Vol. 11


The Troubling Telegram

1942; St. Louis, Missouri, USA

In the year 1942, during World War II, my thirteen-year-old grandmother was sitting and enjoying breakfast with her family in their formal dining room on Flora Place in St. Louis, Missouri. My great-grandma was a dignified, elegant woman, and Great-Grandpa was a likable businessman who always had a twinkle in his eye.

Grandma dreamed of pancakes with mouthwatering syrup, and eggs that were fluffy and light. As she snapped back to reality, her food was served, and she began to eat. With stuffed cheeks, she looked out the window, and saw a young man ride up on a bike.

“Who is that, Mom?” asked my grandma, as she and her sister both devoured their food ravenously.

Great-Grandma took one look, and the color drained away from her face. “I — I think it’s a telegram,” Great-Grandma managed to stutter out.

Great-Grandpa looked like he was walking toward his death as he said, “Wait here, Emelia.” He slowly walked forward, opened the door, and stepped outside.

As the young man approached, Great-Grandma burst into tears and turned away so no one could see her horrified face. Grandma and her siblings were surprised, because their mother never ever cried.

Grandma looked away and stared down at her food, lost in her thoughts. All she could think was “Why? Why are they so upset about a telegram? Maybe it means something to them?” Then, finally, a grim thought struck Grandma. “Bill!” she thought, realizing that they hadn’t heard from her brother, fighting in World War II, in five weeks.

This was a telegram, the way the army delivered news! It could mean that Bill was either dead or horribly injured. Grandma looked out the window with tears spilling out of her eyes. Just then Great-Grandpa tipped the man, waved goodbye, and went back inside with a sad, fearful look on his tired face.

Then he opened the telegram.

Suddenly Great-Grandpa exploded with laughter, howling like a wolf. My great-grandma looked at him, startled and confused. Great-Grandpa finally calmed his outburst of laughter. “I–It’s not about Bill, honey. It’s about my retreat on Sunday. They say not to miss it.” Through his laughter he managed to read, “The food is going to be great.”

Great-Grandma ripped the telegram out of his hands, tore it up, and stomped on it until it was nothing but minuscule bits of crumpled paper.

Later the family discovered that Great-Uncle Bill hadn’t been able to write, because he had been shot in the hand, and he got home safely a couple of months later. Great-Grandpa went on his White House retreat and thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic food. Great-Grandma and the family never forgot Great-Grandpa’s troubling telegram.

Zachary Fink; Missouri, USA



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