Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: “A Question of Loyalty” is the second historical novel in Michael Malaghan’s trilogy on the Japanese American experience in Hawai‘i. The Herald recently concluded chapter-by-chapter publication of his first novel, “Picture Bride,” which chronicled Haru’s escape from Japan to begin a new life in Hawai‘i as the picture bride wife of Kenji Takayama, a Buddhist priest.
In the second novel, again published by Legacy Isle Publishing, we follow Haru’s and Kenji’s children through the World War II years.
“A Question of Loyalty” will be released later this year.
Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i Georgia and Japan.
PART ONE: DAY OF INFAMY
December 7, 1941 (continued from Sept. 6, 2019)
The aroma of pancakes, fresh coffee and sizzling bacon wafted through the room, waking Kenta. A cacophony of distant propellers buzzed his thumping head. He groaned and eased his legs over the couch in the Walters family’s den and sat up ever so slowly. The engine of a recreation boat smothered the propeller chorus. Kenta got to his feet and peered out the picture window, waving at a girl water-skiing, her blonde hair flaring wildly. She skimmed past the Walters’ dock facing Ford Island’s precision-lined PPY bombers and the nine grey monsters of Battleship Row. The radiant-faced teenager did not see him. Kenta would later wonder what happened to her after it all began.
Kenta had spent the night on the couch at Bobby Walters’ house instead of catching a cab back to campus after one too many beers at the O-Club after the University of Hawai‘i’s football victory. He took a deep breath and squeezed his eyebrows together as if to expel the pain behind them, then stepped listlessly into the dining room.
“Who ordered planes to fly on a Sunday morning?” he asked Bobby’s dad, who was carrying the coffee pot from the kitchen. He raised his voice, hoping to be heard over the propeller thrum approaching the house.
“It sure wasn’t the Navy,” Captain Walters replied. “We’re too civilized to screw up a Sunday morning. Sit down and eat. Your two hungover friends are taking a shower. You can make 9 o’clock services if you want to join us.”
“Sure,” said Kenta. Though Buddhist, he didn’t mind attending other people’s church services. After all, two of his five siblings had converted to Methodism. As he filled his plate with pancakes and scrambled eggs, a squadron of planes buzzed the Walters’ home.
Bobby bounded down the stairs. “Isn’t that a little too close, Dad?”
“Damn right it is,” said Captain Walters, his voice nearly drowned out by the din of churning propellers. “Who are those idiot cowboys trying to impress? I’m calling Hickam!”
As he rose from the table and walked over to the phone, Mrs. Walters and Eddie entered the dining room, both staring at the ceiling as if it were glass.
A burst of explosions froze everyone in place.
The captain sprinted through the open sliding glass door to the backyard with the boys at his heels. Roaring propellers reverberated through Kenta’s groin as he gawked at the whirling armada, their fuselages emblazoned with the insignia of a bright red rising sun.
“No. No! NO!” he shouted.
“Jesus Christ!” bellowed Bobby.
“You boys get inside,” barked Captain Walters. “I’ve got to get into uniform and report,” he said, rushing back into the house.
The boys stayed put.
Kenta’s line of sight riveted on the flitting faces of the enemy — faces that looked like his, framed with fur-lined caps and eyes masked by aviator goggles. For the past four years, dinner-talk at his home often centered on the worrisome personal consequences of war between America and Japan.
We Japanese are in for it now, he thought.
Kenta shook his fist at a grinning pilot who waved at him from his open canopy as if promoting an upcoming air show rather than being seconds from releasing the finned torpedo clasped to his plane’s undercarriage.
“You dirty rotten stinkin’ Jap!” he called out.
As Kenta watched the torpedo separate from its fuselage, he thought of his father. The FBI had been to their home twice. Priests like his father expected to be arrested when the war started. But, a war in Asia, not here.
The image of his father’s “just in case” suitcase, already packed and sitting at the foot of his parents’ bed, flashed before him as he saw the torpedo enter the water and head toward the warships.
To be continued . . .