Friday, December 5, 1941
                                                                          7:52 a.m.

“Yasu?” The man snorted. “I never heard that name before, and I’ve heard some strange ones living in a big city.”

Yasu pressed his lips together. “It’s a Japanese name. My family is Japanese.”

The man turned his head sharply. “Japanese? How’s that? You look more Norwegian than Japanese, son, that’s for sure.”

Yasu began unloading a box of soap bars onto an empty shelf.

“Well, how’d it happen? They kidnap you or something? I surely wouldn’t trust those . . .”

Yasu sensed an ethnic slur on the man’s lips. “I was adopted!” he interrupted. He squeezed a bar of soap more tightly than necessary and felt blood rush to his face and ears.

“Well, now, there’s no need to get all worked up, is there? I was just curious how an American boy like you wound up with such an odd foreign name.”

“Mr. Grant, my Japanese family members are Americans too,” Yasu said calmly.

“Well, in a manner of speaking, perhaps. But the, um, adopted parents couldn’t be citizens, of course.”

“Actually, my parents are—or were—American citizens. They were born here in San Francisco, so the government couldn’t prevent them from being Americans like it does arbitrarily with Japanese immigrants.”

Mr. Grant shook his head. “I just don’t understand why Uncle Sam gives away citizenship papers so easily.”

Yasu looked at him incredulously.

Mr. Grant hung up his keys and then casually rummaged around in his pockets. He pulled out a knife and eyed a sturdy wooden target guarding the back corner. His experienced hand released the blade. Shwik. He slowly turned to face Yasu. “Boy, I’m telling you, you can’t be too careful around those foreigners.”

                                                     Sunday, December 7, 1941
                                                                          8:30 a.m.

Yasu broke into a jog, chasing his early morning shadow.“Slow down, Yasu!” called nine-year-old Rei, tugging impatiently at her mother’s hand.

Yasu ignored his sister. When he neared the Golden Gate Bridge, he finally slowed to a brisk walk. He straightened out his posture and ran a hand through his hair, then squinted and scanned the horizon. “Where's Christina?” he thought. “She’s supposed to meet us here.”

“Hi, Christina!” Rei shouted about thirty yards behind him.

Yasu turned toward Rei’s voice, groaning inwardly. “Foiled again,” he thought.

Christina caught Yasu’s eye and smiled warmly. “Good morning, Yasu!” she called.

Yasu felt better. He returned her greeting, then waited for the trio to catch up with him.

“Why do you always go so fast, Yasu?” Rei huffed accusingly.

Yasu shrugged and was about to defend himself with dramatic gusto, but his mother jumped in.

“Well, I guess you could say that Yasu has always been fast.” Mitsuki chuckled. “When he was about five, I remember him beating a group of Japanese children in a footrace. One of the moms asked me, ‘Is that your son? He’s not really Japanese, is he?’ I laughed and said, ‘Oh no, he’s not even really my son. Just adopted.’ I told her how we first learned about Yasu through the church and how . . .”

Mitsuki continued, but Yasu wasn’t listening. Despite the cold morning, the tops of his ears felt hot, and his eyes were stinging. He started walking faster than the group to try to get away. He didn’t really want them to know how he was feeling, so when he looked back, he forced a smile.

When he thought he was well out of earshot, Yasu took from his pocket an origami rose Rei had given him the night before. She loved to make origami presents for him; his room was cluttered with flowers and birds and even frogs.

He crumpled the rose into a ball and dropped it over the railing. He watched the red blob fall quietly toward the blue-gray water.

A moment later, he felt a gentle hand touch his shoulder. He turned, startled and embarrassed.

It was Christina. Somehow she had caught up without him noticing. He looked down at his shoes to avoid the intensity of her eye contact. Or, in the version he would later tell his grandchildren, it was her curly blonde hair that really eroded his confidence.

She waited until he looked up sheepishly. “I’m so sorry, Yasu. I realized how that comment must have sounded to you. I know she didn’t mean to be hurtful.”

Yasu leaned his weight against the railing and chose his words carefully. “I just don’t understand why she would say something like that.” He tried to suppress the faint trembling in his voice. “Is that how she really thinks of me?”

“No, of course not,” Christina assured him.

“But still . . .” His voice trailed off. He couldn’t think of anything else to say. How could he describe this feeling? In his mind’s eye, Mitsuki’s words formed a great storm that crashed down on San Francisco Bay, causing the bridge—himself—to grate and moan under the strain.

Christina’s sympathy jostled the silence. “Well, I’ll give you some space now. You should probably talk to her about it, though. I don’t think she realized how it sounded.”

Yasu turned and started walking again. “Well, at least Christina cares about me,” he thought wryly. “That’s what I wanted, right?”

                                                                          11:40 a.m.

“What we see from the Father in this passage is that forgiveness is complete. You squeeze out every last bit of bitterness and resentment as you forgive someone,” Pastor Shoemaker explained. He was Christina’s father and had become the main teaching pastor after Yasu’s adopted dad died of pneumonia. “It’s just like how a frugal person will squeeze every last bit of toothpaste out of a tube.”

A few audience members chuckled.

Yasu squirmed. He hadn’t talked to his mom about the adoption comment yet. And he hadn’t forgiven her. Yet here he was, listening to a sermon on the prodigal son and almost melting into his seat.

A door creaked in the back of the room. Yasu heard loud whispering behind him. Something about “attack.”

Pastor Shoemaker couldn’t help but notice the commotion. “What has happened?”

Mrs. Nakamura stood up with tears in her eyes. “The news has just announced that the Japanese Navy—” she hesitated. “They attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor this morning!”

Pastor Shoemaker took a deep breath. “Brothers and sisters, let’s kneel before the Lord. We must pray.”

                                                     Monday, December 8, 1941
                                                                          8:02 a.m.

Yasu hurried toward the grocery store, shivering and worried. “I’m late! And I can’t imagine what Mr. Grant is going to say about Japanese people now,” he thought.

Yasu entered the store in a rush. The spacious front room was empty. “I guess Mr. Grant must be dealing with some inventory.”

He glanced around the room and saw a photograph he hadn’t noticed on Friday. He picked up its frame gingerly. A young Navy sailor grinned back at Yasu. The sailor had a strong jawline and hair that was probably light brown. In fact, the young man seemed to resemble Mr. Grant. But it was hard to tell with a black-and-white photo in dim lighting.


Yasu jumped. Smash!

Mr. Grant cried out. “James! His picture!”

Yasu looked down in panic. He had been so startled he’d dropped the frame!

“Well.” Mr. Grant was trembling. “First these people murder my son at Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack. But that isn’t enough. Oh, no! One of their sympathizers has to come in and break his picture, practically the only thing I have left to remember him by!” Mr. Grant was yelling at the top of his voice now. “Get out! Get out! You’re fired! Don’t come back! Ever! You deserve much worse, boy!”

As Yasu darted out the door, he heard something to the effect of, “Was planning to fire him anyway! Japanese family and all!”

Yasu stood in the middle of the street, trying to process what had just transpired. “His son! That’s horrible. Why do people have to hate each other?”

A sharp sound interrupted his thoughts. Was that a scream? Yasu ran toward the sound just in case. Two blocks later, he spotted a familiar face. “Rei!” he shouted.

Rei was running full speed toward him. She was screaming periodically, and her hair was disheveled. When she saw Yasu, she calmed down slightly.

Yasu reached her, scooping her up in his arms and scanning the street for danger. “Is anyone chasing you?” he questioned.

“I—I don’t know,” Rei said between sobs.

Yasu rushed her homeward like an emergency medical helicopter. He tenderly cradled the back of her head in his hand. “What happened?” he asked.

“Some older boys started chasing me on my way to school. They called me awful names, words you’re not supposed to say!” She paused. “Then one of them caught up with me and grabbed me. I screamed as loud as I could and tried to get away, but he was too strong. One of the other boys pulled out a knife,” she wailed.

Yasu inhaled sharply.

“And I was so scared. So scared,” Rei repeated. “He grabbed my hair and then—then he cut off a chunk of it! I think he said it was a ‘spoil of war.’ And then they let me go. And I was still so, so far from school. And I didn’t know if they would follow me. So I ran and ran. And then Jesus helped me find you, Yasu.”

Tears were flowing down Yasu’s cheeks. He squeezed Rei tightly and prayed.

                                                         Friday, April 3, 1942
                                                                          10:14 a.m.

The door rattled under a heavy and insistent knocking. “Could this be it?” Yasu thought. Panic stirred in the back of his mind.

“Open up,” growled a muffled voice.

Reluctantly, Yasu opened the door.

“Sergeant Kevin Grant, US Army. I will be escorting the Japanese people who live here to their transportation to the camps. They were warned. Six days ago.”

Yasu tried to sound congenial. “Sir, are you sure this is the right home?”

Sergeant Grant scoffed. “Of course it’s the right home. Says here on this paper, ‘the Takahashi family,’” he said, stumbling slowly over the last name. “You must know them, what with living in the same house.”

Yasu thought for a moment. “I am them.”

“What do you mean, boy?”

“My name is Yasu Takahashi.”

“What? I’m so confused. A white boy, but with a Japanese name.” He paused. “Wait a second.” Grant’s eyes lit up, then his mouth soured, accentuating his prominent jawline. “My father told me about you, Yah-soo. I know exactly who you are.”

The commotion finally roused Mitsuki, Rei, and Christina, who rushed in all at once. “What is happening?” Mitsuki asked.

Sergeant Grant ignored the question and focused on Yasu. “You’re lucky, boy. You get a second chance. The only people who have to go to the internment camps are the ethnic Japanese, and that clearly ain’t you. I mean, technically you could go with them since it’s quote, unquote ‘family,’ but only a fool would do that, I’m sure.”

All eyes awaited Yasu’s verdict.

“What would this mean for Christina?” Yasu wondered silently. “Will I see her again?”

Sergeant Grant coughed. “I don’t have all day, kid. What’s your choice? Are you American, or are you Japanese?”

“I am an American,” Yasu said evenly. He reached into his pocket and felt the origami rose Rei had given him the day after Pearl Harbor. He turned his back to the soldier and walked across the room to stand with his mother and sister. “I am a Japanese American.”