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, Florida and Japan.
Haru’s evening inspection saunter was bringing her back to the street when her ears picked up the sounds of a vehicle with a sputtering muffler. She looked up in time to see a truck brake to a rough stop. Emblazoned on the door panel was the emblem of Parker Ranch, with a cowboy tipping his hat mounted on a rearing horse. The Filipino driver wearing a wide-brimmed, tan-colored leather hat threw open the door. He trotted towards Haru and handed her a newspaper. “Mr. Parker said you might want this.”
She looked at the Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Her stomach tightened as she read the headline: “Jap Rabble Rouser Threatens Imperial Navy Strike.”
“You OK, Haru-san?” asked the cowboy with a worried look on his face.
“No. I mean, yes. I’m OK. Please tell Mr. Parker, ‘Thank you.’”
As the driver hustled back to his car, Haru read Pafko’s article, ending with:
While the Bolshevik Tsutsumi lets the cat out of the bag, the Japanese consul issued a weak statement trying to wheedle out of the truth. ‘The arrival of the Yakumo is part of the normal exchange among allies.’ Imperial hypocrisy at its weakest. Why the Yakumo, famed for its part in sinking the Russian fleet at the Battle of Tsushima? It’s insulting to think anyone with common sense wouldn’t make the connection between the sugar strike attacking the economic interests of America and the arrival of an armed cruiser from a country that makes a habit of attacking its neighbors.
The patter of footsteps raised her eyes. Haru managed a smile.
“Okasan, I have seen brighter smiles,” said Kenji, his voice soft. He spied the newspaper headline. “Ah. Worse than we thought, and so soon.”
They were interrupted by the bong, bong, bong of the Chinese gong that stood at the edge of camp. Time to queue for evening rice. “Let’s get in line,” said Haru, who knew that someone would bring them a rice bowl as soon as they joined the queue.
“Look,” said Kenji pointing up the road.
Haru’s spirits lifted as she spotted Reverend Adams walking down the street. He looked worried. She saw that he was carrying a newspaper.
“You have seen this,” said Adams, matter-of-factly, looking at Kenji.
“Terrible,” said Kenji.
“Maybe it’s time to act.”
The high-steeple white Presbyterian church looked as if it had been transported from a Massachusetts farm town. Snow could easily have slid down its peaked roof. Inside, the straight, hardback benches would have earned Cotton Mather’s approval.
Today’s attendance rivaled an Easter Sunday service. Reverend Adams had spread the news: “I will be delivering the most important sermon of my life.”
He led the choir voices that began with two rousing opening hymns praising the Lord. Adams then commanded, “Turn to Page 38.” He looked up from the altar to the faithful who had gathered. “Please stand and sing with us.”
Everyone rose to their feet as the organist began. At the sharp cue, the congregation began singing. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord . . .”
As the hymn neared its end, Adams felt a joyous surge. He had never experienced such religious exuberance from his flock. It was, he thought, a biblical moment. Had Moses or Joshua felt like this?
“Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Our God is marching on.”
Sweat dripped from the foreheads of the Caucasian and grew rings on shirts and dresses around the armpits of the congregants in the church that was designed to trap the heat, as a proper New England edifice should. Most did not notice the Japanese Christian vacating his place in the last pew to make room for the Buddhist priest. The rustle of the congregation settling down soothed Adams, whose confidence in today’s sermon had risen during the singing. He was even more certain about the righteousness of his bold plan — the most provocative of his long ministry.
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