Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
“Otösan, Coach Williams wants me to try out for the baseball team,” said Takeshi to his father. Haru heard the strain in his voice, even though he tried to sound casually enthusiastic. “He thinks I could be the starting first baseman for McKinley,” Takeshi added.
The Sunday brunch table quieted until only the sound of a passing horse-drawn carriage crunching the crushed seashell road outside their home could be heard. The aroma of bacon, pancakes and maple syrup hung unnoticed in the air. Tommy and Yoshi knew what was happening. So did pinched-faced Haru. Even though 4-year-old Kenta had no clue, he picked up on the silence.
Kenji lifted his floral cotton napkin and wiped an imaginary piece of food from his lips. “That’s quite a promise to a young man entering school.”
Takeshi heard the skeptical wariness in his father’s voice. That was better than anger. “I’m tall for a Japanese and am one of two kids who hit over four hundred last summer for our mission team.”
“The time to play baseball is in the summer,” said Kenji. “You played several times a week for our mission team.”
“It’s not the same, Otösan. Every athlete wants to play for his school.”
“You have other responsibilities after school that are more important than practicing baseball,” replied Kenji.
“It’s only a couple months during the spring. I can keep up my JLS (Japanese Language School) lessons in the evening,” said Taka, this time with more forced casualness.
“Let me consider this,” said Kenji.
Taka stared at the set of his father’s jaw. “When you say ‘consider’ and wear that face, it means ‘no.’ That’s not fair. Why can’t I be just like the haole kids, the Hawaiian boys and everyone else at my school?”
“Your father said he would consider it,” admonished Haru. “That’s enough for now. Let’s enjoy our breakfast.”
Taka picked up his plate and then turned it upside down, spilling eggs, pancakes and syrup onto the table. He pushed his chair back so fast it clanged to the ground, but he took no notice. Seconds later, they heard the front door slam and watched out of the picture window as Taka sped off on his bike.
Haru broke the stunned silence. “He is a confused . . .”
“Silence, Okäsan. No excuses for Taka.” Kenji looked stoically at his remaining children. “Please, let us finish our breakfast. We must not allow a foolish outburst to starve us.”
Kenji jabbed his fork into his pancakes as if he were thrusting a trowel digging for turnips. He was thinking not of Taka, but rather of another night long ago when he had cleared the dishes off the table with one sweep of the hand.
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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.