Copyright © 1974 Duane R. Hurst
Copyright © 1974 Duane R. Hurst
Sweet Leilani was being piped throughout Aloha Airlines flight 61 as it lifted off a Honolulu airport runway. Its destination was Kahului, Maui. Boisterous, aloha-attired tourists burdened the ship's belly. Smiling flight attendants distributed various drinks to the "Valley Island"-bound passengers.
One paunchy, balding man in a pink and yellow flowered shirt scowled as his sunburned wife alternately glanced from the window to a compact mirror. She daubed powder on a wrinkled, garish face and chattered about their "terrific" Hawaiian escapade. A deluge of words isolated the two.
"Why did I get stuck taking this lousy trip?" he wondered as memories of the past three days washed into his mind like tumbling surf. At first, the anticipation of a week's vacation away from his Pittsburgh job had produced visions of lovely hula girls, palm trees rising above vacant tracts of golden beach, and other soothing scenes. It was to be a real vacation, not like their previous excursions to Niagara Falls or Coney Island.
His scowl soured in remembrance of the "real" Hawaii. He had cataloged impressions of each spot visited on their whirlwind package tour.
Deplaned with a smile. A lithesome girl gave me a lei and a kiss on the cheek. Iva jabbered with the Hawaiian bus driver on our shuttle to the Hilton. Thought I'd have a quiet stroll on the beach. Iva just wants to bake in the sun and have the muscle-beach types ogle her. Hah! 47 and she thinks someone's interested.
Too many tourists! Some paradise. I couldn't see the beach for the bodies littering its surface, and the thing was manmade to boot! A cement dike in the water kept the sand from washing out to sea; they use dredges to reclaim sand the waves strip from the beach. A constant barrage of shouts, squeals and jackhammers battered both ear. Had to return to the room to find some peace.
I write as it strikes me--a sprawling, confused conglomeration of high-rise apartments, acres of asphalt and concrete, the ubiquitous sunburned tourists, a too-familiar rush of traffic, and a horde of hoale-hating Hawaiian brats! Well, the afternoon might be better. The schedule claims we'll tour around the island and see some dancing and pineapple fields.
After a rushed lunch Iva dragged me along to catch the bus. She had to get a window seat. I'd like to get the window just once. The scramble wasn't necessary anyway, not with forty other clowns dragging butt, so that we left half an hour later than planned.
We only got a few minutes at the U.S.S. Arizona because of the late start. Naturally, it was one of the sights I wanted to see. One female nearly fell off the boat when she tried to retrieve her hat that the wind had blown into the water nearby a submerged gun turret. Somebody yanked her back by the length of beads around her neck.
Wound our way into the central valley of Oahu, and all the while passed a mass of condominiums and new construction. Not till we went beyond Wahiawa did I begin to enjoy the vaunted Hawaiian beauty. Saw what must have been mile upon mile, row upon row of pineapples. The driver pulled over to a Dole pavilion. Several other parked buses disgorged their loads while we got out, so it became a rush to buy a chunk of the fruit. I let Iva handbag her way to the counter--she's had plenty of experience at that. I ran the gauntlet to gain a restroom, and then took a stroll over to the nearest field.
What with subsisting in sooty Pittsburgh, the sight of green plants was such a rarity that I felt like throwing off shoes and socks to run in the grass with naked feet. What surprised me was the lack of any fences around the fields. One juicy fruit lured me into a quick snatch. Got a double reprimand for the attempt. The blasted plant stabbed me as my hand dove into jutting fronds; then some joker yelled for me to get away, claimed I couldn't pick any pineapples. They should have fenced the field if no one was allowed to take any fruit. By the time I found Iva, she'd eaten all the slices of fruit she bought and we were herded aboard the bus. I didn't get any fruit.
Glad we sat in the forward seats behind the driver; a magnificent view of the island lay before us. It was between Waialua and Haleiwa, where Kamehameha highway leaves the valley in a long dive over an ancient lava escarpment to the beach below. Rows of sugar cane swayed above us on either side of the road. Directly ahead the land seemed to fade into the sea with no evidence of a beach. Not till we were far into the descent could I catch distant sparkles reflecting off the beach. A haze hung like a veil between us and the horizon, distorting patches of palms and lending a mystic air to the glassy deep. A haunting call, as from a phantom ship out of time, beckoned me on with the prospect of high adventure.
But like a foghorn blasting into a serene evening, Iva boomed for me to notice a scruffy, roadside puka shell peddler. I received more stimuli to look by way of an elbow in the ribs. Big deal. The guys swarm around tourists, and many of the shells are brought in from the Philippines.
Ended up behind a city bus that circles the island. Someone pointed out that it costs fifty cents to ride and is good for two transfers. So now we find out!
The rest of the day and evening was spent at the Polynesian Cultural Center. I was pushed into attending a hukilau or fish gathering. A boat dropped a length of net in the bay, circled back, and we were expected to help haul it in. I was enjoying the novel adventure until a disturbed crab popped out of its hole and gnashed my toes. The catch wasn't very outstanding, just one fish and a couple of sand crabs; we also managed to snare a snorkeler's lost fin, three Primo beer cans, a large clump of seaweed and one diver who had been gathering coral. Nobody knew the fellow was out there. All in all, not much of a haul to feast on.
Took a tour through the Center with a motley group. The young people working there were a friendly, smiling lot. I thought the dancing worthwhile, especially the fast skirt-whirling Tahitian style. There was a replica of an island fort that caught my imagination. A sweet guide smiled me a welcome. Before I could clamber up, Iva jerked me back to see the Samoan village again, claiming she wanted to see the "big one" husk another coconut. They all looked big to me. She also wanted to pose with a Fijian fellow. I wandered over to a fine Mauri war canoe while she gabbed with him.
Drums in the Center beat a call to battle. The wind was rising and I sensed the teeming of warriors as they dragged canoes into pounding surf. Fierce tattooed men clutched club and spear. All chanted the cry for blood. And I paddled with them. Spray whipped up in frothy sheets from our churning haste.
Then I heard it. Laughter from a clump of bony-kneed tourists. I suppose they thought me deranged for sitting in a beached canoe.
Later in the evening, after a dinner of mahi-mahi, we sat in an amphitheater to watch an "Invitation to Paradise." Lights dimmed. The lonely call of conch shells preceded a swell of music. A sudden fire from a cement volcano signaled the action. From either side parties in canoes glided to a center stage and costumed dancer disembarked. A Hawaiian king and attendants stepped ashore, whereupon a bevy of dancers gently flowed to island music. Six different troupes from Polynesia and Melanesia performed. I was so enthralled that I failed to notice that the sherbet and pineapple dessert I bought had a hole in the bottom. A sticky pool cooled my rear.
It was a squeeze and shove operation to reach our bus. Thought I was back in Pittsburgh what with thirty busses roaring into life. I don't know how it happened; maybe the cloud of smoke from one bus misguided me. Anyway, next I knew someone was babbling in Japanese and a group of Orientals were grinning at me. I was on the wrong bus. I had to run around the parking lot yelling for Iva before I found our bus. I didn't say a word on the ride back to Waikiki.
Inside our room, about eleven p.m., Iva said we would go for a midnight swim in the pool. It took her an hour to struggle into the suit. She jumped in the pool wit h a couple of other people. Seemed too cold for me, so I wrapped up in both towels and sat in a Barka-lounge to gaze at undulating ocean waves.
THE SECOND DAY
Caught a slight fever from staying in the night air and I wanted to stay in bed just to be safe. But I couldn't see any hope of doing so because Iva was in a blathering frenzy to get us ready for a day of shopping in Honolulu. Ugh! What a fate, to be dragged about the ladies' lingerie department with a pretentious smile of interest. I'd rather be back home stuffing Mr. Gallagher’s rhino. At least taxidermy offers a valve for escape.
One more ride in a noisy bus. This time to the Punchbowl, a military cemetery situated in the cone of an extinct volcano. Thousands of plaques marked graves of lost soldiery. Faint bugle notes floated skyward, rolling around and through heavy clusters of greenery. Or, perhaps it was merely a breeze blowing in from the distant ocean.
We were allowed to get out for a view of the city from a lookout point on the Punchbowl. Stretching out below on my far right were Pearl Harbor and the airport; directly in front lay the main business district and the state capitol; and to my left towering structures of Waikiki rose up before jutting Diamond Head. Beyond it all was an endless expanse of blue water that appeared alive with flecks of light and thin streaks of shoreward-bound foam. Behind us was an aggregation of homes and new construction, spreading up the mountain slopes much like a parasitic fungus. Crisscrossing strands of asphalt detracted from the jungle-clad peaks. It wasn't what I expected Hawaii to be.
Tour time again. Downtown to see both the King Kamehameha statue and Iolani palace. Couldn't help wondering what the old boy would say about how Hawaii was wrested from his descendants and progressed to become a lucrative tourist/military/agricultural center. Perhaps there's a bit of symbolism in his statue facing the tourist-infested palace.
Meaning the great ocean, Ala Moana shopping center lived up to its name. A surging mass of bargain hunters flowed throughout a labyrinth of stores and eddied round entryway and escalator. An undercurrent of pollutants inundated the lower level parking slots and shops. I noticed occasional palm trees that rose above the hubbub like isles of unattainable quiescence.
Iva led us into exotic Sears to snag aloha duds for herself. I saw a few handsome flowered shirts, but the one she chose for me wasn't what I had in mind. It was pink with large, obscene yellow blossoms. She pronounced it a match for her muumuu and I couldn't argue with that. I also wanted a straw hat to shade my thinning pate. No such luck. She claimed it made us look like tourists.
After three hours in the pushy crowds with spendthrift Iva, I was ready for the sack. Besides the clothes, she managed to discover six cheap trinkets to palm off on relatives--genuine Hawaiian goods made in Hong Kong or Taiwan. When I asked why she wouldn't get other items, she retorted with, "Barney, don't be obstreperous and absurd. Why should I pay an exorbitant price for something just because it comes from Hawaii? We'll wait until the bus stops at one of the roadside stands. That's where the natives trade their traditional handicrafts. Now don't sit down! We're going back to that Polynesian shop downstairs.”
INTERNATIONAL MARKET PLACE:
The ordeal continued as Iva stated that we would take advantage of a shuttle to the International Market Place. I massaged toes on the ride over to let them feel my sympathy. The place was more colorful than ALA Moana, what with the upper level built like a huge tree house and various plants hanging or growing throughout the walkways. Prices were jacked up accordingly.
Not content with a wide selection of goods there, Iva had us troop around the block to King's Alley, a shopping center designed as turn-of-the-century Honolulu. It would have been quainter without the boisterous masses. Iva's expedition made us miss the hotel bus and we had to catch a cab.
Back in the hotel bed, I listened to Hawaiian melodies on the radio with Iva clipping her toenails in accompaniment.
Woke up with one of Iva's nail clippings slashing my bare calf. Our last day at the Hilton on Oahu. Dressed in aloha garb, we pushed aboard the bus. I had a rough time lugging a picnic box, mats, beach umbrella and a case filled with towels, lotions, novels and swimming gear. Since we were late, the only available seats were in the rear.
The bus took us down the length of Waikiki, past a solid front of hotels and tourist traps. Skirting the ocean side slope of Diamond Head was a disappointment. Travel pictures never show the homes clustered beneath palm trees or that the mantel of plants is made of scraggly brush and weeds. Developers clawed into the old volcano so as to situate more swank homes in the ritzy section of town.
We rolled into a park near Koko Head. The bay actually was a water-filled volcanic crater that was open to the sea on one side. Banks of coral divided the bay into three sections of varying depth. The park was a fish preserve of sorts--we could look but not catch. Despite a blanket of bodies on the beach, it was the finest site I'd seen on Oahu.
I trailed Iva down a steep path to t he restrooms. I didn't notice that someone had ripped off our umbrella until after I'd changed into my suit and stooped to re-tote the gear. It was a clean snatch; I couldn't spot another one with orange and black stripes anywhere. So I had to flop on the sand without anything other than Betcha-Tan to protect the pate. Iva spurns shading devises. But she bathes in tan lotion.
I decided to try the water. It was exceptionally clear; I could see coral and fish under the surface. However, I wasn't about to walk on any coral. I read somewhere about an Estonian or Rhodesian fellow who once stepped on some. A piece grew in his big toe four months before he noticed that it wasn't a bunion. I was prepared against such an accident, although it was difficult to swim with sandals. The vinyl fell apart in the salt water as I kicked along. I ended up with several cuts on my feet. At least I won't have to worry about coral growth in my feet; I poured Clorox in the cuts later.
Iva wouldn't go in the water. She crabbed that I dripped on her tan lotion. The bottle was empty when I tried to squeeze some on my head. I had to get some protection. Then I saw a native peddling straw hats, the kind Iva wouldn't let me buy in ALA Moana. The umbrella was stolen, the lotion gone, and beads of water on my head were evaporating rather quickly. I bought a hat and Iva, after grumbling, admitted that I needed some protection.
The bus took us past the Blowhole, round Makapuu Point and drove past Sea Life Park after lunch. It continued past Kailua and wound along the mountain highway to the Pali. We passed through a rain forest to get there. Large Elephant Ear vines choked the trees and moss seemed to carpet rocks.
A lusty wind was sweeping the Pali Lookout as we approached on foot. Below lay a panoply of cane fields, palms, a vibrant sea, and quite a view of the North Shore; even Chinaman's Hat could be seen far in the distance. I leaned over to discern the spot where warriors under chief Kalanikupule were driven off the cliff in battle when Kamehameha I invaded Oahu in 1795. My hat joined those bygone corpses when a gust snatched it and sent it plummeting in an erratic, circling fall. There was at least a favorable aspect about the wind. Several girls found their short skirts suddenly shorter as they were whipped upwards, flapping in the breeze. Nice looking girls at that. I wasn’t the only one who noted them. Iva gripped my shoulder in a tight pinch as she yelped, "Back to the bus, you've seen enough!”
A farewell luau crowned our final night on the island. I watched as doughty fellows hefted the seared carcasses of two pigs. They had been cooking since early morning in an imu, a pit oven. The pigs were trussed with a cargo of heated rocks and a side dish of sweet potatoes in baskets lay beside them in the imu. The raw delectables were then covered with layers of wet ti and banana leaves, as well as burlap, canvas and a topping of dirt. The result was tender, excessively greasy pork.
I'd been drooling for an authentic Hawaiian feast even before the vacation. Fortunately for the palate, the fare tasted better amidst the setting of orchids, hibiscus, hula girls and piles of pineapple, banana, guava, lilikoi (passion fruit) and sugar cane cubes. One bite of the greasy pig surprised me--I didn't expect such a pleasant taste or that the meat could be so tender. I was encouraged to try the poi. After the manner of Hawaiian etiquette, I jabbed two fingers into the pot and sucked the paste-like goo. I nearly retched on the slop.
I elected to stick with fruits and the meat. However, the sight of several limp ti leaves near my plate reminded me that I hadn't found a salad. I supposed the leaves to be a native counterpart. Though I didn't feel like trying any other foreign chow, I hastily shoved one of the resilient leave s in my mouth as a large Hawaiian glanced my way. I sat munching that lone piece two minutes before a loudmouth from California exclaimed that I wasn't expected to "consume the decor." I hadn't noticed a serving girl remove an empty fruit bowl from the mat of leaves that I had assumed was some sort of a salad. To my chagrin the girl returned with a fresh bowl and laughed at my stupidity when Iva explained why the leaves were on my plate. I excused myself to the men's room.
About fifteen minutes later I returned and noted a burly Samoan squatting beside Iva. A ukulele lay cradled in the lap of his mat-like lava-lava, and he draped a hairy limb over her shoulders. Thick, blunt fingers twisted her mousy hair into short coils. Her garrulous guffaw mingling with his lewd grunts was too much for me to endure, I strode up with intentions of ordering him to back off; however, out of a desire to maintain amenities with the locals, I squelched passion. He appeared more muscular and ponderous closer at hand than he had from the restroom.
Iva detected my smothered ire, I'm sure, because throughout the evening she commented on the robust, masculine demeanor of that fellow. She even had me snap pictures of them together. Such was the aloha of our luau. I couldn't muster much gaiety in anticipation of the next island on our tour. Doubtless, Iva will find more Samoans.
Mnemonic reflections receded into the gulf of latent fantasies, dreams, and chimera that comprised a major portion of Barnabus Woodard's rumination. It may have been the motivation that led him to choose taxidermy as self-employment. He particularly enjoyed mounting big game, for it proffered an avenue to project himself into adventurism--with him in the heroic, starring role. At 46, the most exciting episode in his career had been fifteen years ago when the Smithsonian invited him to assist in the preparation of a giant panda and a brace of Anoa. It turned out that the invitation had been an inadvertent mistake; a bureaucratic apology was routinely given and Barney was sent packing with assurance that next time his qualifications would receive due consideration. He did gain a consolation of sorts in the guise of one Iva McBride, a minor receptionist at the Institute.
In their Pittsburgh home balding Barney continued his taxidermy with moderate success and a growing reputation. The carcass of a complete rhino to be mounted for Mr. Gallagher represented proof of his fame. It would, once removed from his recently acquired walk-in deep-freeze, constitute his largest and most skillfully done mount. It had been left to await his return from the Hawaii trip Iva had arranged ostensibly for Barney's benefit.
"Barney," Iva began another vociferous spiel. "Barney, look at me when I'm talking! You haven't said ten words since we left the Hilton, and not once have you bothered to look out the window. What's the matter with you? Are you constipated again? Give me my purse; I've got some X-lax in it. And buzz for a stewardess to bring a cup of water."
"Iva, I don't need any of that," he answered in a subdued tone while glancing furtively to see whether other passengers had overheard his wife's diagnosis. An elderly lady across the aisle tittered and turned to share the tidbit of gossip with her companion. Barney rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Don't tell me what you need," Iva continued. "I know exactly what will help you. It's good to clean out the system.
"If that's not what ails you, then just why are you sulking? Haven't you enjoyed this terrific vacation? I don't see how you can't appreciate the excitement of Honolulu or the friendly natives. I'm sure Maui will be as wonderful as Oahu."
"That's what I don't want, Iva. Hawaii is too modernized and developed. Where are the beaches devoid of people? Everywhere are hotels, construction, highways, tourists and more tourists. I'd like to see a small native village or at least an old-style whaler's town. Wouldn't you rather hike along jungle trails than get shoved at the tourist spots?"
"What? Definitely not! Barney, you're a mawkish bore. Of course there are tourists here, and you're one, too. I won't have this trip spoiled by sentimental moodiness. You're going to smile and have a fine time! Jungle trails and villages--we're in Hawaii, not off stalking game in Africa."
Further converse was interrupted by the captain's announcement to fasten seat belts for landing. Barney allowed a stewardess to help him with his belt.
He expected to see more of the same feverish construction as on Oahu, despite claims to the contrary. A growing mistrust in the veracity of travel brochures prompted him to conclude that Maui would swarm with tourists. He therefore felt little desire to observe the island as their plane banked for approach. Yet, his eyes sparkled slightly upon noting the smallness of Kakului and the relatively vast expanse of green cane and pineapple fields. Cold and cloud-capped Haleakala rose ten thousand feet above the valley; its massive slopes were scored by streamlet and road, splotched with small villages, and covered with stands of timber at elevations where the sugar cane and pineapples could not flourish.
The brief, inviting view rekindled Barney's vision of Hawaii, as it had been known before modern man exploited its isolation. He was surprised to discover a twinge of excitement or anticipation, as though the land's vitality had whispered him a welcome. He was unaware that his mouth was fixed in a stiff, lopsided smile.
The Kahului terminal was substantially smaller and less active than Honolulu's. Passengers walked from the plane to a sprinkling of paid greeters at the building's large glass entry doors. Barney observed the nonchalant attitude of their guide who steered his group past cabbies and porters. Barney and Iva, along with others of the vacationing assemblage, boarded a Maui Intercontinental Hotel shuttle bus.
In their surge to gain a seat Barney had been dumped into one near a window while Iva had been propelled to the rear. With but a fleeting and nervous smile for a man who eased into the seat beside him, Barney kept his eyes focused on Maui's landscape. His usual agitation experienced when near strangers re-ceded somewhat once the bus began to cruise along a tree-lined highway.
Thick stands of sugar cane covered the valley beyond the trees and an irrigation canal that paralleled their route. Long slender leaves hung limp or tangled together in miniature Gordian knots in a breezeless morning air. The Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company's mill, a tin-roofed monstrosity, loomed above clumps of trees and cane at Puunene. Several rows of ramshackle company housing units were nearly hidden behind the mill and large oak trees.
The bus veered right onto highway 350. Adjacent the narrow highway branches of the sugar company's road network twisted throughout acres of cane and spanned another network of irrigation canals. Huge 55-ton cane haulers roared towards the mill; a crane lifted stalks into waiting haulers while two Caterpillars equipped with large tines swathed through the cane at ground level. Black puffs of diesel exhaust belched out of each machine and lingered above the field. A line of World War II airplane hangers back-dropped the activity, their empty bowels successively layered with concrete, earth and brush- wood. Barney noticed a sign directing traffic to the Waikapu dump before they left the scene behind.
He allowed the fields to flow past without further concern. His eyes scanned the recent construction boom at tiny Kihei and took in Maalaea Bay. Snowy-tipped waves slowly swept onto a crescent beach and foam rolled sand into the fresh prints of morning joggers. Several tourists scavenged in the sand for puka shells. A sail bobbed across the bay near the resort and boating town of Maalaea.
Sugar cane fields abruptly gave way to a sprinkling of coconut palms, lush grasses, pandanus trees and native undergrowth. Their hotel was located in the underdeveloped leeward side at a place called Wailea. The area until recently had belonged to the vast mountainside Ulupalakua Ranch. Rainfall being sparse and developer's cash luring, the once secluded region already felt the inroads of tourism.
Several state beach parks were designated along the stretch between Kihei and Makena. One at Kalama-Kamaole even allowed campers. New condominiums dotted the shoreline like bastions of wealth, harbingers of modern Hawaii. Native trees, loathsome briars and wild flowers were removed to allow for imported palms, carefully landscaped plants and manicured fairways and putting greens to present a comfortable atmosphere for an anticipated upsurge of tourists. Even the splendid beaches were altered--palms replaced uprooted thorn trees and paved walkways connected the hotel, beach and condominiums. Road equipment ate away land near Makena for future construction and additional golf courses.
Barney had ample opportunity to notice the encroaching subdivisions, churches, shops boasting authentic Hawaiian goods, the expanding Kamaole shopping center and nearby apartments; much of the morning commuter traffic hadn't arrived at construction sites. Although some rental cars wound along in convoy with the locals, he could see that the bulk of traffic was filled with Hawaiian residents. He thought it odd that they would devote labor to transform the island into a replica of Oahu.
The bus finally lost most of the traffic between Wailea, the Akahi condominiums and its own destination, the Maui Intercontinental Hotel. A new golf course and a shopping center under construction fronted the hotel. The building itself was a series of interconnected, gleaming white-walled and multi-leveled structures, each one bearing the name of a famous site on Maui. Water sprinklers pumped a steady cascade on newly planted grass and trees. Some construction evidently still progressed, for Barney observed workmen with hardhats milling around a truck concourse.
The shuttle rolled to a halt before the hotel's main lobby. A compact troop of porters bustled forward to collect luggage. Each of the young men was uniformed in flowered shirts and white pants. Most were of either Hawaiian or Filipino ancestry; a haole directed them.
Iva strode up to the registration desk to get their room key. She returned as Barney bent to heft their bags. Her brows twisted in a frown and she pursed her lips briefly before barking, "What are you doing?" Barney and several couples glanced at her. Not one to be daunted by the presence of others, Iva continued while aiming a stubby thumb at a porter.
"Leave those for the bellboy. That's what they get paid for. Our room is down near the beach."
Her eye caught the porter's and he wheeled a cart over. He was a short fellow with two gold teeth that dominated a flashy smile. His browned skin seemed leathery, as though he might moonlight at farming. Barney estimated his age at anywhere from 32 to 40.
"Boy," Iva commanded with a finger directed at the bags, "take these down to our room in the Hana building. The desk clerk said you’d give us a ride there, too." As an after thought she queried, "What's your name?"
"Miguel? Humph. Well, don't just stand there. Pick up our bags. Barney, get in the cart. As soon as we put things away we'll find the snack bar. It's supposed to be near the swimming pool."
Miguel stowed their luggage on a battery-powered cart and steered along a narrow path that flanked the hotel. Plumeria lined the way. Bunches of yellow, white and pink blooms projected from the antler-like plants; droplets of water still dripped from the recently watered petals and long, blunt-tipped leaves. Guadillia ground cover encircled the plumeria; the yellow-blossomed vines stretched precariously near the cart's rolling wheels. Barney observed with satisfaction clumps of sego and fan palms, orchids, bird of paradise and other tropical plants around the buildings or placed amid sections of grass and Scotch moss. Bougainvillea dangled from upper story verandahs and shaded red and yellow poinsettia. A single golden shower tree grew beside the path leading to their room; a profusion of orange-golden flowers covered branches and littered its base.
The cart halted and Miguel, gathering up the luggage, led them to a first floor room that faced the ocean. Iva snatched a suitcase and began rummaging. She paused to shoot a withering look at Miguel.
"Barney," her gravelly whisper barely audible, "give that fellow a quarter and make sure he leaves. You can't trust his kind once your back is turned." Barney turned to conduct the porter out. He handed Miguel a dollar, making sure Iva hadn't noticed. He felt she was too much of a philistine, whereas he enjoyed helping another less fortunate person. Without pretense at self-analysis he simply followed his mother's adage that giving was a godsend. His interpretation of that maxim included a mandatory, though terse, dialogue with whomever he assisted. He therefore looked out on the waves crashing into jagged outcroppings of lava and spoke, casting nervous glances occasionally at the short man.
"Well, uh, Miguel, thank you for helping us. I guess you get tired of hauling tourists around."
The Filipino shrugged his shoulders. "Me, I don't mind. I got a good wife and six kids that help out at home. I don't let nothing at work bother me. It would make things at home tough."
"How is it when you return home? My wife never wanted children, but I always thought it would be pleasant to bounce them on the knee or read them a story."
Miguel looked up with wide-open eyes. "Oh, man! Well, the kids, some of the little ones, run up. Then I go out into the garden with our neighbor, the Old Man. While my wife fixes dinner the Old Man and I sit on a bench and drink beer. She comes out and we all gossip about things and watch the sun set and the kids play with the new puppies. Then we eat and some friends come over to play cards.
"Well, I gotta go back to the lobby. I hope you enjoy Maui."
Barney watched the man leave without seeing him. He was seeing a short Filipino and an old man on a bench as fading light reflected from scores of flitting insects--boys frisking and romping with two brown puppies--an older girl spraying water on rows of onions in a small garden beyond the boys. He was hearing the staccato of Tagalog from a busy wife indoors. And far in the distance a volcanic peak, half hidden in puffy clouds, rose above a languid, azure sea. With a sigh the vision faded into an imagined sunset. He shuffled back to Iva.
She stood in bra and girdle, holding up a pants suit in one hand and a summer dress in the other. An ample roll of blubber lapped over the girdle, her midriff bulged to burst the restraining material. Blotches of red skin witnessed a woeful lack of Betcha-Tan. She stood with legs spread like an old sailor aboard ship. Her lips were pursed in indecision. The stance and misapplied quantities of cosmetics reminded Barney of his mother's observation upon meeting Iva: “It’s difficult to refurbish a harbor scow as an ocean liner."
He shook his head softly while entering the shower stall. A stream of fine spray tingled against skin and frothy soapsuds washed down his legs, and washed him into another daydream of primeval Hawaii. What trial waited behind that veil of aerial roots and broad leaves? Did rising mist presage a volcanic eruption or was it merely the usual post-downpour evaporation? And there beside a pool, her reflection superimposed on its rippling surface, knelt a native girl with skin the color of nutmeg and a cascade of supple, sable hair gently caressing a shoulder before falling into the pool. How much could have been encountered and relished in a bygone age without impediments of the present.
Barney was still in the bathroom trying to smooth down his scanty hair so at least a few strands would cover his bald crown when he heard Iva shriek. He dashed out and stumbled to a halt with his mouth agape. She had sagged into a chair, face drained, and held a letter in trembling hands. To his total amazement she couldn't even answer his question of what had happened. He began to shiver. He felt as helpless as she had often said he was.
He reached for the letter, certain that it contained the solution to her singular stupefaction. Before he could pluck it Iva recovered. Her face flushed in the resurgence of blood and sensibility. She screamed out, "You fool!" and slugged him in the jaw. Barney flopped onto the bed in a heap and groaned. She began to harangue. He didn't dare get up.
"You worthless, wooden-headed blatherskite! Do you know what this says? I'll tell you what it says. It's from that gouging Gallagher’s lawyer. He's suing you for a hundred thousand dollars because his rhino was destroyed when our house burned to the ground. Our home. My things, all my things gone! And it's your fault, you addle-brained ass! They said the insurance was terminated two months ago. Do you hear me? Two months ago! I ordered you to pay the premiums over six months ago.
"And that's not all. The bank is foreclosing on the mortgage and the finance company demands payment on the loan for the freezer you bought uninsured. How can you sit there with that jackass grin and laugh at my misery? Dolt that I am; you gulled me into this trip and planned that fire."
"But Iva, how can I laugh..."
"Laugh!" She screeched in a pitch to shatter glass. A gurgling roar followed and Iva went berserk. She snatched up a porcelain lamp and leaped over a chair to smash Barney's skull. But he, rolling from the bed, knocked her off balance with a well-aimed pillow. He jumped out onto the verandah, hurtled a small railing and sped for the beach with a yelp of fear and flapping shirttails. Ashtrays, the lamp and a shoe pelted him on. Imprecations and a final hollered promise accompanied Barney to the sand and rocks under his thrashing feet.
"If I ever see you again, I'll rip your scrawny body apart!"
Barney dived behind a group of large lava boulders and ran hunched over to distant native thorn trees and tall grass beside the beach. He sank into the grass. His chest and feet hurt. He cried and fell asleep.
Barney blinked and turned his head away from bright shafts of sunlight. The sun was at the peak of its arc and shade had crept away from him. He stretched and looked at bruises and small cuts on the toes and soles of both feet.
A low rumble alerted his memory to the recent fight and his flight to the beach. He sat up and faced the sea. The serenity of its surface and the sonorous washing waves bore sharp contrast to his thoughts. He sat hunched over with arms wrapped round his knees.
"Burned down. The rhino destroyed and all my equipment gone with it. I thought I sent in the premium payment at the same time I mailed an order for excelsior. She usually pays the bills anyway. She won't take any blame, so I get yelled at. Damn this sand; my feet hurt. Wish I'd had time to grab my sandals before skedaddling. Burned down! I can't believe it. Gallagher wouldn't sue. He always enjoyed watching me work on his animals; sits there on the stool with a beer and tells how he bagged it. Can't even go back to put something on these cuts. But if there really was a fire and everything was lost and the insurance expired, if he sues and the bank forecloses and the loan company expects payment on what I used for the freezer, then where does it leave me? Our savings went into the new equipment and this damnable vacation. I don't have relations who'd help much and Iva's are worthless freeloaders or welfare cases. The ocean looks beautiful and calm today; too bad I don't have snorkel gear with me. Maybe I could spear an Ulua to mount. Mount? It's been burned. I should have been an accountant as she claimed years ago. Even if it was an accident, there's no one to make up the loss or bail me out. Wow, must be noon already! I've been out here nearly four hours. No wonder my belly's growling. Iva better not order vegetarian burgers. Guess it's time to head back. She'll have cooled down by now. I'll just have to endure her tantrum. It's so peaceful out here."
He stifled the discordant impressions and thoughts as he gingerly picked a path back to the hotel room, avoiding as many rocks as possible. From the fringe of a lawn facing his room, Barney spotted the open verandah door. Bubble-top sprinklers squirted water over the grass. One misaimed head sprayed into their open door. He became anxious, knowing Iva would never tolerate such a blunder. He quickly circled the sprinklers, entered the room and dropped into a chair. Iva was gone.
Her bags were missing and Barney's clothes lay strewn throughout the room as though left in the wake of a local tsunami. On a table beside the phone were the odious letter and a scribbled note from Iva. He lifted the note with a quick glance to be sure that Iva wasn't hiding in the bathroom. Both of Barney's eyes popped open as he learned, amidst a torrent of scathing imprecations, that his wife had dumped him and decided to try hitching up with the burly Samoan from Laie. His legs became rubber and his body sagged into a sympathetic chair as the note casually fluttered to the carpet.
"Oh! What do I do now?" Barney moaned while shaking his head. His jaw hung loose; a glob of drool slowly began its journey from his gaping mouth to the floor. He remained transfixed nearly half an hour--not lost in thought; he was beyond the capability of forming any thoughts about anything. The only movement in his room was the steady accumulation of his dribble and a growing pool of water from the bubble-top sprinkler.
"Hey, br'a! Sorry 'bout da water," a Hawaiian grounds worker boomed. "I seen that sprinkler squirtin' an decide ta fix DA kind before you have a big pilikia."
Barney looked at the rough-dressed fellow. His eyes were still glazed, but wiped away the dribble and blinked several times.
"Eh? What's a pilikia?" he asked with awakening interest.
That's Hawaiian for trouble, br'a."
Barney continued to blink. "What's the kind?"
The Hawaiian was surprised and retorted, "DA kind? DA kind is DA kind, y'know, any kind of thing, br'a."
"Oh," Barney answered vaguely. "And what's a br'a?"
That was too much for the Hawaiian. He gave Barney the hairy eyeball and said, "Man, you a br'a. An I'm a br'a. You hoale kamainas don't speak DA kind none too good. Anyway, I fix this sprinkler for you folks an get someone to clean up DA mess inside your room."
"Thank you. I mean, mahalo nui loa."
"OK. Be cool, br'a."
Barney closed the door as the young man twisted the sprinkler head toward the grass. He looked again at the fallen note. His hand moved to pick it up but jerked back as though Iva's note would bite him. With a deep sigh Barney grabbed the note.