Peggy’s a Knockout!

Submitted into Contest #152 in response to: Write about a character whose life changes for the better.... view prompt

2 comments

Romance Coming of Age Teens & Young Adult

Peggy’s a Knockout!

By

Jame Michaels

I might as well be honest. All through school, my teachers told my parents I was an under achiever. “She has the potential.” “She can do so much better.” “She’s got it, but she’s not applying herself.” Every year, same old story. I received a B or an A in Physical Education, I received a B or sometimes even an A in Home Econ. I could cook, sew, mend, but English, Math, History – Boring. Always, without exception, a D.

In my junior year of high school, my Dad was studying for his Ham license. He asked me if I could help him study. He and I would practice Morse code together in the evening and on weekends. We studied the test book together too. Looking back it was a good time for me. I liked being with my Dad but until then, never really had much alone time with just him

When it came time to take the test, he suggested I take it with him. Since there was no minimum age I filled out the license paperwork and we both took the test together. The test was the first step into the Ham world – the Technician license. We both passed. We aced the Morse code too. Then we started studying for the General license. I was nervous about the math questions. He told me I could miss all the math questions and still pass the test. We studied together for twelve weeks and we scheduled to take the test at the library on a Saturday. It was March and the whole week before the test, the weather had been drizzle and ugly. On Saturday, it was raining cat and dogs. Lightening, thunder, hail, lots of water on the road into town. We threw out questions to each other, in the car, on our way into town. He was trying to trip me up. I did the same to him. We were laughing the whole time. It was good to have something to take our minds off the weather.

We got there a little early. There was only one VE (Volunteer Examiner) at the library when we got there. “She’ll be here,” the other VE was saying. “She’s never missed a test yet.” 9:00 came and went. 9:30 then 10:00. “Can I get either of you some coffee?” My Dad never let us kids have coffee growing up. “Peggy, do you want some coffee?” I shot him the “look”. He knew what it meant. “We’ll make an exception today, okay?” “I’ll have some if you have some.”

“Do you have any brandy?” I asked the examiner. It was good for a laugh. My father looked at me and shook his head. “We had six cancellations,” the man VE was telling the woman when she finally got there. They gave us test booklets and answer sheets. We talked about the test on the way home. We both passed, like that was any surprise. We now had our General license. By the time I graduated from high school, we both had our Extra licenses too.

It was February, the year I was graduating from high school. My mom came into my bedroom and told me she and my dad wanted to talk to me. “Not right now, but in a month or so.” My brother David told me all about it, right after Valentine’s Day. He knocked on my door. He never did that before. We were all brothers and sisters in the same house and we shared bedrooms growing up and we always barged into each other’s rooms, at any time to talk or just to shoot the bull. But today, something was different. “Come on in!” I hollered. I was sitting on the bed in my underwear. My brother looked down as he started to speak, “You asked what mom and dad want to talk to you about. Mom thinks you should go into the Army when you graduate. She says it would give you some direction. Dad thinks you should go to the community college and get your Associates Degree in Radio Tech, or something like that. He thinks when you go in, if you have an AA degree, you might qualify for the OCS program.” My brother never looked up at me. He looked down the whole time Strange.

St. Patrick’s Day was a Saturday. Mom, Dad and I were in Paddy’s, a local Irish bar and grill. Mom was talking, “You father has talked to Mr. Gannon, your guidance counsellor and to Mrs. Nowak over at the Community College. Mrs. Nowak was very impressed with you passing all of your FCC license exams to get your Extra. She said it shows you have an aptitude for radio and wireless communications. Tell her Tom.”

Dad got right down to business. “Your mother thinks you should go right into the Army, in June when you graduate. I disagree. You have had shitty grades ever since the fourth grade. Everyone says you have potential but you haven’t taken an interest in anything except Home Econ, Physical Education or getting your radio license. Mrs. Nowak suggested I speak with Captain Samuels. She is the Army recruiter downtown at the State House. So, I met with Captain Samuels. She’s really sharp and at the top of her game. A really nice woman who told me she received a call from Mr. Gannon. Mr. Gannon sent the Captain all of your report cards back to the 9th grade. She knows all about your shitty grades. She wants to have a personal interview with you and me in her office and wants to bring a commander from the Signal Corps to the meeting. When I told her you had your Extra ham license, she almost jumped out of her chair. I wasn’t there so I didn’t actually see her but she told me that over the phone.” Dad was laughing. But I could tell he was concerned. It surprised me.

“I do not know if you want to go into the Army,” my dad continued, “or if you want to go to community college, but once you graduate high school, you are not going to sit around the house playing computer games or watching TV. I hope you decide to go to community college and get your Associates degree. If that is your decision, and it will be your decision alone young lady, you’ll have a bright career ahead of you.”

My Dad and I went to meet the Captain. Captain Samuels gave me a firm handshake when she shook my hand. “How tall are you?” she asked. “5’8””, I replied. “Any brothers or sisters?”, she wanted to know. Two brothers and one sister. “Why do you want to go into the Army?” “To be perfectly honest, ma’am, I’m not sure I do.” Captain Samuels looked over to my father. “You sir, do you have any military service?” “Two years, disabled Viet Nam veteran. Got out as a Sergeant E-5.” “Do you want your daughter to go into the Army, sir?” “Her mother and I sat down with her in March and discussed her future. I think if she can get into the junior college and gets a technical degree she would have a bright future in the Army.” “Can I ask why you got out when you were an NCO?”

My dad smiled at the question. I had seen the smile before. He was embarrassed. “To be honest, ma’am, I had problems when my tour was over. I had PTSD and was AFU in the head. I met a young woman who I fell in love with, we married and raised a family. Not staying in the service was a blessing and once I got the medical help I needed, I was able to go back to college and get two degrees and live a good life. Maybe if I had not gone to war; maybe if I had not killed the enemy, maybe if I had not used mortars to destroy villages, maybe if . . . My wife helped me get over and get beyond my demons. Captain Samuels came over to my father and shook his hand. “Welcome home, Brother!” to which my father replied, “It was an honor, ma’am.”

Captain Samuels came over to where I was sitting. “And you young lady, if you decide to go to the community college, I want to see you here in my office in December.” “The purpose ma’am?” “I want to give you information and study materials about the women’s ROTC program, which I think you will find interesting. And now I will turn you over to Major Evans of the U. S. Army Signal Corps.” “Thank you for your time ma’am. I think I will be seeing you again in December.”

Major Evans held out his hand to shake Peggy’s. “I’m Major Evans. I’ve looked over your high school grades. Not very impressive if you don’t mind me saying. But that is not what I am interested in. You have strong grades in Home Econ. We do not need cooks, but you will have to keep a neat bunk. I like your Physical Ed grades. I also like your upper body strength too. I also like the fact you have an FCC Extra license and can key – send and receive over 70 words per minute in Morse code. We don’t have many people who can key at that rate. It’s impressive. We might have to loan you out to the Navy, would you like that?” “Are there many Army women officers who are in the Navy?” “No. Five or ten. And you would have to wear blue jeans.” He smiled at the thought.

We went home. My dad was clearly happy. He never actually said it, but I could tell. Growing up I never really thought about my looks. I used to look in the mirror when I got up in the morning, and I thought she looked O.K, but I wasn’t all hung up about how I looked or if I was good looking or not. Like who cares? I was average; that was good enough. Some girls in school looked prettier and some weren’t as pretty as me. When I started community college, it struck me. I overheard my brother talking to one of his friends on the phone. “Charlie! I can get you a date with a really good looking girl. “She’s a knockout! Yes, I’m positive,” my brother went on, “She’s my sister!” Right then, in the blink of an eye, I went from being average, in the middle of the road in the looks department, to being a knock-out! It was a wake-up call for me. And it dawned on me why my brother was looking down when he came into my bedroom and why he knocked at the door.

After finishing her AA degree, she was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. She continued on to the state university at the suggestion of Captain Samuels. She had to drill for two weeks in the summer and one weekend a month, but it all counted toward her time in service. When she completed her Bachelors she was promoted to a 1st Lieutenant.

When she was at State she met a Navy officer, a Lieutenant JG, at a military seminar for Junior Officers. His name was Brad. It was short for Bradley – same name as her father. They dated all through her two years at the state college and she decided, again at the suggestion of Captain Samuels, who was now a Major, to get her Masters. At graduation, when she received her commission, again, to 1st Lieutenant, Brad showed her his orders. He was to be stationed in Naples. She jumped up and down. Brad looked at her, and his expression got serious. She was a little nervous at his change in attitude. He got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. “Yes! Yes! Yes!!!” Brad had discussed marrying her with Major Samuels, since the major was sort of a mentor to the both of them from the beginning. “Children?” the major asked. Yes Brad wanted children. “How many, can I ask?” Brad smiled, “Four – maybe six.” “What about her career?” the major wanted to know. “I think we can have both,” Brad said. “I can help and I know this major,” he continued smiling.

She went home for a short vacation before going to boot camp. She had to get boot camp out of the way and go to radio school. Radio school was co-ed and she was the top student in her class.

She got a chance to think about her life and how everything changed from that one little conversation her brother had with Charlie. “She’s a knockout!”

July 01, 2022 18:01

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

2 comments

Erika Seshadri
14:36 Jul 08, 2022

Hi, I enjoyed reading your story. It was interesting and relatable. I have one suggestion: Each time a different person speaks, their dialogue should be in a new paragraph. It makes it so much easier to follow. For example: My Dad and I went to meet the Captain. Captain Samuels gave me a firm handshake when she shook my hand. “How tall are you?” she asked. “5’8””, I replied. “Any brothers or sisters?” she wanted to know. "Two brothers and one sister." “Why do you want to go into the Army?” “To be perfectly honest, ma’am, I’m not...

Reply

Jame Michaels
17:41 Jul 14, 2022

Thank you for the constructive criticism. Much appreciated.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply