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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"
I entered Nishi-Urakami Junior High School in 1952. Its brand-new buildings seemed to be regarded as a model for other schools. I enjoyed the fragrance of new wood whenever I entered a classroom. However, we had to complete the sports grounds by ourselves. The PE classes were devoted to removing rocks and weeds. One day, a mamushi, a poisonous snake, came out and scared us; the school was located in such a rural district. We also built a swimming pool by the road. The soil was dug out with shovels and pickaxes and dumped into rope baskets. Each basket was then hung in the middle of a pole and shouldered away by two students. The heavy construction work took half a year to complete.
In those days at school I tended to stay alone, away from everybody, hiding myself. It was hard to accept and understand what I was. "Nobody cares if I exist or not." I thought. "Does anyone really have tenderness, compassion, kindness, charity or pure spirit of cooperation?"
I think I was mentally sick, to a certain degree. Teachers sometimes showed me some humanity, and some of my classmates sometimes spoke to me in a friendly way. However, I could not appreciate their kindness, and because of that, I hated myself. I once became very cold-blooded, and killed a lot of animals for fun. I beat, smashed, and threw away snakes. I tied cats with a rope and threw them into a river. I was getting violent and inhuman. At home, however, I obeyed my family members and pretended to be a good boy. I knew I had to try my best not to be detested and forsaken by my family.
Though I was such a difficult child, I liked to take care of rabbits and other animals, including cows, chickens and goats. One day, I witnessed a rabbit biting its own baby, about a week old, to death. I was astonished. The best I could do was to bury the dead baby. I asked my father why a rabbit could be cruel enough to bite and kill its own child. "The human smell." he said. "You touched the baby too often. And the parent was confused. It just hated the human smell, it couldn't believe that the creature with that smell was its own child, and killed the baby."
One day, at about the end of the year 1952, my father came to me and said, "We are going to twist (kill) a chicken to eat. Are you ready?" He was not really asking if I was ready or not. I had to say "yes" to whatever he said. The victim was the biggest hen we had. It cried "Kwak kwak" when I tried to grab it. "Hold it tight!" my father said, and axed off its head. I was so shocked that I let go of the hen. The hen without its head ran away on its feet, winging violently, and spraying blood. I could not eat chicken for a long time after that.
The deaths of the rabbit and the chicken taught me something at the age of 13. I had seen many dead human bodies when I was much smaller. I had heard many people saying "This child may not survive" when they saw what I was. At 13, I was beginning to realize that I was allowed to survive by a "providence of Heaven" or "dispensation of Nature." My family did their best to help me, but I was helped by something beyond our control. I was learning that all the animals, including the cat, snakes and other animals that I had killed, had their rights to survive. I was quite scared when I was beginning to see how cruel I had been.
Nobody knows how many animals were killed in the last world war. Weak ones, including speechless animals, always suffer terrible fate in wars. All human adults should accept their responsibility, to some extent, for their fate during the war. That is what I now believe.
The other thing I worried about was bullying at school. I had challenged the bullies when I suffered too much. The revenge fight worked somehow. Their violence wound down after I fought back. I tried to be courageous, not to be timid, and to mix with my friends at school. Then I found it easier than I had expected to be accepted. I sometimes had fun and laughed together with my friends.
Human beings are able to laugh; so am I. I laughed when I had fun. However, I sometimes wondered what kind of laughter I had had. I was sometimes haunted by the memories of the scenes in which I was laughed at after being called "crab." I never want to encounter such sad and miserable laughter.