Sayonara by James A. Michener


  “Yes! They were second-class men. I’ve seen reports on seven such suicides and they were all shoddy material. First-class men sometimes fall in love with native girls, of course they do. But they get over it. They forget the girls and they go home. They go back to work.”

  “Damn it!” I shouted. “Why do men like you and my father call them native girls? Can’t you believe …”

  General Webster was remarkably patient. He stopped me by thrusting a yellow paper into my hand. “I suppose a young man’s no good if he doesn’t have the guts to fight for what he thinks is right,” he said. “You’ve had the courage to fight for Joe Kelly and his native girl. It was gallant, Lloyd, but it wasn’t necessary. Read it.”

  The yellow paper was from Washington and it said a law was being passed to permit men like Joe Kelly to bring their Japanese wives into the States. “Now they do it!” I cried.

  “They were doing it all along,” Webster said. “Everyone knew the old law was bad.”

  I thought of Joe and Katsumi lying in blood and I felt sick. I had to see Hana-ogi. In all the world she was the only person who could help me now. My heart and my mind cried out for her. “Sir,” I blurted, “I’ve got to get to Tokyo.”

  “It’s forbidden, Lloyd. You’re flying home.”

  “I don’t care what happens. I’ve got to see Hana-ogi.”

  The general winced as I used the strange name, then said calmly, “If you disobey another order …”

  “All right, I’ll leave the Air Force. I’ll get a …”

  I expected General Webster to hit the roof, but when he’s away from his wife he isn’t so bad. He said, “Sit down, Lloyd. I’m not going to throw my weight at you. You’re being a stupid idiot and we both know it, but you come by it naturally.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “This seems like 1924.”

  “I don’t understand,” I said dully.

  “Your father was mixed up with a girl—the one I told you about. There was one member of our class you’ve never met. Chap named Charley Scales. He had a chance in ’24 to drop out of service and take a good job with General Motors. So your father decided to marry the girl and chuck the Army and go along with Charley, but some of us saner fellows talked him out of it. Must run in your family.”

  “My father was going to leave the Army?”

  “Yep. He was all broken up.” General Webster laughed and scratched his chin. “I remember that we were quite sorry for him. We thought he was pretty weak to be broken up like that over a waitress. Look at him now.”

  I said, “I think he made a mistake in 1924.”

  General Webster breathed a sigh of relief and said, “So do I, but I guess any man has a right to get mixed up with a waitress once …”

  “I don’t mean that. I mean he probably should have married the waitress.”

  “Lloyd! Your father a Chevrolet salesman!”

  “I mean he should never have married my mother. They’ve never been happy.”

  “Happy? What’s happy? He’s a great general.”

  “I think he’s made a mess of his life.”

  General Webster got mad. “You think! Who in hell are you to think? Only a few men in any generation can be great generals. Don’t you forget it!”

  I said, “I still want to marry this girl.”

  “Son,” General Webster said, “the Supervisor of Takarazuka and I stayed up late last night figuring how to keep his outfit and mine free of bad publicity over the suicides. We protected ourselves and we can’t let you ruin things.”

  “At least give me a chance to say good-bye to her!”

  “No, she herself wanted it this way.”

  “She didn’t!”

  “I saw her. She said to send you back to America.”

  I said, “I don’t believe that.” So he handed me a letter which had been written two days before. I know because Hana-ogi had written it on my stationery and as I read it I could hear her gentle voice groping its way through my language:

  Darring,

  Pretty soon (That was a phrase I used a lot …) our rast night. I Tokyo go. You America go. (A passage was scratched out, then …) I not think fire die. Frame not go out. I think you many times. (Then she added a passage from her phrase book …)

  Ever your devoted and humble servant,

  and the letter was signed with the Chinese characters representing her name. How strange they were, those characters, how beautiful, how deeply hidden from me behind the wall of Asia!

  I wanted to fling myself upon the floor and weep as Hana-ogi might have wept had we been at home, but instead there came to me that sad and final Japanese word which she had refused to teach me: “Sayonara, Hana-ogi. Sayonara, you beautiful dancer. You’ve chosen the tough way. I hope your gods give you the courage to follow it. Sayonara, Katsumi, little mother. Forgive me that I once thought you too ugly to kiss. You can’t know it now but I fought my way through four M.P.’s to kiss you good-bye and fat Col. Craford shuddered. Oh, Katsumi, sayonara. And goddamn it, Sukoshi Joe, you died too soon. They’re passing a law right now to let guys like you bring your wives home. It was a good fight that night until I fainted. Sayonara, Sukoshi Joe. You did it too soon. To the alley and the canal and the little houses and the pachinko parlor and to the flutes at night—sayonara. And you, Japan, you crowded islands, you tragic land—sayonara, you enemy, you friend.”

  But even as I said these words I knew that I had to put them out of mind, for I was forced to acknowledge that I lived in an age when the only honorable profession was soldiering, when the only acceptable attitude toward strange lands and people of another color must be not love but fear.

  Like the voice of my own conscience I heard, as from a great distance, General Webster saying, “Pull yourself together, son. Whatever makes you a better man makes you a better officer.”

  I looked up and said, “What?”

  “I oughtn’t to tell you this, Lloyd, because it isn’t official yet. But as soon as you get back to Randolph Field they’re making you a lieutenant-colonel.”

  Instinctively I saluted.

  The general said, “We’d better move along. Eileen wants to drive us to the airport.”

  To Mark

  BY JAMES A. MICHENER

  Tales of the South Pacific

  The Fires of Spring

  Return to Paradise

  The Voice of Asia

  The Bridges at Toko-Ri

  Sayonara

  The Floating World

  The Bridge at Andau

  Hawaii

  Report of the Country Chairman

  Caravans

  The Source

  Iberia

  Presidential Lottery

  The Quality of Life

  Kent State: What Happened and Why

  The Drifters

  A Michener Miscellany: 1950–1970

  Centennial

  Sports in America

  Chesapeake

  The Covenant

  Space

  Poland

  Texas

  Legacy

  Alaska

  Journey

  Caribbean

  The Eagle and the Raven

  Pilgrimage

  The Novel

  James A. Michener’s Writer’s Handbook

  Mexico

  Creatures of the Kingdom

  Recessional

  Miracle in Seville

  This Noble Land: My Vision for America

  The World Is My Home

  with A. Grove Day

  Rascals in Paradise

  with John Kings

  Six Days in Havana

  About the Author

  JAMES A. MICHENER, one of the world’s most popular writers, was the author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Tales of the South Pacific, the best-selling novels Hawaii, Texas, Chesapeake, The Covenant, and Alaska, and the memoir The World Is My Home. Michener served on the advisory council to NASA and the International Broadcast Board, which overs
ees the Voice of America. Among dozens of awards and honors, he received America’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1977, and an award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 1983 for his commitment to art in America. Michener died in 1997 at the age of ninety.

 


 

  James A. Michener, Sayonara

  (Series: # )

 

 


 

 
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