Streaked Skies: When the War Was the World

Christianity brings bravery.

Writing fast leaves many holes to fill.

The forties had lots of excellent jargon.

Be careful how you use Word’s “Replace All.”

Ladies were ladies, and men were men, and it helped hold the world together.

I need more research.

It was a bloody, brave, horrible, and beautiful time when the world banded together to stamp out a monster that had been growing for generations.

That’s a few of the things I learned during this year’s NaNoWriMo. The rough draft of Streaked Skies is finished! It was a fun book to write, and I look forward to fixing it up and making it perfect sometime in the future. For now, it will do. I’ll get back to other projects, and come back to it sometime, better researched and with a fresh take on the story. What’s it about you ask?

When Tim Terhoun, man-about-town, is conned into being a USO band leader he insists on bringing a shell-shocked youth and his valet. The mismatched band know they’re in for a ride. But none of them guessed how far that ride will take them, or how many surprises they’ll run into along the way. All is not what it seems, and America is in danger of a threat to her shores. The war is about to stop being “over there,” unless a bumbling USO band can stop it.

To give you an idea of the tale, here are a few snippets from the book.

 

———-

“We made it down, Mr. Tim, and weren’t picked up right away as spies. I guess one wing and a prayer can do it after all.”

“It was more two wings and a haystack,” Tim drawled. “But you just go right on thinking God had a hand in it.”

“I take it you don’t?” Johnny asked with interest; he had never met a real atheist before, though he had heard his pastor complain about them. The fire-light glinted off the jewel crusted pocket watch, as Tim held it cupped in his palm, his thumb running over the inlaid back.

“I did once…but circumstances changed,” Tim answered slowly.

“Christianity doesn’t depend on circumstances,” Louis spoke up, somewhere on the other side of the firelight. “It goes a little deeper than that, boss.”

 

———-

 

“It’s almost like…” Johnny let his voice trail off, feeling silly. Louis looked back at him, from where he walked just in front of the young man. There was an encouraging twist to his lips and a sparkle in his black eyes, and somehow the young man didn’t mind speaking his mind, even if they thought it was a little silly; they were waiting to listen. Really listen. “I can almost see monsters forming in this land, taking over all the good old stories, climbing out of the Rhine like one of those fiery serpents Siegfried handled. And they’re wearing swastikas.”

“It is an accurate vision,” Prof Heinry mused. “But only if you make it realistic. The monster began forming and slowly bloating to fill the land years before this second war became the world.”

“True enough, Prof,” Louis put in, keeping his voice quiet. “But I think, maybe, it was like a man who buys a puppy with big feet and then gets angry when it becomes a dog. The people elected Hitler and the monster kept growing till its swallowed most of Europe. But back before the war, before it all exploded, I think maybe the smaller monster didn’t seem as…monstrous. Now people have seen what it looks like when full grown; and that’s why we’re ready to die to keep it off our shores.”

“Shut up back there,” Tim hissed from the front of the line. They shut up.

 

———-

 

“Requests?” he asked, his voice ringing around the valley. A hand shot up, just in front of the makeshift bandstand. It was a young soldier, probably not even twenty. He was one of the ones Johnny had noticed staring at his boots.

“‘When the Lights Go On Again,’” he called. Tim turned back to the band and held out his hand for his baton. There was no wink on his face this time when he raised the stick. He wanted them to actually play it. Panic showed for an instant, but they were just musicians enough to cover it quickly and pretend they knew what they were doing. Tim tapped out the beat, humming a stanza so they knew what key and could try to match it, and then brought them in.

They came in together. And were in tune. The music swelled as the pleased shock rolled through them, and they played on. Johnny was playing for all those sad faces out there, desperate to do something to help, even so little a thing as a song they wanted. Around him he could feel the others playing with the same desperate emotion. It kept them together. Tim tapped out the time for a verse, then turned slowly, and started to sing. The band fumbled it, staring at the back of their leader’s head, as a perfect baritone lifted and filled the little area. They caught the melody again and played on, Tim carrying them with the words of the simple song.

“When the lights go on again all over the world

“And the boys are home again all over the world

“And rain or snow is all that may fall from the skies above

“A kiss won’t mean ‘goodbye’ but ‘hello to love’”

The silence was almost tangible around them as Tim sang, his voice trained and beautiful. The little band played with all their heart and Louis, standing off to the side with Mike at his elbow, had the leisure to watch the effect. The boot-starers and space-starers had looked up. They were focused on the little bandstand, and smiles were beginning to show. Most of them were wet smiles.

The song drew to a stop, and ended on a chord that was actually decently in tune. Another hand shot up before the last sound had died out. The hand held the bible of an army chaplain.

“‘A Mighty Fortress!’” came the yell. Tim didn’t hesitate, but turned back to the band, one eyebrow raising. As one entity the bands’ eyes lit up. A hymn, they could play something simple like that! Tim started them off again, then turned and began the verse. He raised a hand and waved for the audience to join in, and they did with vigor. The little area rang with the ancient words of protection and assurance. Hands shot up as soon as the last word sounded, and Tim stabbed his baton almost randomly at the crowd. Another hymn, this one laced with Jesus’ never ending love, filled their world. No one was staring into space anymore. Voices were bellowing out the words, eyes were bright, and backs were straightening everywhere Louis looked. That Chaplain had known just the ticket for his battle-weary flock. The words put heart in them more than any passing love song or bumbling comedy routine. Here was something solid, something that wouldn’t leave even if a Nazi sniper bullet found them tomorrow; if that bullet had their name, the truth behind these words would just grow more real. Louis stood still, Mike pressed close to him, and watched bravery flooding back into the troops.

 

“American paratrooper James Flanagan (2nd Platoon, C Co, 1-502nd PIR), among the first to make successful landings on the continent, holds a Nazi flag captured in a village assault. Marmion Farm at Ravenoville, Utah Beach, France. 6 June 1944” –Wikipedia Commons

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