Tuesday, 17 February 2009


I wrote this a week or so ago. Here's the first bit of it.
My great-aunt and my grandfather did actually have to live up in the caves in Pangasinan at the time of the American-Japanese war in the Philippines.

Nora remembers. She remembers the horrible sucking sounds of the mud as they ran, the whine of Japanese planes at their backs. They ran over the fields, up the hills, into the cages. Far, far away from the sound of approaching Death. But in the silence of the cave, cradled in her mother's arms, she still heard the insistent noise of the plane, Nora remembers, she remembers it all.

The children play at Nora's feet, on a hardwood floor, with shiny plastic toys. No stone floors. Nora told her husband, no stone. It reminded her too much of the caves they slept in, of the absolute darkness of every night.

Her grand-nieces and grand-nephews are so soft, skin pink and pliable. At their age Nora's hands were covered with callouses, her heels were dirty and hard. She looks at herself now, hands dotted with liver spots, skin wrinkled with age. The callouses are gone and her skin is clean. No marks remain from the war, except the small shrapnel scar behind her left ear. Nobody knows of it except her elder brother - her perfectly coiffed hair hides her scar expertly.

And where is Alex now?

Grandpa! Grandpa!

The elated cries of her grand-nephew. Ah, here is Alex, the proud grandfather of seventeen, smiling at his grandchildren. The little ones throw themselves at him, Alex Jr. is hanging off his shoulder. Nora sees her brother wince with pain, but the children don't notice how his face is twisted, the veins in his neck bulging. The expression on his face is so familiar to her; the soundless agony of his pain. After all these years, the scar still hurt him.

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