Clarice Considers Autumn
Written October 12, 2012.
Clever Fiction writing prompt: Autumn/Burn/Death
Author’s Note: At the time I wrote this little piece, I was thinking about my high school French teacher, Miss Lois T. Sato, who had been interned with her family during World War II. I put Grace into the tale in honor of Mademoiselle.
San Francisco, California
Clarice didn’t like the autumn. Last year, when she was eleven years old, she liked the autumn. But this year she was twelve and didn’t care for it anymore. Not even her new blue coat and matching hat, which set off her auburn pigtails so well, could make her feel better about the season anymore.
Last year, in the autumn, her school friend Grace Sakamoto had been taken away with the rest of her family. Grace’s father ran the little grocery store that Clarice’s mommy liked best, but that didn’t matter. In February of 1942, Mommy said, the president signed a piece of paper that said any Japanese people had to go live in camps.
Clarice didn’t understand that either. Grace was American, just like Clarice. Her daddy was born in Japan, but her mommy was born in right in San Francisco. Grace was born in San Francisco, too. Clarice worried that perhaps she would have to go to camp, but Mommy said no.
The truth was, Clarice was worried that maybe the president would make Mommy go live in a camp. Mommy was born in France. Daddy was American, though. Maybe it only counted if your daddy was born someplace else.
Anyway, Grace was now living at someplace called Tanforan. Mommy said Tanforan was a racehorse track, and that it was a shame when people were made to live in horse stalls like that. Clarice wondered whether the famous Seabiscuit had once stayed there, but she didn’t want to ask Mommy. The whole situation made Mommy mad. She didn’t shop at the little grocery now that a new family had it; she said she could shop somewhere else until the Sakamotos came back, that was all.
Clarice could smell the leaves burning in peoples’ backyard barrels as she walked home from Presidio Elementary School. She had so many books in her strap now that she was in the sixth grade; it seemed as though the homework would be the death of her. And then she felt bad for thinking such a thing; there was a war on, Mommy said, and people were dying for real. Having homework, and a home to go to, were blessings; Daddy had said many times that there were blessings anywhere if people would look hard enough.
Clarice ran up the steps of the Union Street house and into the warmth. She hurried upstairs to her room … the room that had once been her mother’s … and tossed her books on the bed. She took a quick look at the painting of her grandmother, Claire, who seemed to be smiling at her from the canvas.
Maybe, Clarice thought, Grace will be back by next autumn. She hoped so. For now, there was the blessing of hot apple cider waiting in the kitchen for her after-school snack and then Daddy to help her with her homework.