The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Story about
Holiday Street, Honolulu
old man told stories the boy only half listened to until one day
he told a whopper that grabbed the kid by the neck. All
old people have stories, the kid knew. Sometimes listening
to them helped pass the time while he was putting the groceries
away or changing the cat litter in the kitchen corner.
Pic: © Alberto Vargas
Sometimes the kid
was too impatient to listen. He wanted to get out of there as
quickly as possible after football practice. Go home and call
a girl. Get homework out of the way. Hook up with friends
and make plans for the weekend.
old guy watched from the table where he sat, a frail scarecrow propped
up in a chair. You still seeing that little McClatchy girl, Tommy
Boy? The scarecrow threw out the question like a fishing
line. The kid hated being called Tommy Boy.
Yes I am, Mr. Hill. In fact, we got a date tonight.
old man settled in, knew the kid would feel obligated to talk.
It came with the territory. He paid the kid decently to run a
few errands each week, do some chores around the small house.
It wasnt anything backbreaking and the kid could do the work around
his school schedule, practices and social life. It wasnt
too much to expect a little conversation now and then, the old man thought.
think, Boy. Is she worth it? Your time and attention?
sure. Shes nice. You know, fun to be with.
The kid relaxed, figured it was man to man, after all. Feeing
cocky, he opened up a little.
of the guys would say shes a real fox. Tommy smiled
now, paused from reorganizing the cupboard after squeezing in two more
cans of coffee from the grocery bag. If ever the medical profession
needed evidence that caffeine was addictive, they could come here and
watch this old buzzard drink ten and twelve cups a day, Tommy thought.
Turning around now, he looked directly at his employer.
But you know how it is. I just wanna have a good time for
now, you know?
sure. I know what you mean. What are you now, Tommy Boy?
two months ago, Mr. Hill. Can you believe it? Im getting
old. Tommy chuckled. The old man took in the kids
lean frame, smooth skin and guileless face as if he were seeing something
else, something vaporous and difficult to discern.
eh. I was just seventeen when I first put on white bellbottoms and a
sailors hat, boy. Tied a blue scarf under my collar and
shipped out with the fleet to fight the Japs. You think you feel
old, do you, Son? Well I was just a kid from Idaho, straight off
the farm when I found myself on a destroyer in the middle of the goddamn
old mans tone changed just a bit, got a little quieter as if it
were coming from a different place, almost talking to himself.
They put me in front of a mounted gun--- antiaircraft, torpedo,
any goddamn thing available --- and told me to be ready to shoot.
Just a green kid off the farm. He inhaled then and shook
his head, as if he couldnt quite believe something he knew to
be absolutely true.
kid broke the mood. Jeez, Mr. Hill. It actually sounds pretty
exciting to me. Tommy wasnt really looking for a story at
that point but didnt feel like letting the old man get away with
one of his you-kids-dont-know-how-easy-you-have-it-today remarks.
its exciting. Until you see a ship blown out of the water
and see bodies fly through the air like dust particles. Until
you see airplanes shot up, burst into flames and land in the water just
yards from where youre standing. Its exciting all
right, because youre just a kid and youre fighting for God
and Country and your mothers homemade apple pie and all that crap.
Youre there because thats where you have to be and even
when youre scared shitless, you try and remember that its
all for a larger purpose.
it was, wasnt it? The kid meant it offhandedly.
old man shrugged a bit, quieted, like he was searching for the right
memory to snatch up and lay out on the table. Yep, it was.
And the way you got yourself through it was by looking forward to pulling
into port. Hawaii. Holiday Street. It was all worth
it for a few minutes on Holiday Street. He almost chuckled
never studied about Holiday Street, Mr. Hill. What was Holiday
you wont find Holiday Street in any school book, Son. Holiday
Street was a secret from all the good folks back on the mainland.
And let me tell you, boy, it was big. Sure we went to war
for the flag and Main Street and all the things the good old USA stands
for. But if you wanna know the primary thing on the minds of all
of us poor bastards out in the middle of the Pacific dodging bullets
and bombs, it was getting on with the job so we earned our R and R and
could get back to Holiday Street.
was it like a carnival or something? The kid had to ask,
couldnt help himself.
old guy snorted and gave off a crotchety laugh that rattled the mucous
around in his lungs. Christ, kid. What do you think,
we were out there laying our lives on the line for some kind of block
party? No, you docked and followed the crowds of white uniforms...
and I mean crowds, boy... it seemed half the fleet came in at once...
and we were all headed for the same place. Holiday Street.
You found a line and you stood in it. Sometimes the line was as
much as two hundred men deep.
were you all waiting for? The kid was getting impatient.
What the hell was on Holiday Street?
Boy! When youve been out to sea for six months, what the
Beejesus Christ Almighty do you think is worth standing in line two
or three hours for?
was interested now, wanted to keep the banter going.
eh, Mr. Hill, he said with a laugh. But do you think
they were worth it? Waiting two hours in line? Tommy
didnt have any experience with prostitutes, but his idea of them
wouldnt have made him eager to stand in line. He pictured
middle-aged, over-fleshy females hardened with too much makeup who probably
smelled none too nice. Lines of men before you? The guys
all joked about the black hole of sex but never before did he think
of it so literally or looming so largely.
women were worth it. They were beautiful.
Tommy couldnt keep the doubt out of his voice. But,
Mr. Hill, how many were there? You said a line could be two hundred
men deep. You also said lines, plural. So how
many women were there.... about?
were about thirty women who serviced the entire fleet. They each
took care of a couple hundred men a day.
sat down on the other chair and settled in. He felt challenged.
There were some things you just couldnt let old people get away
with. Oh, come on, Mr. Hill. You cant ... you just
cant ... expect me to believe that. Thats not possible!
and its not possible to take a bunch of kids right off the farms
and out of the factories and mines and their mamas kitchens and
turn them into the worlds mightiest fighting force, either.
Its not possible to put a gun in their hands and expect them to
shoot to kill in the service of their country when some of them had
just learned how to wipe themselves. How the hell is it possible
to take a youngster who never before left Idaho and put him on a ship
and expect him to stand up straight? Boy, you dont have
any idea whats possible until you gotta do it.
but its just sex. Were not talking about the
big stuff here, Mr. Hill.
old man turned his head slightly, a movement that appeared to help him
refocus. He studied the pattern in the wallpaper and snorted again.
sex, he says. I guess its just sex today when every kid
has a car with a back seat, you see half-naked women every time you
turn on the TV and they display rubbers in supermarket aisles.
His voice accumulated volume once more. Christ, it was never
just sex to us. It was a goddamn driving force, the thing that
could tip the balance between fighting for your life and wanting to
just... just... say to hell with it.
kid pondered this a bit, tried to imagine himself in sailor whites and
looking at the world through the crosshairs of a gun or from the back
of a long, hungry line. It wasnt easy.
okay then. There were these brothels. Was it all out in
the open? Was it legal?
and regulated by the U.S. military.
was under martial law after Pear Harbor. There were strict rules.
All the cat houses were on Holiday Street cause they didnt
want em mixin with the civilian population. Some men
had their families on the island with them. Oh, you had to keep
these things separate, Boy. The girls themselves, why they were
treated as if they had Government Issue stamped right on
their rumps. They couldnt go out in public or own property.
Military doctors checked em, made sure they were clean and healthy
enough to work. Why, they couldnt even set their own prices.
They were inspected, sorted out, cataloged and tagged, just like any
other merchandise. I think about it now, and I dont know
they kept it going day after day... the women I mean.
was silent for a minute. He let the old man catch his breath and
worked to keep his own physical impulses in check. The story stirred
him in ways he didnt want to own up to.
not saying the ladies were actually employed by the military, are you?
no. They were private businesswomen. And they finally got
sick and tired of having their rights trampled on. They paid taxes
to Uncle Sam and graft to the local police and were harassed by low
ranked officers. Some of em wanted to buy houses,
go shopping without being arrested. But what really made the brass
apeshit was the time they raised their price from three to five bucks.
laughed, couldnt help himself.
bucks was a hell of a lot of money to a swabee who got paid twenty five
dollars a month, Boy! The military wouldnt hear of it.
Told the women they had a duty to perform. The ruling officer ordered
them to drop the price back to three. But, Christ, you couldnt
blame for wanting a decent wage.
what happened? The kid had long abandoned his air of half-interest.
whaddya think? It was kind of a national emergency that they come
to some resolution. The old man grinned and showed his yellowed
dentures to full effect. Three dollars for three minutes.
Thats what they agreed on.
after six months, it dont take long. So thats when
the girls set up the bullpens.
What the hell....?
were suites of rooms, sort of. Think of a bicycle wheel.
In the center was a room with a door on each wall that opened out to
other rooms. The girls did their business in the center room while
the men were either taking their pants off or putting them on in the
other rooms, depending on if they were getting ready to go or finishing
up. Can you imagine it, Boy? One after the other.
All day long. I bet you never thought about serving your country
I know what youre thinking. They were just prostitutes.
Shady women. Let me show you something.
old man got up and went into the small bedroom. Tommy heard a
drawer open, some rustling sounds. He used the time to adjust
his partial erection. Then the old man returned with a cigar box.
He removed a creased black and white photo from it and laid it on the
table before the boy. Tommy saw a voluptuous figure belly-down
on a bed of cushions. Hills and valleys of naked torso and legs
were wrapped in flawless skin. A Marilyn Monroe face that was
framed in a luscious halo of drooping dark curls teased the camera.
Lily. There was reverence in the whispered voice.
happened to her? the kid asked quietly, when he was able to speak.
I knew. Actually, once martial law ended on the islands the women
were put onto boats and sent back to the mainland like, ...like some
sort of equipment... or a battalion or something... that needed to be
deployed elsewhere. Word got around that some of them eventually
married. Raised families.
then... you never saw any of them again.
no. No. The old man shrugged again. Thats
not the way it worked. The women were there doing a job, Son.
If you ask me, we were all over there just trying to take care of business.
If we were heroes for going to war, well then, they were heroes for
helping us get through it. When it was finished, we all went home.
finished up and left. On the way home, he stopped to buy condoms
and a six pack from some guy he knew. He kept picturing
a beautiful woman with slopes and curves he could get lost in.
He had a strange vision of himself dressed in whites standing among
hundreds of others just like him. And he thought then of how funny
and strange life is. And how fleeting.
he got home, he called Molly. She was a great girl. He liked
her a lot. But he couldnt picture her lying on cushions
and glancing around at him with dark glossy lips and eyes that told
him he could forget about everything else for a little while.
know, I think Ill go out with my friends tonight. I need
to blow off some steam. Call you sometime, okay?
© Judy Radano Feb 18 2005
*A history of prostitution
in Hawaii link
A Fallen History
by Judy Radano
More Fiction in Dreamscapes
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