Sack Lunch

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
A mother searches for her son in the debris of the bombing over Hiroshima with sack lunches to feed him and his troop.

Submitted: July 27, 2017

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Submitted: July 27, 2017




Sack Lunch


Gail Stewart Garber



This particular cry was an unfamiliar wail launched deep in her throat.  It was a deep throaty horrible wet erosion centered at the nape of an uncontrollable pain.  It folded her body like the nuclear wave that folded the city in Japan where she now stood.  This cry filled her gut and caused her body to fold like an accordion as she fell to her knees before the government officers holding the official government letter announcing that Lieutenant Shepherd Marsden Crego, her only son, was “missing in action”. His body had not been found among his unit of men- many who were found peeled beyond recognition by excruciation burns caused by the nuclear blast that occurred on that sweating night of August 6, 1945. They had troops deployed to search for bodies in every nearby city, but none were identified as Lieutenant Crego


Keta Mai Crego could do no more than stare at the official notice as if God had handed down a fatal closure to her own fears. She was sobering from her heart with loud screams and from time to time she would contract and jerk as the wet pause in her throat paralyzed her for moments upon moments. The official looking men tried to console her, but there was no consolation.



"You have traveled across the world... all the way from Atlanta to come here to find your son...can we assist you on your return home Mrs. Crego?"… An officer asked?


"No. I would like to take these sacked lunches to where he was stationed. I need to give my son his lunch...he can't survive without my sack lunches."


The officer smiled. "I'm afraid we can't allow you to travel to the camp at Hiroshima, radiation exposure remains a high priority."


“I feared the Army would kill my son! I never wanted him to enlist. I blame Wilbur. I blame that damn school!"


She noticed that one of the officers sat in a chair to have what appeared as a final cry. "Your son has been declared missing. We do not know for certain if he is dead. We have not found his body, (he paused) so many are prisoners of war....please accept our deepest regret. The United States Army offers its deepest sorrow."


"You should be sorry. You took my son's life in exchange for Japan's surrender to Allied Powers. Did they sign the Instrument of Surrender on my son's dead back!?"



Sack Lunch

Gail Stewart Garber

Page 3-3-3


 As she made this pilgrimage to Japan to find her son and give him his lunch, she repeatedly had dreams that awakened her. Keta Mai had a premonition that her son was standing on a mountain holding "Little Boy"- the most powerful bomb in the world- in one hand as he performed his childhood school war drills of "drop...roll... and cover." When awakened, the dream remained with her throughout the day. She remembered Shepherd's unusual fear of the school drill. She remembered how frightened he was at the war drills at Taps Military Academy and how meticulous he would perform this drill. The drills frightened him so, he ran home and hid under her bed. Although the academy considered this behavior AWOL, he accepted his punishment each time and ran home after each drill."Drop..roll..and cover....drop...roll...and cover", he repeated these words for days after the drills. To bring him back into his comfort zone, Keta Mai would prepare him his favorite foods, wrap them into a large neat brown sack and send him back to the academy. She could not withdraw him from the academy. His father enlisted him into this strict military school for boys to “toughen him “and give him the only life support he felt he could give his son.


"A boy of his particular color now a days," Wilbur preached “needs to have the backing of a career where he can move forward. He is of a race of men who stands for nothing in this why not stand for the country?!"

Sack Lunch -Gail Stewart Garber


Maybe Wilbur had a point of view that would turn her charming little boy into a strong, surviving charismatic young man, so she allowed Wilbur to enroll Shepherd.


In light of the horror in his sparkling brown eyes, and the tension in his swollen wet face, she allowed Wilbur to drag her son to Taps and shut her heart to his screaming and pleading. Wilbur had Shepherd by the back of his sweater and literary carried him like a dead animal to Taps and pleaded with the Captain and Headmaster to take in his weak son out of fear that the child would be dead by age ten if left in his current living conditions.


Shepherd and Wilbur were immediately turned away at the door by the Headmaster."Taps Military Academy does not accept his race here sir! Why not take him to a Christian school in your part of town?"


"He will be dead by the weekend if you send him home. I am prepared to work at the Academy and clean this place spank brand new if you will educate him and turn him into a soldier."


The deal was set. Wilbur became a pro bono night janitor for Taps and Shepherd was accepted as an experimental colored pig trained for brutal warfare. Keta Mai found herself making sack lunches for Shepherd and Wilbur and eventually enlisted as the Academy’s sack lunch chef for Taps.

Sack Lunch -Gail Stewart Garber


Shepherd continued his intermittent AWOL escapades and at graduation asked the question “why are colored men enlisting to fight for a country where he can't drink the water out of the American toilet?" He still did not understand the pride of country most colored men were talking nor the enthusiasm of Negro men urged to fly into Germany to protect other people. When it came time for him to enlist as an official military man, he escaped from the Academy - not under his mother’s bed this time - and found a job working for the Union Pacific Railroad. His mother knew where he was and continued to communicate with him and send an occasional sack lunch. Keta Mai kept Shepherd's whereabouts safely tuck in her bosom and no one, not even Wilbur, with all his passion and sweet talk, could turn the key to open that information.


Information of his employment led to his capture. One day a slew of officers pounced down and surrounded him. "Let's go nigger!" They pushed and shoved as if he were an escaped white boy who held the blue prints to "Fat Boy" an atomic weapon scheduled for release by President Truman upon the heads of Nagasaki.


 "Hey! Hey! What is this? You guys don't want nigger men in your precious Army! Why you hounding me?" He was trying his best to understand the urgency of the request to dress his colored behind in a United States uniform. "Besides, I thought we were at the end of World War II. Germany isn't far from signing an Instrument of Surrender and once you destroy the Empire of Japan, the Pacific War will be over. So, why yall need my black ass hanging over enemy lines?"


Sack Lunch - Gail Stewart Garber


The officers provided a cynical joke.  "We don't need your black ass to protect America. You're just fish hook. We're gonna hang you out like bait and use you as a decoy...cause we can afford to lose one of your kind," they laughed.


No quicker than he could sign Shepherd Marsden Crego to front line World War II enlistment documents, he was carrying heavily loaded weapons, dressed to the nines in camouflage and off to serve the United States Army in a Holocaust that was certain to destroy half of mankind. There was one colored regimen stationed in Germany but Shepherd was mailed off to Hiroshima Japan where President Truman had set into motion his power to devastate a nation if needed. Everyone in his regimen whispered about "Little Boy" and "Fat Man". Amid the whispers, US troops fell by the wayside like water flies and as his troop diminished into the depths of combat he continued to rise in rank into power from Private to Sargent to Lieutenant.


Shepherd's consistent letters were always the same voice. "Mom...I feel as if I have been in war and at war for the better part of my manhood. Tell dad he got what he wanted...a man with a gun in his hands. I am a soldier."



"I can't believe I have become such a strong commanding leader," he wrote. "You remember how the drills of war and fist fighting frightened me so as a child. I am now the guy who controls the front line...plans combat maneuvers...ambush attacks... and who will discharge my weapon upon enemy territory to save my men. I don't face as much racism here as I did growing up in the hang-neck, backwoods of Atlanta. I have earned the respect of men of all colors and it is a wonderful feeling. Of course distributing your wonderful sack lunches to the guys hasn't hurt me any. They love your sack lunches and you know it is what keeps me sane and alive."


With each political promotion, he communicated with Keta Mai and her with him through a sack lunch. Food was the only sure way to communicate. Letters and postcards were returned. Packages of clothing and family mementoes were returned. The sack lunch made it safely into his camp.


His camp was 150 meters from ground zero. The troops assembled at Hiroshima were considered to be tucked in a safe place where storage of supplies and logistics were communicated. He walked among old-fashioned Japanese residents who sheltered themselves in the wood walls of buildings as if they did not exist. Most faces had that tarry-burned look that is synonymous with the aftermath of raids and bombings.


 The start of August brought with it a number of conventional high-explosive bombs which crushed the wide-eyed enthusiasm of the city. Hope was now hopelessness. Shepherd didn't feel safe and every day intensified his feelings of destruction. The extreme silence of the August's sun rushed in more thoughts of ruin and devastation. He woke most mornings next to the debris of dead men's souls wrapped in leaflets that covered the grounds announcing the "rains of ruins" soon be leveled upon the city.


"This is no way to live..." he wrote his mom.”I am frightened all the time. They have evacuated thousands of residents into Internment Camps in anticipation of completely destroying this city. President Truman announced his ultimatum and says he will release nuclear attacks if his terms are not accepted. I don't understand any of it. This nuclear weapon Little Boy will kill thousands in half a day and others will die from injuries, illness, radiation name it. If the bomb doesn't get us, the radiation will peel the skin from our bodies like a sharp knife over the skin of an apple. I don't know if I can make it up the hill and over the cliff in time. Please help me mom...I'm too young to die!"


This was the last letter Keta Mai received until August 8, 1945. A brief note arrived crumpled, bloodied and frayed as if it had been in the back pocket of a battered man. She knew she had to go find her son. The letter she held in her hands were words of a bleeding-heart dying man.



"Mom! I am standing on the cliff a mile from the hypocenter...very close to the designated area of the nuclear blast. As sure as his word as President, he released that bomb. My men are hidden under the grounds of the Bank of Hiroshima, the most solidly built structure in the city. I chose not to stay with my unit. I am sweating like a pig and could really use one of your delicious sack

lunches right now. I am standing here looking at the most horrific sight ever to be witnessed. I am a young man, I should not be seeing this sight, yet I am looking at the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after that fool dropped Little Boy. This nuclear cloud hangs some 30, 000 feet into the air. It is possible that all things, human and animal, have risen with this cloud into the heavens. All I can do is stare. All I can do is drop..roll..and cover."


All she could think about was packing him a wonderful lunch and getting it to him. She would not accept that her only son was missing or dead.


Now in Japan, holding the official letter from the United States Army, she was more determined to find her son. She was going to span the grounds of Japan, talk to every soldier and resident. She would cross enemy lines into the prisons in case he was a prisoner of war or held somewhere against his will. She would search the hospitals and if necessary climb the very hill where he last stood in witness of the mushroom nuclear cloud. All of this and more to find her son and take him his lunch. No one including Wilbur understood how strong her determination ran, and amid his belligerent treats to not be home when she returned, Keta Mai vowed to continue her search until she could no longer feel Shepherd's arms wrapped around her body pulling her towards him. Even if he had remembered to drop, roll and cover, she thought, at the end of the day, the boy had to eat.









© Copyright 2019 Garb. All rights reserved.

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