Sukimoko

Third installment, copyright 2019, by Dean Adams Curtis

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Chapter 22

Clark

DECEMBER 30, 1941

She has never, ever, seen before anything like what is before her eyes here within the security perimeter of the U.S. air base at Clark and its accompanying town of Angeles City.

Activity everywhere. All things in motion.

Juanita rides on a crate at the front of the flat-bed trailer loaded with radio equipment and Filipinos wounded when the Japanese planes shot up their vehicles on the road. The trailer is being towed by a tractor with the American Rocky Riddle at its steering wheel. A rumble from the sky becomes a roar. Her body reacts, readying her to run for her life.

"They're American planes!" Rocky shouts back toward her, and those with her on the trailer. "Unfortunately, they're our last!"

All Juanita hears is "American planes." She visibly relaxes. That's when she sees the men coming from an intersecting steet. They are Filipinos, marching in synchronized steps, at least two hundred men in loose-fitting olive drab green uniforms and with full packs on their backs and rifles slung over their shoulders. They're led by an American captain.

"Philippine Scouts," Rocky calls back as he puts the tractor's gear shift into neutral. "Heading to the front."

The sight of the Scouts stimulates in Juanita an upwelling of pride in her countrymen. When all the Scouts finally pass, Rocky puts the tractor back into gear. The trailer that Juanita rides on moves ahead.

That's when she sees a Scout, who is hurrying to catch up to the back of the column, stumble and fall, unseen by comrades that march on ahead.

Juanita notes that the Scout who has fallen seems to have twisted an ankle and is having a hard time standing. She jumps off the slow moving trailer.

"Rocky! Salamat po!" Juanita shouts to the American. She then hurries over to help the Scout.

Rocky watches her go, while at the same time glancing back at the slow moving traffic ahead of him.

'She's something special,' he thinks to himself, silently wishing her well. He takes a deep breath. He's done his bit. He got her safely to Clark. She, and the others on the trailer behind him, some of whom are also now following Juanita's lead and getting off, are now within the safety of the protective U.S. defensive perimeter.

Juanita arrives to help the Scout.

'Good luck,' Rocky thinks, then turns his full attention to navigating the tractor and its trailer through a throng of humanity and vehicles.

Juanita kneels to help the Scout, and is startled at the feminine-looking face and eyes that meet hers.

Chapter 23

Malinta

A Japanese soldier enter Sukimoko, the little sari-sari shop on the main market street of Malinta in the northwest of Manila.

Maria shudders. Her little Emiliano is watching the Japanese soldier from the back doorway. Maria shoos him away. She maintains her composure, continuing to work on reconciling her inventory. The soldier shops, and then, when she looks up from her paperwork again, is right before her. He lays his selected items on her counter, deoderant, toothbursh and toothpaste. He pays her with a crisp 200 peso note. Maria hurredly collects change for the large bill, but when she reaches out her hand full of coins, she sees the soldier's back heading for Sukimoko's door.

At that moment a silhouetted man appears in the doorway, blocking the exit of the Japanese soldier, who stops. For a moment, neither men move. Then, the silhouetted man at the door steps aside, and the Japanese soldier quickly exits. Maria exhales, relieved. The man who had appeared in her doorway reappears and steps over to her. It has been a long time, but suddenly all indicators in her sensory system fire to create the realization in her brain that the man before her smudged nearly everywhere with grease, is her husband. He opens his arms to her. Despite her revulsion at the grease that seems to cloak him, she rushes around the counter and into his embrace.

Emiliano and Francisco enter Sukimoko through the back and rush to their father.

"Tatay!" shouts Francisco, who then embraces both his mother and father.

"Tatay, tatay!" shouts Emiliano who adds himself to the family embrace.

Chapter 24

Formosa Approach

The pilot of the Mitsubishi Zero, Hideki Shingo, looks at his fuel guage on empty and pushes back fear. He looks out at the flat gray view that surrounds him inside a cloud. He checks another guage, his heading. Still on course, north, three degrees northeast, heading for the airfield at the southern tip of Formosa, an island that was formerly China's, but which has been under Japanese occupation for years now. A prayer to his ancestors, uttered silently by slightly moving lips, is all he can do, other than what he is already doing, to get he and his plane back on the ground alive and in one piece.

He's been trained for this scenario. And he's trained other pilots of his squadron in what steps to take if it happened. Now cloud blind, he lacks any targets to aim a crash attack against, he stays on course for the base. The Zero pops out of the cloud into clear sky. Before him across a short expanse of the South China Sea, is a sight familiar to him, the rugged mountainscape of Formosa. He takes a deep breath, and exhales.

At that moment, the Zero's engine starts to sputter. In another moment, it quits operating. The propeller's spin slows then stops. His Zero has become a glider.

Chapter 25

Clark Infirmary

USFEAA Nurse Maggie Farrell McCormick, who heralds from John Steinbeck's, Salinas, Californa, is up to her elbows in blood, and spattered with it everywhere else about her. As are the other nine nurses in the airbase's infirmary who have been forced by the multiple attacks Clark has undergone to by necessity take on the roles of doctors. The only doctor at the airbase was killed by the first Japanese bomb while he was out tending to a B-17 navigator's cut leg while his plane was fueling up to go strike Japanese airbases in Taiwan.

'Somehow the Japanese got to us at exactly the right moment," Nurse Maggie thinks, musing as she stitched up an airman's gut wound at the success of the Japanese at destroying virtually all the B-17s deployed in The Philippines, along with the loss of most of the figher planes, meant that islands themselves were also almost certainly lost. She and the other nurses had flown in from California on a B-17. She wondered darkly if she would ever fly in one home.

But nurses at addressing numerous bombing related injuries, especially Maggie at the moment, don't have time for musing. At the infirmary door appeared a short muscular USFEAA sarge who directed his request to her, "I've got a trailer full of wounded outside."

Later, as Maggie is finally making her way over to the Filipino's who the sargent unloaded for her care, another American, Captain James Truebridge, temporarily the airbase commander following another recent death due to bombing, appears with news he broadcasts in his booming voice so that none in the infirmary miss it.

"Pack up! You've been redeployed to Fort Mills on Corrigidor! Your plane leaves at 17:00 hours."



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