DETOUR à CUBA BY Michael Hicks Thompson

PART I

Once the port-of-call jewel for Magnus Wealthy, Cuba has been a country lost in time for the last half century, plus some.

Never been to Cuba? I recommend it. But do it before it returns to the playground of the filthy rich and the Hemingway admirers.

Yes, I’ve been there twice. But not as Magnus Wealthy. Think short-term mission trip. Door-to-door evangelism. Knock, knock. “May we come in.” (Of course, my interpreter said it the proper way: “¿Podemos entrar?”)

An interpreter is essential if you can’t speak the language.

But here’s the beautiful thing. Most Cubans are the friendliest people you’ll meet. They love to meet and greet Americans. We’re a mystery to them. It’s amazing. And understandable. Most have never tasted freedom.

Castro usurped the country in the biggest land swindle ever. Now, the elderly Cubans alive today are happy with a single, pathetic gift from Papa Castro’s government.

“He give me this cooking pot,” the appreciative, sun-wrinkled, Spanish speaking octogenarian said.

Never mind that his midget refrigerator will take him a lifetime to pay off.

PART II

We flew into Havana, via Mexico, spent the night and flew on to Holguin (hole-Keen) early the next morning. It’s a four-hour flight. Cuba is the size of California.

The ‘hotel’ in Holguin was once a grand one—now, dilapidated. Papa not only didn’t let the government keep hotels up to standard, he took the toilet seats away. From personal experience, I can assure you he did it to humiliate the eleven-and-a-half-million souls into submission.

Ask any American what Cubans look like and they’ll include “dark-skinned” as an answer. However, you’d be surprised to see nearly as many red-headed and blue-eyed Cubans as dark-skinned islanders. The Spanish influence is apparent. Fifty-one percent of Cubans are Mulatto, thirty-seven percent, White, and eleven percent, Black.

All Cubans are proud. And friendly. Why shouldn’t they be? They’ve not had the outside world of communications and world events for three generations. They’ve simply missed the rise in socio-economic gain around the world. They’ve been isolated. They don’t know any other life. They’ve lived on Cuban baseball and communism since 1959.

And they’ve avoided all the gun-shot TV news and television episodes of Law & Order. God blessed them.

Or, did He?

When I think of Cuba, I think of Maria. She’s the Lady who led our group through Cuba. Maria was born and raised in Havana, in a prominent family.

Shortly after Castro took over, her father gathered his wife and children and fled to America.

Maria has such a huge heart for her native land. She’ll always love her people and her land.

Many wealthy families left their homes and their businesses behind; to start over. But the ones not able to afford travel remained behind. They faced the dark days of seclusion.

Catholicism gradually faded away. To be replaced by many false religions—Santería being the most prominent. It’s a singing religion based on the old songs of slavery. So, most Santeríans are descendants of African slaves.

PART III

Every morning ten of us would have breakfast, pray, and pile into vans with our interpreters for an hour or two ride to a small village, usually to the south, near Guantanamo. A different village each morning. That way, we could avoid the immigration officials who’d heard we were proselytizing in their country. Only once did we hear our leader yell out, “Everybody in the vans. We have to leave. Now!”

We would meet at a local house church and greet the pastor. Some would have no more than ten church members; some as many as thirty. We snuck in bibles, clothes, hygiene products, and boatloads of gum.

Each church provided a local member to escort us, individually with our interpreter, to un-churched homes in the village. The patriarch or matriarch always welcomed us. Some even asked us to hold off any discussion so they could gather their family. Even neighbors. All ages would gather around in a small living room, many sitting on the floor, while we introduced them to original sin, Jesus, the Gospel, and a merciful God.

The interpreter kept track of those who repeated the prayer of salvation (asking Jesus to come into their hearts and save them from eternal damnation). More than a few grown men cried on my shoulder after accepting Jesus into their hearts.

Naturally, there were plenty who preferred to worship their idols. Ceramic statues, sometimes made of wood or plastic.

If the idol worshiper wasn’t getting what they wanted from their man-made God, they’d place them face down in their underwear drawer, to punish them. Strange stuff. And sad.

At the end of the week, our leader would give us the number. “Four-hundred-fifty-two made a profession of faith this week. You’ve not only sowed the seeds of the Gospel, you’ve been a part of the harvest.”

That made me feel pretty good, but we all knew Holy Spirit had been working in those hearts long before we arrived. Only God can change the heart of man. But, what really made me warm and fuzzy, was the sight of my sons who’d been able to join us on the mission field. They had been part of the harvest. And it would have a lasting, lifetime effect on their lives. They talk about it to this day.

 

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And so do I.

The Fight by Robert Fear BY Robert Fear

Es Cana, Ibiza, Spain – August 1977

Jose took an immediate dislike to me.

He worked as a waiter at the Panorama hotel near the seafront. I had been there to see Diane, an English girl I met while at work in Grannies Bar. Petite and with short blond hair, she had a delightful personality. She was also a real head-turner.

Diane came to Ibiza on a two-week holiday with her friend, Elaine. It felt fantastic she wanted to spend time with me, but Jose thought his role was to be her protector. He glared at me every time he saw us together

Towards the end of her holiday, Diane spent a night with me and I didn’t get her back to the hotel until breakfast time. Jose was on duty and spotted us outside as we kissed. That just made things worse.

After Diane left for home, things deteriorated. The next Friday evening, as I walked to work, Jose headed towards me with a group of Spanish lads. Their intentions were obvious as they stared, raised their fists and shouted at me across the street.

Before they could catch me I escaped down the steps and into Grannies Bar. Their taunts still rang in my ears as I headed for safety.

Friday nights were always manic. Eager drinkers packed the outside terrace after a day in the sun. A queue of customers had already formed as I dived behind the bar to help serve them.

Four of us; Mick, Pat, Graham and myself, worked that evening shift. Pat was half cut and spent most of the evening with her friends. Mick’s mood was not good as a result, but the three of us got stuck in and served the eager punters.

After six weeks at Grannies, I knew the routine. We served drinks and collected pesetas in quick succession. Spirits were easier to serve than at home. Two ice cubes got thrown into a glass and the vodka, gin or brandy poured until the ice floated. Then the mixer was added.

We could drink behind the bar, provided we remained sober enough to serve. Pat loved her gin and tonics and often wasn’t! Mick, Graham and I had regular supplies of vodka and orange but remained level headed as we rushed around serving eager customers.

Willing female hands often helped out. They collected glasses and washed them up in the sink at the end of the bar. As a reward, they had drinks bought for them and got the chance to pull Graham, myself or even Mick on occasions.

Work finished at 3 am. We headed to El Cortijo for another drink and a dance. A group of Spanish lads hung around near the entrance, but I thought nothing of it. Only later did I found out they were Jose’s friends.

The disco pulsed and the dance floor heaved. Lights from the ‘disco ball’ flashed around scantily clad bodies as they cavorted to the sounds of Abba, Rod Stewart and Status Quo. We caught John’s attention, and he passed us a bottle of San Miguel each.

Graham and Mick met up with two girls they had chatted up in Grannies earlier. Pat had gone back to their villa with her friends so Mick was free for the night. Propped at the bar I sipped my beer and relaxed after a hard night’s work.

By instinct, I spun round to find Jose stood behind me. He glared at me and mouthed something. The music drowned out his words. Jose beckoned for me to come with him. Even though it was obvious he wanted a fight, I went. By the time I got outside it was too late.

My fighting skills were minimal. I had been the object of bullying at school. One lad taunted me with the repeated chant, ‘Freddy’s got a rudimentary organ’, while in the showers. This hurt me and screwed with my teenage sensibilities. I tried to avoid the shower room when he was there.

Two other lads pushed me around and sometimes thumped me. They wanted money, but I had none to give them. One time I gave in to their pressure and stole books for them from a sales exhibition held in the school hall. I never thought of fighting back. I did not know how!

Now I stood on the dusty wasteland twenty yards away from the front entrance of El Cortijo. Jose faced me, surrounded by his group of friends. The atmosphere was menacing and none of my friends were even aware what had happened.

‘So, you silly man, what you say?’ screamed Jose in broken English as he edged towards me.

‘What did I do wrong?’ I retorted.

I sweated in the heat of the August night and he must have sensed my fear.

‘You took girlfriend, English scum.’

‘No I didn’t. Diane wanted to be with me you arrogant pig.’

I amazed myself with that response. The drink from earlier in the evening gave me a false sense of courage. Things were dire and soon became worse.

Jose swung his right fist toward my head. I ducked and there was a whoosh of air as he missed.

He turned round and aimed another punch at me. This time he connected and his fist crunched into my jaw. I reeled backwards. Maybe I should have just gone to ground and admitted defeat. This time I fought back.

Well, fought might be too strong a word for it! I stumbled forward and made a dive for his midriff. Jose grabbed me by my shoulders and flung me to the ground.

I spat out a mouthful of dust before I tried to get back up. Then I saw the flying feet of Jose and his mates. It became obvious they wanted to give me a severe beating.

In defence I rolled into as tight a ball as possible with my hands wrapped around my head. The kicks and punches continued and my senses faded as protection against the pain.

Then it stopped. Shouts came from the front door of the disco and the Spanish lads scattered. John, Alan and two others screamed at the top of their voices to get them away from me. A German girl on her way to the disco had seen the scuffle and dived into El Cortijo to get help.

Worried faces peered at me as I uncurled myself. Although bruised and battered there were no broken bones. I hauled myself to my feet. With support from my rescuers, I struggled back to the disco for another drink.

An uneasy truce existed between Jose and me for the rest of the summer.

 

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DIM LIGHT BREAKS by Jeff Haws

 

Jolting upright, I squeeze the Jack Daniels bottle between my thighs just before it tips over to the floor. I look down and see the black label staring at me; the little bit of whiskey that’s left is tilting toward the lip, ready to fill my shoes if my legs can’t hold onto it. I briefly wonder if this is why they give these bottles flat sides, for better drunken, convulsive thigh catches. It’s saved me on more than one occasion from having shoes full of whiskey. Well, that and my ability to leave the bottle mostly empty.

I grab the top of the bottle and pull it back up, then try to raise my head; the room rotates quickly, lights blur and walls smudge while my head bounces on a neck that refuses to carry the weight. Enough of these nights will teach you the chair is always your better bet than the bed. I’d have already puked into my own lap if I’d been in bed, but keeping your feet on the floor helps ground you against the worst of the drunken spinning head. When I know I’m spending the night with Jack, I’ll always stay downstairs in the recliner with my feet firmly planted on the linoleum.

My head bobs left and settles on my shoulder; in front of me, the window reveals a purple sky with a sliver of dim light peeking over the ground, between the neighbors’ houses across the street. What does that make it? 6:30, maybe? I can’t remember if I ever fell asleep. I’m not confident I’ll ever fall asleep again.

The people across the street, though—I’m sure they’re asleep. Spencer and Mary are in bed right now, dead to the world. Her head’s probably resting on his fucking shoulder. He snores a little bit, but she’s used to it by now. Probably even comforts her, just being reminded he’s there. I fucking hate those people. I really do. Their whole lives are based around creating these perfect little characters so the rest of us feel even shittier about our own lives. But you can’t even get mad at them, or you look like the jackass who’s jealous and screwed up in the head. Not the people who pretend they’re something they’re not. No, it’s the guy who minds his own business and is genuine about who he is who’s the fucked-up one. That’s the way the world works.

I spin the bottle around in my hand, looking at the liquid slosh around in waves. Bubbles cling desperately to the glass walls but can’t hold on, splashing back down into the molasses-colored pool below. I raise the bottle and tilt it toward me; the whiskey burns just a bit as it hits the back of my throat, the sting helping to delay the inevitable throbbing head that’ll come next. I lift the bottle and splash the last few drops into my mouth, shaking it to make sure there’s nothing left, then drape my arm over the side of the chair and let the bottle fall to the floor with a heavy clink.

I have no idea what day it is. Am I supposed to be at work in a couple of hours? When every day’s the same, it’s hard to say. Time is just change, in the end. If the sun didn’t come up and go down, the Earth didn’t rotate, the world never changed, there’d be no way to measure it. Essentially, there’d be no such thing as time. People’s lives can get like that too. When the days start blending together, how do you measure time? And, even more so, what’s the point?

That sun that’s gradually getting closer to showing itself isn’t going to bring anything good with it. The dark is better. You can hide when everybody else is sleeping. You don’t have to look at how your neighbors’ lives reflect your own inadequacies. You don’t have to face yourself. The dark lets you be alone, lets you wallow and embrace whatever misery is there to be embraced. The morning just exposes it all to those smiling faces with white teeth all lined up in a row.

I know they don’t approve of me. I see them at church and they say hi, but you can see it’s forced. There’s no small talk. No more invitations to their lake house. Just hollow greetings if they can’t avoid me. When Adrian would show up with fresh cuts and bruises on her arms, I know they suspected something. I think she purposefully tried to make them just a little visible. A small cry for help, maybe. She’s been gone awhile, though.

Now, God wouldn’t approve of what I’ve become. This withering mass that passes the hours of insomnia with liquor straight from the bottle. He can smell the whiskey on my breath just like the neighbors can. I don’t even know why I go to church anymore, when I can remember it’s Sunday. He can see my heart’s not there, that I wish I could have a handle of some devil’s water with me when I’m kneeling in front of a pew. It’s not that I don’t have faith that there’s someone in control; it’s that whoever that someone is has delivered me into this reality, this life. Whatever this is. Becoming an atheist almost seems redundant. When your belief is this tainted, is it even worth the bother of leaving behind?

I figure I’ve been strapped to this chair long enough, so maybe I’ll wander upstairs. I have blackout curtains in the bedroom; I can shut the world out up there. Pretend I’m somewhere else, somewhere better. Somewhere new. There’s no way I’m stepping foot outside today.

Standing up, I get a feel for just how much I really drank; my legs nearly buckle, and I fall back toward the chair. My hand catches on the chair’s arm and stabilizes me while I try to forget about the merry-go-round in my head. Ten seconds pass, then twenty. Finally, I lift my hand off the chair arm and pause to see if I can stand up. My legs wobble but hold; slowly, I bring my hand further up from the chair and straighten from my hunch. My arms are spread to my sides like I’m on a balance beam, trying to keep my center of gravity above my feet. I take one careful step forward, then another, deliberate, slow, momentum building as I reach the banister for the stairs and grab ahold hard.

Each step is becoming a little easier, now getting help from my left hand, pulling my body up the stairs one foot at a time, finally reaching the hall. I’ll need an aspirin or four before I lie down. If I’m lucky, I’ll sleep. If not, I’ll stare at the ceiling in the dark for awhile.

I open the door to the room and step through; the bed is just a few steps in front of me. I walk quietly to it and stop, bending carefully over the mattress. I pull back the quilt a little bit and bend further, kissing her forehead gently. She’s only six, and she deserves me to be better than this. It’s kind of amazing we’ve made it this far; she believes her mom is someplace better, and I do nothing to dissuade her from that. Hell, I hope she’s right. But if so, I can’t join her there now. There’s more for me to do. If there is a god, this is the one lifeline he’s thrown me, and I’m clutching to it with everything I have. She’ll get me to the other side of this. She’ll be the light breaking through the dark. It’s dim now, but it’ll shine brighter if I can rise with it.

I pull the quilt back up under her chin and fold it back across her shoulder. Then I back out the way I came and shut the door behind me, careful not to let the latch click. My bedroom’s down the hall, and more darkness still awaits.

 

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THE LEGEND OF TOKYO ROSE By Ronald E. Yates

 

INTRODUCTION

During a 27-year career with the Chicago Tribune, much of it as a foreign correspondent in Asia and Latin America, I encountered my share of remarkable and unforgettable stories.

Some came out of the horrendous suffering I witnessed while covering the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Afghanistan. Others were generated by the bloody revolutions in Guatemala and El Salvador. Still others sprang from the wrenching political upheavals I reported on in places like The Philippines, Brazil, China and South Korea.

But there is one story in my journalistic career that I treasure above all the others. That is the story of a Japanese-American woman named Iva Toguri. You probably don’t recognize the name and if you don’t, that is perfectly understandable.

You and millions of other Americans know her by another name: “Tokyo Rose.”

That’s right, “Tokyo Rose.” The so-called “Siren of the Pacific” who sat before a microphone in Tokyo and told GIs on a 25-minute show called “The Zero Hour” that their homes, their girl-friends and even apple pie weren’t worth fighting for. Tokyo Rose, the legendary “seductress of the short wave,” whose broadcasts between 1943 and 1945 for Radio Tokyo were meant to demoralize the American fighting man and undermine his will to fight.

Remember all those World War II era movies with GIs gathered around short wave radios listening to a sultry “Tokyo Rose” intone such phrases as: “Come on boys, give up. You haven’t got a chance against the Imperial Japanese Army. Why throw your lives away?”

There’s just one problem. There was no “Tokyo Rose.” Nor were there ever any treasonous broadcasts like the ones described above. At least not by Iva Toguri.

Following is her remarkable and poignant story and my involvement in it.


 

It was the summer of 1941 and for a young California woman named Iva Toguri it was a time filled with promise and endless possibilities.

The previous June Iva had graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in zoology, she had a shiny Chrysler, and she was planning on attending graduate school in the fall so she could begin a career as a medical researcher or perhaps even a doctor.

The daughter of hardworking Japanese immigrants, Iva had been brought up to be a confident, optimistic American. And why not? After all, she was born in Los Angeles on the 4th of July–and you can’t get more American than that.

But in the summer of 1941 the world was not a place that could easily match the hopes and expectations of a 25-year-old UCLA graduate.

In Europe, a war was raging and the forces of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich occupied or controlled most of the continent. In Asia, Imperial Japan, under the leadership of a clique of hardcore militarists, was in control of China, the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan and a segment of the South Seas ceded to it after World War I.

Conflict and discord were the prevailing truths of the day, and as Iva Toguri stood on the brink of her future an ominous cloud of world war hung in the warm summer air.

Thus it was not without some trepidation that Toguri’s ailing mother asked Iva to represent the American side of the Toguri family at the bedside of a dying aunt in Tokyo. It was a bit risky, but someone had to go; and on July 5, 1941, one day after her 25th birthday, Iva was on a slow boat to Japan. She spoke no Japanese, had never been to Japan and had never met her aunt.

It would be a fateful journey, one that would alter Iva Toguri’s life forever and eventually introduce to the world one of its most enduring and erroneous myths: The Legend of “Tokyo Rose.”

Less than five months after arriving in Japan and not long after her sick aunt had recovered, Japanese warplanes swooped down on a place called Pearl Harbor. For Iva Toguri and millions of others, the future went from bright to black in a matter of moments. And the lights would not come back on until August 1945, when Japan surrendered.

But for Iva Toguri, the war did not end in 1945 as it did for so many others. Four years later Iva Toguri would stand in a San Francisco courtroom, one of only a few American women ever convicted of treason. In the minds of millions of Americans Iva Toguri was the one and only “Tokyo Rose,” the name American GIs in the Pacific had given to several women radio announcers who played scratchy Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman records during propaganda radio shows broadcast in English from Tokyo and elsewhere in Asia.

Iva’s conviction on just one of eight counts of treason came despite the testimony of G.I.s who called the Radio Tokyo “Zero Hour” broadcasts she made morale boosters and despite evidence which showed she was just one of 13 English-speaking women announcers broadcasting from Tokyo at the time. Another 14 women had broadcast from cities throughout Asia and the Pacific that were occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army.  Interestingly, not one of them called herself “Tokyo Rose.”  (The only radio alias Iva Toguri ever used during her 15-minute segment of popular music was the name “Orphan Ann” because, as she often said during her broadcasts, she was an announcer who had been orphaned in Tokyo by the war.)

Not even the absence of a written record or an electronic recording of the single “treasonous” broadcast she was supposed to have made stopped her conviction. That broadcast came after a crushing U.S. Naval victory in Leyte Gulf of the Philippines in which she allegedly said:

“Orphans of the Pacific, you really are orphans now. How will you get home now that all your ships are sunk?”

Most Americans listening to that would have seen through the facetious tone of those words, no matter who said them, and understood that it was a broadcast meant more for members of the defeated Imperial Japanese Navy than for the victorious U.S. Navy. Even more important, however, was the fact that Iva never said those words.

Nevertheless, in 1949 in a San Francisco Federal courtroom as she, her family and her corps of defense attorneys led by the late Wayne Mortimer Collins looked on, Iva was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. She served six years and two months of her sentence in the Alderson Federal Reformatory in West Virginia which would much later house Martha Stewart. But more importantly her conviction sentenced Iva Toguri to a life of disgrace and deep inner pain that only those falsely accused and convicted can ever understand.

Some vindication came in a series of exclusive stories I reported and wrote in 1976 while serving as the Chicago Tribune’s Tokyo Bureau Chief and Chief Asia Correspondent.

Two key prosecution witnesses, after 27 years of silence, wanted to ease their consciences. They admitted to me that they were forced by U.S. Justice Department and FBI officials to lie, tell half-truths and withhold vital information at the trial. It was on the basis of their coerced and false testimony that the jury had found Iva guilty. (Article 3 of the Constitution states that treason shall consist only in levying war against the United States or in giving aid and comfort to its enemies and that conviction may be had only on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or on confession in open court).

The two witnesses, Kenkichi Oki and George Mitsushio—both California-born Japanese-Americans—were Iva’s superiors on Radio Tokyo’s “Zero Hour” radio program. Oki was the show’s production manager and Mitsushio was program director. Oki and Mitsushio testified they had heard Iva make the so-called “Orphans of the Pacific” broadcast about Leyte Gulf in October 1944 when in fact she never did.

The “Zero Hour” was produced under coercion by Allied prisoners of war, and while the Imperial Japanese government saw it as a way to broadcast propaganda to American GIs fighting in the Pacific, the POWs and Iva saw it as a way to sabotage the Japanese war effort.

That’s the way the occupation forces of Gen. Douglas MacArthur saw it too when on April 17, 1946, following 11 months of Iva’s incarceration in Tokyo’s Sugamo prison along with such Class A Japanese war criminals as former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, the U.S. Army Legal Section issued the following report:

“There is no evidence that Iva Toguri ever broadcast greetings to units by name and location, or predicted military movements or attacks, indicating access to secret military information and plans.”

Then, in October 1946 a U.S. Justice Department investigation of Iva concluded:

“Iva Toguri’s activities, particularly in view of the innocuous nature of her broadcasts, are not sufficient to warrant prosecution for treason.”

It was obvious that the U.S. authorities in Tokyo were willing to let bygones be bygones. And they were willing to accept the reasons for Iva Toguri’s voluntary participation in the Zero Hour show: that like most of the 10,000 Japanese-Americans stranded in Tokyo during the war, she had taken the job to sustain herself while she was basically a hostage in a hostile environment.

Furthermore, she had been assured by the American and Australian POWs who wrote the scripts she read, that she was doing nothing unpatriotic–and indeed that what they were doing might even help the allied war effort.

That was especially important to Iva, because unlike all the other Japanese-Americans who participated in the Zero Hour broadcasts, she had steadfastly refused to give up her American citizenship, despite being threatened and pushed to do so by Imperial Japan’s dreaded “kempeitai” secret police. In fact, her pro-American sentiments often got her into arguments with Japanese members of the Zero Hour staff. On several occasions she risked arrest and even death to smuggle food and medical supplies to Allied POW’s in Tokyo.

In 1948, Iva petitioned to return to the United States and Chicago, where her family had resettled following the war.

When word leaked out that the notorious “Tokyo Rose” was trying to reenter the United States, much of the U.S. press took exception. Radio columnist Walter Winchell unleashed a series of broadcasts attacking then U.S. Atty. Gen. Tom Clark for “laxness” in dealing with “Tokyo Rose.” Pressure steadily built on the Truman administration to “make an example” of somebody. That “somebody” was to be Iva Toguri.

It made no difference that Iva Toguri bore no resemblance in appearance or deed to the fictitious and seductive Oriental woman American G.I.s fantasized about while sitting in their jungle foxholes. Nor did the fact that U.S. Occupation forces already had investigated Iva and cleared her of any activity that could be construed as treasonous.

It was an election year and the administration of President Harry S Truman could not afford to be seen as being soft on alleged wartime spies and turncoats. Atty. Gen. Clark dispatched investigators to Tokyo to look into the Tokyo Rose case. They found that Iva Toguri was the only person associated with the “Zero Hour” show who was still an American citizen and hence, still subject to U.S. law. So Clark began to build a case against Iva and told justice department attorney Tom de Wolfe to “prosecute it vigorously.”

In 1945 Iva had married Filipe J. d’Aquino, who was born in Yokohama of a Portuguese father and a Japanese mother. In 1948 the couple’s child, who Iva desperately wanted to be born in the United States, died at birth. The two remained together until her conviction and then, following decades of forced separation, they divorced in 1980. After Iva’s release from prison, she could not get a U.S. passport to travel and d’Aquino, while in San Francisco for the trial, had been told by the FBI never to return to the United States, “or else.”

The case against Iva Toguri was flimsy at best. Something had to be done to strengthen it. So FBI agents in Tokyo rounded up all of those involved in the “Zero Hour” broadcasts and applied the kind of pressure that most any Japanese-American at the time could understand.

“We had no choice,” Oki told me in 1976 after I had convinced him and Mitsushio to meet me in Tokyo. “The FBI and U.S. Occupation police told us we would have to testify against Iva or else they said Uncle Sam might arrange a trial for us too—or worse.  We were flown to San Francisco from Tokyo and along with other government witnesses, we were told what to say and what not to say two hours every morning for a month before the trial started.

“Even though I was a government witness against her, I can say today that Iva Toguri was innocent: she never did anything treasonable…she never said the words that got her convicted,” Oki said. “It was all a lie. Iva never had a chance. And all I can say now is that I am truly sorry for my part in her conviction. I hope she can find it in her heart to forgive us.”

My stories containing details of Oki and Mitsushio’s confession of perjury, as well as interviews with her former husband Phil d’Aquino and others who had worked with Iva on the Zero Hour, appeared in March 1976 and were carried around the world.

On January 19, 1977, President Gerald Ford, in his last official act in office, granted Iva Toguri a full and unconditional pardon. While the historic pardon was an attempt to correct the injustice done to Iva Toguri, the individual, it also served to raise awareness of the unfair treatment Japanese-Americans received at the time from the federal and some state governments.

The fact Iva Toguri became the first person in American history to be pardoned following a treason conviction, speaks volumes about her own indomitable spirit and the determination of those who supported her crusade for justice, say leaders in theJapanese-American community.

Others say the pardon also says something about the deeply-ingrained sense of fair play that permeates American society and which manifests itself, albeit sometimes belatedly, in the media, the courts and, in Toguri’s case, the White House.

July 4, 2006 marked Iva Toguri’s 90th birthday and for almost 65 of those 90 years she had to live with the myth that she was “Tokyo Rose.”

Some vindication came in January 2006 in a quiet, private ceremony held in a restaurant on Chicago’s north side when Iva received the Edward J. Herlihy Citizenship Award from the World War II Veterans Committee. (Herlihy was a radio broadcaster who was known as the “Voice of WW II” for his narration of Universal Newsreels). It was a twist of irony not lost on those in attendance.

I was privileged to be one of those invited to the ceremony, along with members of Iva’s family and a handful of close friends like former CBS news anchor Bill Kurtis, who has known Iva since the late 1960s, and Hollywood producer Barbara Trembley, who is working to produce a major feature film about Iva and her struggles.

Iva pushed back tears as she accepted the award.

“This is such a great honor,” she said. “For so many years I wanted to be positive about this whole thing. I wanted to honor my father and my family. They believed in me through all the things that happened to me. I thank the World War II Veterans Committee for making this the most memorable day of my life.”

In 1991 Iva and I met in the same restaurant. She had invited me to dinner to thank me for the series of stories I had written that resulted in the Presidential pardon. Incredibly, even though Iva and I were linked by the stories I had written we had never met face to face.

“You know, if it hadn’t been for your stories I never would have received my pardon,” Iva told me. “I would still be a criminal. You started the ball rolling. And now, after all this time, I just want to say thank you. It’s long overdue.”

I hadn’t come to dinner in search of any recognition or thanks. I just wanted to meet the woman whose story had fascinated me years before and sent me on a search for the truth. I wanted finally to separate the woman from the myth; to detach Iva Toguri the person from “Tokyo Rose” the World War II caricature. I wanted to meet the woman that fertile G.I. imaginations had turned into some torrid kimono-clad Mata Hari.

The woman sitting across from me was certainly no Mata Hari. Here was a woman with kind eyes, a gracious smile and an admirable ability to put things into perspective.

“I’ve put all that behind me now,” Iva said, speaking of her ordeals in wartime Tokyo, in San Francisco’s federal court, and in prison.

“I’m only sorry that my father never lived to see me pardoned. He died in 1972. But he believed in me until the end.

“‘I’m proud of you Iva,’ he used to tell me. You were like a tiger…you never changed your stripes…you stayed American through and through.’”

“Am I bitter? No, what good does it do to be bitter?” Iva said. Then she thought for a moment. There were exceptions to that blanket forgiveness.

“In your stories Oki and Mitsushio asked for my forgiveness. But how could I ever forgive them for what they did to me?”

Both Oki and Mitsushio are dead now, as is Iva, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 90.

During one of our many meetings, Iva told me that her biggest wish was to have her story told accurately someday in a film or play. There have been a few books written—most of them unauthorized—about Iva’s ordeal, but they have done little to set the record straight.

“People tend to remember a story when it is dramatized and told in a theatrical way,” she said. “As for a book, I would like to tell my story in my own words.”Iva may finally get her wish. A play about the Legend of Tokyo Rose is currently in the works and I plan to write a book using Iva’s first person narrative based on hundreds of hours of recorded interviews and my personal notes.

Finally, after years of disappointment and heartbreak, Iva’s story will be told the way she wanted it told—truthfully and conscientiously.

But most important, the Legend of Tokyo Rose will finally be put to rest along with other historical myths and deceptions such as Big Foot, the Piltdown man, and the Loch Ness Monster.

My only regret is that Iva will not be here to experience her vindication.

 

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T By Jan Sikes

Henry Jacobsen ran gnarled fingers through 84 years of living and swatted at a fly that buzzed around his head. The sun warmed his old bones and he turned to face his longtime friend. “You know, Aaron, what the world needs now, is for people to show a little more respect to each other. Back in my day, if I acted or talked disrespectful, I got my hide tanned.”

The wooden boards underneath Aaron’s rocker creaked in syncopated rhythm with his movement. “Yep, Henry. Times are different nowadays.”

Henry timed his chair rhythm with Aaron’s. “Before I came to stay here, I had a house over on Boulder Street. There was a family a few doors down that was always borrowing things from me, but somehow they never remembered to return any of them.”

Aaron nodded. “I’ve had it happen to me many times.”

“I pulled into the driveway one day just in time to see the oldest kid unscrewing my water hose. By the time I parked the car and got out, he had it slung over his shoulder.” Henry’s frown deepened. “It’s frustrating when you can’t move like you used to.”

He gazed across the green manicured lawn of the Post Oaks Retirement Center as if viewing some long-ago forgotten scene.

“Well?” Aaron prodded. “What did you do?”

“I hollered at him and asked what in the world he thought he was doing. And you know what he had the nerve to say to me?” Henry screwed up his face.

“Nope.”

“He said that he was taking my water hose so he could wash his motorcycle.”

“Don’t that beat all? Aaron clicked his tongue. “Didn’t even bother to ask you.”

“I saw red. I lit into him like nobody’s business,” he growled. “The nerve. Take a man’s things like they meant nothing.”

Aaron shifted to take the weight off his bad hip. “There was a day when I would’ve jumped a guy for pulling a stunt like that. But those times are over for me. At this point, I’m doin’ good just to make it from the bed to the bathroom without embarrassing myself.”

“Yeah, me too. But, I tell you, I didn’t take it lying down. I told him what a rotten, no good, worthless human being he was and that he’d better put the water hose down or I’d call the cops and turn him in for stealing.”

“What did he do then?”

“He laughed in my face…told me I was too old to use the damn water hose anyway and he needed it.”

“Why, the nerve!”

“I marched myself inside and called the cops. When they came, I gave them a list of everything they had so-called borrowed and said I wanted it all back.”

“Did you get it?”

“Yeah. In pieces. The weed eater was battered and wouldn’t start. My shovel was broken in half. The water hose was split in two pieces. All of it was in shambles. Just no respect. That’s what the world has come to.”

Silence spun a web between the two old-timers who’d seen more than a lifetime of battles.

“I remember when I was in the Army. Nobody ever pilfered in someone else’s belongings. I did two tours overseas, fighting for this country and now I have to wonder what for.” Henry’s voice trembled. “The way folks carry on is a shame. Just no regard for one another.”

Aaron halted the rocker and leaned forward. “You’re right, Henry. The mess things are in is downright disgraceful. Take for instance the presidential election. Now, I can’t say I agree with the candidate who won, but for people to go out and tear stuff up, turn on friends and family who voted for him, and get consumed with hatred is ridiculous. No one is willing to bend.”

“Never saw anything like it,” Henry agreed. “I remember when John F. Kennedy won the election in 1960. People spoke out against him because he was catholic. But, they weren’t filled with the kind of hatred they are today. It pains me to think about what kind of society our grandkids are growing up in. For old geezers like ourselves, it don’t really matter all that much. We’re on our way out.”

“Dinosaurs. Men like us with backbone and decency are disappearing just like those prehistoric creatures did. I’d sure like to see something that would give me hope for the future. Hope for our country.” Aaron’s rheumy eyes glistened.

Henry pushed up from the rocker and stretched. It troubled him more than he could say that his grandchildren were growing up in these unstable times. A tired old man needs salve for his weary soul.

Just as he was about to shuffle inside, he saw his grandson, Micah, bounding across the lawn.

Micah waved. “Hi, Grandpa.”

Henry waved back.

Breathless, Micah reached the two men. “Hey, Gramps, look at this beautiful spring day. How about I bust you out of here and we go fishing?”

Henry chuckled. “That’s the best idea I’ve heard in a long time.” He turned to Aaron and winked. “There’s our hope. This young man knows how to respect his elders.”

With that, he joined his grandson. It didn’t escape his notice that Micah slowed his steps to match his grandfather’s or that he held the door while they went inside.

Respect. That’s what Micah demonstrated.

And, it’s precisely the healing the world now needs.

 

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(Jan Sikes) RWISA Author Page

Wordless By Beem Weeks

 

 

“What’s that word say?”

“That’s an easy one, Daddy. Just sound it out.”

Levi Bacchus can’t read. 36 years old, and he’d never learned the meaning of a single sentence.

“I just ain’t cut out for this, Jamie Lynn.”

The girl’s countenance dropped in disagreement—just like her mother, that one.

“So, you’re a quitter now?” she bellowed, sounding too much like the woman who’d walked out of their lives two years earlier.

Levi took offense. “Mind your manners, Missy. I ain’t never been called no quitter.”

“Reading is something everybody should be able to do, is all I’m saying.”

“It’s easy for you,” Levi argued. “You’re just a kid, still in school. You have teachers telling you what to do and how to do it. I’m just too old for learning.”

The girl narrowed her gaze, jabbed a finger into the open book. “From the beginning,” she demanded.

His heaving huff meant he’d do it again—if only for her sake.

Words formed in his head before finding place on his tongue. Some came through in broken bits and pieces, while others arrived fully formed and ready for sound.

Jamie’s excitement in the matter is why he kept trying. Well, that and the fact he’d long desired the ability to pick up the morning paper and offer complaint or praise for the direction of the nation. All those people in the break room at the plant held their own opinions on everything from the president to the latest championship season enjoyed by the local high school football team.

“That’s good, Daddy,” Jamie said, patting her father on the arm. “That’s really good. You’ll be reading books before too long.”

A smile worked at the edges of his lips, refusing to go unnoticed.

“I’d like that, Sweet Pea.” That’s all he’d say of the matter. If it came to that, well then, he’d have accomplished something worth appreciating.

Levi harbored bigger notions than merely reading books. When a man can read, he can do or be anything he wants to be. His own father often said a man who can’t read is forever in bondage. How can a man truly be free if he cannot read the document spelling out the very rights bestowed upon him by simple virtue of birth? No sir; being illiterate no longer appealed to him.

Of his immediate family—father, mother, two older brothers—only Levi failed to attend college. Oh, he graduated from high school. Being a star quarterback will afford that sort of luxury. But when those coaches from the universities came calling, low test scores couldn’t open doors that promised more than a life spent in auto factories.

He’d seen a show on TV about a man who’d been sent to prison for five years for armed robbery. While there, this man learned to read, took a course on the law, and became a legal secretary upon his release. Eight years later, he’d earned a law degree and opened his very own practice.

Levi didn’t see himself arguing cases in a court of law—defending criminals most likely to be guilty just didn’t appeal to his sense of right and wrong. What he did see, however, is the need for a good and honest person to run the city he’d forever called home.

“Think I could be mayor?” he asked his daughter.

Jamie Lynn always grinned over such talk. “Everybody has to have a dream, Daddy.”

It’s what she always says.

Everything begins with a dream.

She gets that part of her from her mother.

“Once I can read without stopping to ask questions,” he mused, “maybe I’ll throw my hat into the ring, huh?”

“There’s nothing wrong with asking questions,” she answered, weaving wisdom between her words.

*      *      *

She’d been a girl scout, his daughter—daisies and brownies before that. It’s the other girls who bullied her out of the joy that sort of thing once offered. Straight A’s have a way of making others feel inferior, even threatened.

But Jamie Lynn isn’t the type to pine or fret. She chose to tutor—and not just her father, either. Kids come to the house needing to know this and that among mathematics or English or science. Her dream? To be a teacher one day.

And she’ll accomplish that much and more.

Her mother had that very same sense about her as well. She knew what she wanted in life, and cleared the path upon which she traveled.

High school sweethearts they’d been, Jamie Lynn’s mother and father. She’d been the pretty cheerleader, he’d been the All-American boy with a cannon for an arm. She went to college, he didn’t.

But she returned to him, joyfully accepting his proposal for a life together. Her degree carried her back to the high school from which they’d both graduated. This time, rather than student, she became teacher—American History.

Levi went to work building Cadillacs in the local plant. It paid well, offered medical benefits and paid vacation time. Life settled into routines.

Then came their little bundle. This didn’t sit well with the newly-minted history teacher. No sir. It’s as if Levi had intentionally sabotaged his own wife’s career in some fiendish plot to keep her home.

Words of love became “stupid” and “ignorant” and “illiterate ass.” She walked out one evening and never came back to the home they’d built together.

A former student, he’d heard—five years her junior. They’d ran off together, supposedly making a new home somewhere out west.

Levi didn’t challenge it. He received the house and the kid in exchange for his signature on those papers he couldn’t even read.

Jamie Lynn, she’s the light that shined in his darkness, showed him there’s still so much more living to be done. And learning to read, well, that just added to the adventure.

*      *      *

The night came when he read an entire chapter from one of Jamie Lynn’s old middle school books—straight through, unpunctuated by all those starts and stops and nervous questions. By the end of the month, Levi had managed the entire story—all 207 pages.

“We have to celebrate, Daddy,” she insisted.

It’d been the silly draw of embarrassment that twisted his head left and right, his voice saying, “No need to make a fuss, Sweet Pea.”

But fuss is only the beginning. “Dinner and a movie,” she ordered. “Then we’ll stop off at the mall and pick out a few books that you might like.”

There were stories he recalled from his boyhood; books other kids clutched under their arms and took for granted. Stories that stirred so much excitement in those young lives.

They’d belong to him now.

“You’re finally blooming, Daddy—just like a flower.”

And so was his daughter.

A teacher in the making.

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

( Beem Weeks) RWISA Author Page

Bulletproof Vest By Laurie Finkelstein

 

The bulk, padding, and steel plates weigh me down. The protection of a bulletproof vest is necessary. No matter the weather, I wear the cloak. The weight is a burden, but I trek on because wrapped is the only way to navigate my journey. The jacket protects my heart from being blown to crimson shards of death.

A direct hit is avoided for days and nights, lulling me into calm and complacency. “All will work out fine,” I tell myself. The truth tells a story I want to change. All my will and might does not make an impact to stop the bombardment.

Experience and time separates me from tragedy. At any moment, the bullets strike. Inside or out. My house cannot provide security, nor can a million people surrounding me. With nowhere to hide, I am a target. Shelter and safety are nonexistent.

Discharges are held back while luck and grace harbor me. The slugs will come, however, in a piercing barrage without warning, and will pummel me.

Knocked to the ground, I am immobilized and rendered helpless. My breathing is halted. My movements are stopped, and I understand what assaulted me.

The shockwave subsides, and in small increments, I am able to take in air. Incapacitated, I continue to lie until I am rescued by the rational thinking buried under an avalanche of pain, doubt, and fear. My thoughts check my vitals to make sure I am in the here and now. “Stay in the moment,” I tell myself. “I can manage this. I will persevere.”

“Rise,” I command. The mass of the garb constricts my movement, but I stand, analyze what must be done, and begin to act. The warrior in me comes out. Battles will be fought. My impervious attire gets me through another crisis, and its weight comforts me. Without the guise, I am unable to prevail against the onslaughts, which pop out of the dark corners of another day.

Yes, my vest is cumbersome, but without my swathe I will not withstand the painful projectiles. Clips are filled, ready to punch and knock me down, disabling me should I forget for a moment to cloak myself within my protective armor.

My bullets are not made of lead, surrounded by a dense metal. The projectiles do not come from terrorists intent on decimating me. The ammo does not come from a police state or a dictator’s command. A barrel is not involved.

My bullets are made of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Composed of irrational thoughts, insipid ideations, and ignorant rationalizations, they are crushing invisible forces. The capacity to shatter my resolve and render me dysfunctional invades me.

My unsociable enemy is treatable, but never disappears. My therapists validate my experiences of being trapped, resentful, guilty, shameful, ill-equipped, grief-stricken, lost, uncertain, and disabled. My growth in therapy helps me accept the challenge with compassion and empathy in my heart.

Throughout my lifetime three stages will haunt me.

Stage one is the onslaught of rounds. The crisis mode. The shock and pain.

Stage two is being slammed down, breath taken away. Sabotaged. Terms and feelings of the emergency are acknowledged.

Stage three is advocacy for myself. Stand. Breathe. Make decisions. Tools in hand to counteract the depression and anxiety and OCD. Utilize appropriate response and care.

Encouraged by others, I enroll in Toastmasters. Time for me to improve my public speaking and thinking on my feet. Professional and compelling ways of expressing my views is a talent I want to possess. Persuasive interactions are in reach. My computer with Google as my guide, I find the Toastmasters website. The rules and guidelines answer many of my questions. Ready to take on the challenge, I enter my credit card information and become a member. A direct thrust knocks me down.

At first, I don’t understand what attacks me. My heartbeat begins speeding up. My gasps for air speed up. My head spins with dizziness. The mighty effects of terror hammer me to the ground. Despair sinks me deeper into the attack.

Stage one. The thought of standing before people enunciating in a clear voice avoiding “ums” and “ahs” strikes with negative force. In a semi-frozen state of fear and regret, I struggle to make sense of my attacker. Groups of Toastmasters are warm, safe environments to learn public speaking and leadership skills. “Warm and safe,” I remind myself. Still my heart beats faster and my breath diminishes by the second. A ghost of recognition appears before me. Panic is familiar.

Stage two. My history tells me to take an extra Klonopin. Scared to death is not an option. Upon reaching my medicine cabinet with weak, wobble-producing legs, I discover my pill case empty. In my next move, I check the bottle. Empty. My heart beats faster and my limbs go numb. Sweat trickles down my forehead. My last attempt before I collapse in a heap of despair, I call my pharmacist. My trembling voice separated from my body explains my attack and lack of pills. “How fast can you fill the prescription?” my quivering voice speaks out. “Is ten minutes okay?” the pharmacy technician asks.

Stage three. My inner voice tells me to be brave. Think of a serene place. My happy place. Take deep soothing breaths. My toolbox is ransacked for more options until I come to grips with the present. The dispensary is too far to hike, so I must drive to pick up my pills. Cranked engine. Foot on pedal. Brake released. My self-talk takes me on a wild ride to the drug store. My trembling legs walk me to the back of the aisles. The friendly face of the tech reassures me. The credit card transaction is signed with a jellylike hand, completing the purchase.

Back in my car, I down the remedy with tepid water from an old bottle sitting in my trash. My panting is steadier, my heart pounding a little less. Within thirty minutes, I am relaxed, able to pursue my day. Ready to reassess my decision to become a Toastmaster. The choice is sound and important.

My bulletproof vest is worn as a badge of honor and survival. Without my garb, I would be a prisoner in my house, hiding in bed. Sick to my stomach. Useless.

The stigma of mental illness must be broken. My vest is worn with pride. I am a survivor. I am the voice of one in every five Americans experiencing the assailant. I am not alone.

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

(- Laurie Finkelstein ) RWISA Author Page

A Fishy Day By Karen Ingalls

 

 A FISHY DAY     

Karen Ingalls

                                                            July 18, 2017

                                                        Word Count: 1067

 

It was one of those wonderful August days when the sun was high and warm in the sky. The big cumulus clouds slowly drifted by, creating designs that filled Jim’s imagination, who at nine years could see all kinds of amazing sights. He had been playing with his model airplane in his aunt and uncle’s yard, where he spent the summers on their ranch in San Diego, California. Staying with Uncle Leon and Aunt Helen was always a special time of adventure, fun and farm work.

“Jim, do you want to go to the pasture with me? We’ll check the water trough for the cattle,” Uncle Leon asked, at the same time he took his handkerchief and wiped some perspiration from his tan brow.

“Oh, yes,” Jim responded with great excitement. He ran to the front porch and put his treasured airplane on the table next to where Aunt Helen sat in her rocking chair.

Uncle Leon walked over to the Allis-Chalmers tractor and stretched his long, thin legs up and over onto the metal seat. “All right, Jim, you can come on up now.” Jim awkwardly managed to climb up and grab hold of his uncle’s hand, who swung him onto his lap. With the turn of the key the tractor began to vibrate and the engine roared. Shifting the gears into forward, Leon yelled, “Here we go!”

The pasture was a favorite place for Jim with its rolling hills, oak trees, and green grass. It was always a peaceful place where a boy could run until he was out of breath, and then fall onto the grass and let the wind gently blow over his panting body. Many were the times that Jim would spend his days, just climbing in the oak trees pretending he was hiding from some enemy, or shooting squirrels with his imaginary rifle.

He and his uncle drove through the pasture until they came to a large trough sitting by a water pump on the top of a knoll. The cattle were grazing some distance away, but their occasional moos could be heard.

Uncle Leon helped Jim off the tractor and then sauntered up to the trough. “Not much water left so we best get this filled up.”

Jim was leaning over the trough where the top of it just reached his chest. “What can I do? I want to help.”

“Well, now, how about you pump the water in once I get it primed,” replied Uncle Leon with his usual smiling face. He was happy that Jim wanted to help, but he also knew that pumping water would be a big job for such a young lad. Once he had the water flowing with each downward motion of the pump handle, he instructed, “Okay, young feller, it is your turn now.”

Jim eagerly grabbed the handle and standing on his tiptoes, pushed it down, smiling happily when the water gushed into the trough. He repeated the pumping for as long as he could, but all too quickly his arms and shoulders began to ache. Jim did not want to admit that he was getting tired, but his uncle knew and said, “How about if I do it for a while?”

Once the water neared the top, Jim leaned over cupping some water into his hands. “This is the best tasting water I’ve ever had,” Jim thought to himself. He slurped several handfuls into his dry mouth.

Looking over at his nephew, Leon asked with a twinkle in his eye, “Did you see that fish drop into the water from this here pump?”

“What fish?”

“Why, that fish that came right out of the pump into the trough. I thought sure you would have seen him while you were drinking the water.”

“No, sir. I didn’t see any fish.” Jim wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve and earnestly looked in the water.

“Well, he must still be in there.” Uncle Leon leaned over the trough looking for the mysterious fish. “Now isn’t that something. I can’t see him anywhere.” He peeked a look at his nephew, who now had eyes as big as saucers. “I wonder if you accidentally swallowed that poor little fish while you were drinking all that water.”

Jim stepped back from the trough and began to rub his stomach. “I don’t think so, sir.” The minutes passed and Uncle Leon continued to wonder out loud what happened to the fish. Jim began to imagine that the fish was swimming in his stomach. “I don’t feel so good,” Jim said as he stretched down on the cool grass.

Seeing that his nephew was fearful and feeling sick, Uncle Leon laid down next to him and pointed up towards the clouds. “Jim, look at that cloud up there. See the little one next to the big puffy cloud?”

He waited until Jim nodded his head and said, “I think so.”

“It kind of looks like a fish, doesn’t it? I wonder if that is the fish that was in the trough.”

Jim looked at his uncle, then up at the clouds, and then back at his uncle who was smiling from ear to ear. Uncle Leon laughed and began to tickle Jim’s stomach. “Or, is that fish still here? Where is that fish?”

Jim laughed and joked right back while he patted his uncle’s stomach. “No, I think that fish is right here!”

Soon they both stopped laughing and just looked at one another. “I hope I don’t tease you too much,” Uncle Leon said.

“Oh no, Sir.” Jim looked at his uncle and went on to say, “I like to tease my younger brothers. Mother is always telling me not to do it too much. She doesn’t want them to cry.”

“Well, I would never want to make you cry.” Uncle Leon put his big hand on Jim’s head. “Do you know why?” Jim slowly shook his head back and forth not wanting his uncle to remove his hand. “I love you too much to ever make you cry for any reason.”

With tears in his eyes, Jim whispered, “I love you, too.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sun, the warm breeze, and just being next to one another in the grass, watching the clouds drift by. It was a special day that Jim always remembered with a smile.

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

(Karen Ingalls) RWISA Author Page

The Last Time I Ever Saw Mom

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen Mom was a little girl growing up in Moonshine Prairie, her folks would stop the buggy on the way home from church to let her pick sweet williams. And from the time I heard her tell the story when I was a kid, I made sure that she had a nice big bouquet of the phlox she called sweet williams, every single Mother’s Day.

When the day came that Carol and I had to go west to spend our5970678010_27968bcfe6_m time teaching on the reservations, I was no longer able to give Mom her flowers. We climbed Peacock Peak one Mother’s Day, and near the top in a grove of Piñon Pine, we found some kind of white phlox growing which was much smaller than sweet williams. I wanted to pick them and somehow send them to Mom, but there was no way we would ever have been able to climb back down the mountain with them.

One summer when we were back home, Mom’s hip broke and she fell. After a spell in the hospital, we took her out to my sister Joan’s in North Carolina and got teaching jobs. The teaching jobs didn’t work very well. My school decided to teach all year, which would have crippled our writing, and Carol had a childish buffoon for a principal who was determined to nursing home falls-thumb-300x199-40655make life hell for anyone with the nerve to come from Arizona. We made it until December and then found jobs on the Navajo res in New Mexico.

We had just announced our decision to move back west, and were going to leave in the morning. Joan and I were sitting at the kitchen table, playing our fiddles. Mom announced that it was her bedtime and began shuffling out with her walker. Just after she had navigated between Joan and the refrigerator, she paused and turned to me. “Well, I guess this the last I’ll ever see you,” she said serenely.DSC_0348

“Mom!” I said. “Don’t be ridiculous. We’ll be back this next summer.”

We had just gotten moved when Joan rang us with the news that Mom was gone. The thing that came to mind when I hung up the phone was remembering Mom taking the time out of her hectic spring day to walk a mile down into the woods with me to see an ovenbird’s nest. This May will be the first chance I’ve had in all these years to go to the woods for sweet williams. I reckon I’ll leave a handful on her grave.SweetWilliam1024

 

Tom Phipps

 

The Hualapai Indian Baby

Years ago when we started teaching at Peach Springs, the teachers in the lounge began at once filling me in about what terrible students the obstreperous, gasoline sniffing, hairspray drinking Hualapai were, with horror stories of drunken mothers backing over their own children and kids watching their stumbling drunk father bleed to death from stepping on a whiskey bottle.

What I found were lots of damned good artists. Where there might be one or two kids who draw well in a class of twenty to twenty-five Anglo students, fully one third of these Hualapai kids were good at drawing, complete with a sense of perspective and depth. And I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine slow wits doing that well with a pencil.

One day, I had a particularly quiet Zoology class. I walked all through the classroom, handing out papers, lecturing and answering questions. They nearly all were taking notes. When we finished up, perhaps five minutes before the hour and I suddenly realized that the class of sober faces sparkled with eyes of merriment, the room erupted with a roar of laughter, for they had kept a baby absolutely quiet all hour, passing it from student to student behind my back!   

Tom Phipps