I’m doing better today, and making some progress on the line-edit for Shadows. If I can stay focused I probably have no more than four days or so of work left to do. The operative word in that sentence is, however, most definitely if.
I’ve got another abandoned fragment, and this time it is definitely a fragment, and almost certainly abandoned. For a brief time I had a delusional concept for, of all things, a romance novel set in England during World War II, during the V-2 campaign in late 1944. I don’t read romance novels, so I have no idea where this came from. I now doubt most extremely that I’ll ever write the thing; but since I tend to doodle the really dramatic scenes of my concepts first, I wrote this down, which would have been the emotional payoff for the entire story. Sometimes my writing process is just…odd.
One WAAF officer + one US Army Air Force tech sergeant + one V-2 rocket – one fancy radar set = this scene.
Copyright 2013 Douglas Daniel
The cellar shook as if it had been hit by a giant’s hammer, together with a roar that left Anne’s ears ringing. She went to her knees from the concussion. The overhead light flickered and went out. Anne felt dust cascade down on them.
The roar ended and the room steadied. Someone was praying, loudly, sobbing every other word. “Shut up!” Anne yelled. “Somebody find a torch.”
“Here, Annie.” A light clicked on. It was a torch in the hands of one of the girls– Steffie. The Scotswoman’s hands shook; her hat was askew, and dust coated her face. The torch’s beam swung around, a solid shaft of light in the swirling dust. Isaacs was picking herself up off the floor; Bradford was the one praying, on her knees in a corner; Cooper sat in the middle of the floor, looking dumbfounded.
“Is anyone hurt?” Anne called, getting to her feet.
“No…I’m all right….Lord Jesus, help!” The chorus of voices told Anne everything she needed to know.
“Come on, Steffie,” she said. “Help me get the door open.”
“Is that wise?” Steffie said.
“Don’t ask questions– come on!”
Anne unlatched the cellar door, but it took both of them to shove it open. It finally swung up and open; timbers had been lying across it. Filtered sunlight flooded the cellar. Anne crawled out and stood.
There was smoke and the stink of burning things; but the first thing she saw was the manse. The roof of the old house was gone, along with the eastern wall. The three remaining walls cupped only broken masonry, splintered wood and a cloud of dust.
“Thomas!” she yelled. She ran toward the manse.
She clambered atop the pile of debris. For a moment she couldn’t comprehend what was where– the interior walls were smashed, as well, and everything was a welter of broken junk. Then she saw the chintz curtains, tattered and bedraggled under a layer of brick. She bent and began throwing bricks aside. “Thomas!”
Steffie climbed up on the wreckage beside her. “Annie, don’t,” she said. “It’s…he’s probably….”
“Shut up and help me, damn you!” Anne snapped. Panic choked her. “Thomas!”
She heard a cough. She stopped, listening. Another cough. And then, “Ah, crap.”
A pile of broken timbers to her left slithered and fell, and there was that stupid, bloody, beautiful mahogany table, nicked and battered, but still intact. And out from under it crawled Thomas.
Anne clambered across the wreckage toward him. Why was she crying now? She nearly impaled herself on a splintered wood beam, and then she was there. “Are you all right?” she asked, relieved and frightened at the same time. She reached down to help him up.
“I’ve been worse,” Thomas said. He coughed again and stood up. His glasses were gone. Pulverized brick dust sluiced off his uniform. He had lost his cap and dust covered his face. Anne saw that one sleeve of his uniform blouse was ripped from shoulder to cuff. More alarmingly, a trickle of blood ran down the side of his face. Thomas seemed wholly unaware of it.
“You need to go to hospital,” Anne said.
“Maybe—gotta clean up first.” Thomas turned, rather unsteadily, and then stopped. “Jesus Christ!” he said. Anne turned to see what he was staring at, and then wondered how she could miss so large and dramatic a tableau.
Between the manse and the radar unit was a huge crater– thirty feet across and half that deep, raw earth sending up tendrils of smoke. On the other side of the crater the transport truck lay on its side, burning. The radar unit itself had fallen off the trailer and lay on the ground. The housing was riddled with shrapnel holes; the dish was shredded. Over the smell of concrete dust and burning petrol Anne could definitely detect the ozone stink of fried electronics.
Thomas raised his hands, in rage and despair. “Look what those Nazi bastards did to my radar!”
It was too much. Anne grabbed Thomas by the lapels and shook him with all her might. “Damn you! I don’t care about the bloody Nazis, and I don’t care about your bloody radar! You were nearly killed, you stupid sod! Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“Whoa, stop the roller-coaster,” Thomas said, grabbing hold of Anne’s hands in an attempt to damp out the oscillations. She stopped shaking him and they stood there for a long moment, panting, face-to-face. Without his glasses, Anne realized, Thomas’ eyes were brilliant blue.
Dust be damned. Anne raised herself up on tip-toe and kissed Thomas right on the lips. The sergeant’s eyebrows went up, but he kissed her back. For a moment she hung off his neck and he lifted her up off her feet, and they were just there.
They finally broke the kiss. Thomas set Anne back down. He stared into her face, wondering and confused. Anne stepped back and slapped him, hard enough to make dust fly. She stalked off.
Group Captain Carter came running from the direction of the bunker. He had to step out of Anne’s way. He looked at her retreating figure, then at Thomas. “Are you quite all right, sergeant?”
Thomas rubbed his face. “Beats the hell out of me, sir. And the day started out so normal.”
You can probably see why I don’t write romance novels.