Life’s Coloring Book A column by Suzi Walls for The Daily Herald

To contact Suzi, email her at suziwalzie@aol.com or
visit her website at www.myspace.com/suziqzi1948
Tokyo, Japan 1944 – the glitzy city was all bright lights and busy sidewalks. The tipsy young Private First Class stumbled through the throng, pardoning himself in misspoken Japanese. He was feeling a great sadness that he had hoped drinking sake would dispel. It warmed his belly but didn’t chase away the grief that ate at his soul.
Back in California a month earlier, when he received the telegram informing him of his mother’s condition, he broke down and cried. The army granted him a two-week family emergency leave, and he boarded a Greyhound for a four-day wearisome trip to Pennsylvania.
As he finally stood on the family’s front porch, he was hesitant to enter. What would he find? Would she welcome him with open arms or would she be too weak to even recognize him? Perhaps she would be unable to distinguish which one of the twins he was, Bob or Ab. “No,” he thought, “mama always knows.” Many times, as little boys, they fooled others, but never their mama. Besides, now they were grown men. Bob wore Army khaki and Ab, the Navy’s bell-bottoms.
Bob took a deep breath and grasped the doorknob with a shaking hand. He stepped inside the house; it smelled of sickness. He dropped his duffle bag with a loud thud and the sound brought his twin brother to the top of the stairs.
“Come on up,” Ab said. “She’s waiting for you.”
His heart pounded as he entered her room. His five brothers surrounded the huge feather bed where his tired father sat beside her and soothed her brow.
“Mama, I’m home,” he whispered.
She weakly touched his face as he bent to kiss her cheek. Her skin was cold to the touch and he thought it strange, as if her life were gone already. His father gently touched Bob’s arm and assured him that the morphine kept her comfortable. All at once, a long hissing breath escaped from her lips, and her eyes slowly closed for the last time.
Now, on the other side of the world, Tokyo’s neon made the past month seem surreal. The sake confused the memory of the funeral and the lonely trip back to California. He barely remembered the flight to his assignment in Japan. He felt as if he were walking in a nightmare. Suddenly, he stumbled and fell against another khaki clad shoulder.
“Hey, watch it, buddy,” boomed the soldier as he shoved Bob. “You’re taking up the whole sidewalk.”
“Get your hands off of me,” Bob stammered. “Or I’ll wipe up the sidewalk with you.”
A scuffle ensued; a knife was drawn.
Bob leaned against a building as he watched the man disappear into the crowded night. Babbling Japanese quickly surrounded him. They pulled at him. They wiped at his shirt. It clung to his body and felt extremely warm. For several seconds, he didn’t understand. And then he realized the khaki was stained red.
There was no pain, only a gush of warmth emanating from his throat. He fished his hanky from his back pocket and pressed it against his neck. The blood wouldn’t stop. Luckily, he remembered seeing a hospital several blocks up the street and he ran.
Stumbling through the emergency room doors, he fell into the arms of two young Japanese nurses. They carried him to a gurney and applied pressure to the wound. He remembered seeing his mother stitching a quilt; or was it a doctor stitching his throat?
The young soldier survived that night, but only by the grace of God. He was told that if the cut had been 1/8” deeper, his jugular would have been severed. Ironically, the man who cut him was from his base and Bob recognized him. He confessed to the crime, was court marshaled, and then sent to the brig.
Bob finished his tour of duty in Japan, and he came home brandishing a new ear-to-ear scar-tissue necklace. I certainly am glad that the good Lord smiled on him that night because he eventually met my mom, and (“voila!”) here I am. How quickly the tides could have turned, and then you’d have never known this interesting little tidbit about one of our own Tyrone boys.
On this Veteran’s Day tell a veteran that you appreciate what they have done for our country. Think about our soldiers who are now off in foreign lands or serving stateside. It isn’t always the enemy they have to avoid. Pray for their safekeeping, who knows, they may one day be the parent of our next entertaining columnist!

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