Casualty of War

Casualty of War

At the end there, we couldn’t stop talking about Kamikazes.

Dart’s father had served in the war, in the Pacific, against the Kamikazes. Mine had too. Europe, dropped in a parachute over Europe.

For now, though, 1976, Dart came along in our family’s station wagon to the Mar Vista library so we could look up Kamikazes.

“Once,” Bart’s father told us, “Kamikazes hit our carrier in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Almost sunk us, suicidal Japs.” The fighter pilots killed themselves for war! We looked at each other, thrilled. His father did not like me. My father worked at the bank and probably hadn’t noticed our war obsession or chalked it up to, in his familiar phrase, “boys being boys.”

Our fathers did not speak. His father blamed the Vietnam War and Watergate on the Jews. Both fathers hung up the American flag every Memorial Day, every Veterans Day, every July 4th, the only two houses on our cul-de-sac to fly the American flag. His father called the other people who lived on our block “hippies” and Jews because they did not fly the flag. Some of us were. My father called them “Communists.” We didn’t care about our dads, unless they were telling us war stories.

We watched a World War II TV show about fighter planes. We also had Big Wheels, hard plastic tricycles that we crashed into parked cars on the top of the flat cul-de-sac, and into curbs, garage doors, bikes. Kamikazes.

“Die! American scum!” We dedicated ourselves the way the Kamikazes had. Our poor fathers. We idolized the enemy.

One afternoon, our friendship came to an end. Dart’s father stood on his tiny lawn, arms crossed. January in LA and we wore tee-shirts. They lived at the bottom of the hill while we lived at the top, another condition explained by our Jewishness, Dart had told me. On that afternoon, Dart’s father heard us scream fake Japanese epithets and in English, “Die American scum,” as we rammed our Big Wheels into American ships. “Kamikaze!” Finally, and suddently, he ran up the hill in his undershirt and grabbed Dart by the neck. From my point of view on my Big Wheel, I could only wince at how painful his grip looked, Dart was father a muscle-bound man. He dragged skinny Bart off his Big Wheel and down the hill, leaving the Big Wheel in midair, Dart’s sneakers dragging on the pavement.

I watched Dart struggle. I watched Dart’s pained face. So I began my strafing run, a Japanese pilot, shooting at Bart’s dad, and yelling at him as I rode at him, “Die, American scum, Die.” I smashed my Big Wheel into his legs, the best Kamikaze move I had, killing my friendship with Bart, eliciting his father’s response, “Die yourself, you Jew…scum.” He kicked his legs at me, but I flew away back up the hill toward my house, wondering why his father copied our use of “scum,” thinking of Bart as a casualty of war.



About the Author

Garth Wolkoff is a writer and high school teacher living in Brooklyn. He was a finalist for the recent Fractured Lit Winter Fast Flash Challenge, and has stories and other writing published in Indiana Review, Downtown Brooklyn, Kerem, the San Fransisco Examiner, the San Jose Mercury News, and other journals and newspapers.   


Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash