Briefly In The Presence of the Queen

Author’s note:

In honor of tomorrow’s royal wedding, here is a short story about a young Carleton College graduate in the autumn of 1962 who happens upon a royal holiday and commemoration ceremony. His name for the purpose of the story is Jack Grantham. All other names and events are authentic. A short silent video provides documentation.

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland, October 17, 1962

The second week in October Jack Grantham arrived by train in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, where Allen Shaw and his wife, Leslie, met him at the station. He could not know when he arrived in this ancient city of stone on high, treeless moors, he was about to have one of the memorable experiences of his life. He had planned to arrive on a Thursday, visit for a couple of days, and on Saturday return to Oxford. Accordingly, Allen and Leslie drove Jack by car to their townhouse and, the following morning, in an unexpectedly luxurious touch of hospitality, served him breakfast in bed. It was, they said, their way of delaying his having to arise for the day before the house had a chance to warm from the night’s chill from the glow of its freshly-lit fireplaces in each room.

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Minesweep Officer: U.S. Navy in the Vietnam Era

On Active Duty in the U.S. Navy: Toward War in Vietnam and Afterwards

March 18, 2011

It was Saturday morning, January 28, 2011. The telephone rang and as usual, Jeanne answered it. She had been piecing a quilt in the lower level of their modest, two-story home in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Jack, as he often did during these retirement years, was lingering at the breakfast table reading the morning’s New York Times. Suddenly, Jeanne appeared at his side—an unusual response to a telephone call, which most often was for her. If not, normally she would simply call upstairs to say: “the call is for you.” This time she handed him the remote handset, whispering excitedly: “It’s Paul Jacobs.”A slight chill went down his spine as he collected his thoughts, grasped the handset, and glanced in the small window at the large digital words: “Paul Jacobs.”

A series of sensations came over him. Recently, he had begun wondering if his memory had started playing tricks, as though the accretion of experiences that made him who he was, events documented in the filing cabinet beside his desk (and on his computer’s hard drive), were a dream. Jack had heard nothing from Paul Jacobs, his former commanding officer on the USS Meadowlark (MSC 196), since he, Jack, had departed that vessel, a coastal minesweeper in Cuba on August 2, 1965—forty-six years earlier.

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