homeward the heart, 1944
Mackay : Homeward the Heart, 1944.
Heart, a novel by Margaret Mackay.
The John Day
Company, New York, 1944.
Margaret Mackprang Mackay
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
Other works by Margaret Mackay
about the Pacific include:
Dolphin Boy: A Story of Hawaii,
Kamuelo - Eine Geschichte Aus Hawei (German)
The Violent Friend- the
Story of Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson 1840- 1914,
Summer at the Sea (?)
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.
She floated it on the shallow waves, and dropped down on it
on her stomach in the accepted way, with her legs stretched
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
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
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
V-shaped outlines were filling now with soft afternoon
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
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
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
Again she was thrown off.
The surfboard, flung
upward, banged her on the shoulder; there would be a big
She ducked to get out of its
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
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
the currents of the Pacific Ocean moved like highways toward
Asia and the Americas.
"My God!" she cried, terrified, when she suddenly realized
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
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.
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,
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
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
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'
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
"He's a funny guy, dat Joe Palaka," the other beach boys
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
"Dis is de life!" he said to himself contentedly, leaning on
He wished the war would be over, and he could be a beach boy
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
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,
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
too much sun:
"What am I going
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 -
Has plenty papayas,
She loves to give them away -"
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
Both were in bathing suits.
He wasn't as big as Joe, but he had the build of a beach
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
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.
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
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
feel it go in through the front and come out through the
"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
"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.
And here's a glass of orange juice.
So if you're hungry tonight, you won't have to get up and
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
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
"My dear! How dreadful! Are you sure you're all right?"
shock in his tone made her tingle with pleasure, right in
midst of all her throbbing.
"I'll be out to see you tomorrow, no matter what," he said
"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
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
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.
Geoff Cater (2016) :
Margaret Mackay : Homeward the Heart, 1944.