Laura Liked To Think
by B Craig Grafton
Laura liked to think she was honest with herself; it was everyone else she lied to. So this was going to be a fun day. A newspaperman was coming to interview her. She would tell him what he wanted to hear. It would be the truth to her, but unbeknownst to him, it would be lies and it would deserve his stupid newspaper right for sticking its nose into her personal business.
Besides, after all, you can’t believe everything you read in the papers these days.
This young reporter, Mr. Goodnight, wanted to do a human interest story about her late husband who’s been dead and buried for months. Why it was that the paper now wanted a story about my beloved husband Carl, a World War II veteran, she didn’t know. Well if wanted the story about him, then by Gott she’d give them a ‘story’ alright.
The doorbell rang. She rose from her chair, straightened out her dress, adjusted her pearls, patted her head of blue-gray bouffant hair and with head held held high answered the door.
“Good morning Mrs. Smith, I’m Jonathan Goodnight from…”
But before the lad could say another word, she cut him off. “Yes, yes, I know who you are. Please come in.” Guten Morgen yourself young man, she thought as she waved for him to sit.
“I’m here to do a story about your husband, because it has come to the attention of our staff that your husband served in World War II as one of the last of the ‘Greatest Generation’. Is that alright with you?” he asked.
“That will be fine young man.”
You’ll get a story, she repeated to herself.
“He did serve in the war didn’t he, and was one of the last survivors of the ‘Greatest Generation’? Is that correct?”
She thought to herself, oh that’s correct alright, he served but you didn’t ask for whom and you didn’t ask whose greatest generation. She could answer the question truthfully as far as she was concerned while still kind of lying, so she simply said. “Yes.”
“What battles did he fight in?”
“The battle of the bulge,” she said while fighting back a chuckle. That was true too. He was always watching his weight, watching his bulging gut.
“The Battle of the Bulge! Did he ever talk about it?”
“No, it bothered him to talk about it.” It was her nagging him about it that bothered him. So he just dropped the subject. Not quite the truth, but she hadn’t really lied, she just ‘kind of’ lied again. She was having fun now.
“This is so typical of these men. They just don’t talk about the war. Do their duty as heroes, return home and then just blend in as ordinary people,” said young Mr. Goodnight hinting for a response.
“That certainly is the truth with my Carl.” Oh, if the reporter only knew that he did his duty for the Fatherland and then blended in his adopted country.
“Was he wounded?”
“Yes, shot in the buttocks just like Forrest Gump,” she joked suppressing a smile.
“Oh. How’d that happen?” he smiled.
“He was leading the men and one of his men accidentally shot him.” Might as well go whole hog here. The bigger the lie the better. Oh, one of his men did shoot him and he was leading alright, leading a retreat. Shot in the rear while retreating to the rear. “Next question please.”
“Did you have any of his medals that he won?”
Medals, he had medals all over his Nazi uniform but ditched everything and put on civilian clothes fleeing the advancing Russians. “Oh, we’ve moved around so much they got lost in the shuffle, not a one left I’m afraid.”
“Now where was he from? asked the novice reporter.
“Frankfort.” Not exactly a lie, they had moved around so much that once they did live in Frankfort. Frankfort, Illinois, or was it Iowa? She couldn’t remember.
Mrs. Laura Smith was really getting into it now. All afternoon the banter kept going and she kept artfully dodging the questions with answers that were to her technically the truth, but actually misleading little white lies fed to him.
“Your husband with a common name like Smith certainly represents every American,” he commented, waiting for a response.
“A common name for a common man,” she replied. Common German name alright and Karl Schmidt was certainly your everyday common Nazi. Danke Gott they didn’t know that.
“I believe you were married to each other for almost sixty years. You must have had a wonderful life together,” he said seeking a nice warm fuzzy reply that readers would eat up.
“Oh, yes,” she smiled. “Sixty wonderful years.” Sixty years of common law marriage. They ran into each other while escaping Germany after the war. They both agreed to pose together as husband and wife, figuring that would better their chances of escape. It did. As to a wonderful life, well it was a wonder that they got out of Germany to Brazil, and wonderful that they made it to the United States. It was even more of a wonder that they stayed together as husband and wife. Oh, the wonder of it all. Wunderbar!
“Did you have any children?”
Well…she paused and thought does he mean me or Karl and I when he says ‘you’. She took it as herself. “I had a boy but he was taken from me,” she replied while looking at the floor.
“Oh I’m so sorry.”
“It was the war, you know.”
The damn war. It’s a blessing no one, not even Karl, knew about her ‘Der Fuhrer’s’ baby.’ Having a baby out of wedlock at fifteen for the Fatherland so that the Fuhrer would have more cannon fodder. Taking her baby from her then telling her to do her duty again. That’s what made her flee Germany. This interview was no longer fun anymore.
“It’s getting late, Mr. Goodnight. Best you leave now,” said Laura.
“Yes, I see it’s getting dark now. I better leave,” he replied taking the hint while walking to the door and letting himself out.
Laura liked to think she was honest with herself, but only to a point, that point being when it begins to hurt and it was beginning to hurt, painfully hurt.
“Good night, Mrs. Smith,” he said. “And thank you.”
“Bitte und Guten Nacht, Herr Goodnight,” she answered.
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B Craig Grafton
Author’s latest story, “Misconceptions”, appears in The Prison Compendium a book of thirty three short stories by thirty one authors. A review of it is on Amazon where the book is available.
2 thoughts on “Laura Liked To Think”
An interesting idea about misconception, but the misunderstanding becomes clear pretty early, and becomes less interesting with repetition. Using italics for Laura’s thoughts makes identifying them as thoughts unnecessary. AGB
This is a good idea for a story, but Carl Smith’s secret is revealed too soon. I’d like to have seen it develop gradually. Laura comes across as too unlikable. She didn’t have to accept the reporter’s request for an interview, so what was her motivation, other than an opportunity to tell half-truths? It would be better if she were more sympathetic and felt conflicted about talking about her husband’s war record; on one hand being proud of him for having served his country but on the other ashamed of what the Nazis did.