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EVACUATION ORDER NO. 19
The sign had appeared overnight. On billboards
and trees and the backs of the bus-stop benches.
It hung in the window of Woolworth's. It hung
by the entrance to the YMCA. It was stapled to the door
of the municipal court and nailed, at eye level, to every
telephone pole along University Avenue. The woman
was returning a book to the library when she saw the
sign in a post office window. It was a sunny day in
Berkeley in the spring of 1942 and she was wearing new
glasses and could see everything clearly for the first time
in weeks. She no longer had to squint but she squinted
out of habit anyway. She read the sign from top to bottom
and then, still squinting, she took out a pen and read
the sign from top to bottom again. The print was small
and dark. Some of it was tiny. She wrote down a few
words on the back of a bank receipt, then turned around
and went home and began to pack.
When the overdue notice from the library arrived in
the mail nine days later she still had not finished packing.
The children had just left for school and boxes and
suitcases were scattered across the floor of the house.
She tossed the envelope into the nearest suitcase and
walked out the door.
Outside the sun was warm and the palm fronds were
clacking idly against the side of the house. She pulled on
her white silk gloves and began to walk east on Ashby.
She crossed California Street and bought several bars of
Lux soap and a large jar of face cream at the Rumford
Pharmacy. She passed the thrift shop and the boardedup
grocery but saw no one she knew on the sidewalk.
At the newsstand on the corner of Grove she bought a
copy of the Berkeley Gazette. She scanned the headlines
quickly. The Burma Road had been severed and one of
the Dionne quintuplets -- Yvonne -- was still recovering
from an ear operation. Sugar rationing would begin on
Tuesday. She folded the paper in half but was careful not
to let the ink darken her gloves.
At Lundy's Hardware she stopped and looked at the
display of victory garden shovels in the window. They
were well-made shovels with sturdy metal handles and
she thought, for a moment, of buying one -- the price
was right and she did not like to pass up a bargain. Then
she remembered that she already had a shovel at home
in the shed. In fact, she had two. She did not need a
third. She smoothed down her dress and went into the
"Nice glasses," Joe Lundy said the moment she
walked through the door.
"You think?" she asked. "I'm not used to them yet."
She picked up a hammer and gripped the handle firmly.
"Do you have anything bigger?" she asked. Joe Lundy
said that what she had in her hand was the biggest hammer
he had. She put the hammer back on the rack.
"How's your roof holding out?" he asked her.
"I think the shingles are rotting. It just sprung
"It's been a wet year."
The woman nodded. "But we've had some nice days."
She walked past the venetian blinds and the blackout
shades to the back of the store. She picked out two
rolls of tape and a ball of twine and brought them back
to the register. "Every time it rains I have to set out
the bucket," she said. She put down two quarters on the
"Nothing wrong with a bucket," said Joe Lundy. He
pushed the quarters back toward her across the counter
but he did not look at her. "You can pay me later," he
said. Then he began to wipe the side of the register with
a rag. There was a dark stain there that would not go
"I can pay you now," said the woman.
"Don't worry about it," said Joe Lundy. He reached
into his shirt pocket and gave her two caramel candies
wrapped in gold foil. "For the children," he said. She
slipped the caramels into her purse but left the money.
She thanked him for the candy and walked out of the
"That's a nice red dress," he called out after her.
She turned around and squinted at him over the top
of her glasses. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you, Joe."
Then the door slammed behind her and she was alone
on the sidewalk and she realized that in all the years she
had been going to Joe Lundy's store she had never
before called him by his name. Joe. It sounded strange
to her. Wrong, almost. But she had said it. She had said
it out loud. She wished she had said it earlier.
She wiped her forehead with her handkerchief. The
sun was bright and she did not like to sweat in public.
She took off her glasses and crossed to the shady side
of the street. At the corner of Shattuck she took the
streetcar downtown. She got off at Kittredge and went
into J. F. Hink's department store and asked the salesman
if they had any duffel bags but they did not, they
were all sold out. He had sold the last one a half-hour
ago. He suggested she try J. C. Penney's but they were
sold out of duffel bags there too. They were sold out of
duffel bags all over town.
When she got home the woman took off her red
dress and put on her faded blue one -- her housedress.
She twisted her hair up into a bun and put on an old pair
of comfortable shoes. She had to finish packing. She
rolled up the Oriental rug in the living room. She took
down the mirrors. She took down the curtains and
shades. She carried the tiny bonsai tree out into the yard
and set it down on the grass beneath the eaves where it
would not get too much shade or too much sun but just
the right amount of each. She brought the wind-up Victrola
and the Westminster chime clock downstairs to the
Upstairs, in the boy's room, she unpinned the One
World One War map of the world from the wall and
folded it neatly along the crease lines. She wrapped up
his stamp collection and the painted wooden Indian
with the long headdress he had won at the Sacramento
State Fair. She pulled out the Joe Palooka comic books
from under his bed. She emptied the drawers. Some of
his clothes -- the clothes he would need -- she left out for
him to put into his suitcase later. She placed his baseball
glove on his pillow. The rest of his things she put into
boxes and carried into the sunroom.
The door to the girl's room was closed. Above the
doorknob was a note that had not been there the day
before. It said DO NOT DISTURB. The woman did not
open the door. She went down the stairs and removed
the pictures from the walls. There were only three: the
painting of Princess Elizabeth that hung in the dining
room, the picture of Jesus in the foyer, and in the
kitchen, a framed reproduction of Millet's The Gleaners.
She placed Jesus and the little Princess together facedown
in a box. She made sure to put Jesus on top. She
took The Gleaners out of its frame and looked at the picture
one last time. She wondered why she had let it hang
in the kitchen for so long. It bothered her, the way those
peasants were forever bent over above that endless field
of wheat. "Look up" she wanted to say to them. "Look
up, look up!" The Gleaners, she decided, would have to
go. She set the picture outside with the garbage.
In the living room she emptied all the books from
the shelves except Audubon's Birds of America. In the
kitchen she emptied the cupboards. She set aside a few
things for later that evening. Everything else -- the
china, the crystal, the set of ivory chopsticks her mother
had sent to her fifteen years ago from Kagoshima on her
wedding day -- she put into boxes. She taped the boxes
shut with the tape she had bought from Lundy's Hardware
and carried them one by one up the stairs to the
sunroom. When she was done she locked the door with
two padlocks and sat down on the landing with her
dress pushed up above her knees and lit a cigarette.
Tomorrow she and the children would be leaving. She
did not know where they were going or how long they
would be gone or who would be living in their house
while they were away. She knew only that tomorrow
they had to go.
There were things they could take with them: bedding
and linen, forks, spoons, plates, bowls, cups, clothes.
These were the words she had written down on the back
of the bank receipt. Pets were not allowed. That was
what the sign had said.
It was late April. It was the fourth week of the fifth
month of the war and the woman, who did not always
follow the rules, followed the rules. She gave the cat
to the Greers next door. She caught the chicken that
had been running wild in the yard since the fall and
snapped its neck beneath the handle of a broomstick.
She plucked out the feathers and set the carcass into a
pan of cold water in the sink.
By early afternoon her handkerchief was soaked.
She was breathing hard and her nose was itching from
the dust. Her back ached. She slipped off her shoes
and massaged the bunions on her feet, then went into
the kitchen and turned on the radio. Enrico Caruso
was singing "La donna è mobile" again. His voice was
full and sweet. She opened the icebox and took out a
plate of rice balls stuffed with pickled plums. She ate
them slowly as she listened to the tenor sing. The plums
were dark and sour. They were just the way she liked
When the aria was over she turned off the radio and
put two rice balls into a blue bowl. She cracked an egg
over the bowl and added some salmon she had cooked
the night before. She brought the bowl outside to the
back porch and set it down on the steps. Her back was
throbbing but she stood up straight and clapped her
hands three times.
A small white dog came limping out of the trees.
"Eat up, White Dog," she said. White Dog was old
and ailing but he knew how to eat. His head bobbed up
and down above the bowl. The woman sat down beside
him and watched. When the bowl was empty he looked
up at her. One of his eyes was clouded over. She rubbed
his stomach and his tail thumped against the wooden
"Good dog," she said.
She stood up and walked across the yard and White
Dog followed her. The narcissus in the garden were
white with mildew and the irises were beginning to wilt.
Weeds were everywhere. The woman had not mowed
the grass for months. Her husband usually did that. She
had not seen her husband since his arrest last December.
First he had been sent to Fort Missoula, Montana, on a
train and then he had been transferred to Fort Sam
Houston, Texas. Every few days he was allowed to
write her a letter. Usually he told her about the weather.
The weather at Fort Sam Houston was fine. On the back
of every envelope was stamped "Censored, War Department,"
or "Detained Alien Enemy Mail."
The woman sat down on a rock beneath the persimmon
tree. White Dog lay at her feet and closed his eyes.
"White Dog," she said, "look at me." White Dog raised
his head. The woman was his mistress and he did whatever
she asked. She put on her white silk gloves and
took out a roll of twine. "Now just keep looking at me,"
she said. She tied White Dog to the tree. "You've been a
good dog," she said. "You've been a good white dog."
Somewhere in the distance a telephone rang. White
Dog barked. "Hush," she said. White Dog grew quiet.
"Now roll over," she said. White Dog rolled over and
looked up at her with his good eye. "Play dead," she
said. White Dog turned his head to the side and closed
his eyes. His paws went limp. The woman picked up the
large shovel that was leaning against the trunk of the
tree. She lifted it high in the air with both hands and
brought the blade down swiftly on his head. White
Dog's body shuddered twice and his hind legs kicked
out into the air, as though he were trying to run. Then he
grew still. A trickle of blood seeped out from the corner
of his mouth. She untied him from the tree and let out a
deep breath. The shovel had been the right choice. Better,
she thought, than a hammer.
Beneath the tree she began to dig a hole. The soil was
hard on top but soft and loamy beneath the surface. It
gave way easily. She plunged the shovel into the earth
again and again until the hole was deep. She picked up
White Dog and dropped him into the hole. His body
was not heavy. It hit the earth with a quiet thud. She
pulled off her gloves and looked at them. They were no
longer white. She dropped them into the hole and
picked up the shovel again. She filled up the hole. The
sun was hot and the only place there was any shade was
beneath the trees. The woman was standing beneath the
trees. She was forty-one and tired. The back of her dress
was drenched with sweat. She brushed her hair out of
her eyes and leaned against the tree. Everything looked
the same except the earth was a little darker where the
hole had been. Darker and wetter. She plucked a leaf
from a low-hanging branch and went back inside the
When the children came home from school she
reminded them that early the next morning they would
be leaving. Tomorrow they were going on a trip. They
could bring with them only what they could carry.
"I already know that," said the girl. She wore a white
cotton frock with tiny blue anchors and her hair was
pulled back in two tight black braids. She tossed her
books onto the sofa and told the woman that her teacher,
Mr. Rutherford, had talked for an entire hour about
prime numbers and coniferous trees.
"Do you know what a coniferous tree is?" the girl
The woman had to admit that she did not. "Tell me,"
she said, but the girl just shook her head no.
"I'll tell you later," said the girl. She was ten years old
and she knew what she liked. Boys and black licorice
and Dorothy Lamour. Her favorite song on the radio
was "Don't Fence Me In." She adored her pet macaw.
She went to the bookshelf and took down Birds of
America. She balanced the book on her head and walked
slowly, her spine held erect, up the stairs to her room.
A few seconds later there was a loud thump and the
book came tumbling back down the stairs. The boy
looked up at his mother. He was seven and a small black
fedora was tilted to one side of his head. "She has to
stand up straighter," he said softly. He went to the foot
of the stairs and stared at the book. It had landed face
open to a picture of a small brown bird. A marsh wren.
"You have to stand up straighter," he shouted.
"It's not that," came the girl's reply, "it's my head."
"What's wrong with your head?" shouted the boy.
"Too round. Too round on top."
He closed the book and turned to his mother.
"Where's White Dog?" he asked.
He went out to the porch and clapped his hands three
"White Dog!" he yelled. He clapped his hands again.
"White Dog!" He called out several more times, then
went back inside and stood beside the woman in the
kitchen. She was slicing apples. Her fingers were long
and white and they knew how to hold a knife. "That dog
just gets deafer every day," he said.
He sat down and turned the radio on and off, on and
off, while she arranged the apples on a plate. The Radio
City Symphony was performing the last movement of
Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. Cymbals were crashing.
Cannons boomed. She set the plate down in front of the
boy. "Eat," she said. He reached for a slice of apple
just as the audience burst into applause. "Bravo," they
shouted, "bravo, bravo!" The boy turned the dial to see
if he could find Speaking of Sports but all he could find
was the news and a Sammy Kaye serenade. He turned
off the radio and took another slice of apple from the
"It's so hot in here," he said.
"Take off your hat then," said the woman but the boy
refused. The hat was a present from his father. It was big
on him but the boy wore it every day. She poured him a
glass of cold barley water and he drank it all in one gulp.
The girl came into the kitchen and went to the
macaw's cage by the stove. She leaned over and put her
face close to the bars. "Tell me something," she said.
The bird fluffed his wings and danced from side to
side on his perch. "Baaaak," he said.
"That's not what I wanted to hear," said the girl.
"Take off your hat," said the bird.
The girl sat down and the woman gave her a glass of
cold barley water and a long silver spoon. The girl licked
the spoon and stared at her reflection. Her head was
upside down. She dipped the spoon into the sugar bowl.
"Is there anything wrong with my face?" she asked.
"Why?" said the woman.
"People were staring."
"Come over here," said the woman.
The girl stood up and walked over to her mother.
"Let me look at you."
"You took down the mirrors," the girl said.
"I had to. I had to put them away."
"Tell me how I look."
The woman ran her hands across the girl's face. "You
look fine," she said. "You have a fine nose."
"What else?" asked the girl.
"You have a fine set of teeth."
"Teeth don't count."
"Teeth are essential."
The woman began to rub the girl's shoulders. She
told the girl to lean back and close her eyes and then she
pressed her fingers deep into the girl's neck until she felt
her begin to relax. "If there was something wrong with
my face," the girl asked, "would you tell me?"
"Turn around," the woman said.
The girl turned around.
"Now look at me."
The girl looked at her.
"You have the most beautiful face I have ever seen."
"You're just saying that."
"No, I mean it."
The boy turned on the radio. The weatherman was
giving the forecast for the next day. He was predicting
rain and cooler temperatures. "Sit down and drink your
water," the boy said to his sister. "Don't forget to take
your umbrella tomorrow," said the weatherman.
The girl sat down. She drank her barley water and
began to tell the woman all about coniferous trees. Most
of them were evergreens but some were just shrubs. Not
all of them had cones. Some of them, like the yew, only
"That's good to know," said the woman. Then she
stood up and told the girl it was time to practice the
piano for Thursday's lesson.
"Do I have to?"
The woman thought for a moment. "No," she said,
"only if you want to."
"Tell me I have to."
The girl went out to the living room and sat down
on the piano bench. "The metronome's gone," she called
"Just count to yourself then," said the woman.
" . . . three, five, seven . . . " The girl put
down her knife and paused. They were eating supper at
the table. Outside it was dusk. The sky was dark purple
and a breeze was blowing in off the bay. Hundreds of
jays were twittering madly in the Greers' magnolia tree
next door. A drop of rain fell on the ledge above the
kitchen sink and the woman stood up and closed the
"Eleven, thirteen," said the girl. She was practicing
her prime numbers for Monday's test.
"Sixteen?" said the boy.
"No," said the girl. "Sixteen's got a square root."
"I forgot," said the boy. He picked up a drumstick
and began to eat.
"You never knew," said the girl.
"Forty-one," said the boy. "Eighty-six." He wiped his
mouth with a napkin. "Twelve," he added.
The girl looked at him. Then she turned to her
mother. "There's something wrong with this chicken,"
she said. "It's too tough." She put down her fork. "I can't
swallow another bite."
"Don't, then," said the woman.
"I'll eat it," said the boy. He plucked a wing from his
sister's plate and put it into his mouth. He ate the whole
thing. Then he spit out the bones and asked his mother
where they were going the next day.
"I don't know," the woman said.
The girl stood up and left the table. She sat down at
the piano and began to play a piece by Debussy from
memory. "Golliwogg's Cake Walk." The melody was
slow and simple. She had played it at a recital the summer
before. Her father had sat in the front row of the
audience and when she was finished he had clapped and
clapped. She played the piece all the way through without missing a note. When she began to play it a second
time the boy got up and went to his room and began to
The first thing he put inside of his suitcase was his
baseball glove. He slipped it into the large pocket with
the red satin lining. The pocket bulged. He threw in his
clothes and tried to close the lid but the suitcase was
very full. He sat on top of it and the lid sank down
slowly. Suddenly he stood up again. The lid sprang
open. There was something he had forgotten. He went
to the closet in the hall and brought back his polkadotted
umbrella. He held it out at arm's length and
shook his head sadly. The umbrella was too long. There
was no way it would fit inside the suitcase.
The woman stood alone in the kitchen, washing
her hands. The children had gone to bed and the
house was quiet. The pipes were still hot from the day
and the water from the faucet was warm. She could hear
thunder in the distance -- thunder and, from somewhere
far off in the night, the faint wail of a siren. She looked
out the window above the sink. The sky was still clear
and she could see a full moon through the branches of
the maple tree. The maple was a sapling with delicate
leaves that turned bright red in the fall. Her husband
had planted it for her four summers ago. She turned off
the tap and looked around for the dish towel but it was
not there. She had already packed the towels. They
were in the suitcase by the door in the hall.
She dried her hands on the front of her dress and
went to the birdcage. She lifted off the green cloth and
undid the wire clasp on the door. "Come on out," she
said. The bird stepped cautiously onto her hand and
looked at her. "It's only me," she said. The bird blinked.
His eyes were black and bulbous. They had no center.
"Get over here," he said, "get over here now." He
sounded just like her husband. If she closed her eyes she
could easily imagine that her husband was right there in
the room with her.
The woman did not close her eyes. She knew exactly
where her husband was. He was sleeping on a cot -- a
cot or maybe a bunk bed -- somewhere in a tent at Fort
Sam Houston where the weather was always fine. She
pictured him lying there with one arm flung across his
eyes and then she kissed the top of the bird's head.
"I am right here," she said. "I am right here, right
She gave the bird a sunflower seed and he cracked
the shell open in his beak. "Get over here," he said again.
She opened the window and set the bird out on the
"You're all right," the bird said.
She stroked the underside of his chin and he closed
his eyes. "Silly bird," she whispered. She closed the window and locked it. Now the bird was outside on the
other side of the glass. He tapped the pane three times
with his claw and said something but she did not know
what it was. She could not hear him anymore.
She rapped back.
"Go," she said. The bird flapped his wings and flew
up into the maple tree. She grabbed the broom from
behind the stove and went outside and shook the
branches of the tree. A spray of water fell from the
leaves. "Go," she shouted. "Get on out of here."
The bird spread his wings and flew off into the night.
She went back inside the kitchen and took out a bottle
of plum wine from beneath the sink. Without the bird
in the cage, the house felt empty. She sat down on the
floor and put the bottle to her lips. She swallowed once
and looked at the place on the wall where The Gleaners
had hung. The white rectangle was glowing in the
moonlight. She stood up and traced around its edges
with her finger and began to laugh -- quietly at first, but
soon her shoulders were heaving and she was gasping
for breath. She put down the bottle and waited for
the laughter to stop but it would not, it kept on coming
until finally the tears were running down her cheeks.
She picked up the bottle again and drank. The wine
was dark and sweet. She had made it herself last fall.
She took out her handkerchief and wiped her mouth.
Her lips left a dark stain on the cloth. She put the cork
back into the bottle and pushed it in as far as it would go.
"La donna è mobile," she sang to herself as she went down
the stairs to the basement. She hid the bottle behind the
old rusted furnace where no one would ever find it.
In the middle of the night the boy crawled into her
bed and asked her, over and over again, "What is that
funny noise? What is that funny noise?"
The woman smoothed down his black hair. "Rain,"
The boy understood. He fell asleep at once. The thunder
had come and gone and except for the sound of the
rain the house was now quiet. The woman lay awake
worrying about the leaky roof. Her husband had meant
to fix it but he never had. She got up and placed a tin
bucket on the floor to catch the water. She felt better
after she did that. She climbed back into bed beside the
boy and pulled the blanket up around his shoulders. He
was chewing in his sleep and she wondered if he was
hungry. Then she remembered the candy in her purse.
The caramels. She had forgotten about the caramels.
What would Joe Lundy say? He would tell her she was
wearing a nice red dress. He would tell her not to worry
about it. She knew that. She closed her eyes. She would
give the caramels to the children in the morning. That
was what she would do. She whispered a silent prayer
to herself and drifted off to sleep as the water dripped
steadily into the bucket. The boy shrugged off the blanket
and rolled up against the wall where it was cool. In a
few hours he and the girl and their mother would wake
up and go to the Civil Control Station at the First Congregational
Church on Channing Way. Then they would
pin their identification numbers to their collars and grab
their suitcases and climb up onto the bus and go to
wherever it was they had to go.