"Fears and Hopes"
by Kevin Schultz
SETTING: Takes place a short time after "All's Noisy on the Pittsburgh Front"
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Not all of the views expressed by either character are necessarily held by the author. This story is merely an exercise in character interaction and stuff like that. I'm not a dove or a hawk, so don't send me hate mail. Other than that, enjoy!
Mr. Eldridge shuffled across the studio towards the exit, and extended his hand to turn of the last set of lights in the room. Looking around in the dark gloom, Mr. Eldridge smiled quietly to himself.
It was well after midnight, and everyone else had left for the day. He was alone, and he was happy. Sometimes he enjoyed being by himself, just puttering around in the studios or the hallways, cleaning. Sometimes he liked to sing a little bit. Well, hum, at least.
As he left the studio and entered the main hallway, he noticed a light on in the Green Room across the way. Frowning ever so slightly, he made his way over to the pair of doors. The blinds were shut so he could not make out any details within the room, so instead he gently rapped on the doorframe. Hearing no answer from within, Mr. Eldridge pushed the door open and ambled into the room.
Seated at the table near the cupboards and counters along the right-hand side of the room was Eugenia Bremer. The station's organist and sometimes-actress sat with a cup of coffee in her hands as she stared out into the room, a blank look on her face.
Moving further into the room, Mr. Eldridge made his way over to the table. He gently cleared his throat to get Eugenia's attention, as his movements so far had not roused her. Starting ever so slightly, Eugenia flicked her eyes up at the kind figure of Mr. Eldridge.
"Oh, Mr. Eldridge!" Eugenia breathed. "I'm so sorry, I didn't see you standing there."
Smiling a warm smile at her, Mr. Eldridge replied, "No trouble at all, Miss Bremer. I only just came in."
Eugenia smiled nervously back, then shifted her focus back to her beverage.
Sensing her timidity, Mr. Eldridge stretched out a hand, gently touching her shoulder. "What is it, Eugenia? What's bothering you tonight?"
As she took a sip of her drink, Eugenia paused for a moment, then answered, "Oh, nothing, Mr. Eldridge. I'm fine, really I am."
Mr. Eldridge pulled out another chair from the table and sat himself down. "Now, Eugenia Bremer," he said, a humorously stern tone evident in his voice. "I have been on this Earth far too long to be convinced by that quick denial. Tell me, what is troubling you?"
After another moment's pause, Eugenia set her cup down on its saucer and looked right into Mr. Eldridge's kind, crinkly eyes. "No one can ever fool you, Mr. Eldridge."
"I should say not," the old man said proudly. "The only one I will ever let fool me is me. Now, what is troubling our resident musician, hmmm?"
Eugenia looked down at the table, then started to speak quietly. "It's this war, I think. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. I know that the Germans and the Japanese and their allies are evil, I don't doubt that. It's just..."
"Go on," Mr. Eldridge prompted gently.
"Well, I'm just not sure what is going to happen to our country as we fight this war."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, we've always heard that 'Violence never solves violence', right? And yet we've also been taught to 'fight fire with fire'. I guess I'm just confused. If we take the fight to our enemies, does that in turn make us as bad as them?"
Mr. Eldridge pursed his lips. "I see," he mused.
"Well, like I said, Mr. Eldridge, I know that we need to fight this war, don't get me wrong. If we don't show those Axis meanies what's what, no one will."
"And now that they've taken the fight to us, it feels so very different now. Yes, it is terrible what the Germans have done to the British, with those horrible bombing raids. I know Jeff would back me up on that. But now... Now that they've attacked *us*... Attacked America, for goodness' sake. That... well, that just makes me so gosh darn angry!" Her hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, I'm so terribly sorry, Mr. Eldridge, pardon my language! I get so flustered sometimes I can't control what I'm saying!"
Chuckling, Mr. Eldridge reached out and gently patted Eugenia's other hand. "Understood completely."
Eugenia smiled thankfully back as she continued. "Does that make me a bad person? Wanting to go after the bad guys because they attacked my country? Am I evil for wanting to take the fight to them?"
Mr. Eldridge took a deep breath, then let it out. "Eugenia Bremer, let me assure you. Almost nothing in the world can make *you* a bad person. You are one of the most warm, loving, kind-hearted, and generous souls I have encountered during my long life. I don't think one person who has ever worked with you here could ever utter a single bad word about you."
Eugenia blushed. "Why, thank you, Mr. Eldridge, but that's not quite what I meant."
"I know," the old man continued. "No, wanting to 'go after the bad guys' does not make you a bad person, either. Sometimes, in this imperfect world, evil happens. And sometimes, the people that do evil understand nothing but evil. That is why we need to fight them. The Nazis and the Japanese would scoff if we attempted a peaceful diplomatic solution, because that is not their way. They wouldn't understand it, and we would look even more weak to them. The military exists for just that purpose. Yes, we would prefer them not to have to be put to use. But if the need arises, and because there is sin in this world, it will arise... then they will go to work, and do what must be done."
"I know, it's just..." She trailed off, unsure of her words.
"It's different when our own country is attacked?"
Eugenia nodded. "Yes."
"That is true. We have an innate sense of protection built into us. If you attack our friends, our loved ones, then by gum we will not let you get away with it!" A sad look drifted onto his face. "I've seen too many friends die upon the battlefield. But I know that each one of them fought and died for the principles of our country. For the freedom that is entitled not only to Americans, but to *everyone* in the world. And were they given a second chance, those fallen friends of mine would say, 'Let me back at 'em!', every single one of them. They knew what they fought for was important. More important than the life of just one man. It is a very sad fact that death has to be such a significant factor, but it is true. All of us wish there were no wars."
"Do you think we'll win?" Eugenia asked.
"Oh, I am quite certain of it!" Mr. Eldridge said proudly. "I have spent enough time in the armed forces to know how the United States conducts itself. Yes, Eugenia, we will be triumphant. I'd buy the farm on it!"
Narrowing her eyes, Eugenia asked, "Erm, do you mean 'bet the farm on it' perhaps?"
Eugenia nodded, picking up her cup of coffee. Sipping from it, she reflected on Mr. Eldridge's words. "So, I'm not a bad person then?" she asked him.
Mr. Eldridge shook his head. "Not one little bit."
Eugenia finished off her drink and stood up. Placing her cup and saucer on the nearby countertop, she then turned to face Mr. Eldridge, who also got to his feet. She rushed over to him and gave him a great bear hug, nearly squeezing the breath out of him.
"Thank you, Mr. Eldridge," she said as she released him. "I do feel better now. I just had some doubts, that's all."
"As do we all, Eugenia, from time to time. The trick is to face them and beat them. And you are strong enough to do both, aren't you?" He winked conspiratorily at her and she giggled.
"I suppose I am," Eugenia laughed. She headed for the Green Room door, and, having placed her hand upon the doorframe, she paused. Turning to look at Mr. Eldridge, she raised an eyebrow. "Walk you to the trolley?"
It was Mr. Eldridge's turn to laugh. He let out a hearty chuckle as he shuffled over to Eugenia and extended his arm gallantly. "I thought you would never ask," he said happily.
Arm in arm, the two strolled out of the Green Room and down the hallway towards the exit. As they left WENN for the night, their voices drifted from the hallway outside as they walked along together.
"Did you know that Victor and Scott are both vying for Betty's affections?" Eugenia's fading voice asked.
"You don't say," Mr. Eldridge could barely be heard to remark. "I wonder when Betty will wise up and realize that the right man for her is..."
The elevator doors slid shut, cutting off their voices.