Summary and Analysis
Finally, Kabuo speaks in his own defense in Chapters 27 and 28. Employing the same technique he used with other characters, Guterson uses flashback to develop Kabuo's character and to narrate events from his point of view.
Kabuo remembers lying to Sheriff Moran during the murder investigation and also remembers lying to Nels Gudmundsson. Nels convinces Kabuo to tell the truth before Kabuo is given the sheriff's report to read; that way, if all the details are consistent, Nels will be able to believe Kabuo. When enticing Kabuo to talk, Nels acknowledges the fact that it is probably difficult to trust the government that treated the Japanese so terribly, but without the truth, Nels wouldn't be able to defend Kabuo, and then Kabuo might be hanged.
Kabuo remembered the foggy night in question, how he almost didn't fish near the shipping lanes for fear of being disoriented and risking an accident. He was having a successful evening when he heard first an air horn and then a familiar voice state, "I'm over here. . . . I'm dead in the water, drifting." The fisherman was Carl Heine.
With dead batteries because of a loose alternator connection, Carl could do nothing but wait and see where he drifted. Kabuo was the first man to come along, and he offered Carl the use of one of his own batteries. Because Carl used a different size battery than Kabuo, Carl used Kabuo's gaff to hammer the flange that was in the battery well and prevented the new battery from fitting. Carl bloodied his own hand while using the gaff.
Kabuo was set to leave when Carl stopped him to talk about the land. Without really negotiating or talking, Carl agreed to sell Kabuo seven acres for the same price Carl himself was paying Ole Jurgensen. They shook on the deal, and Kabuo agreed to put eight hundred dollars down.
Guterson weaves Kabuo's memories seamlessly into the courtroom narrative by ending the memory at the end of Chapter 27 and starting the next chapter with Kabuo on the witness stand. Under cross-examination, Kabuo sticks to his story, even after Alvin Hooks points out that the sheriff's report states that two batteries were found on the Islander. Kabuo claims that he simply forgot to mention that he took one from home and installed it before the sheriff arrived. Alvin Hooks maintains that this testimony was just another part of a convenient story that wasn't told three months ago because it didn't exist. As Alvin Hooks finishes his cross-examination, and as Kabuo, the final witness is dismissed, the snowfall finally starts slowing down.
Through Kabuo's experiences and opinions, Guterson confronts racism both directly and indirectly. The exchanges between Kabuo and Nels in the prison cell, as well as the conversation between Kabuo and Carl, verbalize what is often present but not spoken of — feelings of rage, mistrust, and generalizations. Carl apologizes for what has happened, and he and Kabuo come to an understanding. Unfortunately for Kabuo, he can't convince many people of this. His waiting three months, combined with his composure and mannerisms on the stand, causes the courtroom spectators to conclude that he wasn't like them at all. These differences, to them, were not a good thing and almost proof of his guilt.
The prevailing question at the end of Chapter 28 is, "Will the U.S. judicial system prevail without Ishmael's evidence?" Perhaps the differences between Japanese-Americans and Caucasian Americans are too great. Perhaps men are not truly innocent until proven guilty.
net drum a hollow, revolving cylinder that stores the nets when not in use.
reel drive the device that uncoils fishing nets.
ebb the flowing back of tidewater to the ocean.
kelp island a large mass of brown seaweed.
tide drift the movement of an unanchored boat as a result of the movement of the ocean tide.
whitecaps foamy crests at the tops of waves.
chop a stretch of choppy sea, usually with small waves.
surf scoters sea ducks.
murres narrow-billed, black and white, short-necked diving sea birds.
shipping lane the ocean route prescribed for ships.
diaphone a fog signal that produces a blast of two tones.
net gurry the unusable parts of a sea catch.
scupper holes the openings through the raised upper deck of a ship that allow water to flow overboard.
dogfish sharks, noted for their razor-sharp teeth, that live in the same waterways as the salmon; catching them can cause damage to nets.
hake fish similar to cod.
chums a type of salmon that is undesirable to fishermen because of its bitter taste.
black mouth also called king salmon, desirable deep feeder fish best caught by trolling.
binnacle a case that holds a boat's compass.