A Chat with Olive Alexander from Come Down Somewhere by Jennifer L. Wright

Welcome to NovelPASTimes! Today we’re joined by Miss Olive Alexander of Alamogordo, New Mexico—

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Olive: I’m not from Alamogordo.

I’m sorry?

Olive: I’m not from Alamogordo. I’m living there with my grandma—for now—but I’m not from there. I’m from my family’s ranch on the Jornada, near the Chupadera Mesa.

I beg your pardon. Sorry about that.

Olive: It’s alright.

Well, how about we start with you telling us a little about yourself?

Olive: Okay. Well, I’m fifteen years old. Lived in New Mexico all my life on the ranch built by my grandfather after he emigrated from Russia. My dad died a few years ago, so my uncle Hershel—his brother—moved in to help out. Not that I’d call what he does “help.” He mainly drinks and sulks, complaining about how the world is going to pot. My mom and I ignore him for the most part, and so did my brother, Avery. But now . . . I don’t know . . . Avery follows him around like some kind of puppy.

Why do you think that is?

Olive: I don’t know. Maybe it’s got something to do with the war? Avery tried to enlist but couldn’t on account of color blindness. I think that put a chip on his shoulder. Made him feel like less of a man somehow or like he didn’t matter. Maybe joining in on Hershel’s blustering and ranting makes Avery feel important again.

You say “the war” like it puts a bad taste in your mouth. Why is that?

Olive: Now look, I’m not anti-war. I think Hitler’s evil, and there weren’t no excuse for what the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. I’m behind our troops 110 percent. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m just . . . well, I guess frustrated is the right word. Everyone keeps telling us that we need to do our part for the war effort but what is my part? Seems like nobody nowhere had need of me. Not even here at home.

What do you mean?

Olive: You said it yourself right there at the beginning of the interview. Sayin’ I was from Alamogordo and all. Why did you believe I was from Alamogordo?

Because that’s what your information sheet said. Your address was listed as a house on Delaware Avenue, Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Olive: Exactly. I’m not from Alamogordo but I’m living there now because my mom shipped me off. Wouldn’t let me live on the ranch anymore, even though Avery’s leaving and they need the help. They don’t need my help anymore. 

What do you mean she wouldn’t let you live on the ranch anymore?

Olive: Well, on accounts of the Army moving in.

The Army?

Olive: Yeah, the Army. They enacted something called “eminent domain,” which gave them the right to take over our ranch for the war effort. There’s some sort of project they’re working on nearby, and they need the space to house construction workers. It’s top secret. Hush-hush. 

The Army is working on a top secret military project here? In the middle of nowhere?

Olive: Why you gotta say it like that? Is there something wrong with southern New Mexico?

Not at all. It’s just so . . . isolated. And desolate.

Olive: I know. I like it that way. But I sure don’t understand why the Army picked this place out of the entire United States to do . . . well, whatever it is they’re doing. Especially since it means I’ve been kicked out of my home. And with it being so top secret, no one can even really tell me why.

Well, can’t you just view this as your part of the war effort? Everyone is sacrificing, right? This is just your particular brand of sacrificing.

Olive: I don’t mind sacrificing for the war effort. We’ve been rationing and going without plenty of things, just like everyone else. What’s hard about sacrificing my home is that, out of my entire family, I’m the only one doing it. Avery’s leaving—finally got accepted into the Army after all—but both Ma and Uncle Hershel get to stay on the ranch. I’m the only one who has to leave. Why is that?

I . . . I don’t know.

Olive: Exactly.

Well, even if it’s not your preferred location, surely there must be something good about living in Alamogordo. Something that perhaps eases your burden a little bit?

Olive: Well, my grandma’s here. Out on the ranch, I don’t get to see her much, so it’s nice to be able to get to know her a little better, even with all her silly notions about God and church and all. And I like the soda fountains downtown. Can’t get that out in the country. But the best thing?

Go on.

Olive: *smiles sheepishly* I don’t want to talk about it.

You’re smiling though. It must be something really good if you’re smiling. It’s the first one I’ve seen all day.

Olive: Oh, it is good. A tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed kind of good. But I still don’t want to talk about it.

*Grins* Fair enough. Well, thank you for talking to me, Olive. I wish you the best of luck in Alamogordo and pray this war ends quickly so you can get back home as soon as possible.

Olive: You sound like my grandma. You can keep your prayers, but I thank you all the same.


Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home.

She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, one grumpy old dachshund, and her newest obsession—a guinea pig named Peanut Butter Cup.

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