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The Man With The Briefcase

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by HeinekenMan, Jan 28, 2007.

  1. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    It was 1941, and a package arrived for a young Ohio River delta girl named Gloria. There was a short, hand-written note and a woven necklace of flowers. "I'll never forget our honeymoon," the lined single sheet read. The 19-year-old girl grinned. It was a message. Francis was in Hawaii.

    Actually, he wasn't. Francis Kouri was, by then, in Okinawa, where he arrived under the shadow of night and began the arduous task of setting up land telecommunication. He was, essentially, in the enemy's back yard, and he began sending scrambled signals across the oceans as tens of thousands of American men lined the sidewalks in the country's major cities to join in the Big War. Francis was already up to his 27-year-old neck in mosquitoes. It had been mere weeks since the young electrical engieer arrived at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 9. Though he never spoke of them, bodies surely were still washing in at high tide when he settled in for his first night's rest.

    It was 1942. Battles were raging in western Europe and in Southeast Asia. This time, there was no package. While Gloria awaited word, the U.S. military flew Francis Kouri to a base in the rugged desert. Each day, Kouri woke in his quarters, dressed and took a trip that ended when he was whisked down a shaft on an elevator ride that took him into a top-secret bunker.

    They began training the young electrical engineer for a project of some sort. Nobody can be quite sure what it was. That's because Francis Kouri never spoke of it. As such, a part of his life became clouded in mystery. If anyone knew the truth, they never disclosed it to the two children Francis and Gloria adopted in Germany just a decade after the close of World War II. If his wife ever learned the truth, she carried to her grave in 2002.

    In 2007, on Jan. 27, Francis Kouri was a statue with an American flag draped across the lower half of his coffin. The white, satiny fabric seemed to suit him. It was as pure as the snows that kept Gloria indoors all those cold, lonely nights when she wondered what had happened to the man she married.

    What happened to that man became the focus of discussion at the back of the funeral parlor. Nobody knew all of the facts, but there were tidbits to be weighed. After heading to New Mexico, Kouri became a man of some importance. He occasionally entered the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and most of his visits required him to carry a briefcase he kept handcuffed to his right wrist. One person rehashed a story that had been passed around a fair share. As was the lore, Kouri often traveled with a man who had orders to kill him under certain conditions. Was it capture? Nobody knew for sure.

    Not everything told, though, was mere innuendo. There were hard facts, including that Kouri was still working in a bunker on July 16, 1945, when the U.S. conducted the Trinity Test, the first testing of a nuclear weapon. In an area now home to the White Sands Missile Range, which is near Alamogordo, New Mexico, the Atomic Age began with the implosion of a plutonium bomb. It's force was the equivalent of 20 kilo-tons of TNT. Later that year, a similar bomb would fall from the Enola Gay, a bomber flown by a crew that new nothing of its cargo until a mushroom cloud billowed up into the sky as they began to return from their mission. The Japanese city, Hiroshimi, was largely destroyed by something constructed by a physicist named J. Robert Oppenheimer.

    In the early 1970s, Francis Kouri retired to a beachside town on Florida's Gulf Coast. The lifelong Ohoian took a position as a volunteer for the U.S. Coast Guard. He manned his radio at regular intervals. Each blip caused him to light up in a broad smile. He ingested the morse code as if it were spoken English. One evening, he emerged from his little office to announce that he'd spoken with the king of Saudi Arabia.

    What those men talked about it is anybody's guess. That story died on Jan. 24, 2007. But there are others out there, and I'm happy to be among those who wake every morning with the desire to find them.

    This was supposed to be a nice little column. I'm sure there were mistakes, but I've had five beers tonight in anticipation of being a pall bearer in the morning. In any case, as any stab at fine prose should be ended, I must now depart to take a piss. Feel free to rip it to shreds. There are probably holes in this thing the size of Texas, but I'm going to blame it on the hops.
  2. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Thanks for posting and sharing this with us, Heineken.
  3. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    Thanks for taking the time to read it. Now that the six pack has worn off, I'm a little hesitant to read it. I have a habit of jumping around when my thoughts are swirling around a bit. This was actually my wife's grandfather. I learned today, after carrying his casket to his tomb, that he achieved the rank of captain. I'm an idiot when it comes to military stuff, but I gather that he was a man of some stature in his day. They only sent two servicemen for the playing of Taps, and there was no firing of guns. I found that odd, but I have a feeling it had more to do with the family's poor planning than anything else.

    The emotions get stirred up a bit when one of these WWII guys dies, and it is happening at such an alarming rate these days that it surely won't be long before most of them are gone. The thing that most grabbed me about this individual was the secretive nature of what he did. I can't fathom how it could be, but his own family clearly knew little of his work.

    This marked a sombre moment in our lives. It was the last grandparent out there for me and my wife. It's kind of arresting to look at that family tree and see the line separating the living generations from the dead moving closer to us.
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