The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
Published 9:46 am Thursday, May 26, 2022
Something to Talk About
By Julie Terry Cartner
Crouching behind the wall, Ben applied pressure to his leg. A bullet had found its home, much too close to an artery. Field dressing the wound, Ben did what he was trained to do, making a makeshift tourniquet to staunch the blood. Will this be it, he wondered as bombs exploded around him and the rat-a-tat-a-tat of guns burst through the darkness. Deep into enemy territory, his gun jammed, and separated from his squad, all Ben could do was hunker down and wait, hoping and praying that this was not his time.
Another crash of artillery, and Ben slunk even lower, praying for his team, praying for the gun shower to stop, and praying for daylight so he could assess the situation more thoroughly. Responsible for the men and women under his leadership, Ben wondered how things had deteriorated so quickly. Out on reconnaissance, not expecting to engage with the enemy, Ben and his unit had stumbled upon a situation that demanded immediate attention. But it had been a set-up, a way to lure the soldiers out of safety into a dangerous battle. Outnumbered but not willing to give in, Ben’s squadron fought back bravely.
Searching through the darkness, Ben looked for any members of his patrol when the hair on his neck stood up. In that instinctual way that one senses when danger is near, he knew there was somebody behind him, and not somebody friendly. Slowly he turned his head, to find a gun trained on him. “That’s right,” a voice quietly said, “put your gun down and put your hands in the air.” Then “Now!” he said, when Ben hesitated.
Seeing no way out, Ben did as he was told, hoping for a break, any chance to escape. He slowly put his hands up and stood, turning toward the enemy soldier. But as he did, a bomb exploded, close, too close, knocking him off his feet. When he regained the power of his faculties, ears ringing from the percussion, Ben realized the soldier was gone, a hole in the ground where he’d stood.
Suddenly a hand reached out and grabbed him. “Run, Sir.” It was his teammate, Kent. “Man, we’ve been looking all over for you. Let’s get out of here.” The two men ran down the street, steering towards the dark shadows between bombed out buildings.
“Report,” Ben ordered.
“Not good, Sir. So far, we’ve only found six of us, but we’re not giving up. We’ll leave no one, Sir.”
Limping on his wounded leg, Ben knew better than to suggest he go back to help. More a liability than an asset with his injury, he needed to get medical attention quickly and let his rescuer return to search for others.
Finally, they stopped. Kent pointed the direction to Ben, then Kent turned to resume his search for the others. Ben continued toward the evacuation site, then stumbled to a stop as another hand grabbed him in the darkness. So close, but not close enough. Captured. Struggling with strength he didn’t have, Ben tried to run away.
Shouting, he heard shouting. Finally, a word broke through the haze in his brain. “Dad!” Then again, “Dad, what are you doing? Dad, you’re hurting me!” Ben froze. Dad? Not Captain? Coming back to himself, Ben groaned. PTSD again. He was in his house, hail pummeling the tin roof and pinging on the back deck, his ten-year-old son backing away from him in fear. Looking into the eyes of one whom he loved more than life itself, he thought, that’s it. I cannot endanger my family each time I have a flashback.
“I’m sorry, Son. I’d never hurt you on purpose. I love you.” With that, Ben hugged his son, then, devastated, he walked out of the door and out of the lives of his beloved family.
*May is mental health awareness month. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) chose the “…message of ‘Together for Mental Health’ to advocate for mental health and access to care. Together we can realize our shared vision of a nation where anyone affected by mental illness can get the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives.”
“Mental Health Awareness Month.” nami.org
Our Closest Neighbors
By Marie Craig
My husband was employed by the U.S. Forest Service, and we moved four times in the Southern states for his career. Between 1974 and 1979, we lived between Walhalla and Mountain Rest in the northwest corner of South Carolina. This was on the side of Stumphouse Mountain, living in the Ranger dwelling that had been constructed by the CCC. Our two sons were in elementary school and really enjoyed all the wooded areas surrounding our home.
It was an interesting place to live. The mountain’s name was based on an old house that had been built with four huge tree stumps for foundation. Within walking distance of our Forest Service home, hiking down the steep mountain, was Stumphouse Tunnel. This is an incomplete railroad tunnel for the Blue Ridge Railroad of South Carolina in what is now Sumter National Forest. Plans for the tunnel began in 1835 to create a shorter route through the mountains from Charleston, South Carolina, to the Ohio River valley area. This section of train tracks was to cover thirteen miles and include four tunnels. After cutting 1,617 feet into the mountain and spending a million dollars in the 1850s, the project was abandoned. We were in the tunnel many times. At one time, Clemson University used it for their blue cheese production because of the perfect climate. There is a beautiful Issaqueena Waterfall nearby. In 1971, the tunnel and the waterfalls were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2007, this area became a park consisting of forty-two acres.
Laborers had also begun work on the other end through our mountain. A friend took us in his boat to see the much shorter other part of the tunnel. We enjoyed entertaining our sons by learning more about the area. However, we did not have close neighbors, but our sons learned to play together and get along. There was an older couple, the Browns, who lived about five miles away, who had housed hundreds of foster children. In 1979, they were caring for a brother and sister, Randy and Missy, who were the same age as our children. The four youngsters played together at the nearby community center that sponsored many activities for the residents of the area.
We moved to Columbia, South Carolina, in October of that year and were busy moving in and getting used to living in a big neighborhood. Our sons came in one day and said that a car stopped and the nicest people talked to them. I was a little concerned and told them to be careful. It happened again. Finally, they came running in one day and said that they knew who those people were. They lived about 5 houses from us and had adopted the very same Randy and Missy that they’d played with 150 miles away on the mountain. I told them that I didn’t believe it and would have to see them. They ran up to the neighbors’ house and brought the boy and girl to prove to me that it was really them. This couple had never had children, and I was able to help them in adapting to raising their new family.
I’ve always been intrigued with “coincidences,” and this was an amazing true example.
By Gaye Hoots
A few days ago, I attended a birthday party for Vance Hartley, given by his daughter and her husband for his 85th birthday. Most of those who attended were older than I, and I will soon be 77. The oldest was probably 90.
The event was held on a property near Mocksville where Vance’s family stayed. There is a country cottage and a large structure where weddings and parties are held. The seating was comfortable, there was room to circulate, and the food was catered from Deano’s.
Vance enjoyed his party and so did everyone else. Many of the people there are folks I see only once or twice a year and some not that often. I got to talk with former neighbors, classmates from school, and teachers from Shady Grove. It is heartwarming to see people in our age group having as much fun as kids at a party.
The secret to staying young seems to be the ability to appreciate each day, enjoy our friends and family, and look forward to and have plans for tomorrow and next year.
Conversations were about traveling, family accomplishments, grandchildren, and past experiences from living in Advance.
Several attendees grew up in lower Advance: Vance, Allen Bailey, Jimmy Jones, Charles Markland, Bo Potts, Janie Gasperini, Doug Spry, Janice Markland, and Ronnie Barney, to mention a few. When we were in elementary school, Faye and I moved there and kept returning as adults. I never tire of hearing stories of the older days in Advance. We revisited experiences from our childhood and school days.
Before the party I took Vance back to the site of his childhood home, and he recalled stories of friends from his youth. We also drove down to the farm I lived on for the first six years of my life, some of the happiest days for me because we lived with my grandparents.
Recalling happy memories from childhood, raising our own families, experiences with others in the community and school contributed to making this a great party. When you reach the autumn of your life and are still looking forward to your next birthday, you are doing well.