Stories

A Window on History

Four takes on history as seen through a window. I'll give you the year.

2001

I can’t understand why a firm located eighty storeys up on one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in New York doesn’t have better coffee. It’s the twenty-first freakin’ century! I won’t say I’m enjoying the coffee because it’s awful, but I am enjoying the view. North up Manhattan the sky is clear and blue, not a cloud in sight.

Something catches my attention. There’s a plane coming in over the city, which is odd in itself. I flip open my phone to call home and notice the time – 8:46 a.m. That’s when I notice the plane isn’t climbing and isn’t turning. I have about ten seconds before it hits us.

“You’ve reached Tom and Laura; leave a message.” [beeeep]

“Laura, I love–

1937

It has been a long and exhausting trip, but it is nearly over. We’ve been held up most of the day by bad weather over the landing site, though Captain Pruss did treat us to a lovely view in an off-schedule flight over Manhattan, then a scenic overview of the New Jersey shore. Now, in the early evening, we approach the airfield.

The waiter brings me another cup of coffee, but warns that we will be landing soon. I enjoy the acidic heat of the black beverage with everyone else in the lounge.

Out the window it is still raining, water dripping randomly from the overhead gas envelope. By craning my neck slightly I can see the mooring tower in one direction, and in the other a large building with the words “Welcome to Lakehurst” painted on the roof.

Down below the Americans are starting the process of securing the mooring lines when I hear it; a muffled explosion from somewhere above. The floor tilts toward the stern and the smell of smoke fills the air; the hydrogen has caught fire!

1929

“Well officer, it happened while I was getting a second cup of joe this morning. A gal gets tired cleaning all them dishes. Anyway, I had a good view across North Clark there at the garage.

“As I was drinking down, a big Caddy pulled up in front of the garage and two coppers– er, police officers, got out along with two other guys. The two regular guys went in the front and the two policemen went round the back.

“A couple of minutes later there was some gunfire. A lotta gunfire. Tommy guns, I think. After that there was a coupla shotgun blasts. Then the policemen came out with the two regular guys at gunpoint.

“Their faces? No, I didn’t see no faces. Clear vision ain’t exactly good for your health in this neighbourhood, if you know what I mean. Cheez, what a way to spend Valentine’s Day.”

1917

I sip my coffee and enjoy the spectacle out in Bedford Basin. Normally it’s pretty quiet, but this morning two ships have struck each other. The Norwegian one is slowly backing off, but the French ship has caught fire.

I hope the lads are all right, though it does mean the Kaiser’s Christmas present will be delayed. They don’t tell us what’s on board because of the Great War; loose lips and all that. It should all be over soon anyway, what with Wilson bringing the Yanks on side.

Down by the docks the sailors from old Frenchie have reached shore. Whatever they’re saying has got the bystanders agitated and they’re running. I lean out the window and shout to a young man sprinting up the hill.

 “What news, lad?”

 “She’s carrying munitions! Run!”

Munitions? I look up as the ship silently blows itself to nothing before my eyes, a wave of devastation flowing outward. Like thunder after lightning, the sound will be here in a moment.

 “Sweet Mother of–