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The Home Front: A Short Story

IN THE December 29 ISSUE

FROM THE 2021 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by John M. Floyd

The Home Front was originally published in the Spring/Summer 1995 issue of Pebbles.

Christmas treeSunday, May 2
Dear Margaret,
Arrived at Elmendorf on Friday. Barracks are okay, but it’s sure not as good as home. Miss you already.
Enjoying the scenery. When the weather’s clear you can see Mt. McKinley (Denali), and it’s 150 miles away. Drove around some yesterday, saw a real moose. Will send pictures.
Say hello to your mom for me and make sure Steve Crawford stays out of trouble. See you at Christmas.
Love,
Charlie
#

May 29
Dearest Charles:
Everything’s fine here. It was so good to hear from you. Air Force life sounds exciting. My mom says thanks for asking about her, she’s doing great as usual. She’s keeping busy at the church and so forth. I’m fine too, except Uncle Ned works me pretty hard at the store (Ha). I saw Steve Crawford the other day, I think he misses you almost as much as I do. By the way, he says he’s trying to clean up his apartment a little so he can start looking for a new roommate. He figures whoever he finds will want the place kept neater than you did (Ha).
I do love you, Charles. Please be careful up there.
All my love,
Margaret

#
June 1
Hi Charlie —
How are things in the Far North? Better than here I bet. I bumped into Margaret last week and she gave me your address—I guess you’ve forgotten your old buddy Steve-o, right? Seriously, all is well here in Corn Country. I hired on yesterday with the railroad, hot work but good pay. My parents are still on me about college (what’s new?) but I just don’t know yet. Maybe next year.
I’ve been doing some housecleaning around here, and found some of your stuff. I’d pack it all up and send it to you, but I doubt you’d need it there. It’s just a few books and a pocketknife and a couple of DVDs—one’s that old porn movie you bought in Chicago, the other’s The Sound of Music, how’s that for variety? Anyhow, I stuffed it all back into the closet, it’ll be there if you want it.
Gotta go, I’m taking Betty Goodman to a show tonight.
Your old bud,
Steve

#
Tuesday, June 22
Dear Steve,
Thanks for writing. Regarding my things, just hang onto them. I won’t be up here forever, you know. And keep checking on Margaret for me. I haven’t heard from her in a while now, figure she must be busy with the store and such.
See if you can find a box of tomatoes to send me. I know that sounds funny, but they can’t grow them very well up here. Something to do with the short growing season. Plenty of sunshine but not enough heat. Or so they tell me. tomatoesPretty country, but I miss Illinois.
Take care of yourself.
Your friend,
Charlie
#

July 3
Dearest Charles:
I’m sorry it’s been so long since I wrote. I guess I just couldn’t think of much to say.
My uncle hired a new boy at the general store, his name’s Jason Dallman. He says he remembers you. He’s a good guy, reminds me a lot of you at times.
I’m glad to hear you’re happy there. Take a lot of pictures, Charlie, you’re the only one from here ever to become a world traveler (Ha).
Love,
Margaret
#

July 17
Hello Charlie —
I don’t exactly know how to tell you this, so I guess I’ll just come right out with it. I think Margaret is falling for that new guy at the general store, his name’s Jason Dallman. He seems okay enough, I guess, even looks a little like you from a distance.
The truth is, Charlie, you’re a nice guy and all that, but this Jason’s a nice guy too, and he’s here and you’re not. Worst of all, her mother seems to like him, too.
Let me know what you want me to do, buddy. I know how much Margaret means to you.
Steve
#

Saturday, July 24
Dear Steve,
Have been in a stew ever since your letter. I’ve thought about this long and hard, and I don’t suppose there’s anything you can do, or me either. Just tell her I truly do love her—that’s what I keep telling her in my letters to her, though I haven’t heard back from her in a long time now. I knew something was wrong. And you’re right about her mother—Mrs. McCarthy is a stern woman, and Margaret does pretty much whatever she says. I can’t help liking the old gal, though, even if she does favor this Jason guy. She probably thinks he’d make a good son-in-law, a better catch than me, and I’m sure she thinks she has Margaret’s best interests in mind.
It occurred to me after reading your letter that her mom’s birthday is the end of next month (August 28th), and it probably wouldn’t hurt for me to send her something, I always have. I’ve known the whole family since I was a little kid.flowers
Do this for me, Steve: Pick out a pretty birthday card, and bundle together some nice chocolates and an arrangement of dried flowers or something. Put that Sound of Music disc in too—I know they have a DVD player, and she once told Margaret that’s her favorite movie. Don’t mail the package yet, just keep everything boxed up and ready.
I’ve enclosed a check for $20 (though I already owe you more than that for the tomatoes).
Thanks for being there, Steve-o. Don’t know what I’d do without you.
Your old pal,
Charlie
#

August 5
Dear Charles:
I haven’t written in so long because something has come up in my life. I don’t really know how to say this.
Jason Dallman and I have been dating for some time. I don’t know how it happened, it just did. I mean, we work together at the store all the time, you know? Anyhow, we have become pretty close, and I haven’t seen you in so long I just don’t know my own mind anymore. I do like him, and Mom does too. I know you think I rely too much on her opinion sometimes, but since Daddy died she has also become a friend to me too, and if she feels Jason is the right person for me, I have to consider that. I hope you understand.
Please don’t be too upset. Whatever happens, you’ll always be very special to me.
Sincerely,
Margaret
#

August 13
Hi Charlie —
No good news. Margaret goes out with Jason almost every night now. Things are getting pretty serious.
One question. Her mother’s birthday is only two weeks away. Do you still want me to send your package of presents? I say forget it.
Let me know.
Steve
#

Wednesday, August 18
Dear Steve,
I understand what you’re saying, and I value your opinion. I have to remember, though, that if I really love Margaret I want whatever’s best for her, even if it’s not what’s best for me. Her mother has apparently given her good advice in the past, and who knows, if she believes Jason Dallman is Mr. Right, then maybe he is. For once I must put personal feelings aside.
Go ahead and mail the package to Mrs. McCarthy. Even if Margaret and I are finished, my feelings toward her and her mother will always be good ones. There is one thing, though, that I’d like you to change: Put Jason’s name on the package rather than mine. I’ve decided to be unselfish in this.
I repeat, make sure it’s a pretty card, print Jason Dallman’s name on it, and mail the package of gifts as if it were from him instead of me. Remember, her birthday’s the 28th, be sure to send it in plenty of time.
I really believe, in my heart, that this is for the best.
Thanks for everything.
Your friend,
Charlie
P.S. Switch the DVDs.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode goes up next week.

John M. Floyd’s work has appeared in more than 300 different publications, including AHMM, EQMM, Strand Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and three editions of The Best American Mystery Stories. He is also an Edgar nominee, a four-time Derringer Award winner, the 2018 recipient of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Derringer Award for lifetime achievement, and the author of nine books. Visit John online at www.johnmfloyd.com.

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