Hands trembling slightly, the middle-aged Japanese man walked into the bar at the Billinudgel Hotel.
“What’ll it be, Sir?”
“A beer. Whatever you have on tap.”
She selected a glass and filled it with liquid amber topped with a healthy froth. “There you go. Name’s Marge. You’re not the usual guest we get around here.”
He shook her hand, suppressing the urge to bow, this being Australia. “Haruto Nakajima. Pleased to meet you.” He took a sip of his beverage.
“What brings you here?”
“I’m trying to put some demons to rest.”
“Ever heard of the breakout at the Cowra prisoner of war camp?”
“Toward the end of the war wasn’t it?”
“Twenty years ago tomorrow. I’m a survivor. Chose not to commit suicide. I need to go back to learn how to live with myself.”
Nearly 950 km to Cowra.”
“Well, I’m still working up my nerve.”
I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image and location as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 149.
Today, the Pegman takes us to The Billinudgel Hotel, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Naturally, I looked the place up. Not much about Billnudgel on Wikipedia, but the hotel has a Facebook page as well as a detailed history at posted at BrunswickValley.com.au.
However, none of that seemed terribly dramatic, so I looked up the history of New South Wales itself, and discovered the Cowra Breakout. During World War Two, the town of Cowra was the site of a prisoner of war camp interning over 1,100 Japanese prisoners. On 4 August 1944, the prisoners led a mass escape which ultimately cost the lives of four Australian soldiers and 231 Japanese POWs. Some were killed during the escape attempt, but many committed suicide rather than be recaptured. All living prisoners were recaptured within ten days of the escape.
I was dismayed to find that Cowra is approximately 947 km (almost 590 miles) from Billinudgel, but made the best of it. My story is set in the summer of 1964, twenty years after the escape.
In 1929, Margaret Alice Ring (Ma Ring) of New Zealand took over running the Billinudgel Hotel, and in 1946, her niece Marge came to Australia to work the bar. Marge remained at the hotel until her retirement in 1984, so I had her present to greet Haruto.
I wondered how the survivors of the escape, the last of whom were repatriated in 1947, dealt with the aftermath, so I decided to use this story to explore it a bit.
To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.