On the freshest morning of spring Meghan Thomas pirouetted to the front door, picked up the letter and opened it. ‘Dear Sir, Antheus College is pleased to …’ She was in. With the shadow of the Great Depression finally starting to recede the first member of the Thomas clan ever would be going to college and Meghan would study dance.
She spun and clutched the letter to her breast. Three generations of Thomas men sweated and died in the somber caverns of Pennsylvanian coal mines and whenever the mining money ran out three generations of Thomas women labored and cried in the dank and gloomy mill, always in the dark like living under a blanket.
Sis was overjoyed when she heard the college news. Mama was bemused. Papa coughed. Papa coughed more and more. A lifetime of smoking and hacking away at a coal face had filled him with poisons. His body’d had enough, tried to cough them out. It coughed out mucus. It coughed out coal dust. It coughed out blood. It coughed out his guts. Middle of summer it could cough no more. Middle of summer the mining money ran out. Middle of summer Sis and Mama joined dozens of other mining widows and children in the scramble for the handful of part-time jobs in the sepulchral mill.
Meghan resolved that she would cast off the blanket of the dark. She packed her bag and headed west. She’d keep going until the money ran out. It ran out in Dayton, 323 miles away. Down to her last few nickels Meghan sat in a diner trying to stretch a cup of coffee into lunch and dinner. She begged for a job. On the wall a poster advertised a dance.
That evening Meghan put on her best dancing dress. She met an airman who couldn’t dance. Meghan began to teach him.
She waitressed at the diner. Went to dances at night. She taught him how to dance. Others taught him how to fight.
Hitler and Hirohito had ambitions.
Meghan organized all her friends to teach all the airman’s friends how to dance. She had a business.
She stopped working at the diner. The airman proposed. Meghan said, Yes. They had a son. The airman went to war. Meghan waited at home under a blanket of the dark.