I’d searched for her, to no avail. Long weeks, chasing down lead after lead. But now the trail had come to an end.
How well I remembered that blue dress. We’d seen it in the shop window that last time I saw her. She’d jumped up and down so excited when I’d said I’d buy it for her. Our mother had refused to, saying it was an unnecessary frivolity, but I’d made her swear on her bible that she’d not sell it – not till Gertie grew out of it anyway.
My father’d been in the service and my mother who was not really suited for life as a serviceman’s wife, well her already fragile emotions had started to crumble after the Shenandoah crash. He’d survived, most of the crew had. But the crash of the Akron had taken him, had taken most of the crew in fact.
By the time the letter from the US Navy reached me, he’d been dead four months. I headed back home the very next day. But there was a new family living there. Of course the Navy had moved them out – my mother and Gertie – you couldn’t stay in Navy quarters when you weren’t Navy no more.
I went in to town, to the boarding house they’d taken rooms in. The old lady there told me things had been bad. My mother’s mind had become addled. She’d lost her religion and turned to drink. It had gotten them thrown out.
I followed the trail from town to town, the boarding houses going from shabby to plain cheap. I finally found her in a flop house. But Gertie was gone. My mother told me she’d taken to putting on her blue dress and going out – she knew not where. In truth, she probably didn’t care.
Someone had found her down by the rail tracks, and the local church had given her a decent burial and some kindly souls had paid for a headstone. I thought about using some of my savings to change the headstone, but I kind of felt Gertie would like the mystery of it. Instead I spoke to a nice lady at the church to arrange for flowers to be put on her grave regularly – my little sister deserved that.
© Debra Carey, 2018