Assignment #8 POV
For as long as Professor Joseph Nordberg’s grandchildren could remember, Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic V-J day photograph, “The “Kissing Sailor” hung in their grandfather’s paneled den among gilt-edged diplomas, law degrees, awards, plaques, and photographs of the Professor smiling beside dignitaries and diplomats.
“Are you the sailor kissing that nurse, Grandfather?” asked his youngest grandson, Joe-Joe.
“Goodness, no, Joe-Joe. That sailor isn’t your grandfather. He never served in the military.” Mrs. Nordberg shifted papers cluttering her husband’s desk. “Pastrami on rye, Joseph,” she said and set down the tray. “Your favorite.”
“Is that sailor kissing you, Grandmother?”
“Heavens forbid I should be so brazen,” Mrs. Nordberg said. “I don’t know why you keep that picture, Joseph.”
Professor Nordberg took off his wire-frame eyeglasses and polished the thick lenses on the sleeve of his white shirt. “No, Joe-Joe. The identities of the sailor and the nurse he’s kissing are unknown. Part of the photograph’s mystic.”
“Then did you take that picture, Grandfather?”
“Not with your Grandfather’s poor eyesight.Blind as a bat, he is.” Mrs. Nordberg inched the tray closer to her husband’s elbow. “Eat, Joseph.”
“That picture was taken by a famous Life Magazine photographer.” Professor Nordberg patted his knee. “Hop up, Joe-Joe.”
Mrs. Nordberg gripped her grandson’s shoulder. “Joe-Joe. Grandfather has work to do.”
“Now, Nina. I can spare a few minutes with the boy.”
“Why is he kissing that nurse in the middle of the street? With all those people staring?”
“People were in the streets celebrating. The Japanese had surrender. The war was over.” Professor Nordberg twisted the cap from the bottle of beer.
“V-J Day. Such excitement everywhere. We lived in New York City then. Come, darling, let Grandpapa work.” Mrs. Nordberg put her hand in the middle of Joe-Joe’s back and shoved him towards the door.
“Take it down, Grandfather.” Professor Nordberg’s teenaged granddaughter pointed to the “Kissing Sailor” print hanging in her gradnfather’s den. “It’s been hanging up there for far too long.”
Professor Nordberg swiveled his leather chair, adjusted his eyeglasses, and squinted at the print.
“You don’t really see it, do you?”
“I see many things,” Joseph Nordberg said.
“That photograph depicts sexual assault.”
The Professor rubbed his chin. “Some are of that opinion.” His granddaughter’s argument–that the kiss was an aggressive sexual encounter and not a spontaneous romantic moment–had been bantered about by critics of the photograph. “However, young lady, you’re judging a past event by today’s standards.”
“Grandfather, be reasonable. Notice the sailor’s aggressive stance. The look at the nurse’s defensive pose. Her arched back. Her left arm, clutching her purse, so stiff and rigid. Is she enjoying the moment? That kiss?”
Professor Nordberg studied the picture on his wall. The sailor, in his dark uniform grappling the nurse in her white uniform formed a startling contrast of light and darkness, evil overtaking good.
“I’ll take it down,” he said.
Sailor’s Point of View
August 14, 1945
Three months earlier, two Japanese kamikaze planes attacked the USS Bunker Hill off the coast of Okinawa. George, a helmsman on the nearby USS The Sullivans, watched from the deck.
Heavy drinking couldn’t mask the images, the sounds, the terror George experienced watching the first suicide plane burrow into the flight deck and exploded: the billowing smoke, black and dense, roiling from the damaged ship; the screams of the injured and dying; the burned bodies he’d pulled from the Pacific Ocean.
George woke drenched in sweat. He yanked the bed sheet and wiped his neck and head. Chilled despite the warm August morning, his body shook. He wrapped up in his mother’s second-best chenille bedspread. “God, I need a drink,” he said.
George was on leave waiting orders to return to his ship. America was preparing for the final assault of the war aaginst the Japanese.
He dangled his legs over the side of bed and pulled a flask from the nightstand drawer. Empty, damn it.” George flung the flask across the room. It hit the wall and clattered to the floor.
“George! What happened?”
“Shit.” George rubbed his head. “Ain’t nothing, Mom,” he said.
“Better hurry. Larry’s coming soon. Have you forgotten?”
George hadn’t forgotten. Not about a first date with the cute chick he’d recently met. His brother-in-law was driving him to Rita’s house.
Two tickets for Radio City Music Hall’s afternoon matinee were in his wallet.
His dark Navy uniform, cleaned and pressed, hung in the closet.
George walked to the shower humming an off-key version of “Got a Date with an Angel.”
George munched popcorn and inched his fingers along his date thigh. Rita was watching the movie screen and wiped a tear as actress Gene Tierney lamented her dead lover.
“It’s over! It’s over. Loud, excited shout and pounding on the theater doors startled the patrons. “What in hell?” George rdopped his popcorn, stood and looked around the darkened theater.
The movie screen flickered and went dark. The theater lights blazed. The loud speaker blared. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Japanese have surrendered. The war is over.”
“It’s over. It’s over.” George repeated the words again and again. He might have a future. He pulled Rita from her seat. They pushed through the crowd rushing to the exits.
“Let’s celebrate,” George said. “Childs Bar is just three blocks away.”
The bar was crowded and noisy; bartender poured drinks nonstop.
By the time the couple left the bar, George’s head throbbed.
Crossing Seventh Avenue at 44th Street, he spotted a woman in a nurse’s uniform–angels of mercy, the sailors had called them. She was watching the illuminated light bulbs on the Times Tower’s zipper sign: “V-J Day. V-Jay Day”.
George rushed towards the nurse. He spun her around, bent her backwards, and kissed her.
“Way to go,” said a passing sailor.
George released the nurse. He looked around for Rita. A foolish grin was on her face.
George took Rita’s hand and together they walked to the subway.
Assignment #8 part 3
The “Nurse”-Point of View
August 12, 1945
Shimmering heat waves danced on the sidewalk. The summer air vibrated with jubilant voices. Times Square teemed with New Yorkers celebrating the ending of the war. Japan had surrendered.
Greta stood at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and 44th Street. The young dental assistant’s heart beat wildly.
Did that really happen to me? Greta watched the sailor who just assaulted her turn and walk away.
With trembling fingers, Greta straightened her mussed, white uniform and pushed hair clip in a drooping coil of shiny, dark hair.
She rubbed her mouth with the back of her hand.
Greta returned to the dentist’s office on Lexington Avenue.
“We’re closing the office for the day, Greta,” said the dentist. “Cancel our appointments and go home.”
Greta unlocked the door to the cold-water flat. Her sisters weren’t home. She put a pan of water on the stove, gathered towels and soap, and pulled off her uniform.
Greta washed and dressed quickly—-her sisters might arrive at any moment—-and put the kettle on the stove. A cup of tea should settle my nerves, she thought.
Both sisters would scoff if she told them what had happened. “So much fuss over a kiss from a stranger celebrating the end of the war.”
Greta put a scant half-teaspoon of sugar in her cup—-sugar rations had been sharply reduced in May—and was sipping tea when her sisters arrived.
“Such excitement in Times Square,” May said.
Greta nodded. “A great day for America,” she said and forced a smile.
Greta submerged the memories of the sailor’s large hands holding her in a vice-like grip, of his strong arms wrapped around her. Of being tilted backwards, and kissed full on the lips.
The incident was an unimportant event in a momentous time.
June 10, 2013
The makeup artist deftly arranged Greta’s cap of dark, silver-streaked hair.
“Ready in two, Lucille,” called a voice.
The television hostess, blond, bright-eyed, smiled into the camera. A photograph of the “Kissing Sailor” flashed on the television monitor.
“Here today is the woman positively identified as the woman in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic photograph.”
Greta smiled, a shy, warm smile. “Thank you for having me, Lucille.”
“When did you first see the photograph?”
“I was leafing through Eisenstaedt’s book. It happened so many years ago. A forgotten incident.” Greta’s hand brushed across her lips.
“What convinced you that you were the woman in the picture?”
“It was my figure. My hairdo. And the white nylon stockings. I prided myself, you know, on keeping the seams straight. I also recognized my tapestry purse.”
“The sailor has been positively identified,”Lucille said. You and he were reunited last year by CBS news. But you and George,the sailor in the picture, didn’t reenact the famous kiss, did you?”
Greta hadn’t kissed anyone for a long time after George’s assault. Not the dentist’s son. Not that nice, cross-eyed law student attending Brooklyn Law School.
“No,” Greta said,” I didn’t kiss George.”
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2 thoughts on “Work from Cathryn”
Dear Dr. Coles,
Your suggestions, as usual, are appreciated, and I love the details on tightening a scene. More impact–and tied to the theme– to have Greta remark to the newswoman that she didn’t reenact the kiss with George.( Wonder if I will ever get to the point where I can see those errors in my writing?)
Worried a lot about writing something clearly not expressed in the picture, but I have always thought “The Kissing Sailor” wasn’t a romantic moment based on posture and stance of the sailor and the nurse; so I did some research before writing this assignment.
In addition to the point of view writers select for the narration of the story, narrators can be unreliable, reliable, naive, or detached observers.