Burma – 14th Army: The Battle of the Sittang Bend, 1945, by Leslie Cole.
He is being held by the elbow, his son guiding him out the door of his house which seventy-six years back was merely a wooden hut, having being feted in a lunch celebrating his 100th birthday, feeling the heat of a not too overbearingly warm day and noticing the ground paved over the soil and sand of those many years ago is dry from today not having rained, which takes him by surprise because of the incessant wet of the last couple of days, but not as much as he is now when he looks up and sees a child in the distance bracing himself to be hit by an adult, whether a father he is not sure because he seldom leaves his house without someone, not his wife, she has passed on some years back, helping him, holding on to his arm, steadying his gait and making sure he remains upright with the help of his walking stick, the shoutings from the man so loud now that it takes him back to those days seventy odd years ago when the colonial masters left him and his countrymen in the lurch without protection from the encroaching invasion from the East, when on one particular afternoon he was inside his hut slipping his feet into his wooden clogs ready to depart to look for some food for the evening meal if his gods had ever been looking kindly upon him and his family that day, lulled by the sounds of his little boy playing in the sand outside with another boy from several huts away, but then he perceived an approaching thudding of heavy boots growing louder by the minute, so that he lurched forward to pull open the door in time to espy the boys stopping play to watch a crocodile of men, blades atop guns pointing skywards, coming towards them in uniform the same colour as the sand they had been playing on, the boys’ stillness a soundless backdrop to the heavy rhythmic military stomping which ceased abruptly when a soldier detached himself from the men, looking obviously the leader in a different darker cap, the way he swung his arm across his puffed chest and reached for the hilt of his sword hanging by the side of his belt, pulling it up into the air and placing it onto his nose, barely touching the tip of it, but what raised the hairs on the back of his neck which was now starting to sweat was not the heat, it wasn’t that warm, but the raucous holler this soldier let loose from a fully extended mouth with a wisp of a moustache above it, and the way he brandished his sword back and forth in the air before the boys – he could hear the distant swishing, so quiet had the whole village become, that even the monkeys and the mynahs in the nearby jungle had ceased their chattering and chittering – so that he made to rush towards the boys, willing his trembling legs not to crumble upon the dust, but as if the gods were with him now he did not stumble because he was thinking only of one thing – his son’s safety – about closing in upon his son and seeing how he could draw him away and back into the hut, his thoughts so lost in this endeavour that he almost forgot the other boy who was now trembling fit to burst into tears, and his eyes now turned to train on his son, who seemed to be gritting his teeth but whose chest was rising and falling with an effort not to cry, but before he could reach his son, he was wary of the bewhiskered soldier glowering at him, making him instinctively drop to his knees and lower his head to meet the ground, all the while saying in the local language please pardon my son, not daring to look up, then surprised to hear the man respond in the same language, not certain if the words enunciated in a strangled manner as if his lips were skewed were telling him to take his son away right now or face the consequences, at which he raised himself up, reached for his son’s arm and tugged him, bowing and scrapping at the soldier at every step he took backwards, dragging his son along, slapping the boy’s head downwards till they both reached their door, entering without once turning their backs, offering a final bow, hoping the soldier could see his utmost obeisance, before he dared to pull the door to, but not quick enough to avoid catching the sword coming down in a swipe, hearing a muffled scream, making him cup his hands over his son’s mouth, then his ears and finally his eyes.
This experimental short is Leon Wing’s take on Eksentrika’s open call title: Three Wise Monkeys. This 800-word piece, written as one sentence, is a historical fiction set during the Japanese occupation of Malaya in 1941. He was inspired after reading Solar Bones, in which the entire novel is one unbroken sentence.an infamous Japanese proverbial maxim. Have your own interpretation of the maxim? Email us with subject header “Three Wise Monkeys” to [email protected].Tags: Leon Wing
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