About 10 A.M. we saw Carl go out the gate to join Major Wilson in receiving orders and release from Major Ebiko and Yamato, who at last satisfied his correct soul by turning us over with all the proper formality. About noon Carl came back and we were all called into the main corridor. We crowded about the small office space, then someone said, “Gangway.” We all pressed over to one side as the clank of hobnails and sound of heavy feet came from the stairs. The eight soldiers had received their orders to come down from the roof. This was the most dramatic and exciting moment of all. It pictured our release more vividly than anything could. They had been persuaded to withdraw so that our danger would be less. They were giving in that much and were leaving Bilibid. They filed through the narrow lane we left, they and we silent, their faces looking sunk and trapped. The corporal’s fat face was sullen and defeated. One short, beady-eyed, pleasant fellow looked at us with a timid friendly grin—a good sport to the end. With machine-gun bullets and grenades in their hands, they trooped out the door, joining the still jaunty Formosans at the gate. They all went out without a backward look, and the gate stood open behind them. We were alone—and turned toward Carl who read the Release. We cheered and then Carl took the hand-sewn Baguio American flag out of the drawer and held it up high. The crowd broke up and began to move away singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.” I went out the front door and around in our door at the side where June was trying to tell Jerry, who had his face in his hands, his head bowed. I put my arm around his shoulders, and the three of us sat there with tears running down our cheeks for quite a long while, not saying anything.
Jerry earns camotes [for extra work details], which help the family meals. He seems to like the garden and has his second wind like Bede. I have mine and wish June would get hers.
I sat up reading pages of my toilet paper — Women in Love . There are many pages of majestic writing.
Jerry says it is funny that three of us should get B-2 deficiency when he hasn’t had it yet. I tell him he has had the other kind, B-I, far longer than we have had ours. I don’t talk about a lot of things but I know them. He looked at me and didn’t say a word, for he had just been examining his swollen ankles, rubbing his aching hands.
June and Bede were still empty when they finished lunch, though the beef broth was good and sautéed radish better than it sounds with Jerry’s pickled onions. What would we do without Jerry’s versatility, his constantly sprouting ideas and practical efforts? I can do nothing but conserve the little strength I have, on a dirt couch, reading Durant on all the Chinese philosophers.
June says the little kids stomp about saying “God damn” over and over. Buddy on potty remarks, “I hope God will give me a good specimen today.” Buddy really voices the Dysentery Prayer.
Jerry made a Parmesan-cheese omelette with the things from [outside] and four eggs, with rice flour to give it body. A taste of cheese after thirteen months—it is the one thing everyone craves! When we get out we want a huge kitchen where we can sit and eat, a beautiful bathroom, two bedrooms, and a small library, and that’s all! We make plans to enlarge our home kitchen, spreading it all over the place. June is obsessed with it and Peg laughs at all of us.
Jerry brought sub-coffee, fried mush, and pomolo in sugar for early breakfast. I tied my hair back, unbraided, which seems to make me look younger, with Sunday lipstick. I had to do something to take off that ten-year-aging feeling of the past fortnight. It has been the worst time in camp as to morale.
Bedie seemed homesick so we sat on the porch talking till he finally had a cry, which snapped the tension. He said Daddy had a boil now and had had so many things the matter with him—“Remember that first day when we were all so hungry and Daddy gave you and June and Tish and me the last crackers, and when we tried to make him take some he almost cried and said, ‘Don’t be damn fools.’” So Bedie remembers it all too—funny little boy who never seems to be taking in such things. This evening he was feeling full of omissions and sins. We held hands tight, and the tears washed away some of the sins.
Jerry fried out some pork and he gave me some of the crisp remains. It tasted so good and I was so hungry for it that I cried over it and couldn’t talk. He fried up some rice with the grease, and June and I ate it with our fingers, out of a bowl. Jerry understood how I felt emotionally wrought up over that meat with real flavor, for he says they feel the same way on the hill at noon [Jerry is on the woodcutting crew]—the stomach runs out to meet the food and all the juices start flowing.
June is drawing paper-doll clothes in the dining room. The fresh sergeant stops to watch it. He takes a pencil, draws kimonos showing the men’s short sleeve, the girl’s sleeve which is shorter than that of a wife. In three lines he drew Fujisan with a cloud in front of it. Later we asked him to draw it on another sheet and he drew it with exactly the same cloud. He showed great distress because the American women wear pants. “Men, boys, yes. Japanese women, no!” He also dislikes the way we push and pull doors, for he gave a graceful pantomime of Japanese women kneeling, sliding the door slowly, quietly, instead of an energetic pull, push. As I watched him working hard over his pencil drawing, I noted U.S. buttons on his American Army coat, which being too long had been cut off at the bottom by scissors or a knife (perhaps the bayonet). The soldier is age twenty-six. How old was the American boy?