Nestled in Jack’s arms, May swayed across the dance floor. The low tones of the 1934 hit, “Blue Moon,” played by the band at the Tiger Ballroom caused her to smile up into Jack’s face. Happy beyond belief, she hugged Jack even tighter and wished the night would never end.
May shook herself out of her reverie and called to her sons to dinner.
As they ate, May told the boys, “Now, I need to hustle, I’m going to go see Dad this afternoon which means you’ll be alone tonight.“ The boys nodded their assent. They didn’t ask to go along and May didn’t suggest it.
Watching her boys eat, May marveled once again at the children she and Jack had made. Tim was thirteen now and considered himself to be the man of the house. And, at nine, little Mikey wasn’t so little anymore. But there were nights that May heard both boys’ muffled sobs through the thin walls and her heart would break all over again.
After reminding the boys to lock up tight, May caught the bus and settled in for the long ride to Ridgeville. Jack had been a patient at the Veterans’ Hospital there for two years now and like it always did during these trips, May’s mind drifted to events in the past.
Jack had been twenty- eight when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The boys were little and May was horrified when Jack enlisted. How could he leave them?
“How can I not, May?” Jack had pleaded with her.
And so May had let him go. She lived for his letters, which sometimes arrived with lines blacked out by the censors. Always, before he signed his name, Jack would draw a little picture of the moon. Sometimes it would be a crescent, sometimes a full moon, but always, it was there. It was a reminder of “their” song, the one they had danced to back at the Tiger Ballroom, and later, in their little kitchen, after the boys had been put to bed. And it was also a reminder, Jack told May, to look at the moon and to remember that, no matter how far apart they were, that same moon was shining on both of them.
And now Jack was back from the war. Well, Jack’s body was back, May corrected -- but Jack wasn’t back. Normandy Beach and a German bullet had changed everything. Now Jack lived his days nearly silent and motionless. Although there were the rare times that he did speak, whispering. The bullet that had shattered his spine had also sliced through his voice box. The doctors and therapists worked tirelessly with Jack and assured May that someday he’d be well enough to come home. He’d be in a wheelchair, but he’d be home. May wasn’t sure if she wanted that to happen.
She wanted Jack to come home, not this lifeless shell of her husband. She still loved him dearly, of course, but May longed for a glimpse of the man she’d waved good-bye to, all those years ago. She wanted the strong Jack who worked so hard and loved her so tenderly. She wanted the Jack who read bedtime stories to the boys and wrestled with them on the floor. If she could just catch a reminder, a small fragment of that Jack, May thought, then things wouldn’t seem so hopeless. It wouldn’t have to happen all the time, but if she could just see something, then she could go on.
It wouldn’t matter then that now she had to be both mother and father to Tim and Mikey. It wouldn’t matter that she had to work part-time at the diner to pay for the bills that Jack’s pension didn’t cover. If she could just catch a glimpse…
To her surprise, Jack was sitting in a wheelchair when May arrived at his room. She smiled brightly and began to chatter about her week. Jack stared blankly ahead. Out of words, May turned on the room’s small radio. To her delight, the sweet strains of “Blue Moon” spilled out of the box.
But then, to May’s utter amazement, Jack nodded his head, and whispered, “May I have this dance?” With a broad smile, May rose to her feet, and began to push Jack in a slow semi-circle around the room, all the while swaying to the dulcet sounds.
And as she looked out the window she saw the moon rising, brushing the tops of the trees.
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