbook approach and landing pattern, then eased the wheels onto the dusty grass runway.
Ross tied the Jenny down to an old concrete-filled tire, and jogged into the tin hanger. There, Clyde crouched over the scattered innards of a Wright radial engine. Wire-rimmed glasses sat perched on Clyde's forehead; they were rarely used but necessary at times. To the uneducated eye, the thousands of parts seemed to be tossed randomly over the workbench. But Clyde knew exactly where each tiny piece sat and where it went at re-assembly.
Bert, on the other hand, arranged engine parts in tidy rows according to the order in which they were removed. Bert tended to be precise and organized where Clyde was more intuitive where engine work was concerned.
Even their coveralls betrayed their personalities. Bert's were always clean and neatly pressed. Sharpened pencils and a small metal rule nestled snuggly in the deep breast pocket. A red shop rag was always neatly folded in his left hip pocket. He'd whip it out and diligently rub some tiny speck of grit from a wing or a cowling, then slowly fold it again and replace it.
Clyde's coveralls on the other hand, could probably walk to work of their own accord. Grease and grime stained nearly every square inch of the gray fabric. The sleeves were rolled up tightly over his elbows, though never evenly, and one leg cuff always seemed to get caught on the top of his boot. And as for a pencil, his was merely a three-inch nub perpetually jammed over his right ear. Ross had even seen him digging in his ears with it.
Excerpted from STORMY WEATHER by Phillip A. Elwood. Copyright © 2013 Phillip A. Elwood. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wow good job! How do i hunt like that?
*Holds rabit and mouse in jaws*
StormyAsh padded through the forest, her ears perked. She listened intently as she could here tiny sound of mice, birds, volts, and trout. She dropped down to a hunters' crouch, her weight even amongst all four paws and her tail low, huvering over the ground. She crept forward around the trees untill she spotted a mouse. She silently crept forward behind the mouse. At the right time she leaped on it, biting it's neck, killing it instanly. She stood upright and purred at her catch. She heard a bird high in the air and looking up, she found a large bird circling above. She burried her mouse and began silently climbing to the highest branch. She crouched down, preparing to jump. Once the bird was close enough, she pounced on it. Both her and the bird hurdled towards the ground. She didn't get hurt, though pain rose in her left hindleg. She bit the bird making sure it was dead and unburried the mouse. She limped back to camp with her prey.
He padded in.
Scampers to find another seed, unaware of the cat.