Set in the turbulent period of Guam history, between the Spanish-American War and World War II, the lives and loves of three Chamorro women are told in vivid detail. A navy seaman leaves young Amanda de Leon broken hearted. For Sylvia de Leon Camacho, happiness ends too soon. Life teaches the level-headed Vivian Camacho that falling for an American serviceman is futile, like reaching for the moon. Cultural and racial prejudices magnify the distance. Trying to build a life with one is as impossible as building a mansion on the moon. Then a navy civil engineer comes into Vivians life.
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||481 KB|
About the Author
C. Sablan Gault was born in Guam, the daughter of a navy chief. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and began her writing career in advertising. She studied journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter, feature writer, and columnist. She then served as press secretary to a Guam governor, to a legislator, and to Guam’s delegate to the US House of Representatives. She also worked as a writer and researcher for a Guam political status education commission. She and her husband, David, a Vietnam-era Seabee, live in Agana Heights, originally called Tutujan. They have three children and six grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
A Mansion on the Moon
A Guam Love Story
By C. Sablan Gault
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.Copyright © 2015 C. Sablan Gault
All rights reserved.
Amanda couldn't sleep. She tossed about, restless and wide-eyed for hours. The heat in the small room she shared with her sisters was stifling; the air stagnant. The sun that afternoon, in the beginning of July, had roasted the land and sea, and now every rock and living thing was giving off heat into the night. Even her sister Ana, sleeping beside her, seemed warmer than normal. She stirred when Amanda felt her forehead, but Ana was fine; she didn't have a fever. Amanda threw aside the blanket covering them, but it didn't help. She stared up at the rafters and underside of the thatched roof above her head, resigned to another sleepless night. Then in the distance, above the barking of a dog and the surf breaking against the reef, she heard the low rumbling of thunder. It came from far out at sea to the north and heralded welcome respite from the heat. Rain would soon drive cool wind toward shore. Amanda listened as the wind and rain approached.
The rustling of the fronds of the coconut trees along the shore and the bushes outside her window announced their arrival. The wind arrived first; the squall followed close behind. A cold damp gust washed into the room and drove out the heat. Amanda closed her eyes with relief. Whipped by the wind, hard rain followed loudly and heavily, splattering against the thatched roof for several minutes. It then stopped abruptly, the cloud containing it wrung dry. Rainwater spilled from the roof for many minutes before slowing to a trickle. To the hypnotic plinking of rainwater dripping into puddles on the ground, Amanda fell asleep.
More than the heat, the heartache of losing Tim Laney, the man she loved, was what kept Amanda awake. Tim was a navy seaman. He sailed away that morning. It was not his choice to leave. He loved Amanda as well, and didn't want to leave her, but his assignment in Guam was at an end. Amanda slept with Tim two nights prior, knowing it was a sin to do so. It was her parting gift, her body the only thing she had worth giving. She expected to be tormented with guilt and shame afterward, but it was love, not lust, that motivated her. She was certain of Tim's love and wanted to be one with him, if not by the laws of God and man, then by their own accord.
Now that Tim was gone, Amanda was haunted by the single night she spent in his arms. She called it to mind again and again, remembering his face, his smile, his kisses, the warmth of his skin against hers. A million stars twinkled in the blue-black sky that night, and silvery moonlight drenched the beach. The ocean was calm. Gentle swells broke against the reef and washed little ripples onto shore. Tim gazed upon her nakedness with reverence. He draped a blanket around her shoulders, as if to shield her from the world and keep her only to himself. The beautiful words from the Bible about a man leaving his father and mother and clinging to his wife echoed in Amanda's mind. So did the warning about not tearing apart what God had joined together.
Tim was six months shy of nineteen when they met. He was far from home, far from his parents and two younger sisters, far from their small farm north of San Diego, California. He didn't want to end up a pain-racked farmer like his father and had lied to get into the navy. He was on his own, a carefree boy out to see the world. Amanda made him feel confident, more sure of himself, a man in command of his own fate. She made him see the world differently, simply because her world was unlike his. He didn't know how deeply he could love someone until he met her.
"Are you all right, my love? Did I hurt you?" Tim whispered after making love to her. He had tried to be gentle. He stroked her hair and kissed her. "I love you, Amanda," he said, gazing steadily into her eyes and hoping she could see in his that he meant it.
"No," Amanda replied and smiled. She had felt some pain, but it was not intolerable, nor did it diminish the sensation of being joined as one. As Tim lay breathless and helpless in her arms, Amanda realized how vulnerable he was at that moment. She recognized the strength of her own body and the power it had over his. She marveled at the balance and wondered whether God had intended it to be so.
Amanda caressed Tim's face. The contrast of her brown hand against his ivory cheek saddened her. Tim kissed her fingers and repeated his desire to marry her, no matter who objected. The impossibility of it caused Amanda more pain than had his body. God had allowed them to fall in love, but the world stood in defiance against them. Neither Amanda's parents nor the United States Navy would sanction a marriage between them. Tim was an American, a member of the new ruling class. He was white. Amanda was not, although some Castilian blood coursed through her veins. Tim belonged to the navy and was subject to its regulations and to the laws of his home state, both of which prohibited interracial marriage. If it was possible, Amanda would have run away with Tim, but where could they go? They wanted desperately to believe they could defy convention, but in those days, there was little hope of it.
The year was 1899. The Spanish-American War had ended the year before. The United States was reveling in triumph over the liberation of Spain's rich colonies in the Caribbean and the Philippines in the Pacific, and puzzling over its acquisition of the nearby lesser known Mariana Islands. Few knew or cared about the resource-poor Marianas, not even the Spanish empire itself, which had controlled the tiny archipelago since the seventeenth century. The Marianas were not relegated to obscurity; they were already there.
While en route to Manila with reinforcements in June 1898, the navy fleet received orders at sea to stop and capture Guam, the largest and most inhabited of the Marianas. The Americans were expecting to find battle-ready Spaniards and half-naked aboriginals. Instead they found apathetic, mixed-race colonial administrators and the indigenous Chamorros civilized by nearly three centuries of Spanish Catholic influence and domination.
There was nothing to remember about the capture of Guam, except that the Spanish governor didn't know his country was at war with the U.S. There was no vengeful attack over the sinking of the USS Maine, no heroic charge up San Juan Hill or lopsided Battle of Manila Bay. There was only a cannon shot mistaken as an arrival salute. The Spanish governor was stunned by the American order to surrender the island and be taken prisoner along with the officials of his administration. That done, the navy sailed on to the Philippines, leaving no one in charge. The absence of authority led to political instability and rivalry. Into the vacuum raced the social elite who jockeyed with low-level ex-government officials. All thought themselves natural ruling successors. The squabbling eventually prompted the navy to station a small contingent on the island until a duly appointed governor arrived to restore order, inaugurate American governance, and exercise authority over Guam, the Chamorros, and a few others of various nationalities. Seaman Tim Laney was in that contingent on temporary assignment.
Although they were as racially prejudiced as the ousted Spanish, the Americans were less concerned about social rank and status. The American navy men were charming and bold, and equally enthusiastic about submitting to their carnal urges and sowing their seeds. In short order, especially as the number of Americans increased, their daring smiles and audacious flattery enamored many a rebellious Chamorro maiden. Not all love affairs lasted, and some didn't end happily. Tim and Amanda's story was one of many. They met in March 1899, four months prior to Tim's scheduled rotation.
Tim had been in the navy for nearly three years and was ready for advancement to petty officer third class, the next pay grade, and assignment to a new duty station. His ship was anchored in the Piti Harbor, an arm of the larger Apra Harbor. Tim and his shipmates kept mainly to the port villages of Piti, some four miles from Agaña, or to Sumay, on the southern shore of Apra Harbor. Most of the amenities they wanted or needed were nearby, and rarely did anyone need to go into Agaña, the island's capital.
The captain remained on board ship and sent his executive officer, a lieutenant, into Agaña with instructions to observe and send back regular reports on the situation. The lieutenant billeted himself in the crumbling casa de gobiernador, or governor's "palace," in the heart of town. The palace was originally built in the seventeenth century and was a dilapidated hulk when the Americans took over. In the years that followed, the navy went to great expense to repair, renovate, and modernize the building, eventually wiring it with electricity and installing indoor plumbing and telephone lines. It was renamed Government House, but most people continued to call it the Governor's Palace.
The lieutenant was a scientist first and a politician last. His interests were in exploring and studying the island's flora, fauna, and geology. He sometimes called for assistance in these endeavors, and on one such occasion, Tim and his friend Scott Jones were assigned. They rode into Agaña with the captain's courier then followed him across a wide plaza to the run-down Spanish headquarters. They heard heated voices and saw several men arguing loudly with the lieutenant, who looked exasperated. The men, each claiming to be the rightful representative of the people, were clamoring for official recognition and pressing the navy on all sorts of community issues and needs. The lieutenant didn't have the authority, the means, or the inclination to meet any of their demands. He wanted only to explore the island, identify and catalog plants species, collect samples, and write of his findings for various scientific journals and magazines. He resented having to put up with the infighting while the man duly assigned with the responsibility hid away on his ship. The lieutenant spotted Tim, Scott, and the courier and summarily dismissed the local leaders.
"Thanks for the rescue, boys," he said. "I couldn't take much more of that crap. Assholes think we're here to serve them." His day ruined, his mood fouled, the lieutenant canceled his planned excursion and released Tim and Scott to return to the ship. "Hell, it looks like rain, anyway," he muttered as he headed into the compound and the courier headed off to tend to the horses.
Before returning to Piti, Tim and Scott decided to get a bite to eat and have a few drinks at El Gato, which was more a rowdy saloon than a respectable eatery, on the town's main street. It boasted a piano, and someone was always banging out lusty tunes that enticed early drinkers into raucous song. It was also where the prettiest barflies could be found. Tim and Scott had heard about the place and were eager to see for themselves. As they walked down the street, a sudden downpour forced them into Castro's Retail Store, where Amanda worked and where their story began.
Amanda was at her station behind the sundries counter when the two men burst through the store's swinging doors. The rain was falling heavily outside. Laughing and hooting boisterously and adding to the din of the rain, the sailors pushed and shoved each other good-naturedly. They were glad to be relieved of their assignment and freed for the day. They stamped their feet and whipped their "Dixie cup" caps against their jumpers to slough the rainwater from their uniforms. Their shoes and bell-bottom trousers were wet and splattered with mud. Tan Chai, the widow who owned the store, looked irately at them and then at the muddy, wet floor.
"Ricutdo!" she called out. Her grandson, a scrawny little eight-year old, appeared from the back room. Tan Chai jutted her chin toward the wet floor. Without a word, the boy turned around, disappeared into the back room, and reappeared a moment later with a mop. Tan Chai had an uncanny way of saying one's name in a particularly stern way that was at once both a summons and a command. She didn't need to voice the command, merely one's name. As Ricardo mopped up the wet spots, Tan Chai grumbled to herself and followed the sailors who started wandering about in her store. She hissed at her salesgirls to stop gawking. That command was issued with a stony glare and a scowled, "Ssst!" that Amanda and the three other salesgirls quickly obeyed.
The sailors had no intention of buying anything; they were simply curious about the store and its wares. They marveled at the variety of Japanese and Chinese products in bottles, boxes, tins, and packages with undecipherable labels and at the unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. Large jars of loose hard candy, twists of tobacco, and pickled things — boiled hen eggs, pig's feet, and strange fruits — lined the counters. Castro's Retail Store was alien to their browsing experience. It had a peculiar smell — not an unpleasant one but a strange, musky scent combined with the odor of tobacco, dried fish, and seaweed. Tim ambled toward Amanda's counter for a closer look at the contents of the pickle jars. Her back was to him and she turned around as he approached. Tim froze, transfixed by her beauty.
"Come on, Laney, the rain stopped," Scott urged. But Tim stood cemented in place. Scott shrugged his shoulders. "Suit yourself," he said, "meet me over there when you're ready."
Tim ignored his companion and stared unabashedly at Amanda. As he drew toward her, Tan Chai again summoned her grandson. Ricardo appeared immediately. He saw the sailor making his way toward Amanda's counter and hurried over to stand beside her — a witness to any untoward exchange that might occur or diminutive chaperone and bodyguard, if needed. Amanda welcomed the boy's presence, wary of the rain-soaked sailor approaching her.
Tim knew that the local girls were sheltered, reserved, and bashful around strangers, especially around American sailors, so he approached carefully. He knew that the people of the island, the Chamorros, shared the same history of Spanish conquest as the native peoples of the southern United States and Central and South America, but the Spanish language did not supplant the language of the Chamorros. Tim understood Spanish as it was spoken back home, and he recognized Spanish words as they were spoken in Chamorro, but he could not understand Chamorro at all; it was a completely different language, as were the people who spoke it.
"Hello," he said to Amanda in English. "My name's Tim. What is yours?" He tried to be polite and friendly.
The sailor at her counter was nice looking. He had pretty blue eyes and reddish brown hair. He was taller than her father and more muscular. His manner was respectful and his eyes sparkled. Still, Amanda was unaccustomed to such brazenness, but she blushed and shyly said her name. Her attraction to him was as immediate as his seemed to be to her. He told her she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen and she wanted to believe him.
Indeed, Maria Amanda de Leon was a beauty, an attractive girl by anyone's standard. She wore only a smile; she didn't need any other enhancement. Her dark brown eyes were large and mesmerizing, rimmed by thick, long lashes. Her nose was almost childlike, small, with a rounded tip, and not widely splayed. Her lips were full and inviting. Her hair was long and dark. She wore it in a bun at the back of her head while at work but set it free when she finished her shift. Her skin was smooth and golden brown, like coffee with milk. She was short, barely reaching five feet. Her lower half was hidden behind the counter so Tim couldn't appreciate her figure. All he could see of the salesgirl was her top half — a plain cotton blouse draped over a pair of generous breasts, assuring him that the rest of her would be equally enchanting. Tim was instantly aroused; it had been more than a year since he slept with a woman.
Excerpted from A Mansion on the Moon by C. Sablan Gault. Copyright © 2015 C. Sablan Gault. Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.