When, after a pleasant picnic lunch at Lanikai, Sergeant Victor Yamamoto’s wife Chieko told him she was pregnant, he nearly drove his car off the narrow Pali Road and over the cliff. Had Victor’s eyes opened any wider, he would have been able to see the traffic behind him without the aid of a rearview mirror.
Victor Yamamoto had three secrets. The first was that despite his interminable racist trash-talking, he, at core, did not hate almost everyone on the face of the earth. True, he did not feel the fondest of alohas for nearly anyone who was not Japanese, and he rarely got a warm fuzzy feeling when he thought of most Japanese either. He did, however, care very deeply about some people.
For instance, he had great affection for David Chan, because he knew that his partner had his back without question, and without question, in police work, this was the most important thing. Although you lay your life on the line every day, your goal is to come home with it at the end of that day, and the surest way for this to happen is having a partner in whom you have 100% faith. Faith that he will fight and even die for you should the duties of the job lead this way.
As a result of this respect for Chan, Yamamoto also felt great affection for Chan’s wife, Elaine, and their two children. Watching Elaine die for of cancer, for what seemed an eternity, had deeply moved Victor, and the murder of Sara, Chan’s daughter, at the hands of Jason Yu, had driven Victor beyond almost any rage he had ever known.
Although he had few friends besides David Chan, Yamamoto did have a select few, some who were not even Japanese. One, in fact, was Okinawan. And that one was an Okinawan who actually did raise pigs, on a farm on the West Side out Waiʻanae way.
The bottom line was this. If in some way you had garnered Yamamoto’s respect, he would accept you regardless of race or creed, or lack of street smarts or low I.Q.
The second secret he held onto very tightly was that Marshal Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was in fact his uncle, his father’s eldest brother. To mention to any Japanese in Hawaiʻi that your uncle had masterminded the attack on Pearl Harbor could easily have meant death at their hands. As if life had not been hard enough for local Japanese, all of whom considered themselves Americans who were absolutely loyal to the United States, on December 7, 1941 their misfortunes were compounded exponentially at 7:48 on that infamous Sunday morning.
It was thanks to his uncle’s machinations, in fact, that 13-year-old Victor, his mother and father, and his sister Ethel, had been imprisoned along with nearly 1500 other Japanese, and many suspect Europeans as well, at the Sand Island Internment Camp. And when his father was selected for transfer to a camp in Arkansas, it was decided that he alone would go while the three remained at Sand Island.
It had been difficult to stay in touch with his father after that, and a year later word came that Mr. Yamamoto had died at the Arkansas camp. Although no details of the death were given, Victor’s tremendous guilt over his uncle’s involvement in the war, a guilt that never left him, led him to believe that his father’s relationship to the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack had been discovered, resulting in his being killed. Whether this were even remotely true would never be known, but Victor would believe this to be the reason for his father’s demise until the day he himself died.
However, one good thing had come out of internment, or so it seemed at the time. At Sand Island, Victor met the love of his life, Chieko Nakamura. The first time he saw her, he fell instantly in love. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever met. He’d never been a romantic, so the idea of love at first sight was not even a remote possibility as far as he was concerned. But it did indeed happen. For him.
Victor had another feeling as well at the moment the two crossed paths. He knew that he was not the most handsome man Chieko had ever met in her life. He knew well he was not blessed with the face of a god; he’d always thought himself as somewhat ugly. But with Cupid’s inspiration and the dogged spirit of a samurai, he had worked his way into Chieko’s heart, he thought, despite being up until that point a very Prince Charmless.
Victor Yamamoto’s third secret, his deepest, stemmed from his unwillingness to have any children. The injustices of internment, of the horror of the war itself culminating in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and of his consequent belief that the world was fucked up to the point of no return, had led Victor to the determination that he would not suffer any children to come into a world that was on its way out.
He and Chieko continued their relationship after the end of the war. She found work as a cocktail waitress, he a police officer. Once it became obvious to him that they would be married, without telling a soul, Victor Yamamoto had a vasectomy. To be certain the operation had been a success, he returned to be tested not once, but twice, in order for his doctor to declare with a 100% surety that there would be no children.
After he and Chieko were married, Victor kept up appearances by wearing a condom during sex, but he grew guiltier by the month. He knew she wanted children. Still, he continued the lie, told her they needed to wait until they had the money to raise a child properly, giving it everything they themselves had not had growing up.
So when should he tell her the truth? This question plagued him interminably.
On that Sunday afternoon then, as they were driving back over the Pali to Honolulu from Lanikai Beach, when Chieko had casually said, “Victor, you know how they say male contraception is not 100% guaranteed to prevent pregnancy?” he knew that she was talking about condoms. And when her next words were, “I’m pregnant,” the excellent detective had an immediately strong suspicion that something was afoot.
Given Yamamoto’s usually underplayed demeanor, his genuine over-the-top reaction to the news more than surprised his wife. She clapped her hands together with such glee, and laughed so hard for joy, or maybe relief, that Victor, for a moment, thought about (snip)
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Today’s word is
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