The tough Marine sergeant yearned for the chief's virginal
"Love In Samoa..."
by Harold Zale
Vol. 1, No. 5, 1958
I guess you people on
the outside wouldn't know this, but in the Marine Corps every story about
a good liberty starts with "Now when I was in..." followed by the name
of some great liberty town like Tokyo, Hilo, Wellington, or Shanghai in
the old days.
There are some 15 of us Marine NCO's and a
couple of Navy Chiefs in our Staff NCO club up here at Farrow's Bay, Alaska,
and after evening chow we sit around, down a few brews, and tell each other
the same old, lying, smoke-stacking sea stories. Of course we know them
all by heart, but it is the only form of recreation we have up here.
"Peepsight," the First Sergeant, starts off
with "Now when I was in Honolulu," which is followed by his story of the
Jap massage parlor on King Street. It seems that the cute little masseuse
was married to a sumo wrestler who was supposed to be on Maui. "Red" McRae,
the Gunnery Sergeant, has his favorite story: "Now when I was aboard the
old Milwaukee in '37"; he was a Corporal then, escorting sightseers around
the ship at Long Beach. Anyway, he wound up in the paint locker with a
lady school teacher from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Farinacci, the Supply
Sergeant, has a story which begins, "Now when I was in Manila" and ends
with taking a beautiful babe to his shack, only to discover that the Filipina
Bonita was a Filipino Bonito.
Since that cruise in Samoa I don't tell "Now
when I was in...' stories anymore. I listen to the others and keep my mouth
shut. The men don't bother me; only once in a while, when Farinacci has
a snootful, he starts in: "Hey, Half-mast, (they call me Half-mast because
when I was in--but that's another story), Hey, Half-mast, tell us about
the time you was in Samoa." I think I could deck Farinacci, but I don't
believe in fights between Staff NCO's, and I don't know just how much he
knows about me in Samoa. I know he came through Pago-Pago about five years
ago, but I still don't know what, if anything, the gooks told him. So when
I am forced to tell them about "When I was in Samoa," I tell them my story
up to a point. Then I sneak a look at the Supply Sergeant, but if he knows
anything, he has never let on.
Anyway, when I was in Samoa, I was over on
Upolu, in the British group. I was a Platoon Sergeant in a rifle company;
my company commander minded his own business; my junior NCO's were competent;
I had a nice shack-job in a nearby village; in short it was good duty.
My one complaint was the short beer ration, but we augmented that with
One day I was playing acey-ducey with the
Mess Sergeant when the company runner comes in. "The skipper wants to see
you, Sergeant." I chop-chop over to company headquarters, and the captain
cuts me in on the scoop. It seems Intelligence wants a reliable senior
NCO, me, to go over to the island of Sava'i and establish a one man listening
post. It is for ninety days, and I'm to get rations and mail once a month
by Higgins boat. Sava'i, the Lieutenant from the Intelligence Section (a
real candy-butt out of Princeton) tells me, is the largest, the most primitive,
and the most beautiful island in the Samoan group.
He was right. It was primitive, more beautiful
than any technicolor travelogue, with feathery coconut palms dotting shimmering,
white beaches. And the village where I established myself, Lotofaga by
name, consisted of handsome pandanus thatch huts, inhabited by noble elders,
strong men, beautiful maidens, and their happy children, dogs and pigs.
New in Samoa, a man in uniform, even in faded
khaki such as mine, rates high, because these people have a long martial
tradition of their own. Especially a four stripe Sakini--their way of calling
a Platoon Sergeant, because of the four stripes in my chevron. The village
maidens vied for the privilege of keeping house for me. It was strictly
I had been in Lotofaga about two weeks when
one evening a polite "Talofa Li" sounded in my doorway. I stepped outside
and was met by a delegation of village elders, headed by a minor "talking
chief." I in turn replied "Talofa Li'" meaning "Greetings, Chief," or more
literally "Love to you, Chief." He smiled and then invited me to a Kava
drinking ceremony to be given in my honor at the fate of Ulueva, Chief
of Lotofaga village, after the curfew drum.
Ulueva's hut was the largest in the village,
its foundation resting on layer upon layer of small rocks and pebbles,
these in turn covered with countless mats of woven palm fronds. The entire
fale was illuminated by wicks burning in coconut oil, casting a soft, flickering
glow on the assembly. All the important elders were there in my honor.
They sat gravely, in a full circle, their feet tucked under them, as Samoan
manners demand. I took my place next to Ulueva, and the endless speech-making,
Samoa's second favorite pastime, began. All the chiefs, sub-chiefs, and
orators had their say, then it was my turn. They murmured their applause,
and then a hush fell over the assembly as a girl entered the dimly lit
circle, carrying a deep wooden bowl before her. She knelt gracefully, placing
the bowl at the Chief's feet. Then she raised her torso, and respectfully
inclined herself in front of me.
First I could only look at her face, angelic
in purity, spoiled only by her mouth which was a little too full. Her eyes
were serene, her shoulders proud, for she was of royal blood. Then I saw
that her lava-lava only came to her waist, her breasts were partially covered
by a necklace of young banana leaves. As she moved, I had a glimpse of
them, so conically erect, so shiny with oil, that I caught my breath.
I had heard enough about Samoan customs to
know that she was the Taupo, the Ceremonial Virgin, who performed the Kava
ceremony. She was expected to extract the juice from the mildly intoxicating
kava root, which all are then expected to drink from a common bowl. That's
what I had been told, but I was not prepared for the manner in which the
Tauoo went about her task.
At a sign from the Chief, the girl took the
yam-like roots from the bowl and placed them on a clean banana leaf beside
her. Then she put the first root in her mouth, and started to chew in delicate
fashion. The root was very juicy, for soon she bent over the bowl, and
spat a clear stream of liquid into it. I was seized with a feeling of revulsion,
mixed with fascination as I realized that I would be expected to drink
this later on. I think she knew what was in my mind, because from time
to time she would look at me, quickly letting her dark lashes fall when
her glance met mine. Before long the bowl was quite full, and the second
part of the ceremony started. The taupo took a hollowed out coconut shell,
and made the round, bringing each man a dipper-ful of kava. The men drained
their ration with grunts of appreciation. I was last to be served. She
slowly came towards me, sank to her knees and handed me the shell with
both hands. Our hands touched, and the sweet odor of oil and blossoms assailed
my nostrils. I felt the men's eyes on me, and I quickly lowered my eyes
to the dipper. The liquid was opaque, slightly fuzzy. I raised the shell
to my lips, and drank--almost eagerly I think. I returned the shell to
her hands, and caught her glance. It said, "You have tasted of me." I felt
the blood in my temples.
After the ceremony the Siva started. Musicians
carrying crude drums appeared out of the shadows, and soon the night was
throbbing to the drumbeats and shrill cries of the dancers. The Siva is
nothing languorous like the Hula. It is wild, abandoned, with much body
slapping and jerky pelvic motions. Every one dances, young and old, each
telling a story of fishing or love-making for the amusement of the elders.
Then the dancers retired to the sidelines, and the taupo came out.
Now the Samoans have a great sense of humor,
and since no one can touch the taupo, unless they want to risk being stoned
to death, she is taught the most provocative and sexually meaningful dances.
It is a sort of joke on themselves, the virgin who goes through the motions
more professionally than her properly qualified sisters. Now when I was
in Casablanca, I smoked hashish in a native bordello, but all the sensations
conjured up by the depraved Arabs were nothing as to the taupo dancing;
her eyes closed, writhing, quivering, and the drums picking up your heart
beat, like the bass drum on parade.
When I got back to my fale that night, Tina,
one of the girls who took turns in policing my shack was waiting for me.
I told her to shove off. There was only one thing on my mind. The taupo,
and how to do it.
Next day I did a little recon, and found out
who the girl's father was. He was a minor talking chief in an adjacent
village, somehow related to Chief Ulueva of Lotofaga. I walked down to
Mulifanua village and found him flaked out on the deck of his fale, taking
a siesta, while his wife and children were out digging for taro root. He'd
heard all about the American Sakini, and he sat up to welcome me. He was
a villainous looking hombre with "mumu" or elephantiasis of the left leg,
and one cloudy, blue, eyeball. He had learned some English from a pastor
of the London Missionary Society, and that short contact with Western civilization
had left its corrosive mark on him.
I know a thief when I see one, and in this
case I was pleased, because I find it easier to deal with people like that.
"Chief," I said, "I have keli, keli Alofa (much, much love) for your daughter.
What are we going to do about it?" He fixed me with the cloudy eye, and
then shook his head. Then he told me what I already knew, that she was
the Ceremonial Virgin, that the honor of the village was in her hands,
and she could not give herself to any man unless she was formally married
to him. No, it could not be arranged. Then he leaned forward, and started
to finger my wrist watch with its expansion bracelet. Before I left his
fale, he was wearing it. I thought it was a good sign.
The following afternoon I was making a sketch
of the beach area for the Intelligence Officer, the Princeton one, when
I heard splashing and girlish laughter issuing from a little cove. I sought
natural cover and feasted my eyes on a sight worthy of the gods of yore.
My taupo, for in my mind she was already mine, was disporting herself in
a shallow pool of water with two of her playmates. It is difficult to describe
what the sunlight striking the water did to their golden bodies. The taupo
had her back to me, and as she reached into the water for her lava-lava,
she turned, giving me a full view of her, before she wrapped it around
herself in the lightning fashion Samoan girls have. It was like peeking
through the gates of paradise, only to have them slam in one's face.
That night I called on her father again. This
time I brought a bottle of after-shaving lotion, two skivvy shirts, and
the last of my rum soaked crooks. We talked for half an hour. When I left
him, he said he would think about it.
Next time I saw the taupo she was carrying
water to the Chief's house. She lowered her eyes, but took the hibiscus
blossom from behind her ear, and tossed it to me. When I retrieved it,
she was gone.
The same evening her father told me that he
was inclined to think that it could be arranged. Since I was not a common
villager, but a Four Stripe Sakini, there might even be some honor in it
for his family. But Chief Ulueva and the villagers must never know. Now
he was talking sense. When would it take place, and what little favor could
I do for him, I wanted to know. He was prepared for that one. One dozen
skivvy shirts. Two boxes rum soaked crooks. Plenty, plenty shaving lotion
(which he drank). My raincoat. And yes, One Hundred Dollars, cash. Not
in New Zealand currency. In U.S. dollars. I wanted to protest, but when
I looked at that cloudy eyeball I knew that he meant business.
Luckily the Higgins boat was due the following
week, and I waited for it to beach. When I gave the list to the PFC who
came over with my chow, he looked at me as if I'd gone Asiatic. "Make sure
all this is aboard next month," I told him, "or I'll have you swabbin'
heads until the end of the war." Then I gave him personal messages to a
friend of mine who worked in the PX, and signed my tailor made blues, and
my .45 with the ivory handles over to the company clerk as collateral for
the hundred dollars I wanted him to advance me. I did not think those men
would fail me.
I sweated out the next 30 days--don't ask
me how. Every time I saw the taupo she would wink, or blow me a kiss, until
I thought I'd blow my stack. I had no appetite for the other girls, so
I sacked in early and studied some manuals I had brought over with me.
Somehow the month passed, and the boat came in.
At the first sound of the curfew drum Cloudy Eyeball presented himself.
First he checked all the supplies to make sure he was not being short-changed,
then put on my raincoat and lit himself a fresh cigar. Then he outlined
his plan. There was an abandoned copra shed a short distance from the village,
and his virginal daughter, the taupo, would await me with open arms in
the little office, once used by the overseer. But I must be quiet, and
above all, he as a loving father begged me, gentle. I was to wait until
the moon stood over the mangrove swamp and then go to the copra shed.
Finally the moon made it. When I reached the
vicinity of the shed, Cloudy Eyeball stepped out of the shadows and took
me by the arm, for the night was dark, only a moonsliver casting a dim
glow. When we entered the shed he pointed to a door and called softly to
his daughter. The door opened, and I had a glimpse of her as the clouds
mercifully parted, and a silver moonray fell on her. Her hair was entwined
with frangi pangi blossoms, there were shell necklaces around her throat,
her body glistened with fragrant coconut oil; she stretched her arms out
toward me, and her lava-lava slid to her feet. Quickly I stepped inside,
closing the door behind me. Before I could orient myself in the darkness
I felt her arms around my neck, her hungry mouth on mine. I could feel
the silky oil under my grasp, her shell-necklace bit into my chest. Paradise...!
Well, that's the story I tell them when they
ask me "Hey, Half-mast, tell us about the time you was in Samoa." Only
there is a little more to it. And if the men in the Corps ever find out,
I may have to try to make a living on the outside.
Well, a couple of days later I am sketching
the course of a little river which bisects the island, when I hear a cracked
old voice calling, "Sakini, Sakini." I turn around, and there by the roadside
is an old crone, withered and shriveled and dark as a prune. She holds
her hand out as beggars do the world over. "Money, Sakini, money for cigaletti,"
she whines. I reach in my pocket and flip six-pence into the sand. She
does not pick it up, but points a claw at me. "Your generosity disappears
with the morning sun," she says. I look at her stupidly.
"A hundred dollars by night, six-pence by
day; yet I could please you as much with the sun on your back as I did
the night before last."