Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s seri- alized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel began with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Florida and Japan.
Haru’s eyes searched the sea. Kame saw it first.
“To the right, maybe 30 j (100 meters) away . . .” she called out.
Haru saw the moving fin and looked back at Kenji and Sam, who were within a dozen strokes of reach- ing the bleeding diver. She could tell by the expres- sion on their faces that they had no clue of the ap- proaching danger. Her screams of “shark!” were lost amidst their frantic strokes and kicks.
As they drew within feet of the bull and the diver, Sam shouted something to Kenji, who nodded his head. He swam to the wounded man who had begun to go under. Sam moved in front of the bull like a matador.
Passengers on both ships were trying to catch their attention, shouting, “Shark!”
Haru’s terrified eyes stared as the shark zigzagged toward its human prey. Finally, the approaching gray fin caught Sam’s eye. Haru watched as he looked up at the men waving at him from the deck of the cattle boat. Sam gestured to them, sliding the side of his hand across his throat.
Deckhands immediately dropped half a dozen ma- chetes into the water. The long, knives with wooden handles hit the water and bobbed up. Sam grabbed the one closest to him and kicked toward the thrash- ing steer.
Haru’s eyes searched desperately for Kenji. He had disappeared, and so had the diver. Then Sam was gone, too. The gray fin sped straight toward the discolored spot in the water. Haru shuddered when she saw the shark’s mouth open wide, displaying two vicious racks of teeth. Kenji was going to die. Haru wanted to turn away from the impending horror, but she could not bring herself to take her eyes off the shark.
Sam rose out of the water in front of the steer, ma- chete in hand, and sliced the steer’s neck, pushing off from its breast. He had traveled the distance of two backstrokes when the frenzied shark bumped past Kenji and tore into the richer source of blood.
Haru shifted her eyes from the bloody collision to the sea. The empty sea. Sam had distracted the shark, but it was too late. The flaying sea foamed purple and red.
“Look!” shouted Kame.
Kenji’s head bobbed in the water. One of his hands held the wounded diver by his hair. Kenji flipped on his back. Haru watched his chest heave convulsively as he gasped for air while kicking toward the ship, where he grabbed the harness, rolled onto the sling and pulled the rescued diver after him. Right be- hind him was Sam, who slithered onto the sling and signaled an “OK” to the sling operator. The leather apron rose out of the water 20 yards from where the shark was tearing the cow to savory pieces.
Haru nearly collapsed in relief. “The Lord Buddha has saved Kenji for a purpose,” she told herself. “I will help him find it.”
“What kind of land have we found?” asked Kame.
Haru looked across to the ship carrying Kenji and Sam. A sailor was reaching for the end of the sling and helping to guide it to the deck, where Kenji and Sam stepped off, onto the ship.
She turned to Kame. “What kind of land have we found? You mean, what kind of husbands have we found?”
The harness for Haru and Kame operated on the same principle as the one used for the cattle, except instead of riding a belly sling, the two brides sat side-by-side in a leather seat bucket smoothed by thousands of bottoms over the years. The boom lifted them off the deck and carried them toward the out- stretched arms of their husbands, who were balanc- ing in a whaleboat.
“We like to give new arrivals a show,” said Sam, smiling mischievously once Kame and Haru were seated safe and sound on a damp bench near the bow.
Two muscular Hawaiians began paddling the whaleboat toward shore. They broke into an old Hawaiian melody that matched the strokes of their paddles. Sam won wide smiles by singing along with the refrain.
When the song ended, Kame pointed to crystal-lad- en pools in the mud flats at the far end of the beach. “Those look like the salt ponds we have in Okinawa.”
“We need the salt for the cattle,” Sam explained. “And we sell the surplus to other ranches.”
The shanties of Kawaihae, strung in no particular order along the black lava beach, reminded Haru of her family’s lean-to in Funanoo-machi. Laundry flapped in the wind, almost keeping sync with the swaying sawgrass blanketing the dunes at the back of the beach. Drying fishing nets covered the scrawny kiawe trees. Beneath the branches, children in short pants played with a ball.
Haru was distracted by the sight of trotting horses to her right. A pair of paniolo drew up their mounts in front of a tall Caucasian man. His commanding pres- ence held Haru’s attention. As the boat drew closer to the shore, she noticed the man’s sandy-colored hair flaring out from under his white Stetson. His piercing eyes were accented by high cheekbones and a bushy mustache lorded over his protruding jaw. Haru recalled the day she had watched the emperor enter Yasukuni Shrine.
Sam interrupted Haru’s speculation. “That’s the man who saved Parker Ranch.”
“What do you mean ‘saved?’” she asked.
“Five years ago, the ranch was down to the sorriest 5,000 heads of cattle the world has ever seen. Now we’re up to 15,000 well-bred Herefords feeding on good grass.”
As Sam spoke, the tall man turned toward their boat. His wide smile exuded warmth as he raised a hand in greeting.
As Haru raised her hand to wave back, the whale- boat scraped the sand and she lurched forward. Regaining her balance, she raised her yukata with one hand and her geta with the other and stepped out of the boat. Walking through the ankle-deep water, it occurred to her that she was now walking upon new home.
A sudden movement on a granite overhang caught Haru’s eye. A solitary figure dressed in a purple robe stomped to the edge. His hairless head appeared too small for his short, slender body. He planted his feet wide apart and folded his arms like Genghis Khan surveying his troops. His malignant eyes locked on Haru’s. He stared like a fox gazing at a rabbit.
A shiver ran up Haru’s spine, but she refused to lower her eyes. She remembered her father Kiyoshi’s lectures to his young monks: “Never look away from a man challenging you.”
As a woman, she never thought such advice would ever apply to her. But, now, as the wife of the new Buddhist priest, she was sure it did.
“That’s the Shinto priest, the one man who does not welcome your arrival, Haru-Sensei,” said Sam, walk- ing barefoot out of the surf and onto the beach.
“He looks like one of those village shamans,” said Kenji.
“I doubt you have met anyone like him on O‘ahu. He’s been here 20 years and considers Waimea his fiefdom. He’s another reason why we need a real priest, Reverend.”
“Why’s that?” asked Kenji. “He organizes fujinkai groups among the women to collect and send the workers’ savings to Japan for its wars in China and Russia. He recruits young women as so-called acolytes. He serves kava at occasional services that are more like sorcery. They start and end with everyone bowing to Japan while reciting alle- giance to the emperor. He feeds the haole’s fears about Japan adding Hawai‘i to their empire.”
When the shaman shifted his angry gaze to Sam, the cowboy ignored him. Haru dropped her eyes and turned back to the imposing man in the Stetson. He was walking beside the wounded diver being carried from the longboat. Another Caucasian man ran up to the procession and began pressing a folded white cloth on the injured man’s abdomen.
“That’s the vet,” said Sam. “If he cleans the wound right, and if the horns didn’t go in too deep, the diver will recover in a week or so.”
The melodic sound of the Hawaiian greeting prompted Haru to search out its source. Walking towards her barefoot, in flowing mu‘umu‘u, were four Hawaiian women. They held out sweet-scented gin- ger lei. Haru greeted the girl across with her a warm smile and spoke her second Hawaiian word, “Ma- halo,” as the girl placed the garland around her neck.
“Irasshai!” called the women, who, obviously, had learned the Japanese greeting of welcome. Their smiles widened upon seeing Haru’s cheerful face.
A small contingent of Japanese paniolo and fisher- men ambled over. They bowed and introduced them- selves. Two of the Hawaiian women had Japanese last names.
“We have waited years for you, Takayama-san,” said one of the bare-chested men. The others smiled and nodded in agreement.
A buoyant Haru looked at Sam. “It seems so strange — these Japanese men with such big wives.”
“Hawaiian women have land,” said Sam, scratch- ing a mosquito bite under his chin. Sam paused as if he were about to add something else. In an instant, his bearing changed from poised to humble. “Here comes Mr. Carter.”
The crowd gave way and hovered. Whatever Carter said would dominate the evening’s dinner conversation. Kenji offered his hand. The broad-faced Carter shook it gently, as was his custom with the Japanese and Hawaiians.
“You can’t imagine how delighted I was to hear that Sam was bringing a priest back with him and that the priest would be you,” he said in his usual soft tone. Kenji leaned forward to hear him and the crowd turned silent. Some of his peers swore that Carter spoke in low tones purposely so that others gave him their full attention.
“How did you know we were coming today?” asked Kenji with a puzzled look on his face.
Carter pointed to Mauna Kea. “Hawai‘i’s moun- taintops make it easy for telephone relay stations to connect our islands.”With that, he turned back to Sam.
“You need to get started if you’re going to reach Waimea by nightfall . . .”
To be continued . . .