The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 8, 2010

Chapter Two


_ — Editor’s note: This is Chapter 2 of The News Courier serialized novel, “As The Small Town Turns.” The Chapter 2 chosen from five submissions was by Carol Schwarzenbach. Other submissions, which will not be included as part of the book, are also published in today’s edition. As you will remember from last week’s first installment, our heroine Raquel Traubenkraut Roddenheimer, a single mother of two, attended Coffee Call at the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives with her father and met the drop-dead gorgeous Buck Welch, a veteran who had just returned from the Iraq War.

Carol Schwarzenbach

There it was again, that look in Dad’s eyes. It is so haunting, like something once seen and long ago put aside, yet always there.

I hate that look. I know Dad is back there again, reliving his honored duty in the service, wanting to forget yet knowing he must never forget. I guess that is why this time at Coffee Call is so meaningful to him, giving a listening ear and as much support as he can to those who are new to Coffee Call.

Buck Welch! Hah, now I remember him. Buckthorne Barthalow Collired Welch. He was the one all the gals wanted to be around. So self-confidant. So handsome. So smart. So compassionate. He had it all.

He was as they used to say the Big Man on Campus, even in high school. Every Friday night would find him as the star quarterback, making those unbelievable scoring throws to Robert Tom Rolle. What a twosome they were.

Buck was from the most stable home life you could ever imagine. His family had been around these parts forever. They owned and operated the largest chicken and egg business in the tri-state area. They were proper church-going folk and were known mostly for giving a helping hand to those in need.

Bobby Tom on the other hand was, as the saying used to go, “from the other side of the tracks.” Being raised by a single mom and an elderly set of grandparents, Bobby Tom was the exact opposite of Buck. Crude, rude, and well, not the most handsome guy in school but with a gift of speed and agility that was the dream of every football coach.

Saturday nights would find them downtown on the square in Buck’s shiny, spiffed-up retro Chevy, a convertible, of course, which seemed to have a “come-hither, girls” light attached. They were always surrounded by eager young girls all in their favorite high school colors, thinking how very cool they looked, just waiting to be able to say to the not-so-cool girls, “I got to ride in Buck’s car.”

The school color of their legging showed their team spirit. Then there were the young men from local car clubs, stopping around to take a look at That Engine. Wow. What a lot of car.

Buck Welch had it all, then. What a surprise to run into him at Coffee Call. He was not so handsome now. Time and war had written a sad story on his face. Buck came from a long line of military men and women, so it was no surprise to anyone when he joined the Army. It was his friend Bobby Tom that had walked with him to the recruiting office and saluted him proudly as the papers were signed.

Their relationship seemed odd to many of the townspeople. But the secret between them was a bond that to this day has never been broken.

Dad started to recount the story Buck had told him about his time in Iraq. It seems that Buck had a fairly uneventful tour until two days before he was to ship home.

It had been such an ordinary morning,