"THE MANY LOVES OF RAFE McCAWLEY"
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SUMMARY: Just before meeting Evelyn for the first time, Rafe and Danny recall the former's past love life.
DISCLAIMER: Yadda, yadda, yadda! All characters pertaining to the motion picture, "Pearl Harbor", belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Randall Wallace and the Walt Disney Company . . . unfortunately.
PART 1 - First Love
MITCHELL FIELD, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK; DECEMBER 1940 . . . Lieutenant Daniel Walker stood in line behind his best friend and fellow Army pilot, Lieutenant Rafe McCawley. He noticed how the older man shifted from one foot to another, almost like a jackrabbit in flight.
"Godalmighty, Rafe! Simmer down!" Danny hissed into his friend's ear. "You act like a man trying to run from his own hanging."
Fearful brown eyes bored into those that belonged to the twenty-three year-old pilot. "You can call it that," Rafe shot back. "Jiminy cricket! A physical! Dammit Danny! Why didn't you tell me there was gonna be one?"
"I just found out about it, yesterday," Danny explained. "And you didn't return to the base until lights out. What took you so long in getting back?"
Rafe sighed. Both he and Danny moved a step forward toward the nurse. She was about to stick a needle into Anthony Fusco's bare bottom. The two friends squirmed at the sight of their fellow pilot's plight.
"Claudia," Rafe finally answered. "We broke up."
Danny tried not to express any jubilation over the news. He loved Rafe. Both had grown up together in Shelby County, Tennessee. They started out as best friends. And when Danny moved in with the McCawleys following his daddy's death, they virtually became brothers. The pair had gone through a lot together - childhood, love of flying, high school, college and now, the Army Air Corps. There was a lot about Rafe that Danny admired. However, the former's love life did not happen to be one of them.
"Oh, hey Rafe! I'm sorry to hear about you and Claudia." Danny tried to sound mournful over his friend's romantic mishap. Apparently, he had failed, judging by Rafe's scornful expression. "What?"
Rafe's scorn deepened. "Did you know that you were a lousy liar, Danny?"
"You never fail to tell me, if you must know."
"Well, I was right," Rafe shot back. Anthony cried out in pain and moved on, rubbing his behind. The two friends took another step forward and watched another man bend over before the nurse. Rafe continued, "I'll bet that you're jumping for joy over what happened between me and Claudia."
Danny tried to sound innocent. "Of course not!" he protested. Rafe gave him a hard stare. As usual, Danny wilted. "All right, maybe I am. I never liked her anyway. Big deal!"
"You've never liked any of my girlfriends," Rafe accused.
"What are you talking about? What about Fenton Marsh? Or Julie Fisher? I liked them!"
The soldier at the head of the line walked away, rubbing his rear end. Everyone else took a step forward. Only Billy from the two friends' squadron, stood between Rafe and a shot in the behind. Which Danny felt temporarily grateful.
Rafe whirled on the younger man, his eyes shining with suspicion. "Oh yeah?" he countered. "What about Mary Jo Burnett? From grade school? Did you like her?"
* * * *
SHELBY COUNTY, TENNESSEE; OCTOBER 1926 TO APRIL 1927 . . . The final bell at Shelbyville Elementary School in Shelby, Tennessee, announced the end of another day. Scores of children poured out of their classrooms and rushed toward the exits. Among them were ten year-old Rafe McCawley and his best friend, nine year-old Danny Walker.
The pair paused in front of a large oak tree in the schoolyard. The older boy dug into his pockets. "Look what I got!" He triumphantly produced two shiny blue marbles and showed them to Danny.
The younger boy's eyes grew wide with excitement. "Hey! Don't those marbles belong to Carl Jordan? How did you get 'em?"
"A bet." Rafe flashed his usual cocky smile. "I bet Carl that I could beat him in a bike race on Shelby Road. I won, of course."
Danny declared breathlessly, "I reckon Carl must be pretty sore. Those marbles must have cost him a fortune."
Rafe sniffed. He had never harbored a high opinion of Carl Jordan, the younger son of a local merchant. "Fifteen cents. Course, I would have never bet anything this valuable. Carl, on the other hand, never had much sense. Much like his daddy."
Admiration shone in the younger boy's eyes. "Yeah, that's Carl alright. Did you know that he once . . .?"
A scream from the other side of the schoolyard interrupted Danny. Rafe's eyes immediately shifted to the sight of two boys around his age, trying to wrestle a paper bag from the clutches of a girl. The other kids in the yard seemed determined to ignore them. Not Rafe.
The moment the ten year-old became aware of the situation, he became a knight in shining armor. The Southern gentleman who always saved the honor of a fair damsel. With a roar reminiscent of the Rebel yell, he charged at the girl's tormentors. Rafe knocked one to the ground and punched the latter a few times to ensure that the boy remained down.
The other boy, whom Rafe recognized as Carl Jordan, stared at him with baffled eyes. Before Carl could react, Rafe snatched the paper bag from the former's clutches. A snarl left Carl's mouth and he tried to rush Rafe. Fortunately, the latter proved to be quick. Rafe avoided Carl's fist with a duck and responded with a better aimed blow to the other boy's face. Carl fell to the ground with blood gushing from his nose.
"Rafe!" Danny rushed forward, obviously prepared to come to his friend's defense. "Rafe, are you okay?"
The older boy shot back, grinning, "Just fine and dandy!" Rafe glanced at the paper bag in his hand and remembered the girl standing nearby. When he turned to face her, Rafe found himself staring into a pair of dark brown eyes. He forgot about Danny, Carl Jordan and just about everyone else. "Uh," he began nervously, "I reckon this uh . . . this belong . . ."
The girl smiled. "Thank you," she said in a soft voice that could melt butter. "Thank you for returning my bag to me." She held out her hand.
Rafe blinked. "Huh? Oh." He handed the bag to her.
"May I know the name of my rescuer?"
He gave a slight cough. "Rafe. My name is Rafe McCawley."
"And mine is Mary Jo Burnett." A smile curved her generous mouth. Groans from the ground interrupted the conversation and Mary Jo's smile transformed into a frown. Carl Jordan and his friend slowly scrambled to their feet.
A groggy Carl began, "Wha . . .?"
Rafe grabbed the boy's arm. "You get out of here, Carl Jordan. Both you and Orwin. And if either of you ever bother . . . uh, Mary Jo again, both me and Danny'll whup you good. Or I just might do it myself. You hear?"
The two boys gulped nervously and raced away. Rafe turned to Mary Jo with a smile. "May I see you home, Miss Burnett?"
Her smile dazzled Rafe. "Of course." Mary Jo nodded at Danny. "Both of you can."
"Huh?" Rafe turned and saw his friend standing next to a tree stump, squirming with discomfort. He had forgotten about Danny. "Oh! Danny. Well, yeah. Sure."
Still looking uncomfortable, the nine year-old murmured, "That's okay. You two can go ahead. I gotta get home, anyway."
Rafe knew that Danny had lied. For the latter, home meant a broken down two-room shack off Horton Road, with a drunken brute of a father still recovering from the war. Danny usually delayed going home after school, as long as he possibly could.
"What are you talking about, Danny?" Rafe protested. "You usually . . ."
But the younger boy quickly bid Rafe and Mary Jo good-bye and ran off, leaving behind a bewildered Rafe. A soft hand touched the latter's arm. "Rafe? You ready?" Ah yes, Mary Jo.
Danny quickly forgotten, Rafe offered Mary Jo his arm. She accepted it and the pair strolled away from the schoolyard.
* * * *
Mary Jo Burnett. From the moment Rafe first laid eyes upon the nine year-old girl, he could not get enough of her. In fact, it did not take long for the pair to become a romantic twosome.
Rafe developed a habit of escorting Mary Jo home, after school. In doing so, he missed the school bus that usually conveyed him to his farm. But he did not care. Especially since either Mr. Burnett or his dad would give him a ride home.
During his growing romance with Mary Jo, Rafe learned that the Burnetts originally came from Arkansas. Little Rock, Arkansas. Mary Jo's daddy happened to be one of those men who helped local farmers with their crops. Mr. Burnett was one of those what Daddy called an agriculturist, who worked for the Federal government.
Despite his new relationship with Mary Jo, Rafe made sure that he spent some time with Danny. He had hoped that his best friend and his best girl would become close friends. Mary Jo seemed willing. Whenever she invited Rafe over to her house, she always included Danny in the invitation. The latter usually had an excuse not to join them. Only when Mary Jo became unavailable, did Rafe spend time with Danny.
Rafe enjoyed those increasingly rare times with Danny. However, any time spent with his best friend could not deter his feelings toward the lovely Mary Jo. He realized that he had found the love of his life. Okay, he was only ten year-old and would turn eleven in April. But Rafe recalled that his mama once told him that she and Daddy had once been childhood sweethearts. If his parents could end up married, he decided, so could he and Mary Jo.
One Saturday afternoon in late March, Rafe expressed his desires to Danny. "I'm gonna marry Mary Jo, one day," he announced. The two friends stood in the middle of a field behind the McCawley barn, tossing a baseball back and forth.
Danny's arm paused in mid-air, after catching one of Rafe's tosses. He stared at the older boy with an expression Rafe could not fathom. "Marry?" A frown darkened Danny's countenance. "You're in love with that girl, or something?"
"Her name is Mary Jo. And yeah, I'm in love with her. I plan to make her my wife." Rafe spoke with his usual self-assurance.
Disbelief now shone in Danny's eyes. "What you talking about, Rafe? You're almost eleven. You're too young to get married!"
"Not now, dummy!" Unbeknownst to Rafe, Danny winced. "Later. When we're grown up. I plan to marry Mary Jo, just like Daddy married Mama. They also used to be childhood sweethearts."
Danny's eyes focused on the large, red barn, beyond. "Oh.
Rafe noticed his friend's lackluster response and frowned. "What's wrong?"
"Don't you want me to get married?"
Danny shrugged his shoulders. "Sure. I reckon. Only . . ." He sighed.
"Only what?" Rafe demanded.
"What about flying? I thought we were gonna join the Army, together. Become pilots, like your daddy did during the war."
Rafe retorted, "Of course we are! That don't mean I can't get married. Army officers get married too, you know!"
"Yeah." Danny tossed the baseball at Rafe. Who neatly caught it.
At that moment, Rafe decided that he had enough of Danny's tepid attitude. Every since he met Mary Jo, his friend seemed to be in a snit. Which led Rafe to wonder what Danny had against her. "You don't like Mary Jo, do you?" he said, as he rushed forward to confront the younger boy. "Well?"
Danny's face turned red. He mumbled, "Course I like her."
Rafe could usually tell when his friend was lying. Like now. "Oh yeah?" he continued, "Then why do you always have something else to do when Mary Jo invites you to her house?"
A resentful tone resonated in Danny's voice. "Hey, she's your girl, not mine!"
"What's that suppose to mean?" Rafe thrust his face just inches away from Danny's.
The other boy scowled. "Back off, Rafe! I don't feeling like arguing with you!"
"That's too bad! You should have thought of that before you made those scurrilous remarks about Mary Jo!"
"What are you talking about? You don't even know what 'scurrilous' mean!" Danny shouted back.
Rage gripped Rafe. If there was one thing he hated, were insults about his reading and spelling inabilities. He dropped his mitt and the baseball and tackled the younger boy. The two friends wrestled for a few seconds, before Rafe managed to pin Danny to the ground. "Now what was that you said about Mary Jo?"
"I didn't say nothing!" Danny shot back. He squirmed to free himself from Rafe's grip, but to no avail. "But if you must know, I don't like her! Not one bit! I hate that she gets to spend more time with you, than I do!"
Danny's frank confession shocked Rafe. Dazed, the older boy released his friend. "What are you saying, Danny?" he asked quietly.
"What do you think? You spend every chance you can get with Mary Jo! I hardly get to see you anymore! How do you think that makes me feel?"
Rafe calmly replied, "Mary Jo has asked you over, a couple of times. You always turn her down."
"Because it's obvious that you wanna be with her and not me! You've made that quite clear, ever since you met her! You always walk her home! And you two always spend time together, either during lunch or any other time. I want it to be the way it used to be, Rafe! Before Mary Jo, we used to be like brothers! But now . . ." Danny struggled to his feet and glared accusingly at Rafe. "Now, I don't know what we are, anymore!" He quickly raced away.
Rafe called after his friend. "Danny? Hey Danny!" Unfortunately, the other boy did not hear. Or simply ignored him, leaving behind a stunned and bewildered ten year-old.
His argument with Danny plagued Rafe's thoughts over the next several days. To the point that it created a schism in his relationship with Mary Jo. The day following the argument, Rafe did not bother to escort her home. He excused himself on the grounds of an emergency at home. After that first day, he did not bother to make any more excuses. Rafe simply boarded the school bus without saying a word. For a while, Rafe wondered why he even bothered. Especially since Danny usually subjected him to the silent treatment during those bus rides home.
One blustery Friday, Mary Jo finally confronted Rafe during the lunch period, in the schoolyard. She demanded to know why he avoided her for nearly a week. When Rafe failed to give her an adequate explanation, Mary Jo accused him of growing weary of her. Their subsequent argument spelled the end of the romance.
Later that afternoon, Rafe boarded the school bus for home. Just seconds after he sat down, a second figure filled the empty seat next to him. It was Danny.
END OF PART 1