When I was very young, my mother used to take me up to a blockhouse on the bluff behind the Prineville Hospital. There, we would watch the western skies for invading Russian bombers. This was a few years after the end of the Korean War when American believed war with Russia was inevitable. What follows is a deleted scene from my novel in progress The Brightside Murders. Agnes Flehardy is a civilian ground observer, watching the skies for a sneak attack, but she spies something else altogether.
Oregon High Desert
Six orange lights blazed across the sky, left to right, almost grazing the tip of Grizzly Mountain. “They’re coming,” Agnes Flehardy cried to no one in particular. “They’re coming.” With sudden precision, the lights reversed course zigged back and disappeared behind the black peak.
Her breath showed white puffs in the small room. May, but still the early morning temperatures dipped below freezing. She’d have to cover her vegetable beds with burlap when she got home. Her hands shook as she dropped her binoculars and picked up the red phone at the rear of the concrete blockhouse. Somehow the overhead bulb had been turned on. She didn’t remember pulling the cord.
“Control,” a distant voice said on the phone.
“They’re here,” Agnes said.
“Who?” the man asked. “Who are here?”
“The Russians. The bombers.” In her imagination, an atomic bomb exploded over Barnesville.
“Do you have your book?” An edge crept into the voice.
“Yes. Here, here it is.” She flipped open the book. It contained silhouettes of different aircraft, Russian, British and American. Prop planes and jets. Fighters and bombers. “Aircraft Identification for the Ground Observer ” on the front. Agnes was a group observer, proud to help her nation.
“Look carefully, the planes are they Russian TU-95’s, the Bears?”
“I can’t tell, all I see are the lights. Orange lights over Grizzly Mountain.”
“East? Heading east?” Somewhere in the background a bell sounded.
“No, north, then south, then north, then they disappeared behind the mountain.”
“Not Russian bombers, then.”
“Not planes, lights. They’re here.” Her voice squealed with frustration. “They’re really here.” But the line was dead.