In WWI, letters from girlfriends and wives back home were called sugar reports. Messages might sustain soldiers on their quests, giving them something sweet to look forward to. It’s not certain if this phrase was used in other wars, but the idea is ageless.
Writers were asked to imagine (or reimagine) what could be contained in a sugar report. Letters and ideas expanded across the battlefield to include new uses for the word, or clever twists.
The following are based on the
PART I (10-minute read)
The Female Pilot by Joanne Fisher
Mary was at the controls of the B-29 bomber. She was helping ferry the new aircraft to a military base. Mary was part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots program, or WASP for short. That was all she could do for the war effort, since she wasn’t allowed to fly combat missions, that certainly wasn’t part of the program. Only in Russia could women be combat pilots…
In her jacket pocket was a letter from her “friend” Lucy. She would wait until she got to the base, and then she would find somewhere quiet to read her “sugar report”.
Right Direction by Reena Saxena
It was a tough choice, but she had always done things differently.
Rosy decided to join the army after her husband Herbert became a martyr to the country’s cause. She was welcomed, and her decision glorified to start with. Gradually, the grim reality of the situation set in.
Tears rolled down her eyes as she opened her sugar report – mails from her two lovely children. Isn’t this what Herbert referred to her letters as – sugar report?
“Mom, we are proud of you. Don’t worry about us. We have joined the NCC- it is a stepping stone in the right direction.
1917 Sugar Report by Jules Dixon
I inhale deep. She’s here. It’s one of the only times of quiet among the men. Names on white rectangles called out into the cold air. Words that keep us going when we don’t want to. Some of the guys call them sugar reports; sweet, concerned words melting chests and eyes. I save mine. I don’t let anyone see me reading what will show my weakness. It might be the last words I ever hear my sweet Madeline whisper and I always imagine she’s right there beside me. The letter smells like her. I inhale deep. She’s not here.
Dear, Sweet Sugar Report by Chelsea Owens
“Looks like t’mail’s come,” Private O’Boyle said. He leaned over the M-2’s exposed, greasy innards and smiled at his friend.
Pfc. Flanagan grinned back. The two watched a soldier unloading a canvas bag.
“Betcha got one from Mary,” O’Boyle teased. He dodged Flanagan’s kick.
“Oh; aye? And what of *you*, Joseph O’Boyle?”
O’Boyle pretended sudden concentration in securing a bolt. A smudge of grease almost worked to hide his half-smile.
“Aha!” Flanagan said, “I knew it.”
“You’re not foolin’ anyone! You’ve had more Sugar Reports from Miss Josephine Callahan that the rest of the unit put together!”
Mail Drop by D. Avery
“She didn’t forget you this week, Dougie.”
The lieutenant handed out the mail, watched as the steamy jungle faded and the men disappeared into familiar kitchens, old neighborhoods, into embraces remembered or imagined.
Then his radio man was at his side. He didn’t need to tell his men; they were folding their letters, tucking them into their breast pockets, some kissing them before putting them in the band of their helmets. The jungle was back in full focus.
“Time to draw straws.”
“Don’t bother Lieu. I’ll go.” Dougie took point, his crumpled letter left behind in an MRE can.
Sugar Sugar by Kerry E.B. Black
The wind hung heavy with dust and destruction, but his pocket shielded a secret. Encased in Army-issued green, a letter from home bore the sweetest message. His girl expected their baby’s arrival before spring bloomed. Although it was hard to imagine anything as delicate as a flower or a baby, such images sustained him through dark nights and hellish days. Shells broke bones. Under fire, skin shriveled. Yet his spirit clung to a need to meet and love his little family. He’d collect the honey of their innocence and craft from it a balm to heal his wounded soul.
Mail for You by Padmini Krishnan
“Was this the mail you were reading?” the young lieutenant passed a letter to Henry.
“Thank you,” Henry took it and wondered if he was expected to salute the lieutenant
The lieutenant hesitated, “I found this under the wires. It probably fell from your pocket.” Henry looked at the bruises in the lieutenant’s hands where the barbed wires had cut him. He took the crumpled photo of his girlfriend. “Thank you,” he said, quietly.
The lieutenant saluted him and walked away. Henry stared at his back, then walked back to his tent to join the other prisoners of war.
Sweet Words of Home by D. Avery
Since at least the second World War
And all wars after and all before
Now Iraq, or Afghanistan
It’s sweet words of home sustains a man
That you send comfort shows your strength
You’re the one deserves parades of thanks
You speak to me of a life at home
Thinking me the man you’ve known
And I know you say you love me still
But I began to die with my first kill
Your letters delivered to my hell
And I reply but cannot tell
I want to die, yet Death I refuse
Because of you, my Living muse
Sugar Report by Jacquie Biggar
Unashamed tears roll down my face, words on scented paper imprinted on my mind.
I think about you every day, but never more than now.
He’s beautiful, my darling. A full head of hair, nut-brown like yours. Ten perfect fingers and toes, and a smile that fills my heart.
The nurse says gas, but we know better. He’s thinking of the day you’ll come home and take us into your loving arms.
I pray it’s soon.
Love you always and all ways,
Three long months ago, my baby wrote me a love letter- I’m a father.
Found Letters by Susan Zutautas
Jenny was cleaning out her mom’s house after she’d died and came across a stack of letters tied together. She was curious to find out who they were from, so she settled into a big comfy chair and was shocked as soon as she started to read them. They were from a man in the army and from the written words she could tell that he was in love with her mother and planned to marry. After putting two and two together Jenny found out that this man was her father who never returned from the war. Tears flowed.
1917 Sugar Report by Charli Mills
In 1916 it wasn’t clear if America would send troops overseas, but if they did, John Kellerman was enlisted and ready. His mother refused to say goodbye the day he left their Midwest farm. She was a widow against the war. His kid sister ran after his bus, waving proudly. She sent him letters scented with pink roses from her victory garden. Kellerman let his squad believe he had a sugar report from home, enjoying the minor deception. When he was killed on the frontline, they buried him and his sister’s letters beneath a white cross. Nothing sweet remained.
Sweet Roses by Saifun Hassam
Sitting on the park bench, Ginny was lost in her memories of Grandpa. Among his personal photos and letters were Grandma’s sugar reports when Grandpa served in Vietnam.
Her reverie was suddenly interrupted by the young guy who had been walking impatiently up and down the path, a beautiful bouquet of roses in his hand. With a smile and a gallant bow, he offered her the roses. Before she could thank him, he strode off.
Ginny returned to the old First Avenue Cemetery. Lovingly she placed the roses near the potted peonies and daisies, for her Grandma and Grandpa.
Future Days by Sascha Darlington
It was getting harder, preparing care packages, mementos, conjuring sweet sayings, keeping her hand steady to write. Sitting even became a struggle.
“Please, Casey, please write this one,” Bea implored.
“You must tell him.”
“We’ve been through this. I want him home safe.”
Casey penned Bea’s words, her own hand trembling.
“The blooming daffodils smell of spring, remind me of you,” Bea dictated.
Casey’s heart clenched. Bea hadn’t been outside in days.
“I imagine future days we’ll walk, hands clasped.”
Weeks later, Casey gazed across the meadow, where a trick of light revealed a couple, hand-in-hand, picking poppies.
Send ‘Em a Letter by Susan Sleggs
At the Home-front Warriors meeting, Tessa’s father asked, “How do you communicate with your service member?” He was surprised all the answers involved electronics. “Doesn’t anyone write letters anymore? In my father’s era, they were called sugar reports. Do you realize if your loved one pulls out a phone in a war zone, the enemy can track the GPS coordinates.”
There were murmurs of surprise and dismay.
“I challenge you all to write a happy, newsy letter. One that can be carried in a pocket and reread in silence reminding them they have a reason to get back home.”
PART II (10-minute read)
Sweet Lamb by Sherri Matthews
My dearest Harry,
How I miss you! It’s raining here, the puddles by the barn are knee-deep. Father’s out there now with Lucy, remember her, the old, fat sheep we didn’t think would lamb? Well, she did, a boy. Father let me name him Harry, after you, the most handsome lamb I’ve ever seen. If only you were here, we could sneak into the barn like we used to. Come home soon, my dearest love, so we can marry. I think we’ve got our own little Harry on the way and Father is getting suspicious. Your darling, Daisy.
Alex’s Sugar Report by Lisa R. Howeler
The sergeant tossed the letter at him on his way by. Alex snatched it from where it had fallen on his bunk. He smelled the perfume before he even saw the return address.
A smile tugged at his mouth. He closed his eyes, pictured her smile, her green eyes, remembered her lips warm and soft under his.
“What’s that, Alex? A sugar letter?”
Alex let out a long sigh. “Indeed.”
“What’s it say?”
Alex read the words. The smile faded.
“Bad news?” Matthew asked.
Alex laughed. “No. The best news ever. I’m going to be a dad.”
Sugar Report by FloridaBorne
He remembered his high school sweetheart’s kiss the day Private Smith vowed to marry her once the war was over.
That day, he’d felt like a hero. After a year of fear, exhaustion, death… killing, he wasn’t the same man.
“Sugar report!” His sergeant chuckled, giving him two letters.
Same thing from his girlfriend: gossip.
He’d met a librarian in London, someone with a brain, marrying her on leave 3 months ago.
He tore open her letter. He was going to be a father?
He began a letter to his girlfriend, long overdue, “Dear Millie, I’m not returning home…”
Sugar Report: Code Red by Lisa Listwa
Kiddo was unusually wound up when Mom picked her up at school.
“How was school today?”
“Great!” she said. Kiddo, backpack, lunchbox, and Valentine’s box all tumbled into the car. “The Valentine party was SOOOO much fun!”
“Hmm…” said Mom. “What did you eat today?”
“I only had my lunch that you packed. It was good.”
“Is that all?” Mom was skeptical. “Did they have treats at the party?”
“Oh yeah!” said the Kid. “I forgot!”
Please say water, apples, and air-popped popcorn…
“Red candy hearts, lollipops, cupcakes with pink and red sprinkles…”
Great, thought Mom. Code Red Dye.
Valentine’s Day at School by tracey robinson
“So, how was school today?” I ask as my son bounces around in the back seat. “Good,” he says, which is his typical response.
“Did you do anything special for Valentine’s Day?” “Well, in advisory we got Hershey Kisses and in Latin Mr. C gave us donuts. Oh and Mrs. P handed out Smarties.” “Oh, really? “What about lunch, anything special?” “We got ice cream sandwiches, the Neapolitan kind.” “Great,” I replied with a sigh, regretting the chocolate cake I had baked for dessert.
“So what’s for snack?” my son asked, oblivious to the impact of his sugar report.
My Sugar Report by Colleen M. Chesebro
It’s been a difficult month. I’ve fought temptation the best I could, to no avail. My sugar report for this month is a bust. I couldn’t fight the temptations. I gave in to my demons.
My weight loss journey has been fraught with many ups and downs. One day, I meet my goal without breaking a sweat. The next day after a three-mile ramble, I’m starving and willing to eat every carb in the house. And, I do.
Some battles just aren’t worth the fight. My mom said for special occasions, just go ahead and just eat the cake!
Sugar Report by Anita Dawes
A letter I found inside a second hand book
From a nine-year-old called Charlotte
Addressed to Santa dated 1976
Dear Santa, I don’t need any toys
Or new clothes this year
I need help to make my daddy better
He’s been sick a long time
And mummy is very worried
Doctor said we have to wait
For daddy to get better
because she does not think he can.
She said I should pray
I try hard, please help, love Charlotte
With Santa’s magical delivery in one night
I hoped that Charlotte’s request for help
was answered somehow…
Sugar Letter by Roberta Eaton Cheadle
The report was no sugar letter. Its message was clear; devoid of any chocolate coating. The shadowy shape on the sonar was a tumour. It was wrapped around the main artery in William’s stomach making effective surgical removal difficult.
“I’ll remove as much of it as possible,” Dr McDonald said, “the piece left behind should shrivel up and disappear.”
He looked at the parents sitting across from him, their faces white and troubled. “The piece I remove will be biopsied.”
“I’ll donate my blood if it’s ever needed. We are a match.” It was all he had to offer.
Clewiston, 1973 by magpie477
Rosario, I miss you and the children so much. Our camp is crowded and filthy: nine other men in this shack, no toilet or running water. Every morning we are driven to the cane fields where we cut until our backs ache and the machete blisters our hands. For lunch, rice, sometimes a little pork. (Oh, for a cassava!) I can cut eight tons a day but am lucky to get two dollars. Boss treats us like pigs. If we complain, says, “Why don’t you go home?”
I wish I could. But there is no job for me there.
Sugar Report by M J Mallon
I’m missing you so much; the days are endless without you. Yesterday, I placed some flowers on Richard’s grave. The cold and I stood shivering by his gravestone. No one was around so I confessed everything. By the time I’d finished, it was getting dark and the tombstones were getting darker.
I feel so guilty with you in prison. Passion drove us to his mess. I wish I’d stuck with Richard’s humdrum, instead of going for your sugar kisses. But, I’d murder again for one sweet kiss.
Back Before Email and Text by Anne Goodwin
She basked in the cultural difference. She dodged the landmines of Give-me-pen and What-is-your-name? She swapped travellers’ tales over masala dosa. She pulled the dupata over her head and slinked away. She wandered blissfully through cities where no-one knew her. She felt so lonely she cried.
She re-read the letters on blue onion-skin airmail paper. The sugar reports from home. Relived the joy of leaving the Poste Restante with a stack of reminders she was more than Anonymous Westerner. Some days she’d queue at the office knowing there’d be nothing for her. In towns she’d never planned to be.
Letter of Intent by JulesPaige
from what I could tell
Valentine was up all night
go on grab hold – love
such a brief message, he sent;
healed, my faith – sentenced to death
who could judge my heart
such a sugar report those
lines restoring faith
While reading about Valentine, Lee imagined the blind girls’ thoughts. Did Ife, her guardian spirit whose name meant woman of love; was Ife also helping to restore the faith of those who had lost so much? The Judge who sentenced Valentine to death, could he have imagined his role in the modern holiday.
Ife’s rose scent wafted gently through…
Torn by Hugh Roberts
The first words that entered Mike’s head when looking at the picture were ‘I love you.’ He wished he’d kept the sugar letter he’d received while on duty in Iraq.
Torn by love and lust, Sophie suddenly remembered the reply she’d got from a sugar letter she’d sent. Had he meant what he had said? Was now the right time to find out?
Two floors above, Doug dreamt about a tall stranger dressed in military uniform stood in a field of daisies, and who held an unopened letter towards him. ‘Not everything is as it seems,’ whispered the stranger.
Dispatch From my Third Floor Cubicle by Bill Engleson
Darling, what a lovely surprize. I’d expected nothing more this Valentines Day than my usual excruciating hour commute, often as not sitting next to that irritating millennial, Dulcie Ditherspoon, the new HR manager from the fifth floor, who just happens to board at the next station to ours and never fails to find a seat inches from me.
Today, she was clutching a dozen roses and a box of chocolate, and saying, “My sweet Riley, he’s so woke. I’m so quiche. He’s so goat.”
I almost tossed my cookies.
Your valentine-shaped peanut butter cookies.
Work is such dense warfare.
The Sweet Price of Freedom by Curious Archaeologist
“Those damn women.” He slapped the paper down.
His colleague looked up, surprised.
“This report, sales of West India sugar have slumped. This campaign not to use our sugar, just because of slavery – ‘Am I not a woman and a sister’ indeed.”
“What can we do? We’ve tried everything, it’s not working.”
She sipped her tea, the sugar bowl labelled ‘Not made by slaves’. The report was wonderful news, the campaign was working.
In the newly reformed parliament, the MP’s had been told how to vote, across the tea tables of Britain the battle for freedom was fought – and won.
Frankie Rides. Again by D. Avery
“Thanks agin fer the sugar cubes Kid. It’s got Burt eatin’ right outta my hand.”
“Reckon it’s another busy week fer you an’ Burt, ‘ey Frankie?”
“What d’ya mean, Kid?”
“Deliverin’ mail. Last week all them condolence cards, this week Valentines an’ love letters— sugar reports as she says.”
“Kid, I reckon those condolence cards and notes was letters a love too. Funny thing about mail. It’s all jest somethin’ in a envelope, ya jest don’t know; could be sugar, could be salt, looks the same. An’ some a this week’s sugar reports are sure ta be bittersweet.”