The neighbor across the street from us was now a haole, a Marine with a motorcycle and a dog. He loved to rev his motorcycle, the noise rattling our living room windows. His German shepherd was the bane of my brother Robert’s newspaper route.


I too had a problem with this Marine. One New Year’s Eve, I couldn’t wait till midnight to burn the fireworks that I had bought with my newspaper money. Midnight was when everybody burned long, long strings of fireworks, and the night erupted in our traditional New Year’s celebration and New Year’s morning saw the streets covered a foot deep with red paper from the exploded firecrackers.


I couldn’t wait for midnight and began burning my firecrackers in the early afternoon, throwing packages of checker bombs into the middle of the street where they popped and writhed and banged like little dragons. I was having a great time, but the Marine’s German Shepherd was not. He was barking madly in the middle of the street, trying to bite the exploding firecrackers. “Serves the dog right,” I thought, “if one blows up in his mouth.”


Suddenly, the Marine came charging out of his house, yelling at me. I yelled back, “Free country!” and “Why don’t you tie your dog up?” and threw another package of firecrackers out into the street.


The Marine was infuriated. It was then my father came out of the house. He calmed the Marine down, then told me go into the backyard and to burn my firecrackers in the drainage ditch, a perfectly logical solution. But I was angry, and deeply disappointed in my father. I wanted him to stand up for our holiday customs. I wanted him to clobber the Marine.