A Shaken Garden

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
March/April 2004

By Monica Del Toral, Illustrated by Natalie Chin

Glynis Hyatt walked blindly down the street. Fragments of shrapnel crunched under her shoes. Glass mixed, making mosaics with the rubble on the ground. The smell of smoke littered the air, thick and foul-smelling.

The reality of war had hit at full blast, and many people were still in shock. The surprise bombings had caused so much trauma and heartbreak. Glynis kept walking down the street and around the corner. In plain view was the hospital and Glynis quickened her pace.

It had all happened so fast. It was 7:30 AM, and she was getting ready to go to her shift as a telephone operator. She had just started working this summer after graduating from high school. She quickly put on a starched dress, and sat down to breakfast. She looked out her window and saw a clear blue sky. It’s going to be a wonderful day, she thought.

Soon she heard planes, which she pushed aside since the air station was under construction. Suddenly, Glynis heard loud explosions all around her. Screams seemed to arise from nowhere, and rubble flew everywhere. The windows bent inward and shattered, shooting glass all over. She crawled under the table to avoid being hurt. Glynis stared at the swirling chaos around her. The pungent smell of gas from the bombs filled her nostrils. The screams continued and became more violent among the deathly roar. Then it all seemed to stop; the world became silent.

Glynis crawled out from under the table and stood up shakily. She walked silently through the glass on her wood floor. Her door was off its hinges and lying in splinters on the floor. Glynis walked straight out of the house and onto the once-beautiful lawn. The little town was almost unrecognizable, with shrapnel and objects that had not been tied securely to the ground. Roof tiles and aluminum siding from all over the neighborhood littered the streets and yard. Glynis Hyatt walked over to the area where the fence that had separated her garden from others had stood and looked at her precious Eden. Her beautiful gardens of lush gorgeous plants, gone. All her ravishing ginger plants, with their huddled petals, had withered and left the petals ripped and twisted. Her vividly colored gladiolus had lost all their color and they seemed to look blankly at her from their position on the dark ground. The ti plant’s bright red petals had been ripped, and were strewn amongst the other flowers as if they were bleeding. She stood and looked at what was left of her flowers and then gazed toward her neighbor’s house.

Kenny Eldrich had lived on Oahu for 45 years and knew everything in Hawaiian history. Standing on his back porch, he stood gazing out at the destroyed houses. One thing that made Kenny different from other Polynesians was that he did not have the traditional dark hair and eyes. His hair was blond and he had green eyes. Ever since Glynis had emigrated to Hawaii with her older brother, Kenny was there for her, like the father she left back in Japan. Standing on his back porch, he seemed so alone and devastated to see his little town torn apart. It seemed to have torn him apart as well. Glynis broke the silence. “What happened?”

Kenny spoke in a faraway voice, “They finally got us, we’ve been bombed.”

Glynis’s world seemed to fall apart. Piece by piece her world was shattering.

“Where did they bomb us?” she asked tearfully.

“The dock. Oklahoma, Raleigh, the heart of our military.”

A Shaken Garden talking over the fence

Kenny spoke in a faraway voice, “They finally got us, we’ve been bombed”

Glynis felt as if she had been slapped. “The dock” rang in her ears, painful and loud. Tolby, her brother. Tolby working on the Oklahoma. The Oklahoma’s bombed, gone.

Glynis screamed painfully and started running in the direction of the dock. Kenny, still standing on the porch, watched her run, silent tears streaming down his face.

Glynis cried as she ran, her feet pounding hard against thrown pieces of wood. Her heart seemed to beat louder until she heard it in her ears. Out of breath from all her screaming and crying, she collapsed on the street. Tears mixed with sweat and her nose was running. Glynis felt ready to throw up, not only from exhaustion but from worrying for her brother as well. In her mind, she kept seeing Tolby’s body being tossed among the waves, his beautiful hazel eyes open toward the sky, never to find rest among the eternally rolling waves. Although Glynis’s mind kept telling her Tolby was dead, something in her heart told her she had to be wrong. She scrambled up to her feet, and instead of feeling distraught she was fresh with determination: she had to find her brother.

As she got closer to the dock, the destruction became more obvious. Along the roadside, a car had stopped. Both the car and the men inside were destroyed. In the front was an American shipyard worker. It was clear to see that he was dead. The driver’s head was pressed against the top of the steering wheel. His dark hair was bloodily plastered to his forehead. The passengers seemed dipped in red and were staring upward. The reason for his death was unmistakable: his car had been peppered by shrapnel, and was still smoking. She continued running, trying not to be disrespectful to the dead by staring. At last, Glynis arrived at what was left of the dock. The smoke dyed the air a deep gray and it was difficult to see through the billowing pillars. Even though much of her vision was impaired, the outline of the capsized Oklahoma was distinct, as well as other ships.

Glynis ran wildly around the dock, hoping to see anyone that resembled her brother, but she saw no one, only the bodies that rolled on the waves. Glynis almost broke down again, but something told her to pull together and be strong. There was no way, if she did not have a clear mind, that she would be able to find her brother. When she looked harder, Glynis saw some young men near the bottom of the beach with bodies slung on stretchers. She ran down the hill with the last of the strength in her legs and nearly fell to her knees before them.

“Please,” she gasped, “have you seen a Japanese man?” She realized how silly this sounded. At the shocked look on the men’s faces, she tried again.

“Please, he was working for the Americans. His name is Tolby Hyatt. He has brown eyes, he’s five foot eleven and has a birthmark on his cheek,” she said, almost pleading.

The men seemed to react at once. “We’re sorry, ma’am, but we have seen no one of the likes of him.”

“Why don’t you try the hospitals? The men have been spread out all over. We’re taking in the last of the men right now.”

Glynis tried her best not to cry, holding onto a flicker of hope for her brother. She thanked the men and ran off in the direction of the nearest hospital. As she ran, she began wondering about the shocked looks on the men’s faces. Although there was an obvious answer, something seemed to dig deeper. It was the way they looked at her, something that made her look incriminating. Soon the hospital was in sight, and Glynis quickened her pace. She pushed through the shattered glass doors of the hospital and saw that the hospital was in no better condition than any other building.

When she walked in, she received many fascinated stares. But the hardest and cruelest stare came from the nurse’s desk where a hardened-looking woman was standing.

“I wouldn’t think you Japanese would wander out so soon after what you did to us and all. It’s your fault what you did to us.”

Glynis immediately understood where the hard stares and astounded looks had come from. So many had blamed her for the faults of her people and her culture. With that thought, she began to wonder, Who am I? Japanese or American?

When Glynis had emigrated from Japan with her brother, she had Americanized her name and immediately felt at home. But was that enough now? Her heart pulled one way and then the other. Was she Japanese because she was born and raised there or American because she worked hard to become one?

Glynis was lost in thought, and was jolted out by another cruel comment from the nurse. “You should be getting back down to where you belong.”

Glynis let this slide, as much as this hurt. She would not let a woman, or anybody for that matter, bully her around for something she did not do or condone. No one could hurt her, she was American and that was that. In the thinking of the words, Glynis suddenly realized she had heard some similar words before in My Day. Eleanor Roosevelt had once said, “I never understood it until I reached the age when I suddenly realized that there was nothing to fear.” Glynis realized she had reached this point, and she felt it added to her courage.

A Shaken Garden talking to a nurse

No one could hurt hen she was American and that was that

“I need to know if you have who I am looking for,” she said in a commanding tone, letting this hard-hearted woman know who was in charge.

“We don’t have a list yet,” the woman said bitterly, “but you can check in our wards.”

Glynis felt immensely proud of her personal victory and found the courage to face what was coming. Although she wished she had more time to savor the moment, her brother came back into her mind. She prepared herself for the gore and anger she was about to witness in the medical wards. As the nurse led her through the long corridors, she heard moaning. In the rooms she saw many nurses bent over beds. As she rounded the corner, she thought she saw a familiar face. A man with crutches and a bandaged head continued down the hall. Could it be? Could it be Tolby? She quietly hurried away from the lady who was leading her toward the wards and followed the young man who had just walked out of sight.

“Tolby? Tolby?” she rasped, hoping the young man would answer her. For some reason, she felt she had to see his face. He must have turned another corner because he was nowhere in sight. “Tolby? Tolby?” she called, her voice echoing through the long corridors. There was no response. Glynis was getting worried as to where this young man could have disappeared. Pushing through steel double doors, she saw him once again and this time ran after him. “Tolby?” she practically screamed. The young man turned, and Glynis held her breath. Seconds later she released it in a whoosh of joy. There stood Tolby, looking older and more tired but just as joyful. Glynis gave him a flying hug, being careful of his injuries, and began to cry into his shoulder.

“I was so worried about you, Tolby,” she sobbed. “I thought you were dead.”

As they comforted each other, Glynis realized she had become an independent woman on this journey. She had learned that no matter what the problem, there is always a solution, though it may be hard.

EPILOGUE

It was arranged that Tolby would stay in the hospital for another two weeks, so his broken leg and head lacerations could heal. During this time Glynis returned to her job as a telephone operator and slowly began to rebuild her garden.

A Shaken Garden Monica Del Toral

Monica Del Toral, 12
Chicago, Illinois

A Shaken Garden Natalie Chin

Natalie Chin, 11
Bellevue, Washington

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