- 2014 Community Novel Project of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library
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Downloading Superimposed Chapter 2 by Stacy Spilker
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Read Online: Superimposed Chapter 2 by Stacy Spilker
July 21, 1944
Somewhere over Germany
The army paid him ninety dollars a month. Ninety dollars a month, three dollars a day, twelve cents an hour. Sixteen hundred eighteen dollars and thirty-nine cents ago, he’d just been a fat kid from New Jersey with a funny name, an orphan looking for a way out. His weight had kept him from being accepted before the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor, but he’d had no trouble enlisting the day after.
Fifteen hundred forty-two dollars and seventy cents ago, he’d just been a lowly private at training camp. No different than the hundreds of other men who’d enlisted at the same time. But, seven hundred thirty-six dollars and seventy-six cents ago, they had discovered his genius with numbers and transferred him to the Army Air Corp. His ability to instantly calculate angles made him the perfect radar operator, and those were getting hard to come by. He’d been given a commission, something he had only dreamed about. He hadn’t been assigned to a crew; instead he was flying with different ones nearly every time. It was difficult to be the odd man in a group that worked together all the time, but he survived. He always survived.
Sixteen hundred seventeen dollars and sixty-seven cents ago, he’d gone up for his eighteenth mission. Seventy-two cents later, the plane was shot out of the sky. The co-pilot was hit, slumping over the console, and the pilot shouted at everyone to bail out. The navigators were the first out, the tail gunner and engineer following immediately after. Flames were already visible when the pilot and the bombardier made their jumps. He was under orders to destroy the radar equipment if at all possible and had snatched up a wrench at the first sign of gunfire. He was surprised when the waist gunner had joined him.
“I’m Jewish – it might be better if I just went down with the plane,” was the man’s answer to his raised eyebrow.
“Leave your dog tags; they’ll burn up.” He was breathless, his heart racing. This had always been a possibility, something they trained for, but now that the plane was actually going down, he wasn’t ready. He landed a last couple blows to the equipment as the gunner pulled off his dog tags and checked on the co-pilot.
“Sorry, buddy.” He watched the bigger man rest his hand on the other’s helmet for a moment before heading back to the opening in the plane. “Let’s go, Mouse, we’re out of time. It’s now or never. Pull!”
His final thought as he was shoved out of the plane was how much he hated that nickname.
The ground rushed up at blinding speed. He’d pulled the ripcord the moment the gunner shoved him out of the plane, but they had waited too long, and it was going to be a hard landing. The plane hit the ground ahead of them exploding in a cloud of red and orange. He could hear the waist gunner shouting above him but couldn’t make out the words over the roaring in his ears.
He did manage to land feet first, something that had only happened a couple times during training. The surprise gave way instantly as the pain shot up his ankles and legs, instantly sending him to the ground. He rose up on his hands and knees, mouth wide in a silent scream as the gunner landed twenty feet in front of him. He could hear the crack and saw the bone tear its way through the man’s pant leg a half-second before the parachute blocked his view. He was on his feet before the other man’s scream split the air.
He was driven back to his knees as soon as he took a step, but struggled back up. The man had stayed to help him. He wouldn’t have been injured if he’d jumped with the others. A gust of wind caught their parachutes, dragging them both back a foot or two. He tore at the straps across his chest, trying to release his. Once released, he grabbed at his comrade, stopping the backward progression and struggling to release him. The man was still screaming, and he knew every movement had to be agony.
Once he’d managed to free the other man, the screaming had stopped. The gunner’s face was grey, and he worried that the poor guy might lose consciousness. He couldn’t carry him. The man might be thinner, but he was at least eight inches taller. He took a deep breath and finally forced himself to look at the injured leg. The sight nearly made him scream as well. He didn’t know how the leg was still attached. Not only had the bone torn through the skin and the fabric of the pant leg, but the leg was bent at such an angle it looked like he had an extra knee.
“Mouse, you need to run.”
He jerked his head around to look at the injured man. His mind was racing; they didn’t have much time. The Germans would already be out looking for the crew. There had to be a way for him to get them both out of sight.
“Mouse, listen to me. Even without my tags, it’s obvious I’m a Jew. You don’t want to be caught with me. Make a run for it.”
He shook his head. This was his fault. If he’d been stronger, he could have destroyed the radar faster. He couldn’t leave the man behind. He fished out his knife. Maybe if he cut off the pant leg he could figure out how to set the leg. They had been trained to set broken bones, but none of their training had prepared him for this.
None of their training prepared him for the sound of someone blowing their own head off, either. And now he was running blind, tears mixing with the blood splattered on his face. Six hundred eighteen dollars and forty cents ago, the only dead person he’d ever seen was at his grandmother’s funeral. And now, shaking, unable to think, he was taking comfort in the numbers that had been his friends since childhood.
He could hear the shouting behind him. They had found the waist gunner. His breath caught on a sob as he realized he hadn’t even known the man’s name. As a mickey man, he worked with any crew that was flying. He wasn’t good with names and usually didn’t care to try. He’d been given the nickname “Mouse,” thanks to his stature and higher-pitched voice. He resented it and hadn’t tried to make friends. He was regretting it now.
The shouting was getting louder as his short legs and heavy body began to betray him. He was in the best shape of his life, but it wasn’t going to be enough. He had lost twenty pounds during basic training and another ten after his transfer, but the food had improved once they had gotten overseas, and he had regained five. It wasn’t helping him now, though – he couldn’t go any farther. He would have to make a choice – surrender or take a stand. There was a barn only twenty yards away. If he could make it there, he would be able to take out a few of the Germans as they came in the door after him.
Fifteen hundred thirty-three dollars and seventy-nine cents ago, the Army discovered his arms were too short to safely fire a rifle. He hadn’t spent much time at the shooting range. They had found a rifle small enough for him to fire and pass the shooting exam, but he hadn’t fired a gun since.
He made it into the barn, finding it empty but for a few bales of hay. He didn’t have the strength left to move them into a buffer, instead lowering his body behind the nearest one. He carried only a Colt pistol and a few rounds of ammunition. It wouldn’t last long. His dog tags twisted painfully under his body, and he yanked them over his head, throwing them to the side. The shouting was really close now. He braced himself as the door rattled in front of him. They were here. He’d flown seventeen missions. Figured out the angles, factored in ground speed and distance from target, but had convinced himself they were only aiming at military targets. Empty buildings, stretches of farmland – never people. Sixteen hundred eighteen dollars and forty-one cents ago, he’d never killed anyone. At least not face to face.
Chapter 3 will be published next week at https://www.tscpl.org/community-novel
About Stacy Spilker
Stacy Spilker has been making up stories since she was old enough to talk. As a child, she dreamed of becoming a published author, but became discouraged as a teenager. In college, she discovered she preferred editing as it appealed to her perfectionist nature. She earned an Associate degree in English, and joined NaNoWriMo in an attempt to fully understand the writing process (and to finally finish something) and fell back in love with telling stories.
An Interview with Stacy Spilker
What is your writing background? What sort of work do you usually write?
I write almost exclusively historical fiction. Last year’s community novel was actually my first time writing contemporary fiction.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Are there books, poems, or stories that have inspired your own writing?
J.K. Rowling is my favorite author, but I also like Harper Lee, John Green, Lemony Snicket, Elizabeth George, C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie, and many others. I can’t say for certain there is a specific book that inspired me, I think we are inspired by everything we read, whether we enjoyed it or not. Every book we read leaves a mark on us.
Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?
I enjoyed participating last year. I especially liked that I could write a chapter and not have to worry about what happened in the rest of the story. It was very freeing.
Have you ever written fiction in collaboration with other authors before?
Just last year’s community novel.
Do you usually write in a burst of inspiration, or is your work carefully outlined? Did writing for the community novel differ from the norm?
It’s a bit of a mix. I usually start with a character and figure out where he or she belongs. I prefer to write with an outline, but it rarely happens. This year’s community novel was very different in that I had no idea who the main character was. I knew where he was in history, but not who he was. Once I figured out his job, his personality fell into place.
What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project? What challenges you about them?
It was a challenge going so near the beginning and creating a character that others could write about without getting too attached. I knew others would have different ideas and I didn’t want to get upset if they changed him.
What do you like most about the chapter that you contributed to the 2014 Community Novel?
I loved that I got to use bits of my grandfather’s stories to shape that character. There are bits of my grandfather in his personality and war experience and I loved being able to honor him that way. I also read a lot of personal stories about WWII experiences, especially involving Army Air Force and prisoners of war. I found one that was nearly identical to my original ideas and had to make some changes in response.
What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?
I would like to know what his real name is. I deliberately didn’t give him a name, partly because nothing seemed to fit him, and partly because several people at the planning meeting didn’t want anything revealed at the beginning. Beyond that, I avoid thinking about it. I prefer to wait and see how other people think and react to what happened rather than being disappointed when my own ideas don’t happen.
What sort of writing can we expect from you in future? Are you currently at work on any writing projects?
I’m still getting used to showing my work to people. I’ve received positive feedback and actually been told I should look at getting it published, but I’m certainly not ready for that kind of exposure. I am in the planning stages of a fantasy novel, but it may never see the light of day.