James Gregory Kingston

The City Island Messenger

Fiction - Coming of Age

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As he approaches the Fourth of July week in 1942, life cannot get any better for young Howie Logan. When he rides his hand-me-down Columbia two-wheeler through the streets of blue-collar City Island, young women smile and wave, while older mothers trade cookies for local gossip that only a Western Union messenger would know. Deliveries of groceries and good-news telegrams make him the darling of the Island...until the first military messages after the Battle of Midway turn him into the Angel of Death. When Howie dons the now-dreaded Western Union hat, doors close and small children are pulled inside. His increasing burden of delivering War Department death telegrams to life-long neighbors is enough to break any 12-year-old boy. But with the help of his mentor (a blind, Black musician) and the loyalty of his best friend (a young Japanese girl struggling to stay alive herself), he steps up to accept his new position in life for as long as he can endure it. The hostility for the Island's sole long-time resident Japanese family, however, is about to explode, and Howie vows to protect his friend with his life. As told by Howie's old musician/mentor, this story forces us to face life and death on a small patch of the Homefront, where war steals boys and girls, only to give back little soldiers in return. Background arena: friendship, coming of age, early adolescence and sexual awareness, sandlot baseball, bullying, prejudice, death of a family member, Japanese internment camps, Southern blues music, Irish heritage, war hero PTSD, suicide, enduring childhood humor, and NYC's dreaded Potter's Field.