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
Kenta and Haru returned home to find the entire family gathered there. Unable to face the crowd, Haru headed for the stairway. “I need a bath,” she said, scurrying up the steps. A ball of calico fur bounced up the stairs in pursuit.
Kenta put on his best happy face and described the movie in animated detail, holding his siblings’ attention. Afterwards, he casually said to Tommy, “Let’s check the fruit trees and pick what’s ripe.”
“You could have just broadcasted ‘I need to talk to you in private.’ Everyone knows Dad inspects the trees every morning,” said Tommy as they left the house.
“OK, Sherlock, I do have a problem. Teiko.”
“How so, little brother? Have you fallen under the spell of those . . .” Tommy fluttered his eyelashes with great exaggeration, “. . . luminous doe eyes?”
“No!” snapped Kenta, yanking a yellowing frond hanging limp from a palm tree and hurling it to the ground. “It’s not what you think. Hey, I admit I have enjoyed the . . . hero worship. But her intentions are not the sisterly type. I need to end this before she makes me an offer I won’t refuse — but will regret. I want you to take over my teaching duties.”
Tommy raised his eyebrows. “Me? I’m not the type. Besides, she’s not the quickest fox in the pack.”
“Don’t I know it! But I need this favor to wean the fox off of her dependency.”
“Well, you would owe me — really owe me, brother.”
“Arigato,” said Kenta gratefully, wondering what price he would have to pay later.
After supper, Kenta told Teiko in a “this-is-it tone” she had heard from him before, “I have asked Tommy to take my place as your tutor. I’m falling behind in my own lessons. And with spring football practice starting . . .”
“Hai, wakarimashita,” she snapped, cutting him off.
* * *
The next morning, Haru found a note on the kitchen table. “I should never have come here. Teiko.”
Haru rushed upstairs. She eased open the door. Teiko’s bed was empty.
Sleepy-eyed Sachiko mumbled, “Okäsan?”
“I was looking for Teiko. She . . . left a note and I . . .”
Sachiko looked around. “Doesn’t look like her bed has been slept in.” She sat up, more alert now, surveying the room. “And her bag — it’s gone.”
Hiromi popped up.
“What’s going on?” she asked, rubbing her eyes.
“Do you know where Teiko is?” asked Haru.
Hiromi looked around the room. A smile crept across her lips. “I’m beginning to think prayers really do work.”
White House, August 1939
The short, pear-shaped man puffed on his Havana cigar — an aide’s offering from their boss’ private stock. As he was escorted outside, the aroma of freshly mowed grass mingled with the fragrance of his burning cigar. Under the scorching sun, sweat beads quickly trickled down from his receding hairline. The man’s girth had expanded as much as his reputation, an indulgence he did not tolerate from his field agents. He wore a brown suit in a city of de rigueur grey and blue.
J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s director since 1924, found Franklin Roosevelt already seated on a white, wrought-iron chair in front of a matching glass-top table, no wheelchair in sight. With Hitler having just signed a nonaggression pact with Russia, Hoover expected that the president wanted to be briefed on German espionage in America.
He guessed wrong.
Roosevelt inhaled through his signature ivory holder, held his breath to capture its calming effect and, upon exhaling, surprised Hoover. “Now that Hitler has protected his eastern flank, I expect England and France will be at war with Germany soon. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before Japan goes after Europe’s Asian colonies. At some point, we will be at war with Hirohito. What is happening with our plans to intern the Japanese?”
“Mr. President, we maintain extensive files on the Japanese community. Since Nanking, we have pictures not only of everyone who greets Japanese navy ships, but also of who meets their commercial ships or entertains Japanese VIPs. We know who is organizing donations to their war effort. I even have agents fingering who is yelling ‘Banzai!’ at Jap movie theaters during the war clips from China. We take pictures of people leaving the theater and match up faces.”
FDR raised his eyebrows.
“After years of surveillance, we know who to arrest the moment war begins.”
Roosevelt pulled out a carbon copy of a letter from under a bald-eagle paperweight and dangled it.
“Edgar, in October 1936, I directed you that the moment war begins you are to intern the Japanese. You have repeatedly made your case that the FBI can pick up all the potential saboteurs. But if you miss just one . . .”
The president let the letter flutter to the tabletop. “When war breaks out, I want all Japanese removed from Hawai‘i and the West Coast.”
“It’s the Army’s . . .”
“Edgar, I will take care of the Army. You build up the list of all the Japanese residents and visitors — so when I give the word, we know where they all are.”
“We’re doing that, Mr. President,” Hoover said, more respectfully.
Roosevelt took another long puff and then aimed his ivory-tipped holder at Hoover. “You don’t even have a field office in Hawai‘i, where there are 150,000 of them.”
“We’ve been planning to reopen our territorial field office, Mr. President.”
“When?” FDR held his gaze.
Holding his anger at the president’s insistence on this agent-wasting internment policy, Hoover kept his eyes steady under the president’s stare. “We have an exceptional man just coming off medical leave. He’s arriving at my office this afternoon for his first briefing. We should have him in Honolulu . . .”
FDR raised his eyebrows and leaned forward in anticipation.
“Within four weeks.”
“Not a day longer.” Relaxing back into his chair, FDR took another puff of his cigarette.
To be continued . . .