Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write in the HISTORICAL genre (05/03/07)
TITLE: Jane's Private War
By Jacquelyn Horne
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Life was fine in Cocoa, Florida. Jane was enjoying fishing off a pier along the Indian River. A pack of cigarettes lay on the weathered boards. Not that Jane smoked them, but it was fun lighting them and putting them in the mouths of “blow fish”. Each fish would inflate when it came out of the water, taking in the smoke from the lighted cigarette. Then, she’d pump its rounded belly making it exhale the offending smoke.
Bored, Jane grabbed her rod and reel and started the trek back to the Cocoa House where she lived with her family. Her mind was on God. Not really knowing a lot about God, Jane wanted to know more. Her Christian training was nil. Young though she was, Jane knew there was more and longed for it.
Skirting the edge of the river, Jane meandered toward the streets of Cocoa without a thought of the ongoing World War. This war was troubling adult minds, but Jane’s private war took priority over her’s.
Rejecting a walk through Oleander Park, Jane turned west and walked past the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, wishing she had brought her skates. The concrete entrance to the church was a perfect skating rink. What happened inside on Sundays was a mystery to her.
Turning north, Jane strolled through town, all three blocks of it, past the drug store where her sister worked, past the State Theatre where she spent a lot of Saturdays. (A ticket was nine cents, so if you brought a dime and collected pennies from the other kids, you soon had enough for a bag of popcorn.) But there was no matinee today. Gone With The Wind was on all the posters. Jane had never seen it. Everyone said it was an adult movie.
She passed Myrt’s restaurant that stood beside the bowling alley/taxi stand, but she wasn’t tempted by the mingling food scents. Her family’s restaurant was just down the block, next door to Moody’s Bar. She could eat there any time she wanted.
Although content, Jane couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to life than this easy existence. I wish I knew someone who could tell me more about God, she mused. Though innocent of what it could be, she felt something was missing from her life.
Entering the family restaurant, Jane saw no coloreds at the counter. Coloreds came to the back door and ate in the kitchen. She didn’t know why, or why coloreds had to be across the tracks before dark—it was just life and she accepted it.
She sat on a stool and listened to the conversations around her. If I pretend I’m not listening, maybe I’ll hear something interesting, she mused. Today the talk was about blackouts, gas rationing, how the war was going and the ill health of President Franklin Roosevelt. Two-dollar bills were passing across the counter as sailors with a few hours leave-time spent their monthly pay. (The Navy paid in cash with two-dollar bills during the war.)
The next day, Jane chose to ride her bike across the Causeway onto Merritt Island instead of working puzzles in the Sun Room at the Cocoa House. She loved to ride the dirt roads and relax in the orange groves. It was peaceful and quiet among the trees, the main occupants of the island. Jane felt a presence when she wandered through the groves. God? She wasn’t sure.
Further on, across Banana River, was Cocoa beach and, turning south, Banana River Naval Air Station. Jane wasn’t allowed to go that far. In fact, the Atlantic Ocean was off limits, unless she was with her parents, which wasn’t very often. There was nothing at the beach anyway except a two-story, clapboard restaurant/hotel.
On Sunday, Jane convinced her mother to let her attend the Baptist Church at the edge of town. During her first service there, she learned about baptism. That’s what I need, she thought. A quiet spirit soothed her and, while she didn’t understand it all, she began to comprehend how awesome God was.
Jane’s mind often goes back to the little town of Cocoa, Florida, and while others reminisce about WWII, she remembers her first encounter with God—that first step toward winning her personal war with flesh.
Author’s Note: This story is based on truth.
Cocoa, Florida, has grown tremendously through the years. The old Cocoa House has been demolished; 520 Causeway is now a dual highway; Merritt Island, then merely dirt roads and groves, has become a metropolis; Banana River Naval Air Station was closed after the WWII and later reopened as Patrick Air Force Base at the beginning of the space age; and Blacks are now an integral part of Cocoa’s society.
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