From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number 11, June – August 1981, Full Moon

Chapter 13 from Island Household
                                                                                 by Masato Nagai

          It was the first days of June. Kenneth and Willy walked along the main road, toward Peacock Point. They were going to check out the bunker there, then they were going all the way to the Parsons Islet bridge to search for medals. Kenneth stopped, bent over to fix his slipper again.
          ”Wait up,” he said.
          ”Why don't you throw that dang thing away,” said Willy.
          ”I can't. Road's too hot.” He pushed the vertex of the rubber thong into the hold again. “Wish I had a pin.”
          They went on slower now, Kenneth stepping easily. About noon they rounded the bend. The guns were perched on a small mound and the bunker was way up to the right. Kenneth left his slippers on a rock and they started up the hill.
          ”You can see everything from up here,” said Willy.
          They were on top of the hill, in front of the bunker.
          ”There's the Suwa Maru.”
          The rusted ship looked like a small Rock of Gibraltar from that distance, its stern beneath the waves. There were white terns circling above it.
          ”Fuck,” said Willy.
          ”Let's go look inside.”
          There was a stone stairway that led down into the bunker. The floor was littered with pieces of broken twigs, leaves, old movie magazines.
          ”Stink, huh?” said Kenneth.
          ”I can't see too much,” said Willy. “It's fucking dark.”
          They stood at the bottom of the stairway and let their eyes adjust.
          ”There's a box here.”
          In it were more magazines and some records.
          ”They're American,” said Willy. “R.C.A. Victor.”
          ”Maybe they're still good.”
          ”I wonder who left them here.”
          There were long-necked bottles in there too, and a lot of cobwebs.
          ”You can see the ocean out here,” said Kenneth.
          Willy went over to the long slit and looked.
          ”Can spot the Japs from here.”
          ”Yeah,” said Kenneth.
          They looked down awhile at the rusted out anti-aircraft guns sitting on the shore.
          The sunlight was blinding. They walked along the crest of the hill. There was a wind blowing on top of the hill.
          ”Look at this,” said Kenneth.
          ”Jesus,” said Willy.
          It was a rotting stump that termites had etched out. There were termites all over it. Willy gave it a kick and a piece came off and more termites flooded out.
          ”It's a good thing I gotta take a leak,” said Willy.
          ”Yeah. Me too.”
          They washed a few hundred termites off the stump. Then they went back down the hill for Kenneth's slippers and got back on the main road.
          A military truck passed and they got a ride to Parsons Islet. The two blonde guys in the back were drinking beer and they asked a lot of questions. At Parsons, Kenneth and Willy went to the snackbar near the bridge and ordered hamburgers with everything on it, french fries, and cokes. Kenneth's mother had given Kenneth five dollars so that he could treat Willy. They sat on the picnic bench right outside the window of the snackbar and watched a crane lift scoops of coral and sand from a pit.
          ”There's a submarine around here,” said Kenneth.
          ”Yeah, ” said Willy. “I seen it.”
          After lunch they went down to the shore on the right of the bridge.
          They looked a long time. The water was smelly and green like nowhere on the island and the stones on the shore were calcite-like, soft, greenish, and pocked with irregular holes; but when you turned them over they were yellowish-brown underneath, and wet. Willy found a button. After he scraped the moss away it was dark brown and you could still see the anchor on it. He put it in his pocket. They searched for an hour or so more but they didn't find any medals and Willy ended up cursing Michael Briggs for ever suggesting it. “That damned liar,” he said. “I don't care if I never see him again.”
          There were no rides home and it was very hot. By the time they reached Willy's house the sun was casting some nice, clean shadows onto the sand. After getting a pitcher of cold water they sat in the sand outside Willy's patio sipping slowly from tall glasses, like they always did, their backs against the brown board fence.
          ”Remember those planes we made,” said Willy.
          ”Yeah, ” said Kenneth.
          ”Damn things wouldn't even fly.”
          ”They were neat though.”
          ”They could have flown if they were lighter.”
          They spent the rest of the afternoon rereading old comic books. Then it was time for Kenneth to go.
          ”Well, so long,” said Willy.
          ”So long,” said Kenneth. “I'll see you.”
          ”Okay. So long.”
          Willy watched Kenneth walk off into the sand, turn left beyond the bushes — and he was gone.

          ”Well, how was it,” said his mother when Kenneth came in the door.
“Find anything?”
          ”Naw,” said Kenneth. “Willy found a button.”
          ”Oh, that's too bad,” said his mother. “He's leaving Wednesday?”
          ”Yeah,” said Kenneth.
          ”How was the lunch?”
          ”What'd you folks eat?”
          ”Oh, the usual.”
          ”Well, I'd better say goodbye to Mrs. Ballantine.”
          Kenneth went into his room.
          ”Do you think you should give him something?” his mother said, later that evening.
          Kenneth looked up at her from his desk.
          ”I don't know.”
          She smiled. “Well, don't you want to give him anything? Something he can remember you by?”
          ”I don't know what,” said Kenneth, shrugging.
          ”What about that knife at the airport you always look at? The one with everything on it?”
          ”What do you think of that?”
          ”I don't know.”
          ”I think that's a nice gift. Don't you want to give him that?”
          He looked up at her. “I guess so.”
          ”I can get it tomorrow,” she said. “We can drive down and get it, okay?”
          She left. Kenneth got up, went over to his bed and lay down. He thought about the knife. It had a nice, carved plastic handle and a leather case that you could hang from your belt. He thought about it till he fell asleep.
          The next morning after breakfast they got in the jeep and went to the airport. His mother gave him the money to hand to the man behind the counter. The man reached into the glass case and brought it out. He opened it up — everything — the blades, the fork, spoon, screwdriver — and handed it to Kenneth.
          ”Well, do you like it?” said his mother.
          ”Yeah,” said Kenneth.
          ”Well, give the man the money.”
          That evening Eileen made Kenneth call Willy up. The next morning he went over to Willy's house. Gray suitcases were out in the patio and Mrs. Ballantine was in an aquamarine, silky dress.
          ”Come in. Willy's in the bedroom. Willy, Kenneth's here.”
          He heard Willy say “okay.” He removed his slippers and stepped in. The house was dark. As usual, the curtains were drawn. But the living room was empty except for the government's bamboo furniture.
          Kenneth sat and waited. Mr. Ballantine came out of the hall and said hello — then he went into the kitchen. He had on a bright red aloha shirt and polished, thick-soled black shoes.
          Willy came out, his hair slicked down. Kenneth had never seen Willy looking so good. They went out to the patio.
          ”Well, I just wanted to give you this,” said Kenneth.
          He handed Willy the brown paper sack.
          ”What'd you do that for?” said Willy, embarrassed now, his face coloring.
          Kenneth shrugged and looked away.
          Kenneth went in to say goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Ballantine, like his mother had said, then he went back out into the patio. Mrs. Ballantine followed him out.
          ”Bye,” said Kenneth to Willy. Willy was sitting on the cot, the paper sack unopened.
          ”Willy. Aren't you going to shake Kenneth's hand?” said Mrs. Ballantine.
          Willy went over to Kenneth, stuck out a limp hand, and they shook, looking briefly into each other's eyes.

* * * * *

Bio: The only information about Masato Nagai was that this was a new piece of writing.

Mahalo for reading!

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