Works of fiction and poetry by friends of Bamboo Ridge Press.


Reiko's Story - Part II

Published by ERIC KIMURA | Tuesday, November 29, 2011 9:18 AM

This is the second part of the story of Reiko, the 2nd grader who had to learn how to use a grenade in August 1945. Again the names were changed but the story is as I heard it. This is a Great BR 100-100 entry under odd stories.. 533 words.

     Reiko smiled faintly as she touched the rubber model of the thyroid gland on my desk. She asked me if I was having trouble with my thyroid. When I explained to her that I had the model to help explain how radioactivity affected thyroids, she said her thyroid was lost because of the Nagasaki atomic bomb and her eyes softened as she remembered what happened so long ago.
     It was the black ash that rained down on her school yard in Omuta City the day the Americans dropped their second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. She and her second grade classmates played in the ash that day. They thought it was from the nearby dormant volcano, so they scooped it up with their hands and laughed as they dumped the ashes over their heads and that of their schoolmates. It was a welcome break of fun from the somber dreariness of the war. Even though Omuta City was well away from the fire bombings of her hometown of Yokohama , the scourge of war still touched everyone. No one expected or knew about the new and terrible weapon and its deadly side effects that the Americans were unleashing. Her grandfather, working in his fields, saw the flash in the distance and the cloud and assumed that the volcano had erupted again. No one understood the peril that drifted down with the black ash, certainly not the children. And so the children, unlike the adults of Omuta City who grumbled how the ash soiled their laundry, only laughed and played in the black ash. When the adults finally heard about the devastation in Nagasaki, they hurried to the city to help rescue the injured. No one knew that they were working in highly radioactive debris whose black ash plume had extended north to Omuta City.
     When she was in her early fifties and in America, she lost her thyroid. She told her doctor that she was sure it was because of the bomb. Her doctor’s advice was to see if there was a pattern of similar cancers and deaths where she lived. So, on one of her last trips to Japan, she checked the school records of her grade school. The Japanese practice of careful record keeping extended to include where the students ended up and their deaths. Of her 2nd grade class in 1945, only three still lived in 1992. Reiko recalled that during her high school years, there were frequent deaths of people dying of cancer. She remembered making the cranes for the dying, in the hope that the 1001 cranes would help them live. But that spate of deaths ended and her attention focused elsewhere. She did not realize then that some effects would take forty years to show up.
     She asked me why it seemed that those who were children at the time seemed more affected by the cancers than the adults. I explained that children’s thyroids were five times more active than adult thyroids so children would be affected more. She smiled and ruefully shook her head at the innocence, and with her hands, again demonstrated how they playfully threw the ashes over each other’s heads on an August day so long ago


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