Day 20 of the A to Z Challenge is the letter “T”:
T is for Taro Teaser
Taro Kimura, Sachi’s and Nobu’s oldest brother, plays an important role, but in The Red Kimono, only in the background. However, in the sequel (currently titled Broken Dreams,) Taro is one of the point-of-view characters, and the reader will come to understand more of his story.
Taro is loosely based on my mother’s oldest brother, Yoshio. My uncle served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and was awarded the Bronze Star, all while his family was interned at Tule Lake Relocation Camp and Topaz Relocation Camp.
I wrote a blog about my uncle titled “Honor.”
So, here’s the “teaser” part. The following excerpt is from the sequel, which is still a work in process. It takes place in 1957, when Taro is 34 years old. I thought you might like to get to know a little something about this man of honor.
Taro felt hot and cold all at once. He kicked the covers off and opened his eyes to welcomed darkness. Nothingness. But it was better than the images of war that plagued his sleep.
Seconds later, it didn’t matter whether his eyes were closed in slumber or open to the blank, black screen before him. The memories that brought haunting dreams were branded onto his subconscious, a cruel part of him he so often ran from.
Water. So bitter-cold, stinging as it crept up his leg, slowly, slowly, until its iciness prickled at his balls like a thousand needles, then clawed up his belly. He struggled to keep his balance, held his rifle high above the current.
His foot slid on a mossy rock and he fell into the river. Gasping in the frigid water that swallowed him, he struggled to find his balance again.
His buddy, George, grabbed his rifle before it touched the water and pulled Taro up, held on until he steadied.
“Don’t be so clumsy,” he whispered. “You get that rifle wet, it won’t be worth shit when we reach shore.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Taro grinned, still trying to catch his breath. Good old George.
He tried to get his mind off the cold. Italy. Beautiful mountains. Beautiful women. Beautiful language.
But all those beautiful thoughts vanished when Company A hit the shore.
Lights flashed and the boom of grenades slugged him on every side. Machine guns popped. Countless bullets pummeled anything in their path.
Again he slipped, gasped.
Taro squeezed his eyes shut, opened them again, praying the images would be gone. He flipped to his side and felt the wet pillow against his cheek. He fought for breath as his heartbeat swelled in his throat.
Shikata ga nai. It cannot be helped. Papa’s words. Words he used to whisper when Taro was troubled, from the time he was a boy; only then, it was because he’d lost the final round of the spelling bee he had studied so hard for; or the night he discovered his first love had left him for another.
“Things will improve with time, Taro,” Papa would say, quietly. “And in that time, you will endure what you think you cannot.” Then, his father would begin to breathe deeply. “Like this,” he said, and took a deep breath in, then out. “It will only take a few breaths, and you will see.”
At first, Taro had rolled his eyes at the old-fashioned Japanese philosophy, though certainly not so that his father could see. But rolling his eyes had done nothing to help his pain and frustration.