Wings of a Flying Tiger
By Iris Yang
In the summer of 1942, Danny Hardy bails out of his fighter plane into a remote region of western China. With multiple injuries, malaria, and Japanese troops searching for him, the American pilot’s odds of survival are slim.
Jasmine Bai, an art student who had been saved by Americans during the notorious Nanking Massacre, seems an unlikely heroine to rescue the wounded Flying Tiger. Daisy Bai, Jasmine’s younger cousin, also falls in love with the courageous American.
With the help of Daisy’s brother, an entire village opens its arms to heal a Flying Tiger with injured wings, but as a result of their charity the serenity of their community is forever shattered.
Love, sacrifice, kindness, and bravery all play a part in this heroic tale that takes place during one of the darkest hours of Chinese history.
Jasmine was half asleep when a voice jolted her awake. She didn’t know how long she’d dozed off. It felt like only a minute. Sitting upright, she blinked to bring the world into focus and realized the rickshaw had stopped.
“Get down,” the puller said, an edge of panic in his voice.
“But….” She looked around, rubbing her eyes, confused. “But we’re not there yet.”
“It’s only ten minutes away. I can’t do it anymore.” He grabbed her arm.
Jasmine resisted the pull. “What are you talking about? I’ve already paid. You—”
“There you have it.” The man took the money out of his pocket, thrust it to her, and dragged her off the cart. Two bills slipped out of her grip, floating on the wind.
“Money is useless if one is dead,” he said, picking up the handles. Before she could argue, he turned and ran, leaving her in the middle of a littered street.
Jasmine shook her head as she chased the bills. She snatched one, but the other had blown to the edge of a building and landed at the bottom of an outside basement entrance. Hissing a sigh of irritation, she trod down the steps.
The bill lay on top of a propaganda leaflet. A picture showed a smiling Japanese soldier holding a Chinese baby while giving food to her parents. A few words printed near the Rising Sun flag—“Trust the Japanese Army. We will give you rice to eat, clothes to wear, and a home to live.”
As she picked up the papers, shouts erupted. Gunshots and explosions followed. Instinctively, she hunkered down. With hands over her head, she hid behind the wall, making herself as small as possible. She was afraid to even take a breath.
From her hideaway below street level, she heard a few people pass in a hurry. They were shooting and yelling in Chinese. Her hands covered her ears so she couldn’t make out anything except for a couple of words like “Fire” and “Run.”
Rat-tat-tat-tat. Rapid fire exchanged, and ear-splitting explosions going off. The sound of firearms mingled with yelling and screams.
Soon a much larger group rushed by, shouting in Japanese.
She recoiled. Her fear grew into a full-blown panic. Her body shook uncontrollably. The sickening stench of blood and gunpowder blended with the animal manure. With one arm shielding her head, she jammed her fist into her mouth to prevent her from crying out loud.
Time seemed to stall. To Jasmine, the fighting seemed to go on forever, but it actually lasted only a few minutes. The soldiers moved on, and the area became quiet.
She waited, listening, making sure she was alone before peering out. No one was there—at least no one was standing. Ten yards to her right lay a corpse in the blue cotton Nationalist Army uniform. He was on his face, a mat of blood on his back. Further away, two more Chinese combatants lay on the sidewalk. One man’s chest was a giant red blossom, and half of the other man’s head had been blown off. Stray dogs circled the bodies.
Blood drained from Jasmine’s face. For a second, she stood frozen, immobilized by shock and grief. But she allowed herself only a moment before she jumped to her feet.
She moved as fast as she could. In case she had to hide again, she kept running near the edge of the buildings and paid close attention to the basement entrances or any other hideouts. Rubble from artillery fire, abandoned vehicles, weapons, and Nationalist Army uniforms littered the street.
The ten-minute distance seemed longer than the Great Wall. Luckily she didn’t encounter another soul before reaching the house. She was out of breath. Her chest seemed about to explode. She was trembled so violently that she could hardly stand.
Leaning against the frame, she banged on the door. Huffing and puffing, she yelled at the top of her lungs, “Mom! Dad! Open the door. It’s me, Jasmine. I’m home. Open up!”
Iris Yang (Qing Yang) was born and raised in China. She has loved reading and writing since she was a child, but in China creative writing was a dangerous career. As famous writers and translators, her grandmother and her aunt were wrongfully accused as counter-revolutionary Rightists, so Iris had to choose a safer path—studying science.
After graduating from Wuhan University and passing a series of exams, she was accepted by the prestigious CUSBEA (China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application program). At age 23, with poor English, little knowledge of the country, and 500 borrowed dollars, she came to the United States as a graduate student at the University of Rochester.
Later, she received a Ph.D. in molecular biology, trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and worked at the University of North Carolina. Although she has published a number of scientific papers, she has a passion for creative writing, and her short stories have won contests and have been published in anthologies. Currently, Iris is working on a story based on her grandmother, who was the first Chinese woman to receive a master’s degree in Edinburgh in the UK. Iris now lives between Sedona, Arizona and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Besides writing, she loves hiking, dancing, photography, and travel.
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