“I don’t know about that exact thing, Mr. Yano,” said Bob. “I do know that in fights things get all mixed up. You can never tell who’s done what. Official reports don’t usually come no place near the truth.”

“I understand that. It could have easily been a shell, a ricochet, a sniper, any of a dozen things, and it doesn’t even matter. I also understand that if he did, it was because it was his duty, because he had no choice, because it was war. But I do know for certain that he was there, that he actually penetrated the bunker. The medal attests to that, as do the witness reports.”

“That much is known, sir,” Bob said. “Battle is a terrible thing, as is killing.” Something drove him to rare confession. “I have been cursed to have seen and done a lot of it. For the Marine Corps, I hunted and killed other men in Vietnam. I’ve thought a lot about it. I can only say, It was war.”

“I understand. I’ve seen some battle too. That’s the way we chose, the path we followed.”

The sun was bright.

“But I am hoping so much that you will understand where my destination lies. I must ask one more question,” said Mr. Yano. “It’s only out of a love for my father as intense as the one you still feel for yours.”

“Go ahead,” said Bob. “I see that’s why you came.”

“There was a sword,” the Japanese said.

Bob blinked, not sure what he meant. Did he mean the miniature sword that he, Yano, had given Swagger just a few minutes ago? That sword? Then he saw: no, no, his father’s sword. His father had a sword that day, of course. The Japs called them “banzai swords” or something like that: he remembered them not from anything his father ever said but from the war comic books he had read religiously in the ’50s. He saw in his mind a wicked, curved thing, with a long, tape-wrapped grip with a snakehead at the end of it. “Banzai! Banzai!” some bearded, cavemanlike Jap sergeant in gogglelike glasses shouted in the comic books, waving it around, stirring his men to a human wave attack. Bob realized his idea of such a thing was probably crap.

“I know young soldiers in battle,” said Mr. Yano. “In the aftermath of survival, they want something to commemorate their triumph, something tangible, that speaks of victory. Who can blame them?”

“I’ve seen it myself,” said Bob. More memories stirred, forty years old, memories he had no interest in sifting through. But the man was right. It happened.

“I know,” said Mr. Yano, “that hundreds, thousands, possibly tens of thousands of swords were taken in the Pacific. Along with Nambu pistols, flags, especially flags, Arisaka rifles, helmets, souvenirs of a fight so hard.”

“Mostly it was guys in the rear who ate that shit up,” said Bob.

“My father had a sword. His death was part of your father’s greatest triumph. I’ve read the medal citation and the after-action reports in the Marine Historical Section and I know how brave he was.”

“My father was an extraordinary man,” said Bob. “I’ve tried my whole life and I ain’t yet come up to his waist. I imagine yours was as well.”

“It is true. But I must ask, Is there a possibility that this sword was part of your inheritance? That you now have it? It was the sort of thing a father passes on to a son. There are far finer swords. But that sword: it would have enormous meaning to me and to my family. I really came to America in search of that sword.”

Bob wished he had good news for the man. He understood that it was more than right that such an event might transpire all these years later, the sword returned to its place of honor with the family of the man who had carried it and died with it. The symmetry of the idea pleased him; it seemed to signify a final closing up of old, raw wounds.

But he had no good news.

“Mr. Yano, I would in a second, believe me. It would please me. For some damned reason, I have this feeling that it would please my father, and that would do me proud.”

“I feel the same.”

“But my father wasn’t a man for trophies. He had no trophies except a forty-five he brought back from the Pacific, and that was a tool, not a trophy. But no flags, no trumpets, no swords, no helmets, not even much chatter. He just put the war behind him and got on to the next thing. He never talked about it. He never wore the uniform again, until the day he died, not even on parade days when some of the other boys did. He wasn’t the sort of man who talked himself up, or tried to remind others of what he’d done. You don’t see that much no more.”

If the Japanese felt disappointment, he didn’t show it, and Bob realized it was not their way to show such things.

“I didn’t think I’d ever heard you say anything about a sword,” said Jenks, who’d been standing idly by while the two conducted business. “Bob’s not a showy kind, and I don’t believe his father would have been either.”

“No, I understand,” said Mr. Yano. “Well, so be it. That is what the gods have decreed. The sword is where it is and that is where it will remain.”

“You sure tried,” said Bob. Then he added, “Possibly there are still some men left in that platoon? They’d be in their eighties now. But couldn’t Marine Historical put you in contact?”

“There are two and I’ve actually talked to both. One in Florida, one in Kansas. But I came up empty.”

“That’s too bad. I’d really like to help. And-hmmm,” he said.


“Oh, I don’t know. All this talk about so long ago. I am hearing something,” said Bob.

“Hearing something?”

“I’m getting a buzz on something. ‘Sword.’ You say that word, meaning World War Two Japanese sword, I get a little kind of image.”

“A memory, like?” said Jenks.

“Not even that. I don’t know why it would be or what it would be. Somewhere deep down, I have this little bug. Maybe it’s a mistake.”

“Still, it’s something.”

“Mr. Yano, because we’re connected in such a hard way, let me make you a promise. It ain’t much. It’s all I got.”

“I’m moved.”

“There’s stuff in my attic. It was in the house in Arizona; I moved it when I sold that place. I looked through it a couple or so years ago when some business about my father came up and I had to go on a little trip back home. But I didn’t look thoroughly. Obviously, I wasn’t looking for anything having to do with a sword. So, I’ll go back through that stuff over the next few weeks. Maybe get a sense of what’s there. Who knows, maybe there’s a lead of some sort. You came all the way out here to No Place, Idaho, I feel I owe you, soldier to soldier. Also, son of hero to son of hero.”

“You’re very kind. I know you’ll examine until there’s nothing left to examine. Here’s my card. Please accept it, and if there’s any news, you’ll be able to reach me.”



The young faces stared out at him. They were so thin, so unmarked, in many cases so unformed, with eager eyes and knobby cheekbones, tan in the tropic sun. Each man clutched a vicious KA-BAR knife, or a Garand or a carbine or a BAR. They were revving themselves up for war, this young marine platoon somewhere in the Pacific, somewhere in World War II. Finally one face in the back row materialized and Bob knew it to be his father’s. It was thin too, but if you looked hard, you saw the pure animal confidence. His father wore the NCO’s weird combination of foreman’s savvy, father’s sternness, mother’s forgiveness, teacher’s wisdom, and coach’s toughness beautifully, and the picture somehow captured a professional at the apex of his game, with a crushed boonie cap pushed back on his head, his teeth white and strong as he smiled, his utility sleeves rolled up, showing strong forearms that seemed to be curled on what Bob thought was maybe (most of it was hidden behind a man in the row in front of him) a tommy gun.

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