A free short story by Colin Devonshire
“I’m serious, my granddad found my dad.”
“What are you talking about?”
“My granddad was in Burma with the Chindits during the war.”
“What are the Chindits?”
“Were, you mean, they were called ‘The Forgotten Army’, because they used to get lost behind enemy lines. My granddad was sent to India, but soon, off he went to Burma to fight the Japanese,” Chop said, he looked up dreamily, remembering the man he adored.
“Anyway, what do you mean he found your dad?” Chop’s best friend asked.
“My dad was found walking alone in the jungle, he had burns all over him and his clothes were falling to bits. Granddad, took him in, fed him and got the army doctor to treat his burns and all the other things that were wrong with him.”
“That’s why you always say you are half Thai?”
“Yes, dad grew up here and married my mum.”
“Why are you looking through all that old stuff?”
“My granddad died aged ninety-nine, he would have been one-hundred today,” Chop’s face fell, tears pricked the corners of his eyes. He didn’t allow anyone to see him cry.
“My granddad became a Buddhist in Burma, that’s why dad and I follow the faith.”
He changed the subject. Still looking at his memorabilia box.
The boys both looked at their watches, “I’d better go.”
Chop returned to his box.
“What is this, I’ve never seen that before?” he whispered to himself, fingering a slip of paper peeking from the diaries cover. He gently eased it free. Carefully unfolding the brittle stained paper.
“What is all that?”
Japanese lettering, the ink, bold and clear, with scrawled English notes in pencil. Faded to near-nothingness. A thought struck Chop, like a spark from an underground train.
“Show no one, I won’t, but I must find out what it says.” Talking and answering himself became a habit, especially when his grandfather was involved.
“Who do I know that is Japanese or speaks the language? School? No. At the Sushi Restaurant? Yes, but we never use it. And, I don’t want to show people.”
He looked again at the pen work.
“That is not a letter, what is it? Is that a lion with wings?”
He had seen the hand-drawn logo.
“That is the badge of the Chindits. But why had the person, scrawled it alongside Japanese writing.”
Chop was no longer answering himself, but Google didn’t answer verbally, it did show images and reams of articles about Burma during the War.
Chop learned more about lions and eagles, but the Japanese lettering was still a mystery.
“Dad, did granddad tell you about his time in Burma?” he called as he jumped down the stairs.
“He did, but I’d rather not think about those days,” said Chop’s dad.
“Please dad, I can’t stop thinking about him.”
“I didn’t know what was happening, I was young, alone and injured. I spent most of my time sleeping. How about we get a cake with 100 candles?”
“I want to know more about his life especially in Burma?”
“Did you ever see his tattoo?”
Chop nearly fell from his seat, “What tattoo?”
“You never saw him with his shirt off?”
“No, even at the beach he remained covered up. I asked him why, and he said he gets a sunburn.”
“Maybe, but he had an inking across his shoulders.”
Chop was panting, “Go on, what was it?”
Chop’s father took his time, breathed in and said, “A lion carved from stone with wings. A monk did it, with a sharp blade.”
“Come on dad, tell me more.”
“You’ve seen granddad’s army stuff, his badges and some paperwork? Well, the tattoo was similar, not the same, the lion’s face was, like a stone lion, and the wings were more pronounced.”
“Was the tattooist an artist?”
“In a way. He was a Buddhist monk. Burmese believe that monk’s tattoos have magical powers like bullets won’t enter your body, things like that.”
“Did granddad ever get shot?”
“There were no scars on his body when he died.”
Chop was deep in thought, then he ran upstairs, the thump of feet in the hall signalled his return. He thrust the paper at his dad.
“What is this?”
His father grabbed the chair’s arms, all colour washed from his face.
“Where did you get that?” he said, gasping for breath.
“Dad, Dad, wake up,” Chop said as he shook the fallen man. His dribble added to the carpet’s pattern.
A piece of old and creased sheet of brittle paper floated down and landed on the feinted father’s forehead. Chop leapt backwards, gasping for air, the man’s eyes opened, as big as golf balls spinning around the hole, two bounces as the irises were lost upwards, orbs of white jelly aimed at the sweating Chop.
A mumbled unrecognisable language spurted from trembling lips of stretched pink. Skin cracked dry, blood dampened the tiny splits appearing above and below chattering teeth.
“Dad, Dad, what’s the matter?” The boy fell to his knees and hugged his father.
“I am the devil’s spawn.” It said.
“Dad, what do you mean?”
“The paper you found…” he was speaking English, soon changed to wild and croaky jabber.
Chop looked around, left, right, up, and down, nothing in view could help.
“That paper was hidden for a reason,” he said.
“Shall I get an ambulance?”
Chop’s father’s eyelids, flickered, hatred filled the gap between father and son.
“Dad, what does the paper mean?” asked Chop.
“That you will never know,” croaked a strange Asian accent, spitting and gargling.
Chop was, for the first time, crying openly.
“Weep boy, you should,” it said.
The head shook, each ear bounced from the floor, then the head battered the carpet, faster and faster, side to side, then the voice Chop knew returned.
“Your grandfather did not meet me on a road near Rangoon, that was a lie, I was a young prophet in a temple. In a trance, I would tell believers their fortunes, the villagers loved me as I told them the truth…”
His eyes disappeared into his head once more, the shaking began again. As did the croaking.
“Die child, die,” it spat.
Chop’s tears fell like monsoon rain.
“Quick, son, fetch my lighter, and some of my holy water from the Buddha image. Oh, and I’ll need the Chindit blade.”
Chop ran to the shrine on the shelf next to the tv.
“You are too late,” croaked the stooped, unrecognisable shape that once was his father.
The boy turned in fear, tripping forward, the blade stabbed deep. The croaking stopped.
Chop’s crying halted, a thin smile crept on his lips.
“Found at last, a new host,” spat out a strange Asian accent.