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Thursday, March 6, 2008

In This Time

by Luree Vanderpool


Jazz was unpacking her suitcase, keeping up a running conversation with her friend Sandy about her recent business trip to Northern California, when she pulled out the wrapped treasure she’d found.

“Where did you find that picture?” Sandy asked.

“In Calistoga at an antique shop. I couldn’t leave it there.” Jazz ran her finger down the silver gilded frame looking closer at the group of men dressed in army fatigues sitting in a field during World War II. “You remember that dream I keep telling you about?”

“The one about the guy?”

“Yeah, that one. In the dream I keep seeing a man’s face. His hands are reaching for me. I feel such a sense of love coming from him. But I can’t get to him and I wake up crying. The man on the bottom right of the picture?” She pointed. “That’s him.”

“No way. Let me see.” Sandy pulled the picture closer. “He is cute, but he would have to be eight-five now.”

“I know, but that’s the face I see.”

“Too weird. Do you know who he is?”

“Not yet. I was waiting until I got home to do some research.”

“Let’s take the picture out of the frame. Maybe someone wrote on the back.”

The clasp on the back of the frame was stiff from age. Jazz worked them loose with care and pulled the cardboard away from the picture. Faded script listed the names of each solider and the date June 7, 1943.

“His name is Ryland Cooper.” Jazz couldn’t believe she had a name to go along with the face. She turned the picture over looking at the young man staring back. Her heart hurt with longing.

Abandoning her unpacking, she headed toward her kitchen and the lap top. “I’m going to get on the internet and see what I can find. Come on.”

Sandy pulled a chair next to her at the kitchen table. “Where do we start?”

“Google his name I guess. Then genealogy sites. World War II records. We’ll have to see where it leads.” Jazz started typing in the Google search box.

“Look at all those websites,” Sandy said after an hour of surfing the web. "I’m heading home. Call me later and let me know if you had any luck.”

“I know I should let it go for now but I don’t want to stop yet," Jazz acknowledged as Sandy left.

Now that she had started, Jazz felt an urgency to find out about Ryland. Why did she dream about him? What had happened? Was he still alive? She stretched her stiff shoulders and kept opening websites, not sure what she was even looking for until she found it-- an official government site that listed the names of soldiers that had died during World War II. She scrolled through the names. Ryland Cooper died June 9, 1943 in the Pacific Islands. Born 1923, Tucson, Arizona. Tears ran silently down her cheeks. He was so young.

He was born right here in her home town. Maybe he had relatives that still lived here. Her fingers flew over the keyboard searching the phone directory for Coopers. Twenty-four were listed. Her spirits sank. She ran down the names stopping at D.R. Cooper. Maybe the R stood for Ryland?

She picked up the cell phone and called Sandy.

“I found him,” she said. “He died in the Pacific Islands days after the picture was taken. But listen to this; he was born right here in Tucson.”

“You’re kidding.”

“And I found a D.R. Cooper listed in the phone book.”

“Well call the number,” Sandy insisted.

“And say what? 'Hey, I’m some crazy lady that has dreams about the man in this picture. Are you related to him?'”

“Say you are doing some research and ask if you can talk. It would be the truth.”

Jazz disconnected and summoned up her courage to call the listed number. An elderly man answered. Ryland Cooper was his older brother. He would love to see the picture and gave her the address. She grabbed the picture and got in her car before she lost her nerve.

She knocked on the door, taking a deep breath, uncertainty shaking her resolve. She was so close to finding the answer she couldn’t chicken out now. A gray haired man appeared, scooting his walker out of her way as he let her in.

“Mr. D.R. Cooper? I’m Jazz. We talked on the phone.” He showed her into the living room.

“Actually my name is Mark Cooper. My grandson is D.R., Dale Ryland. My brother’s namesake. This is his house. I’m just visiting.” At that moment a man her age dressed in faded jeans and a blue t-shirt came through the back door.

“Here he is now.” Mark introduced them.

He was the man in the picture.

Jazz couldn’t stop staring at Dale and he stared back, his eyes questioning. All her life this
man’s face had been in her dreams. Now the live version was in front of her. What was she supposed to say?

“I brought the picture.” She showed it to the men and Mark teared up. Dale put an arm around his grandfather’s shoulders.

“I’m not sure why I am here,” she confessed. “I’ve had this dream…”

“A face, a feeling?” Dale interrupted.

“Yes.”

“Me too. You are the face,” he said walking to her, taking her hand in his.

Mark looked at their joined hands with a sparkle of joy in his eyes. “Come, let me tell you a story.”

About the Author: Writing and storytelling is what I have always done, what I have dreamed and lived inside my head. For the last twenty years I have practiced the craft here and there, wrote a novel, play and many short stories, attended classes and writing groups. Now my children are grown and my long time writing partner and I decided to give ourselves the gift of just writing. For the last six months we’ve had no outside jobs and concentrated only on our writing projects and pursuing publication. It has been glorious. It is my goal to make writing my career. In the meantime I may have to go wait tables! Visit me at my website and blog.

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