|Last Empress of China learning to cycle in the Forbidden City around fin–de–siècle|
| …………………………….“With both hands she held up the little bundle. Peeling open the wrapping with meticulous fingers, she took a deep smell like a mother worshipping her newborn. Large tear drops threaded down the crisscross of her face.
“I knew a place in Tokyo where they sold the best o-mochi in the world. When I was a young girl, I always went there to buy the rice cakes for our New Year’s celebration. Do you think we will see our home ever again, Maru-chan?”
Now it was my turn to feel like crying. I washed the lump in my throat down with a mouthful of tea.
“You want to know how I found you, obasan? I can tell you a terrific, sad story. If you want a happy ending, just tell me, and I can change it into a bad story, ” I said, making a poor effort to fend off our melancholy.
“I want a perfect ending. Or a sad ending, albeit a happy one. How a story ends gives meaning to how it began. Sumimasen. Tell me when did you arrive in China? Did you ask for permission to leave the camp? Do they treat you well? You can’t be an officer at your age…You are now…?”
“I will be eighteen in a couple of months. I’m with a special unit, intelligence is our task.”
“That sounds logical. Back then you told me you wanted to become a writer. Are writers intelligent people?”
“I should think it’s extremely improbable to call anyone who plods along with books intelligent these days. So I guess I changed my mind. I draw lines.”
I added quickly at her inquisitive expression, “We gather information of a new place before our large troop arrives. We make maps. It has been some time now since I got my first job.”
Madame K. looked at me briefly, touching her gingerly fingers to the rifle.
“Do you have to kill people to do what you do?”
Butterfly, a novel by Julie Oyang, p123-124. Title available on Amazon.com. Visit www.julieoyang.com for more info.
“When I dare to be powerful! Where I dare to be powerful! How I dare to be powerful!”
novelist & visual artist