Back in the courtroom, Kabuo finishes relaying his testimony to Hooks. Hooks picks at his nails and, exasperatedly, asks Kabuo why he didn’t come forward with this story from the start. Kabuo tries to explain that he hadn’t heard about Carl’s death on September 16 until 1 p.m., and that, after that, it was only a few hours until Art Moran arrested him for Carl’s murder. Hooks twists Kabuo’s words, suggesting that a few hours should’ve been plenty of time to come forward—had Kabuo ever even intended to come forward in the first place?
When Hooks refuses to understand why Kabuo didn’t immediately come forward with the truth when the authorities confronted him about the night of September 15, he doesn’t account for the fear of prejudice that prevented Kabuo from telling the truth in the first place. Hooks’s narrative of suspicion leaves out a critical fact (that Kabuo didn’t think he’d be believed anyway), and, in so doing, paints Kabuo’s initial silence in a more suspicious, damning light.
Kabuo again reinforces what a tricky situation he was in. Hooks asks Kabuo if he was weighing the decision of whether to come forward or to conceal the “battery incident” from Sheriff Moran. Kabuo says yes, this was the decision he’d tried to make. Hooks responds that Moran came to Kabuo before Kabuo could come forward with the truth. Kabuo, again, confirms this. Hooks underscores that, even as he faced immediate arrest, Kabuo had continued to withhold the supposed truth. He emphasizes that Kabuo’s story after his arrest differs from his testimony today. “So,” he asks, “where lies the truth?”
Hooks’s question oversimplifies the concept of truth. He makes truth out to be as simple as the cold, hard facts, when in reality, “truth” is far more complex. Throughout the novel, Guterson demonstrates that the truth one believes is often the truth one wants to hear; subjective factors, such as prejudices and emotional attachments, can alter how one defines and interprets so-called truth.
Kabuo pauses before responding that the truth is that he helped Carl, as he just stated in his testimony. Hooks listens and then asks if Kabuo is saying he’d like to “retract the story of complete ignorance” that he earlier told Art Moran. Hooks asks if Kabuo wants to go with “this new story.” Kabuo says yes, because it is the truth. Hooks then walks Kabuo through what he calls Kabuo’s “new story,” beginning when he returned from his night of fishing (and helping Carl) on the morning of September 16, and continuing through the day until he returned to his boat for the next night of fishing, only to be approached, searched, and arrested by Sheriff Moran and Abel Martinson.
Hooks refers to Kabuo’s detailed narrative as a “story” to insinuate to the jury that Kabuo’s testimony is more fiction than fact. Of course, Guterson suggests throughout the novel that all versions of the truth are essentially stories; people simply choose which ones to believe.
Hooks directs his testimony at Moran’s search of Kabuo’s boat, drawing attention to the details of the search. Specifically, he cites the fact that there were two D-6 batteries found in Kabuo’s well. Hooks asks incredulously why it was that Kabuo still had two batteries in his boat after he’d loaned Carl one; Kabuo had mentioned nothing about purchasing an extra battery at the store that day, and it would be odd for him to have a spare lying around. As Hooks makes this point, he appeals to the jury, theatrically tapping his finger against the pages of the sheriff’s report and turning towards the jury as he does so.
Hooks pokes holes in Kabuo’s supposed “story” to discredit his account of the truth. As Gillanders stated in his earlier testimony, it’s highly unusual for a gill-netter to carry a spare battery, so this detail does appear somewhat confusing. But when Hooks taps his finger theatrically against the sheriff’s report, he conveys complete confidence to the jury, making this new detail seem like conclusive evidence when really it’s just one more fact to consider. As the reader sees throughout the novel, it’s not enough simply to state the facts: often, one’s presentation and performance of the facts is what ensures that facts are received as truth.
Kabuo pauses, and responds that he simply had a spare battery in his shed. He’d brought it to his boat before Moran showed up for his search. Hooks walks towards Kabuo slowly and reminds him that he’s’ “under oath here to tell the truth.” Hooks claims that Kabuo’s choice to add this new information about the spare battery to his “story” is another attempt of Kabuo’s to “change” the truth. He says that Kabuo is “a hard man to trust,” citing his “poker face.” To this, Nels Gudmundsson interrupts: “Objections!” Judge Fielding, too, tells Hooks he should “know better than that.”
When he reminds Kabuo that he’s “under oath here to tell the truth, Hooks insinuates that Kabuo is lying about the battery he supposedly brought from his shed the morning of Moran’s investigation. Hooks’s snide comment about Kabuo’s “poker face” is a nod to the racist lens that has colored so much of the trial; again, Kabuo is penalized for having unreadable facial expressions, while white characters (like Carl) are admired for the same thing.
But Hooks seems satisfied, and says he has no more questions for Kabuo. When Kabuo’s questioning is over, he stands up and makes sure that everyone sees that he is a strong, proud Japanese man. The jury takes in Kabuo’s strength and “[are] reminded of photographs they had seen of Japanese soldiers.” The citizens have decided that Kabuo is “not like them at all,” citing “the detached and aloof manner in which he watched the snowfall” as sufficient proof of the matter.
When the jury likens Kabuo’s stature to “photographs they had seen of Japanese soldiers,” it’s a hint that the jury will not set aside their prejudice to render a fair, unbiased verdict. Before they even convene to discuss the evidence presented in court, they decide that Kabuo is “not like them at all.” Kabuo’s outsider status (and his calm acceptance of life’s chances, as symbolized by the snowfall) is fact enough to convict him of the murder of one of their own.