Harlan County, Kentucky. One sunny Saturday morning in early August of 1943, June Brittian woke up feeling out of sorts. Her period was a week late and she was starting to worry. At first she hadn’t thought much about it; maybe she had miscounted. She counted the days again–twice; no, she had not! She went outside and sat on the porch, uneasily mulling over her predicament. What if I’m pregnant? What would Jim think about that, she fretted. And what would Momma do? Her thoughts frightened her. She couldn’t decide which was worse.
The official launch date is tomorrow, July 21, for DAY OF THE DARK: Stories of Eclipse. Why July 21st? Because it's exactly one month before the total solar eclipse, the first one in North America since 1918. The last one across the continent was in 1900. To star-gazers (and sun-gazers, but don't actually gaze at the sun, OK?) this is big deal.
On Saturday or Sunday afternoons my father would often want to take a little ride. We would pile in the car and off we would go to places unknown. I say unknown because it was always my father’s desire to find a two-track road that we had never been on before. Our 1935 Ford would take us through the very bumpy dirt roads, the winding roads and sometimes to dead-end roads. When dad came upon an old vacated house he would stop and we would take the tour. As we were walking through these old homes, I can still remember my dad saying, “If only these walls could talk. Wouldn’t they tell a story?”
My brother Jim joined the Air Force in 1955 with two of his high school friends. Jim was called upon to study and complete a course in Serbo-Croatian language at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, Indiana. As he could not explain what his mission was to be, we had no idea what he was doing or the danger that it entailed.
This piece was destined for a contest that required everyone to begin their story with the line, “Have we met before?” I got that far, but drastically exceeded the word limit. So here we are. I gave the detective/hero of this saga the name Ian MacDonald because I wanted it ending with him getting the girl. And it would have been inappropriate for the long time married Sam Jenkins to do that.
A Too Perfect Crime
By Wayne Zurl
Almost every day I put our American flag out at dawn and take it down at dusk. I often think of my dad and our neighbor Mr. Ford. I was very young when I first noticed Mr. Ford, early in the morning, raising the American flag on his tall flagpole. I watched as he pulled that flag higher and higher until it was waving high in the sky. He secured it tight and then stood back and saluted. At dusk I would see him go outside, and slowly lower the flag, fold it neatly and go inside. I remember asking my dad why Mr. Ford did this every day, weather permitting.
The place I first heard of the upcoming total solar eclipse (coming closer every day!) was on Earth and Sky. http://earthsky.org/ In fact, I subscribe to their posts and get them every day. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen me repost some of their things. I’ve always been fascinated by what’s up there in the sky—and by what’s down here on the earth.
The 24 authors who contributed to DAY OF THE DARK, our short story anthology of eclipse-based stories, decided to give some of the proceeds to charity. Guess what I chose? You’re right, Earth and Sky! Two others chose that, too. We’re a varied group, so we have a lot of different interests. Here are the charities that will benefit from our sales:
I like to say that these donations are going to these great causes in the spirit of light and life: Earth and Sky, Petconnect Rescue, Natural Resources Defense Council, Science Center in Finland, DonorsChoose.org, Friends of Goldendale Observatory, Friends of the Earth, Morehead Planetarium, Texas Museum of Science and Techonology, DAPCEP.org for STEM education for future astronomers and scientists in Detroit, and personal friends in need.
Here are teasers for 4 more stories, coming out July 21st, a month before the total solar eclipse in North America, from Wildside Press.
One activity that I enjoyed with my mother was to take evening walks. It was a time for me to tell her about my accomplishments and disappointments. It was a type of therapy for me and I believe it was for my mother also. She didn’t work outside of the home, and didn’t drive a car, so ‘getting out’ was something I believe she looked forward to.
Much about Walter Murray Stone is a mystery. He was a smallish but stern man who was easily riled. He was born in Oliver Springs, a small town about 25 miles west of Knoxville in east Tennessee in 1897. He had an older brother Richard who lived in Oliver Springs and a younger sister Jean who lived in Ohio. His father was William E. Stone; his mother was Mary Ann Francis. Except for the above meager information, nothing else is known about his parents or his siblings for he was never heard to speak a single word about them.
Actually this is not a totally accurate statement for one fact is known about his brother. Richard and a friend were killed by a train under mysterious circumstances as they stood talking one morning on the railroad tracks in Oliver Springs. They failed to respond to the sounds of the approaching train until it was too late. No one knows why.
In 1923, Walter met, under unknown circumstances, and married Mary Almeda Caldwell, a kindhearted and thoroughly religious woman, also from Oliver Springs and from a fairly well-off and educated family. Three of her six siblings became secondary school teachers. Her father Johnce Cranston Caldwell owned substantial acreage in the small community of Galloway and was highly respected in the area.
It would be hard to find a husband or wife with less in common. Most people from her church and her family considered their marriage to be a poor match, and Walter made little effort to interact with his wife’s family even though they lived close by in Galloway. Mary was as calm and patient as he was harsh and unsocial. She was as trusting as he was suspicious. The Caldwells were strong supporters of the small Galloway Baptist Church and her faith was simple but unwavering; he, on the other hand, rarely went to church with her and showed little interest in matters of religion. He was also given to bouts of drinking with his brother Richard.
Most people agreed that Walter was hard to get to know. He was socially awkward and tended to regale those he met with stories about something he had done better than someone else while making little effort to get to know his listener. He was never heard to pay a compliment to anyone, even his long suffering wife. Once when Mary tried on a new shade of red lipstick, Walter declared that her mouth reminded him of the ass end of a blue jay that had been eating poke berries. He had not completed high school and was not a proficient reader; that fact may have contributed to his suspicious nature.