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M. Cid D’Angelo is published in many literary journals such as Eureka Literary, Aiofe’s Kiss, Third Wednesday, Lady Jane’s Miscellany, and others.

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In the Garden

M. Cid D’Angelo

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How strange it is to think you could take all the dust from this choked land and wad it up to make a new planet, the simplicity of just removing the ash blanket and baring the hard clay beneath—the clay where the little monsters lurked. Searching for the evil little monsters, hidden beneath your feet until you step on one and it blows you apart. They are the ghosts of the darker days. I can sweep this coil over the dust here, listening to the hum as the mine detector looks for the little monsters. It sounds like an angry hornet smothered in a blanket.

In the glint of the sun on the coil, I see my great-granddaughter’s eyes of sweet perfection: of sharp eyes and dark eyes and eyes of sharp reflection as mirrors; and these eyes of sublime innocence as the youngest of young girls, and she knows nothing of evil.

How far away she is in Japan, and not here in the dust-choked land north of Shandong where the little monsters lurk. I watch her when she doesn’t know it, and in my own eyes of watchful love and love borne of wisdom and age and regret and evil, I catch sight of my great-granddaughter through the stems of the garden blossoms. My garden in Kagoshima. Snapdragon and lilies and cherry of red and green and orange and white, and these are not evil either, and they frame my little girl in her innocence—that innocence a photograph may capture and keep forever—reflected in her warm gold of the rising sun.

Rising Sun.

Days long ago, neh? Days best left forgotten, when I was young and the world was young and I wonder if the world had been young then; certainly not as young as I was in Manchuria. No. The world was different then, neh? It was different and it was harsh, but manageable.

And evil, neh?

Oh! My great-granddaughter, wearing a kimono not out of respect for her ancestors, but only because her parents felt it cute for her to wear, squatting there on the porch stoop looking at me looking at her! This would make me smile and would bring tears to my eyes if only the damned could cry. They cannot. They would not.

But my little girl and my garden are so far away in Japan. Here the only thing I have is my mine detector searching for the little monsters that the Chinese had buried for us when they’d ran after we took Manchuria. And these little monsters lurking even years after the war to kill the little girls and little boys...

...yet I clip the blossoms in my garden far away, passing prayers to discarded snapdragons because their petals are black and bruised with age.

A long time ago three soldiers of the Manchurian Corps emerged from the forest shadow and made their way toward a riverbank...

How green and lush that valley had been! Spread out before us—we three young boys with rifles and the Rising Sun upon our caps—symmetrical as a piece-puzzle clean and cut.

Who had taken a pause there in the morning Manchurian sun, silhouetted for a moment as a ghost? I cannot remember—I am an old man...

...the wind had been blowing hard, I remember.

I remember...

There is a dull hum from my machine here. I stop in my tracks. A little monster is hiding under the soil—or maybe it’s a Coca-Cola can. I look up and the sun is harsh—and I wave for the flagger to come over. Chinese man. Younger than the days of the war, and he doesn’t know who I am or what crimes I have committed to be here for the Communists, searching for the little monsters. But in the garden far away...

...the river.

How clumsily we had forded it, holding our rifles above our heads, as if danger of Chinese snipers weren’t close. The Lieutenant, Arahito, a ghost in the silhouette, waiting on the bank as we breached the water, and held up a hand...

...our rifles came down, all—a dance step in synchronicity...

...what had it been? A ripple on the wind, neh? A snap or a break in the bushes, neh? It had been bad territory, with Chinese flanking the columns all week...

...Lieutenant Arahito moved his hand (I can see it now...I can see the ghost in silhouette).

I see my sweet little girl with some snapping toy in my garden...what was it? Was it two shells? What...

Laughter: the song of a child.

I moved up the rise, keeping low (I remember...I remember!). I pulled the bushes aside, coming up to a crouch to see better—yes—and the men were grunting and I held up a hand to shut them up. There came up Arahito, and we watched through the bushes and

and a Chinese boy popped into view with a rifle, and I shot him—I shot him before he knew anything and I shot him in the head and what a good shot, neh?

A flock of crows burst from the bushes, I remember, and I got up and left the bushes to see the boy and the blood on his face where my bullet had killed him.

It was long ago. Years and years, neh? But how can the images be so clear? Do I invent them, perhaps? Maybe the things as I remember them are not as they were, neh? My mind fills in the gaps because it is an organ of reason with beginnings and conclusions. It invents things because it’s an instrument of torture.

The cherry blossoms in my garden are already dying in the shadow from the wall. Death. And in the world of the cherry blossoms, torture is unthinkable, and evil but a cold shadow on a summer’s day. My great-granddaughter in her sublime perfection looks up at me. “Grandpa?” she says in English, because her parents are Americanized.

There had been a noise after I’d killed that boy.

But I must remember I am not in Japan and I’m not in the past anymore—I am here in Xianing because I have to find the little monsters, and I mustn’t be distracted from the little whining hum from the earphones because the monsters will kill me if they can, neh?

Yes, a noise—and as soon as I cleared the rise and the hedge, I took a misstep and slid down the slope on my butt. A young girl—older than my great-granddaughter, but not much—had flung herself over the boy I’d killed and his blood was on her face too and her shift and

and the men came down behind me and collided and we started to laugh; I laughed so hard I dropped my gun and fell back against the slope. Private Daru went over and picked up the boy’s rifle, and it had been an old American M-1 and it was no good! The bore had been removed!


My garden was turning cold with the anticipation of night and the fallen blossoms of my care have sunk into the concrete, hiding or dead or both. But I know I’m not there! I’m in China again, with my machine and my little monsters...

I remember her shrinking away from us, that little Chinese girl, but she was young and pretty and we pushed her back and forth from one another in a tight circle laughing at her. Finally she ended in a heap, sobbing, resolved to fate. I was so tired of the game, I took her little shift and tore it off and...

I wet myself with her innocence and her screams...

...her screams...

...pooling into a low moan and sobbing that didn’t break, neh? Oh but she was so good as I took her—because I could take her. And we all took our turn because that was the way things were and we stood around her after we were done, watching with nothing in our faces, and I bent down and pulled her up and punched the end of my bayonet into her soft white belly...

She was not like my great-granddaughter in my garden far away in Japan. Yet why do I think she is?

...we took our rifles and moved along the river (the river!) toward the sea and far away, and the great storms came and the world became darker.

I mustn’t forget where I am.

And in a white light from my steps in the dust I can hear my great-granddaughter call to me from the house, in her English and her eyes shining in fire of innocence. I pick up my shears and lock them, the oil on them making a dull sheen in the waning light.

Evil is tangible, neh? It is always there; it never goes away. It is memory and the way the world turns in night and it is mine.

I take measured tread to my granddaughter’s house, leaving behind me the fading death of snapdragons and cherry blossoms in the garden. And now everything black and death—the little monsters have found me.

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