Hello, friends. Earlier this month, I started writing Part 3 of Monsoon Season. I’m trying to be less secretive about my work-in-progress, so today I’m posting an excerpt from this week’s work. It might make the final cut; it might not.
The speaker is Chen Liling, a young Chinese Communist guerrilla in Japanese-occupied Malaya.
April 18, 1945
Here is a measure of how long we’ve been in the jungle: when the Japanese invaded in 1942, the Allies had no planes capable of the long flight from India to Malaya and back. As a result we had few supplies, no air cover, and no air defense apart from a handful of Brewster Buffaloes: barrel-shaped oddities that were too slow, too unstable to be any good against Japanese planes. It was like fighting machine-guns with muskets. The Buffalo pilots were heroes. Such unnecessary heroes.
Now, three years later, there are massive new planes called Liberators: absurdly unstealthy, they gleam like spaceships, roar like nothing on earth. They’re so big they need about a mile to turn around. And they fly to our camp, from India, to drop tonnes – literally, tonnes – of supplies. I’ve no clue what the Japanese are doing in defense, but the Lib pilots have come through every time. Not a single one shot down, let alone damaged.
And here is a measure of how little things have changed: the British insist on using white parachutes! There are only a few ways to arrange supplies drops onto occupied territory: at dawn, at dusk, and by moonlight. Dawn is too dangerous for the pilots, who would have to make the return journey in broad daylight. Dusk makes it too difficult for us to receive the drops: we’d be ferrying the goods up to camp in blackness. And so we are confined to moonlight drops, which are possible on only four or five nights each month, around the time of the full moon. The Libs shine like beacons and drop dozens of white silk chutes, each of which look incandescent in the moonlight and are visible for miles around. It’s a magnificent sight – and the height of arrogance and folly. I have asked, repeatedly, for dark-coloured chutes. And I have been ignored.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. As a Malayan, as a Communist, as a woman, that is what I ought to expect. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried. Perhaps I forgot my place when it comes to asking. But I’ve spent the past three years losing my place. Repeatedly. Everything’s been shaken loose and we might never find the old order again. If it doesn’t occur to Allied bloody Command to drop dark chutes, why not listen to what a soldier in the field has to say, even if that soldier is Chinese and Communist and female?
I know it’s hard to make sense of things plucked out of context like this, but I hope you enjoyed this anyway. And please let me know: I was thinking of posting bits like this on a regular basis. Should I?