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Original Essays | April 11, 2014

Paul Laudiero: IMG Shit Rough Draft



I was sitting in a British and Irish romantic drama class my last semester in college when the idea for Shit Rough Drafts hit me. I was working... Continue »
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A Million Shades of Gray

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A Million Shades of Gray Cover

 

 

Excerpt

andlt;bandgt;andlt;bandgt;Chapter Twoandlt;/bandgt;andlt;/bandgt;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Before sunup, Yand#8217;Tin woke to hear his mother shaking his father awake. and#8220;Sergeant Shepard wants to talk to you,and#8221; she told him in a low voice.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;What?and#8221; Ama said sleepily. Yand#8217;Tin heard his father rustling, probably sitting up.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Sergeant Shepard,and#8221; his mother repeated.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yand#8217;Tin sat up too. and#8220;Are you going on a mission, Ama?and#8221; he asked.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;I donand#8217;t know,and#8221; his father said. and#8220;Iand#8217;ll find out from Shepard. You go back to sleep.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Instead, Yand#8217;Tin stood up. and#8220;Can I come if you go on a mission? Remember when you told me someday I could?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;I said someday andlt;iandgt;maybeandlt;/iandgt; you could.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Ama, I could track for you. You know Iand#8217;m a good tracker.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;I know. Go back to sleep,and#8221; Ama said.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Go to sleep, Yand#8217;Tin,and#8221; Ami said.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yand#8217;Tin waited until his father had slipped out of the room and then he followed. At the front porch Yand#8217;Tin stood just inside the door watching. Shepard nodded at him and he nodded back. A cigarette hung from Shepardand#8217;s mouth, as usual. Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s heart speeded up, but not in a bad way. The Americans had announced that they would be leaving Vietnam soon, and this might be Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s last chance to go on a mission with his father.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;You got cigarette for me?and#8221; Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s father asked Shepard in English.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Shepard handed him a cigarette. Yand#8217;Tin knew his father thought the cigarettes that his tribe rolled themselves tasted better than the American cigarettes, yet for some reason he enjoyed smoking the American cigarettes more.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;His father said and#8220;Ahhhhand#8221; when he exhaled. He always did that when he started his first cigarette of the day.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;I get cigarette too?and#8221; Yand#8217;Tin asked in English.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Your mother told me you donand#8217;t smoke,and#8221; Shepard said. and#8220;She said youand#8217;re just a little boy.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yand#8217;Tin laughed. and#8220;I old for my age.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;How do you figure?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Got too many responsibilities. Very stressful.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Go on inside, Yand#8217;Tin,and#8221; his father said. and#8220;Go on, boy.and#8221; But he didnand#8217;t say it angrily or even very seriously. If he had, Yand#8217;Tin would have gone back inside.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;The men climbed down the notched log that served as a ladder for the longhouse. Yand#8217;Tin followed. A couple more Special Forces soldiers were standing just a few meters away with two Rhade tribal members. Shepard, Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s father, and Yand#8217;Tin joined them. Shepard squatted and put his cigarette out on the ground, then put the filter in a bag in his pocket. This way, he wouldnand#8217;t leave a mess on the Rhade ground. The Americans were very considerate.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Shepard turned to Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s father. and#8220;We got one last thing we need done. Yand#8217;Thu, we need you to be our tracker to a former enemy camp. We know loosely where there was a North Vietnamese Army company last week, and we need to see how many soldiers were there. Weand#8217;re not expecting any contact with the enemy. Itand#8217;s just a few klicks away, but itand#8217;s slow going. Very heavy jungle. You available to spend the night in the field?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s father blushed. and#8220;I got to talk to my wife first,and#8221; he mumbled. and#8220;She thought I all finish with this stuff.and#8221; Yand#8217;Tin knew that since the Americans were leaving in a couple of weeks, his father had been told that he wouldnand#8217;t be needed for any more missions.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;I understand. Go on and talk to your wife. Make sure to tell her this mission is supposed to be smooth sailing.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;What and#8216;smooth sailingand#8217; mean?and#8221; asked Yand#8217;Tin. and#8220;Easy mission?and#8221; Yand#8217;Tin turned to his father and spoke in Rhade. and#8220;Ama, you ask Ami if I can come too? I promise Iand#8217;ll do my homework for a week.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Why not do your homework forever?and#8221; his father asked.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Forever,and#8221; Yand#8217;Tin said solemnly, but his father just laughed at him.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;His father jogged over to their longhouse and climbed up. His mother was already on the porch, watching them.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yand#8217;Tin turned to Shepard. and#8220;It bad luck to go now. You tempting the spirits.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Just this last mission. Itand#8217;s no contact with the enemy,and#8221; Shepard assured him.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;I come too?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Letand#8217;s see what your mother and father say.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s father climbed down again. and#8220;Okay?and#8221; Shepard asked.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Okay,and#8221; Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s father said. and#8220;You let my son come?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Yep, if you want. Itand#8217;s smooth sailing.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s heart fluttered. Riding Lady into the village and now this. What a week!andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;All right, we need to get a move on,and#8221; Shepard said.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yand#8217;Tin didnand#8217;t know what a and#8220;move onand#8221; was and where they might get one, but he didnand#8217;t ask.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Shepard continued. and#8220;We got the order an hour ago. We need youand#8212;you andlt;iandgt;andandlt;/iandgt; your sonand#8212;to find the camp and estimate how many were there. I donand#8217;t know what for, the powers that be just requested the information. And whoand#8217;s the best tracker Iand#8217;ve ever worked with?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Ah,and#8221; Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s father said, feigning modesty. Then he seemed to ponder for a moment before saying less modestly, and#8220;I guess I pretty good, if I say so myself.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;We took the liberty of packing for you. Canteen, PIR rations, ammunition. And hereand#8217;s your rifle.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;What I need rifle for?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Nothing, but if we do need them, we should have them.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Gotcha, G.I.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Okay, letand#8217;s get started. Remember, no contact. You see anything suspicious, you let us know, and weand#8217;ll back off. Nobody wants to get hurt this late in the game.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Gotcha, G.I.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Ama patted Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s shoulder proudly. Then he looked worried. and#8220;We make sacrifice first? My wife suggested.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;The sun is starting to come up. Itand#8217;s getting late,and#8221; Shepard said.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Donand#8217;t say I no warn you.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;We wonand#8217;t.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;They all entered the jungle together. Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s senses seemed so alive, he felt almost inhuman. Everyone said he was part elephant, and maybe that was true.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yand#8217;Tin walked by his fatherand#8217;s side. He felt very proud. And he really loved to feel very proud. And he loved walking in front of the other men.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;He put his whole being into tracking, just as if he were stalking prey. He walked so quietly that he couldnand#8217;t hear himself, and that made him feel proud as well. They moved very slowly for several kilometers. Then Yand#8217;Tin saw them: several tracks, crossing their pathway. He noticed before his father did. He dropped to his hands and knees and studied the tracks. Six different soldiers. They made six distinct prints: One walked with his toes pointed slightly in; another had small feetand#8212;possibly a woman; one left different tread marks from the others; one came down hard on the heels; another had the second smallest feet; and one made a telltale scuff as he lifted his feet. Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s father squatted down beside him and then nodded in encouragement. and#8220;Six soldiers,and#8221; Yand#8217;Tin said. He stood up and his father followed suit. Then Yand#8217;Tin saw the pride in his fatherand#8217;s face as he looked at Yand#8217;Tin.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;As they followed the tracks, there were times when Yand#8217;Tin almost lost the trail. The others kept waiting for him silentlyand#8212;he always took a little longer than his father to figure out what the tracks were telling him. His father had once told him that every trail told a story and the important thing was not to read the story the fastest but, rather, the most accurately. Yand#8217;Tin knew that Ama could read faster andlt;iandgt;andandlt;/iandgt; more accurately than he could.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;The six soldiers had sanitized their tracks very well. But you could never sanitize your trail completely. A broken twig, a bent blade of grassand#8212;there would always be a sign of where you were going, of where youand#8217;d been. Yand#8217;Tin glanced back at Shepard and at Amaand#8217;s friend Yand#8217;Bier Hlong, who was sanitizing andlt;iandgt;theirandlt;/iandgt; trail. With about 100,000 members, the Rhadeand#8212;Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s tribeand#8212;was one of the biggest Dega tribes in Vietnam, and many of the Rhade worked with the American Special Forces. In Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s village, however, there were only a few men who worked with the Americans. Who knew why?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;The trail disappeared, but Yand#8217;Tin and his father continued in the same direction as before. After about forty meters they picked up the trail again. Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s father gestured with his hand, and they turned right, just as the trail did.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Twenty minutes later the trail split in two. Yand#8217;Tin studied the split and noticed that nobody had even stopped to talk: One trail of five prints simply went to the right, and the other trailand#8212;of just one soldierand#8212;went left. He thought about that, knelt, and studied the fork. He looked at his father. One way or another, his father had to make a call. Ama opted to follow the trail of five over the trail of one. Thatand#8217;s what Yand#8217;Tin would have chosen as well.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;After about an hour Yand#8217;Tin realized theyand#8217;d made a mistake when he saw the trail of five men heading out of the jungle. His father always said you had to tell the truth when you made a mistake, because in life when you told one lie, that always led to two lies, and the two lies led to four, until your whole life became a lie. Yand#8217;Tin thought that was an exaggeration, but he got the point.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Ama turned to the men and held himself proudly as he gestured with his hand that they were turning around.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;When they reached the fork again, they followed the tracks of the one soldier this time. His trail led deep into the jungle. It was late afternoon when they reached the end of the trail. There was no debris left, but this was where the enemy had gathered. The area was full of disturbed vegetation and dirt. Yand#8217;Tin stepped in a patch of undisturbed ground and compared it to the footprints he was examining. His fresh print slowly recovered, but some of the succulent plants heand#8217;d stepped on were permanently broken. Ama signaled the others to stop as he circled the site and slipped in and out of the abandoned camp. Yand#8217;Tin saw that his father was counting every print, but Yand#8217;Tin used the averaging method. He split the camp into quarters and counted the number of people in one quarter. It took Yand#8217;Tin three hours to count and feel sure he was close to correct. He tried not to feel the pressure, but he wished he could work faster. It was growing dark by the time he finished. His father had finished a half hour earlier, but everybody waited for Yand#8217;Tin. Finally, he turned to his father and said, and#8220;About one hundred fifty.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;His father nodded. and#8220;Thatand#8217;s what I came up with. One hundred twenty-five to one hundred fifty.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Suddenly, and clearly, they heard talking, and the whole groupand#8212;seven of them in alland#8212;melted into the forest. That is, Yand#8217;Tin knew the others melted into the forest, as he did. The only one he could see was Shepard. Then whoever had been talking fell silent. Yand#8217;Tin could just barely hear the other men gingerly walking backward. He wondered whether the Special Forces soldiers would open fire, but they didnand#8217;t. None of his group moved for a full hour. Then all hell broke loose. Shooting exploded behind Yand#8217;Tin, before him, and above him. His group was doing some of the shooting. Then Yand#8217;Bier Hlong staggered into sight. His chest gushed blood as he dropped his rifle. Yand#8217;Tin picked it up. Heand#8217;d never shot a gun. He pointed it toward an enemy soldier but hesitatedand#8212;he wasnand#8217;t sure where everybody was and didnand#8217;t want to accidentally hit one of the friend-lies. Then a North Vietnamese soldier was aiming at Shepardand#8217;s back, and Yand#8217;Tin fired. The bullet shot upward, and the backfire was so strong that Yand#8217;Tin fell to the ground. By the time he scrambled up, the firefight had ended. Shepard was taking Yand#8217;Bierand#8217;s pulse. Fortunately, someone else must have shot the soldier whoand#8217;d been aiming at Shepard.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Silence. Shepard hung his head, and Yand#8217;Tin knew that his fatherand#8217;s friend had died, shot in the chest and head. Yand#8217;Tin stared at him. He had never seen someone killed before.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;They walked until it was pitch dark, with Shepard carrying Yand#8217;Bier. After a while Shepard said one word: and#8220;Here.and#8221; The men lay on the ground for sleep. Yand#8217;Tin stared into the darkness. Soon he heard a soft, soft sound and realized it was his father crying. Yand#8217;Tin fell asleep to the sound. He woke up just once, his face clammy with dew, and he still heard the sound. Ama had worked for the Special Forces for several years, but heand#8217;d been luckyand#8212;this was the first time anyone had been killed on one of his fatherand#8217;s missions. Yand#8217;Tin knew it was his fault. If they hadnand#8217;t waited for him to finish counting, Yand#8217;Suai never would have been shot. Was the guilt he felt part of war? He could feel that Yand#8217;Bierand#8217;s three souls had already left the body. Yand#8217;Bier was the nicest man in the village. He always gave away all of the delicious cantaloupes that he raised every year. Yand#8217;Tinand#8217;s family grew the best tobacco, but they didnand#8217;t give it away like that. No one did, just the Hlongs.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;The next morning Shepard carried the dead man on his back all the way to the village. He gently laid Yand#8217;Bier in the graveyard just outside the fence.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Get a blanket, Yand#8217;Tin,and#8221; his father told him.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yand#8217;Tin half flew to his longhouse and scrambled up. Nobody was thereand#8212;they were all no doubt working in the fields. He ran back to the cemetery to lay the blanket over Yand#8217;Bierand#8217;s body. But he saw he was too late. Somehow, Yand#8217;Bierand#8217;s wife had already heard and was weeping over the bloody body.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yand#8217;Tin wanted to tell her that it was all his fault, but instead, he just stared at her.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#169; 2010 Cynthia Kadohata

Product Details

ISBN:
9781416918837
Author:
Kadohata, Cynthia
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Subject:
Historical - Asia
Subject:
Family - General
Subject:
Animals - Elephants
Subject:
Elephants
Subject:
Survival
Subject:
General-General
Edition Description:
Hardback
Publication Date:
20100105
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 5 up to 9
Language:
English
Illustrations:
f-c jkt (spcl fx: spot gloss UV on matte
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
7.75 x 5 in
Age Level:
08-12

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Related Subjects

Children's » Action and Adventure » Adventure Stories
Children's » Animals » Animal Stories » General
Children's » Animals » Elephants
Children's » Historical Fiction » Asia
Children's » Historical Fiction » Military and War
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A Million Shades of Gray Used Hardcover
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Product details 224 pages Atheneum Books - English 9781416918837 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , A boy and his elephant escape into the jungle when the Viet Cong attack his village immediately after the Vietnam war.
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