By John Yager
Copyright © 2004

Usual stipulations apply. All my stories can be found in the NIFTY Prolific Net Authors section. I also maintain a notification list. If you'd like to be added to it, let me know at the e-mail address below.

As always, many thanks to Andrew for proofing.


Part Five

On Thursday afternoon, November 13, 1941, Marvin was called to Mr. Collins's office.
He wasn't really worried as he walked from the kitchen to the offices. If they were going to punish him in some way for what had gone on between him and Sam, he figured they would have long since done it. It was a cool, crisp day and he felt sure it was some simple administrative issue. Perhaps Mr. Collins was going to re-assign him to one of the work crews, although such a short time before the winter break, that seemed unlikely.

When he reached the office, Mr. Collins asked him to sit down as he fumbled through a file. Marvin took one of the chairs across from Mr. Collins's desk and waited.

After a minute or so, Collins cleared his throat and removed his glasses. He looked across at Marvin, still silent for a moment longer before he finally spoke. His voice was grave.

"I have some bad news, Marvin." He paused again, clearing his throat. "Sam Boboli was killed yesterday."

Marvin sat there, staring at Collins across the desk, not able to speak, not able to even think.

"How," he finally whispered.

"Well," Collins said, relaxing a little now that the worst part was over, "I don't have the whole story but, as I understand it, Sam and two other boys were loading logs onto a truck and one of the safety cables broke. The logs rolled off the truck and they were crushed. I understand they were all dead by the time the others could move away the pile."

Marvin was silent. It was as if his own life had ended.

After a few minutes Collins spoke again. "Look, Marvin, Thanksgiving isn't far off and then we'll be shutting down the camp for a month and a half. I want you to pack up and go home now. We'll just consider it an extended winter break."

"Will there be a funeral, sir?"

"I suppose they'll have some sort of memorial service at Carr, son, but beyond that I don't know. If you like, I can check for you."

"He was from St. Louis," Marvin whispered, thinking for the first time of Sam's family.

"I know."

They were both silent again.

"If there's service at Carr, sir, do you think I could go?"

"Hum," Collins murmured as he thought about the implications of what Marvin had asked. It didn't take him long to make up his mind.

Collins got up from his desk and walked into the outer office where Seymour Hall and Clyde Owens had desks.

"Seymour," Collins called, "can you come in here?"

It was clear from Hall's demeanor as he entered the room that he already knew about Sam. He stood by Marvin's chair and put his hand gently on the boy's shoulder.

"Seymour, Marvin wants to go over to Carr for whatever sort of service the camp there has for Sam Boboli and those other boys."

"Yes, sir?"

"Well, I think it would be a good idea. Maybe there are some other boys who were friends of Sam's who'd want to go, too."

"I'd guess there would be, Mr. Collins."

"Well, I'll make a call and find out what's planned. Why don't you see if there are a few others who'd like to go. You could drive Marvin and the others over in the station wagon . . . You know, sort of represent the Thorn camp."

"I'll see to it, sir," Seymour said, then turned to go.

- 0 -

The simple service was at a rather remote cemetery, where about fifty people had gathered. Most of them were young men, more or less Marvin's age, and he assumed they were members of the Carr CCC contingent. It was a gray fall day and the three plain caskets were supported on wooden braces over the open graves.

The site was at the back of the cemetery, which was filled with huge old trees. It was a shaded place and Marvin thought it was beautiful, despite the sorrow of the occasion. He was relieved that it was just a grave-side service and the caskets were closed. He'd wondered if it would be a more formal funeral in a church and he'd worried that the caskets would be opened. He wanted to be there but he had no desire to see Sam's body.

Standing with Seymour and the four other boys who'd driven over from Thorn, Marvin listened as the pastor read scriptures and said a few words. The director of the Carr CCC Camp made some remarks, mostly about the CCC's good safety record and how unfortunate the accident had been.

The entire service lasted little more than half an hour. When it ended, Seymour led the boys over to meet the director of the Carr camp. The boys stood silent as Seymour expressed their sympathy and said they had been friends of Sam's when he was assigned to the CCC camp at Thorn.

"He was a good kid," the director said. "All three of them were good kids and the whole thing was just a damned shame." He looked haggard, as if the last few days had worn him out. Marvin wondered if he'd had to fill out endless reports and deal with his superiors up the chain of command. The CCC was a fairly informal organization, but he knew there was red tape in any governmental organization.

"I don't suppose any of Sam's family are here," Marvin ventured to say.

"No, son," the director said. "I don't think they had the wherewithal to come. They agreed to let us bury him here, rather than have the body shipped home at their expense."

Seymour again expressed the sympathy of the Thorn camp and then turned and led the boys back to the station wagon and the drive home.

Marvin left Thorn the next day. Seymour drove him into town with his one duffle bag and paid for his bus ticket home.

"Well," Seymour said as they shook hands, "we'll see you after the first of the year."

"Yes, sir," Marvin said, somehow wondering if he'd really ever be back.

- 0 -

On December 7, 1941, everything changed.

Marvin had been home just over three weeks, helping his father in the store and helping his mother in the house getting ready for Christmas. His parents had been impressed by his new maturity and the new sense of gravity he seemed to exude. They didn't ask why he was home earlier that year than he'd been the year before, assuming, he guessed, that it was just due to some change in the CCC schedules.

Marvin never told them, then or later, about Sam.

On that fateful Sunday, December 7, 1941, they'd all gone to church. Marvin and his father were sitting in the living room while Mrs. Hartley and his sister, May, were getting lunch on the table. Marvin's younger brother, Teddy, who was twelve then, was in his room, lying on his bed, reading a Hardy Boys mystery.

Mrs. Hartley had just called them to the table when Teddy came running into the dining room. "Dad," he said, his voice excited and loud, "they just said on the radio that the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor."

"Turn on the radio, Marvin," his father said, pointing to the console in the living room.

It seemed to take for ever for the big old tube radio to warm up, but eventually the excited voice of a commentator came on,  " . . . clearly an act of war. An announcement is expected within the hour from President Roosevelt,  and it is expected that tomorrow Congress will consider a Declaration of War against Japan and her allies."

They listened for a few minutes more but it was clear that the situation was still so confused that little more was known.

"Well," Marvin's mother said, in her usual practical way, "we may be at war, but we might just as well eat before the roast gets cold."

- 0 -

On the following day, Monday, December 8, 1941, Congress did declare war on Japan and, three days later, on Germany and Italy. On Monday afternoon Marvin called the Thorn CCC camp and spoke to Mr. Collins. "What do I need to do to resign, sir?" he asked. "I want to join the army."

He was told a simple letter would suffice, especially under the circumstances, and on Tuesday Marvin was at the Army Recruiting office, along with several dozen other men his age and older, filling out forms.

He and a dozen other young men were eventually given mustering orders and travel documents and told to report for processing and basic training in Texas on February 3. From there, Marvin went on to Georgia for additional field training, then by ship convoy to England, and eventually on to France.

Four years later, on May 7, 1945, when news came of the German surrender, Marvin found himself, recently promoted to sergeant and unscathed, on the French-German border just south of Saabrucken. Six months later he was home, picking up the pieces of his life. The next few years were busy, starting a job and college, eventually meeting Tillie, getting married and having a family. The years sped by.

- 0 -

Marvin roused in his recliner, feeling old and still feeling stiff. For a man of eighty-two he was actually in excellent condition and anyone meeting him would have taken him for a man fifteen or even twenty years younger.

Outside the little bungalow on Laurel Street, cicadas were humming in the warm summer evening and the house felt close as he got out of the chair. He needed to get away for a few days, he told himself. He'd not been on a real trip since the beginning of Tillie's illness just over two years earlier and had not even left town since her death in April.

A plan had begun to form in his mind and, for the first time in weeks, Marvin went off to bed with a new sense of purpose.

To be continued