Chase Roesel, guest writer

Artillery shells exploded.  Detonations sent mind-numbing vibrations through Lawrence’s brain. His vision blurred, and all he could see was the scarlet sea of blood pooling around his ankles in the shell hole. The bodies of his friends were piled in heaps around him as his sanity slipped. He lets out a fear-induced, blood curdling scream. Suddenly he sits up. He’s  not in the Argonne  He is, in actuality, in bed with his wife in North Virginia.

            “Is it the dreams again?” asks Mary. The year 1937 was a time before the diagnosis of  mental wartime trauma and PTSD. Mary helped her husband how she knew she could. She dabbed the beads of sweat from Lawrence’s forehead and held him. He sat up and breathed deep, letting the panic drain from him. The thought of his brother laying dead next to him in the Argonne reminded him of childhood and the pain of his loss was refreshed every time his eyes closed. It had been 18 years since the war, but it’s far-reaching arms always seemed to rope him back into the pit of despair that engulfs those who have been afflicted. 

            Former Private Lawrence Thickems arose from his bed and walked to the kitchen, passing his two children asleep on the floor next to their bed. Mary watched as he pours himself a glass of whiskey. Downed it. Poured another and downed it. The Great Depression struck every American household and raised the prices of every commodity. Whiskey wasn’t cheap. But Mary didn’t know another way to keep Lawrence’s mind off of the past. Jobs were hard to get, and Lawrence had taken the first job the had been accepted to. It was a new food company called

Kraft. They packaged dry macaroni and cheese dust. The Kraft factory was a single floor warehouse with four windows in total that only let in light during the morning hours. The production floor was dusty, and cheese seemed to cake every spec of air. It was suffocating.  The work wasn’t hard, but sitting on an assembly line packing envelopes into cardboard boxes drove Lawrence mad because it supplied him with a bountiful time to think.

            “Money is money”,he thought.  Lawrence thought often of his family and of his childhood. He loved his children more than life itself and his wife was his reason to wake up in the morning. He thought of his brother and how they were inseparable. When he enlisted in the war, his little brother was right behind him.    If only I knew better he would still be alive.

            Pack. Set. Pack. Set. Pack. Set. For fourteen long hours a day. Lawrence despised the dark dusty warehouse and Kraft but they sold him boxes of macaroni for four cents cheaper than the retailer. So the job was somewhat worthwhile as long as he could feed his family.  He got home and drank. He woke up and drank. The drink was all that could keep him from losing it and the only medicine that put him to sleep. The same every day. Lawrence was in mental comatose.

            “Are you okay love?” Mary asked.

            All the dialogue he could muster was an exhausted and distracted,

             “Of course love.” This seemed to be a shallow relationship. Built from the fear of losing the routine that perpetually pushed their family through the times. But Lawrence and Mary understood each other more than could ever be seen. She had saved him after the war. She worried though, and he was a quiet man. He could never be home with them. Never see them grow and laugh. They were asleep when he left and asleep when he arrived. And life just seemed to rattle on, stopping only briefly for anniversaries and birthdays. One day he arose, had his drink, and started the walk to work. He journeyed past a certain Bob’s Diner and Cafe every morning and there was a radio sitting on the sill of the window. The usual jabber never seemed to catch Lawrence’s attention, but today there was a gathering of people congregated around the broadcast.

            “The Hindenburg , Germany’s pride and greatest flying mammoth. The largest dirigible flying ship in the history of man coming to New Jersey USA this weekend!”

            The worlds largest eh? The kids would love that. All of a small seen life seemed to catch up to him as he heard the great feats the world had accomplished. The dusty scowl that seemed to be permanently imprinted on his face lifted and he drew the breathe of adventure once again as he did when he was a boy. He had let the world pass him by. All he had know for the longest time was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese but no longer.

             He turned and ran home, tripping and stumbling and falling repeatedly as he had recently finished the bottle of whiskey to get him through the day. But the face-plants and blurred vision didn’t stop him. He hoped with all his heart that being drunk was not the driving force behind this sudden yearning for exploration. He sprinted home, Lawrence wondered what his brother would think of his actions. A grown man running away from his responsibilities. Doubt creeped into his mind, but the thought of his children’s faces crying into his shoulder saying, “When will you be home daddy?” and how those words broke his heart and his pace only hastened. He hustled up the apartment stairs to their tiny one bedroom apartment and burst through the door to find his wife sitting with the kids on the bed.


            “We’re going to see the Hindenburg!” Lawrence exclaimed like a giddy child.

            “You’re drunk! And what about your job?”

            “We have just enough saved to go see the largest flyin’ machine ever made, Mary! Imagine how the kids will love it.”

            The children were practically bursting with anticipation mixed with excitement at the side of their mother

            “Do you really think we could afford it?”

            “We can. Get the kids packed, We have to travel to Jersey.”

            Lawrence scrambled around the apartment searching for anything of his he could trade in for a quick buck. He found a pair of old work boots, a can of beans, and six bottles of Virginia Highland Liquor. He hustled out the door and down to the road. Lawrence thought just how excited his kids were at the news. He thought of how his brother would approve of his actions. He was always the rambunctious one. His mind was racing thinking of the infinite scenarios that could play out when he heard a shocking statement.

            “Oh the humanity!” The radio host hollered over the microphone.

Lawrence turned and listened. His heart and spirits plummeted. The Hindenburg had crashed. His kids would never get to see the grandure. He had left his job. The news was almost too much to comprehend at the moment. He returned and told his family expecting to be the shame of their life time. But all was not lost for him. His son looked at his father and said,

            “It’s okay dad, we’re just glad you’re home.”

This trip had meant so much to Lawrence. He thought this was the only way to keep his children’s love. He saw it as a way to win his children’s love. Little did he know it was there and stronger than he thought the whole time.

            Lawrence went back to Kraft and continued his work, but it was not so bad anymore. Lawrence had learned something. He learned that he couldn’t escape the past, and dwelling in it would kill him because the world will continue to spin around you. Love and joy are not found in great feats of mechanical engineering or a far away experience. The greatest love and joy are around you at all times.


Works Cited

What Happened in 1937. Web. January, 2017. http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1937.html


Rhodes, Jesse. Marvelous Mac’n Cheese. March 22, 2011. Web. Smithsonian. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/marvelous-macaroni-and-cheese-30954740/


The Hindenburg Disaster. Peter Benoit. 2011. Text. Scholastic Publishers.

The Recession of 1937. François R. Velde. 2009. Article. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.