Marbles By Noriko Nakada


on the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066

My father turns eleven just before
he’s told “take only what you can carry.”
He chooses marbles, polished glass spheres, smooth
and cold in his jacket pocket. Six in
all: a shooter, a cats eye, two aggies,
two comets, in swirls of yellow and blue.
Dad holds them tight in sweaty palms as he
waits in lines with his sisters for breakfast,
lunch, and dinner, six marbles hoping for
a game in the dust on a hot summer
afternoon. But six marbles aren’t enough
for a game, and he’s scared of losing more
so he only pulls them out late at night
on the straw mattress where he sleeps in the
room he shares with his mother and father,
eldest brother, two sisters, young brother.
One night he flicks the shooter with his thumb,
knocks it hard against the others and sends
two marbles rolling across pine boards where they
gain momentum (the floors aren’t level) and
they find a crack just wide enough for them
to fall. Two marbles lost, never finding
their way back to my father, just like
the brothers who, after the war, never
find a way home. He still has his shooter,
a cats eye, an aggie, and one comet
when they board a train to Heart Mountain. The
train stops often and he feels like the trip
takes forever. Even though he wants to
keep his marbles safe, the train jolts and three
more escape, rolling beneath the bench seats
disappearing. All he can say is what
they all say these days. Shikata ga nai.
It cannot be helped. There is nothing to
do. At last, they arrive and step into
a mass of faces (Dad had never seen
so many Japanese before). He still
has one marble in his pocket to help
him remember who he once was. He holds
his last marble and as he gazes up
at the night desert sky, and the expanse
of stars (Dad had never seen so many
before) he wonders if they will ever
find their way back to who they were before.

By Noriko Nakada


Noriko Nakada writes, blogs, tweets, parents, and teaches middle school in Los Angeles. She is committed to writing thought-provoking creative non-fiction, fiction, and poetry.

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