All in all, Art decided, Carl Heine was a good man. He was silent, yes, and grave like his mother, but the war had a part in that, Art realized. Carl rarely laughed, but he did not seem, to Art’s way of thinking, unhappy or dissatisfied.
An unflagging loyalty to his profession and its principles had made Arthur, over the years, increasingly deliberate in his speech and actions, and increasingly exacting regarding the truth in even his most casual reportage. He was, his son remembered, morally meticulous, and though Ishmael might strive to emulate this, there was nevertheless the matter of the war—this matter of the arm he’d lost—that made such scrupulosity difficult.
His cynicism—a veteran’s cynicism—was a thing that disturbed him all the time. It seemed to him after the war that the world was thoroughly altered. […] People appeared enormously foolish to him. He understood that they were only animated cavities full of jelly and strings and liquids.
Thus on San Piedro the silent-toiling, autonomous gill-netter became the collective image of the good man. He who was too gregarious, who spoke too much and too ardently desired the company of others, their conversation and their laughter, did not have what life required.
Carl Heine’s dark struggle, his effort to hold his breath, the volume of water that had filled the vacuum of his gut, his profound unconsciousness and final convulsions, his terminal gasps in the grip of death as the last of the air leaked out of him and his heart halted and his brain ceased to consider anything—they were all recorded, or not recorded, in the slab of flesh that lay on Horace Whaley’s examination table. It was his duty to find out the truth.
The fishermen felt, like most islanders, that this exiling of the Japanese was the right thing to do, and leaned against the cabins of their stern-pickers and bow-pickers with the conviction that the Japanese must go for reasons that made sense: there was a war on and that changed everything.
The inside of the tree felt private. He felt they would never be discovered here. […] The rain afforded an even greater privacy; no one in the world would come this way and find them inside this tree.
What could he say to people on San Piedro to explain the coldness he projected? The world was unreal, a nuisance that prevented him from focusing on the memory of that boy, on the flies in a cloud over his astonished face […] the sound of gunfire from the hillside to the east—he’d left there, and then he hadn’t left. […] It had seemed to Kabuo that his detachment from this world was somehow self-explanatory, that the judge, the jurors, and the people in the gallery would recognize the face of a war veteran […]. Now, looking at himself, scrutinizing his face, he saw that he appeared defiant instead.
Sitting where he sat now, accused of the murder of Carl Heine, it seemed to him he’d found the suffering place he’d fantasized and desired. For Kabuo Miyamoto was suffering in his cell from the fear of his imminent judgment. Perhaps it was now his fate to pay for the lives he had taken in anger.
“Not every fact is just a fact,” he added. “It’s all a kind of…balancing act. A juggling of pins, all kinds of pins, that’s what journalism is about.”
“That isn’t journalism,” Ishmael answered. “Journalism is just the facts.”
“But which facts?” Arthur asked him. “Which facts do we print, Ishmael?”
“That is the fundamental difference, Hatsue. We bend our heads, we bow and are silent, because we understand that by ourselves, alone, we are nothing at all, dust in a strong wind, while the hakujin believes his aloneness is everything, his separateness is the foundation of his existence. He seeks and grasps, seeks and grasps for the separateness, while we seek union with the Greater Life—you must see that these are distinct paths we are traveling, Hatsue, the hakujin and we Japanese.”
She was of this place and she was not of this place, and though she might desire to be an American it was clear, as her mother said, that she had the face of America’s enemy and would always have such a face.
“None of those other things makes a difference. Love is the strongest thing in the world, you know. Nothing can touch it. Nothing comes close. If we love each other we’re safe from it all. Love is the biggest thing there is.”
Art Moran looked into the Jap’s eyes to see if he could discern the truth there. But they were hard eyes set in a proud, still face, and there was nothing to be read in them either way. They were the eyes of a man with concealed emotions, the eyes of a man hiding something. “You’re under arrest,” repeated Art Moran, “in connection with the death of Carl Heine.”
“I’m not talking about the whole universe,” cut in Hatsue. “I’m talking about people—the sheriff, that prosecutor, the judge, you. People who can do things because they run newspapers or arrest people or convict them or decide about their lives. People don’t have to be unfair, do they? That isn’t just part of things, when people are unfair to somebody.”
“You’ll think this is crazy,” Ishmael said. “But all I want is to hold you. All I want is just to hold you once and smell your hair, Hatsue. I think after that I’ll be better.”
“The defense hasn’t made its case yet, but you’re all ready to convict. You’ve got the prosecutor’s set of facts, but that might not be the whole story—it never is, Ishmael. And besides, really, facts are so cold, so horribly cold—can we defend on facts by themselves?”
“What else do we have?” replied Ishmael. “Everything else is ambiguous. Everything else is emotions and hunches. At least the facts you can cling to; the emotions just float away.”
“I can’t tell you what to do, Ishmael. I’ve tried to understand what it’s been like for you—having gone to war, having lost your arm, not having married or had children. I’ve tried to make sense of it all, believe me, I have—how it must feel to be you. But I must confess that, no matter how I try, I can’t really understand you. There are other boys, after all, who went to war and came back home and pushed on with their lives […]. But you—you went numb, Ishmael. And you’ve stayed numb all these years.”
“I’m not interpreting or misinterpreting,” Alvin Hooks cut in. “I merely want to know what the facts are—we all want to know what the facts are, Mrs. Miyamoto, that’s what we’re doing here.”
“I’m an American,” Kabuo cut in. “Just like you or anybody. Am I calling you a Nazi, you big Nazi bastard? I killed men who looked just like you—pig-fed German bastards. I’ve got blood on my soul, Carl, and it doesn’t wash off very easily. So don’t you talk to me about Japs, you big Nazi son of a bitch.”
The citizens in the gallery were reminded of photographs they had seen of Japanese soldiers. The man before them was noble in appearance, and the shadows played across the planes of his face in a way that made their angles harden […]. He was, they decided, not like them at all, and the detached and aloof manner in which he watched the snowfall made this palpable and self-evident.
“The storm,” said the judge, “is beyond our control, but the outcome of this trial is not. The outcome of this trial is up to you now. You may adjourn and begin your deliberations.”
“There are things in this universe that we cannot control, and then there are the things we can. Your task as you deliberate together on these proceedings is to ensure that you do nothing to yield to a universe in which things go awry by happenstance. Let fate, coincidence, and accident conspire; human beings must act on reason.”
But the war, his arm, the course of things—it had all made his heart much smaller. He had not moved on at all. […] So perhaps that was what her eyes meant now on those rare occasions when she looked at him—he’d shrunk so thoroughly in her estimation, not lived up to who he was. He read her letter another time and understood that she had once admired him, there was something in him she was grateful for even if she could not love him. That was a part of himself he’d lost over the years, that was the part that was gone.