Tuesday, December 16, 2014

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 1)



The four slender palms that were reflected in the café store-front parted like a curtain when the Flannerys opened the door and exited onto the patio, and a warm tropical wind surged about the avenue. Mrs. Flannery held down the sun hat on her head while her husband held her waist as if to prevent her, and the hat, from blowing away. They surveyed the tables for a spot to sit and forget about the things they left behind for the two weeks they were to stay in Waikiki. The things they left behind were the things most people leave behind when they travel: Joshua, the husband, had opened his own record store only a month before, on his thirtieth birthday, left it in the incapable hands of a college-aged intern who would work for free, and had to practice each day accepting the possibility that his store might literally “burn to the ground.” The wife, Lindsay, who was a hairdresser, had given up two weeks of income to take the trip, which was already a significant strain on their finances. But, it had been a dream of theirs to visit Hawaii and, determined to have fun, they settled on the patio to take pictures of each other posing with iced drinks in February while making consciously dramatic “Victory” hand gestures.
They intuited, however, that the Victory coffee pictures were just the beginning. Their table faced a busy street that was full of interesting distractions: too-tan surfers on rusty bicycles with nine-foot boards under their arms, gnarly homeless men yelling at bushes and buses, trolleyloads of sleepy-eyed tourists shuffling onto the curb like reluctant spacemen landed on an alien planet. They tried to take pictures of these things too, but they quickly realized that it was impossible to capture it all.
Amid the helter skelter of the street was a tall pale person. You could see him coming from a couple of blocks away, because he had a funny way of walking, sort of the way a lizard walks when it rises to two legs and hurries through the desert head first. He was lean as a tentacle and dressed in a dirty white t-shirt and a pair of tight red-and-black plaid pants that emphasized his leanness. A pair of suspenders hung behind him and a plume of smoke funneled before him as he drew greedily from his cigarette, pedaling along the crowded sidewalk.
The Flannerys hadn’t seen him because an elderly woman in a taupe fisherman’s hat, a pink cotton shirt, and a fanny pack making as if she were entering strong waves in a great hurry, stopped by their table and began twisting at the waist like a lawn sprinkler. She smacked her thighs with her limp hands in a home-grown version of antique calisthenics; the couple couldn’t help but giggle. “What next, Lindz?” Joshua wondered aloud as the dancing granny twisted farther up the avenue.
“Is it crowded in there?” the couple was startled by the hoarse, loud voice—too loud even for a busy street—of the lizard-walking stranger. He was stopped about a bicycle’s length from the Flannerys’ table, and his head was angled so that he might have been asking the bushes against the side of the building.
The stranger brushed his thin salty ginger-red hair with his fingers and squinted one eye as he took a final drag from his cigarette. He extinguished it forcefully on his pants, tucking the butt in his back pocket. “This café is always pretty crowded, and I was thinking about getting myself a pick-me-up but I don’t wanna go in if it’s full of Jap tourists,” he snorted, his eyes wrinkling like dirty white paper.
“It’s pretty crowded,” said Joshua, frowning.
The Ginger Boy held his hand in the shape of a sideways L and cradled his sparsely bearded chin, puffing out his lips and nodding his head as if he were considering a math problem. “Thanks. I’ll probably wait it out then.” He put his hands on his hips and gazed steadily up one end of the street and then the other. He was silent for so long that the couple started to squirm a little in their seats. They were relieved when he finally spoke. “So where are you two from?” he used a loud voice again that made the other people seated on the patio turn and look. “Wait! Let me guess—ok, Seattle! No wait, San Diego. No! Wait, lemme see here—your beard makes me think you gotta be from Portland or Seattle. That’s quite a beard—like a red-bearded pirate! You don’t see many like that around here. And check it out—both gingers!” He pointed a finger at himself, then to Joshua, then back at himself. “All three, actually,” he included Lindsay, who was a lovely strawberry blonde. “All from the same gene pool. I wonder if we’re related, way back when. I bet we are, way back. I thought you two looked familiar.” He chuckled at his own joke, and waited for the couple’s obligatory chuckle before continuing. “So do you mind if I smoke? I know it’s a disgusting habit. I just can’t help myself. I enjoy it—so shoot me. You know what I mean.”
“No, we don’t,” said Joshua. “I mean we don’t mind.” He spun his coffee cup uneasily.
“Southpaw?” asked the Ginger Boy.
“Huh?” responded Joshua.
“I see you’re using your left hand so I guess you’re left-handed.”
“Oh. Yeah. I am.”
“Me too! It’s hard to be left-handed, isn’t it? If I drove a car, I’d never get a manual transmission. Not to mention scissors, golf clubs, just about everything! So where are you two from? You never got to telling me. Mind if I pull up a chair? Thanks. Don’t worry I know you guys are on a honeymoon or something, I just want to rest a minute. I’m coming down from last night.” He tried to light a second cigarette but was having trouble because of the wind.
“We’re from New York,” Lindsay said slowly, minding the intruder’s mounting frustration.

Monday, December 8, 2014

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 2)

“Holy Jesus!” the Ginger Boy exclaimed after he successfully lit his cigarette. “That’s quite a drive! I’m just kidding. Did you guys take Hawaiian Airlines? They have a direct now from JFK which is super-convenient, so I’ve heard. I hear a lot of news, you know. Sometimes it comes in handy. I’m not from here myself, either. But I’m not as far from here as New-fucking-York. Pardon my French, but I figure we’re family from way back so you guys can forgive me. How do you guys like the weather here? Pretty nice, huh? You could almost just live outside if you wanted to.”
“It’s beautiful,” said Lindsay. “It never rains.”
“Sure it does. It absolutely does. I mean there’s a rainy season or whatever, but usually every morning it rains just a little—just enough to clean everything off—dust and dirt and bad stuff from the day before—so that the day can start clean. By the time you wake up in the morning, the rain stops, but not before it cleans the island for you so you can start over again.” He held his cigarette thoughtfully between his thumb and forefinger, staring in the distance as if he were delivering a monologue. “Sometimes it doesn’t rain for a few days though. Hopefully it’ll be like that for you two if that’s what you want.
“So,” he said in a pinched voice, inhaling, “you guys don’t smoke?”
“No, we don’t smoke,” said Lindsay politely.
“That’s good, it’s a disgusting habit,” he repeated. “Do you guys smoke anything else? You know what I’m talking about. This guy knows,” he winked at the husband as he held the smoke in his lungs.
“No. Thanks for the offer, though,” said Joshua.
“That’s too bad. You guys are missing out. The Big Island is renowned for green. Re-fucking-nowned. You guys can read about it on Google when I gotta get going in a minute. Pardon my French again by the way.” He paused and smiled as if recalling a joke. “I must have picked all this French up from this girl I’m seeing. Yeah, I’m seeing this girl—well, not seeing—I mean, we’re ‘friends with benefits’—the best kind. Heh.” He scooted his chair closer to Joshua and poked him with his elbow. “Yeah, I met this girl, she works at the Humane Society, which is part of the attraction since I’m an animal lover. Well, I love dogs and cats. I don’t have any at the moment but I’m hoping to adopt. They mainly have dogs and cats but every once in a while the occasional rabbit pops in. But she had this amazing accent and I that’s how I picked her up. I went up to her—you know, I heard her talking or whatever—and I went up to her and I just point-blank said to her, ‘You have a lovely accent.’” He affected Sean Connery’s voice. “She ate it up. We talked for a while, and it turns out she’s French, like from France, French. Anyway, she told me she thought we’d be great friends. ‘Friends.’” With his cigarette in hand, he made emphatic finger quotes in the air. “I knew what she meant though. We were on the same wavelength.
“But I was a little hesitant about her. Wanna know why?”
“Why?” asked Lindsay.
“Well, I’ve been seeing this other woman—this cougar—this nun who is double my age. How old do you think I look?”
The couple looked at each other agape, hoping that the other would speak.
“Come on, how old?” the Ginger Boy smiled impishly, leaning forward on the back of his chair, which he had flipped wrongways. “Thirty? Thirty-five?”
“Sure. Could be,” said Lindsay without conviction.
“Twenty. I’m twenty years old,” he said. “I look older than I am. I know I do. It’s because I matured pretty quickly. That’s why I got this cougar into me—a priestess-cougar, for that matter. Ever wonder what it’d be like to be with a woman of the cloth? Or a man of the cloth,” he corrected himself to include the wife. “Well I’ll tell you, I’m down on my knees every night to pray. So’s she—down on her knees, I mean.” He once again poked Joshua with his elbow and chuckled. “Nah, I’m only half-joking. I’ll tell you, I stole this money—it wasn’t a lot, it was only twenty dollars—ok, it was a hundred—and I felt bad about it—it doesn’t matter where it was from although that’s a good story too—so I went to confess, you know, at the booth. I’m a recovering Catholic. Ha, ha. After I finished and I got my prayers I was supposed to say, that’s when I saw her. Let me tell you, I saw right through those nun’s clothes, that nun’s hat. I mean figuratively, of course. I mean what she was thinking, right through her hat.” He shook his head as if to try to get a bug out of his hair, or his head, and his earring made a jingling sound.
“Wimple,” said Lindsay.
“What’d you call me?” his eyes bulged and he stopped blinking. She could see the lines of his jaws, hard and angled. Tiny beads of perspiration appeared on her forehead and she stuttered. He threw his head back, howled, and playfully smacked her on the shoulder. “Come on, we’re related way back, sister. I didn’t even hear what you said, really. I just like to have fun with you guys.”
She laughed feebly.
The Ginger Boy pointed to his ear. “You’re probably wondering about my earring. Well, it’s a token. I’m wearing it because, well, we’re in love. Me and the nun, that is. She has the other earring. It shows that we are both one half of the other. Like those ‘Best Friends’ necklaces. Yeah, we’re trying to keep it quiet. Not because I’m embarrassed. No way. She could get in a lot of trouble if anyone found out about us. Our love is kind of forbidden. It’s like Romeo and Juliet or something. Really poetic.” He stopped to take a last drag on his cigarette before putting it out in the same way he had before.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 3)

“So, you live in Hawaii now?” asked Joshua, wanting to change the subject.
“No, I live in Alaska,” replied the Ginger Boy, and as Joshua shifted in his seat, the Ginger Boy scrunched up his nose laughing again, looking to Lindsay for affirmation.
“Sure, Einstein! Where else would I live? I live right over there,” he pointed vaguely toward Diamond Head. “I’m not local or anything though. I told you before.”
“Where are you from?” asked Lindsay.
“I’m from Texas. Do you believe me?” he asked with a wide, open-mouth smile. Lindsay smiled sheepishly. “I’m just playing. I’m from Texas. I’ve been living here for a year, give or take. I had to leave for personal reasons though.” He waited to see if the couple would ask him to elaborate. When they didn’t, he took another cigarette from the pack in his pocket and slowly lit it.
Sensing the Ginger Boy expected her to say something, Lindsay said, “So isn’t Hawaii really expensive? We read it’s the second most expensive state. Milk costs a fortune, doesn’t it?”
The Ginger Boy snorted as if he were offended. “What are you talking about? You guys are the ones from New York. Anyway I manage. I do all right, you could say.” He looked over his left shoulder, then his right, his cigarette hanging from his lip like an ugly, pockmarked James Dean. “Wanna know how?”
Again, the couple looked at each other, hoping the other would answer.
“I’m a software developer,” he said, leaning backward in his backward chair. The couple looked relieved. He let them relax for a moment and when it looked like Lindsay was going to speak, he interjected. “Ha, no I’m not! But I can’t lie to you guys. You know me. I’ll tell you the truth.” He leaned in and lowered his voice, trying to create a sense of solidarity between the three. “I’m a drug dealer.”
The couple blinked hard, nonplussed.
“What, now you don’t believe me? It’s the truth. Check this out. “He lifted up his shirt, revealing several long, raised scars on his shoulders, chest, and torso. “You don’t get those at the office, sister.”
“That’s awful!” gasped Lindsay, cupping her hands over her mouth. “How—I mean—are you all right?”
“Me? Look at me! I’m fine, but you should see the other guy—not so fine. In fact,” he looked around and leaned in, “I shot the other guy—four other guys—killed two of ’em. I had nightmares for like a whole week. Don’t worry though, that was a long time ago. I try and keep myself away from that stuff these days. That’s why I’m here.” The Ginger Boy offered his hand to Joshua. “What’s your name, by the way?”
“Josh,” he said, hesitantly taking the Ginger Boy’s sticky, wet hand.
“Get the fuck out! Oh, pardon my French again. You’re not gonna believe this but me too! You guys can call me Jay, though—like the bird. Man, same name and both left-handed. What a coincidence. We totally have to be related, I mean way back. Although, I gotta tell you both when I got these,” he patted his chest where he had shown them his scars, “I lost a lot of blood. I lost tons of blood and I went into a coma. But here’s the thing—and this is amazing—when I woke up—you’re not going to believe this, but when I woke up, I became ambidextrous.” He switched his cigarette from his left hand to his right hand, then back again. “See?”
“That is amazing,” Joshua said with saccharine excitement. He was beginning to get annoyed and that was his way of having fun with the conversation. Ginger Jay pretended not to notice.
“You’re damn right it is. Anyway, I made out in that deal. I mean the deal I had to get rid of those people over,” he said, lowering his voice. “But that’s why I had to leave Texas. It’s a big state, but not that big. I figured they couldn’t find me and the hundred grand here.”
Again, the couple was silent.
“I see you don’t believe me, but look at this bulge in my pocket. That’s not my peen. Ha, ha.”
“That’s just a lot of money,” said Lindsay. “It’s lucky for you they let you get away.”
“Well, they didn’t exactly let me get away. I gave them the slip and there was no way I was going to let them get this back after what I went through to get it.” He nonchalantly reached into his pocket and, to the couple’s amazement, pulled out a wad of large bills. He carefully put them back in his pocket and acted for the benefit of anyone watching as if he had just been reaching for another cigarette, which he put in his mouth and lit.
“Yup, that’s what’s left of the hundred grand. I mean not only that. I came here with a hundred grand and I only have fifty left now.” He fiddled with a faded tattoo on his arm.
“See this?” he pointed to the tattoo, snapping his fingers. “I have my last name tattooed on my arm. You know, in case of emergencies. Can you see it?”
Joshua nodded.
“You can see it, right? Spell it.”
Joshua couldn’t really see the tattoo. It was so poorly done that the ink bled and the letters ran into one another. To make matters worse, Jay’s skin looked as if he had some kind of rash that he had scratched to the point of rubbing it raw. Joshua squinted as he tried to read the tattoo.
“Forget it,” said Jay. “I have too many tattoos for you to waste your time on that one. See this one? This is my birthday. Another one I got in case of an emergency. What about you, tough guy? How old are you? What year were you born in? Where?”
“Where in the year or where in the country?” asked Joshua wryly, and was sorry the instant he heard himself say it.
“Oh,” said Jay, his cigarette in the corner of a tight smile. “Oh. A wise ass, huh?”

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 4)

“I was only kidding,” Joshua floundered.
“Ha, no—that’s funny. I like you. I’m a smart ass too. See? We have to be related, I mean way back. Yeah, I’m a smart ass, just like you. You know what I did once? This is related to our being smart asses. Well, to me being a smart ass.
“So I told you about my scars, right? Well, this is even crazier than that story. You’re going to like this. Actually, you’re going to want to close your ears,” he said to Lindsay. “It’s gruesome. I know, I admit it. I’m only half-proud of it, but this has to do with this one guy who snitched on me. I’m not going to tell you his name—”
Jay suddenly stopped talking—a pair of bikini-clad girls walked past who couldn’t have been more than fifteen. He called to them, whistling and trying to get their attention, but they hurried around the corner. He spat on the ground next to him.
“Bitches. That’s fine,” he said, and he pointed to his symbolic earring. “Hey Josh, do you mind if I use your phone? I just lost mine yesterday, so…” he trailed off, scratching a large pimple in the center of his forehead.
“I’d let you, but it’s dead. I forgot to charge it last night. How about you, Lindz? Didn’t you leave your phone in the room?”
“I did,” she said.
“That’s fine. That’s ok. It wasn’t that important that I make the call anyway. I just had to call this Mexican buddy of mine from back home. You know, I told him I’d call him. It’s almost night time there. ¿Hablas español? I’ll bet you do. Ha, ha. I know a little but only for certain things. I can take care of that business after I get my pick-me-up. But first I have to tell you guys about this crazy story. You’re really not going to believe it. You’re just going to have to make up your own minds, but I swear this isn’t for the faint of heart,” he said seriously, looking at Lindsay.
“So there was this guy,” he began. “I thought we were friends, but evidently he was a fucking narc—pardon my French—and he snitched on me. Now this isn’t the only time something like this happened, where I had to do something really bad. But the guys were asking for it. I’m telling you. In fact, over the course of my life—believe it or not—I’ve chopped off eighteen fingers.” Ginger Jay crossed his arms and a profound look settled on his face. “Not all on one hand, though.”
Lindsay snickered.
“Whoa, Josh!” exclaimed Jay, pointing at the wife. “You better look out when you’re asleep— you’ve got a regular psychopath on your hands. I’m serious, here! This is no laughing matter, sweetheart. I hated to have to do it, but it had to be done. I couldn’t see a way out of it.
“You see, when you have a snitch on your hands, you gotta teach him a lesson, or else you’ll end up dead or in jail. I’d rather be dead than in jail, myself. I’ve never been in jail, but I’m already a hard man, and I’m only twenty. Jail would turn me into a monster. Then there’d be no coming back for old Jay-bird. So anyway, I’ve cut off eighteen fingers. But for the guy I’m talking about in this story—the snitch—I really had to teach him a lesson. So do you know what I did?”
The couple shook their heads, unable to anticipate the punchline.
“So I had this guy tied up—it was like a Tarantino movie or something, I swear to Christ—and I cut off each finger, one by one.” He placed one hand on the table and with the other hand he made a chopping gesture on each finger of his first hand. With every stroke he emphasized a word he spoke. “Do you know how sharp a knife has to be to cut through a finger? Let me tell you, it has to be damn sharp. I go fishing all the time and some of these fish are tough to cut through when it’s time to gut them, but a finger, I mean—forget about it! It’s almost like cutting a piece of wood! And I had to cut through eight of ’em. Pretty sickening.”
“Wait,” said Lindsay. “So, why didn’t you just cut off one finger, if you wanted to teach him a lesson?”
“Yes, my dear. Yes, that’s an excellent question. Why indeed? Well I’ll tell you why. In fact, the snitch asked me the same question. But not before he passed out.” He took a drag on his cigarette and put the butt out on his pants again. “So here I am, I got these fingers all over the goddamn floor, blood all over the place—I mean, all over—I had to get rid of that shirt I was wearing—I really liked that shirt too—and this damned snitch passes out. So I had to wait until he came to. So when he came to, he was like, ‘Whyyy, whyyy?’—I guess what he meant was, why’d I have to cut off all his fingers. So I told him, ‘It’s so I could leave only your thumbs!’
“Of course he didn’t understand. I can tell by the way you’re looking at me that you guys aren’t all with me either, but you’ll get it in a second. So I told him, ‘I left you with your thumbs for a reason, you damned snitch,’ and he didn’t say anything, so I said, ‘It’s so you can stick one in your mouth and the other in your ass, and then switch!’” Jay doubled over, hugging his stomach.
The couple blinked hard and forced a sickened laugh.
“Betcha didn’t see that one coming!” he smacked their shoulders. “Ha! I don’t think he did either, to tell you the truth. Boy, but after that, I had to leave town anyway. He knew some people, although they were probably a bunch of snitches, too.”
A group of tourists came out of the café, speaking in Japanese. Jay watched them until they rounded the corner of the building, heading toward the beach.
“Know what they were talking about?” he asked the couple.
“No,” said Josh. “Do you?”
“You’re damn right I do,” Jay said, flaring his nostrils. “They were talking about their drinks. It’s funny—different kinds of tourists always talk about the same thing, or do the same thing. Japs always say, ‘Oh! How big American drinks are. The smallest size here is the largest size in Japan. Isn’t that funny? Ho ho ho.’ Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same group of ’em say the same goddamn thing. On the other hand, Americans do this other thing. Do you know that restaurant over there, Giovanni Pastrami? Well, it’s over there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen some white people walk by that place and say ‘Giovanni Pastrami!’ in this voice that’s supposed to sound Italian, I guess. I’m of Italian descent myself, so I find that a little offensive. Not really though, I’m only kidding. But they do say it like that.”
“Hm,” said Lindsay, stumped. She glanced sideways at her husband.
“So you’re sure you guys don’t smoke? You’re missing out, trust me.” Jay patted his thigh.
“Positive,” said Joshua. “We’re just going to have to make that sacrifice, unfortunately. Plus, we kind of have to go catch this tour. It’s like you said—honeymoon and all. I’m sure you understand. You know what it’s like to be in love. You love spending time with each other. We’ve gotta make the most of the time we have here. We don’t live in paradise like you do.”
“Fair point, Josh my man,” said Jay. “You make a fair point. I do understand. Your wife is very lucky to have married such a great guy.” He pointed intensely at her and became very serious. “You hold on to him, sweetheart. No funny business. That goes for you too, buddy,” he said, smacking Josh one last time. “Now you two enjoy your trip. Aloha! Mahalo!” he said with operatic enthusiasm.
As soon as Jay closed his mouth, the couple bounded from their seats and hurried away. After watching them turn the corner, Jay rose, grumbling to himself as he entered the front door of the café. He was disappointed that he had spent so much time with them and they hadn’t bought anything, but he thought that he still had the rest of the day to fix that. On the other hand, he did enjoy telling his stories to them, and that was a consolation. He plowed through the café, exited the rear door and walked out of the back entrance to the building on Seaside Avenue, heading toward the beach.
Ordinarily Jay always had to be busy so he was unable to sit still or relax. At that moment, however, he felt exhausted. He walked over to Waikiki Beach so that he could sit in the grass and watch girls in their bathing suits. Only after about ten minutes, he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 5)


As the sun was setting he woke with a start, as if an alarm sounded in his head. He stood, stretched, and started walking without having any particular destination. When he passed trash cans he looked in them for something to eat, and he eventually found a bag of fast food that had an uneaten sandwich. For dessert, he raided samples from several Honolulu Cookie Company stores along the strip.
Wandering past Tourneu on Kalakaua Avenue, he checked the giant outdoor clock. It was 9:45. That’s good enough, he thought, and headed toward the park.
He approached St. Augustine’s and was seized by a sudden, certain fear: Someone or a group of someones was following him. He hadn’t seen them, but his gut told him that he’d better do something to lose them or they would get him, and his imagination ran wild with what that could mean. He stopped at the pedestrian light with a small crowd of tourists on Ohua Avenue, and when the light turned, he took off down Ohua as fast as he could run. He ducked behind the wall of the church parking lot and waited to see if anyone came after him. No one came.
After a while he began to think that maybe whoever was following him hadn’t given up, but they might be planning to ambush him on the next block. He’d have to outsmart them, then, by cutting through the Marriott and then sneaking around the zoo parking lot. There was a line of bushes that he could hide behind if he had to, and he could figure out an alternative plan if or when it became necessary. He could get a bus along Kapahulu and from there, he would probably be safe.
His plan worked well. He caught the bus at Kapahulu Avenue and transferred at Waialae Avenue. The bus hissed and lowered, and Jay put his foot on the first step. He looked over his shoulder to make sure his pursuer wasn’t just waiting to board with him and then have him cornered, but the only people on the street were a gang of high school students and a couple of families with small children. No one was paying attention to him. He climbed the bus stairs victoriously, unable to suppress a proud grin. As he stood holding the railing, the bus spoke to him. “Aloha, welcome aboard the Route One bus to Hawaii Kai,” it said in a deep, sonorous voice like the hollowed trunk of an old tree. “Please kokua.” After several blocks, Jay pulled the cord next to his hand. A tone sounded and the bus decreed, “Stop requested. Waialae and tenth. Please exit through the rear door.” As the bus labored up the hill, he heard its faint voice. “Aloha,” it said. “Please kokua.”
Stepping onto the street again made him nervous. He crossed Waialae and a man that had been behind him who was talking on a cell phone suddenly pocketed the phone and leapt into the crosswalk toward Jay. Panic rattled his organs and he instinctively broke into a run, sweat pouring down his back and temples. When he had gone about a block, he turned to see that the man was just going to Tamura’s liquor store. He was relieved, and even laughed out loud, but he was shaken.
Jay panted up a gradual hill, passing a series of low, dilapidated single family homes on tiny lots until he reached a section of the neighborhood where a few of the houses were larger and well-maintained. He stopped in front of a tan split-level house with a two-car garage and a high privacy fence. The privacy fence had a built-in gate that was closed and locked, making it difficult to see anything behind the fence except for the iron bars on the windows, which looked recently installed. At a glance, the barred house looked like a prison. Jay lit his last cigarette and the flame-end glowed red in the darkness. The tiny fire illuminated his face like a melting candle.
He stood smoking for a few moments, watching the windows of the prison. They were lit from inside, and he could make out two figures hovering eerily to and fro. Even though he hadn’t been standing there long, Jay began to lose patience and curse to himself, and before he was finished his cigarette he had thrown it to the ground, still burning, and stomped on it as if he were trying to stamp a hole in the street.
Approaching the side of the fence that was closer to the top of the hill, he silently hoisted himself up and over the barrier, landing on the other side. A motion lamp detected and blinded him. Fortunately, he knew the layout of the yard and slipped into the cover of a hopseed bush that had been planted as an additional privacy barrier. He followed the perimeter of the house, sneaking beneath more barred windows, until he reached a large auxilliary building, which served as a type of shed, in the far corner. He opened the lock with a key he stored in a sealed section of his wallet and gently shut the door.
The shed was air-conditioned, spacious, and organized, and although it was dark, the myriad of stars that powdered the night sky stained the interior a dusty blue by way of a large skylight. Since he could only vaguely perceive the dim outline of shapes—an easy chair, a TV, a stereo, a mini-fridge—he inched slowly toward the shelves on the far wall, careful not to upset anything. After a few paces, he felt the sharp crunch of broken glass beneath his slippers. Although he wasn’t hurt or cut, his ears grew hot and he clenched his teeth to stanch an angry, noisy outburst.
When he reached the shelves on the other side, he felt systematically for the spot he wanted. He first tapped the shelf in front of his face, then swatted gently at the air lower, lower, until he reached the shelf at his abdomen. This shelf, he knew, held a series of crates with old LPs in them. One, two, three, four crates he counted, and then he thumbed through the contents of the fourth crate. One, two, three…when he reached record number fifteen, he removed it, his chest heaving. He turned, felt his way to the easy chair, and threw himself into it.
Still certain that he had been followed, Ginger Jay darted his eyes about the dark room as he prepared to empty the contents of the record sleeve, when a large decorative frame holding a sheet of cracked glass set in the corner opposite him caught his attention. The skylight lit the corner enough for him to see that the frame held a body portrait image of a handsome young man seated in a chair.

All Revved up with No Place to Go (Part 6)


“It’s you! You’re the one who was following me!” cried Jay. The only part of the body he could make out was the face, and the face said nothing. “What are you looking at, anyway?”
“You. I don’t like you anymore,” the handsome face said.
“Nobody asked you, so mind your own business.”
“Why’d you do those things?”
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
“You can trick other people but you can’t trick me. You know what I’m talking about.”
Jay paused, unsure what the handsome face was getting at. As he sat thinking, his whole body twitched with a sudden, violent realization, as if he had been waked from a dream, and he knew what the face had meant. “Oh no no no,” he whined in protest. “You don’t understand! I didn’t—”
“Look, I’m not accusing you of anything. I’m not here for that,” said the handsome face. “I’m here because you want me to be here. We can do whatever you want to do.”
Jay’s eyes glassed over. “I don’t want you to be disappointed in me,” he said weakly. “I’m not ready. I can’t do it.”
“When will you be ready?”
“I don’t know. Tomorrow. Just shut up for a second,” Jay said, getting nasty. He clenched his eyes shut, then relaxed them. He hoped when he looked again at the face in the chair it would be gone. It wasn't gone, but it wasn’t the same face, either. It flickered like fire and was hard to see. He was scared. “You better get the hell out of here, I’m doing something. There’s something I’m—” he shut his eyes again and compulsively tapped his temples with his fingers.
“I know what you’re doing. Relax. Put on your music,” the voice sounded choppy, a vibration speaking to him through a fan.
“This is why I told you to shut up. I can be ready. You need to shut up. I can’t even come here without you being here. You weren’t here when I got here and then you just show up. You’re the goddamn Devil.”
“Kind of,” said the vibration.
“What do you want from me?” sniffed Jay.
“I want you to put your music on and relax. That’s all. Then you can just sit there and we can talk about it.”
Jay eyed the vibrating fiend with suspicion, but he obeyed. The needle hit, and hurried agitated piano opened into a singer who sang a fiery wicked wasteland and a lost boy who found perfect love that wouldn't last, and the song made him feel hot, like he was that boy in a fiery wasteland. He slumped into the chair. He started to cry, and he felt silly about it. He didn’t really know why he was crying.
“Feel better now?” the vibration affected concern.
Jay closed his eyes and shook his head again but the vibration was too loud and he could still hear it. He sat for a long time with his eyes closed and the voice continued to howl and chatter.
The heat caused Jay’s neck to itch. He scratched but it wasn’t satisfying. The itch moved, so he followed it around to his ear. He scratched until his earring came out in his hand, and there was blood under his nails. He threw the earring across the room and turned his attention to the record sleeve, which he flipped upside-down. There was a beautiful, musical rustling, like metallic leaves.
Damp with sweat, he fell off the chair, palming the shadowy ground for the contents of the sleeve—a piece of aluminum foil, a small plastic container, and a bubble tea straw. He held the straw in his teeth and flattened the foil with his trembling red fingers. Unsealing the plastic, he emptied it onto the foil, listening for the soft familiar sound, like sand hurled about by the wind. Saliva wet the corners of his mouth as he adjusted the straw, and lowering his head over the foil he lit the underside. The little shards on the foil liquefied, running like a tear toward him. He chased the tear down the sheet of foil, violently inhaling, then holding the foil level and violently exhaling. He did it again, inhaling and exhaling. He did it a third time and gagged from the smoke, which tasted like burnt rust.
In an instant he felt so strong that he wanted to run outside and knock the world down so that he could build it back up again. He shook his head, searching for something to accomplish.
“Who turned on the light?” he asked aloud. The room was illuminated. “Was it you?” he said to the vibration. The vibration wasn’t there. Jay bit his fingernail like a dog searching for a parasite in its fur.
He started to cry again, and this time he knew why—he felt guilty. He danced where he stood, unable to stand still. Holding his face in his hand, he mumbled to himself. “OhgodohgodohgodwhatamIgonnadoIamgoingtohellIamgoingtodieohmygodwhat—” he broke off. Then suddenly he threw his fist in the air, pointing his finger. “I got it!” he screamed. “I can get on my knees,” he said, huffing and panting. He found it hard because he was starting to feel claustrophobic. He felt the shed shrink around him, or else he grew. Once on his knees, he looked up through the skylight and held his hands over his head, moving his mouth. He felt that the faster he moved his mouth, the more productive his prayer would be, but he couldn’t form words, he just garbled nonsense. He finally was able to articulate two words: SAVE ME. He trembled, and waited.
An angry car horn sounded several times from down the street, then nearer, then nearer until it sounded like it was going to crash through the skylight. Instead, it spoke.
“‘Ala!” boomed the new voice. Wide eyed and afraid, Jay stood and listened. “Listen to me. You must listen to Akua, son,” commanded the new voice. The voice was deep and familiar and comforting. It was a voice he felt that he heard every day of his life, but he couldn't place it. “Son: Please kokua.”
“Save me!” Jay cried out to the familiar voice, although he didn’t feel at that exact moment that he wanted to be saved. In fact, he wanted whoever was talking to him to go away.
“Please. Kokua. I will not forsake you, son,” the voice said to him, “and I won’t condemn you, either. That’s the best I can do. The rest is up to you. I've told you what you have to do.”
“That’s right. That’s fucking right!" Jay really felt that he understood now. “I can do it. I’m going to live. I’m not going to die. I’m going to live. I’m going to live!” he repeated again and again. He felt a great force in his chest, or in his head. It gathered in him like rumbling lava. “You watch, God!” he called to the sky. A neighbor’s dog barked. “I’m not going to let you down! I’m going to change—e ola au i ke Akua!”
He ran out of the shed to the street to the four way stop, spiraling wildly in each direction, as if he could see to the very end of each street, as if he had suddenly gotten a bit of the Divine Providence. “I’ve gotta go tell that red headed couple! I’ve gotta tell them! We might be related! Josh!” he called in a kind of ecstasy, his voice cracking as he raced down the hill toward Waikiki.

About “All Revved up with No Place to Go”

Everyone has places they frequent, and one of the places I like to go on the weekends is a coffee shop in Waikiki, mainly because there’s always a lot going on and it’s nice to sit down with nothing to do and watch everyone run around like madmen. The only problem with going to Waikiki to relax is that I will often get approached by some oddball. Each oddball has a different oddball reason for approaching (someone they think is) a tourist, and I don’t know those reasons. This story, however, imagines a reason for one of those oddballs.Meth started to be a problem in Hawaii a few decades ago, and it still is, as far as I can tell from my own observations. I don’t know if they do this every year, but in the parking level vestibule at the Capitol building I’ve seen displays of artwork done by pretty young kids illustrating what happens when you so much as try meth. I don’t know if this campaign to educate children is only in Hawaii or if it’s across the U.S., but there’s a slogan associated with it: “Not even once.” It’s also sad and scary when some young crust/gutterpunk (or just some regular person) comes up to you on the street with a jacked set of teeth and looks 10 or even 20 years older than they probably are and is out of their mind—they can’t find the beach or the mountains or the street that they’re on, or they are talking and don’t make any sense at all.
Ginger Jay hasn’t quite got to that point yet, but that’s kind of at the center of things. I know it is probably very disorienting to read, but hopefully he is a character who is intriguing enough to capture your attention for as long as it takes to read the story. That happens, you know—sometimes an oddball will talk and talk and you listen for a while until you realize you should probably be scared and run away, or everything he or she is telling you seems questionable to the point where it's not worth listening, even if it's to try to help. It happened to the Flannerys, it has happened to me, and maybe in reading the story you’ll feel like it has happened to you, too.

At the End of the Rainbow (Part 1)


Dorothy Okamura wouldn’t budge from her studio apartment on the third floor of a modest highrise on Kanunu Street. She had lived there since the sixties and had grown attached to the place for different reasons. Obviously she had been there much of her life, but she also had fond memories of the building and the room, and most importantly she felt she had grown old and any changes wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Her young life had been a series of moves—as had her parents’ lives before her—and nowadays Dorothy made it her business to keep things as regular as possible. In an effort to do this, she marked a routine on her calendar and stuck to it.
On Fridays she attended free classes around the corner at the senior center from a neighborhood Kumu Hula. She had lots of hula sisters and each class was a small potluck where everyone brought a snack or drink and on break they gossiped about rumors they heard since last they all met. On Saturdays she cleaned her apartment. She lifted every knick-knack, picture frame, rug, candle, and decoration, dusting carefully underneath or behind it. She washed every dish and eating and serving utensil by hand. By the end of the day the breeze from her jalousies brought in enough dust and dirt to undo her efforts and she knew it, but she still felt satisfied after finishing her chores. On Sundays a bus from the mission picked her up and took her to the mission so she could meditate. She knew everyone who went on Sundays and after sitting before the altar, she chatted with them. On Mondays she practiced a hobby. Mondays were good days for that because she had just been to the mission the day before and she could ask the monks or her mission friends for helpful hints on whatever her current interest was. For a while, it was ikebana. After a few years, however, she got frustrated with her lack of improvement and gave up. She then decided to practice origami since that was less expensive and, she felt, easier. Origami began to bore her too, so she considered learning how to become skilled at stringing leis. On Tuesdays she went to the movies. She knew it was naughty, but she liked to pay for an early movie and stay all day to watch as many movies as she could. Although she had once been caught, she didn’t feel too bad about sneaking multiple shows because the neighborhood theater she included in her weekly routine wasn’t the theater she used to go to, which closed down decades ago. She felt somehow this new, ultra-modern theater was responsible and therefore owed her something extra.
On Wednesdays her son Daniel came at eight to pick her up in his white Toyota for her doctor’s appointments. He did this because if he didn’t she would take the bus and he felt she was getting too old to ride a crowded bus full of rowdy kids, tourists, and weirdos. Daniel felt differently about his mother’s situation than she did. He was uncomfortable with the idea of her living by herself from the beginning, although his home in Pearl City was already full with his own family and he made it clear there wasn’t room enough for her. His worrying made him a real nuisance. He was like a flea nibbling at her ear, pestering her to leave her apartment for someplace better and safer and all she would have to do is push a button and someone would be there, someone who didn’t have to drive a half-hour from Pearl City. Dorothy loved her son but she often dreaded Wednesdays with him because each week was a renewed attempt at convincing her to leave her apartment and move to a home for the elderly on the other side of the island.
“Mom,” he’d plead as soon as they pulled out of the parking lot, “town isn’t safe anymore. I’ve seen fights right outside your window, even in broad daylight, and your building backs up to housing projects—”
“Yes Daniel,” she acknowledged, “but there is a fence!” The muscles in her face tightened, lifting her flabby jowls like a bloodhound that has scented her prey. She cracked a small tilted smile, eyeing him through her oversized, plastic glasses as if she had just convinced a child to eat his vegetables.
“Of course there’s a fence, but—mom, you know that’s not the point. The point is—“
“And the Daiei is right over there. Close supermarket.”
“It’s not the Daiei anymore mom but I don’t see—”
“And Walmart! Now we have Walmart, can get anything I need, no need take the bus!”
“Mom, but think about your safety, and your health. The doctor—“
“Why, you no like Dr. Okada? Been see him for years now.”
“I like him fine, but you’re changing the subject. There are doctors on the North Shore too.” He fumbled at the console and removed a yellow and red brochure, waving it in the air as he spoke. “Besides,” he said, raising his voice, “this place is…it’s broken down. It’s ugly. It’s not the same as before, whether that’s what you want or not. It’s not someplace you deserve to live. Do you think I want you to live all the way on the North Shore, away from the place I grew up? Of course I don’t! But it’s not good for people your age to live here now if you can avoid it, because things are different now. Do you know what I read in the newspaper the other day? Someone got stabbed—during the day—just a couple blocks from you. Why? Who knows! What I do know is that I never want that to happen to you, for you to walk into an argument between two crazy people and be hurt or killed. I know I’ve shown you this brochure a thousand times, but I’m asking you to consider coming with me to visit. This place I picked out for you —Anuenue—doesn’t that sound like a place you’d want to be? I know I would want to be there! You’ll change your mind when you see it and feel what it’s like there. This place really lives up to its name and I think it’s what you deserve, mom.”
Dorothy was moved by what her son said but she remained quiet for the rest of the ride to the doctor’s office. Daniel rolled his eyes at his mother’s stubborn reticence, compulsively adjusting his glasses in frustration.

At the End of the Rainbow (Part 2)

 
One particular night, Dorothy had an uneasy sleep. Rising from her bed, she set her feet on the shaggy, pea-colored rug and hobbled to the nearby electric range. With nothing else to do, she decided to make herself fried eggs and rice with shoyu. When she finished cooking, she found she had made enough for two hungry people. Mechanically, she divided the food into three modest portions. She set one portion on the kitchen counter, kept one for herself, and set the third in front of a plain ‘iliahi butsudan she kept on a small dresser. On the butsudan was an old photograph of a boy in his twenties leaning haughtily against a brand new 1941 Ford coupe sporting a crew-cut and wearing an aloha shirt busy with row after row of earthy dancers, arms and legs akimbo. Next to the photograph was another photograph of a group of men and women bundled in tall hats and long sleeves, some standing, some squatting, in a field full of tall stalks. Beneath the photo was a small pewter pin that read GO FOR BROKE. She knelt and stared at the little box with the picture of the handsome young man.
“Oh, Testuro, natsukashii,” she said to the box.
She never quite got the hang of cooking only for herself. After picking at her own small plate, she went to the kitchen shelves and removed a plastic bento she bought from Marukai, first filling it with a bed of rice, then gently placing the fried egg on top, tucking its crisp, brown edges neatly inside. In a separate compartment of the bento, she put some leftover vegetables she had in the icebox. Taking a handkerchief, she wrapped the bento and quietly crossed the hall, tying the bundle on her neighbor’s door.
Her neighbor was a tall haole boy in his mid-twenties—a giant to her—who had lived there for several years. She liked bumping into him by the mailboxes, or seeing him as he was on the way to work. He seemed almost arrogant, the way a hero is arrogant, and there was something that was uncannily familiar about him to her. Perhaps it was because of the way he never removed his sunglasses, or the way he wore his hair, she thought. His hairstyle resembled a coxcomb, and she felt he looked like the young Japanese celebrities she saw on posters in her neighborhood, at the bookstore, the movie store, or at Don Quijote. She didn’t think often—or much—about haoles, but she liked this one because, although she couldn’t put her finger on it, something about him was very Japanese. She didn’t know haoles could look Japanese until she met him.
Like her other routines, she had a routine with the haole boy (he had told her his name—Blaine, Ben, Bruno—but she always forgot it, since all haole names except her son’s sounded the same to her). She found that he liked Japanese food, so she would leave him breakfast or lunch whenever she had extra, which was every day she cooked. She would leave it tied to his door, and he would later tie the clean bento to her door, except he would leave it with a small, sweet treat inside. She thought that this was a young person who understood the way things ought to be done. He was nothing like her grandchildren, who, like her son Daniel, were a disappointment in many ways.
After delivering breakfast to her neighbor the haole boy and watching the morning news, Dorothy got ready to go downstairs to the lobby. This particular morning was a Thursday morning, and on Thursdays she had a regular engagement with her friend Alice, who also lived in the building. The ladies would meet each other in the lobby and chat about neighborhood gossip, building gossip, family gossip, whatever gossip they could exchange.
In addition to her weekly routines, Dorothy also had a daily routine that included a mental checklist of things she must have before leaving her room. Sun hat, sun gloves, and most importantly, her purse; since her purse carried everything she could possibly need while out for the day, she never left the house without it. Although it was big and heavy, most of the time she just carried it and paid it no mind, like carrying a meal in one’s stomach. On her way out she checked herself in the mirror to run visually through the list and, securing the strap of her white leather purse over her shoulder, took the elevator downstairs to wait for Alice. She was still early as usual, so she picked a copy of Midweek from the rack near the front door. Carefully adjusting her sun hat in the breeze rushing through the open lobby, she planted herself on the sofa and while she waited, used the black ballpoint pen she carried in her white purse to underline the parts of the newspaper she found important.
An editorial caught her interest about young people who couldn’t find jobs after college. She thought about her own grandchildren, the youngest of whom were in their thirties and had never left their parents’ home. Although they were luckier than the young people in the article since they landed state jobs out of high school, she wondered if they would ever get married and start families of their own. Whenever she asked her grandson Kaua, Daniel’s oldest, when he would get married, Kaua shrugged his shoulders stupidly. It didn’t seem to be a priority to him, but then again, Dorothy always thought he was not all there. The bell on the elevator door sounded, and Alice, a thick woman with a round face and curly silver hair that fit her head like a pointy hat, slowly stepped out in a breezy yellow shirt, white shorts, and a pair of slippers.
“Hello there, Dorothy. What you doing?”
“Oh, I was waiting for you!” Dorothy squeaked happily, her frail figure ambling across the lobby in the direction of her friend. She repeated in a voice that matched her figure, “I was waiting for you!” Alice didn’t respond, so Dorothy repeated again. “I was waiting for you…”
“I hear you first time.” She laughed—she wasn’t sure if it was at her friend or herself. “So, what you doing?”
“I just read the paper. I think there have no jobs now,” she said seriously, her eyes slowly widening like an ancient turtle. Her friend studied the ground in silence. “Things getting worst here for youngstas. When we youngstas, things pretty okay.”
“Hoo,” Alice assented mildly.
Dorothy was quiet for a moment, her gaze cast like a shadow on the ground while Alice spoke. The two would always take turns like this—while one spoke, the other averted her eyes downward.
“Yes, yes, when we youngstas,” Alice continued thoughtfully. “So, we—hachijiunana, ne? Hoo, getting old. Born 1923! I August, you Novembah.”
“Yes, we getting old now,” agreed Dorothy in her turn.
“Enjoy, forget about everything,” Alice offered sagely. Her face contorted into a wicked, playful smile. “I know I have a canna beer.”
“Eh?” said Dorothy, curling her lip. “That’s one thing I don’t like. I don’t have no beer and no liquor.”
“Eh, you missing out,” said Alice. “So, how is yestidday? How is Daniel? He still try his stuffs on you?”
“Yeeeees, yes, he try. But you know, I not going listen. Yestidday he say my too old and here too dangerous! He say what—he say he want to send me to some Anuenue!”
“Eh, anuenue? Eh, he send you ovah da rainbow. Bumbye he plan kill you,” she laughed from deep in her stomach.
“I don’t know, maybe I see his anuenue. Then he shut his mouth and I have peace for my years”
Hontonii?” asked Alice dubiously.
“I just talking. Maybe I look, maybe not. So what you do today?”
“I going eat donburi,” said Alice. “I hadda big potato, chop it up. Baloney sausage, chop it up. I gonna fry it, have that for dinner.”
The handyman lumbered through the front gate, slamming it shut.
Nanika?”
“Gonna fry it. Gonna have that for dinner. Donburi,” repeated Alice, raising her voice for her friend.
“You know, shujinga mada ikiteita tokini, intaigo, sensoukara kaetta tokini, he do all the cooking,” Dorothy said quietly. “Wakakatta tokini, I do all the cooking. Later, he do all the cooking. He say he like to keep busy so he wouldn’t think too much.” As she spoke, it was as if another person was speaking for her, someone to whom she had told everything she had ever felt so that they would remember while she herself could forget. Dorothy went on talking, and Alice listened, losing herself in the dots speckling the lobby floor.

At the End of the Rainbow (Part 3)

 
After some time conversing in the building, the two ladies decided to walk to Don Quijote together, since it was only just across the street. This was part of their Thursday routine—they would take one shopping cart between them and shop together while they talked, although sometimes they would walk in silence and observe the tourists, or the young couples with rings in their faces and hair bleached and dyed like orange skunks, or the line of taxi drivers squatting and smoking in front of the building. On some days, the sky would be flawless and blue and the sun wouldn’t be too hot, and on those days, the ladies told each other they felt strong, 20 years younger. Today, after finishing their circuit around the supermarket, they knew without telling each other that it was a strong day. There was a McDonald’s several blocks from their building and so they decided that, since it was still breakfast time, they would get pancakes and Portuguese sausage and a coffee.
Alice took Dorothy’s arm and, shooing the pigeons gathering around the rubbish can, helped her climb the short incline that led to the door of the McDonald’s. After ordering, they moved to the back of the lobby to wait for their food, and as they waited a teenager rushed through the crowd, striking Dorothy like a glittering bolt of metallic lightning. After checking that Dorothy wasn’t hurt, Alice realized that it wasn’t a teenager at all. It was Mrs. Kim.
Including her garishly bouffant hairstyle, Mrs. Kim stood a full six inches shorter than Dorothy. She was a neighbor that the friends saw regularly, although she had only lived in the building for about seven or eight years. Where she came from they could only speculate, although they often joked that she was a spy sent to watch the American military in Hawaii. Mrs. Kim always seemed to be in a hurry, they had never heard her speak, and she always wore a pair of fit-over sunglasses, even indoors, which made it impossible to know if she saw or recognized them.
“Hello, Mrs. Kim!” called Alice loudly, so that it was impossible for Mrs. Kim to ignore her. She stopped, and coming about-face, stared up at the friends from behind the black shield resting on her nose. Alice and Dorothy nodded their heads, and Mrs. Kim also nodded. She turned her back to the two friends, and then pulled a large plastic cup from her purse and filled it with tea from the beverage station. Then, after grabbing a handful of napkins and ketchup packets, marched out of the front door towards the bus stop, her shiny gold and magenta tracksuit audibly swooshing, even in the buzzing crowd. Dorothy and Alice laughed aloud, taking the tray of food to a corner table to eat.
After finishing breakfast, the friends slowly descended the ramp to the sidewalk on Keeaumoku Street, where Dorothy spotted her neighbor, the tall haole boy, with a girl she often saw him with, who she assumed to be his girlfriend. The couple was holding hands at the curb, apparently waiting for the bus.
Mite, my neighbor,” Dorothy said fondly to Alice. “He’s a good boy, look at him. Good manners, and smart. He choose Japanese girl to marry. They going to have good life.”
Alice studied the pair and nodded. “Yes, you right. Come on, the light going to change. Let’s cross the street.”
The two friends passed the haole boy. Then, wriggling like a mongoose from a dumpster, out of the crowd in front of them came Mrs. Kim followed by a woman they often saw her with, Mrs. Lee, who was using a large umbrella as a cane. Ignoring them, Mrs. Kim and her sidekick made for the curb at the bus stop where the haole boy and his girlfriend stood. The couple was looking up the road and, having noticed the bus coming, stepped to the very edge of the curb in order to be the first to board. Mrs. Kim saw the bus too, and walked to the edge of the street, her white sneakers hanging dangerously over the curb into the heavy traffic. Glancing sidelong at the haole boy, she then inched towards him until she was so close she leaned on his hip.
“Eh, mite!” cried Dorothy, exasperated. “She pushing him so she first! That haole boy, he has good manners, I know he will let her go first but he should not.”
“Hoo. We’ll see,” said Alice coolly.
Although Mrs. Kim was focused on the approaching bus, for some reason she couldn’t resist a peek at the giant next to her. She leaned forward, her gaze fixed to her left, then slowly she looked right and up, up, up to try to glimpse the top of the huge haole. Just at that moment, however, a sudden gust of wind blew the teal visor off her head and onto the pavement. Mrs. Lee, who had been watching a couple arguing in the parking lot behind her, was startled and suddenly wheeled about. Unfortunately for Mrs. Kim, Mrs. Lee had propped her umbrella on her shoulder and, as soon as she turned, it smacked Mrs. Kim in the face, knocking her glasses off and sending her to the pavement. Shocked, Mrs. Lee struggled to help Mrs. Kim to her feet as the bus hissed, halted, and the haole boy and his girlfriend disappeared up the stairs and into the throng of rowdy kids, tourists, and weirdos. The bus closed its doors and groaned onward in the direction of the mall.
The two friends chuckled as they crossed the street, arm in arm.
“What I tell you? That is a good boy,” said Dorothy proudly.
“Eh, you right,” Alice agreed.
“You know, something interesting always happen when we go outside. I like always go outside. I ken not stay home and watch TV.”
“No, I don’t like,” said Alice absently. She was concentrating on watching the traffic signal so the pair could cross safely.
“I like—I like to go out. Watch the handsome man.”
“Yes, yes.”
“But no handsome man here!”
“Oh, I see handsome man,” said Alice after some vague consideration. “Not today, but sometime.”
Dorothy paused as the pair stopped for a car exiting the parking lot of an apartment building. “What about that haole boy we see?”
“What haole? I see too many haoles everyday,” laughed Alice, the wrinkles gathering in her eyes.
“No no, you see him, he is our neighbor. You remember. He is handsome and has manners too.”
“Hoo, yes. He is not my type, but I understand if someone say he handsome. He look like singer.” She laughed again. “I don’t like that kine man.”
The friends approached the building and Dorothy felt at the strap of her white purse. She pulled the flap and retrieved the gate key, handing it to Alice to let them in. Alice held the door for Dorothy, who shuffled into the lobby and pushed the elevator button.
“Take it easy!” Dorothy called to Alice, who had gone to get her copy of the free newspaper. “That’s what I going to do.”
She entered the elevator with the handyman. “My on fourteen,” she said, and he pushed the button for her.

At the End of the Rainbow (Part 4)

The next few weeks passed quickly for Dorothy because noth-ing fell out of routine. Nothing, except for the machinations of her son; he remained suspiciously quiet. Every Wednesday morning she waited gossiping with Alice on the bench against her building wearing her cotton gloves, sun hat, muu muu, and white leather purse. He arrived the same time each morn-ing, brought the car to the curb, helped her into her seat, and shut the door carefully behind her.
One unusually hot Wednesday, Daniel had just helped his mother into the car after her appointment when he said, “I want shave ice. Do you mind if we go get some?”
Dorothy agreed. But, instead of heading back into town where they might go to any number of popular places, he got on the freeway heading west.
“I haven’t been to Matsumoto’s since the kids were teenagers. Let’s go—what do you think?” By that time they were nearly to Wahiawa, so she felt it would be unreasonable to make him turn around.
They entered Haleiwa and found Matsumoto’s parking lot was completely full. Daniel drove by and turned around, and drove by again and it was still full. Turning around again, he pulled into Aoki’s parking lot and checked his watch. “Well,” he began, “how about Aoki’s instead?”
Dorothy remained silent, her irritation with her son growing; they didn’t come all the way to Haleiwa to have shave ice at Aoki’s.
“I remember what you like to get. I’ll be right back.”
Daniel returned and handed his mother her cup. “They don’t have the flavor you like, so I got you coconut. And there’s no azuki bean. Sorry, mom.”
They ate their treats quietly, staring vacantly at the trees in the back of the lot. After sitting in the car for a few minutes, Daniel finally said, “I was thinking—we haven’t been to the North Shore in a while and—well wouldn’t it be nice to go for a drive? I wanted to see if you’d reconsider the place I’d been talking about if you saw it. I think you’re really going to like it if you just give it a chance.”
Dorothy trembled in frustration, the skin on her jowls quivering. She felt her face getting hot, and she suddenly became very tired. She didn’t want to fight him anymore. “Daijobu, you boddah me enough now, Daniel,” she said calmly. “I go.”
They followed the highway along the ocean, the grey waves rolling peacefully to shore, quietly sounding against the rocks, keeping perfect time with the rhythm of everything everywhere. The ocean had a strange, icy feeling because of the clouds, which held the warmth of the yellow sun and covered the whole distance and seemed to be things one could fit in the palm of a great hand, and it was a wonder they were able to hang in the sky between the earth and the sun, over the ocean, the shore, the mountains, over Daniel’s Toyota that crawled like a white lizard to the old plantation that had been changed into a place for the elderly.
They approached a mauka driveway and Daniel activated his blinker, turning to the right up a private drive. Dorothy couldn’t see the end of it; it was shaded infinitely on either side by well-manicured banana trees and so carefully paved that it was worthy of comment, but she remained silent since she was still upset that her son hadn’t listened to her and brought her here against her wishes.
Eventually the line of trees ended and opened into a valley that was shielded on all sides either by the ancient, towering mountains, or by forests that seemed they might be able to repel armies. The drive eventually circled on itself against a large, white two-story building that looked something like a Victorian hotel, with a breezeway extending from each side to several clusters of bungalows, which, in a horseshoe shape, surrounded the back of the building. In the front of the building was a veranda lined with a series of high, fluted columns, the capitals of the Corinthian order, the volutes resembling the spiky crowns of pineapples. In the architrave was a low-relief depiction of workers in the sugar plantations. The narrative was divided into several scenes: the morning bell, the march into the fields, midday harvest, and the workers’ communal meal. On the frieze in the pediment in high-relief was the Battle of Nuuanu, and at the center stood Kamehameha the Great, his arm outstretched in imperial gesture, eclipsing all.
“Daniel,” said Dorothy slowly, “we cannot afford a place like this. We did not need to come here to know this.”
“You’d be surprised, mom. Trust me, let’s just meet with the Director and keep an open mind, and we can talk about it later.”
The son helped the mother out of the car and walked her slowly up the small steps of the veranda, to the building’s main hall. The hall was quiet, and even their footsteps seemed not to echo. A petite, ageless woman emerged from an unseen corridor and floated towards mother and son, extending a hand to them in welcome.
“You must be the Okamuras,” she said graciously. “I’m Director Murasaki, but of course you may call me Mary. It’s a pleasure to meet you both.”
“Thank you Mary,” responded Daniel. “This is my mother, Dorothy. We’re both very impressed with the facilities here. It’s—” Daniel didn’t finish; he craned his neck to and fro, admiring his surroundings.
“We’re dedicated to our ohana, Mr. Okamura. We want them to have more than simple comfort and individualized care. We want to surround them with beauty and provide them with genuine happiness.” Murasaki paused and smiled sweetly. “But it’s easy to say that. Let me show you our grounds and introduce you to some of our ohana members—those who live here.”
The guide led the Okamuras through the main hall down a gentle decline to a passage that narrowed and wound its way to an exit door opening into a courtyard full of people.
“You’ve come at an opportune time, Ms. Okamura. Today is our Market Day; would you like to explore?”
Sugoi,” said Dorothy in amazement.
Arms linked, mother and son followed the graceful woman through rows of canopied tables laden with local dairy, berries imported from the Big Island, ‘Nalo greens, flower and bead leis, even fresh fish and meats.
“Maile!” called the Director to one of the vendors. The visitors followed their guide to Maile’s table where the two familiar women greeted other warmly. “I’d like for you to meet the Okamuras—this is Daniel and his mother Dorothy. They’re here on a visit to see the Anuenue Plantation and to meet our ohana.”
“Welcome!” Maile said enthusiastically as she grabbed a lei from her table and adjusted it on Dorothy’s shoulders, kissing the old woman on the cheek. “Where are you coming from, Ms. Okamura?”
“Town,” replied the little woman tersely, her black eyes shining like papaya seeds.
“That’s wonderful—my tutu lived on Wilder for ages until I finally convinced her to come to Anuenue, which is close to where I live. She was nervous to leave Makiki but she seems really happy here, too.” Maile scanned the crowd. “There she is, over by the uke players. Tutu!” she called. A tanned, frizzle-headed grandmother with a long, breezy red gown turned her head in the direction of the group and waddled over with the aid of an antique cane.
“Tutu, this is Dorothy Okamura. She came all the way from town to visit and I thought you two might have a lot to talk about!”
“Eh, hello,” said Tutu.
“Nice meeting you,” returned Dorothy.
“Come on, I show you around, yah?”
After the pair was out of earshot of the group, Tutu studied Dorothy for a moment before speaking.
“This bag you get, I like. Where you get that?”
Dorothy lifted it in her arms the way she lifted Daniel so many years ago. “Shujinga kureta. I never take off.”
En, soka,” said Tutu sympathetically. She turned her eyes to the ground. Changing the subject, she began again. “So, I guess you do not wanna stay here, yah? I guess, because that’s how I feel when my moʻopuna ask me to come.”
“Eh, why you come here then?” asked Dorothy.
“I do not know,” said Tutu honestly. “My life in Makiki is pretty good. I can walk to market, I have friends, I get the papers. But here have that too. In fack, after I come here, this place feel natural. Like before I am lost, wandering—like one ghost. Now, I feel at home. The rooms here, they are big and clean. All the staff, they are kind, you won’t believe. Maybe too kind, they always asking ‘what you need?’ and always run for get dakine, no matter you need or no need. And you know what, the ohana here, they good people. Everyone here have sound mind—that is one rule here, everyone must have sound mind. And the ohana, they good people. Most good people,” Tutu laughed, raising a finger for emphasis.
Dorothy allowed herself to smile. “Most, yah?”
Tutu studied the grass at her feet, plying it with her cane.
Mite over there, yah?” she pointed discretely with her nose. “Ano bald guy, he wear one gray shirt and get one face like honu? That is Ed, he is big-time skebe.” Tutu chuckled wildly. “He always touching any girl he can. Maybe you see one time.” Tutu rolled her eyes and smiled, making a clicking noise with her tongue.
“Eh, shame!” responded Dorothy playfully.
“There Mary, there Donna, there Shirley. They big gossips, bigger than me,” said Tutu righteously. “I can show you more, but most here good people. No need worry. Most good people.”
The two ladies stood in the shade for several minutes watching crowds of their peers shuffling by—elderly residents inspecting mangoes and papayas, getting samples to try, or talking story with the vendors as they would with their oldest friends.
Tutu finally cleared her throat and picked up the conversation as if it hadn’t been left off. “I tell you what, though—you come here, you can not go back. But I tell you true: if paradise can be real, Anuenue is paradise.”
At that moment, Daniel and Murasaki emerged from the crowd. “So mom, is Tutu teaching you all the Anuenue secrets?”
“We just talk story, Daniel. Well, I’m very pleased to meet you,” Dorothy said to her new friend.
“Okay then, nice meeting you. Maybe I see you soon, yah,” Tutu smiled.
As the group walked in the direction of the main building, Dorothy cleared her throat. “Miss Murasaki,” she said slowly, “maybe this is a silly question—but, how can I live here? This place—”
Sensing Dorothy’s embarrassment, Murasaki interrupted her. “Ms. Okamura, perhaps your son hasn’t explained the selection process to you fully. It’s complicated of course—anything involving the government is—but it doesn’t have to be. In the same way the government provides land grants in Hawaii for those who are qualified, we also have a deal with both the federal and state governments to grant coverage of admittance to two specific groups: veterans who are permanent residents of Oahu, and/or their spouses, and the descendants of certain kinds of laborers of the old system. That’s what grabbed my attention and why I set up this place, to be quite honest with you.” She paused for a long time. “It’s hard to believe that some of our relatives used to live and labor here, at this very place, so many years ago. Not many years, actually. Sometimes I find that hard to believe.” Murasaki quickly fumbled in her breast pocket and, retrieving a pair of reflective sunglasses, covered her eyes. “There’s more tour,” she said quietly.
“Thank you, thank you, Director Murasaki,” said Dorothy suddenly. “I have already seen so much, and I feel so tired from the sun! I think better my son just take me home for rest.”
“Today was hot,” said Murasaki. Then, taking Dorothy’s hand, “please call, for anything.”

At the End of the Rainbow (Part 5)

Months passed and Dorothy continued her weekly routine, although she hadn’t spoken to anyone—even Alice—about Anuenue Plantation. She felt somehow that she couldn’t talk to her friends about it, and she wasn’t ready to say anything to Daniel because he’d put more pressure on her to move. There was something holding her back from signing the papers and retiring to the North Shore, but she didn’t know what.
One evening after she had gotten back from a day at the movies, she habitually boiled an egg and, with some shoyu and leftover rice, hobbled to the butsudan and knelt. She set the rice before the old photograph above the cabinet and spoke quietly, with her eyes on the floor.
“Tetsuro. Tetty. Tousan. I do not know what to do.” She sighed sweetly. “Oh, natsukashii. Remember? Asokokara kaettatoki, going to get some land in the country. Dream to have a small house away from everyone. Dream to have small garden, and hens for eggs, and one big fat rooster to kill mongooses and protect our hens? But never go there. Kokoni ittetayo. kono chiisainaheyawa watashitachino heyadayo. Now, I made this room mine. I exercise, I have friends, I have hobbies. Shikashi, sugu, anatano youni naru. Going leave here. I want to spend my last days peacefully. Maybe I can go to the country. But it is hard to leave. Sometime I think, I can go the plantation. I can finish this old dream. But this space here, I cannot go. Nannen tattemo, anatao wasurenaiyo. I am asking for help me now do what is right for me.”
She gazed at the silent old photo of the haughty young man and waited.
* * *
Daniel came by the next morning to take her to the doctor. As usual he was on time, he opened and closed the door for his mother, he made sure she was comfortable on the way.
Dorothy observed him and saw these good things in her son. Unlike many parents of her generation, however, she didn’t see his goodness as a reflection of her own; she saw it as meritorious on its own account. It was at that moment that she felt she was thinking clearly about the past few months, and she spoke.
“You think I cannot take care myself,” the old woman declared, and immediately regretted it. Her son kept quiet but she could sense his frustration, and she didn’t look forward to his response. She was surprised when they arrived at the doctor’s office and he stopped at the front door, walked around to her side, let her out, and escorted her to the elevator.
“I’ll be up after I park the car,” he finally said.
* * *
The doctor’s visit was nothing out of the ordinary, and as she came to the vestibule, Daniel was casually reading a magazine. Setting the magazine aside as she approached him, he offered her his arm. “So how’d it go?”
“Oh, it’s fine. You know, Dr. Okada is the best. He say I stay pretty healthy.”
“Well, that’s great. I expected that, but it’s still good to hear.”
They drove back to the apartment on Kanunu Street. Daniel stopped in front of the building, but he didn’t get out.
“Why do you think that I believe you can’t take care of yourself?” he said after a moment.
Dorothy hesitated, because she didn’t know. It wasn’t even that she thought that of her son, she just didn’t know what she thought.
“Daniel, you know what, I am not keiki. I do not need someone to watch me like keiki. I can watch myself.”
“No, no, no, it’s not like that at all, mom,” he said seriously, removing his glasses and facing her. “Nobody thinks you’re like a keiki. If anything I’m the keiki and you took care of me. You took care of our family. You raised me and what can I do to repay that? Not enough. Nothing will ever be enough. What I can do, though, is bring you somewhere that is far away from all that this place has become. Will Anuenue live up to its name and what we’ve seen of it? You saw it yourself. So it’s up to you. You are capable of making your own decisions, and I haven’t been respecting that. But now that you’ve seen that place, you should decide: what do you want?”
Dorothy still didn’t know exactly how to respond to her son’s question, but she did know that sitting still, as she had done for so long, had exhausted her. As she thought about it she felt surprised because she had always thought of inertness as being restorative, something you would do as a way to build a reservoir of energy before making a big move. She supposed then that she had been sitting and waiting for something big to happen, but it hadn’t, and instead she sat and sat and then became obstinate, refusing to move, and as she had the feeling of exhaustion snuck up on her slowly, as discomfort somewhere inside one’s body becomes a dull ache, which becomes more pronounced, which sharpens gradually until the pain is overwhelming. She then realized that this choice that her son had presented her might be the big thing.
She wanted to respond, but still the pressure of doubt choked her. As she struggled to free her throat, tiny spots silently appeared on the windshield, followed by a few more, and a few more, until great drops of rain pit-pattered heavily on the pair in the white Toyota, loudly enough that it didn’t matter that Dorthothy’s voice had been taken. The rain lasted only seconds, then the sky cleared and the clouds blew over the mountains, leaving a dim rainbow that faded as quickly as it had come.
Daijobu,” she said in a small, clear voice. “You right, Daniel. Let me sign. I been decide.”
Daniel opened the console, where he kept the papers every day since he had secured funding from the government for his mother to live at Anuenue Plantation. He handed them quietly to her. She took them with her left hand. With her right hand she reached for the black pen in her white purse, and was startled to find that her purse wasn’t there where she had never failed to carry it for as long as she could remember. Mute once more, her lips slowly separated and her mouth fell open from the fear that grew from the confusion within her. She looked to her son to help her, to do something that would save her. Thinking he understood what his mother needed, he reached into his shirt pocket and, with a wide smile of relief, gave her his pen.

About “At the End of the Rainbow”

One of the things that is different about Honolulu (some neighborhoods more than others) as compared to other cities I’ve been to or lived in, is how many elderly people there are walking down the street, on the bus, at the grocery store, just about anywhere you go. One building where I lived had an odd mixture of Korean bar girls, ex-military, and elderly women. One experience while living at that building (which I won’t relate because I think it doesn’t matter that much to the general reader’s understanding or appreciation) prompted me to write this story.
I think I should say first that this story is an invention. This is an obvious thing about all fiction, I know, but it’s important to note that there is no Anuenue Plantation (on Oahu), and there is no law (so far as I know) that provides the kind of funding I wrote about. There is, however, a real government provision passed by Congress in 1921 (the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act) that wouldn’t exist without Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole (the “highway” guy and the “street” and “park” and “beach” guy) that leases land to Native Hawaiians for next to nothing. This, of course, is a kind of reparation paid by the U.S. for having usurped Hawaiian sovereignty, an act that President Cleveland describes as “wholly without justification,” which means that it was illegal (read Cleveland’s full address at http://www.hawaii-nation.org/cleveland.html). While this illegal act seems unrelated to Director Murasaki’s land grants to “veterans who are permanent residents of Oahu, and/or their spouses, and the descendants of certain kinds of laborers of the old system,” I think the illegal annexation of Hawaii isn’t that different from Japanese internment and segregation of Japanese American soldiers to the 442nd regiment, and, though it’s a bit of a stretch, the plantation culture that dominated before, during, and shortly after annexation. But all of this is in the background of Dorothy’s story.
The main question I had when I wrote this story was this: who can really live on Oahu now? I’d see these older people inching down the street, and I, having a vague idea how different the island was when they were young, wondered how they could afford to live here anymore. Then, I thought about all the young people I knew—the “Kauas” of the island—who could only afford to live with their parents and were lucky even to work. And all this due to outsiders and people with a lot of money coming to the island and buying a bunch of property and driving prices up to the sky for the regular people. (This is of course my own opinion of the situation, I don’t know if this is necessarily true or isn’t true.)
So it’s with this question in mind— “who is able to live on oahu?”—that I wrote a story about a widow who needs to make a choice about where she lives.

Hawaii Nei (Part 1)

Sid was reclining on a small patch of grass in the dirt under a squat palm when the mist broke and began to fall, casting a haze like a fisherman’s net over the city sky grown dim yellow. Fine drizzle came fast until it turned to rain that fell in fat, heavy drops. Sid’s things were getting wet, so he rose to look for his working umbrella, which he had first found in the parking lot of one of the shabbier hotels at the end of the Waikiki strip. Although the umbrella was well used, it still worked even back then so he thought it strange that someone considered it rubbish. He pulled it from the bottom of his pile and tried sliding the runner up the tube four or five times, until it finally caught on the top spring. Good. One of the ribs had snapped but the partial canopy was enough to cover most of his cart. Sid was proud of his possessions, and he had a longstanding success both in keeping them dry and safe from thieves. The only exception was an old blue tarp he once kept as a makeshift roof that went missing without explanation.
For about a week, Sid had been feeling ill at ease. He wasn’t sleeping well, he had a strange appetite that left him either ravenous or repulsed by the sight of food, he was moody, and so on. This sort of change in his demeanor happened to a greater or lesser degree whenever he had to move.
The cycle of movement was commonplace not only for Sid, but also for other members of the unfortunate class, to which Sid belonged. Every so often, informal villages of unfortunates gather and grow. It begins with a few and then after about a month it multiplies to the point that it is disruptive to the things around it and its inhabitants must be displaced, resulting in a significant diaspora whose members must find a new home. The laws regulating the lives of the unfortunates are drafted, passed and enforced with a savage urgency that is absent from the legislative character of other cities. This is met, in turn, with ingenuity that one would hardly believe possible by ostensible illiterates. The result of the dialectic is as one would expect: namely, a cycle of arrival and departure as natural and eternal as the seasons. The only distinction between the two processes being that in the former, nothing is reborn.
At any rate, in this instance Sid had lived comfortably in the center of Kapiolani Park, but then he was evicted and relocated himself to a place on the west of the canal outside of Waikiki, a thin strip of grass before a gravel lot with a small recycling operation. At first, his only neighbor was a garrulous old haole woman with a pruneface and bad manners. Sid hated talking with her—she could endlessly decry local politics, heaving and pouting impotently like a Pufferfish without any poison. Since she was from the mainland and remained on Oahu by choice, Sid often considered asking, first, how she had come to join him on the canal, and second, why she didn’t go back where she came from. But he thought better of it and instead of inviting the old haole woman’s self-indulgent, wandering reply, he chose to keep things between them polite yet reserved.
Oahu’s unfortunate class—as you might have read or seen—is a diverse, curious lot. The haole woman, while an unfortunate, does not consider herself as such. She is of the sort that denies the obviousness of their destitution. They are the consumers, constantly acquiring new things and discarding the old things they no longer want. They have grown numb to the legal imperatives for eternal relocation, or they somehow manage to stay ahead of them. They obey the law and move when they must, but one can see their desire for a more permanent life in each new home they create, obstinately refusing their own transience.
Then, there are the industrious ones. Many of these are attracted to the pavement in front of the recycling centers as a means to a less formal employment than a wage-earning job. They go shirtless—a matter of convenience as opposed to want, for the breeze on their backs cools them—while they push their shopping carts up and down the littered streets. Like pigeons pecking at rice, they bend to peer into every trash can on every corner during their 24-hour workday, sorting bottles and cans from the tide of refuse that both threaten and invigorate their way of life.
There are also the proud, marching across the island with stern conviction with their sharp, obsidian jaw clenched so that it always seems on the verge of piercing its leathery sheath. Sid knew many of this kind of men, and he had heard stories of many as well; had they the fortune to inhabit a more glorious epoch, some might have been Hectors or Ajaxes. Their scowl impresses and terrifies both those like them and their opposites, the fortunates, who scamper at their approach. Yet, a few don’t run, those to whom the proud drop a nod of respect for mysterious reasons that will follow them beneath the sand.
There are the partial—those that were once whole but are now like wandering spirits, both in the material world and not. Their eyes look skyward— perhaps with the remainder of their soul they seek that portion of it they lost long ago, in the days of their youth when they refused to refuse, out of the twisted principles they have long since abandoned. Prone to irrational outbursts of supernatural revelation and anger, they are often-ferocious, nocturnal man-creatures, dangling their toes over the precipice of insanity.
Finally, there are the broken—shaggy, wild men wandering aimlessly along the same paths they have always wandered. One speculates on the former lives of the broken, if they once had aim. Reason would affirm that in the uncertain past these men had been soft, pink infants in their mothers’ arms. Looking at them now, it is impossible to imagine them in such a state. They must have been born as mute, full-grown men covered in filth, immediately abandoned to the world to survive alone as best as anyone alone can survive.
Sid lived with the unfortunates, was one of them, and yet, somehow was not. He had misplaced his former identity:
CLASS C DRIVER’S LICENSE HAWAII
SIDNEY KANOA AIKAU
— STREET WAIMANALO, HI 96795
BIRTH DATE: — 1981
SEX: M
HT: 6-4
WT: 190
ORGAN DONOR
He lost it somewhere on the road. It might have happened at the cove, where he slept one night on his way to town. If he lost it there, then it might now be at the bottom of the sea, or caught in the belly of a large fish, or built into a mountain bird’s nest—it was somewhere beyond his reach which meant it was gone and could therefore be easily forgotten. Who, however, had he consequently become? It was his unconscious belief that since that day he had unalienably become no one, and that was that.
While waiting for the rain to end, Sid had nothing to do but check his inventory: a seat cushion from a comfortable lawn chair, a bike rack, nine plastic bottles (some empty, some not), three tattered bamboo beach mats, a nylon tote bag with the phrase Have a Pleasant Day Hawaii silkscreened on one side, a change of shirts, a change of board shorts, several undergarments, an old sun hat, a rusty bike chain, etc. He recently moved his most valuable item from a pencil-box at the bottom of his pile to his left pants-pocket—it was a miniature replica of an old skateboard with the image of a red dragon that his father had given him shortly before he died. Sid felt connected to his father whenever he held it, which both comforted and grieved him. One day he hoped to have it made into a necklace, always near his heart. In fact, he had a small savings in his right pocket for that purpose, although he had no idea what it might cost and wasn’t sure how to find out. Most mornings after reading the previous day’s newspaper, he rode the gift over and around a smooth stone he kept as a miniature skate park. That was his time to escape, and to think fond thoughts. As usual, the rain didn’t last long and he calculated that it was probably safe to close his umbrella and he buried it again in his horde.
Sid dug at his scalp, which bothered him ever since he got a case of tinea capitis after a three-dollar night at IHS. He knew there wasn’t much to be done about it; salt water eased the discomfort, so he’d go later for a night-swim. First, however, he needed to eat. From the savings in his right pocket he counted several bills and two dollars in change, which matched his count from the previous night. Fast food was never his first choice but it would leave him full and with money left over. This appealed to his dream of soon converting his father’s gift into a necklace, and he left his spot on the side of the road, slowly wheeling east.

Hawaii Nei (Part 2)


An ambulance careened by. Everyone on the street cupped their ears in irritation, and Sid waited with the rest of the people until the siren passed. Although he had become indifferent to urban noise, the feeling he got from this emergency was uncanny to the point that his ears rang with the phantom buzzing of invisible bees, upsetting his stomach. More likely than not, some tourist was hit by a car—that kind of thing was very common and he read about it in the paper more often than he liked. He decided that if he walked to the end of the strip to see for himself if the tourist survived, it might settle him and then he could eat in peace.
When he reached the end of the hotel strip he saw a wild scene. Beneath the expanse of Duke’s wide, welcoming arms a mob of tourists gathered around several police cars that had secured a broad area of turf. Flashes of blue and red stung the palms and the banyan tree behind them, which loomed ominously like an amphibious beast ambling out of the water onto the black sand. The ambulance was there. Sid saw a stretcher draped in a white sheet, and it was evident that someone had died. Leaning against the red and white truck, the paramedics conversed with each other impotently; there wasn’t much for them to do with a dead patient, so they had no reason to be in any hurry one way or another. Standing apart from the crowd was a fellow unfortunate he knew who, being uncommonly clever, punctually patrolled the streets each night asking for a modest contribution to his cause. He was called the Dollar Man. Sid approached him and asked what had happened.
“Colonel,” the Dollar Man said.
Now Colonel was a composite unfortunate, meaning he was both of the proud and the partial. As far as Sid could tell, he was bat-shit insane. Every spare cent Colonel earned, found, or stole, he spent on cigarettes, and he would drill shirtless up and down Waikiki every evening in a pair of fatigues and boots, smoking and occasionally pausing to shout in tongues at someone or something that wasn’t there. Sid didn’t know Colonel’s story, he only knew it ended—probably meth, or something like that. (Sid discovered later that the old man had died of an aneurism after he had gotten into a fight with an invisible enemy—maybe Jacob’s angel, maybe even the Holy Spirit Itself—and lost. Colonel had collapsed, mute and writhing in the sand.) Regardless of the circumstances, Sid had to turn his head from the fluorescent outline of the amorphous human heap surrounded by a gaggle of vacation-going gawkers. Rubbing his scalp, he silently bid farewell to the Dollar Man and advanced, the crowd dividing itself to escape him.
He lost his appetite after the events under Kahanamoku, and he sought a quiet place where he could be alone. He made his way through the end of Waikiki, past the bandshell, up Diamond Head Road, by the wrought iron gates at the end of the obsessively manicured lawns of the stuccoed seaside mansions, above the great ocean, to the neighborhood at the bottom of the hill. At the end of the road were the stairs leading to the shore. He approached the private place and nestled in the soft, damp sand at the foot of a great stone wall crowned with bougainvillae. He tried to relax, resting his head on the rock.
If Sid was troubled in the past he came to the ocean for guidance. When his father had died, followed by his mother, it comforted him. When he was betrayed by his friends and found himself living on the street, he unreservedly delivered himself up to it with bowed head, and it responded by extending to him its cool, white limbs, to embrace him and take him home. Now he felt it offered him nothing. Rather than murmur the promise of solace it seemed savage and dark, seething, roaring nastily, each wave crashing on the shore a hungry hell-mouth unharrowed.
He reflected for a long time on the old unfortunate’s death, a death he found unreasonably discomposed him. The lifespan of an unfortunate is an uncertain thing—Colonel’s had been long and its immanent end shouldn’t have been a surprise. Nevertheless, Sid wasn’t prepared. The longer he brooded on what he had seen, the more active and alive his thoughts became. A vision of the dead thing came into focus—a shirtless, sun-hardened torso haunting the sky over Sid’s mind. It said nothing, and did not acknowledge him, refusing to show him more than a profile of its reddened face. It merely asserted itself, an enceinte thunderhead before the downpour.
Spookiness aside, it was troubling that the essence of Colonel’s vision was more substantial than his body had been while it was alive; death had somehow given him an identity. Colonel wasn’t particularly unique, and for this reason he would not be missed. Hydra-like, another would rise in his place and join the multitude of unfortunate, faceless faces. Sid wrestled uncomfortably with this, the dissonance between his vision of the spirit and his memory. The corpse, exposed before the tourists, undid itself. It was the profound nonsense of that scene, and of the vision, of Colonel’s entire life, that made Sid wriggle in the sand like a charmed cobra.
Eventually, the ghost faded and vanished. The ocean, too, which had seemed minutes ago to roil, an army of monsters with a thousand legs in a hurry to do badness, metamorphosed into a single kind, old face, the foamy waves infinite white curls in its ancient beard. But Sid didn’t trust it; he lay exhausted and afraid of it like one who had just washed ashore from shipwreck. He turned and eyed suspiciously the two drain pipes at his back as they peeped eerily at him, a pair of giant binoculars he was trying to use through the wrong side. Fearing an unseen voyeur somewhere beyond the pair of man-sized sockets in the wall, or a turning of the fickle sea, he couldn’t sleep there on the beach as he might have done any other time. So, he trudged back to town. At dawn he approached his place on the pavement by the vacant lot, and slept among the familiar people.