Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Round 2 - Team # 10 (Eric & Joseph) #ftc1516

*) - The Playing Cards

A child squeals with glee upon seeing a winning combination of cards uncovered upon a rug. It’s 1930, and war hasn’t yet come to this idyllic part of the Japanese countryside. In a small, rural house the family is enjoying a late afternoon sun; the kids play with their new set of karuta cards with their mother while the father sits aside reading the morning edition of the day’s Yomiuri Shimbun. The room is sparsely furnished and the early afternoon sun streams gracefully through the open window.

A light breeze slips playfully into the room unsettling three of the cards, bringing yet more joyous squeals from the children. Their mother smiles serenely at the scene, admiring her two children affectionately. The cards are just new out of their box; the plastic seal still covers the outside of the packet. The images of flowers still retain a healthy look on the cards’ surfaces while their edges still revolt against the signs of misuse. All over Japan, families play with similar decks, but this one will live a life more interesting than many.

It’s now 1942 and an aging father crouches in the mud and grass of Guadalcanal. Amongst his belongings sits an inconspicuous deck of cards, a memento of happier times spent at home. To his left and right colleagues lie in wait of the advancing enemy forces. Their audacity to take on the Empire of Japan marks them for death; a fortunately swift death.

Trees rustle further down the path and the Japanese forces ready their rifles. This is the fourth such skirmish that this old father has fought this week, but it will be his last. The enemy, Americans, are now mere feet away and a cry goes up. The Japanese stream from their hiding places, catching the enemy off guard. Somewhere in the tumult a bullet is fired, catching the young father in a lung. No one knows who fired that bullet but it achieved its purpose and another body cools on the earth of Guadalcanal.

Years pass and we now find ourselves in central Miami. A young girl, maybe eighteen or nineteen stares intently at a collection of Japanese articles in her father’s collection. Many of the pieces are remnants a war long passed; looted from the bodies of the dead or from overthrown quarters. Amidst the collection lies a slightly damaged deck of cards, the girl doesn’t recognise the patterns on the box and it is too early for the name Nintendo Corp. to be widely recognised this side of the Pacific.

Quietly opening the door she reaches into the display cabinet and runs her finger over a well preserved bayonet, a Japanese pistol and ammo clip before settling on the deck of cards. They look out of place amidst the collection of weapons and at the same time bring an air of peace to the instruments of death. 

Again the years pass, and our young American girl has grown older and she has a family of her own. Her father, the war veteran lies dying in his bed upstairs and she finds herself once more looking at the collection of artefacts in the display cabinet of her fathers living room. Beside her, her husband eyes the collection greedily; the intention of selling off the collection is clear on his face. 

He has already singled out the bayonet for sale, and the pistol and ammo should also earn a tidy sum. In his head he prices the entire collection until he comes to the deck of cards. His gaze rests on the packet for a second before he consigns it to the bin, it wouldn’t even be worth putting them up for sale.

The following year the items have been sold, earning the American woman and her husband a tidy sum. Reluctantly he let her keep hold of the deck of karuta cards which now sit snugly in her handbag. A boat is about to set sail for the Pacific island of Guadalcanal.

Upon landing the American group of veterans and the families of deceased veterans are met by their Japanese counterparts. In silence they leave the historic beaches of Guadalcanal and enter its lush interior. Next to the American woman a Japanese lady, maybe fifteen years her senior weeps quietly. With her fractured Japanese the American learns that the Japanese lady lost her father at Guadalcanal, she was only sixteen at the time of the battle.

Later, upon the site of the Edson’s Ridge confrontation, the American feels compelled to return the cards to their home. As she crouches in to place them on the ground of Guadalcanal, the aging Japanese woman spots them and is reminded of that tranquil summer afternoon, playing cards with her mother and brother while her father reads the Yomiuri Shimbun beside them. Drying fresh tears from her cheeks she crosses to the American and, in perfect English, relates her story. Moved by the woman’s frankness, the American hands her the packet so that they may return home with their rightful owners. They remain there, in a quiet village in Japan to this day.


Rating - 165/200 Points 

Wow!! This is a very well researched piece, artwork gave me goosebumps.

Total Points after 2 Rounds - 302/400

Judge - Mohit Trendster

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