By the Rockets' Red Glare

by Carrie M O'Connor

Off-duty, nestled in bed with her Hawaiian lover, the young Army nurse has cast away the values imposed by her father, the Wisconsin preacher. White lace pillows rest against the large, hand-carved teak headboard, accentuating Ikaia's golden complexion. Her hand, white as porcelain, moves against his arm. The early December morning is warm and gentle, with the sweet smell of plumeria blossoms outside the jealosie windows. In the distance she hears explosions, running, and the clamor of voices.

The voice on the radio calls it the Real McCoy. The Real McCoy bombing, as opposed to the drill that they might expect, moves them forward in shock. Until now, Annie Jenson's daily tasks consisted of taking pulses, making beds, and giving enemas. In the operating suite, she has helped surgeons remove tonsils, adenoids, and gallbladders. She had seen more accidental trauma cases unfold at home in barns, harvest fields, and animal pens.

Today, Annie races to Tripler Hospital, which is only a block away. She has no regulation uniform, no stockings, no hair pins. In minutes, her pale hands are covered with the mingled red of blood and purple of iodine.

She, they, the U.S. Army, have failed to predict the need for sulphate, sutures, blankets, beds on the day of the Real McCoy. She focuses on the man in front of her and places her hand into his abdomen wound.

She looks frantically around for the triage station and thinks about the way local children play Jan, Ken, Po, extending their tiny hands to symbolize paper, rock, scissors. Burns, wounds, fracture. Bomb, metal, smoke. Live, die, linger.

Annie lifts her hand from the man's body and runs to help another who might survive.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.

The shots are ringing out around the hospital.

Days later, Annie brushes out her hair before bed. Heavy black curtains now cover the windows. She walks toward the bed, slides in, and draws the covers to her chin. Woozy from sleep deprivation, she watches Ikaia pull his .45 from the bureau drawer and load it. He pushes it under his pillow, and turns off the Aladdin lamp.

"I love you," he says.


"Why won't you let me hold you?" he asks, weakly.

"I'm tired."

"You weren't too tired to play cards with the girls tonight."

"Stop it! I just can't put them out of my mind, OK?"


"The burnt faces."

"None of us can forget. I worked the morgue. You did the very best that you could. We all did."

"I hope so, Ikaia. I hope so. Let's just go to sleep."

"You are going to have to talk about it sometime."

"Not tonight, I don't. Maybe not ever."

BIO: Carrie M O'Connor is a fourth-generation native of Honolulu. Her work has appeared in Honolulu Weekly, Hawai'i Investor, and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. After earning a master of arts degree at Marquette University, she worked as a Milwaukee journalist. Her recent work includes a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel opinion piece, and an essay that aired on Milwaukee Public Radio. Her fiction has been published in Bamboo Ridge: Journal of Hawai'i Literature and Arts and Auscult: A Literary Journal of the Medical College of Wisconsin.