Monday, July 29, 2013



Chapter 3: Bad News

    George waited in the dark until the crickets resumed their Morse code chirps. He couldn’t leave until he found out what had happened. Why the police had arrested Jonathan and Alice.
   One by one, the lights went off in the house until only the faint glow of the kitchen lamp was visible.
   George slunk around to the backyard and peeked in the window.
It was open a crack, and he could hear Jonathan's Auntie Mary weeping. She sat at the kitchen table with her head propped in her hands. Her shoulders rocked back and forth with her sobs.
   An official-looking paper lay on the table by her hand. George recognized the Hawaiian government stamp on top, but it was too far away to read. Instinctively, he knew the document was responsible for Jonathan and Alice’s arrest.
   Mary sat up, wiped her tears. She snatched the paper, wadded it into a ball, and threw it against the window.
Startled, George jumped back and stumbled. He smacked a large potted plant, and it knocked against the house. His elbow smarted from where it’d struck the ground.
   “Who's there?” Mary's voice wavered. “Show yourself. I'm not afraid of you. I have a baseball bat, and I’ll use it.”
   George scrambled to his feet, holding his elbow. “Don't be afraid, Miss Mary. It's me, George.”
   “George?” She marched to the back door and stood on the porch with her hands on her hips. “What are you doing out there at this time of night? You should be home in bed.”
   “Why did the police take Jonathan and Alice away?”
   Her face froze and she looked frightened. She stepped back into the kitchen and started to close the door.
   George pushed against it. “What’s happened?”
   “You shouldn't be here,” Mary said. “They might come back. You go on home now.”
   “Wait. You have to tell me. Jonathan’s my best friend.”
   Mary sighed, opened the door, and motioned him in. She waited until she’d bolted the lock before she spoke again. “No one can help him or Alice. It's too late.”
   She hurried to the window, looked out, and drew the curtains closed.
   “What do you mean?” George asked. “What’s happened?”
   She started to bawl. George felt really uncomfortable. He’d never seen an adult so upset before, and Mary was the last person he’d expect to break down and cry.
   He helped her to a chair and got her a glass of water.
   “Drink this,” he said and set the glass on the table.
   He pulled out a chair for himself, and that’s when he saw Jonathan’s lucky coin on the floor. That wasn’t good. Jonathan never went anywhere without it. George picked it up and rubbed his thumb on the raised Chinese writing. Maybe the coin would work for him. He closed his eyes and wished. Let the arrest be one big mistake.
   Mary stopped bawling, but her face was ghost white and her eyes like black holes. She started to rock with her hands fisted over her mouth.
   George spotted the paper wad she'd thrown at the window. Without thinking, he slipped Jonathan’s lucky coin into his pocket and picked up the paper. He sat across from Mary and smoothed it flat on the table. The dread in his stomach grew as he read.

Date: February 24, 1846

Subjects: Jonathan Napua, age 13
Alice Napua, age 14

Address: 745 Wainee Street
Lahaina, Maui

Section 302 of the civil code authorizes the Board of Health the power to arrest and detain any leprous person deemed capable of spreading the disease of leprosy. It is the duty of every police, or district Justice, to deliver all said persons to the Board of Health for isolation.

The above mentioned are to be taken into custody, transported to Kalaupapa and to be quarantined until such time as they are deemed cured.

You are ordered to provide a list of all persons who have come into regular contact with above mentioned lepers. Failure to provide this information is considered a punishable crime.

Signed and authorized by,

Harold Baldwin Masuda
Minister of the Interior
President of the Board of Health

   “This is crazy,” George said after he struggled through the legal language of the arrest warrant. “Jonathan isn't sick. Neither is Alice. They're not . . .”
   Mary lowered her hands, her face now blotched. “You're not always sick when you first get it.”
   “Then why lock them up?”
   “Because the lepela is contagious. It could infect everybody. There's no cure.”
   “I don't believe it,” George said. “It isn't true. Jonathan’s not a leper. And neither is Alice.”
   Mary stood. “I'm afraid it is true. I saw the signs, but I didn't want to believe it. I thought if Jonathan would just wear his shirt and keep it covered, no one would notice. Like it didn't exist.”
   “You mean that patch of white skin on his arm? That's leprosy? That's no big deal. Just white skin. Lots of folks on the mainland have white skin. They don't lock them up.”
   “The patches turn into sores,” she said.
   He dry swallowed. Horrible things happened to people who got the disease. A chill ran down his spine.
   George didn’t want to think of his best friend’s fingers and toes falling off. Or Alice’s perfect nose.
   “The sores get worse and worse and worse,” Mary said, and shuddered. “They’ll change Jonathan and Alice’s looks until we won’t even recognize them.”
   He scraped the tiny cut on his thumb with his fingernail. It started to bleed. He wiped the blood onto his pants, suddenly not feeling well at all. Did he have Jonathan’s blood running though his veins? Would he get leprosy, too?
   She started to cry again. “You go home, now. Don't tell anyone you were here. And if anyone asks, pretend you’ve never heard of us.”
   Feeling sick, George left. He raced back to the Hauala stone and stuck his hand in the water. Nothing happened. Its healing power didn’t work this time. The cut hadn’t healed.
   George looked at the sky. The moon had dropped low toward the horizon. The ring around it was now huge. He had to get home before morning light broke or he’d be in big trouble. Pressing his forefinger to his thumb, he raced against the fading night.
   Just as he reached his house, a light came on in his grandparents’ bedroom window. He had to hustle.
   On the back porch he kicked off his slippahs, opened the door a crack, and peeked into the front room. The muffled voices of Kapuna and Tutu came from their bedroom. Luckily his bedroom was close to the back door. He tiptoed inside and scooted into his room.
   He had just pulled the covers over his head when his bedroom door opened.
   “He's still asleep,” Tutu whispered. “Should we wake him before we leave?”
   “No,” Kapuna answered. “Let the sun wake him, otherwise we'll have to listen to him complain about missing out on a fishing trip.”
   The door closed and they left him.
   In spite of all that had happened, George fell into a deep sleep. He might have slept all day if not for the loud thud that shook the house, followed by the sound of breaking glass.
   George sat bolt upright in bed.
   Outside, the wind howled. Through his bedroom window, palm trees whipped back and forth. Storm clouds burst and rain pounded the metal roof.
   George leaped out of bed and slipped on a pair of shorts. In the front room, broken glass glittered on the floor like sharp confetti. Then he saw what had wakened him. The top of the old palm tree from the front yard had smashed through the window and crushed Kapuna's chair.
   Rain splattered though the broken window.
   “Kapuna! Tutu!” George shouted and checked all the rooms. They should have been home by now. Had they been caught in the storm?
   George raced out the back door and ran toward the beach.
   Heavy rain pelted his skin and he was soaked in seconds. As he ran, he dodged the swirling debris whipped up by the wind. Several trees had snapped and lay like dead fish stranded in the aftermath of a tsunami.
   When he reached the beach, giant waves smashed the shoreline. He squinted against the rain, searching for his grandfather’s canoe.        It was nowhere in sight.
   An angry knot formed in George’s stomach. Maybe Mr. Kim had been right. Maybe George was a curse, not only to the ground he walked on, but to everyone he loved. First to Jonathan and now his grandparents.
   No, he wouldn’t think about it. Instead, he’d do something.
   But what?
   He frowned and bit his lower lip when he realized what he had to do. There just wasn’t a better choice.

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