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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Uncles/Aunts (04/17/08)

TITLE: Okinawa, 1947
By Peter Stone


“You should not have brought him here, little sister,” admonished the petite Japanese woman.

“It is time my husband met my family, Momo-chan,” Sakura protested.

Sitting cross-legged across from the two women, Richard Oliver did not let on that he was able to discern the gist of their conversation. He went through the motions of sipping his green tea in an abortive attempt to hide his discomfort.

“You have dishonoured our family by marrying this gaijin instead of one our own people. May I ask why--were there no Japanese men in America?” Momoko pressed.

“Richard was very kind to me--to many of our people--when they put us in that internment camp during the war,” Sakura explained while stealing a glance at her husband. “During the three years that we were incarcerated, he brought food and medical supplies to the camp every other week. Because of this, and since he paid for these himself, he earned his own people’s contempt. I think he suffered as much as we.”

“If his actions brought him dishonour, why did he persist?”

“It is because of what his God Jesus says in their book, Momo-chan--that if you visit a person in prison, it is the same as visiting Jesus in prison,” Sakura clarified.

“That makes no sense, why would their God be in prison?”

“The concept is alien to us, I admit. Richard-san explained it this way: the Christian God is pleased when a person shows compassion to another who is in need. It was during these visits that I came to know, respect and love him. We married after the war.”

Momoko’s two young daughters skipping into the ramshackle wooden room derailed the conversation. Upon spying the large American man towering over their mother and aunt, they fell back shrieking, “Gaijin!”

“Konnichiwa, Nanako-chan and Yuko-chan,” Sakura said quickly to reassure them, “I am your aunt, just back from America. This is Richard-san, my husband. He is your uncle.”

“No!” cried one girl, “He cannot be our uncle--he is a gaijin!”

“Tell him to go away!” added the other before both fled the room.

“Gomen nasai,” Sakura said to her husband, embarrassed by her nieces’ shameful behaviour.

Although wounded by their words, Richard reassured her in English. “No need to apologise.”

“So sorry, Richard-san. I should not have brought you here,” Sakura whispered back.

Momoko rose. “Please excuse me, but I must prepare lunch.”

A fit of coughing from smoke seeping under the door woke Richard in the early morning hours. Leaping from the futon, he shook his wife. “Wake up, Sakura-chan, there’s a fire!”

Upon opening the door, they were horrified to see that a fire raging in the kitchen had spilled into the hallway, cutting off access to the back of the house. Beyond the flames, Richard could just make out his sister-in-law and her daughters cowering against the wall, with no avenue of escape.

Darting back to their room, the American snatched two woollen blankets. He handed one to his wife and girded himself with the other. “Go outside and have the blanket ready!”

With that, he flung himself through the fire, paying no heed to the flames that caressed his feet and arms. Upon reaching the end of the hallway, he picked up one girl and placed her on her mother’s back. The younger one he put in her arms. Then removing the blanket from himself, he wrapped it around the lady and her daughters.

On many past occasions, Richard had questioned God’s judgement in giving him such a large frame. Now, finally, he understood why. Without difficulty, he scooped the diminutive Japanese lady and her two daughters into his burly arms, and ignoring a fresh fit of coughing that racked his chest, charged headlong back through the fire.

Fleeing the house to enter the cool night air outside, Richard stood still while his wife used her blanket to smother the fire from his clothes. Disregarding his injuries, the large man then set the precious bundle he carried carefully upon the road.

As Momoko and her two daughters emerged from the makeshift cacoon, they examined the American from a completely new perspective.

Drawn by the commotion, fire and smoke, dozens of neighbours came rushing over. Some looked on while others rushed about collecting buckets of water. Several children pointed to Richard and shouted, “Gaijin!”

Although they still clung to their mother, Momoko’s daughters shouted back as one, “He's not a gaijin, he's our uncle!”


Matthew 25:40 (NIV) The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'


Gaijin – ‘foreigner’ or ‘outsider,’ sometimes used with derogatory connotations
Gomen nasai – polite form of ‘sorry’

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This article has been read 1187 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 04/24/08
I love your use of Japanese phrases in this. I was totally engrossed in your story. Is it true? Richard's belief in God, evidenced by his actions in both countries is wonderful. I like everything about your story. Your writing is beautiful.
Laury Hubrich 04/25/08
OH! I loved this story! Action-packed! Awesome...
Jason Swiney04/25/08
A well-written story, a cultural lesson, and a scriptural lesson wrapped in one, nice job.
Joshua Janoski04/27/08
I love the culture in this piece. The dialogue and descriptions help the reader picture themselves being in Japan, witnessing these events.

The lesson in this is also good. The kindness we show others goes a long way in demonstrating that we truly are followers of Christ.

I enjoyed this, and I appreciate you sharing it.
Karen Wilber04/27/08
Excellent storytelling. It's all here--drama, suspense, love. And your concluding sentence has all the more punch because of the girls earlier behavior toward their uncle.
Loren T. Lowery04/28/08
The story seem very real and I especially liked the way God uses tragedy to chain our hearts. Your writing and sense of history is very convincing.
Jan Ackerson 04/28/08
Very strong story, and a lesson for us all.

You might reconsider your use of speech attributions like admonished, clarified, pressed. It's far more effective to have the person's actual words do the admonishing, clarifying, pressing...and then just stick to "said" if you're using a tag at all. Or let the action of the sentence be the tag...better still.

I love stories with historical atmosphere and setting. They stretch me as a reader and as a person.
Chely Roach04/28/08
So very good...I loved Richard-san; I loved the whole story. Awesome.
Debbie Roome 04/29/08
I had no idea where you were going with this. What a wonderful picture of God's love reaching across culture and race.
Debbie Wistrom04/29/08
Loved this tale and the lessons. Keep it up.
Willena Flewelling 04/29/08
Great job! You've handled a sensitive subject well, and made an enjoyable story out of it.
Dee Yoder 04/30/08
I remember the first time that I learned about the camps for Japanese-Americans and how shocked I felt. I just recently learned that my husband's dad was put in a work camp during WWII for being an Amish pacifist, too. Many unfair things happen during war...you paint a vivid picture of the consequences of some of those decisions, but the hope at the end of your story is quite meaningful.
Sara Harricharan 04/30/08
I loved the Japanese culture in here! It's so fresh and especially with the bit of history inside, very nice! I liked that Richard did save them all and at the end, when the girls heard the others yelling, they shot back with "No he's our uncle!" Nice! ^_^
Joanne Sher 04/30/08
Just excellent in storytelling and history and characterization. I was blessed, as always, to read your piece, Peter.
Sara Harricharan 05/01/08
***Congrats! I'm so glad this one made it! Awesome writing! ***
LauraLee Shaw05/01/08
Congratulations! Brilliant as usual!
Tim George05/01/08
Peter - Masterful job of pulling us into another time and culture. I found it ironic that my story this week was also about Japanese and Americans in WWII. The two stories combined remind me of how complex both war and peace really are. Good job!
Beth LaBuff 05/01/08
Congrats on your EC!!
Dee Yoder 05/01/08
Congratulations, Peter! This is a wonderful story.
Sheri Gordon05/01/08
Congratulations on your EC, Peter. I love how you mixed the two cultures. Very good job with the topic.
Loren T. Lowery05/01/08
This is so nice to see, well-deserved, well-written. Congratulations, Peter. I really enjoy your work. Loren
Sally Hanan05/01/08
This was a great piece on the superficiality of generalizations. It is so much easier to judge a group than to take the time to see into the heart, and you conveyed that truth beautifully.
Julia May05/01/08
Awesome story. Congrats!
Sharlyn Guthrie05/01/08
Gripping, well-written story! COngratulations on your EC.
David Butler05/04/08
Such a gripping story, Peter. For some reason, my heart sank when I saw the title, thinking the story was heading for a nuclear holocaust. Shows how paranoid we get. This was a pleasant surprise. Well deserved EC.
I can't fully agree with Jan's comments about the dialogue. Sometimes, as in this case, it clarifies the context and tone of the dialogue, where the words themselves are insufficient. Yes, other times we can put the right intonations in the words themselves, or add it subtly by e.g. describing the speaker's body language etc.
Lots I can learn from this piece. Well done!
Tammy Bovee05/04/08
The national context is intriguing. Your message a good message for us Americans who so often think it's all about us. And your spiritual message is one we all need to hear. Great demonstration of Christianity in action. Congrats on your EC! Blessings!
Helen Dowd05/07/08
I have only one complaint about this story---I wish it could have been longer!!! Wonderful! Absolutely wonderful story telling. You had me spell-bound from start to finish. Too bad there could be only ONE first. You would have qualified....Congratulations for placing, in the ED Choice...Helen
Dara Sorensen05/08/08
As one who is familiar with writing Japanese-themed stories, you did a great job in getting the culture right and the views of both American and Japanese cultures in marrying someone who looks different or is a "gaijin." Great job!