After shelving this story for quite a few months in order to get a better perspective, I am currently re-writing the WWII coming-of-age story that’s loosely based on my grandparent’s real-life experience. I can’t promise I’ll write this story in its entirety on Wattpad, nor can I promise I won’t. Lol. We’ll have to see how things play out. Translation: We’ll have to see if a traditional publisher wants it or not. 😉
What I’m loving about re-writing on Wattpad is getting to add actors like Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Rudolph Valentino to the “cast,” and searching for the perfect songs from the WWII-era to accompany each chapter. Here’s the first chapter, you can read more on Wattpad (for free)!
+++++++Enlisted: A Greatest Generation Novel+++++++
Chapter 1 ~ For Me and My Gal
Pulcini Goes in Air Corps
Wooster Daily Record, Saturday, 19 July 1941
Jimmy Pulcini, of Wooster, who was scheduled for induction into the draft army on Aug. 4, has enlisted in the Army Air Corps, it was reported this morning by Lt. C. Boyd of the Patterson Field, O. recruiting office.
Pulcini’s enlistment necessitated the Wooster Selective Service office naming another man to report in his place. The replacement, who will be inducted on Aug. 4 with seven other men, is Gwendelyn Clark, of McHenry, Ky., who has been in this county for a short time.
It was also reported to the local draft board that Raymond Windfield Johnson of 219 S. Buckeye St., Wooster has enlisted at Fort Hayes, O., for the 48th Bombardment Group of the Air Corps. He will be stationed in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Pulcini’s home address is 145 S. Buckeye St. He enlisted on Wednesday.
Friday, 13 March 1942—The newspaper clipping, taken from the Wooster Daily Record eight months ago, lay in an open Bible on the entry table underneath a figurine of the Virgin Mary with a candle lit on either side.
In an upstairs bedroom, Jimmy Pulcini’s younger brother, Frankie, pulled on his blue trousers. Frankie stood six inches shorter than his brother and was stockier but not fat. His caramel-olive skin and thick black hair marked him as a member of Wooster’s robust Italian population. Smiling at his reflection in the small mirror above his dresser, he thought himself a dead ringer for Cary Grant.
He glanced at his watch, and his smile faded.
He tucked in his crisp shirt and ran a comb through his hair leaving just one strand to hang over his brow. Slipping the comb into his back pocket and snatching a wallet-sized photo of a girl from the nightstand wedged between the two twin beds, he raced out of his room and down the stairs.
Pausing in the living room, he glanced over at his mother’s Bible that lay open with Jimmy’s enlistment notice dated just a month after Papa’s death. A yearning yanked at his gut, but he pushed it aside and reminded himself of the girl whose picture he carried in his pocket.
When he stepped into the kitchen, Mama was waiting with her hands on her hips and a plate of food on the table. “Manga.”
“Ah, Mama.” He sighed but sat at the table. “I’m already late to meet the fellas.”
Mrs. Pulcini turned toward him with her arms crossed over her crisp blue, floral dress she’d owned for as long as he could remember. “You-ah no like-ah my cook?”
“Do I look like I don’t like your cooking, Mama?” Frankie held his arms open.
Mrs. Pulcini patted his cheek. “Manga,” she said more lovingly, taking the seat beside him though she’d long since finished eating her breakfast and lunch.
Frankie picked up his fork and was about to scoop his eggs when Mama’s white dishtowel snapped him.
“You-ah pray-ah, then you eat-ah.” She made the sign of the cross.
Frankie sighed, set down his fork, and closed his eyes. The aroma of melted butter, eggs cooked with just enough salt and pepper, and fresh-ground coffee enveloped him as he counted to thirty in his head.
While he ate, Bambina sliced an apple he’d picked from their tree yesterday. A bucket full waited by the door for her to process and preserve.
“Can I go now, Mama?” He wiped the cloth napkin across his mouth and glanced at his watch again.
Bambina kissed his cheek. “No fight-ah.”
She grabbed his hand. He winced; his knuckles were red and bruised from a recent run in with Hughie Geier’s jaw. “No lie to-ah mi-ah.”
“The fellas want to fight me. What am I supposed to do?”
Bambina crossed her arms and glared out the window. “I no have-ah two sons ah-fight.”
Frankie stood and wrapped his arms around his mother. “Don’t worry about me, Mama. I’m not going anywhere.”
Bambina rubbed his arm. “Tu vai. You-ah late.”
Frankie kissed Mrs. Pulcini’s cheek and then doubled out the back door, grabbing an apple from the bucket on his way. It was time to make Sally Steen his for good before some other knucklehead did.
The Pulcini home lay a short way from the city center where Liberty and Market intersected. Frankie jogged the few hundred feet from his house on Buckeye to Liberty.
Downtown Wooster’s picturesque buildings were a slice of a Manhattan borough transplanted to the hilly corn-growing countryside of Ohio. The aroma of freshly baked bread, coffee beans, tobacco, and newsprint wafted out of stores as he passed. Meanwhile, automobiles and horses and buggies hauling in fresh milk, grains, and meats from the surrounding farmlands vied for space on the road.
Frankie stopped at Green Thumb Floristry and bought a single red rose from Mr. Gardener who pointed out how unseasonably sweaty his palms were. “Use the washroom. Can’t go making love to a gal with palms like those,” Gardner said.
After soaping, rinsing, and drying his hands, Frankie set out again at a faster clip. He didn’t want his pals to see Sal before he did.
“Hey there, Frankie Pulcini,” Rebecca Darling called from the gazebo at the center of town as he passed on the other side of the street. Her red-painted lips curved around her words like the dress that hugged her waist and flowed over her hips, “that flower’s awfully pretty.” She grinned at her friends, who erupted in a chorus of giggles. “If that girl doesn’t want it, well, you might try a woman next time.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Frankie called back before turning north and breaking into a run. Frankie smirked as he imagined Rebecca when she heard the news about him and Sal.
Pauly and Vinny were waiting at the corner of Market and Bowman beside the light post across the street from the tall, brick schoolhouse. Frankie tossed them each an apple as he approached.
“Looking sharp, Pulcini.” Vinny, as always on his days off from the factory, wore his only pinstriped suit with his hair greased back and a cocky smirk on his boyish, Rudolph Valentino face. “That fathead’s sayin’ he wants a rematch.”
“Geier wants Sally, not a fight.” Pauly pulled out a pocket knife and slice off a chunk of apple. His tall, thin Jimmy Stewart figure towered over Frankie and Vinny — though in the face he looked more like a brother than Frankie’s cousin.
“He’ll have to find another gal now.” Frankie adjusted the collar of his shirt, which stuck to his skin. He needed to cool down.
“What’re you on about?” Vinny lit a cig, alternating between puffs and biting into his apple.
Frankie pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his forehead. “I’m askin’ Sal to marry me.”
The cigarette dropped from Vinny’s lips to the sidewalk. “Pauly, I think he’s gone nutty.”
“It’s a good plan, Frankie,” Pauly said more kindly. “A real nice gesture—”
“It isn’t a gesture. I love her, Pauly.”
“No war board’s gonna care, though, pal.” Vinny picked up his cigarette and brushed it off. “Come June, you’re war meat. Just like the rest of us.”
Pauly gripped Frankie’s shoulder. “You do what you’ve got to do, Frankie, but Vinny’s right. We’ll be twenty-one soon and…”
“They’re not callin’ married men yet.” Frankie shrugged Pauly’s hand off. “I’ll get a war job. I’ll—”
The bell rang and the school doors burst open. Kids flooded out like ants escaping a squashed anthill. From among them, Frankie spotted Sally immediately. Strawberry-blonde victory curls. The canary-yellow dress he had told her was his favorite. And a face that could make an angle jealous, or at the very least Judy Garland.
As she made her way over to where he and the fellas always waited, his heart pounded through his chest.
“Hey, Frankie… fellas,” she said the moment she stepped onto their curb. “Frankie,” she touched his shoulder, “Can we—”
But Frankie’s knees gave out and suddenly he was on the pavement before her holding up the rose.
“Frankie?” Her brow scrunched together.
“Marry me, Sal?”
Her hand flew to her mouth, just as he imagined it would. But in his dreams, his stomach wasn’t numb and his suit wasn’t drenched in his own sweat.
“Sal?” His knees ached against the cold pavement.
“Oh, Frankie,” she helped him up, tears growing in the corners of her eyes. “I can’t. I meant to tell you. I—I enlisted. I leave the end of May.”