Chapter 1: That’ll Teach Them
1. THAT’LL TEACH THEM
It was a greyhound, my father said, a kind of dog, painted on the side of the bus. It didn’t look like a dog. Not in the least. Trust me. If I were going to draw a dog, it wouldn’t look like that thing. I was trying to figure out what this “dog” thing actually looked like when the bus pulled away, taking my brother off to the army. I waved to him. The windows were so dirty, I couldn’t tell if he was waving back. So I waved harder. While I was waving, I noticed a suspicious-looking dust cloud rising up behind the bus. It loomed over my parents and me and took on the appearance of a hammer. I was sure it was up to no good. Luckily, a breeze grabbed ahold of it and tossed the dust hammer onto the side of the road.
I wish I hadn’t been so concerned about the dust-cloud hammer, because by the time I’d confirmed that it wasn’t going to clobber us, I realized that the bus was very, very far away. A moment later it and Mak were gone, disappearing behind a distant hill. I kept waving anyway.
If he’d been there, Mak would’ve laughed at me.
Hey, kabocha-head! I could hear him say. Get a load of you worrying about a dust cloud. You and your crazy imagination!
I rubbed my head where I imagined Mak would’ve applied his noogies. Funny thing was, I’d always hollered and squealed in the past when he rubbed my head with his knuckles. But now I actually missed them, Mak and his noogies. I pictured Mak’s face, his eyes and eyebrows and the silly-looking glasses he wore, the way the little scar over his lip would tilt upward when he smiled. I jumped when Mama called my name.
“Come along, Mari,” said Mama as she and Father started the long walk back to the barracks. (Like all the other grown-ups at the camp, they always spoke in Japanese. They had emigrated from Japan and didn’t learn English when they were growing up, the way Mak and I did. We spoke in Japanese too when we talked with them, though when it was just Mak and me, we spoke English like the other kids. So as you read, just imagine our conversations are all in Japanese.)
“Mari!” said Father. “It’s dinnertime! Come along.”
Dinner? Honestly, Father! Mak is going to war on a dirty bus with a stupid dog thing painted on the side of it, and all you care about is dinner. I stood there for a moment, furious, thinking about dust clouds that looked like hammers, about my selfish big brother who’d made a stupid decision to go to war without discussing it with me first, and about my father needing to go eat another piece of boiled SPAM in the mess hall.
It was right then that I decided I wouldn’t talk anymore.
I remember saying to myself, I know what’ll teach them. I’m not going to talk anymore. Later on I added, Or at least until Mak comes home. But I didn’t add that part till I’d spent a few days not talking. Take it from me, not talking is not easy.
“Mari! Please,” hollered Father.
I spun about, stomped after my parents, and caught up to them. As we passed the guard post by the front gate, the sentry smiled at me. I stuck out my tongue.
That’ll teach him, too.