Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: MIX (10/22/15)
- TITLE: The Fragrance of Freedom
By Loni Bowden-Horn
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A swarm of uniformed officers piled out of the trucks and buses armed with rifles affixed with bayonets.
"Hey Jap, fill out your name on this ticket,” hissed the officer. “So how does it feel to have Japanese blood coursing through your veins?”
I cowered behind my father as the guard handed him the tags stamped with an assigned family number. I attached a tag to my coat and to each of my bags. I was only allowed to bring any possessions I could carry.
“Pretty soon you’ll be at the camp where you can mix with your own kind,” sneered the soldier.
I was an American citizen. I grew up in a home mixed with Western and American cultures. My parents were of Japanese descent.
I and other countless Japanese detainees were herded like cattle aboard a transport.
As the bus rumbled along to an undetermined destination, I noticed every shrub and bush was brown and dry—tumbling across the desert plains. The rocky terrain had miles and miles of spindly saguaro cacti that nestled against the Arizona border.
When I arrived at the detention center, I gagged at the stench coming from a horse stable which was my new home. The sparsely furnished room had five metal cots crammed into an 8 feet by 20 feet space. My mattress was a bag filled with hay. There was one window to look out and no other furniture existed in this stark room.
I stooped down to console my mother who had dropped to her knees and begun to sob at the deplorable conditions of our new place. Dust was seeping up from the gaps in the floor boards and through the slits of the walls.
I felt stripped of all privacy. My every movement watched. The presence of armed guards patrolling the barbed-wire perimeter of the camp was alarming. No one dared cross the while line painted along the dusty path or risked being shot.
This desolate land had dried up all my hopes and dreams.
“What had I done to deserve this?” My outstretched arms held up a Buddha statue. I longed to clear my consciousness of all strife. My thoughts were centered on peace and tranquility. I didn’t feel any different. Nothing had changed.
Each step I took plunged me further into the scorching sand of this barren desert land. The harsh sun beat down mercilessly upon me, offering me no relief from this thick and impermeable air.
Out of the corner of my eye, a lizard scurried in the shadows of the rocks for shelter where the dirt was not hot enough to bake it. I envied his freedom. I longed to find a place to hide.
A stifling wind kicked up an eddy that spewed stinging particles of dust into my eyes. I pulled a scarf around my nose and mouth to keep from choking.
The warmth of the sun stirred up memories of Thanksgiving in a blended Japanese-American household. My mind began to play tricks on me.
I could envision my mama’s kitchen would be filled with a fragrant bouquet of aromas as she mixed together various spices to put into the stuffing.
Along with the usual fare of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, my mother prepared traditional Japanese food such as tsukemono (pickled vegetables), sliced sashimi (raw fish), and oden (a Japanese hot-pot filled with fish cakes and other vegetables). A bowlful of plain rice was a staple at each meal.
I was jolted back to reality. There would be no Thanksgiving this year.
I lost my appetite when I noticed a greasy, square piece of meat, with a thick salty gel had been placed on my plate. There was no rice or chopsticks.
When I arrived at school, my teacher bent over to comfort a tear-stained young lady.
She said Isaiah a prophet of God foretold of Jesus the Messiah offering “a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm…the shadow of a great rock in a weary land… a river of water in a dry place.” (Isaiah 32:2)
My teacher told me of the one true God. He sent his son named Jesus to save us from our sin. His own people called the Jews would not mingle with him. Jesus was rejected and despised even though He had done nothing wrong.
As the blood of Jesus intermingled with my soul, I felt the flame of freedom consume me.
My story is fictional, but many of the places, events and circumstances are based on historical facts.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced the removal of all Japanese citizens along the West Coast of the United States into hastily built internment camps. Approximately 120,000 Japanese, two-thirds of who were American citizens were forced into internment camps. It should be noted that during the war, there was never an incident of espionage involving any Japanese living in the U.S.A.
Internments by Susan C Hoe. Copyrighted in 2013
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom and Elizabeth and John Sherrill. Copyrighted in 1971 and 1984 by Corrie ten Boom and Elizabeth and John Sherrill. Copyrighted in 2006 by Elizabeth and John Sherrill.
Published by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group in Grand Rapids, MI
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