No one said anything that night. A few mumbles here and there, but overall, nothing. The news of the attack on Pearl Harbor shocked all of us and sent chills up our spines. No one had been told much, at least not as of yet. However, there was an announcement that the President would give a speech the next day. But this wasn’t going to be a mere speech. I think everyone knew what Franklin Roosevelt would declare. War.
For almost two years, the United States stayed out of the War going on overseas. Some of us wanted to fight, others refused. But, in 1939, America had finally come out of the market crash that lasted for several years. We were free to do what we wanted. Now, things would change. But, no one knew just how much they would change.
As soon as news of war broke out, everyone had mixed emotions. Many men were ready to fight, but Tal decided that he was needed at home. The declaration of war was still a shock to everybody, especially me.
I typed away happily at the office. I was actually writing about things I wanted to write about. It felt so good. Ebenezer Brown actually lightened up to me a little bit. Katherine, of course, decided to quit her job and become a nurse. A new girl came in to be Mr. Brown’s, secretary. She was quite bland and a very naïve girl who just graduated from school. It was obvious her father was rich by the way she dressed and held her nose high in the air like she was better than everybody else.
“Miss Hollister,” she came up to me, disturbing my work. She had a strange pitch in her voice and a bit of a smirk.
“Please dear, you can call me Ruth,” I looked up at her. She held her nose in the air again. Typical. But something seemed different today, and I couldn’t put a finger on it. She ignored my plea.
“Mr. Brown would like to see you in his office immediately,” she paused with an even more evil looking smile. I nodded. Something didn’t seem right.
She smirked and opened the door with a screech. Ebenezer Brown was known to be very messy in his office, as I have mentioned before. But, today, his office was rather clean. Papers were nicely stacked, and no remains of food were scattered across the floor. I had heard of this sort of thing before, but this only happened on rare occasions.
“Ms. Hollister,” he grinned. “Please, sit down,” he pointed to the seat in front of me. I sat down gently. My palms were sweaty, and my head was reeling. He had a strange tone in his voice, but it wasn’t friendly. It was more…apologetic. Sympathy, perhaps. But, why?
“Ms. Hollister. You’re a great writer. One of the finest employees the Chronicle has ever had. You write with passion and sparkle that I’ve never seen before.”
I sat still. I didn’t know why he was making this speech. He had never praised my work before, so why now?
“Your writing is absolutely…remarkable. Your work ethic is absolutely spectacular,” he continued with his long speech about me and how I was the best thing and that my work was “incredible.”
He paused for a moment. Enough time for me to ask a question, “Well, Mr. Brown. I am truly flattered. But, why are you telling me all this?”
His eyes grew a little wide and he wiped his palms onto his thighs, “Well, you see, Ms. Hollister. Due to the war breaking out, money is quite scarce. I mean, there’s talk of food rations for crying out loud. All working men are leaving left and right to go to war. Well, as you know, my boys are far too old and snooty to put their typing fingers on triggers and guns.”
“What is your point, Mr. Brown?” I pushed.
“Well, because money is hard to come by these days, I have to face the terrible decision of letting some of my employees go.”
I caught my breath for a moment.
“And I’m sorry to inform you that you will no longer be needed around here.”
I didn’t know what to say. But, before I had time to process, my mouth got a hold of me.
“Wait, so you’re firing me? Well then, why that whole unnecessary speech about how marvelous or great my writing is? Why? Why for heavens’ sake would you fire me? I barely get paid at all as it is!”
“Ms. Hollister, if you please!” He yelled. I could tell by the look in his eye, why he would fire me.
“It’s because I’m a woman. Isn’t it? A woman who doesn’t deserve to be a best-selling writer or to be successful in selling her own articles. That’s a man’s job. And all you’re going to say is that I need to stay a housewife or a secretary and throw the typewriter into the dumpster.”
“Listen, Ms. Hollister. I mean you no harm. This is simply a tough business decision.”
“A business decision? Really? Throwing away one of your best writers? I’m not sure that’s a real good investment.”
“Listen here, woman,” he barely spoke above a whisper for fear that others outside would hear him. “Why don’t you just stick to mopping floors and having babies. This is no place for a woman.”
I bit my tongue before I said anything else, but before I walked out the door, I couldn’t hold back any longer.
“Mr. Brown. I may be a woman, but I sure am not something that you can buy and sell as you please. I’m not an animal.” I grinned triumphantly. “I wish you a great day, sir!”
I left the office in a hurry. I didn’t want to go back, that I was sure of. But something inside me shattered. I loved to write and just when I thought I was making my way to the top, I crumbled. And just because I was a female? I had spent so much time and put forth so much effort into my writing. I worked so hard and it all came done to nothing. But that didn’t matter. I had Lucy, Tal, and God with me. That was all I needed. Besides, Tal had a job selling cattle now. He had told me that the army needed plenty of beef to feed the boys. They were going to need all the protein they could get.
Home never looked so good. And Tal was invited for dinner tonight. Nothing could be better than my love and my daughter to share a meal with. Lucy would be home from school soon and Tal would get here in a couple hours. I walked through the door, forcing myself to smile. I didn’t know why I was so glum. Yes, I lost my job. But, why was I so upset about it?
Lucy greeted me at the door. I was shocked. She was supposed to be at school. Tal was sitting at the kitchen table along with my mother. Why was everyone here? No one knew I lost my job. Unless Mr. Brown’s secretary called them before I got home. Then I took a closer look at Tal. He was dressed in uniform. Air Force uniform.
“Lucy? Tal? Mom? What’s going on?” No one said anything until Lucy chimed in. Tal tried to stop her, but no force on Earth could keep words from flowing out of her mouth.
“Tal is an airman mama! He’s going to fight the bad guys!” She ran through the living room imitating an airplane flying through the air.
All the energy left in my body decayed. I would have fallen to the floor if Tal hadn’t picked me up.
“We didn’t expect you to get home for another couple hours,” he said.
My tongue was dry, but I forced myself to mumble, “I was fired.”
Tal and Mom’s eyes grew wide.
“What’s going on?” I pushed further. “Why the fancy uniform?”
Tal cleared his throat. I could tell this was hard for him. “I’m being drafted into the Air Force.”
I looked up at him and pushed myself away from his embrace. The Air Force? Why?
Tal seemed to read my mind instantly, “Ruth, I couldn’t stand to watch those boys go off to war and sacrifice their lives while I’m sitting here doing nothing about it. I know how to fly a plane. They needed me, Ruth.”
I couldn’t say anything, but he continued, “I’m sorry. I know you lost your job, and I know how much you enjoyed it.”
“I didn’t enjoy it!” I yelled.
He drew back, surprised by my tone.
“Tal, why are you doing this? What about your company? What about Lucy?” I paused. “What about us? We’re supposed to be married soon. You and I… we were supposed to be together! Doesn’t that matter?”
He reached for my hand and hugged me. He held my head in his arms as tears streamed down my face. Momma joined us. He was going to die. Why? Why Tal? He wasn’t ready to die. Why was this happening to me?