Source Documents
mackay: homeward the heart, 1944 

Margaret Mackay : Homeward the Heart, 1944.
Extract from:
Mackay, Margaret
Homeward the Heart, a novel by Margaret Mackay. 
The John Day Company, New York, 1944.


Margaret Mackprang Mackay (1907-1968)

A novel set in Hawaii during World War 2, and published under the restricted provisions imposed by the war effort.
The verso notes:
Because of wartime restrictions this book has been compressed into 227 pages by setting more words on each page and by other measures, and the paper is thinner. In normal times the book would have contained about 258 pages and would have had more bulk.
The surfing content concerns the attempted suicide attempt by the heroine and her rescue by a local beachboy.

Other works by Margaret Mackay about the Pacific include:
Dolphin Boy: A Story of Hawaii,
Kamuelo - Eine Geschichte Aus Hawei
The Violent Friend-  the Story of Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson 1840- 1914,
Summer at the Sea (?)

[Chapter XXX]
Page 159

After work, Blythe went to her apartment and put on her bathing suit, and then walked over to the Outrigger Club.
She arranged to rent a surfboard, and a boy helped her carry it to the water's edge and launch it with a splash.

"Thanks a lot - I can manage now," she told him.

Page 160

She floated it on the shallow waves, and dropped down on it on her stomach in the accepted way, with her legs stretched out
in back.
The water lapped up cool and mild under her thighs.
She began to maneuver it away from the beach, scooping back-ward with parallel strokes of the arms.
Within the first fifty yards there were a number of bathers, and once or twice she almost had to hop off to keep the board from knocking into someone.
Then she left most of them behind.

She had been out on a surfboard only two or three times before, always with one young man or another, and she was clumsy at it.
The board was of painted hardwood, about ten feet long, and heavy.
The tide was going out, so it was in her favor - helping to carry her toward the edge of the reef where the waves formed a white line and soared in.
Nevertheless, the scooping motion was very tiring to the arms and shoulders of someone unused to it.
Before she had gone far, she reflected that surfboarding was one of the last sports to be enjoyed by a person who was not feeling
fit - who was weary and nervous even before he started.

But that was the whole idea, she reminded herself: she wanted, with all her will, to get exhausted.

She steered the board awkwardly over the patches of submerged coral, dark underneath her in contrast to the semi-opaque blue where there was a sandy bottom.
Once or twice she recoiled as her fingers brushed through a whiskery mass of seaweed; she had heard of squid and eels lurking among the submarine rockeries, and the sensation made her shudder.
Again, she cut her forefinger on a sharp edge of the coral, and mechanically reminded herself to put some merthiolate on it; cuts from live coral were likely to be infected and to stay so for a long time.
As she worked farther offshore, she was tempted to stop and catch her breath, but she would not let herself.

"Whew!" she sighed.

She glanced over her shoulder.
One of the things she usually liked best about swimming far out was the way you could see so much more.
Over the roofs and coconut palms of Waikiki you could see the hills stand up, as you couldn't from the beach; their

Page 161

V-shaped outlines were filling now with soft afternoon clouds.
At this angle, you were abreast of Diamond Head, so that it seemed more intimate; you could look straight at all the green-stained ravines on its sides - full of gun emplacements, no doubt, but giving the illusion of familiarity like a slope you had climbed over in childhood.
From here, too, you could see the Waianae Mountains to the west beyond Pearl Harbor - an uneven wall fencing off the far shore of the Island, like the Great Wall of China, maybe, she thought vaguely.
And out here the water felt cooler and cleaner, and its colorings were more delicate, and there was a lovely sense of silence and space, and you could hear the rush of the surf at the reef's edge, much closer and more dramatic than from the beach.
And you generally felt proud and aloof at being out so far, gazing back at the sand-bound mortals as a mountaineer may peer down on miniature villages and figures from a snowy peak.

Today, however, she didn't feel that way.
She was only intent and fatigued and sick at heart.
There were only the heavy surfboard, and the tossing, resisting waves, and the aches in a hundred muscles, and the salt sting in her eyes, and the sharp catch in her windpipe that felt as if she had swallowed an open safety pin.
She wished to heaven she were back on the beach, lying still on the sun-heated sand.
Panting. . . .

"I - mustn't - stop," she gasped aloud.

One thing about being out here - you could talk to yourself, and nobody would hear you.
Nobody, for hundreds of yards.

At last she was out where the waves rose like rearing horses and plunged and then galloped smoothly toward shore.
One approached her, and she drew up her feet and climbed up on the board, to try and ride it in; but her timing was wrong.
The board tipped on end before she had straightened, and pitched her off into the foam.
She had to snatch frantically to recapture it.
She paddled for a little while.
As soon as she saw another wave coming toward her, she crouched again.
Again she was thrown off.
The surfboard, flung upward, banged her on the shoulder; there would be a big bruise tomorrow.
She ducked to get out of its

Page 162

way, and swallowed a gulp of salt water.
Coughing, she swam after the board and caught it.
She was very shaky.
She had to cling to it a minute, face down, with her stomach across it, before she had the strength to remount.

"Oh, I'm - so - tired," she moaned.

Again she tried, and again, and again, and again.
Choking, heaving, aching, her reddened eyes squinting so that she could hardly see, she began to lose the idea of riding the combers.
The focus of her mind fastened on the tussle with the board, as if it were a living thing - a fierce horse which she was seeking to
break, a wild animal with which she must wrestle.

The tide was going out, farther and farther.
It was some minutes before she noticed that it had carried her beyond the line of surf.
She was drifting close to the rim of the reef - where the deep water began, and sharks and barracuda sometimes wandered, and
the currents of the Pacific Ocean moved like highways toward Asia and the Americas.

"My God!" she cried, terrified, when she suddenly realized it.
But as she opened her mouth in the startled phrase, another splash of water was tossed in.
She began to retch again.

Now indeed there was no thought of trying to stand up on the board.
Each wave, receding, carried her farther toward that ragged shadowy borderline where the water changed to sapphire.
She tried wildly to paddle back toward shore.
But her arms were so tired that they reminded her of a doll she had had when she was a little girl; she had pulled back its arms too roughly, until they came loose at the sockets and swung from an elongated elastic cord that no longer snapped into place. They had lost their power.
They had ceased to feel like a part of her tortured body.

She tried to wave them weakly, sitting up on the surfboard.

"Help!" she gasped.
"Help! Help!"

In the intervals between the rising of the breakers, she could see the shore.
There was the marshmallow-white rectangle of the Moana Hotel, and the strawberry-ice-cream bulk of the Royal Hawaiian, and the low-lying Outrigger tucked between them,

Page 163

and the tiny people on the beaches - the casual infinitesimal people, not knowing or caring that she was about to drown.

She tried to sob, but she could only choke instead.
Her body was all lungs - intolerable, excruciating lungs.

"Help!" she whispered, waving feebly at the shore.
"Help. . . . Help...."

She sank down on the board, with her cheek on its washed surface, drifting.

Chapter XXXI

It was his day off, and Joe Palaka was spending it, as usual, on the beach.
He had been a beach boy in peacetime.
He was a powerfully built Hawaiian in the late twenties, with a pompadour of wavy hair slicked down with pomade, and a flattened nose, and large lips which opened a great deal in grinning.
He used to be one of those bronze diving boys who swooped headfirst from the rails of transpacific liners for coins tossed by the passengers.
When the war scare grew, and loitering around the piers was forbidden, he had spent all his time at Waikiki.
He took tourists out on surfboards and in outrigger canoes, and taught them to swim, and lolled on the sand with pretty heiresses and schoolteachers - wise-cracking and singing to his ukulele, and even rubbing suntan oil on his pupils' reddened backs.

But after December Seventh, there was no business for beach boys, and most of them had got defense jobs.
Joe Palaka - "Joe Palooka," his friends called him facetiously - worked on the great project at Red Hill.
He didn't like it much, though the pay was high.
On his days off, he always went to Waikiki, with his surfboard and his ukulele and sometimes a few of his ex-beach-boy

"He's a funny guy, dat Joe Palaka," the other beach boys said.

Page 164

Today he was lying on the bright sand in his orange-and-pink trunks, alongside the Moana.
He felt full of sunshine and well-being.
He had been surfriding and spearfishing at intervals all day; his board was pulled up on the beach a few feet away.
He had just had a couple of bottles of beer at the Waikiki Tavern bar.
"Dis is de life!" he said to himself contentedly, leaning on one elbow.
He wished the war would be over, and he could be a beach boy again.
He tried a few chords on his ukulele, and tuned it, wondering what to sing first.
Like most of his kind, he had a large repertoire of Island songs.
Before the war, he had been one of the groups of beach boys who used to wander about the streets in the evenings, serenading. They were tipped, of course, when people called them in to sing for parties - but the boys liked to sing, anyway.
Those were the good days!
He began to strum a comic Hawaiian song about a sunburned stomach - one that he used to sing for the tourists when they got
too much sun:
"What am I going to do
For my red opu?
It's so very sore
That I don't now what to doŚ"

While he sang, his gaze wandered over the people on the beach.... Two girls in halter-top bathing suits.... Three young men with navy "dog tags" around their necks, their flesh so white that one could tell at once that they were newly out from the Mainland. ... A pair of young Japanese-American sweethearts, wading into the water hand in hand. ... A group of brown youths coming back to the club beach in an outrigger canoe.. . .
He finished the opu song and idly started another.
He glanced toward the rim of the reef, to see how the waves would be for surfriding now.
There had been several fellows on boards when he was out, earlier, but they all seemed to have come in -

"Princess Pupule -
Has plenty papayas,
She loves to give them away -"

Page 165

He stopped and sat up, frowning.
Was that still a board out there?
Was that somebody on it - waving?
He lost sight of it for a moment as a wave whitened on end.
Then his glance caught it again.
He threw down his ukelele and jumped to his feet, shading his eyes with his palm.
For a few moments he watched, while the tiny object - smaller than a cigar, from here, small as a toothpick - bobbed and vanished and reappeared.
Suddenly he spun about, his dark eyes crackling.
He looked quickly around the beach.
Another Hawaiian boy was strolling up with a cute Chinese-Hawaiian girl.
Both were in bathing suits.
He wasn't as big as Joe, but he had the build of a beach boy, too.
Joe loped over to him excitedly.
"Hey! Sam!" he cried.
He pointed out to sea.
 "I t'ink dere's somebody got some pilifya out dere! A girl, I t'ink! On a board! C'mon!
Let's take my board and go on out! Better hurry!"
The other boy squeezed up his eyes and stared.
For a moment he saw nothing.
Then his face, too, grew alert.
"Gosh! I t'ink you're right! O. K. C'mon!"
They ran over to Joe's board, picked it up at either end, and ran down to the water with it, sliding it onto the surface.
With an expert leap, they knelt on it and straightened out - Joe in front, at the board's head, Sam behind him, lying at his waist and between his legs - tandem fashion.
With the two black heads raised, the two pairs of brown arms flailing rhythmically at either side, the board moved swiftly out toward the edge of the reef.

Page 166
Chapter XXXII

Afterward, Blythe remembered very little about her rescue.
She was almost unconscious when the two Hawaiians reached her, and Joe Palaka dragged her over to his own surfboard and
paddled her inshore.
She had lost consciousness entirely by the time they reached the beach, and the crowd of bathers stood back, curious and a little awed, to watch her being carried up on the sand.
A navy medical officer, who happened to be at the Outrigger for a swim, gave her first aid.
Several people recognized her, and a couple of girls came along with the doctor when he drove her back to her apartment, and helped put her to bed.

"Are you all right now?" he asked.
And she moved her swollen lips in the shape of "Yes."
She had roused slightly after his treatment, but there was no room inside her for anything but aches and exhaustion.
She felt as if every muscle in her body had been scraped raw with a rusty knife.
She even tried to keep from breathing as long as she could, because each breath pierced her so sharply that she could almost
feel it go in through the front and come out through the back.
"Now, you just stay in bed for two or three days, and you'll be all right," the navy doctor said, as he prepared to leave her.
"We'll stop by on our way to work tomorrow morning and see how you are," one of the girls said kindly.
"I've put a glass of milk by your bed.
Here. See?
And here's a glass of orange juice.
So if you're hungry tonight, you won't have to get up and get anything."
Blythe nodded her acknowledgment, though it hurt to move her head even half an inch.
As soon as the three of them closed the door, a coma-like sleep, which in itself felt not unlike drowning, swept her off in its tide.
The next day she felt bruised from head to foot, utterly stupid, and almost unable to move.
Throughout the morning she was too dull to feel any sensation in the terror which had lately been haunting her; it was as if that part of her had been given an

Page 167

In the afternoon, however, the knowledge began to prickle numbly again, like a limb that has been "asleep."
As the fear and the misery resumed their form, her need for Archie gradually came alive.
It was a need rather like that of a child who wakes in the dark and calls out for its mother.
Here I almost drowned, she thought, and Archie didn't know about it - and he wasn't there to make a fuss over me!
Suddenly, deliciously, she began to savor the knowledge that here was something which she could tell him.
After these weeks of worrying without letting him know, she found it an incalculable luxury to think that this was something which she could confide.
Smiling, though her face was wrinkled up with twinges of pain, she got carefully out of bed and hobbled over to the telephone to dial the army post.
"Why, Blythe!" he exclaimed, when she had told him her story, in a small brave voice which sounded very sorry for itself.
"My dear! How dreadful! Are you sure you're all right?"
And the
shock in his tone made her tingle with pleasure, right in the
midst of all her throbbing.
"I'll be out to see you tomorrow, no matter what," he said with
"Oh, Archie!" was all she could say.
The words were hardly more than a sob of happiness.
By the next afternoon, she was not quite so sore, but still very stiff.
She felt a little better, but dismayingly weak. It was the sort of weakness with which you can't trust yourself to do anything, either physically or mentally; you may start an act or a thought, but you can't follow through.
It was the most treacherous kind of weakness there is.
She heard the rattle of the jeep in the street, and sat up with a flutter.
She had made the bed and tidied the room; but - treating herself to a touch of drama, after all the drama which she had held back - she preferred to receive Archie in invalid attire.
She put on the peach satin nightie which her aunt in Chicago - who didn't know she never wore nighties - had given her for Christmas, and a pair of birthday-gift mules.

Mackay, Margaret
Homeward the Heart,
a novel by Margaret Mackay. 

  The John Day Company, New York, 1944.


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Geoff Cater (2016) : Margaret Mackay : Homeward the Heart, 1944.