Back during the war years, Patricia O’Connell (née Hitchcock) was restless. Despite the fact that her family moved to Los Angles two years before, and were now living in the lap of luxury (no winter, no food shortages), Pat couldn’t escape the pull of Queen and Country. Her mother Alma grew increasingly alarmed as her daughter went about researching, and then ultimately signing up for active duty with the WRNs “wrens” (Women’s Royal Naval Service). Her father on the other hand, seemingly too distracted by the political wranglings at the studio, wished her well and headed off to work.
However, the great Director did have some pull back home and worked his contacts to secure her a relatively cushy job. Ready for action, to be of use to her country, young Pat learned that she was assigned to Operation Outward, which sounded like just the sort of important work that she had dreamt of securing poolside in LA. But the job quickly lost its luster, it’s gravitas, when she was deposited in front of a golf course and ordered to walk to the clubhouse to report for duty. She lodged an official complaint with her Commanding Officer, but he assured her that the barrage balloon unit she had been assigned to was indeed hazardous and honorable work. A fan of her father’s film and therefore eager to keep her around, Officer Jack showed her the flash proof jacket and hood, then demonstrated how she must apply the thick protective cream to her face and hands. There was the “beer, jelly and socks” that would fall from the balloons and set the forests of Germany ablaze. There were the trailing wires dangling from the balloons that would short out the electric lines of the enemy.
Despite how silly it all seemed, Pat did her bit. The thick cream she slathered onto her face and hands meant that every night she had to wash it off. Whereas, the other wrens in her unit were content to simply wipe off the cream, Pat suffered through frigid showers in the hope of saving her fragile and delicate complexion. Only Alan, a Royal Navy Officer, was equally fastidious about his personal hygiene.
On this one particular frigid night, her shower was pleasingly warm. Pat, when she shared the story with her parents, recalled that right before the moment in question, she was singing a simple ditty that was playing on the radio before she left LA. She stepped out of the steamy shower. Emerging suddenly through the dense fog was Alan. His head was wrapped in what looked like a gingham tablecloth. He wore a rose colored robe, cinched at his slender waist and held something shiny in his upraised right hand.
Before Pat could register that it was a wet toothbrush, she screamed.
And then she screamed again.