Excerpt of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
(Page 3 of 8)
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Rachel's hand shot up again.
Her teacher sighed. "Yes, Rachel," he said wearily.
"Where's Tyre? AndSidon?"
Mr. MacReedy took off his reading glasses.
"They were cities. Someplace in the Holy Land. And before you ask, 'Canaan' was an old name for Palestine, or parts of it, anyway. That good enough for you, child?"
Rachel nodded. Her teacher replaced his glasses and continued chronicling Jesus' sojourn. " 'And Jesus departed thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee . . . ' "
Mr. MacReedy paused, peered over his glasses at Rachel and said, "I would infer, if anyone's interested, that this is the selfsame sea the Lord walked on a bit earlier."
After church came Rachel's favorite part of the day, when Mama stopped at Love's Bakery on Nu'uanu Avenue to buy fresh milk bread, baked that morning. Love's was a cathedral of sugar, a holy place of sweets and starches: pound cake, seedcake, biscuits, Jenny Lind cake, soda crackers, cupcakes. Sometimes the owner, Fanny Love, was there to greet customers; sometimes it was her eldest son James, who with a wink and a smile would slip Rachel a cookie or a slice of nutcake and announce, "You're the twenty-eighth customer today; here's your prize!"
Sometimes Mama would buy day-old bread rather than fresh, or as now, try to haggle some leftover New Year's cake for a few pennies less. Even at her age Rachel understood money was often a problem in her family, and though she rarely wanted for anything of substance she knew Mama worked hard to stretch out the money Papa left her; particularly now, eight months after they last saw him.
That night, as every night, Mama stood by Rachel's bedside and made sure she said her prayers, and Rachel never failed to add one of her own: that God help Papa come safely across the sea, and soon.
Honolulu Harbor was a forest of ship's masts huddled within encircling coral reefs, a narrow channel threading through the reefs and out to open sea. Unlike picturesque Waikiki to the easta bright crescent of sand in the lee of majestic Lé'ahi, or "Diamond Head" as the haoles, the white foreigners, had rechristened itthe harbor was an unglamorous collection of cattle wharves, trading companies, saloons, and the occasional brothel. On any given day there might be up to a hundred ships anchored here: barks, schooners, brigantines, cruisers, and more and more, steamerstheir squat metal smokestacks proliferating among the wooden masts, an advance guard of the new century. Yet the arrival of a steamship was still exciting enough that whenever one was seen riding the horizon, closed signs sprang up in store windows across the city and men, women, and children thronged toward the harbor to greet the incoming ship.
Rachel, perched on her mother's shoulders, peered over the heads of the crowd surging around them and thrilled to the sight of the SS Mariposa steaming toward port. A pilot boat met the steamer and guided it through the channel; then as the ships drew closer to shore the Royal Hawaiian Band, which was gathered at pier's end, struck up the national anthem, "Hawai'i Pono'," composed by King Kalakaua himself.
As the Mariposa eased into its berth beside a mountain of black coal, Rachel caught sight of a sailor tossing a thick hawser off the deck and onto the dock. He was a stocky Hawaiian in his young thirties, his thick muscled arms tanned by the blistering sun of even lower latitudes. "Papa!" she yelled, waving, but Papa was too busy helping tie up the ship to notice. It was only after all the passengers had disembarked and the cargo was on its way out of the ship's hold that Rachel at last saw her father walk down the gangway, a duffel bag in one hand, a big weathered suitcase in the other.
Henry Kalama, a happy grin on his broad friendly face, hefted his suitcase as though he were about to throw it. " 'Ey! Little girl! Catch!"
This excerpt ends on page 17 of the hardcover edition, at the end of chapter 1. Copyright © 2003 by Alan Brennert.