IT WAS A YEAR AFTER WORLD WAR II ended, and I was part of the 1)Occupation Army in 2)Okinawa. For the past few months, there had been several robberies in our base's yard area. Window screens had been cut, items in my 3)shack had disappearedbut strangely, the thief had taken nothing more than candy and little 4)doodads, nothing of real value. On one occasion, I had seen dried-mud prints of bare feet on the floor and wooden table. They were tiny and seemed to belong to a child. It was known that small bands of orphaned kids roamed the island in packs, living off whatever they could find, taking anything that was not 5)bolted down.
But then my prized Waterman fountain pen disappeared. And that was going too far.
One morning, we picked up a man from the prisoner compound. He was assigned to work duty. I had seen him several times before. He was quiet, he was handsome, he stood erect, he listened 6)attentively. Looking at him, I imagined that whatever his rank in the Japanese army had been (possibly an officer), he had performed his duties well. And now, suddenly, there was my Waterman pen, clipped to the pocket of this 7)dignified Japanese man.
I couldn't believe that he would steal. I was usually a good judge of character, and this man had impressed me as reliable. But I must have been wrong this time. After all, he had my pen, and he had been working in our area for several days. I decided to act on my suspicions and ignore the compassion I felt for him. I pointed to the pen and held out my hand.
He drew back, surprised.
I touched it, and again asked him, by gesture, to hand it over. He shook his head. He seemed slightly afraidand totally sincere as well. But I wasn't going to let myself be 8)scammed. I put on an angry face and insisted.
Finally, he gave it to me, but with great sadness and disappointment. After all, what can a prisoner do if a representative of the conquering army gives him an order? Punishments had been 9)meted out for refusing to obey, and he must have 10)had his fill of that kind of thing.
He didn't come back the next morning, and I never saw him again.
Three weeks later, I found my pen in my room. I was horrified by the 11)atrocity I had committed. I knew the hurt of being victimizedof being unjustly 12)outranked, of watching a trust killed in cold blood. I wondered how I could have made such a mistake. Both pens were green with gold stripes, but on one the stripes were horizontal; on the other, they were vertical. To make matters worse, I knew how much more difficult it must have been for this man to come by one of these prized American 13)artifacts than if had been for me.
Now, fifty years later, I don't have either one of those pens. But I wish I could find the man, so that I could apologize to him.