"God don't care who started it! All He cares about is that somebody's making trouble on His day!"
Dorothy hefted another handful of taro skin, and as if by kahuna sorcery the boys vanished without another cross word into their shared bedroom.
"I'm done, Mama." Rachel handed the peeled taro to her mother, who eyed it approvingly. "Well now," Dorothy said, face softening, "that's a good job you did." She cut the taro into smaller pieces, pounded them into paste, then added just the right amount of water to it. "You want to mix?" she asked Rachel, whose small hands dove eagerly into the smooth paste and kneaded itwith a little help from her motheruntil, wondrously, it was no longer mere taro but delicious poi.
"Mama, these shoes are too tight!" Rachel's sister Sarah, two years older, thumped into the room in a white cotton dress with black stockings, affecting a hobble as she pointed at her black leather buttontop shoes. "I can't feel my toes." She saw Rachel's fingers sticky with poi and reflexively made a sour face. "That looks lumpy."
Dorothy gave her a scowl. "Your head's lumpy. Rachel did a fine job, didn't she?" She tousled Rachel's long black hair; Rachel beamed and shot Sarah a look that said ha! Dorothy turned back to Sarah. "No sandals in church. Guess your toes just gonna fall off. And go get your hat!" Her hobble miraculously healed, Sarah sprinted away, though not without a parting grimace at her sister, who was enthusiastically licking the poi off her fingers.
It was a half-mile's walk to Kaumakapili Church, made even longer by the necessity of shoes, and Dorothy did not fail to remind her childrenshe never failed to remind themhow fortunate they were to worship at such a beautiful new church, opened just three years before. Its twin wooden spires"the better to find God," the king had declared upon their completiontowered like huge javelins above their nearest neighbors. The spires were mirrored in the waters of nearby Nu'uanu Stream, and to the devout it might appear as though they were pointing not just at heaven but, defiantly, at hell as well, as though challenging Satan in his own domain.
As Dorothy joined with the congregation in singing "Rock of Ages," her children sat, in varying degrees of piety, in Sabbath School. In her kindergarten class Rachel drew Bible scenes with colored crayons, then listened attentively to her teacher, Mr. MacReedy, a veteran of the American Civil War with silvered hair and a shuffle in his walk courtesy of a round of grapeshot to his right foot.
"'And in the fourth watch of the night,' " Mr. MacReedy recited from the Book of Matthew, " 'Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they' "
He saw that Rachel's hand was bobbing in the air. "Yes? Rachel?"
Soberly, Rachel asked, "Which sea?"
Her teacher blinked. "What?"
"Which sea did he walk on?"
"Ah . . . well . . ." He scanned the page, vexedly. "It don't say."
"Was it the Pacific?"
"No, I reckon it wasn't."
"It don't matter, child. What's important is that he was walking on the sea, not which particular sea it was."
"Oh." Rachel was disappointed. "I just wondered."
Mr. MacReedy continued, telling them of how Jesus bade Peter to walk onto the water with him; how He then went to a new land; and how, "when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made whole.
" 'Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came out of' "
This excerpt ends on page 17 of the hardcover edition, at the end of chapter 1. Copyright © 2003 by Alan Brennert.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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