Flash: Paul Dickey


The minister had made some references to “clouds over Europe” in his sermon that morning, but Johnny felt good and didn’t want to hear any of it. All of that ugly business was surely months, perhaps a few years away. He would be graduating from law school in the spring and he hoped to start a practice and marry Rebecca before the war.

When it came, sure, he wanted to be the first to enlist. He even knew where he’d go to sign up—Williams Air Field, Chandler, Arizona—but for today he was playing tennis with Bill and had a date tonight with Rebecca. He had tickets for Tommy Dorsey and his band with Frank Sinatra at the Palladium. Nothing was going to ruin the day for him.

Getting home from church, he ignored the Life Magazine that he purposefully had left on the end table to read that afternoon, the December 8th issue with the cover of General  MacArthur. This wasn’t like him. Normally, he would have thumbed through it, at least looking for a picture of Lana Turner.

He didn’t know why and particularly he would never have guessed that by doing so, he would lose the last potential hour of his youth, but he was already getting into a dance mood. He flicked on his new Sears Roebuck Silvertone radio, the one with the mechanical push-button tuning. He loved the new technology.

There was no dance music on the air. He needed to hear only a few words and he dropped dejectedly into his favorite chair, where he still was an hour later when a much older sounding Rebecca telephoned to ask him if he had heard the news, if he was still playing tennis with Bill, if they should get married now.

Dad Ever Since He Retired

Something must be wrong, I tell Jessica. Dad called. He wouldn’t talk. Mom said he might be dying, or maybe it was just my dad being dad. Jessica suggests I stay in bed with her. She says it is Saturday morning.

I must get to the bottom of this. I drive up the driveway and throw open the front door. Dad is lying on the floor in his bedroom. I try to move him back into the living room. He can’t get up. I say, “Dad, can you get up?”

“Son, did the Yankees win the pennant? I can’t find my remote.”

“It isn’t over yet. They are winning.” Mom is making his breakfast—ham and eggs, toast, and biscuits and gravy. “The way your mom cooks, after sixty years it will kill you. Oh yes, that and love or I should say, the lack of it.”

“Dad, it is her way of dealing with things. She really shouldn’t be doing all that at her age.”

“Son, I want you to have my new Toro riding lawn mower. I won’t have space for it where I’m going. Yes, and keep all the good photographs in the family.”

I search his bedroom. I am looking for his papers. Someone will have to call the insurance company. I find a personal vibrator in the chest of drawers. I can’t tell Mom. She is a born-again Christian, but she thinks he too is going to heaven. He then gets up and goes and has his breakfast.

The phone rings. The coach is calling for me to replace my father in right field. It is in the ninth inning. I grab my glove. Someday it will be my son’s glove. This time, my grandson, I mean my son, might be back from the concession stand and watching from the bleachers. Other than that, every day is no different. I nudge Jessica, but she has fallen back to sleep.