Promise Me

"Every word she [Jo Huddleston] uses paints a picture of another time--a simpler time." --Lillian Duncan, Author of Deadly Communication series

Chapter 1

August 1960
Morgantown, West Virginia

   “Good night, Chet. Good night, David. And good night for NBC News.” The program signed off with the Texaco Gasoline red star logo across the screen.
   In Dean Loreen Fletcher’s apartment, Patrick Fitzgerald sat closest to the television when NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report ended. He stepped to the floor-standing console and turned off the television. He took his time returning to sit on the sofa beside Adriana Montagna. A somber silence settled over the living room and its six occupants, interrupted only by the humming window air conditioner.
   Patrick scooted to the front edge of the sofa cushion and rested his forearms on his legs. “I don’t want my first job after graduation to be in Vietnam.”
   No one remarked and he continued. “The situation over there worries me. Now Washington announces we’re sending 3,500 soldiers to South Vietnam to help them fight against the communist North Vietnamese. When I graduate from college in December, I hope their mess over there has cooled down some.”
   Adriana laid her hand on his back. “Patrick, hush. We don’t want to think about you going overseas.”
   “Look, Adriana, while I’m enrolled in college, I have a Student 2-S deferment from the military draft. The minute I graduate, that deferment goes away. I have to think about going overseas.”
   Claude Capshaw agreed. “I’m afraid Patrick may be right. Looks like we might possibly be in for some bad things ahead.”
   Julie, Claude’s daughter, and Adriana sat on the sofa between Patrick and Robby Montagna. Loreen Fletcher sat near Claude in a nearby armchair. As close as Julie sat beside Robby, you’d think they were newlyweds instead of having been married for several years.
   Shock registered on Adriana’s face. “Bad things like what, Mr. Capshaw?”
   “Aw, you know, last year Cuba became a communist state. Also last year, those two American military advisors were killed in a Vietnam guerilla attack—the first casualties among U.S. servicemen.”
   Patrick moved backward against the sofa, next to Adriana. He laid his arm on the sofa back, behind her shoulders. “And don’t forget in May this year Russia shot down our U2 pilot Powers with surface-to-air missiles over Soviet airspace. He was on a spy mission to photograph ICBM sites in the Russian towns of, uh, well, I can’t pronounce the names of those towns.”
   Robby laughed and reached across Julie and Adriana to jab Patrick’s shoulder. “Hey, you college guy, don’t you speak Russian?”
   “No, but the way things are going, I may have to learn.”
   Julie looked toward Patrick. “My goodness, Patrick! Don’t talk that way. You surely don’t believe that.”
   Claude quickly refuted his daughter. “Patrick might have a point there. With Cuba turning communist, Russia shooting down our pilot, and the mess in Vietnam, things may become a little shaky. And it looks like this continuing Cold War between Russia and us will be with us a while.”
   Loreen finally entered the conversation to ask Claude a question. “What is this Cold War, anyway?”
   “You shouldn’t worry about it too much, Loreen. Although it is a reality. The U.S. and Russia—capitalism versus communism—have very different beliefs and ideology.”
   Claude had Loreen’s attention now. “Does that mean we’ll eventually fight a war with Russian?”
   Claude hesitated before answering. How much should he say in the ladies’ presence? “I hope not. Capitalism versus communism’s the basis of an international power struggle between Russia and us. Both countries exploit every opportunity for expansion of their power and control anywhere in the world. With nuclear weapons, we’d better have good people in the White House taking care of that hotline. What do you think, Robby?”
   “I agree, Mr. Capshaw. And we’ve got a troublesome and knotty situation in Laos. President Eisenhower said Laos is just the cork in the bottle. He says if we lose Laos to communism it’ll be the beginning of the loss of most of the Far East.”
   Claude didn’t like the worry lines etched on everyone’s face. He stood, stretched his six-foot-three frame, and went to stand beside Loreen’s chair. “Well, now, I guess that’s enough of all this serious talk. Don’t you ladies get upset over all this. Sometimes things have a way of working out. Let’s pray that’ll be the case this time. I say we change the subject.”

Copyright 2016 Jo Huddleston

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