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Manoa 14.2 (2002-2003) 123-131

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Gary Pak

[Stay at Home]

They were all hiding their faces from him—these women—sitting on the two long wooden benches in the open-air garage, drawn to old lady Kiyosaki's with the promise that they would be made fertile. Of course, Herman Chung was ashamed too, ashamed of being the husband of a woman seeking the old lady's help. He contained his embarrassment by bowing his head away from the women, nudging his wife to go ahead of him and take her place at the end of one of the benches. So many things wrong with these women, he thought. If it's not their headaches, it's the pain in their backs, their periods, their too-sensitive—

"Mrs. Oda. Please come in."

A wrinkle-faced woman—her thin arms nothing more than leathery skin and blue veins encasing frail bones—called from the back door of the house, then nodded in the direction of the entrance.

Mrs. Oda rose quickly, her face pale, and scurried through the doorway with her head bent. The solid mahogany door closed behind her with a brassy snap.

"Ellie, I going," he muttered to his wife, who had taken her place at the end of a bench. The woman next to her had turned away from him. It didn't matter. He didn't want to look any of the women straight in the eye, afraid that he'd recognize one of them as the wife of a friend from work or church.

She turned to him, her face trembling and pallid. Please don't leave me.

"What time I pick you up?"

"I catch the bus," she said, her voice small.

"No, I pick you up."

"I catch the bus."

"Ellie—stop it. I pick you up. I come back one hour."

With that, he hurried off.

"What she tol' you?" he asked.

They were heading down Beretania Street, passing the haole church, the Congregational church with the slate-colored walls and stark-white steeple. Two children and their parents were in a far corner of the church's expansive, well-kept lawn.

"She touched me..." She pressed the area of her womb. "She said she feel something good."

"All she like is our money."

"Then why you took me there, then?"

"Nevah mind."

Ellie turned away and observed the father untangle the line of a black-and-red samurai kite. The children were watching. The mother was sitting motionless under a shadowless monkeypod tree. Up the valley, dark clouds were suspended, teasing of a [End Page 123] hard rain.

"So what she said?"

"What you mean?"

"What she said?" Nervously, he regripped the steering wheel. "Can?"

Ellie held on to the seconds of silence as long as she could. "I tol' you. She said she feel something good."

"But what that mean?"

Ellie glanced out the window. They were now passing the Mormon temple. The statue of Jesus was extending a hand. Give me your blessing, O Lord. Please, O Lord. Jesus's golden face soft and loving.

"She said can?" Herman repeated.


Along his side of the road, the gray and rosy marble of the Sears and Roebuck building appeared. It would be so nice to have a son, he thought. Even a daughter would be ok. Either. Or both. Could take them bicycle shopping. He took a deep breath and released, as if to assure himself that the ten dollars for the womb massage was worth spending.

"How long she said we gotta wait?"

"She nevah tell me."

"Why you nevah ask?" Fire in his tone. "Chee, why you nevah ask? We pay her dah money, might as well get our money's worth. Why you nevah ask?"

Guiltily, she turned away from him. "I nevah think."

Herman clicked his tongue with disgust. "Ten dollars, and you nevah ask her. No sense you go."

"Eh," she snapped, tossing her guilt back into his face, "it wasn't my idea." She stabbed him with her eyes. It's your stinkin' sister, she thought. And especially your damn...


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