I cut my teeth writing on Hubpages back in 2009. I've written 17 novels, numerous songs, and short stories since. I love to write love.
The swinging bridge.
Barefooted, she stepped up on the swinging bridge over Wild Creek. Blue and white Morning Glories had spun their vines around the hand ropes more than halfway across the wood-slatted walkway from her house to the edge of Cane Road. The hollow breeze gently brushed her long brown hair like the fingers of an ancient ghost who loved her a thousand years ago.
When she came to just past the middle of the bridge, she looked over at a still pool of water at her reflection and the cotton-like clouds in the sky. She giggled and said, "Armina Mullens, today Friday, July 9th of 1976 is your 15th birthday, and getting the mail is a hopeful trip this time." She plucked a couple of flowers from the vine, dropped them and they sailed down to the water making slight ripple rings.
Armina smiled and said, "There now, I have already changed the world this morning. I picked some flowers and made some ripples." She heard her grandfather, Jacob shouting, "Armina, you gettin' the mail?" She giggled and shouted back, "Yes grandpa, be right there!" She walked from the bridge straight to the rusted bottom mailbox. She saw the tin door was open and a yellow envelope was jutting out of the box. With a curious look on her face, Armina stepped in front near the gravel road and pulled the mail from the box.
The mailman had bent it to make it fit. She looked and read out loud, "To Armina Mullens. Rural Route 3, Crick Hill, Kentucky. The upper left-hand corner of the envelope had the address of the Department of the Army. She smiled and ran across the bridge shouting, "Grandpa, grandpa it's here!" She stubbed her toe on the bridge post, and cried out from the pain but just kept hopping towards the house. Grandpa Jacob was sitting on the front porch when she limped up to him and happily shouted, "It's from the Army grandpa! Remember I told you I wrote them about getting you some help."
Jacob Mullens was in the Army from 1942 to 1945. He was severely wounded in the Ardennes forest during the Battle of the Bulge. Shrapnel had penetrated the left side of his head and upper shoulder. Jacob was sent home and awarded a Purple Heart medal. He's lost all of his service papers and the medal when someone stole his duffel bag in 1946. Armina had written the Army for help to get some kind of benefits for Jacob. Jacob could neither read nor write. His only skill and income was making and selling moonshine.
Armina's mother, Sadie came to the screen door, opened it wide, and asked, "What in the world is all the ruckus about?" Armina excitedly shouted, "It's grandpa's Army papers! Remember I wrote to the Army for him!" Sadie smiled and said, "As I told you before, I tried back in 62 and 66." Hope you had better luck than I did sweetie." Armina said, "Me too, momma, I hope they will help."
Sadie stepped out and sat on a step as Armina sat on the edge of the porch and opened the envelope. Jacob rocked in his chair and puffed on his pipe as Armina pulled the papers out and read page 1..."We are sorry to inform you that your Grandfather, Jacob Mullens record of service cannot be located. The fire in 1973 in St. Louis destroyed 17 million personnel military files. Without a service number, a social security number, or a statement from his Commander, it will be nearly impossible to assist Mr. Mullens. Signed, Colonel J. B. Smithers.
There were other papers but they were about public assistance that had nothing to do with the military. Tears formed in Armina's eyes as Jacob said in his raspy strained voice, "Same old, same old child. It's okay honey, don't cry." Sadie reached over, put her hand on Armina's cheek, and said, "You tried sweetie. I was pretty much told the same thing even though I told them daddy had no numbers and couldn't remember his commanders or even his fellow soldiers because of his wounds. They still turned him down." Armina angrily ripped the papers into tiny pieces as she cried.
The cat jumped off the porch and started chasing and batting the floating pieces in the breeze. Jacob chuckled and said, "At least the old cat is happy." It brought small smiles to Armina and Sadie. Armina patted her grandpa on the knee and said, "I ain't giving up."
In the fall of 1976, Jacob Mullens passed away. He had just crossed over the swinging bridge carrying two gallons of moonshine. Sadie had found him where he fell in the brush by the creek. Armina was at a friend's house and was called home. She was broken-hearted. She stood in the middle of the swinging bridge for hours. She talked to her grandpa Jacob and told him she was going to fix the hurt. She wrapped dead Morning Glory vines around her right hand, slipped them off, and made a ball of them. She wrapped more vines around the ball and it was soon the size of a melon. She dropped it down in the running water and watched the ripples roll it down the creek.
Armina smiled and said aloud, "Remember grandpa when you made me a ball out of weed vines and an old red corduroy shirt when I was seven years old. I kicked that thing till it turned to dust. I'm about to do some more kickin'."
On the morning of the funeral, Sadie and other family members were gathered outside the house. Armina stepped out with her grandpa's Savage over and under 4-10...22caliber shotgun in her hands. Sadie rushed up on the porch to Armina and asked with concern, "Sweetie, why do you have daddy's shotgun?"
Armina had tears in her eyes as she said, "I'm givin' him a 21 gun salute. I got 19 shells in my purse and two in the gun. The damned Army won't do it so I will." Her Uncle Leonard stepped up and snarled, "Put that gun back girl. Nobody wants to hear shooting at the graveyard." Armina snapped, "Then don't go. I am giving grandpa the honor he deserves. Anyhow, shut up. I have the gun." Leonard saw the absolute determination on her face, held his hands up, and nervously said, "Ok, Ok Armina."
The family arrived at the graveyard after a short funeral. The preacher said a few words and a prayer. He asked if anyone had something to say. Armina stepped up with her shotgun in hand, looked at the family, and then looked at a newspaper reporter she invited.
Armina spoke loudly, "We are burying my grandfather Jacob Mullens today. He was a wonderful husband to my grandmother and a wonderful father to my mother. He could not read nor write. He bravely left these hills to fight evil in Europe alongside many, many brave souls. He was badly wounded in the foreign forest and sent home. Grandpa couldn't remember names, dates, places, or people but every thunderstorm haunted his heart for the rest of his life. He cried with the rain so many times and I cried with him."
Armina wiped her tears and continued, "A man with a hill of education taught me a mountain of lessons. I can still smell the wildflowers he would so often place under my nose, name them, and tell me they were perfumes of angels. He loved every creature great and small. I once saw him release a red fox from a leg trap. The fox bit him but grandpa calmly released it, smiled, and said, "Hope it learned that free food ain't worth tradin' the free part."
A Soldier of Patton's 3rd. Army. My Father.
The name Armina.
She looked up to the sky then at the casket and said, "Grandpa fought for freedom but freedom didn't fight for him. He never received a dime from the government because his papers were stolen and then burned up. His memory was ruined by the war. His service was lost by the military and yet his honor will be recognized on this very day."
She stepped back, raised the gun, and fired once then twice. She broke the barrel down, reloaded, and kept firing until 21 shots echoed in the hills. Most of the family was still weeping from her words. Armina stepped up beside the casket, saluted, and walked away crying.
A few days later in the Sunday paper, The Crick Hill Chronicle, the reporter had written and repeated every word Armina said. He added to the story, "It is a sad state of existence when a man's 15-year-old granddaughter is the only soul on the Earth to give him the honor he well deserved for serving his country. I had reached out to the local VFW Commander and told him the story. With tears in the big man's eyes, he told me, "That man's grandaughter has given him far greater honor than we could have, had we been there. We will add the name of Jacob Mullens in all of our records and events of honors."
The reporter ended his story with, " I went to visit Armina Mullens. I crossed over Wild Creek on a swinging bridge to a modest house in the hollow. Armina was sitting in a rocking chair on the porch with a cat in her lap. My conversation with her was like talking with an old soul of the mountains. She summed up her story with a saying of her grandfather's, "Peace is the most wonderful victory." I looked up the meaning of Armina's name...it is, Warrior Maiden...or Soldier."
© 2022 Tom Cornett