To Bear a War (Summer 2014)
It is April and by now, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, so bright, so vibrant they glow in the night like pink fireflies. Their fragrance fills the air, stirs your soul, clings to your clothes as the petals dance in your hair. But, you do not mind for they put a spring in your step.
Oh, how I miss the cherry blossoms of my home!
All I smell is decay and dried blood, mud and illness, rot and uncleanness, smoke and death.
All I hear are barks in my tongue and in ones foreign to me, screams of pain, whimpers of fear, gun fire…yes, tons of gun fire; my ears are not trained to know anything else.
All I see is a desolate wasteland, dust and smoke clinging to the Earth like death’s shadow, mounds and mounds of hills that I used to think of as brothers.
Oh, how I miss the cherry blossoms of my home!
I should be in college, studying landscaping like I dreamed of since youth. I should be eating a home cooked meal with mother as father reads his newspaper carefully, smoking his pipe. I should be able to watch my sister grow up, to see if she is becoming a young lady or is still an annoying, childish brat. I should be with…
BANG! A shock ran through my body, zapping my blood. My teeth chattered uncontrollably and my ears rang like the bells of a shrine during the New Year’s season. My body reloaded my gun by instinct as I crept through the dirt, mud hugging me like a second skin. I became primal, animalistic, but as our general told us: ‘We were in war; survival, victory, and dying with honor if it came to that was our only focus…’
I shot my gun, saying the key words in my head like a mantra: Survival…Bang! Victory…Bang! Honor…BANG! The world popped around as I heard something I was not used to; silence, China sighing from the weight we had put on her. The battle was over.
I gasped, not positioning my gun down for a second. When you get into a survival state, it is hard to wind down from it, relax, become a man again…Am I still a man? I kill, I kill for honor, but, it is still a death…So, am I still…a man when society had barely considered me one? When I, at nineteen, have not considered me one?
I felt a hand on my shoulder and flinched. It was Hisao, my buck mate. He gave me a tight smile of understanding, soot smeared across his cheek, his helmet catty-cornered. I hopped down from my spot and followed him as he jabbed his thumb hard towards our camp. His grin became one of joy. I knew what that meant.
It was time for food.
We unpacked our gear in our bunks, boots sloshing like it was the rainy season, which I suppose back home, it was near. As I walked slowly to my assigned area all the way towards the back of the base, something on my bed caught my eye. It was a box. I walked a little faster, then it became a light jog until I was sliding all over the place, trying to get my footing. Good thing none of the generals saw that! I shook thinking of a punishment they would give me.
Hisao came to my side, gawking at the package as well as if it was a woman randomly laying on my bed, which, in his mind, was probably what he was wishing for. He had such a dirty mind! His commentary while we played cards made me squirm!
He was drying his short hair with a towel and he gave me a sly grin, like a fox demon catching one of his subjects stealing from a human, “Oh oh! What’s this?! Takeshi got a package? I wonder who it is from? Your osake? A lover? You stud!”
I examined the package carefully like it was a precious newborn infant, but there was no indication of where it came from; it simply had my name on it along with my division’s number. So, this person knew I was in China, at this base, but how? I was shocked we could even get more than a simple letter out here. We were in the middle of a war, for Budda’s sake!
Hisao clicked his teeth together and looked at me deviously, giving my back a hard, but playful smack that bounced off the walls. I grunted, still holding the package for dear life. I bared my teeth at him and he chuckled, his eyes shining with sheer wonder and happiness for me.
“Go ahead and open your package there buddy; might be something I do not want to see. If you get any nice pictures from any lovely ladies, however, you ARE sharing? Does that sound fair?”
I opened my mouth to respond, but before a sound escaped from my lips, Hisao slapped the back of my head and walked off, waving his hand flippantly in the air, repeating “You promised” in a cocky voice.
I ignored his usual, but comforting weirdness and sat down on my bunk, package sitting on my lap. With the utmost care, I took out my pocket knife and let the tape that bound it fall to the floor like ribbons of cascading water in a waterfall. I lifted the lid with ease, my eyes half shut from fear and half closed for wanting to make this moment last longer.
The mystery was revealed as I moved the flaps of the lid and my mind was absorbed at what was inside: it was a teddy bear.
I picked him up with care, feeling his soft fake fur. I could tell he was handmade for there was some unevenness in the stitching, but it was secure, tight, and made very well. His light brown color was warm and inviting and his eyes had a twinkle to them. He had a little, endearing smile sewed on to his charming face. I felt bad that he had to smile for all eternity, but I suppose if I was forced to feel one emotion forever, that would be the one I would pick.
He even had a different shade of brown and material to make the paws and feet! I could sit him down easily and he stayed how I posed him. Someone took a lot of time and attention to make this…was it really for me? To top it all off, the bear had a pink ribbon tied aound his neck. That pink…it reminded me of something, but my mind was fuzzy, ticking me …
Images of a moon-filled night, the breeze dancing around my body, embedding messages into my hair as someone stood beside me, someone who smiled brighter than the moon, their hair smelling like it was bursting with flowers from every land. The sky was as dark as pitch, but every time I blinked, I saw neon shapes of pink that made everything look magical, like I could believe in miracles and that impossible things could come true, that dreams were not wishes, but pathways for ourselves that had not yet been paved…
I blinked, my head beginning to throb. I looked at the little bear again and gave his head a pat. I would give him a home and protect him. He would give me something to come back to, something I could see every day.
I was about to place him back in the box for now and under my bed when a small piece of white paper became visible. It clung to the bottom of the box. I peeled it off and opened it. I was a note, written in Japanese, and addressed to me. So, the bear was truly for me! Someone had made it for me!
Excitement coursed through my veins, volts of excitement crackling the air around me. With an eagerness I was not aware existed in me. I read the message:
“Takeshi, let us look at the cherry blossoms…”
That was all it said. I scanned the page left and right, up and down, close and far, but saw no signature. The box also did not have a name or location on it. Eh? Who could have made me this bear, this little bear who filled me with such a numerous amount of emotion that I almost forgot where I was at? And what was with this message? I had just been thinking about the cherry blossoms.
The bell sounded for us to go get our dinner, but as I reluctantly closed the box with the bear and letter inside, I noticed one more clue to this mystery: a date.
The letter and package were both sent to me on February 14th.
“Nani?! What?! The package was sent to you on February 14th? You, my good sir, have a lover.” Hisao’s expressions were all over the place and after he flung his spoon out of his hand, he leaned back in his chair all too casually, rocking back and forth on two legs with his arms crossed behind his head. A man whose voice could drown out a fighter plane and then go act like all of this was no big deal, like I was a lonely priest to his godliness, irked me.
Title: Fallen Star Dust
Author: Morgan Straughan Comnick
Genre: Collection (Poetry, Short Stories, and more)
When I reached the point where adult life began to make its presence known right after high school graduation, I looked to the sky. I hoped to see a shooting star that would light my way and I wished that it would leave a trail of star dust behind to remind myself to stay young at heart. Thanks to writing, the enchantment of youth has never left me. In the next chapter of my life, I began college to follow my dream of being an educator. I developed my career, found out who I was an independent being, stopped hiding my passions, figured out my role in my lifelong relationship with my now-husband, and realized that it was okay to question the world. There was darkness that needed to be seen as well as the light. The poems, short stories, scripts, essays, and other works in this second collection are my everything: the shoulders I cried on, my joys, my bravery when the road became too twisty or too safe. It led me to a waterfall of creativity. That fallen star dust gave me the drive to become who I am today: a teacher, an author, a nerd, and a person of morals, love, and magic.
Educator of young minds by day, super nerdy savior of justice and cute things by night, Morgan Straughan Comnick has a love for turning the normal into something special without losing its essence. Morgan draws from real life experiences and her ongoing imagination to spark her writing. In her spare time, she enjoys doing goofy voices, traveling to new worlds by turning pages, humming child-like songs, and forcing people to smile with her “bubbliness.” It is Morgan’s mission in life to spread the amazement of otaku/Japanese culture to the world and to stop bullying; she knows everyone shines brightly.
For more information about Morgan and her works, check out her website, which also have links to all her social medias: http://morganscomnick.com.