So I read kilnorc's piece about Guy Fawkes' Day last week and then smacked myself into doing a period piece for Zoro's birthday. To warn you, I wasn't going for total accuracy here, but I tried to at least make everything flow somewhat. In order to fit the overall feel of the piece, I used a few almost-mild racial slurs (the normal use of which I personally discourage and fail to understand), some acronyms, thoughts and terms of the day, I purposely abused the English language and for some reason I have a really strange sentence structure. Knowledge of the first half of the twentieth century in America is probably a good thing to have when reading this, 'cause I don't really explain much. Period pieces usually need that prior knowledge in order to make sense sometimes. I do not own One Piece, nor am I trying to advocate any side of ethical/political thinking. I am a nerd with no life, therefore there are times when you just have to take me with a grain of salt. If I really meant any harm by this, you'd know it. Since I'm just being a geek and making use of old textbooks laying around my bedroom, I consider this "fun practice". Just in case, I include a few notes at the end. Those aren't mandatory to read.
Child of War
A war is a natural human process and being a child of war, you always seem to be thinkin' 'bout it. Well, that is if that sort of thing matters to you. You think 'bout the war you were born in, or after, and wonder 'bout why it happened just then. When you're really little and don't know things like war, the thought is never really there. Then you get to school and you're learnin' with a twenty-year-old textbook, so you don't really know what happened and that's when you find out. A nice brown cardboard box comes in with shiny new books and their crisp, clean pages that smell so good when you turn them. The teacher tells you that if you mess it up, that it's a whole six dollars to repair. Six dollars is more than many people get nowadays and you know it. That's why when you and your friends all play hooky the next day, you hide the book safely under the loose floorboard in your room under your bed. Not only was that book six dollars, but it is the book you stay up late at night readin' 'bout that war. Fascinatin', really.
Some of your friends know 'bout the war and they frankly don't really care. They weren't born exactly a year after it ended, so it matters less; at least that's what you think. They still play without thinkin' 'bout it. You know that the idiot that sits two desks in front of you in class doesn't think 'bout it. Shucks, he can't even pronounce his own name; he's that stupid in your eyes. The kid can say most everythin' else, but "Sandy" comes out as "Sanji". He's so bad at it that it's what everyone in the gang calls him. They think it sounds Italian or French-like. Sometimes there's a fight 'bout it, 'cause his mama was Italian, but she's dead and the uncle he lives with now is half-French. You always are the one fightin' him somehow, tryin' to smack him with a stick or three, but he kicks really hard like the girls do. Neither of you win, but at least you are both equally mussed when you limp home afterwards. It's worth a scoldin' from your sis Kuina and Dad, as long as the idiot goes home to his uncle with a nice shiny eye and dirt in his mouth.
If only that's all war was: black eyes, dusty hair and ripped clothes that your sister can mend in a jiffy. Then maybe you wouldn't think 'bout it as much anymore. That swell new book the teacher gave you said that we won a war exactly a year before you were born. If we won a war, then how come it doesn't feel like it? People sleep on the street if they can't pay rent 'cause they can't find no jobs anywhere. There's a friend of your sister's who's like that. Her and her mama live in a Hooverville shack in the park on the corner of Hayes and Garfield. She has a little sister in the grade under you who's tough as nails and steals away with you and the guys on a day of hooky. The little red-headed dame is a pickpocket who can take twenty change-purses in a row without breakin' a sweat. Some of the money she gives to her mama, but she makes sure to leave a little behind so that all you guys can have a decent meal. You wouldn't mind it too much if she didn't end up stealin' your nickles or make Sanji be all stupid-servant-like. He'll do anythin' for her. All you guys would do anything for her, but only Sanji is willin' to shout it out on the street. Moron can't say her name either. "Zelda" is too much for him, so he calls her "Nami" like the stupid-head he is.
Nami feeds her best friend all the time, only 'cause no one else will. Your teacher in class talks about how this is a time of peace, his fierce yellow eyes starin' down at you like you did somethin' wrong. All you know is that in this "time of peace", some people aren't allowed to make a decent livin'. Nami introduced the stringy colored boy as "Usopp" and for some reason you didn't like him right away. He is an orphan who pokes around in the same Hooverville Nami lives in. He goes to the black school on the other side of town, 'cause he's not allowed at yours even if his skin is lighter than lots of other colored folk. 'Cause of the fact he's colored, people kick him, hit him and call him names like "coon". You don't, but Sanji one time called him a coon-boy and Nami beat him up right away. No one makes fun of any of her friends and gets away with it, even other friends and the adults. Usopp talks a little funny since he used to live in Alabama and you think everyone from Alabama talks a little funny, but other than that he's just as much like you and the other guys as possible. He's real smart, even though some adults tell you that colored folk are morons and cowards. You know though that he's probably the smartest and bravest out of you all; no one'd throttle you if you get caught goin' through a door with your friends or playin' stickball and tag with them. He says his dad's a man of the Harlem Renaissance and a member of the Lost Generation and that one day he would grow up to be just like him. Somethin' in you wants to believe him, but you don't since you don't know what he's talkin' 'bout.
Luffy believes him though; every single word. He's the same age as Usopp and seems as stupid as Usopp's smart. You think it's 'cause his dad and granpa both came back from the war two different kinds of crazy. Your dad said that when they were in the Army together, Luffy's dad somehow liked the mustard gas and how it made him pass out. A time after Luffy was born, the man started runnin' 'round, yelling nonsense and eventually ran away to work for Lenin and the Bolsheviks. People talked 'bout it for a while, especially after Lenin died and a new guy took over. They both had big ideas and the new one, you think he was called Joe or somethin' like that, he frightened the adults. Joe and Lenin had big ideas and that's what you think made Luffy's dad go to them. Luffy's granpa took him and his mama and half-brother Ace in after his dad left. You remember that one time the old fart told you that every single one of you guys should join up in the Marines when you're older, 'cause that's what he was and he was a damn good one at that. He even said that he could get Usopp in the same squad as all the rest of you, even though colored folk aren't allowed in with the rest. You sort of laugh, 'cause you know that the war you were all born after was the last one. "The War to End All Wars" and the "Great War" was what the adults called it. You're not worried 'bout a war happenin', only that Luffy's brother keeps on flirtin' with your sister. You threaten to beat on him real good, but he can knock you flat in the dust in a flash. That's just 'bout the only time you ever really want to cry, but you can't. Boys and Nami don't cry, otherwise it makes you look like a sissy and none of you all are sissies, even Nami.
Well, there's one boy who cries in your little gang of friends, but that's only 'cause he's real little still and not all that much 'cause he's a sissy. Tony's still pretty new to the city, havin' lived on a farm with his granparents most of his life. He's real good with knowin' what's wrong and all that, so you keep him 'round 'cause he knows when the adults are comin' to catch you playin' in the alley. You and the others follow him and Luffy as they run through the streets, comin' to rest in the big city library. The lady librarian there's real nice-like and friendly. Tony likes Miss Robin 'cause she'll hide everyone from the police when they'll come lookin' for hooligans like you. She'll even have a pitcher of juice and some cookies waitin', just 'cause she knows it'll be the first time you guys have had the chance to eat that day. Not only does she hide you and your gang of friends from policemen and angry shop owners clutchin' stickballs, but she even hides her boyfriend in the library when he's in town. Franky rides the rails, trampin' all over the country lookin' for a place to work and when he's had enough, he comes back and holes up in the library for a few weeks before leavin' again. He tells all you guys stories about what it was like durin' the war and in the twenties, when we didn't think we could do no wrong and how different it is now that some market crashed. You think it's kind of crazy for a market to crash, since markets are places, but you just ignore that and laugh when Franky acts silly just to entertain you all 'cause it's stormin' outside and you're all cooped up there.
Durin' a stormy afternoon like that's often the best time to sit and think 'bout that war. There's tons of books 'bout it in the library, but you don't let the others know you're lookin' at them. You think you're even avoidin' Miss Robin, but soon you find books just kind of laying there in the open, like she put them there for you. It takes a while for Franky to join Robin for lunch in the backroom and all the others are takin' a nap, but once you get the library to yourself, it's pretty nice. It makes you wish you could read a little better and understand some of the bigger words, but you're able to get it eventually. You always make sure that you finish and bring out your comic magazine whenever someone starts to stir. Catchin' you readin' like that would make you out to seem smart or somethin' like that. You still can't help it though. You always feel like you need to know why and stuff like that. Names of places you've never seen become familiar and you figure that you could find your way 'round Europe no problem. From Sarajevo to Argonne, you know every detail you can find in those books and think 'bout how it must have been like for your dad and Luffy's dad and Sanji's uncle and all the other men who fought out there in the war. You dare not ask them, 'cause one time you asked Sanji's uncle and his face turned purple and started screamin' for the gang to get out of his diner. So, you figure it's complicated and leave talkin' to the old soldiers out of the question. That don't mean you're still not interested though. All it means is that you find things out on your own.
In school, the teacher tells you all 'bout how on the day you were born, President Wilson declared it a national holiday. Growin' up, you always saw people celebratin' when it was your birthday, so you naturally thought it was for you. Once you get to school, that's when you learn that it's not for you at all, but for those men who fought and died in the war. The nation was to celebrate the anniversary of Armistice, so they came to call it "Armistice Day" like the uncreative adults they all were. Only your friends and family know or care that Armistice Day is your birthday. Everyone else doesn't care and says that the men of the last war for forever were more important than you'll ever be. It makes you angry as the years go on and soon you just stop carin' 'bout gettin' another year older. It was all kind of pointless and stupid in your eyes.
You grow a bit older and this cripple guy becomes president and starts doin' all this stuff, sayin' he's gonna make everythin' right again. Franky moved in with Robin, sayin' that he found a good job makin' stuff in the WPA... whatever that was. He built all sorts of buildings 'round town and such, actually makin' good money. The day they were old enough, Luffy's granpa sent him and Ace away to work in the CCC, sayin' them plantin' trees and buildin' roads would build character so they could become strong Marines one day. Nami and Sanji both ran away for some reason, leavin' you left with just Usopp and Tony. Usopp was good at fixin' radios so that people could listen to their fireside chats and soap opera dramas, but everyone thought that it was you and Tony who fixed them, bein' as the three of you somehow scraped together enough money to get a really small shop where you three lived in the back. Usopp would fix the radios in a jiffy, under the disguise of hired help. You all were happier than some people were, since you were all together. It was a bit lonely without Luffy or Nami or Sanji, but sometimes you'd get a letter from one of them and then bring it to the library to read it to everyone excited-like. You almost forgot 'bout the war and the clean, new textbook given to you by the strictest teacher ever and those rainy days spent wanderin' the history section of the library. Things were still bad, but they were gettin' better, so you were told on the radio. In fact, your twenty-second birthday was almost a happy one.
Then you remember and everythin' began goin' wrong again. They said that your birthday was to remember and celebrate the end of the Great War, but then all of a sudden, there is war again. You get drafted and Usopp goes right along behind you. They send you both over to Europe as boys and expect you to come home men. In fact, you're only a little younger than your dad was when he was sent off to war. The places you read about as a kid suddenly became your reality. It made you think 'bout your birthday and such as you sat there in the cold rain, rifle at ready and sittin' back-to-back with Usopp so that the two of you didn't fall asleep layin' in the mud. The romance and mystery of war was gone. At least you were thankful Luffy's granpa somehow pulled strings to keep you and Usopp together. For those years the two of you wandered 'round Europe together, meetin' locals and havin' a grand old time shootin' things and listenin' to the Glenn Miller records some lucky grunt was able to sneak overseas. You're the perfect Sniper/Spotter team and knowin' that somehow made the war a bit better. That still didn't change the fact that you'd be awake later than Usopp, thinkin' 'bout everything. You would listen to reports on the radio 'bout the war in Africa and the Pacific, thinkin' the Brits and the Navy were mad, but then you figure you're just as crazy as they are.
One day in early May, you're told that the war in Europe is won. You look 'round and see the same old things that you saw the day before. Nothin' looks like it's changed. You and Usopp decide that you're both going back home to Tony as soon as you can. It takes a while and well after September, when the entire war's done, you're allowed to go home. Everythin' still seems the same, no matter how many times you walk past it and once you finally get home, it's no different than when you left it. You and Usopp walk into the little shop you guys left with Tony, only to find it's closed up and there's a note for you to meet at the library. The two of you go, walkin' right into the best surprise possible.
Everyone was there. Luffy looked kind of scraggly and worn, like he'd been livin' in some cold backwood all this time. Tony seemed to have grown, now a man that would have been drafted just like you and Usopp were had the war still been going on. Franky and Miss Robin still stood there like they're all your parents or somethin' like that, though not quite anymore. Sanji apparently was just taken off from the bus home, not even changed out of his bright white Navy uniform. Nami was the biggest shock, being as the last time you saw her she was a scrappy tomboy and now she's a full-fledged woman. Everyone's smilin' like you all would way back when the library was a fun place to hide from the adults and the world. That's when they metaphorically sock you in the jaw by bringin' out a cake from the backroom and settin' it in front of you.
You laugh 'cause you realize you lost track of the days when you were tryin' to get home. How can you be happy when your birthday is the same day everyone celebrates war? Nami smacks you for it: somethin' you almost missed all the time she was gone. She orders you to blow out the candles and you do, just so that she won't hit you again. You know you're going to have to get her back for hittin' you; maybe in the backroom later on would do, provided Franky and Miss Robin aren't usin' it already.
The cake is cut and you still can't help but to think 'bout it. You were born after a war, on the first Armistice Day. You grew up in a war between the people and their tryin' to make a livin' and survive. You just got home from a war where you and one of your best friends shot people so that you wouldn't have to go back to that crab superior of yours and face the wrath of him and his two cigars. Those cigars were disgustin'. Still, you wonder if the day you were born ever really existed. You've always known some kind of war, near the whole time being aware. You think about if the war is ever really gonna stop.
As you were comin' home, you heard people talk 'bout how we should from now on use words to fight our battles instead of riskin' lives overseas. You laughed at this too, since it made you remember when you and Sanji would fight as kids. Nami'd try to get you both to use words, but you always ended up rollin' in the dirt anyways. You were friends again after you fought and stayed friends until you fought again. Thinkin' 'bout war and stuff made you realize that all people are like you and that moron when you were kids. Sometimes the fights are smaller than others, but words alone never spoke loud enough. A war is just children fist-fightin' on a larger scale. You realize that everyone is the child of some war, makin' it so that you in your starched Army Greens not too much different from the aircraft carrier chef standin' a few feet away, flirtin' with Nami. You're no different from anyone else in the room, so what made you think 'bout it so much? You finish your cake and set the plate down on the counter.
Happy Birthday indeed.
Hooverville: a slum of ramshackle huts found often in cities during the Great Depression of the 1930's and were named after the President at the start of the Depression, Herbert Hoover.
Harlem Renaissance: a movement in the fie arts during the 1920's with a predominantly African-American sound and feel, generating from the Harlem sector of New York City. Think Langston Hughes.
Lost Generation: a group of writers in the 1920's and 30's who were generally depressed, disillusioned and hated other people. Some of more famous of these were Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Lenin, Bolsheviks and "Joe": the Bolsheviks are the group that wound up the Russian Revolution in 1917, V. I. Lenin being their leader. "Joe" refers to Stalin
Armistice Day: the original name of "Veteran's Day".
"Cripple guy": a less-than-complimentary way of saying "Franklin Roosevelt". He was quite the effective leader during depression and war, due to insane amounts of charisma and people skills.
WPA and CCC: groups that created jobs using building projects and creating parks, among other things.
WWII: a war with essentially three fronts: Europe, the Pacific Ocean and Africa. Most people forget Africa, despite the film Casablanca.