Click Here to Start - Denis Markell
About the Author
I dedicate this book
To the valiant men of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat team, who fought so bravely for the United States, at a time when their Japanese American relatives back at home were being treated so dishonorably.
And specifically in honor of one of their own, Nicholas Takateru Nakabayashi, soldier, scientist, scholar.
And with all my love to his niece, my wife Melissa Iwai, and our son, his great-nephew, James Takateru Markell.
It looks like something from a science-fiction movie, with so many machines and tubes going into and out of bags hung on poles.
For a moment, it doesn’t register that all those tubes and hoses are connected to a person.
I have no memory of what he looked like when I was little, and the only photo of Great-Uncle Ted in our house is from ages and ages ago. It shows a burly man with a crew cut, sitting in a living room in the 1960s. He’s got a cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other. I wonder if he hadn’t smoked so many cigarettes maybe he wouldn’t be here now. He’s looking at the camera with a confident grin that says this is not a man to mess with. The only other place I’ve ever seen Asian men with kick-butt expressions like that is in samurai or martial-arts movies.
Not that I watch them all that much.
I mean, it’s bad enough other people make assumptions about us Asian kids. No need for me to help out.
But I gotta say, that photo can’t be further from the old man lying in this bed. The grossest thing is the tube going right up into his nose. It looks horrible, and is attached to a machine that does who knows what.
I go and stand awkwardly by the window, unsure of what to do. I wish Mom had come in with me, but she said Great-Uncle Ted wants to see me alone. Dying man’s last wish and all, I guess. I clear my throat and sort of whisper, “Um, hi?”
The two veiny sacs of his eyelids slowly open, and when he sees me, he gestures, beckoning me over with one hand.
I gingerly approach the chair next to his bed, careful not to disturb any of the wires and tubes snaking around him. It’s hard—I have visions of knocking into some hose or other just as I’m supposed to be having a nice visit.
“Gghhh…” Great-Uncle Ted catches my eye and reaches out.
Without thinking, I flinch. I have a flashback to a movie I saw where a guy laid out like this had a monster burst out of his chest and jump on someone’s face. I’m not saying I expect that to happen here, but hey, it does go through my mind.
Great-Uncle Ted’s eyes change. He points impatiently to something on the table.
A pad and paper. There is spidery writing on it.
“You want me to…give you the pad?” I ask.
Now there’s a flash of fire in Great-Uncle Ted’s eyes. I know when someone’s ticked off. The message is clearly Yes, you idiot. Give me the pad.
I hand the pad to my great-uncle, who winces in pain as he presses a button on the side of his bed that raises him to a seated position.
Slowly, he writes something and then hands me the pad.
Hurts too much to talk. You Amanda’s boy, Ted?
I start to write an answer on the pad.
The next thing I know, Great-Uncle Ted yanks the pad out of my hands. The old dude is surprisingly strong!
BEEP BEEP BEEP
Great. Now the heart-rate machine is going a lot faster. That can’t be good.
He scribbles something and hands the pad back to me.
I’m not deaf, you little dope. Talk to me.
I laugh in spite of myself. Of course. Duh.
“Yes, uh, sir…I’m Ted.” I feel a little weird introducing myself, since he knows who I am, but since I don’t remember him, it feels like the right thing to do. And I’m pretty sure he seems like a “sir.”
The old man writes some more. He’s writing with more energy now.
You got big. Do you still like playing games?
“What games do you mean, sir?” I ask.
“Uh, no, sir,” I begin. “I don’t enjoy kissing games. That is, I’ve never played them. Maybe I would enjoy them if I did. I mean, you never know about something until you try it, right?” I’m babbling now. Trying to look casual, I lean against something, then realize it’s a pole holding some fluid going