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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"

Disfigured foot

Occasionally in the middle of the night, I felt something wet and warm at the tips of my fingers. Then I used to pull my hand out. In the dim light, I often found blood on my fingers. Scratching worsens itching and pain; I had known that, but I couldn't help it. Regretting what I'd done, I used to shake my mother's legs to wake her up and ask for help. The shanty we lived was only big enough for our family to cram inside and sleep together on the floor. It had no electricity. The dim light crept in from outside. "Again? Didn't I tell you not to scratch?" my mother would say. Without making any excuse, I would say "Take me to the toilet." Carrying me in her arms, my mother had to be careful not to step on other family members who were deeply asleep on the floor. "Don't scratch again. OK?" my mother said and she fell asleep again. Though the keloid scars were healing little by little, they itched when warmed under the covers. I often touched the itchy parts of my body, first just lightly and gently. Then I felt it itch more and more. It became unbearable. At that point, I just couldn't help it. Though I had learned that it would hurt, I scratched, scratched and scratched. Scratching was like my daily routine job. So the recovery went very slowly.

One day, one of my aunts who lived in the Inasa area came to visit us.

Later I learned that her first name was Ryu, which sounded like a Chinese name.

"How are you, Hide? Your burned parts. Still itchy?" She inspected me and added, "It looks itchy, indeed. Don't scratch or you'll suffer forever. Be patient. What you've got seems quite different from other ordinary burns."

Mother replied and said, "Take a look, Ryu. Hide's right ankle looks as if it were twitched."

"What's that? Is it a human foot? Can Hide walk again?"

"Listen, Ryu. He is still lucky. We must say that he's lucky to have survived. You can't imagine how badly he suffered. His stomach was festering, with maggots. For a few days he kept quaking and asking us to kill him. We felt so very sorry for him. I asked my husband to kill him. I thought he should be released. There was no hope for him to survive and get well. However, Dad was determined to take care of Hide until the very end. Hide's grandpa died 7 days after the bomb. You know, we asked our neighbors to help us dig the grave. At that moment, somebody from somewhere else came running and screaming that the US soldiers would come to kill all the men and take away all the women. 'Run away! Run away!' he said. Though we didn't know who he was, people took the stranger's advice and got away before finishing the grave hole. Dad was left alone to dig his father's grave and bury him. Later the rescue team arrived at the Masudas-- you know our neighbors. Dad took Hide there. In a couple of hours he came back. According to Dad, the rescue team's advice was so simple. They only said that the boy had such a serious burn that he had little hope of surviving. So, we thought again that Hide wouldn't live."

Aunt Ryu didn't stay long; she went home on the same day, saying "I'll come again shortly."

For several days after receiving the devil's spell, I suffered from hellish agony. And I kept praying "Put me out of my misery!" However, my wish was not heard. Any time of day or night, I would wake up to find somebody watching me and whispering "Hold on, Hide. Cheer up." As a little child, I was much encouraged.

One day at the end of the summer, I was lying on some bedding, looking at the sunset. Suddenly a young man came in, saying "I'm home." The man, who had a field cap, a thick beard and the largest-possible luggage on his back, spoke to me and said, "Hide! Were you hit by the bomb?"

I was stunned to see my eldest brother right there in front of me. "Brother Shige is back!" I yelled at the top of my voice. Nobody had known his whereabouts, if he was alive or dead. All the family members were so worried about him, much too worried to say anything about him. And he was back, alive!

All the family came running, throwing away hoes, sickles and everything they had. We all cried together. "It's nice that you are alive." "How nice it is to be alive together again!" Laughter came back to our house for the first time in years.

People, including evacuees from other places, built their own shacks and dugouts to live in. Strangely, some normal and healthy-looking A-bomb victims started to die, one after another, of unknown diseases. I was aware of that. As I recovered little by little, and as my condition became a little stable, I began to feel some hope and desire for survival. Sometimes I thought that I did not want to die; however, I was sure that I was destined to die before long, because much healthier people suddenly got sick and died. How could I survive with a serious burn covering half my body? I was never free from such fear.

I was recovering from the burn, but the scars or the keloids became uglier and uglier, to the point that everyone tried not to see them. My right foot, in particular, did not look like a human foot anymore. It had been further deformed since Aunt Ryu exclaimed "Is it a human foot?" No shoes or sandals fit it. Therefore, my father made a special straw sandal which was tied to my right foot. I was barely able to walk. I sometimes became strangely sentimental in those days. "Will Aunt Ryu feel sad and cry for me when she sees this?" I wondered. What I wanted was sympathy. I can't remember how I really felt. Anyway, I felt I was deserted. At least, the eyes of my brothers and sisters seemed icy cold. They looked at me in the way they looked at something filthy. I was surely misshaped.