Keystone Trigger

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Chapter 40

Connection for Glen was no labyrinth; it was a bunker, buried beneath meters of earth, well-hidden to the average passerby. From this sneaky, damp vantage he peered at the lives of others, hoping for that delightful glimpse that might propel him through another day.

Today’s glimpse was almost certainly not the old woman he had kidnapped, wounded, and abandoned as she ramped a 100cc motorbike off a makeshift slope of splintered deckplanks into the small boat he had stolen, directly onto his injured foot.

“Shit. Fuck. Jesus goddamn Mary. Kill me with a fucking hammer.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Hidari said.

The storm hurled the boat starboard, freeing Glen and allowing him to pitch unceremoniously onto his ass. Spume washed over the bulwark to slap kelp on his head.

“What the fuck.”

“My apologies, Glen. But I cannot allow you to go like this.”

“You just jumped a goddamn rice rocket into this boat, on top of me. Why? Why the hell would you follow me? I’m out of your life, I’m gone, just let me be.”

Hidari steadied herself against the rail, attempting to ignore the heavy breakers enough to communicate. She recounted her logical steps for suicide. Watching the petition fail, sharpening the knife, sending the letter. Glen had saved her from this, no matter what else he had done. She dredged up her grief and disappointment and bared herself completely to the man, the soldier, the symbol of unarch repression. But remember, the woman of elusive mabui told herself, he is not simply a symbol.

“Glen, when I first met you, I did not know if you were lost or only trying to rob my garden…”

Her mouth kept moving, but Private Margery did not listen.

Whatever she’s yammering about, she’s not right. You are. You should take what you want, it’s yours. That little girl deserved it, she liked it, you should do it again. Didn’t you remember a smile crossing her cheeks, when you were down there? Didn’t she like the attention?

Okinawans are soft. Everyone’s pathetic, except you. Why did you even run in the first place? You would’ve gotten off light. Sex is taken in the Army; that’s just how it goes. You know you’re strong. You’re in control. Shit, you’re not that bald. Fuck her again.

Glen felt free in the forty-knot wind. His spirit called for conquering and he met the spirit gladly. He had been wrong to discourage himself. Why had he been so torn up over a girl who wasn’t even dead, probably? She’d be fine. She liked it, anyhow, and she had the honor of going through life knowing what a real man was like at a young age. He’d improved her.

This was the old Glen. Relief spread through his chest, claiming him for bright pastures, promising an end to his misery. All he had to do was go home.

Hidari rambled on. What she was saying, he had no idea. Now and then he would grunt. The storm was abating, the world was getting calmer, and he saw his life as a manageable stretch of road he’d been foolish enough to abandon. Why truck around with islanders and schemes of Taiwan when he could seek safety in the States?

That wheel to the foot had restored his sanity. He might even thank Hidari after he dropped her off on shore. He’d already begun steering the boat back to the harbor; they were only a few hundred yards out. He was done here.

Sure, he’d be demoted. Chewed out, busted, whatever. Maybe he’d do a few years of jailtime. It was a bigger offense to go AWOL then to do what he’d done. He’d work that angle, talk about the drinking, promise lots of ADAPT and counseling. He’d play ball, look that Dr. Tamashi in the eye and say, “I think I’m feeling better today.”

Hmm. The doctor had seen him, back there. What would she do?

A person had drawn a gun on him. Survival scenario. He’d thought they were going to rob and kill him.

Again Glen crouched on the roofs of Jersey City. South of McGinley Square, in a one-bedroom apartment with the window-frame conditioner that rattled the glass in the summer. Hang around Lincoln Park when he could get out, see a movie. Most of the time he was stuck in place on the fold-out cot in the living room. Mom came back bringing Asian or Ethiopian guys or whoever. They’d say, “Hey, little man,” and he’d bare his teeth, and she’d slap him in the mouth.

Lydia he snagged by accident. She apologized, straightaway, even though he was the one who blazed by a pedestrian and plowed into her fender on JFK Boulevard. He thought she was thirteen, too young to be driving, but she was five years older and nervous, painting in a house with three other artists. He convinced her to quit dipping brushes and come live with him. He wanted kids.

In the boat, Glen scoffed and hawked up mucus. Back then kids had seemed like the thing to do it; make you happy, fix the picture. Directly after the births he hadn’t given a shit. Another fallen hope; the apartment hadn’t been any cleaner when he’d brought Brandon back. Sure didn’t get any cleaner from then on.

“And that’s why you must return with me,” said Hidari, staring, hands spread open as if to welcome him back to the country.

Glen cleared his throat. His body felt like someone had beaten it with sticks. He thought about sitting in an Army prison.

“Sure,” he said.

Hidari looked taken aback. “You will go?”

“Yeah, sure, why not. Let’s go back.”

“Okay. Yes, this is good. We will discuss things.”

“Why not.”

Glen felt fine, freer than before, sharpened and recharged by clarity. Here he was, at sea on an idiot’s journey, about to commit himself to a life of treason. But there was hope to be acquired, and he could seize it for his own life if he decided to extend his hand. He could have peace.

Another summit, greater than the dopamine spikes in his brain, which could only ever fade and leave him sadder than before: boiling up from the turbulent surface of the sea, a dark, oily wave bent its crest toward the deck and washed him over the bulwark in a tangle of kelp, shells, and unknown stones, bearing him deeper into the well he so fiercely desired to find the bottom of.

Hidari looked over the side. She blinked and bit her lip, unheeding of the rain that lashed her face. Her dress was soaked through, but what did rain matter now? There was no sign of Glen under the waves, although she was not so foolish to assume he would come up spluttering with a curse and a racist phrase. Probably she could find a life preserver, below deck or under the seats by the steering wheel. But she only stared on, observing yet no longer recognizing the whitecaps that galloped by like men with bayonets pointed behind them.

She turned the boat around slowly, mindful of the propeller in case Glen should somehow fight his way up from the sea. Though winds tilted the boat to a ludicrous angle, threatening to topple her out as well, she held fast to the steering wheel with whatever strength she could summon from her long-suffering bones. What could be done? He would die. He was gone. She had completed her task, if unexpectedly. In the event he truly was the rapist, then justice had been done. Look how rarely this transpired on Okinawa.

She stood on deck in the braided light and shadow, fingers gripping the wheel to counter a force she held no hope of controlling. Her mission was fulfilled. If she wanted—and why not—she could end her life. It was what she had planned to accomplish. Just jump.

Hidari leaned over the bulwark and looked down into generations of Okinawan souls. Sho Norito, mabuya mabuya.

She thought of her children, dead on the bright, lively grass all those years ago. A cricket hopping with contentment, with joy even, over their running blood. The sky and the earth seeming to trade places. She hadn’t even buried them properly; when the Yankees came, they tore up the turtle-shell graves and transferred the bodies into a single pit.

Hidari narrowed her gaze to the undulating veins of water. It was far too dark to spot a reflection, yet even in daylight the sea would be too violent to form a picture. The escape boat pitched, steeply, as if goading her to act. She was furious with Glen for falling in, for leaving the scene of his crime. Then she felt nothing. She was at sea in a stolen boat, with a motorbike that was also stolen, and a man trying to kill her who was, at this moment, beginning to drown.

Lightning forked behind the old woman, splitting down to the sea and throwing shelves of brightness across the whitecaps. She could make out the shore, wreathed in mist, close enough to swim if she had been a younger woman. Was Etsu still there, waiting? And Yoshio? Her life was a feeble uncertainty. She should jump.

“Please,” Nayu had said. “We don’t need this.”

Heaving a grunt that seemed miniscule amid claps of thunder, the ninety-one-year-old peace activist boosted herself over the side and dropped down into warm, threshing water.

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