*****MANUSCRIPT FORMAT************

By Jorja DuPont Oliva

“Who is Uncle Leroy?” The question floated around the room as Elizabeth sat at her desk. She felt she knew him well, from the stories her Nana would tell. Until today, she felt paralyzed by insecurities. A sense of dread.

Maybe the Uncle Leroy that lived in her head wasn’t the true Uncle Leroy. Could she actually tell his story from her perspective? She glance out the window of her office watching the tall pine trees waving in the breeze. Signaling to her that her Uncle Leroy’s story lie out there somewhere, and she need to find it. She had made a promise to her Momma that she would write his story. Three weeks before her Momma passed, she handed Elizabeth a manila envelope, with letters her Uncle Leroy had written. Elizabeth’s Momma wanted to make sure she got this packet of information. Little did she know, her Momma would no longer be there to help her tell his story, nor help her write his story. You see, Elizabeth’s Momma was a writer, like herself. Now Elizabeth believe writing was a gift handed down to her from her momma, know her story telling came from her Momma’s mom, Nana.

All Elizabeth held in her mind of her Uncle Leroy stood this fictitious character she dreamed up as a child, from the stories her Nana and Momma told over the years. So in her own strange way of thinking, maybe she was not so all alone. She wipe the single tear that rolled down her cheek. She missed them both dearly. Especially today… Her mind drifted off.

     “Thank you Lord for bringing Uncle Leroy home.” A tear rolled down Daddy’s face that Thanksgiving Day. Momma had tears too but a smile grew. I didn’t remember much of the prayer after that, I’m sure it was Daddy’s usual thankfulness for all of our blessings our family had been given. We all stood stunned.

     All I remember was “Amen” in unison. The questions began to come from every corner of the room. Momma just smile and said, “Nana always believed he would make it home.”
Uncle Leroy was my Nana’s younger brother. He was sent off to the Korean War and never returned, until now. He was what they called MIA “Missing in action”.

     Nana’s stories of Uncle Leroy were so alive and vivid, that he lived on for three generation. And Daddy, well Daddy the tear was proof my Nana’s stories taught all of us how to love someone we had never meet, our dearest Uncle Leroy.

     My Nana, by the way I was named after her, always believe he would make it home. That thanksgiving day it became a reality. We all had questions, each of my siblings were intrigued to know the how’s, the why’s, and the when’s. In the room full of chatter I stood admiring how Nana kept him alive through her stories of him, throughout all of our lives and when she passed, my momma carried them on.
Today Elizabeth opened the manila envelope her Momma had given to her, so she can begin her part in carrying on the life of her Uncle Leroy.

Dear Mama,                                                                                                      Aug.31, 1950 noon
I arrived here in Seattle 7:30 this morning. I am sending some more cloths home, the two dollar bill sent was to take them out with. The army takes the clothes and sends them C.O.D and we can’t pay it here. I will only be here 3 or 4 days. We will fly to Japan about the 4th or 5th of September. This may be the last letter you will get for a while, maybe I can write again before I leave. We will be flying so we could not carry all the clothes with us. If it would not have been for the Sutton pants and shirt, I would have thrown them away. I am glad Bill wrote and told me to leave what I did. I had a nice time up here. I met a girl from Portland and we had a nice trip together from Chicago. I had to lay over in Chicago from 5am Monday to 11pm that night. It all worked out. After all, if I had left Sunday I would have been late. Bill and I are still together, it is a fact now that we are going to Korean War. We will fly to Japan then go by boat.
P.S. Tell Vivian and Jeanette Hello.

She stared at the first letter she read. This was her Great-Uncle Leroy. For the life of her, she felt in her heart that she knew this man. On some level she always believed a person’s written word stood the truest form of their essence, or spirit.
The Korean War began June 25, 1950. North Korea invaded South Korea after some rumbles along the border. That was when the United States became involved, and the United Nations, to help the South Koreans. China and the Soviet Union were assisting North Korea. Another war had started just after WWII had ended. The Korean War went on From June 25, 1950-July of 1953. The United States provided approximately 90% of the military force two months after the war began. Elizabeth’s dearest Uncle LeRoy became one of these men.
Elizabeth’s urgency to write this story grew, as well as the love of a man she had never met.

“Roy” Was what first Lieutenant called me.” A male voice circled the room.

Had she imagined this? She had been consumed for hours with Uncle Leroy’s story, even as a child. She would day-dream of him coming home. Her Momma would say he would bring all the nieces and nephews candy when he arrives home. As a child she would imagine him tall in uniform holding cherry flavored rope licorice. She swiftly look around her office, her writing room, the place she allowed no one in when she was working. Sure enough, she sat there alone.
“He would say he needed names short and simple.” Male chuckle followed.

She smelled smoke. Cigarette smoke. A soft scent of cherry followed. Still Elizabeth sat in her office alone. “I didn’t always smoke, ya know…”
In the corner of the room where her Nana’s antique chair sat, a figure of smoke began to form.
“War will do that to you I suppose.” The male voice was coming from the smoke and the more the voice spoke, the more formed the figured became.

Elizabeth suddenly realized how long she had sat reading the letters Uncle LeRoy had written, to his mother, while he was away at war. She rubbed the fog from her eyes, looked at the clock on the wall, 3:45am and glanced back at the chair, she obviously, must have been imaging all of this. Stretching as she stood, she took another quick peek at the chair. She snickered a bit, she had to make sure it was just her crazy imagination.

Her Momma always said she was her day dreamer, she laughed out loud at the thought. She suppose being a night dreamer is her calling now. Off to bed Elizabeth went…




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