Wolohu’s Sunday School: Part 3
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A marlin tail was nailed to a post at the entrance to the pier, and a stack of old wooden palettes lay on top of the pier. Beneath the pier, boulders and sections of old pipe lay in the silt, coated with algae. Ever so gently, the sea rose and fell against the old rubber tires that lined the wharf at Hi’ilawe. Tilapia and minnows swarmed, and Fish Hawk bumped at its moorings. The water undulated as a light breeze ruffled the glossy surface, reflecting the blue-and-white sky like a mirror.
Izzy and his friend sat in their old aluminum chairs beneath the skiff’s thatch hut, smoking a joint. When there was fish, Izzy had caught plenny with just his barracuda. Nowadays was no more fish. Was no more limu, thas’ why. Even local people, who should know better, came and just ripped up all the limu they could stuff in a big plastic garbage bag. Just like the guy who wen’ caught his fish, Superman. That guy was local, too. Shoulda known bettah. If no more seaweed, then no more fish, and no more business. Why is why Izzy and his friends was sitting around on his boat, smoking a joint, with nothing to do and all day to do it in. No can cover the gas, even. Was pretty good weed, though.
“Where you grow ‘em?” Izzy asked.
“In the cane.”
“Yeah, man. The cane hide ‘em good. After six months, get buds ‘already– six ounces!”
“Six ounce! How much can sell ‘em, one ounce?”
“Hundred bucks, brah!”
“So six hundred from one plant, yeah? Oh man, I’m in the wrong business, already! I never make six hundred in six months, already!”
“You like try grow ‘em?”
“Where, roun’ here?”
“Hilo better. Over here everyone knows what you doing.”
Izzy liked Hilo. He came for the weekend, and wound up staying. His friend put him onto the biz, and he tried his hand at a few plants, even after a while, he even did a few deals.
Now he had his own place, a small A-frame for $800 a month with a lanai where he and his friends drank beer and smoked and listened to slack key. He had one truck, a pit bull named Tigah Lilly, and a patch of fifty plants up in the forest.
Was fun, all braddah-braddah, no mean and stingy boss, no shitty job and insulting wages. It wasn’t work, was a lifestyle. Each week, he wen’ Farmers’ Market, talk story and traded tips with his friends, put each other on to some samples, had a good time.
Was fun to hike up country and be with his plants– was righteous out there in this fantastic terrain of tree ferns and steaming calderas and rain forest. Was plenty birds and things, and the air smelled of eucalyptus. There was pigs, too, and sometimes he shot one and took it home for smoke the meat.
Growing was simplicity itself– just dig one hole and put fertilizer. The plants budded in several months. Didn’t even have to water, since it rained all the time.
When the plants were ready, he dried them and trimmed them, and by and by he had buds to sell. He did okay, made some money straight off, just making the rounds with his friends and their friends. If you had weed, you were always welcome everywhere. There was always a party with girls and beer and music and stuff to eat. No getting up at some asshole hour to go work at some shit job with the boss on your ass like a dirty diaper. Here, your customers were your friends and their friends.
Was two kinds of people: local and not. With local people, everything was easygoing. Everyone was growing it. Sure there were some that weren’t involved with it somehow, but everyone was growing it. Was grandmas involved too, just to make pocket money, and high school girls who trimmed the plants for money for buy Christmas presents. They never smoked it themselves. Was just the money.
But then was another kind of people. Haoles— mainland people– moved in, hippies, or maybe they was hippies at first, then later on was something else altogether. Was so full of shit, some of those people, all their talk about love and getting mellow and fuck the establishment and come back to Mother Earth and live off the land. They wen’ meditate on the beach, sat under one tree with one hand on each knee, going oooooohhhhhhmmmmmmmm. They ate alfalfa sprouts and wore baggy cotton clothes made in Bangla Desh or someplace li’ dat.
A lot of them was dirty and they never cut their hair and they wen’ walk around barefoot, and their women thought they was local girls– put flower behind the ear. Worse, some of those guys put flower behind the ear. They acted funny and talked spacey-like and had so much love and aloha to give.
But these same people who talked about mellow out and live and let live, they ripped each other off, pulling up each other’s plants, selling people bad acid and shit, and they got drunk and got noisy and they had no more respect for other people’s peace and quiet.
They went from bad to worse when they began to love what they said they despised: money. Some of them were into way more than weed. They drove new Jeeps, paid for. They had a house, paid for. Some of them was making maybe hundred grand a year– bought fancy watches, wore rings, had fancy furniture, expensive stereos. They ate salmon and bagels for breakfast, steak for lunch, and they ate fancy little cookies and expensive Maui potato chips that tourists bought. They brought girls from Honolulu, and they had all the coke they could handle. But they would never get their hands dirty tending plants. They didn’t even know weed, hardly. It was a way of life they didn’t get.
Some girls got ten bucks an hour for cleaning weed; but Izzy paid Kathy by the pound. He gave it to her green and it came back all cleaned up nice and pretty, with sticks in one bag, shake in another, then bud in one noddah bag. She did good, careful work, and trimmed a pound in two days only. She made a hundred bucks a day at that rate, and Izzy thought she was worth every penny. He kept it dry in the closet, running the de-humidifiers if it was raining, which it always was.
She wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous or nothing, was mostly Japanese with some other kine mixed in, but she had a warm smile all the time and a sweet personality. Just like the others, she cleaned weed for a few extra bucks, not because she liked smoke it herself. She had one noddah job, working at Hibiscus Club in Hilo, but she didn’t make much– just didn’t have it in her to hustle people for drinks. She was a study in the innocence of another time, one of those girls that hung around in bars just to talk to people and never ask for money. She just liked to listen to people talk, never wen’ hit ‘em up for drink, and always made sure there was stuff to eat– raw crab and sashimi, boiled peanuts and musubi rice ball and kimchi, sometimes shoyu chicken wing, or slice octopus with shoyu and hot mustard. She paid for those pupus herself and hoped she made it back in tips, which she usually did, but sometimes not.
But wasn’t no amount of money Izzy could pay for what she was worth to him. Izzy thought Kathy was the sweetest girl ever, and in time they fell into a relationship.
Kathy didn’t mind he was dealing. Didn’t seem so bad, didn’t hurt nobody. When he went up to visit his plants, he took Tigah Lilly and his shotgun like he was hunting pig, and sometimes he got pig, but mostly was because nowadays you couldn’t tell what kind people you was going run into up there. Plus, he was growing in the National Park. They didn’t want it in there, and if they caught you they was really going nail you to the wall.
“You not worried?” she said. “I hear they going crack down, you know.”
“Yeah, I heard the same stories.” He thought about all that he stood to lose if he got into trouble. The ones that got caught were getting some pretty stiff sentences, like twenty years even, and he thought to himself he could never stand even one day behind bars. Life was too good for that.
“Maybe you better find somewhere else, yeah?” she said. “I no like you go jail, thas’ why.”
“Maybe, but I don’t know where,” he said. “Cannot just go anywhere– people going find ‘em.” It was getting crowded, and people was getting paranoid about hiding their stuff from people who just wen’ hunt for ‘em like Easter egg and rip you off. “Everyone scare, everyone getting rip off. Nobody trust nobody no more. Humbug already!”
So many people was growing, even way out in the middle of nowheres, and the people who wanted to rip you off were climbing all over the countryside to find it. You couldn’t even grow it out in the cane anymore– the cane workers knew where to look for it, somehow. And those little crop dusters that flew ten miles an hour sprayed with herbicide. If it didn’t kill the plant, the stuff damn near killed you.
By and by was ugly. Izzy’s friend had his plants ripped up right in front of him by some tough guys he never saw around before. And there were rumors: hikers just disappeared, was booby traps of sharp bamboo punji stakes up there. Sometimes you heard guns going off, up in the forest. There were pig hunters like him up there, but you always thought the worst. And now some syndicate guys from Honolulu came in and put in plants that nobody never touched. Someone he knew got muscled by those guys. They took it all, and the guy moved away after that.
Then the cops got into it. Was like some kine war, went on for weeks and weeks, and they took no prisoners– 406,000 plants destroyed, they said after one campaign, 38 people arrested, 15 weapons seized. The commander of Operation Sweep, Captain Carter, wanted to eliminate big-time growing completely and swore they would do whatever it took, for as long as it took.
They went in with machetes and search warrants, and when they found the plants, they cut ‘em so was maybe one inch of stalk left above the ground. The bigger plants, they took a rope and dragged them out of the ground, like one tug-of-war. They worked quick, since the helicopter was buzzing around overhead, and they were huffing and sweating and panting as they chopped plants and threw them onto a big pile. Then the choppers loaded the plants onto trucks and took them somewhere and burned them with gasoline.
The first time he saw Kathy using it, wasn’t no big deal. But Izzy had a bad feeling about it, just the same. “What’s this?” he said.
“One of the guys at the club gave it to me. I don’t really use it, just tried it couple times.”
“What you doing with this stuff?”
“Gives you energy, keeps you going so no tired. You like try?”
“Naw,” he said. “You sure that’s a good idea?”
“No worry! This guy just gave me some. It’s nice, and…”
“I talk better when I talk with them.”
“Eh, some guys just like it when the girl just sit there and listen, yeah?”
“I feel like one wallflower.”
“Yeah, well, you wrong! I like you fine, just the way you are! No need change nothing, okay?! Throw that stuff away, already!”
Izzy hoped that was the last he’d see of it. Didn’t like Kathy was using this kine chemical stuffs. Didn’t seem right, wasn’t the kine thing people was used to around here.
Usually when she came home she was real tired, tired from a long day of chewing the fat with customers, bringing them drinks and stuff to eat. Come pau hana time, she was tired, just wanted to go bed.
But nowadays she came home and stayed up, cleaned house and still wen’ talk his ear off at breakfast. Wasn’t like her.
“How come you not all tired?” he said.
“Don’t feel like sleeping, thas’ all.”
“Not like you, you know.”
“I dunno. Sometimes I get all charge up– if work too hard, happens sometimes.”
“You not using that stuff?”
You know. Whatevah you was smokin’ before.”
“I said no, yeah?!”
“I’m worry, thas’ all. I no like you hang around with guys who give you that stuff.”
“I’m sorry I even showed it to you! Don’t give me hard time, already! I’m trying hard, you know– we need the money.”
“Need the money? What for? I get money!”
“You no more job, Izzy! You get money, but no more job! What if you get busted? What if someone pull up your plants? How we going pay the rent?”
“I going do something, I dunno. No going starve.”
“What, work McDonald’s?”
“Hey, no make fun! I’m just worried, already. You come home, you act funny, stay up all night, clean house. Never was that way before. Now when you hang around wit’ those creepy guys– ”
“They not creepy! Those are my customers, okay? They never boddah me, always give me tip, no make trouble, okay? I think maybe you make more trouble than those guys, already!”
“All right, never mind! I just like tell you how I feel, thas’ all!”
Her feelings were hurt, but in a way, she was happy he felt that way. Was probably then, too, that Izzy realized how much he loved her. He told her he never thought he’d get serious about nobody, but now was serious about her. He didn’t like it, knowing she was hangin’ round with those guys. But Kathy wanted her own money, and wasn’t sure she was ready for nothing more than this, at last not yet anyhow.
Izzy thought he was dreaming when the knocks came on the door. He dreamed he answered the door. Was Kathy. He let her in, went back to bed. But the knocks were persistent, and pulled him like a fish out of the dream world into the early morning. Someone was knocking at the door, wouldn’t go away.
“Kathy?” He cocked an eye, looked around. “Kathy, someone at the door.”
The knocks continued. He dragged himself out of bed, half-asleep, stumbled out of bedroom.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m coming. Hold on already!”
He froze. Oh shit, he was being busted– at seven o’clock in the morning! His mind raced. Did he have anything in the house?
“Open up please. Police. Homicide.”
What the fuck? What they want with me? He slid the deadbolt open, turned the doorknob.
“What is it?”
“You Israel Wongham?”
“You know one Kathy Hirono?”
His heart leaped into this throat. His mind swam and his world began to dissolve in front of his very eyes, and he hardly heard himself answer.
“Sorry to give you this news, but someone was found about two hours ago, out on Kurtistown Road. Stabbed. We think it’s Miss Hirono. We need you to come identify the body.”
Izzy just couldn’t get that it was her, lying there on a table, stone cold dead, stabbed a dozen times and her poor body left lying by the road. After identifying the body, he went home. Didn’t seem right, but that was all he could do, just go home. That was the worst thing about something like this— you had to just go home, like nothing had happened.
It hit him little bit by little bit, like when she wasn’t there when she should have been. When he got up in the morning, was no Kathy. When supper time came, no Kathy. Or when was time for go store, buy groceries— but for who? Used to be one home, a place where two people laughed and talked story and loved each other and went through all the shit together that life put in the way, and now the place was so empty and quiet, cold like one stone. Izzy had never realized, until she was gone, that he had loved her so much. Was so completely miserable.
The cops nailed some guy who Kathy had left the bar with that night. They had taken a ride out of town a ways and did some drugs– pathology showed the presence of methamphetamines in her blood. Something had gone wrong. Maybe it was attempted rape, or maybe the guy was just mental— he had stabbed her so many times. Or maybe was that goddam fuckin’ ice, Izzy thought.
Izzy had never known grief like this. He was just rocked, and for a long, long time he walked around in a daze– didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, didn’t pay his bills or take care his plants, which eventually disappeared. Didn’t do nothing, just drank. Nobody knew him anymore, and nobody wanted to be around him.
How nice that the police won the war on weed. A way of life had been muscled out… by the syndicate, by cops and their helicopters that sprayed Paraquat, and now by ice.
You couldn’t even get weed no more, or if you could, the price was maybe seven or eight grand a pound. Nobody could afford that, ‘cept those folks who was dealing ice. Now was all junkies and ice fiends. That stuff made people all fucked up. You went for days without sleeping and you got mean, and a lot of people started getting slapped around. The people who used to get high smoking a joint and never boddah nobody were now beating their wives and abusing their kids.
He should have stuck with fishing, Izzy thought. Trained one new fish or something. Wasn’t much money catching fish, but never was this kind shit, either. They just couldn’t leave him alone, it seemed. Whatever he did always seemed to attract people who wanted to ruin things for him– the guy who took his fish, for starters, and now the guy who took his woman… and her life.
Izzy spent a lot of time in bars now, drinking and getting into trouble, like when he wen’ beef with this one guy. The owner called the cops, he wen’ beat him up so bad.
The judge asked him how he supported himself, and concluded he was hanging around with the wrong elements. He sentenced Izzy to 30 days and ordered him to get a job.
He got a job working in a furniture factory. Was the pits, working for money— the money was shit, and was one stupid-ass supervisor, wen’ treat him like one dumb Hawaiian– whatever he did was always something wrong.
But there he made friends with one guy, Elton, and together they cooked up a scheme to rip off one nice koa wood table. In the middle of the night, they went to the furniture factory and Elton let him into the warehouse, tried to make it look like was one burglar wen’ took ‘em. They made off with a koa living room table, worth maybe three grand retail. They took it straight to the swap meet that morning and sold it pretty quick for twelve hundred.
They got caught right away, pretty much. The tire tracks showed one completely bald tire, like Elton’s wagon, then there was the testimony of the gatekeeper at the swap meet who saw them drive in with the table. They both got five years probation and restitution of the retail value of the table.
“What we going do now, brah?” Elton asked.
“I dunno,” Izzy said. “I guess we do what we was going do with the money—go do something. I no like stay here. No sense going home. I dunno.”
“My friend stay Kona,” Elton said. “Get stall for sell puka shell. Never made no money– said he was looking for someone for take over the lease. Said he like come over here, grow some weed. I told him what happened to you.”
“Yeah. Better sell puka shell.”
“So anyway, the guy like get out of the lease, yeah? So I was thinking, maybe can start one other kine business, take over the lease.”
“What kine business?”
“I dunno. Get plenny people like rent snorkel, swim fin, that kine stuff for tourists. Must be can make money, and no need buy lots of stuff for start the business.”
They had five hundred bucks between them. They drove off to Kona for talk to the guy. Was just one small space, selling puka shell necklaces, but there was a phone the guy was going use use for order all kinds of stuff for his customers, but never used almost. Puka shell was hot once, but nobody wanted ‘em no more. Was sick and tired already, the guy. They made one deal, took over the lease.
They called it Ohana Sun Services. Elton sold his wagon, but figured he’d make it back. With the money, they got stuff for sell: some masks, some snorkels, swim fins, suntan lotion, that kine stuff. But business was still punk, and they mostly just hung out all day, bullshitting tourists.
Hilo never got tourists. Too wet, too dull. Just folks who liked it that way. But Kona was different. Almost never rained this side, was sunny almost every day. Was lots of tourist places– restaurants, bars, hotels. Was always music playing, people out walking around at night.
Was strange people, tourists. Strange people from strange places far away. People with strange ideas about this place. Dumb, those people– white boys wearing shark tooth necklaces and white girls with hibiscus in their hair, or maybe some three hundred-pounder from Omaha, wearing sarong. He got so sick of their stupid questions and dumb ideas, he wondered how he’d ever make it in the hospitality industry. He began to act like some kine Elvis movie beach boy, and he got real smart ass, calling out “Aloha!” and “Mahalo!”, like one for real shaka island boy. He felt like some kind of comedian, taking their money and putting on his native boy act.
In the pre-dawn darkness, the construction workers struggled to position a certain rock at the top of a hill overlooking the site of the Grand Waikoloa Resort, now under construction. “Quick, before the sun comes up,” said the woman directing the strange procession. Heaving and grunting, the men pushed the rock into a nest of other boulders, turning it so that it faced east.
Hawaiians used to come here in times of drought to collect water that dripped from the ceiling of the cave. So long as they brought their offerings and placed them on the rock that stood at the entrance to the cave, the water dripped.
Funny things were happening there now. In one case, a man was standing on a flat rock and the rock upended him, threw him like one horse in a rodeo. All of a sudden, just flipped him over. Or they couldn’t budge one other stone that had to be moved. So they dug a hole and let the stone roll inside. Next morning, was there.
They finally called in the woman, a spiritual healer. She said the trouble was that a certain stone was lying on its side, when it wanted to be set upright. So they turned the stone upright, but they got it upside down, and things went from bad to worse. Then she came out again and told them where to put it, because the stone had been covered by rubbish and was offended. And there it stood now, with honoraria of dried ti leaves laid at its foot, and finally the funny stuffs stopped happening.
But that wasn’t the end of the controversy. People were upset that the caves were being filled in. The cave were repositories of old bones, they said. Somewhere along this coast had been buried the bones of King Kamehameha.
The problem, from the developer’s standpoint, was that the lava flats did not provide a shoreline waterway conducive to the “Polynesian experience.” The man-made lagoon that was planned around the golf course would need ten miles of shoreline. Rocks would have to be moved and the shore landscaped with trees so that it would look like what a tropical shoreline in Hawaii should look like. The gnarly lava terrain required extensive modification.
When the New Age had dawned, some people took their harmonic crystals and mystic pyramids and scented candles and themselves into the caves that honeycombed the property. They did things there, put candles on the walls that dripped red wax all over so that it hung like stalactites in places. There was even a dead owl in there that someone had sacrificed.
In one of the caves, they had found bones. Although they were Hawaiian, it was determined that they had been found elsewhere and had been brought to the cave. There bore unmistakable signs of a beach burial— grains of sand found in the skull, and the fact that it was so weathered and bleached.
On the basis of the evidence, the authorities said, this was not a burial cave. They said that the bones were most likely planted there in order to stir up controversy and stop the filling in of the caves. Notwithstanding public outrage, the State Attorney General’s Office ruled that the bones could be re-interred elsewhere, and that construction of Grand Waikoloa could proceed.
To Hawaiians, this was desecration. People was plenty mad. And the more Izzy thought about it, and about all theose damn tourists who made him make a mockery of himself and his own people and their traditions, the madder he got.
The brouhaha over the bones touched a nerve, and inside was something that began to grow and become malign. Izzy knew that things were starting to push him in a different direction, and maybe that’s what he needed. He wanted to sort out how he felt about these things, but for now, all he knew what that it really pissed him off that some piggy-ass developer was doing stuff that wasn’t pono, not right.
Part of the problem, he realized, was that people like him were just too easygoing– they just sat back and let things happen. They didn’t stand up and say no. But a lot of people felt like he did, led around by the nose by people that were even more out of touch than the tourists were— like the feds and their stupid war on weed that had cost Kathy her life. And the State, and all those corrupt politicians, they just let these greedheads ruin the land so they can build their hotels. Was humbug, already.
Izzy got the idea when some tourist came up and plunked down his keys and stuff on the counter of his kiosk. Attached to the keys was a miniature Hawaii license plate that said “Kingdom of Hawaii,” one of those things they sold in the stores that sold t-shirts, twenty bucks for seven, and coffee cups with wacky Hawaiian versions of haole names on them.
He went to a sheet metal shop, told them he wanted some plates. He wanted them to read “Nation of Hawai’i” on the bottom, and “Official” in the center. They were ready in one week. He forked over the money, and mounted them on his truck.
He expected to get arrested, and in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, looked forward to it even. He drove around for a long time with those plates, and got kind of pissed off actually that they wouldn’t pay attention and arrest him. He even went out of his way, parking illegally and not feeding parking meters, but maybe the cops just thought they was consular plates. It took parking the car in a No Parking zone in front of the Kailua Police Station, but he finally succeeded.
Izzy pleaded not guilty to charges of driving an illegally registered vehicle, having no insurance, no plates, no safety check.
“What’s your story?” the judge asked.
“I mean, you got arrested for driving around with phony plates. No registration to match the phony plates. No insurance. Are you trying to prove some kind of point here?”
“Your Honor,” Izzy said, straining to say things right, “this court has no more jurisdiction. I am an official of the Sovereign Nation of Hawaii, which was illegally stolen from Hawaiian people by the United States of America. Those laws is illegal!”
The prosecutor spoke up. “Your Honor, it has been established in similar cases that the defendant has no legal or factual basis for his claim of diplomatic immunity from the laws of the State of Hawaii. Repeated challenges have failed to establish that the Kingdom of Hawaii or any other sovereign form of the state has any of the recognized attributes of a sovereign state.”
“Counsel,” the judge interrupted, “I don’t believe any of this is necessary. As I see it, it’s a straightforward matter of public safety. We don’t need to go any farther than that. Otherwise, we gonna wind up in a big hullaballoo with Mr. Wongham here as some kind of martyr.”
Then he turned to Izzy.
“Mr. Wongham,” the judge continued, “let me put it to you this way: if you operate a motor vehicle on public roads, then you are the subject of a substantial state interest in public safety. Plain and simple.”
“Your Honor, I object!” Izzy declaimed. “What I said was that the laws– any kine laws about the roads or whatevah– is illegal oppression by an illegal occupying power!” It had taken some doing to get that down pat.
“Do you consider me illegal, Mr. Wongham? An outlaw?”
“Well, I no like put ‘em li’ dat, Your Honor.”
“But you’re saying I have no right to exercise judicial authority over you?”
“Mr. Wongham, how is this ‘Sovereign Nation of Hawaii’ constituted?”
“How you mean?”
“I mean, who’s the president– assuming it’s a republic. Or is it a constitutional monarchy, and you’re the king? A Supreme Soviet, maybe? What is it?”
“I don’t know. I know it’s not the United States.”
“Who exactly appointed you… and to what official capacity?”
“You did what? What are you?”
“I’m Israel Wongham. I’m Hawaiian. Thas’ all.”
“So you don’t carry any official credentials… but your license plate says ‘Official.’ Official what?”
“We was going decide that later.”
“I think that leaves us in a legal no-man’s-land, Mr. Wongham. You don’t recognize me. I can’t recognize you… because I don’t know what you are. Typically, when a sovereign nation gets in a bind like that, you gotta go to the U.N., or somebody, to take care of it. Get things straightened out. Otherwise, we got anarchy. You know what that means, Mr. Wongham?”
“That means, if you no more safety check, you one troublemaker. But I don’t think I need the U.N. to help us out on this one. You no more safety check– hundred dollah. No more registration– hundred dollah. No more plates—two hundred dollah. No insurance—five hundred dollah. How much is that altogether? That’s nine hundred dollah, Mr. Wongham. Plus two points.”
“Your Honor, that’s not fair! How can you…”
“Never mind, Mr. Wongham! ‘Cause if you talk back to me, I’m going add thirty days for contempt of court. Case dismissed! And Mr. Wongham… you better pay in U.S. money, you know… dollah bill. I don’t want no puka shell, or something li’ dat. Until you pay, you no more license. And if I catch you driving without one license, or in this phony car of yours, you going jail.”
The judge had made a fool out of him, insulted him even. He felt that at the very least, a prisoner of conscience had the right to his dignity. It was obvious that he had broken the law, but he done so for a reason, and to make a point. But the judge didn’t care about the point he was trying to make. He just wanted to make a fool out of him.
Business was slow for Leland Armistead. This was his second year selling lots in Volcano View Acres, a planned development in south Kona. There were no utilities or streets as yet, just raw land created from the flows of the 1853 eruption and eroded into a semi-habitable environment. He worked out of the developer’s office in Kona, beguiling whoever answered into listening. He seemed so cultured, sounded so smooth.
A subject of ongoing mirth with his colleagues was Leland’s relationship with “Mother Pearl,” a foolish old woman with gray hair dyed blonde, long in the tooth–dentures, actually, the removal of which, Leland said, facilitated superior oral sex. He preferred older women; the merits of geriatric amours were many. The older woman was so grateful, so avid in giving vent to passions long pent-up. Older women had experience. They had money. And there was this element of maternal solicitude.
Leland had lured Mother Pearl to a dog-and-pony show at the Kona Hilton, with wine and cheese and a slide-show of the fabulous growth opportunities available in Big Island subdivision developments. Mother Pearl wasn’t wealthy, wasn’t much of an investor. She lived in a pleasant but modest one-bedroom condo in Kona with her cat, and had never invested in anything apart from certificates of deposit at the West Hawaii Savings and Loan. Her deceased husband had never explained investments to her, but she knew he always bought real estate. It was like money in the bank, he said. So she bought a parcel from Leland. And in time, several more. As the majority landholder in the development, the subdivision became “Pearly Gates”, in her honor.
But this year’s eruption had put an end to Leland’s lucrative affair with Mother Pearl, as flows from the Pu’u O’o vent coursed through the scrublands and papaya orchards of Puna, and spilled onto Volcano View Estates, burying it beneath forty-eleven million cubic yards of steaming a’a.
Looking for a new game, Leland took up the cause of “Liberty Partners,” a tax shelter that he flogged to business owners that he dug up out of the Hawaii Business Directory.
Leland sat in his office working his list. He had gotten halfway through the Big Island section, with indifferent results, when he came across the listing for Ohana Sun Services, identifying Israel Wongham and Elton Wiggins as owners.
The phone rang at Izzy’s stand. “Good afternoon, Mr. Wongham. My name is Leland Ashworth Armistead. I’m an investment adviser specializing in tax-advantaged investment opportunities for business owners. How are you today?”
“What’s this?” Izzy said. “You selling somet’ing?”
“Not in the sense that you need to buy anything, Mr. Wongham.”
“How can sell if no one buys?” Izzy said. He didn’t have no money, wasn’t no use talking to him about investments. But curious, he listened.
Liberty Partners required no investment. The investment was funded by income tax refunds generated from 1099s that the investor would issue to federal officials. It was simply re-claiming tax money that people paid all the time.
The investment packet arrived by FedEx. Izzy opened it up, finding a set of glossy color brochures and a thick prospectus and a booklet that carefully explained the legal basis for the program and exactly how it worked.
There was a cover letter that addressed him as a fellow American, in the original sense of the term– from the days when Americans stood for justice, before the onerous income tax was enacted into law in 1913. It was a system of taxation that funded injustice and the military-industrial complex. It paid no attention to the ordinary citizen, yet it demanded much of his income to support itself.
The Liberty Account was established on the principle of reciprocity, that each citizen as a taxable entity was also a taxing authority entitled to reclaim taxes that had been illegally assessed by illegally-vested taxing authorities. The IRS would process the investor’s 1099s and pay the tax refunds immediately, as they always did, and if they wanted to dispute it later in Tax Court, Liberty Account attorneys would quote chapter and verse from the Tax Code in its defense. There were supporting opinions from Big Eight accounting firms and major law firms headquartered in New York to confirm that it all complied with relevant provisions of the United States Tax Code. Refunds would be paid into a confidential escrow account, which would then pay out 60% to the investor, and the other 40% to Liberty’s numbered account in the Grand Cayman Islands. Best of all, Izzy didn’t need to invest a dime.
Izzy wasn’t sure he understood how it all worked, but the letter said the guy was going follow up, and they could talk then.
Leland called. He carefully explained things and walked him through everything that he had to do– the disclaimers that he would have to get signed and notarized, the forms he would need to complete to establish the escrow account, along with the authorization to disburse consultant fees to the Cayman Islands account.
Haole people knew about money. Izzy didn’t know or care how they knew, but it sure seemed like some clever haole had found one big loophole in the tax law, and as Leland said, it would take a lot of doing and a lot of time, and an Act of Congress, to change it. Well, good for them, because Izzy was up to here with all these damned rules and the people that made the rules– all of them white people and Hawaiians who acted like white people, like Governor Waihe’e. But Hawaiians still had to pay their damn taxes, didn’t they? And what benefit did they derive from the taxes they paid? Nothing but the heavy-handed and illegal tyranny of the government of the United States, and of its proxy, the State of Hawaii, he now realized.
Izzy filled out the forms, identifying himself as citizen of the sovereign Nation of Hawai’i. Leland even took care of the notary. That was the main concern with Izzy— the notary fee.
At Grand Waikoloa Resort, now finished and ready to open, the jets of the 60-foot fountains in the two-acre reflecting pond opened up to the strains of the Kamehameha Waltz. A herd of white stone horses reared their heads from the reflecting pool, where white marble swans and sculpted fish spouted water.
Even the fifteen hundred in child support wasn’t enough, and Haunani began to scan the Help Wanteds. But was no more jobs Big Island, and she wondered if she made a mistake in coming back. But now, there was news in the paper that Waikoloa was ready to hire. There was talk that since the resort catered to the upper crust, with rooms going for $350 a night on up, the pay ought to be pretty good, and tips a gold mine.
She called, and housekeeping was hiring, at $6.50 an hour. That kine money was not even enough for pay rent, which meant that for the foreseeable future, she and Isaac would continue to live at the store in Hi’ilawe with her dad and mom. Was the same old story. They paid whatever the market would bear. With the Big Island economy in the tank, unemployment was high and a lot of people scraped by working part-time for the hotels or car rental agencies at the airport or at the Cornet Store in Hilo, or maybe they grew papayas or oranges or pakalolo.
She applied just the same.
Haunani and the other 1,300 employees of the resort were drilled in extensive role-playing, and underwent a one-week indoctrination to immerse themselves in etiquette. They were trained to wear a smile under the most distressing circumstances. The men had to cut their hair real close and trim their facial hair, and the women couldn’t wear earrings or perfume, and there were a thousand other things that people couldn’t do.
The men apprenticed as butlers, under a master butler from London. Trussed up in cummerbunds, they cut peculiar figures as they uncorked wine and offered advice on vintages. But wasn’t much could be done about their English in most cases. Doormen stood attentively, dressed in gleaming whites with scrambled eggs on their shoulderboards, bellmen in crisp khakis, and parking attendants in blue shorts with British bobby bear fur hats out there in the sweltering asphalt parking lots with their shorts and knee socks, and there were other outfits for bartenders and waiters, front office people, and housekeeping and all the rest.
As Haunani was learning how to support the mission statement of Grand Waikoloa Resort, Izzy was plotting to subvert it. Elton thought it was dumb, but told him do what you like anyway. They argued and Elton got pretty mad, who was going run the business while he was off doing whateva? “What business?!” Izzy said. So much for Hawaiian solidarity. Fuck the guy.
He pulled up in the beach parking lot in his old truck and unloaded all his stuff– attitude, most of all. He went to work beneath a brace of palms nearby, setting up plywood and bamboo folding facades, topping them off with thatch fringe, and setting out for display his dive masks and fins, beach umbrellas, sand chairs, rafts, woven hats and carved bowls, canned soda and juices, suntan lotion, and a cooler full of sandwiches and beer.
Izzy posted signs on his rental stand that said “Please Don’t Visit Hawai’i” and “Our Aloha Is Not For Sale.” He was determined to educate visitors about how tourism was exploiting his people, his land and its resources, and prostituting their culture. It led to evils like crime and overcrowding, and to people being displaced from their homes. Hawaiians had become homeless in their own home, his signs said.
Then he pulled up a folding chair and popped himself a beer.
Not too many people payed attention, though. Tourists continued to bake in the warm sun as they leisurely flipped through lotion-stained pages of thick paperback novels. Card players continued playing at felt-covered tables under shady arbors, and kids tried to surf on little styrofoam surfboards that their parents had bought from the shop in the lobby.
Soon a security guard noticed him and called in on his walkie-talkie. Then a group of them came riding up on their Cushmans to talk with him. “What you doing here?” they demanded to know.
“This is a protest against the occupation of our Hawaiian lands,” Izzy said.
“How you figgah? This is private property. You cannot do stuff like this.”
“This is sacred lands!” Izzy said. “This the land where my ancestors used to live! This where they buried– the bones was in the caves over here that was filled up!”
They told him to pick up his things and leave. Izzy refused, and in due course, the police arrived. “According to the law, you are trespassing,” the officer informed him. “This is private property, and the owner has made a complaint that you wen’ come over here and make trouble. You got permit for this stuff?”
“I don’t need no permit!” Izzy said. “These people need permit– from me! From my people! From Hawaiian people! They never ask us! They never ask permission for dig up this place, for dig up the remains of our ancestors!”
“They got permission,” the policeman said. “They did everything according to the law. They own this property. And you’re here without the permission of the owner of the property. He says you gotta get off.”
“I ain’t going nowheres! This our land! If nobody going speak up for what’s right, then I’m going say it! This our land! Those people trespassing!”
“Then let me see some ID. Driver’s license.”
“I no more nothing!” Izzy said, disdaining to show them the driver’s license that identified him as a subject of the state of Hawaii. “I left my wallet at home.”
“How’d you get all this stuff down here? Is this your car? You driving without a license?”
“No, I get. I wen’ leave ‘em at home.”
“If no more permit, no more driver’s license… then we going take you stuff, and you truck, into town. We going take everything down to Kailua Police Station. Then you bring you license, and you can go talk to the judge for get ‘em back!”
“You cannot take my stuff! You’re Hawaiian, too! They took your land, and now you going take my stuff— our Hawaiian stuff! Whassa mattah you?! How can you do this to your own people?!”
“That’s the law, braddah. If you no like ‘em, you go change ‘em. I’m just doing my job. And if you change the law, I’ll be here to enforce that law too. Meanwhile, I’m going give you one citation, for driving without a license. And I’m going have your truck towed to Kailua Station. And I’ll give you a receipt, for confiscated goods. You can claim ‘em when you show up at the station.”
“Then you go ahead and take it! Go ahead! I no care! I’m leaving! But I’m coming back, I promise you that!”
”Okay. But next time they call me, I’m going take you in too.”
There he was, no truck, no business, no money. Dejected, Izzy wondered if this wasn’t a fatal blow to the movement. He wondered what he had accomplished, apart from shooting himself in the foot. And with the rent due two weeks ago– what’s the point already? Nobody gave him a chance for say nothing, they just added insult to injury, took away what little he had and made a fool out of him in the bargain.
He tried to cadge a ride on the hotel shuttle, but when they asked him if he was a registered guest here, he got into a beef with the driver, one Hawaiian guy, too. With no ride nowheres, he called Kaipo, who came all that ways from Hi’ilawe, then drove him back to the shithole apartment he shared with Elton so Izzy could get his license, then to Kailua Police Department for get his truck and his stuff back. Afterwards, Izzy returned to the apartment, where he gathered his stuff and cleared out and headed to Hi’ilawe.
Nothing about the store in Hi’ilawe had changed. There were hands of apple bananas, with lots of blemishes, strung up on wire above the chipped enamel scale on the front counter. There were jars of red and pink anthuriums, and little cutaway milk cartons of dendrobium orchids, and papayas were laid out like eggs in a carton. A dusty glass cabinet held coconut pies and plastic-wrapped paper plates piled with Chinese roast pork. Up on top of the back counter was an assortment of dusty Oriental vases and small lacquer tables, and on the floor were stacked cases of Primo Beer.
Not that the store was much to behold in its younger days, but years had gone by, and the red-painted weatherboard had faded, and the beams and the planks of the shack had bleached and become white. It had the feel of home, like an old slipper. Many days had been spent on the lanai, listening to the rain hammer down on the corrugated tin roof, talking story. The front of the lanai was overgrown with distended yellow hibiscus shrubs amongst spider lily plants, and a few coconut palms grew at angles to each other. There were two simple wooden benches and an old barber’s chair that sat on the verandah. Hi’ilawe’s last and only barber Chang had given that chair to Kaipo when he retired. Now if you wanted your hair cut, you had to go down the road to Honokaa. Humbug already. Most folks cut ‘em themselves.
It was good to be home.
A lot of retired plantation workers came by during the day. They were always sitting or standing around in their porkpie or frayed Panama hats. Everyone had a hat, and everyone wore cheap ill-fitting clothes or a not too clean t-shirt with a breast pocket that always held a pack of Kools. Uncle Herman wore an old vest with satin backing and waist pockets with tortoiseshell buttons. That was the extent of dressing up around here.
A warped and faded Drink Hilo Soda sign swung in the breeze. It never did attract much business for Hilo Soda, Kaipo thought. Most of his customers came to drink coffee and talk story. Plus, it was hard to make out the word “Drink.” Maybe that’s why. The only other sign was out back by the loading dock to the shed: a pockmarked tin shingle that said “Hilo Strained Poi Sold Here.” Out back was where Izzy used to manhandle those big burlap sacks of taro corms the Chinese farmers brought in— wen’ wash the muddy corms, wen’ scrub ‘em down real good with wire brush and boil ‘em up in big basins. Then the hard work started. He had to take that big wooden paddle and mash ‘em up and knead the stuff over and over again with the metal hook until was nice and smooth. Wasn’t no Hilo Strained Poi. Was Izzy’s poi.
Making poi was hard work, and you couldn’t get good help no more in the valley from young people. Was no more kids nowadays. Used to be, gaggles of young girls came by after school was out and dickered with Kaipo over the price of sweets, and he always came out the worse in the negotiations. Still, he enjoyed making them bargain hard for it.
“I don’t know how much longer you going have a place to come home to,” Kaipo said.
“What you mean?” Izzy said.
“Masa told me he thinks they going close the plantation next year.”
“For real! How can? This place been here forever!”
“Everybody know the lease was going run out,” Kaipo said. “And the courts just told Mission Estate they gotta sell their land. Problem is, they going take my land, and I’m not going be paid nothing.”
“What you mean!” Izzy said. “This your place– how can take ‘em and not pay?!”
“I never own this place, you know. Just rent ‘em, from way back when. And you can’t exactly call this place an improvement.”
Was no fair. Kaipo was going to lose his land, his store, everything— and no compensation. Was humbug, already. Kaipo and Herman and Izzy sat on the lanai and talked, smoking cigarettes and talking quietly as the hurricane lamp hissed softly.
Kaipo had marked thirty-three years as the proprietor of the Squattersville Store. There had been no reason to think that anything would change, no reason to think he wouldn’t just go on renting his little lot from the plantation and selling rice, vegetables, poi, and cigarettes and beer to people hereabouts. Like everyone, he thought sugar would never go under.
If the plantation was going close, would be just a bunch of guys sitting around on social security, nothing to do. Wouldn’t be like old times, when everyone got together Saturday nights, brought beer and poki, and came over for eat udon and coconut pie at the store. None of that would happen.
For now, the guys from the plantation still came to talk story and drink coffee and eat udon and coconut pie, but you could see they was worried, was thinking about all those years cutting cane and clearing the fields with cane fires in the night.
Was hard work for low pay, but the company had always made sure you had a home where your kids could play in the street with the other kids, and pick up mangoes that dropped in the road and throw them at people. Now they sat around the beat-up old red formica tables talking about a future that seemed to have no room for them. People said they saw it coming years ago, but few believed it would actually happen. The company had provided for everything. They were born in the plantation clinic, and the old people were buried in the plantation cemetery. And everything in between, for three generations, had been provided to them.
Kaipo never even thought about the land. Wasn’t worth nothing, was just sandy scrub with guava bushes. That’s why they just gave it to him, sort of, even though they wen’ charge him ninety bucks for the old coffee bean shack and a monthly rent that never went up much over the years. It was just land they didn’t need, not good for much of anything.
“So what you going do?” Izzy said. “Just go? Where you going? What you going do?”
What would he do anyhow?
“I dunno,” Kaipo said. “Maybe come one security guard or something.”
Hideo would come to Hawaii well prepared. In addition to the backhanded $10 million bribe from Ito, the terms of the deal were generous: he would get a finder’s fee of 15% of whatever price was paid to acquire the property they were hoping to find. He was given the name of a real estate agent who would help him buy a home. He was also given the name of an attorney who not only spoke excellent Japanese but was very well-connected politically, and who knew all the big names in Hawaii real estate on a first-name basis. He would arrange for a shell company that would transact the property acquisitions for Golden Bear Golf, and Hideo would be chairman and chief executive officer, like Ito.
Upon arrival, they were met by the real estate agent, a woman named Chizuru who specialized in assisting wealthy Japanese clients to buy expensive homes. She escorted them to their suite at the Hyatt Waikiki, and arranged to meet them for dinner that night at Don the Beachcomber. She would ensure that Mr. Hamamoto’s every need was attended to.
Hideo and Gamera emerged from the hotel and strolled down Kalakaua Avenue for a visit to the stores before dinner with Chizuru. Huge, misshapen women from the Mid-West and their sclerotic, dilapidated men lumbered along like dinosaurs in a Paleozoic fern forest, past tacky stalls that sold t-shirts, costume jewelry, spools of gold chains, crystal ornaments, gaudy candles, lurid crepe leis, lacquered clocks, and prints of whale art.
All the shop signs proclaimed their welcome in Japanese, and everywhere there were signs in Japanese, ads in Japanese, and hawkers yammering at them in Japanese. Korean shopkeepers dragged on cigarettes and squinted out from behind racks of beach towels and t-shirts, on the lookout for Japanese, and lunged after them like attack geese. Everywhere was swarming with Japanese: Gucci and Vuitton and Chanel and a hundred other upmarket emporia. They all bought the same things: Coach handbags, Hermes scarfs, Van Cleef and Arpels jewelry, Le Musts de Cartier, watches by Tag Heuer and Chopard and Blancpain and Raymond Weil and Aldemars Piguet of Geneve, Callaway Big Bertha golf clubs, Swiss Army sunglasses, fashions by Fendi, Nina Ricci, Philippe Charrion, Etro Milano, and Christian Dior, along with Dunhill lighters, Burberry coats, shoes from Bally and Bruno Magli, and luggage crafted in the United Colors of Benetton to take home and carry along on the grim streets of Yokohama as emblems of their vacation in Hawaii.
They decided to have a look in Guy Flournoy, where there were never any sales. The prices were engraved very simply on little brass plates that reposed in front of the merchandise. This sumptuous building of oyster shell exterior, sapphire blue tiles, baroque faux gas lamps reminiscent of Belle Epoque Paree, wrought iron Chinese key design railings, and patinaed copper guttering, thronged with Japanese with satchels full of cheap dollars milling about before its bronze-mirrored walls, white oak woodwork, and polished brass. They mused over niches which housed a 1923 dressing case that once belonged to the pianist Paderewski, a wardrobe trunk of actor Rory Calhoun’s, and assorted bouteilles, flacons, pharmacie, and bijoux redolent of Euro-trashy nobility. Even when Hideo insisted on the $3,000 handbag for her, Gamera refused, unable to shake the memory of their lifelong privations.
They arrived for their meeting with Chizuru at Don the Beachcomber, a grass shack-themed restaurant on Kalakaua Avenue that was famous for its throbbing drums and the whirling torches of its pagan dance troupe, its lavish luaus lit by guttering kerosene torches. Sarongs, flower leis, grass skirts, and tattered pants added picturesque flavor, and strolling minstrels plucked their ukuleles as water gurgled through the fountain near the cash register. So this was Hawaii, Hideo thought.
A waitress dressed as a hula siren led them to their table. Chizuru began by saying it was a great honor to serve Japanese clients. She knew that Japanese did business on the basis of trust; their sense of obligation was very highly developed. She appreciated Japanese sensitivities and tastes. An ardent admirer of everything Japanese, she specialized in helping her clients navigate the incomprehensible abyss of cross-cultural transactions. She knew which properties were right for Japanese tastes and what prices were reasonable.
“Japanese people are very welcome here in Hawaii,” she said. “They own the nicest properties in the best neighborhoods, and people agree they are very good neighbors. Many of your neighbors will be Japanese, as well!”
Hideo drank as she nattered on, steadily becoming swollen and scarlet on low-octane drinks littered with umbrellas and pineapple spears. Gazing at the blonde waitress, his thoughts wandered, and he lost track of whatever this woman was saying. He concealed his contempt for her, for and her lowly profession, thinking how preposterous it was that she regarded herself as Japanese. She was a third-generation emigrant, disowned by her parent country and beneath its contempt. Anyway, he really didn’t much care for the cultural sensitivities of these brown island people and their traditions, and he was glad to let Gamera decide where they would live.
His meeting later that week with the attorney, Wendell Fujiyama, was a welcome change from all the bother of finding a home. They discussed the background of Japanese investment in Hawaii, which had reached a feverish pitch and was beginning to arouse a great deal of consternation in the community. There had been a number of unsavory controversies involving certain Japanese buyers, Fujiyama explained, and some big shots had even been deported.
He counseled Hideo that the best way for him to invest in Hawaii real estate was for his shell company, Kinki-Hawaii Venture Partners, to invest as a joint venture partner. That made sense, Hideo thought, since it would place all the hard work as well as the onus of public exposure on the shoulders of his partner. All that he would have to do was put up the money and sit back and watch.
Did Mr. Fujiyama have anyone in mind as a possible partner? As a matter of fact he did.
Here was a sugar daddy made to order, Bagwell thought. Made to realize at last that financing a resort with the banks was no longer an option, he was happy to make do with whichever fat cat Fujiyama was prepared to bring to the table.
Mr. Hamamoto would like to support a golf resort development, Bagwell was told. The resort would be an exclusive one, catering to a wealthy international clientele and former presidents and such-like that Bagwell could collar, a private getaway for the golfing elite, a precious few manicured acres in some pristine, jewel-like setting. They would, of course, rely upon Mr. Bagwell’s knowledge of the islands to advise them as to the possibilities.
Well, hell’s bells! Bagwell thought. He knew just the place! At their meeting at Fujiyama’s office, he described what he had seen in H’ilawe. Fujiyama and Hideo listened, and he knew he had them. Ito would salivate over the prospect of bagging a trophy like this, Hideo knew, even bigger, potentially, than the one Big Boss Kinoshita had snared at La Jolla. And the potential did not depend upon money, for Ito could get tons of the stuff from the banks back in Japan, since the bankers played at his course.
With the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that would at last force the Mission Estate to sell off its holdings, Bagwell smiled, knowing that old futs like Shimada in his watercress patch could no longer go running off to Humphrey Merkin anymore and hide under his skirts and thumb their noses at him. Shit, that still galled him… growing his goddamned watercress in the middle of his mall!
Best thing was, it seemed to Izzy that he had nothing to lose. Pretty soon the store was going close, and between them, Izzy and Kaipo and Lani and Haunani and Isaac and Herman still had no idea where they was going go. Nobody wanted to go live Kona. Hilo, maybe.
But then there were the abandoned Coast Guard cottages at Upolu Point, and he thought, why not? They had been there forever now, long after the lighthouse had been shut down. Izzy got to thinking, then he got into his truck and drove out to Upolu to have a look.
The houses, surrounded by cactus and brush, commanded a striking view of the ocean. The Coast Guard had abandoned them in 1974 when an automated lighthouse was built to replace the old one, and round-the-clock operators were no longer needed. They were in pretty bad shape, with holes in the walls, wires dangling from the roofs, and walls covered with graffiti. The toilets and the sinks had been pulled from the bathrooms, and the windows had no screens to keep out the flies that buzzed everywhere.
But it would be a roof over his head. If he had to fix the place up a little, at least he knew how to provide for himself, how to fish, how to make salt, how to make poi. Maybe he could grow some taro and some sweet potatoes, and maybe he could get the others to move in, start one homestead maybe.
Maybe that was the idea, to show Hawaiians how to go back to the land, live off the land and the sea, live healthy lives and work hard doing things Hawaiians had done for thousands of years. Give them a reason to hold their heads up instead of being all shame about waiting on tourists and making fools out of themselves.
Herman would come, for sure, and bring stuff in the old Buick. Maybe later he could get Haunani and Isaac to come too–didn’t know about his mom and dad, though. But that would be enough to get something going. Herman was always up for an adventure, and Haunani hated the long commute in that old truck, and Upolu was closer to work than H’ilawe. They would tell others, and word would get around.
Izzy bought fishing line, some water buckets, a charcoal grill, some beer and groceries and shoyu and rice, then went to the garden shop and bought sweet potato and taro keiki, seeds, and a few tools.
During their first night there, Izzy and Herman slept under a tarp they strung up on a couple of poles outside, beneath the stars. That first night, they ate pork chops, cooked with beans and stewed tomatoes in a foil basket over a kettle drum filled with coals and topped with a grate, along with sourdough rolls and slices of raw onion. They polished off the beer, then shared a pint of cheap bourbon that tasted like the tang of the salt air and seaweed.
“It’s funny,” Izzy said.
“No more nothing out here. No more electricity, no more furniture– just the ocean and the stars and… that’s all. But I feel good, Herman.”
“Especially if get some more beer, maybe some poki…” Herman added.
“Make your own,” Izzy said. “Get fish. Get limu. Get rock salt. Get everything right here. But I agree, we need some more beer. Shit, that’s one long drive, though.”
“Know what you mean,” Herman said. “But the rent’s right, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Izzy said. “Should never have to pay rent. This our land– or was, long time ago. Was, for thousand years before that. It’s not right… we cannot live on our own land— ‘cause no can afford! But try look!” he said, with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, “The beach still here. The fish still here. If you look around, looks the same like always. Makes you think nothing changed.”
“But then somebody going come around for tell you what the law says,” Herman said.
“So who’s the law? We been here for thousand years.” Izzy said.
“Our word against his. Buggah the law! God wen’ give us this land, and the water that come from the sky, come from the mountains. We get right for catch fish, grow taro. Those other people— they get law… but no more right.”
They sat and talked by the light of an old lantern, its casing battered and its glass cracked and smudged. Was nice and soft, the light, like moonlight. Izzy had stuck his fishing pole in the sand, its line fed out into the bay where orange menpachi and palani came and went. The water, alive during daytime with the clicking and popping of shrimps, was quiet. When the soft crunching of coral by the parrotfish ceased, the big predators– the ulua, the snappers, the reef sharks– came out on evening patrol.
Those ulua were especially cunning, hovering behind the whitewater curtain of surf breaking in the twilight that made them invisible to their prey. Hard to catch, those ulua. But if can catch, was so ono, cooked over charcoal. Sure was better than can tuna at buck eighty-nine for small can, and can tuna was such a waste of good ahi. Even potatoes at dollah thirty-nine a pound were expensive, and poi was hard to find at any price. Nowadays, if you could find it, poi came in little eight-ounce bags, at five bucks a bag, hardly enough for a taste– nothing like the four or five pounds a day people used to eat in the old days. And the fish was usually can tuna or salmon or mackerel. Could hardly catch fish no more, and nowadays, Hawaiians seldom ate any of the things that had sustained them for thousands for years.
Was so much injury and alienation and sickness to heal, Izzy thought. But all their troubles could disappear, vanish when no need worry about pay rent to some piggy-ass landlord. Sickness was going disappear, too, when you ate good Hawaiian food– lots of poi with good Hawaiian salt, sweet potato, crunchy red limu and ahi and ono freshwater shrimps, pork fresh from the imu, and no more junk food that wen’ rot your teeth and make you sick and rot your soul too.
Word got around, slowly at first: a new nation had been established at Upolu Point. Their numbers grew from several to dozens, and there were women and children. They all set to work fixing up the old cottages, and some brought in their old furniture along with coolers filled with ice and beer and bags of groceries, even though the store was such a long ways away. Their junky old cars sat around the cottages like an encircling wagon train.
Throughout the village, a replica of a flag once used by King Kalakaua was draped upside-down, in a symbol of distress, over the settlement’s entrance. Below the flag, a large banner as blue as the ocean read: “Nation of Hawai’i, Independent and Sovereign.”
The Nation’s kapakahi layout disguised its organizing principle. The compound bustled with activity as carpenters sawed planks for benches from lumber they cockroached from dumpsters at construction sites. Others prepared meals beneath blue plastic tarps that served as centers for public information, cooking, resting, sleeping, storage, recreation and meetings.
Izzy checked into the main tent, where he planned to discuss the draft of the constitution of the newly-constituted Nation of Hawai’i. He returned the greetings from the others, and kids called him uncle.
“I like remind everyone here,” he began, “that this is not some campsite. This is our estate, like any other rich man’s estate.” His claim to the land stemmed from his family’s ties to Chief Keau’umiki Hanahou, he said, who was High Chief and original owner of the Hamakua lands, by way of a grant from King Kamehameha III.
“We going file one deed,” Izzy said. “We going claim this land and… what can you say, we just coming home, thas’ all!” Applause and cheers rang out from those gathered round. Izzy envisioned the day when his people could return to land that had been stolen from them. They would reclaim the beaches and let Hawaiians fish and make salt and grow what they wanted on their own land, grow taro and re-stock the old fishponds. They would revive the Hawaiian language, make the kids study it, revive the old traditions of art and dance, and let the kupuna elders rule the community.
They would live a life that would serve as an example for the rest of the world, show people that being greedy and raping the land was not necessary for happiness, that prosperity and growth came from within. They would show the world the true meaning of aloha, that it wasn’t the bullshit aloha of the hospitality “industry.” They would show the world that what God had given man, the sea and the land and the sky and the sun, nobody could own. It was there for all to share.
Things went well so long as the water flowed at the nearby beach park. They brought water in with buckets and plastic shoyu containers, basins and inflatable plastic pools, and the taro keiki and sweet potato vines thrived.
Something primal stirred in their breasts as they mucked about in the taro, its great heart-shaped leaves nodding affectionately to their keepers. The people recognized it as a long-lost very dear friend. They lumped together the dusty hummocks of sweet potatoes and held the runner vines in their fingers and watched the nodding taro leaves with a sense of wonder as the surf murmured and the heady saltwater breeze coursed through their tents and rude shelters.
What a joy it was to live without responsibility, without laws or ordinances, without bills or rent to pay! It was all so madcap, and nobody paid attention as so long as the clear cool water gushed and the taro flourished in this unlikely setting, and people rinsed in the showers and the toilets flushed merrily away in the bathrooms at Upolu Point Beach Park.
The meter reader thought it must have been a mistake. The bill showed that water usage had gone from 4,200 gallons a month to over 37,300. He called his supervisor, and asked him to check to see if there was some mistake. No, was no mistake. The supervisor asked the manager to send someone to check the site. Must be a broken main, something wrong with the plumbing.
Several days later, the Water Department called the county. They had sent an inspector out to Upolu Beach Park, and he had reported that a small tent city had gone up out there. People were using the toilets at the beach park round the clock, and taking showers too. They were carrying water away in buckets and inflatable swimming pools and containers of all kinds, taking it up the road to where they had their tents at the old Coast Guard compound, and they were using it to cook and to irrigate a taro patch and some sweet potatoes they were growing.
The county had run up a water bill for more than $7,000. The manager and the supervisor came, and that was just one big pissing contest with Izzy and the Nation of Hawai’i. Then they came back with the cops.
But the settlers stood up to the cops and got away with it, for now anyway, since someone had called the media, and now it was a circus. There were more reporters and camera crew than anyone else at first, but then after just couple nights on the news, people came from all around, and by and by was too many for the cops to handle. Miffed at the misappropriation of its water and at the inability of the police to resolve the situation, the county cut off the water. The mayor not only had the water turned off, but the water lines plugged and the toilets in the beach park boarded up.
The movement was thrown into crisis. Undeterred, Izzy rose to the challenge. “Eh, we don’t care what some damn bureaucrat has to say about it!” he said. “This is our land, our water! They got no right for charge Hawaiian people for what is ours! This our birthright! If they like charge haoles for water, that’s okay with me. They need plenty water for their golf course!”
Was hard to grow taro in ground that had dried up and cracked beneath the relentless sun. Now that the county had cut off the water supply, people had to drive twelve miles up to the next beach park with their buckets and trash containers lined with plastic bags to bring water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. But it wasn’t nearly enough for the taro, which grew yellow and droopy. No matter how much water they brought in, in gasoline cans, biscuit tins, pots and pans, it was not enough to keep it alive. The parched earth instantly swallowed up the water and begged for more, and steadily the plants wilted. The brassy sun beat down on the sprawl of tents and plywood and what was supposed to have been the Healing Center, and the glare lay thickly on the beach. Izzy bent down to touch a taro leaf that was turning brown. “This place could have been filled with taro,” Izzy said sadly. “Was coming along so good.”
The state threatened eviction. But things were at a sensitive juncture, politically. John Waihe’e was running for re-election and these were his own people. If the Nation could rally more support and bring more people, it could become a real embarrassment, and might cost him what was predicted to be a close election. This was the opportune moment.
Izzy proposed that they distribute flyers to passing motorists. He and Herman and a few others carried their signs and stood along the lonely stretch of highway that led from Upolu to Kawaiahae. There wasn’t much traffic, just a few people from around here, ranch hands and papaya farmers, as well as the occasional tourist couple that had probably taken the wrong turn and gotten lost.
The hours went by with nothing more than the occasional car, and they grew excited when at last someone blundered into their barricade. The tourists sat inside their car, looking nervously out at the signs being waved in their faces by all these angry faces. They rolled down their windows a crack and listened to Izzy’s harangue.
“When you folks go back to the mainland,” he said, “you tell you friends, don’t come to Hawaii, okay? We got nothing against you folks, but we never boddah you in your home, right? We never go look at you, ask you smile for take picture, say aloooooha! Nobody ask you to dance and bang drums, yeah? So you go tell ‘em, our aloha is not for sale!”
He gave them a leaflet that said, “Notice is hereby given…” It was addressed to all Big Island residents, guests of residents, tourists, companies, government agents, the police, and the military. It announced that as of noon the next day, the citizens of the Sovereign Kingdom of Hawai’i was going block all roads leading to Upolu Point, and that all the land from Upolu Point all the way up the Hamakua coast, from the mountain top to the sea and three miles beyond, was claimed by the Nation, in the name of its ancestors, as its sovereign territory. Then he shouted “aloha!” and let them proceed.
But it was slow going. By and by, was no more cars, and the protesters grew hot and tired. Someone brought beer in a cooler, a fair amount of it was drunk, and some grew rowdy and shouted at the tourists what sounded more like drunken invective than any doctrine or dogma of the Nation.
It was a losing battle. The skies brought no rain. Was nothing but sun-baked lava flats around here, and every day, week after week, the sun broiled in a clear blue sky. Hardly a cloud crossed the sun to provide even a moment’s shade. The street protest came an end, as people just gave up and went back to their encampment and the meager shade of clapped-out cottage awnings.
When the county cut off the water, it was just a matter of time. For without water, nothing would last for long. Day after day went by with no rain. The heat and the glare parched the land, and the taro and the sweet potatoes all died. A few continued their valiant efforts to truck in water from far away, but it was a losing battle. The community could not sustain itself without water.
In time, only a diehard handful remained, surviving mostly on bottled water, soda, and beer. They bathed in the ocean, and relieved themselves on the beach. Some people stepped in shit that had been only lightly covered with sand. There was no water for cooking, and they ate out of cans, or brought in plate lunches from miles and miles away. They were determined to tough it out, were resolved to stay here forever like this, if need be.
“This is it,” Izzy said. “Even if they going come in and bulldoze, then let ‘em come. We put all our faith in our gods and our kupuna. I not worried about their threats. We here to stay, and nothing going change that if that’s not what the ancestors want.”
Sure enough, the task force moved in… with bulldozers, police dogs, and several jeeploads of beefcakes packing .45s and radios. They cordoned off the area with yellow crime scene tape, hung “Restricted Area” signs on the trees, then blocked off all access to the beach. On the sand were the remains of the Sovereign Nation of Hawaii– piles of peeling particleboard furniture, trash bags full of dirty laundry and flea-infested bedding, pails full of fish hooks, lures and weights, billows of nylon fishnet, a guitar with broken strings.
The bulldozers smashed into their shacks, plowing plywood, an old car seat, some aluminum chairs and a cheap oil of a lakeside scene somewhere in the Canadian Rockies into the keawe brush. Then they turned their wrath upon a battered van that had served as a bedroom and whose occupants had been served with the three old eviction notices glued to its windshield. The bulldozer plowed into it, and turned it over and over until its windshield collapsed and its rusted roof folded like an accordion.
Izzy and the last of the settlers were arrested at dawn, as soon as they finished the awa ceremony. Wearing red kihei, they stood next to an altar at the beach, while the rest moved off to a crude heiau that they had built the weekend before. The traditional cleansing and healing ceremonies began, and the police waited with bowed heads. Then they gave themselves up, offering no further resistance. The crowd of onlookers applauded, blew conch shells, and lamented loudly.
Izzy vowed they would come again someday to re-occupy Upolu Point, and to protect their sacred sites. “You cannot say it’s against the law to be here,” he said. “This is sacred land! You say we no more right? Then we going back to the resorts, because that’s sacred land too! We going hit ‘em in the pocketbook!”
The government, whose mills ground exceedingly slow yet exceedingly fine, was reluctant to make more of an issue out of the occupation of Upolu Point than it already was. Governor Waihe’e (they called him Wahahe’e) had been under frequent attack for betraying his promises to the Hawaiian people. He himself was Hawaiian, a former ambulance chaser who was swept into office on the wings of his self-proclaimed “Palaka Power,” a bogus grass roots movement that trumpeted the native son who would at last turn night into day for his beleaguered race.
But Waihe’e’s first term had passed and nothing had changed. Hawaiians still waited on an endless waiting list for land, and they remained the most impoverished people in Hawaii. It was getting uncomfortably close to election time, and this was a situation that could either make John Wahahe’e into a villain, or John Waihe’e into a hero. The Hawaiians had not had a true leader since Queen Lili’uokalani, and now was this joker who, as everyone knew from his first term, gave not a tinker’s damn about nothing but power and the usual perks. Izzy was really tempted to let him twist in the political wind, the buggah.
Then all of a sudden, the State made an offer—the Nation could move onto some State land outside Hilo, for free. The State even offered to contribute the labor to help clear the land, and offered to bring in water, generators, and portable toilets to the site.
This would be the first return of lands to the Hawaiian nation since they had been stolen at gunpoint by the United States. It would make Izzy the first Hawaiian leader to have done anything to get Hawaiians their land back, ever, and his mind swam with excitement over the prospect of building a Nation of Hawai’i from land that would be forever theirs.
Someday there would be communities like it throughout the islands, he knew, refuges for a people long marginalized and despairing, ignorant of their own heritage, devoid of hope and without prospects for living a fulfilling life in a white man’s world.
People would live ohana-style and grow taro and make salt and catch fish and be healthy, their days filled with honest labor in the lo’i, their nights filled with song. They would show the world that there was a better way to live. They would love the land, take pride and satisfaction from caring for it, and let it provide for them. On behalf of the Nation of Hawai’i, Izzy accepted the offer.
A cloud of smoke rose from the small fire at the reconstituted Nation of Hawai’i, a few miles outside Hilo. A couple of laborers still on loan from the state cleared haole koa with their chain saws. Alongside the long tent, someone had nailed up a coop for chickens. Some of the people lived in tents, others in small wooden shacks, and nearby, some men were putting up a frame house with lumber that had been salvaged from the bulldozers at Upolu Point. They tacked up small houses, until their modest supplies of donated lumber ran out.
Everywhere there were plots for growing vegetables: rainfall was generous in Hilo. There was a sizable and flourishing patch of taro, with dozens of plants now with leaves just big enough for make laulau. A thin growth of grass covered the ground in front of the kitchen, where they had seeded the area to keep the dust down. A man had arrived with a large package of pastries, and another, just back from picking lilikoi, offered around cans of beer from a cold pack.
The central kitchen was covered by a canvas tarp that stretched over several rows of tables. Here there was community lunch and dinner every day, using food that they grew, or bought, or got with food stamps, or that people donated. People took turns cooking with propane stoves they hooked up to big metal bottles. An old TV that ran off the generator sat in the center of the kitchen area, and several people sat staring at a daytime talk show, while a boom box played rock music.
Sometimes everyone showed up for dinner, sometimes almost nobody came. It depended on how good the cooks were. They came when the food was good– beef stew, hamburger curry, or maybe laulau or chicken long rice, but that wasn’t fair, because they didn’t come when the cook wasn’t so hot or the food wasn’t so great. Like when some guys cooked up a whole mess of hot dogs, the kine that was dyed red and looked like a dog’s dick after ‘wen finish with a bitch. They wen’ boil ‘em up in a big pot, then wen’ wrap ‘em up in SuperSoft white bread, dribbling ash from their cigarettes. At times like that, food was wasted and thrown out and people’s feelings got hurt.
Nobody ate much taro, even though it was beginning to grow abundantly. Nobody wanted to rebuild the old irrigation ditches. In fact, a lot of them don’t even like poi. Others just bought it– why pound it the old-fashioned way? They bought their groceries from the store– Spam, bags of rice, beer, cigarettes, and big plastic liter bottles of Pepsi and Mountain Dew. Wrappings from Big Macs and KFC boxes, empty beer cans, and plate lunch boxes from Bud’s Market littered the brush along the roadside. Empty wine bottles, too.
To some, it was like they just never grasped that the reason they were out here in the bushes was to build a whole new way of life. They seemed to expect that life should go on just like it had in the projects. Was depressing to think that some people had just transplanted that whole welfare way of life into the bush beneath the stars and this beautiful mountain. Like to hell with helping out with whatever had to be done– plant taro, weed the sweet potato mounds, rebuild the old ditches, clear out the old taro patches, cut back the brush, bring back the land that their ancestors had farmed long ago. All they thought about was no need for pay rent if come out here.
Some of them thought they were going to hook up their TV sets to a generator and sit on a sofa in a living room and watch talk shows all afternoon. They didn’t want to talk much when there was something on TV, and it seemed that they couldn’t stand to hear themselves think. God forbid there was an idle moment to think, better hurry up and turn on the idiot box and drown out their thoughts, such as they were. Was no ukulele or Hawaiian music or chants or singing, was mostly just rock n’ roll and and shit.
So, Izzy wondered, where was the revolutionary spirit? Only lip service was paid to the ideals of the Hawaiian Renaissance. Walking around in their muscle shirts emblazoned with pictures of ancient Hawaiian warriors in balaclava, they acted like they was some kine big tough role models for Hawaiian pride. But when they came home from work, all they wanted to do was drink beer and watch some trashy show about haoles sitting around in some bar, with laugh tracks going off every time they said something that wasn’t even funny at all. That’s what they wanted, instead of congregating under the stars and listening to kupuna. They were Hawaiian, but they acted like the most typical creatures of American pop culture you could imagine.
Izzy wandered around getting after people and lecturing them— was coming one pain already. He tried to impress people with the fact that everyone here was under intense scrutiny, that they had a point to prove. The eyes of the world were upon them, and it was important to show the world how Hawaiians should live, how they once did live, and could live.
He got on everyone’s case, telling that that it was bad for them to eat this, drink that, or snort this, or have fun even. At first some were in agreement, sort of, but later was different story. So who was Izzy to tell anyone else what to do? People didn’t come here to be told to get up at first light and go chop brush and clear muck out of the taro patches and haul water, and now this asshole said you gotta do all this stuff. Well, he didn’t pay wages, did he?
“Eh, Izzy,” one guy said. “You know, me and the others was talking. Thing is, if someone no like work, leave ‘em alone, yeah? We get too much shit going on already, and wen’ people come here, they no like someone tell ‘em what to do, yeah? That’s not what people come here for. They no like get up and work all day, just like for pay the rent, yeah? You know what I mean?”
“Hey, I no care if someone work or no work,” Izzy said. “But if they no like work, then it’s not fair if someone else gotta buy the food, buy the propane, buy fruit punch syrup. If someone like drink beer, thas’ okay too. But thing is, no make noise, wake up the neighbors, shoot your mouth off.”
“That’s the thing, brah. You like tell everyone else what they gotta do, what they cannot do. If people come here for live, then should let ‘em live how they like– not some noddah way you like.”
“You don’t understand nothing, do you?!” Izzy shot back. “People watching us! We get free land from the state, they think we get free ride. They get mad, they think Hawaiians always like dat– give ‘em one handout, so can get free ride.”
“Man, I tell you,” the guy said, “you wen’ change already! I thought you said– I remember you said– don’t matter what others say, don’t matter what they think, ‘cause this our land. Was our land, from thousand years ago! And those people get no right for tell us what to do. Now you acting just like them!”
There were incidents of theft. They pilfered food, even ripping up the Nation’s own taro and taking it to sell at farmers’ open market. Then they took from other people’s trees in the neighborhood, picking mangoes and lychees off trees without asking, even though the law said you could if the fruit hung over the property line. Still, was nice to at least ask, and people would always give. Then some people started to steal stuff that was lying around in people’s garages in the neighborhood– tools and cases of soda or motor oil.
Some of the people who lived at the Nation were homeless, people who had lost their homes because they couldn’t hold down a job, maybe because they drank too much or were always hopped up on drugs. Some people sat in their junked cars and lit up their ice pipes, and played the radio real loud, real late, or they sat in their cars and got drunk and stayed up all night and shouted and played music so loud the neighbors called the cops.
Some were a bit pupule in the head, and they acted belligerently and picked fights. Others got drunk and made all kine noise, racing their engines, squealing their tires, shouting and blowing their horns. Some of those cars was so junk they couldn’t or wouldn’t fix them, and they just left them on the streets and pretty soon the neighborhood just started to look like hell.
People was complaining now. They wen’ bust their hump, they said, for pay the mortgage and live here, and it took going through hell to just get one permit to do anything to their property. Now look at these guys, can just move in and get anything they want and no pay rent and no need get permit for nothing and make all kine trouble– all because they going on about their damn rights to the land.
Come morning, it was a real sight. Some people were all sick and fucked up and just lay around in the morning glare. There was the smell of vomit and urine, and some people even wen’ shit in the woods– you could smell it but you could never find it ‘til you stepped in it.
Those were the guys that just hung around smirking at him. Catching their look, Izzy told them, “Look, we supposed to be setting example for our own people! So what kine example you think this is? Your friends, some they never work, never pitch in. But they’re out there every night, howling at the moon! Troublemakers, those guys! Never give, just take–and make trouble! People like that guy gotta go, already!”
“Oh man! Now you acting like some landlord! You think you can evict ‘em for no pay the rent, or for make noise, or maybe because you don’t like the way they look at you?! You know what I think? I think you fulla shit!”
Next morning, so was Izzy’s boot. That night, somebody had dumped in his boot that he left outside on his doorstep. Izzy found out about it when he emerged from his tent the next morning and half-stuck his foot in it.
“Who the fuckin’ asshole did this?!” he bellowed. “I’m going punch his fuckin’ head!” But he knew exactly who it was. He headed straight for the guy’s tent, flung open the flap, and began shouting. “Eh, fuckin’ asshole! Get up so I can slap you fuckin’ head!”
“Get the fuck outta my tent, already!” the guy said.
“You get the fuck outta you tent– right now!” He reached inside and grabbed the guy’s foot, and the guy wen’ kick him and hit the main strut instead. The tent collapsed, and they wen’ roll around inside, got all tangled.
That’s when the others got involved. One guy, a hundred pounds heavier than Izzy, dragged him out of thre tent, picked him up, and shoved him real good. “What, you like beef!! You beef wit’ me– never mind my friend!”
Izzy found himself on the ground, and then the others started kicking him, calling him asshole and things. Izzy struggled back up and went back at the guy, pushed him hard. Was like two rams in a butting contest. “You stupid!” Izzy said.
“What you call me?”
“I said you stupid!”
“You call my friend one fuckin’ asshole! How come you only call me stupid?!”
“Tell your friend get outta here! I know what he did!”
“Did what?! Someone wen’ crap in you shoe? Hah, hah! Too bad he never wen’ crap on your head! ‘Cause you one shit-head, you know!”
“You stupid!” Izzy shouted, throwing his hands up in the air. “If you like live li’ dat, good for you!” With that, he stalked off, collected his stuff and his shitty boot, and climbed into the old truck and drove back to Hi’ilawe. Fuck this shit.
Sam Hoody knew just where to go to meet the right people. Coming from a part of the world known for its charismatic ministers, he himself was not charismatic. He knew too well that the old money shied away from brassy high-pressure salesmanship.
The game had always been one of smoke and mirrors, and there were some who did it better than others. It still worked like magic: people ogled the office, the photos on the wall of him shaking hands with the governor at the Dillingham Polo Club, the brass company nameplate on the front door that proclaimed the company’s lineage from old-time island families: “Dillingham, Campbell and Hoody” the sign said. The more outrageous the lie, the better.
It was simple, but it always worked—provided you did it right. You never advertised— you trusted tongues to wag. You waited for people to approach you, then you turned down their business. The certificates were not available just now, you told them. When you finally allowed them to invest, they were grateful and they were generous. And when they saw a fast and generous return, they told their friends. The oldest schemes worked the best, because human nature was timeless, and distrusted anything new. Sam Hoody knew that what people wanted most was what they could not have, which in America was very scarce indeed. At the same time, serious money liked to pretend that it wasn’t greedy.
He busied himself now in showing the office to a young man, Leland Armistead, who had moved here from the Big Island, and applied for the position that Hoody had advertised. Leland smiled and nodded at the tastefully subdued fountain in the lobby and the panoramic view of the island that swept from the mountain range in the west, across the wide blue sea, all the way to Diamond Head in the west. Then he showed him around the office, lavish in its appointments of rosewood Scandinavian furniture, kid glove leather sofas and armchairs, and signed lithographs.
Hoody paid a draw of two thousand a month and a nice commission. He would initiate the contacts, and Leland would pitch them. He needed a credible, well-dressed, well-spoken figure like Leland to serve as counterpoint to the avuncular image that he himself wished to project. That kind of thing worked well, in his experience.
In a subdued three-piece suit that would have worn well on Wall Street, Leland Armistead looked and sounded like old money from Virginia. The name Armistead was a good beginning: it had a blueblood ring to it, Hoody thought, suggesting “coat of arms” and “steadfast.” Lean as a rail, he wore a tightly clipped mustache, horn-rim glasses, a conservative haircut, and wingtip shoes with laces, and he carried with him an oxblood leather briefcase.
The one thing about Leland Armistead that might have given him away as a con man was his crooked, broken nose that someone had given him as a teenager. It had never been re-set, and it veered slightly off to one side. He put a lot of cocaine up that nose, though none of it ever seemed to alter his outward mien of jurisprudential sobriety. Not until, that is, he got off somewhere with his friends to howl and cackle about who he had taken in and for how much.
In Sam Hoody’s experience, time spent on the golf course was the most productive time of all. That’s where he met Walter Shipley, in a foursome. They golfed and lunched and laughed together. Shipley, a Certified Public Accountant, was having an increasingly hard time accounting for his own finances. His ex-wife had run up nearly $30,000 in credit card bills that, as he later learned, she had been paying off with cash advances on other cards. The debt had since ballooned to some $43,000, at an interest rate of about 23%, and ever since she left him holding the bag, the monthly payment to the banks, along with the alimony and child support, had grown to more than half his take-home pay from his job as lead accountant for the Mission Estate. Just six months ago, Walter had borrowed another $10,000 to see his son through his final year at Punahou. The boy had excelled scholastically, and adding to his father’s joy was the fact that he had just been accepted at Stanford University.
Though Shipley was pre-occupied with his financial problems, he still found time for golf at the Waialae Country Club, where he found himself in a foursome one morning with Sam Hoody.
“You drive a helluva golf ball, Walter,” said Hoody. “If I drove a bargain half as hard as that, I’d damn near kill my customers.”
“Who are your customers, Sam?”
“Most of them are not people, as such— they’re organizations. We’re out here to open up a branch office to accommodate the interest we’re seeing here in institutional energy syndications.”
“We negotiate syndications with energy majors like SoCal and Texaco to develop producing properties in natural gas. We trade off the tax benefits that tax-exempt entities like trusts and pension funds don’t need in exchange for enhancing their cash flow from investment. Everybody wins: the majors get the tax benefits they need to offset their risk in opening up new production properties, and our clients get a preferential position in cash flow that nets them cash-on-cash returns of upwards of 20%– without the risk.”
“How the hell can you get 20% without risk?” Shipley asked.
“Simple, when you come down to it. The majors need the offset they get from write-offs on depreciation of the wellhead equipment and the energy depletion allowance. They’re pumping taxable oil on proven properties they’ve had for ten years, and will have for another ten. We sell ‘em the tax write-offs in return for a guarantee on cash flow that sets the absolute minimum return to our clients at 6%. The rest is gravy from production.”
“You must have a lot of interest in something like that. That’s pretty extraordinary.”
“Yeah, the majors are expanding their production in the Sprayberry Trend in northern Texas, and we’ve negotiated a 10% block interest in production that we’ll parcel out in million-dollar increments to qualified investment accounts. So far, Cal Teachers Retirement Fund, New York Life Pension Administrators, and Hibernia Trust have accounted for eight of those. We’ve got two more available.”
He paused to let that sink in. “Ordinarily with just two units left,” Hoody continued, “these would get placed through our Retail Division. But I’ve got the say-so to place the interests myself. I can even waive the commissions, and pay ‘em out as referral fees in some cases. It’s a discretionary item. How I handle it’s up to me. And ten percent on a million bucks ain’t hay.”
In the weeks leading up to the spring board meeting of Mission Estate, it was always the same jockeying and jerking around with Wendall Pilau, the trustee from Waianae. Pilau was always the first to ask, “What are we gonna be funding this quarter?” As if it was education, Shipley thought. Or new facilities construction, or outreach programs. As administrator of the trust of Princess Ruth, Mission Estate had many priorities. Few of them were of such interest to Wendell Pilau, its lead trustee for investments, as the sweetheart deals that Shipley had long suspected him of having more than an objective interest in.
“Good question,” Shipley said. “Doesn’t seem to be any clear concensus. Mr. Merkin, as usual, wants to keep the cash in the bank.”
“What do you think?” Pilau asked.
“I think we’re a bit top-heavy in real estate at the moment, Wendall. I’d rather see some diversification.”
“Well, the usual reason,” Shipley said. “Spread the risk.”
“How come you wanna take risks when real estate just keeps going up up up?”
That was the kind of idiotic statement that could portend a no vote from Wendall the next time his salary review came up, Shipley realized. All the trustees had their pet projects that they wanted to fund, like the $40,000 that Lomilani spent on a diet program for the senior staff members of the Estate. God only knows what kind of monkey business this bunch of blallahs was up to. Shipley had heard rumors about their tax returns, which they wouldn’t let him look at.
Shipley was the voice of objective, impartial analysis and prudent investing. But now, after so many years of trying to keep the kids from running riot in the candy store, the little voice in his ear said it was time for him to get something for himself. They sure as hell weren’t going to give it to him.
“I’ve seen some interesting deals in energy. Natural gas.”
“Doesn’t sound too exciting to me,” Pilau said. “I pay the gas bill every month. Doesn’t go up or down. How you gonna make money in that?”
“Well, distributing oil and gas is one thing. Producing it’s another. There’s a certain amount of risk in that, which is why the returns are good. But with some of the deals I’m hearing about, I guess you can put the risk on somebody else’s shoulders by selling them tax credits that people like us don’t need.”
Pilau was curious, kind of. And sensing that his reputation as Lead Investment Trustee for the Mission Estate might be ill served by dismissing out of hand any consideration of alternative portfolio strategies, he relented. “What kinda returns we talking about?”
“The general partner. I met him at Waialae the other day.”
Shipley called Hoody to set up a presentation. “How much do ya think they’ll go in for?” Hoody asked.
“I don’t know that they’re going in, of course. But typically, our participation in this kind of thing is a million or better.”
“That ain’t hay,” he said, pausing to chew for a moment on that straw. “Ain’t hay. Now, as consultant in this matter,” he continued, acknowledging Shipley’s capacity in the matter at hand, “I’m sure that you’ve got a certain amount of due diligence that you need to accomplish. Why don’t I have Leland send you over the whole packet, and you can look it over and get back with me with any questions.”
That had answered the question that was foremost on Walter Shipley’s mind, and he rested better now that he had been assured of his interest. That aside, due diligence had to be done, and Walter Shipley had his work cut out for him.
“Yeah, send it over, Sam. I’ll get back with you.”
Leland Armistead’s presentation to the board was seamless, didn’t miss a beat. He laid out the background of the general partner in a wholly credible manner, reciting his track record from thirty-one non-existent previous deals.
This was an institutional program that would barter its tax offsets from the oil depletion allowance and depreciation of wellhead equipment, windfall profits allowance from wildcat discoveries and so forth, in exchange for a cash flow guaranteed by the majors (they liked the sound of 6%, very low-ball, very credible). The fund liked to take an aggressive posture in its wildcat drilling– up to 10% of its funds (a credibly conservative figure) were earmarked for it. The fund’s projected returns were supported in a due diligence opinion from a Big Eight accounting firm.
Hoody, playing the homespun skeptic foil to Leland’s authoritative assertiveness, was surprised that the wildcatting had actually worked out so well as it did, actually.
Deadlines were discussed. The partnership had a firm closing date, and funds had to be in escrow by then in order for the general partner to evaluate the suitability of the investor. The Board agreed to convene a special session the next week for deliberation, pending their customary due diligence.
All these damn things look the same, thought Shipley as he flipped through the legal opinion and the projections in Sam Hoody’s Offering Memorandum. He had seen dozens of these things– real estate, R & D, equipment leasing, and yes, oil and gas, although this in truth was a bit different. Most of them, though, you could pull apart and slap ‘em together again any which way and it wouldn’t matter, they’d all look the same.
The bills from Stanford would surely push him over the brink, Shipley thought, if the goddamned credit cards didn’t kill him first. Christ, they wouldn’t even give him the pittance of a raise he had asked for, even though his annual review had been, as usual, impeccable— every single column checked “Performs Above Average” or better. Even his damn brother, a car salesman, lived better than he did.
His disgruntlement over his pay prospects notwithstanding, Shipley reminded himself that nothing need confound his objectivity in these matters. But the critical faculties of Walter Shipley, CPA, financially-beleaguered accountant for the Mission Estate, did not pose the usual cautionary considerations they might otherwise have. For had he properly exercised his due diligence, he might have learned that the entire text of the Offering Memorandum– lock, stock, and boilerplate– had been lifted and photocopied from the prospectus of another, more legitimate institutional drilling partnership that Sam Hoody had obtained under false pretenses from the investment firm of E.F. Hutton & Company.
Likewise, the legal and accounting opinions were borrowed wholesale, though with the relevant firms given new names and phone numbers registered to a telephone multiplex in Texas, where the calls, against recorded background noise of phones ringing, background chatter, and an impressive array of holds and message-taking and voice-mail, were fielded by Hoody’s nephew Mavis. Had Shipley actually done his due diligence, he might have learned that the leases were for scrubland where the only methane came from the skinny cattle that grazed it, to which the partnership held no title to in any event. Inevitably, what interested Shipley to the exclusion of everything else at this straitened juncture was his finder’s fee.
A $1 million investment was approved by the Board of Trustees, and funds were wired to the escrow account at the Bank of Dallas. Shipley seemed a bit sheepish about taking his fee, but Hoody just glossed over it, and said hell, if you worked half as hard as the money’s going to, you earned it.
Shipley got over it, and Sam Hoody got on with things. After commissions and finder’s fees were disbursed, Hoody still had 90 cents on the dollar—900K– to play with, though most of that would be paid back to his investors at Mission Estate.
The first year went by and cash-on-cash returns had even exceeded projections. In having given his seal of approval to Sam Hoody’s partnership offering, Wendall Pilau’s standing in the eyes of his fellow trustees was clearly the better for it.
“Our records show that cash received from Hoody Partners year-to-date is $221,000,” Shipley announced, “which represents a cash-on-cash return of better than 22% per annum.” There were gasps of surprise, low whistles.
“Damn!” said Pilau.
“Hey, where do I sign up?” said Binky.
“Pretty good for a newcomer,” said Bimmy, with a wry and wrinkled smile.
Even Merkin was beaming. “What do you think, Henry?” he said. “Are these people for real?”
“Hey, all I can say, is money talks, bullshit walks. And there’s the money.” Shipley wondered how a summation of that sort might be regarded coming from him.
Merkin turned to him. “And what do you hear from Mr. Hoody?”
“Well, I talk to him pretty regularly, actually,” Shipley reported. “Everything seems to be on track.”
“Okay. So far so good.” Merkin was skeptical, but seemed willing to go along with things for now.
The checks rolled into the Estate, and Shipley felt relieved that he seemed to have done the right thing. Even Pilau congratulated him, and what’s more, the trustees had smiled upon his annual salary review. His credit cards paid, and with his son underway at Stanford, Walter Shipley had begun to feel pretty good about himself. He even called Hoody up to see what else might be coming down the pike.
But as Sam Hoody knew, all good things come to those who wait. He was successful at what he did– fleecing the greedy and those who had more money than they ought to have, because he knew that serious money never wanted to appear greedy, that it never bet the farm like those in desperation did. Serious money had all the money it needed. And it responded best to deals that weren’t available to just anyone.
Sam Hoody understood these things and treated his clients generously. Nobody gave them so good a deal– 20% a year, even more, and it would go on and on, until one day they tipped their hand and gave him the big bet, and that’s when they deserved to get skinned.
When Shipley called, he just strung him along a bit, let his track record build just a bit more. Then one day, he sent the Shipley and the Board a letter, with great news: the exploratory drilling has struck a gusher, and while present production capacity was enough to boost those returns to 30% and better, the partnership was calling for additional money to really cash in on the big find. The Mission Estate put up another $2 million.
Hoody let things go on for a bit more, sent ‘em checks for their 30% and then some, gave ‘em all their money back really, even made some noise to Shipley about how he thought they could do a whole lot better’n that if certain things came around. But naw, there wasn’t nothing that he’d be able to recommend just yet. Later, maybe… later there might be something. Nothing he could talk about much just now– we’re still doing our due diligence on it, we’ll let you know if we decide it’s the kind of thing that’s right for you.
Such an investment was DynaFuel. With projected returns of as much as 50% cash-on-cash, DynaFuel proposed to pick up a pipeline and distribution network in Europe that was available on bargain terms from a European partner that had overextended itself, on account of the profligate overspending notorious to the government of Italy. A crackerjack management team was on the string, and the venture was capitalizing at $140 million.
Shipley was glad of the news. Over the past couple of years, he had grow accustomed to a certain degree of comfort, actually, and he had almost been able to forget the kind of shit-eating existence he had lived pre-Sam Hoody. In fact, having uncovered a whole new bunch of “needs” since then, Shipley was anxious to begin due diligence on the DynaFuel deal. Not that he really needed to pay too close attention. He trusted Sam Hoody. He was like his uncle, almost, the way he talked. And if the truth be told, Shipley was just positively a-bubble at the prospect of 10% on the money that was now being discussed.
Henry Pilau, for his part, enjoyed the acclaim he had garnered in his support of Sam Hoody’s deals. He was even making a bit more in pay, since that was tied to Mission Estate operating results. It wasn’t anything like what he made under the table from the deals he scared up with his friends in real estate, but like Shipley said, diversification was a good idea, and it would put the dogs off. With his fellow trustees the better for it as well, Henry Pilau was a hero.
As for DynaFuel, the Board of Trustees for the Mission Estate seemed for the most part enthusiastic, though Merkin thought that maybe they shouldn’t push their luck. Maybe they should put some more into commercial real estate, he said, take that money and spread it around. The returns weren’t anywhere near 50%, but neither were they looking at a ticket of 10 million bucks. On the other hand, Mission Estate was damn near money ahead just three years into Sam Hoody’s deals, with what, another twenty years on ‘em to go? You just had to get used to the idea, Pilau said. You want to win big, you gotta wager big. Money talks, bullshit walks.
“As I see it,” said the accountant who had replaced Walter Shipley. “the Mission Estate has a problem. A lot of our investments are okay, though it’s hard to get a handle on how some of our real estate investments are really doing. They’re private deals, and there isn’t the sort of information of public record that you have with syndications. Your cash and cash-equivalents, obviously not a problem. Bonds, looking good. Stocks, fine. And the methane deals have done pretty well, til now actually. They first two have almost paid for themselves, so we’re not that much out of pocket except for the third fund, and that was comin’ along great. But all that’s up in the air now that distributions have stopped. My concern is, what’s going on with Dyna Fuel?”
Having sunk $10 million into DynaFuel, nearly three months had gone by with no communication from Sam Hoody other than a letter thanking them for the money, and the Board of Trustees of Mission Estate had begun to suspect that all was not well.
“I haven’t seen the operation,” the accountant continued, “I don’t know the general partner, and I don’t so much as see a check for interest earned in an escrow account or a transaction advice of any kind. All we have is a letter from this guy, thanking us for the money. And that was three months ago.” Phone calls to Sam Hoody had not been returned, and Walter Shipley was somewhere else, on unpaid leave.
“We know,” Merkin said.
“So what’s the story? Have you talked to the general lately?”
“We don’t know where he is.”
“You’re kidding. You mean he’s just disappeared?”
“We don’t know. We’ve sent a couple of our people to Texas last month, after they missed the quarterly distribution on the methane funds. And, from what we understand, it doesn’t look good.”
“Mission Estate pumped ten million into this deal, and we don’t know where it is?”
“Actually,” Merkin said, “they went out and looked at the properties.”
“And what did they find?”
“I’m afraid the properties are bogus. There’s probably not much in them, if anything.”
“How do you mean? Are they pumping gas, or not?”
“No. In fact, in some cases there isn’t even a wellhead. No equipment. Just a bunch of old cows wandering around. What’s more, nobody ever heard of Sam Hoody, and the registered owners are entirely other entities.”
“Are you saying that Mission Estate just gave this guy ten million, and nobody even checked him out?”
“We relied upon the opinion of Walter Shipley,” Merkin said. “He claimed that he talked with the accounting and legal firms that did the due diligence, and talked with the general on a regular basis. Seemed rock-solid to him. But as of last week, the phone numbers had been disconnected, and their addresses, it turned out, were all just mail drops at some fancy address in Houston.”
“How did Shipley– ”
“We don’t know yet. The matter’s still under investigation. But I think you can assume that where there’s a mystery, the answer is on the bottom line– the one with the dollar sign next to it.”
“So you think he was paid?”
“Probably. But we haven’t established that yet. I don’t know that we ever will… unless we find Sam Hoody.”
The investigators never did find Sam Hoody, but they did find out what he had spent some of the money on. They learned of a home in Bali and a stable of Arabian polo ponies, and there were rumored sightings of Mr. Hoody amongst the beautiful people of St. Moritz, Hong Kong, and London.
“Can’t we go after anything?” the accountant asked.
“No confiscation treaty, no extradition treaty,” said Merkin.
Hoody had dispensed loans to his friend Amos, who wanted to build a casino where the action was, in Tupelo, Mississippi, and to his friend Bubba, who wanted to start an alligator farm. He might wanna grow that into a theme park someday, Bubba said, become the Walt Disney of the South. He even gave Mr. Hoody shares in his company.
Sam Hoody’s sainted mother was gifted a home– six bedrooms and a three-car garage, with wall-to-wall plush pile white carpeting and built-in vacuums, and furnished it with six-foot brass giraffes, a matching crushed velour sofa and love seat, four-poster bed, and a 52-inch color television.
And, an amount had been paid out as salary to his nephew Mavis, to answer the phones for the dummy law corporation at the switchboard in Houston. There weren’t no lawyers, so far as she could see. Sam had told her not to mind, he was gonna hire one real soon, soon as his degree came in the mail from that outfit on the matchbook cover, he said with a wink.
With the findings of the investigators before them, Merkin had convened an extraordinary session of the Board to consider their import. “Gentlemen,” he said, “on the strength of the evidence, it looks very much like we have been had.”
“Wendell Pilau,” he scowled, boring in on the special object of his antipathy, “you’re the investment strategist here, you’re the rocket scientist, so you tell me– we’re sitting on a ten million-dollar loss here— ten goddamned million!– of trust money that we, in the judgment of God and everyone, were entrusted to manage in a prudent and reliable manner—and not get had by some goddamned suede shoe artist with a beguiling come-on! So tell me now, Wendell, whadda we do now? What’s the strategy?!”
Reduced from financial whiz-kid to fuckwit in the eyes of his fellow trustees, Pilau’s response was all the more feeble for its uncharacteristic lack of hubris. “I think we just gotta wait for more information to come in on this. Sure, they’ve found all these things, but we don’t know for a fact that it was our money.”
“Oh for Chrissake, Wendell! Just how much more information do you think we need to figure out that a complete absence of any communication from this asshole for the last three months, given his recent philanthrophy, shall we call it, wouldn’t involve our money?” He turned to the others.
“We’re out ten million bucks, gentlemen! And what’s more, it’ll be on the books of a public audit that’s coming up right after year-end. That’ll be the first loss in the history of the Mission Estate! And I guaran-goddam-tee ya that when the hounds get ahold of this bunny, the fur will fly! They’ll be all over us like ugly on a pig! There’s gonna be an uproar, and they’re gonna be howling for your heads and mine!”
Merkin and the senior trustees, Bimmy and Binky, had always seen things the same way. They golfed together and went along together on most things, and everybody was happy with what they were making, year in, year out, from property. Nobody needed to go out and grab for the brass ring.
But now, Merkin thought, what a bunch of sorry-ass clowns they had become. Pilau was bad enough. But much as it was with Adam and Eve and the snake in the Garden of Eden, it had taken a woman, Lomilani, to really dick things up. God only knows how they found her— apart from being Hawaiian, her only qualification for being trustee was that she was some kind of minor functionary in the Kauai County school system. But in its infinite wisdom, the State Supreme Court had deemed that the loving touch of a woman was needed in the old boy’s club of the Mission Estate. Lomi talked a good line about educating Hawaiian kids, but it was soon evident that her real agenda was less concerned with enlightening than with lightening up. She had personally authorized $40,000 for the advice and counsel of some diet guru with a hot hand— some friend of hers who was into Hawaiian healing and seaweed wraps and some other bullshit. It wasn’t a lot of money, but then there was another flap over a zoning exemption for her home and using Estate money to pay contractors to rearrange the beach out front.
But that was just the beginning. Heraldo— Merkin called him that because of the mustache that made him think of that clown on the evening news. A lawyer in private practice, the little shitbag had somehow managed to get himself appointed, and even more incredibly, he had been caught having sex with an Estate attorney in the men’s room of an upscale Waikiki hotel! Class act, that! Too bad someone had to stir up a stink by calling security– hell, they shoulda just hosed ‘em down like a coupla damned dogs in the street! And to think that this young Turk had lost his temper with him, Humphrey Merkin—had thrown a rolled-up newspaper at him once, like a dog that crapped on the carpet, and scolded him for not being a team player! Just what kind of venue was this “team” playing— the Comedy Club?
Merkin never did feel right about all these “opportunities” they brought in for his blessing. Most of them were too good to be true, and he didn’t understand them anyway. Real estate he knew. It was reliable, the demand was always there, and they weren’t making any more of it, though arguably, Hawaii was different. But no, apart from Bimmy and Binky, nobody wanted to listen. Real estate was fine, but certain of his colleagues had tired of the same old. You never saw anyone go from plantation hand to grand panjandrum so fast as when these blallahs got their hands on the bucks!
Nothing new under the sun, he thought. Hell, he pissed more brains than this bunch had between them. But the old ways were just never good enough– if you couldn’t double your money overnight, it wasn’t worth wasting your time. And so he had gone along with his crap with the gas, God only knows why. Must be getting old— just an old boy that had been had by another old boy– and a good ole’ boy at that.
It was perplexing to the people of Hi’ilawe, this big meeting that was going be held that night in the cafetorium at Hi’ilawe Elementary. Everyone knew what a developer did, but nobody could imagine anyone doing it to Hi’ilawe. But sugar was coming to an end, and Mission Estate had been ordered by the State Supreme Court to divest itself of its canelands on the Big Island and make them available in fee simple. It was open to proposals.
With the specter of an investment scandal hanging over its head, it would not do for the Mission Estate to be seen as both careless and indifferent. They would take pains to show that, as always, the estate always had the best interests of its charges, the people of Hi’ilawe in the instant case, at heart.
The meeting would introduce Bagwell Development’s proposal to the people of Hi’ilawe. Knowing that so much depended upon the goodwill of the community, and knowing that Haunani would be there, Avery Bagwell was uneasy. What’s more, his kid would be there, the little boy he had never met. What a situation, he thought, as he pondered feelings of guilt and sadness he had never thought about much, didn’t want to. He knew everyone knew all about the big stink that day at the office. But if Haunani had any sense at all, Bagwell thought, she wouldn’t do anything to rock the boat, and hopefully, people here were too busy speculating on what was about to become of their own lives to worry about it. In any event, Bagwell had no choice. Either he was there, side-by-side with his sugar daddy from Japan, or he could kiss good-bye to the deal of a lifetime.
People came, many out of curiosity as much as concern. They even got Pastor Henry to come– Kaipo had to threaten him, just about. “We gotta look like one community here,” Kaipo had told him, “so if you want your sauce, you damn well going come!” And so he was there, but only to the extent that he occupied a seat. The old soak had even brought his cat. Holding it in his lap, he scratched the animal behind its ears. It peered around, its yellow eyes glowering and its ears twitching, as if tuning into some wavelength unknown to the sane. Suddenly, as if descrying some unseen apparition, the animal bared its fangs and hissed. Henry picked it up, turned it around in his lap, and clucked at it to soothe its anxieties. His own anxiety for a drink was evident. His cracked lips trembled faintly, and he looked wanly about, in faint hope of succor. At just fifty years of age, he looked decrepit.
Humphrey Merkin had not been shy of stating his position that he wanted to keep Hi’ilawe agricultural. His call to save the valley from development might be his best chance to keep his job once the audit was in and the shit hit the fan. More so, Merkin was uneasy about stirring up any scandal about his old friend Henry, who would be left homeless if his squalid little church was to be torn down for a golf course. Whatever would they do with him?
The trustees and the attorneys and the senior executive management of Bagwell Development filed in and took their seats at the long tables with white tablecloths and pitchers of ice water. And sitting before them, there they were, the whole ohana: Kaipo and Lani, Herman and Haunani, and little Isaac. He hardly recognized Haunani—my god! But then, Bagwell stared at the boy, his heart sinking, and thought, this was about the worst he had ever felt in his entire life, and he blinked back tears. Isaac, a tow-headed hapa-haole kid, looked just like him: same look in his eyes, same expression on his face… but the Hawaiian was there too, he saw, and all of a sudden, it struck it that he was on their side, too, however he might feel about that. These were his people now. Haunani stared at him, fish-eye. Pulling himself together, he leaned over to Karen’s ear. “Look, that’s the old whiskey priest,” he said. “That’s the guy that Haunani told me about– the old drunk who was looked after by that screwball uncle of hers. They lived in the old church here.”
“God, he’s in pretty bad shape, isn’t he?” Karen said.
“They make a good pair, don’t they— him and his cat. Actually, if you knew anything about her uncle, you’d really have to wonder what was going on around here.”
Bagwell looked back at the boy now. He was only four now, and Bagwell wondered if he even knew who he was, and his guilt and shame thickened. But thankfully, it was time for the meeting to get started, and Karen got up and went to the podium to make the introductory remarks.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” she began. “My name’s Karen Webster, and I’m vice president for public relations with Bagwell Development Corporation. We’re really happy to be here tonight, and we’re confident that we can help bring about a meeting of the minds on the exciting and forward-thinking opportunities that are in store for Hi’ilawe! So I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce to you to the man whose vision and talents have opened up incredible new horizons for the residents of our Hawaii-nei,” she pronounced it Ha-vy-ee, in the kama’aina way. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bagwell Development Corporation, Mr. Avery Bagwell!”
Draped in a tuberose and maile lei, Bagwell stepped up to the podium. His voice was steady and his smile confident, but his heart was somewhere down behind his knees. “Evening, one and all! Aloha! You know, I’ve seen a lot of changes in Hawaii since I first came here as a kid in ‘64. Back then, sugar was king, and the visitor industry was just a fraction of what it is today.”
He went on in this vein, part nostalgia and personal reminiscence, exuding that easygoing old kama’aina charm. Gather ‘em round the hearth, and tell ‘em a story. Soothe the chicken before you slice its throat.
“But I’m too much of a storyteller for my own good,” Bagwell said, “and I know that what you came here for tonight is information, and we’re not going to disappoint you. We’ve come here with a proposal that we’d like to put on the table. We’d like you to consider it, and we’d like to think that when all things are said and done, you’ll agree it’s a plan that best enables the people of Hee-ee-lah-vay” —careful, now— “to take the best of the present —and the past— and move ahead with it into the opportunities of the future. With that, I’m going to turn things back over to Karen, to fill you in on the particulars. Aloha!”
Was always bad news when some haole guy came onto them like this, trying act shaka and telling them aloha– was like the kiss of death or something, coming from someone like that. People hated to be talked down to like that, and it never happened but that the guy wanted something from them. They had nothing to give, except their land, which wasn’t theirs to give. He just wanted them to get out of the way, right?
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Karen resumed, “Bagwell Development looks to the future to provide the answers that Hawaii’s people need to compete in the economy of the twenty-first century! At the same time, we’re here to affirm our respect for the past, for the legacy of the plantation era, and for the way of life and all that it gave to the people of Hi’ilawe. We’re here to explore solutions that will work for people like you. We’re here to learn your dreams!”
Get real, Bagwell thought.
Bagwell Development had come to Hi’ilawe, she explained, for its beauty, and for the graciousness of its people and its productive, reliable work force. They wanted to preserve the special character of the valley, and harmonize the desires of the community with the opportunities of the future. Bagwell Development proposed to build a championship golf resort, she said, that would position the Big Island as a premier destination, with plenty of jobs for all. Their proposal represented the future that Hawaii was destined for in the Pacific Rim— the Hawaiian tradition of hospitality and the aloha spirit made it a natural.
She turned to Hideo and smiled. “And now,” she said, “I’d like to introduce to you a man who shares our commitment to the people of Hi’ilawe– a man who holds a special understanding in his heart of the meaning of aloha, who comes from a lifetime of healing and compassion for others. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce to you a man who would like to bring that special sense of aloha to Bagwell Development as its partner in all the exciting things that the future holds for the people of Hi’ilawe. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Hideo Hamamoto!”
Hideo stood up, smiled, bowed, then sat down again. My Jokernese sugar daddy, Bagwell thought. Couldn’t beg, borrow, or steal the money for this deal myself, so I have to suck up to this goombah.
“Mr. Hamamoto has served the profession of medicine with distinction for all of his professional life,” Karen continued. “As a young man, he pioneered life-saving research in epidemiology, and now, he’s bringing to an end a long and distinguished career as chairman of Japan’s Yellow Cross Pharmaceuticals Company.
“Mr. Hamamoto would like to retire in our lovely islands,” Karen continued, “and in keeping with his desire to share his own special aloha, he has expressed his wish to make a substantial contribution to ensure the continued well-being of your community in this time of exciting change!”
His attorney Wallace Fujiyama translated. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen” Hideo began. “I am most appreciative of your consideration of my humble request to become part of your community.” He went to explain: Japanese are patient investors who are willing to invest for the long term– a hundred years even, for the long-term good of the community. And to help the people of Hi’ilawe grow into that future, he would invest his own personal funds to endow a scholarship fund to provide opportunities for young people from Hi’ilawe. Finishing, he again expressed his thanks and deepest gratitude for the opportunity to introduce himself and learn his story. He reiterated his wishes for everyone’s success and happiness in this venture, wished his audience aloha (“aroha”), and took his seat.
Karen finished up. “So now that we’ve explained our dreams, we’d like to know more about yours. What are the dreams of the people of Hi’ilawe?”
They just sat there, staring. They’d heard so many stories of outsiders with all these big plans for the little guy, always with their best interests at heart, naturally. This one didn’t sound any different, and they struggled to imagine what it would be like– Hi’ilawe overrun by wealthy haoles in golf carts.
”Shucks, I dunno,” someone volunteered. “I just like raise my family, get one good job.”
Uncle Herman rose to his feet. “I say no to development!” he said. “This land agricultural! If I wrong, I no pipe up. I know I’m right! They wrong! Vegetables you can eat. Golf balls cannot! They eat golf balls, I think.”
Another got up. “How come you never satisfy?! You people wen’ build that big resort in Kona, wen’ say the same thing about jobs. Then when the jobs come, it’s always the same old crap! Minimum wage for junk jobs, and all the good jobs already filled over on mainland or somewheres– and how come you got the gall for come here and say what great workers we are?” People didn’t know nothing about working on no resort, the guy said. Didn’t have no job skills. They no more experience working with haole people, cannot speak King’s English. Why someone like hire people like that?!
And another. “How you gonna keep from making one helluva mess here?!” he said. “Where we going live when you tear down our house and put in a golf course! Why can’t we just grow things like we always did? Maybe cane is dead, but what about other things—maybe coffee or taro? What’s wrong wit’ that? What if we don’t wanna get rich with all your wonderful jobs?”
Karen empathized. But sugar was going to shut down, she said, and the alternatives just didn’t make much sense, not when mainland agribusiness had the advantages of economy of scale, and a lot of other things were grown so much more cheaply elsewhere, like in the Philippines. Agriculture just wasn’t competitive any longer in Hawaii.
There would always be a certain number of people in the community, Karen said, who resisted change. But the hospitality industry wasn’t like a lot of other things that were a lot worse. The nice thing about hospitality as an industry was that it was sensitive to the land and the people and their traditions.
The protest was becoming heated. “What you really know about this place? How you going protect all the things that are here when you don’t even know what they are? This one special place, lotta Hawaiians live here! You wasting your time!”
“There’s clearly some people who are not comfortable with development,” Karen conceded. “It is a change and we’re the first to admit that. But wouldn’t you want to live in a community where all the opportunities of the American way of life are made equally available to one and all? That’s what America’s all about!”
But it was all just so much noise to them, like the big standing fans that buzzed so loud in back that they could hardly hear what was being said. So when the screen door at the entrance to the cafetorium creaked open, few people noticed except Karen, who suddenly stopped talking and stared.
People turned to see what she was looking at that had caused her to stop in mid-sentence. A procession of figures, dressed in loincloths and ti-leaf kihei filed silently into the cafetorium. At first, people thought they were here for some kind of opening ceremonies, late as usual. They formed a line to the side, and stood at attention. A man walked up, stood before the table, and addressed the guests of honor. It was Izzy.
“Get out of here– all of you!” he shouted, glowering at them. “This illegal! You not going do nothing with this land, ‘cause this land belongs to the Sovereign Nation of Hawaii! You not going do nothing! Not without our permission! Not without the permission of the Nation, the kanaka maoli who live here, the ancestors who used to live here and still do, and the aumakua spirits! This proceedings is illegal, and all of you going answer for it! Get out!” he said, throwing his hands up in the air. Then he his braves turned and stalked out into the rainy night.
Having been apprised of the potential for controversy and retained by Bagwell Development on off-duty pay, Officer Dexter Medeiros of the Hamakua Police Department was observing things from the back row. As Izzy turned and walked back to the door at the back of the cafetorium, Medeiros recognized him, from a warrant that had been issued for his arrest on federal charges of tax fraud. But he decided against attempting an arrest then and there, since there were a half-dozen guys with him, all dressed the same way in loincloths and kihei, and emotions were running high. He rose to follow Izzy and his men out the door.
As they got into their cars and began to leave, Medeiros followed in his squad car. He overtook the car and pulled the truck over. Blue lights flashing, Medeiros sat in his car and called for backup. Then the warriors got out of the car in back and walked over to his car, surrounding him as he sat and radioed for help.
After a few moments, Officer Medeiros opened the car door and emerged into the eerie scene, his blue lights flashing through the rain. He shone his flashlight on the men. “Get back in your car! Back in your car, I said!”
After a decent interval, the warriors retreated, while Izzy sat in his truck, imperious as a godfather. He looked down his nose and sneered at the officer, who requested his driver’s license.
“You’re Israel Wongham?” asked Officer Medeiros.
“Mr. Wongham, there’s a federal bench warrant out for your arrest for violations of the U.S. Tax Code. I’m placing you under arrest.”
“So what’s that got to do with me? What the fuck I care about your law?!”
“Get out of the car, Mr. Wongham. I’m taking you in.”
Izzy pulled out a paper, unfolded it, and invited the officer’s attention to its contents.
“You law is illegal! And this is why! This here is the Apology from President Bill Clinton. It says that the United States Government apologizes for stealing Hawaiian land!” He began to quote chapter and verse as the officer stood in the rain, holding his flashlight.
“Mr. Wongham, I don’t care what you reading. You can tell it to the judge, okay?”
But Izzy persisted. “Everything that comes from this is illegal, including you. You not going arrest nobody! And if you don’t agree with that, then you can tell it to this judge over here,” he said, pointing to the warrior in the front seat next to him. “And those guys, in back! Or, if you like, we can arrest you, for getting in the way of official business of the Nation of Hawaii!”
“You asking for trouble, brah, threatening a police officer!” Medeiros said. “All you guys going be arrested!”
The warriots had re-emerged from the car, and they pressed forward, pushing Officer Medeiros, who was just drawing his gun, off the pavement and into the mud. Medeiros fell and slipped around in the mud, then got up, pointing his gun at them.
“Stop!” he shouted. “I’ll shoot! Get back! Get back, or I’m going shoot!”
Izzy got out of his truck, walked round and raised his hand. “Thas’ enough! Enough already! We not going have no lynch mob here, okay?! Let him go! We going deal with him later!”
Just then another squad car pulled up, blue lights flashing. The cop got on the radio right away and called for reinforcements. Then the squad car opened and the cop got out, kneeled down behind the door, and drew his gun. “Freeze!” he shouted.
Soon, seemed like every cop on the Hamakua coast was there, and Izzy and the warriors submitted to the handcuffs and waited for the wagon. Satisfied that they had made his point and would pursue the finer points of their position in court, Izzy and the warriors knew they were being led off to jail in a good cause. And after much ado and cleaning the mud off his uniform, Officer Medeiros returned in the rainy night to the meeting in the cafetorium.
Back in attorney Fujiyama’s office in Honolulu, Hideo sipped coffee from a plastic cup and talked with Bagwell about the meeting in Hi’ilawe. Inwardly, he was fuming. The meeting had ended badly, and after the protesters left, nobody at the meeting had much to add. Some sat and talked with each other, but some had heard enough, probably thinking it was a good place to leave things and a good time to get up and leave themselves.
It was even worse than he had imagined, actually, that savage-looking bunch barging in like that and the man shouting at him. It was just like what Ito had told him about, those protesters who sat on the road, blocking the access of cement trucks and workers to his golf course. Farmers had donned headbands and had taken scythes and pitchforks and barricaded the roads with tractors and carts. It had been a nasty scene, with both sides shouting at each other with megaphones, but in the end, the most vocal of the opposition had been silenced. But they couldn’t do that kind of thing here, could they?
Hideo damned them for their audacity. They couldn’t read or write, never got beyond elementary school, and they spent their whole lives stooped over in a rice paddy– in love with their mud and squalor and suspicious of everything. And when he came along and offered them money for education—it was Ito’s, actually—they threw it back in his face.
Outsiders only meant one thing to these people, Hideo thought: change. And for them, change was anathema. Thousands of years of civilization could go by and it didn’t matter one whit, since mud could only be improved by a turd from a water buffalo. Everything else was a ruse to take advantage of them, and they hated us because they knew we knew they were stupid and could be taken advantage of, and so they compensated by developing a superabundance of animal cunning.
Hideo said something to attorney Fujiyama and smiled. Fujiyama translated for Bagwell. “Mr. Hamamoto feels that it was a very worthwhile meeting. He says that the people of Hi’ilawe have many excellent qualities, and agrees that their concerns are valid ones.”
But they had exhausted all the niceties he could think of: first flattering them for their work ethic, and then the philanthropy he had offered them (these Americans are such beggars!). Bad enough that they were so in love with their mud, but they had shown real contempt for the hand that he had extended to them to help lift them out of it, a hand that offered respect as well as opportunity. It was the hand of friendship, and they had bitten it like a cur.
But he would persist, knowing from Ito’s experience that it was important to be patient, and demonstrate every measure of respect for the commoners and their traditions. That way, officials could go ahead and approve things (once they had been paid, he imagined), so long as good faith had been properly demonstrated. He didn’t really understand the system here and all the protocols, but he knew he had to do what he could to demonstrate he would be a responsible corporate citizen and a good neighbor.
He recalled his days at Pingfan as a collector of artifacts. He understood the significance that such things held for people everywhere— they symbolized so much of their culture and tradition that was dear to them. What could be done, he wondered, to demonstrate his sensitivity toward their traditions? Did Mr. Bagwell’s company have a cultural affairs staff?
“Tell Fujiyama to tell Hamamoto that I’ll take it up with my Public Relations people,” Bagwell told Karen. “And tell him that what happened at this meeting was no different from every one of these damned meetings that we have to have every time anybody wants to do anything here.”
Yet it was obvious to Bagwell that some things did get done in spite of it all, didn’t they? You just had to go through the motions like this and listen to all their damned complaints and try to put the best face on it. That way they could say that everyone was consulted.
“They’re all the same,” he continued. “Believe me, Karen, nobody who comes to these meetings ever wants to see anything change. But the people who really count aren’t gonna be at the meetings. So tell him it all went just fine– no surprises, and like I said, we’ll look into where we go from here.”
Removing the pan of Weight Watchers ravioli from the microwave, Bagwell reflected on how often he and Timmy had had this discussion, about the right way to develop and the wrong way. They had always had a somewhat contentious relationship– Timmy didn’t much approve of what he did as a developer, somehow, and Bagwell always came up with the short end of the stick in these little debates. With Timmy, there was no right way to develop in Hawaii, it seemed. It was always protect the rain forest, or it was the runoff, or somebody’s damned heiau– always some reason or another why something couldn’t be done.
As a history major in his senior year at the university, Timmy did at least know something about it, but what Bagwell knew and didn’t need to go to school to learn was that there was always a way to get things done, somehow. And that’s what mattered in life, whether you got things done, or didn’t. One paid, and the other didn’t. One provided, and the other didn’t. One mattered, and the other didn’t. Simple. But for once, it might actually make some sense to ask Timmy if he’d take the opportunity now to take some of that education and do something with it.
“I do want to do something pretty soon,” Timmy allowed, “and this sounds pretty cool. But, I hadn’t thought of doing anything with the company. It’s just that I want to explore all the options when I graduate, and I dunno, I think I may want to teach.”
“Well look at it this way, Tim. I’ve told you what our problem is, and right, wrong, or otherwise, I need some help on this. You’ve always had lots to say about these things, and I’m the first to admit, history and culture are not my field of expertise, and I don’t think that Karen Webster is much of an expert on things either, at least as far as this is concerned. But there might be an opportunity here for you to come on board, and I’m not saying forever but maybe for six months or so, and help us figure out how to do things the right way. Otherwise, I guess I’ll just have to get someone else for the job. But I’d much rather have you.”
“What do you have in mind?” Timmy asked.
“Well, I dunno. It’s not something I can just tell you how to go out and do. I don’t even know what it is we’re looking for. But like I said, we need, I don’t know, maybe an artifact of some kind, just to show we care about these things, and if you came across something that made sense, that didn’t cost an arm and a leg, we’ll look at it. Maybe it’ll be a start for you, something you can do to make a name for yourself in the community or with your department, I dunno. I don’t see how it can hurt to give it a try, and it sounds like it’s right up your alley. I don’t want to spend a fortune on it– it’s not something we usually budget for at the company– but let’s see how it goes.”
Timmy arrived early for his appointment with Donald Daniels, the director of acquisitions for Queen’s Museum. In its display case in the lobby, the double-headed Marquesan war club that caught his attention hinted at brutal encounters with savages in dark valleys on steaming jungle islands, and the Male Ancestor Figure from Easter Island bespoke rapport with the great stone sentinels of Rapa Nui.
Equipped with a budget— Bagwell had told him maybe twenty-five or thirty thousand or so— Timmy had walked into his appointment and presented his card and stated his case. But Daniels had almost laughed at him, and explained to him that serious acquisitions took hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions— even those Marquesan war clubs in the display case.
His best bet, Daniels had told him, was probably someone who was cleaning out their attic or something. As a matter of fact, he had had a call from someone, had written her number down somewhere. He had told her the usual thing– their fiscal cycle was tapped out for now, and the museum wasn’t in a position to consider further acquisitions. The fact of the matter was, the musuem was so strapped for funding that not only were new acquisitions out of the question, but layoffs had become a distinct possibility.
He found the number on a scrap of paper under some others.
“We get these calls all the time,” Daniels said, handing Timmy the phone number. “Most of it turns out to be second-rate stuff-– and ‘second-rate’ is being generous– that someone was trying to either get rid of or get rich on.” But he was welcome to give it a try. If you find anything and want our opinion on it, feel free to give us a call. Or better yet, give Gordon Haines a call. He’s one of our staff archaeologists… his card’s here somewhere.”
Realizing that thirty grand wasn’t as much as he thought, Timmy wondered what he could hope to accomplish with that amount. Daniels was probably right, maybe I should go to garage sales and stuff, maybe I’ll find some old bowls or a paddle. But he did want to follow up with whoever it was that had called Daniels and said she had something. What the hay, what else can you do with thirty kay?
“How did you get my name?” the woman asked Timmy.
“Well, I had a meeting with Don Daniels, director of acquisitions for Queen’s Museum. I told him I was interested in finding certain kinds of Hawaiian artifacts for my dad’s company, Bagwell Development—we want to donate them to the community, and I asked him if he had any ideas. He said ordinarily they’d be looking, too, but right now they were at the end of their fiscal year, and funds hadn’t been appropriated for acquisitions yet. So they weren’t in a position to look at whatever it was that you had. But he said that I might want to give you a call.”
“Really. Well that’s interesting anyhow,” the woman said in a thick southern drawl. “The fact of the matter is,” she explained, “I’m just here in the islands for a short stay— I’m Eunice Stout, by the way, from Georgia. My daddy, bless his soul, just passed on, and I’m looking at an absolutely humungous tax bill that I don’t have the first idea how to pay, except to sell off some of this crap, pardon my language, that daddy’s accumulated over the years.
“So anyhow,” she continued, “I’m trying to sort through this stuff and all, and I come across this thing I thought first of all was just an old basket. But then I turned it around and looked at it, and Lord Almighty, I almost screamed! It was the most hideous thing, I swear! Eyes big as saucers, made of oyster shell or something! And then there was this huge mouth, with some kind of teeth in it, maybe it’s dawg teeth for all I know! Well, I thought maybe I want to open it up to see just what it was, it’s real heavy, and it feels like it’s got something innit! And I thought, this thing really is old, from the looks of it. But I couldn’t open it, not unless I cut it with scissors or something, and I didn’t think I should do that. I’m sure it’s some kind of native thing, anyhow. My daddy was a collector, you know.”
“Oh yeah, he’s got all kinds of stuff! Some of it’s real nice, though, old bowls that are real pretty when you shine ‘em up. But this thing, I’d just soon get rid of it! Lord knows, I don’t want it hangin’ round the house. It’d give me nightmares! So anyhow, I thought that if I could find a good home for it, and get somethin’ for it in the bargain, that wouldn’t hurt neither. ‘Cause by the looks of it, we got one helluva tax bill to pay on his estate, and I don’t wanna lose the house. It’s real pretty here, and I know I could rent it out and maybe come out here once in a while.”
They arranged for Timmy to come have a look. Eunice had brought it out for him, and there the Ark reposed, on the living room carpet, awaiting his examination. Timmy was struck by its ghastly countenance. The thing was scary enough on the outside, and he wasn’t at all sure he wanted to see what was in it, and there was something in it.
“Have you looked inside, Mrs. Stout?” he asked.
I tried, but there’s a wicker lock of some kind, and you absolutely cannot pick the damn thing apart. I couldn’t anyway. Maybe you’d have better luck.”
But Timmy looked at the lock. It was pretty intricate, and you’d have to basically unweave it. He didn’t want to do that, didn’t want to damage anything. This was very interesting, but he didn’t know what it was, except maybe it was grave goods or something. There could be remains in there. It was heavy enough.
“Mrs. Stout, I really think I should take this to some people who could examine it professionally. Could I give you a deposit?” But his word was good enough, she said, and she just let him have it for a few days.
Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Timmy figured it was okay to ask Gordon Haines to come over to his dad’s office in his spare time and have a look at it. But Haines had immediately recognized the Ark as a find of huge significance.
“Tim, I could be wrong,” Gordon said, “but I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure that you’ve got here is a very controversial property.”
“Why, what is it?”
“This is a ka’ai, a funerary basket for the remains of Hawaiian chiefs. Hawaiians are very, very sensitive about this kind of thing. I think if they had any idea that you had this…”
“Could be a real stink, huh?”
“Definitely not the sort of public relations gesture that Bagwell Dvelopment would want to make. And I’m not sure it would be at all advisable to keep it in an office where the janitor or somebody could just come in and haul it out with the trash. I think you could score a lot of points by turning it over.”
“To who?” Timmy asked.
“Well, the best thing would be to give it to us, so that we can conduct a forensic analysis, and then turn it over to the state for consecration and re-interment.”
“Do you have any idea where this is from?”
“I have a guess, that’s all. This would be very similar to the one that somebody brought in from the Big Island back in the 1840s– at least it’s one that we have some kind of record of. It wound up in the basement of the Exchequer’s Office of the Territorial Government. They had a record of something like this being sold at auction, to help satisfy a war indemnity after the monarchy was overthrown. After that, we don’t know what happened to it. In fact, this could be it.”
“Shit, that’s pretty amazing!”
“I mean really, Tim, I don’t think I can overstate this. If that’s what it is, or even if it isn’t, it’s something that really needs to looked at by the museum, and I’m almost sure it’s something that needs to be registered with the Hawaiian Burials Office, as a historical asset.”
“And then what?”
“Well, then it’s up to them as to how they want to handle it.”
“So we could get nothing for it?”
“No, I don’t think that’d be the case. But I don’t thing they want it hangin’ around in the hands of a private business, either. It’s bad form, very bad, and besides, it would probably come back to the Queen’s Museum eventually anyway.”
“Well, I’d like to think things over for a bit,” Timmy said, “if you don’t mind. I need to talk it over with my dad.”
Bagwell agreed: what Timmy had found sounded pretty exciting, and the possibility that the piece came from the Big Island could make it a public relations coup of the first order. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself handing the thing over in a ceremony with “Bagwell Development” written all over it, flashbulbs popping like crazy as he shook hands over the basket with some Hawaiian elder of gravity and distinction. How would that play on the front page! And what would they say in Hi’ilawe when they opened up their newspapers over their coffee and coconut pie? Hell, he couldn’t buy this kind of PR for a hundred times what he had been prepared to spend on the damn thing. Well, he sure as hell wasn’t selling, and when Daniels called him the next day, it didn’t matter what a hard sell he had, he wasn’t letting it go, not for all the tea in China.
“How ya doing, Avery. I’m calling about the old basket your man found. My staff archaeologist says he found somethin’ pretty exciting! We can never tell where these things are gonna turn up, and we’re glad for you.”
Finders keepers, losers weepers, Bagwell thought.
“Well,” Daniels continued, “I’m sure that Gordon impressed upon you that what you might have there is not something you can monkey around with. We need to get this thing over to forensics,” he said, “so that they can get on with their analysis. Then we can figure out where to go from there. When could you let us have it?”
“Actually,” Bagwell said, “we’ve thought it over, and we haven’t decided what we want to do. We need some more time to think it over. I’m sure it’ll generate a lot of interest.”
“What do you mean?! You’re not gonna display it or something, are you? That’s a burial basket– there’s human remains in there.”
“Actually, we don’t know what’s in there, do we?”
“I’m telling you! There’s every likelihood that there are Hawaiian ancestral bones in that basket—in fact, that much is obvious! That’s the only thing a ka’ai was ever used for! You can’t just put it on display! When people find out about it, they’ll raise no end of hell!”
“Mr. Daniels, I think we’ve got just as much right to exhibit it as anyone, if that’s what we choose to do. It’s ours, we found it–”
“That doesn’t make it yours! You have an obligation to turn it over to people who know what they’re doing. And you almost certainly have the obligation to turn it over to the State!”
“I don’t see it that way at all, sir, at least not right now. I’m not saying that we won’t turn it over to you. But right now, I’m sorry, I just don’t think I can help you out on this.”
“Mr. Bagwell, you’re playing with fire, and if you don’t do the right thing, then believe you me, you’re not gonna like how this thing turns out. The first thing that’ll happen is my call to the Office of Hawaiian Burials, and you can talk about it with them, under penalty of law! And the basket would still wind up back with us for analysis in any event!”
“Well, we just haven’t decided what we wanna do. We’re a kama’aina company, and for now, I think the Hawaiian community wouldn’t mind, knowing it’s in good hands.”
“I don’t think so! Look, it’s precisely the Hawaiian community that you need to worry about, and if we can’t come to an understanding real soon, we’re gonna have to get the State involved, and we don’t want to do that—it’s a black eye for us, too. I’ll call you tomorrow, so just make sure you take good care of it in the meantime.”
Karen Webster was worried. “Avery, that’s just the kind of thing that can hurt us a lot more than it can help us if it isn’t handled right,” she told him. “You can’t just come on to these people and tell them we’ve got something that belongs to them, and you plan to give it back to them in return for the right to build a golf course.”
At first she had thought this whole business with Timmy was merely ridiculous. Bagwell, with his genius for made-up positions, had decided that the company needed a curator, of all things, and had appointed a 20-year old kid to the job— his son, actually. Her first reaction was now she’d have to come with things for him to do– just like she had to with that bimbo that Bagwell had hired as his social director, for godssake.
But then the kid had gone out and actually found this thing, dragged it into her office, and there it sat. Whatever was in there, the last thing they needed was to be seen as a bunch of grave robbers, trying to convince people that a property developer just somehow acquired this thing, the remains of somebody’s ancestor—and with no ulterior motive?
Which is how Donald Daniels from Bishop Museum had explained things to her. He had left messages for Bagwell to return the call, but this was public relations, and that was her brief. Avery Bagwell and his little Indiana Jones had no business getting mixed up in this.
Karen agreed with Daniels, but couldn’t really say so, not until she could get Avery Bagwell off his own silly ideas of what he wanted to do with it, and bring him back down to earth. Til then, there wasn’t much she could promise. And so the damned thing would just continue to sit there.
Karen knew public relations, and they needed to approach the community through the right channels.
“Look, Karen,” Bagwell said, “here’s what I think we oughtta do. I think we should turn it over to the church in Hi’ilawe. I mean, it’s sacred property, and if we give it to them, they then turn around and say it’s all because we did the right thing, and then all of sudden, that puts us in a whole new light. And then they could turn it over to the museum or the state or whatever. At least you could go talk with the old pastor and sound him out.”
That made some sense, she thought. But she was dubious. “I doubt whether the good pastor’s going to be sober enough to understand what I’m saying,” he said.
“What the hell, go ahead and see what you can do. I don’t want to give it to Humphrey Merkin, that’s for damn sure.
Karen pulled up at the old church in Hi’ilawe. She knocked, but nothing stirred. There was no one around, no sign of life. She tried the door. It opened with a creak, and she let herself into the musty old church, its interior dimly bathed in a gloomy, dusty half-light.
“Hallooooo,” she called out. She paused, and listened. “Hellooooo.” There was no answer. She thought she heard something, but what? She listened some more.
“Hallooooo…” Then from somewhere upstairs, she heard it again, snoring. Quietly, she made her way up the staircase, to the landing, and peered round the corner down the hall.
“Hello?” Only the snoring.
Then she found him, sound asleep in the armchair in his bedroom, his liver-spotted hand hanging down to the floor, still snagging an extinct cigarette, its ash dangling over the ashtray beneath it. An empty bottle stood on the floor next to his armchair. She cleared her throat.
Henry dreamt of a woman, moving ethereally before him in a shadowy dreamscape. But he had no interest, and he went back to sleep.
She cleared her throat again. “Ahem!”
He snorkled, his snoring interrupted.
“Hello,” she said. “Helloooo.”
An eye cocked open, bleary and bloodshot. Slowly, she roused him from his nap.
Then suddenly he lurched awake. “Ahhh-haa-aah! Satan be gone!! ”What… who are you!
“No… you don’t understand—”
“Good God! How did you—”
“No, listen… I apologize. I didn’t mean to surprise you.”
“Then what did you mean to do?! Who are you?! What do you want– we’re closed here!”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” She smiled sweetly, smoothed her skirt, and sat down in the chair opposite him.
“Who are you?!” he demanded. “What do you want?!”
“Relax!” she said. “Don’t you remember me?”
She did look familiar, he thought, as she faded in and out of a splitting headache. But his memory did not serve him further. “No. Who are you?”
“Don’t you remember me from the meeting last month? You were there with that big cat in your lap, scratching its ears.”
The memory was still incoherent, but with her mention of Godfrey, things swam into a blurry focus. Yes, he seemed to remember her now. She was there with that developer. But it was hard to think, hard to concentrate. “Well, what if I did?” he gruffled. “We’re closed now. I have to take my medicine.”
“Fine. I can come back some other time. But I just have a quick question.”
“What is it, then?” he said, fog-bound.
“We need your advice on something.”
“Well, there’s nothing to say. I’m a sick man, as you can see! I’m almost out of medicine… they don’t come often enough. They’re not like Herman,” he mumbled. “Herman always had medicine– made it himself, downstairs.”
He had a raging thirst, his throat parched and arid as a theological quibble, and he looked in vain for the familiar silhouette of the bottle on the table by his armchair. Grunting and groaning, he raised himself up from his chair, then reached down for the bottle. He reached beneath his chair, casting about for it. He established contact, and knocked it over. He picked it up, and saw that it was empty, a pint bottle of Four Roses.
“Shit! Look,” he said blearily, “if you want to make yourself useful, get me some medicine!”
“What medicine?” she asked, unversed in the idiom of his depravity.
“Oh for heaven sake,” he sighed with exasperation, “you’ll have to go to the store.” He sank back into his chair, exhausted. “Get me some water, please.”
“Is there any up here?” she asked.
He winced, and licked at his dry, cracked lips. “No, you’ll have to go downstairs. The water bottle’s there, on the table.”
The exertion had finished him off. Needing no further clarification of the mystery of the medicine, she felt a bit foolish that she hadn’t cottoned on to it right away. Seeing “medicine” in a new light, she reflected on his little monologue. Hadn’t he said something about Herman, making it himself, downstairs?
She went downstairs to find the kitchen and bring Pastor Henry his water. At the bottom of the stairs, she stopped, and tried the basement door. It opened, and a flight of stairs led down into the darkness. She stuck her nose in. Smells like a grave down here, she thought. She switched on her keychain flashlight and descended the stairs, wondering if in fact she wasn’t entering a crypt. The beam played off something at the bottom of the basement stairs, and she descended, it illumined the contours of copper coils and rubber hoses, then an old wash tub came into view, glass retorts, and standing on the shelf, she saw, a row of amber bottles, empty. God, I don’t believe this. She walked over and uncorked one. Holy shit! she thought, this must have been the genuine article!
Back in her hotel in Kona, Karen placed a call to Bagwell.
“Avery, this is crazy. I went up to the old church this afternoon to talk with the pastor, and you’re right, he’s totally out to lunch, totally. He kept talking about his medicine, and you know me, how naïve I am, I actually thought he was looking around for his prescription or something! Well, he kept saying, ‘I’m out of medicine, where’s my medicine, and then he said something about Herman was always good about making medicine, that he used to make it, downstairs!
“Well, there it was, a bottle of whatever it was, rattling around on the floor. Empty, of course, a pint of Four Roses! And I doubt very much whether he goes and gets it himself. So he told me to make myself useful, and go get him some medicine. And I was actually going to go do that, and I was gonna ask him what medicine and where— really, I felt like such a fool, Avery—but as soon as I went and got him his water and came back, he was out like a light.
“Anyhow, I didn’t really think about it ‘til I finally got what he meant by the medicine, right? And I started going over what he said about it, and sure enough, when I took a look downstairs in the basement, it was, unreal, Avery! There it was– a damn still and all the coils and hoses and a row of empty bottles on the shelf! Can you believe it, Avery, a still in the basement of a church?!”
“Yeah, that’s a hoot!” he laughed. “A goddamned still.” Bagwell shook his head, thinking nothing surprises me anymore. “I take it the pastor’s not in the moonshine business?”
“No, this thing had long since been mothballed, and as for him, I don’t think he knows how to cook water. Avery, I really don’t think this is the guy you want to give anything to.”
“Karen, I know you probably think I’m being foolish about this little artifact we’re trying to give away. I appreciate what you’re doing with your whiskey priest over there. But it probably won’t do much good anyway, since ultimately, what matters is Humphrey Merkin. He’s the problem. Whoever he does sell to, it won’t be to us.
“What they say is they don’t want a public relations nightmare with our Japanese friends– they think they’re yakuza. I don’t know how they know that, but that’s what they say. Actually, I think it may have more to do me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, Merkin’s a goddamned dinosaur, as you well know. Humphrey Merkin’s the reason old man Shimada is still growing his watercress where my mall shoulda been, or a big chunk of it, anyway.”
“So the old dingo heard about some of the things I was saying about him when I was trying to buy the property. Shimada told him! Nor have I forgotten what he said about me.”
“He let it slip that I’d never develop so much as a doghouse in Hawaii if he had anything to say about it. It was Merkin that sunk our bid on Aloha Tower– you know that. Hell, he owns half the bankers in town.”
“So are we giving up?”
“Karen, I think you know as well as I do what’s at stake here. We’re small potatoes compared to Grand Waikoloa or Maui Hyatt, or any of those elephants that are pigging out at the money trough. There isn’t a whole lot left over after these guys have eaten their fill. That’s why we’re joint venturing, that’s why we’re having to take some Japanese godfather’s money. There isn’t anyone else. At least not for us, there isn’t.”
“So you don’t think any of this is gonna work, if Merkin won’t sell?”
“Not the way we’re doing it.”
“What do you suggest?”
“Well, I don’t care if they are yakuza. If we can’t make it work with these guys, we probably can’t make it work at all. I don’t wanna go back to building 7-11s. On the other hand… if this does work, and we make these guys happy, the world’s our oyster. We can go anywhere. These people have got half the world’s money, and they’re not gonna be happy ‘til they’ve spent all of it! I want for us to have a piece of that, Karen. There’s just no limit on where we can go from here… if we bring it off.”
“Avery, I’d go to the ends of the earth for you. But how are we going to do anything… if Mission Estate won’t even talk to us?”
“We need to motivate them, Karen. We need to get Humphrey Merkin’s attention.”
“How do we do that?”
“I’m not sure. But I think we may need to go just a bit outside the box on this.”
The heavy, moist air lay like a blanket on the men and women assembled at the heiau in the valley. From above the dense forest canopy, the early morning sun did little to burn away the dampness. In the evening, the mosquitoes made the heat and the mugginess irrelevant. The air was so thick with them that in some places in the valley, you inhaled them. Still, mosquitoes he could handle— this other shit, cannot.
Izzy had gotten the idea that something had gone wrong with Liberty Account when he received the letter from the Internal Revenue Service. Then, several months later, there was a certified mail letter, inviting him to an audit. He declined the invitation. Then a summons arrived, demanding that he respond to criminal charges that had been filed against him and directing him to appear in the courtroom of Judge Alan Wence for a hearing. He declined that one, too. Then was this humbug with the cop at the meeting, and now they was after him with one rap sheet as long as his arm.
The Last Defenders of Lono set up camp on an open-sided rock platform framed by guava shrubs and covered on poles by a blue tarp. Along its perimeter was a jumble of plastic jugs, some empty and others filled with water, a two-burner propane stove, a cracked old kerosene lantern, a couple of clapped-out beach chairs, some battered pots and pans. The sun filtered through the treetops, and wild pigs came around so often that they were almost on a first-name basis. As they cleared away the growth for his camp, they found a large boulder covered with petroglyphs, and there were said to be birthing stones up here somewhere.
A terraced rock wall with rock-lined steps led to the old heiau. Its crumbling rock walls were barely discernible beneath the riotous tangle of growth. The mana house had long since rotted away, but the terrace still existed, where victims of the priests had once been taken for sacrifice. There was a sinister air about the place, a whiff of the agonies of men whose brains had been clubbed in and whose blood soaked the damp hothouse earth.
The ghosts of the Hawaiians cried out for justice, and Izzy could hear them in his ear as he sat in his ti leaf cape and glowered. The elepaio bird whistled– it was a sign. The insects hummed, and sunlight shafted down onto the heiau.
Izzy and his band were sworn to defend the valley from these Sharks Who Walked on Land, like Avery Bagwell. As the last of a long line of warriors who descended from Chief Hanahou, Izzy rallied his people to the final stand against the ruination of the valley and all that was sacred here.
Then, with the burden of the ancestors squarely upon their shoulders, Izzy and his fellow warriors of the House of Koa went down to the roadside and waited for the sharks that would come that morning, when thousands of tons of concrete were scheduled to be poured.
The marchers chanted and blew conch shells. They stopped to pay homage at the ruins of a male and female heiau, where they left sweet potatoes and lei and offerings wrapped in ti leaves. A chant and blessing began the formal ceremony, during which they went to a rock that was considered the most sacred spot, and placed their gifts upon it. A bamboo altar was carried to the middle of the access road, where it was meant to reunite the female heiau with the male one across the road. They put out flares and set up a red stop sign to warn the concrete trucks that would soon arrive.
Izzy and his stalwarts stood in the early morning rain and invoked the ancestral spirits to protect the valley. As the trucks began to arrive, so did the police. Thirteen people, including Izzy, were arrested when they blocked the cement trucks from passing on the access road.
From the beginning, construction of Paradise Valley Resort was beset by difficulties. The terrain was hilly and marshy. They had to move some 400,000 cubic yards of earth in very wet conditions. Altogether, more than a hundred piles were to be driven to anchor the clubhouse in the mud.
The rain kept falling, and the project lay idle for weeks as a mud lake formed behind a cofferdam built to contain soil erosion. Finally it caved, and buried under the mud somewhere lay the dreams of Izzy and the warriors of the House of Koa and Last Defenders of Lono.
The quagmire in Hi’ilawe had a certain amount to do with the quagmire of Mission Estate finances. Ten million dollars of Mission Estate money having disappeared with DynaFuel, Humphrey Merkin’s unexpected decision to sell Hi’ilawe to Bagwell was less a business decision than a personal matter, having to do with a private investigation commissioned by Avery Bagwell, that had looked into the life and times of Humphrey Merkin and uncovered a wealth of useful information.
The investigator had begun with an interview with Pastor Henry Pratt’s mother. The poor woman was frightfully distressed over Henry’s declining health and his neglect by the church. She had written again and again to Mr. Merkin, but he hadn’t answered. She simply couldn’t comprehend this betrayal of friendship. And everyone in Hi’ilawe knew that Pastor Henry hadn’t conducted a service for as long as anyone could remember. So, what was going on– why hadn’t the Mission Estate done something?
That was one thing, but the investigator struck the mother lode when he interviewed a secretary who was familiar with the real reason Mr. Merkin had left his old school in California. Retired and impecunious, she had responded to the blandishment of twenty thousand dollars– that was a lot of money. After forty years, she still remembered.
It was all on videotape— the interviews with Henry’s mother and the retired secretary, the still in the basement and the rows of amber bottles, even some close-up footage of Pastor Pratt snoring away— what a sight he presented, what a story it told.
The letter and the video were hand-delivered to the front desk of the Mission Estate offices. The receptionist placed the package on his desk that morning. In the time-honored tradition of postal sleaze, it was wrapped in plain brown paper, and bore a fictitious return address and the notation “Personal and Confidential” in the lower left corner. Merkin opened it, removed the letter, and read:
Dear Mr. Merkin:
I invite your attention to the enclosed video: “Hi’ilawe: The Valley that God and the Mission Estate Forgot.” Its subject is Pastor Henry Pratt, minister of the First Christian Church of Hi’ilawe.
It would appear that Pastor Henry has long suffered from the ravages of a personal trauma of some sort, judging from his long-standing incapacity, and the fact that, for nearly 30 years now, his ministry has had no congregation. Being without a minister, is there no hope for his flock? Certainly the people of Hi’ilawe crave spiritual guidance as well as the prospect of a better future.
Our investigation found more than just the still in the basement of the church. (You did know about the still in the basement, didn’t you?). Some of your old friends at Santa Clarita School in California remembered you, and were quite forthcoming about the “misunderstanding” over little Jack Birnbaum that sent you packing. You always have been a loving, nurturing sort, haven’t you?
I’m confident there must be another side to the story. But would the public even want to hear your side?
In light of this sad state of affairs, and in light of the insights offered on the accompanying video, might you be inclined to reconsider your opposition to the development and re-invigoration of Hi’ilawe?
Yours very truly… Ernest Humingbug
When Mission Estate caved, everyone wondered why. The Paradise Valley Resort development, declared the mouthpiece, would “keep the country country,” while invigorating business all along the Big Island’s Hamakua Coast with a championship golf resort. “The Mission Estate is an institution based on land and perpetual trust,” Karen affirmed. “We’ve been hearing, we’ve been listening. People should take comfort in knowing that.”
That’s a good one, thought Bagwell.
Izzy was arraigned on various charges, including willful evasion of federal income taxes, criminal fraud and conspiracy, threatening federal officials, threatening police officers, resisting arrest, assault, and driving an unregistered vehicle with illegal plates and expired safety check.
He would represent himself, since no public defender would understand that Izzy now answered to a higher law. At his arraignment, he refused to cooperate, maintaining the court had no jurisdiction over him as a sovereign head of state. He began to quote the Apology, at which point the judge grew impatient.
“Look, Mr. Wongham,” he said. “You better understand that you’re in here for some pretty serious stuff! This court doesn’t have time for this, and if you have any sense at all, you’re not going to make things any worse for yourself than they already are. ‘Cause if you fool around, and waste my time, I’m gonna waste yours. And nobody can waste your time like I can!”
“Your Honor,” Izzy responded, “I demand for my case to be heard by kanaka maoli,the sons of the land! I am head of a sovereign state, and you cannot hold me! That’s kidnapping, Your Honor– kidnapping of a head of state, and I going hold you, and your police, and the governor and all the rest of you people responsible!”
“And I’m holding you in contempt of court, Mr. Wongham—thirty days! You’ve had your say and that’s all you’re gonna say! You better get yourself an attorney who understands the seriousness of the charges against you, and who can explain it to you in a way that you can understand. The tax charges alone can put you away for ten years! Then there’s assault on a police officer— another ten years! Then there’s a whole laundry list of other things, too! But first, I wanna make sure you do understand what you’re up against! In addition to the thirty days, I’m ordering you to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine your competence to stand trial.” The judge granted a continuance, whch Izzy would await in jail. Bail was set at $5,000.
Knowing of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and others whose reputations had been made by their ordeal in jail, Izzy remained defiant, and held his head high. Jail could not break him, nothing could imprison the spirit of his people and the land… even though the charges could send him away for a long time, someplace a long ways from home, maybe. Maybe Arizona or some place.
“They cannot prove that I am not the heir,” Izzy had told the shrink. “The ancestors was waiting for so long, waiting for someone to come and do this for them. They say I’m crazy, but I’m not.”
The psychologist noted in his report that Izzy said that in 1854 the Chief of Hi’ilawe had willed his niece Princess Hazel Leleponi Kalau all of the Hi’ilawe lands. He had been told by his elders that Princess Kalau was his great-great grandmother, that she deeded the land to her son Charles Manukai, who in turn deeded it to his daughter Bertha Kanehailua Kealoha, who in turn given it to Kaipo’s great-grandfather, and from there, the record was unclear.
Haunani had stomped and ranted outside the courthouse for the past two days. They thought she was like some crazy lady, shooting her mouth off li’dat. Now she was all shouted out.
But nobody else said nothing either, just long face and fish eye. People evaded her, wouldn’t talk to her. They just didn’t want to tell her what they really thought, that it was over for Izzy, and what was the point already. The golf course was going in, end of story.
“Izzy is in jail!” she said. “You cannot just let him sit there! At least we gotta get him out on bail!”
Nobody answered. Everyone just sat around, looking dumbly at each other. Then one of the girls smirked, looked at her and laughed.
“Why you laughing?!” Haunani said. “What! You think this is funny! How you like it if you brother is in jail!”
“If no more Izzy, no more this bullshit,” they said. “Who does he think he is, anyhow… Jesus Christ? Or maybe McHotmac Gandhi! That’s what he thinks, you know!
This, then, was the fractured face of Hawaiian solidarity. His cellmates didn’t give a damn about his agenda, either. Nobody except him was a political prisoner. Most of these guys were in for pretty ordinary stuff, theft mostly. All the heavies went to Halawa or even away to the mainland, and it seemed like everyone else was just a burglar.
Some of them lay on their bunks and stared at the ceilings. Others read paperbacks or law books and tried to become jailhouse lawyers. Most of them just watched TV and sat around talking story, cadging and bartering cigarettes and dope and chewing gum and talking about what they was going do when they got out. Til then, they made license plates and road signs for thirty cents an hour.
Jail was most of all just a huge bore. Each day was fifty hours long, and time went by slower than it did in a dentist’s chair. Time dragged by like water that dripped onto a great big rock, drops that had to slowly erode their way all the way through the boulder before your time was finally done.
While awaiting the psychiatrist’s evaluation, Izzy had lots of time to think. Herman and Kaipo and Haunani and Isaac came by for visit, but none of the warriors. That’s when you found out who your friends were. All because he tried to show the Nation how to live as an example to the world, and how not to. He didn’t expect street demonstrations or media coverage, didn’t rate nothing ‘cept one public defender just out of UH Law School.
He wondered what was being done to get him out, and thought about the endless forms with his name on them, being shuffled around by chicken-brained clerks. He just wanted out. Never mind martyrdom, for without his freedom he had nothing to live for, was no point–just a brutish day-to-day existence doing what you could to fend off that most terrible tyrant of all: time.
When Haunani came to visit, every time was the same story. “Hey, we trying to get you out,” Haunani said. “But takes time, takes money. And we no more money.” What was the point, already? Why shouldn’t he just cooperate so he could get out and get on with his life?
The judge this time was some haole just out of traffic court, some tidy little prick with no idea what it was like to be Hawaiian. The psychiatric evaluation, he noted, had concluded that the prisoner was indeed disturbed. “The patient exhibits a great deal of hostility, resentfulness, and aggressiveness,” the report indicated. “He is an extremely sensitive and paranoid individual. But this description seems to apply to many Hawaiians who have great anger for the system, which they feel has deprived them of their land and their pride in being Hawaiian. Many like Mr. Wongham believe their only recourse to be violence and disruptive behavior.”
At first the judge seemed to be forgiving. “It’s very difficult for me to punish someone who really believes that what he did was right,” he said to Izzy. “You’re not a bad person, but I wish you had stayed within the system, like John Waihe’e. People like that show how Hawaiians can have a say in government, can have an impact in the community. It’s just got to be done the right way.”
He lectured Izzy on the need to work within the system, said he had brought dishonor to those of his people who had made the system work, said that the system would not tolerate those who engaged in some shabby little land grab under the pretenses of being an heir to the land by way of some suspect genealogy.
Izzy looked at the judge and thought, man, you don’t know shit about it. You been sitting on your ass arguing about traffic tickets all your life and what you know about it? All those people you think is such shining examples… those people just as out of touch as you are. Was people like you wen’ lock up our queen and wen’ fuck over Hawaiians ever since.
But Izzy held his tongue and acted contrite, knew he had to sing it pretty this time. “Prison made me think, Your Honor. I thought you could speak without getting into trouble. Today I understand, no can be li’dat. I think I was put in prison for understand that I was too hard head.
“Was like my daddy said, ‘People keep banging their heads on the door. Bang bang bang bang bang, when all they gotta do is turn the door knob. I no like turn the doorknob, that’s my fault. I paid the price. My past is my past. I was hard head before. Whatever it takes to patch things up and make things right, you got my word.”
The U.S. Attorney thought Izzy should remain in jail. He said he was anti-social, and that the danger to society that he presented had not just disappeared. The hearing was concluded, and bail was reduced to $2,000, the last money that Kaipo had to his name— that was what was left of the money Haunani had sent him from Honolulu long time ago.
Wearing a purple T-shirt, blue jeans, and blinding white running shoes that Haunani had bought for him at Kroger, Izzy walked out of jail. Kaipo and Lani and Herman and Haunani and Isaac was there– Haunani with tuberose lei in one hand and plate lunch in the other, all covered in aluminum foil, and jumbo fruit punch. They walked over to the little park across the street and sat down on the bench.
Izzy didn’t waste no time. He tore the foil off the plate lunch and took couple slurps from his fruit punch. Was all his favorites– a cardboard bowl of day-old poi, a mound of kalua pig, some crisp red seaweed with little red mountain shrimps, one piece poach ahi, one piece sweet potato, mac salad, a wedge of onion even! He never had nothing like that in there, usually just chicken gristle they wen’ sweep off the floor, flour gravy over the patty, peas and carrots, white bread with margarine.
“Oh man, this is good!” he managed, in between mouthfuls. He ate like a wolf, bolting down gobs of rice and poi, mounds of kalua pig, slurping fruit punch in between spoons of macaroni salad. “Back in there, no more rice even! No more dis’ kine stuff at all. I hated it! I tell you this now, Haunani, I ain’t never going back in there! I going die before that happens!”
The possibility of twenty years mortified him. He realized that all he might ever amount to was just another dumb Hawaiian in jail, just like all the car thieves and burglars and dope dealers. Only, those guys got out in time. His lawyer said they might plea bargain it down to three to five, but after only a month in there, Izzy knew he would die before he went back for even a single day.
The canoelas that made their way through the lagoons of the Grand Waikoloa were a hybrid of Venetian gondola and Hawaiian outrigger canoe, nimble enough for one person to paddle, while four passengers reposed on upholstered seats under a fringed canopy. They made their way around the man-made lagoon, past islets whose trees held parrots, rendered flightless, and monkeys that swung in their branches. The developer had tried to imagine all the things that tourists imagined Hawaii should have.
Mr. and Mrs. Avery Bagwell were registered as guests in the Pikake Suite. Bagwell was here to meet with his general contractor to discuss the situation at Paradise Valley. At the same time, this was a little vacation for him and Dez, and as soon as he was done with business, they could unwind… this was a great place, he thought, and you really didn’t have to go anywhere else. Plus, Grand Waikoloa was pet-friendly. Dez had insisted on bringing the damn dog so she could come to this beautiful place and watch TV with it all night, which was something of a deterrent, Bagwell thought, to renewing their affections. She hadn’t quit drinking, but neither had he, it was just more manageable these days.
Bagwell had brought the Ark that he and Karen would present the next day to the Hawaiian Historical Commission of Hilo. It would symbolize Bagwell Development’s commitment to perpetuating the Hawaiian legacy and specifically to preserving the archaeological sites that were said to be in the valley. It would gladly be accepted, the commission said. But now, given the dreadful mess in Hi’ilawe, Bagwell feared his gesture would be a day late and a dollar short,
The monstrosity sat before him now, uncrated so he could really have a look at it. Ultimately, Bagwell had decided to forego any further cooperation with Queen’s Museum or the Office of Hawaiian Burials, since hell, he thought, he would never see the damned thing again if he turned it over, and then it would someone else’s show, not his.
As the demands from Hawaiian Burials grew strident, Bagwell had Karen broker an arrangement that would let him at last get rid of it and still do him some good in the bargain. And if the Hawaiian Historical Commission wanted to turn it over to Queen’s Museum or whoever after they got it, that was fine with him.
Karen had sent the story to the Hilo Tribune and the Honolulu Advertiser. The Advertiser ignored it, but the story broke in the Tribune the next week, and there was a picture of the ka’ai, its pearly eyes glowering and dog teeth snarling. It looked pretty good, Bagwell thought, with him and Karen standing on each side, smiling like shit-eating dogs, and this thing frowning like a bear.
But the press hadn’t been entirely favorable. Letters to the editor said this was just another crass attempt by a greedy corporation to co-opt the aloha spirit for its own ends. Bagwell knew what he meant. Every new development was always being blessed by some rented priest who was happy, for the right fee, to mutter the usual nonsense and shake his bunch of leaves, asking the resident spirits to leave and kindly yield up yet another piece of the land to the endless parade of pirates and predators and sharks who walked upon the land.
In the instant case, Bagwell had hired the august Reverend Abraham Hiaka, who he hoped would tap into the motherload of mana that would be needed to heal up this mess. One way or the other, Bagwell was going to get his money’s worth out of it.
Haunani really wished she didn’t have to work. Izzy was coming up for sentencing soon, and she really didn’t feel like going to work, all week was so worried. There wasn’t much to envy about Izzy, but she wished she had something in her life to get excited about too. Her own life had been reduced to just one long commute every day to a job she hated in a junky old truck that she spent half her paycheck fixing and filling with gas.
Working on call and scrambling for hours, her paycheck was so small, just three hundred something every two weeks. She heard that some people were still on call after working housekeeping for twenty years. They expected you to sit around on your ass all day and not know whether you was going work or not. Hours was the holy grail, people were always bellyaching about hours, sucking up to the super, usually some damn Filipino woman who always gave her friends the hours— the ones who brought her presents and sucked up. That’s all she had to look forward to– twenty years with this bitch, working on call for the same shitty money.
She couldn’t even afford one shitty apartment closer to work— was cheaper to just keep gassing up and fixing the truck and living at home with mom and dad. But for how much longer? Pretty soon they wasn’t going to have no home neither, and then what were they going to do? Was bullshit already– she was never going get nowheres, just back and forth back and forth for some shitty paycheck that she’d go spend on the truck.
Desiree woke up mid-afternoon, awakened by a familiar smell: Dijon had had another accident. It must have been the doggy bag of steak that she brought back from the restaurant for him. She dialed downstairs. “This is Mrs. Bagwell in the Pikake Suite. My dog just had a little accident. Could you please send someone to clean it, please?”
Haunani knocked, called out “Housekeeping”, and opened the door. A cold stench smacked her in the face. Yucckk! she thought. The television was blasting away, and Desiree lay in bed, looking a bit like the basket that sat next to the crate in the corner, its mother-of-pearl eyes staring and its mouth opened in a grim rictus of dog teeth. Seeing the intruder, Dijon began gruffling and yapping.
“Are you the maid?” Desiree asked.
“Yuck!” Haunani exclaimed, and held her nose. Oh wow, this place stink!”
“Well… can you clean it up, please?”
Haunani recognized her right away. Was no mistake. Her and that damn little dog, was the same like before, years ago. What the hell was she doing here, she wondered?
“Ma’am, I cannot do nothing… I thought was just one little pile, but try look, it’s all smear everywhere! Gotta get one carpet shampoo machine. I cannot clean this.”
“Well someone needs to clean it up,” Desiree said, adamant. “That’s what we’re paying for. So get busy!”
That was when Haunani crossed the Rubicon.
“You go talk to the manager, if you no like! I ain’t cleaning up no shit from this animal! You go clean ‘em up yourself!”
“Listen, you! Don’t you talk back to me, you… you dumb bunny!”
“Eh, what you say?! What you say?!! What you think I am, some dumb Hawaiian you can just order round?! You don’t even remember me, do you! Well, who you calling dumb, eh?! You look pretty dumb when you wen’ broke you leg! You was so drunk you didn’t know up from down! And you calling me dumb?!”
“I’m calling the manager!” Dez reached for the phone, and in trying to pick up the instrument, knocked it over onto the floor. She bent over—oh, her back!—and picked up the phone and punched operator. The front desk answered. “Hello, this is Mrs. Bagwell in the Pikake Suite. I want the manager!”
From its corner, the Ark frowned on the commotion, and its stare at last engaged Haunani’s attention. Shit, that was Hawaiian stuffs! What’s she doing with it?! All of a sudden, everything just hit her— Bagwell, this bitch… and now Izzy going jail because of Bagwell and his damn golf course! She was so pissed.
“I’m going to talk to the manager, and we’ll see who cleans what!” Desiree affirmed, waiting for the manager to pick up. “And when I tell my husband, you won’t have a job!”
“Fuck that asshole!” Haunani said, hotly. “He ever tell you about his kid— the one he had with me?! Eh?! He ever tell you about how his kid—my kid, the one he try pay me money for get rid of? Now we no more money, no more nothin’, just livin’ in one shitty place on food stamp, and I wen’ ask him for money for his kid— his kid— and he wen’ call the cops?!! And all you care about is you fuckin’ dog?!”
The manager came on on the line, but Desiree was aghast at what this gross Hawaiian woman, who she didn’t even recognize from that slip of girl just a few years ago that she had to get rid of, was telling her. This couldn’t be true… but from within her fog of shock, a little voice told her that it probably was. She hung up the phone.
“You ask him about his kid next time, yeah?! Tell ‘him we doin’ okay, even though he wen’ walk away li’ dat! Tell him thas’ okay, ‘cause thas’ what I expect from you people. You people think you can just walk all over people whenevah, can just order ‘em to clean up you dog’s shit! You treat people like dogs!”
The phone rang, the manager calling back, and the light came on. At that moment, somehow it just made sense to her, to just grab hold of the Hawaiian basket and run away from this shitty job and reclaim the ka’ai for its own people. If Izzy was brave enough to sacrifice everything for his principles, she should be too. Somehow, the dog got factored into the calculus too.
“Shit!” she said. “I going show you about you fuckin’ dog!” Yapping and snapping in its spirited defense, the dog launched like a snake into Haunani’s ankle.
“Son of a bitch!” Haunani hissed. She chased the dog under the bed, where it gargled and snarled. Disdaining its bites, Haunani reached in to grab hold of it by the leash, and dragged it from under the bed.
“Dijon!!” Desiree shrilled.
“Come here, you sonofabitch!” With the dog snapping and her hand bleeding, Haunani turned and grabbed the Ark, then manhandled them both out the door and into the hall and down the fire escape, and all the while was Bagwell-bitch, yelling, probably couldn’t get out of bed. She could hear her even after she and the dog piled into the fire escape.
Haunani exited into the basement and the employees only area, thank god was no one, and she hastened down the hallway, dragging the poodle, a snapping fury of fur and fangs. She flung open the heavy door at the exit, then headed to the employees parking lot, ran almost, fast as she could with the dog in tow. Was heavy, the basket, and the fuckin’ dog already! Reaching the truck, she put the basket in back, then opened the door and threw the protesting poodle into the cabin. With justice awaiting, she drove off.
Bagwell and his site supervisor were having a late lunch in the Orchid Court downstairs. “As I was saying, Wally, I think it would probably be the best idea is to just let the whole mess dry out and–”
“Mr. Bagwell?” The maitre d’ leaned over to impart some urgent confidence. Bagwell looked up at him, surprised at the intrusion. “I’m sorry to interrupt, sir. But there’s something we need to speak with you about right away. Could I have a word with you separately?”
Desiree had been asleep when he left her that morning, but now, having drained the mini bar, she was drunk. Hysterical over the abduction of her dog, she had called the manager and made such a scene that he immediately called the dining room and the maître d’.
Dropping things mid-lunch, Bagwell hastened up to the room. The door had been opened to air it out, and when the elevator dinged and Bagwell walked into the hall, right away he could smell it. Shit, she called him up for that?! But no, matters were more complicated. The dog had been kidnapped! “And guess who, Avery… guess who kidnapped my dog!” He couldn’t imagine. “Your little wahine came by—remember her?! Remember her, the mother of your kid that you never told me about?! Well, I heard all about it! I hate you!” she cried out. “You’re a monster!” She wept, and the story emerged: “She took my dog! I want my dog! Now!”
How the fuck did that happen? he wondered. He thought she was okay with the fifteen hundred in child support, and he never imagined she’d be cleaning rooms at Grand Waikoloa. What lousy luck! There would be a lot of explaining to do. But for now, Desiree sat there, a sad sack all in a muddle. “My dog would never leave me,” she muttered, drunkenly.
While they waited for the cops, the manager sent someone up to clean up the accident, and with the carpet shampooer as captive audience and Bagwell holding his nose out in the hall, Desiree caterwauled about her poor little dog Dijon.
It wasn’t until after she had shanghaied the poodle that Haunani began to contemplate the implications. The dog jumped and clambered all over the seat and all round the gearshift. She kept trying to both push it down and still drive with one arm. It circled round and round a couple times, then sat down. It looked queasily at Haunani, then began drooling, and then started heaving. The dog had never taken well to riding in cars, and it was soon carsick all over the floorboards.
“Shit, what a damn mess you make, already!” Haunani said. The dog cowered, shivered, and looked at her woozily. She couldn’t be driving around like this, with the basket in back and the damn dog– the cops would be looking for her pretty soon, she was sure. Was a long drive to Hi’ilawe, with the dog now once again circling round and round, tracking puke all over. She didn’t know why she had to take the damn thing in the first place, no idea what to do with it now that she thought about it. No idea what to do with the basket, either. But if she could get to Hi’ilawe before the cops, maybe can put ‘em in the Sunday School.
The old truck squealed down the road into the valley. Was noise and mud everywhere, she saw. Their enormous tires caked with mud, Caterpillars and bulldozers sat idle. She drove past the site of the new clubhouse, where pilings stood like sentinels above the sea of mud.
It had rained a lot in the past week, sometimes slowing to the pace of an English mist, sometimes pouring down in such cataracts that one might have thought that the ocean itself had been sucked up into the clouds and discharged upon the land. Now the sun glared fiercely, and the mud had begun to steam and dry out.
Haunani parked the truck outside the Sunday School. She got out, looked around and found an empty old plastic plant pot and filled it with some water from a faucet, then set it down in the truck for the dog. Then she walked around back. Was nobody around. She thought she better go upstairs anyway, ask the old pastor if she could keep the dog and the basket in the basement for the night, while she went to see Izzy and decided what to do next.
Pastor Henry lay in his customary condition, off with the fairies, and she decided not to trouble him. Mo’ bettah just go ahead and put ‘em down there, then leave. She trundled down the steps into the basement, and looked about her. Could hardly see, and even then, she wasn’t sure what it was— all this chemistry-kine stuff, looked like one lab or something. Then she saw the bottles on the ledge. Was all empty now, and she picked one up, pulled the cork, and took a whiff— jeez, she thought, was like whiskey or something. She looked again at the tub and all the coils and glass retorts and the amber bottles on the ledge. Could only have been Uncle Herman, she realized— the guy wen’ run one still down here. Unreal, she thought.
She brought the Ark downstairs and set it down on the cement floor, then went back upstairs and out to bring the dog and its water dish. Satisfied that things were under control for the moment, she left the dog and the Ark in the half-light of the basement, shut the door, and drove off to the store, still standing, but for just a little while longer.
Izzy felt like the guy in Cuckoo’s Nest after get brain surgery. All he wanted to do was sit and watch television and drink beer. He never talked to no one, not even his parents, didn’t want to even think about the cause or the Nation or nothing. He was a beaten man, utterly humiliated and made to grovel before the judge for his freedom. What was coming, he had no idea. Except he wasn’t going back to jail. He sat there watching the news, and popped open a beer. Didn’t even want to think about it, but was like trying to ignore one elephant in the room. Even three to five– that was just forever, man. But twenty years?!
He heard the truck pull up out front of the store. He put his beer down and got up to look, and there she was. Haunani climbed down out of the truck and walked up to him, looking scared and out of breath.
“Haunani! Hey, girl, where you been?!”
“Izzy!” she burst out.
“Settle down, already! Whassa matter you?!”
“Oh Izzy, get big trouble already!”
“Yeah, I know… thanks.” He looked at her wryly and forced a smile.
“Where’s mom and dad?” She looked about tentatively, and seeing neither, she spilled the beans.
“I’m in trouble now, Izzy– just like you.”
“What you mean?! How can be? What kine trouble you talking about?”
She told him of the brouhaha with Mrs. Bagwell. “Imagine running into her after all this time! I got real pissed, told her off real good, told her go clean ‘em up herself already! Then this thing, standing there in the room. Look like sacred stuffs! Look like one old Hawaiian basket, the kine for put bones, that kind. It’s pretty heavy, probably get bones for sure. So I wen’ grab ‘em—and the dog– and ran out the door!”
“What? What you talking about? Why you took somebody’s bones, and somebody’s dog? Where you put ‘em?”
“I put ‘em in the Sunday School, in the basement.”
Izzy had other things to worry about some damn dog. He had his own black dog, and if he let himself think about things, it would seize him, clamp its jaws around his throat so he couldn’t breathe, and paralyze him with terror. And now this, some other dog. Big deal. But the bones, that sounded like trouble.
“I think you should just give ‘em back, never mind all this shit.”
“Izzy, just now, I got come clean out my truck, then gotta get myself cleaned up and get something to eat… I’m starving! You get beer?”
Desiree’s venom had finally spent itself and her hysterics had abated. She sat there in bed sullenly, muttering. Bagwell was asleep in the next room. She staggered to her feet, opened the small refrigerator and rummaged through the wet bar. Empty. She had cleaned it out long since. She picked up the phone and dialed room service.
“Good evening, this is room service. May I help you?”
“Yes. This is Mrs. Bagwell, in room… room… oh I don’t know what room it is! Look it up!”
“No problem, Mrs. Bagwell. Let me see, I have you and Mr. Bagwell in the Pikake Suite. How can I help you?”
“I’d like a bottle of vodka sent up.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Bagwell, but county regulations prohibit us from dispensing alcoholic beverages before six o’clock.”
“I don’t care! I want some vodka sent up to this room!”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but that’s the law. I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do to change that. Bar service resumes at six, if you’d like to call back then?”
“Oh, never mind!” she said, and hung up. She opened the door of her bedroom, and made her way through the living room and into the adjoining bedroom, and threw on the lights.
“Avery?!” He jarred awake, his eyes seared by the light. “Avery!!”
“Oh, shit… turn off the damn light, would you?!”
“Avery, I want a drink!”
“Oh shit! For Chrissake, why don’t you go back to bed?!”
“Don’t you oh shit me! They stole my dog! I want my dog!” Her glare disintegrated, becoming a tearful clown’s mask. “Where’s my dog!!” she said, weeping. She came in, sat down on his bed, and cried.
“Look, Dez. Stop your bawling. I’ll do everything I can, as soon as I can. I’m sure that something’s going to turn up. We’ll get your dog back— I’ll go to work on it in the morning. So don’t worry, okay? Now go back to bed. Let me see if I can get you a drink.”
Evening arrived on cat’s paws, and a late-afternoon shadow crept along the edge of the ceiling of the basement of the old church. The dog’s eyes darted about in sudden apprehension. The shadow loomed, and from its crouching form there came a low, slowly swelling moan. The dog gruffled and whimpered, then began yipping and yelping, as the monster began to materialize in silhouette, huffed and spitting. Terrified, it took cover in the darkness.
The monster advanced, and emerged into the half-light. Its eyes dilated, and it stared at the dog with a gnostic gaze, growling its sinister diapason. Its ears lay back in menace, and with the fur on its back standing up, the monster screamed like a banshee, then crept low along the floor as if it were a fat snake, hissing loudly.
The dog cringed and whimpered pathetically. But at the last moment, as the poodle beheld death’s fanged countenance, its life was spared. A rat scurried from its lair, and dashed beneath the staircase. Distracted, the monster gave chase, hissing and spitting, under the stairs and into the woodwork. For now, it did not return.
Reduced to a wretched little nervous disease, the dog chewed itself neurotically and licked its lipstick consolingly. Then it eyed the basket, and sniffing at it frantically, began to claw at it and chew it open. Managing at last to tear a hole in the wicker, it fastened its jaws upon the contents of the basket, and dragged it out, chewing spasmodically at the old head.
There being no sign of the police, Izzy and Haunani drove to the church and opened the door to the cellar. Descending the stairs, they peered. They beheld first the still, then the dog, then the sundered basket and its contents, leather-like, chewed to pieces.
The dog looked at them nervously from the shadows, flicking its tongue and licking its chops. “Oh shit!” Izzy said. “Look what the dog did! Wen’ chew up everything! Look the mess already. Stinks!”
“Oh man, we in trouble now…” Haunani said. “He ate somebody.”
They bent down to inspect the carnage.
“Try look,” she said.
Clumps of silvery hair framed most of a face, and the jaw exposed yellowed lower teeth that had been wired together. Most of the face had been gnawed away, and the neck was chewed to the bone.
“Looks like was one old haole guy!” Izzy said.
But no doubt, wasn’t no Hawaiian ancestor here. Was some old white guy.
A great controversy attended the recovery of the ka’ai and its remains. When it was determined that the contents of the wicker basket were not the bones of Lono, but the half-chewed head of Captain James Cook, the controversy widened to embrace certain diplomatic sensitivities involving the federal government as well as the governments of the State of Hawaii and Great Britain.
The discovery of the remains reawakened the historical inquiry into the death of Captain Cook, and surfaced the critical intelligence that the heiau at Hi’ilawe had once safeguarded his remains. Accordingly, the heiau was proclaimed a site of great historic significance for all concerned, and the State moved swiftly to establish its protection over the valley. The golf course was not to be.
Bagwell had decided to leave Hawaii. He planned to downsize and go to Colorado, then on to New Orleans, and focus on gaming– casinos were a godsend for cities and communities that industry had abandoned and whose tax base was in tatters. For him, Hawaii was a dead letter.
His reversal of fortunes in Hi’ilawe had at last caused him to reassess his life. He had betrayed and neglected his partner and one true ally. Desiree needed help, and most of all she needed him. He was wiser now and had come to understand what was important, and it was time to bring his dalliance with Karen to a close.
Bagwell brought her into his office and told her that he had decided to end the Hawaii operations of Bagwell Development. The time had come for him to move on to other projects. He wanted Karen to handle the public relations and coordinate with Human Resources on the layoffs.
“And then?” she asked.
“Well, then it’s time to say aloha.” He looked at her and said, “I’m sorry, Karen.”
“What do you mean, you’re sorry? Are you cutting me loose?”
What there was between them, Bagwell said, was over. They had needed each other then, but now, his wife needed him. Bagwell promised himself that when they left Hawaii, he would wipe the slate clean. He would scale down his deals, cut back on the time at the office, give up the golf, and be with his wife. He would help get her sober again– she had done it before, was doing okay until the fiasco at Grand Waikoloa, and with his help she could do it again.
Although he respected her capabilities and greatly appreciated her contributions to the organization, it was over.
But Karen had believed in Avery Bagwell, loved him, even. Theirs was a shared destiny. The two of them were to have shared his dream, and she hoped that they would share his success, and someday his castle.
His betrayal stung, and her sudden disillusionment turned to ice. And the more she thought about it, the more she wanted nothing so much as to trash his dream and burn down his castle. Hell hath no fury…
After Bagwell and Desiree left, there arrived at the offices of station KGBM-TV a videotape– a copy of a videotape, actually. With it was a letter:
Sir, I have taken the liberty of sending you a copy of a videotape that was produced at the direction of Mr. Avery Bagwell, Chairman and CEO of Bagwell Development, and sent to Humphrey Merkin, trustee of the Mission Estate. Its purpose, plain and simple, was blackmail.
Pastor Henry Pratt has served as the pastor for the First Christian Church of Hi’ilawe for thirty years. For most of this time, his church has had no congregation. Suffering as he does from the ravages of alcohol, Pastor Henry has long been incapable of conducting services.
Why then, has the Mission Estate kept him on? Why have they not committed him to rehabilitation, and replaced him with a competent minister? And what does this have to do with the recent, sudden, and unexpected decision on the part of the Mission Estate to sell its landholdings in Hi’ilawe to Bagwell Development Corporation—in its capacity as straw man for a Japanese partner whose background, I suspect, could not stand the light of day?
The answers to these questions will become evident in your review of the enclosed videotape. I trust that your station will find it newsworthy.
Yours very truly… Karen Webster
Vice-President, Public Relations
Bagwell Development Corporation
Humphrey Merkin resigned from his position as trustee. Investigated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and deemed undesirable, Hideo Hamamoto was deported. And at length, Bagwell Development Corporation settled the many lawsuits against it, by way of a deed which conveyed its ill-gotten property in Hi’ilawe to a perpetual trust, which then leased the land to farmers for a nominal consideration.
The company’s $5 million development bond was forfeited when it came to light that Bagwell Development had withheld from the State, after numerous official demands for their relinquishment, Hawaiian burial remains and a ka’ai that had been thought lost since 1842. Proceeds from the forfeited bond were used to repair the damage done by the half-finished construction of Paradise Valley Resort.
The gashes in the earth were healed and the valley was renewed. Its streams were made to no longer discharge acres of mud into the ocean, and the sea eventually washed away the countless tons of red silt that had carpeted its pristine bsandy bottom and begun to suffocate its reef. What was once luxuriant cane land was replanted in taro and coffee and papaya and guava, by people of the valley who now returned as farmers.
Convicted of tax evasion and sundry lesser offenses, Izzy was sentenced to three years in prison, sentence suspended. The matter settled, he returned to Hi’ilawe, to perform a labor of love.
To be amongst his taro, its panoply of heart-shaped leaves nodding their benediction over sparkling waters beneath, was heaven itself for Izzy, and the air was fragrant with its lily-like perfume. Delicately washed with the colors of the rainbow, his taro rustled gently in the velvet valley breeze.
The ka’ai was re-consecrated by the elders of the Hawaiian nation, and now reposed in its display case at the Queen’s Museum. The bits and pieces of the head of Captain James Cook were patched up and repatriated to England. Many years had passed since the madness of Wolohu and his Sunday School, and the valley of Hi’ilawe seemed at last freed from its curse of derangement.
“Conceive how the remnant huddles about the embers of the fire of life. Even as old Red Indians, deserted on the march and in the snow, the kindly tribe all gone, the last flame expiring, and the night around populous with wolves.” —
Robert Louis Stevenson