xx″ x xx″ • Mixed Media
by R. Chambers LeHeup
Though things may fade, nothing ever fully ends. The life of a newborn fades from the world of Nothing, blossoming from sweet, sticky conception, to grow, thrive and make a lineage of their own. In time, they fade from the world of Something, but they continue on in what they’ve left behind. This continuance is why we live. It’s what we strive for. And just as some of the details of this story have faded and been lost, the aftereffects are still felt today.
Robert Taylor Chambers
17th January 1942 enlisted
He looked at his grandchildren through wet, knowing eyes. He saw their lives unfolding like blossoms before him, bearing the petals and thorns of every burgeoning child. For what they meant, he cared passionately, the weight of experience and age tamping down a smoldering love. They were his blood, the trophy of a life both beautiful and brutal. Beautiful for the love he shared. Brutal for the war he fought:
It was 1942, and Robert Taylor Chambers found himself in a B-26 Marauder, coined The Widowmaker, flying from the French coast inward towards blood and violence. The American Army Air Corps had sent a squadron to rain lead and death upon the outskirts of a French
town that had been surrounded by Nazis. The roar of the wind and engines gave the somber mood a dull tension, the cold inching its way closer and closer to his bones, his foundation.
Halfway to the intended target, a firefly called out. A second later, a quick thrum of thunder sounded. Then another firefly. Then more thunder.
And the sky was alight.
The shrapnel rang a cacophony of death knells, loud and strong, forcing the squadron to return to reassess their strategy. Most of them, at least. Robert refused. Instead, he gritted his teeth and flew forward, mocking Fate and fighting on, stealing each moment with an insane certainty. Knuckles white, eyes ablaze, he flew through the explosions, through white hot metal and fear, through everything the enemy could throw at him… and then the booming was behind him and he continued on.
He reached his target several minutes later, and staring through a tacked scope, his crew lined up the enemies to prepare for the offensive. Fat, metal tears dropped from the deck of the plane, crying and washing away the pitiful German encampments with fire and brisance. Afterwards, having splayed the Nazi force and accomplished his mission, he turned his Widowmaker around and dove back into the metal rain of the anti-aircraft guns, shrugging off danger and laughing at
the Gods. And they noticed.
Pain lanced its way into his right shoulder and the right side of his face. He didn’t know it at the time, but he had a sheet of metal that was buried underneath his face and a flap of skin where his underarm used to be. Seeing how damaged he was, the crew switched him to the radioman’s seat behind the cockpit, but a little bit more shrapnel, the plane began plummeting. Robert had to step up.
He returned to the cockpit, being the only one who could land a plane whose landing gear was malfunctioning. This falling coffin was pulled up just in time to land on its belly, causing it to flip twice, head over nose. The wings flew apart, along with the tail, scattering across the
landing strip as though scared of the crew inside. The violence of the previous few hours gave a deafening pause to the still wreckage, giving an ethereal presence to the emergency workers rescuing him and his squad. My grandfather blinked…
…and woke up in a hospital in England. There, he was told that his radioman had died in the crash, but that the rest of his crew had made it, a small price to pay for mocking the Gods, though the radioman might disagree. But Robert had done it. He, along with the rest of his crew, had saved the entire French village from being overrun by human monsters. For this, they were awarded the French Croix de Guerre, given to them personally by Charles De Gaulle himself.
While he was still in the hospital, he was told that his shoulder had become gangrenous, and that he’s not have use of it again. They pumped him with antibiotics and tried to console him. And he laughed at the Gods again, fearless and determined. He started frequenting a bowling alley every day until, several months later, he was able to fly more missions. And for this, he was rewarded, not simply with ribbons or metals, but with his perpetuation.
And so he sat, this powerhouse of a man, now grown fragile with time, looking at the youth that he’d made; looking at his opportunity for immortality. He saw through them to what they may become and smiled, knowing that it was life that he’d fought for, and life that he’d won. A transcendent feeling of comfort dawned on him, because with the right eyes, you see that everything may fade, but nothing ever truly ends.