Study Guide

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Chapter 12

By Jamie Ford

Chapter 12

Jamaican Ginger (1942)

  • That evening, Keiko and Henry meet outside of the Black Elks Club. He's still wearing the same clothes, but Keiko is all dressed up and Henry thinks she looks beautiful. Aw, does someone have a crush? (Yes, yes someone does.)
  • They can't go inside because there's a "no minors" sign on the door, so Henry finds a pair of wooden milk crates and the kids decide to sit in the alley.
  • After the first set, the screen door opens and an old man comes out and catches them sitting there. Henry tells him they're friends with Sheldon and they just wanted to hear him play, so the man makes a deal with them: He'll let them inside if they run to the pharmacy and pick up some Jamaican Ginger for the club. It's a secret ingredient that the club uses to make alcohol—you know, since they don't have a liquor license and all.
  • Without further ado, the kids make their way to the drugstore and pick up Jamaican Ginger. They're thrilled by the idea that this might make them actual bootleggers.
  • Then they return and are let into the club to sit on two chairs by the kitchen door. The famous Oscar Holden actually plays a song for his new friends called "Alley Cats," which is dedicated to Henry and Keiko. How cool is that?
  • Henry looks around and realizes that it's not just black people in the club; there are Japanese couples hanging out, too.
  • When it starts getting dark, Henry and Keiko decide to leave. Before they go, though, Sheldon catches sight of them and comes over to meet Keiko.
  • Things quickly sour, though, and as the kids are making their way out of the club, the FBI shows up and performs a bust. They start pouring out the alcohol and the customers panic, all trying to get out of there at once.
  • In horror, Henry watches as the FBI separates all the Japanese patrons and forces them to lie down on the floor with guns pointed at their heads.
  • Keiko and Henry get snagged, too, but when the feds see the "I Am Chinese" button on Henry's shirt, they let them both go. Phew—that was close.
  • They walk away from the club, all of the good cheer and joy of the evening completely ruined.

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