The man didn’t open his eyes, just spoke softly. “It’s as I said. How many Lannings do you know? In Honolulu?”
He paused. Did he expect me to answer him?
“I didn’t want to name you Lanning, you know, but your mother did. You can see who won that argument. I told her you’d have to spell your name for people you met for the rest of your life.” He opened his eyes and looked my way. “Was I right?”
I didn’t say anything. He smiled, closed his eyes.
“Just so. I suppose I could tell you that your mother’s name is Violet, and that she was born in Kohala.”
“She’s dead,” I said. “She died alone.”
The expression on his face changed to one of sadness, I thought.
“I’m very sorry to hear that, Lanning. She had a hard life. That dying alone made her life even harder is a tragedy. I’m so very sorry for that.”
“You better believe it was hard,” I said. “She raised me by herself. Her reward for that was cancer. She could have used a husband’s support, especially in dying.”
“I am terribly, terribly sorry for that, Lanning, but I think you are operating under the assumption that I could have made her happy. I couldn’t, Lanning. I was a horrible husband.”
“Yeah, well, you don’t have to tell me that. Any guy who would abandon his wife and son must be pretty much of a bastard.”
“I probably should never have married her, but I felt sorry for her.” A tear rolled down his cheek. “Did she tell you her father abused her?”
I didn’t know what to say. She hadn’t said anything, of course. I pictured my grandfather, bouncing me on his knee. I shivered.
“After we’d dated a while, she told me about that. It’s a terrible reason to marry, I think now. She would scream about in her dreams. It took everything I had to calm her down on those nights.”
I said, “Yeah, well once you’ve made the commitment, I’d say it’s even more terrible you’d leave.”
He was silent. Then, “Lanning, I discovered early on that I wasn’t a fit husband. I loved her well enough, but I started seeing other women. I didn’t know how to deal with your mom’s tremendous mental difficulties. I looked for some kind of normalcy with other women. It was an appalling thing for me to do to her. Whoring around does little to make a marriage more stable. In the end, too much of a coward to face her anymore, I took the coward’s way out. I returned to Korea.”
The tears were really coming now. I felt bad, yet at the same time I wanted to say, “Good for you. Good for you to feel sad, to feel remorse. You should suffer.”
For all my anger, the only thing I said was, “What did you do in Korea?”
“I don’t know if your mother told you, but I was a magician. I tried that for a while, but I discovered I wasn’t really a magician at all. I was a gambler. Your mother always hated that side of me, but gambling, I was good at. Or at least I told myself that. All gamblers think they’re good at gambling, Lanning, and let me tell you, Korean gamblers are even better at deceiving themselves about this. So I gambled, and I did well on occasion, but mostly I kept losing. Finally, I found a new career. I became a longline fisherman.
“The beauty of longline fishing, especially for Koreans, is that it is much more difficult to lose everything you have when you’re out at sea for great periods of time. I managed to save enough to buy a boat, hired a crew, then bought another, captaining two crews. It was quite a responsibility, and for the first time in my life, I was responsible.”
After sitting there in silence all this time, the Lieutenant finally spoke up. “Mister Lee, why are you here in Honolulu?”
The man said nothing.
“Mister Lee, are you here for any particular reason?”
“I would prefer not to say.”
Chan said, “What’s the reason someone might want to shoot you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Look,” Chan said, “after you were shot, you were in Queen’s Hospital. Two men tried to kill you there. Please tell me why.”
“Okay, Mister Lee, someone wanted to kill Lanning today. They killed his roommate. Do you want to keep endangering your son’s life?”
Silence. Then he opened his eyes, and turned his head toward us. The look was nothing like sorrow. It scared me.
“They tried to kill you, Lanning?”
I could see a flash in his eyes, feel the heat. I knew this Korean anger personally. I knew that side of me. I’d always had difficulty controlling my temper.
“Who?” Chan said.
“The Yus,” the man said.
“Him. The granddaughter, Gi. They both want me dead.”
“Because what I bought to Honolulu on my ship is definitely not tuna.”
“What is it?” Chan asked.
* * * * *
Aloha #WriterThursday, I hope you are well and staying safe. Today’s #WritingPrompt is
Use it to inspire a piece of writing, long or short, any style, and then post that piece as a comment below. I would love to read it : )