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Authors: Graham Salisbury

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BOOK: Under the Blood-Red Sun
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“Sure.”

Mr. Wilson put his hand on Keet’s shoulder. “Let’s go. Better get that in the icebox.”

Keet nodded, then walked away backward, looking at me and Billy. He flicked his eyebrows and grinned. Billy
waved and Keet turned, lifting the slab of fish to his shoulder on the palm of his hand.

Papa winked at Billy. “You nice to give away that fish.”

“No problem,” Billy said, and I laughed.

For a few days I actually thought Keet was okay. I could forget about the past and maybe we could even become friends again.

And then the spying started.

Black Zenith

The World Series
began on the first day of October, not a minute too soon. Keet was getting on my nerves.

At first he’d started sneaking around, watching me out by the pigeons, and then, getting braver, he moved to the bushes around our house. One time, Grampa caught him nosing around the chickens and chased him away with a machete. Keet just laughed and called him a crazy old Buddhahead as he ran.

So I was more than ready to listen to the Yankees and the Dodgers. Anyway, fifteen very-hard-to-get cents were at stake. You could buy a new baseball for that!

I figured me and the Dodgers had a pretty good chance—Pete Reiser the slugger, Pee Wee Reese, and Mickey Owen the catcher. And Whit Wyatt, a twenty-two-game winner. Not bad.

But the Yankees had Joe DiMaggio, ace pitcher Red Ruffing, and Joe Gordon the slugger.

Grampa had a very good friend, an old goat with white hair named Charlie, the same Charlie who’d given Papa the opelu bait fish. Charlie was pure Hawaiian and worked for Billy’s parents as their gardener. He lived on the Davises’ place like we lived on the Wilsons’, but Charlie’s house was even smaller than ours.

Grampa and Charlie spent a lot of their spare time together. Mostly they just sat around and talked. But sometimes Grampa managed to talk Charlie into going down to Kaka’ako with him to watch Japanese silent movies, the kind where they had a
benshi
, the actor-guy who would give you the dialogue. Grampa loved those movies, especially when they had samurai ones.

Charlie was one of the nicest guys in the world. He’d never tell Grampa those movies were junk, even if he thought they were. He went along, though he probably couldn’t understand more than about ten words of Japanese.

Anyway, Charlie had something that Grampa would have given half his chickens for—an old black Zenith radio that you could hear the police on. If Grampa loved anything, it was listening to the police talking to each other on that radio. Charlie and Grampa listened almost every night.

Billy and I managed to talk Charlie into letting us listen to the World Series on his Zenith. Who wanted to listen to it at Billy’s house with Keet and Jake around?

I didn’t know until we were sitting down to listen to the first game that Billy had already brainwashed Charlie
over to the Yankees. In fact, Charlie couldn’t wait for the games to start. Poor Grampa just scowled. He hated American baseball, because he couldn’t understand what the radio said. Too fast. If he liked Japanese
yakyu
, the Japanese kind of baseball, he never said anything about it to me.

The first three games went very well … for Billy. He was already telling me how he was going to spend my fifteen cents. Okay, so what? Brooklyn was behind two games to one, but they could come back. They still had four games to go.

The day of the fourth game was a gray and stormy Sunday. Thunder rumbled around in the low clouds that sat heavily on the valley. Grampa had already gone over to Charlie’s to listen to the police before the game started, but I had to boil water in the backyard and help Mama wash clothes.

Mama finally told me I was more trouble than I was worth and that I might as well get on over to Charlie’s house before I drove her crazy.

I slipped on a sweatshirt and headed out into the trees. Lucky started to follow, but hurried back under the house when a big
crack
of thunder exploded in the sky.

I took the trail to diamond grass, and checked to make sure the wind hadn’t blown off the two heavy tarps I’d put over the pigeon lofts.

The first fat raindrop thunked down on my shoulder just as I reached the trees on the other side. Then the clouds opened up, like a crane unloading a couple thousand fish into a truck. The rain swept over the jungle in a
huge wave of thundering and hissing that came from every direction. I headed into it.

A popping sound caught my ear, a muffled echo in the dripping jungle. I stopped to listen and heard another one, then a voice, someone shouting over the roar of the rain. I crouched behind a tree.

“There … that tree … that’s a Nazi.”

Bam!
A bullet thwacked into a tree a few feet away from me. I dropped down into the mud and covered my head with my arms.

“Maybe we should get out of this rain.”

Jake.

“Don’t be such a tilly,” Keet said.

I peeked up and saw the two of them creeping past, crouching low like hunting soldiers, their shirts soaked and sticking to their backs. When they’d passed, I wiped the mud off my knees and ran the rest of the way.

A shiver snaked through me. I didn’t know if it was from the rain or from almost getting shot.

Charlie’s small house looked like an old umbrella with the rain rolling down the corrugated iron roof and pouring out of the rusty gutters around its edge. Water slapped down into big puddles below.

Billy saw me coming through the screen door and opened it as I ran up to the house. “Yuck,” he said. “Looks like you fell in the mud.”

I dragged off my soaked and muddy sweatshirt and squeezed the water out of it.

“Long time no see,” Charlie said. “What you been up to?”

“Working, what else?”

Grampa humphed, glancing up at me from Charlie’s old couch.

“Good,” Charlie said. “Work is good. If you no work, bombye you go nuts.” He smiled, his eyes crinkling at the edges.

“… somewhere down Kalihi Street,”
a small, static-ridden voice coming out of the radio said.
“A lady complaining about a man sitting on top her roof …”

Grampa leaned closer.

“I’m on my way
,” another voice answered.

“But Jimmy …
” the first one said.

“What?”

“The guy naked….”

“Must be nuts.”

“You want me to send a backup?”

“I’ll let you know when I get there.”

Grampa smiled at all that. But when he saw me looking at him, he frowned and dismissed me with a wave of his hand.

“When’s the game come on?” I asked.

“I think it’s on now,” Billy said, giving me the you-tell-him look.

“Grampa, turn it to the game,” I said.

“Wait, confonnit,” Grampa growled. He turned up the static and leaned in over the radio, waiting for more about the man on the roof. I looked at Billy and shrugged.

Finally, Grampa grabbed his oiled paper umbrella, then went outside to the outhouse. It had to be coming down pretty hard for Grampa to use an umbrella.

As soon as he was out of the house, Billy and I jumped up and turned the dial around. Charlie chuckled.

We moved closer to listen.

“Get away from that,” Grampa said, back too soon. He shook the rain off the umbrella before closing the screen door.

“Aw, come on, Grampa,” I said. “This is an important game, and it’s probably half over by now.”

“Hummmph.” Grampa came toward us, and me and Billy got out of the way, quick. Grampa sat back down on the couch and stared straight ahead. But he didn’t change the radio back to the police. When I started to say thanks, he said, “Shhhh!”

Another blast of thunder boomed through the house and sent sputters of static out of the radio.
“Ka’a ka pohaku,”
Charlie said. “The stones roll.” The rain
really
came down after that. Grampa turned the radio way up to hear it over the roar.

“I
love
this rain,” Billy said.

I nodded. It
was
great.

They were in the fourth inning. The Dodgers had to win to keep their spirits up. Both teams had already used up two or three pitchers each. The score was three to nothing, Yankees, and Billy was practically prying the fifteen cents out of my pocket.

Then the Dodgers came up to bat in the bottom of the fourth and scored two runs. With the score still three to two in the fifth inning, the Dodgers’ Dixie Walker hit to deep left for a double. After that, Pete Reiser slugged a fastball over the left field fence and the place went crazy. You could hear nothing but cheering for at least five minutes.
I started to yell, too, but Grampa shot me a look. Actually, he looked a little worried.

“Fifteen cents,” I said to Billy.

“I never give up on my team,
compadre.…
They’ll be back.… You wait.”

“That’s right,” Charlie said. “Yankees good. What you think, Joji-san?”

“Humph,” Grampa mumbled. What a laugh to ask him anything.

Now the Dodgers were leading—four to three. And it stayed that way until the top of the ninth, when the Yankees got one last chance to do something.

The first two batters went down right away, two groundouts. Mickey Owen was catching. I could almost feel Casey’s pitches pounding into Owen’s glove, dust puffing out when they hit, like when Billy threw me fastballs on a hot day.

One out to go. One out for a Dodger win.

The Yankees’ Tommy Henrich came up to bat and quickly racked up a full count, three balls and two strikes. Then came the last pitch.

Henrich swung … and missed!

The game was over. The fans went wild. The Dodgers had won!

Then the announcer screamed that the pitch Henrich struck out on had slipped through Mickey Owen’s glove, and was rolling all the way back to the grandstand.
“The ball went light through Owen’s glove!”
he yelled. “It’s a fair ball! There goes Henrich!”

Owen ran back to get the loose ball.

The Dodger fans were roaring, still believing they’d won.

But the Yankees were still alive.

Henrich raced to first and beat Owen’s throw. Charlie and Billy were so excited they jumped up and down like lunatics. Grampa gawked up at them.

The announcer was hoarse. The people at the game didn’t know what to do, he said. Some of them had already run out onto the field. “Oh my,” the announcer said. “Oh my, oh my, oh my.”

Criminy
, I wished Billy and I were there to see it.

It took a few minutes to get the fans back into the stands. So now, the Yankees had Henrich on first and Joe DiMaggio coming up to bat.
“Just one out
,” I pleaded, lacing my fingers together and squeezing my palms until my hands turned white. I held my breath.

Tock!

DiMaggio singled.

I bit my fingers. Billy slapped my back. “You watch,” he said.

Keller, next to bat, doubled. Henrich and DiMaggio scored, and Billy was all over the place. Grampa got up and moved out of the way into the safety of Charlie’s kitchen.

“Casey’s rattled,” Billy whooped.

“Take him out,” I yelled, as if they could hear me. But they let him keep pitching.

The Yankees finally ended up winning, seven to four. And the Dodgers’ spirit was broken—not to mention mine, because I knew Billy would never let me forget it.

After the game Grampa came back and tuned the
Zenith to the police, then sat there shaking his head. I think he decided that we were all very, very strange.

•   •   •

It was pitch-black by the time we finally got up to leave. The rain was still pouring down like crazy. Grampa nodded to Charlie and headed out the door, popping up the umbrella. Raindrops thundered down on it.

Billy and I made plans to listen to the next game, but I was feeling pretty low. Billy tapped the side of my arm and sprinted out into the rain. I pulled my damp sweatshirt over my head and said good-bye to Charlie.

Outside, the trees swayed and shivered, leaves
whooshing
down. The whole place smelled sharp, like rusting iron. Where was Keet? Even he wasn’t stupid enough to still be stalking around in the jungle … was he? It was lucky he only had his .22 and not his father’s .45. The .22 would just make a small hole, but the .45 would take your head off.

Grampa’s pale ghost of an umbrella moved up and down as he strode deeper into the darkness ahead of me. I tried to forget about Keet and think about Grampa. I thought about how he came to join Papa in Hawaii after Grandma had died.

He came here to be a fisherman, like Papa had long before I was born. Grampa still had his old purple-colored passport hidden safely under Grandma’s altar. He was proud of that purple color. Back in the olden days they had two kinds, purple and green: green for contract workers, who had to work and then go home,
and purple was for the guys who came with their own businesses and skills, and could stay in the islands Grampa’s business was boats and fishing.

I wondered if even now Grampa still needed his passport because he wasn’t allowed to be an American citizen. I was, because I was born here. But the law wouldn’t allow Grampa. Or Mama and Papa. Papa said the
haole
wanted Japanese to come work, but not stay around afterward. But most people did stay.

BOOK: Under the Blood-Red Sun
2.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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