Sunday, July 12, 2009

Entry #79

Plum Wine
by Ellen Oh

Ren stared at the red of his plum wine, wishing it was sake.

“You’re a virgin?” Taro asked.

“Shut up.”

“We gotta do something about it...”


“This is your last night...”

“Shut up!” Ren screamed.

Long silence. Tense. Uncomfortable. How could a bar run out of sake?

“I don’t want to die.” Ren said finally.

His older cousin recoiled, furious.

“It isn’t right…” Ren explained.

“Hold your tongue!”

“No I won’t! If I am going to die then I’m allowed to speak.”

“You talk treason!”

“We can’t win this war...”

Taro punched Ren in the mouth. “What’re you a coward? So selfish you’d dishonor your family?”

Ren washed down his blood with a sip of wine. “No. I will face my destiny same as you. But the Emperor asks us to die for him. Not to fight – simply to die. Is it right?”

His cousin stared. “Of course it’s right. It has to be. Don’t you understand? What we do must be right or all our sacrifices become meaningless. Whether we win this war or not, the Tokkoutai pilots are all heroes.” His voice grew stern. “Never say otherwise!”

Ren bowed.

Silence again.

Taro ruffled Ren’s hair and smiled. “Tomorrow we make history. We will circle Mt. Kaimondake before heading for Okinawa. Tomorrow will be a glorious day to die.”

Ren stared into the depths of his plum wine wishing it was sake – wishing tomorrow would never come.


Sarah Laurenson said...

A glimpse into the unknown. What a moving piece.

JR's Thumbprints said...

A slice of history well told. Very original.

Laurel said...

Really good take on the prompt. I always did wonder what was going through those guy's heads. Now I know.

"I wish it was sake."

Catherine Vibert said...

Japan in wartime. Wow, I could see it, and hear their voices, and I'm awed by the pure Asian aspects of their characters. You really got that well, the honor and respect and ode to pure duty.

laughingwolf said...

tora! tora! tora! el?

very well done :)

Anonymous said...

Original take and very well written Ellen.

Great dialog!


Precie said...

Wow, a deeply personal view of war and sacrifice. Excellent!

Anonymous said...

You're a virgin!?!

All I could think of was that witch movie with Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker. hee hee

So well done, Ell. I'd be biased toward your entry anyway, but I love it totally on its own (outstanding) merit.

Jamie Ford said...

Great job Ellen!

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Thanks everyone! I really appreciate the nice words!

chong y l said...

Hi Ello:

I guess being "asian" myself, and knowing some history of Japan's involvement in the last WW, your story resonates with ideas of patriotism and sacrifice. Enjoyed the build up ... but war, ancient and modern, always is saddening for writers, methinks, YL

Whirlochre said...

Great stuff.

writtenwyrdd said...


Merry Monteleone said...

Awesome dialogue, as always, Ell. Was this from your first manuscript or did you put this together specifically for the contest?

Chris Eldin said...

Nice take, Ello! I love how you're able to make Asian culture accessible to everyone. Very nice writing!

Aniket Thakkar said...


How could I miss this. Am so sorry now that I hopped 65-80 to read them later. We are racing who reads first you know. (And am getting beaten left and right. Huh)

Well. I am a big big fan of Japanese anime. I watch them with subtitles, so I even know the usual courtesies in Jap. So I could totally imagine these characters and speaking of their honor. Its the way of the samurai... its their way of the Ninja.

I loved it. I was expecting a hilarious post from you, but this is good. Real good.

PS: Do you watch Naruto, Bleach, Deathnote, Fullmetal Alchemist, Hikaru No-Go, Hunter X Hunter or any other anime?

Adisha said...

The unknown ... a cool dip in history :)

Hoodie said...

A hard road to walk, between conviction and doubt, when death is on the line.

A painful thing to concede. Very nicely done.

Unknown said...

Brilliant, simply brilliant El. Profound, rich, simple - perfect.

BernardL said...

A very different glimpse at the wine.

moonrat said...

oh, very nice. this made me so sad.

PJD said...

Of course this is superb and professionally done. Not nearly as funny or laced with four letter words as I would have expected, and not one bathroom joke (well, except perhaps the virgin bit).

What struck me was the cousin's justification for dying gloriously. If we don't, then other deaths will have been in vain. How tragic, and tragically stupid, cultural "wisdom" can be. I heard the same justification from the leaders of the US when Americans got tired of the Iraq war and Americans dying by scores every month. Their justification: If we pull out now, then the sacrifice of those who died means nothing. That reasoning is deeply flawed on so many levels.

What you've done masterfully here is describe a box, the box in which the young virgin finds himself. A box he didn't create, he doesn't like, and can't escape. True tragedy.

(I love the self-aware prose, "How could a bar run out of sake?")

JaneyV said...

Ellen, I'm struck by the humanity that you've brought to the piece. The waste of life for pointless ideals and despotic dictators rings true, as much today, as it did 60 years ago.

Is it right?

Is exactly the right question that anyone involved in warfare should ask of themselves and of their leaders.

Great work El.

Jade L Blackwater said...

Very nicely written and true-to-context. I feel myself in Ren's shoes, just as I feel Taro's cold resolve.

Anonymous said...

A brutally hard thing to face. The cousin is scary. I wonder what his true feelings are.

High marks for pacing and technical elements.