ALL IS LOST

By Joyce Skeyhill

Lu Chung arose from his bed and walked sleepily over to the open window.  He breathed in the sweet Chinese air, took it way down in his lungs.  The dawn was just breaking over Wang Siame.  He then went back to his bed and drew off his night shirt.  He stretched, and walked over to the water basin and splashed the water on his naked  body.  The cold water made him flinch.

When he had dressed and eaten, he left the house and went to town.

He went first to see “Old Sally” whose father had been educated in America, coming back to China to marry, therefore naming his daughter Sally.

As Lu Chung entered, Sally was sitting at the table with her two idiot sons on either side, the third bent over a book in the corner.  After greeting Sally, Lu Chung went over to Pao, the son with the book.

“Hello, Pao. Still at the lessons, aye?” he chuckled.  Pao did not answer Lu  Chung but kept his eyes on the book in front of him.  Lu Chung, still chuckling, went over to Sally and asked the usual questions. “How is everyone?”  “Has Sujin been seeing Lung Wang?”  Sally answered these questions patiently.

Yes, they sat there quietly chatting about anything that came into their mind, not one of them dreaming the unhappy plight Hirohito had in store for them, them and all the other Chinese women and children.  It happened then, to this poor little child.

The great Japanese bombers roared over Nanyu.

Lu Chung stopped his talk and listened.  Sally rose and took a step forward.  The two idiots did nothing, but Pao rose and said calmly, “As I anticipated.” He reached into his pocket for his tobacco.  He then rolled a cigarette with some brown paper he took from the floor.  “You, you’re so calm. We must all run!” Sally cried frantically. “Run? Run where?  We’re as safe here as anyone until the bombing’s over”

Lu Chung, realizing the truth of his words, sat down weakly.

Nothing happened for three minutes, only the roar of the bombers and the terrifying screams of the bombs and the explosions of other bombs.

Nothing happened til that fateful bomb landed outside of Sallys,” blowing away half the house.  When the smoke cleared away, one idiot son lay dead at Lu Chung’s feet, his neck spurting blood.  The other was holding stupidly to Sally, crying bitterly into her lap.  She disregarded him completely as she stared at the son who lay so quietly at Lu Chung’s feet. “Is_____ Is he dead?” Lu Chung nodded and made a few vain attempts to comfort her.  A muscle twitched in her yellow old face and Pao advanced to his mother who stood in the middle of the floor, hands hanging limply by her side. Her eyes were dry.

Pao went to her, put his arms around the old lady.  It was then she burst into tears. Lu Chung, feeling out of place in this unhappy scene, made an unnoticed exit.  When he went outside, his eyes popped at what he saw.  Men lying with their heads a few feet away from them, a man running with no feet on his splintered stumps to some sort of shelter

The roar of the bombers died away, going to plunder another small town like Nanyu,a town with not the slightest air raid equipment, not even an air raid siren or shelter.

Lu Chung hurried back to his home to see if it had been spared by the heartless Japanese.

Lu Chung stumbled over a body. He looked closer and found it to be the schoolmate who had always been his closest friend, Laow.  Laow’s mouth opened slightly as if trying to speak, but nothing came forth.  His partly closed eyes were lifeless.  Lu Chung’s eyes burned with unshed tears.  He suddenly wanted to be out of all this man’s slaughter.

He started running and stumbling over dead and wounded bodies or tripping on shell holes.

He didn’t stop running til he was far out of the outskirts of Nranyu.  He stopped, finally, and sank to the green grass, panting.  He thought of what he had seen and grew sick. The sickness then turned to hate, hate of every yellow Japanese heart.

He arose and trudged along the red road to his home.

Lu Chung looked at the sky and wondered how it could be so blue, so beautifully blue, when his beloved China was being plundered by the invaders.

When he came in sight of his house, he became sick at heart, for his home was a burning inferno, probably used as a bombing target.

He felt broken and spent.  If only they had spared his home.

 

The yellow flames licked at the crude shingles on the roof.

He turned his back and could feel the heat on his back, eating at his                    very heart.  This house was all he had and it had grown from the juice of the land.

He looked at the remains a long minute, then turned down the red dusty hills toward the green mountains to wherever fate might lead him.

Posted in: 1943 Stories

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