Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized 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, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens 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, Georgia and Japan.
As his mother napped, Taka’s nervous knees climbed the stairs of the University of Hawai‘i’s main administration building. In his sweaty hands he held a letter, more an invitation, or a summons.
Charles Hemenway, the president of the university’s board of regents, had sent Taka a letter in the middle of finals. “If you can make yourself available at 2 p.m., Wednesday, June 15, at my university office, I have something I would like to discuss with you.”
Taka knew that his column writing had turned him into a public figure and wondered whether the summons had anything to do with it. But, so what? He was graduating. Certainly a man as important as Charles Hemenway, who was also vice president of Alexander & Baldwin, one of the Big Five corporations, hardly had time for a newspaper reporter who was no longer writing. Still, he knew that the man wasn’t endeared as “Papa” Hemenway for nothing. His reputation for guiding and helping students was legendary. It had to be good news, Taka demanded of himself. He hoped his knees would be steady.
A friendly female smile greeted him as he entered Hemenway’s outer office. “You must be that reporter everyone is talking about,” she said, looking at the clock. “You’re a bit early, but they are all here. Let me see if they are ready for you.”
They? Taka repeated in his mind as his face blushed at the compliment.
“You can go in now,” said the woman a moment later.
Three men, all in white shirts and light-colored suits, rose from chairs circling a low coffee table to the side of Hemenway’s ornate desk. Taka recognized them all: Makino with a twinkle in his eye; short, well-shouldered Hung Wai Ching wearing horn-rimmed glasses; and the icon himself, lean Charles Hemenway. Taka framed the picture of the three men standing, much as a photographer on Hotel Street would capturing a moment in time. That held image of a haole, a Japanese immigrant and a Chinese American would stay with Taka all his days. They were here for him. He flashed back to what Makino had said about men helping students. His knees were no longer shaking, but his adrenalin was still pumping. Was this that moment in life when destiny strikes?
Taka shook hands with the three men and barely heard Hung Wai Ching’s half-questionhalf-statement.
“You must be pleased with the governor’s decision to hire the Pinkerton agency to investigate the Massie allegations?”
“Ah, yes sir. Those of us who took the time to get all the facts know what the Pinkerton people will find. I suspect the governor does, too.”
“I would imagine,” said Hemenway, “that the Pinkerton people will give the governor the cover he needs to drop the rape case.”
Makino, never one to miss a story, went fishing. “I understand Dillingham wants to put this to rest, as well.”
“So it would seem,” said Hemenway, sitting down. “Please Takeshi, take a seat.” He looked at the other two men and proceeded to utter words Taka would never forget.
“You have two good friends here, Takeshi, who would like to help you. But you have helped yourself. I have read your columns; they were well-written. Your schoolwork is excellent. Between what Mr. Wai Ching and Mr. Makino have raised in their communities and my own private resources, we’d like to pay your way through law school. And not just any law school, but Harvard.”
* * *
A half-hour later, Taka burst into his home.
“Hey, everybody! I’m going to Harvard!”
Hearing no response, he called out, “Okäsan! Where are you?!” He knew that his mother, at least, must be home, because the front door was unlocked.
His shouts finally awoke Haru from her nap. She walked into the living room rubbing her eyes. Seeing his mother’s disheveled hair and drawn face, Taka toned down his announcement. “I’m going to law school, Mom. Harvard University.
“Okäsan, I can hardly believe what these people are doing for me. It’s not just tuition and board. They are paying for my transportation and even giving me a spending allowance. They want me fully engaged on campus without having to work a part-time job.”
“A Chinaman, a haole and one of our own did this for you?” Haru asked, her eyes ablaze with amazement.
Later that afternoon, Haru weeded her roses.
To be continued . . .