Children of the Storm/ The Clouds of War Chapter 1
I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing
is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are
being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to...ride
out the storm of war...
The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending
the sweat of it's laborers, the genius of it's scientists, and the hopes
of it's children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.
Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Napoleon was not a good boy. He knew it, and the thought distressed him, but not much. It wasn't that he was a bad boy, really. And his worst critic (his older brother) could not accuse Napoleon of being either mean-spirited or sulky. It was more that Napoleon just couldn't be bothered to follow the rules.
It was a little unfair to say Napoleon never followed the rules. He did. But only when he saw a point to the rules. Napoleon had developed a habit of deciding most rules were arbitrary.
Besides, he was endlessly curious, and often had an overwhelming itch to satisfy his curiosity. Mom and Dad were constantly telling him, 'Stay with us and don't wander off'. But Napoleon felt like he just had to know what was waiting down a gloomy hall, or behind a mysterious door.
True, usually it was nothing exciting. However, one didn't know unless one checked, so Napoleon always felt an obligation to check. Some day, he was sure, there was bound to be an adventure waiting for him.
Sadly, he didn't find any adventures. What he did discover were either empty dusty rooms, or offices full of office people doing whatever it was all office people did. Napoleon's father worked for the United States diplomatic corp., so usually these empty rooms and offices were in embassies.
The office workers were always surprised to find their domain invaded by one rather small boy, but Napoleon quickly learned a smile and an apology usually sufficed to get him out of any trouble. Well, at least it got him out of trouble with the office workers.
It didn't work so well in getting him out of trouble with Mom and Dad and his older brother Augie. Just about the time Napoleon had managed to charm the office workers, his parents and brother would come storming into the room, exclaiming, "Napoleon! There you are! How dare you wander off! We told you to stay with us! Now you're bothering these people, and they have work to do! Apologize!"
So Napoleon would hang his head, and try to look abashed, and say, "I'm sorry for disturbing you." Of course, the secretaries, or whatever they were, would quickly say, "Oh no harm done! You're a very nice young man. It was a pleasure to meet you." Then they would usually try to give him a piece of hard candy. It was almost always a peppermint.
Napoleon would always politely take a piece, then ask shyly, "May I have a second one for my brother?" The women (it was invariably women) would coo "Oh what a sweet boy! Of course you may!"
What these poor, deluded women never knew was that Napoleon didn't request an extra candy because he was nice, but because he knew it would exasperate Augie no end. He loved his brother, truly he did, but Augie was so very good and so very serious. Napoleon just couldn't refrain from teasing him.
It was a constant sore spot with Augie that his younger brother not only flaunted the rules and got away with it, but worse, Napoleon was often positively rewarded for it! Triumphantly flashing the candy in his brother's face was Napoleon's way of mocking his older brother.
There would follow a ritual that both brothers were well familiar with. Augie would refuse the candy, and Napoleon would wave it enticingly in Augie's face, "Come on Augie, don't be cross. You know you love peppermint. Just take it."
Augie would snatch it out of his younger brother's hand, growling, "Can't you ever stop poking your nose where it doesn't belong?"
And Napoleon would reasonably reply, "How do I know where my nose belongs until I poke it someplace? Besides, I got us some candy. You might say thank-you."
Looking as though he would choke on the words, Augie would grit out a strangled. "Thank you. Now please stay beside me."
But that was really boring, so Napoleon would usually at least try to slip away again. Besides, Augie was always so cranky and sullen. Napoleon had long ago made up his mind that when he was grown up he was going to only associate with cheerful, happy people like himself. True, Napoleon could usually coax Augie out of his ill temper, but life would be so much easier if Augie wasn't so sulky to begin with.
Besides wandering around places he had not business being, Napoleon also listened in on conversations he had no business hearing. Despite the old saying that eavesdroppers never heard good of themselves, Napoleon did, in fact, often heard good things about himself.
However, more often, he wasn't even brought up in conversations. Still, he often heard interesting and useful tidbits when he listened in on adult talk. Especially if his Aunt Amy was one of the adults.
The last time his family had been back in the Capitol, Aunt Amy had joined them, and she and Dad had a long talk late one night that Napoleon had managed to listen in on.
"I can't believe you went to England of all places! If you remarried, you wouldn't do these dangerous things!" exclaimed Dad.
"James, if you're going to scold me I'm going to bed. Father already read me the riot act, though why he imagined it would do any good I'm sure I don't know.
"Be honest, what irks you and Father is that as a wealthy widow I can do as I please, and it pleased me to go to England. Besides, I was perfectly safe,"returned Aunt Amy.
"Perfectly safe in a war zone! Of course you were. How silly of your family to worry about you," said Dad sarcastically.
Aunt Amy sighed, "Yes, the blitz is horrifying. London was bombed every night I was there. What is this country going to do about it?"
Dad shrugged, "Dad's hoping we can stay out of the war, but Patrick's convinced we'll be involved. Well, we already are sort of involved with the lend-lease program. In case you didn't know, Patrick's patrolling the Atlantic, and we know there are German U-boats there."
Aunt Amy looked somber, "Has he been in any danger?"
"Luckily, he hasn't encountered any U-Boats, but the family's on edge. Especially with Danny now in the navy after graduating from Annapolis as well. But that's the good news. Danny's been assigned to the Pacific fleet, probably to separate him from his father."
"The Japanese are causing problems as well," warned Aunt Amy.
"Don't remind me. Please tell me you're not headed to China next."
"Now what would I do in China?" laughed Aunt Amy.
"What did you do in England?" demanded Father.
"You know very well I have friends in England!" exclaimed Aunt Amy.
"One friend in particular," said Dad, dryly. "How's Stuart doing?"
Aunt Amy hesitated, "He's well, but I'm not sure it will stay that way."
Dad frowned, "You mean he'll be called up to service? About time. He's still plenty young to serve."
Aunt Amy shook her head indignantly, "Of course he wasn't called up! Stuart volunteered. It's just, well, I suspect Crown and Country has found other uses for him."
There was a moment of silence, then Dad said, "Explain."
Aunt Amy sighed, "You know, or maybe you don't, Stuart speaks French like a native Parisian. I think England has decided that might be a useful skill."
Dad was horrified, "You mean he'll be a spy?"
Aunt Amy puffed up, "What's wrong with that?"
"You have to ask? A spy? They're the lowest of the low!"
"Now James, that's not true! They're fighting for their country, just as any service man is!"
Dad shuddered, "I'd disown either of my sons if they became a spy. But let's not argue about it. I hope you're planning on staying state side now."
"Yes, it's too depressing for me to be in England right now. And I wouldn't dream of going on the continent. In any case, Stuart's going to be too busy to see me.
"I'm glad I went to England though. Stuart and I managed to spend some time together, and I even met his family. His brother's not so stuffy as mine."
"I'm not stuffy!" protested Father.
"Are too. Anyway, Stuart's brother and his family are charming. I lost my heart to his little nephew. He reminded me a bit of Napoleon. Full of piss and vinegar, just like a boy should be. It's a shame Napoleon and Mark will never meet."
"I don't understand you Amy. You dote on my boys. Well, at least Napoleon. Don't you want children of your own?"
"Good heavens no!" laughed Aunt Amy. "I would be a terrible mother! I'm far too selfish! No. I like spoiling my nephews then leaving them for you to straighten out. And just for the record, I love Augie too."
"Thanks ever so much for leaving them to me to straighten out. That's thoughtful of you."
"Isn't it though? But we're wandering off the subject. What is the United States going to do about this war?"
Dad hesitated, 'I'm not in Roosevelt's inner circle, so I don't know why you ask me. I think the President would like to get involved. But there's too much public push back against it after the last war. Churchill's certainly keen to involve us."
"Well of course he is! England could use an ally! Especially now that Greece and Yugoslavia have fallen."
"Any chance at all England will simply make a peace treaty with Hitler?" questioned Father.
"Not after the blitz. England's dander is up."
"But the blitz seems to have stopped," observed Dad.
"I know it's been several weeks since the last raid," objected Aunt Amy, "but that doesn't mean it won't start again."
But Dad was shaking his head, "This isn't official, and don't repeat it, but the word is going around that Churchill doesn't expect the bombing raids to start again."
Aunt Amy stared, "Why? What can Hitler be up to?"
"As long as it's not making war on us, I really don't care."
"It's more likely the Japanese will make war on us than the Germans," said Aunt Amy.
Dad nodded, "The Philippines might be in danger. I hope Danny isn't sent there. Right now he's going to Pearl Harbor."
"That's where? The Sandwich Islands, isn't it?" asked Aunt Amy.
"It's now called the Hawaiian Islands. Roosevelt's moved the Pacific fleet there about a year ago to keep the Japanese in line." answered Dad.
"Bridget and the boys are going to escort Adair and little Joseph there before joining me in Central America."
"Hard to believe little Danny now has a wife and baby," mused Aunt Amy. "I remember him from your wedding. He was so young."
"Well, he grew up. My little brother-in-law isn't so little any more. He's a man."
"Yes, boys have a way of doing that. Augie is fast approaching manhood himself. Any idea what his plans are?"
Dad made a face, "Evidently, he wants to follow the Coffey family into the Navy."
"Cheer up! I'm sure Napoleon will do the Solo family proud and go to Yale and the army!"
"If he doesn't get hanged first. I never saw a child so eager to look for trouble."
"And so quick to charm his way right out of it! Trust me," said Aunt Amy, "Napoleon is one child you never have to worry about. He could sell ice to an Eskimo."
"That's exactly what troubles me," Dad sighed. "He's convinced he can charm his way out of any mischief he gets into. One day he's going to discover he can't."
"Yes, he's bound to get his fingers burned eventually. But he's clever, he'll learn from it," countered Aunt Amy.
"Just as long as he hasn't been burned too severely!" exclaimed Father.
"Well, if he does, hopefully he'll be wise enough to come to his family for help. At least you needn't worry about Augie, that one will stay well away from the fire."
Shortly after this, the siblings said good night and went to bed, and Napoleon was left with a lot to think about. It had never occurred to him that Grandpa Coffey might be in danger, but of course, he could be.
He was a captain now and the family was very proud. Napoleon knew that it was possible his ship might be sunk by a German submarine, but he hadn't truly believed it.
But it was obvious that Dad and Aunt Amy thought it was a real danger, so that meant it might happen. The idea was terrifying. At least Uncle Danny, his mother's younger brother, was probably safe in Hawaii.
Napoleondidn'tthink toomuch about it, but he knew the Solo's and the Coffey's got along fairly well. Oh, the two families weren't best friends, but they were both pleased with the marriage of James and Bridget.
When they first met, after a whirlwind romance by their offspring, the families had recognized each other as kindred spirits. True, the families point of origin was different, but they were both cut from the same cloth.
Both families had emigrated to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Members of both families tended to be intelligent, ambitious, hard-working and handsome. They were quick to recognize and seize the great advantages their new country offered them.
Both families had risen up in the world fairly rapidly, and were fiercely loyal to their new country. They took for granted they had an obligation to serve their country, and equally took for granted they would be rewarded for their service.
James Solo may have been raised in the diplomatic corp while Bridget Coffey was a Navy brat, but both were true nomads. They accepted that their country had the right and power to move them wherever needed, and they had learned from early childhood to pack up and move with as much efficiency and as little fuss as possible.
Without consciously thinking about it, James and Bridget were raising their two sons in the same mode. Their families approved. The only thing the families didn't like was the names the boys had been saddled with. What possessed James and Bridget to name their sons Augustus and Napoleon?
Napoleon slumped on the deck chair, bored out of his skull. Traveling by ocean liner had long since lost any novelty to him. He loved sailing, and often wished he could travel on an old fashioned clipper, but there was nothing exciting about an ocean liner.
Usually he managed to keep himself moderately entertained by playing with some other boy who was also on the ship, but sadly, on this voyage there were no other boys in his age group. Napoleon would have hung around his older brother, but Augie had discovered girls.
There was a very pretty girl about Augie's age on board, and the two were involved in a rather innocent shipboard romance. She had a sister about Napoleon's age, but he still wasn't convinced girls didn't have cooties, so he kept his distance.
"Hello Nappy!" exclaimed an overly sweet voice, and Napoleon winced. Talking, or rather, thinking about the devil.
"Hi Marigold," he replied, although he knew perfectly well that wasn't her name.
"It's Marjorie, not Marigold!" scolded the offended little girl.
"Oh, sorry, my mistake," smirked the unrepentant boy.
She tossed her curls, "It's from Mr. Tarkington's 'Penrod', not that you've ever read it."
"Have so!" replied Napoleon, stung. "My favorite chapter is where Penrod heaves that huge rock. You probably know what happens next."
Marjorie's face reddened, "All because she called him a little gentleman. Which is not an insult!"
"She was mocking him! And I'm with Penrod! I wouldn't want to be called a little gentleman either!"
"No danger of that since you're not a gentleman! Besides, I needn't say that to mock you, I can just say your name."
Napoleon felt uneasy, "What's wrong with my name?"
Marjorie looked gleeful, "You mean you don't know? You honestly don't know what a nappy is?"
"Nappy's short for Napoleon. What's wrong with that?"
The little girl was grinning, "Yes, but in England a nappy's a diaper!"
Napoleon stared at her, appalled. "It is not!"
"Is so! Nappy! Nappy! Nappy!"
Where was a handy barrel of tar when he needed it? Penrod had it so good. Since there was no pitch nearby, and hitting a girl was unthinkable, Napoleon did the only thing he could. He took to his heels away from the obnoxious little Marjorie. And ran straight into his mother.
Bridget and Napoleon both staggered, then caught their balance.
"Sorry! Sorry!" babbled Napoleon. "I didn't mean to run into you! I didn't hurt you did I?"
"I'll live," replied Mom, dryly. "Where's the fire?"
Napoleon's face darkened, "I was just trying to get away from her."
"Who's her? Oh, your little girlfriend."
"She's not my girlfriend!" denied Napoleon hotly. Why did grown-ups always say things like that? It wasn't cute, just annoying.
Mom smiled, "Sorry. The little girl who is not your girlfriend. Why are you so anxious to get away from her?"
"Because she says nappy means a diaper in England! It's not true," pleaded Napoleon. "Please, it's not true."
Mom grimaced, "I'm sorry Napoleon. Your father and I didn't consider that when we named you. We picked Napoleon because we wanted a unique, strong name for you. We liked it. We've always hoped you would too."
The trouble was, Napoleon did like his name. He had lived in many different places, and had known a lot of Bobbies, Johnnys, Timmys, and Donnies, but he was always the only Napoleon and Nappy.
Now he felt betrayed by his own name, as if it had let him down. He scowled at his mother, "From now on, I'm only answering to Napoleon."
Mom seemed to be trying very hard not to smile, but she gravely agreed, "Okay, from now on you're Napoleon."
"I mean it!" warned Napoleon.
"Yes, I know you do." Then, looking over Napoleon's shoulder, Mom broke into a smile, "Adair! How are you and little Joey? Oh, give him to me!"
Adair willingly handed over the infant to Bridget's eager arms, and Napoleon anxiously watched his mother rock the baby, and coo at him.
Napoleon didn't like to see his mother with a baby because it always made him burn with shame. The fact he hadn't done anything to be ashamed of didn't help.
Napoleon ending up fleeing to his room. He meant to brood about his name, but instead he found himself once again thinking about Catherine. Deciding to give in to his somber mood, he dug the necklace out of his luggage.
No matter what, Napoleon always made sure his sapphire necklace, which should have been Catherine's, was with him.
Everyone was all excited about the baby, with one exception: Napoleon. As a small child, Napoleon was vaguely aware his mother had been 'expecting' other babies, but then had 'lost' them. He had wondered how anyone could lose a baby, and had thought it was terribly careless of them.
Now he understood that his mother had miscarried. But this time the pregnancy was going well.
"It's going to be a girl, I just know it!" Mom happily told everyone. "At last I'm going to be able to buy little frilly pink dresses and dolls!
"I'm going to spoil her rotten, and I just know she'll have her daddy wrapped around her little finger!"
Everyone laughed and agreed, and gushed how much fun a little girl was going to be.
Napoleon pondered what was so wonderful about dresses and dolls. He felt slighted; weren't boys good enough? Why was everyone so thrilled about a baby girl?
Even his favorite, Aunt Amy, seemed to delight in the idea of a niece.
"What are you going to name her?" she laughed to Dad, "Boudica?"
"I wanted that name, but Bridget refused. So we're going with Catherine," replied Dad.
"Catherine? Oh, of course, for Catherine the Great."
"Who else?" smiled Dad. "Most people won't get that, but we'll know."
Napoleon considered if he cared who Catherine the Great was, and decided he didn't. He didn't want to know anything about this baby.
He didn't want her. He wanted nothing to do with any baby girl, and he wished constantly she would just go away. And then she did.
Napoleon had been vaguely aware that the grown ups were upset about something, but when he tried to ask what was going on, he was told to shush and not cause a fuss. He and Augie were pretty much shuttled off to be by themselves.
Neither of them knew what was happening, but they knew it was nothing good. Finally, Dad came to talk to them. Looking tired and sad, Dad told them the baby had died.
"But it hasn't even been born yet!" protested Napoleon.
"It died in the womb," explained Dad. "That some times happens. I need you boys to help your mother.
"She just gave birth to a dead baby. You need to be kind to her. Don't cause problems or argue with her.
"Can you both do that? Can I count on you to be gentle and thoughtful to your mother?"
Stricken, the brothers numbly nodded.
Augie asked in a near whisper, "Was it a girl?"
Dad's face crumbled, "Yes. She was..." his voice trailed off. After a moment, Dad regained his composure, and resumed, "We'll have a small, private service for her."
Napoleon felt frozen with guilt and shock. 'I did this!' he thought. 'It's all my fault!'
"Can I see her?" he blurted out, before he thought better of it.
Dad looked at him in surprise, "I suppose you can. Are you sure you want to?"
Napoleon wasn't at all sure he wanted to, but none-the-less, he nodded his head, and eventually it was arranged for Aunt Amy to accompany him to view his sister's body.
The casket she was in was white, and small, so small, it almost looked like a toy. Napoleon was afraid to look in the casket at first, but she looked just like a baby-doll. Dressed in a lacy white dress, she hardly looked real.
Unexpectedly, Napoleon burst into tears, and Aunt Amy hustled him away. The next thing Napoleon knew he was sitting on a couch being rocked in Aunt Amy's arms.
"My fault, my fault, this is all my fault," Napoleon moaned over and over.
"Oh Napoleon, hush. Of course this isn't your fault. Why do you say that?" protested Aunt Amy.
"I didn't want her," admitted Napoleon. "I kept wishing she would go away, and now God's punishing me."
"Oh Napoleon," sighed Aunt Amy. "Do you think you're the first child that's been jealous of a new baby? And do you really believe God would take Catherine just to spite you? God's not so petty!"
"But why did she die?"
"That is not for us to know. We have to trust God has his reasons, but I know the reasons aren't because you were jealous.
"You wouldn't have been jealous after she had been born you know. You would have adored her. You would have been a wonderful big brother. You would have teased her, but protected her too. I'm sorry you didn't get the chance."
Napoleon was suddenly sorry too. Then he remembered something, "Aunt Amy, who's Catherine the Great?"
Aunt Amy smiled sadly, "She was an Empress of Russia. Your sister was named after her.
"I was going to give your sister this," said Aunt Amy, taking the sapphire necklace off she always wore. "It's passed down to the women in the family, and my mother gave it to me.
"Since I have no children, I meant to give it to Catherine, but now I'll give it to you."
"Me/" exclaimed Napoleon, surprised. "Why me? And what am I going to do with it?"
"Why not you?" returned Aunt Amy evenly. "There are no girls to give it to, and I hope you'll wear it."
"But it's a woman's necklace!"
"I had the stone set into a necklace, Your grandmother wore it in a ring. You can have the sapphire set in a ring when you become a man. It will be a way of keeping Catherine with you."
Napoleon tentatively took the necklace, "Thank you. I will wear it to remember her by."
Coming back to the present, Napoleon abruptly decided he liked his name. He even liked the diminutive. Who cared if the English called diapers nappies? He wasn't English, and he was just going to ignore snot-nosed little girls named Marjorie. But to his surprise, he found himself dancing with her that night.
Besides the standard 'three R's', both Solo brothers had been well schooled in the social graces. James and Bridget had made sure their sons knew proper etiquette, could use the right flatware for the correct dish, could make polite small talk, and could gracefully move around a dance floor.
The boys were lectured that they represented not just their families and the diplomatic corps, but also their country. If they behaved badly, it reflected badly on the United States; so it behooved them to not only always put their best foot forward, but to be sure that foot was clad in a well cared for and highly polished shoe.
The parents were constantly looking for opportunities for their sons to work on their social graces, and when the ship announced the obligatory dance for the last night before reaching port, Bridget decided it would be a good chance for Napoleon to attend his first formal dance.
Marjorie and Napoleon were the only children in their age group there, so there wasn't much choice about dance partners for them.
Napoleon didn't want to dance with her, but he knew he should. Marjorie was sitting patiently against the wall, watching the dancers wistfully and casting longing glances his way. Aware of his mother's expectant eye on him, Napoleon took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and manfully marched up to the little girl.
"May I have this dance?"
He was awarded with a dazzling smile as Marjorie leapt to her feet, and gushed, "Thank you! I was so afraid you weren't going to ask."
To his surprise, Napoleon found himself enjoying dancing with Marjorie, and the two children danced the night away. Or, at least, as late as the grown-ups thought children their age should be up. When he went to bed that night, Napoleon wondered if girls, with their ribbons and curls, and frilly dresses, maybe weren't so bad after all.
They sailed into port the next day, said their good-byes to their shipmates, and finally met up with Uncle Danny. Mom, Augie and Napoleon politely held back, while Danny greeted his wife and son.
Then Mom was hugging her brother, and Augie and Uncle Danny were shaking hands and grinning at each other. While Napoleon knew himself to be Aunt Amy's favorite, Augie was definitely Uncle Danny's favorite.
The two looked so much alike that they were often mistaken for brothers instead of uncle and nephew. With his reddish brown hair, lightly freckled pale skin and blue eyes, Augie was all Coffey.
Napoleon, on the other hand, was very much a Solo with dark hair and eyes. It was as if the genes of the Solo and Coffey families were both too strong to be intermixed.
Danny had a small house, and Adair seemed delighted with it. She and Mom discussed where to fix up a nursery, while Uncle Danny promised his nephews he would show them the sights at Waikiki Beach.
"And the battleships?" demanded Augie, impatiently. "I know most of them are at sea, but you're asigned to the 'Oklahoma', so it must be in port. We can see it, can't we?"
"Of course," laughed Uncle Danny. "I'll even take you aboard."
The next day Uncle Danny made good on his promise, and Napoleon had to admit the sight of the battleship was impressive. He knew Augie saw himself assigned to one of these behemoths.
Napoleon watched his brother's excitement while they explored the 'Oklahoma', and felt more than a little envious. Napoleon had no desire to attend the Naval Academy, or to be a 'lifer' in any branch of the military, but he did wish he could figure out what career he wanted.
When he was younger, Napoleon told everyone he was going to be 'The Shadow'. He loved that radio program, and had ever since he could remember.
Napoleon couldn't imagine anything better than slinking around in the shadows, ferreting out evildoers, and putting wrong to right. The trouble was, how could he possibly earn a living doing that? He was pretty sure he didn't want to be a cop, and he knew that career would deeply dismay his family.
Maybe he could be a treasury agent, like the great Eliot Ness, or one those federal agents in that organization ran by Mr. Hoover?
In the meantime, Napoleon privately practiced being as much like 'The Shadow' as possible. The Shadow could break any code, and Napoleon had studied up on ciphers. He realized that solving ciphers and codes was sort of like playing games, and Napoleon was good at games.
Everyone said he was lucky at games, but Napoleon knew he was also skilled at them. He figured out how to count cards, and made good guesses on what cards other players had. He was unbeatable at checkers, and was fast becoming unbeatable at chess.
Napoleon paid attention to little details most people missed, and he discovered that often helped him get ahead of everyone else.
In addition to breaking codes, the Shadow could also speak any language. Napoleon already knew he was never going to be able to do that, but thanks to the life he lived, he was exposed to different languages, and he was making good on learning them.
For example, his father was stationed in Haiti for several years, and Napoleon had learned French there. True, Aunt Amy always winced when he spoke French, and assured him any Parisian would be horrified by his accent, but Napoleon was confident they could at least understand him. And after all, that was what was important.
Now Dad was usually assigned to Central America, where Spanish was spoken, so Napoleon was learning it as well. Both Dad and Aunt Amy had spent years in Italy, where Grandfather Solo had been stationed, so they both spoke excellent Italian.
They both approved of Napoleon's desire to be fluent in Italian, and indulgently assisted him in learning that language too.
However, there was one thing the Shadow could do that Napoleon simply wasn't good at. While the Shadow couldn't actually become invisible, he could cloud people's minds so they didn't notice him.
People always noticed Napoleon. No matter how hard he tried to slink back into corners, everyone always saw him and drew attention to him. The best Napoleon could do on clouding people's minds was the classic misdirection.
Napoleon had read a book on doing magic tricks, thinking it might help him be more like the Shadow. The author explained that magic tricks were done by keeping everyone's eyes on one thing, while the magician was doing something else right in front of their faces.
This Napoleon was good at. It had become a fun game to him; keeping everyone focused on one thing, while he was plotting something else.
Still, as fun as all this was, it didn't help him in choosing a career. He was still young, but already various adults in his life were urging him to think about what he wanted to do with his life.
Augie, at least, had no trouble there. After touring the 'Oklahoma', he more than ever wanted to be in the navy. Napoleon couldn't understand why. To him it just seemed uncomfortable and crowded.
On the other hand, Waikiki Beach looked like a lot of fun. It was teeming with sailors, but Uncle Danny said most places weren't suitable for the two of them, so Napoleon and Augie only saw the outside of the tattoo joints, bawdy hotels, and bars. They did go into a cafe to have lunch.
All too soon their visit was over, and Napoleon, Augie and their mother said goodbye to Uncle Danny, Aunt Adair and Joey. Then they were on another ocean liner, heading for Central America. And wouldn't you know it? Once again there were no boys his age on broad, but only another little girl.
"I'm Becky," she said, shyly.
"How do you do," replied Napoleon politely. "I'm Napoleon."
"Oh, I've never met anyone named Napoleon before! Is it after Napoleon Bonaparte?"
Napoleon was starting to eye this little girl favorably, 'Of course."
"That's lovely," said Becky wistfully. "I wish I had a unique name. But I was named after Becky Thatcher from 'Tom Sawyer'."
Was Napoleon destined to be plagued by girls named after literary characters? However, he kept his reflections to himself, and said gallantly, "But Becky Thatcher's a great character."
Becky brightened, "Do you think so?"
"My favorite part in the book is when Tom takes the blame for ripping the teacher's book to spare Becky being punished."
"That's my favorite part too!" exclaimed Becky. "It was so chivalrous!"
By now, both children were liking each other very well, and Napoleon was giving serious consideration to revising his long aversion to girls. They spent a pleasant day together, and both thought the rest of the voyage should be fun.
That night, laying in bed, Napoleon thought again how strange it was that he should meet two girls named after characters from books.
But then he started thinking about the main characters from both books, Penrod and Tom. He realized he was a little jealous of these two fictional characters. Oh, not because of the girls, Marjorie and Becky, but rather, the loyal sidekicks; Sam and Huck.
Napoleon liked the life he lived, and couldn't imagine living any other. But a big drawback to constantly being on the move was the difficulty in making a good friend. He was never stationary enough to develop a strong friendship.
Napoleon wanted one good friend, somebody like Sam or Huck, that would stick by him without hesitation. Without thinking about it, Napoleon had automatically put himself in the shoes of either Penrod or Tom. He knew himself to be the lead, never the sidekick.
This voyage was uneventful, except it was while they were on board that the news came the Germany had invaded the USSR. Remembering how Dad and Aunt Amy had said Churchill wanted an ally, Napoleon thought he had one. He just wasn't sure Stalin was who he had in mind.
Soon the family had joined James Solo in his new posting, and settled into their new home. The boys were enrolled in school, and life took on it's normal routine. Years later, as an adult, Napoleon realized there had been ominous warnings of what was to come, but as a child he had been mostly oblivious.
Yes, he knew most of Europe and Asia was at war, but that seemed rather remote to him. He did worry about Grandpa Coffey, constantly crossing the Atlantic, but that was only a minor concern. He had convinced himself Patrick Coffey was invincible, and could easily evade any U-boats.
Napoleon was also slightly worried about Anthony and Iola Solo, his paternal grandparents, who were stationed in, of all places, Tehran. But they were Americans, and since his country wasn't at war, it seemed likely they were safe enough.
Mostly Napoleon concerned himself with normal boyhood pursuits; school and sports. He was a good student, and although he wasn't particularly big, he was agile and fast and usually did well in most sports. He always made friends easily, so school was mostly a pleasant experience for him.
He knew the adults were increasingly worried, but since grown-ups always seemed to be needlessly worried about something or another, he ignored it. And so that Sunday morning he was completely unprepared.
It had started out like all Sundays; the family had eaten a light breakfast and had gone to Mass. Afterwards, Mom was in the kitchen preparing a large Sunday meal, while Napoleon, Augie and Dad divided up the Sunday paper.
As always, Dad claimed the news, Augie grabbed the sports, and Napoleon read the comics. Then they would switch around. Napoleon had even starting reading the news sections, as there seemed to be a lot happening in the world.
But that Sunday, Napoleon had just started reading 'Lil' Abner' when the phone unexpectedly rang. Dad, being the nearest had answered it, and after a moment, said, "What? Why? What's going on?"
There followed a short silence, the Dad said, "Alright, I'll be there soon."
"James?" asked Mom, "What's happening?"
Dad looked worried, "I'm not sure. I've been called in. Look. I'll call as soon as I can, or come home if I can, but don't wait on me. Go ahead an eat and just save me a plate."
He kissed Mom goodbye, and took his leave. Mom sighed, "Well, dinner is almost ready, you boys better wash up."
They were just starting to eat when the phone rang again, and all three rushed to the phone. Mom answered, while Napoleon and Augie crowded around to listen in. Of course, they expected it to be Dad on the line, but instead it was the wife of an American businessman who Mom had made friends with.
She didn't even bother to say 'hello', but instead asked abruptly, "Are you listening to the radio?"
Surprised, Mom answered, "No, why?"
"Turn it on," came the reply and the woman hung up.
All three turned to stare at the radio, and Augie, being the closest, turned it on. And they found out to their shock and fury, their country had been attacked.
Dinner sat cold and forgotten, while the three of them listened to the radio account of the attack on Pearl Harbor. At some point, Dad rang on the phone to see if they knew yet, and he and Mom had a brief conversation.
Napoleon and Augie ignored it, while they concentrated on the news over the radio. Napoleon couldn't believe it. The thought of those enormous battleships being sunk, burning, or capsized was uncomprehensible.
Of course, Uncle Danny was upmost on everyone's mind. Was he at home, or aboard ship? Was the "Oklahoma' at sea, or in port? There was no way to find out. They couldn't even be sure Aunt Adair and Joey were safe.
Dad came home late, looking strained and tired.
"Everything's chaotic right now," he told them. "It will take some time for the Navy to sort out who's missing and who's injured, so we'll just have to be patient."
"Dad will be calling in whatever favors he can to find out about Danny," interrupted Mom. "Hopefully he'll get some answers."
Dad nodded, "Yes, I'm sure he will, but even then it will take awhile. Thousands of sailors are hurt or missing. It's going to be slow."
"Do we know anything?" demanded Augie. "It sounds like all the battleships were at port, but that can't be right."
Dad hesitated, "Actually, all the battleships were at port, and they've all been damaged." Mom gasped, and Napoleon knew what she was thinking; having all the battleships in port at once was unusual. "There is some good news," continued Dad. "All the aircraft carriers were at sea, and are safe. That's all I know. Reports are still coming in, and it'll be awhile. Like I already said, we just have to wait.
"In the meantime, the three of you need to pack up for home."
"We're not staying here?" exclaimed Napoleon.
Dad looked at him, "I will be. But our country is now at war. The government will be urging all Americans that can to return to the States, and non-essential personnel at the Embassies will be sent home."
No one was happy about this, but they knew better than to argue.
"Where should we go?" asked Mom, nervously.
"I thought maybe you could stay with Cora at first. Later, we can figure something else out."
Cora was Grandma Coffey. She and Grandpa Coffey had bought a house in a small town not far from the base Grandpa was stationed at. While the town was pretty, Napoleon thought it was also rather boring. He hoped they wouldn't have to stay there long.
Four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor they still didn't have any news on Uncle Danny, but they had heard Aunt Adair and Joey were fine, and being sent back to the main land. Napoleon, his mother and brother were also heading back to the States. And Germany and Italy both declared war on the United States.
"General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands, man your battle stations! All hands, man your battle stations!" blared the PA. The 'Bong-Bong' of the alarm system reinforced the message.
Napoleon, outfitted in his dress whites, as he prepared to go ashore for Mass, paused, confused. It was Sunday, why would there be a call to general quarters today?
A second announcement came over the PA, "This is no shit, God damn it! They're real bombs! Now get going!"
Shocked out of his immobility, Napoleon rushed toward a ladder, when the great ship gave a groan, and listed abruptly to port side. A cacophony of sound rushed through the ship; Napoleon could hear the ship itself moan as sections of the ship twisted and broke.
Everything not nailed down, tables, bunks, dishes, lockers, and Napoleon himself, was violently thrown. Napoleon could hear men screaming as they were crushed by various objects. He, himself, was pinned, and was trying to work his way free when the lights blinked out.
He heard the water rushing through the ship, and heart pounding, realized that all the airtight doors that would normally be closed to keep seawater out were open because there was to be an inspection the next morning.
Oh God help him, if he couldn't work his way free, he was going to lay here and drown as the seawater rushed over him.
The clap of thunder jolted Napoleon awake and he sat up abruptly. His heart was thudding in his chest so hard he swore he could feel it hit his ribs. He panted in the dark, trying to calm himself, as he flailed around with his arms, and felt soft blankets and a mattress.
Giving a sigh of relief, Napoleon realized he was in bed at Grandpa and Grandpa Coffey's house. He could hear the thunder, but not see the lightening because of the heavy black-out curtains.
Still shaking from the nightmare, Napoleon got out of bed, and blindly made his way to the window. Slipping underneath the curtains, he saw there was an early spring thunderstorm underway.
Leaning his forehead against the cool glass, Napoleon watched the flashes of lightening and the rain sheeting against the window, while he reflected on the last few months.
His country had been at war for months now, and Napoleon hated it.
All eight battleships had been damaged at Pearl Harbor. The worst had been the 'Arizona', which had sunk with 1,177 sailors abroad. It was still at the bottom of the harbor.
The 'Oklahoma', hit by no less than nine torpedoes, had rolled, until the ship was upside down, and was still that way in the harbor as well.
Christmas had been dismal. Just before the holiday they finally got word on Uncle Danny. He had been on duty when the attack began. Roughly four hundred sailors had been trapped inside the 'Oklahoma' when she rolled, Uncle Danny among them.
They couldn't even have a proper burial for him, since the 'Oklahoma' was still sitting upside down at Pearl Harbor. Who knew when his body would ever be retrieved?
Grandpa Coffey was now a Rear Admiral, and still assigned to the Atlantic. He wasn't given much time to mourn for his son before his country pressed him back into service.
He wasn't the only member of their family they had to worry about. Dad and Aunt Amy had a first cousin, William Solo who had graduated West Point. Now a captain, he would soon be shipping off to England.
The news from the war front was depressing. Japan appeared unstoppable. It had followed up the attack on Pearl Harbor by attacking the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, Malaya and Hong Kong. Wake Island and Hong Kong had quickly fallen, and Manila was occupied.
Japan was also on the move in Burma, and Singapore had fallen as well. Napoleon was anxious for his country to do something, anything, to fight back.
While Napoleon was usually willing to fudge the truth to others, with himself he was always harshly honest. Before the Pearl Harbor attack Napoleon had watched the newsreels of the 'brave, uncomplaining British' huddling in air raid shelters, and had been a little envious.
Napoleon knew it must be frightening, and he admitted to himself he really didn't want any American cities bombed, yet he also thought it must be exciting. He pictured himself calm and unafraid walking toward the air raid shelter, then stopping to save someone who was injured.
But when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened, Napoleon was sick at heart, and shaking with rage that anyone had dared to attack his country. Now he realized the British must have felt the same way. More so; Pearl Harbor had only happened one day, while the blitz went on for months.
In addition to the anger he felt toward Japan, the sorrow for the lost of Uncle Danny, and the worry about Grandpa Coffey and Cousin Bill, Napoleon was also adjusting to some other inconveniences of the war.
'Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without!' was the new slogan of the day, and Napoleon didn't much like it. What it boiled down to was him getting stuck with Augie's castoffs. Augie was not only much older and taller, but was also broader than Napoleon, and his clothes hung on his younger brother.
Mom refused to alter them too much, since Napoleon was still growing, and might grow into them. But what Napoleon truly disliked was the rations. Everything seemed to be rationed now.
Some of it Napoleon could understand, such as gasoline. Obviously, fuel was needed for ships, planes, and army vehicles. It was a shame, because Augie could now drive, but with rationing didn't. However, both brothers agreed the war effort was more important, and so they either walked or took a bus.
But Napoleon couldn't figure out why some other things were rationed, starting with butter. Instead of butter everyone now had to eat OLEO. OLEO was a nasty, whitish color, and it came with a yellow color packet that was suppose to make it look like butter, but didn't.
The color packet was hard to mix into the OLEO, and some how Mom and Grandma Coffey had decided this would be a good job for Napoleon. Lucky him.
He had developed a sincere hatred for OLEO. It didn't taste much like butter, and the yellow coloring did nothing for the flavor and little for the appearance of the stuff. And Napoleon couldn't help wondering why the war effect needed the nation's butter?
Did they use it to butter bombs or shells? Did they, perhaps, make butter bullets out of it? And if they truly needed the butter, wouldn't OLEO work as well? Then Napoleon would feel small and mean, complaining (even if it was strictly to himself) about OLEO when others were fighting and dying.
Napoleon wanted to do his part in helping win the war, but it was hard to see how turning OLEO from white to yellow was helping.
He had assisted his mom and grandma in hanging black-out curtains, and he faithfully walked around the house every evening making certain no light was peeking through the windows.
Along with everyone else he had gathered up all sorts of scrap metal for the war. But all of this felt very small and little. Napoleon longed to do something big and grand, but he was starting to face the reality that there wasn't much he could do.
Napoleon was also having to adjust to small town life. There was only one school that housed all twelve grades. The classes were small, and most of the kids had been in the same class since first grade.
Augie and Napoleon were very much the new kids. Still, everyone was nice and polite to them. A lot of this had to do with the stars.
All over town, people had blue stars in their windows. A blue star meant you had a family member serving in the military. The Coffey/Solo house had a blue star for Grandpa Coffey. The fact he was a Rear Admiral garnered them a lot of respect. No one else had a family member with such a high rank.
But it was the gold star that made the town's people treat the family with upmost deference. A gold star meant a family member had died in combat. The gold star, of course, was for Uncle Danny. No one else in town had a gold star. At least not yet.
Napoleon felt a little strange about how everyone treated him as if he were fragile because his uncle had died at Pearl Harbor. The kids at school acted as if he and Augie were heroes because of Uncle Danny, but the brothers knew they had done nothing to deserve this.
To add to Napoleon's woes, for the first time in his life he was having trouble fitting in. The kids were friendly, but he had no real friends. Strangely enough, Augie, who had always been somewhat socially shy, was immediately accepted.
Without realizing it, for all his life Napoleon had been spoiled. He was use to the spotlight, and automatically assumed he would be the star of any gathering. But now, he found himself shoved to the sidelines while Augie took center stage.
Mom and Grandma Coffey fussed over Augie twice as much as they did Napoleon. Augie was given few chores, and urged to go have fun. Instead, the chores the brothers would have shared were dumped on Napoleon.
Napoleon tried to take this in stride, but he couldn't help feeling resentful and put upon.
To add to the misery, he was having constant nightmares. He knew what fueled the nightmares, but that didn't help. The newspapers and magazines were now filled with accounts of sailors who had survived Pearl Harbor.
Mom, Augie, and Grandma Coffey avoided those stories at all costs, but Napoleon couldn't stop himself from reading them. Especially the ones about the 'Oklahoma'. It had taken less than twelve minutes for the ship to flip over after she was first hit by a torpedo.
The sailors above deck had simply walked with the ship when she rolled, but sadly, a lot of the sailors had believed they were being bombed, and so had headed below deck thinking that would be safer.
The torpedoes had opened huge gashes in the 'Oklahoma', and since the ship was due for an inspection, all the airlocks were open, allowing her to flood rapidly.
Napoleon was having vivid nightmares where he was trapped on the doomed ship, waiting helplessly to drown.
There was no one he could talk to about this. He had no real friends in the town, and Mom, Augie, and Grandma Coffey were already in so much pain over losing Uncle Danny that Napoleon didn't want to add to their grief.
Napoleon desperately wished he could talk to Aunt Amy about this. If anyone could make him feel better, he was sure it was her. But Aunt Amy was in New York, and he was stuck in this pokey little town.
However, he and Augie were allowed to escape, at least for a few hours, the pokey little town. There was one thing that was hard to make do or do without, and that was shoes.
Napoleon's feet had grown too big for his own shoes, but not nearly big enough for Augie's shoes. So Mom had decided that her sons should have an outing to a nearby bigger town that had a shoe store.
The brothers were given some money, with strict instructions to buy sturdy shoes with plently of room for Napoleon to grow into. They were also given some money to have lunch at a cafe.
As simple as this treat was, both brothers had looked forward to it, and enjoyed it immensely. Augie felt grown-up to finally be driving, and Napoleon, riding shotgun, felt a bit of peace as well.
On their way back home, they saw a couple of sailors thumbing it, and of course, immediately pulled over to give them a ride.
"What time do you have to check in?" asked Augie, happily. "We can take you to the base if you want."
When it turned out the sailors were on leave until the next morning, the brothers insisted they had to come home with them for a home-cooked meal.
"How old are you?" one of the sailors asked, and Napoleon automatically opened his mouth to reply, when he realized the question was meant for Augie.
"Seventeen," came the reply. "I'll turn eighteen about the same time I graduate, then I'll enlist."
"The Navy, of course," laughed Augie.
The sailors cheered and clapped him on the back. And Napoleon felt like there was ice water running through his veins.
He had known, of course. He had always known, deep down. He just didn't want to face it.
Everyone had known. This was why Augie was immediately accepted into the pack of boys at school. They had all recognized they were part of an elite group; not yet old enough to go off to war, but right on the verge.
All of them were expected to enlist, and they were all determined to do their duty. In the mean time, they were enjoying their last few months of freedom, and perhaps their lives.
The adults had known it too, which is why everyone was so lenient with this group. Teachers, parents, everyone, looked the other way at any high-jinks these young men got into.
Napoleon felt overwhelmed with all the emotions that were slamming into him at once. He felt ashamed for being so oblivious, and so petty about being stuck with all the chores.
He felt a bizarre mixture of relief and envy that Augie was part of this special group that excluded him, and most of all, Napoleon was filled with terror at the idea of Augie following Uncle Danny into a watery grave.
After supper that night, Napoleon barricaded himself in his room, and tried to lose himself in a huge homework project. On his first day in his new school, he had been informed that everyone in the class had to research another country, and do an oral report to the class.
Since the school year was half over, he was given a list of the available countries left. Sadly, Canada, where Napoleon was born, was not on the list.
However, the USSR was, and, thinking of his sister, Napoleon choose it. He decided it was a pretty good choice, as Russia was nothing if not colorful.
He had been reading up on some of the more notorious Russians, starting with the founders of ancient Rus; Prince Svyatoslav, Princess Olga and Vladamir the Baptist.
Then he had read about Ivan the Terrible, the start of the Time of Troubles, the end of the Rurikid dynasty, and the start of the Romanov dynasty.
They were interesting lot. The Romanov's plotted and killed each other with savage glee. Peter the Great had his wife's lover beheaded, then put the head in a jar and gave it to his wife.
Peter the Great's niece, Anna, would make the ladies of the court fight until blood had been drawn, and she would have wild animals let loose in the palace so she could hunt them.
Of course, Peter the Third, husband of Catherine the Great, was of particular interest to Napoleon. He decided she probably did have her husband murdered after deposing him.
Napoleon was also rapidly coming to the conclusion that the whole country must be full of ruthless lunatics. Still, as unlikely as it would have seemed even a few months ago, these lunatics were now allies of the United States. War was strange indeed.
Napoleon just wished the Soviets were doing a better job at fighting the Germans. They had managed to stop Moscow from falling, but otherwise most of the news from the European front was just as dismal as the news from the Pacific front.
But about a week later, there was unexpected good news that had all Americans cheering. The story of Doolittle's raid on Tokyo lifted the country's spirits.
True, Doolittle's raid hadn't actually hurt Japan all that much, but it proved Japan wasn't, in fact, invincible. That fact was reiterated a few weeks later with the Battle of Coral Sea.
The Battle of Coral Sea was not exactly a victory for the United States, but it wasn't a defeat either. About six months after the devastation of Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Fleet had gone toe-to-toe with the Japanese Fleet, and held it's own.
And in early June, there was more good news that Americans celebrated. The Pacific Fleet kicked Japan's butt at Midway! When Napoleon watched newsreels about Midway at the town cinema, he, along with everyone else, stood up and clapped.
Now Napoleon was working almost every day on the family victory garden. All over the country people were planting gardens to help the war effort. Napoleon didn't really enjoy weeding and watering the garden, but he could see the point in it.
So, Napoleon made a point of rising early each morning to work on the garden. This would be Augie's last summer to sleep in before his senior year at school, then boot camp.
It wasn't just Augie, Mom and Grandma Coffey were also busy for the war effort. Grandma Coffey was in charge of a group of women who were volunteering their services for the war effort.
They got together and rolled bandages, knitted socks, and had fund-raisers to support the troops.
Mom had actually got a job. She caught a bus a few days a week, and went to a factory. Seeing his mother in slacks had been a shock for Napoleon. He wondered what Dad would say.
Since the women were busy doing important things for the war effort, Napoleon was trying hard to accept that left him doing most of the household chores. He told himself sternly it was his small part in helping the war effort, no matter how menial.
He thought no one noticed until one morning when he was going back to the outside spigot to fill up his watering can again, and found Mom waiting for him.
"Napoleon, I want to thank you," began Mom. "Your grandmother and I have both been aware how much you're helping. We're grateful. You should know that.
"I know things have not been fun for you, and I'm sorry."
Napoleon flushed, "Well, it's war, isn't it? It's not suppose to be fun."
Mom sighed, "No, war isn't fun. But it shouldn't affect children so much. I do want you to try to have some fun this summer. Go swimming or something, okay?"
Napoleon had no desire to swim, but he didn't want to tell Mom that, "Okay, I'll try to have fun today."
What he ended up doing was working a big project he had recently started. It wasn't for school, which was out for the summer anyway, but for himself.
Napoleon had bought a world map, and was patiently and painstakingly putting colored pushpins on it to mark the different territories controlled by the Allies and the Axis. It was depressing how much of the world was under Axis control.
Germany had so much control over Europe that it was now called 'Fortress Europe'. And they kept pushing east in the Soviet Union. It was clear that the oil fields of the Caucasus were in danger.
It wasn't any better in the Pacific. The battles of Coral Sea and Midway may have checked Japan, but neither had taken back any territory. Japan now occupied both Burma and the Philippines.
Nothing got better as the long summer dragged on. Germany racked up victory after victory in the Soviet Union, and were closing in on the Caucasus.
The U.S. Marines had landed at Soloman Islands, and were engaged in a fierce battle at Guadalcanal. The Soviets were also slugging it out at Stalingrad.
Grandpa Coffey and Cousin William wrote letters that were passed around the family, but neither man was allowed to give any specifics on where they were or what they were doing.
Once a week, Napoleon dutifully wrote letters back to his father, grandfather and cousin, but it was difficult to find things to say. What could he tell them? The tomato plants were doing great?
But the victory garden produced lots of fresh vegetables. Napoleon found satisfaction in the family meals coming from the garden he had toiled over. Since they were observing both wheatless Monday and meatless Tuesday, the fresh vetetables were especially welcome.
It was almost a relief to have the summer vacation over, and school to be back in session. Except, of course, at the end of the school year Augie would be going off to war.
There was some good news for the Allies that fall, as the Australians managed to beat back the Japanese in New Guinea, and Montgomery and Rommel were duking it out in Egypt. And the Marines were hanging tough in Guadalcanal, while the Soviets were still fighting desperately in Stalingrad.
Augie started going 'steady' with a local girl named Judy just before Thanksgiving, and Grandma and Mom invited some of the sailors from the base to join them for Thanksgiving dinner.
The sailors were a little overwhelmed to be entertained in a Rear Admiral's home, but wives of both military brass and diplomats were expected to be skilled in being gracious hostesses, and both Cora Coffey and Bridget Solo knew how to put people at ease.
Napoleon acknowledged that having the sailors as guests helped the family as well. It would have been a bleak holiday with just the four of them.
Christmas was only marginally better than last year's had been. Everyone tried to act joyous, but no one felt it.
For the rest of his life Napoleon would remember that year as painful and dull. There was a feeling of expectation and waiting for something to happen. Time moved both very slow, and much too fast. It seemed like there was a giant clock, slowly ticking down the days until Augie would enlist, and go off to boot camp.
Childishly, Napoleon kept hoping a miracle would occur and the war would be over before that could happen. But he knew all along that wasn't realistic.
However, there was some good news at the first of the new year; Paulus surrendered to the Red Army at Stalingard. Napoleon sat through a movie twice just to watch with smug satisfaction the news reels of the Sixth Army being humbled.
About a week later came even more welcome news; Guadalcanal had been secured. However, the victory came at a high cost in lives.
Time ticked on, and spring came, along with Augie's eigthteen's birthday.
America celebrated when it was announced that Admiral Yamamoto had been killed.
Augie graduated, and along with the rest of the boys in his class, immediately enlisted. He passed his physical with flying colors, and was sent off to boot camp.
Now Napoleon was facing a long lonely summer with just Mom and Grandma. Swearing after the war, he would never garden again, Napoleon planted another victory garden, hoping it would be the last.
There was more good news on the war front; the Allies now had control of both northern Africa and the Alantic. In early July it was reported that the Red Army was fiercely fighting the Germans at Kursk, and the Allies had invaded Sicily.
Toward the end of July, Mussolini was overthrown, and Augie was coming home for a lightening quick visit before heading west to the Pacific.
Mom and Grandma had asked him what special meal he would like, and Augie surprised everyone by saying a Thanksgiving feast sounded good.
So in the middle of summer, in scorching heat, the women planned a Thanksgiving meal. The whole town ended up getting in on it.
Mom and Grandma had to appeal to anyone who had any supplies for the feast, and the townsfolk found the whole idea both amusing and charming.
It was finally decided all the women in the town would chip in for a big meal served in the park for everyone, but especially for 'the boys' who were shipping out. This included sailors from the nearby base.
It was a lot of fun, but the next day the Napoleon, Mom, and Grandma gathered to see Augie off to the war. And they put a second blue star up in the window.
As summer wound down, things finally seemed to be happening. The Soviets had won at Kurst, and were slowly pushing west. Sicily had been secured, and the Allies had landed in Italy.
School started again, and Napoleon realized with a start, that he had been in this school longer than any other school he had attended. He still felt like a bit of an outsider, but he had created a bit of a niche for himself.
Sadly, he still had no close friends. The kids in his class seemed so immature. They were still concerned with childhood pleasures. Napoleon had left his childhood behind, and was preoccupied with the war.
He now read the news section of the paper first, and listened to the news on the radio intently.
Italy made peace with the Allies, but since most of the country, including Rome, was under German control, Napoleon wasn't sure how much that helped.
As fall wore on, the Allies slowly gained ground in Italy, and the Red Army had reached the Dnieper and liberated Kiev.
As gratifying as it was to finally move the markers on his map in the Allies favor, Napoleon never-the-less felt unbalanced.
He had to constantly remind himself of what life was before the war, and reassure himself it would be that way again.
Some day, there would be no more rations. Some day he would have real butter, and clothes that fit right, and chocolate. Napoleon had never had much of a sweet tooth, but he hadn't had any chocolate since the start of the war.
When the war was over, he was going to buy himself a candy bar. When the war was over.
But the war seemed to just drag on and on and on.
Napoleon knew, everyone knew, they were waiting for the invasion. There had to be an invasion. Where?
Like a lot of people, Napoleon studied the map of France, trying to figure out the most likely spot. Calais seemed to be the most likely spot, but perhaps it was too obvious? So maybe Normandy.
Napoleon knew the Germans had to be doing the same, and making preparations. He reassured himself that Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin knew this too, and had made their own plans.
He wished he knew what Grandpa Coffey and Cousin Bill (now a major) were doing. For that matter, he wished he knew what Grandpa Solo was doing. Not to mention Dad and Augie. But everything was clouded in secrecy.
It was a 'need to know' only, and however much Napoleon wanted to know, he didn't need to know.
Once again they had some of sailors as guests for the Thanksgiving day feast, and once again they endured another deary Christmas.
Napoleon remembered a time when he actually looked forward to and enjoyed Christmas. Yes, the gifts were nice, but what he had truly loved was the family togetherness.
Napoleon made another vow to himself; when this war was over, he was going to throw himself into the spirit of Christmas, and celebrate it properly again. When this war was over.
The Red Army kept moving west, and toward the end of January liberated Leningrad. However, the Allied forces were struggling in Italy. They had established a beachhead at Anzio in January, but it wasn't until May until they finally managed to break out of it.
In the meantime, the Soviets had gained a whole lot of ground, including liberating Odessa.
School was out for the summer again, Napoleon had planted another victory garden again, and everyone was pleased that the Allies had captured Rome.
Napoleon was dutifully watering his garden when Mom came racing outside, her face flushed and excited.
"Napoleon! It's happening! It's happening! It's on the radio! Come quick!"
Napoleon stared at his mother in confusion. "What's happening? Can't it wait until I've finished the watering?"
"The invasion!" gasped Mom. "It's happening now!"
Napoleon dropped the watering can, garden forgotten as mother and son raced back to the house.
"Where? Do we know? Is it Calais?" demanded Napoleon.
"Normandy," answered Grandma happily. The radio was kept in the living room, but it had been moved to the kitchen so they could listen while eating breakfast.
They listened to the description of the armada in awe, as perhaps only a naval family could. Napoleon couldn't help wondering what the Germans looking out on that massive armada thought.
They all knew Patrick Coffey was there. Bill Solo was probably there as well. What either man was doing was what they didn't know.
That night Napoleon put his pushpins in his world map, hoping the Allies could expand their toehold in Europe. The idea of a second Dunkirk, with Germany shoving the allied troops back into the sea haunted him.
But the troops hung on, and steadily advanced. The Soviets were marching west as well. People were optimistically talking about the war being over soon.
Napoleon thought they were fooling themselves; Germany wasn't defeated yet, and there was still Japan. Although matters in the Pacific were swinging in the Allies favor as well.
The United States had bombed Tokyo, and the Japanese were losing ground in India.
The Allied troops were scoring victory after victory in France, until Paris was finally liberated in late August.
School started again, and Napoleon wondered if he would manage to escape this boring little town with its boring little school before he graduated. Okay, that was a little over dramatic, as he still had years of school ahead of him, but it felt like this war would never end.
In the mean time he still kept up with the war, and his map,and his weekly letters, and his never-ending chores, and going to watch movies.
Napoleon went to the cinema to see the newsreels more than the movie. However, one movie he saw in late fall was 'Henry the V', with Laurence Olivier.
Napoleon was so transfixed by the movie, he sat through it twice. Afterwards, he went to the library and got a copy of Shakespeare's play.
He reread the stirring St. Crispin's day speech a half dozen times. Then he started reading more of Shakespeare. Without realizing it, Napoleon had found a second obsession.
The holidays, both Thanksgiving and Christmas, were a little more cheerful that year.
But over Christmas came a major Allied setback; the Battle of the Bulge. In January came the news that Major William Solo had lost his life in the Battle of the Bulge.
He left behind a wife and three sons, Scott, Tommy and Jack, all younger than Napoleon. It occurred to Napoleon that at least he needn't worry about Dad. Still, that left Grandpa Coffey and Augie in danger.
Early in 1945 the United States had invaded the Philippines and Iwo Jima. The Red Army pushed into Poland, and the Allied troops had reached the Rhine.
In Febuary, the Allies bombed Dresden to rubble, and in March, the United States fire bombed Toyko. A lot of people criticised these decisions, but Napoleon didn't.
Germany and Japan had choosen to go to war with world, and if they didn't like the results, too bad. Both countries had to know by now they had no hope of victory, so they could always surrender. But they didn't surrender. So they could just take whatever punishment the Allies choose.
Because the war was so obviously winding down, the long-feared blow was all the more bitter. It came on a Saturday morning in late March.
Napoleon, Mom and Grandma had developed a routine of cleaning the house on Saturday mornings, and were close to finishing up when the doorbell rang.
Napoleon, being the nearest, answered it. Two naval officers were standing on the porch. Automatically, Napoleon stepped back, allowing them to enter while calling in a thin voice, 'Mom? Grandma?"
Napoleon sensed, more than saw, Mom coming to stand beside him, and Grandma on the other side of Mom.
There was a second's silence, when everyone just simply stared at each other, then Grandma faltered, "My husband?"
"Oh, no," one of the officers reassured her, "Rear Admiral Coffey's fine."
Napoleon barely had time to grab his mother as she went into a dead faint. His own knees were buckling, under both the weight of his mother, and the dread of what the men would tell them.
Grandma Coffey sank to her knees, whispering, "Oh, my grandson."
The officers had sprung into action, helping the women to recover, and guiding them to chairs. And then the formal announcement, "We regret to tell you..."
Napoleon stopped listening, staring blindly out the window. Augie was dead. His irritating, cranky big brother had died in the waning days of the war that had claimed Uncle Danny's life on the first day of the war for the United States.
Napoleon found himself wondering why they warrented an official visit, rather than the standard telegram, but he knew, of course. Rank has it's priviledges, and Grandpa Coffey had a pretty high rank.
Napoleon felt strange and disconnected. He recognized he was in a state of shock. They all were. They wandered blindly around the house, not knowing what to do.
When he went to bed that night, Napoleon was convinced he would never sleep, but to his amazement, he fell into a deep, long sleep. For the first time in years, Napoleon didn't have a nightmare about being trapped on the 'Oklahoma'.
When he woke the next morning, Napoleon knew it was late. The black out curtains blocked out the sun, but he could sense it. When Napoleon pushed the curtains back, bright sunshine filled the room.
Napoleon was amazed to see it was after 10:00. He never slept in late. He always got a jump on the day, diligently doing chores and checking up on news from the war.
Right now, chores seemed pointless, and Napoleon found he didn't truly care what new action had happened in the war.
He stared at the map on his wall, wondering why it had been so all-important. It wasn't like that map changed anything.
That thought gave Napoleon pause, and he pursued it. With sudden insight, he realized that his obsession about doing chores and constantly checking for updates on the war was a version of whistling in the dark, or perhaps knocking on wood.
It served to both keep fears at bay, and to give the illusion he had some control over what happened.
But now what he had feared had come anyway, and Napoleon recognized that along with the overwhelming pain, there was a release of tension. He felt strangely relaxed. Not happy, but relaxed.
Napoleon knew with Augie's death he had come through some kind of crucible. He had days of mourning and pain ahead of him, but he would survive.
Just as with Uncle Danny, the family couldn't have a proper funeral since Augie's body had gone down with his ship. Grandpa Coffey couldn't come, but Grandpa and Grandma Solo, Dad, and Aunt Amy came.
Until he saw them again, Napoleon hadn't realized how much he missed the Solo side of the family. Great Aunt Ruth, Grandma Coffey's sister also came, but Napoleon didn't know her very well. Still, he ended up being very grateful to her.
Once again Napoleon listened in on a conversation between Dad and Aunt Amy, when Aunt Amy surprised him by demanding: "Give me Napoleon."
Dad looked dazed, "What?"
Aunt Amy gave a short laugh, "Oh, I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I'm not trying to take Napoleon away from you James.
"I just meant, let him come stay with me for awhile."
"Amy, you know I can't do that," protested Dad.
"Yes you can. Take Bridget back to Central America with you. It's safe enough now, and it would do the two of you good to be together again."
"Then Cora would be alone," said Dad.
"No she wouldn't. Ruth wants Cora to come stay with her, and Cora would like to, but she's worried about Bridget and Napoleon," replied Aunt Amy.
"School," said Dad, weakly.
"How much is Napoleon going to learn right now anyway? Besides, he's so smart he'll have no trouble making up whatever he misses.
"James, please. Napoleon needs to get away from all of this, and you and Bridget need time alone together to grieve without worrying about Napoleon.
"Germany is on it's last legs. The war in Europe will be over in months, if not weeks. Okay, if we have to invade Japan, that will take longer. Still, they're no longer a threat to the Americas."
Napoleon held his breath. He had no idea how much he longed to escape the life he had been living until now.
There was a pause, then Dad said cautiously, "I'll need to talk to Bridget" and Napoleon knew Aunt Amy had won the argument. He barely kept himself from cheering.
Of course, it was all easier said than done. They had to close up the house and pack their belongings. Napoleon carefully took down his map and packed it, but he knew he wouldn't put it back up.
But finally they said goodbye to Grandma Coffey and Great Aunt Ruth. Then Mom and Dad were hugging him, saying they loved him, to be good, and not cause problems. All the normal stuff parents say, and finally they were off.
It was late when Napoleon and Aunt Amy caught the train to New York, and they didn't talk much, but dozed on and off. They took a cab to Aunt Amy's penthouse suite, and Napoleon tumbled into bed in the spare bedroom.
He slept in late the next morning, then explored Aunt Amy's suite while she drank coffee, and watched him with amusement.
"Pretty swanky. Aunt Amy," said Napoleon, impressed.
"Thank you. I like it."
"And there's no room for a victory garden," continued Napoleon, thankfully.
Aunt Amy burst out laughing, "I've done my best to support the war effort, but I draw the line at gardening. Was it so bad?"
Napoleon suddenly felt ashamed, "Not really. Just monotonous."
"Well, I think the war effort with have to forego your garden this summer. I also think the war effort will survive you having some decent clothes," observed Aunt Amy.
Napoleon tugged at his ill fitting, hand-me-downs self-consciously, "We're suppose to make do."
"And we've all been making do," agreed Aunt Amy. "But Napoleon, those clothes are in bad shape. They're threadbare.
"I'm not suggesting going crazy. Just buying you a couple of new outfits."
Napoleon felt like he was suddenly in the lap of luxery. No victory garden, and new clothes to wear.
"I don't suppose you have butter?" he asked wistfully.
Aunt Amy grimaced, "I wish. Isn't that OLEO awful? And what, exactly, is the butter used for? Do they butter bombs with it?"
"I've wondered the same thing!" Napoleon laughed. Then he realized he had, in fact, actually laughed. Napoleon hadn't laughed in...forever.
"Oh, good," said Aunt Amy, "you do remember laughter. I've been worried that you had forgotten how to laugh."
"It feels wrong," protested Napoleon.
"That's where you're wrong. Napoleon, the whole point of this war, and all the sacrificies people have made for the war, is so people can live and enjoy life.
"You cheapen the sacrificies if you don't truly live.
"If you must, flip it around the other way. If you had died, and Augie was still alive, would you want him to spend the rest of his life wallowing in sorrow over your death?"
Napoleon flushed, "Of course not."
"So why do you imagine that's what Augie would want? You need to mourn him, of course you do, but you need to remember to have fun as well," replied Aunt Amy. "You honor Augie by enjoying your life."
So the next day Napoleon sallied forth to explore the neighborhood. He had no chores, no school, and brand new clothes. It felt wonderfully decadent.
For the next week Napoleon slept in late, did almost no chores other than keeping his room tidy, and tried to be kind to himself. He let himsef cry, but he also let himself laugh.
In the mean time, Napoleon was getting acquainted with the immediate area surrounding Aunt Amy's apartment building.
Napoleon deliberately paid little attention to the war. He knew the Allies had crossed the Rhine, and the United States had landed on Okinawa, but no more than that. However, obviously the war was going well for the Allies.
So late one afternoon in April, Napoleon was surprised when he saw a commotion around a news stand, with people crying. His heart dropped. Had there been a major setback?
Napoleon forced his way into the news stand to buy a paper.
screamed the headline.
Napoleon couldn't believe it. How could Roosevelt be dead? It was impossible. He had always been the President. Napoleon couldn't imagine anyone besides Roosevelt being president.
How could he die now? Just when the war was about to be won? But it was true, and now Truman was the President.
Roosevelt had barely been buried when the Red Army entered Berlin. A few days later, Mussolini was executed. Like everyone, Napoleon stared at the pictures of Mussolini hanging upside down with macabre fascination.
Just a few days later came the news that Berlin had fallen, and Hitler was dead. A week later, Germany formally surrendered. Now there was only Japan left. But the news out of Europe knocked even Japan out of Napoleon's consciousness.
Newspaper after newspaper were reporting on Nazi death camps, complete with graphic pictures. Napoleon and Aunt Amy had the papers strown all over the penthouse while they read the stories.
The numbers feared dead kept going up. It was thought millions of people had been killed at these camps.
"Oh my God. Why would they do this?" moaned Napoleon. "How could they do this?"
"This was what this war was about Napoleon. You were young when the Rape of Nanking happened, but trust me, the Japanese are just as brutal as the Germans.
"There were about two dozen Westerners in Nanking who witnessed the massacre. Their accounts of what happened are the stuff of nightmares."
"This helps," whispered Napoleon. "Augie and Uncle Danny and Cousin Bill are still dead, but stopping this is worth dying for."
Aunt Amy's reply to that was a swift hug.
"I just wish.." started Napoleon, then stopped, not sure how to voice his thoughts.
"You wish what?" urged Aunt Amy.
"I wish I could figure out a way to fight this kind of evil from happening again."
Aunt Amy was startled, "You mean, like a career?"
"Is that silly? I used to want to be the Shadow. Yeah, he has all these great powers, but more importantly, he's fighting evil.
"That's worth while, isn't it? To fight evil?"
"Of course it is!" exclaimed Aunt Amy. "But what exactly do you mean? Do you want to be a cop?"
"Sort of," answered Napoleon cautiously. "But I was thinking along the lines of Melvin Purvis or Eliot Ness."
"Oh!" Aunt Amy's face cleared. "You mean like being an agent."
"Is that unrealistic?" asked Napoleon, anxiously.
"What's unrealistic about it? The Shadow isn't real, but Eliot Ness and Melvin Purvis are."
Napoleon persisted, "Is fighting evil, kind of, well, corny?"
Aunt Amy pointed to the pictures of the Nazi death camps, "Evil obviously exists. If you ask me, fighting evil is anything but corny. In fact, I think it's noble."
"Dad won't like it," observed Napoleon, gloomily.
"It's not your father's life. It's yours. You're the one that has to live it. Yes, my brother will probably be disappointed. But he'll live. The person you don't want to disappoint is yourself."
This is why Napoleon loved his Aunt Amy. She always took him seriously, and usually made him feel better.
Shortly after this conversation, the news came that Grandpa Coffey had been promoted to an Admiral. Napoleon just hoped he stayed with the Atlantic fleet.
Things were still grim in the Pacific. Japan refused to surrender. It was looking more and more like an all out invasion was the only option.
No one wanted this. It would be a bloodbath. Japan seemed to believe the United States would settle for a peace treaty.
That wasn't going to happen. The country was absolutely determined that Japan would be forced to surrender. So if it took an invasion, an invasion there would be.
But on the 6th of August came the news that the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on Japan. Napoleon and Aunt Amy, reading about it were awed.
Truman was quoted as saying, "The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed upon those who brought war to the Far East".
Napoleon was estatic. Maybe, just maybe, this long, dreadful war might be over. As far as he was concerned, the whole of Japan could have atomic bombs dropped on them.
Three days later the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, and the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Rumors flew that Japan was going to surrender.
On the 14th of August, Napoleon and Aunt Amy were in Times Square, along with millions of others. They were all anxiously waiting, hoping against hope that it would finally be official.
Napoleon could hardly breath he was so anxious. Was this long, costly war going to finally be over? Was the country that had attacked his country and brought them into the war finally going to admit defeat and surrender?
At 7:03, the Times Tower spelled out the words, and Napoleon closed his eyes in a brief prayer that Japan had at last surrendered. It had.
'Penrod' is referenced in 'The Children's Day Affair'. Booth Tarkington wrote 'Penrod' and 'Penrod and Sam'. In their day, Penrod, Sam and Marjorie were as famous as Tom, Huck and Becky. Or in today's world, Harry, Ron and Hermione.
In one of the more famous incidents of the books, Marjorie is taunting Penrod, and he retaliates by throwing a huge rock into a barrel of tar. Both children end up coated with the stuff.
The Shadow was an immensely popular radio program. If you want, you can listen to the program on line. Everyone should at least hear the iconic opening.
It seemed to me like something Napoleon would enjoy, and I just ran with it.
The attack on Pearl Harbor began about 7:55 am (Hawaiian time), which would of course been much later in the morning for the rest of the Americas.
For whatever reason, all eight battleships were at port (this was not usual). All the battleships were damaged, but six of them were repaired and returned to the fleet. Only the Arizona and the Oklahoma were lost.
The account I gave of the Oklahoma is fairly accurate.
OLEO predates the war, but because of the heavy rationing of butter, many Americans first used it during the war.
Victory gardens were encouraged by most countries during the war.
No lights were allowed to be seen from the outside during the war. People either had to turn out the lights, or put up heavy black out curtains.
People were also encouraged to 'make do or do without'. As much as possible, you were suppose to refrain from buying new.
Winston Churchill asked Laurence Olivier to make a movie to boost people's spirits. Olivier chose to do 'Henry the V'. I know Robert Vaughn loved Shakespeare, so I decided to throw that in.
The atrocities committed by Japan are largely ignored in the West, but they were just as bad as the Nazis. If you doubt this, research the Rape of Nanking.
Thank you for reading. Any feedback is always welcome. notsing