That summer, that sultry humid one, in ’46 was the hottest on record. She still remembers it. How could she ever forget?
From her apartment window on the first floor she could view most of the comings and goings for a block. And she never got bored. Never. There was always the odd soldier returning home from the war overseas. Those kids in khaki would run up the sidewalk throwing themselves into the arms of lovers, mothers, brothers, kids, and wives and always the same hugs, as if to say: ‘I’m home – let’s never be so stupid again’.
Before the war, there had been Edith and her son, Eugene. Now Edith was alone. Her last letter from her only son had come from a prisoner of war camp in the Far East. That was two years ago, and she still had heard nothing. She felt that if he was dead she would know, and she was sure she could still feel the tick of his heart in the universe.
When Eugene, or Gene as the liked to be known, was eight years old, he had run out in front of an automobile which had been speeding up Montrose. The car clipped her son and knocked him flying back on to the sidewalk. Her boy, her love, had been in a coma for six weeks before he had opened his eyes again. Edith had never, ever prayed so much in her life.
It was the Japanese lady on the second floor who had saved Gene’s life. She was a nurse and had been approaching home after a double night shift at St Edwards, when she saw the automobile hit Eugene. She had given him the kiss-of-life until the ambulance had arrived. Her name was Hana Tanaka, and after that accident, both Hana and Edith had become close friends.
When Eugene lay unconscious in St Edwards, Hana would come around to the room and sit with Edith during her darkest hours. In fact, Hana had been attending Gene when he first opened his eyes.Hana had given Edith the good news in the morning.
“You and your son deserve happiness, after all, isn’t there there is enough sunshine for everyone,” said Hana, as she hugged Edith.
The war ended, and many folks danced and kissed their way up and down Montrose Avenue. Edith watched most of it from the safety and sterility of her apartment window. She couldn’t party until she knew her boy was home and safe.
It was in the Spring of 1946, that George, a single man, who had also been captured by the Japanese, moved into Edith’s apartment block. George tended to keep himself to himself, but on the odd occasion when Edith passed him in the corridor, Edith would exchange a ‘hello’. She was desperate to ask if he had seen or talked to her son, but she never seemed to get the chance.
So it was in shock that Edith found herself in the backyard of the apartment block that sultry summer in 1946, staring into the face of George as he held a knife to Hana’s throat.
“Goddamn Japs! Ain’t no good. Ain’t no good at all, with what these folks done to me,” shouted George as he pressed the knife closer to Hana’s neck. Edith was sure she could see some blood appearing. From a top window across the way, a woman signalled to Edith that she was going for help. Until then, Edith would have to think of something quick.
“This woman, George – can I call you George? – This woman saved the life of my boy right outside here a few years back,” said Edith.
“Don’t care if she did, don’t care if she didn’t,” said George. “She’s a Jap and they all deserve to die.”
“Why George?” Asked Edith.
“Just ‘cause, just ‘cause. Just ‘cause of what they did to me and every other poor soul. They is the devil. They is the devil. They surely are”. Edith noticed a tear running down George’s face, and so decided that now was the time to act.
“She saved my boy’s life, George. What kind of devil does that George? Tell me? You can’t blame Hana for the sins of others. She’s a kind decent heart and deserves to be treated as such. She grew up here, George. She’s an American. She’s proud of being an American. She is love, George. Love. You understand? After she saved my boy’s life, she sat with him day and night tending to his every need. She’s an angel, George. She ain’t a devil. Know what she said to me, George? Hana said we all deserve happiness. Each and every one of us. I know folks out there did some pretty bad things to you, George. Things you might not forgive, but it wasn’t Hana. Not this gently lady. Hana said to me that there’s enough sunshine for everyone and I think she’s right George. I surely do”.
George thought for a bit, then dropped to his knees. Edith picked up the knife and throw the object as far as she could. The cops never arrived that day and a few weeks later George disappeared.
Edith still stands on the steps of her apartment waiting for her boy, Eugene to walk home up Montrose avenue. She still has hope in her heart.
bobby stevenson 2018