This is the thirty-eighth part of a fiction serial, in 773 words.
Once the Japs bombed Pearl Harbour, I thought I should do something positive. I was thirty-three years old, single, and healthy. Or so I thought. But the medical officer at the recruiting office decided otherwise. “Heart murmur” he said. That was news to me, as I felt fit as a fiddle. But it got me rejected, so I threw myself into my work at the paper, covering as much of our involvement in the war as I could find out about. Then there were the casualties of course, local men lost or maimed.
Velma also volunteered, and she was accepted. She went as a nurse of course, and came back to say her farewells to me and her family when she received orders for the Pacific. I looked in her eyes on that last date, and knew immediately we would never marry. But I still gave her a locket with a photo of me inside, if only for old time’s sake.
With so many men off to the war, everyone left behind had to pull their weight at the paper. I went back out as a photographer as well as my other jobs, and George worked round the clock to make sure we always got published on time. They were tiring times, but we knew we were lucky compared to the men fighting and dying in the Pacific, and later in North Africa and Europe.
Then there was sad news from Velma’s family. She had died of fever on some island in the Pacific that nobody had ever heard of. So as well as everything else, that war cost me the life of the only woman I ever loved.
After the A-bombs, and the final peace, we had the Nuremburg trials to cover. Then the start of The Cold War, not forgetting Korea of course. When that ended in fifty-three, I felt exhausted, even though I was only forty-five. I had to consider the fact that maybe that medical officer had been right about my heart all along. George wanted to retire, and I couldn’t very well object after he had worked so hard. But I had lost the fire inside necessary for a good newspaperman, and seriously considered an offer from one of the big groups to buy out my by now very successful local paper.
My lawyer Al Greely was dealing with the contracts surrounding the sale when he called me one day, and asked me to come and see him about something else. In his office, he held up a letter, and gave me the gist of what it said.
“This is from a respected law firm in Wichita, Kansas, Julian. They have asked me to approach you about an inheritance. I presume they didn’t have an address for you, as they sent it to me through the newspaper, as your company lawyer. They are acting on behalf of a man named Phineas Fuller, who claims to be your grandfather. He is ninety-nine years old, and has asked you to visit him in Wichita as he has property and funds to leave to you in his will. He will be one hundred in the Fall, and wants to see you before he dies”.
I have to tell you I was pretty surprised. I had always presumed my grandparents had died a long time ago, as my own father never spoke about them at all. I remembered the stories about the one-legged civil war veteran and the Indian squaw, but they were my mother’s grandparents. She never said much about her own parents, and I never knew why that was.
I took the letter from the lawyer and read through it. Phineas Fuller of Derby, Wichita. The grandfather I had never known. That sent a chill up my back. I looked over at Al. “Write back and tell them I will come. Meanwhile, see the sale through for me, Al. I know you can get a good deal. If I have to sign anything, you can mail it to me down in Kansas”. I asked for the address of Phineas and the Kansas lawyer to be written down, then handed the letter back. “I will be leaving soon, Al. That might be just the vacation I need”.
I decided to take the train as it was less stressful for me. Truth be told I had never flown in a plane, and had little inclination to do so. And driving alone for almost twenty-four hours had no appeal whatsoever.
Outside the train station, I asked the cab driver if he knew the address in Derby. “The Fuller place? Sure, I know that”.