China Clipper Sample Chapter

Chapter Three: Homecoming


6:00pm, Friday October 18, 1935

The Grant Home

Alameda, California


Nick’s head and arm still ached as he walked into the living room. He leaned over and kissed his mother. “Hello, Mum.”

Seated in her favorite reading chair, Helen Grant closed the evening paper. “Hello, Love. What happened to your arm?”

Nick inspected his arm. The Doc had cleaned the burn but it was very red and the hair follicles were melted nubs. “Oh, it’s nothing Mom. I got too close to a welding torch.”

“Donald, look at what your son did to his arm.”

His dad looked up from his trade magazine and seemed to notice Nick for the first time. “Hello, Nick. Let’s have a look at that arm.”

“It’s not too bad, Dad.” He lied. Good thing they can’t see the bump on my head. “In fact I wasn’t aware of it until Mom said something.”

Donald looked up and examined the arm. “Son, if you continue to come home with injuries, no matter how minor, your mother will insist that you quit.”

“Dad, I love what I’m doing! Without a Pan Am scholarship, how will I get to get into college?”

His mother looked up from the paper. “How about getting good grades? You could have used today to study your English grammar. Even engineers have to write well.”

Nick couldn’t argue that point. Math and science were so much easier, but English! Three times the effort got him half the return. He decided to change the subject. “Dad, can I still have the car for the dance tonight?”

“It’s alright with me. Helen, do you object?”

“No, but Nick, I want you home at ten sharp.”

“But Mom, that’s so early!”

“It might be for you, but you’re taking your sister. And, by the way, you’ve got mail”

Nick’s heart leapt, “From Leilani?”

“Who else? It’s on the mantle.”

Nick grabbed the envelope and dashed upstairs. He closed his bedroom door, flopped on the bed. Before he opened the letter he closed his eyes and smelled it – frangipani! Just like Leilani was in the room..

Dear Nick,

Aloha my haole friend. I trust that you are well and haven’t blown up a clipper yet. Just kidding but sometimes I have the strangest dreams about you. They start the same, someone is chasing you but you always manage to get away. But in each one, your pursuers get closer. You aren’t in any more trouble are you?

My senior year is off to a slow start and the days just seem to drag by. I’m taking chemistry, trig, English, and history of the Hawaiian Islands, so I keep busy. The Hawaiian history class is for the Founders test I must pass to graduate from high school. It’s such a bore. I could pass the test today because I helped Hanna study years ago. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I’m related to the first Hawaiian to unite the islands, King Kamehameha. He was a violent man prone to dreams and visions - maybe that’s where I get my temper.   

Speaking of Hanna, she left for Johns Hopkins Medical School a couple of weeks before Labor Day. Sadly, her steamship docked at L.A., or she would have stopped by to meet your family. Hanna says that I’m not supposed to see you again until someone meets your family. Anyway, she plans to come through San Francisco on her way home for Christmas. So be warned! I don’t care what she says - I can’t wait for you to come back to the islands.

I must close so Daddy can take the letter down to the Matson Liner. She sails with the tide. I miss you and our special time together. Come back to Oahu and me soon!

Leilani, XXX

*   *   *

Dressed in his best suit and a jazzy blue tie, Nick pulled the family Ford into Alameda High School parking lot. “Jude, meet me back here at 9:45 and don’t be late again. Last time we were grounded!”

“Nicky, you worry too much.” She adjusted the mirror to check her face. “You look goofy. It must be Leilani’s letter. Did your girlfriend say she loved you or something?”

Nick yanked the mirror back. “I’ve told you, don’t call me Nicky! And she’s not my girlfriend!”

Judith Grant opened the car door and stepped out. “Okay ... Nicky.” She slammed the door and sprinted toward the gym door, her long blonde hair bouncing.

Nick’s friend, Tommy Burke, met him in the parking lot. “Sweet, Nick! How did you talk your old man out of the chariot?”

“Hey, my pop may seem square, but he’s always been good about the car.”

“That means we can take girls out for a soda after the dance.”

“Then we’d better find some girls early because I’ve got to have my sister home by 10:00.”

“Oh, man! I was looking forward to driving to Berkley, you know up on Lookout Mountain, with some dames.”

“Like any girl would park with the likes of you!”

“You never know, buddy, until you ask…”

“Come on, Tail Spin Tommy, while the night's still young.” Nick walked toward the gym chuckling. Since they were young boys, they’d dreamed of becoming pilots. Nick started calling his friend Tail Spin Tommy, after the teenage character of the popular movie serial. But tonight, getting a kiss was the least of his worries as more serious thoughts pushed to the forefront of his mind. What would Miyazaki do next and who was going to stop him?

The gym was swinging. A band belted out a rhythm so loud that the floor vibrated. Nick felt the music thump against in his chest. Green and gold ribbons and banners in the school colors streamed from the rafters and ‘BEAT BERKLEY!’ banners adorned the walls. Tommy looked around and nodded his approval. “It looks just like a fancy downtown dance hall.”

“Yeah, what do you know about that?” Nick looked around for a familiar face and saw Jude chatting with her friends in front of the basketball hoop. Some couples were dancing but most of the kids lined the walls - girls on the left and boys on the right.

Tommy surveyed the hall like a bird of prey. “Look, there’s Mary Jane Parker - alone! I’ve got to make my move! Good hunting, Nick!” He sauntered across the room and stopped directly in front of her. They exchanged a few words, then she smiled, took his arm and they moved to the dance floor.

Nick had to admit that while Tommy was fearless and pretty good with the girls, he wasn’t. Usually he was tongue-tied and said something stupid. When he managed to talk, he was unable to say much beyond “hi.”

Mac, Nick’s mentor, had been shy around females, too. The night they had met Anne Lindbergh came to mind. Charles and Anne Lindbergh, the two most famous people in the world, had shown up at Mac’s hangar. Mac had talked poor Lindbergh’s ear off but could only mumble, “Nice to meet you” to Mrs. Lindbergh. That meeting had changed Nick’s life forever, along with lives of everyone he loved. For his family, the change was good...for Mac it had proven fatal.

Nick moved towards the punch bowl. There a group of girls was engaged in a lively debate about the proper skirt length. Boring!  A girl stood with her back between him and the punch bowl. She had jet-black hair that flowed down her back and ended below her waist. If her hair had been lighter, maybe chestnut colored and adorned with a hibiscus flower, it could have been Leilani. Now it was different with Leilani. He found conversation with her as easy as breathing.

He reached out and tapped the dark-haired girl on the shoulder. “Excuse me, please. I’d like to get to the punch.”

The girl spun around fast, her hair fanning out like a dark curtain. She stopped, arm cocked ready to strike.

Startled, Nick leapt back and stumbled. To his utter embarrassment, he tipped over a small side table and landed with a crash on his butt. The damage to his pride outstripped the pain in his keister. What a day! First the fuel leak, the fire, then the G-Men, and now this!

The band stopped, girls giggled, everyone turned and stared. The dark-haired girl looked Japanese, but spoke like an American. She leaned over Nick. “I’m so sorry. Here, let me help you up.” She grabbed Nick’s burned arm and yanked him to his feet.

“Yeow! That hurt!” Nick rubbed his arm and looked in her face. He flushed, keenly aware a girl had made him a fool of him in front of the entire school. Even the freshmen were snickering!

Nick’s anger subsided as he eyed her. Wow, what a looker!! Her clear complexion was darker than her companions, her face a perfect oval and her features flawless, eyes deep and dark. “You’re beautiful . . . I mean strong. How did you lift me? I must be twice your weight?”

“It’s all in your center of gravity and balance. See, you spread you feet shoulder width apart, like so.” She hiked up her skirt a few inches above the knee and squatted. “This is a good horse stance, and it is very powerful.”

Nick tried not to look at the girl’s exposed thighs, but was mesmerized none-the-less. He looked away only to notice every boy in the gym staring at her. Her companions stood in shock, hands covering their open mouths.

A man yelled, “Nancy Tanaka!” It was Mr. Brown, the assistant Principal -- and he was headed their way.

Brown pushed through the crowd and strode up to Nancy. “Drop your skirt and cover up this instant!”

Nancy looked confused. “What?”

“You cannot behave like a hussy in this school, young lady!”


Nick was shocked. “She’s not a hussy Mr. Brown.”

Nancy whirled. “Nick Grant, you keep out of this!”

“How did you know my name?”

“Everybody knows your name, Clipper Boy.”

Brown cut in. “We don’t tolerate such behavior here, Miss Tanaka. Leave immediately and I will see you in my office Monday morning at 7:30 sharp.”

Nancy looked shocked. “Leave, but why? I didn’t do anything wrong, Mr. Brown. Please! Girls in swimsuits show a lot more leg than I did. I had to lift my skirt up to demonstrate the horse stance.” She hiked her skirt again but not as high.

Catcalls erupted from a group of football players who had moved in for a closer look. One guy called. “Hey, Nip hussy, show us some more of the Jap thigh!”

Brown swung around and pointed. “That will be enough out of you, Mr. Bennett.”

The gym erupted with whistles and obscene yells as the mood suddenly turned ugly. Mr. Brown, a short man with a shorter fuse, climbed up on a chair and yelled. “Attention, attention everybody! This dance is over! Pack up the band, grab your wraps and go home. NOW!”

Silence fell over the gym as the shocked students headed for the doors. One reached up and tore a green streamer down. Nick found himself walking along side Nancy. One of the girls from her earlier group pushed past roughly. “Nice going, Nancy!”

Nick felt bad for her and a little guilty. “Look, I’m sorry. It was my fault, too. If I hadn’t tripped, you wouldn’t have done that horse thing. What was that anyway?”

She did not meet Nick’s eyes. “It’s an elementary Kendo fighting position. My uncle taught it to me at his Dojo.”

“I don’t mean to seem stupid, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

She spun to face him. “It’s a Japanese Martial art!”

“You mean like Karate or Kung Fu?”

“How is it you’re such a smart round eye?”

“Round eye?” They stopped next to the Grants’ Ford.

Another voice explained “It’s a Jap term for us whites.” It was Bennett with a group of football players.

The Epic Struggle for the Pacific Airways

Created on ... February 9, 2007
Updated on ... November 1, 2010

Copyright 2007-2010. Jamie Dodson. All rights reserved.