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Mark M Lichterman

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Books by Mark M Lichterman
BECOMING 8:Summer 1942-Winter 1944
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Monday, October 18, 2010
Last edited: Sunday, August 26, 2012
This short story is rated "PG13" by the Author.
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“I told you before and I’m telling you again: Your son is bad!” Turning away, Pincus looked out the window. “There is no excuse for a kid not to listen to his parents!”

“I wish I knew what to do.”

His back to her, “There’s something you can do, Myra.”

She hesitated, then asked, “Yes? What’s that, Doc?”

Becoming can now also be purchased as a Kindle Ebook @ $4.95

 Chicago, Illinois

June 25, 1942

 

“Mmmfftt!”

“Hold it, Myra. Be there in a minute.”

She looked past the light, to the ceiling.

The drill bit into the cavity. “Ahh, yes.” Straightening his back, Marvin Pincus, D.D.S., hung the drill onto the dental console. Taking another instrument from the console he blew a stream of water, then air, into the cavity, probed with a pick and blew water and air again. “He’s still not listening, eh?”

“Yeggh, thghtinn.”

“Hold on, almost through.” Scraping cement out of a mortar, temporarily plugging the cavity, “There.” Pulling the tubes of saliva-drenched cotton out of her mouth, Pincus handed her a cup of water.

Taking the paper cup, Myra sloshed water around her mouth, spit it out then felt the filling with her tongue.

“Your Mitchell, he never listens to you?”

“No, it’s not that he doesn’t listen, it’s that he doesn’t seem to remember. And it’s not me so much, but he’s making Walt crazy.”

“And you and Walt fight about it?”

“Well…”

“Don’t you punish him?”

“Yes, of course we punish him, but it doesn’t do any good because the very next minute, there he is, like we never said a word, jumping off a chair and running across the floor. God! Those poor downstairs neighbors!”

“Well, punish him more!”

“We do, and it doesn’t do any good. No matter how we swat his behind, yell or send him to his room he keeps right on running and slamming doors, and it’s driving poor Walt crazy… And, yes,” she admited reluctantly, “me, too!”

“I told you before and I’m telling you again: Your son is bad!” Turning away, Pincus looked out the window. “There is no excuse for a kid not to listen to his parents!”

“I wish I knew what to do.”

His back to her, “There’s something you can do, Myra.”

She hesitated, then asked, “Yes? What’s that, Doc?”

Turning from the window, “Send him away to school.”

“What? Send Mitchell away! No, Doc, I could never do that!”

“Sure you can! Think about it. First off, a lot of the pressure’s off you and Walt and the two of you will get along better.”

“But I couldn’t, I just couldn’t send Mitchell away! And the money?”

“Myra, the boy needs discipline! In the long run you’d be doing him a favor. Wouldn’t you?”

“I suppose,” she conceded. “But…”

“You go to work, too! They need people at the plants and they’re hiring women, and you’ll make three times what it’ll cost to send him to school. You’ve always said you wish there was some way you and Walt could save some money, so you could start a business. This is the way to do it, and make your son a mensh [a decent person] too.”

“I don’t know, Doc. I couldn’t just send…”

“Look, I’ve a patient that’s got a son in a military school in Wisconsin.”

“A military school? In Wisconsin?”

“Yes. She told me it’s only three hours from Chicago by train, and it’s not all that expensive. Hold on.” Pincus went into his office, made a phone call, came out a minute later and handed Myra a slip of paper. “Here’s the name of the school.”

Taking the paper, Myra looked at it: Baylor Military School, Evansville, Wisconsin.

Baylor Military School,

 Evansville, Wisconsin

January 14, 1944

 

Shaking the towering pines, the cold wind howled across the campus causing cones to rain down and skittle over the frozen ground. Leaves of brown and orange blew across the circular track and parade ground that encompassed the three-building complex.

Mitchell sat absently staring out the window, looking at everything yet seeing nothing. He felt a soft, kind of glowing pain in the pit of his stomach; actually not so much a pain as a lonely longing. He missed his family and wondered what they are doing then, right then, at that exact minute on that Sunday morning. He looked at the clock on the wall. Eleven twenty-seven. Probably at Pa and Bubbies eating lox’n’ bagels, he thought as, reaching into his shirt pocket, he took a lemon drop out of the box and put it in his mouth. As he daydreamed his fingers tapped on the desk top.

Mitchell’s seemingly unlimited energy was the only reason, at age nine and a half, that he was not noticeably overweight and, of course, the reason he was there, banished to Baylor Military School.

Located two hundred miles from Chicago, Baylor was a bit less than three hours away by train and about four by automobile, if one had ration stamps for gasoline. The school was small, usually accommodating about two‑hundred‑fifty boys. Boys ages eight, nine and ten, the Juniors, lived in one dormitory, and boys ages eleven, twelve and thirteen, the Seniors, in another. The two‑story dormitories were separated by a larger, two‑story building commonly referred to as “The Whyet House” because it housed the living quarters of the school’s owners, Captain and Mrs. Whyet. In addition to the Whyet’s three-room living quarters, the Whyet House contained two classrooms, the gymnasium, kitchen, mess hall, and Captain Whyet’s oak‑paneled office.

Captain Whyet taught military etiquette, drill and the eighth grade. Mrs. Whyet handled the bookkeeping and the seventh grade. Four middle‑aged spinsters taught the third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades. The teachers’ quarters each had a bedroom, study and bathroom, and they were located next to their classrooms, on the far opposite end of a long corridor, away from the men’s toilet. In addition to teaching, the teachers were responsible for the cleanliness and general conduct of their “men.”

There were ten “chambers” on each floor, five on either side of the corridor, each containing four, five or six beds, depending on how many children of each age and class group were in attendance that semester year.

Bailer’s cost was moderate, its academic requirements not overly stringent, and its location close enough to Milwaukee and Chicago to make it the ideal place to leave the ‘kid’ if Mom and Dad were both working, if he was a problem, or if they just wanted to get him out of their hair.

On weekdays, reveille sounded at 6:00 a.m.

The weekday dress code was a white cotton shirt open at the collar, dark blue gabardine slacks, a matching garrison cap and highly shined black oxfords.

At 6:30 the men/boys fell into squads of approximately ten men each. Each squad had a sergeant, corporal, and eight or more privates.

“Tench‑hup… Dress right, dress!”

Heels clicked together, toes angled outward at 45-degree angles. Left arms extended stiffly to the side with fingertips touching the shoulder of the man to the left. Heads snapped to the right aligning with the man to the right. There was a shuffling as the line straightened.

“Tench‑hup!” Arms dropped. Heads snapped forward. “Sound off!”

“Private Carmody, here!” Each man called out his name. The corporal took a stride forward, saluted the sergeant and said, “Ranger Squad, Eisenhower Platoon, all present and accounted for!” He saluted. The salute was returned. The corporal did a sharp about‑face, took a stride back to his place at the head of the column, did another about‑face and stood at attention.

“Riiight face! Forward harch!”

The men marched forward. If they were on the second deck, as Mitchell Lipensky’s quarters and squad were, they marched down the stairs and out the building. Entering the mess hall, their caps, removed while in class or eating, were looped over their web belts. As the line progressed, each man took a sectioned steel tray, silverware and a napkin, then filed through the line receiving portions of food from the civilian ladies behind the counter.

Breakfast was over at 7:15; classes started at 8:00.

In his second year at Baylor, in 5B, the fifth grade, the corporal in the Ranger Squad, Mitchell Lipensky’s quarters were in the Dwight David Eisenhower Dormitory, deck two, chamber five.

Sunday!

Sundays were always the hardest for Mitchell, at least the mornings, because on Sunday all Baylor men were expected to attend church and Sunday school, with no exceptions.

 


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