Black Mask

The Road From Manzanar

by Harley Mazuk

Aragón, Spain

March 1938

 

“Three Falangist militiamen—an officer, a soldier, and their driver—on patrol in an old Fiat, stopped us for a routine check. My friend, Max  Rabinowitz, lay wounded in the back of the wagon, concealed under the sticks Alejandro and his daughter, Amanda, had been gathering for fuel.

The officer didn’t like my face, or my accent. “You have no papers from the Nationalist side, and you are from Barcelona,” he said. Before I could reply, he slammed the flat of his Mauser against the side of my head. My legs buckled and I sank to my knees in the road. I saw Amanda’s Astra pistol come out from under her coat before I closed my eyes. I may have heard a shot or two before I blacked out.

When I came to, the young soldier with his rifle stood over Alejandro. The Astra lay in the dirt near me. I heard voices—a man’s grim laugh, a dull thump, a woman’s cry of pain. “Hold her, hold her,” a man shouted. “Pin her down.” Another cry. She sounded so young. Taking the Astra, I crawled on my elbows, keeping the wagon in which Max lay unconscious between the young soldier and myself.

At the back of the wagon, the other two fascists held Amanda. Her pants were in the dirt by the roadside. The driver sat on her chest and pinned her arms with his knees, while the officer opened his coat, and dropped his trousers. Amanda’s bare legs pumped and kicked. “Hold her, fool. You can be next,” the officer said, and forced her legs apart. Amanda threw dirt at the driver’s face, and he lashed out and struck her.

I rose, strode forward two unsteady steps, and shot the driver in the head, twice. The fascist officer didn’t know whether to pull up his pants or go for his gat. But the trooper guarding Alejandro already had his rifle in his hands, so I hurried two more steps toward the front of the wagon, and fired two shots into his chest.

I turned to finish off the officer, but the damn pistol just clicked. I threw the empty bean-shooter at his head, dived under the wagon and rolled. I slipped off my belt and watched the officer’s legs to see which way he’d come for me. He headed for the front and Alejandro; I rolled the opposite way and scrambled out from beneath the cart at the back. Just as the officer bent over to look for me under the wagon, I looped the belt around his neck to garrote him. I pulled on the ends with all my strength and bent a knee into his back.

The moments crept by as slowly as a condemned man chews his last meal. It took too long for him to die, but when my wrists burned and I didn’t think I could hold him any longer, he ran out of air on that dirt road in Aragón and went limp in my arms. He was the last man I ever killed.

*   *   *

San Francisco, California

June 1942

I hadn’t relived that particular nightmare for more than six months, and I’d hoped I was free of it. But the notice from the Selective Service board to appear for my preinduction physical arrived last week, and now the dream had recurred twice, as vivid as ever. I woke up dry-mouthed, on damp, sweaty sheets. My draft status was 1-A.

I had the day off—first day of summer vacation—so I went to talk to Max. With only one eye, Max Rabinowitz, my closest friend, was 4-F. He had lost his eye that day of the attempted rape in Spain in March 1938. He looked a bit like Cary Grant with the addition of a black eye patch on the right side.

Max had hung out his shingle as a criminal lawyer in the Rose Building downtown on Post Street only a week before the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. Patriotic fervor sizzled in the air like the morning’s bacon, nowhere more than in California, and within California, I’d bet nowhere more than San Francisco. The bacon would soon be rationed but the patriotic fervor lingered on.

Max’s one eye scanned my notice, from side to side and top to bottom. When he finished, he said, “Don’t worry about it, Frank. Just go down there Tuesday, turn your head and cough. They’ll send you home. I don’t think they’re taking thirty-year-olds.”

I was still twenty-nine then, in mid June of ’42, but there was no reason to quibble over a few months. The law required all men from eighteen to sixty-four to register, and the scuttlebutt was that they were inducting ages eighteen to thirty-seven. “Max, I applied for a C.O. when I registered.”

“Conscientious objector is going to be a tough row to hoe.”

“It’s the right thing for me.”

“You have to be against all war to qualify for C.O. status. You killed fascists in Spain. Now it’s time to fight fascists again. You can’t pick and choose your wars.”

“I was wrong. Not about the fascists, Max. The killing. It was wrong to kill.”

“You’re not a Quaker or a Mennonite. You’re a Catholic. Your people have a long track record of going to war, dying when their country calls.”

“Actually, the bishops can deem a war to be a just war or an unjust one. Catholics can refuse to fight in an unjust war. It’s a gray area with us.”

“This is not a gray war.”

I couldn’t argue with that. The Nips attacked my country. When a man’s country is attacked he’s supposed to defend it. And the Nazis were just as bad—we’d been hearing rumors of how bad. But the recurrence of my nightmare was proof enough for me that I was still haunted by the killing in Spain. I needed to take a stand for the sake of my own sanity.

“I’ve been reading Dorothy Day.” Miss Day, cofounder of the Catholic Worker Movement, was an uncompromising pacifist. “No war is a just one for her. That’s how I feel.”

“Miss Day is on the bishops’ shit list. I know what bothers you,” Max said. “I was there that day. Just remember, you saved my life. You might save others.”

I shook my head and took a deep breath. “Actually, I didn’t come to talk to you about the draft. I’d like to borrow your car.”

When I’d saved Max’s life, he’d sworn to be my loyal friend forever; he’d do anything for me. Of course, I’d been careful not to ask for anything I didn’t expect him to give, and I knew he was fussy about his car. He avoided my eyes. “When?”

“This weekend. I’d like to go to Yosemite. My uncle gave me his old camera and I thought I’d camp out and do a little photography.”

“What’s her name?”

I smiled. Max could always anticipate me. “Pawlina Zobriskie.”

“I hope she’s not one of your students.”

“No, man. What do you think I am?” I taught high-school history at St. Vincent’s, a Catholic school on the corner of Gough and Geary. I didn’t have a car of my own, and St. Vincent’s was a hilly two-mile walk from my place on Haight Street. There was a coffee shop, a friendly little dive right near the corner of Turk Street and Fillmore. Sometimes I’d stop in for breakfast, sometimes just for coffee, and I had been flirting with Pawlina, a waitress there.

“Have you asked her yet?” Max seemed to relax.

“Yeah. I asked her if she wanted to go camping.”

“So you line up the frail before you come to me about the car?”

“Yeah.” I think I blushed. Pawlina was a real looker, slender but curvy, with light blond hair, and I wasn’t the only guy in the coffee shop who seemed to be flirting with her. She wore her uniform dress with the top two buttons undone, and guys reacted to the show when she leaned across the counter or dipped to serve them at their tables. Some of the fellows in the coffee shop were familiar with her, aggressive even—errant hands, which she slapped away with a friendly warning.

I figured I didn’t stand much chance with her. I hadn’t been my old self since I returned from Spain four years ago and hadn’t had much luck with the girls. But I saw some crude remarks penciled on the wall in the men’s room, the tamest of which was “P.Z. likes a good time,” and I decided to ask her out. She smiled sweetly and said, “Sure.” We talked about what we’d do on our date, and well, one thing led to another, and we settled on a weekend camping trip. We planned it as if it was a wholesome, innocent weekend in the great outdoors, but I hoped it wouldn’t be too innocent. The next time Pawlina refilled my cup she had three buttons undone.

“Okay. You can use the car. Pawlina Zobriskie, eh?”

“Yeah, Pawlina.” Now I just wanted to get out of there. “Thanks, Max. I’ll come by for the car around noon on Friday, all right? We’ll be back Sunday night.”

“Yeah, all right.”

*   *   *

Thursday I went downtown for my physical. I passed. “I want to talk to somebody about conscientious objector status,” I said. The doc gave me a look like I was something he had stepped in.

“See the man on the fourth floor.”

I went down to four. “I’m a pacifist,” I said to a tubby gent in civilian clothes and an army sergeant with salt-and-pepper hair in a brush cut. They invited me into a small room with green walls. The balding civilian opened a manila folder. “Swiver, Francis X.,” he read. From across the table I recognized some of the papers he riffled through—the draft registration card I’d filled out, the letter I’d written about being a C.O., a copy of their letter summoning me for my physical. Then he looked at my questionnaire, which I had returned. “It says in your record you fought in Spain.”

“How’d that get in my record?” I said.

“How could you be a pacifist?”

I told them Spain had changed me. I had nightmares about the war and could kill no more.

“That wasn’t even your war. Now your country needs you, and you don’t want to go. What kind of American are you?”

I said I was a California-American and a Catholic-American. “I’ve been following Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement.”

“Oh, a red?” said the tubby gent.

“Not exactly. It’s a nonviolence movement—”

The sergeant cut me off. “Catholics aren’t pacifists. Hell, there was three mackerel snappers in my unit at Belleau Wood in nineteen eighteen.”

“They might not have been pacifists, but I am.”

Tubby leaned across the desk to me. “Son, have you got a mother?”

“Yeah, of course I have a mother.”

“Those Japs attacked Pearl Harbor. What if they came to California?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Would you fight the Japs if they were here, in San Francisco?” the sergeant asked.

“No, I’m a pacifist.”

“What if they came to your house? Threatened your family?”

“I’d lay down my life to protect my family, but I wouldn’t kill the Japs.”

“What if they tried to rape your mother, what would you do?” said Tubby.

I said nothing but felt increasingly uncomfortable. I thought of the dream, and of the young loyalist guerrilla fighter Amanda and her father who’d stopped along the road to help Max and me. I thought about those last three Falangist militia I’d killed at close quarters.

“If you had a gun, would you shoot a Jap to stop him from raping your mother?”

“No.”

“You disgust me,” said the sergeant. “What kind of man are you?” He turned away. “Get him out of here,” he said to the civilian.

*   *   *

Friday, I picked up the keys from Max, and we went down to the garage of the Rose Building where he kept his car. With only one eye, Max had questionable depth perception, but that didn’t slow him down. He loved to drive fast. He had bought a used Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Spider. Alfas had won every race from the European Grand Prix to the Mille Miglia. Max’s Alfa was red, and he told me it had double overhead cams. I didn’t even know what double overhead cams were, but the car sure looked fast.

“It has two carbs, Frank. How high in the mountains are you going?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, when you get to an elevation of four thousand feet or so, you’ll have to adjust the mixture in the carbs or it’ll be too rich for that altitude. See this screw? Turn it in. Turn the screw the same amount on each of them.”

I hoped I would remember those instructions, but when Max said, “screw,” my mind wandered to Pawlina Zobriskie. Most of the controls in the car—the pedals, the shifter, the gauges—were straightforward, and soon I was checked out on the Alfa. Only thing I didn’t like was it had right-hand drive, but Max said that wouldn’t be a problem unless I was alone in the car and trying to pass a truck on a two-lane road. “Bring it back clean!” I could hear Max shout after me, as I goosed the sports car up the ramp to Post Street.

The Alfa was a bit of a beast, a test of strength for the arms and shoulders. You couldn’t light-foot the brake or clutch either, but I soon had it purring like a pussycat and running smooth in city traffic. Half an hour later, I pulled up in front of the address Pawlina had given me on Twenty-second Street in the Mission District and tooted the horn. In a few moments, the door opened and she came running out with a backpack and a duffel bag. Her breasts glided up and down under her long-sleeve white jersey-knit top as she descended the stairs. She wore high-waisted khaki slacks with the bottoms rolled up and cuffed just below her knees, thick hiking socks, and low-cut, lace-up brown boots.

I got out and helped her stow her luggage in the back. A tough-looking youth in a gray T-shirt that fit snug over his hard chest and broad shoulders appeared in the doorway. I nodded at him; Pawlina looked back over her shoulder. “Stan, this is Frank Swiver,” she said. Then to me, “He’s my kid brother.”

“He a Catholic, Pinkie?” Stan asked. In addition to “P.Z.” I recalled “Pinkie” from the men’s-room wall.

“Yeah, Stanley. He teaches at St. Vincent’s, for God’s sake.”

Stan put his fingers to his eyes, then turned his hand to point them at me. “Okay, Frank. You be good to my sister,” he said, with a hard grin. “I know where to find you.”

I helped Pawlina into the Alfa at the curb, and she said, “Dreamy car.” As we pulled away, she waved at her brother, and then took a large red bandanna out of her pants pocket and tied it around her hair, babushka-style.

“Pinkie?” I asked.

She blushed. “That’s what they call me. I’m sorry about Stan. He thinks he has to protect me from boys.”

“You live at home?” I said.

“Yeah. I’m twenty-three and I live at home. Can’t make enough waitressing to afford my own place in this town.”

I went up Folsom to Second Street, turned right, and made my way to the entrance for the Bay Bridge. When we got on the bridge, I wound the car up through the gears. It was exciting, flying along in the sky two hundred feet up there above the water. Pinkie caught the air with her hand over the door and leaned her head back to luxuriate in the breeze. The big exhaust pipe began to sing a glorious song behind us. The roar inhibited conversation, but I didn’t need to chat; all I needed was to look at the girl with the sun on the side of her face. I was in heaven.

We navigated through Oakland, where traffic was light during the middle of the day. I picked up U.S. 50 and guided the Alfa out through Dublin and Livermore. Then I turned south so we could enter the park via El Portal.

“I’ve been looking forward to this trip,” said Pinkie.

“You like camping out?”

“I’ve never done it. But I like Yosemite.”

“I’m glad. I didn’t think you’d go out with me.”

“Why’s that, Frank?”

“Well, you know, you have so many guys hanging around, making eyes at you at the restaurant. I figured you probably had a boyfriend.”

“Yeah? Those saps at the cafe make me sore. I know what they’re after. But I have to smile at them, act like I’ve never heard their lines before.”

“Why?”

“Are you kidding? I only earn fifteen cents an hour before tips. It ain’t easy in a coffee shop. Guy comes in and spends a nickel for a cup of joe, how much of a tip is he going to leave?”

I hoped it was a rhetorical question. I said nothing.

“Maybe I should wear a bra, but I found out early the tips are better when I don’t. And if someone brushes an arm against me, or even asks me to sit on his lap while he orders, I don’t like it, but I smile, ’cause I need the tips. But I know those guys, Frank, and I’m not out with one of them today.” She gazed out the other side of the car, then changed the subject. “Did you bring your camera?”

“Yeah, I did.” My uncle Otto had bought himself a new 35-millimeter camera and had given me his old Voigtländer Brilliant. The Brilliant was a twin-lens reflex, which meant you looked down into it from above to focus and compose your picture. It was easy to learn on and even I could take passable photos.

“It’s magnificent out there. Maybe you can get a picture of El Capitan, or Half Dome. They’re stunning.”

“El Capitan is swell,” I said. “You could be a model, you know.” I could already picture those half-domes under her shirt.

“Me, a model?” She laughed, but I thought she liked the idea.

“Sure. We’ll take some of you too.”

It was much warmer going across the San Joaquin than it had been by the bay. Soon the back of my shirt was sticking to the seat, and Pinkie’s forehead was glistening. We didn’t realize how hot it was until we stopped for gas in Modesto. The thermometer at the Signal station said ninety-four degrees in the shade, and in an open car out on the road, we were not in the shade.

I bought us a couple of cold Lucky Lagers and we headed south on U.S. 99 toward Merced. Soon we were cruising at 100 on the speedometer, which I think was kilometers, not miles, per hour. I unbuttoned my shirt to cool off. Pinkie gave me a wistful look.

“I’m so hot,” she said. She gathered the material of her jersey in a fist and flapped it in and out. “I’d like to take my shirt off.”

“That would be all right.”

She grinned. “You don’t think I’d do it.”

I shrugged. “Sure you would.”

“I will, you know.”

“Go ahead.” I took a swig of my beer, and the next time I glanced her way, Pinkie had pulled the shirt up in front of her face and was slipping her arms out of the sleeves. I nearly drove into a ditch! Her chest was damp with perspiration, but the way her nipples pointed aerodynamically into the wind set my blood pumping faster. I forced myself to keep my eyes on the road.

We sat low in the car, so I don’t think we scandalized anyone, but as we approached Merced, Pinkie folded the bandana into a triangle, and it was long enough for her to tie around her chest to cover up. At about four p.m. I turned east on California 140. We’d made good time. The odometer said we’d traveled 211, still talking in kilometers, not miles. Then we climbed steadily as we approached Mariposa. There were some turnouts for slower drivers, but I didn’t depend on them. I asked Pinkie to let me know when it was safe to overtake. She’d give me the sign; I’d double-clutch, downshift, and mash the accelerator to the floor and we blew by the other traffic.

At about four thirty, the sun was behind us and the temperature had dropped ten or fifteen degrees. The air felt fresh. “Show’s over,” Pinkie said, and pulled her top back on, stretching her arms over her head for the grand finale. What a great start to the weekend, I thought.

“I think we should get some grub in Mariposa.” There was a three-story hotel along the main street where we could buy an early dinner. But I offered to cook at our campsite if she was feeling adventurous.

“Adventurous? Me? Gee . . . I don’t know.” She put her fingers on her chin and rubbed. There was a twinkle in her eyes, and I noticed they were blue.

“Okay, doll. I’ll be your kitchen man for the weekend.” I pulled in at Murphy’s General Store, along the main drag. We bought some spuds, a couple of steaks, bacon and eggs, coffee, a loaf of crusty sourdough bread, and some butter. I picked up charcoal for a cooking fire. “Steaks’ll be for tomorrow,” I told her. “It’s Friday. Let’s see if we can get some fish for tonight.” We were in luck—Murphy had a string of trout, fresh caught that day. I bought a Napa Chardonnay to go with the trout, and two bottles of Zinfandel from Sonoma for tomorrow, and a bag of ice to lay on top of it all in the trunk. Then we were on our way for the last forty miles through El Portal. There were a few armed soldiers along the road just before the tunnel. Pinkie waved at them, and one waved back. In the tunnel the Alfa sang out a basso profundo, fortissimo, and we emerged into Yosemite Valley.

It was only late June, but the Valley was busy with cars—station wagons, campers. We saw license plates from as far away as Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. I started thinking how some of these men might be leaving their families and going into the service when they got back home, and I grew pensive. It might be the last family vacation for some of them.

I’m not saying my eyes were moistening, but Pinkie must have picked up something because she put a hand on my shoulder and asked, “What is it?”

“Nothing,” I said. “Just thinking about America.”

We managed to secure one of the last campsites in Curry Village. I’d brought a two-person tent, and I pitched it while Pinkie laid the makings of a fire in the fire ring.

As the cook, I don’t mean to tout my own trout, but it was delicious. We drank the Chardonnay. Then we walked along the north side of the Merced River toward Mirror Lake. At seven-thirty, the week of the summer solstice, there was plenty of light. I photographed Half Dome with the sun sinking behind the big rocks at my back. Lightning bugs came out and enchanted the flats along Tenaya Creek and the lake. Then mosquitoes started to find us, so we headed back to the campground.

We grabbed our towels, and Pinkie carried a robe, and we walked to the camp showers to wash off the dust of the road. When we separated for the men’s and women’s lines, I gave her a light kiss on the cheek. Nothing really, but she didn’t object at all, in fact she leaned in, a good sign. We hadn’t talked about the sleeping arrangements yet. They seemed obvious to me; I wanted them to be inevitable.

I waited in a short line, and some of the men were talking about the Japs. That was the subject everywhere you went in early ’42. One guy brought up the internment camps. “I don’t know if it’s right,” he said.

“You a Jap lover?” someone asked him.

“Hell no!” he said. He wore glasses with black frames and thick lenses. “I’m an American. But the internment camps—it’s not just Japs.”

“They’re supposed to round up the Krauts and the Eye-talians too, but I don’t think they’re doing much of that,” said the first fellow, a thickset bruno with no neck.

“That’s not what I meant,” said the gent with black frames. “Family lived next door to us in L.A.—we knew ’em twenty years. All their kids were born here. They’re not Japs, they’re Americans. But the whole family was interned. That ain’t right.”

“You want to separate the kids and the parents?” This came from a third guy, with an eye tattoo on his shoulder.

“No. I’m pretty sure the parents are U.S. citizens too. Ain’t that what they’re doing in Germany? Putting their own citizens in concentration camps?”

“Jews,” said the guy with no neck.

“They’re German citizens, ain’t they?” said the fellow with the thick glasses. “Don’t seem right.”

I hadn’t thought about internment camps that way, hadn’t really thought much about them at all. “Well, what does the law say?” I piped up.

There was some mumbling and one guy said, “Hell, I don’t know.”

Then No-Neck said, “Look, I’m a cop. I can explain it. The army established an exclusion zone along the Pacific coast—California, Oregon, Washington—a hundred miles in-land. Japs in the zone have to report for internment.”

“We’re about a hundred and sixty-five miles in from the coast here,” I said. “I wonder if there are Japanese in Yosemite.”

“There better not be any. I got my wife and daughter here,” said another man.

“I heard the zone was a hundred miles from the coast in Oregon and Washington, but all the way to the state line in the east in California. Whole state,” said the jasper with the thick glasses.

“Don’t worry,” said the guy with the eye tattoo. He nodded his head toward No-Neck. “We’re helping the army. You see any Japs, tell us. You’ll be safe. In fact, there’s a couple Japs escaped from Manzanar. Could be headed this way, so keep your eyes open.”

That drew a murmur from both the men and women standing in lines for the showers. “Shut up, Art,” said No-Neck. “People are on vacation. They don’t want to worry about no Japs.”

“I hear there’s no internment in Hawaii. I wonder how come? Hawaii’s full of Japs,” said the gink with the tattoo on his shoulder.

“Don’t make no sense,” said the man with the wife and daughter.

Then it was my turn for the shower, and I didn’t hear any more of the discussion.

The showers ran along a wall of cinder blocks and were separated into stalls by wooden partitions on two sides, open on the third. High-pitched squealing and laughter sounded from behind the cinder-block wall, as if the women’s showers were on the other side. The floor was made of wide wooden slats, elevated a couple inches off the mud below. I put my things on a wood bench and hung my towel by the stall entrance. By now the sun had set, and the water in the shower was bracing, to say the least. But I closed my eyes and felt the cold needles stinging my skin. I pictured Pawlina Zobriskie with her shirt off in the Alfa Romeo, and grew aroused, just like that. When I opened my eyes for a second, the guy with the tattoo was walking past my stall, looking at me. Embarrassed, I turned around and faced the concrete wall and soaped up.

When I was done, I toweled myself dry and pulled on a pair of blue jeans. I passed No-Neck and Tattoo on the way out, and heard the latter make some comment to his buddy. I didn’t catch what he’d said, but after I’d gone by, I heard a whistle and a few catcalls. I didn’t look back.

Moths and flying beetles buzzed around an overhead light in a metal shade. Below it, on the front steps, Pinkie waited, radiant in the cone of illumination, smiling. She wore a white robe, and had her hair wrapped in a towel turban. I took her hand and we walked back toward our tent.

“I heard someone talking about Japs,” she said.

“That’s what everyone talks about. Internment.”

“What do you think about that, Frank?”

“Me? I don’t know. Something smells wrong about it.”

“My dad would say the government has to keep us safe,” she said.

“It’s crazy, though. Safe from women and children? Safe from U.S. citizens?”

“What if they’re saboteurs?”

“The two Japanese girls in my American history class this last spring, Suki and Yoko, were good students. Suki was at the top of the class; Yoko was pulling A’s and played cello in the school orchestra. Then one day in late March, their seats were empty. They never came back. I don’t think they were saboteurs.”

“Putting kids in camps isn’t right.” She squeezed my hand and smiled up at me. I thought I’d passed a test.

My tent was four and a half feet across, and no taller. I crawled around and found my Coleman lantern, lit it, and put it down at the head of our two sleeping bags, which lay side by side with three chaste inches between them. I dug around in my duffel and pulled out a heavy long-sleeve undershirt for sleeping. Then Pinkie knelt down on her bag, her face bathed in the white-golden light from the Coleman. I turned and gave her a long passionate kiss. Her mouth was yielding and indulgent, wide but refined.

“Too bad it’s so chilly, Frank. You look good with no shirt on.”

I thought back to the afternoon in the car. “So do you, Pinkie. You look great.”

She smiled, loosened the towel, and rubbed her hair. She shrugged out of the robe, flashing her pink flesh in the warm, steady glow of the lantern. Then in an instant, she caught the undershirt out of my hands, and pulled it on, covering up. It was big on her, rough and baggy, and she had to pull the sleeves up a few inches to push her hands out through the cuffs. The shirt had seen hard service, and there was a darned spot under her arm. She sniffed at the cloth. “Smells like you,” she said. The shirt was just long enough to cover her butt, and she crawled into her sleeping bag. “Good night, Frank.”

I moved toward her on my knees but heard the zip of her sleeping bag closing. “Wait,” I said.

“Get in your own bag, Frankie boy. I hardly know you.” There was mischief in her voice.

I held the lantern at arm’s length between us. “What would you like to know, Pinkie?”

“Uh, did you bring your pajamas? ’Cause it gets cold up here at night. Besides, you’re projecting your silhouette on the side of the tent.” Then she sat up, bag and all, and grew serious. “Let’s slow down. You’re doing fine, but we’ll take it slow, okay?”

What could I say to that? “Good night, Pinkie.” I gave her another kiss and turned the lantern down to low. I lay with my eyes open for a while and watched the light, flickering now, on the tent.

 

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Copyright © 2019. The Road From Manzanar by Harley Mazuk

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