This is the thirty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 747 words.
The following month brought some good and bad news about the war. France was back under allied control, and the fighting was moving into Belgium and Holland. However, the British lost a big battle at a place called Arnhem, where the paratroops were heavily defeated. Albert was on his soap box about that, as soon as the news came. “They should never have sent those lads in without proper support. How were they expected to fight tanks and SS with no artillery or air cover? I don’t know what they were thinking of, I really don’t”. Vera looked up the town in her world atlas. It was in Holland. All she knew about Holland was tulips, wooden clogs, and windmills. It seemed strange to think of men fighting and dying for those.
Then something terrible happened.
There was a new German rocket, much worse than the doodlebug. Albert told them it was called a V-2, and it went up into space before coming down with no warning. Vera presumed he had heard about that from being an air raid warden, as there had been nothing in the newspapers about it. “Well they don’t want to scare people, do they? So you keep this between us for now, alright?” The impact of those things was terrible, much bigger than the smaller rockets. The sudden explosion with no warning at all made people on edge, and Vera saw many locals walking around staring up at the sky. She wanted to tell them there was no point, but kept quiet.
Janet was getting bigger, and there was no chance of her returning to work, as her parents would never tolerate the gossip. She had received a letter from Louis, and it said he had an easy job as the general’s driver, so was almost always behind the lines. He had repeated that he would marry her, and told her more about Oklahoma. Janet smiled. “He says the nearest town with a shop is almost forty miles away. Imagine that, Vera”. Vera couldn’t imagine Janet living in Oklahoma at all, but didn’t tell her that.
In October, there was news on the radio that the Russians had got into Czechoslovakia. Vera was so excited, as Les was in a camp not far from there. She now had to hope that the prisoners would not be moved deeper into Germany. For a change, Albert was positive. “They will be too busy fighting those Russkies to bother about a POW camp, Vera love. I reckon that when they get close, the Jerries will just run away and leave the gates open. ” Vera knew he was just being comforting, but really hoped he was right. Later that month, she got excited when there was news that the war was now in Germany itself, and a town called Aachen had been captured by the Americans. She imagined Louis might be there, driving his general around in a jeep.
On their way to the market in East Street one Sunday morning, Elsie and Vera saw the huge crater left by one of those new rockets that had landed. Elsie pulled her old coat closer around her neck, and shuddered. “Oh, those poor people. Imagine being under that, Vera love.”
Vera didn’t want to imagine that at all. Not one bit.
Albert had a lot less to do now there was no regular bombing. He still went out most evenings after work to check on the blackout in the streets he had been assigned to, but was otherwise able to resume something like a normal life. He managed to get back into his routine at the pub, playing darts with his friends. The matches with the other pubs were put on hold though. At least three of them had been so badly damaged by the bombing, they were no longer open. On Sundays, he built more hutches, as there was unlimited wood available, easily picked up in the street from the sites where bombs had hit houses nearby. Though their street had been spared, the whole row of houses just two streets away had been completely flattened by a stick of bombs during the Blitz.
There were now so many rabbits, Elsie was doing the rounds of friends and neighbours to get peelings and scraps to feed them. Albert brought home sawdust from work for them to sit on, and Vera was actually getting fed up with eating rabbit in all its forms. She would never complain though.
Food was food.