Of The Coat,
Of The Heart
Isobelle Carmody Award
For Creative Writing
“Are you leaving yet?”
Despite her wording, Ma meant no hostility. She wanted me to
deny it. She wanted me to stay.
“Yeah. I leave at dawn.” In the pitch-blackness of the shabby little
two-room house made up of timber and red mud bricks, a bright
lotus blossomed. Ma had lit a candle. The scent overpowering the
smell of rice from last night’s dinner and rotting cabbages stored in
I open the white and yellow daisy-patterned curtains that cover
the only window in the house, it is still dark outside. There are no
stars. The peach trees are scraping their branches against the house
as they cower from the fierce wind. What meagre fruit they
produced would surely fall off and be squished.
I find my uniform, made of a far smoother material than Ma and
I could afford, placing the cap with the bright red star proudly onto
my head. The khaki jacket was still missing my name and blood
“Ma, where’s the thread and needle?”
“I’ll get it.” Her voice rasps. She never wanted me to grow up, or
enter the war. Oldest Brother had died in the war, right after his
marriage. Oldest Sister and Second Sister had died in childbirth. I
was the only one left. And when the first crack of light appears in
the sky, I’ll have to leave.
Ma doesn’t know I’m going to the front line. She doesn’t know
I’ll truly be fighting, with the risk of losing my life every second,
with my heart beating faster than I can count.
“Here.” The small container of our needles and threads is shoved
into my hand. I pick out the red thread, easy it tentatively through
the needle, pricking my finger in the process.
I lick and suck on my bleeding finger, hoping Ma didn’t see the
blood. It’s too late though, there are tears shining in her dark eyes.
“I’m fine, Ma.”
“What do you need the thread for? Let me do it.”
My hands don’t budge.
She reaches forward and takes the needle gingerly with her
steady hands, then pries my fingers off the coat.
“Ma, I’m a grown man. I can do this.”
She sits down at the small table that couldn’t fit more than four
people. “What do I sew on here?”