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Authors: Graham Salisbury

Tags: #General Fiction

Under the Blood-Red Sun

BOOK: Under the Blood-Red Sun
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For more than forty years,
Yearling has been the leading name
in classic and award-winning literature
for young readers.

Yearling books feature children’s
favorite authors and characters,
providing dynamic stories of adventure,
humor, history, mystery, and fantasy.

Trust Yearling paperbacks to entertain,
inspire, and promote the love of reading
in all children.

OTHER YEARLING BOOKS YOU WILL ENJOY

JUNGLE DOGS,
Graham Salisbury
NUMBER THE STARS,
Lois Lowry
THE SMUGGLERS,
Iain Lawrence
WINTERING, William
Durbin

In Memory of
Henry Forester Graham, USN
Guy Fremont Salisbury, USN

And in Honor of
the Men of the 100th Infantry Battalion
and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team
of World War II,
United States Army

Mahalo nui loa
to
Lani Teshima-Miller, Hank Arita,
Thurston and David Twigg-Smith,
the news library of
The Honolulu Advertiser
and
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin
,
and the University of Hawai’i and Hawaii State
Library Hawaiiana collections.

The Flag

It all started
the day Grampa Joji decided to wash his precious flag of Japan and hang it out on the clothesline for the whole world to see. It was almost as big as the canvas tarp Papa used on his boat when it rained.

It was early September, 1941, just three weeks before the Yankees and the Dodgers started the World Series. A Sunday. Mama’s day off. No breeze. The clouds, like giant white coral heads, hovered out over the ocean far beyond Honolulu harbor. In that kind of weather you stayed in the shade, at least if you were as smart as my dog Lucky, who lounged in the cool, weedless dirt under the house.

But anyway, Grampa scrubbed that flag clean. Usually, my friend Billy Davis and I thought it was pretty funny when he did something strange like that—like wash a flag, or take a bath in the stream, or laugh hysterically
at Laurel and Hardy movies. Once, we got thrown out of a theater because Grampa kept on laughing, laughing, laughing, even when everyone else was quiet. Billy and I were nearly crying, Grampa was so funny. Grampa got mad and chased us. He was pretty tough about showing respect for your elders.

But a Japanese flag hanging out in the open like that was nothing to laugh about.

“Hey, Grampa,” I yelled as I came up the dirt path through the trees. “Take that thing down. What if somebody
sees
it?”

Billy was with me. We’d just gotten off the bus from a trip downtown to play baseball. I threw my catcher’s mitt on the ground and started walking faster. Grampa stood in front of his flag like a fisherman showing off a big one.

The white flag had a red ball in the center, with red rays like searchlights shooting out from it. Grampa waved his hand toward the clothesline. “Hey, busta, good, nah? Confonnit!”

“No! Not good! How many times do we have to tell you? This place is American, not Japanese.
American
. Didn’t you hear what Papa said? Too many Japanese around here, that’s what a lot of people think.… They don’t need to see that flag to remind them.”

I brushed past him and pulled the wet flag down. It soaked my shirt. Grampa’s eyes got big, like he was so surprised he didn’t know what to do.

“Papa’s worried enough about what the Hawaiians think of us, and what the
haoles
think of us,” I said. “We don’t need anyone to think we’re
anti-American
too. There’s a war going on, you know. And Japan isn’t making
any friends around here. Papa told you that already. Don’t you remember?”

Grampa narrowed his eyes and clenched his fists. His face turned red and his lips bridged into a fish-scowl. “You Japanee!” he said. “Japanee!”

“American,” I said. I took a step back and shoved the flag up onto the porch. “No good, Grampa. No good at
all!”

Grampa’s face grew redder. He shook his fist at me. “Whatchoo think you? You Japanee. Japanee inside. Like me, like Papa.”

“Criminy,” I said, walking a wide path around him. “This isn’t Wakayama, you know. This isn’t Japan. This is America, and you’re going to get us in a lot of trouble with that stupid flag.”

Just then Mama came out of the house. She didn’t look too happy to be bothered on her only day off, the day she used to mend everybody’s clothes.
“Nani-yo?
Whassamatta out here, Tomi? What you doing?”

“Grampa got the flag out again.”

“Ojii-chan
. He is
ojii-chan.”

“Same thing,” I mumbled.

Mama frowned at me, then at Grampa. My little sister, Kimi, peeked around Mama’s apron, then inched back out of sight when she saw Billy. She was afraid of him because he was so tall. He was only thirteen, like me, but almost a head taller. And he was white, a
haole
. But most of all, Billy was
kimpatsu
—with yellow hair. Grampa said in Japan it was a freak of nature to have yellow hair, but I never told Billy that.

In Japanese, Mama said, “Can’t you listen to your
grandson,
ojii-chan?”
Then in English, “Mr. Wilson no like that kine … we could lose this house!”

Grampa started to say something to her in Japanese, which he always went back to when he was too mad to think.

“English,” Mama said.

Grampa squinted at Mama. English was okay for me and Kimi, but for him it was no fun. He tried to learn it by listening to the police on the radio, but still wasn’t picking it up very well. Poor Grampa. I felt sorry for him sometimes. But Papa said, “Too many people worried about Japanee … speak Inglish,” or “Speak ’merican.” Lucky for me, because my Japanese was about as good as Grampa’s English.

Mama and Grampa glared at each other.

It drove Grampa crazy that Mama was so stubborn. He was always telling Papa he should teach her more respect. “She shame you,” Grampa said. “She shame the family.” But Papa just let Mama be herself.

She wagged a finger at Grampa. “You don’t fool me.… I know you understand.” Mama dragged up the sopping, crumpled flag, and went on with her warning in Japanese.

“Confonnit,” Grampa said.
“Kuso.”

“Ooo, Grampa,” I said. “No need to talk nasty.”

Mama shook her head. Then she noticed Billy and nodded. “Billy-kun.”

“Hi, Mrs. Nakaji,” Billy said, then looked down and punched his baseball mitt.

Mama hauled the flag into the house with Kimi sticking to her apron like a tick.

Grampa started over to me. His long-sleeved khaki shirt, buttoned to the neck, and his wrinkled khaki pants made him look like he was one of those Pearl Harbor navy officers. His eyes said he wanted to wring my neck.

I backed away, and started running. Billy sprinted past me, heading through the trees toward the field where Papa kept his pigeons.

Ever since Grampa had to stop fishing with Papa because of a stroke, he’d been as snappy as a grouchy old dog. But his stroke didn’t cripple him one bit. He followed us, walking at first, then faster. I ran past Billy, who laughed and tried to grab my shirt. “You coward,” he said.

But Grampa went back to the house.

Luckily for Papa he was out fishing and wasn’t due back for two more days. But Grampa would tell him, all right, and the story would be much bigger by then.

“He’s so
dumb
, sometimes,” I said.

“What would he have done if he’d caught you?” Billy asked, the two of us now down to a walk.

“Probably crack my head. Who knows with him?” Who could tell what he was thinking about anymore? Hanging his flag on the clothesline was as good as flying it from a pole.

Grampa knew Papa was worried. But then, Grampa was
issei
, first-generation Japanese immigrant, and looked at things in a certain way. The Japanese way—which was stern and obedient. He just wanted to work, and be honest. Like he did in Japan, where he was a fisherman. Nobody ever bothered anybody else. If somebody over there accidentally hurt somebody else, they’d make up for it,
no matter how long it took. And if they died before they made up for it, then their descendants would take over. Grampa wanted me to think like that, he wanted Papa to beat me into “a boy of suitable devotion.” Sometimes I thought he had a point. The old way was fair and honorable, which was good. But it was so inflexible. Jeese. Who knew
what
to think?

Billy and I both looked behind us at the same time, just to be sure Grampa was really gone. My house stood silently peeking back at me through the trees, a square box painted dark green. It sat on stilt-legs, about four feet off the ground—stilts to keep the rats and bugs out. It was the only home I’d ever known, and I loved it. I loved its silver-painted corrugated iron roof, which slanted down into gutters that flowed into the round water tank in the back. It made nice sounds in the rain. The only water we had was what we caught off the roof. Not like Billy’s house, where they had water pipes from the street, and a bathroom inside the house.

BOOK: Under the Blood-Red Sun
4.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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