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Wolohu’s Sunday School


Wolohu’s Sunday School

by

Wahanui


Hawaiian music


Index


Chap. 1 | Chap. 2 | Chap. 3 | Chap. 4 | Chap. 5 | Chap. 6 | Chap. 7 | Chap. 8 Chap. 9 | Chap. 10 | Chap. 11 | Chap. 12 | Chap. 13 | Chap. 14 | Chap. 15 | Chap. 16 | Chap. 17 | Chap. 18 | Chap. 19 | Chap. 20 | Chap. 21 | Chap. 22 | Chap. 23 | Chap. 24 | Chap. 25 | Chap. 26 | Chap. 27 | Chap. 28| Chap. 29 | Chap. 30 | Chap. 31 | Chap. 32 | Chap. 33 | Chap. 34 | Chap. 35 | Chap. 36


Preface


This stuff actually happened, sort of. What follows is an account of a delusional madness that befell the valley of Hi’ilawe on the island of Hawai’i in the early 19th century. The sickness had arrived with a shipwreck, a young man named Bennie, and it grew malignant in the mind of a syphilitic demagogue named Wolohu, who misconstrued the Christianity preached by its resident missionary, Bertram, as a cargo cult that cried out for new leadership. Its treasures, piled high in San Francisco, awaited delivery to the Hawaiians of Hi’ilawe, but Bertram had lost his touch, and Wolohu was determined to prevail in the Battle for Christmas.

The madness persisted into modern times, when an avaricious developer, Avery Bagwell, stumbled into possession of the remains of Captain James Cook, who had made himself persona non-grata with his Hawaiian hosts at Kealakekua Bay on that same island, and been eaten, sort of, for his trouble. For the next thirty-some years, the remains of England’s Great Navigator–his head, actually, had been watched over faithfully, at a heiau deep in the forest of Hi’ilawe, by Waha, a priest who believed them to be the bones of the god Lono. One day, unable to constrain his curiosity, Waha had opened the basket, and seeing that he had been defrauded, he cursed the head of this white devil and pronounced his anathema upon those who had profaned his sacred trust, and their descendants, in perpetuity. It proved a fine madness indeed.

*Author’s Note: The Journal of Molesworth Detmold in Chapter 1 has been adapted from the Journal of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage, to the Pacific Ocean on Discovery, Performed in the Years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780 and The Three Voyages of Captain Cook Round the World. Vol. V. Being the First of the Third, by James Cook … just so you wouldn’t think I was making any of this up. You have it straight from the Old Man himself.

— Wahanui


Chapter 1


From the Journal of Molesworth Detmold, Scientific Officer’s Assistant HMS Resolution 1778-1779


It is not for me, Molesworth Detmold, to give voice to what was on everyone’s mind, that our Captain had gone barmy. None dared venture a remark to him, for fear of launching him into one of his heivas, stamping furiously on deck, which I can only liken to nothing so much as the mad dance of the cannibal Indians. The next moment he might just as easily be bleating on in some fine speech, adjoining us like an unctuous schoolmaster to appreciate the reasonableness of his discoveries of things that would benefit us: Sea Horse flesh, portable soup, sow’r krout, cane beer, spruce beer, experimental beef, experimental water. 

Like some bloodless ghoul he was, constipated and ill of bilious complaint, shunning the harsh sun of these burning southern seas in favor of haunting the dark ‘tween-decks of Resolution. He sulked at the dinner table without volunteering a word, pecking sullenly at a small tangle of sow’r krout, the odd bit of salt horse, a few shriveled peas, fussing over his meals like a vixen fixing her nails. He might not have eaten any of it anyway, since his experimental teeth that he removed at table and suffered to place before us like a ghastly bouquet, were useless to him. Most of his teeth, I believe, were experimental, forever falling apart, and he simply removed them when he ate.

But his experiments were mere annoyances as compared to his behavior toward Indians wherever we encountered them. He regarded them as sullen, brutal, and treacherous, hopelessly sunk in savagery–wont to come aboard and enjoin us in their rites, filling the night with their barbarous witchcraft and howling beneath a blood-shot moon. He contended that among all God’s creations there was nothing so savage and dangerous as the natural peoples themselves. He had once endeavored to stimulate their curiosity, to learn the emotions that could be awakened in their souls, but found nothing but vicious tendencies among these children of nature; and they were all the more dangerous in that they greatly surpassed Europeans in physical strength. Within that same quarter of an hour he had found them to change from childlike delight to deepest gloom, from complete calmness to the greatest heights of rage, and then burst into mirth and good humor and mimickry and other little sportive tricks the moment afterwards. He had noticed them change toward each other, one moment caressing, and menacing the next, but they were never long in the same mood, and always struck him as having dangerous and deceitful tendencies. One had only to shift the evidence a little and see in place of idyllic love and natural goodness a world of voluptuaries, thieves, cannibals and idolaters. Civilization had a clear duty to save these unfortunates from themselves.

But the Captain was forced to conclude that Otaheite was very different. It seemed that we had discovered the Island of Love, an oceanic Eden that abounded with all those delicious fruits which render the countries between the tropicks the happiest in the world, ringed with shimmering lagoons, and populated by a people who were a philosopher’s delight, their dispositions very mild and agreeable, the indolence of the inhabitants very great albeit. It was also in Otaheite that the distinction between the civilizer and the savage began to crumble. The Captain’s cool judgment with the indians had gone entirely awry, and his patient indulgence of their childlike rascality had given way to petty vindictiveness and cruelty, burning down an entire island and chasing after the ship’s Gote.

Their thieving–at first, a length of rope here, metal plates and a few personal oddments–had provoked his ire. At the observatory, one of their number had made so bold as to enter into the tent where our astronomers were sleeping, making off with the Captain’s stockings. But it was in vain to punish the delinquents, for where all were culpable those only could be made to suffer who were taken in the fact, and such was their dexterity that few were detected. Their women appeared exceeding lascivious, permitting our men to pursue the natural impulse of their passions, and our barter of iron for their affecksions had so fueled their appetite for this magical substance, that our every encounter degenerated into an altercation over the theft of tongs, pincers, pots and pans, cleavers, cooking and eating utensils.

But it was the theft of the Gote that tipped the Captain’s indulgence into uncontrolled fury. Indeed, its theft the next day stirred up a most satisfying hornet’s nest. He burst in on them like the Bull of Bashan, and demanded they return everything they had helped themselves to– the sextant, and the pistols, the petty officer’s sword, the water cask. He went down his list, comprising some dozen or more items, most of all the gote. He demanded they be returned, and the thieves brought to account instantly.

The audience thought this was the best part of the amusement, and some among them could scarce conceal their hilarity. The Captain launched into one of his heivas, turning red and trembling with rage, his voice quavering, which made me fear some ill consequence. He directed the sergeant to seize one of the indians so that he might have some little amusement of his own. The marine took hold of the one who was standing nearest, and the Captain presented a pistol at him, and smashed the butt into the side of his face, breaking several of his teeth and brutalizing the poor indian very much, at which they were very much frightened.

An oven rake was returned, then the sextant, the pair of pistols, the petty officer’s sword, and the water cask. But the gote, as much a novelty to the Indians as iron, was withheld from us. The Captain threatened to burn their boats unless the gote was returned, but our hosts professed only ignorance of its whereabouts.

His plan unfolded, such that he ordered us to take hostage their canoos, twenty-five of them just returned from the bay, filled with fish, which we gathered together and moored in front of the ships. Several days went by, and still there was no word of the gote. The fish in the canoos rotted, and when the breeze got up, we found ourselves confined in our disagreeable situation, downwind of the most appalling stinke. In time, it seemed that even the Indians had lost interest in the return of their canoos.

The next morning, we made shift to undertake a search for the gote. We ascended the ridge of cliffs that ringed the bay, and stumbled upon the key intelligence that the gote had gone before us, so that we marched up in great silence in hopes of surprizing the party that had her. But when we got to the uppermost plantation on the side of the ridge, the people there told us that she had been kept there only the first night. 

Like Huns we advanced, stamping that dark land with the imprint of our resolve. And when there was still no sign of the gote, the Captain’s wrath knew no bounds. He sent a message to the chief, telling him that if he did not send the gote he would not leave him a canoo in the island and that he would continue destroying till it came. He was glad of the opportunity to punish insolence, real or imagined. He would deprive them of their livelihoods, he said, and would lay waste to their entire island if need be, that they might understand that they were dealing with the rule of Civilization.

With scarcely a moment’s interruption, the ravaging and plunder commenced. The Officers groaned with remorse, though the men set to the task with relish and gleeful abandon, sacking with axes and cross-cut saws the breadfruit trees of indians with whom we had traded peacefully the day before, putting the torch to their huts, killing hogs and dogs, and wrecking the impounded canoos that lay on the beach.

As I watched the flames climb into the fronds of the coconut palms, it seemed that an entire civilization might be reduced to ruin before the gote was recovered. When at last we returned aboard ship, the Captain looked shore-ward and watched as the Smoak from the burning canoos rose into the sky. It was a damage, he observed in smug satisfaction, that he supposed would take years to recover.

Late that afternoon, an unmanned canoo appeared at the mouth of the bay. It drifted lazily up the long inlet, and as it drew up alongside our ship, when in a transport of joy, we beheld the wished-for object of our pursuit, the sought-after Gote.


Hawaiian music

From Otaheite, we sailed north across the glassy doldrums and half-drowned atolls straddling the equator, and raised the trades that might have propelled us toward a region of icy foggs, had not the island of Owahoo interposed itself.

There had been no mention made by the natives in the southern regions of any islands to the north. On the 19th, being then in the 21st degree, 20th minute of northern latitude, the man at the masthead called out high land, bearing east-northeast and in a very little time came in sight of more land, apparently of an equal height with the former. As we approached nearer the windward island, it presented no very promising aspect, being mountainous, and surrounded with reefs, without any signs of inhabitants; we therefore stood off and on till the 20th, when we bore away for the land we had seen to leeward, but not then in sight.

About nine in the morning, it was seen the second time at the distance of about seven or eight leagues. We were much charmed with its appearance as we came near it, observing it to abound with runs of excellent water. As the morning brightened, we raised a second island. Its emerald beauty was breath-taking, another paradise unspoilt. Its verdant mountains brooded over forested uplands pocketed with stands of sugar-cane and bananoes of which there was great abundance, and tapered off to more gentle contours along the east side. Villages dotted the shore and hinterland, where a high hummock of land rose straight from the see, and a superb crescent of sand was fringed by innumerable pillars of cocoa-nut trees and digitated breadfruit whose hands extended in benedictions of plenty. Here and there were strange towers of bamboo as well, their platforms laden with offerings of stones bundled in leaves.

We sailed along the northwest side of the island, called by the natives Towi, sounding as we went, while the boats from both ships were employed in searching for some bay or harbour, where we might safely anchor. In the meantime several canoes came from the shore with plantains and fish on board. The indians parted with what they had for any trifles that were offered them, and at first behaved with great civility, but could not be persuaded to venture on board. At five in the evening we were two leagues from the shore surrounded by indians in their canoes, with hoggs in abundance, some very large, which we purchased according to their size for a spike or a tenpenny nail each.

They were friendly and very curious, though they were at first afraid to board the ship. Their eyes darted about in apprehension, and those who made bold to come on board fell to their knees in prayer. They asked where they might sit, and they touched and fondled every fixture, their eyes wide with astonishment at objects inconceivable to them.

I never saw indians so much astonished before. Their eyes were continually flying from object to object, the wildness of their looks and actions fully expressing their Surprize and astonishment. Perhaps our complexions and features and our odd dress predisposed them to believe that we were not men at all. They might have taken our cocked hats to be a part of our heads, and our clothing to be wrinkled skin. Our feet might have been long black hooves, our pockets doors in the sides of our bodies, into which we thrust our hands to bring forth many wondrous things.

One of them stood up and thrust a piece of gourd shell into his loincloth at his side and drew it thence in a great air of suspense and mystry, as might a magician performing a hat trick, in trying to convey some sense of our unintelligible operations. They might have concluded as well that we were gods of the Vulcano, seeing that smoak and fire issued from our mouths. They had seen us eat something red, and might have believed it to be the flesh of men. But that which they supposed to be the raw flesh of men was the red core of the watermelon, and the fire was from tobakko.

Our ships were a trove of treasures, some of which gleamed like the sun and were painful to behold, and some cold and black and hard as the evil in the hearts of sorcerers. Everything was fingered, with expressions of utter amazement that became incredulous when they touched an object made of iron. They had no knowledge of Iron, it was as odd as ice-berggs to them, and the moment they discovered its obvious importance they were in raptures about it, and were willing to give us anything they possessed in exchange for it. We were visited by a great multitude of canoos, bringing yams, sweet potatoes, hoggs, plantains, and other fruits, which they gladly exchanged for little bits of old iron, nails, and other articles. They offered whatever they could for it, and we found that we could provision the entire ship for a day with a single small nail. Their passion for iron was such that the Captain awaited the first thefts fatalistically.

While we remained at sea, no people on earth could be more friendly; but our boats had no sooner landed than a quarrel arose between them and our people. The indians soon began to be very troublesome and even attempted to haul the boat onshore which obliged the Officers to fire at them by which one of them was killed. The report of the musquet together with the fire and the smoak, and the execution it did, being what they had never seen before and a mystry, they could form not the least conception of, it terrified them so much. The musquet shot had come as thunder from a clear sky, and a man lay dead and bleeding, from what none of them knew. They all quitted the boats instantly and went away carrying the dead body off with them and making great Lamentations, and the boats did not attempt to land after this, but returned onboard.


Hawaiian music

On the 22nd, the ships having found anchorage on the southwest side, we were no sooner moored, than we were again surrounded with a more numerous multitude of indians than before; most of them in canoos laden with hoggs, plantains, bananoes, and sweet potatoes, which they readily exchanged as before. Here we were suffered to make what purchases we pleased; only women were prohibited by the Captain’s order, on the severest penalties. This created a general murmur among the men, whose pleasure was centered in that kind of commerce, in the newly discovered islands wherever they went.

The women here seemed to him to have no more sense of modesty than those in Otaheite. In general they were as fyne girls as any we had seen. The women in general have shocked hair, which they were at great pains to ornament. They had large holes in their ears that, filled as they were with most beautifully coloured shells made up in clusters, served for jewels, and had no bad effect. Their head-dress consisted of wreathes of flowers, decorated with feathers chiefly red; and having, in general, lively piercing black eyes, white teeth, small features, and round faces, were not a little inviting, had not the Captain’s severe prohibition put a check to the predominant passion of our men.

The Captain suffered a great burden of responsibility to prevent his men from communicating the contagion. He was obsessed with it, believing that he would bring the end to an innocent civilization if we loosed our Pandora’s Box upon the women. We might infest native houses with lice, and rat fleas, and ship’s fever, while others among us carried, perhaps, tuberculosis, smallpox, diphtheria, influenza, viral infections, pneumonia, cholera, along with one of the greatest scourges of the unresistant, meezles. But meezles and influenza and cholera were easy to spot, and the afflicted were soon isolated before their disease could spread. The greatest peril lay with contagion whose symptoms were not so readily evident in their carriers, and which were communicated in the joyful abandonment of passion.

As there were some venereal complaints on board both the ships, in order to prevent its being communicated to these people, the Captain gave the order that no women, on any account whatever were to be admitted on board the ships. But whether these regulations had the desired effect or no time can only discover. It was no more than what he did when we first visited the Friendly Islands yet we afterwards found it did not succeed, and I was much afraid this would always be the case where it was necessary to have a number of people on shore. The opportunities and inducements to an inter-course between the sexes were too many to be guarded against. It was also a doubt with me that that the most skillful of the faculties could tell whether every man that had had the venereal was so far cured as not to communicate it further. It was likewise well known that amongst a number of men, there would be found some who would endeavor to conceal this disorder, and there were some again who cared not to whom they might communicate it.

On the 29th we bore away to another lee island called Neehow, which abounded with hoggs and fruit, and where the natives were equally hospitable with those we had just left. We had already exchanged several presents with the Cheefs of the island, and had received in return six large hoggs and an immense quantity of yams and sugar-cane. Our boats, while the shore was accessible, were employed to collect the vegetable and other curious productions of the island, and stock ourselves with a large proportion of culinary plants, which was of infinite service to us in our northerly progress. On the evening of the 1st of February, we had more than two hundred hoggs, besides three months’ allowance of sweet potatoes, bananoes, plantains, sugar-canes, and vegetables in abundance. Water was now the only necessary with which we were scantily provided.

I was directed to accompany a shore party, under Leftenant Edgar’s command, to search this island for water, with orders that our group was to return before nightfall. When we landed on the island, the surf at low tide was manageable, though menacing, in my opinion. We beached the boats, and drew them well up upon the beach away from the surf.

From the moment we set foot on the island, we were followed by a group of indians whose numbers swelled with each dozen paces. They kept their distance as they watched our every movement. We gestured for water, and they produced several bunches of green cocoa-nuts, this evidently being the main source of water on this arrid island. That was all we turned up during the day.

I was entirely naive about the capacity of the ocean in these parts to quickly build to insurmountable, nay inconceivable, heights. As our search had taken us over the low-lying ridge to the lee side of the island, we did not notice the increase in the surf until we returned to where we had begun. In the course of an afternoon, it had built to a tremendous size. The two marines we had left behind to guard the boat had pulled it even higher up on the beach to bring it beyond the reach of the waves. And there it would stay for the time being, most certainly, since it was clearly out of the question that we might attempt to return to ship with the waves being such as they were. We had no choice but to disdain the Captain’s orders that we return by nightfall.

As darkness fell we made camp on a rise overlooking the beach. A native came and endeavored to engage us in a conversation that was mostly gesture, though the substance of which was clearly discernible to me. He drew his hands through the air to descry the geometry of a woman, and at once from the darkness behind him there materialized a gaggle of them. With night drawing on, our fires illuminated their faces. Though a bit wild looking, I could not deny that they were lovely in a way, as the firelight played along their teeth. That’s what I will most especially admire about them, their teeth.

Most of the night passed without controversy or incident, until I was awoken by a shriek of merriment that came from beyond the rise in back of the beach. It was the women, and some number of our men, who I observed in a struggle to arise from a tangle of them, and it seemed that one of our numbers were engaged in hastily re-composing their uniforms. Many curses were expended, and it amused them very much, and their attempts to quell the laughter were ineffectual, and the more the men tried to extricate themselves, the more they clamored at them, tearing at their tunics and pulling their trousers.

Though it was a contravention of the Captain’s strictest orders, few among us saw it as other than a game, made all the keener for the consequences of punishment that the Captain might exact, were he to discover what had transpired.

Upon our return to ship, each of us was suffered by the Captain to provide a complete account of our survey ashore. I reported the island to be arid and nearly uninhabited, though what indians we had encountered did point out some seepage from freshwater springs that lay covered during high tide. But apart from that, nothing but a few cocoa-nut trees. As to further contact with the inhabitants, I said that the natives were not overly curious about us. And when questioned specifically that there was no contact with women, I warranted I had seen nothing.

There being no water to be procured, and the reefs being dangerous, and the surf running high, the Captain, after surveying the island, took possession of it, in the name of his Royal master–calling the whole cluster Sandwich’s Isles—and prepared to depart, for a storm had come on from the eastward, and again obliged Resolution to put to sea.


Hawaiian music

We sailed to the north-east near on a thousand leagues, and made landfall at a sheltering cove where, even for us who had experienced bizarre encounters in all corners of the world’s vastest ocean, our welcome seemed one of the strangest of all. A scene of eerie and haunting beauty presented itself, and it seemed a place frozen in a weird dream. A man arrived in a canoo, resplendent in ochre paint and red and white fox furs, his head ornamented with a lariat of Fethers falling about his shoulders and back. He mounted a platform in the canoo, and waving wildly at the sky and the shore, he broke into a dirge that was half-howl, half-song. As twilight gathered, another voice from one of the canoes intoned a refrain, much as a parish clerk gives out the first line of a psalm. Other voices joined in, and taking up their paddles again and beating the sides in strict rhythm, they melded their voices into an eerie chorus of syncopated song, swelling it out in the middle, then letting the sound die away, which we all agreed was pleasing to the ear. He commenced shaking a rattle that he held in each hand. These he then laid down, and scooped up handfuls of red dirt and feathers to cast onto the water. More shrieks followed, then he calmly seated himself as if nothing had happened. The Captain attempted to engage his good offices by lowering him a piece of green baize cloth, which was examined and dismissed as being of no interest.

The next day a great many canoes, filled with indians, were about the ships all day, and a trade commenced betwixt us and them. The articles they offered for sale were skins of various animals, such as bears, woolves, foxes, deer, raccoons, polecats, martins and sea otters. They also brought garments with them made of these skins, and another sort of clothing made of the bark of a tree, or some plant like hemp; weapons, such as bows, arrows, and spears; fish-hooks, and instruments of various kinds, a sort of woolen stuff, or blanketing; bags filled with red ochre; pieces of carved work; beads, and several other little ornaments of thin brass and iron, shaped like a horseshoe, which they hung at their noses.

Like so many savages they were warmly hospitable, and the first boat that visited us brought us what no doubt they thought was the greatest possible accommodation, and offered it to us to eat. This was a human arm, roasted. I had heard it remarked that human flesh was the most delicious, and therefore tasted a bit, and so did many others without swallowing the meat or the juices, but either my conscience or my taste rendered it very odious to me. We intimated to our hosts that what we tasted was bad, and expressed as well as we could our disapprobation of eating it on account of it being part of a man like ourselves. They seemed to be sensible by the contortions of our faces that our feelings were disgusted, and apparently paddled off with equal dissatisfaction and disappointment themselves.

We would have leave to go ashore, by turns, to gather berries, which we now found ripe, and in great abundance, such as raspberries, blue berries, black and red currants, huckkelberries, with various other sorts, all in full perfection. A party was likewise sent out to cut spruce, to brew into beer for both ships. Of this liquor, however, we were not very fond in this cold climate, especially when we were given to understand that our grog was to be stopped, and this beer, which the Captain deemed an excellent anti-scorbutick, substituted in the room of it. This occasioned great resentment, and it was found necessary to give it alternately, spruce one day and grog another.

The indians seemed to subsist solely on dried fish and blubber oil, which was constantly used to cook with, and furnish their lamps. They lived in the most squalid pits imaginable, having the most dreary appearance that can be conceived, all of them excessively nasty and which stank like a tanner’s yard of rotten fish, chunks of rancid blubber, and other filth, strewn about the entrances in the manner of a dung-hill. 

It would require the assistance of one’s imagination to have an adequate idea of their wild, savage appearance. I certainly thought them repulsive—small, with flat faces, awkward and ill-proportioned limbs, and prominent bony knees and ankles. Their dark, coppery-colored bodies were so covered with Filth as to make it doubtful what was really their proper colour. Their faces were daubed with red and black paint and grease, in no regular manner but as their fancies led them.

Their clothing was fashioned after the animal from which the skin was taken, with little allowance made for covering private parts or for the exigencies of personal hygiene. They seemed never to bathe, and compounded their natural essences by rubbing themselves all over with gore and seal fat and ornamenting their faces and bodies with paint and soot. To make themselves either fyne, or frightful, many put on their hair the down of young birds, or plaited it with seaweed or thin strips of bark dyed red. Their hair was clotted with dirt and infested with vermin, which they companionably picked from each other’s scalps and ate.

From their very small share of beauty, the women were capable of exciting but a very faint desire of acquaintance in the breast of a European, but the ethnology and rituals of our host people had to be considered and investigated. We felt compelled by the spirit of scientific inquiry to persevere beyond these obstacles to ascertain that in essential respects a young woman of this most unearthly of places was no different from a young woman of other societies.

It wasn’t long before we had three girls brought on board Resolution, and a price agreed upon. These weren’t the gigglous girls of the southern islands, but solemn and apprehensive. Nonetheless they were dutiful and compliant, and readily acceded to our suggestions as if they were resigned to it. They appeared very modest and timid, but they had taken great pains to allure, having carefully groomed their hair with fish oil and daubed their faces with ochre. Their bodies, as always, were well larded with seal blubber against the cold. One girl in particular seemed filthy beyond any hope of restoring her to her original state of nature, possessed of layers of filth and ochre and greese and red and black paint, and her hair clotted with dirt and the down of birds.

We brought buckets of warm water and much soap. This we called the Ceremony of Purification and were ourselves the officiators at it, and it must be mentioned to our praise that we performed it with much piety and devotion, taking as much pleasure cleansing a naked woman from all impurities in a tub of warm water, as a young confessor would to absolve a virgin who was about to sacrifice that name to such as ourselves.

A good wash rinsed away the vermin and greese, but other impediments to passion remained, such as the white stone studs drilled into the lower lip, the string of beads secured to the gristle of the nose and dangling down to her chin, and the tattooing everywhere. Lovingly bathing and caring for our wild beauties, we treated them with the utmost respect, admiration, and kindness, determined to leave the world a better place, and leave our hosts with the knowledge that Englishmen were gentlemen, and not hardened boors.


Hawaiian music

We spent months meandering up alongside the coast, with the Captain naming an island one thing as he espied it, then renaming the same island some other thing after he had momentarily turned to other business, then beheld it from a different angle. We sailed along the spine of massive and snowy cones, one of which the Captain named Mount Augustine, in honor of the saint whose creed was, like his own, manifest destiny.

The albatross of the Ancient Mariner wheeled against a leaden sky lit by an enduring sun which for two summer months hardly set. Banks of fogg rolled in and so enshrouded our ships that we found ourselves hallooing across the deck to our shipmates we could not see, and the nights were sometimes so still you could hear the moon shine though you could not see it.

Occasionally the cold sun burned away the Fogg, and days of scintillating clarity emerged, with air that sparkled like spring water. Then suddenly, the wind rose, and the gloom gathered once more. Mist thickened into fogg, the breeze stiffened into a gale, and our lungs and spirits became sodden.

The weather began to grow piercing cold. The frost set in and it froze so hard that the running rigging was soon laden with ice, and rendered almost impossible to make the block traverse without the assistance of six men to do the work of one. But what was most remarkable was the sudden transition from heat to such severe cold. The day before was warm and pleasant, but in the evening of this day the ice was seen hanging at our hair, our noses, and even at our finger’s ends, if we did but expose them to the air for five or six minutes. The farther we ran to the northward, the colder it grew, and the ice the more connected.

The ghostly silence was rent by the screams of gulls, and by trumpeting Sea Horses. The Captain asked me what I knew of the Sea Horse. It was true that most of the men who for the novelty of the thing had been feasting their eyes for some days past, and I believed that they would not be disappointed now, or know the difference, if we did not happen to have one or two on board who had been in Greenland who declared what animals these were, and that no one would ever eat of them.

Why they are Sea Horses so-called I can’t imagine, for they bear not the slightest resemblance to that animal. They are about the size of a large oxe and have a thick hide thinly covered with short bristly hair. Their heads are very small and is the only part about them that has the least appearance of a beast; the rest of the body being like a fish, the hinder parts tapering and terminating in a couple of finns instead of feet; having likewise one upon each shoulder with which they swim faster than can be imagined but move slowly upon the ice, and have two large white Ivory teeth like those of the elephant. That they are indowed with a greater share of sagacity and understanding than the generality of animals will appear from the following instance. When they went to sleep a great number of them assembled upon a small piece of ice separated from the rest and only just large enough for that purpose, that they might more readily get off from it into the water in case of the approach of an enemy. I believe the only one they are apprehensive of is the White Bear which is likewise amphibious; and being much nimbler upon the ice than they are, have there greatly the advantage of them, but in the water the Sea Horse is the swiftest and most formidable on account of its teeth.

Therefore to prevent being surprized in their sleep they always appoint one as a sentinel and place it in the middle to keep watch over them during that time which charge is strictly and faithfully performed keeping the foreparts of its body erect, and an attentive eye all round. As we approached them with the ships they would lie very quiet till we came within two cables length of them, when the one that had the watch would make a great noise to alarm the rest upon which they all began by degrees to raise their heads and shoulders and look around them and then crawl to the edge of the Ice and plunge head foremost into the water; so that by the time we had got within a ½ cable length of them there would not be one remaining; the noise they make is a mean betwixt the barking of a dog and the bellowing of an Ox.

Some might see nought but a great braying beast, a natural curiosity perhaps, an item of scientific inquiry. But the Captain, on the other hand, saw a source of sustenance for us, in lieu of beef, which was grown very bad, that would afford us the means of conserving our dwindling stores of biscuit and salt junk. It would accord well with the spirit of adventure to subsist of the provender of the environment, he said, whatever it might be.

There they awaited us, as many as we pleased for the taking, and the Captain would like for us to live upon them so long as they lasted. He was certain that there would be few on board who would not prefer it to salt meat, but he assured us the fat was as sweet as marrow, and when melted it would yield a good deal of oil which would burn very well in lamps, and their hides, which were very thick, would be useful about our rigging. They were “marine beef”– a godsend.

As the fogg cleared, we saw fields of Ice covered over with whole herds, as I thought, of some thousands. Packed one on top of the other in a roiling mass, they chorused in grotesque harmony their warning of our approach. They stirred reluctantly as we approached, coalescing in a slow-moving wave until all were alert but not yet determined on leaving.

We hoisted out our boats to get some, yet by the time we got within good musquet shot it was a great chance if there were any left; and unless we fired at them upon the ice it was twenty to one that we could hit them in the water, as they dived immediately. Giving chase in the ship’s boats, we loosed volleys of musquet fire into them as they tumbled panic-stricken into the sea. In a few minutes not a creature was to be seen upon the ice, but such as were killed, or so severely wounded, as not to be able to crawl to the open sea. Some lay growling upon the ice not quite dead, with two or three balls through their heads, and others tumbling about with horrible vindictive looks, threatening destruction to whoever should approach them.

Their affection for their young and even for one another was very great and remarkable, for whenever one of them got wounded in the water, if any of the rest were near they would come to its assistance and carry it off if possible at the risk of their own lives. If by chance we had killed one of their young the mother would come and make every attempt to rescue it from us and even try to upset the boat it was in, by hooking the boat-side with her teeth which she would follow till she was killed; all the time making a lamentable noise and shewing every sign of real parental distress.

All hands were employed to collect the carcasses, and to carry them on board; but in what was thought an ill reward for our labour, orders were next given by the Captain to substitute the flesh of these Sea-Monsters in the room of all other provisions, flower only excepted. Only a little nourishment and a great deal of misery were derived from them.

The flesh, disgustfull as it was, we ate thro’ extreme hunger, caused by the badness of our provisions and short allowance, which were but just enough to exist upon and were now further reduced on account of this supply; the quality of which will be best described in the several preparations it went through before it was possible to eat it. In the first place we let it hang up for one day that the blood might drain from it, which would continue to drop for four or five days, when permitted to remain so long but that our hunger would not allow of it at first; after that we towed it overboard for 12 hours then boiled it four hours and the next day cut it into steaks and fryed it; and even then it was too rank both in smell and taste to make use of except for plenty of pepper and salt and these articles were very scarce amongst us. However, our hunger got the better of the quality and in the quantity. We found some comfort having as much of it as we could eat which was what we had been a long time unaccustomed to. We salted some of it by way of experiment which, after laying two or three weeks we found was a little improved but still could only be eat by such as were at the point of perishing with hunger and were no other food was to be secured.

Even Captain Clerke remonstrated against it, saying this was strongly opposed by the crew, and that we regarded it as a disgusting business. The meat was altogether indigestible, and the men had vomited it up, and some swore it was not intended to be eaten by Christians. Some were so sickened from it that they now resisted anything but moldy biscuit and water.

The Captain replied that he might do what he pleased on board his own ship, but that the state of provisions on board Resolution made it necessary; and that he himself should set the example. We were mutinous scoundrels, said the Captain, who would not face novelty. It might be coarse, black, and strong in taste, and bring to mind train-oil, but it was wholesome.

Full of the idea of the excellent repast it would afford, the Captain was more precipitate than his usual good sense and penetration warranted, and announced there would be no salt beef served whatsoever, therefore, until the Sea Horse flesh had been made a regular part of our intake. Furthermore, he thought it best for us to strike the grog cask into the hold for the time being, till we acquired a taste for the healthful spruce beer that we prepared at our previous landfall.

Every innovation whatever on board the ships, he exclaimed, though ever so much to our advantage, was sure to meet with our highest disapprobation. Both the portable soup and sow’r krout we condemned as stuff unfit for human beings. Other commanders had introduced into their ships more novelties, as useful varieties of food and drink, than he had done. It had been in a great measure owing to various little deviations from established practice that he had been able to preserve us from the scurvy, which had perhaps destroyed more of his sailors in their peaceful voyages than had been fallen by the enemy in military expeditions.

How could spruce beer be anything but healthful for us, he wondered, when it was the product of an environment so pristine and healthful, with its sparkling water and robust air, and the spruce trees that thrived on it so could not but impart its robustness to a man who drank of its decoction? He was only concerned for our health, and if we insisted on behaving as petulant children who abjured their vegetables at the dinner table, we should be treated as such and punished accordingly.


Hawaiian music

We labored among the Ice till the 25th, when a storm came on, which made it dangerous for us to proceed. About two in the morning of the 26th, we observed a great body of ice nearing us very fast, and in a few hours after, we saw the ice all closed as far as the eye could carry. On the 28th several pieces of loose ice passed us, one of which came foul of the Discovery, and shook her whole frame; it was feared she had received considerable damage, but upon the carpenter’s examining her fore and aft, nothing was found amiss.

The Captain’s first intimation of defeat flashed as a sudden brightness on the northern horizon, a glimmer that I could liken to nothing so much as his deep Antarctic probes that heralded great masses of ice ahead. He was at first incredulous, saying it was improbable that we should meet with ice so soon. But we could go no farther.

A consultation was therefore held on board Resolution as soon as the violence of the gale abated, when it was unanimously resolved, that as this passage was impracticable for any useful purpose of navigation, which was the great object of the voyage, and to pursue it no farther, especially in the condition the ships were in, the winter approaching, and the distance from any known place of refreshment great. At last obliged to give up our design; the Captain publickly declared upon leaving the ice that he intended to make another attempt there in search of a passage the next summer.


Hawaiian music

The wind fair to carry us upon the sea, we directed our course for Sandwich’s Isles, near the northern tropick, where we intended to winter, and to supply our ships with provision to enable us to pursue the remaining part of our voyage.

Cold seas washed over our ships constantly, sloshing through cracks and below decks into our bunks. The ship was always dank and cold, and snow and sleet caked on the rigging and froze into icicles that appended perilously from the masts. Stiffened by the north wind, the sails were hard as iron, and the ropes shrieked in the wind like the strings of a discordant harp. In our diminished and miserable state, it required an inhuman effort just to get the sails up and down, and for a time, there was nothing to expect in future save an excess of cold, hunger, and every kind of hardship and distress attending a sea life in general.

As our ships forged into more temperate seas, the Captain ordered the below-decks to be aired daily, and healthfully smoaked now that conditions permitted. The bedding and clothing were hung out in all but the foulest weather, and we kept as clean as rough tars could be. The Captain was crankier than ever, because we had scorned his prescriptions of Sea Horse flesh and sow’r krout, and would not drink the spruce beer that he now substituted for grog.

All hands were now set to work, the carpenters in stripping the sheathing from the Resolution to examine her leaks, and the sail makers, caulkers, and riggers in their respective employments, for which there was great need, both ships having suffered much in their sails, seams, and rigging, in the late tempestuous weather, and in the icy northern seas. Sail makers mended the sails, and the hands picked apart the oddments of oakum, spinning and splicing it into new yarn, comforting themselves with dreams of wintering in Sandwich’s Isles. What offered the greatest consolation to us was the forge, not only on account of its cheery red glow, but as much for the thought of its manufactures that would become the currency for the imminent satisfaction of our baser appetites.


Hawaiian music

We at last raised the towering dome of an island on the southwest horizon, which by its high and black appearance, we judged a vulcano. In time, the immense humps of a much larger island soon appeared further to the southeast, their heights so stupendous that their Ice-bound summits glistened under the sun. We closed in on a shore of immense cliffs, diversified with every beauty which nature could display: rivers, pools of water, cascades, and every grace to decorate and dignify the prospect. We imagined the margin of the shores to be most romantically interspersed with plants odoriferous and splendid, and the country no less fruitful than it was pleasant, and promised fair to supply our necessities. The spyglass revealed an endless stream of Natives pouring from their huts and straggling up from the beaches, clambering up towards the cliff tops to stare out and hold aloft white strips of cloth.

We were then so much in want of provision that we were under the necessity of substituting stock-fish in the room of beef. As soon as the inhabitants perceived our intention of anchoring in the bay, they came off from the shore in astonishing numbers, and expressed their joy by singing and shouting, and exhibiting a variety of wild and extravagant gestures. This diffused a joy among the mariners that is not easy to be expressed, for from a sullenness and discontent visible in every countenance the day before, all was now cheerfulness, mirth, and jollity. Fresh provisions and kind females are the sailor’s sole delight, and when in possession of these, past hardships are instantly forgotten, and even those whom the scurvy had attacked, and had rendered pale and lifeless as ghosts, brightened upon this occasion, and for the moment appeared alert.

This flattering beginning, however, yielded no substantial relief. Our joy was of short continuance, as the boats that were sent to sound the shore and look for a harbour, went out day after day, without being able to discover so much as a safe anchorage, and we were longer in finding a harbour than in making the coast. Nothing could be more toilsome or distressing than our present situation; within sight of land, yet unable to reach it; driven out to sea, by one storm, and in danger of being wrecked upon the breakers by another. Our sufferings, from incessant labour and scanty provisions, were grown confessedly grievous. Our grog, that had been stopped was again dealt out as usual, and it was only with the kindest treatment from the Officers that we could be kept to our duty.

It was as if the Captain had designed to tease and tantalize us into a most perfect misery. For nearly two full months in the winter seas off this island, their surf gigantic and impassable, our ships were made, with the greatest regret imaginable, to meander within sight of shore in our clockwise voyage around the island, beating constantly against the wind, with us and our Captain mired in mutual detestation.

We tacked along the coast, looking for safe harbour to put into for provisioning. Our situation was better imagined than described, as the currents and winds veered treacherously, and for all our efforts, whipsawed our ships out to sea and back to the coast as if they were two corks in a drain. There might be dead calm at noon, a gale at dusk, robin’s egg blue skies one hour, then a rapid build-up of gloom around the lofty peaks, and lashing rain blotting out everything the next hour. For ten agonizing weeks we cruised off the island, never once going ashore.

Maddened by the women just beyond our reach, and now severely short of water, we sullenly choked down what remained of the ship’s biscuit and salt horse. Even the water had grown brackish and stank, and we could drink it only mixed with lemon rob, and with salt and maggots eating into the beef and pork, and the rats, and weevils devouring the heart of the bread, the one was little better than putrid flesh, and the other, upon breaking, would crumble into dust. All we had in abundance was salt itself, with nothing to preserve with it in our empty casks.

With our return to temperate climes, the Captain’s mind had become as exuberant as springtime with fresh ideas of how to make our misery complete. He knew very well there was nothing he could have done to so dreadfully punish us as withhold from us the comforts of women and fresh provision. That being decided, it was just a matter of formulating some policy to justify it. I myself would never have expected it, and had seriously underestimated his reserves of scornful ingenuity.

The Captain announced he had formulated a new trading policy, in anticipation of the glut of provisions that awaited us. He expected that otherwise the Indians would inundate us at the outset, and we should have to turn away most of it. Then they would lose heart and there would not be so much as a bananoe on offer when the time came that we needed to provision once again. It was prudent, therefore, for us to stand off and tack slowly along the coast, so that we might achieve a more measured supply from different villages, and so that we might avoid the riotous disruption that we would inevitably create when we went ashore.

This was black news, and if ever there lurked mutiny in our hearts, it was now. But knowing his special genius for strategy, might we have expected anything less? This inspired plan would accomplish his dearest purpose, for more than attaining a measured supply, it would frustrate us to the point of madness.

When finally we were allowed some commerce with the indian canoos, the Captain did not delay in further experimenting for the benefit of his crew. Having procured a quantity of sugar-cane and finding a strong decoction of it produced a very palatable beer, he ordered some of it to be brewed for our general use. But when the cask was broached, not one of his crew would even so much as taste it. He himself and his officers continued to make use of it whenever they could get materials for brewing it. A few hops, of which we had some on board, improved it much, and the Captain esteemed it to have the taste of new malt beer, and believed no one would doubt of its being very wholesome. Yet his inconsiderate crew alleged that it was injurious to their health.

We judged the new rations to be dangerous to drink and refused to do so. One of the men, more literate than most, wrote a letter of appeal. With as much amazement as fury, the Captain responded that when this cask came to be broached, not one of his mutinous crew would even so much as taste it, and were mutinous to remonstrate against it. We would not drink this beer because it might be prejudicial to our health. It was something extraordinary that we should think it unwholesome, when his Officers have been drinking it and benefiting greatly from it, and we thought nothing of stealing the sugar-cane and eating it raw without any scruple.

He could help us no more. Every innovation of his–portable soup, sow’r krout, all of them–had been designed to keep us free from the scurvy. He could not help it if we chose not to drink this healthful decoction: we would be the sufferers! Had we drank it, we would have been served grog every other day, but now the grog cask would be struck down in the hold and we could content ourselves with brackish water. Our reticence was a most mutinous proceeding, in consequence of which we could expect not the least indulgence from him. Like an old vixen he was, that would spite you forevermore over the least real or imagined slight, her spite never exhausted till she had burnt your home and your entire family and fed the ashes to the pigs. Even then, she would slaughter the pigs to eat their bacon.

As we rounded the island’s south point, and headed north up the coast, we left behind the verdant coast, and came upon a most desolate region, whose shore had a very sterile appearance, not having a tree of any kind upon it, and patch-worked by lava flows and fields of slag and ash and cinder. Only the occasional plant could be seen to struggle amongst the fields of chaotic black lava, and the only drinkable water in evidence lay in stagnant pools near the barren and sweltering shore.

Passing squalls parted to reveal a heavily indented coastline, bracketed always with a raging surf. We beheld a bleak hinterland rising to distant forests, and a steeper-slope of gaunt brown desert scored by black or deep brown swaths of lava, both ancient and recent. But in parts the sterile coast had perceptibly changed its appearance from brown to green, where groves of cocoa-nut trees and tilled green land bespoke unexpected fertility.

Surveying these pockets of coastline for a safe anchorage, the Captain found one that seemed protected from all points except the southwest, from which direction gales seemed unlikely. A cliff of black basalt curved crescent-like before gentle uplands beyond the bay to plunge some hundreds of feet to a beach of black cannonball- and grapeshot-sized boulders.

We went ashore with Bligh. Our boats were brought in just offshore of a crumbling temple. Set in a grove of palms was a large pool of water that was brackish, which was to be expected so near to the sea. But not far from it was a rocky basin, covered at high tide but filled with fresh water from a stream at low tide. It would supply us with all our needs, and the beach was near enough to roll our puncheons of water. Bligh observed that it was a good safe anchorage, fourteen fathoms with a sandy bottom where we sounded, with pure water on the east side, and plentiful wood not far inland, being a forest from which the indians took the timber for their canoos. The indians themselves were friendly enough, he observed.

Our boats soon became employed in towing the ships into harbour in sight of the greatest multitude of indian spectators in canoos and on shore, that we had ever seen assembled together in any part of our voyage. While we were hovering upon the coast, we had often been visited by many canoos at a time, who came to trade, and who brought us provisions when the weather would permit.

On the morning after our people landed, six large double canoos were seen entering the harbour at a great rate, having not less than thirty paddles to the canoo, with upwards of sixty indians in each. They assembled so fast, that before noon, the ships were surrounded with more than a hundred canoos, in which there were not less than a thousand indians. Seeing them on their nearer approach making towards the ships, the Captain ordered the guns to be shotted, the marines to be drawn up, and every man to be ready at his post.

They traded friendly at first, having hoggs in abundance, and plenty of breadfruit, plantains, bananoes, and whatever else the island produced, but they had not been there long, before a large stone was thrown at the cabin-window, by an invisible hand. A watch was instantly set, and in less than half an hour another stone was thrown at the caulkers. The offender was seen, and he was seized, brought on board, tied to the shrouds, and punished with lashes. In a few minutes, such was their fright, there was not an indian to be seen near the ships. Like unlucky boys, when one is apprehended for some naughty trick, the rest commonly fly the place. And in fact, those people are in many things like children. Before the day closed, they all again returned to trade, and, when night approached, not a male was to be seen, but swarms of females, who came to sleep on board, though much against the will of the Captain who, upon the first arrival of the ships upon the coast, wished to have prohibited all commerce with the women of the island.

But with some of the men who had climbed aboard for the initial provisioning, we had the mortification to find that all the care we took when we first visited these islands to prevent this dreadful disease from being communicated to them had proved ineffectual: they had the clap, their penises were much swelled, and inflamed. What was extraordinary was that the people did not seem to regard it, probably their way of living greatly abated its virulence. Still, we observed several who had ulcers upon different parts of their bodies, some of which had a very virulent appearance, and particularly those in the face were shocking to look at.

It was then that the Captain must have realized that his struggle against the contagion was futile. He soon found as well, that if the commerce with women was forbidden, all other trade must cease of course, and not a pig might be purchased without a girl that was permitted to bring it to market.

The indians pressed in to form a swarming colony around the ships, holding aloft hoggs and baskets of fruit, breadfruit and plantains and bundles of sugar-cane, amidst a riot of arm-waving and good-natured shouting. The men responded that what they wanted most of all was the women, and the women answered in turn by standing up in their canoos to roll their hips and clap their hands, before the pitching of the canoo toppled them head over bottom. They swam about the ships, bare-breasted and teasing us for refusing to let them come on board, and grimaced and mumped, and made provocative and lewd gestures that drove us mad. They seemed to carry no fear in their handsome bosoms; repulsed from the ships, they were highly indignant, and in venting their spleen against us the words they shouted were unambiguously words of abuse.

Ashore were dense throngs of indians, swarming upon the beach and the boulders, and situate on top of the huts, through the boughs of the trees, all vying most strenuously for a view. Their shouts of gladness attended with the shrill exclamations of the women and the cries of the children, the laughter and clapping of hands, the squealing of hoggs and the outcry of merchants, all combined to ring resoundingly throughout the bay in mad tumult.

The trading was frenzied and furious, with everyone carried away in the riotous spirit of the scene. When one canoo’s stock was depleted, it paddled off, with the indian calling out to the next the going rate, and more canoos struggling to take its place alongside. The tumult intensified and we grasped and grappled to get any provision by it, or any other emolument. There were quick vexations of temper among the indians, a struggle, a theft of a spike, a frenzied pursuit underwater, shouts of alacrity. Some leapt into the sea and swam with a dead pig held high here, a bunch of breadfruit there–treading water alongside the ships and what they had to dispose of they parted with upon the easiest terms, though they were no less thievishly inclined as the least opportunity arose.

In no time at all our ships were overwhelmed. The men scoured the ships for cleats and nails, which the girls had taken such a fancy to. New and ingenious stores of value soon emerged, including articles of clothing that were then stripped of every brass button. Brass was stripped from furniture, and copper kettles, tin canisters, and candlesticks all disappeared, as did hatchets, saws, old swords, large knives, pewter plates, pieces of iron hoops, old buckles, buttons, and anything made of iron, tin, copper or brass, all of which they were exceeding dexterous at thieving.

The gleam of brass had captivated them in particular. Soon, none of it was left in the ships, apart from our astronomical instruments. Brass was barter of great value, worth the pick of the girls. It quite surprized me that the ships managed to stay afloat, with the crush of female flesh being such that our ship actually heeled with their burden, crawling up the sides like a herd of Monkees, cawing and hooting at the men. A momentary glance, a beckoning wave by the sailor, and the favored girl dove in, swimming avidly for her partner, where she was received her in their arms like a Venus arising from the waves. They threw themselves into the arms of the men, enticing them by any means to lie with them, dragging them upon the deck in full sight of any who chose to see.

There were more girls than could be handled, and those who were late or unlovely circled the ships, trying to keep their balance in their pitching canoos as they hallooed the men in the rigging, at the rails and windows. But every tar was soon occupied with his girl, sometimes several, lolling about his hammock or wrapped in his arms in some corner of the deck; there might have been three or four.

The men lay stupefied, their appetites sated by repeated couplings. One of those few ladies who remained lovelorn was prodigiously fat and grand, and wandered the decks, wearing about her waist a great swath of red and white striped cloth, her neck weighted down with a thick bunch of plaited human hair pierced through with a bone ornament. On her arms rattled bracelets of boar’s tusks, and in one hand she flicked a fly swat, in the other she cradled a live cock. The Captain was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps, knowing that he had lost control, he had returned to his cabin to brood upon his humiliation, and ponder some novel scheme to frustrate us.

A holy man boarded with much ceremony. Frail-looking and emaciated, his eyes were exceeding sore and red, and his body covered with a white leprous scurf, the effects of an immoderate use of the Kava, which the indians drink with as much pleasure as a European does the richest wines, till they become quite intoxicated with it. His name was Koah. Approaching the Captain, he discovered uncommon ecstasy, and threw over his shoulders a piece of red cloth that he had brought along with him, and pronounced a discourse that lasted for no inconsiderable time. With this, he presented a small, squealing piglet, turned to offer a few words to the assembled multitude, then ordered one of his courtiers to present the Captain with three more pigs. With the ceremony concluded, Koah was suffered to dine with the Captain, eating plentifully of what was set before him, tho’ like the rest of the inhabitants of the island in these seas, he could scarcely be prevailed on to taste a second time our wine.

At Koah’s bidding, the Captain mustered a shore party and made his way through the throngs of canoos in the bay, toward the beach. We landed at the beach, whereupon we were received by four men who carried wands tipped with dog’s hair, and marched before us, pronouncing with a loud voice, in which we could only distinguish the word “Lono.” The chiefs waved their poles at the crowd and shouted for them to make way for us to pass through the throng. Everyone dropped to his knees and bowed in the most earnest supplication, their hands and arms covering their faces as the Captain was borne through the multitude upon the shoulders of his bargemen in the tradition of grand theater. As soon as he passed they rose up once again, shouting and closing ranks behind them as they surged towards the temple.

The moment the Captain was set down, the surrounding multitude instantly fell to the ground, burying their faces in the sand, their arms extended forward. Their example was imitated by those in the surrounding hills, by those upon the rooftops of the huts, by those who crowded the rims of the stone walls, even by those in the tops of the trees. No sooner did he pass them than they hurried to their feet to follow him, and if the Captain happened to turn his head and look behind him they were down again in an instant, and up again immediately thereafter. This performance in so vast a throng being regulated solely by the accidental turn of one man’s head, and the resulting concatenation being abrupt, made it awkward even for a single individual to be in the proper attitude at any particular moment. If he lay prostrate but a second too long he was sure not to rise again until he had been trampled upon by all behind him, and if he dared not to prostrate himself he would be stumbled over by those before him who did. As we walked very fast to get off from the sand and into the shade of the town, it made things even more impossible. Finally they settled upon a courtesy that answered better to the exigencies of the moment and did not displease the chiefs, which was to go forward upon all fours, a truly curious site among at least ten thousand people. 

Before I proceed to relate the adoration that was paid to the Captain, and the peculiar ceremonies with which he was received, it is necessary to describe their heiow, as they called it, situated at the south side of the beach at Kakooa. It was a square solid pile of stone, about forty yards long, twenty broad, and fourteen in height. The top was flat and well paved, and surrounded by a wooden rail, on which were fixed the skulls of the wretches sacrificed on the death of their chiefs. In the center of the area stood a ruinous old building of wood, connected with the rail on each side by a stone wall.

We were conducted by Koah to the top of this pile, by an easy ascent. At the entrance we saw two large wooden images, with features violently distorted, and a long piece of carved wood, of a conical form inverted, rising from the top of their heads; the rest was without form, and wrapped round with red cloth. We encountered an eerie and disquieting scene. The precinct had been emptied by Koah’s decree of all but a few commoners who lay prostrate by their huts. As Koah walked alongside, he flicked a dog hair whisk at the Captain and chanted “Lono! Lono!” as he presented the Captain to the images.

After chanting a kind of hymn, in which all were joined by Koah, they led us to that end of the heiow where the five poles were fixed. We entered upon an open-air temple like that which had seen on Towi. The sinister and macabre aspect of the place was accentuated by a semi-circle of twelve other images glowering like gargoyles from atop poles. The greater part of them resembled the face of a man; the features were cut out larger and represented a number of droll gestures and distortions, with hair, eyebrows, and teeth to them and were painted very curiously. Some of them were made to resemble the heads of wild beasts, and were arrayed around a high altar, upon which lay sacrificial offerings of fruit and an enormous decayed Hogg.

Koah having placed the Captain under this stand, took down the hogg, and held it towards him; and after having a second time addressed him in a long speech, pronounced with much vehemence and rapidity. He then led him to the scaffolding, which they began to climb together, not without the great risk of falling. Whilst the Captain was aloft, in this awkward situation, swathed round with red cloth, and with difficulty keeping his hold amongst the pieces of rotten scaffolding, Koah and another began their office, chanting sometimes in concert, and sometimes alternately. This lasted a considerable time. At length Koah let the hogg drop, whereupon he and the Captain descended together. He was then led to the images, and having said something to each in a sneering tone, snapped his fingers at them as he passed, he brought him to that in the center, which, from its being covered with red cloth, appeared to be in greater estimation than the rest. Before this figure he prostrated himself and kissed it, desiring the Captain to do the same, who suffered himself to be directed by Koah throughout the whole of this ceremony.

Exchanges were muttered between the priests and the palsied, trembling figure of Koah, who then rubbed the Captain’s face and hands, and his arms and shoulders, with a cloth soaked in saliva-sodden cocoa-nut chewed by the High Priest himself. When this offering was concluded, the indians sat down, fronting us, and began to cut up the baked hogg, to peel the vegetables, and break the cocoa-nuts, whilst others employed themselves in brewing the kava, which was done by chewing it in the same manner as at the Friendly Islands, and spitting the flesh into a calabash. The kava was then handed round, and after we had tasted it, Koah began to pull the flesh of the hog in pieces, and put it into our mouths.

Koah dipped a cocoa-nut shell into the loathsome brew and brought it to the Captain’s lips. The Captain grimaced, then took a swallow. The congregation hallowed the occasion, bowing on their knees before him, and chanting “Lono!” As for the putrid hogg, the Captain could not get a morsel down, not even when the old fellow very politely chewed it for him, for not even the Captain’s tastes, surely the coarsest that ever mortal was endued with, was equal to the occasion.


Hawaiian music

The next day, Koah returned to Resolution in the company of another personage of grave distinction–Karaniopoo, the king of Maw-wee. They arrived alongside Resolution, escorted by a retinue of his stoutest and most imposing subalterns. In the front and rear of his canoo there stood several ghastly and warlike images covered with a variety of red and black fethers. The king sat in a large canoo, attended by two others, set out from the village, and paddled toward the ship in a great state, their appearance grand and magnificent. He was attended with more than a hundred large war-canoos, himself at the head of them in a most superb vessel, in which were four idols of a monstrous size, covered with mantles of fethers interwoven with various colors, red, black, green, and yellow. Their eyes were made of large pearl oysters, with a black nut fixed in the center; their mouths were set with a double row of the fangs of dogs, and together with the rest of their features, were strangely distorted. These they called the akooah, signifying their warrior gods, without which they never engage, and as they went along, the priests in the center canoo sang their praises with great solemnity. 

The atmosphere of celebration, revelry, and licentiousness had given way to one of solemn gravity, as Karaniopoo was hoisted on board with great pomp and even greater difficulty. He was of graceful stature, about six feet high, very corpulent, and tattoowed in several parts of his body, in manner like that of other warriors. He was disabled by the effects of drinking kava, eyes red, skin encrusted with scabs, and shaking all over as if from the palsy, but still resplendent in his cape of untold thousands of red and yellow fethers, his warrior’s helmet, his buttons of pearly oyster shell, and his dog teeth necklace. Accompanying the august chief was a lesser chief named Pareah, who was in turn accompanied by a young boy, whose genitals he continuously fondled in a shameless display of what I construed to be less a grievous moral failure than merely local custom.

Upon entering the ship, he fell on his face, as a mark of submission to the Captain, as did all his attendants, and after having made an oration, which none of us understood, he presented the Captain with three barbicued hoggs, who, in return, put a necklace, composed of several strings of various coloured beads, round his neck, and gave him two looking glasses, a large glass bowl, with some nails, and other trifles. These he received with such seeming satisfaction, that he immediately dispatched a messenger on shore, who soon returned with several large hoggs, and cocoa-nuts, bread-fruit, plantains and sugar-canes, as much as our small cutter could carry. Having remained upon deck the space of an hour, admiring the construction of the ship, he was conducted into the great cabin, where wine was offered him, which he refused. Neither was there anything he would taste, except a head of bread-fruit, but he appeared delighted with everything he saw.

After entertaining them with music, and inviting them to partake of such refreshments as the ship afforded, and making them some handsome presents, the Captain acquainted the king with his wants, by showing them the condition of his ship, and requesting a small portion of ground to land his materials, and to erect his tents. This request the king readily acceded to. The strangers might land whatever they thought fit, and that the ground they had occasion for be marked out and tabooed. The Captain very readily embraced the offer, and prepared to accompany the king to the town near which we wished to pitch our tents. Upon our landing, several vacant plots of ground were shown us, and when we had made our choice, stakes were ordered to be driven at certain distances, and a line to be carried round, within which the common people were forbidden to enter, under the severest penalties.

The next day, he invited the king to the observatory, where our astronomers were busy with their calculations in preparation for their observations. The indians knew the terrible stories of our thundersticks, and seemed particularly apprehensive of the two telescopes that stood poised above the tent. The quadrants did not appear to be dangerous, but their design and use were a divine mystry, about which they made endless conjecture. Much of the day was spent in satisfying their curiosity, and in trying to impart some of our knowledge of astronomy, and in assessing theirs. But their paramount conclusion seemed to be that we had a special relationship with the sun and the rest of the planets whose motions we seemed preoccupied with by day and night. In support of this conclusion they observed that the colour of our skins partook of the red from the sun, and the white from the moon and stars. They knew of our relationship with fire that enabled us to kill others with it, that it did not hurt us even though we were in constant contact with it, and that we rendered it in all things entirely subservient to us.

At dinner, they took pains to press their delicacies upon us. There was an immense quantity of vegetables of every kind, and near them was a very large herd of hoggs. These indians had no idea of boiling their victuals, as they have got no vessels that will bear the fire to heat water in. They killed their hoggs by suffocating them, and beating their heads with a stone; then they burned the hair, and scraped it off clean; and after the hogg was well washed they dressed it whole in the manner by which us is called barbicued. The chewing and spitting and drinking of kava went on as an appetizer, and after several draughts, the pigs were brought forward on plantain leaf platters for our numbed fingers to tear at.

Some of the Officers exclaimed against the fondness for the baked dog that was in evidence among the indians. Unbeknownst to them, one had been brought upon the table with a pig’s head sewed on in place of his own, a deception they did not discover until they had licked their fingers of the last of the pork they presumed they were feasting upon, proclaiming it to be the most savory they had ever tasted.

After our repast we assembled under the shade trees for the evening’s entertainment. One of the men from Discovery had brought his violin with him, and one from the Resolution a german-flute, and they played upon each in turn as the women danced and swayed along the grass. The violin produced spasms of hilarity among the natives, screeching and squalling, which called to our mind the French custom of collecting a burlap sack of cats and throwing it upon a bonfire. No wonder the French thought it amusing; the more discordant, the more hilarious it was. Such was the effect of our violin, and they would not suffer the performers to rest a moment. But we were much disappointed by the performers, who were far inferior to those of the southern islands. The only part of their performance that was tolerable was their singing, with which the heiva concluded, the young princesses, the chiefs, and even the king himself joining in the chorus. 

When the fun was over, Karaniopoo and his suite crossed the bay to continue the entertainment with a boxing match. These games were much inferior, as well in point of solemnity and magnificence, as well as in the skill and powers of the combatants, to what we had seen exhibited at the Friendly Islands. The indians were enormous people, and we prudently declined to participate in any contest of brute strength. We stayed with our strong suit: magic.

The play being ended, the Captain acquainted the king that, with his permission, he would exhibit an entertainment that he would only describe mysteriously as “the fiery one,” the shooting off of some of our store of skyrockets. The sinister intrigue of this intended exhibition, and the great pains with which we made our preparations on the beach, lured an audience from far and near, and there soon gathered an immense number of spectators. As soon as it was dark, the Captain landed at the spot where our preparations were underway, where a clearly puzzled Karaniopoo, and a great number of men and women in their canoes, were observing. They had been waiting all day, and their patience began to wear thin, and some began to jeer and express their abomination of the proceedings. But when at last everything was ready, and they had fallen silent as the night, the Captain ordered us to shoot a skyrocket off.

On the firing of the first skyrocket, the indians fled precipitately, and hid themselves in houses, or wherever they could find a shelter. At first there were some thousand spectators, but in less than ten minutes there were not fifty to be seen, the king and his attendants excepted, whom the Captain and the gentlemen with the greatest difficulty preswaded to stay. When the second rose up into the air, lamentations were heard from every quarter, and when the water rockets were played off, the king and his chiefs were hardly to be restrained. Other fireworks it was found dangerous to exhibit, as these had already struck the spectators, the king as well as his people, with a general panic.

As the rockets exploded in the heavens, the feeble king and some elderly ladies of quality that sat by him keeled over in paroxysms, and the crowd fled in terror towards the village. When they realized that there was no escape from the shimmering casconnade overhead, they dived deep into the lagoon, or hid themselves in mortal terror beneath trees and bushes. The skyrockets were soon done, and as the panic of the mob subsided, Karaniopoo rose and called for his people to return, and sent after the rest. Many did return, and waited apprehensively, but there were many who were frightened beyond any possibility of recovering their wits, and were nowhere to be found.


Hawaiian music

Amidst all such revelry, it was almost forgotten that the purpose of our visit to Kearakekooa Bay was to repair our ships. As the days of festivity ran on, the king’s criers heralding and appealed for provisions, and mounds of yams and sweet potatoes, breadfruit and sugar-cane and hoggs piled in the center of a cocoa-nut grove grew higher every day. The Captain thought it a vindication of the new trading policy that he determined upon, but at the same time he really didn’t see how we can accommodate it all. The only thing for it was for us to re-double our efforts at salting down the hoggs. At the same time, we were to be sure to leave ample room in steerage for wood. As for that, there was too little, and Palfry and I and were ordered by the Captain to assay the countryside for timber.

We hiked into the country to assess the bounty of the land. There were dense stands of taro and sugar-cane, and prolific patches of sweet potatoes, with black vulcanic rock walls neatly dividing the fields. We walked miles upcountry, and came to the beginning of a fragrant forest that rang with Birdsong. Our expedition was attended with no small fatigue, and not a little danger, for after traveling two days and two nights through a savage country, we were obliged at last to return. On the way we were insulted by the rabble, who without offering any violence to our persons, would make faces, twist their mouths, and use the same contemptuous gestures with which it is their custom in war to provoke their enemies.

Nonetheless, we impressed some of the indians into hewing and bringing to the ships as much of the wood as could be found. Soon, the modest stands of trees were denuded, as our appetite for it was insatiable, much as the indians’ was for iron. At last, only the rickety fence about the Heiow remained, upon which was skewered some twenty skulls. I could scarce believe the Captain was in earnest when he berated us for having overlooked it. Here, he said, was timber just as good as any other, for repair of the ships, and firewood, and yet we had returned from our pleasant stroll, as he put it, to tell him that there was virtually nothing to be found.

I remonstrated that it was a fence for their heiow, and sacred– to which he responded that while it might be sacred to some idolatrous savage, it was not to a man of reasoned practicality, and we were ordered to tear it down at once.

At the Captain’s behest, I offered the High Priest Koah two iron hatchets for the fence. Dismayed at the idea of the mansions of their ancestors and the images of their gods being torn to pieces, he refused the offer. The Captain told me to throw in another hatchet, believing that he was being more than generous. It was that or nothing, for he was quite prepared to simply take it without recompense. It deserved nothing, in his opinion, for it was an Abomination in the eyes of God.

It was a shabby bargain, and the Captain offered it only to maintain the pretense of having taken their property with just compensation, and Koah again refused it. The Captain then added yet another hatchet and, smoldering with resentment, told him to take it or nothing. Koah turned pale, and trembled as he stood, but still refused.

It was the Captain’s decision that if he insisted upon being ungracious, he should have nothing for it, and he ordered us to pull it up at once and load it onto the ship. By this time a small crowd of indians had formed along the walls of the heiow, muttering ominously at this outrage. As the fence stakes and the wooden images were cut down, they angrily picked them up and threw them back, and as Koah restrained the crowd from a more conspicuous display of spleen, we were barely able to load our cargo of the sacred wood onto our boats and ferry it out to the ships.

Kearakekooa Bay had proved less than ideal as an anchorage for repair and provisioning, fronted as it was by a bouldery, nearly impassable beach, and offering in fact little protection from gales. The king, having been made aware that we should sail upon the first fair wind, came next morning to visit the captains of both ships, who were now preparing to sail. This being publickly known, the indians in general expressed their concern, but particularly the young women, whose lamentation was heard from every quarter. The Captain ordered Resolution and Discovery to put to sea, to search northward up the coast of the island for a more accommodating harbour. We therefore took leave of our hosts, and returned on board our respective ships.

We had scarce departed, when a heavy gale came on, with thunder, lightning, and hard rain. We continued working off the land all night, and soon lost sight of Discovery, who, as well as ourselves, continued beating about the island, in dread every moment of being wrecked upon the coast. By the morning of the second day at sea we had gained the northern tip of the island. Here we discovered what seemed at first to be a good harbour, its cliffs teeming with cascades that promised abundant supplies of fresh water. But it began to blow by this time and around us were many fishermen heading for the shore, exclaiming their alarm at the rising seas. The tempest died down for a while, but then its fury burst anew upon us, and the awful weather made it easy for the Captain to satisfy himself that this too was not a satisfactory harbour.

Throughout the next day, the weather continued to worsen. The storms of thunder were frequent and dreadful, the sea had grown boisterous, and the waters came tumbling in unexampled fury. Throughout the night, the gale intensified, and by morning our ships were being battered by mountainous seas that caused a fearful shuddering as they crashed against the hulls.

We lost sight of Discovery, until the next day when the storm being a little abated, we observed her under a high part of the island, lying with her fore-top-gallant-mast down, her fore-top-sail yard upon the cap, and the sail furled, which gave us reason to suppose that some accident had befallen her, and as we expected so we found it. We stood down for her with a heavy gale, but it was not till the next day that we could come to speak with her. The Captain himself being upon the deck when we came up, informed us that he had sprung his foremast in two different places, that the ship was leaky, and that it was with the greatest difficulty they kept her above water. He furthermore informed us that on the morning they discovered the leak, they made thirty inches of water in three hours; and that ever since all hands had been constantly employed night and day in baling and pumping; we likewise understood, that they had split their main top-sail.

The only solution was to shape and drive in an enormous plug. It would have to be repaired, but where? Should we continue to sail through the rising gale, looking for an anchorage that we might never find, or should we beat a retreat back to Kearakekooa Bay? The Captain chose the devil he thought he knew, and now we were bound to our late harbour, to repair our damage.


Hawaiian music

The impulse of curiosity which had before operated to so great a degree might now indeed be supposed to have ceased, but the hospitable treatment we had met with and the friendly footing on which we parted, gave us reason to expect that they would again flock about us with great joy on our return.

But the mood was somber, the bay desolate, and the few indians who dealt with the ships were sullen and resentful. Our anxiety was at length relieved by word that Karaniopoo was absent and had left the bay under taboo. Thought his account appeared satisfactory to most of us, others were of the opinion there was something very suspicious in the behavior of the indians, and that the interdiction of all intercourse with us was only to give them time to consult with the cheefs in what manner to treat us. Probably our sudden return for which they could see no apparent cause, and the necessity of which we found it difficult to make them comprehend, might occasion some alarm. But it was very difficult to draw any certain conclusion from the actions of people with whose customs, as well as language, we are so imperfectly acquainted.

The next day the king came again on board, and mutual presents and mutual civilities were continued as usual; but about five in the afternoon there came alongside a large canoo, with about sixty of their fighting men all armed, with little or no provisions on board, and who seemed to have no good design. The Captain observing their motions, ordered the guns to be shotted, and every man to his post. About six they departed, without offering the least insult; but soon after we saw, upon a high hill, a large body assembled, who were observed to be gathering stones, and laying them in heaps. At dark they were seen to disperse; but great lights and fires were kept burning all night.

In the morning they again assembled, and began rolling the stones from the brink of the hill, in order, as we supposed, to annoy the ships, which, however, were at too great a distance to receive any damage. The Captain looking upon this as an insult, ordered the guns to be leveled and fired among them, and, then in minutes, there was not an indian to be seen near the place.

Repairs commenced. We were employed the whole of the next two days in getting out the fore-mast and sending it, with the carpenter, on shore. Fortunately, the logs of red koah wood, which had been cut at the Friendly Isles for anchor-stocks, were found fit to replace the sprung parts. As these repairs were likely to take several days, Mr. Bayly got the astronomical apparatus on shore and pitched our tents on the heiow. We renewed our friendly correspondence with the priests who, to the greater security of the workmen, tabooed the place where the masts lay. The sail makers were also sent on shore to repair the damage that had taken place in their department. They were lodged in the house adjoining the heiow, which was lent to us by the priests.

The next day, another canoe made its way through the bay toward Discovery, carrying, among its passengers, the ferocious-looking but deviate warrior-chief Pareah, resplendent in his red-fethered cloak, his young male consort at his side. He complained to Captain Cook of our killing two of his people, intimating, at the same time, that they had not the least intention of hurting us.

Relations were deteriorating dangerously. Word had been put out that we were willing to trade Iron tools for labour, which attracted an avid response, and they gladly joined in, rolling the casks up to the rock pool, filling them, and rolling them down to the beach to winch them into the boats. Until now, this had always been a happy business, as women brought their children to watch and unattached girls flirted with the men, making a pleasant nuisance of themselves. But in and amongst the palms were seen men with body mats, darting out of the shadows to shout insults and invective at the watering party, throwing stones and haranguing those who had come to work in the party. But at length a Cheef intervened, and the rabble was made to drop their stones and instead help in the drawing of water.

Later that day, a group of indians took to our pinnace, and paddled strenuously for their heiow at the northeast corner of the bay, faster than any pursuer could hope to give chase. Determined that insolence should not prevail and resolved to ascertain the whereabouts of the pinnace, the Captain stopped an indian in his tracks, and presented the muzzle of his musquet directly into his chest. It seemed to me that he might not be able to control his temper, and would actually shoot the man. Trembling, the indian pointed south, seemingly the first direction that came to mind–anything to rid himself of his accoster. Further down the beach, the Captain repeated the incident, threatening a group of indians. But this time it appeared that they just laughed, which doubtless vexed him all the more, for this was worse than the crime itself; this was insolence.

One after the next, they handed the Captain off, pointing him in whatever direction came to mind. It became such that whoever saw him coming jumped into the game, eager to misdirect him in whatever direction, with the result that the Captain came round in full circle, growing more vexatious by the moment, whilst he and his marines clambered absurdly over the boulders amongst which one of them entangled his foot and stumbled while the man behind him stumbled into him and together fell down. At this, the indians broke into renewed hilarity, which prompted the Captain to wave his arms frenziedly and the marines to raise their musquets and discharge a volley of warning shots. With that, the crowd backed away, and at length, the indians seemed sufficiently disconcerted from the stir they had created to voluntarily return our pinnace.

We returned to ship, and the matter might have rested at that. But late in the day, as we ourselves made ready to return, Leftenant Edgar, thinking some punishment ought to be inflicted for such infamous conduct, ordered that the canoo which had brought off the thief be seized. The canoo happened to be that of Pareah, who reached the shore as soon as he found his own canoo in danger. Strenuously opposing the seizure, he soon raised too numerous a mob for our boat’s crew to contend with, and from this time forward the natives became very unruly, and seeing Edgar’s design came rushing in a body to the waterside, and the multitude attacked the boats in pursuit of us, seizing our oars, breaking them, and forcing our whole party to retreat.

Pareah began to remonstrate with Edgar, who tried to shrug him aside and make off with the canoo. The cheef then grabbed him, pinioning his arms behind his back with one hand, and holding his hair with the other. A seaman responded by leaping out of the pinnace with an oar, with which he battered Pareah about the head and shoulders until he released Edgar. The fighting became general, the scene tumultuous. Stones flew, and a great number of natives closed in on us. Pareah seized the oar from a seaman’s hands and snapped it in two as if it were a twig. Edgar called for arms, but there were none, and we tried to beat back the crowd with the oars. The stones, launched by slings or thrown with great power and accuracy, severely bruised some of our number as we struggled to clear the beach.

Realizing that it was hopeless, we commenced our retreat towards the water’s edge. There was little chance of getting the pinnace launched again, so we ran for our lives and leaped into the sea and began to swim out towards the small cutter. A perfect fusillade of stones rained down on the sea around us, one or two of them striking their targets. Some of the indians were rushing in after us, and one of them got close enough to Edgar to swing a blow at him, but slipped in doing so, striking but a glancing blow instead. The natives turned their attention to the pinnace with the same fury and relish for its iron. Bolts were knocked out, and the gangboard and rudder cannibalized for their iron.

We would certainly have been killed had not Pareah intervened. His massive voice carried infinite authority, and brought immediate obedience. Bleeding profusely and in blinding pain, Edgar staggered back to try again to launch the boat, and was knocked so hard on his head that his hat flew away. Again Pareah interceded, not wanting a case of Murder on his hands. He ordered his people to launch the boat, and indicated to the two men that they should desist in their aggressions. I demanded the oars, and Pareah dispatched a warrior to bring them back. One and a second that was broken were recovered. Quickly, before there could be yet another change in our fortunes, we paddled out into the bay. This was an unfortunate stroke as matters now stood, as it increased the confidence of those people, which before was too much bordering upon insolence.

Fearful of the consequences of violence, Pareah launched his canoe and quickly caught up our labouring pinnace, hastening to return Edgar’s hat. Would Lono be angry? he called out. Would he kill me? Would he allow me on his great ship again? He would return all the iron tomorrow. I replied that Lono would not kill him. And he would allow him on board again. Thus reassured, Pareah’s brought his canoe alongside, reached out his arms towards me in a gesture of renewed friendship, and we rubbed noses.

Ashore, the marines remained vigilant throughout the night, guarding the observatory and its contingent of carpenters, sail makers, astronomers and marines against the skullduggery afoot in the night. Towards midnight, a sentry descried another figure stealing through the bushes toward the observatory. He took aim with his musquet, but then dropped it clumsily, and it went off without harming anyone, and the rest of the night passed quietly.

Aboard ship, however, morning brought the discovery that our great cutter, which had been submerged and moored to the buoy, was missing from her moorings. Upon examination, the four-inch hawser had been sawed through with a stolen knife, and the submerged cutter detached from its moorings and led away. It had been Edgar’s responsibility to safeguard the cutter. Fuming in a most dreadful mood, and before our onlooking gaze, he grimly reported the loss to the Captain. The Captain answered this news in a most wrathful fit of exasperation. How had it happened that with the cutter moored beneath his nose, submerged even, that he had managed to lose it?! Edgar knew not what to say, but the Captain insisted that he had made it his business to know everything about that cutter, every moment of the day and night, that he had made it his business to guard the cutter and do little else. Upbraided for allowing even the simplest responsibility to slip through his grasp, Edgar had brought discredit upon the Royal Navy by allowing himself to be taken in by the ruse of a simple-minded indian. Edgar stood before him and suffered the Captain’s opprobrium like a whipt cur, an aspect which principally proceeded from his stupidity, and his being one of the meanest degree amongst them.

All of this gave cause to suspect that some villainy was hatching, and in order to prevent the ill consequences that might follow, both Captains met on board the Resolution, to consult what was best to be done on this critical occasion. The officers from both ships were present at this council, where it was resolved to preswade the king to accompany them to our ship, and to confine him on board till the cutter should be returned.

With this view, early on the morning of the 14th  of February, 1779, the Captain, with twenty marines went on shore, under cover of guns on both ships. Observing our motions, and seeing the ships warping towards the towns, of which there were two, one on each side the harbor’s mouth, the indians must have concluded our design was to seize their canoos, in consequence of which most of their large war canoos took the alarm, and made off. We observed, however, that their warriors were clothed in their military dress, though without arms, and that they were gathering together in a body from every direction, their cheefs assuming a very different countenance to what they usually wore upon all former occasions.

Perceiving the need for assistance, Bligh made ready to leave ship to join the Captain ashore. He left Edgar in charge of covering this approach to the bay, with the responsibility to ensure there was no breach to the cordon, and no interference by indians in the conduct of their business ashore, to which end he directed Edgar to employ whatever means, short of lethal force, to ensure the security of this approach to the shore, though he might, if necessary, fire warning volleys.

Once ashore, as we later understood it, the Captain proceeded with his marines directly to Karaniopoo’s residence, where they found him seated on the ground, with about twelve of his cheefs round him, who all rose in consternation on seeing the Captain and his guard enter. The Captain addressed the king in the mildest terms, assuring him that no violence was contemplated against his person or any of his people, except against those who had been guilty of a most unprecedented act of robbery, by cutting from her moorings one of the ship’s boats, without which they could neither conveniently water the ships, nor carry on the necessary communication with the shore. He called upon the king, at the same time, to give orders for the boat to be immediately restored; and insisting upon him accompanying him to the ships, till his orders should be carried into execution.

The king protested his total innocence of the theft; said he was very ready to assist in discovering the thief, and should be glad to see him punished; but showed great unwillingness to trust his person with strangers, who had lately exercised such unusual severities against his people. He was made to understand that the tumultuous appearance of the people and their repeated robberies made some uncommon severities necessary; but that not the least hurt should be done to the meanest inhabitant of his island by any person belonging to the ships, without exemplary punishment; and all that was necessary for the continuance of peace was, to pledge himself for the honesty of his people. With that view, and that view only he came to request the king to place confidence in him, and to make his ship his home, as the most effectual means of putting a stop to the robberies that were now daily and hourly committed by his people, both at the tents and on board the ships, and were now so daring as to become insufferable.

The king, upon this remonstrance, was prepared to comply; but the cheefs, taking the alarm, began to steal away one after another, till they were stopped by the guard. In about half an hour the king was ready to accompany the Captain on board. The plan seemed almost to be working, but just as the Captain and the king were about to board the boat, one of his wives intervened, grabbed hold of his arm, and in tears, seeming to remonstrate with him not to go. The Captain took hold of the other arm, and there ensued a tug-of-war, at which the king became confused and distraught, and sat down. A large crowd gathered round him, menacing with their spears and clubs and daggers stolen or bartered from the ship. The Captain ordered his marines to the water’s edge to stand by, then he pulled at Karaniopoo to get him back on his feet, but his wife and the lesser cheefs voiced their insistence that he stay where he was.

By that time so great a body of indians were got together and lined the shore, that it was only with difficulty they could break through the multitude, who now began to behave outrageously, and to insult the guard. Though the enterprise, which had carried the Captain on shore, had now failed and was abandoned, yet his person did not appear to have been in the least danger, till an accident happened which gave a fatal turn to the affair.

No sooner had Bligh rowed out of sight than a large war canoo hove into our view, making great haste around the point, and heading straight toward the ship. As the canoo approached, I beheld that Cheef Pareah stood at its prow, his back turned towards us as he exhorted his paddlers to exert their utmost, urgently directing his canoo to the assistance of his king. Edgar leaped to the opportunity like a hound to foxes, and ordered his marines to prepare the cannon to fire a warning shot ahead of the progress of the canoo, and upon his order, a volley of four-pounders threw up a pattern of geysers just in front of it. Undeterred, Pareah bade his canoe to maintain its speed undiminished in its progress towards the beach.

Edgar screamed for them to stop, and responding in a gesture of defiance, the chief Pareah turned his backside upon us, bent forward, and slapped his buttocks in derision. It was as a red flag waved at the bull, and too gross an insult for Edgar to bear. Finding that Pareah’s upended Buttocks presenting a very fine large mark, Edgar shouted his exasperation that it was too much, and aimed his own musquet at Pareah and fired. To his instant gratification, the volley found its mark, catching the cheef squarely in the hindquarters. He shrieked horribly, and grasping his behind, toppled forwards into the canoe, whereupon he thrashed in agony as his canoo flew past us in its mad dash to the beach. 

Their alacrity aroused to this new controversy, indians ashore rushed out to meet Pareah’s canoo. Beholding the supine form of their cheef languishing face-down in the hull of the canoo, they shouted their misapprehension that their cheef had been killed. The news arrived at the village where the Captain was, just as he and the king had left and were walking toward the shore. The ferment it occasioned was very conspicuous; the women and the children were immediately sent off, and the men made haste to put on their war mats, and arm themselves with daggers and spears and stones.

Observing their behavior, the Captain gave orders to the Officer of the marines to make way, and if any one opposed, to fire upon them and do execution. This order was given for the marines to carry into execution, and a lane was made for the king and his cheefs to get to the boats, but they had scarce reached the waterside, when the word was given, that the Captain was about to carry off their King to kill him. In an instant a number of their fighting men broke from the crowd, and with clubs rushed in upon the guard, four of whom were presently dispatched. One of the indians, having in his hands a stone and a long iron spike, came up to the Captain, flourishing his weapon by way of defiance, and threatening to throw the stone. The Captain desired him to desist, but the man persisting in his insolence, he was at length provoked to fire a load of small shot. The man having his mat on, which the shot was not able to penetrate, this had no effect other than to irritate and encourage them. Stones were thrown at the marines, and one of the mob attempted to stab Mr. Bayly with his pahoa, but failed in the attempt, and received from him a blow with the butt-end of his musket.

The Captain now fired his second barrel loaded with ball, and killed one of the foremost of the natives. A general attack with stones immediately followed, which was answered by a discharge of musquetry from the marines and the people in the boats. The indians, contrary to the expectations of every one, stood the fire with great firmness, and before the marines had time to re-load, they broke in upon them with dreadful shouts and yells. What followed was a scene of the utmost horror and confusion. The indians shrieked and clawed at the Captain, who roared for his marines to lay into the crowd with all the accumulated firepower at their command, pointing and gesturing wildly, his leonine head bellowing what, no one knows, it all being lost in the fracas.

I watched the calamity unfold through the spyglass. They lunged with their daggers at the marines, and the Captain discharged his other barrel into another and felled him instantly. A dozen hands then grabbed hold on the Captain, who turned and flailed at them. A volley crashed out, and in the crush of bodies every shot found its mark, and stones flew through the air, and the screaming was very riotous. The marines had broken into a panicked retreat, and throwing their musquets aside, they stumbled over the beach boulders in a desperate attempt to reach the boats.

One of them stumbled and was instantly set upon by a native, who slashed his shoulder as he lay on his back. His companion pushed aside the assailant, then fired his musquet, and no sooner reloaded then he was overwhelmed by natives, who hacked at him with their daggers. He managed to get another shot off, and the volley went awry as other natives closed in to butcher him, scattering blood and gore among the tide pools.

Others staggered through the wash, trying to gain the safety of their boats, and were seized as they took hold of the gunwhales. A private, struck by a spear just below the eye, bellowed with pain as he tried to wrench it out, but succeeded only in breaking it off at the haft. With the spearpoint jutting bloodily from his head, he careened madly, then fell into the sea. Others were struck on the head by a rain of rocks, and stumbled blindly over themselves in their frenzied retreat to the pinnace, which roiled with men beating with their oars and guns the natives who were dragging the boat ashore. 

A ruffian making a stroke at the Captain, was shot dead himself, but then another savage came from behind the Captain and striking him on the head with his club felled him to the ground. He then thrust his dagger through his body with such force that, entering between his shoulders, the point of it came out at his breast. The Quarrel now became general. The guns from the ships began to pour in their fire upon the crowd, as did likewise the marine guard, and the marine from the boats; and though the slaughter among the savages was dreadful, yet, enraged as they were, they stood our incessant fire with astonishing intrepidity, insomuch that, in spite of all our efforts, they carried off the bodies of the dead, as a mark of triumph.

The Captain had fallen into the shorebreak washing amongst the boulders, his severed artery pulsing jets of blood into the surf. I saw his face but one last time, as he attempted to rise, his lips forming an unheard cry and waving an arm feebly towards them. Then another native fell on him with a club, and bashed his skull in. The natives fell on the corpse like a pack of wolves, stabbing it, grabbing one another’s dagger and thrusting them in, again and again, stabbing it with spears, and smashing it with boulders and clubs. At one point a number of them raised his body from the crevice and beat his pulpy head repeatedly against the rock face. Then they carried off the bleeding hulk in triumph. Having once secured his body, they fled without much regarding the others, one of which they threw into the sea.


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Our next care was to recover our dead. A strong party was set out in the pinnaces and boats, with a white flag in token of peace, to endeavor to procure their bodies. They were met by a man of cheefly note among the savages, at the head of a vast multitude without answering our signal, who informed us, that the warriors were then on the back of the hill, cutting up and dividing the bodies, but that if Ta-tee, the name they gave Captain Clerke, would land, what remained of Tu-tee, as they called Captain Cook, should be delivered to him. But our party being inconsiderable in proportion to the numbers of the enemy that were then assembled, we were apprehensive of some treacherous design, and therefore our Commander very wisely declined the invitation. While we remained in our boats, several other cheefs came to the waterside; and one in particular, with the Captain’s hanger, which he drew in a taunting manner, and brandished it over his head. Others showed themselves with the spoils taken from the dead, one having a jacket, another a shirt, a third a pair of trowsers, and so on, insulting us, as it were, with the trophies of their victory.

That evening, bonfires were lit on the cliffs overlooking the bay, which echoed through the night with unearthly howls and lamentations. At first light, conch shells were sounded to herald the arrival of more warriors. We observed a prodigious number of lights in the hills, and I believed them to have been the sacrifices they were performing on account of the war in which they imagined themselves to be engaged. From along the cliff top and among the cocoa-nut groves back from the shore, great numbers of warriors were gathering, and the women and children of the nearby villages began migrating inland on a vast exodus.

In the morning, an indian in his canoo drew within musquet-shot, ahead of the ship, and after flinging several stones at us, he waved the Captain’s hat over his head, whilst his countrymen ashore were exulting and encouraging his boldness. Keeping a prudent distance from the ships, he twirled the Captain’s hat around on the end of a stick. Then he put it on his head, turned to bare his buttocks and smacked them, roaring with laughter at the same time. His lead was followed from the shore, where great numbers had assembled for the performance, and now all turned their buttocks towards the ships, slapping their haunches and setting up a great chorus of derision. As well, the breeches of some of the dead marines had been tied to poles and waved to taunt their comrades.

Our people were all inflamed at this insult, and coming in a body on the quarter-deck, begged they might no longer be obliged to put up with these repeated provocations, and requested me to obtain from Captain Clerke to avail themselves of the first fair occasion of revenging the death of their commander.

At this time it was thought prudent to stifle our resentment, and to reserve our vengeance till a more favourable opportunity. We were now in want of water, our sails and rigging in a tattered condition, our cordage bad, and our repairs not near finished; all therefore we had to do, was to remain on the defensive till we were better provided.


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On the 19th they began again to be troublesome. When the marines went back ashore under the command of Bligh, the natives continued to harry them. Stones were hurled and rocks rolled down from the caves that honeycombed the hills to find rocks to throw onto the heads of the men at the observatory, cutting and bruising them. A barrage of four-pounders did dissuade further assaults, but while the boats were loading at the well, the stones came about the crew like hail, some of them of more than a pound weight; one in particular was seen to come from an invisible hand, which being attended to, an indian was observed to creep out of a hole, who as soon as he had discharged his stone, retired back to his place to shelter. We returned to our ships; and it being now apparent, that nothing was to be gained by fair means, orders were given to strike terror among them, by pursuing them with fire and sword.

About two in the afternoon all who were able to bear arms, as well sailors and artificers as marines, were mustered, and preparations made to sustain them, while with lighted matches they rowed on shore, and set fire to the southeast town, pursuing the frightened inhabitants while their houses were put in flames, with unrelenting fury. Many were put to death without mercy, and all driven to seek shelter in the other town; scarce a house in this having escaped the fury of the flames. In this general desolation, the hut or hole of the crafty indian whose cowardice had been one principal cause of the destruction that followed, was not forgotten. His hole had been marked, as he had already been observed, and on seeing our sailors approach it, such was his malice, that he heaved a huge stone at the assailants, one of whom he dangerously wounded, but was instantly dispatched by the discharge of three muskets, and a bayonet run through his body.

The fate of one poor wretch was much lamented by us all. As he was coming to the well for water, he was shot at by one of the marines. The ball struck his calabash, which he immediately threw from himself and fled. He was pursued into one of the caves, and no lion could have defended his den with greater courage and fierceness, till at last, after having kept two of our people at bay for some considerable time, he expired covered with wounds.

Horror had rooted itself in the souls of the men, and their blood boiled with a manic compulsion to wreak havoc and horror upon the indians. I thought I heard a deep humming sound as if from swarming bees emanating from the shore, a hum-buzz of madness of men driven to acts of depravity. The shore party quickly became consumed in an orgy of bloodshed, setting their torches to the village huts which, in the strong breeze, were soon engulfed in towering pyres of flame. Screaming horribly in spasms of anguish, the indians fled their maddened pursuers. The fury of our retribution was unexampled, and no pen could furnish an idea as to the vastness of the horror, as indians irrespective of age or sex or infirmity were chased down and shot at whimsy. Our tormentors were hunted down and clubbed to a pulp, and then shot, whilst those who could not evade their pursuers were shot and bayoneted and beheaded. Their disembodied heads were most gruesomely impaled on long poles, and waved impetuously to those upon the cliff tops, then taken back to the ship as trophies.

Orders had been given to burn only a few straggling huts; we were therefore a good deal surprised to see the whole village on fire. Before a boat that was sent to stop the progress of the mischief could reach the shore, the houses of our old and constant friends, the priests, were all in flame. It is very extraordinary that amidst all these disturbances the women of the island who were on board never offered to leave us nor showed the smallest apprehension either for themselves or their friends ashore. Some of them were on deck when the town was in flames seemed to admire the sight and cried out that it was maitai, or very fyne.

Our orders being fully executed, we returned to the ships before night, loaded with indian spoils, consisting of bows and arrows, clubs and arms of all kinds which they use in battle, and having the heads of two of their fighting men, of which the obnoxious indian was one, stuck at the bows of the pinnaces, as a terror to the enemy from ever daring to molest us.

On the order of the cheef, the war fever quickly abated, and soon, flags of truce fluttered from the cliffs above the bay. The indians brought propitiatory offerings of food to the beach, and waved to the men on the ships to come take it. An old man paddled out with a bundle of cocoa-nuts and plantains to appease us, only to be seized by the men aboard ship, tied up, and returned to his boat along with a severed head taken from one of his countrymen, reeking of the stench of blood, and told that his own head would roll.

Then Koah himself appeared, and swam out to Discovery, holding aloft a white flag in the other palsied hand. Skeptical of his sincerity, and believing that he had come to assess our capabilities for waging further warfare, Bligh, who was sure of his complicity in the Captain’s death, came up to him, presented his pistol at his temple and pulled the trigger, whereupon the gun mist fire.

It fell upon Koah to retrieve what bodily parts he could and return them to Captain Clerke. I must confess I had long harboured an unfavorable opinion of this man, and was of one mind with others who told me he was of malicious disposition and no friend of ours. The repeated detection of his fraud and treachery convinced me of the truth of the representation. The shocking transaction of the morning, in which he was seen acting a principal part, made me feel the utmost horror at finding myself so near him. Bligh demanded the body of the Captain, and would declare war against them unless it was instantly restored. He assured him this would be done as soon as possible, and with much assurance, as if nothing extraordinary had happened, he leaped into the sea again, and called to his countrymen that we were all friends again.

Several days elapsed before he was able to assemble those remains that had not been spirited away or burnt. The girls told the men that Karaniopoo and his family and entourage of lesser cheefs had taken the corpse up to a cave high above the bay, where they had deliberated upon the disposition of the remains. At length, Koah communicated that the Captain’s remains had been gathered, and awaited collection. Dressed in his mourning cloak of black and white fethers, he led a somber procession of priests to the forefront of a massive mound of fruit and roast hoggs on the beach where, beneath banners of truce, he placed the grisly bundle, wrapped in plantain leaves. Carrying boughs and green branches in their hands, they came singing and dancing to the waterside. On seeing his ensign answered by a white flag at each mizzen-top-mast-head, he, accompanied with three other cheefs, came on board, having some cocoa-nuts, plantains, and bread-fruit, as presents to the commander, for which they would accept of nothing in return. This cheef, whose name was A-nu-a, came to make submission, and, as a token of his sincerity, promised to collect the bones of our deceased warrior, as he called him, and to bring them, and lay them at his feet. This was the token of the most perfect submission that an indian warrior could make to his conqueror; and this was accepted on the part of our commander. In this manner, and on these conditions, peace was to be restored.

Early in the morning we received another visit from Koah. I must confess I was a little piqued to find that, notwithstanding the most evident marks of treachery in his conduct, and the most positive testimony of our friends the priests, he should still be permitted to carry on the same farce, and to make us appear the dupes in this hypocrisy.

He brought the two barrels of the Captain’s gun, the one beat flat, with intention of making a cutting instrument of it, the other a good deal bent and bruised. He then presented to us a small bundle wrapped up in a cloth, which he brought under his arm; and it is impossible to describe the horror which seized us on finding in it a piece of human flesh about nine or ten pounds weight.

We found as well the hands of the Captain, which were well known from a remarkable scar on one of them, that divided the thumb from the forefinger, the whole length of the metacarpal bone; the bones from both arms, with the skin of the forearms hanging to them; the thigh and leg bones joined together, but without the feet. The ligaments of the joint were entire, and the whole bore evident marks from having been in the fire, except the hands, which had the flesh left upon them, and were cut in several places, and crammed with salt, evidently with the intent of preserving them. When it was asked what had become of the rest of him, the messenger demonstrated by gnashing his teeth that it was to be eaten that night. This afforded an opportunity of informing ourselves whether they were cannibals, and we did not neglect it. They immediately shewed as much horror at the idea as any European would have done, and asked, very naturally, if that was the custom among us.

This, he said, was all that remained of the body; that the rest was cut to pieces and burnt; but that the head and all the bones, except what belonged to the trunk, were in the possession of Karaniopoo and the other chiefs; that what we saw had been allotted to the cheefs to be made use of in some religious ceremony. In response to the theft of this most sacred portion, Koah pronounced a Curse of Anathema, bemoaning that those who had stolen the head of Lono, and their generations to follow, would themselves suffer the derangement of their depraved actions, until the bones of Lono had been made whole again.

Thus ended the career of the greatest navigator that this or any other nation ever could boast, after having successfully led his crews of gallant British seamen thrice around the world; had reduced to a certainty the non-existence of a Southern Continent, about which all the learned of all nations were in doubt; had settled the boundaries of the earth and the sea; and shown the impracticability of a Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Great Southern Ocean, for which our ablest navigators had contended, and in pursuit of which vast sums had been spent in vain, and many valuable mariners had miserably perished.

Reader, if thou hast any feeling for thy country in the loss of so great, so illustrious a navigator, or any tenderness for those whom he has left to lament his fate, thou wilt drop with me a tear at this melancholy relation; especially when thou reflecteth, that he, who had braved dangers, and had looked death in the face in a thousand forms, should at last be cut off by the hands of a cowardly savage, who, dreading the impetuosity of his rage, came behind him, and, ruffian-like, stabbed him in the back. But of this enough.


Chapter Two


Hi’ilawe, Island of Hawai’i, 1832


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The wreckage drifted along, its passenger suspended between the void above and the chasm beneath. The flotsam bore a survivor of Goliath, a whaler recently out of Lahaina and hunting blubber some eighty miles east of the island of Hawai’i.

A storm had gathered, and a bolt of lightning had coursed down the mizzenmast and struck Goliath’s trypot, upending the cauldron and setting ablaze hundreds of gallons of molten blubber that sloshed across her decks, down the hatches, and into the innards of the ship. Fire swept the forest of rigging and masts into an instant inferno that quickly reduced the ship to a quarter-acre of floating charcoal. There had been no time to lower boats, and sharks had accounted for those nimble enough to leap overboard ahead of the billowing flames. Bennie, on his own square yard of charcoal, had been overlooked.

         Unconscious and insensate as a clot of weed in the water, his will demanded that he come awake and fit himself into a purposeful plan. With consciousness came the will to live. He tried to utter a little cry for help, but it emerged from his swollen, furred, and salt-rimed tongue as a croak. Parched within, brined without, speech required more than he had bargained for.

In time his faculties would support more profound and complex concerns, but for now, he was content to survive. His mouth opened and shut. He breathed air instead of water, and as the air coursed into his sodden lungs it burned. He knew enough to draw breath when air was present and to refrain when water was present.

He began to think clusters of thoughts, inchoate but coherent. He had established faint communication with his limbs, and they responded to simple commands. With painful slowness, he began to uncurl his hands from their death grip that had fastened itself onto the wreckage. He wagged his foot tentatively. He tested each limb for a response, and was answered. Pain was starting to be acknowledged as well, but more in the abstract than the physical.

Bennie opened an eye but could see nothing. He listened as the water, now warm and amniotic, slipped and slopped by. He registered the gentle sensation of rising and falling with each swell. There was no noise, and no forms were discernible in the blackness.

Bennie had established the direction of the greatest leavening of the darkness, and judged it to be largely behind him, to the east. He seemed generally pointed the other way, west. He began to form calculations, and form them into a plan. The currents of sea and air seemed to want him to go west. He sensed that west was over there, where the swells seemed to run downhill.

As the darkness lightened, he watched as the swells wheeled into view, lifted him, sustained him, offered a view of his immediate patch of ocean, and subsided. Lifted up again, he looked about him and saw there was nothing in the new scene to distinguish itself from the old. He uttered an epithet, and went limp.

Salt water oozed from his eyes and from his nose. The swells lifted him gently, then dropped him down again, again and again. He winced and squinted, sliding along toward an imagined horizon, believing it a viable course of action.

He was cold in the gloaming, and he wanted to re-orient himself to the brightening horizon in the east, to take in the cheer of the sun. Slowly, the light added definition to the sea, illuminating the hillocks of water and turning them green.

From the blessed numbness of shock and hopelessness, Bennie roused himself to a new day, and hastened his heart in pumping blood through his chilled body. He lunged forward, kicked, and thrashed about. He could tell his little island of flotsam what to do, and it would answer him by rolling over or turning around. It would do his bidding, support his hands, move in response to kicking his legs. But his legs rebelled, and answered him with a pain that split his skull, and for all his trouble, he saw his position with respect to the surrounding swells as essentially unchanged.

Time oozed by in infinite compression.

Other pains began to evidence themselves. His neck was stiff, and it resented the demands made upon it to raise his head so that he might have a look around. It was easier to keep it tucked halfway into the water as he snuffled and slopped along. He regretted the communication he had established with his legs and ankle; they communicated their affront in a generalized ache, now perforated with stabbing needles.

The pain held him as its captive audience. The fog of pain was not unlike the fog of drink, and in time it made him dull and senseless. He imagined that he was drunk. Lightning flashed, and scenes from long ago flickered.

The saloon was riotous with revelers and lights o’ love: plump Teutonic tarts, langorous Amazons, twittering Chinese canaries, primroses from New England. The harpies looked at him drunkenly and laughed, their sickly grins swarming with bejel, yaws, and clap. They leered at him, taunting him, mocking him. In response, he slopped his glass of gin over one of them, whereupon she grabbed the bottle, filled her mouth with gin, and sprayed it back into his face. He slapped her, opened a cut on her mouth, and wrestled her to the ground. He held her down while his friends, then he himself, and then his friends again, used her as they pleased, until she no longer resisted, only cried, until her misery was overtaken by a whiteness that rose like a vaporous screen as the day brightened.

There was the low murmur of surf. There loomed overhead a great pillar of rock. Bennie rolled his head over and watched the swells as they rose and then broke against the rocks. He wanted to swim but elicited no response from his legs. The rocks threw up spray, and the water was filled with yellow and brown weed that drifted through water, no longer feckless in its idiot flow, but now shoreward-bound. Brown tendrils lashed his cheeks, clung momentarily, then pulsed onward.

He bumped into something solid, and it stung his leg. Something solid had intruded into his world of water and vapor and beckoning tarts. His eyes jarred opened, and fell in and out of focus as he struggled to bring the scene into better resolution.

The rock demanded that he acknowledge the primacy of the physical. It had interposed itself with brute force, banging and twisting his ankle, and shown him that for all his detachment, his philosopher’s stone was not the equal of a humble rock. It was adamant, and compelled him to organize his myriad centers of pain into a coherent response. But he remained indifferent, as the ocean lumbered and thumped into the pillar of rock that towered above him like a tooth set in the ancient jaw of a half-sunken world.

Drops of cold rainwater spattered onto his face and dribbled into his mouth, which opened and shut like a fish out of water. It came to him that he was very thirsty. He drew air in rasping gulps that whistled down his windpipe, caked with scum. His tongue was swollen and blistered. He began coughing and convulsing. He heaved, but only bile came up. He longed for water.

A straw-colored moon reposed upon the rim of the valley. Veils of rain danced in the moonlight, and rags of cloud drifted across the face of the moon. The sea swirled amongst the boulders, slopped along the rocks, and then hissed its retreat. No longer able to sustain him, it murmured its farewell as it released Bennie from its bosom.


Hawaiian music

Aroused by the whistling of the breeze through the gourds that held his tackle, the fisherman arose. In the soft light that guttered from the candlenut lamp, he laid out his hooks. He baited them with a paste he had prepared from the sap of roots and flowers, and fastened each of his bait sticks with a coconut fiber sack filled with mashed candlenut.

He had seen swarms of parrotfish yesterday, drifting in their veils of courtship that swirled from the surface into the depths. As the sun rose today, he would watch intently for their flame-colored flashes along the bottom as they rose to nibble at the bait sticks.

The gloaming became tinted with the rose-gold of the sun, and the air was calm and quiet, save for the gentle lapping of the water at the beach. The fisherman loaded his tackle into the canoe, and dragged it across the stones into the lace of surf. With his gourds packed with nets and lines, and others filled with fresh water, he pushed his boat out into the sea.

As daylight silvered the bay, he began sculling toward the place where freshwater springs welled up from the floor of the bay. There he would peer from beneath sun-bleached eyebrows down the columns of cold, clear water, looking for fish.

He paddled past the familiar array of boulders that lay humped against the inner reaches of the bay. Knowing them by heart, his fleeting glance was caught by a shape that seemed at odds with the accustomed pattern. His eyes straining to focus in the half-light, he descried a form that seemed pale and smoothly contoured in contrast to the black abruptness of the rocks. Turning his canoe shore-ward again and drawing up close, the fisherman stared in disbelief at the body that had washed up on the sand.


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Spring had drawn to an end. The sun was hot, and the season of deep-sea fishing had begun again, now that the currents had shifted shore-ward and the sea had become calm again. The fishermen of the village had returned to the open ocean to fish for tuna. Schools of them came in close to shore now, and the men paddled out to where the terns wheeled in the offshore breezes. 

They hovered over the school of fish, swooping down to snatch at anchovies that broke the surface as they tried to escape the snapping jaws of the tunas. The fishermen tossed out gourdfuls of silversides and small squid that were found floating in the sea in great numbers, and the surface roiled in frenzy as the tunas snapped at the baitfish that sought shelter in the shadow of their canoes. As the tunas swarmed round the canoes, the fishermen let out their lines.

Days and days had passed in a fog of delirium and exhaustion since Bennie had washed up at Hi’ilawe. The fisherman’s daughter Kehau remained at his side throughout, preparing teas and poultices to bring him back to the land of the living. When at last he could eat, it was a reason to celebrate. Any reason was a good reason for jollification, and their welcome to this man with straw-colored hair and blue eyes was as good a reason as any in recent times.

The chief ordered his people to gather the best foods of the valley. Fat milkfish and sweet mullet and hanging-jawed eels, and the delicious pink poi that was made from taro that grew nowhere but Hi’ilawe. He told the villagers to kill their pigs with no regrets, for pigs could be gotten again, and to find some fat dogs with well-curled tails, so fat that water stood on their backs. And a black fowl, a white cock, some red fish, and the best mokihanaawa, normally reserved for royalty. All were decreed by the chief of Hi’ilawe to be gathered for the feast.

The imu was prepared. A man grasped a piece of soft hau wood with his feet, and rubbed it vigorously against a piece of hard dry wood. The wood dust smolderws and smoked, and dry, frayed pieces of kapa were added. With a bamboo tube, another blew onto the fire and fanned it into flames. They stirred and shifted kindling of firewood, branches, and tree trunks, then tamped beach stones on top of the fire.

On top of the hot stones was spread a layer of banana and ti leaves, and moist seaweed. Corms of taro were added, then sweet potatoes wrapped in ti, arrowroot, breadfruit, and taro leaf, then fish and chickens, and at last the pig. Banana logs were layered in and split open to release their steam into the imu, as were leaves and blossoms of white ginger that would impart their fragrance. When the pit had been filled, sections of lauhala mat was spread on top, then covered with earth.

The night fled from the torches. The women wore kapa scented with sandalwood, and seashell bracelets and flower lei, and they goggled and exclaimed over the guest of honor.

Bennie watched the women dance, and Kehau wove plaits of flowers for his hair and fed him what he could eat of the delicacies from the imu. He ate more than he imagined he could, and soon afterwards slipped into a stupor and dozed.


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He awoke to a morning that was close and sticky. The waters of the bay were rippled by shoals of flying fish that erupted like colonies of birds startled from a tree, creating a shower of spray and small rainbows in their wake. The ocean slopped along the rocks in a rich brine that nurtured the clumps of dog’s hair limu, a fine yellow-brown seaweed that brought the mullet and goatfish to nibble and graze like flocks of sheep, in surf that tinkled like shepherd’s bells. As the sun rose, the bay became a field of flashing diamonds, painful to his eyes. At the beach, women hunched over their salt pools, gathering baskets of salt or kneeling to catch the silversides that flashed along in the tide pools.

Bennie watched as Kehau gathered cowries for her father the fisherman, who used them to make lures. She searched for the choice red cowries that were used to catch the octopus, and examined each one, thinking to herself that this one would catch twenty octopus, that one forty. When the sugar cane tasseled, the octopus came into the bay in great numbers, shy creatures that harbored a misguided infatuation with the cowry and stone lures that fishermen dragged along the sandy, sun-lit bottom of the bay.

Bennie spent the next few days learning how to gut and salt and dry the fish that Kehau’s father caught, tending the slabs of bonito out back as they reddened on spits, dripping fats that spattered and popped on the coals, broiling slowly until their juices ceased to drip onto the fire. Most of the catch he would salt, stringing the fish on stalks and rushes as he did so, or packing them in salt, or laying them out on stones so that they might whiten and stiffen with salt.


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Each day when he returned, the fisherman would give some to his catch to kinfolk and friends who helped him carry the canoe back up onto the beach. Then he would offer some of the fish to the odd-looking stone out back. Only after he had satisfied the guardian spirit in the stone did he prepare his own meal—usually sour poi and slices of fish mashed with its fatty liver and dressed with the salty juices of the lipa’akai seaweed.

The stone, the fisherman’s guardian spirit, protected him and ensured a plentiful catch. It had come to him in a series of dreams, saying “I am cold, come and get me.” Porous and pitted with tiny stones, it was a jealous female, and flirted with him before she finally told him where he might come to find her, when to come for her, and what to bring. When the fisherman saw it, he recognized it instantly, for it had stared back at him with the mouth of a fish.

He took it home and put it in a place that was kapu, and he treated it like it was his own child. It had to be fed every day, and if he missed so much as a single meal, there was trouble. Its loincloth had to be kept spotlessly clean, and the more attention he lavished on it, the more it would bless his household with light, laughter, and the bustle of activity. But if any but its chosen caretaker so much as laid a hand on it, it would become hot like fire.

It had taken time for this relationship to develop. But in time the stone confided, and told the fisherman where he could find the most prolific schools of fish, at what time of day, and told him the kind of net or baitstick to use to catch them. Jealous of the affections of its caretaker, the stone was his alone. It was his child. The fisherman accepted its guidance, and gave it love in return, much as he took from the ocean and accorded it respect in return. For the ocean was the source of all life, and its gentle motions of wave and tide and breeze were acts of love.

Bennie’s relationship with the woman Kehau assumed a more serious bent when one evening, his salting done and her cowries collected, they took their usual walk to the stream where they rinsed away the salt and sweat of the day’s labors. Afterwards, she led him beyond the stream and into the forest, to a place where she sometimes went to cut bark from trees to scent her kapa with. It was there that she took him as her lover. And it was there, upon a soft carpet of ironwood needles, that Bennie sowed in her the seed that teemed with the sickness that coursed through his bloodstream.


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Down the beach a ways was an area of sand dunes that had been sculpted into weird and wondrous shapes by the wind. As it whistled through the dunes, the wind mourned as if for the dead. Many regarded it as a place of dread, but for Wolohu it was a place of magic.

As a practitioner of magic, Wolohu was less of a success than those who could demonstrate their power by praying until the flowers of the candlenut withered and the nuts fell off, or until a stone crumbled to pieces as it lay on the a’pe leaf, or until a cock upended its spurs in its death throes. And if an especially powerful demonstration was needed, such a kahuna would pray a black pig or a mottled pig to death, cracking open its back so that maggots wriggled from it. The prayer of such a kahuna was as an earthworm, only appearing above ground occasionally, so that month after month its power might lie latent, then strike at last, not only its victim, but also his family and friends. But that was beyond Wolohu.

His infatuation with Kehau consumed him, as did his poisonous jealousy of her lover,that abomination that had washed up on the beach, naked and half-drowned. Imagining their lovemaking, his anguish was unbearable. But his love was not reciprocated, and Kehau regarded him as little more than a nuisance, wanting nothing to do with him.

Night after night, Wolohu supplicated himself before his altar. Upon it, he had placed several stalks of sugar cane, together with a hand of lele bananas that fishermen offered to sharks. He implored the Flying Bird cane to come and strip away her indifference, and convey on its wings his prayer that an insatiable yearning for his love might take root in her heart. The Hold Fast cane too was beseeched, to bind her affections so that her eyes might glaze over and she become childlike, showing little interest in anything but the object of her sudden infatuation. Benign and compassionate spirits were known to frequent the altar at which Wolohu prayed, spirits of a loving couple who, long ago, had taken a walk there, and been whisked away to the afterlife. Surely they would help one of such fervent heart as he. Even if induced love was not as strong as the natural kind, it was better than no love.

But his agonized appeals to the deities of the love magic were to no avail. No matter how he rattled and muttered over his fetishes, it was useless– the woman he adored remained hopelessly love-struck with her creature.

The clouds lumbered out over the open sea, and the late afternoon sun broke through. Dusk lasted only an instant, and then darkness and silence descended on the island. Wolohu watched and listened as the surf murmured, and lovers everywhere but here whispered sweet nothings to each other. How foolish he was, he realized, to place his faith in these useless old gods. They were nothing more than a wretched swindle if they couldn’t so much as sway the misguided affections of a foolish girl.


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The fisherman cultivated the waters of the bay with the same affection and loving attention to detail as taro farmers gave to their children, the huli offspring of the parent plant.It was just quiet, steady work, no talk. He never talked about going fishing, never said where he was going to catch fish. Fish didn’t like idle talk. You never said you were going fishing, since they would hear you. The fish didn’t care for silly questions or for people who just talked and never did what they said they were going to do. Fish had feelings, so you never showed them you were weary, because then they wouldn’t like to burden you further. They didn’t care for dirty language or smutty stories. Fish didn’t like dirt. You didn’t point at them, make them ashamed, since they were timid creatures and didn’t like to be the center of attention. The fisherman was careful to respect the net, since it was the house of the fish, and fish liked the net to be clean. He didn’t walk around nearby while it was spread out on the beach, since the crunch of sand or pebbles as he walked would scare the fish. They would take offense, and the greater the fish, the greater the danger.

He fattened the mackerel that swarmed about the seamount just outside the bay with sweet potatoes and a mash of seaweed, ripe breadfruit, amd roasted pumpkin that he lowered down to them in round, flat baskets. Peering into the trap, he would see that it was filled with fish as golden yellow as the flowers of the ko’olau. As he pulled the trap up to the surface, there would be a tremendous splashing as he gathered the fish into his canoe.

That morning, as the fisherman let his bait sticks down to the seamount, he waited and watched for the parrotfish to swarm into view. All throughout the morning he gazed and searched, but there were no fish to be seen. Consternation furrowed his brow.


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Sensing the rhythm of the fisherman’s paddle, the shark concluded that there was a meal, and with a few quick thrusts of its tail, it lunged upwards towards the boat.

Its snout broke the surface beside his canoe, and the shark beheld the fisherman. It then submerged and began to circle slowly round, and when it once again surfaced, it smashed its tail into the canoe.

Panicking, the fisherman took a gourd and threw it high out over the water to the side of the shark. The gourd landed with a sharp splash and, attracted by this, the shark turned and rushed at it. When its nose struck the gourd, it bobbed away. Infuriated that it could not gain a purchase with its teeth, the shark snapped at the bobbing gourd, then turned on the canoe. It raised up its head, and its great black eyes filled with murderous ardor. Its eyes rolled up into its head, and its massive jaws parted to expose rows of saw-edged teeth.

The fisherman screamed as the canoe bucked and reared, and his eyes filled with terror as the shark’s tail went up, then smashed down alongside him. He disappeared and was gone. The fisherman popped up once again, screaming in a way not humanly possible, flailing in a sea crimson with blood.

After that first bite, the shark wandered off, then returned to tear bites from the body that lay suspended in a cloud of blood, shaking apart its victim into manageable pieces.

When a shark tormented its human victim in this way, it was not a natural shark, but one that had been sent by sorcery. The victim might sometimes be given the briefest of moments before he was devoured, to call to shore and wave his fingers in farewell to his relatives as the shark held him, first tossing him up in the air, then dragging him under water to drown as the blood drifted in the sea. Such was the account people gave of the fisherman’s death.


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Wolohu had come to console. Grieving at her father’s death, Kehau hardly noticed he was there.

“The gods are inscrutable,” he offered.

“Don’t talk to me about your gods,” she said. “They’re your gods, not mine. And I don’t think they were my father’s, either!”

“Your father was a pious man,” he observed, pointing at the kapa-draped stone that stared dumbly ahead, its fish-mouth agape.

“Why then did it think so little of his piety as to feed him to the shark?!”

“You are wrong to speak against your father’s stone,” he said. “You wrong your father, you will wrong all of us, and each of us will be brought to account for your actions.”

I am the one who has been brought to account!” she protested tearfully. “With my grief and suffering! My father was brought to account… for what?!! He was a good man! For what was he brought to account?!!” She turned from him and stalked over to the stone. Then she lifted it up and smashed it onto a nearby boulder, where it disintegrated.

Aghast, Wolohu stared at her.

“Get out!” she shouted. “And take your miserable gods with you!” She reached down, picked up a part of what remained of the guardian stone, and threw it at him, just missing him. “I hate them, and I hate you!”


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Shocked at this outrage and stung by her venom, Wolohu withdrew to lick his wounds. Kehau’s actions were beyond those of grief: they were kapu. She could only have lost her senses to the creature that had come from beyond the sea to defile her thoughts and corrupt her piety. Seduced into irreverence and inattention to her father’s stone, she had at last offended the deity and precipitated the death of her father the fisherman. That would make perfect sense.

But knowing that it might have been his very own magic that had summoned the beast, inadvertently albeit, troubled him. His prayers had been well-intentioned, and it was not for him to question the ways in which the gods answered those prayers. But if in fact the gods had favored Wolohu with such powers, then who was he to argue? Perhaps he might someday achieve the full measure of fame and influence that the dark arts of the kahuna conferred upon their practitioner. It was a heady prospect.


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Wolohu went to visit the kahuna Waha, as he often did. He had been gifted at an early age by his mother as an acolyte to the old priest who now lived at the heiau in the forest of Hi’ilawe with his attendant. Waha was glad to have someone to talk to besides the old woman Moana, with her incessant gossip, though the lad was something of nuisance as a love-lorn adolescent, forever badgering him for secrets of the love magic that he himself was only dimly aware of, having never taken a wife.

Arriving at the hut, the old woman motioned him inside, and with that, resumed her usual station within earshot.

Wolohu had come to tell Waha that the people were afraid, believing that the gods had been offended, and that the shark attack on the fisherman portended hard times. He himself had experienced a vivid dream, he said. Almost certainly it had been a vision, in the form of a cloud-image that had come on the night of Hoaka, with the moon’s faint light casting ghost-like shadows and frightening the fish away. The ocean currents had changed, the tides ran and the sea became rough, and nature seemed in a general state of agitation and unease.

“How have the gods been offended?” Waha asked.

“It was not given for me to know,” Wolohu said. “But in this dream I heard something calling. It was a guardian spirit that had been aggrieved. The spirit called out, ‘Come to me. I am dishonored by one that harbors an impure heart, whose heart is drawn to one who honors another god. I am in great pain, for my body has been sundered and broken! Come, before I am forgotten. For if I am forgotten, the people of Hi’ilawe will be forsaken.’”

Outside, the woman Moana listened. As personal attendant to the high priest of Hi’ilawe, she attended to as much as she believed fell within the purview of her concern, which was everything. What she heard was a warning, she realized, to the people of Hi’ilawe. And warnings, as such, were meant to be conveyed to those who needed to be warned. Armed with this intelligence, she went to the village the next morning and told her friends of what she had learned, and in no time at all the villagers had formed a consensus as to what had brought about the death of the fisherman.

The fisherman’s death, it was agreed, had been a warning. The guardian spirit stone had been smashed by the fisherman’s daughter at the urging of the white man, who had come to Hi’ilawe as destroyer of the gods. The guardian stone’s spirit had fled the body of the stone and instilled itself in the body of the shark, which in turn exacted retribution against the guardian of the stone.

People became convinced that they had seen the ghostly green glow of the shark’s eyes as it patrolled the bay. The other fishermen were afraid to go out fishing. Sightings were reported, not only of its glowing eyes, but of the shark leaping high out of the water to snatch some low-flying tern or gull in its horrid jaws. There were accounts, too, of the shark walking upright on land, the stuff of the ancient legend. People became terrified, and unwilling to venture out at night.


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The god Lono was the great engine of the weather and the waters. As the lava flowed from Mokuaweoweo Crater atop Mauna Loa, it plunged into the sea and created huge clouds of steam that rose up and formed rain. The eyes of the god flashed in lightning that issued from furious black thunderheads that boiled up over the slopes of the volcano, clouds that rutted noisily like the Hog God Kamapua’a. As it was for Kamapua’a, black was the color of Lono, of Lono’s cape, and of the angry clouds of smoke that rose from the volcano to give birth to the black thunderheads that watered the mysterious dark forest of Hi’ilawe.

Water was the most precious gift of all for the people of the valley. The land was not a gift. It was there, and would not be withdrawn. But Lono, the Keeper of the Fires and the Father of Waters, could withhold the water. Or, at his caprice, he could inundate the land with it.

The rains began. It poured without letup for days, and the bay at Hi’ilawe silted up with mud. The taro was washed away in the flooding, and all was made miserable.

It was a time of sifting of ashes from the fires, of melancholy winds that swirled about the flanks of the great mountain. The winds swirled about the huts and the fireplaces of the village, scattering the ashes of their fires. But the ashes were cold, since there was so little food to prepare. Everything was ashen from the smoky fires of winter, a time sacred for the innumerable gods born this month, four times one hundred thousand of them. The waters of the bay were rough and took on the silvery aspect of the sky. Storms swept in from the ocean, one after the next. People stayed indoors and slept from the weariness of trying to wrestle a living from a land that now begrudged it to them. The wind moaned and made things mournful, and dry thunder rumbled intermittently.

The streams became choked with silt, which washed over the reef and choked off the holes for the octopus and the ghost crab. The mullet fingerlings swarmed in the mouths of the streams until yet more rain opened up new channels to drain the backwaters.

The fishpond had once been filled with all kinds of fish—parrotfish, awa, anae, awaaua, barracuda, aholehole, o’opu, shrimp, andeels. All these fish had swarmed together and rippled against the walls of the pond. But now the fishponds were empty, and gone too were the slabs of tuna and bonito that had been laid up for winter. All that was left was dried pumpkin that would have been used as bait for the mackerel at the seamount, and sweet potatoes that had been steamed in the imu and dried.

There was no joy in the valley, no gentle and good humor, no smiles, no aloha, no joy in work and daily routine. People were sunk in shame, knowing they had offended, and believing that they had been ostracized by the guardian spirits and the 400,000 gods. The smoke from the hearths was bitter, and the hearths were cold, the fishermen’s nets were empty, and the seamount barren. The plants and taro and trees wilted, the women grew bitter, and the men worried. There was no laughter from the children. The skies were gray and leaden, and the sunlight wan and watery. People spoke in thin, hushed voices and shielded their faces in shame.

Refusing to relinquish her man to Wolohu’s contemptible machinations, Kehau tried to turn a deaf ear to the popular opprobrium. But even those who had once been friends now avoided her and her aged mother, and their isolation in the company of the white man who had become anathema was now complete. Kehau’s mother complained that not only was the white man not welcome here, but now they themselves were no longer welcome in their own village.

How would they provide for themselves, she asked? They did not know how to catch fish, nor grow taro. What sweet potatoes remained to them were mealy, and those that remained in the ground had rotted from the constant rain. Nobody had any food to give them. They would live forever after, her mother wailed, as women whose names would never again be spoken amongst the villagers. People had hardened their hearts against them, blaming the white man for the floods and the absence of fish in the bay and for the nocturnal prowlings of the Were-Shark, and they whispered that the Night Marchers marched with the name of the white man on their lips.

Bennie understood nothing of this. But whatever it was that Kehau argued about with her mother, it was clear that somehow it concerned him.

It was all as Wolohu had predicted. A man who had journeyed out of the deep valley had returned to say that the great mountain Mauna Kea stood covered with a broad cape of snow vaster than he had ever seen. It was a harbinger, people agreed, of famine.

But for Wolohu, it was a season of plenty. He had been chosen to warn the people of Hi’ilawe of the danger in their midst, and of the great privations that would attend. People listened, and regarded his confidences with dread. Their conversations grew subdued when he came, and they whispered after he left.

He smiled to himself. The 400,000 gods had given him their whole-hearted support, and each privation visited upon the people of Hi’ilawe was a blessing for him. It all played right into his hands.

Standing in the center of the heiau in the forest of Hi’ilawe, the mana house was the abode of the highest holiness. it reeked from the moldering bones and the carcasses of hogs, dogs, and fowls that had been offered them that now languished in various states of decay and thronged with buzzing black flies.

Waha’s father, who had been guardian of the heiau and spiritual caretaker of the valley before him, had told him that the remains in the Ark in the temple’s mana house were those of the god Lono. They had been brought from Kealakekua Bay, where Lono had arrived, in the flesh, to bless the makahiki festival that was held each year in his name. But things had gone very wrong there, and Lono had died in an act of unspeakable horror at the hands of his own people. Koah, the High Priest of the island of Hawai’i, had pronounced the curse of anathema upon those who had destroyed the god and stolen his bones. And so it happened that the heiau in the forest of Hi’ilawe came to be both sacred and profane: sacred as the repository of the bones of Lono, cursed on account of those who had stolen them and brought them home to Hi’ilawe, most notably Waha’s father.

As heir to the sins of his father, has made promise his father that the whole matter would never see the light of day, and that nobody would know of the presence of the bones of Lono here in Hi’ilawe. In fact, his life depended on it, for if the High Chief of the island got word of this, soldiers would be sent and they would die. Publicly, Waha must forever be the keeper of bones of forgotten warriors, and never those of Lono. He must act in the old tradition of the priest who long ago had hidden the bones of Kamehameha and had died with the secret.

But that was an honorable secret, worth guarding with one’s life. This was different. Waha’s only friends, apart from Wolohu and the old woman Moana, were the idols arrayed about the mana house of the temple. Some had once been clothed, but now stood dressed in rags, a few tattered patches and shards of kapa hanging round the neck, bleached by the sun and rotted through by the rain. He had decorated them with hibiscuses, and some he had rigged with feather helmets and masks, made dreadful by rows of shark’s teeth and tufts of human hair. A heap of broken bowls and coconut shells, spoilt lei, broken branches of shrubs and bushes, and shards of kapa lay before the images. They stood there, their mouths agape with rows of dog’s teeth and fastened with shimmering mother-of-pearl eyes, mocking his impotence.

But the images’ contempt for their keeper was as nothing compared to the contempt that Waha now felt for the remains that moldered within the Ark in the mana house. For they were not those of Lono, as his father had told him, nor of any of the 400,000 lesser deities. Waha knew they were something else. Long curious about its contents, he had undone the basket and looked upon the head within. 

For a while, he believed that it might well have been the head of a god, for it did not look like that of any man that he had ever seen. But ever since he had seen the blonde, blue-eyed man that had washed up on their shores, he realized that the head in the basket was nothing more than that of another white man.

He felt defrauded. All these years, Waha had been forced to skulk about like a man who had something to hide. The powers of his office had been reduced to muttering over household matters and minor kapu. No one took him seriously, and people seemed to regard him as a harmless sort who didn’t have much to say in matters.

He had grown old and bitter. Worse, he had grown old in vain. What kind of a life was it, being the guardian of some white man’s bones? So, if Wolohu wanted the job so badly, then fine, let him deal with it.

Waha expressed to Wolohu his wish for a successor that might shoulder the responsibilities that had grown so weighty of late. His arthritis had begun to torment him, and he thought he might like to take leave of the rainforest of Hi’ilawe and stay with his niece in upcountry Waimea perhaps. Knowing of his deep-seated interest in the arts of kahuna, would Wolohu consider the job, he wondered?

Wolohu rejoiced at the prospect. This was turning out even better than he could have imagined. But then again, certain things were just meant to be. None of this could have simply happened, now that he thought about it. Wolohu was only the conduit of the words he had spoken to Kehau upon her father’s death that had set into motion this entire concatenation of events. In fact, it had been the gods that had spoken those words through his mouth, much as it had been the gods that had formulated his vision. Did not the fisherman’s death, and then the broad mantle of snowfall atop Mauna Kea, speak amply to the fact that his new-found powers were not some fantasy on his part? Could he possibly have come up with this even if he had tried?

A ceremony would be held, Waha said, to present his successor to the gods for their blessing, and together they would pray for the gods’ forgiveness of their people and for a chance to begin anew.

The people and the dancers gathered at the heiau for the ceremony. On the ground was a pile of red fish, some coconuts, a stalk of bananas and some kapa of geometric imprint. Reposing on the scaffolding was an immense hog, its snout snarled into a rictus of death agony. It had been fattened until its snout had almost disappeared and its neck rolled with fat, its ears drooping and its mouth hanging open like a gaping cock. It had been strangled, its hair scorched off, and it entrails taken out and burnt, except for the liver.

After smearing the carcass with its blood and broiling the liver, the fire-reddened hog was dragged through the mud by a hook in its mouth. Waha uttered his blessing, chanting over and over the name of Kamapua’a, the Hog God whose domain was the valley of Hi’ilawe. He took a large fish from the pile and a bunch of plantains and carried them into the temple. With ceremonious mutterings, he brought them before the images and consecrated them. He crammed fingers of food into the images’ mouths, and hung a hand of bananas on the scaffolding.

As Waha waved his arms and called out his appeal to Father Lono, the dancers took up the outcry, banging on their logs and drums as the chill valley wind blew over the wet grass glistening in the starlight, and a sliver of moon hung beyond the valley wall. They arose, and their dark forms deepened and colored in the guttering torch light, and swayed eerily, the shapes of their bodies altered by their ti leaf capes and hala mats. They danced to the chants of Laka, the goddess of hula, and danced with wreaths fragrant with the mist and cold dew of the mountain. Standing about the mana house, the carved images glowered through the smoke and the torch light. The night passed in prayer and chants, like the voice of drums that throbbed in the night at the heiau deep in the forest.

Waha concluded his chant, then turned and slowly walked into the mana house. He emerged moments later with the Ark, and laid it upon the spirit altar. Drawing his arms about him, he described an arc above him to beseech the attentions of the gods to the ceremony. Then he dropped to his knees and protrated himself. Assembled behind him, the dancers pressed their faces to the earth. He lifted his head, then brought it down to the ground, time and time again.

Then all was silent, and there was heard no disapproving response from the gods– no call of a bird, no chatter of a lizard, no hoot of owl nor cry of night heron, no red glow at sea or shooting star, no thunder or lightning—nothing that might betray the disdain of the gods for the prayers of the people.

Waha beckoned for Wolohu to pick up the Ark, and hold it out in front of him to await the final blessing. And at last, to officiate Wolohu’s position as his protege, Waha uttered a short prayer. Then the assemblage was bidden to rise, and it was Wolohu’s turn to offer a prayer to the god Lono.

Surely Lono saw that it was good, and that the people’s hearts were contrite. Surely he saw that their contrition was articulated by one who was worthy, and who would act to ensure that the people would never again stray from the path of virtue. Surely the rains would stop soon, and the sun would emerge to dry out the land and give life to all things that grow.

The very next day, Wolohu encountered Kehau on the path in the forest as he was returning to the village from the heiau. Carrying the fish she had obtained for her cowries and that she would in turn barter with the taro farmer for poi, Kehau stopped in her tracks and glowered at him.

“Does the great kahuna expect this woman to fall down and prostrate herself at his approach?!

He wasn’t quite sure what he expected, but not this.

“You seem so happy with things!” she said. “It’s just too good to be true, isn’t it! It all happened so perfectly for you! How is it that you are so pleased with all of this?!”

“Why would I take happiness in your father’s death?” Wolohu said, appalled by her outburst. “Why would I make light of the miseries that have befallen us? None of this is my fault. If anything, the fault is yours.”

“You are foolish!” she said. “But a hundred times more than usual, because of your swollen head! But for all of your big head, you still cannot understand that I see you for what you are. You are pathetic! And anyone who thinks otherwise could only have a mind even smaller than yours.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“It is beyond contempt that you would disgrace my father’s memory with your actions! I know it was you! I knew it ever since I heard of your so-called dream! That was so clever of you, wasn’t it! Your timing was perfect, not even two days had gone by since my father died! And Waha was foolish enough to let himself be taken in by your ruse! This is all your doing!”

“How could it be my doing when the shark prowls the bay, and causes the fish to flee, and when the floods drown the taro? How can I do these things?”

That much was true, she agreed. He had not caused the fish to flee, nor the floods to wash away the taro and the potatoes. He did not have the power to piss into the wind, she said, much less do any of that. But he had poisoned everyone’s mind against the man she loved. Wolohu was a jealous fraud and a self-important ass, and she detested him so completely it made her want to scratch his eyes out.

“It is your stupidity that curses us!” she spat at him.

“Harpy! How dare you mock me!”

“How else does one treat a fool?!”

Enraged, he pushed her down. “There you are… in the mud, where you belong!”

She rose up to slap and scratch at him, and Wolohu stifled her shrieks with his hands. Pushing her back down, he held her down and had his way with her.

In the half-light before dawn, Kehau took Bennie by the hand and led him up through the forest to the darkened mana house at the heiau. She entered, groped about for the Ark, found it, and then stole back into the forest, where Bennie waited. She made it understood to him that for the sake of her people, he must take this vile thing from them. It was the only way to remove the curse from the valley. She had resolved that if she and Bennie were to be blamed for all that had happened to the people of Hi’ilawe, if they were idol-smashers and defilers of the gods, she would at least make sure it was done right.

The path led up the steep wall to the tableland above the deep cleft of the valley. As the forest slowly brightened, they gained the narrow ridge, and after several more hours more, emerged from the valley, where the ridge flattened out into a high plateau.

In a clearing, they stopped and rested and ate some of dried fish and pa’i’ai poi she had prepared. Afterwards, Kehau told Bennie to wait while she went to gather vines to fashion another basket for him to conceal and carry the Ark.

There they parted. She could not leave her mother, Kehau said. She must stay, and he must go. They embraced, she wished him aloha, and pointed him in the direction of the village of Hilo. Then she turned and began her walk back down into the valley, and under cover of the gathering darkness, returned home with none the wiser.

The people of the valley thought with deepening dread upon this turn of events. It was just as everyone had said, that the white man who until recently had lived among them had come as destroyer of the gods, and had left like a thief in the night, carrying with him sacred remains of this stolen from their repose at the heiau.

Everyone remarked upon this inauspicious turn of events for Wolohu, whose star had been on such a giddy rise until now. Having lost the Ark, Wolohu was humiliated. Perhaps it was best to leave the old gods lie, along with his dreams, broken in the mud of the heiau.


Chapter Three


“I can’t give you much for the ring,” the pawnbroker said. “Seems like the whole bloomin’ fleet’s been in, and you can imagine how it is. I’ve got every tar’s bauble on pawn, and most of it I’ll never be able to get rid of at any price.”

“How much can you give me?” Bennie said.

“Two dollars. Sorry, but it’s just not going to sell, or if it does, it won’t be for anything. So consider that a gift. Scrimshaw, that’s different. That sells. Or if you had a nice piece of sandalwood– especially now the stuff’s all gone. The islands used to be thick with it. Whatever I can get my hands on these days has made its way back from China, where we sold it years ago, all carved up into pretty little boxes and what not.”

“I’ve never seen it,” said Bennie. “Have you got any?”

“You’re wasting my time, because you can’t afford it. But if you want to have a look, there’s some over here.” The pawnbroker removed an ornate carved Chinese jewelry box from the display case. “Ya see, this might have been made twenty, thirty years ago… but it still smells nice.”

“May I?” Bennie picked up the box, held it to his nose and sniffed. Instantly he was back in the scented forest of Hi’ilawe.

“You say it’s all gone now?”

“You’d have to search far and wide for it. If you stumbled upon any these days, I’m certain it would fetch a very pretty penny.”

“What would a man do if he had some? Who would he sell it to?”

“You could bring it to me. I’d buy it from you.”

“No, I mean what if he had a lot… trees and trees of it?”

“I don’t know where you’d find trees and trees of it, lest it was somewhere way out there in the back of beyond. Even then, you couldn’t very well just go help yourself to their trees. They’d have you for dinner, and not as a guest– you’d wind up like Captain Cook.”

“Who?”

“You really don’t know much, do you?”

“I’m new here. Sorry.”

“That’s plain to see. Captain Cook discovered these islands. Got into a misunderstanding with the locals. They ate him.”

“They ate him?!”

“Well, after they ran him through on the beach and took him away, they only brought back bits of him. For the longest time, there was a nice reward on offer from the Brits– for his head.”

“For his head?!”

“Well, they were nice enough to call it ‘remains.’ I’ve got the leaflet, as a matter of fact. It’s a collector’s item now.”

“Could I see?” Bennie said.

The pawnbroker opened one of the drawers of the old secretary and rummaged through a sheaf of papers. “Here it is,” he said, and it on the counter for Bennie to see. “Don’t touch.”

Gingerly, Bennie bent over and squinted.

To One And All, Let It Be Known:

That the Honorable Sovereign of the Sandwich Islands, Lord George Paulet, is offering, for the discovery and return of the mortal remains of Captain James Cook, Great Navigator and Discoverer of the Sandwich Islands, the sum of One Thousand Pounds Sterling. Said remains shall be tendered to the Office of the Exchequer of His Majesty’s Crown Colony of the Sandwich Islands for payment of the reward.

                  By Order of: Lord George Paulet

                  Commander, British Naval Forces, Pacific

“How much is it?”

“What, the reward? A thousand pounds… just imagine,” the pawnbroker said. “But the leaflet’s five dollars, if that’s what you mean.

“You said it was his head they were looking for? Why just the head?” Bennie asked.

“I shouldn’t imagine that anything else could be identified. I myself had someone come in with a head that he said was Captain Cook’s! Wasn’t amused… pure nonsense of course. It was a white man’s head– some poor wretch lost it in Fiji or New Zealand, I should imagine, and that was just one case among many that I heard about. They gave up on it, after a time. Or at least, I never heard nothing more of it after the Brits left.”

“What have the Brits got to do with it?”

“Cook was British… one of their national heroes. A gentleman and a scholar– not your typical Brit. Nothing like their consul that was here for the longest time– what the hell was his name?? Damndest fool you ever saw.”


Hawaiian music

The Honorable Consul Richard Charlton had embarked on his career with the British Foreign Office on the coat-tails of his father, who represented the broad-acred nobility whose ranks were heavily drawn upon to staff the Foreign Office. His behavior in England was, from the first, scandalous. Many days he was unfit for duty, mending poisonous hangovers from long nights in the bawdy houses and ratting parlors of Picadilly. But no matter how dreadful his behavior, dismissal from the Foreign Office–and the scandal that would ensue–was not an option. It was decided therefore to relegate Mr. Charlton to the most remote backwater in His Majesty’s diplomatic circuit.

Honolulu, a rough port in an island chain at the end of the earth, was never deemed a productive career move for anyone seeking advancement in the diplomatic corps. There were islands out there that had never so much as seen a white man. Charlton seethed with resentment at his banishment, and his behavior deteriorated from the merely dreadful to the splendidly disgraceful. Supremely ill-suited to any statesmanlike purpose, he bristled with contempt for the Hawaiian monarchy, and when he was drunk, which was often, he castigated the Royal Highnesses of the Hawaiian Islands as, among many other things, a circus of crinolined apes and a grotesque caricature of palace protocol.

Charlton was a gadfly to the Hawaiian courts, launching frivolous lawsuits repeatedly for the sheer satisfaction of their nuisance value, much as he himself was often sued. He was the subject of complaints and demands for damages on various occasions, such as when he assassinated a cow that had trespassed onto his property, though his own wandering cattle continued to trample freely on his neighbors’ lands. He was fined five dollars when his dog bit a foreign woman. Then he had maligned the American charge d’affairs as a sodomite, and when convicted of the slander, he offered the same characterization to the judge and the jury. More seriously, he had been dragged into court for having horsewhipped a native, roping and dragging him through the dust, and threatening to cut off his ugly black head.

But his contempt for Hawaiians did not preclude him from visiting his affections upon their women, who had born his bastard children. Though he piously espoused temperance in his public capacity, once behind locked doors at the Grampus he drank and fornicated ‘til he was cross-eyed. Thusly had he lived in the Islands for seven years now, fueling his balefulness and baseless crusades with rum.

Most recently, the rum had fueled yet another disputation, this with James Jackson Jarves, editor of The Polynesian. Incensed over some perceived editorial excesses, Charlton had driven him out of the newspaper building beneath a furious lashing from his horsewhip, and when a friend of Jarves rose to the editor’s defense and threw Charlton to the floor, the Consul suffered a broken finger and a bruised hip. Charlton was fined sixty dollars for his part in the fracas, and in retaliation, he wrote to the Foreign Office in London, demanding the dispatch of a man-of-war to protect His Majesty’s interests in the Islands.


Hawaiian music

In further pursuit of his grievances, Charlton had arrived this morning at the palace for an audience with the Queen Consort Kalama. He squinted his eyes against the glare of the ocean reflected from the white coral blocks of the palace, a stout and capacious villa with spacious piazzas and mullioned windows, bordered by jasmine shrubs and tangerine trees. He stalked huffily past a guard of kanaka infantry that drilled and tattooed beneath the royal standard fluttering serenely in the breeze, then turned down a crushed coral alleyway. Ascending a flight of steps to the piazza, he was saluted by a double line of officers. He did not condescend to return the salute.

“Bloody rock apes,” he snarled to himself.

He wheeled and clicked down a wide hall with salons to the right and left, richly furnished with chandeliers of cut crystal, mahogany dining and pier tables, crimson Chinese sofas and chairs, and several large pier glasses and mirrors. He glanced at the walls hung with portraits of the Royal Family– dingy apes and their ‘ladies’, he thought, beaming like boot polish with their round saucer eyes and their thick nigger lips. Alongside was an oil of the King of the French, Louis Philippe, which had been presented to the court of Kamehameha by the French Consul, on the very day that his respective majesty had been overthrown by the mob and sent to the guillotine. Served him right to have given this bunch any more recognition than a swift kick in the arse.

Charlton entered the foyer of Kalama’s apartment. A polished table stood in the entryway, holding a collection of porcelain miniatures, leather-bound volumes of Wilke’s Exploring Expedition, and a hand-crafted Bible in Hawaiian. There were ornately carved desks of rosewood and mother-of-pearl inlay, leaded crystal decanters and tumblers, gold-plated candelabras, a large antique globe, an array of brass navigational instruments, gleaming sabers partly sheathed in their scabbards, mounted muskets, lace-trimmed hats and filigreed garments of all sorts, and numerous other oddments of English and Continental manufacture. All of this stood amongst scattered flyblown calabashes half-filled with poi, rolls of moldy kapa and matting crawling with vermin, native paddles and spears, and more of the customary furnishings of the Hawaiian habitat.

Reposing upon a mat was Kalama, her rotundity arrayed against a battery of silk pillows. Two young girls, nearly naked and sweating in the sticky heat, fanned away the flies with bunches of feathers.

For a lady of these savage shores, Kalama fancied herself every bit the equal of her hautely-coutured counterparts in royal courts far and wide. Her gold satin dress was trimmed with a ruff of the daintiest lace about its elephantine shape, and a large love ribbon festooned her mountainous bosom. Her shining black hair had been fluffed into a pompadour befitting the figurehead of a Spanish galleon, upon which lay a very fine leghorn hat, ornamented with Chinese silk flowers and trimmed with a spider’s web of fine black lace, and round her neck was a necklace of polished dog teeth and red and yellow feathers. But this profusion of finery was given the lie by her enormous feet, shod, whenever she ventured outside, in a pair of whaler’s boots.

At forty years of age and comely in this place where beauty and royal esteem were measured in pounds avoirdupois, Kalama stood fully six feet tall when she at last raised herself up to greet her visitor.

Determined to demonstrate her mastery of the fine points of regal etiquette, sh attempted a curtsey. But her feet were not of one mind with her intent, and she lost her balance, and would have fallen had not her attendant caught her majestic person in his arms.

“Oh my!” she exclaimed, recovering her poise and dignity. “Good afternoon to you, Mr. Charlton.”

Rising to the occasion was more than Kalama’s behemoth pet hog Kaahumanu could accomplish. Shimmering black and of a singular size and corpulence, the hog had grown immense on the dainties fed it throughout the day by Kalama. As a result, it now lay engorged to the point of immobility, confined exclusively to the velvet repose of Her Majesty’s suite, and requiring the assistance of two of Kalama’s stoutest subalterns to help it along in its peregrinations from bed to groaning board and back again.

“Your Majesty, there is urgent business for us to discuss.”

“First, I eat! Then, we talk.”

Wallowing upon the mats before a large mirror, she addressed herself and her prodigious stomach, which itself might have merited a separate introduction, to the groaning board before her. Smacking her lips and wheezing, she indicated with a flip of the wrist that Charlton take his place before her.

“You Majesty, our business is urgent, and matters are awaiting your disposition. Can we please… ”

“Be quiet!” she admonished. “First I eat, then we talk. If you no like talk, you can come back some other time.”

Incredulous and with his impatience mounting, the Consul followed her progress through a meal that was sufficient, in his estimation, to choke an elephant. Various delicacies in Chinese porcelain dishes lay in a semicircle before her, and her attendants busied themselves with handing her first one and then the other, but she brushed them aside and grabbed fingerfuls— then frantic fistfuls— as they fanned away the flies and the sweat of her exertions.

At last, her attendants upended her onto her back, whereupon one especially strong-armed fellow sat down on her back and kneaded the folds of flesh as he might a trough of poi. Her degustation thusly eased, Kalama recovered herself, and sat upright. She drew her breath and belched. “I have eaten famously!” she exclaimed.

“Your Majesty,” Charlton said acidly, “my government extends its felicitations on this occasion of your gustatory edification.”

“What?”

“I said that I regret having to interrupt more important things, but I must speak with you!”

“What do you want now, Mister Charlton? Did you lose your case again?”

“Your Majesty, this is not a joking matter!”

“If you behave like a clown, how can I think otherwise?”

“It is your judges that are behaving like clowns, Your Majesty! Subjects of the British Crown are not fools to be trifled with by some… some baboon in a barrister’s wig!”

“What did you say, Mister Charlton?”

“What I’m saying, Your Majesty, is that if the Kingdom and its courts continue to treat British subjects as if they were second-class citizens, without the benefit of a fair trial… if you think you can just deprive subjects of His Majesty the King of England of their property, because you think it’s some sort of child’s game—”

“Are you threatening me?”

“It’s not a threat, Your Majesty! It is a promise that I, as the duly appointed representative of the Crown, have the responsibility of making very, very clear to you! We will not tolerate being treated as common criminals!”

“Then let’s be clear with each other, Mister Charlton. You’re here because you owe a lot of money to someone. The court agreed with that someone, and said you must pay. You no more money, but you get property. If you no pay, you lose your property. Which you never owned in the first place. How can you complain?”

Charlton owed almost ten thousand dollars, to a business in Chile. He was sued for it in Honolulu courts, found liable, and on behalf of his creditors, the courts here had attached his property. The property in question was a large and valuable tract of land in Nu’uanu, conveyed to him by a native gentleman who had never owned it to begin with either, and whose credibility was so circumspect that no one would have ever believed him. The deed made no mention of such legal niceties as consideration for value received; and offered only the most nebulous description of the property’s boundaries. It had lain in a cardboard box for many years until now, its conveyor and witnesses long dead.

“Hawaiian courts are in no position,” Charlton railed, “to have anything to say about matters of business involving Englishmen! You’ve got no right! Not only I, but other British subjects as well have lost property to the caprice of your courts! We demand its return forthwith, and if you don’t correct these abuses, if you don’t take steps to protect the interests of British subjects and return property that was stolen from them, then you can be sure that I will!”

Kalama listened, idly scratching Kaahumanu’s chin. The hog grunted contentedly. “I will refer the matter to Mister Wyllie, my Minister of Foreign Relations, for his opinion. Will that be all, Mister Charlton?”

“Your Majesty, as you know, the British flagship Brittania is presently at anchor in Honolulu harbor. It departs two weeks hence, for London. If my property is not returned to me, and steps taken by that time to protect the interests of British subjects– with such matters to be settled in future by a British judge and a jury comprised of British subjects– then I will book passage on Brittania, so that I may take my case, and the cases of others who have been wronged by your courts, in person to His Majesty in London!”


Hawaiian music

His deadline came and went. Swearing to obtain justice for himself and his countrymen, and at the same time stem the insidious rise of American influence in Honolulu, Charlton booked passage for London, where he intended to lay out in person the specifics of his complaint before his sovereign.

He left in his wake an imperious and insulting screed addressed to Kamamalu. Separately, he provided his stand-in, one Alexander Simpson, with a detailed accounting of his grievances, which he instructed him to forward to the Admiral of His Majesty’s Pacific Fleet at San Blas, Mexico.

Simpson, from the moment of his arrival at Honolulu, had set himself to plotting the annexation of the islands by His Majesty’s government. His views were well known to the Hawaiian Government, which had refused to recognize him as Consul. This refusal had aroused considerable unease amongst the British residents of Honolulu, who held a meeting to air their concerns. Their protest, together with a letter from Simpson and the letter from Charlton, was sent to Admiral Sir Richard Thomas, then in South American waters. They stated their urgent plea that Admiral Thomas send a warship to Honolulu to exact recompense for these injustices, and to remain for as long as the interests of His Majesty’s subjects were in need of protection.

Their entreaty reached the English admiral at the British base in San Blas, whereupon the man-of-war Careysfort, under the command of Lord George Paulet, was dispatched with orders to safeguard British interests. Paulet was directed, as well, to redeem the property and prestige of the British Consul, at gunpoint if need be, should the situation be as Mr. Simpson had described it.


Hawaiian music

By the time Lord George hove to in Honolulu, he was in a surly mood. Upon entering the harbor, his first insult was to refuse to tender a gun salute to the Hawaiian flag, a dreadful affront to protocol.

Simpson was ferried out to the dreadnought to welcome its commander. “Your Lordship,” he said, “His Majesty is away on an outer islands tour. But the consuls of France and America are here, and they’ve been waiting since morning to see you. They’re quite concerned.”

“Tell them that though I am concerned with their concerns,” he said, “I am here to speak directly with King Kamuckamucka or whatever his name is! So never mind the consuls… tell them to sit tight, and I’ll deal with them later. But you go straight away to get word to His Supreme Majesty that the British fleet’s in town, that it’s in none too good a mood, and in no mood whatever to wait! I demand to see him, and if he has to swim back from wherever he’s at, I’ll give him time to dry off, and then I demand that we meet!”

Lord George’s mood was sufficiently truculent to concern even Simpson, who thought it quite possible that Lord George would commence his cannonade of the city without pausing to so much as consider the issues. It would do no good to raze the kingdom and its government, for in the long run, it would have no effect of law. When His Lordship finally left, the mice would once again scurry hither and yon with no regard for the roar of a lion too far away to be heard. Out of sight, out of mind.


Hawaiian music

King Kauikeaouli sent word to Lord George that though he himself had no time to meet with him, his advisor Dr. Judd would be made available to receive him. Paulet fired a letter back to the king demanding that if the king continued to avoid him, and if his demands for a meeting were not met, there would be trouble. Paulet was informed the next morning that the king would see him.

Receiving the guests of state, the king’s minister announced that the sovereign was now ready to arrive. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Lord Paulet, Mr. Simpson,” he said. “I have been informed that His Majesty Kauikeaouli is now arriving to receive his visitors, and to lend a willing ear to any observations upon religion, war, politics, or any topics most agreeable.”

From the opposite end of the terrace, the royal procession materialized, resplendent in their plumed and gold-embroidered finery, swords at their sides. The entourage included Kalama and a number of chiefs, a large train of subalterns, and the Minister of Foreign Relations, Robert Wyllie. In his Windsor uniform with golden epaulettes and silk stockings and pumps, the king took his seat upon the mat.

His officers fanned from behind with long white feathers, while Kalama busied herself with a wooden spittoon, covered with a handkerchief, which she held forth at regular intervals for His Majesty to hawk and spew into. A pipe was handed round amongst the grandees, and a toast of wine was pledged to His Majesty’s health.

Barely had the toast been made than Lord George began to press his case.

“Now that we’ve all gotten to know one another,” Paulet began, “I would suggest that we direct ourselves to the business at hand. I have here a bill drawn up by Consul Simpson in the amount of $117,000. These charges are for the most part damages that we are claiming on behalf of British subjects who have suffered abuse and injustice at the hands of your judiciary. The bill does not include a penalty of $3,000 to compensate Consul Charlton’s cousin for having been deprived of the opportunity to buy the Consul’s property when your courts disposed of it at auction.”

“Lord George,” Foreign Minister Wyllie said, “not only are these charges illegal, they are preposterous! It was less than a year ago that your government sent its very own magistrate to examine those same charges that were adjudicated in our courts. And as you must surely be aware, your very own magistrate concurred that your subjects had been treated justly! Even if there was any merit to this accounting, the amount is enough to bankrupt the Kingdom of Hawai’i!”

“I’m not here to hash over the fine points of the law,” Paulet shot back, “or whatever nonsense passes for law in these parts! You may take all of your tortured legal abstractions, namely all of those cases that were supposedly settled adversely to English subjects, and overturn them! They will then be re-tried, by a jury composed solely of Englishmen.”

“That is impossible!” the Minister said. “This is an affront to our sovereignty, and a direct contravention of the laws of the Kingdom of Hawai’i! We have already bent over backwards! As you must be aware, any trial of an English subject is heard by a jury that is already half-English! This is an accommodation that we don’t offer to just anyone—we don’t, for example, require a jury to be half-Hawaiian in order to try one of our own subjects. If they are fair and reasonable people, that is sufficient to us.”

Instantly, Lord George had conceived a great dislike for this tidy little shit. He was insolent, and Paulet would not brook any further consideration of his insolence. “It seems to me that there are more than enough complications here to occupy us all night,” he snapped. “In which case, I’m here to simplify things. Either your government pays the bill, and makes good on Consul Charlton’s deed to his property, or I will order the town of Honolulu to be razed by cannon fire– beginning with the palace! Then we will discuss these other matters.” 


Hawaiian music

The king sequestered himself with his ministers and anguished over their quandary. They couldn’t possibly come up with the money to satisfy this extortion—in any event, the laws of the land did not give him leave to. His ministers pleaded with Paulet to reconsider, and when their pleas fell upon deaf ears, they bargained for more time, so that they might legislate the funds into existence.

The expatriate community was swept by rumor and seized with panic, and they scrambled to stow their valuables in safekeeping, board up their windows, and shelter themselves from the threatened attack. A caravansary of carts laden with money, papers, clothes, and household goods fled the beleaguered town.

The king conferred hastily with the French consul and the American commercial agent in an eleventh-hour ploy to cede his islands to France and the United States, so as to avoid signing them over to Britain on Lord George’s terms. But alas, his ministers would not support his decision. All manner of extreme possibilities had been considered, but in the end there was nothing to be done. At last, in his grief and exasperation, the king bid Lord George to take his kingdom and do with it as he would.

When the news came that the king had given in, Careysfort’s cannon fire was loosed, not to level the town but to celebrate the agreement. Alexander Simpson was officially installed as His Majesty’s administrator, to whom the king would answer in future to settle whatever grievances might arise. Charlton’s attached property was restored to him, English pride was vindicated, and the kingdom was handed over to Lord George Paulet. With profound sadness, Kauikeaouli issued his decree:

“Wherever you are, chiefs, people, and commoners from my ancestors, and people from foreign lands! Hear ye! I make known to you that I am in perplexity by reason of difficulties into which I have been brought without cause. Therefore, I have given away the life of the land, hear ye! But my rule over you, my people, and your privileges, will continue, for I have hope that the life of the land will be restored when my conduct is justified.”

         The deed of cession was read, and the Union Jack was raised to replace the disgraced standard of the kingdom and ensure that the sun of British empire might never set over this particular part of the endless ocean. Paulet’s cannons boomed, and Careysfort’s band pumped along, playing “God Save the Queen” and then, in a gesture of ironic cruelty, “Isle of Beauty, Fare Thee Well.”


Hawaiian music

Thus installed, Lord George made the rounds in his new realm to establish the primacy of his rule. Sailing round the islands in his clipper, he put in at Kealakekua Bay to honor one of Britain’s most famous sons and discoverer of the Sandwich Islands, Captain James Cook. The occasion was marked with appropriate pomp and circumstance, which Paulet capped by cementing a brass plaque into a stone memorial near the spot where Cook was killed.

He read from a proclamation, and concluded by saying that he had authorized a reward of one thousand pounds sterling for the recovery of the remains of the Great Navigator. The reward was advertised in the newspaper, and flyers in the Hawaiian language were sent round to various chiefly principalities. But for those who realized that Cook’s remains had been dismembered, stripped, and probably eaten, after a fashion, it seemed a largely notional gesture. 


Hawaiian music

With the two dollars the pawnbroker gave him for his ring, Bennie paid down a dollar deposit on the leaflet, until such a time as he had earned sufficient to return and pay the balance. With the other dollar, he booked a room in the Seamen’s Boarding House at the bottom of Fort Street.

In the privacy of his room, he undid the vines that had bound the Ark, carefully picked apart its wicker lock, and removed its contents. His eyes widened as he beheld his prize. The shrunken head stared back at him with eyes that had collapsed and atrophied, with eyelids that had shriveled like the lips of a bivalve. A great clump of frizzy chestnut hair fell in clots around what remained of the neck. The skin seemed varnished, and the mouth lay agape in an expression that might have uttered a curse as its last words.

Knowing nothing more of Captain Cook than what he had gleaned from his conversation with the pawnbroker, it boggled Bennie’s imagination to think that the head in hand might indeed be that of the Great Navigator. For if it was, and if the proper stratagem was enacted to redeem the reward, then, as he had begun to realize, he just might be staring fortune right in its bleedin’ yop.

Bennie took a job chipping barnacles at the Ladd & Company Shipyard, making just enough to keep body and soul together. He only worked enough that he might be left with time for his researches into the identity of the head.

He hadn’t the first idea of where to begin. He thought that he might try the British Consulate– perhaps they could at least tell him where to go and who to talk to. As he walked into the foyer, the clerk at the front desk regarded him frostily.

“May I help you?” he said.

Bennie was distracted, for on the wall above, there hung a large painting in gilt frame. A brass plate affixed to the bottom edge of the frame bore the inscription: “Captain James Cook: 1728-1779.”

“I said may I help you,” the clerk said. “Or did you come here to gawk at the art?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Bennie said. “It’s just that I think I just answered my own question.”

“And what question was that, young man?”

“Is that Captain Cook?”

“It is.”

With allowance made for the ravages of time, he thought, the likeness was undeniable.

“If you can help me, I’d like to obtain some information on him, actually. Some books, if you have any.”

“This isn’t a library, as I’m sure you realize. And whatever we might have is official information, reserved for the use of consular officials only.” Disdaining further discussion, the clerk turned away.

“Please, sir,” Bennie said. “It’s quite important for my research. I’m writing a book… about Captain Cook.”

“Really,” said the clerk, looking at Bennie’s hands, rough as tortoise shell and chapped from chipping and prying uncounted barnacles. “Forgive my saying so, but you don’t appear to be the literary sort.”

“I, uh, support myself at another trade for now. Starving artist.”

“Have you any credentials?”

“I promise, if you have anything at all… I wouldn’t be out of your sight for a moment. There’s a table over here—perhaps I could sit there and just read?”

“I’ll have to take it up with the Consul,” the clerk said. “You may return in a week’s time, if you wish. I may have an answer for you then.”

A week went by, and another thousand barnacles fell away beneath the hulls at the shipyard. Bennie considered whether he might explore other possibilities, perhaps the archives of the daily newspaper. But there wasn’t much else that came to mind, and he hoped that in his infinite mercy, His Majesty’s Consul might smile upon his request.

Bennie returned on the appointed day. “Ah yes, there you are,” the clerk sighed as he looked up and recognized his supplicant. “Our scholar. Well, it was agreed that you might be allowed to have a look at certain things, as long as they aren’t sensitive, or official, of course. Do you have the least idea of what you’re looking for?”

“Anything, really,” said Bennie.

“Well, why don’t you come with me, then,” the clerk said.

Bennie followed the clerk to the back of the long office, to a glass cabinet with several shelves of books. The British Consulate’s collection numbered amongst its modest collection several of the logs kept by the officers and crew of Discovery and Resolution. On the shelves, Bennie saw the Journal of Midshipman George Gilbert, John Rickman’s Journal of Cook’s Last Voyage, and the Journal of Molesworth Detmold.

“Any one in particular?” the clerk asked.

“No. Anything to begin with.”

Selecting a title at random, the clerk handed him the Detmold journal.

“Let me see your hands first,” he said. “I don’t want them soiling our books.”

With several volumes in hand, Bennie followed the clerk back up front, where he directed him to a table. Bennie placed the books on the desk, pulled up a chair, and began his research.

He opened the old tome to its mid-section, and began leafing through its pages and perusing various accounts of botanical specimens, animal oddities, and indians. Wondrous as these things were, there was nothing of relevance to his purpose. Sighing, he returned to the beginning of the account, and it was there that Bennie chanced upon the author’s observations of the Captain’s mealtime habits. “He sulked at the dinner table without volunteering a word, pecking sullenly at a small tangle of sow’r krout, the odd bit of salt horse, a few shriveled peas, fussing over his meals like a vixen fixing her fingernails. He might not have eaten any of it anyway, since his experimental teeth that he removed at table and suffered to place before us like a ghastly bouquet, were useless to him. Most of his teeth, I believe, were artificial. They were forever falling apart, and he had gotten to the point where he simply removed them when he ate.”

Yes, this was what he was looking for, Bennie realized. His heart pounding, he raced through the remainder of the account. By the time the clerk cleared his throat and announced him that it was closing time, Bennie had learned that dentures had filled in for the loss of the Captain’s lower right molars, which he had forfeited to an accident on his first voyage of discovery. A musket had misfired, its charge of powder and shot blew up in its breech, and bucked the gun’s stock into the Captain’s cheek so severely that it had splintered his lower jaw and shattered his teeth. On the strength of this intelligence, Bennie concluded his research and returned the book to the clerk.

Returning to his room at the boarding house, Bennie retrieved the Ark from its bundle beneath his bunk and extracted the head. At last the mouth that had not drawn a breath nor uttered a word all these years was pried open to tell its story.

He parted its leathery lips, and ran his fingers along the lower teeth. There, binding the lower right wisdom tooth with the forward incisor, was a set of bridgework formed of three pewter molars crudely wired together. It required but the lightest touch to jar them loose. Little wonder the Captain removed them at meals, he thought. They would have jarred loose on oatmeal.

Bennie presented himself at the office of Jonathan Herrick, Attorney-at-Law, bringing in tow his satchel and a bundle. “I realize that it’s a bit much, sir, but I believe that I have in my possession the remains of Captain James Cook,” he said.

Herrick had heard it all, had listened to all manner of lies and preposterous assertions from his clients. That came with being an attorney. Still, this was more than he could credit with a straight face. “How interesting!” he said, snorting derisively.

“Here,” Bennie said. “Have a look if you like. Its just the head, actually.” He opened the bundle, and removed the Ark. He opened the Ark and positioned it on the table to answer the lawyer’s incredulous stare with the head’s own vacant gaze.

“Put that thing away—it’s hideous! I don’t want it staring at me!”

“It’s not pretty, I agree,” Bennie said. “But this here’s the head of Captain James Cook, I’m sure of it.” He went on to describe his research at the British Consulate, and his examination of the contents of the wicker basket he had brought from Hi’ilawe. “This is the head of Captain James Cook, and you’re staring a thousand English pounds in the face.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s a bounty on the head, sir. On offer by the British.”

“I’m not aware of any such thing,” Herrick said.

“It’s been a while. But here, see for yourself. Here’s the announcement of the reward.” He drew the yellowed leaflet from his satchel, and placed it before the attorney.

Bennie continued with the story. Knowing little about Captain Cook, apart from what people said that he had been killed and eaten, Herrick listened with growing fascination as his client recounted his shipwreck, his life in Hi’ilawe, his escape with the Ark, and his researches. Realizing that he was being importuned to redeem the severed head of a sea lord, Herrick frowned. “This is most extraordinary,” he said. “I don’t know what to tell you. It’s not every day that someone walks in here and tries to sell me a head.”

“I’m not trying to sell you anything,” Bennie said, “except the opportunity to make whatever your cut is on a thousand pounds sterling.”

“Well, even if it is the real article,” Herrick said, “collecting the reward—if the British even acknowledge such a thing— is problematic. It’s been how many years now—more than a few, I’m sure.”

Herrick and the head once again regarded each other. It would be essential to have its identity verified– but where was there any such expert witness to be found hereabouts? It would be pricey, in any event. The handbill meant little, in his considered judgment. The more he thought about the British, it would be just like them to simply seize the head, compensation be damned, and send the unfortunate claimant to the gallows for lese majeste. Part of the problem, too, was that Lord George had been sent home in disgrace after Admiral Thomas came to Hawaii to set things right and restore the kingdom to Kauikeaouli. What’s more, Herrick was quite sure there was no Office of the Exchequer of His Majesty’s Government of the Sandwich Islands, though he realized that under certain precepts of international law, the claim might be honored even though the regime had since changed. But the British were a law unto themselves.

He would think upon it, however. A thousand pounds was a boatload.

Herrick drew a sheath of documents from his satchel, and placed it before the supremely disinterested gaze of the Deputy Minister of the Treasury of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. On the table lay eight pages of script, to the last of which was affixed a wax seal and red ribbon. It all seemed official enough.

“What is this?” demanded the Deputy Minister.

“It is a report of the findings of Dr. James Barrett,” Herrick said, “a private practitioner in residence here in Honolulu who, I imagine you should know, also serves on retainer as Chief Coroner to the Government of His Majesty Kauikeaouli. It’s a copy, so I’ll leave it with you. It might assist your understanding of what I’m prepared to have you examine with your own eyes.”

“And what is that?”

“We believe we have found the remains of Captain James Cook.”

The Deputy Minister blanched, and took a moment to consider this assertion. “What does that have to do with us?” he said. “You should take that up with the British. You’re not the first one to claim such a thing, you know, and I’d rather you wasted their time than mine.”

“I assure you,” Herrick said, “this will not waste your time. As to why you, and not the British? Here, if you will.” He pushed the leaflet across the table. “This is an announcement of the reward of one thousand pounds sterling for the recovery of the remains of Captain Cook. It’s from the Office of the Exchequer of the Kingdom of Hawaii.”

“There is no such thing,” said the Deputy Minister. That particular office– the entire government, actually– was dismantled several years ago, on the orders of Admiral Thomas.”

No surprise there, Herrick thought. “Is not this Exchequer’s Office the successor to that office?” he asked.

“Perhaps in point of law, but not in point of fact,” said the Deputy Minister. “I mean, what law– the law of the Crown Colony?? There is no more Crown Colony,” he shrugged. “Certainly, you’re not suggesting that the Kingdom of Hawai’i is under any obligation to honor the obligations of Lord George Paulet.”

“Are you disavowing the reward, then?” Herrick said.

“I’m not in a position to avow or disavow anything,” said the Deputy Minister. “I’m not the one to say. And I don’t know who you’d take it up with— we’re not in the business of trafficking in shrunken heads.”

“This is not just some shrunken head, as you put it, sir. You don’t seem to appreciate what you’ve got here, although I’ll bet my bottom dollar that the British would appreciate it.” Herrick said. “Should I tell them that it is the decision of your government that the remains of one of England’s greatest sons be thrown away onto some ash heap for the dogs to pick at? Is that what they’re worth to you?”

“Frankly they’re worth nothing to me,” said the Deputy Minister. “But then again, I’m in no position to speak for His Majesty.”

“It wasn’t that long ago,” Herrick said, “that Your Majesty Kauikeaouli escaped with his kingdom by the skin of his teeth. I would like to think that it would be worth something to you— with your position to think about—to avoid stirring up another hornet’s nest.” Herrick looked at the Deputy Minister, searching for some sign that he might have touched upon a point of some relevance. Uncertain, he continued. “But I would think it more germane to Your Majesty’s interests to have something of this nature available to your government… as a bargaining chip, perhaps. It would make for a potent gesture of good will… should the need ever arise, as it has in the past.”

The look in the eyes of the Deputy Minister brightened perceptibly. “More so,” Herrick added, “as far-sighted as that would be, it would be quite a feather in your own cap to recommend as much to His Majesty.”

Being essentially broke, the reward was a sum of money that the Kingdom could ill afford, and the government was ill disposed to pay anything for the ill-tempered head of the man who had so exasperated his hosts at Kealakekua Bay. But on the one hand, it was deemed prudent to avoid giving the British any pretext to change their minds and start casting about for reasons to re-establish their primacy over the Hawaiian Islands. Better to pay up, and put the thing away in the basement and say nothing more of it. On the other hand, His Majesty agreed, it just might someday prove a valuable bargaining chip. In consideration thereof, payment of the sum of one thousand pounds sterling was authorized to Mr. Jonathan Herrick.

“Lock the door behind you,” Herrick said. “We need to take care of this quietly, if you don’t mind.” Bennie turned the lock, then pulled up a chair. Breathless with anticipation, he watched as Herrick dialed the combination on the lock of his safe, opened it, and removed a stack of bills. His eyes widened as he watched him count them out– six hundred pounds sterling in all. Herrick laid the money out on the desk.

“Wait!” Herrick said. “Before you touch any of it, there’s one more thing.” He produced a receipt for payment for services rendered to Dr. James Barrett: one hundred fifty pounds, which he extracted from the pile. Still, Bennie thought, the four-fifty it netted him was more money than he’d see in a lifetime of chipping barnacles or chasing whales.

“I wish to make clear to you,” Herrick said, “that the matter ends here. They’re paying the money on the understanding that you’ll say nothing about this to anyone. You’ll sign a disclaimer to that effect.”

He laid before him a document that, for all its legal bafflegab, might well have said anything, and Bennie signed it without reading it. “If the British ever hear a word of this,” Herrick said, there’ll be hell to pay. What you just signed says that you acknowledge that confidentiality in this matter is paramount, any breach of which is a criminal offense punishable by law. With that said, here’s your money. You’ll need to take this straight to the bank. No stopping at the saloon on the way and buying for all your friends.”

“You don’t have to worry,” Bennie said. “I know exactly what I’m going to do with it.”

“And what is that, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Going to buy myself a boat. Do a little trade with the indians.”

The figurehead, quite literally, of British imperialism was remanded, along with its fanged, pearly-eyed wicker basket, to the basement of Exchequer of the Kingdom. It was top secret stuff, sequestered under lock and key.

But the winter of 1838 was very wet, and there was heavy flooding in Honolulu. The basement of the Exchequer’s Office fared poorly. Many of its contents were destroyed outright, but thanks to the excellent weave of the basket and its cradle of pulu, the head itself was not much affected. Its tags and other identifying documents, however, were soggy and illegible, and the identity of the contents of the basket became further obscured when the caretaker of the collection was fired for having failed to take adequate precautions to safeguard his responsibilities from the ravages of natural disaster. Given the sack summarily, he was ill disposed to help his successors sort out the mess.

There the Ark moldered until the year 1898, when Queen Lili’uokalani and her ministers were deposed at gunpoint by the United States Marines. The provisional government of the Republic of Hawai’i under Sanford B. Dole demanded an indemnity from the Kingdom to compensate for having been inconvenienced by their resistance. So as to raise cash to pay the indemnity, the Exchequer was reduced to selling whatever possessions it had. Absent any supporting documentation and viewed as just another curio, the Ark proceeded onto the auction block, where it was purchased by a collector for the sum of twenty-five dollars.


Chapter Four


On day number one hundred sixty out of Boston, the captain of Thaddeus exclaimed that the snow-covered peak of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii had come into view. After so many tedious months at sea, its passengers were breathless with excitement over their impending landfall.

But even their eagerness to regain land beneath their feet could not have lessened their astonishment over their first close-up look at things. The balmy and verdant islands of their imagination were in fact barren and sun-blasted along their burning shore. What they had imagined to be gentle, flower-bedecked people were savage-visaged as wolves, with beetle brows and thick lips and ferocious scowling countenances. They were naked except for loincloths, with their sun-blackened hides and woolly pates glistening with sweat and salt water. Shouting, exuberant, and taunting, they seemed a complete departure from the romantic abstractions that populated the popular perception of Hawaii in such high-minded places as New England.

The missionaries disembarked and began to make their way along the waterfront towards the mission compound. The heat and glare poached their eyes.

“It’s so hot here!” Alva exclaimed.

“It’s because the sun is so bright,” Bertram explained. “Everything glares so, and there’s no shade to be found anywhere.”

They boarded the wagon. “Is the mission far?” she asked.

“Just up the road,” the driver replied.

“I was afraid you’d say that.” She was hoping it would be far away from all this, up there in those valleys. The horses kicked up thick clouds of coral dust along the roads, and hordes of flies buzzed about in the sun, fastening themselves onto their every bead of sweat. Alva slapped at her wrists, her arms, and her ears. “Oh, these flies– I’m swatting myself silly!”

“You’ll get used to those,” the driver said. “But there is a new fly, one that announces its presence to you by singing. Its bite itches very much! There are many of them here by the river!”

“Is this the main street?” she said. “I expected the natives to be living in huts.”

“Most of them do. This is where the businessmen live. Here they are close to the ships.”

Civilization had made some inroads, they saw. Here and there was a white trader, or sailor, or whaler, who had squatted and taken a tawny mistress and made for himself a mongrel home. There were a few shops, stores, and houses of hand-hewn coral blocks, sun-bleached and pitted and mortised with a thick frosting of sand. Nothing was built of wood, save the missionary houses, which had been nailed together in the prim whitewashed fashion of the Cape Cod idyll. Some houses had glass windows even, though most were open to the dust, buzzing black flies, and the new singing flies.

They passed thatched huts clustered around a tawdry shantytown, most of them low and filthy in the extreme, scattered higgledy-piggledy over an arid plain and along the banks of a scanty river. Surrounded with dilapidated mud walls, they were inhabited by a mixed population of curs, pigs, Shanghai poultry, and unwashed natives. 

With their shaggy mops of pili grass thatch, the huts sat like a herd of mastodons, some stout and squarely-built, others rickety, leprous and mangy, crawling with fleas and lice and the odd cockroach, and overgrown with tendrils of elephant ear. Reposing under clumps of screwpine on patches of sandy, sun-bleached coral soil littered with razor-sharp, dry brown hala leaves, the huts leaned this way and that, and where they had lost their thatch, they revealed gnarled ribs and vines that gave them a sewn-together look.

 The land along Oahu’s south shore was arid, unlike the rich, well-watered humus of the valleys where taro luxuriated. Mostly the land was empty and scrofular with scrub and low grasses and sedge, and the sand-soil reflected the omnipresent glare and heat of the day. Here, the land was cultivated by hard-scrabble “dirty noses” who poked and prodded their mounds of dry powdery soil and leafy trash for sweet potatoes.

In one such potato patch stood a sun-blackened old man, with scarred, sagging breasts and distended belly overhanging his loincloth, his feet cracked and caked with dirt, his toenails ragged and gnarled. He pulled at his sparse beard and ran his hand through a shock of wiry white hair, and stared vacantly at sweet potato mounds whose exuberant vines crawled through the mounds of rubble and leafy trash. Rainfall was generous in the mountains, and clouds piled up like an immense surf along the ridges that sloughed off into cottonballs– some glistering, others charcoal-colored lumps that seldom discharged more than a few drops onto the hot lowlands. When there was momentary shade, the farmer rejoiced. If there was none, he might light a fire of leafy trash to cast a pall of smoke and shade over his potatoes. The glare oppressed, and the heat never relented.

A group of young women sat in a circle in the shade of a plumeria, amidst a litter of leaves that had left the tree naked but for the sweetly scented profusion of ivory and cream-colored flowers that remained on its boughs.

“Hey boy!” one of the girls called out to Bertram. “Hello!”

She thrust out her tongue, sucked poi off her fingers and waggled her feet, laughing. An older woman in a dirty red and white-polka dot dress looked on, her nostrils flaring, then got up and shoved the girl in reprimand. The third offered a cawing mockery of the first girl’s invitation, keening out “Hey boy!” The girls rolled in helpless laughter.

After a brief ride, Alva and Bertram arrived at the mission compound. The mission houses emulated the New England idyll, wood-shingled, whitewashed clapboard, adjoining carefully mortised coral block structures. Outside was a well and an old iron pump, and within were tidy rooms hung with linen drapes and furnished with armoires, four-poster bedsteads, cribs and writing desks cobbled together by the residents of the mission from hand-hewn lumber.

But there was no grass, only a dusty, flyblown courtyard that lay baking in the sun. A lopped papaya tree spread its exuberant umbrella-like leaves over knobs of melon-fruit like little girls’ breasts, and a few spindly palms loaded with old brown coconuts stretched their trunks and feathery tufts into the burning empyrean to cast a meager, miserable shade.

As the carriage pulled up to the mission house, men and women dressed in black emerged from all corners of the buildings and hastened towards them. The head of mission, Brother Johnson, waved his arms and grinned broadly.

“Watch your step now, you’re on dry land, in case you’ve forgotten what it looks like!” He reached out to took hold of Alva’s hand and helped her out of the carriage.  “Welcome to Hawaii, missus!”

“Oh… thank you,” Alva said,  “you just can’t believe how nice it is to be here!” She looked uncertainly at Bertram, as if questioning the veracity of what she just said.

“I’ll never take the earth beneath my feet for granted again,” Bertram enthused. “And I’m sure that Mrs. Bingham has had quite enough of the sea. She was sick most of the time, and she’s still quite weak.”

“I’ll let Mrs. Madden recommend a proper course of recovery, then,” Brother Johnson said.

The old woman led them upstairs to a pair of adjoining bedrooms, stuffy and breathless. “You poor dear,” she said. ”You look like you haven’t been able to keep down a bite for all that time. We’ll see to it that you’ll recover your appetite. They’re preparing dinner, so just rest up for now. Here, let me open the windows,” she said. “We’ve kept them closed to help keep out the flies. They’re just everywhere.”

“I’ve noticed,” Alva said.

“The natives can stand them. Walking around naked all their lives, the sun’s made their skin like leather. I’m sure they don’t even feel the bites. Or else the flies prefer us.”

Alva wondered if the flies accounted for their funereal dress: black Mother Hubbards and severe bonnets that concealed their dubious charms, from their grimacing chins to their swollen hocks. Even while the sun wore its most hellish aspect, there was no loosening of the dress code that reflected their dour and cheerless creed.

Mrs. Madden turned to the great stone church of Kawaiahao, medieval-looking with its squat Doric columns and crenelated belfry tower. Its graveyard was populated with Hirams, Claras, Tituses, an Elizabeth or two, and one “Charlie” whose headstone beseeched him to “rest beyond the river.”

“They earned it,” she gestured.

“What’s that?” Alva asked.

“Their rest. It’s just one never-ending war. This is a prodigious darkness we are up against.”

 “I hope that there aren’t any obstacles that cannot be overcome with love and mutual respect,” Alva said. “After all, I imagine they’ve got something to teach us, as well.”

“I wonder what these people know of love,” Mrs. Madden answered.

Hawaiian music

The skiff that would carry Bertram and Alva Bingham ashore at Hi’ilawe thumped gently against the hull of the little ship Falcon as it lay at anchor several hundred yards off the beach at Hi’ilawe. In the late afternoon, black clouds lowered over the sea, and a fresh onslaught of rain burst over the bay. The kanaka Noah sat in the skiff, waiting.

“Aren’t you coming ashore, Captain Cahoun?” Bertram asked.

“No, I have to stay with the ship,” Bennie said. “The currents are tricky. If I’m not with her every moment, Falcon could slip away and we’d be on the rocks in no time.”

There was no welcoming committee bearing armloads of lei, no bright children with smiles of white teeth dazzling against golden complexions, no one to lead them to a place of honor on the mats and implore the new arrivals to teach them a few words of English right then and there. There were no amiable young natives to offer a refreshing drink from a freshly opened coconut, no jolly old man banging away at a piano in a quaint little church while they all sat about, smiling at each other, singing a hymn of celebration of their arrival. This was an old building in a state of near-ruin, with most of its windows shuttered in forbidding collapse.

A man led them toward a dilapidated frame house next to a mud-choked and stinking piggery that served as the cookhouse. They squished and slopped along through the mud, and at last gained the lanai, its floorboards rotted and sagging.

Inside the frame house, on muddy, lice-ridden mats, was strewn a welter of boxes, bundles of bamboo, rank horsehair blankets, roasted taro corms, stalks of apple bananas, battered tin pans, and rounds of hard poi in ti leaf wrappers. A chicken bone was gnawed by a cat that sat and glowered at an old rooster.

On the floor sat a frightful old woman, with heavily wrinkled forehead, bulbous nose, bushy eyebrows, and sullen expression. Her gray hair was cropped short, and she wore no clothing, only a tattered blanket muddled round her shoulder and a panoply of tattoos. Her weathered brown skin bulged prominently with arteries and her hands, though clean, looked filthy. Beneath the blanket, her old teats dangled like wineskins to her waist.

The old woman was Kehau’s mother. Having lost her husband to the shark, she lived with Kehau in the old house. She squatted on the mat beside two young women. Kehau had never taken another man after Bennie left. After Wolohu forced himself on her, her heartbreak had hardened into bitterness.

She had resisted, hitting and clawing at him, and she had shrieked, but she could not repulse his attack. Still, it had not been all take and no give. For while Wolohu had blessed her with a child, she had reciprocated by passing along to him the same odious spirochete that she had gotten from Bennie. Wolohu hadn’t thought anything of it, really, and had attributed the pain of his urination to malign spirits. In time, it had gone away.

Kehau sat and suckled her child, two years old by the looks of him and still breast-feeding.

“Hello, everyone. I’m Pastor Bertram Bingham.”

The women looked with amusement upon this strange and pathetic-looking couple.

“And this is Mrs. Bingham.”

Alva waited to be invited to sit, but they just stared, giggling. Finally, she seated herself for a while on the frayed mat.

“I’m quite wet, Bertram,” she said. “I can’t sit in these clothes. I have to change somewhere.”

The old woman hardly noticed her. In fact, she was probably blind, or nearly so. Two girls—the old man’s nieces—lolled about on the mats, twittering. Every movement, every change in facial expression on Alva’s part brought renewed eruptions of merriment. They watched her as a hawk would a June Bug. Bertram brought the trunk in, and opened it.

No sooner did Alva begin to rummage through its contents to find a change of clothing, then the two girls were up to their elbows in its contents, pulling out this and ogling that and exclaiming and pointing and posturing and laughing uproariously. One took hold of a bonnet, which she then tied onto her buttocks, and shook them vigorously, reducing the other to doubled-up laughter.

“Please!” Alva pleaded. “Give that back to me!” But the joke continued, and Alva, visibly irked, grabbed it back from them, a bit more forcibly than was intended. Hastening to extract a few articles of clothing, she shut the trunk’s lid with an expression of undeniable pique.

“They’re just curious, dear, that’s all,” Bertram said. “Girls, would you please? Mrs. Bingham only wants to get dressed,” he explained, not that they understood a word. “We’re all wet from the rain, and quite a mess, as you can see.” The girls understood nothing of what he said, although Kehau had acquired some English from Bennie, a few words.

“Bertram, I need to change! Is there a room somewhere?” She looked around the cabin and saw there was none. Outside, the rain was lashing down in sheets.

“Is there a bathroom somewhere?” Bertram asked Kehau. She tiled her head, unsure. “You know… “ he said, using body language to convey an urgency of relief.

Kehau got up. “You come,” she said to Alva, motioning outside. “Bring you clothes.”

She led her out back to a vile old outhouse, its carved quarter-moon door opened to reveal an old pit and a short bench next to it. Oddly, it didn’t stink, probably because the natives rook their business elsewhere, usually to the beach in the early morning ebb tide. Leaving the door ajar so she could see, Alva stumbled her way through the change of clothes and hurried outside, apprehensive of rats.

She emerged, dressed in a black gown. Sullen, she averted her eyes from the mirthful and mocking stares of the girls. With what dignity remained to her, she re-seated herself on the mat.

Famished after two days of seasickness and dry-heaves, Alva looked about hopefully for evidence of dinner in the making. “Bertram, I’m terribly hungry. Is there something I can do to help prepare supper?”

Bertram looked at the old man, and made the motion of shoveling food into his mouth. The old man smiled, and repaired out of doors into the chicken coop. There, he fetched up a chicken, stroked its feathers, and muttered a few words of apology. Then he drew his knife across its throat. The chicken flew out of his arms, beating its wings in a mad flurry, scattering feathers and spraying blood everywhere, then dropped to earth a few yards away. The man picked up the still-flailing bird and dropped it into a barrel of water, where it floundered for a moment and expired.

The man cleaned the chicken and placed it in a pot of boiling water, and in time, he brought the chicken and a dish of sweet potato inside and set them on the table. Carving the chicken with a knife, he grabbed and pulled at the meat with his fingers. He brought a calabash of poi, set it before the old woman, and removed the lid. Instantly, the two girls jabbed their fingers into the gummy gray paste, twirling it round their salivaed fingers and slurping it like runny noses. Coffee was served in a cracked communal bowl for all to drink from. Bertram picked politely at the food, and Alva ate hungrily of the chicken and sweet potatoes.

When Alva and Bertram were finished, the man gestured for the women to dedicate themselves to the remains, and they gnawed the bones clean and smacked away the last of the poi from their fingers. He then brought a bowl of cold water to rinse their hands, and a ragged cloth that was intended as a towel.

Towards evening, the gummy cloud began to clear, and shafts of evening sunlight played and glistened among the taro patches. The sunset fired the tops of the palms, rimmed the walls of the valley with gold, then was gone. A grove of pandanus trees darkened into spidery silhouettes against the violet sea. Through the mop-headed palms, the sky had turned a velvety blue, and slowly the scents of evening spread through the rain-freshened air. A garden bloomed riotously behind the building’s unruly tangles of hibiscus.

Kehau’s mother arranged a row of pillows on their mat, and the girls lay face downwards, their chins resting in the hands, and stared at Bertram and Alva with their great brown eyes, chattering animatedly and laughing incessantly like a pair of excited apes. The old man dragged some of the things to one side, and laid down a mattress of pulu for Alva, then smoothed a moth-eaten sheet over it, then a graying quilt of orange and red cotton.

He then brought out a tin lamp, whose flame sputtered and smoked from its freight of beef fat. The girls brought another calabash of poi, and again twisted the sour paste onto their fingers and sucked at it noisily, looking cow-eyed at Bertram. Grunting with animal satisfaction, they again fixed their stares upon Alva.

They talked all at once and without pause for breath, until the old man uttered the word “auwe!” with a long groan, gave voice to his exasperation over their endless palaver. Then he pulled off his trousers and went to sleep.

From somewhere in the room, a cockroach took wing, and buzzed wildly around the room. The roach landed on the quilt in front of Alva. “Bertram!!” she shrieked. She stared in horror at the thing, its antennae protruding from its pus-yellow collar, its barbed legs jerking beneath its fecal brown carapace, its thousand eyes rolling. She recoiled, gathering her mattress and scuttling madly to the wall. The roach flitted off again, buzzed along the room once more, then out into the night. The two girls dissolved in laughter at the spectacle. Alva looked at Bertram, gasping. “It’s gone now, love,” Bertram said. “I think it flew out the window.”

Kehau’s mother got up, erupted in a death rattle cough, hoicked up phlegm, and spat it out the broken window through which the roach had made its exit. The commotion had awakened the man. He got up, fired up his pipe, and the girls in turn got up to renew their attentions to the poi and their bickering with the old woman. The moon, drifting through the clouds, glared balefully.

Hawaiian music

The nights were like that, one after the next. The mosquitoes never let her be for a moment. Just as she was drifting off to sleep from exhaustion, sure enough one would come whining along. Their bites raised welts that itched horribly, and she scratched ‘til she bled. She could not relax, knowing that if she looked there would be one on her ankle. She slapped at them wildly, the girls laughing. Having grown up with mosquitoes, they were never troubled by them. Alva tossed and turned through the night, hissing with exasperation at the bugs and the old woman’s incessant hacking cough.

The rain poured down most nights, at times swelling into a roar that made sleep impossible. Alva lay sleepless, thinking of the old woman’s death rattle, nagging and relentless. The cats came and went throughout the night, and it being the season, they fought noisily. The night was full of the noise of crashing rain and, in the brief intervals between downpours, the enraged screams of the cats.

“Bertram? Are you awake?”

“Hmmnn.”

“Bertram!”

“Yempf. Heh? What is it?”

“Bertram, I’m worried.”

“About what? I’m worried that I might catch something.”

“Are you cold? Do you want me to close the window?”

“No. I’m worried I might get whatever the old woman’s got. Whatever it is.”

“What? She’s just got a cough, that’s all.”

“Bertram, you heard what Captain Cahoun said about leprosy here. Heaven only knows what—”

“Leprosy?! That’s absurd! It’s a cough, that’s all.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want it.” By now the old woman was awake, lying there, looking at them quietly.

“Alva, she’s awake now. I don’t want her to think we’re talking about her.”

“Is that all you care about my well-being?! She could be deadly ill, for all you know! You’re not a doctor! And I’m lying here next to her! She doesn’t know what we’re saying anyway.”

“Alva, if you’re so concerned, why don’t you come over here, and I’ll take your place.”

“Then you’ll get it… and give it to me!”

“What do you want to do, then?!”

“Most of all, I’d like to move!”

“Well, we can’t just do that. We’ve got to have a place to move to. Just try to put up. Captain Cahoun will soon be delivering what we need to fix this old house, and we’ll see what we can do. We’ll make a home here soon.”

“He promised that weeks ago… or has it been months?! Oh, I just want to get out of here, and have a decent night’s rest! Everything is soaking wet, and there are so many mosquitoes! I feel like I’m on fire, and I’m going to scratch myself to pieces! And those horrid roaches crawling all over! To say nothing of whatever it is that she’s got that’s crawling all over me as well.”

“I quite understand, dear.”

 “And Bertram, I don’t know how long this dress is going to last before it rots and fall off me. Some of my dresses are in dreadful condition! Or perhaps I could make things easier for myself if I just did as they did, and went about half-naked! No wonder they all live in one room. Who needs privacy? Bertram, if we’re to provide any sort of Christian example to these people, we must get the place fixed up somehow, while Captain Cahou takes his sweet time.”

“Dear, I don’t know how I can build anything if the basement is going to flood in the process. In any event, the rest of the lumber for the new roof hasn’t even arrived yet.”

“Well, why don’t you put up a roof of some kind, it’s getting hard to find a dry spot to put the mattresses. I’m sure they could help… why don’t you ask for it?”

Hawaiian music

A strange figure did arrive to help– a slight, sun-blackened man whose bloodshot and rheumy eyes. He had come to help with building the roof and laying in the garden. He walked palsiedly and seemed a bit demented. His eyelid jiggled nervously, giving one the impression he was taking you in.

Wolohu came every day, walking about hither and yon, planting taro corms and shaping mounds for sweet potatoes. Pencils of papaya seedlings arose from the mud, and stands of arrowroot took root near the stream. Coffee and hibiscus shrubs began to flourish with the tentative sun of spring. At the same time as he established the garden, he and his friends helped lift the improvised palm-log beams and fronds and sew the pili grass thatch into place, and the semblance of a shack began to take form. As they went along, Wolohu learned the words for things, and in time, Alva taught him the words for some of the more rudimentary constructs of the White Kahuna’s religion.

Hawaiian music

At last, Falcon returned to the bay. Lumber and tools and nails were unloaded, though not in sufficient quantity to build more than a modest structure. The work continued, and when at last it was finished, the house was still tiny and cramped, but when adjoined to the shack, it was adequate for now. Alva’s furniture consisted of goods send along from the mission in Honolulu that it had pulled together from donations by the congregation. It consisted of two chairs and a table, one leg shorter than the other, and covered with a tattered plaid shawl, and a bed, situated on boards raised a foot or so from the ground upon bricks. A thin muslin curtain was let down at night to separate their bedroom, so that Bertram might stay up to write his sermons, while Alva rested up from the rigors of life with her impossible hosts.

She remembered how it was, this time of year, back home in New England. It was Thanksgiving, and she could just smell the turkey. In her mind’s eye, she saw the table, set with cold oysters, veal with peas and ham, sweet breads and canvas-back duck, blanc mange, jelly, baked pudding, grapes, pears, apples, oranges and ornamental sweets from the confectioners.

Nothing could have been snugger than her father’s Roxbury puddingstone mansion with its large open fireplace, and the whole house festooned with camellias and other exotics hanging in baskets from the door-tops and showing in every available space. She pictured herself, so pretty in a simple French dress of white tulle, done up with white clematis, and with a wreath of the same for her hair.

The whine of a mosquito sundered her reveries, and Alva looked about angrily for it— angry, now that she thought about it, about everything here. While the new home was a beginning, here she was unable to so much as use the water from the stream for cooking, knowing it had been fouled by people upstream. She was unable to grow any of the fruits and vegetables she knew, she could not obtain seed for corn or melons or squash, and the flour was rancid and moldy. There was only taro and sweet potatoes and yams and bananas and papayas and pork, from pigs that were wormy and engorged on filth, and fish, which she never cared for. There was no beef, no sugar amidst all the sugar cane, and tea was only an occasional luxury.

Hawaiian music

The old church stood beside a winding stream that in the rainy season became a torrent, flooding fishponds that gleamed dully amidst meadow lands patchworked with thousands of taro plants. The ears of the taro drooped sadly, lending their indolence to the general torpor of the scene. None could match the fragrant taro of Hi’ilawe, whether the pink corms of the much-prized red taro which were reserved for the chief, or the corms of the piko kea, blue like the sky, or the hapu’u, a black-stalked, green-leafed taro named for its resemblance to the tree fern. The manini was so-named for its similarity to the striped reef fish, the elepaio recalled the prominent white dots on the bird’s wings, and the leaf of the Pele’s Smoke taro was dusky, as if brushed with smoke. 

Hawaiian music

         But such poetic comparisons were lost on Alva. The gray paste revolted her. She could not bear to look at it without it calling to mind the snot that hung from the lips of children everywhere here and ran into their mouths, forming a steady nourishing stream. But wretched as it was, Bertram ate the poi with relish, twirling it around his fingers, licking it off, and happily mingling his saliva in the communal poi bowl. He wasn’t at all reluctant to keep their company at mealtime.

There was nothing noble about savagery, she reflected. If they mocked her, they deserved their perpetual night. More and more, she longed to be back with her own people, that crass and shallow bunch albeit—anything but these bones-in-the-noses who didn’t have the slightest interest in the virtues of Christian living. At times, it was just impossible here. But this was home now, she knew, like it or not.


Chapter Five


During those first months in Hi’ilawe, Bertram’s sermons in pidgin English had drawn the curious. Soon they became uncurious, and while some stayed, most found the sermon largely unintelligible.

Bertram wondered if his facility in the Hawaiian language would ever be adequate to convey the intricacies of Christian doctrine. How could he explain the vagueries of a God whose son Jesus was also God, and yet neither were able to offer salvation, except through the intercession of a third god, called the Holy Ghost, and yet the three were one god? Perhaps it was better to approach the problem from the ground up, and teach English to the children of Hi’ilawe so that they might grow up with the language.

“Now that’s the mission’s coming along,” he asked Alva, “how do you feel about teaching Sunday School?”

“Dear, I’m just not ready for it, not just now.”

“But I thought you’d be looking forward to it, after all that you said about gathering the children round for lessons… and lemonade, and what not,” he smiled.

“It’s not as I imagined it should be. We need a piano, or hymn books at the very least. We don’t have any books at all to share with the children. And most of them don’t speak a word of English, you know.”

“So why don’t you teach them English?”

“I’m tired, Bertram. I can’t begin to think about teaching Sunday School when I’ve just gotten us settled in, and I’m trying to make a home for us with what little we’ve got.”

“Well, it’s home enough for now. And now we’ve got to get on with doing what we came all this way to do. I’ve got a congregation to teach that among them, I agree, can’t understand more than ten words I say, in either language, I might add. If we’re to teach these people both the word of God and a better way of life, then it should be in English, so that they might read textbooks and someday go to school and learn something of the outside world.”

“It seems like such a distant prospect,” Alva said wearily. “Still, I know you’re right. Perhaps this just isn’t the time to ask. I need some time, and people here haven’t seemed very helpful… apart from Wolohu.”

“It’s been hard for you, I know. I can appreciate that you’re a bit dispirited about things at this point. But if you just got involved with people here, I think you’d find they’re really quite likable.” She looked at him dubiously. “And I’m certain they’d find lots to like in you. You can’t just continue to hold yourself apart. It needn’t be you against the world, Alva.”

Bertram was right, she realized. It was time to get on with things, time to stop regretting all that she didn’t have here. Most evenings, she sat by the light of the guttering old tin lamp, sipping tea when she had it, and leafed through her diary. She reflected on the sentiments she had penned on board Thaddeus in anticipation of her new island home. “And oh! Lord if I do settle,” she read, “it will be so easy to settle here. The South Seas will course through my blood: the lovely and gentle brown people, the flowers and the lagoons, the flooding silver moonlight. I’ll hire a small boat and drift in a perpetual dream about those lovely lagoons.”

She wondered how she could have ever dreamt such nonsense. Throughout much of the day, she had no one to talk to, and she spent hours writing poetry and long letters home—a home that was a world away in every respect. And Captain Cahoun stopped by but once a month, usually anyway, to pick up the mail.

Perhaps she just needed more time, Bertram realized. If there were only someone else to teach the children in the meantime, and it occurred to him that it didn’t have to be in English, necessarily.

“Why not Wolohu, then?” he said. “He seems so interested in the Bible, always asking about it, isn’t he? Maybe he’s absorbed enough to pass along some simple instruction to the children. At least let him help out.”

Alva agreed to begin lessons next Sunday. She and Wolohu got together to go over the lesson plan. Their communication was rudimentary at first, she had taught him some words as he was working round the place, and had even imparted some Christian notions of God, our savior Jesus Christ, love, charity, and Christmas. But his command of English progressed.

In apprenticing himself to this woman, Wahine-of-the-White-Kahuna, Wolohu intended to apply himself diligently to the study of the Mysteries. This notion of Christian love that Wahine-of-the-White Kahuna spoke of intrigued him. He wondered if it was more powerful than the sugar cane sorcery. But then again, the White Magic could not be very potent, since it was apparent that the White Kahuna himself did not enjoy the blessings and favor of his God if he was meant to live in such humble conditions.

It occured to Wolohu that Bertram might be a discredited or minor kahuna who had been sent in exile to live with Hawaiians in this faraway place. Perhaps he was being punished for some transgression or disrespect, or even some violation of a kapu. Though the White Kahuna seemed an affable and easygoing sort, his wife was constantly castigating him for his shortcomings. It seemed likely, therefore, that he had been exiled to this place because he was inept at his sorcery. Perhaps this was the source of the rancor with his wife.

Hawaiian music

Summer had come, and the rains had at last given way to a new torment. “It’s so damnably hot!” she gasped. Alva had taken to using oaths, but Bertram had ceased protesting against it, finding it easier to just go along with it. “It never cools down long enough to let you catch your breath,” she said. “Not even during Christmas! And I don’t know what I like less, summers that are just boiling hot, or winter that is merely sticky with buckets of rain every day!”

“I’ve gotten used to the weather, I think,” Bertram said.

“Well, I’m glad you have. But I so miss the four seasons. Here you can’t keep anything dry, even when it’s not raining. It all grows mold. Can’t move without breaking into a sweat! Everything you wear becomes stained and wringing wet in no time at all. Flies and termites and rats and hordes of hopping toads and mold on the curtains and the ceilings, and the furniture rotting and stinking of mold, and the sea-grass carpet stinks and you get heat rash– oh, I’m sick of it!”

“Why don’t we step out for a bit of fresh air?” he said.

“You go. At least you can get away from me and all of my little complaints.”

“All I said is I’m going out for a walk. You’re more than welcome to join me—as wife, best friend, confidante, whatever you’d like to be. I would do anything for your company. But you refuse to be coaxed out of your self-imposed imprisonment! This is a beautiful place, Alva! Look around you, the forests and the waterfalls and the ocean are beautiful, and the people are awfully nice, if you give them a chance! But here you sit… are you coming or not?”

“Need you ask.”

“Alva, I don’t understand why you have determined to so hate these people.”

“Why? What’s there to like about them? They’re sullen and mean and their children are scabby and all have runny noses. They’re lazy and they look at you with murder in their hearts! I don’t know how I ever thought this was a South Seas paradise. It’s just a horrible place with nothing but horrible people!”

“Maybe that’s because you never made an effort to be friends. You never go out, except for your trips to market, and you never meet anybody. And what’s more, our church is supposed to be where we meet them! Alva, engaging these people is why we came here. Not to luxuriate in heaven here, but to help them to find it where it truly awaits those who place their hearts with God.”

“Well, there are plenty of misguided souls who need our help back home. Just think of poor Mrs. Thornapple, for instance, with her nine children.”

“We came here in service to the Church and to God. I have a responsibility to these people, and the bugs and the heat and the rain and all their backwardness are all just part of the darkness we have come to help push back. Yes, this is silly, in a way. Because the mosquitoes are always biting me too, and some awa-drunk Hawaiian may want to club my brains out, and their kahunas may want to cast me into Pele’s fire pit. But still, I want to live here, in spite of it all.”

“Well, I’ll feel better when we’re shut of this place, and not before! We could be a lot happier back home! Father could get us a nice place to live. We could have friends, for one thing. And if you have friends, you can have them over for tea and conversation, and there are church functions and all kinds of shared interests. If you got yourself a proper position with the Board, we could probably save enough to someday have something decent!”

Bertram saw that she had been looking through her old copies of Godey’s again. One of the magazines lay open to a page with pretty drawings of a cottage and fruit trees and flower beds. He looked at his young wife with pity. It saddened him to see her obsessed with things that he could not hope to provide her with as a minister, especially in a part of the world that was as ill-suited to creature comforts as the heart of Africa. It seemed to Bertram that Alva was in danger of losing her love for God. She seemed not to share in the least his devotion to service. How could he ever continue here, he wondered, with a wife who more and more found fault with everything, and whose greatest desire seemed to be to return to the pampered society she had once scorned?

“How do you expect me to live like this?” she went on. “This is a start, but it isn’t a proper home! I don’t have anything for us to make a home together with! It’s been two years now! No furniture, except for this hand-me-down rubbish from the Church! No curtains to keep the natives from gawking at us! They’re always staring… and laughing! Half the time I don’t even have flour to bake with! Surely they don’t expect us to eat poi… though looking at you, maybe they do! And, Bertram, I don’t have anything to make me feel… attractive to you.”

Stung, Bertram absorbed the indictment, and grew ashamed.

“Well, I am a woman, Bertram, whether you realized it or not, not just some dray horse that you keep out back to pull your plow through the mud!”

“I wish I could do more, Alva. I’ve asked repeatedly—”

“Perhaps I need to ask father, not the church! Maybe he’ll listen to his own daughter, even if he has to send one of his own ships! God knows I wish I had listened to him!”

“You seemed to have admired these people well enough back in New England.”

“Oh, don’t mock me, Bertram! If you’re white and come from a good family and have a good education, you don’t do this sort of thing, coming here and carrying on like you’re one of them! We were all whites in a white land back there. We can’t live like natives!”

His defense was exhausted. “As I said, I’m going out for a walk. You’re more than welcome to join me.”

The solace of his pipe was his only refuge from these little storms of marriage. On his evening walks, the natives always followed, savoring the tobacco’s unearthly fragrance, and he would even pass his pipe around for them to share.

“Will she be joining you, as usual?”

“Who?”

“Your admirer, Kehau.”

That caught him up short, and he grew defensive.

 “What if she does?” Bertram said. “She is just as welcome to approach me as any other member of my flock.”

“Flock, indeed! The only resemblance she has to sheep is those fluttering sheep’s-eyes she always seems to have for you! And you don’t seem to mind her nakedness in the least, do you?! If you don’t find me interesting, you might at least have the decency not to gaze at her!”

“It’s hardly that at all!” Bertram said. “After all, for these people, nakedness is as natural as breathing. We are among children of nature, Alva– warts and all. These are your noble savages– right out of Rousseau.”

“I suppose I should be flattered by your sudden interest in Enlightenment thinkers!”

“You know, I used to believe you when you spoke of these things that you once so passionately believed in! I’m a bit surprised… it’s almost as if you’re jealous.”

“Bertram, these are hardly women to be jealous over! In fact, I don’t think of them as women at all! They’re so… brutish.”

She had begun to wonder whether Bertram was vulnerable and, more to the point, whether she was. Much as she strove to downplay the charms of the native women, she knew in her heart of hearts that many of them were lovely. She might compensate by dwelling upon all that was unattractive about them, but for all their savagery and their wild hula frenzies and pagan deities, some of the women were indeed lovelier than she.

“Alva, you can’t possibly think I have any romantic interest.”

“If I were to judge by how you behave toward me, I would agree you have no romantic interest in anything! I can only hope she’s as studiously ignored as I am!”

“I haven’t been ignoring you, Alva.”

“Then you certainly have fooled me! I could understand your reticence during all those months we were at sea, sharing a cramped cabin with the others! Though I longed for you, I knew there was nothing I could do, so I simply endured. And I could understand while we were living in this horrid place while the house was being built. But now at least we’re together, by ourselves. And you still behave as before! What’s wrong with you?! Or is there something that’s wrong with me!?”

Bertram looked askance, not answering. What was the matter with her, she wondered? Was she no longer lovely in his eyes? The thought that he spent as much time as he did with the natives because their women were more attractive to him than she gnawed at her. There was nothing they’d like more than to have a white man, she knew, and women who drowned their own children, who co-habited with as many men as they pleased without taking a husband, who even taught their own grandchildren the arts of love, and who themselves commenced fornication when they were the merest of children… such women wouldn’t think twice about ruining a family.

“Bertram, do you not love me… as a woman?” she said.

Bertram did love his wife, and he regretted that he had been less than successful as a provider, and less than ardent as a marital partner. Part of the problem, Bertram realized, was him. He could not satisfy her craving for intimacy, did not appreciate it beyond its purpose of procreation. Their few times together had only further aroused in her a hunger for fervent embrace, and for the closeness and sharing of intimate concerns and endearments. She tried to entice him, but he hadn’t always responded, he knew.

As a man of God, Bertram was predictably less inclined than more worldly men to provide proof of his devotion to his wife. He resolved, however, to become more attentive. Though he had no material solace to offer her, his affections cost him nothing and were his to give freely, however little it might interest him personally.

“I do love you, Alva. I’m sorry I haven’t been very attentive to you lately. There’s been so much to do, with building the house and fixing up the church and all. I just don’t know where my mind’s been.”

Hawaiian music

Nor did it help much when Captain Cahoun sailed his little ship into the bay at Hi’ilawe to deliver supplies. Though they needed everything, somehow he managed to always bring things they didn’t need, such as cast-off winter clothing donated by the members of the church back home, and bundles of old newspapers from Honolulu. His visits were invariably a disappointment, always fell short of what they needed to keep the buildings up and the little amenities that might have made such a difference in Alva’s disposition. The Board’s consistent refusal or inability to supply them with things they needed and wanted remained a source of constant exasperation with Alva, and Bertram dreaded going back empty-handed to Alva, with nothing to give her except more month-old newspapers and more bad news.

“How are things with the mission?” Bennie asked.

“Just fine,” Bertram said. “Except for not having just about everything. Has the church sent anything out of the ordinary for us this time?”

“I don’t know what you would consider out of the ordinary, Bertram. They seem to think you have everything you need here. I’ve got the usual: some tins of bully beef. Some old clothes. Candles. Soap. Sugar and flour. Some tobacco. A few other odds and ends.”

“Where’s the lumber I asked them for?! Where’s the paint? What about the cloth? My wife’s dresses are rotting!”

Bertram’s anger surprised him. “Bertram, I’m just the delivery boy. Don’t get mad at me.”

“Well, I’ve asked them repeatedly for these things! Surely they can’t expect us to continue to live in a broom closet with scarcely even a broom. You gave them my letters, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I gave them your letters. Look, just sit down and take it easy. I’ll bet you haven’t had lunch.”

“I ate.”

“You don’t mind then if I have a little something? I’m starved.”

Bertram anger soon gave way to amazement. Bennie unlocked the stores chest and allowed Bertram to feast his eyes on its contents while he pretended to rummage around. Jars of toffee-sugar. Pounds of smoking mixture. Bars of milled soap. And tea, glorious tea.

“What are you doing with all this?”

“A little barter with the natives.”

“Barter? What do they have that you could possibly want?”

“It’s for goodwill, mostly. It’s good to have these people on your side. How’s your Hawaiian these days? I’ll bet you’re becoming pretty conversant with the language.”

“Less than adequate. Like everything else here. Why don’t you ever come ashore? In all the time you’ve been coming here, it’s always the same. You always make me come out to the boat, like it’s such a mystery. It’s as if you were hiding from them.”

“Well, Bertram. When I do business with these people, it’s always been my practice to keep it at arm’s length. Friends don’t mix well with business, and you know how these people are—everybody’s their friend. How do you like your steak, Bertram?”

Bertram hadn’t seen a steak in years, much less the likes of these that Bennie unwrapped from the butcher paper. Thick, marbled cylinders of prime, aged beef, each with its own pat of butter on top. Bertram swallowed, and without realizing it, licked his lips.

“By the way,” Bennie said, “I don’t think Alva would mind having one of these, do you? I’ll send a couple extra back with you after lunch.”

Bertram was at a bit of a loss for words. Alva would die for a steak, even kill him in the bargain, after a year of scrawny chicken and wormy pork.

“I’d like it well cooked, if it’s not too much trouble.”

Bennie tipped the two steaks into the pan. They hissed and popped as the pats of butter melted and the steaks cooked. He sprinkled them with salt and a pinch of dried garlic and parsley. Bertram’s head was swimming. What must it be like to live decently? What was wrong with that? In a proper, clean, well-kept home with nice things and room enough to live with children and a happy wife who made a nice supper each evening with proper beef once in a while. Even ministers had a right.

Bennie took down the plates from the cupboard, forking the steaks onto them and placing two hard rolls alongside each. He sliced a big beefsteak tomato and arranged the slices on the plates, and handed one to Bertram.

Bertram tore into his steak. My heavens, he thought, I haven’t had beef in ages! His head swam and he became nearly delirious with the heady taste of the meat and the juices that just exploded in his mouth. He took a bite. Then quickly, another. He was famished, and he finished off the steak in no time. With regret, he pushed his plate away.

“Like another, Bertram?”

“Oh no, Good Lord… I’d die of the richness of it!” Glowing with gratification, he began to feel a twinge of guilt. No wonder Alva’s so unhappy. Poor thing, really. She needs something like this, she’d love it. It will be nice to surprise her, cheer her up.

“You’re not usually so nice to me, Bennie. I keep wondering what it is that you have in mind.”

“Glad you liked the steak. A cigar would go nicely with the meal, don’t you think? I think it’s only proper that men have a cigar when they talk business.” Bennie produced a box of cigars, not the ten-for-a-dollar variety, but rich-looking smokes with burnished mahogany wrappers. To Bertram, they were an inconceivable luxury. Bennie took one, clipped off the tip, and offered it to Bertram. He accepted the cigar and examined it, running his fingers over its leaf, and held it up to his nose to partake of its savor. It smelled divine. Bennie lit a match and held it for him, and Bertram began drawing the cigar’s nutty smoke up along his palate and out through his nose. It was unearthly.

“This is wonderful, Bennie, but honestly, I’m not much of a businessman. Just a man of God who doesn’t expect to find his riches here on earth, although I admit, those that I find here are delightful. But I don’t have anything to offer in any event.”

“Bertram, I know you don’t have anything. That’s why I’m here, to help.”

“To help who, Bennie? I may not be wise in the ways of the world, but I’m not stupid, either. And I really don’t want money. After all,” he said, seeming sarcastic, “what would I spend it on?”

“Well, the church, for one thing. Dress things up a bit. Put in some of the comforts of home. This is a pretty rustic existence out here. You’ve been here in the valley for almost two years, and the church seems to have forgotten about you. I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to do what you could, within reason, to feather your own nest, make your wife happy and provide for your family.”

“Bennie, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with your insinuation that mine is not a happy home, though I would agree that I’m not able to be the provider that I would like to be.”

“Bertram, come on! A bit touchy, aren’t we?! Look, I need your help. And I’ll pay you well for it. What you do with the money is up to you. Burn it on a pagan altar, for all I care! But I think we could help each other out, and make things a lot easier for you in the bargain. Take a look. See all this stuff in the chest? That’s for you and Alva. Or if you don’t want it, give it to the kids at the mission. There’s toffee-sugar. There’s tea, there’s tobacco, even a nice meerschaum pipe. And yeah, there’s cloth,” Bennie said, lifting up the top tray in the chest to reveal a generous measure of white cotton cloth, and nestled within, a package of needles and thimbles, even scissors, and a pair of sensible brown shoes, he had guessed at her size.

“What do I have to do? Sell my soul?”

“That’s nonsense. Bertram, I need your skills. You can talk to these people here. You know their language.”

“What do you want from them? They don’t have anything!”

“They’ve got sandalwood, Bertram.”

Sandalwood… so that’s what it was! Bertram had no idea that it grew here, and had never seen it. He knew of it, that’s all, knew that it was made into trinket boxes and such.

“Well, Bennie, the sandalwood’s not mine to give. And I’m not really in the business of brokering deals. I’m a minister!”

“Bertram, you’re a minister and a good one. It takes a selfless man to give his life here for so little. It’s not easy to put up with the rain and the mud and the isolation.”

“We’re okay here.”

“I’m not suggesting you aren’t,” Bennie said edgily. “But I’m offering you twenty-five percent for your services. And if taking money troubles you, then take it in trade… for the benefit of the mission! Just tell the chief that we’d like to do some business. Give him a pocket watch as a token of my esteem. Tell him I’ll bring him some great stuff. All he’s got to do is cut some wood. The valley’s thick with the stuff.”

“How do you know?”

“An educated guess, Bertram.”

Hawaiian music

When Bertram returned home with Bennie’s presents, Alva seemed listless and less than enthusiastic about the largesse. She seemed tentative and weak.

“What’s the matter,” Bertram said. “I thought you’d be overjoyed. Are you ill?”

“Bertram, I have something to tell you.”

“What’s that, dear?” he asked, his apprehension mounting.

“I think I’m with child.”

“You’re what?! A child! Are you sure?!”

“Quite sure. I haven’t had my monthlies for two months now, and I feel quite sick some mornings.”

“Why, that’s wonderful news! Not that you’re sick, I mean, but I’m just so pleased– more happy than I can say!”

“Bertram, if it is so, and I know it is, then I think we had better get busy with our home.”

“Why? What does the house need?”

“I’m speaking of a proper home, Bertram… the one you promised me for the family I promised you.”

“Of course dear, I quite agree. This is far too small.”

“Promise me again, Bertram. Because I want our child to grow up in a proper home, not a hovel. I want it to be just as you always said it would be, our own home—not a couple of small rooms attached to a chapel. I know we’ve not gotten along as well as we might have. But if God is indeed blessing us with a child, I feel that we should make a new beginning, for the sake of our child. I want for us to be in a new home, a proper home that’s our very own.”

“I promise you, Alva. With all my heart, I promise you… even if I have to go to Honolulu to choke them for it!”

Hawaiian music

As things progressed, Bertram felt delight, for the child of course, but also relieved that he could stop pretending to be ardent. Still, that was scant solace, really. He knew that Alva’s acquisitiveness would soon swell into an imperative, and she would natter at him as her confinement progressed, going on about all the things the baby would need that they didn’t have. And the church would continue to ignore his pleas for assistance.

The things they needed to make a comfortable home were not affordable to a man of the cloth, and it did not put Bertram’s mind at ease that Captain Cahoun now proposed to suddenly take all the squalor away and make a new life of abundance available to him. But in retrospect, he realized that he had already decided, and after long deliberation, it was time to broach the matter to his best friend, confidante, and advisor, his wife.

“Alva, if it would make you feel any better, our friend Bennie wants me to go into business.”

“You’re joking! Why Bertram, I never thought you had it in you!”

“I’m not sure that I do.”

“What sort of business is he talking about?”

“He says there’s sandalwood here, thick stands of it.”

“So what?”

“So it’s worth a lot of money, he says. Sandalwood is hard to find.”

“How would he know there’s sandalwood here?”

“He wouldn’t say.”

“Well, if he wants to do business, why doesn’t he just go to the chief and make his own arrangements? What does he want you to do?”

“The answer to both questions, supposedly, is that I know a bit of the language, and of course, I know the chief. Plus, I don’t know… it seems that he’s got his own reasons.”

“What is he going to do for us– I mean, for the mission?”

“You tell me!” Bertram said, instantly regretting he had even brought it up.

“Are you joking?! What don’t we need here?!”

“In a way, I’m drawn to it, but in another way, I’m not really sure I should get involved. I’m a man of God, not the almighty dollar.”

“Bertram, if there’s something you can do to make this a better place to live, and to worship, then you ought to be realistic about it. It doesn’t sound as if he’s asking so much. It’s about time that you gave more consideration to providing for the baby that’s on the way. After all, you promised. And now that an opportunity is staring you in the face, you’re asking me what I think?”

“Well, the church ought to be able to– ”

“The church, nonsense! The church doesn’t even know we’re here! You may keep hoping against hope that they’re going to make things right, but I would rather that you depend upon you— as we do!”

“I don’t feel right about this, Alva, but I’m torn, and I want your advice.”

He didn’t, really. But it made it easier that it was not his decision, but hers.

“At least look into it!” she said. “For that matter, if you don’t want to sully your hands with this matter, why don’t you put Wolohu onto it? He’d be pleased to do whatever he could to help, I’m sure of that. At least give it a try, Bertram, for the sake of your family.”


Chapter Five


Bennie was engaged in the activity he loved best: counting his money. He had loaded three hundred piculs of prime sandalwood at Hi’ilawe. In addition to more generous rations of the usual trade goods, he now told his kanaka Noah to convey to the chief of Hi’ilawe certain delights he had savored before: pounds of good tobacco, a splendid white pipe, and a pocket watch. In addition, there was case of sarsaparilla, with a small red dot on the cap marking a bottle of special interest, that looked like sarsaparilla but was different. It was medicine that the white man enjoyed, much as the Hawaiian enjoyed awa. It was for the chief only to enjoy, and enjoy discreetly. And for his wives, Bennie had brought gaily-colored fabric, mirrors, costume jewelry, candy, and shoes. Then there would be Bertram’s cut. Three hundred piculs of prime sandalwood were worth a fortune in Honolulu, and worth half the tea in China at Canton.

Bennie offered Bertram a cigar, which was accepted. “You’re going to be a daddy now, Bertram! That’s reason enough to celebrate. And the way business is going, pretty soon I’ll be bringing you good cigars by the gross! In any event, I reckon your cut will be worth enough more than just butter in the larder and steaks in the frypan. What do you say, Bertram! What do you think? What’s on your wish list? I can’t very well bring you cash.”

Bertram wasn’t sure. That the sandalwood was cut by the blood, sweat, and tears of the people of the valley had not ceased to trouble him. True, he had done nothing more than to introduce the idea to Wolohu, who had then taken it up with the chief. What they did with it was their business. For that reason, it could not be tainted money, could it? What to do, dear Lord? But God hadn’t answered him.

“Thanks, Bennie,” he said dispiritedly.

“Thanks, hell. You earned it! Now do yourself your family a favor. What can I bring you from town?”

For his part, there was an endless list. Most of all, he wanted lumber and building materials to expand the chapel into a proper church, and build a second storey, with a verandah and bedrooms and a study.

Until now there had never been a desire for wealth among the Hawaiians of Hi’ilawe. There had been no shiny goods made from brass, no trinkets, no bolts of gaily-colored cloth, no tobacco, no money even. The farmers of the valley had little understanding of commerce. Business was a genial barter of fish and salt and poi and kapa that assured the common good and sustained body, soul, and self-respect for each member of the community. It used to be that generosity, rather than material wealth, was esteemed, and the more you gave, the more you were admired.

Nature’s bounty channeled itself through the Hawaiian and came out as aloha, a natural congeniality, as natural an outgrowth of the land as the taro. The farmer was the product of a lush environment that surrounded him with emerald forests, towering crags that brewed up great lustrous clouds, rich humus watered by sparkling streams, and the dazzling blue of sky and sea. Though it was a life of hard work, there were few extremes, and generally he was left to enjoy and share all of life’s bounty.

But now whole families were sent into the mountains above Hi’ilawe for days at a time, subsisting there on little but wild bananas and dried poi. Since there were no beasts of burden, the sandalwood logs were hauled by the men with chains, along narrow, rainy, and slippery trails. They grew callouses on their shoulders, but these offered scant protection against the cold rain and wind in the mountains as they cut the sandalwood, even by the light of the moon and the constellations.

At the end of the day, they ached in every joint from cutting the trees and even pulling up their roots. Back in their homes, their reward and release was awa, which they chewed and spat into a bowl until the bowl was filled. But it wasn’t like the old days. Bak then, if a farmer had bartered poi for some fish that day, he would take from the underground oven the head of the jack fish, the bundle of mullet flesh wrapped in ti, a hand of ripe bananas, and a deep red sweet potato. He would thank the gods for their generosity. He would gulp down the awa, and rinse out its bitter taste with a draught from his water gourd. Then he would pick a mouthful of fish, a piece of banana, a section of sugar cane to chew, a bite of sweet potato, the fatty eyeball of the fish, perhaps some pork in taro leaf.

Now, the candlenut lamp glowed as men listened to the inner sounds of whistling shells and chirping crickets, or of wind sighing in the trees. They would slip into reverie and contentment, and all of their pains would be forgotten until the next day.

And now, it was Wolohu too who sought to soothe their aches, with his glowing accounts of the white man’s heaven, in which all who embraced Jesus would live in comfortable houses with windows and lace curtains and four poster beds. They would eat tinned meats no less than three times a day and wear fine clothes. Yes, cutting sandalwood was hard work, but the people of Hi’ilawe already enjoyed a new way of life, he reminded them, one that provided them with cloth, tobacco, and such things as mirrors. They lived in huts now that had panes of glass to keep the rain out and admit light, much as the Gospel admitted light into their souls. They had a day of leisure, Sunday, that they had never enjoyed before, on which to attend services in the Sunday School and listen to the new organ.

The valley had been transformed from a scene of bucolic innocence to one of Christian industry. Some of the women were now clothed in mu’u mu’u of gay cotton prints, and the men were given saws and chains and other iron tools to cut sandalwood and later to farm their own fields.

The sandalwood trade had brought numerous blessings to both Wolohu and to the chief of Hi’ilawe. This was, Wolohu had assured him, because the chief and his people were now good in the eyes of God.

As Wolohu took delivery of the goods from the kanaka Noah, and delivered them in turn to the chief, he knew he had the chief’s ear on things. Wolohu appreciated his burgeoning responsibilities, and turn, when the chief distributed his goods to his delighted and appreciative subjects, he impressed them with the benefit of sending their children to Wolohu’s Sunday School, to learn what would make them good in the eyes of Jesus and deserving of his generosity. It was generosity the chief especially enjoyed, for now he was good in the eyes on Jesus. And of the goods Bennie so generously delivered up aboard Falcon each month, what the chief wanted most generously was more sarsaparilla.

Hawaiian music

The chief loved his presents, especially the sarsaparilla. It made business easier to transact, since the more sandalwood he delivered, the more bottles among the sarsaparilla he might find that were marked with red dots.

The intricacies of modern business were lost, for the most part, on the Hawaiian. Being unlettered in such matters, the chief was slow to appreciate the delicate relationship between supply and demand. For when the deliveries of sandalwood were less than robust, the chief found to his dismay that there were fewer bottles marked with red dots.

He protested this shortfall, and Wolohu was left to explain to him that Noah had told him that the Captain had told him that his sources had told him that they would deliver only a quantity of whiskey that was consistent with the amount of wood tendered.

The lesson was learned, and the chief demanded that his people redouble their efforts to cut the sandalwood.

Hawaiian music

“How’s the Sunday School going?” Bertram asked.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Alva said. “Wolohu’s gotten to the point where he handles most of the lessons just fine. At least he never seems to run out of things to talk about with the children.”

In her delicate condition, she just couldn’t be bothered with it any longer. If the truth be known, she still didn’t like the children very much. They seemed so dull. But Wolohu was doing very well indeed with his show-and-tell with the Godey’s pictures and what-not for the children– and their parents sometimes as well. Everyone seemed to enjoy his lessons. She was entirely content to let him look after the Sunday School.

“You mean you can explain scripture to him that readily?”

“I mean… oh, I don’t know what I mean. I think he’s reaching his audience quite nicely with all that we’ve discussed.”

“I thought the idea was for him to translate for you.”

“Dear, I think there’s a limit to how much he can translate. I can’t very well just stand up there and talk and talk, you know. It would take ten words of explaining to him, and heaven knows how much pantomime and gesturing, for every word of scripture I might try to impart.”

“So he’s sort of improvising as he goes.”

“I wouldn’t presume that.”

“How do you know what he’s telling them?” he said. “I wonder what he is telling them.”

“Don’t worry about it, Bertram! I happen to think it’s just as important that the children are at least starting to look and act Christian. They come wearing clothes, at least, and they have an education at last—the only one they’ve ever had! They even bring their parents. They’re not quite a pack of savages any longer, and if you ask me, that’s progress!”

“Just wondering.”

Hawaiian music

Syphilis had blessed Wolohu with lucid insights to impart to his congregation at the Sunday School. The White Kahuna had succeeded in procuring an embarrassment of riches: tinned meats, iron tools, reams of gaily-colored cloth, and the fragrant tobacco that so tantalized the Hawaiians that they gathered outside the mission house just to catch a whiff of it.

This was treasure from the white man’s God, who loved His own people and lavished these gifts on them. The white man’s Heaven was not the ethereal never-never land of Paliuli, to which the souls of Hawaiians went but from which they never returned to tell the tale, much less bring souvenirs of. The white man enjoyed an open conduit of material largesse from his Heaven—a place that Wolohu had heard the kanaka Noah call “San Francisco”—being the source, to Noah’s understanding, of all that was so beloved to the white man. True believers, Wolohu deduced, lived with God in San Francisco in white houses, their interiors furnished with tables, chairs, and beds, and served meals of tinned meat, rice, and other delicacies, all served by white angels. The White Kahuna had real mana after all, and his religion was the key that opened the vault of San Francisco and its riches.

Wolohu had seen drawings in Godey’s Magazine, another holy book like the Bible, he explained to his audience. Actually prints of Yuletide scenes, they seemed to him to depict the forbidden fruit of the White Magic. For there was God, sitting in his red kapa robe and flowing white beard, surrounded with books on the secrets of making treasure, smiling cherub-like as He watched His menehune make the treasure– hard candy, carved soldiers, colored blocks and cones and bricks. At His heiau, a great tree was strewn with stars plucked from the sky and burning candles and odd tin fetishes and colored balls. On the table were piled offerings—an enormous roast moa in place of the hog. This, then, was San Francisco, covered with drifts of shimmering white mana, so deep that there were footprints like those in the ash of the caldera of Kilauea. 

But it was clear to Wolohu that the White Kahuna was reluctant to share these treasures freely with the Hawaiians. The people continued to work like beasts in the mountains, cutting and hauling sandalwood to bring to the mysterious trader in the boat, in exchange for rewards, many of which none but the White Kahuna and the chief ever saw.

He gazed at the pictures, knowing that if he could but learn the secrets, then his people could be made to live in a correct relationship with God and think upon him to bring them treasure. The sailing ship would come to Hi’ilawe with crates of cargo addressed to the Hawaiians. The nature of the White Kahuna’s relationship with the mysterious person onboard the boat was not yet given for him to understand. But Wolohu was sure that it somehow had to do with God and San Francisco, where all of His treasures lay piled under immense trees festooned with bulbs and candles, waiting to be delivered to those who knew the secrets. He knew that if he could only fathom the Mysteries of the White Kahuna’s Magic, he too could deliver treasure wrapped in brightly-dyed kapa, bundled on a sled that was pulled through the sky by magnificent animals with masts upon their heads that caught the wind, and win the admiration of all the inhabitants of Hi’ilawe, most especially the woman Kehau.

The audience at Wolohu’s Sunday School had swollen, in part because the chief told them to come, but also because Sunday School was fun. The children, and the parents and the elders as well, all came to hear Wolohu’s fantastic accounts of all that the White Magic could bring them, wonderful stories of what life was like for God and his adoring flock in San Francisco. It was there that they made things like tinned beef and tinned fish and tobacco and toys and all the furniture and wondrous things he had seen pictures of in the holy books, and stuffed them into warehouses to be taken away on sleds drawn by fantastic flying animals, to deliver up to those who were deserving.

Even if some members of the congregation tried to discount these stories and explain to their children that they detracted from soul growth, the children would not listen. Eventually, tired of being laughed at, the elders kept their feelings to themselves, for the children knew—and could not be told otherwise– that the old ways meant living in flea-infested thatch hovels and mucking about in taro patches, their skins darkened by the sun and their feet dirty. The children knew what they wanted. They wanted to be clean and light-skinned like Bertram and Alva’s little boy, wear gowns and shoes like he did, and learn to shake hands and say how do you do, like he did. All this talk from the elders about soul growth and reverence for old bones was nonsense.

Hawaiian music

Bertram tried to accept his own assembly’s low attendance as a result of his shortcomings in the language, though actually, his Hawaiian was quite good these days. Still, he was uneasy. There were many things that made him uneasy now, though Alva did not share his misgivings.

“If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times!” she declared. “A Christian way of life is a life with proper clothing, shoes, decent and clean accommodations, proper food, and quite a few other things that were absent here when we arrived. To say nothing of a proper work ethic!”

“I’m not sure,” Bertram said, “that denuding the valley of sandalwood, with entire families engaged in hewing and hauling wood in miserable conditions, is what the Good Lord asks in return for living a decent Christian life!”

“Then how are these people to have any respect for Christianity,” Alva shot back, “if they see that all it brings them is more darkness and savagery… and living in filthy hovels!”

“I’m frankly more concerned with the salvation of their souls,” Bertram said, “so they can live in Christian bliss for the rest of their immortal lives!”

“And that’s no doubt what you would have been content with for me– and your child as well– if I hadn’t had the common sense that God gave you none of, and engaged Wolohu to assist in making some practical application of Christian precepts! So, count your blessings, Bertram! You’ve got Wolohu to thank for lots more than you can imagine. As a father, you shouldn’t have to be told these things!”

Hawaiian music

Despite his misgivings, things continued as they had, until one fateful evening when Bertram, while out on stroll, heard the most God-awful caterwauling and carrying on from the direction of the chief’s house. When he went to investigate, he could scarcely believe his eyes: the chief was drunk. Seeing Bertram, he was jolly, and clapped his enormous hands on his shoulders and embraced him. But the smell of liquor was so thick that the fumes alone might have made Bertram drunk as well, had he not pushed him away. Bertram did not share the chief’s jollity and good will, and he angrily demanded to know where he had gotten the liquor. The chief at once grew sullen, and stared at him with bloodshot eyes and growing anger. When Bertram persisted, the chief took exception to his line of questioning, and took hold of him and bodily evicted him.

Bertram was livid. He knew right away that the liquor could only have come from Captain Cahoun. It would be several weeks before Falcon once again pulled into the bay at Hi’ilawe, and when it did, he would obtain the clearest accounting on this matter.

Hawaiian music

When at last Falcon did return, Bertram’s indignation was undiminished. ”Bennie, you’re nothing but a common pirate!” he spat. “Anything for a buck, right?!”

Bennie stared at him, the picture of innocence offended. “Bertram, why so huhu? What did I do?”

“As if you don’t know! I’ve gone along with things so far because, as you must surely appreciate, it’s not entirely my choice. I’ve acquiesced in the plunder of this valley for your pecuniary gain, and watched the people here descend from heaven into hell– but what must you have taken me for!“ He shook his fist, his eyes bulging cholerically as he leaned into Bennie. “Did you think the chief was going to just have a quiet little nip, and that I would never be the wiser? Wouldn’t a person of your shrewd insight have thought it possible that he might someday go a bit overboard with it, braying to the high heavens and all who would listen the virtues of your moonshine!”

“He was drunk, you say?”

“That, and you’re stupid, if you think you’re going to bluff your way out of this one!”

“What are you accusing me of? You think that I gave it to him? Maybe he got it from Hilo.”

“And pigs may fly! Just give me a straight answer, Bennie! Did you or did you not give him the liquor?!”

 “Look Bertram, I didn’t realize this was your very own private valley, and these were your very own precious children! It just so happens that Hawaii’s a part of the modern world now, and these people have got a perfect right to do as they please, just like any other.”

“So you admit it then!”

“As far as I’m concerned, the chief is lord and master of his own domain, and has a perfect right to do as he pleases. If whiskey’s what he wants, and he’s willing to pay for it, whiskey is what he gets. I’m just the delivery boy.”

“You’re also the one that put his nose into it! You know as well as I do that he didn’t know whiskey from water until you came along!”

“So what? Look, you’re not your brother’s keeper, despite what you may have been told. So, if you go around telling grown men they can’t have a bit of tipple like anyone else, you’re going to wear out your welcome here.”

“And so will you!” Bertram shot back. “Let’s understand each other, Captain Cahoun, if you don’t stop this sordid little bootlegging business instantly, I will personally go to Honolulu to take my complaint to the church, and demand that it rescind its contract with you—even if I have to swim there!”

Hawaiian music

Bertram made his case to Alva, demanding both an end to the whiskey trade, as well as to what he saw as Wolohu’s complicity in it. “This has gone too far, Alva,” Bertram said. “I’m sorry I ever got mixed up in it.”

“I might have known you’d start your complaining again sooner or later,” she said. “Can’t bear to have some of the comforts in life, can you Bertram? And why, may I ask? Does it impede your spiritual growth?”

“That’s disgraceful! It seems as if you’re mocking the Good Lord Himself!”

“I’m mocking your laughable infatuation with poverty! Except that it’s not very funny to me.”

 “I’m not saying I don’t want to provide for us! But look at what it’s done to the people here, their way of life! They’re slaving like beasts up there, cutting and hauling sandalwood in all kinds of weather! They’re tired, they’ve got blisters on their backs, and for what? So the chief and his pals can drink themselves into a stupor?! Is that what you want?”

“I don’t favor drink, Bertram—you know that. But as I see it, it’s to their benefit to embrace a Christian work ethic. Because all they ever did before was sit around naked and sleep all day! Is that what you want for them? At least now their women are properly clothed, and they don’t follow you around naked, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

“Are you still stuck on that idea of yours that I’m ogling them?”

“I don’t know what you’re paying attention to, frankly. But I’ve been paying attention, and I see a real improvement in things since we came here. And I have no intention, Bertram, no intention whatsoever, of going back to the good old days! I have no intention of ever again living in the sort of shabby circumstances that you seem to find so praiseworthy! I think that Wolohu has been doing a commendable job, and if he’s obtaining some measure of influence as a result, then that’s only his just due!”

Hawaiian music

In the beginning, Wolohu told his congregation, there was the Valley of the White Man. In the Valley dwelt Moses, the Great White Kahuna. His two sons were Jesus, who was good, and Caan, who was no good. Caan had used sugar cane sorcery to entice Jesus’ wife into an illicit affair. When Caan tattooed the buttocks of Jesus’ wife to mark her as belonging to him, Jesus had grown angry with him.

Their quarrel became very bad, and they both decided to leave the Valley. Caan left in an outrigger canoe, while Jesus, who was adept at shipbuilding, built a sailing ship, like Falcon. Bad weather at sea kept Caan’s canoe close to shore, while Jesus set sail for San Francisco. There, he became the favored son of Moses, the Great White Kahuna, while Caan and Jesus’ wife returned to remain on the island, mired in the old ways of nudity and idol worship and growing taro and sweet potatoes.

Moses gave Jesus the Ten Commandments, and told him to relay these instructions to his followers, who were white, and who obeyed them and were rewarded with goods. But the Hawaiians, the followers of Caan, refused to honor the Ten Commandments, preferring to hold fast to their sugar cane sorcery and idols. As a result, darkness and ignorance were the lot of the Hawaiians, while the whites, who had embraced the Ten Commandments, lived in large houses and ate tinned beef.

It was a long time, Wolohu explained, before God relented to the Hawaiians. This was what was meant by the Second Coming. Jesus would return to Hi’ilawe and bring presents to the Hawaiians, but only once the people had embraced him and renounced their sins of sloth and idol worship.

People might view this in pragmatic terms, Wolohu conceded. Some gods were useful in growing taro or in assuring a good catch of opelu from the bay. Some gods, like Jesus, were useful for getting things like tinned beef. It only made sense, he agreed, to keep all of your options open.

But now, he exclaimed, there could be no further fence-sitting. Either the people embraced Christianity with a view toward no other gods, or God and Jesus would relegate them to darkness and make them grow sweet potatoes forevermore. Wolohu warned of dire consequences if they failed to work hard to provide for the needs of the chief, and for the needs of the people as the chief determined them to be.

The ships that were being loaded now in San Francisco and bound for Hi’ilawe would be held back, waiting at the docks until Wolohu sent word that his people had agreed to lend their whole-hearted support to his message. But as a bonus and added inducement for them to embrace Jesus, he explained, God was prepared to change the color of the Hawaiians’ skin from dark to light. He would turn their skin white to signify His covenant with them.

But Wolohu realized, too, that even those whose skins were white were not necessarily free of taint. There was a reason why Bertram’s wife was always clothed from head to toe. He suspected that she too had once been a bride of Caan, who had tattooed her buttocks too to mark her as belonging to him, just as he had done to Jesus’ wife. She dressed to hide this badge of shame, and it was because of her shame that she and Bertram had been sent here to live among Hawaiians, the accursed followers of Caan.

But Wahine-of-the-White Kahuna had agreed to impart the secrets to him, so that Wolohu might redeem his people, and in the hands of an ardent acolyte such as he, knowledge of the secrets could bring abundant blessings for all.

More so, Wolohu thought to himself, the day would come when he would be selected by Jesus Christ to replace the White Kahuna Bertram. Then the warehouses in San Francisco would open their doors and Falcon would make delivery of all the things that God would provide, and which he would then distribute.

Still, it remained a mystery to him as to why he was forbidden to meet the captain of the little ship in the bay. It must be that it was Jesus Christ himself on the boat, kapu and forbidden to any but the White Kahuna.

Hawaiian music

Kehau listened with contempt to all the talk of what was said in Wolohu’s Sunday School. It was all just another of his self-serving ruses, she thought, with the result that everyone was made to work too hard for things that no one had needed before.

Kehau wished that people had more time to be lazy. Everything was so urgent these days. If you rested, you weren’t working, and if you weren’t worshipping you were sinning. Everything had to be done right away. Alva thought it ridiculous when Hawaiians spoke to a tree or a plant and asked it to bloom, or to a rock to ask its permission to be moved. If the rock acted as if it did not want to be moved, you asked another rock. What was the point of moving rocks that did not want to be moved, since a big rain or high waves would only come along and wash them out to where they had once been? Why was there such a hurry to do things, change things, build things, and get things? Why were people no longer content with what they had once had for countless generations here in the valley?

But Kehau’s disaffection was nothing as compared to that of the chief. Angry over the loss of his whiskey, he demanded that Bertram close the church and leave his valley.

This presented a dilemma for Wolohu, since without the White Kahuna and most especially his wife, and without the Sunday School certainly, all would be lost. It was clear to him that the only way to ease the impasse was to reinstate the chief’s supply of whiskey. But how? The kanaka Noah had told him that Captain Cahoun, concerned that he would lose his contract, would no longer acquiesce in delivering whiskey, even if there was still lots of sandalwood to be bartered for it. But if the captain would no longer cooperate, perhaps an arrangement could be entered into with the kanaka Noah. It would mean a bit of a wait, Wolohu told the chief, but he assured him that the crisis would be resolved.

Wolohu took Noah aside one evening to discuss his concerns. He asked Noah to tell the ship’s captain that the chief was no longer willing to barter wood for whiskey, and would no longer accept any of the usual baubles in trade either. Henceforth, Wolohu said, the chief would accept only cash for his sandalwood, so that some of it might then be redirected to Noah for his cooperation in delivering the whiskey.


Chapter Six


The Great Mahele promulgated by Kamehameha II decreed that the land be distributed to the farmers who worked it. But in order for the farmer to obtain clear title to the land, he would have to register his name with the authorities, and his name would then be published in the newspaper. But this did not accord with the elusive nature of the Hawaiian, some of whom called themselves by different names, as was convenient to them. Some were known to white people by one name and to their own people by another.

Many simply shrugged when offered goods in exchange for the deeds to their land. Much of the land had been given to the chiefs, and they too bargained it away for baubles, or simply gave it away outright, in some cases to missionaries who would manage the land in return for concessions. They accepted the bolts of gaily-colored cloth and tobacco and baubles and thought to themselves, “More foreign nonsense.” In their way of life, things had always been collectively owned. The land, the sky, the sea—these things belonged to no man.

It was said that the missionaries came to Hawaii to do good, and did very well indeed. Some of them held positions of power in His Majesty’s cabinet. Others became preoccupied with the business of serving Mammon, not God– especially when the land they were given, initially thought to be arid and worthless, was discovered to hold aquifers of water that was pure and sweet and excellent for growing things. With water, the land could be made to produce crops of considerable value.

The missionaries had begun to leave the church in droves to pursue their newfound business interests. As Bertram could confirm, the Board in Boston had been inadequate in its support for its missions in Hawaii. Salaries had been late or had been skipped altogether and there was no money to keep the existing missions in good repair.

There was speculation that the church must either change its ways or cease to be. The departure of so many of the brethren sent a clear signal to the church that it must become financially viable.

Accordingly, the Board of Missions now desired that all missions become more self-sufficient. It had become necessary for the missions to somehow acquire their own land and conduct whatever business was necessary to support themselves.

Hawaiian music

Princess Ruth Kamakawiwo’ole lay on her death bed, confessing her sins to Brother Johnson, head of the mission in Honolulu.

“I’m dying, Reverend Johnson. But I am at peace. I am at peace because of you. You have been a great comfort to me. And when I die, I will go into the light of the Savior, not to some dark place.”

“You are an inspiration to your race, Princess Ruth.”

“I wish there was more I could do to thank you. But you are a man of God, and there is nothing I could give you that would interest you.”

“Of course not. My reward is in witnessing the salvation of your immortal soul. There’s nothing that could gratify me more.”

“But there is something more that I want to do for my people, Reverend Johnson. Something that you can help me with, if you don’t mind. One last time.”

“What is it?”

“I have some land, in Waikiki. It isn’t worth much, it’s just duck ponds and coral and keawe. But I don’t want to sell it. I want you to take care of it, rent it out if you can. And use the money to start a school for Hawaiian children, so that they too can be educated and become Christians and someday die saved.  

“Actually,” she continued, “my brother’s the one that has the valuable land. He’s a chief, you know, the chief of Hi’ilawe, a valley on the Big Island. He’s the one who can really help you. He’s got so much land, land that grows the best taro in all Hawai’i!

“Problem is, he doesn’t know nothing! You know how those people are over there, they live in the past. They still worship the old gods, some of them! I don’t know about him, though. Maybe I can write one letter. Can you write that letter for me?”

“Of course, Ruth. Certainly. But let me be clear on what you’re saying. Are you saying that you want to will your lands to the church, so that the church might hold them in trust? Manage them, and use the money to educate Hawaiian children?”

“Yes.”

“God bless you, Princess Ruth. God will surely have a very special place in His Heaven for you.”   

Hawaiian music

That day, Princess Ruth dictated a letter to be taken and read to her brother the chief of Hi’ilawe, telling him of her conversion to the Christian faith, and asking that he too abandon his pagan ways and embrace Jesus Christ. She told him that she was willing her lands to the church, with the stipulation that the rents derived from them be used to educate Hawaiian children at the mission school in Honolulu. As a final favor to her, would he do the same?

Hawaiian music

Bertram was summoned to a meeting of all the ministers of the church’s missions throughout the islands. He strolled into the church office in Honolulu.

“Brother Bertram!” exclaimed Brother Johnson. “What a pleasure! It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen you! How’s life treating you over on the Big Island?”

“A bit better, on balance. Mrs. Bingham and I are at last building a proper house now. Our old quarters were a bit cramped, as you may have heard.”

“Ah yes. I almost miss your impassioned entreaties for material assistance. They used to come so regularly.” The poor fellow, Brother Johnson thought, one of the last of the faithful, and so ill-rewarded for that. “Every time Captain Cahoun came by to collect for his services, he had the same tale of woe to relate. Sorry we couldn’t be of much assistance. It’s just that funding from the Board… well, that of course is the subject of our upcoming meeting here.

“But there’s another reason I asked you to come to Honolulu,” Brother Johnson continued, “apart from what we’ll discuss in the meeting. Not only does the Board want us to provide better for ourselves, as I’m sure you’ll concur we should, but a few of the brethren have even acquired their own land from the local chiefs. I think you might be well advised to take some initiative in that respect. Actually, it’s on more than just our advice that you should do so. But there’s another matter as well.”

Brother Johnson pulled open his desk drawer, and removed the letter. “I have here a letter from Princess Ruth Kamakawiwo’ole to her brother, the chief of Hi’ilawe, which she dictated to me on her deathbed. I’d like you to deliver it when you return. You’ll need to read it to him.”

Hawaiian music

As Bertram was odious in the eyes of the chief, Alva said that she and Wolohu would go together to see the chief and read him the letter and discuss things with him.

Wolohu listened as Alva read him the letter from Princess Ruth and patiently explained everything it had to say. It was sad that the chief’s sister had died, she said. But it was her dying wish that her brother promise his land to the church, so that it might someday provide for the education of Hawaiian children.

It all made perfect sense to Wolohu. This, he realized, was the “Promise of Land” that the Great White Kahuna Moses had secured for his own flock, and for which he had been showered with mana in the desert as a result. The Promise of Land was a crucial element of the White Magic, Wolohu knew, one that meant that Jesus Christ would deliver the cargo to the Hawaiians of Hi’ilawe. The Promise of Land would cause mana to pile up in great drifts, just as he had seen it in San Francisco. Jesus Christ was a jealous god, much like Ku, who would lavish his generosity upon those who promised him their land. Indeed, if Wolohu could help secure the Promise of Land, then surely Jesus Christ would favor him, rather than Bertram, as his chosen disciple.

It was a moment of seminal insight: Wolohu now realized that he held in his hands the Key to Christmas. He was dazzled by the prospects it held. This would bring such immense prestige and fame to his Sunday School that the foolish and inept Bertram would be put to everlasting shame. This would so discredit the White Kahuna in the eyes of Kehau that she would come to him to beg his forgiveness, beg him to take her back. The only question was, how to gull the chief into signing over the lands of Hi’ilawe to the church?

Alva and Wolohu arrived at the chief’s house for the sad duty of informing him of his sister’s death. When the chief received the news, he became distraught, and was thrown into the throes of a personal and spiritual crisis. Heart-broken, he bashed his head against a rock in the traditional display of mourning, and broke some of his teeth.

But they were there, with him in his hour of despair, to console him. Wolohu reminded the chief of what the Bible taught, that salvation awaited people like Ruth, who were good. But God had decided to punish those Hawaiians who had not embraced Jesus Christ. For they were followers of Caan, and were bad. God had decided to destroy them with a mudslide. But Jesus had thought upon the people of Hi’ilawe, Wolohu assured the chief, and had pleaded with God to refrain from destroying them.

Jesus had wanted to return personally to Hi’ilawe to help his people make amends, Wolohu continued, and he had intended to bring with him a large cargo of goods. But Bertram had resisted, as he did not want the Hawaiians to share the wealth that he alone enjoyed. In fact, Wolohu explained, Bertram had gone so far as to tie Jesus to a scaffold, and was preparing to sacrifice him at his own heiau. 

The chief listened, emotionally fraught and susceptible to the wiles of Wolohu’s design. He wasn’t sure he understood all of it, but now that Wolohu was talking treasure, he was interested.

In his hour of grief, Wolohu assured him, the chief was not to despair. For he was here to share with him the Good News: Jesus had escaped from the heiau. In fact, the mysterious person on the sailing ship anchored in the bay was Jesus Christ. The reason that Jesus had not tipped his hand all this time was that he was undecided as to how sincere the Hawaiians were in their desire to give up their old ways for a better life. Jesus had bartered away only bits and pieces of the treasure thus far, Wolohu confided, but would soon consider sending in the bulk of the treasure, including the whiskey, to the chief.

Wolohu knew that Falcon had arrived that morning with more than just tragic news and the usual trade goods. True to his word, the kanaka Noah had obtained a quantity of whiskey, and now that the chief had broken his teeth, his pain– and its prospective relief– would lend great impetus to his cooperation.

Jesus had insisted that the chief must first signify his sincerity, in the white man’s way, by affixing his mark, in ink, upon a promise, written in English, to reform. If he signed the pledge, then Jesus Christ, the captain of the Falcon, would give him all the whiskey he wanted.

Grief-stricken, and with his broken teeth in great pain, the chief indeed took consolation in the news that Jesus Christ, and the whiskey, had arrived on the ship in the bay. He regarded this as an unmistakable sign that he must at last let God into his life, as his sister Ruth had urged him to do in her dying testament. Thus reassured, he agreed to sign, so that Jesus, who had conferred divine grace upon his poor sister Ruth, might deliver forgiveness and prosperity to his people and whiskey to himself. Wolohu would return the next day, first with the deed, prepared for his signature, and later with the whiskey, once Wahine-of-the-White-Kahuna had left and gone home.

Hawaiian music

As Wolohu had explained it, the chief had reached a turning point in his spiritual affairs, where he wished to convey land for the church at Hi’ilawe to call its very own. But all of his land? Bertram was astonished at the generosity of the bequest, but Alva assured him that matters had been carefully explained to him, and that he had arrived at his decision of his own free will. Bertram took it as a sign that at last the Word of God had found its way into the chief’s heart, and that he had been touched by the Christian example of his sister’s generosity.

Later that day, with Alva and Wolohu in attendance, the chief made his mark upon the Promise of Land.

In keeping with his end of the bargain, Wolohu took delivery of the whiskey from the kanaka Noah, and brought it to the chief who, having suffered too long from great pain, drank down more than he should. In the middle of the rainy night, he awoke with a raging headache and burning thirst. He stumbled out the door to fetch a drink from the rainwater barrel. In a daze, he slipped and twisted his ankle horribly. He lay there in the rain all night before he was discovered the next morning, his breathing shallow and labored, and suffering from the onset of pneumonia. Several days later he was dead.

Hawaiian music

When Bertram realized that the chief had died drunk, there was hell to pay.

“I am shocked beyond words!” he told Alva. “He was dead drunk when he died! You could smell it, thick as fog! This has gone far enough, as I told you once before. I won’t put up with it!”

Captain Cahoun swore he had nothing to do with it. And what could he prove anyway, except that Bertram knew that Wolohu was up to his eyeballs in this somehow.

“Since you’re talking about Wolohu,” Alva said, “we have already discussed this.”

“That’s right! There will be no more discussion! It has gone well beyond mere regret on my part. It has become tragedy!”

“It’s not Wolohu’s fault!” Alva said. “It was purely an accident, and Wolohu had nothing with it!”

“Well, I’m not so sure of that, either! It all smells wrong to me—the whole sandalwood business– monkey business more likely! First it was swindling the chief out of his land, and now the poor devil’s dead!”

“Nobody swindled anybody out of anything, Bertram! I was there! It was all entirely above-board! It was nothing more than what Princess Ruth wanted for the benefit of the very children that we are here to teach!”

“Nevertheless,” Bertram said, “I am shutting down the Sunday School– and I am shutting down the Reverend Wolohu!”

“Bertram, that’s entirely unreasonable, and I don’t think–”

“Be quiet!!”

Alva was stunned, and momentarily at a loss.

“Bertram,” she started again in a small voice, “don’t talk to me like that.”

“I am shutting down the Sunday School! I will nail it shut with boards if need be! And I am sending your friend Wolohu packing, to wherever it may be! I will no longer have a house of God made into a laughingstock!”

Surprised and stricken at his outburst, “Suit yourself” was all she would say.

Hawaiian music

Wolohu had told his congregation, over and over again, of his prophecy that those Hawaiians who refused to embrace Jesus Christ would soon be destroyed by the mudslide. Much as had happened years ago, he experienced another vision, he told them, in which an angel had warned him of the coming of a cataclysm that would destroy the wicked and usher in the good life for the elect.

But now, he had been evicted him from his Sunday School and cut off from his congregation. Denied further access to his forum, Wolohu had erected a dais down at the opposite end of the beach from where the mission was. It was there that he would receive messages from God in San Francisco. He sent word to his congregation that those who would follow him should gather at his dais on the beach, where God, in His infinite mercy, would provide them with sanctuary from the mudslide. The mud would recede, and as heirs to God’s goodwill, the Elect would then rise up to both claim their treasure and reclaim their purged and cleansed valley. And following the cataclysm, Falcon would return to the bay and unload goods in greater number and variety than they could imagine, and everything would be theirs with no further requirement to cut sandalwood.

On the strength of these assurances, most of the village showed up the next day at the dais, in numbers far exceeding his congregation at the Sunday School. Beholding the crowd, Wolohu realized that his epiphany was at hand, and that it was time to implement his grand design to succeed Bertram and the now-deceased chief and establish himself as the pre-eminent kahuna of Hi’ilawe, and win the admiration and affections of his beloved Kehau.

From the dais, Wolohu held forth. He predicted that rains would soon commence that would engulf Hi’ilawe and bring on the mudslide. He ordained special prayers, and later, when it indeed began to rain, he announced that this was a divine sign that the mudslide was about to begin. He urged that the Elect hasten to enter into their covenant with God and place their trust in Him, lest they perish in the rising muck. Covering his bases, he enjoined his audience to continue to sit outside in the rain so that their sins would be washed away, so that God might hold the mudslide in momentary abeyance.

His followers sat before the dais and sang hymns. Just as Wolohu said it would, the rain, which heralded the beginning of the end for those who would not join in his revival, continued to fall throughout the day and into the night. But as was often the case, the next day dawned clear and bright, and those who had stayed out in the rain all night rose and warmed themselves in the rising sun. And as the sun brought warmth, Wolohu spoke. God had heard their prayers, he told them, and the rain had washed away their sins. The mudslide would be withheld, for now.

As the morning brightened, most of Wolohu’s audience left to return to their homes. Some had repaired to the shade of nearby trees to see what happened next. People from the village wandered by, and some laughed.

Among those who came to have a look were Bertram and Kehau. “This is madness!” Bertram said. “Look at him! He’s behaving like a madman, sitting out there in the rain all night, caterwauling about the Second Coming, of himself namely, I should think! God only knows what these people have come to believe about Christ and Christianity!”

Kehau and Bertram went to see for themselves. She wanted to see what Bertram was so upset about. She looked at the muddy scene before the dais, steaming in the sun, and then at Wolohu, sitting there upon his dais, soaked. She laughed. She looked at Bertram, and laughed. Then she turned and looked at Wolohu again and laughed so hard that he hardly recognized her. In that moment, Wolohu knew that he was finished, knew that he had played his hand and lost. Humiliated, he had lost his dignity, his authority, his mana, and had become a laughingstock, and nothing so mortified him as to watch her laugh as she did.

Hawaiian music

A tremendous surf thundered beyond a grove of ironwood and the remains of Wolohu’s dais, a desolate area of sand dunes, not far from an ancient burial ground. The rain had eroded some of the sand hills into weird gargoyle forms, and it was there amongst the gargoyles, some smooth and red, others white and filled with glare, that Wolohu had made his new home. All round him lay the detritus of his doomed cult– broken bottles and tin cans, rusted odds and ends of implements, rotted swatches of cloth and paper. The sand whistled and lashed like cat’s claws, and the wind hissed like a coiled serpent, malignant and venomous, like Wolohu’s hatred of Bertram.

Lightning shot through the skies and a cannonade of thunder erupted just overhead. Wolohu stared, wild-eyed. People had laughed at him and his followers for sitting out in the rain all night, awaiting a Deluge that had failed to materialize. “This is madness!” Bertram said. “Look at him! He’s behaving like a madman, sitting out there in the rain all night, caterwauling about the Second Coming, of himself namely, I should think! God only knows what these people have come to believe about Christ and Christianity!”

Bertram had disbanded the Sunday School, and had ousted him from the church. Everyone was laughing at him– Kehau, most of all. The images of her mirth at his expense would remain with him always. The die was cast then, and Wolohu girded himself for the final showdown. They might laugh at him and mock him as they wished. But with the hour at hand for the Battle for Christmas, who would Jesus Christ favor? Would he not favor the devout? Would he not favor the one who had consecrated himself to the Mysteries, and proven himself worthy by winning for Wahine-of-the-White-Kahuna the Promise of Land?

Thunder rumbled, and things were said to him he did not hear clearly, so he did not know what had been said. But he was quite sure of what must have been said, for there was one last chance for Wolohu to reclaim for himself leadership of the faith, and claim for his people the cargo of Christmas.

No one except Bertram and his kanaka Noah had ever actually seen the captain of the little ship Falcon. He never showed himself, nor had he ever come ashore. But it had made sense that he would not reveal himself, since he had been dispensing only token bits of cargo in order to test the faith of the people. Wolohu believed that it was Jesus Christ onboard the boat, and the more he thought about it, the more he knew it was so.

Jesus would not deliver the corpus of the cargo until Wolohu went out to claim it. Now that the chief was no more, it was for Wolohu, who had brought Wahine-of-the-White-Kahuna the Promise of Land, to seize the day.

Hawaiian music

Falcon had been away for some time, but at last the day came when morning revealed it anchored in the still waters of the bay. In the meantime, Wolohu had perfected his plan. He had resolved that when at last the little ship pulled into the bay, he would confront Jesus Christ on the boat, and if necessary tie him up with a rope and compel him to sail to San Francisco. There, they would load the cargo onto a sailing ship, one of the great ships that Wolohu remembered from Godey’s, and sail it to Hi’ilawe in time for Christmas, so that Wolohu might once again be a hero to his people, and to the woman he loved.

That night, he made ready the canoe, which he had taken from the beach in front of a fisherman’s hut hours before, then paddled it stealthily out toward Falcon and its waiting captain, Jesus Christ. The canoe pulled up beside the ship, and as Wolohu reached up to pull himself up onto deck, the canoe thumped against the ship’s hull. Awakened by the noise, Bennie emerged from the cabin, pistol in hand, and beheld the intruder standing before him.

In the light of the moon, Wolohu stared, disbelieving. The shock of recognizing his old nemesis, the thief of his affections and of the Ark of Lono, paralyzed him. In the next instant, Captain Cahoun raised up his pistol and discharged a loud blast into the night sky. Wolohu, who had never seen nor heard gunshot before, leaped off the ship and into the ocean. In terror, he thrashed about in the sea, and as Bennie watched, he scrambled to regain his canoe, and once in, paddled frantically for shore.

Roused by the sound of gunfire, some came running to the beach from their houses, just in time to see a dark figure struggle from the water, climb over the rocks, and run off into the night, his syphilitic gait unmistakable.

Hawaiian music

His humiliation was complete. Sitting in his hovel, his shame and his rage festered. He did not dare to emerge into daylight, for he knew that by now the entire valley would have heard of his rout by Jesus Christ. There was no sense in telling anyone that it wasn’t Jesus Christ. He was completely disgraced. The only thing that mattered to him now was revenge.

He pondered the treachery that had caused his carefully considered plans to come to grief. It became clear to him that Bertram had long ago entered into complicity with the thief Bennie, so that they might plunder the land of sandalwood to enrich themselves, and to take the riches of the lands of the chief for their own nefarious ends. He saw now what a fool he had been. He had been defrauded and used for their unspeakable purposes. Bertram had done him a terrible injustice in closing the Sunday School, and after all that, had seen fit to mock his efforts before his congregation, to incite their ridicule of him, and to now revel with Kehau in his humiliation. His rage was murderous.

Hawaiian music

At the far end of the bay was a tide pool, strictly kapu. In it there grew a soft coral that glowed faintly at night, like the phosphorescence of the surf. The coral was a deadly poison, and was known to kill hogs that it had been fed to, and to even kill the dogs that had licked up the vomit of the hogs that it had sickened.

Wolohu went to the tide pool one night, and carefully scraped off some of the coral. He brought it back to his hut, where he spread it on a banana leaf to dry in the sun for a few days. When it was dry, Wolohu pulverized it with rocks, grinding it into a fine powder.

That night, he went to the mission. He stole inside, treading softly down the hall and into Bertram’s study. Just as he expected, there on his desk lay the tobacco pouch. Alva had never allowed him to smoke inside, but Bertram had faithfully taken his pipe and the pouch each evening on his stroll along the beach. Wolohu picked up the tobacco pouch, smelled the fragrant weed, and then tipped in the powdered coral. Then he wrapped up the pouch and gave it a good shake.

Hawaiian music

“I really think you’ve been too hard on poor Wolohu,” Alva said.

“I think we should just let sleeping dogs lie, thank you,” Bertram said.

“I think it would be the Christian thing to do to reach out a hand of friendship to him. You can just imagine how the poor man feels just now. He doesn’t have a friend in the world. You should forgive him.”

         “He’ll only take advantage.”

         “Then you’re not much of an example to your own flock, are you?”

She did have a point. Who, more than he, could better demonstrate Christian forgiveness? Would it not the ideal time for him to take the high road?

“I’ll think upon it, Alva. I’m going out for a walk.”   

In truth, Bertram felt incapable of taking a high road anywhere. The past few days he felt like he was catching something, flue perhaps, and he wasn’t really up to the walk tonight. But since he said he’d think about it, he thought he better take the walk just the same. He ducked into his study, collected his pipe and tobacco, and set out for his evening stroll.

Hawaiian music

When Bertram was found dead on the path along the beach that night, there were no outward signs of foul play. But the Hawaiians immediately thought of Night Marchers. First the chief, and now Bertram.

These were things that people must not involve themselves with, things supernatural. The land was generous, but the spirits of the land would not forgive avarice; they punished it. When people behaved that way, it would come back to them in ways they could not possibly expect.

The people of Hi’ilawe had become possessed by possessions. Now that they had things, they didn’t seem to need each other’s company so much. Their talk was mostly about things and of getting things. There was less joy in the Hawaiian heart, and more fear and more desire. Both of which seemed like two sides of the same coin.

The spirit of the valley had sickened. And not long after his murder of Bertram, Wolohu died, too, alone and out of his mind. 

Kehau, who suffered from the same illness that had maddened Wolohu, but which in her had taken a different course and inflicted few symptoms, was heartbroken over Bertram’s death.

Gone was the White Kahuna and his God. Gone too were the old-time kahunas, and their gods that once upon a time ensured a plentiful catch of opelu and an abundant harvest of taro and potatoes. Gone was the assurance that the events of each day and the rhythms of nature would repeat themselves faithfully.

Now nothing seemed assured. Farmers let their farms go to ruin. The banks of the taro patches were poorly tended, their intakes clogged with Hilo grass and wandering Jew. The fresh water that was lifeblood to the taro didn’t circulate, and the taro that grew nowadays was nothing like the taro of old. There used to be sacks of taro heavy enough to bend a man down to his waist.

Nowadays there was much affliction and many shortcomings. People no longer prayed to the gods or beseeched their guardian spirits. Only when the taro matured did they pray. But others did not pray at all. They were people who followed rain showers, so to speak. When rain fell on one side of the land they followed it there. When it fell on the other side, they followed it there to plant. Never mind there was plenty of rain in Hi’ilawe to go around.

The little ship that used to bring things to Hi’ilawe, and take away the sandalwood, came but one last time, to pick up Mrs. Bingham and her little boy. It never came again. The old mission stood empty. Nobody would approach it or enter it. It was a cursed place.


Chapter Seven


Hi’ilawe, 1963

A boy jumped in and swam for the coil of rope floating in the sunlit sea. He brought the line to the barge, where it was cinched up tight. Soon, the huge sacks of sugar came creaking and rumbling down the rope from the loading shed high atop the sea cliffs, and were loaded onto the wallowing barge that would take them on to Hilo.

Men were lowered from the barge into the heaving boat. They pulled on the oars, and the boat made its way through the chop to the old pier. Though it was late morning, the town was steeped in shadow, the sun still far from clearing the steep valley walls that hemmed in the settlement at Hi’ilawe. Two men, Kaipo Wongham and his half-wit brother Herman, climbed aboard the trap to begin the long ride along the rutted road that led up and out of the valley to the plantation.

The carriage bumped along as it ascended the valley, and Kaipo squinted as they emerged from the shadow into the sunlight that flooded the lower reaches of the valley. Guava branches lashed the sides of the carriage, their freight of ripe fruit spattering into the dust that swirled up and hung in a tawny haze in the wake of the carriage. The heat rose with the sun. He mopped the grime and sweat from his forehead, and looked about as the keawe scrub gave way to brakes of emerald cane that rustled listlessly in the sun. An hour later, they pulled into the cluster of buildings and tiny houses and sheds and stores that was the plantation community.

The air was sultry and thick, brimming with sun and humming with dragonflies, whose blue pencil bodies hovered on wings of black lace. They darted and danced among great unruly growths of ixora and ilima, tendrils of white hibiscus, and clumps of lemon yellow crotons. Mango trees dripped piney sap that, in the cloying humidity, drew hordes of fruit flies to the smashed fruit lying about its trunk, and herb gardens thick with rosemary and creosote-scented rue drowsed in the heat. The tiny pineboard houses were identical, except for their paint. Some were painted forest green and others simply whitewashed. Most had roofs that had rusted red.

The two brothers walked to the super’s office and sat down on the long wooden bench in the hallway. “Just keep it quiet with your damn stories!” Kaipo said.

Herman looked at him, pretending not to understand.

“They don’t care what kind big shot you are. They not hiring big shot! They hiring people for cut cane, that’s all.”

“Okay,” said Herman. “I won’t say nothing.”

“That’s right. No more stories. ‘Cause if you no can get one job for cut cane, you no can get one job for do nothing! And I’m going have to take care of you the rest of your life, you understand? So don’t even open you mouth, except for say ‘Yes sir!’ or ‘No sir!’ If you start telling stories, I’m going slap you head!”

“Okay. I’m not going say nothing. No stories.”

 Soon a man came up to them. “You guys here for work?” he asked.

“Yeah. Both of us. This my brother Herman. I’m Kaipo. They said you folks was hiring.”

They went into office and sat down. Herman looked straight ahead, smiling sweetly.

“You guys have any experience?”

“Sure, get plenty!” Herman started. “When we was kids—”

“Herman, I going explain, okay? Nevah mind, okay? I going tell him!”

“Well, we used to go our auntie’s farm,” Kaipo continued. “We helped cut the hay, feed the horse. We did all kine odd jobs around the place. Nothing special, but all day long was hard work. I don’t know nothing about cut cane, but we like work outside, work hard.”

“Yeah, I don’t mind work hard… but I not going feed no hoss!” Herman interrupted. “Last time you wen’ try feed da buggah, he wen’ kick you over here!” He pointed to his groin and agonized.

“Eh, shaddup already!” Kaipo said.

“Thas’ why you said it never work!” Herman persisted. “But you girlfriend too ugly, thas’ why never work!” He made a face, then drew his hands over his foolish grin.

“Shaddup!” Kaipo hissed. “He don’t wanna hear this kine crap!”

The super intervened. “Comedian, yeah?”

“No…” Kaipo protested. “He’s a straight guy. Really. He won’t give you no trouble.”

The super looked skeptical.

“Well, we need men. It’s hard work. Sun’s hot. The pay’s lousy– ten cents an hour. But the beds are clean and the food’s pretty good– depending which dorm you stay. We take good care of our people. However, some of our people don’t take such good care of themselves. They drink. They make trouble. They get accident. But if you keep your nose clean, you can make some money, and you can save it. We feed you, we take care of you, we give you place to stay. You don’t gotta spend nothing. So maybe someday you can do something else. You want it?”

“Yeah, we want it.”

“Okay. But I don’t want no monkey business. If you guys do your job and no make trouble, then okay. But I’m going tell you once, that’s all. This place not some amusement park. You get up at five, you put in a full day. You eat supper at six-thirty. Then your time is your own, ‘til nine. Then lights out. No drinking. If you get caught drinking, that’s it, you’re fired! You understand?” They nodded their agreement. Herman stared vacantly straight ahead, said nothing.

“You understand?”

He snapped to, looked at him, and nodded.

“Okay. Then Robert going show you guys where to bunk. Monday morning you report here six o’clock, sharp. I’ll introduce you to Masa. You going work for him.”

They made their way through the camp to a long, low building built on stilts, plantation-style, so the water wouldn’t flood in when it rained hard.

Being Saturday afternoon, most of the men were at their bunks, and they looked around to find a couple of empty beds. “Well, looks like this the place for you guys. Home sweet home. Eh, Joe! When da mama-san going feed you guys dinner?”

“Maybe five or so.”

“Okay. There you have it, if you guys can hold out ‘til then. Joe, you can show these guys around, show ‘em where stuff is? Give ‘em the grand tour, okay?”

By and by they had dinner, just rice and shoyu chicken and whatevah. But they ate plenty! After dinner, they put away what few things and clothes they had, and sat down on their beds.

“You guys like go look around?” Joe said.

“I like take one nap,” Kaipo said. “Herman, you go. Can tell me all about it later, yeah?”

Hawaiian music

The island of Hawai’i was being constantly reinvented, its long slopes buried and reburied under the flows of a’a from Mauna Loa. The flows snaked down the flanks of the great mountain, kicking up enormous clouds of steam as they poured into the sea, clouds that condensed and rained down on the lush farmland. The lava sprouted grasses, then grew shrubs and scrubby trees, and in time it was re-forested and then planted in sugar.

It was sweltering, brutal work, hacking down shrubs and setting fire to stretches of dry pili grass that cast up clouds of sooty smoke that blocked out the sun and choked the men. They cut the cane by day, and burned the rubbish in cane fires that crackled and glowed in the sooty night. In the morning, they came in and picked up the unburned trash and loaded it onto carts, picking over the fields to make sure that every piece of cane was picked up and sent to the mill.

Amidst a backdrop of emerald cane fields, brown and black lava patches, smoking, foggy uplands, and the robin’s egg blue of sea and sky, the men who had come so far from their families still thought their surroundings dreary. Their aches and inner desolation made this place seem bitter. They slapped at mosquitoes and yellowjackets, sweated under the boiling sun, choked on clouds of cane smoke and fly ash, and flailed away at cane brakes under the watchful eye of the lunas.

But nobody ever starved here. When the people put on a real spread, there was just no end to it. Everyone from all different camps came– Koreans, Japanese, Filipinos, and so on. They each brought something that was special for them. That Sunday, it was all laid out under the beach grape trees next to the ball field. The imu and the big kettle drum filled with charcoal were both going, and kids turned the chicken with tongs on the kettle drum. The smoke drifted through the needles of the ironwood trees at the edge of the ball field, where families sat around on beach mats under canvas tarps on poles anchored by guy wires, and old Japanese obaa-san milled around in the shade of a nearby trees, their grandsons strapped to their backs.

The imu, piled high with hot boulders, put out clouds of heat shimmer and steam from the banana leaves that lined the pit. Just that morning, they had led the hog out to the lava flats by the sea. There they had cut its vein. Squealing pitiably, the animal staggered and careened among the ropes of pahoehoe. After it collapsed, the last of its lifeblood drained out to be washed away by the sea spray. The men hoisted it onto the plank, gutted it, cleaned its viscera and packed it into a plastic bucket to use later for sausage casing.

They tied up its trotters and brought the hog, suspended from a bamboo pole, to the imu, and lowered it into the pit onto an underlying net of chicken wire. Chicken wire meat was the best, the kind that stuck to the wire mat after it was unrolled from the cooked pig. The hog yawned improbably over the rock in its maws, and other rocks were jimmied into cavities between its shoulders and neck. It cooked all morning and part of the afternoon, and the men tended the imu with long tongs and a spade.

For that one day, it was great, sitting under the trees, eating pig and drinking sodas, talking story, dozing, playing ball.

“Eh!” Joe said. “Let’s go!”

Herman looked up at him, not comprehending the nature or intent of the imperative.

“Go where?” Herman said.

“C’mon! I like show you one good place, for catch fish.” He winked, then jerked his head to one side.

They walked down past the end of the beach and onto the lava. It was hot out there, under the glare of the sun and the sea. They found a place behind an outcropping of lava, next to the ocean, and sat down.

“Sure would be nice to have a beer right about now, huh?” Joe said.

 “Man, I see you one and raise you one on that,” Herman said. “Nevah mind the fish.”

 “Well, no more beer, but I get the next best thing maybe, even if it’s not cold.” He pulled a pint flask from his pocket. Herman’s eyes lit up and he cackled with glee.

That was the acid test, and Herman passed beautifully. Joe was always on the lookout for someone to bend an elbow with, and he recognized in Herman the qualities of rascality that were essential to his purpose. Most were either too stupid, too honest, no sense of fun, or no sense of humor, none of the things that the position required. But in Herman Ho’omalimalinuiloa Wongham, Joe had found his man. They passed the flask back and forth for a while, then climbed back up onto the ground above the lava and dozed off under the ironwoods. It was a good beginning.

“Wassa matter you?” Kaipo said the next morning. “Looks like you going you own funeral.”

“I think I get flu,” Herman said.

“Was it something you ate yesterday? Naw, couldn’ta been, come to think of it. Nevah saw you eat nothing. Where you was all day?”

“Nowhere.”

“Well, you not going stay out sick already, are you?”

“No. I going work.”

Work was the last thing he wanted to do. In the hot sun and glare that poached his eyeballs, Herman could hardly stand. It was like Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell out there. His tongue was parched and cracked, his head was splitting, and he just wanted to collapse. Was one long day.

Actually, it never made much difference whether he worked or not. Most days were the same— not much got done. He just stood around, put one leafy top here, one there, one over there. Bees had their nests in the dry leaves, and boy did they get mad when those dry leaves had to be pulled off. They stung him good.

Four men were assigned to hoe that section of land. Three worked pretty steady, up and down, up and down. But Herman just dawdled, sometimes just stood there and smiled vacantly, or watched as the wasps chased the other men.

Kaipo was different, Masa noticed. Worked hard. But his brother Herman did nothing much. “He’s not right in the head, is he?” he asked.

Kaipo shook his head slowly. “No.”

“Do you guys come as a team? I cannot take one without the other?”

“He’s my brother. I gotta take care of him.”

“You work hard, Kaipo. You don’t make trouble. You don’t hold things up. But this guy, different story. It takes him half a day to do what the others do in half hour. And even then, I gotta send someone back to do it over. I’m paying good money… for what?”

Kaipo muttered something by way of acknowledgment.

“Tell you what. I’m going pull him off the line, so he doesn’t hold up the others. There’s a fence over in camp that needs painting. I don’t know how long it’s gonna take him to paint it. By the time it’s done, maybe, gonna be old and weathered again already. But you bring him to the yard tomorrow, then you go show him how to do it, okay?”

Hawaiian music

Next day Kaipo and Herman met Masa at the yard. They got paint and brushes, and walked over to the camp where the faded white fence ran along the backs of the little cottages where the families lived.

“Listen, Herman,” Kaipo said. “You wen’ make trouble already! You almost got us fired! You so slow!”

Herman looked at him dumbly and smiled.

“It’s not funny, so wipe that stupid look off your face! This is serious! Masa going give you one more chance. You gotta paint this fence, make ‘em nice, no slop paint all over! You understand?” He showed Herman how to paint, dipping the brush into the paint can, squeezing off the excess, then steadily painted the boards up and down.

“You think you can handle that? You gonna be on your own, so I gotta depend upon you! No fool around. No stare at the clouds. No wander off and play with the kids! Just work hard, and after one week, I want this fence all done, okay?”

The job went well enough the first few days. With great deliberation, Herman painted one picket after the next. Mesmerized by the gentle sunlight and the easygoing, repetitive nature of the work, he painted every splinter, never spill one drop. So what if it took twice as long– at least was no trouble.

The kids came back from school, and started nosing around out back. They saw Herman painting, came over to him, asked if they could paint too.

“No! Go away!” Herman said. “Get outta here!” One of them touched a board, got paint on his hands. “Look! You wen’ mess up my work! Look at that now! Was real nice ‘til you got your hands on it!”

He looked at his handiwork… was pretty nice even so.

A mango sailed through the air, thumped down onto the grass nearby.

“Hey!” Herman called out. “Who threw a mango at me?!”

Another one landed nearby. There was laughter from somewhere. Herman reached over, picked up the mango, threw it back in the direction of the laughter, yelling at the kids. Thus began a steady torment, and all through the rest of the week, they circled around unseen, pelting him, then ran away, laughing.

When Kaipo showed up to get his brother, all over was mangoes, many of them nicked with paint. Just then, another mango sailed in and hit the fence. Laughter from somewhere over by the houses.

“Damn kids been throwing mangoes all day!” Herman said.

Kaipo caught site of an urchin, and walked over, grabbed his arm, and scolded him. At the same time, the boy’s father came out onto the porch of the house.

“Eh!” he shouted. “What you doing?!”

“Eh yourself!” Kaipo said. “Why don’t you tell your kid to stop bothering my brother! He’s trying to paint the fence, and they keep throwing mangoes at him. Try look all those mangoes over there!”

“Well, it looks like your brother needs all the help he can get anyhow! Maybe the kids was throwing mangoes at him to remind him to get back to work!”

Was pretty huhu, the guy, this damn Portugee talking stink about lazy no-good kanakas— was like the pot calling the kettle black.

Hawaiian music

Kaipo sat down in the skimpy shade of the cane brake. The sun beat down, and there wasn’t a breath of breeze to rustle the cane. Just hot and still. Masa sometimes came out to the field during break, and today, for whatever reason, he came over and sat down next to Kaipo.

He asked how it was going and made small talk.

“What you got for lunch today?” he asked Kaipo.

He looked, was just the usual, shoyu chicken, rice, some sliced radish.

“Hmm, you like trade? I got musubi, some kimchee. Here, you like mackerel? Trade you for chicken.”

They ate. He hadn’t had mackerel in a while.

“Hot day all right,” Masa said. “But you’re doing good, boy. Not like some of these other people.”

There had been trouble last night, Masa said. Somebody got hold of some swipe. Some guys got drunk. Was going up before the super this morning, soon as they sobered up. The super would ask where they got the stuff, maybe give them one more chance if they fingered the guy they got it from.

“Did they find out who?” asked Kaipo.

“I don’t know. But that’s why we’re short-handed today. I need about a dozen guys like you, then maybe we’ll catch up. Otherwise, not much chance.”

It was an opening, but not the kind Kaipo was hoping to hear. But what the hell, you had to answer the door when opportunity kocked.

“Maybe this the wrong time for ask,” Kaipo said. “But… you got anything else available? I heard there might be one opening in machine shop.”

But was no surprise. Masa had already been thinking about something better for him. He was one of the few young men on the plantation he liked. He worked hard. Didn’t drink. Didn’t make trouble. Had a good head on his shoulders. Might make manager some day.

“I’ll look into it. I’ll let you know.”

Hawaiian music

Later that week, Masa told Kaipo to report to the super at the machine shop. But turned out there was a problem. The super in the machine shop was the guy Kaipo had had the run-in with when he chased after his kid, the one that threw mangoes at Herman. 

The super stared at him, and his expression curled into a sneer. “You! You gotta be kidding! I wouldn’t give this job to you if you was the only person left on this plantation! I’d rather the locomotive break down, and I’ll go into the fields and carry the cane on my back!”

“Masa sent me,” Kaipo said. “You get job opening, yeah?”

“Like hell I do!”

“I’m not gonna argue with you. If no opening, I’m just going back and tell Masa that you refused to give me the job. If you get job, then you should let me have it.”

“You buzz off! I don’t need your help here! You go tell him whatever you want! I don’t have no openings.”

Hawaiian music

Kaipo took his case to Masa, who called the super. He asked the shop super why he had a burn on for Kaipo, and the guy said Kaipo was giving him gas the other day, and then got into that whole story about Herman painting the fence, all week long already, spent more time throwing mangoes than working.

Masa just said well, those kids was tormenting Herman all day and maybe he had the wrong idea if Herman had to get up and chase them away half the time.

Masa asked him nice, said he didn’t want to get into an argument about it, and how about we just settle this hash and let the kid get to work, okay? After further cajoling, the shop super said okay, but was no guarantee this kid was gonna like it.

Hawaiian music

Next morning, Kaipo was there at Masa’s office, six sharp. “Okay braddah,” Masa aid, “I wen’ step up to the plate for you on this one, okay? My good name is on the line. So I don’t wanna hear about no problems! You said you wanted this job, no matter you two was going scratch each other’s eyes out or what. So you got it. You know the rule: He’s the boss. He makes the rules, okay?”

“Thas’ okay,” Kaipo said. “I don’t need no special treatment.” No matter what I gotta do, he thought, I’m gonna do it so well that he’s gonna be ashamed of himself.

But the work was worse than expected. He couldn’t say it was just senseless work that was meant to harass him, like digging a hole and filling it up again. But the super sure as hell went out of his way to make sure that he was miserable. He gave Kaipo all the worst jobs– climbing into the molasses tank to scour it, when it was ninety degrees outside and hundred ten in the tank. Then there was scouring rust on the equipment with steel wool, scraping rust from the locomotive brake drums, cleaning and de-greasing the shop floor. 

That Portugee acted like he was real happy to have him, but there was a sneer about the way he said things. He seemed to enjoy coming up with ever more ingenious ways to make him miserable. But Kaipo did the work, and did it with a vengeance. It became an escalating contest of wills between the super trying to come up with worse and worse jobs, and Kaipo determined to do them better and better.

Kaipo never did talk back, never complained, just smiled and gloated at having gotten the better of the guy each time. He could see it was getting his goat. He even showed up half-hour early, and stayed half-hour late– even though it meant washing in dirty water in the furo and his dinner being cold.

But then the sonofabitch decided to play dirty pool.

Used to be, every time the auditor came round for check the gasoline, they always came up few gallons short.

“You four gallon short, Kaipo,” the auditor said.

“I know. So what? The gasoline evaporate. Or the tank been leaking. It’s real old already!”

“Yeah, but short is short. Somebody gotta pay. You can’t expect the company to pay forever, can you? Not when you’re responsible for the gas.” Was nothing new. The others that handled machinery had this problem too. It was just that they factored it in as part of the cost of doing business. They always figured they was going come up short on gasoline.

“What you mean?” Kaipo said. “You telling me this the first time the gasoline evaporate? What about before?! What about everyone else that use gasoline around here? Everyone knows the stuff evaporate! You never charge nobody before!”

“That’s not my decision. That’s the shop super’s decision. He’s the only one who’s got the say-so for charge ‘em off.”

“Since when?!” Kaipo said. “That’s humbug already! So what, you going write me up for gasoline?!” He didn’t wait for an answer. He turned and stalked off to the shop super’s office, and didn’t wait for no invitation… just walked into the guy’s office, beard the lion in its den.

“What’s going on with this shit!” he demanded. “How come you tell the auditor charge me for gasoline when the tank leaking!”

“What can I say?” the super said, barely able to conceal his satisfaction. “You responsible for the gasoline. That’s not my headache. If you short, then you bought it. You better be more careful, and maybe the gasoline won’t evaporate.”

“Why don’t you get a new tank then! This one leaking, nothing I can do about it!”

“New tank costs money. Might be months before we get one in,” he said, smiling sweetly. “If you want this job, the it comes with responsibility for the gasoline. I can’t continue to absorb the losses for your carelessness.”

“What a bunch of malarkey! You’re full of shit!”

“And you better watch what you say and who you’re saying it to! One more peep out of you and I’m going write you up for insubordination.”

 So that was how it was going to be. Okay, if so, it’s so.

Hawaiian music

Masa asked him from time to time how things were going, and Kaipo never said much, because no matter what he said, he thought it would sound like complaining. So when he complained about the gasoline business, Masa knew it was serious.

Was so unfair, this shit about the gasoline, he said. He had to pay, and It cost him real money taken out of his pay packet. But knowing what Kaipo was up against, Masa advised him to take the upcoming long weekend and dig up the gasoline tank and repair it himself. That was a big job, but if Kaipo wanted to win this one, that’s what he had to do. Masa said he would talk with the super to get the okay, since he would have to bust up the cement, dig the thing up, wash it out again and again and again and air-dry it, before he could weld anything. Then it had to be reburied and new cement poured.

The shop super okayed the job, no problem braddah, haha. He even got a couple guys to help out. Herman was there too, but mostly just to watch, as usual. When the job was done, Masa was amazed. Kaipo worked like hell all those three days, sun-up to sun-down, never complained, and he got the job done by the time the cane haul trucks were there to be gassed up next morning. Someday, Masa knew, he was going promote this young man out these circumstances, as soon as the opportunity came along.

Hawaiian music

Herman smiled to himself. Nobody asked him to do nothing much after he painted the fence, ust odd jobs.  It was an old plan that had always worked for him: it you demonstrated time and again that you couldn’t be depended upon to do the job right, eventually they gave up and stopped asking you, figuring it’s easier just to do it themselves.

But the day came when Herman’s privileged role in the scheme of things came under scrutiny. Somebody wondered out loud about the guy who was always out there painting something that didn’t need painting. Besides, wasn’t that a job that the people who lived in the camp were supposed to do on their own time? Seemed like a waste of manpower, they said.

“You understand the position I’m in, don’t you Kaipo?” Masa said. “It’s not my decision. In fact, I put my ass on the line when the manager came ask me about him. ‘Is he on payroll?’ they ask me. I say yeah. They say ‘Since when?’ Then I gotta explain that he’s the brother of one of my best workers, but he’s a bit slow, yeah? So they say, ‘We not going pay for that, this ain’t no free ride for the feeble-minded, you know.’ So we went back and forth on this thing ‘til finally they wen’ compromise and they said okay, you can keep him on, only at half-pay. ‘Take it or leave it,’ they said. My hands are tied.”

Hawaiian music

Joe came around after Herman got the bad news. “What you going do now?” he said. “You no more money.”

Herman shrugged. “Dunno.”

“I get one idea, one way for make money. You going need money, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

 “Tell you what. I like set up one still, put ‘em out there in the cane. Thas’ good place for put ‘em, yeah? ‘Cause nobody never going find it out there. No can see nothing, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“But I need someone for keep one eye. All we gotta do is figure out when those guys going come around for cut cane or do whatever. Then we just going move ‘em, to some noddah place.”

“What happens if they find ‘em?” Herman asked.

 “Eh, no worry! If they find it, how they gonna know it’s ours?”

Being of like mind and rascal like him, Herman appreciated its elegant simplicity.

“Someone gotta keep one eye,” Joe continued, “let me know when they going come for weeding or whatevah. Would be nice to have one place for keep the stuff, too, after make ‘em.”

“Yeah.”

“You got the keys to that shed for keep the tools and stuff, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Nobody nevah go inside, yeah? What they get inside– just all kine junk, yeah?”

“Yeah. Some tools. Boxes. Stuff li’ dat.”

“Can put the booze inside, yeah? Put some stuff on top. They never going find ‘em, yeah? You the only guy going come in there, yeah?”

“I dunno.”

“What you mean, you don’t know?”

“Maybe I get one ‘noddah idea.”

Out in back of the storage shed was an ancient, rusted-out old truck, overgrown with weeds and vines. The thing hadn’t moved in maybe twenty years. Most of it had been cannibalized for whatever parts could be had from it.

“What! You mean put booze in there?” Joe said. “In the gas tank?”

“I saw my brother do it,” Herman said. “Dug up one big gas tank, wen’ wash ‘em out, so can weld ‘em.”

“How can? The thing all rusted.”

“Maybe can get one ‘noddah gas tank, put ‘em in there,” Herman said.

“Maybe, yeah?”

They drove to Hilo that weekend, and found another tank at a junkyard there. Looked the same, pretty much, all rusty and beat up and shit, but no leaks. Back in Hi’ilawe, they washed it out real good, so no more smell. Then they pulled the rusty old tank from the truck. Had to take it out in pieces, like some rotten tooth that broke when the dentist wen’ pull ‘em. Was a job, but once they had the new one installed, it would do just fine, and nobody could see it, at all really, behind the weeds.

They bought yeast cake for five cents, and hops for seventy-five cents one can. The molasses was easy to come by. And Herman found a crate of glass jars out behind the store, got some tubing, then poured the molasses and mixed the sugar with a shovel.

From molasses and water and yeast, it was ready in a week. The first batch they made, they took from the still and emptied it into gallon shoyu bottles that Herman got from the shed, and then into the gas tank Altogether, the truck held a good twenty gallons. At a buck a pint, that was better than money in the bank. Herman kept an eye, and Joe made the hooch and took care of business.

They were lucky. Never had one single bottle blow up on them. Never poisoned anyone. They never sold to serious drinkers– that was asking for trouble. They’d make a scene, draw attention. But to their friends and to friends of friends, they’d sell.

They built the business nice and slow. Herman was a natural, and he flourished in the camaraderie of men that did not distinguish between the self-impaired and the naturally impaired. Soon, he even found himself with some money, and he began to see that there was some kind of a future in his life.

Hawaiian music

Lani was twenty, an old maid already. Most of the boys married when they were eighteen maybe, the girls when they were fifteen or sixteen. Lani’s sister married when she was eighteen, and here Lani was at twenty, no husband. She felt like a spinster, and suspected that people were talking about her, thinking there was something wrong with her. You had to have a husband, or else people would talk.

It was amazing how a girl like her could go for so long without being spoken for. She was bright, had a good sense of humor, and a smile that made you giddy. She was clean and smelled like soap, and her hair gleamed like polished koa wood. What’s more, her mother had taught her how to cook.

Masa was sick and tired of fending off all these suitors for his daughter’s hand. Hardly a week went by without someone hitting him up with a proposition that, however thinly disguised, was always intended to somehow rope his daughter into a date.

That was the problem with raising a daughter on a plantation, the supply of men wasn’t of a sort that typically enjoyed the best prospects. Many were immigrants who spoke little English, the rest were rough characters with no education.

Kaipo had seen Lani before, following her dad to the store. The next time he saw them coming, he beat them to it, was there at the store before them, having run the long way out back. When Masa and Lani walked in, he fumbled around, pretending he was there to buy a soda.

She stood there, sipping her bottle of something electric-orange, looking straight ahead and occasionally darting her eyes over his way, and Kaipo just ate her up with his eyes. In that moment, something had taken root. There was no doubt about it, seeing her eye sparkle like that and a smile starting to form on her lips.

Hawaiian music

Masa lived on the plantation, not a thousand feet from Kaipo’s dorm, in one of those plantation houses all in a row. He was sitting on a stump by the stream out back, tying and baiting fishhooks. With his thinning hair done into a topknot, he looked like a Chinese sage.

Kaipo had something for him.

“Here, I thought you might like some of this.”

Masa looked at what Kaipo had brought. He furrowed his brow, wrinkled his nose, and a look of astonishment spread across his face.

“Where’d you get this?! Oh man, I never had any of this for long time!”

“Go ahead, try some,” Kaipo said. “Use your fingers, nevah mind– adds to the flavor.” Only a few of the boats made shiokara anymore. The fishermen still made it for their girlfriends, and they knew how to make it real good. They used the guts— the heart, the stomach or liver, the intestines, but especially the gills, because that’s what gave it real flavor. They rinsed them out real good, then chopped them small, salted them, and put them into a jar to keep. After a few weeks, it was edible. After three months, broke da mouth.

Masa fished some out with his fingers and placed it on his tongue. His cheeks puckered. “Man, you gotta introduce me to this friend of yours who makes this.”

“Okay. But you gotta introduce me to your daughter.”

Masa looked at him archly, the kid smiling like that. Figured that was coming someday. But Masa was well practiced at being cagey to come-ons for his daughter– knew just how to look and how to act.

“Rascal, you! What makes you think this stuff is the equal of my daughter?!” It all played right into his hands.

“Well, sir, I’m sure she smells better. Don’t know about the taste, though.”

“Cheeky buggah, you! How you think you can talk about my daughter that way?!”, he scolded. But his sly look left little doubt the door was open.

 “You better save your money so you can get out of this place someday” Masa said, “then maybe we’ll see.”

Hawaiian music

Next Sunday, Kaipo caught a big, thuggish-looking jack that had made a good living ambushing smaller fish from behind the veils of surf that broke along the reef. He took it to Masa’s house that afternoon.

Auntie Thelma, Lani’s mother, sat on the lanai in her rocker. A woman of serene dignity and deeply lined cheeks, she wore a dress decorated with palms, anthuriums, and Moorish Idols. Her hair was done up in a gleaming mass that was going to gray, and she wore no makeup or adornments apart from an orange poepoe-style ilima lei.

“Nice to meet you, Auntie,” Kaipo said, bowing in mock courtliness and holding out his fish. “I’m Kaipo.”

She stared at this odd supplicant for a moment, then smiled. That’s one big fish you got,” she said, “half as big as you!”

“Is Masa around?”

“He’s out back,” she said. “Go show him your fish.”

The garden bordered a sump where taro grew. A heavily pregnant apple banana tree stood supported by a big stick jammed up against its trunk. Short and squat-looking, its leaves had grown tattered from the wind. Vines crept up the trunk, and a withered blossom dangled at the end at the end of its bunch of fruit, altogether more than a hundred or more of the stubby thumb-sized bananas. The tree had given all its energy to its fruit, and now it was exhausted, and its trunk would soon be added to the pile of banana logs nearby.

Masa was on his knees, rooting around in a tangle of sweet potato vines. He looked up at Kaipo, standing there with his enormous fish. “Well, look who’s here,” he said. “Who’s your friend?”

Kaipo held up the fish. “Big, yeah? He’s way too much for me. But you get family, so maybe you folks can eat ‘em. Cut ‘em up, put some shoyu, some green onion, maybe put some chili peppah.” Was hundreds in the garden, already, like little firecrackers. “Then put some rock salt, and you got poki!”

That was the best ever way to eat fish, and everyone had his own recipe.

“You the one going clean it, right?” Masa said. He got up, led him over to a tree stump, and handed him a knife. “Here, have at it. Put the guts in the bucket over there.”

It was a pretty straightforward job, even with a big fish like this, one that he had done many times. When he was finished, he returned with the fish. Was enough for an army.

“Get shoyu?” he asked.

“In the kitchen,” Masa said. “Come in.”

Their home was sparsely furnished, with transparent white lace curtains and simple stands that held an amber glass lamp on an embroidered doily, and crockery painted with green vines. The room was covered with thick tatami and held a little shrine in its corner and a damascene picture of Fuji-yama on the wall.

That was all they had to show for their life lived among the fields of cane: some souvenirs of a homeland now two generations remote. The house wasn’t even theirs; it belonged to the company. But even after all these years, there still wasn’t much money at the end of the week. Still, you could get by if you didn’t waste money on food that you could grow, or catch.

Masa went out and picked some chilies and pulled some green onions, then returned to Kaipo into the kitchen. “Lani!” he called out. “Come out your room.” The door of her tiny bedroom opened, and she peered out.

“Try come,” Masa said, “in the kitchen.”

She stepped into the kitchen, looked at Kaipo and smiled. He went weak in the knees.

“You know how to make poki, yeah?” he was able to say.

She came to the kitchen counter and offered to take the knife, but Kaipo held back. “You know, gotta cut ‘em special way. Here, let me show you.” He took the knife, then deftly sliced the fish, cutting with the grain of the flesh. Was better at this than Masa thought.

He chopped the green onions and chili peppers. “See… then you mix ‘em up.” From a big two-liter bottle, he poured shoyu into the basin, then he chopped the green onions and chilies and added them to the mix. He tossed the cubes of fish, get sauce all over, then took one of the cubes and offered one to Lani, placing it on her tongue.

“Mmm! Broke da mouth!” she said. Lani was just dazzling whe she smiled, and those eyes… That was so broke da mouth too, Kaipo thought.

No can eat poki without drinking beer, and they talked easily that afternoon, mostly about fishing. Lani wasn’t realy part of the conversation that first night, in fact not during any of Kaipo’s visits to their home after that. She stayed in the house with her mother mostly, but sometimes he saw her out back. It was only after two or three months that she and Kaipo were given leave to sit with each other on the tiny lanai in front of the house and talk.

Hawaiian music

The wedding wasn’t no big deal, just family and a few friends. The money that was saved on the wedding was used to help them start up their new life together, to add on a third room of their own on to the house. Masa got the lumber and stuff for free, and he got some help on Saturdays by pulling a few men off their jobs in the field. Together they cut the planks, put up the roof beam, framed the room, slapped up the boards, then painted them a forest green to go with the rest of the house.

 The room had its own entrance and the walls went all the way up to the ceiling for better privacy. Still, was hard to be quiet, and no matter how they tried, it was obvious, from the boxprings creaking beneath the thin mattress and cotton bedroll.

And so it went. After a few months, Lani’s belly began to swell. She became heavy and awkward and finally miserable, until the day came when her water broke, and Auntie Thelma called the midwife.

Her back ached so much, and she cursed boys for causing so much more pain than girls. The midwife held Lani up by the waist, and the baby came out quickly then. She was thankful it was a boy, and healthy. For a first delivery, things could have been a lot worse.

The midwife was never paid in cash, but with a chicken, with wine, or maybe some eggs, or sometimes material. Auntie Thelma had a gallon of good Portuguese wine, and a chicken already cleaned, one of two Rhode Island Reds that she had slaughtered– just grabbed them by the neck and slit the throat, then hung them upside down on the tree to bleed. Was so quick and nonchalant about it, just hang the chickens up like the wash.

She made a big pot of chicken soup for the new mother, and as soon as the baby was born, the new mother had some soup and some of that good wine. A new baby was never looked upon as another mouth to feed, but as an asset for the family. The more children you had, the better off was the family. That was true for everyone then– Chinese, Japanese, Portugees, whatevah.

At supper that night, they said grace, and a few words of thanks were offered for the new baby, Israel. They had meat that night, which was something of a luxury. There was always sausage, the kine they mixed with garlic and vinegar and chilies, then stuffed into a gut and smoked. But that night was roast pork, Portuguese-style.

Hawaiian music

Lani rested for a couple weeks, then was time to get to work. She took Izzy with her to the fields, and built a little lean-to for him out of cane stalks. But it was so hot in the fields, the baby got all sweaty, and the bugs were so bad that his face and arms and legs were red and swollen with angry red bites.

She went to the super’s wife and asked if there was something else she could do where she could keep the baby someplace cool, where there weren’t so many flies. Wasn’t much better, but she got her a job picking up horse dung from around the stable. After a while, Izzy was starting to crawl, so she tied him up in the stable, and when she left him to pick up dung, he would just cry and cry. She could hear him cry wherever she was, and as hard as he cried, she thought she was more miserable than he was.

The super’s wife knew she was miserable, and offered her a different job, sewing. This was something she could do at home, and the super’s wife brought her the needles and thread and taught her how to do it. She got so she could turn out some nice pieces, tablecloths and napkins and things like that, but she wasn’t able to make much money at it anyway, since it was piecework, and after she sold the first few pieces, there wasn’t much demand.

There was work available at the coffee mill. But it was a long walk along a steep, winding dirt road that stretched a mile or so along the cliffs high above the blue ocean, then downhill for another mile. She wrapped up the baby on her back, and walked along through land thick with guava and coffee shrubs.

Was mostly fussy old Japanese women who worked at the mill. Big burlap sacks of beans were stacked up to the roof, and they had to sort through every one of those sacks, one bean at a time. Lani got twenty-five cents for picking through each bag, bean by bean. If she missed a bean that had been squashed or split or crumbled, naturally the boss would see it right away, and then she’d have to pick through the whole bag again, even though she knew the chance was one in a thousand she’d find another bad bean.

It wasn’t so easy to get along, since the old women mostly spoke old-country Japanese and Lani— being local Japanese– didn’t know a word. It was hard going, the long walk to work, the long climb back up the hill and back into town, with her baby strapped to her back. It just didn’t make sense. So she quit, and that was that.

For Kaipo, wasn’t any easier, was one long hard day that started before dawn and lasted ‘til night. But he was gonna beat that Portugee sonofabitch no matter what it took. Times were tough, and he had a family now. If you put in your time, everyone could eat, which was better than could be said for some folks. And the plantation always took care of your basic needs. Nobody starved. Nobody slept out in the rain. Nobody stayed sick. But what kind of life was that?

He wondered where Herman got his money, though. He wasn’t making anything to speak of, but he always had money for gas for the car and cigarettes and candy and soda and stuff from the store. Herman said he saved it, but Kaipo sure didn’t know how.

Herman was gotten real good at timing things so that Joe could keep the still one step ahead of the cane cutters, and he had learned a lot from watching Joe distill the stuff. Was easy, actually, and by and by Joe let him mix some up. Was pretty good—at least, nobody complained, and they kept on buying it.

Went on that way for a long time, until one day, Herman’s quality slipped, just that once. Made a bad batch, was poison. Some men got so sick they couldn’t stand up, just wen’ lie there and groan and twist in pain, retching their guts out. When the doctor came, he saw right away was bad alcohol. No one died, but that’s not to say they didn’t want to.

Hawaiian music

Kaipo heard from Masa that a bunch of guys was sick from swipe. Masa said they was pretty sure someone was making it, ‘cause they found the glass jars– was the kine from the store. The manager said they was going turn this place upside down, and if they didn’t find it, they was going fire every man that was sick. They had ‘til Monday, five o’clock. If nobody step forward, all those guys was going hit the road.

“Hey Wongham!” Someone had called Kaipo by his last name. That was never good, only happened when some damn luna was getting ready for boss him around. He looked around, but was just some guy.

“You talking to me?”

“Yeah. Hey listen, I no like tell stories out of school– you know what I mean? But those men, the ones that got sick?”

Kaipo’s eyes narrowed. He nodded.

“Well, I’m not going say nothing, but I’m telling you ‘cause you’re his brother.”

“Who, Herman? What about him?”

“Yeah. That’s the guy…”

“That’s the guy for what? Whatchoo mean?”

“He’s the one wen’ sell ‘em the stuff, wen’ poison ‘em.”

Someone could have pushed him over with a feather. “C’mon! What kine story is that! My braddah… Herman?!”

“C’mon you! You should know him better than us! He’s not so stupid, you know! The buggah’s been making juice for long time already! And that’s okay with me, because nobody never got hurt. But now it’s different, those people going lose their jobs. But like I say, I’m not going say nothing. What you do is up to you.”

Hawaiian music

That night, Kaipo confronted him. “You know anything about making swipe, Herman?”

Herman just looked at him, guileless. “I never knew you drink, Kaipo.”

“I don’t, you jackass! But I hear you selling swipe!

Herman blanched.

“How come they say that about you?!” Kaipo went on “When I been busting my hump trying support my family, you been raking leaves and running a damn still, haven’t you!”

“My friend run the still.”

“So what you doing?!”

“Nothing.”

“Whatchoo mean, nothing?! How come people say you selling it?!”

“I never sold it.”

“So what?! I don’t care who does what! You stupid! You wen’ make everyone sick! And now they going get fired! And you for sure! Maybe me too, since you my brother! But what about my family?! I don’t care if you starve, but I get wife, get one kid!”

Was plenny mad, Kaipo. Went on and on li’ dat. But in the end, was nothing to decide. Kaipo would have to turn him in, his own brother. Going be hard enough, to tell Masa. But was worse, breaking the news to Lani. She had worked so hard to provide for the baby. Now maybe was all for nothing.

Hawaiian music

“I got something to tell you,” Kaipo said to Lani.

“Yeah, I guess so. Looks like someone said you was going die.”

“‘Bout the guy was selling swipe. Herman’s the guy, you know.”

“Not!” she laughed. But she saw from his eyes that he wasn’t joking.

“It’s true. Buggah’s been making swipe! Or his friend did, so he says. Made some bad stuff, wen’ poison all those people.”

“Oh my God! I can’t believe it! Are you sure?!”

“Yeah. Some guy from the dorm, he told me. At first, no can believe. But then I wen’ confront him. Yeah, it’s true. Everyone used to think he was just standing round over there, rake leaves and cut the hedge and paint stuff. Boy, was I ever stupid— more stupid than him!”

“Then if that’s true, you gotta tell someone. Those people going lose their jobs, yeah?”

“Maybe me, too.”

Nobody figured Herman was bright enough to boil water, never mind swipe. Still, he was involved. They told Kaipo that since he came forward like that, he could stay. But only if Herman left.

But that wasn’t the last word. Later, at the machine shop, the Portugee said nobody asked him what he thought. Told Kaipo he couldn’t see giving him the job of brakeman after all. Had to be someone reliable.

“Whatchoo mean?!” Kaipo said.

“Well, all I can look at is the evidence. The tools was missing from the machine shop. They found ‘em at the still. The tools was your responsibility. So far as I see it, you screwed up! I cannot trust nobody who’s not paying attention to his own jurisdiction!”

“You’re fulla shit! You sonofabitch, thas’ my brother wen’ took those tools! I never did nothing!”

“Thas why I said! And right now, you saying too much! ‘Cause nobody goin’ talk to me li’ dat an’ get away with it. I’m gonna write you up and you not going have no job with me!”

Hawaiian music

Kaipo felt defeated. Nobody was going stand up for anyone involved with swipe. Especially when it made people sick. Especially when it was his shop’s tools, his brother. Anyhow, he was never goin’ nowheres with that Portugee, no matter how hard he worked. Was sick and tired already. It seemed like no matter how hard you worked, was just the same. No way you was going make it li’dat.

That night, he decided. “Lani, I really like start one business. Maybe one store, or something.”

“What you know about running one store?” she said.

“What you need to know already?! You just buy low, sell high. What’s so hard about that?”

Hawaiian music

The super’s wife was understanding, and agreed to speak with her husband about it. He was against it at first. He didn’t think it would look too good for a plantation super to lend money to a man whose brother had been caught selling swipe. But Mrs. Wallace liked Lani, and she prevailed, and finally her husband agreed to lend Kaipo some money so they could start their own business.

They found a shack in Squattersville that had been used for drying coffee beans, and paid ninety dollars for it. The lot was little else but lava rock, no topsoil to speak of, mostly just an expanse of sandy scruff that trailed off down to the beach. Kids from the neighborhood used to hang around there, but other than that, the land wasn’t used for anything.

There were mangoes on the property, small monkey mangoes with sap that drew lots of nits, and there was lots of keawe growing back in there among old coral heads that poked up out of the ground. If you tripped and fell on them, you’d get banged up pretty bad, and coral cuts were nasty. But this was the best they could do for the money, and its location was close enough to the plantation that people would come.

For a while after Herman got fired, he didn’t see him or hear from Herman. He got worried about him, knowing that he didn’t have any money or anyone to stay with. Then he heard that he was living up at the Sunday School.

When Kaipo went to get him, he found him sleeping in an old pew. Nobody had been inside, it seemed, for a hundred years. Nobody wanted to go there– the Hawaiians believed the place was cursed. He roused him, then hectored at him for his many crimes, large and small.

“You already make plenty trouble!” Kaipo told Herman. “You nothing but trouble ever since you was one kid! I’m going cut you loose if you make trouble again, even if you are too goddam stupid for take care yourself! You smart enough for damn near ruin my life! I get one family to take care of, and now you gonna help me take care of ‘em, you understand?!”

“I understand.”

“Maybe you think, in your sly little head, that you’ve done all the damage you can do. Maybe you think we’re all on our own now, and we can do what we like. But you just remember, we’re still on plantation land! I don’t own this land. They give it to me to use, but it’s not mine. And what they say, goes. So, no liquor! You hear?!”

“I hear.”

“That means you got to pull your own load around this place. You’re not helpless, and I ain’t going let you stand around and rake leaves. You gotta work, and work hard!”

“Okay.”

With that, they returned together to the shack in Squattersville.

Hawaiian music

They went to work busting up the coral heads and hauling them away, then hauling in loads of soil that was more sand than dirt. There were some old crumbling lava rock walls out in back of the property, maybe from an old heiau. They were no longer good for keeping the animals out, and the pigs roamed in and out at will, helping themselves to guavas that fell down.

They took all the old lava rocks and piled them up to make a wall for one side of the store, and that served to keep out the pigs out from the store at least. Once they had the wall up they attached a wood frame and put sheaves of pili grass on top so that they had some shade while they put up a real roof.

They hauled in whatever scrap lumber and corrugated sheet metal they could scrounge from the plantation. But that was all they needed to get the house started on their lot. Was nothing fancy, but it had four walls, a roof, windows, and a tank for catch rain water, and rooms that were carpeted with thick Hawaiian mats that were cool and comfortable for sitting around and talking story, with the whole thing cobbled together from odd bits of lumber, baling wire, and canvas. Then they applied a coat of red paint that hid all the red dust that blew in from the cane fields. It was home, and all that God intended, Lani thought.

Hawaiian music

All they had in mind when they opened their store was a place where people could come to have coffee and bread. They loved that bread, especially the way they served it with homemade jelly they made from all the guavas lying around on the property. They sold a lot of bread, and a lot of fresh coconut pies as well. The coconuts were free, all they wanted. Kaipo stripped the husks off on a big iron spike, then put them in the oven until their shells cracked. It was that taste of toasted fresh coconut that made their coconut pies so good. 

Since that was going good, they decided to make udon too. Kaipo made just twenty servings, rolled out the dough himself and hand-sliced up the big sheets to make the noodles, and when that was gone, that was it. By and by, word got around, and pretty soon was good business. Everything was better than the stuff the men got at the camps, especially when it was served with fresh fishcake and Chinese-style roast pork. Every day was sold out, and if it wasn’t, they never hung onto it, but fed it to the pigs out back.

In time, they came up with more and more stuff to sell: dry goods, denims and khakis, rubber boots, tin lanterns and small hardware like that. They even sold kerosene from a drum out back. The Chinese were willing to pay for certain things they couldn’t get anywhere else around here, like salt fish and Chinese pork sausage that came all the way from San Francisco, bottled water chestnuts and bamboo shoots that they cut from up the valley and bottled themselves, bitter melon, even dry duck meat from China. Even though it was twenty-five cents a strip, it sold out on payday. Then it was back to what they usually lived on—for the Chinese it was just rice and salt fish, and for the Japanese it was udon, pickled plums and radish, and maybe mackerel.

They sold vegetables, too, whatever it was that farmers hereabouts brought in, whether it was mustard cabbage, won bok, Chinese peas, some corn, or even rice they grew down where the stream emptied into the marsh. But when the poi came in, that’s when the Hawaiians showed up, and everybody brought their own container. Hawaiians never grew their own taro any more, even though you could still find some dry land taro growing wild up on the mountain, where it had been cultivated hundreds of years ago. It still thrived in the crumbly old a’a and the trash from the tree ferns that lay round their great stalks.

But wetland taro was different story. That was real fussy, and hard work mucking about in the mud. Nobody did that kind of thing anymore, and most of the rich bottomland where they used to grow it was since given over to settlements where people lived.

Hawaiians came for the poi, but when they came to the store, they never had any money, and their credit was no good too. But Kaipo could not go and ask Hawaiians to pay, so Lani had to go try. But they saw her coming and they wen’ hide. Or else they was so drunk on the swill that was sold in old Coca-Cola bottles that they just didn’t care enough to go hide. So by and by, Lani took care of that part of the business, cash only, and Kaipo was stuck with making the udon, and baking the loaves of bread. That way was no more shame in turning his own people down.

Herman was useful in his way. They let him take Izzy to the beach and teach him how to catch fish. And he and Izzy would pick strawberry guavas for pies when they came in season, and eat many of them themselves. But they really didn’t trust him to do much else, like kneading dough and cutting udon or baking coconuts. Was the same old story: if people think you stupid, they no bother you for do nothing.

Hawaiian music

Izzy was a fast learner, and even during small-kid time he knew how to cut bait, catch fish, and clean them. This morning, he and Uncle Herman was going catch octopus, using the look-box. They walked along the dusty red road that went out past the plantation cemetery and past the jetty, past a clapboard shack with a rusted tin roof. A short, squat Samoan palm stood in the sandy yard with a wooden ladder leaning up against it, and a clothesline propped up by a piece of driftwood. An undershirt and an octopus were pinned up on the line, its legs done up like one ballet dancer, some desiccated and some still pink and fleshy.

They were on the reef at low tide, first light. Herman taught Izzy everything he used to do as a kid. Like how to push the look-box along the reef looking for squid. The one with squid eye had to know the reef like the back of his hand– its hiding places, and every nuance of color and shading and camouflage you could imagine. He knew right away when anything was out of place– maybe a stone had been jarred loose from a certain pile, or there was a stone of a different color, or things had been scattered or overturned. That was the octopus at work— a very fussy creature that hated more than anything having things out of place.

They caught one octopus that day, and then came the hard part. They had to take it home, and beat it up over and over again, so would come tender. Was hard work, but octopus was a treat. Was so good when you slice ‘em up and dip ‘em in shoyu, with hot mustard on the side.

Hawaiian music

And now that Izzy was growing up, nothing would do except for Izzy and Herman to have their own boat. Kaipo and his friends helped him build one, a 20-foot skiff that he named Fish Hawk. And then when the day came that Izzy caught the barracuda, he trained that fish to be his own.

Out past the bay, towards the seamount, was plenty opelu mackerel. Izzy drew his knife from the sheath, and tapped out a slow, steady drum roll on the side of the boat with the butt end of the knife. He looked out over the still water, and sure enough, after a few moments, there was his fish– he knew him from the unique pattern of stripes on his tail. He threw him some opelu, and his fish moved in, lined himself up with the bow of the boat, and meandered along in front, turning this way and that.

Hawaiian music

Izzy looked overboard through the glass look-box. When he saw opelu, he let some bait overboard, a mash of roast pumpkin that dissolved and slowly drifted through the water. Opelu loved the stuff, and they came from all around into a big swarming ball beneath the boat. They were attracted by the barracuda as well, since they knew that wherever there was a barracuda there were bound to be leftovers from its meals. They knew the barracuda would leave them alone, since for some reason, opelu were not to its liking, and the barracuda was more than happy to betray them into the hands of his friend Izzy. He and that fish worked the waters of the bay like that, going from one school to the next.

“That’s one smart fish, yeah?” Herman said. “Man, we got it made, get one fish for take care of us li’ dat.” Was one smart fish all right—some times they had more fish than they could handle, and they could make some money if they could get one truck for take all that fish to Hilo.

Hawaiian music

Izzy and Herman scraped together the money to buy the truck– a couple dollars at a time from selling their opelu at the store and elsewhere hereabouts. Was nothing fancy, a ‘41 Chevy with 79,000 miles on the odometer, since it only registered five digits. The chrome rim dials were nearly unreadable beneath the cracked glass, and inside was all cracked vinyl with sponge rubber stuffing crumbling and spilling out everywhere.

They loaded their fish onto the truck, sometimes three or four ten-gallon buckets full of fish. Some they dropped off at the store, the rest they took to Hilo. Izzy fastened the rusted chain that held the rear gate shut, started it up, and they began the laborious climb up the road that led out of the valley. The windshield wipers had stopped working ages ago, and its two simple blades were useless against the rain. Izzy stuck his head out the cramped cabin to see out past the rain-lashed windshield as it groaned up the road and gained the rim of the valley. After that, was mostly downhill to Hilo, sixty miles away.

They sold most of their fish at the market in Hilo, but some they sold roadside out of the truck at a better price. Opelu didn’t pay much money, but then they didn’t need a lot, living in the valley. Just money for beer and ice and for pay the gas. Lots of stuff in Hi’ilawe was bartered, or just given freely. But then again you knew it would always come back to you, too. Being generous was the best thing Hawaiians could say about you.

People here would give you the shirt off their backs if they had it to give. When someone had pig, that was food for kings and company. Other times, maybe all they had was pipipi, those little black cone mollusks that clung to the rocks. Wasn’t much— just boil ‘em and pick ‘em out with little pins– but they were good enough for sitting around and talk story. Everything always tasted so good outside, in the salt air and the cool of the evening when the breeze flowed in from the sea. No matter if get pig or pipipi, folks here were wealthy in their way, from all that the land and the sea and their family and friends gave each other.


Chapter Eight


After Pastor Bertram’s death in Hi’ilawe in the year 1860 at the hands of a madman, it was determined that the American Board of Missions held lawful title to the land in Hi’ilawe. The mission, like others throughout the kingdom, had been rewarded for its good deeds by those members of the royalty they served, with gifts of land. It was assumed that the chief of Hi’ilawe, now deceased, had donated the land out of his gratitude for the good works of the church.

The will had been signed by the chief of Hi’ilawe with his own mark, in the presence of Pastor Bingham’s wife Alva, a woman of irreproachable character who together with her husband had dedicated the best years of their life together to educating and Christianizing the Hawaiians of the valley. Also present was a third party named Wolohu.

Pastor Bingham’s death occurred just a few years after Lord George Paulet had ceded the kingdom to His Majesty the Ruler of Brittania, partly to punish the kingdom for the failure of its courts to respect the devise of land by will, however spurious, to its consul, Richard Charlton. And although the islands were once again a sovereign nation, the courts had been loath to arouse British or American animosities by once again embroiling in controversy the devise of land to their respective subjects.

No doubt this consideration contributed to the decision of the courts not to challenge the sworn last will and testament of the chief of Hi’ilawe. Pleased with the bequest, the Mission Estate was happy to let the matter rest.

By the terms of the will of Princess Ruth, the Mission Estate established a foundation to administer these lands. The foundation was to lease out the lands and apply the rental income to establish and maintain a school for the education of children of Hawaiian ancestry.

Hawaiian music

It was now the year 1959, and at the Mission Academy in Honolulu, the souls and minds of a new generation of Hawaiians were being nurtured in the arid but improving regimen of Virgil, Euclid, and Latin. The masters stuffed their charges into starched collars and bent their heads to their studies in the Stygian gloom of the library.

Normally, groups of students would idle quietly amongst the pillared colonnades of ugly buildings clustered about a dusty quadrangle with its dour statue of Thomas Aquinas. But today, the buildings resounded with constant shouting and halloo-ing of acquaintances renewed, and with the confusion of the new arrivals. The crowd made its way down darkened passageways and stairwells lit by dingy electric bulbs.

“Yoo-hoo, young man!” a woman called out. “Over here, please! Can you give us some help with these this trunk?”

A proctor came over, and looked with exasperation upon the footlocker and the two large suitcases and several boxes, filled with the personal effects of young Henry Pratt and all manner of things that his mother had insisted he would need. But, there was nothing for it, and the three of them, the proctor, Henry, and his mother Mrs. Pratt, dragged the footlockers and carried the boxes down the hall and into the dormitory, where they sat blocking the aisle.

“Where exactly do you want these?”

“I’m not sure,” Mrs. Pratt said. “Let me take a look at this, now.” She pulled a folded piece of paper from her purse, examined it.

“It says here room number twelve. Where is that?”

They located the room, and dragged the boxes and suitcases in. The dormitory’s cachet was not so much primitive as decayed. The draughts that seeped through the slats in the walls did little to alleviate the smell of unlaundered linen and unaired gloom. The rough bed was layered with a tattered thin mattress and a thin blanket and sheet. A worsted woollen horse rug lay on the floor beside the bed, beneath a chest that would hold books and papers, and a universal desk with folding leaves revealed an array of dusty pigeon holes and shelves for various supplies.

“Henry, I just don’t know where we’re going to put all your things!” his mother exclaimed. “Really, I would have thought the school would provide adequately for those who come such a long way from home! Imagine, a young man come all the way from Maui! He should be expected to bring more than the others!”

Henry’s father, Jonah Keanaanui Pratt, had been owner of the Haleakala Motors Chevy dealership, the first and largest auto dealer on Maui. He had died from heart disease, and Henry’s mother had raised him frugally on the modest proceeds of the insurance settlement, saving up every spare penny for his education.

Having been raised by his mother, Henry attached an unnatural weight to her opinion and counsel. She had fussed over him endlessly, prepared all his favorites to eat, read him stories each night, and saw to it that he was impeccably dressed for church.

He had a bad time of it in toilet training, and had soiled his pants until a very late age. He would scream for his mother to come wipe his bottom, and even though she might be eating her dinner, she would come. By age eleven, he had hardly learned to dress himself, but at last his mother had become adamant that he do so, saying that he could not attend his new school and meet lots of new friends unless he learned to dress himself. She rewarded him with a sweet each time until finally he successfully dressed himself.

How her young man would ever make do without his mother, who had doted on him hand and foot, she had no idea. She had made certain that Henry would forever depend upon her for his every need, and be unable to make the least decision without her guidance.

Mrs. Pratt was a devout churchgoer, with an immense amount of respect and affection for their minister, who had always been so generous and forthcoming in his counsel and advice in matters pertaining to her son Henry. He was meant to be more than a car dealer, the minister had said. She believed him, and from that time on she told Henry that she would regard it as a great honor to her were he to undertake divinity studies and someday return to a position with the church on Maui.

“Mom, can you please keep your voice down?!” Henry implored.

“Well, really, Henry! You’d expect your mother to be upset! Because I just won’t be here anymore to come running when you need me!”

“Mother!”

“Don’t ‘mother’ me! Now let’s make sure that you’re all set with the bathroom before I go. Did you go this morning? Are you constipated, dear? Because I’m sure I can get someone to bring some nice hot tea if you are. Just tell mother.” She turned to the business of sorting through the piles of luggage that had made it nearly impossible to move in the tiny room. She unpacked for the better part of the next hour, trying desperately to find drawer space to put things. At length, it proved futile. “Well this is just impossible! There isn’t nearly enough room here! I’m going to talk with someone this instant– we’ve just got to get you another room!” With that, she stalked into the hall to hail down a proctor to demand an audience with someone in charge.

Hawaiian music

Humphrey Merkin had brought his talents for school administration to the Mission Academy, after having left his previous position in California under a cloud. But they had promised to say “nothing adverse” if he just resigned and let them settle this thing without any further controversy. Anyway, nothing had been proved. It was all just crazy allegations from an impressionable young boy who had gotten the wrong idea entirely.

Careful to avoid any hint of scandal, he had even invented a nonsense about “his family,” “his kids” in school on the mainland–actually his nephews–and “Sheila” who some presumed was his deceased wife, the way he talked about her, killed tragically in an auto accident, he said. He had a picture of her and “his kids” framed and sitting on his desk. He seemed such a fastidious little man in his suit and bow tie, dressed like a Main Street haberdasher even in this climate.

Merkin beckoned Mrs. Pratt and her son into his office. They entered, and seated themselves. “Hello, I’m Humphrey Merkin, headmaster of the Boy’s Lower Division. You’re here to see me in the matter of, ah, other accommodations?” he said, mumbling into the folds of his double chin.

“Hello Mr. Merkin, I’m Mrs. Pratt, and this is my son Henry. I’m his mother. We’ve come all the way from Maui, and Henry is here all on his own, his first year at the Academy. It’s not like he’s got family or anyone here.” Her voice began to quiver. “Well, there’s hardly room to hang up his suit of clothes, and… and we’ve got a footlocker and suitcases and boxes of things that I just don’t have the faintest idea… and he’s only twelve and I’ve used all of my late husband’s insurance money to pay for his way here.” She rambled on, distraught. “I tried to make sure he had everything I could give him from home so he wouldn’t have to spend money to buy anything, but—”

“I understand,” Merkin interrupted. “But Mrs. Pratt, we tried to make it quite clear to all the parents that our new admissions were to be economical in their personal effects.”

“Well. I can’t very well take all of these things back with me to Maui, can I?! Oh Mr. Merkin, I would be so grateful if you could find Henry a bigger room!”

Merkin couldn’t help himself… he was struck by the boy’s singular good looks. What a lovely creature, he thought. He felt giddy, but did not let that interfere with his magisterial mien.

“Ordinarily, Mrs. Pratt, none of the boys have their own rooms until their senior year,” Merkin said. “which, in Henry’s case, is some years away. Boys his age seem to derive a certain social benefit, and basic living skills, from having a roommate.”

“Oh dear, I just don’t know what I’ll do!”

“By the way, if money is tight… have you applied for work-study for Henry?” Merkin asked. “If not, I suggest that you do so, since I may have a certain amount of discretion as to the positions that might be available to him.”

He turned to Henry. “And what about you, young man? Would you like to be considered for work-study?”

“Sure.”

Merkin pored over his list of openings— and ruled out most of them as being unsatisfactory for various reasons. He didn’t want to rush it, lest his interest in this young man become obvious. “Perhaps we should think on it, yes? Why don’t you talk it over with your mother, and we’ll re-visit the matter tomorrow. I’m here until five. In any event, Mrs. Pratt, we’ll need another day to process the application, so why don’t we just have his things stored for now?”

Merkin hadn’t given it much thought ‘til now. But it all made excellent sense. That oafish kanaka boy Dexter, who had been his personal assistant over the past few years, had finally graduated, against all expectations. The boy had not even been able to apply a proper shine to his boots, and in time Merkin had despaired of asking him to do anything. He had thought him repulsive, not the least on account of his incessant farting that was sufficiently loud to be heard from the other end of the short hallway that separated their rooms.

When they met again the next day, Merkin smiled at them in a way that said he had found an answer to the problem. “Mrs. Pratt, I do, as I said, have a certain amount of discretion, and I think we may be able to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.” How fortuitous, he thought. “There’s a vacancy this semester,” he explained, “for a personal assistant to the headmaster of the Boy’s Lower Division– myself, as it were. It’s a live-in position, over at the cottage.”

“Which cottage, Mr. Merkin?”

“Mine. If your young man here wants the job, he’d have his own room, considerably larger, I might add, than those in the dorms. Lots of room to put things.”

“Oh, Mr. Merkin, I would regard that as a great personal favor! That works out perfectly! You see, Henry won’t have me to look after him anymore, and he needs an older man to look to.” Poor Mrs. Pratt smiled at him through tears of gratitude. “If I could depend upon you, Mr. Merkin, I would be most grateful!”

Hawaiian music

There just wasn’t enough time for formal learning. Early class on the Old Testament was from eight ‘til nine, then the boys assembled in the quadrangle to the sound of fife and drum, and sang the Academy song, a discordant dirge. After a breakfast of cereal, they were marched into classrooms that smelled of chalk dust, pencil shavings, and chloride of lime. There they bent their heads to each morning’s twelve lines of Ovid, did sums, and recited “The Presidents of the United States,” “The Monarchs of Hawaii,” and the “Nine Times Table.” Their ill-paid schoolmasters taught them to write from copybooks, and to obey their parents, teachers, and the law. 

Henry whiled away his first two semesters at a cramped, splintery desk on rough pine flooring, by windows that were often sealed shut against the sunlight and fresh air, their hinges broken. He gazed about dully as the masters droned on woolly-mindedly about theorems, Ovid, Vulgar Fractions, Decimals, Logic, the Classics, and Etiquette, and the class jarred awake only when the chalk broke and their ragged nails screeched horribly upon the chalkboard.

Each night, Merkin insisted that Henry bring him his completed assignment book so that he could go over his homework. They spent hours together most nights, but Merkin didn’t mind. He cherished the bond he was building with his young charge, and the opportunity to pat his thigh indulgently.

At the end of his first year, Henry’s mother visited from Maui again, and had dinner with Henry and Mr. Merkin in their cottage.

“I wanted you to see, Mrs. Pratt, just how far Henry’s come in this short while he’s been with us. Not only is he making straight A’s, but whether you realize it or not, your son has also prepared our dinner. Every crumb!”

“Really! My, that puts the shoe on the other foot, doesn’t it! It wasn’t that long ago, I remember, he used to call out for me when I was eating my dinner, ‘Mommy! Come up-dee-do me!’– meaning of course that he wanted me to come wipe his bottom after he went ka-ka. It used to make me so mad! But now, I look back on it and chuckle! And now, just to think, he’s prepared my dinner! I hope he leaves me alone to eat it, won’t you Henry?”

Hawaiian music

The year went by with nothing more between them than the companionship of doing homework together. Merkin was like a father to him, and made sure that all of his needs were not only met, but anticipated. Ever solicitous, he felt an ever-deepening affection for Henry. And never once did his affections become prurient, not even when he beheld his young man in the altogether in the course of supervising post-game locker room activities.

Merkin’s conduct remained impeccable throughout– however unrequited his desire for liberties with his young companion. But it troubled him that Henry, nearly fourteen, was becoming of an age when a young woman might seek to interpose herself in the companionship between men.

Hawaiian music

The spring cotillion presented one of the few breaks from the dreary routine of lessons and homework. Merkin attended as chaperone, and kept a watchful eye on things as the boys and girls mingled and canoodled. The dance was Henry’s first, and his social graces were, in Merkin’s estimation, hardly of an order to merit concern that they might entice unwanted entanglements.

He gave Henry leave to spend some time at the recreation room with his other friends, but now it was time for the boys to line up and face their partners for the dance. Henry’s partner for the dance was a girl named Nancy.

The dance frightened Henry. Taking hold of Nancy’s hand, he shuffled awkwardly about. But after the first go-round, he seemed to get the hang of it and as the momentum of the encounter gathered, he felt a certain giddiness, and Henry even found himself contemplating what was unthinkable just hours before, that is, asking the girl if she might like some punch. Nancy liked him too, and they sat and talked, and that wasn’t so bad either. From across the room, Merkin watched as the encounter progressed, and the more he watched the more it seemed that this little slut was pressing her advantage upon his impressionable young Henry.

Hawaiian music

But it hadn’t been just a one-off encounter. Merkin saw that something most untoward had taken root between them when he saw them walking together on the campus mall. That was bad enough, and he hoped that nothing more would come of it. But one night, Henry informed him that they wouldn’t be going over his homework together. He was going to study at the library, he said. He and Nancy were going to study together and compare notes from history. Merkin knew then that things had gone too far.

“Henry, I’ve been meaning to speak with you about something.”

“What is it, sir?”

“There’s something that’s bothering me. As you may know, the school does not have an explicit policy regarding socializing between the sexes. We prefer to think that social development as such is best facilitated at the various school dances and other social occasions that are held in the course of the school year. Beyond that, we’re concerned that girls and boys should not become a distraction to one other.”

Henry didn’t understand. “Why should this be a problem, sir? I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“No, but I’m concerned that you might. I think it would be best if you limited your meetings with this young lady Nancy you’ve been seeing to the occasions when the school deems it appropriate.”

“But sir, that’s how I met her. Nancy’s just a friend, and we’re not doing anything wrong.”

“You’re only fourteen, young man, and I must be the one to decide, in this case, whether there’s any harm that might come of your affection for this girl.”

“Huh? What did I do?”

“Let’s just say that I’ve had my eye on you, just as I have from the moment your mother entrusted you to my care. And I don’t like everything I’m seeing.”

“Don’t I have any privacy, sir? I think that some things are my business now.”

“Are they, now! Well, let me remind you that your mother knows what’s best for you, and she has entrusted your care to me until such a time as you are released into the world as an adult!” With that, Merkin knew that he had struck a nerve. The boy flinched, and began to stammer.

“I… I don’t care what you think!” Henry blurted out. “I have a right to be with my friends!”

“Henry, it’s true that you’ve done nothing wrong, per se. And ‘friends’ is one thing. But it’s not right that a young man who’s doing so well academically should fall in love and squander it all.”

“But I’m not falling in love! Nancy’s just a friend!”

“My dear Henry, what does a young man such as yourself know about love! Love is something that comes in the night, on cat’s paws. It’s insidious! You don’t know until it’s too late that it has you in its snare!”

“Even if it was love,” Henry said. “What’s wrong with that?!”

“Love with a young woman has its complications, Henry, complications that you may not be ready for. I promised your mother that I would look after you and do the right thing by you. I hope you appreciate the enormous sacrifices that she made to send you to this school. I would lose all of her respect if she was given any reason to think that I had betrayed her trust.”

Hawaiian music

Your mother knows what’s best for you. Henry knew he could never betray his mother. She had always known what was best for him, and his world hung upon her hatpeg.

Against his better judgment, Merkin allowed Henry to keep his date at the library that night. But in the future, he cautioned, Henry must confine his homework to just the two of them, just as they had always done.

But the girl seemed to cling to Henry at every opportunity, whether on the commons, at lunch, or in the library. Seeing as much, Merkin brought his concerns to the attention of the Headmistress of the Girls’ Lower Division, urging that she be brought more strictly to account for her academic work. She had distracted Henry to point where he was sure it was affecting his studies, and he was concerned that the girl’s academic performance might suffer as well.

But the girl’s grades, the Headmistress informed him, were unimpeachable– as, in fact, were Henry’s. Still, didn’t he have a right to be concerned? Well, that might be the case, she agreed, but until they began to see evidence that alerted them to a problem, it would be probably be best not to concern themselves. After all, it was to be expected that young men and women would begin to socialize at this age, and she saw nothing worrisome about their spending time together studying in the library. So long as their other contact was otherwise limited to approved school functions and they were upholding their grades, she felt there was nothing that ought to be done about it.

Nancy thought that Henry worried too much about Mr. Merkin’s rules anyway. Sometimes he seemed like a mama’s boy. He talked about his mother constantly, and planned every moment of his holidays around her.

In fact, with Easter recess upon them, the time was at hand for Mrs. Pratt’s spring visit from Maui. She would be arriving on the inter-island steamer Mauna Loa, she had written Henry, and would be staying at the nearby Little Piece of Heaven Lodge for a week. She so looked forward to their getting together, and wanted to catch up on all the news.

“I’d like to meet your mom, Henry,” Nancy said. “You talk about her all the time– she must be nice.”

Henry wasn’t sure what to say. “I’m not sure what my mother’s plans are. We usually have Easter dinner with Mr. Merkin.”

She looked away, crestfallen.

Seeing her disappointment, he tried to be helpful. “What are you doing for Easter?”

“My parents are on the mainland. They’re visiting my brother this time.” Nancy’s brother, Henry knew, was in his freshman year at Stanford University. “It’s his first year away, plus my dad has some business to take care of in California.”

“Are you on your own, then?”

“Yeah. Me and whoever else is gonna be stuck in the dorm.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say you couldn’t come. I just need to check with my mother first.”

“No, that’s okay,” she hastened. “You don’t have to…”

“But I want you to come,” Henry assured her. “I’m sure it’d be fine with her.”

Hawaiian music

Merkin reminded Henry of the upcoming occasion. “We’re going to prepare a nice ham, Henry. I went to town last Saturday and selected one at Franson’s. It’s a Smithfield ham, all the way from Virginia!”

“Sir, I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you,” Henry began. “But I’m taking my mother out for dinner on Easter. I made reservations.”

“You made reservations! Where, for heaven’s sake?! And with what? You don’t have any money.”

“I saved it, sir. From work-study.”

Merkin stammered, stung at the realization that he was apparently being excluded. It was like being told by his own family that they had plans for Christmas that didn’t include him. “Well, I thought it might be nice if we all had dinner together here, just like we always do,” Merkin said.

“Actually, sir, I’m going to take my mother out to dinner on Saturday. She wants to meet Nancy.”

“You’re what?!” Merkin couldn’t quite credit the idea. “You’re bringing that girl to Easter dinner with your mother?” Suddenly he grew indignant as well. “I thought we had an understanding on that subject.”

“We do, sir. But my mother asked me to bring her.”

“Then you must have told your mother about her! I don’t like the sound of that, young man. Not one bit do I like the sound of that!”

“She asked me about my friends, sir. It wasn’t anything more than that.”

“But… where does that leave me? I mean, your mother’s only going to be here for a week. And of course, we really can’t do anything much during the school week.” He shook his head, puzzled and shaken over this brazen defiance. “We’ve always been together for Easter dinner, Henry. Is this what your mother wants? I mean, what does this girl have to do with us?!”

“She’s a friend, sir, and she hasn’t got anyone to be with over the holiday. Her parents are in California.”

“But what about me? I don’t have anyone else to be with, either! It would be nice if I had been consulted. It’s not as if I’m some kind of stranger, you know! I think your mother would certainly wonder what had become of dear Mr. Merkin!”

“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to leave you out. I just wanted–”

“But that’s exactly what you’re doing, isn’t it! And I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going on with you and that girl! You’re thinking I’ll tell your mother all about it, aren’t you?!”

“Sir, that’s not–”

Relentlessly, he pressed his attack. “Well, you’re quite right, Henry! Because, after all, I certainly do intend to take this up with her! I hadn’t thought to spoil our Easter dinner with any of this, but I realize now that she does need to know, and I hardly think she’ll approve of the way you’re carrying on!”

“I don’t care what she thinks!” Henry said. “I’m almost fifteen! I’m not her little boy, or yours!”

“Excellent, then! Because I do intend to have a talk with her when she comes to visit! And don’t think that you’re going to keep me from doing that!”

“Just leave us alone, will you?!”

“Henry, I’m the one that took you under my wing, and counseled you, and… and now you’ve gone and taken up with that foolish young girl! I have done my very best to make sure that you did the right things… and even if you didn’t like what I decided for you, I was always sure that one day you would understand, and appreciate all that I’ve done for you! I don’t think your mother— ”

“Leave my mother out of this!!” Henry said. His face was flushed, and his eyes were filling with hot, angry tears.

Merkin looked at his young charge, so easily devastated by the prospect of involving his mother. Immediately he felt sorry for him. “I don’t mean to upset you, Henry! It’s just that I’m… hurt when I see you straying from what I know is right for you! I care for you deeply, you know. More than you could know.”

He sat down beside Henry, and put his arm around his shoulder. Henry withdrew from him, and brushed away his arm. “Go away!” But the arm had established its own motility, and it reached up on its own, and went to boy’s cheek and wiped away a tear that had streaked down his face.

“Don’t cry, Henry. Don’t be angry with me,” Merkin soothed. “Please.”

 His pulse pounded and his senses reeled. The hand ran its fingers behind the neck, and he drew the boy to him.

“I’m sorry, Henry.”

“Leave me alone,” the boy said, pushing himself away.

The hand snaked its way through the boy’s hair. No longer able to unable to restrain himself, Merkin drew the boy’s head to his chest and kissed the top of his head.

“You’re almost like a son to me, Henry,” Merkin whispered urgently. “You’re… you’re precious to me! I love you so much!”

“Sir! What are you—?!” Henry flailed, but his protest was that of prey whose struggle only tightened the python’s coils. “Let go of me!” he cried. Bewildered and disbelieving, he was helpless before the onslaught of this flushed red beast.

Hawaiian music

Henry hunched over the desk in his room, his head in his arms. His heads and arms were in a tangle, and his heart was twisted into a Gordian knot. He didn’t know whether to cry, or just what to do. There was no one he could cry out to against this outrage, no one to turn to. He sat in his room, paralyzed with terror over his dilemma.

There was a knock on the door.

“Who is it?” Alarmed, he raised his head from his tangle, and stared at the door, his heart in his throat.

“It’s me, Henry. Open the door.”

“Go away!” His heart thumped madly, then seemed to drop through his torso to seek shelter behind his kneecaps. “Leave me alone!” he cried out. “Go away!”

“Henry, you don’t have to be afraid. Open the door.”

“Leave me alone!”

“Henry, open the door. If you don’t open the door, I’ll use my own key. I’ve got a key, you know.” A long moment of silence ensued as Henry paused to consider his options. But failing to uncover any, he sat paralyzed, holding his breath. “I really think it would be much nicer if you opened the door all by yourself,” Merkin said. “Just so we could talk, okay?”

 More knocks. Then silence. Henry listened helplessly as keys jangled, and one was inserted into the lock. The tumblers turned, and the door creaked open.

Swollen and red-eyed, Henry beheld his tormentor. “Leave me alone!” he said. “I don’t want to see you– you’re a monster!”

Merkin stood and stared at the boy, then turned and locked the door behind him.

“Henry, we must talk.” He walked over and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. Henry offered no reaction, and cowered like a crippled bird beneath the gaze of a crocodile.

“A monster, am I? Is that all I am to you, a monster? Is ‘monstrous’ the summing-up of all my love for you? I have been more than a friend to you, Henry. I have been the father you never had. Your mother, bless her heart, knew this to be true. And she would be heartbroken to think you had turned your back on me.”

“I’m going to tell someone,” Henry said. “I’m going to tell the administration.”

“The administration?” Merkin snorted. “Young man, I am the administration. We in the administration are no strangers to silly accusations from embittered failures. In any case, your mother would hear of it.”

“Leave my mother out of this!”

“Oh, but I can’t, Henry. Your mother and I have invested so much in you. She would never understand.”

“Don’t you… ” He choked, and could not finish his sentence. Tears welled up, then breached the dam and coursed freely.

“That’s something that a person your age cannot comprehend, Henry. You don’t see the long stretch of years as I do, you don’t remember the countless affections and sacrifices that were made for you. Your mother and I understand each other, though.”

Henry sobbed now, and his shoulders shook.

“I’m so sorry, Henry. Love hurts, don’t you know? It’s been such a long time since I’ve loved someone. Nor have I been much loved, it seems. It’s a lonesome life. You can’t tell anyone how lonesome you are, or why.”

“I don’t want to be with you. What you did to me is a sin!”

“There is no sin in men loving each other, Henry! Even the Bible counsels its wisdom. With all the killing and brutality in the world today, what could possibly be wrong with two people loving each other?”

Merkin placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. Henry raised up his hand and brushed it away. “Don’t touch me!” he shouted. “I hate you!” He lurched up from his desk, and lashed out, striking a glancing blow to his chin, knocking his glasses akimbo.

With this, Merkin’s pity and solicitude were transformed into a cold anger. He grabbed Henry’s arm in a fist that hardened into iron.

“You’re a sorry little bastard, aren’t you!” he hissed. He stood there, glaring down at Henry, the hurt in eyes welling up. He released his grip, his shoulders slumped in exasperation. Then he turned and left the room.


Chapter Nine


“Henry,” she said, “a mother knows her own child better than the child knows himself. I want to know what it is that so troubles you that you want to take leave of your schooling– and your senses if you ask me!– to come home and twiddle your thumbs! What is it, Henry? Tell mother.”

The truth terrified him. The beast had returned, again and again. to visit its calamitous affections regularly on the boy, giving rise in Henry to helpless apathy and self-loathing as the boy grew into a young man.

Returning to his mother’s home on Maui for the summer of his seventeenth year, Henry wondered aloud how he might not go back for his final year at Mission Academy in the fall. He couldn’t stand it any longer, knowing the beast awaited his return, and knowing that he was now unable to do anything about it. Could he transfer, go to another school on the mainland even, and finish his studies there? No, his mother couldn’t very well afford that, and she’d never let him go in any event. It was too far away.

For his mother, no other school even existed. His career at the Mission Academy was all she ever talked about. He could never disappoint her. Maybe he could just say he was tired, and wanted a breather. She would understand that.

“Tell mother, won’t you?” she persisted. “Believe me, there’s nothing you could tell your mother that she wouldn’t understand.”

He doubted very much that she would understand.

“Mother, I’m sorry if I haven’t been forthcoming with you. But I’m just tired.”

“Tired of what, for heaven’s sake?! You’re a young man, strong and healthy! And you’ve always been so good with your schoolwork. Nothing but A’s!”

“I just need to get away from it for a while and think things over. It’s nothing more than that, really. I just need some time to think. I’m sure I’ll return soon, maybe next year.”

Hawaiian music

Later that summer, a letter addressed to Henry’s mother arrived from Mr. Merkin. Though it was addressed to Mrs. Pratt, Merkin knew she would be anxious to share its contents with Henry.

He was so pleased with Henry’s progress, Merkin wrote. Henry had everything to look forward to, and he himself looked forward to seeing him back in the fall. He was writing, too, to let her know that he had been promoted. He regretted that he would be leaving his position as headmaster of the Boy’s Lower Division to become vice principal of Mission Academy, and the cottage in which the three of them had shared so many happy occasions.

His new position came with larger quarters, but Merkin was sorry to inform her that all positions attendant upon that domicile were already filled, and that Henry’s position as his personal assistant would no longer be available. But he would have a word with his replacement to see that something else opened up for him.

Was Henry still interested in preparing himself for a career with the church? If so, he should consider enrolling in divinity school after he graduated next year. Merkin was certain that with Henry’s exemplary academic record, he could arrange things so that he might expedite the normal application process.

His mother, of course, was enthusiastic, pleased that Mr. Merkin would arrange such an extraordinary opportunity for her Henry. Oddly, the idea held a certain appeal for Henry as well. The prospect of divinity school, in the safety and company of other young men seeking solace and inspiration in the contemplation of the divine, was comforting.

But Henry wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He shared none of the usual aspirations for a steady job and a family. Most of all he just wanted to be alone. Whatever capacity remained to him for friendship had been sundered by the beast.

Hawaiian music

Henry returned to Mission Academy in the fall, praying that his nemesis would darken his door no more. But Henry knew he would have to see him at least once more, as he promised his mother he would, to fill out his application for divinity school. He hoped it would be a quick meeting.  

Merkin was now installed in a larger office on the top floor of the Administration Building. From behind a large oak desk beneath an oil painting of God, the stern tyrant of the Old Testament, Merkin got up and extended his hand, smiling welcomingly. “Why, Henry my dear young man, what took you so long? I would have thought you’d have come by first thing! You’ve been gone all summer!”

         Henry accepted the handshake, and Merkin walked over to shut the office door. Good God, Henry prayed, not here! But thankfully, Merkin didn’t lock the door, and he returned without incident to his place behind the desk.

“Henry, I hope there are no hard feelings,” he said. “I just want to be sure that we understand each other.”

“Sir, I just want to be friends! What we did was unnatural, sir, it’s a sin in the eyes of God. So, if there’s a place for me in divinity school next year, I’d like to enroll.”

“Henry, it’s a sin to commit a waste of affection. That’s what’s unnatural. Are you going to reject my friendship and guidance at last? You’re going to enroll in divinity school next year, and that’s fine. But it seems to me that you’re abandoning your friendship with me! I shouldn’t have to tell you that I’m in a very good position now to determine where your future might lie with the church! If you could overcome these doubts of yours, I should think that your future would be quite bright.”

“But sir, can we just be friends? If we can’t, I’m going to back to Maui tomorrow and I’ll just have to tell my mother why.”

Merkin looked at him and nodded slowly. Nothing had changed. It was the same ingrate as before that sat before him now. He turned in his chair, and looked out the window behind his desk.

“Very well, Henry, ‘just friends’ is what it will be. But by the same token, do not expect me to be there to help you or comfort you as a true friend might when you next find yourself in need! If ‘just friends’ is what you want, you’ll learn someday what it’s like to be without a truly good friend in this world. It’s a cold and unforgiving world without one.”

He paused for a moment to let his moment of picque pass.

“In any event,” Merkin continued, “I promised your mother a place in divinity school for you next year— notwithstanding the fact that the school ordinarily likes to take its time evaluating its candidates.”

“I appreciate that, sir. And I’ll do well by that. But the past is the past, and I’d like to say goodbye to all that, as a friend.”

Very well, Merkin thought, but you may well find that spleen is cold comfort indeed.


Chapter Ten


The day came when the newly ordained ministers would be informed of their new postings. The dean extended his congratulations: “Henry Pratt. The church has reserved for you an assignment of unique importance!” he exclaimed. “It has been decided that the church must heed the cries of its flock in even its most remote purviews, and after many years of dormancy, its mission at Hi’ilawe, on the island of Hawai’i, is to be re-activated.”

The church at Hi’ilawe had been shuttered more than a hundred years ago, but it still remained standing. Others old churches on Kauai and Maui had been torn down to make way for an agricultural park or an office building or a tract of new homes. In re-opening the church at Hi’ilawe, the Mission Estate was less concerned with heeding the bleatings of its flock than with averting the scrutiny of the Internal Revenue Service.

Mission Estate had made its fortune in lands that were once duck ponds and were now hotels. More money was collected in rent than was spent on educating children of Hawaiian ancestry, and there was little connection to be discerned any longer with the old American Board of Missions. With all the money the Mission Estate was making in rents, and the ways in which that money was being spent, the IRS wondered if the whole thing wasn’t just a big business. It seemed entirely possible that the tax-exempt status of the Mission Estate might come under official scrutiny.

Hawaiian music

Later, when the everyone was standing around talking, Henry button-holed the dean’s assistant, wanting more information. “I didn’t realize that there was a mission in… where did they say?”

“Hi’ilawe.”

“Is that in Hilo? I’ve heard of the church at Hilo.”

“It’s up the coast from Hilo,” he said. “Hidden away in a valley, though it’s been there since the 1830s. It was Pastor Bingham’s church once upon a time. You’ll like it, once we get the place fixed up.”

“Why did they close it?”

“Well, it isn’t discussed in any official history,” the deacon said. “but it seems there was an incident. I’m not that familiar with what happened, except that there was Pastor Bingham met with an untimely death.”

“And because of that, they’ve kept it closed all these years?”

“Yes, well, as I said, Pratt, the particulars of the case aren’t known to me. I wasn’t involved in the decision.” His tone of voice, and the use of Henry’s last name, suggested that he wasn’t comfortable with this line of inquiry. “But all of us are pleased, as we know you are, that the calling of the parishioners in Hi’ilawe is once again to be heard.”

Hawaiian music

The Mission Estate informed the Hamakua Sugar Company that the mission in Hi’ilawe would be re-opened, and that a new minister was coming to take up duties there. Was there anyone who might be available to assist the pastor in caring for the mission?

Pastor Pratt arrived at his new posting one blue summer evening. As his skiff hove to at the jetty, he stepped ashore in the sun-rain lands of Hi’ilawe. Kaipo and Herman were there to greet him. Masa, now a manager, had given the caretaker job to Herman. He would cut the grass, prune the hedges, clean up around the place, and assist the new pastor in whatever ways might be helpful. So long as he stayed away from the camps, he had the job.

“This is my brother Herman,” Kaipo said. “He’s going help take care of things.”

“Yes, hello,” Henry said. *How are you?”

“Good,” Herman said.

“He don’t say much,” said Kaipo. “But he’ll be around if you need him. He can show you where things are, show you where to buy food. Some days the fish lady come around. Other days, tofu guy… we get things from the store for sell, too.”

“Well, ah… yes,” Pratt fumbled. “Will you be staying at the mission, Herman?”

“Yeah.”

They drove up the crushed coral road and pulled up in front of the old church. Getting out of the truck, Henry stared, and his heart sank to behind his kneecaps. He shook his head, his mouth opened, and his jaws seemed to work at something to say.

“They said I would like it.”

The mission was an unholy mess. The floors and roof alike had rotted through in parts and caved in. The basement was caked with several inches of silt, and the outhouse was a horror that overflowed with algaed muck. There were mice and frogs and centipedes everywhere. Some of the windows were broken, and mildew covered the walls and ceiling. Termites had eaten away at the pews and left little piles of wood dust everywhere. The iron stove was rusted shut, and it would take a great deal of banging to knock it open. Curtains and carpets were mildewed and moth-eaten. And after its silence of a hundred years, the organ sounded a strangled chord, then wheezed and died.

“The bedroom’s upstairs,” Herman said.

They walked up the creaking staircase, gained the landing, and pushed aside cobwebs to make their way to a room at the end of the hall.

“Here it is.” The door creaked opened onto the bedroom, then broke and fell off its hinges, kicking up a cloud of dust. In the bedroom stood an ancient rattan bed, a bureau shot through with the borings of termites, and a small desk. A long verandah, empty of chairs, overlooked the valley. Everything lay under a thick coat of dust. “It does indeed look like nobody’s been here for a hundred years,” Pratt said. In a moment of revelation, it became clear to him that he had been banished to this place.

Hawaiian music

The accumulated grime and dirt and dust of a hundred years was swept and scrubbed away. The mice and centipedes were banished, the rooms aired, the windows cleaned, and linseed oil was applied throughout. Lumber and glass panes and caulking and other building supplies were procured. The pews were restored, the rotting floorboards replaced, and the roof shingled. The living quarters and the kitchen were wired for electricity, fed by a generator. Pipes for plumbing were installed, along with a flushing toilet in a bathroom downstairs.

An organ tuner was summoned, but was never able to make it sound much better than as if the organist were stomping on a cat’s paws. They brought in bedding, and stocked the cupboards with rice, flour, sugar, tea, and utensils. Kaipo contributed a few things from the store, and a couple of his coconut pies sat on the kitchen table.

Supplies were stocked in the basement, and when mealtime came, Herman disappeared downstairs and brought up rice, a tin of corned beef, and some onions, and then went out back to fetch greens from the garden. The garden had been unrecognizable as such, its ancient coffee shrubs spindly and everything wildly overgrown. But Herman weeded and turned over its soil, and put in lettuce, long beans, cabbage, corn, and some sweet potatoes. Henry gave Herman some money to buy fish from the fish lady, and pork from the butcher in town, and a few dollars from time to time for spending money.

Hawaiian music

In the fullness of time, order was restored to the little church, and Henry and Herman turned their attentions to preparing for the first services to be held in more than a hundred years.

“We’re all set to go,” Herman, now that the place had been restored to some measure of habitability. “Now we gotta have this place blessed.”

“It is blessed,” Henry said.

“Not just by God. Gotta have one kahuna come bless the place.”

“That’s bizarre!” Henry said. “Why should I let some old goblin come in and spread superstitious nonsense in my church?!”

“It’s not li’ dat. He’s a good Christian, like you and me. But you gotta have this place blessed, otherwise people never going come.”

“I don’t think that would set a very good example.”

“These people don’t know nothing about faddah, his son, and… and Santa Claus or whoever the guy—“

“The Holy Ghost, Herman.”

“Whatevah! They all the same, all roll up in one, no can make sense! All those bedtime stories… forget about ‘em already! If I was you, I like give ‘em the real low-down. Tell ‘em ‘bout Night Marchers! That way they going sit up and take notice. They going listen!”

“They aren’t bedtime stories, as you put it. But what about Night Marchers, Herman?”

“You’ll see,” Herman said. “Sometimes so loud! Then when you get up and look, can see ‘em! Get torches!”

“What are they doing?”

“Marching around in the rain.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad. So what?”

The people that lived here, they saw them sometimes. The Night Marchers came out after dark, on one of the nights of the gods Ku or Kanaloa, on nights of heavy downpour of rain and mist, or heavy seas. You saw their torches, pillars of candlenuts that burned brightly even in the rain. Some nights you could even hear the thud of drums and chants of names and deeds. Some people followed them to see where they would go, but you had to be careful. For if the wind blew from where they were marching to where you were, something would happen. You had to be careful.

“Ever since they stole the bones,” Herman continued, “was like everything wen’ wrong with this place.”

“What bones? What are you talking about?”

“Used to be, was one heiau up the valley, where get the bones of Lono!”

“It that one of your pagan deities?”

“Lono was no whatevah-you-call-him. You better not say such things!”

“Well, Herman, I’m not about to subscribe to any nonsense about old gods,” Henry said. “Pastor Bingham should have put paid to all that mumbo-jumbo a hundred tears ago!”

“All you people the same,” Herman said. “You no more respect. Why you think this place was empty?! That’s how the guy died, you know! Night Marchers! Found him on the beach road, stone-cold dead! You think all this stuff is nonsense. But I tell you, people here think this place belong to Lono, not Jesus Christ or Santa Claus! And they know get Night Marcher! Even get were-shark walking around! If you no more respect, same thing going happen to you!”

Even in this day and age, the hearts of the Hawaiians of Hi’ilawe remained as much in thrall to Lono and to Jesus. Perhaps Herman had a point, Henry realized. But with nonsense like Night Marchers and were-sharks holding sway, what should he expect from his congregation?

Against his better judgment, Henry went along with it. He hired the kahuna for ten dollars, and everyone watched as he walked around the perimeter of the church, muttering and shaking his ti leaves. He shouted up at the rafters and down into the basement and into the four corners of the building and everywhere where malign spirits might hide, commanding them to remove themselves in the name of Jesus Christ. That much was in English, but when he began ranting in Hawaiian, Henry couldn’t be at all sure what he was saying, or to which deity he was appealing. But he hoped that somehow it all made sense to people here.

Hawaiian music

In preparation for the opening service, Kaipo and Herman had cobbled together a congregation. There wasn’t much to work with. Most of the churchgoers in the community went to church up the road in Hamakua or even in Hilo, sixty miles distant, since that was their chance to go shopping and visit friends as well. But at least there was Kaipo and Lani and Haunani and Izzy and a few of their friends who had agreed to come as a favor, and of course there was Herman at the organ and a few of his friends there as well.

The Monday after their first service, Henry and Herman sat at the table and discussed matters over breakfast. Herman had prepared tea and taro cakes. 

“Do you think we’ll have a better turnout next Sunday?” Henry asked, listlessly.

“Maybe. If you no fall down first,” Herman said.

“Is it that obvious?” Henry said. All the work it had taken to restore the chapel, combined with the sleeplessness of the long nights, had tired him to the point where he hardly had the energy to compose a proper sermon, not the drivel he had mumbled through yesterday… what a fine first impression that must have made. “I can’t sleep at all,” Henry said, “and I don’t have much of an appetite. The nights are so hot and sticky. And the dogs howl all night.”

It wasn’t just the dogs. In the still night, the chorus of crickets became a roar. Every toss and turn caused sweat to bead, and he reeked of soaking sweats gone dry. Tired from the long, sleepless nights, Henry could hardly lift the food from his plate. He took a bite and chewed.

“What is this, Herman?”

“Taro cake. With syrup.”

“Taro…” Henry mused. Well it’s unlike any pancake I’ve ever eaten. What is that you’ve put on it? Molasses?”

“No.”

“What is it, then?”

“I don’t know what it’s called, just ti root syrup.”

“Tea? You mean like what we’re drinking?”

“No. Other kine ti. From up the valley.”

“How do you make it?”

“Boil the root. It’s real sticky, and sweet. Like molasses.”

“It’s not bad, actually. But I’ve had enough already. I just don’t seem to have any appetite. I’m so tired.”

 “Maybe you should take some medicine,” said Herman.

“I haven’t got any medicine, Herman.”

“I have some medicine. I’ll give you some tonight.”

Hawaiian music

That night, Herman brought the medicine in a small amber bottle, a little sample of what he had cooked up in the still, in the ti patch up in the narrows of the valley, from ti root mash fermented in an old bathtub buzzing with fruit flies. He had mixed in a bit of cough syrup to legitimize it, then carefully measured out two fingers into the glass. Then he stirred in some sugar and mixed in some water.

Henry swallowed a small mouthful and grimaced. “Tastes like spirits!” The blood rushed to his face, and he flushed hot. “Oh, it’s awful!”

“Well, you gotta drink ‘em all down. It will make you sleep, real good!”

“I’ve never drank spirits in my life!”

“Then what you know? This is medicine, not spirits. You gotta take your medicine. Everyone knows medicine tastes bad. But it’s good for you. Going make you sleep real good.”

In Henry’s ragged state of mind, the usual cautionary tales no longer applied. Nothing mattered except sleep. He was so tired, so dispirited these days, that his only purpose, as compelling as survival itself, was to sleep. He choked down the contents of the bottle. Then he sat, gazing out at the valley, feeling oddly tranquil and relaxed.

Hawaiian music

The next day, Herman needed medicine too. From his trip to the still that day, he came back soaking wet. He caught cold, and he gave the cold to Henry.

Henry’s fatigue made this an especially bad cold, lots of sneezing and congestion. But the medicine let him sleep. No longer did he lie awake, troubled by the caterwauling of the dogs and unable to sleep from the stuffy heat of those breathless nights. The blessed release won from these torments quickly eroded whatever restraint might have intervened, and all that week, the two of them sat around in a daze, too sick to do anything but drink medicine, and too dazed to care.

Hawaiian music

At least the congregation was just family and friends. Today, they waited nearly half an hour in the pews, while Herman wheezed away on the organ.Hnery was no optimistic that his congregation would ever achieve the critical mass that would cause people to invite their friends and make it a fun thing for the whole community. Here it was just Herman’s friends.

As the congregation dribbled in, Herman dawdled on the organ, dreadfully and discordantly. Godfrey sat on top of the instrument, flicking his tail and gazing screwily at the assembled multitude.

Herman had gotten the cat for the mice, but it had grown fat and sleek on goatfish heads. The goatfish abounded in these waters, and harbored a toxic substance in its brain that induced dementia in those who ate the heads. Men who ingested the heads reported horrifying nightmares of being overwhelmed by enormous waves, or of being chased down and torn asunder by dogs, dreams accompanied by sensations of electric shock, of lost balance, of the head being lower than the feet.

There were still lots of mice in the mission, but the cat usually ignored them. When the fishing boats returned to the wharf late in the day, there was Godfrey, awaiting his fish heads. Finding its behavior humorous, the fishermen fed the cat little except for the heads. Was one mean cat, they said. There were nights when Henry lay awake, listening to its enraged screams. Like some moon monster on a tear, it growled at dogs that ran off, disinclined to do battle. It growled at nothing half the time.

Lacking any books apart from the Bible, and absent the mental clarity to pen a coherent sermon, Henry had tried to pull together some of the tales he could recall from his own Sunday School lessons long ago. But he could hardly remember where one sentence left off and the next began. So he improvised, muddling on about one thing and then another, blanking out momentarily in between bromides, at sea with his screed and his baffled listeners. Henry didn’t realize it, but he was drunk.

Hawaiian music

These days, the congregation always arrived late, if they showed up at all, knowing that Pastor Henry would be late. This time was no different. The congregation waited patiently, and presently, Herman got up from the organ and went upstairs to fetch Henry. There he was, in his armchair on the porch, his chin tucked into the folds of his neck, purring softly. His cigarette had burned down to a stub in his nicotine-stained fingers, its ash dribbled onto the floor where it had missed the ashtray.

“Wake up!” Herman shouted.

Henry jolted awake, and looked up at him wearily.

“Pastor Henry!” Herman said. “Everyone’s waiting for you!”

Henry looked up, his eyes swimming into focus.

“Everybody’s waiting!” he repeated.

“Send them home, Herman. I’m feeling ill, you know. I need some medicine. I don’t have any more.”

Herman went back downstairs to the waiting congregation. “Sorry,” he told them, “but pastor is sick today. Cold season, you know. Can you come back next time?” Lani offered a cluck of sympathy, and asked if there was anything she could do. The men looked relieved, and their faces brightened. The children were glad, since now they could play, and the men could meet for the hooch Herman always had for them.


Chapter Eleven


Humphrey Merkin’s appointment to principal had capped a steady rise to heights undreamt of by a man whose career had long been that of a bureaucratic hewer of wood. When his supervisor Headmaster Wollard passed– called home to glory, they said– his own summons to glory came soon after, first to replace Wollard as headmaster of Boy’s Lower Division, then several years later, as vice principal and finally as principal of Mission Academy, for nearly twenty years now.

His nomination to fill a vacancy on the Board of Trustees of Mission Estate was the cherry on the icing of the cake. The vacancy had been created by the retirement of Dr. Kamuela Rice from the Board, a congery of old boys that handled most of the main items of business, such as its hundred-year lease to the Hamakua Sugar Company. And for very nearly a hundred years the Estate had raked in rents from its landholdings in places like Hi’ilawe that grew the sweet lucre of sugar. Rents rose over time, sugar profits were fat, and everyone was happy.

The appointment as trustee of Humphrey Merkin, a distinguished educator and head of the Mission Academy, underscored the Mission Estate’s commitment to education and the well being of its Hawaiian students, in accordance with the wishes expressed long ago by Princess Ruth in the devise of her lands to the church. Merkin’s appointment was hailed as a timely infusion of new blood and fresh thinking into what had become an old boy’s club.

Hawaiian music

The limousine pulled up beneath the porte cochere of the Humu Hotel, where fish sculptures spouted jets of water into a seashell-lined fountain. The subject of all the excitement today was the Mission Estate’s new venture, the Hawaiian Cultural Park. Social lions, business leaders, pillars of the community and functionaries of the Estate were all in attendance.

 Sclerotic bores to the man, the minions of the Mission Estate existed to collect rents, spend huge amounts of time pondering and processing leases and licenses, consulting with attorneys, developing three-page addenda to one-page documents, quoting regulations, and otherwise interposing themselves in processes and projects at every opportunity— when they weren’t busy with luncheons, that is, where they were usually occupied with idle palaver and rubber chicken with tired peas and carrots. But today, a formal poi supper awaited.

The procession filed into the banquet room, where Merkin took his place at the head of a long table draped with fresh ti leaves and crowned with a centerpiece of lacy maiden hair, palapalai, and other mountain ferns. Fragrant flowers were strung on lei or used as pompoms, maile was draped along the seats for the men, carnation and ginger for the ladies. Fresh fruit decorated the table, with watermelon sliced Van Dyke style and crowned pineapple, and the table glittered with an array of long-stemmed crystal, polished coconut bowls, and crystal finger bowls adorned with slices of lemon and nasturtium leaves.

They picked from dishes of candlenut relish, Hawaiian red salt, chopped green onions, tiny red Hawaiian chilies, several kinds of fresh seaweed, and slices of dried fish and freshwater shrimps. They scooped up mounds of slightly sour day-old poi strewn with shreds of pickled salmon and cooked squid, and helped themselves to dishes of cooked sweet crabs or pieces of purple or orange or white sweet potato, and squares of coconut pudding.

The reverend took to the podium and offered a few remarks and invoked the blessing. Then it was time for Humphrey Merkin to speak. The occasion and the subject of his speech was the Mission Academy’s Hawaiian Cultural Park. It was a brilliant idea, he believed, where Hawaiian students on scholarships to Mission Academy could work to defray their tuition and showcase the heritage of their race. The Hawaiians were dramatically fewer in number now, largely because of the white man’s microbes. But thanks to the Cultural Park, the whole world could be made to see the benefit that would accrue to Hawaiians from the Mission Estate’s efforts to commemorate their colorful but imperiled way of life.

Then, too, Humphrey Merkin was a great believer in work-study programs. But they should require of the student honest hard work, not some cosseted arrangement such as that which Henry Pratt had once enjoyed. The Cultural Park would give them that kind of opportunity.

While Merkin pontificated, the musicians ate, and coffee and fresh coconut cake was served to the guests, along with haupia and fresh fruit. After the speech, the musicians took over again. They played slack key, and everyone watched the hula dancers, especially the old Hawaiian women who showed how it was really done.

Hawaiian music

Hula was very much on the mind of Kaipo and Lani’s twenty-year old daughter, Haunani. More than anything, she wanted to join one hula halau, learn the real old-style dance, and travel with the troupe to far-off places like Honolulu. She didn’t see much of a future in Hi’ilawe.

“I never going get married and settle down in this place!” she sulked, as she and her mother swept the lanai of their Squattersville store and Kaipo sat and listened.

“Your father and I got married under a mango tree,” Lani said. “And I was happy with that. Of course, those was different times. I was twenty like you, and people thought I was one spinster already! My daddy said none of those guys that came around for me was good enough. If Kaipo never wen’ come around, maybe I never get married.”

Kaipo nodded. “I feel the same way,” he said. “None of those guys is good enough.” He and Lani were mindful of the fact that their daughter was coming of age. But here was nothing but plantation men, and the plantation was their only future.

“So, what she going do?” Lani said, looking to Kaipo. “This place is her home. Was good enough for me. Should be good enough for her.”

 “Haunani,” Kaipo asked, “what you wanna do?”

Haunani stared at the floor for a decent inerval, then looked up.

“I like join one halau,” she said.

“What! For dance hula?! I mean besides that. I mean like, go back to school.”

“But daddy, that’s what one halau is! For study hula! You go study under one kumu hula. You gotta study hard, not like in school. Like those kids that wen’ Honolulu!” she said, suddenly animated by the thought. “To Mission Academy. They study school and they dance hula, do shows and stuff for tourists.”

“Honolulu’s a long ways,” Kaipo said. “How about never mind go Honolulu. Get good schools in Hilo, I think.”

“Only get halau in Hilo. If I’m going school, only get junk schools in Hilo,” she disdained. “I like go Mission Academy. They get both… get school and get halau.”

“You’re not going Honolulu.” Kaipo said. “You too young for that!”

“Twenty’s too young?! Twenty not too young for Mom to marry you!”

Her resolve had taken root, and Haunani applied to Mission Academy. She never thought about the money. But if it happened, maybe she could get one scholarship. She’d cross that bridge when she came to it.

Hawaiian music

The letter, postmarked Honolulu and embossed with the seal of the Mission Academy, arrived. Breathlessly, Haunani opened it, read the first line, then broke into a broad smile. She read some more, and began jumping up and down, squealing.

But as she read on, her enthusiasm became muted. The Mission Academy had accepted her, which was nice. What’s more, they were prepared to place her in a work-study program to offset the expenses of her room and board. But given her high school academic record, they were unable to offer her a scholarship at this time (she could apply next year, providing her GPA for the academic year was 3.0 or better). Until then, tuition was her responsibility, all $1,000 of it.

Was plenty money, one grand. Her daddy didn’t have that kind of money, didn’t have a clue where she could lay hands on that kind of money. She wallowed in her quandary, downcast that opportunity had knocked on her door, and that she could not answer. More than for herself, she felt sorry for her dad– he worked so hard all these years, and still, money was so tight. She didn’t wanna talk about it with nobody.

Herman wanted to be helpful. “How come so sad?” he asked. “You was so excited, now get long face. I thought you was going school.”

“I don’t think I going nowhere,” Haunani said.

“What do you mean! You was accepted, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“So what’s the problem already?”

“No more money. They want me pay tuition.”

“Humbug, already! I thought was free! How much you gotta pay?”

“Thousand dollah.”

“Thousand clams!? Hoooweeee! That’s plenty money!”

Next day, Herman came. He sat down at the kitchen table, where Haunani and Kaipo were finishing lunch, and Lani was cleaning up. He took a roll of bills out of his pocket, big enough for choke one elephant. Mostly twenties, some fifties even. He counted out a thousand dollars, as everyone looked on in shocked silence.

“People always tell me I’m no good,” he said. “But they never say my money’s no good.”

They went into town, and Haunani bought a cashier’s check with the money. She enclosed the check along with her acceptance form, and mailed in, formalizing her enrollment in the class of 1985.


Chapter Twelve


The half-empty bottle of medicine lay beside him on the table. Henry came awake, his face beet-red and swollen, soaked with night sweats. Flaring so brilliantly that it hurt the eyes, the moon swam through a sky of smoky blue, across which drifted a few yellowish rags of cloud. Through the tepid air, the scent from the plumeria trees streamed like some intolerable compound sprayed from an atomizer. Seen through the tree’s naked branches, the moonlight crusted the earth like a rime of salt.

Henry beheld his old friend. It wouldn’t do to keep trembling like this. He needed a drink to settle the nerves and give him some room to breathe.

He upended the bottle and kissed the sour mash, his relief deeping with each swallow. He sighed, breathless after the first draught and immediately craving the next. Then, things began to come into perspective, less troubled by nettlesome abstractions of right and wrong. Trembling still, he re-applied the bottle to his lips, and drained it. Things were in focus now, at least as he was used to seeing them.

Now he could have a drink of water, wander outside, smoke his pipe, and drink from the next bottle at a more leisured pace. But wait, what time was it? Two forty-five, his watch said.

Henry looked out at the garden. He relished its chaos and decrepitude, its wild spirit of unruly growth and rot. It suited his state of mind. The bougainvillea had entwined itself amongst the papaya trunks and flowered extravagantly. The moon hung like an old gray skull over the valley, flooding the garden with pale light and lending a further nuance of decay to the garden, the moonlight, the mission, himself.

There was no longer any point. As more services were missed, few bothered to show up, just Herman’s friends, mostly. But his friends were boisterous, and he scolded Herman, saying that their conduct in church was inappropriate. It seemed to him that they came more to be entertained– and perhaps he had become an object of hilarity. But if he was so tired that he could hardly keep his eyes open, did they find that so amusing? They seemed always on the brink of laughter.

He wondered if their attendance had something to do with liquor. Sunday was their day off, a good time to take care of errands or go fishing, not come to church. Something was up.

“Who are those men from the plantation?” Henry had asked. “Why are they here?”

“You gotta take what you can get,” Herman said.

“You’re selling spirits to those men, aren’t you? And what is that awful smell downstairs, Herman?! Have you taken to burying our dead in the cellar?”

“I don’t smell nothing.”

“Oh, come now! Surely you can smell that! They can probably smell it in town when the wind’s right!”

No further response was forthcoming from Herman.

“You’re making medicine down there, aren’t you?”

“There you go again, putting your nose where it don’t belong,” Herman shot back. “I think your nose knows too much! Don’t worry so much about me,” he continued. “If you ask too many questions, I cannot do my job, I cannot take care of you! If I was you, I would worry more about you!”

Hawaiian music

Herman had told his friends that they could not come only to buy swipe anymore. They had to come so that Pastor Henry would have a congregation. Gotta sit nice and quiet and respectful, listen to the whole sermon. Then they get swipe. That was the deal. Henry was grateful, in a way. Perhaps appearances were all that mattered anymore.

Still, it was hard for him to accept his passive complicity in Herman’s basement moonshining. Not overly hard, perhaps, since he was as keenly interested in the progress of the new batch as Herman was. At least it wasn’t necessary to pretend about that anymore. The two of them— three, if one included the cat— existed in a dark fairy tale, with Herman’s imagination populated by the likes of Night Marchers, menehune, and were-sharks. Henry contended with the writhing creepy-crawlies in his own head, and Godfrey contended with God only knew what caused him to growl and hiss and scratch at thin air. It was as topsy-turvy as Alice in Wonderland, but the medicine made it all bearable and somehow comprehensible.

With Pastor Henry in his cups, Herman was in the chips, and at length he accumulated enough money to buy a car. With the car, his horizons had broadened, to Hilo, where on Saturday nights he checked into Violet’s, where there could be found cold beer, good Hawaiian music, and the ladies.

There he made the acquaintance of a young woman of easy virtue, and after drinks and jollification, they consummated their relationship, however awkwardly, in the back seat of Herman’s Buick.

Festooned with yards of gleaming chrome fashioned into false air scoops and gun ports, quadruple headlight frames, and torpedo tail lights, the Buick was an automobile of grand distinction, and its back seat was capacious. Dressed to the nines in his tatty vest and pomaded hair, the girls wondered if Herman was some kind of manager.

“You one pimp?” the girl asked. “You look like one pimp.”

“Naw, I just come from church,” Herman said. “This is my Sunday best.”

“Yeah, you don’t act like no pimp.” she said.

“Never get chance. No girls where I live.”

“Where’s that?”

“Hi’ilawe. Out past the plantation.”

“Oh yeah?! What do all those guys do for good time? Why don’t you bring your friends with you next time? I’ll cut you in.”

“Maybe I oughtta be one pimp!” he said. “How much action you going cut me in on?”

“Twenty dollah each.”

Two weeks later, he dialed her up. Said he was coming Saturday night, was going bring couple guys. Told her to get one room. Soon he was making regular trips. Business was good, but Hilo was so far away.

Maybe better he should bring the girl to Hi’ilawe, park the Buick somewhere out of the way, tell the guys come do their business in the back seat. He could probably get away with it, he thought. Give Pastor Henry his medicine, and he’d sit tight, wouldn’t know nothing.

Hawaiian music

Saturday nights, Herman always left Henry a little something extra. Didn’t make no big deal out of it, just left it there where he knew he’d find it. Henry thought that was generous of him, thought perhaps that they had reached an understanding. Perhaps it was Herman’s way of making up to him for the absence of his companionship on Saturday nights.

Herman brought the girl to Hi’ilawe, drove into the valley with the girl crouched down in back. He parked the car out in back of the cemetery, and cut the lights. They waited and talked quietly for maybe twenty minutes.

“You sure those guys coming?” she asked.

By and by, they showed up… always late, these kanakas. They knew the rules— gotta be quiet. Was so quiet, only noise was the car springs. Made good money, never a problem.

But maybe it was too much to expect it to last. The girl needed to use the toilet.

“Just go outside,” Herman said.

“Not numbah one,” she said. “Numbah two.”

This presented a problem. “How come you never go before you come here?” he asked.

“Eh,” she said. “some of these guys like come in the back door– know what I mean?”

He thought about it for a moment, then decided he didn’t want to think about it anymore. “Yeah, okay okay,” he said. “I’ll take you. But you gotta be real quiet. No wake up nobody!”

They drove up the road to the mission. He cut the lights, and pulled in as quietly as he could, out back of the Sunday School. “Remember,” he whispered. “Be real quiet! I’ll show you where, then I’m going upstairs, look in on him.”

“Hurry, yeah? I gotta go, already!”

They got out, opened the door, and he pointed her down the hallway toward the bathroom.

Hawaiian music

Henry dozed liverishly, then awakened. The animals never let him sleep for long. They came back every night, and sat down at a judicious distance from where they knew the cat lurked, and barked as if to provoke the monster to emerge, to draw the dragon out of its cave so they could run it ragged. He sat there fuming, his head aching and his gut burning sourly.

He lit a cigarette, the sweat beading and dripping from his brow. God how he wanted a drink, and even the Saturday bonus ration had disappeared. Herman had the key to the storeroom, where he locked the stuff away. It had become a constant game about the medicine, and Henry had tired of it. It would have been so much easier if he could just help himself, instead of bothering Herman, off in Hilo again on his Saturday night revel. He’d have to see what was downstairs. He stubbed out the cigarette, saving it for later.

He heard the toilet flush. Ahh… Herman was home, just in time, he thought.

He got up, and walked to the stairwell. He thought he heard a door close downstairs, footsteps in the hall, then voices whispered.

He peered down the stairs. “Herman?”

There was whispering… a woman’s voice, he was sure of it.

“Herman?” Taking hold of the banister, he thumped down the stairs. “Herman?!” he called out.

Herman hissed at the girl to hurry up and get out the door ahead of the advancing footfalls. But it was too late. Arriving at the bottom of the stairs, Henry stood and squinted in the unaccustomed light admitted by the half-open door. Then his eyes widened, his jaw dropped, and he stared.

Cowering at the door, the girl grinned foolishly. Herman looked at him nervously.

“Herman?” Henry said, as if to confirm what his eyes could not believe. “Herman, what in God’s name is a woman doing here?!” he demanded. “Who is she?!”

“She’s my niece!” Herman offered. “From Hilo. She had to use the toilet.”

“And what is your niece doing here of all places, Herman– in the middle of the night?” He looked at the girl, dressed in a skirt that rode several hands high of the knee, and with make-up to rival the hindquarters of a mandrill. He realized that his line of questioning was superfluous. “You don’t even have a niece, Herman. This woman’s a tart, isn’t she!?!” he said. “You’ve brought a tart here, haven’t you!”

Herman said nothing. His initial dissembling had given the lie to anything else he might wish to offer. The girl fidgeted, then withered beneath Henry’s glowering. Looking Herman dead in the eye, Henry resumed his interrogation.

“As if it isn’t enough that you’re selling liquor! Now it’s women, too, isn’t it?!” Incredulous, his gaze shifted from Herman to the girl. “So how’s business, my dear? Saturday night… must be pretty good,” he mused. It all made sense to him now. “So that’s what you’ve been up to on Saturday nights, Herman? Is that why you left the medicine lying around? My God, did you think I was that far gone?!”

But it seemed that he was talking to himself, answering his own question.

“You don’t have much to say for yourself, do you, Herman? Well just get out, then. Go on, get out… and take yourniece with you! Take her back to wherever you hired her, and you and I will talk tomorrow.”

Herman dropped his gaze. Shit, he thought. Then he pushed the door open, and walked with the woman back to the Buick.

There wasn’t much discussion, as it turned out. Henry was unable to obtain from Herman anything more than silence and a deaf ear. Was hard feelings on both sides. Herman was sore at Henry, since there were several dozen bottles of prize hooch that remained in the basement. Henry had confiscated the whole shooting match and then turned him out, with his bag, his Buick, and his ill-gotten bucks– amounting to more than a thousand dollars in an account at the Hamakua Savings and Loan.

Hawaiian music

Kaipo knew something had happened now that Herman was coming around again. Why wasn’t he at the mission? He and Pastor Henry had quarreled, Herman said. It wasn’t long, though, before Kaipo learned the truth. Having at last exhausted the medicine in the basement, Henry was seen shuffling grimly down to the store for bottles of fortified wine.

It was evident that this was more than a passing spat, and that matters had reached a serious impasse. Kaipo pressed Herman for details, but few were forthcoming. Declining further comment, Herman left, and last Kaipo heard, he was living in the Buick, somewhere up the valley.

But it just wouldn’t do for Pastor Henry to be dumped like that. It was resolved amongst Kaipo and Lani and the ohana that they would take up the slack. They stopped by every few days to straighten things up and cook for him, as well as to provide him with something to dissuade his further venturing forth beneath the gaze of the community. At least that way it was controlled, or so they reasoned. Izzy swept up the trash from the plumeria trees and chopped back the unruly growth in the garden, and Kaipo and Lani cleaned up inside, dusting and mopping, changing the sheets and collecting the laundry to take back to the store. 

Apart from sending along his pay packet, the Mission Estate had long ago put Henry Pratt out of its mind. At age forty-two, he was afflicted with sores that he called mud-sores, but which were actually caused by drink. They left little pits in his skin that did not go away. His hands shook as he scratched the ears of his cat— his only companion now– as they sat on the verandah of Wolohu’s Sunday School and passed the days, with Henry abandoning any further efforts at Sunday sermonizing. Whatever ecstasy he might have had for God had become a cold cinder.


Chapter Thirteen


Haunani had expected a tidy community of students dressed in neat uniforms on a pleasant campus where young Hawaiian people were studying to get ahead. But looked like some kind of circus to her.

Busloads of tourists poured through the place, and students were sweeping up or tending stalls that sold souvenirs and pineapple juice. Even from the Administration Building you could hear the shouts and the drums of the performances, the cries of “Alooooha!”, and audiences applauding. 

On sabbatical from the Sunday School, Herman had decided he’d like to come along and take in the big city. That made sense to Kaipo and Lani, too. He and Haunani would live together, in one of the school’s Family Housing units— a quadrangle of cinder block walk-ups hidden away behind the Dairy Queen and stands selling lacquered blowfish and dyed conch shells along the highway. Was plenty noisy here at the Housing Office, women shouting at men, doors slamming, kids crying. Bu after waiting and waiting, Herman and Haunani were given keys and directions to their unit, a dowdy apartment with dirty jalousies and a cracked vinyl floor.

Next morning, Herman and Haunani filed into the auditorium. Some two hundred people, mostly Hawaiian-looking faces, waited for the proceedings to begin. After a long wait, the audience was restless, and finally, a fifty-ish woman dressed in a navy-blue suit and oversize glasses walked up to the podium. The microphone whined and squealed. She tapped it, then began speaking.

“Ladies and gentlemen…” The murmur died down. “Ladies and gentlemen. Members of the Class of 1985, and their families! It is with great pleasure that we welcome you here today to the Mission Academy, to begin what we hope will be a richly rewarding academic and life experience– one that will pave the way for the dreams of a new generation of Hawaiians to find fulfillment.”

She was followed by the Dean of Students, who briefed the assembly on the options available to them in the work-study programs at the Cultural Park. They would try to accommodate everyone’s interests as best they could, he said, but there were only a limited number of openings available in certain programs. Haunani was so excited. “Oh, I can’t wait, Uncle Herman! I’m going first thing tomorrow morning and apply! I’m going dance hula!”

Hawaiian music

The school’s Polynesian Dance Halau was a top draw for the Hawaiian Cultural Park, one of the best shows on the island. But there weren’t any openings this semester. Spaces were at a premium, and they usually went to the girls who had experience dancing. Or, if no experience, she found out, you had to wait, maybe a year for a spot, maybe longer.

The only work they could place Haunani in for work-study was housekeeping. That or cafeteria or maybe office assistant was where many of the first-year students wound up.

It seemed to Haunani that housekeeping was what her people always wound up doing. Was humbug already, shitty pay, just like the scholarships— fifty or hundred bucks or something li’ dat– was that tuition or lunch money?

It was impossible to save money. The prices they charged at Student Union for stuff was just like the old company store scheme. She didn’t enjoy studying about dead white males anyhow, and there was no Hawaiian studies or nothing. Some students said it was just a big scam for cheap labor.

Most of her hours were on morning shift, but some nights she volunteered to help set up the stage and put things away after the hula show. She loved to watch the dancers, and wondered how long it would be before she would be offered a spot.

The show was a feast for the eyes, an assault on the senses. Drums crashed, torches blazed, and grass skirts swayed. Towards the end of the show, they always got some guy in the audience to come on stage, took him by the arm and led him onto the dance floor, and one girl would show him how.

The guy had been drinking, and he was game. Dressed in a cheap aloha shirt, plaid shorts, and sandals with socks, his stomach shook and jiggled and he let out a war whoop as he watched the girl cock her hips, sending the tassels of her grass skirt flying. He could barely stand up, the guy, but he danced hula– or what he thought was hula– shaking his arms, waving them wildly, shaking his massive stomach. When the dance ended, he didn’t want to go sit down.

Hawaiian music

The pink walls of the Humu Hotel, where the halau danced, were painted with a pattern of taro plants and coconut palms, and its rooms were painted sky blue and furnished with commercial-grade gray carpeting and walnut veneer particleboard furniture with sharp corners and edges. It was hard work, and Haunani had to make her quota of rooms every day, changing sheets, dusting and polishing, vacuuming. Was pretty gross, how sloppy some people were when they knew someone else was going clean up for them. The worst was when the supervisor came and stuck her mirror down the crook in the neck of the toilet to see if it was clean up there.

Even when they didn’t put the “Do Not Disturb” sign outside, they just told you come on in, even if they were sitting there in their underwear, smoking a cigarette. That’s what happened with one guy. He acted like he thought he was appealing, sitting there in just underpants and shirt.

“Housekeeping!” she called out.

“C’mon in!” was the response from within.

Haunani entered and looked at the guy, startled. “You like for me to come back later?”

“No, no, no. You come right on in. Don’t mind me.”

She was a bit nervous about this. She could smell sour mash, like vomit, and the guy was pretty drunk. She started to change the towels in the bathroom.

“Coulda been a nekkid man in there, you know!”

Now she was really nervous. He had gotten up and walked in his underpants over to the bathroom.

“Coulda been me.” Her blood chilled.

“Sir, maybe I come back later. We no like boddah people when…”

He jumped over to the door. Stood there and looked at her, reeking of bourbon.

“You don’t need to go nowhere, sweetheart. I won’t say nothing– we’ll just pretend you was in here cleanin’ house.”

Haunani gasped, her hand on her mouth, and thought how to get past this guy and get out of here.

“I hear tell you Hi-Why-Uhn girls sure know how to show a man a good time!” he leered. “Why don’t you show me some of that aloha spirit!”

“Let me out of here!”

The man grabbed her, and tried to kiss her. She started to shout, but he covered her mouth with his and slobbered boozy wind down her throat. She bit him.

“Goddamn!! Feisty little bitch, aren’t ya!” He grabbed her and pulled her over towards the bed, while Haunani screamed and clawed at him like a tiger. “Goddam bitch! I’m goddam well gonna…”

Panic-stricken, she freed herself from his clutches, flung open the door, and ran into the hallway. The man started to give chase, then stopped and stood there in the door in his underwear, wiping blood from his lip and disinclined to give chase when a group of people emerged from their room into the hallway.

Hawaiian music

In tears, Haunani told the supervisor what happened. The super didn’t seem very sympathetic, and pressed her for details much as a rapist’s attorney might interrogate the victim for evidence that she had provoked the attack.

“We expect you to use your common sense, you know! How many times you been told: if the guest is still in the room, you come back later!”

“But he told me come in!” Haunani said.

“Then you should have seen what was coming. If we hadn’t told you a hundred times to come back later, it would be different. Honestly, sometimes I think the only way to teach you people anything is the hard way!”

“What you mean, ‘you people’! He attacked me! I was just doing my job already! What about him? What you going do about him?!”

“Dear, you really have to expect that when you’re intruding into a guest’s private room, there are bound to be some awkward moments. And we really can’t afford to have a scandal about every little thing– people would never come back! Imagine how embarrassing that would be for the school!” She had nothing but contempt for these local girls—they all had the morals of alley cats, and they never learned.

“I think you people more interested in running a damn business than a school!” Haunani cried out. “You can take this damn job, and your damn circus!”

Hawaiian music

Herman was sitting in his chair in the living room, listening to Hawaiian music on the radio, when Haunani opened the door, stalked past him, and flung her bag and work clothes onto the kitchen counter. “Shit!!” she shouted, and slammed the door of her room shut behind her. There, she collapsed onto the bed and buried her head in the pillow and wept and wailed.

After a moment, Herman came in. “Hey, what’s going on in here! Whassa matter you?!”

She cried and cried and wouldn’t say, but Herman kept prodding her, and finally, her body shaking with sobs, she told him. “One man tried to rape me!”

“What?! Cannot be! What happen?!”

She told him the story. “I hate this place!” she said. “They no care about me, they only like use me for clean the rooms and mop the floor! They never going let me dance in the halau! They was just using me! They no care about nothing ‘cept their damn business!”

Herman went that afternoon to the Administration Building. He told them what had happened, said his niece was going to withdraw that very day, told them he wanted his money back. They said they would look into it, and speak with the supervisor in Housekeeping. But they could not issue a refund until they had a chance to review the matter. It would be handled administratively, whatever that meant.

Hawaiian music

Herman and Haunani went to look for an apartment, and they moved out that weekend. They took a one-bedroom place in Chinatown. Was nothing fancy, not for $650. But it was close to bus lines, easy to get to Waikiki and downtown. Haunani decided that she really didn’t want to work right away– just wanted to take it easy for a while, stay home, eat plate lunch, watch TV. She had been through plenty.

She watched TV, and Herman went to Duke’s, almost every night. Open to the gentle salt air of the ocean, and lined with photos of Duke Kahanamoku from his beach boy days back in the 1930s, there was live Hawaiian music every night with a band that played on a small stage in the sand, surrounded by guttering torches.

There, Herman met a woman named Yvonne. Her hair was mostly gray, and she had lost several of her front lower and upper teeth. She had also been incontinent on one occasion, and had tottered down the hallway to the loo with the stain spreading and the stink everywhere.

But Yvonne loved a good story, and she was captivated by Herman’s storytelling as well as by his antics as he wheeled about the dance floor in a mock pas-de-deux, doffing his Stetson. Herman was such a gentleman, he always bought.

Hawaiian music

Nobody could talk story like Herman, and God only knew where he cooked up some of the stuff he told her. Long time ago, he said, he was cabin boy on the old China Clipper, and he had taken the young Senator Kennedy to a Kahala pig farm, where he had soaked in a Japanese furo bath and had his ashes hauled by a farmer’s daughter. That had changed his mind about the Japanese, and swayed his vote for statehood. He had stayed at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, where he met Mrs. Khrushchev in the elevator. She winked at him, and later that night she banged on his room, wearing her nightie. Said she was lonely, said she and the premier didn’t get along so well anymore– they never had relations in seven years, she told him. That was why he was so cross, wen’ bang his shoe on the podium at the UN, wen’ make all the kine trouble with Cuba, was going blow up the world— all because he no more action.

He told her, too, of the real reason why the Japanese wen’ attack Pearl Harbor. Was revenge, he said. Long time ago, on a trip to Japan, King Kalakaua had engaged the hand of a princess of the royal family, offering the island of Maui to the Japanese as part of the bargain. But he never delivered, and the Japanese was so pissed!

Herman confided that he was more than a cabin attendant, was one kahuna. Said Ronald Reagan came into town sometimes for treat his Old Timer’s Disease with Herman’s Hawaiian red salt. Yvonne loved a good story… was no end of good stories with Herman.

Hawaiian music

Wasn’t that way with money, though, there was clearly an end to that. Soon it was all gone on three-dollar beers and presents for Yvonne, who wheedled money for her sick auntie, or for a friend, or for fix her car, and a dozen other things.

Haunani confronted him with the ugly reality of their fiscal peril. “Uncle Herman, you go out every night, carrying on like one old fool! You gotta get serious. This been going on too long already! We no more money– how we going live? I gotta get one job, Herman– I no like go back Big Island! We gotta find a way to live here.”

From then on, Herman spent more time at home, drifting off in his rocking chair, listening to KCCN Hawaiian music station on the radio on the bookshelf, his plate of canned salmon and poi balanced precariously in his lap. He would come to, say he gotta go take one piss, and Haunani would help him into the toilet. Then he would come back into the kitchen, pop a can of Bud Lite, and shuffle back to his armchair.

Haunani decided to look for a job. But she couldn’t speak English the way they liked, and there wasn’t much demand for girls with no skills. Was only jobs in the hotels and the fast food joints. She had no clue how to get a job. She started out with job agencies, where they made her take typing tests. She could hardly figure out the applications, and sat there cracking her gum and scratching her head and dawdling over the paperwork. All she had was some experience in housekeeping and in taking care of people like Uncle Herman. More and more, she had to conclude that the only line of employment open to her, like every other dumb Hawaiian, was housekeeping. But then again, she knew she could never again enter a stranger’s room. 

Then she spotted an ad that made her re-think the idea. Was one company, Aloha Home Care, that was looking for “personal attendants”, a steady job with one client, that kine. The ad said the pay was good, so she applied.


Chapter Fourteen


Most evenings, Avery Bagwell came home from the Meridian Club to fix his own dinner. Home was a gated community that he himself had built as an exclusive enclave for the lions of Honolulu’s business community. Lately, though, most of the re-sales had been to Honkgonginese expats, some of whom had re-named themselves Worldster, Woodrow, and Kingsley in an effort to appear patricianly chummy and ingratiate themselves into Hawaii’s eclectic oligarchy.

For the most part, they were imperious sorts who had ensconced themselves behind high security gates with intercoms and expensive walls made from rare blue lava rock. The walls were everywhere. Outside nearly every other home was a little billboard: Sentinel Alarm, Honeywell Security, Alert Alarm, Security One, Central Security Systems.

 The basketball court at the rec center didn’t seem to occupy the kids around here much. The net looked white and new and never touched. The tennis courts were empty. On the sign-up board were eleven one-hour slots for each of Monday through Sunday. One single, a “P. Yip”, had signed up. Apart from that, there was no one. The swing set made of distressed lumber was stylish, as was the tire– a new Pirelli– hanging on a chain from a tree. The cement picnic tables were unused– new residents came here to try them out at least once, for the sake of inaugurating the lifestyle.

Bagwell’s home, like most in this community, reposed beneath a ponderous, earth-tone Monier tile roof. A pair of verdigris Parisian lamps cast pools of light onto the artiste-designed driveway that led to a front door of etched glass and massive slabs of burnished koa.

Throughout all the sun-swept days, the lanais of the community, with their magnificent views of sea and sky and the mountains, remained mostly unoccupied. Nor were the homeowners stewing complacently in their brominated spas, glasses of white wine in hand. Where were they? Inside, watching television, like Mrs. Avery Bagwell.  

Bagwell poked through the kitchen cabinet at cans of beef stew and tuna and dog food, and peered hopefully into the freezer. It was packed with leftovers, wrapped in unmarked aluminum foil, that Dez had stashed away ages ago. It was stuff that would never again see the light of day– meat that had been frozen ‘til it was gray, and Tupperware full of ancient and mysterious stews and casseroles, along with frozen dinners of Veal Parmigiana, Swedish meatballs, Lean Cuisine linguine with rock lobster sauce and wok stir-fry beef strips with snow peas and chicken alfredo. 

He wondered how a man who had everything could feel sometimes that he’d trade it all in a heartbeat for a humble but brightly-lit home with a simple home-cooked meal prepared by a sober and friendly woman who was interested in knowing how his day went. He felt like he was the butt of a bad cosmic joke, that he had so busted his ass to build the good life for her, a life that any woman would just die for– and for which Desiree had no interest in apart from what was on TV and how much remained of the $6.99 fifth of Skovar.

She watched TV all day on her big-screen Trinitron, propped up on a pile of pillows with the bed at just the right angle and her remote in hand. If operating the VCR was just impossible, the electric bed confounded her utterly. The damn controls would shift first one end up into a hump, then elevate her end, then depress the center. She wound up in the most awkward positions, scrunched up in a fetal position that just killed her back and tore the bedding loose, with her little dog Dijon somewhere in between, squashed and kicking.

Her faithful companion reposed next to her now, its pompom tail wagging, its tasseled ears cocked to her every word, and its beady little black eyes flashing like its rhinestone collar. The dog returned her affections with compound interest, resciprocating her kisses by licking her furiously on the mouth—he was such a little sweetheart!– after having spent much of the day licking its ass.

Another day had gone by, propped up in bed, watching soaps, the dog at her side. Dez had dozed off, but the dog had buried itself from the folds of the blanket, nuzzling its penis. “Dij?… Dijon?”

The dog uncoiled from its yogic tangle, lifted its head from beneath its haunches, and looked up.

 “Oh there you are!” Dez exclaimed. “Precious, precious angel!” It licked her mouth madly, its tail whirring. “Precious lamb!” she exclaimed. “Precious angel!”

Men were all the same; they used you, then when they had their fill, they moved on. Their loyalties were vapid– they were so damned anxious to get on top of you when you were young and cute, but their ardor soon flagged, and then it was off to the club. They were just animals.

But her little Dijon had been her faithful companion for almost fifteen years, and never once did it fail to give her a tail wag and a kiss, never once did it miss a TV program with her. Why, he was so smart that he could beat most of the contestants on Wheel of Fortune! She even had to spell it out for Avery: O-U-T, or the dog would get so excited if he knew he was going out that he’d start to pee in her bed or on the floor– not that a few drops bothered her.

That dog was a precious lamb, the Lamb of God, as it lay there and nuzzled itself, just like in a Christmas manger. It was an old dog now, and Dez would tear up whenever she thought about it, that some day she’d lose him, and then she would have no one in the world at all! Dijon had lost most of his coat, and the vet had to applied ointments to keep him from chewing himself raw. The poor angel was cold without his fur coat, and Dez kept him warm, next to her under the blanket. Sometimes the dog passed gas, and it was the rankest, smelliest thing ever. But to Dez it was an announcement that he had to “poo.” “Another one!” she’d exclaim, and begin bellowing on the intercom for Avery to come take him out for a “poo.”

Hearing Avery in the living room, it jumped off the bed, and sat now at the foot of the door, looking up expectantly. The dog looked back, gruffled and then scratched the door.

Dez turned on the intercom: “Ave! Avery!”, and squawk boxes throughout the house resounded with the cawing summons. “Ayyvvve!”

At length, the sliding door cracked open, and Avery poked his head inside the chamber.

“Ave, take the lamb out for a poo.”

“Oh, Jeez, Dez, I’m making dinner.”

 “Take the dog out.”

The dog wriggled past him and trotted off upstairs, where it waited for Avery for open the front door. Great way to begin a meal, he thought. He’d go out later to hose down the turds.

The dog’s business done, he let it back in, and it dutifully trotted back into its mistress’s lair. He then returned to the kitchen, where he had popped the Swedish meatballs into the microwave– a large “family portion” tray in case Timmy’d be coming home for dinner. This being Friday night, though, he’d probably be out chasing around with his friends until the bars closed. He’d be hungry when he came home from the bars, and usually made himself a brace of grilled cheese sandwiches. But Avery would leave some of this for him if he wanted it.

After the prescribed twenty minutes, the oven dinged and he removed the plastic tray. He prodded the meatballs, brought one to his mouth and tentatively bit into it. The microwave had done little more than shrivel the meatball on the outside and left it cold in the center. He returned them to the oven and forlornly set to work cutting up a salad. At last, he repaired to the kitchen counter with his meatballs and salad to eat his dinner, then downstairs to watch TV and have a few drinks himself. Some nights Desiree never emerged from her bedroom to even acknowledge that he was home. He was afraid to go in and wake her, until she herself awoke and called on the intercom for him to fix her a drink, fix the VCR, or take the damned dog out.

Poking at his meatballs, Bagwell wondered how she hold up at the party he was planning. He couldn’t imagine, really, it had been so long since they had been to one together. He had his doubts, to say the least. All the lords of high finance and assorted grandees and gatekeepers that could make his dream come true would be there. His dream was the Aloha Tower Festival Marketplace, which he broached to his bankers as the deal that would put Honolulu on the map, right up there with Orlando.

For Avery Bagwell, Aloha Tower would be the crown jewel of a property development empire thus far distinguished by the Grand Pacific Mall, a gated community, and a few strip malls. But Grand Pacific was struggling, and Bagwell needed the kind of shot in the arm that Aloha Tower could deliver big time.

The mall seemed endlessly textured– glass-walled elevators, tubes of parti-colored neon, bridges and balconies and vaulted skylights and clusters of people mesmerized, circulating in their mindless promenade through torrents of cold air pumped along to insulate them from the soaking tropical heat outside. Stores smelling richly of varnished oak flooring and gabardine wool carpets proclaimed the Best of Fall Fashions, or Jump Into Fall in a place where there was no such season. 

Next to the mall was the parking lot, jammed full of glare and cars and heat sweltering off the asphalt. Women dragged their squalling infants along, ambling like game on a broiling African veldt surrounded by a forest of signs across the road that proclaimed Home World, Territorial Savings, KFC, 7-11, Bank of America, Bank of Honolulu, Volvo Used Cars, Budget Furniture, Chevron, Shell, Anna Miller’s, The Pump.

The sidewalks along the lot were plastered with black smears of gum, molten and bubbly like the asphalt. Above the sidewalks was a cat’s cradle of phone and power lines, and seen in the distance through the tangle of overhead lines was a single palm.

The lone palm tree belonged to the Shimada Watercress Farm, and it stood defiantly on a small island in the middle of the watercress with a replica Hawaiian grass hut. Its serenity mocked the mall that Bagwell had built around it, a goddam spite strip that Bagwell had been unable to buy, leaving the layout of his mall looking kapakahi and awkward.

Shimada’s farm was an oasis from the rush of traffic and the whooping and bleeping of car alarms in the parking lot beyond. Its clear, cold water circulated in troughs through acres of dark green watercress. In the back of the farm, up against the mall’s monorail, were banana trees, coconut palms, bamboo, monkeypod, pandanus, and willows. Snowy egrets flapped their wings along the stretches of watercress, and a cool breeze flowed off the farm, rustling the plumeria and bougainvillea that lined the drainage canal.

Up front along the highway was a large cement driveway and a wall strung with nets and glass floats. On an adjoining wall were nailed a dozen or so tails of marlin, each of which had come in at better than 600 pounds. At a table nearby, Shimada’s daughter and her friends stood round the carcass of a big marlin, cutting away thick steaks. They whacked and hacked at the spine of the fish, filling up big plastic buckets with filets that they packed with rock salt to marinate overnight in the big refrigerated room before they were smoked the next day in the brick smoker out back by the rows of corn and chilies. The smoker handled up to three hundred pounds of whatever was brought in– marlin, ahi, spearfish, ono, mahi, aku, kawakawa, onaga, opakapaka, uku, sailfish, and ulua.

The reefer room was chilled by a vacuum cooler that had cost Shimada-san a quarter-mil even then, back in the 60s, and now it was filled with buckets of fish, and a long rack that held bottles of shoyu, tomatoes, and big bags of salt. A well-fed cat leaned up against the metal door of the walk-in and licked itself. The sign out back that said “No Fish Guts– Will Clog the Intakes” was unnecessary. The cat saw to that.

Shimada-san had all kinds of people badgering him to sell the property. Day in and day out there were phone calls. The mail brought daily entreaties, and agents stopped by, unannounced and uninvited, at least couple times a week while the women sat out there cutting fish on the cement slab.

They looked a bit foolish, climbing out of their sleek automobiles in coats and ties and expensive Italian loafers and Chanel belt buckles, the women in their six hundred-dollar designer fashions. They couldn’t avoid wrinkling their noses as they walked up to the women cutting the marlin steaks, trying to act casual and friendly, but scarcely unable to contain their revulsion over the blood and marlin guts and fishy smell. They wanted to talk to the owner– they had a fabulous offer to convey.

Hawaiian music

Bagwell had tried. He had had his attorney Wendell Fujiyama call Shimada and make an offer of $10 million to buy out his lease from Mission Estate, way over market value, all cash, no contingencies, no bullshit. He thought this would just rock the old boy right off his haunches. But Shimada had hardly reacted, just sat there on the speaker phone and smiled.

At this juncture in life, Shimada said, money wasn’t important. He had everything he wanted: a nice property with watercress fields, three daughters who were happily married— one to a doctor in Paris and one who was teaching in California and the other who lived here with her husband. Knowing that he had a captive audience, Shimada just kept on going on and on about his family, how it was when they were all kids, all the things they did, what was important to them— there was just no end to it. And Shimada knew this guy would just have to sit there and listen.

The Mission Estate, he went on, they owned the land, and they were a friend. Shimada was confident that Mission Estate was going to renew the lease—another ten years, maybe even twenty, he said. After that, wasn’t much he could do, he’d be gone by then. He really appreciated what Humphrey Merkin had done for the little guy, he said. Like himself, Merkin understood the joys of a simpler time when there was land enough for all, when simple people could live a simple life doing honest work outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air. 

Farming was good for Hawaii, Merkin had said. It was lovely, all those stands of emerald cane in the rich, red earth, rustling and nodding in the breeze like praying mantises. Over time, rainwater had filtered down through deep layers of volcanic basalt, and was brought back up after all these thousands of years as the purest, sweetest water imaginable. Shimada’s watercress farm had a good supply of that water– his son-in-law had even devised a sprinkler system for the farm that mimicked the effects of a nice shower, dropping the temperature of the watercress leaf by ten degrees and noticeably improving its quality.

Yep, Shimada-san was real happy with what he had: his three daughters, his fishing boat, and all those records it held for marlin, ahi and mahi. He hoped Mission Estate would never make him move, and someday his kids would take over from him, and continue growing watercress right in the middle of the mall. He had no intention of considering his offer, thanks, then said he had to go out and check on his watercress.

Bagwell saw Shimada as just one more example of all the old futs he had to deal with around here, a stupid old man who just wanted to be shitty and waste people’s time, just like his pal Merkin, a couple of old turdcorns perfectly happy to stay stuck in the past while people like him were trying to move things ahead and give people a better life. Go out and check your fuckin’ watercress, he thought– hope you drown in it!

Then, to make matters worse, Week-End just last week had published such a precious little piece on Shimada’s farm, with its goddamned thatched hut and snowy egrets peckering around beneath the palms– a scene from yesteryear and all that crap. And there was Shimada, going on about how he wanted to keep the property this way forever so people would know what Hawaii used to be like. You could just hear him chuckle, telling the reporter about the guy that had built the shopping center around his farm and all the others who wanted to buy out his lease, and starting up again with his same old silly-ass shaggy-dog story. Merkin and his mud farmers were just the kind of entrenched old fucks that made it so hard to do anything around here.

 But what was he thinking about before he got onto this tangent? Yeah, the party, Aloha Tower, his ticket out of the Two-Bit. Hunched over a TV table in the cavernous living room, he looked dispiritedly at his dessert, a Weight Watchers frozen yogurt, and thought of Desiree coccooned in her bed with the damned dog. He could hear the TV blasting even up here. He hoped to God she would behave herself, just this once. Then she could come back and settle into bed with her damn dog and turn on the TV and go off with the fairies. She’d be just as happy not to go, but what would people think? He needed her to be there— all there.

Hawaiian music

At first, it had been a carafe of wine for lunch, then a nap. But in time, the lunchtime bubble of Chardonnay gave way to a generous nooner of Wolfschmidt. Then she settled down for an afternoon of soaps. She added pounds, became more and more sedentary, more inclined to recline than get up and go out. As often as not these days she was three sheets to the wind by the time he got home, leaving him to contend with Swedish meatballs and the microwave.

Avery put away the dishes, wiped down the kitchen counter, and retired. At least he slept well, for as long as she let him, anyway. Which wasn’t for long, usually. Somewhere in the middle of the night, the squawk box in his bedroom would shrill, and Avery would awaken from a sound sleep, not at all happy at being rousted out of bed to take the dog out, put on on a tape for her to watch, or get her a damned drink.

That night was no different. “Avery!!” the hated intercom demanded.

Ruefully, he got up, ambled downstairs, and shuffled down the hall to the master bedroom, where he slid open the door.

“Avery! I can’t get this VCR—”

“Oh Christ, Dez, you woke me up to come down here and fix your VCR?! It’s four o’clock in the morning!”

“Avery! I can’t sleep! Will you pulleeezz put on a movie?! Then you can go back and sleep all you want!”

Trying to rub the sleep from his eyes, Avery staggered over to where they kept the collection of videos.

“Whadda wanna watch?”      

“I don’t know!” she said, exasperated. “You should know… just something.”

They settled on Benji, the usual choice, it seemed. That’s what Dijon wanted to watch. Squinting at all those little buttons on the VCR, he did this and that and finally the movie came on. With the utmost weariness, he was given leave to return upstairs. He almost made it, anyway.

“Avery!”

“WHAT!!”

“Don’t talk to me that way!”

“What the hell do you want now?!?”

“Would you please get me a drink.”

Oh what else, he thought. He was as a rock worn down by water, each drip of which was another demand for a drink. His reward for complying was to be able to go back to bed, and the penalty for refusal, more harrying.

Avery was up to here with the damned dog, too. It shed doggy hair all over the bed, and had practically chewed a hole in its own hide, despite numerous visits to the vet and a whole slew of topical ointments and Happy Jack. Its mange had spread to expose its liver-colored pate, and it was forever chewing itself, throwing off fleas everywhere, and licking its damned lipstick. There was doggy hair on the blanket, doggy hair in the air conditioner filter, doggy hair in his dinner, and there was a musty smell like the dog had been out in the rain and the mud and shit and had come in and merely evaporated itself dry.

The dog didn’t like Avery either. Dez had gotten him as a pup and now it had been fifteen years on and it was an old dog with old dog problems. Every once in a while he had to take the damned thing to the vet to have its anal glands expressed, like some kind of a goddamned skunk with venomous hindquarters. It helped alleviate its rectal itch, the vet explained; otherwise the dog would continue to drag its ass along their expensive Chinese carpets. But that was fine with her. That was just another example of her fabulous housekeeping.

Avery had just made up his mind that he wasn’t going to share the bed with the damned dog any longer. But it wasn’t only the dog. The AC was always on high and it raised hell with his sinuses. Why in the world did she need the damned air conditioning on all the time, when there were ceiling fans and gorgeous trades every day and night? Why would she disdain all that beautiful fresh air for refrigerated recycled doggy smell? It had to be something about the weird bodily chemistry of a drunk, he surmised. But more than that, he just couldn’t handle the damned TV being on full blast all night, with car salesmen shouting at him, even in his fitful dreams. With her it was different— she didn’t need to sleep. She just dozed in a fog that was never quite sleep, tossing and turning on a sour stomach that she dosed with Mylanta and vodka cut with milk.

Oh well, he thought, might as well stay up. He walked over and turned on the coffee and got Desiree a drink. He always got up at 4:30 anyway, no matter how tired he was, and he’d come home at the end of the day, dead tired. And all she’d say was “You sleep well enough to go out and play your damned Goof, don’t you?”

Goof was her constant complaint. “You don’t seem to understand,” Avery said. “You don’t seem to understand who or what it is that butters your bread around here. ‘Goof’ is where business gets done. It also lets me unwind from a helluva lot of headaches during the week! I don’t have the luxury of lying around in bed all day, going on about my back!”

“Avery! My back is. Killing me! If you don’t believe—”

“I’m not saying I don’t believe you! But maybe it’s about time you understood that I need a little relief too! Unless you think it’s a relief to come home to this– the damned dog shedding hair, the doggy smell… it’s like the it’s been sitting around all day licking its ass– which it has!– and dragging it all over the carpets– which it has! And you? What have you fixed for dinner?! What have you made me after a long day’s work? EZ Micro-Wave Shit on a Stick! Hell, your cooking’s as great as your housekeeping!”

“Don’t talk to me that way, Avery! Listen! I kept house and cooked and cleaned for you… until my back…” at which point she would begin tearing up. Oh, bullshit, he thought. Her damned back had nothing to do with it. It was booze, that’s all. Nothing was permitted to breach her Chinese Wall of Denial.

Hawaiian music

It was a relief to get back to the office. With his feet propped up on his teakwood desk and with some time in between meetings, Bagwell was at last able to think. He went over the names that Karen in Public Relations had put together for the party coming up next weekend. Josh Bollinger from the bank was first on the list, then Wads Yoo from the Land Use Commission and Al Ferry from the Hawaii County Council and Dave Hamilton from City Planning. Not a single RSVP yet! Hats off to Karen on this one. If it all came off, there’d be a nice surprise in her Christmas bonus.

No expense had been spared. Karen had seen to that– French champagne (no Californian), the finest wines, rare single malts and small-batch bourbons. A tent would be set up with a Hawaiian ensemble playing slack key and Hawaiian guitar. The energy would be high, and flashes would flash and fountains would splash as the guests meandered and mingled amongst a flock of peacocks that would be loosed on the events lawn of the Meridian Club.

Hawaiian music

Sitting in her boudoir before the mirror as she applied her makeup, Desiree seemed a bit flustered. Avery didn’t think she’d had anything to drink, but you never knew, it could be hormones in her system at flood tide, making her easily upset, alternately effusive and bitchy, a volatile mix that wouldn’t take more than a few drops of lighter fluid to set it off.

“Avery?”

“What, dear?”

“I think it would be nice if you got us a little drink, don’t you?” She peered at him in the mirror, her mask of red lipstick framing a hopeful smile. As with the baboon, lurid color was a warning sign.

“Dez, I dunno,” he said, apprehensive. “You think you should?”

“Avery, I really think a smaaaalll drink would be nice!” she said, her smile more insistent than importuning.

“Dez, I’m telling you. You better take it easy tonight.”

“Avery! Don’t be ridiculous! I’m fine!”

“I’m just saying, I can’t afford any problems tonight.”

“I said, I’m fine.” The hurt welled in her eyes, and she blinked back the tears, angry. Seeing that his cautionary advice had quickly exceeded the point of diminishing returns, he relented.

“All right, all right,” he said, knowing that things were on the edge. Desiree returned to her make-up, powdering herself and applying perfume.

Hawaiian music

He got away with just the one. So far, so good, Avery thought. With the party underway, it was time to make the rounds and schmooze the sugar-daddies, trying at the same time to keep an eye on Dez. So far, he had only seen her with one drink, a martini that she seemed to be nursing along judiciously with whoever it was that she snagged in conversation.

It was a good catch, it turned out. He saw that Desiree was talking with Josh Bollinger, head of Island First Bank. He especially wanted to get in on that conversation.

“Hey Dez, hey Josh…” he broke in, patting his wife’s shoulder and smiling broadly. “Got room in this conversation for one more?”

“Avery!! Avery, this man… is the president of the bank! And you should listen to him! He says it’s time to buy! And I don’t want to let that beachfront get away from us!”

“Yes, dear. I know who Josh is. Lemme grab a drink.”

“Get me one too, Avery, and I’m sure Josh here would like another drink.”

“Whaddaya have, Josh? Another scotch?” He flagged a passing waiter. “So, have you been selling my wife some real estate?”

“Hah!” he sniffed. “I doubt that she needs any convincing!”

Real estate was all the buzz, and everyone had a story about someone they knew who had been approached by an agent who had a Japanese who was desperate to buy, and an offer that was simply too good to believe.

“Ohhhhh! Well, then!” she crooned. “Do you think this is a good time to buy? Avery and I were thinking about another place. Beachfront, this time. Honestly, living up there on a mountain like that…”

“I don’t know how much longer it’s gonna last,” Bollinger continued. “I don’t think any of us have ever seen anything quite like it. But as long as Japanese money keeps pouring in, I guess so.”

 “No wonder you’re president of the bank!”

“Well, chairman actually.”

 “Oh, you are soooo smart!” she fawned. “And handsome, too!”

“Oh, Dez, you’re such a ham,” Avery said, embarrassed.

She had nearly finished her third drink. Not wishing to be left without at this moment of sublime perfection, she buttonholed a passing waiter and grabbed another off the tray. The waiter left before she had a chance to polish off the old drink, and she stood there, holding one in each hand. Bagwell was mortified. Jesus, that says it all, he thought.

“Avery’s a bit slow on the uptake, I think,” Desiree said. “My father came here to visit us, and told Avery he should buy the very land on which they built the Kahala Hilton! My daddy told him to buy. But no! He held back! And the rest, as they say, is HIS. TOR. RY!” She stood there, scowling at Avery in mock reproach, making a hurt, scolding face.

“What Dez overlooks,” Bagwell offered, “is that I’ve got bigger fish to fry at the moment. Buying and building a private residence is not something I’ve got a lot of time for just now.”

“Well, you’ve got time for Goof, don’t you! Do you get that, Josh? That’s what I call his golf— Goof! Haw haw haw!!” She pinched his arm, hard enough to provoke him to wince. Goof! she gushed, a veritable fountain of hilarity.

“Okay, Dez, you’ve made your point,” Avery said, forcing a grin that felt to him like a snarl.

She slurped at her drink, then rose to the moment, a bit foxed, but still the Queen of Repartee.

“Haw haw! I made my point, he says! Him and his Goof! Avery, help me with these!”

Bollinger squirmed, but her audience was captive, and she went on.

“I’ll bet Josh here would like to play some Goof!” She looked at Bellinger, her red lipstick framing a sloppy smile. The Chairman looked down at his feet, fidgeting. Then she reached up and wrapped her arm around his shoulder. She’s like a bull moose in heat, Bagwell thought.  

“Dez…”

“Oh, Avery! Why don’t you get Josh another drink!”

“No, that’s okay,” Bollinger said. “‘Nuff for now, thanks.”

“Avery—”

“Dez, I don’t think Josh is quite ready for another drink.”

“Well, I am!!”

“Dez…”

“Just call the waiter, Avery! Just get me another drink!”

Flushing hotly and left with little choice but to respond to this imperative, Avery pretended foolishly to cast about for a waiter, holding up the empty glass and feeling like he was advertising the situation for all to see.

“Well,” said the chairman, “I see my wife over there, and she’s looks like she needs help. Avery, Dez, great to see you. Great party!”

God this was horrible! His main chance, his bluebird of happiness had just come round and flown up his ass… then turned right around and flown out the window.

“Talk to you later, Josh!” he offered, helplessly.

As Bollinger meandered off, Avery turned to his wife and grabbed her by the arm, a bit forcibly.

“Avery, you’re hurting me!”

“Dez, lay off the damn booze!” he hissed. “You’ve had enough!”

“Oh Avery, I don’t want to hear it! I want to go to the bathroom, my make-up’s just a mess!” Which was fine, since it was a chance to get her off someplace where he could stanch the meltdown. “Well come on, dammit, let’s go.”

In the course of their perambulation back to the club, Desiree stopped, and stared at the band beneath the tent. Her mind swam as steel guitars swooned and slack key sighed.

Oh Avery, listen! That’s our song…” Red sails in the sunset… she began crooning, softly.

“Come on, Dez… never mind that!”

“Leave me alone!” she snapped, refusing to be rushed off anywhere. She wanted to listen. Then, as the band wrapped up its rendition of Red Sails, she stood there and began clapping. “Oh may, that’s beautiful!” she called out to the band. “That’s our song!”

No one had ever just stood there and clapped before, but the band leader thanked her and smiled.

“Do you know ‘Going to a Hukilau’?” she asked him. The old chestnut needed no introduction, but she persisted, waving her arms and swaying. “You know, we are going… to a hukilau, a huki huki huki huki hukilau…”

Avery pulled at her impatiently, and motioned to the bandleader to get things going again. People were watching, and this was embarrassing. “Dez, come on… let’s go!”

But no, she wanted to dance, she had decided. The band struck up the tune, and shaking off his imploring arm, she began a woozy hula, waggling her arms and rolling her hips and her eyes in an unintended and mortifying parody of the ancient dance.

“Dez!”

The lights swam and the music swelled, until dizzy with dance and drink, she lost her balance and fell. “Avery!” she squawked. Uncertain how she wound up on the ground, she sat and looked around, dazed. From a distance, Joshua Bollinger, Chairman and CEO of Island First Bank and Hawaiian through and through, watched and winced.

A hush descended, as Bagwell’s guests abandoned their chit-chat for the more captivating scene at hand. All eyes were on Avery Bagwell as he tried to right his discomposed wife.

“Avery! Let go of me!” she protested thickly. At last with his assistance she staggered to her feet and regained a precarious balance. She brushed away his hands, “You’re hurting me!!”

 “She’s tired, the poor dear,” clucked a woman nearby, offering to help. “She just needs to take a little time out.”

“That’s okay, I’ve got her, thanks!” Bagwell said. “Dez, let’s go for godssake!!” he hissed. Her expression betrayed momentary confusion at this command, but in her befuddlement she acquiesced, and let him lead her over to a seat behind the stage. Notwithstanding the relative privacy of the back of the bandstand, every eye within eyeshot was fixed on Bagwell and the drama that was unfolding. Hot with humiliation, he glanced about, and every gaze he met with looked away in embarrassment for him.

Hawaiian music

Back at the clubhouse, Bagwell sat on the bench outside the ladies’ room, waiting for Desiree. He listened. She was throwing up, and after a long interval, he heard her again. Thank God no one was in there, it sounded like a Chinatown bar at four in the morning. What a goddamned disgrace, he thought. What should he do? Should he call it a night, and leave his own party early? Should he call her a cab? Or should he just take her home and come back?

At last she emerged. “Dez… I’m gonna take you home, and you can go up to bed.”

“Avery…”

“Come on… home to beddie. And your dog.”

“My dog?!” She turned to him and stared woozily. “Where’s my dog?!”

Bagwell stood there stupidly beneath the porte cochere, Desiree clinging to him unsteadily, as they waited for the valet to bring the car. How in the world could he have gulled himself into thinking she could make it half-way through the evening without getting sloppy and causing a goddamned scene!

They’d be talking now, he knew. The tongues would be wagging madly, and with every wag of the tongue his stock in the esteem of the high and mighty of Honolulu would tumble another rung.

By the time he rejoined his guests, it wasn’t even nine o’clock and the party had begun to deflate and guests were already starting to leave. For his part, Avery Bagwell was left without a deal for birdseed, much less big bucks.


Chapter Fifteen


Her head pounded with each breath, every thought, it seemed. She knew from the moment she began to wake up that something was wrong, and it had something to do with her. The shock of realization jolted her as her thoughts turned to the events of the night before. Something had burrowed underneath her Chinese Wall and threatened to emerge from beneath it and bludgeon her. An ugly troll that sat there and glared at her. She wanted to call out for Avery to come protect her, but the more she regarded the troll, the more she realized the troll was Avery.

A gap had opened in the Wall. She could not dismiss the troll or tell it to shut up and go away. She cringed, and in the manner of circling the wagons against invading Indians, she held her little dog so close that it began to kick for nearly suffocating.

She had committed some terrible trespass against her provider, she realized, had committed the one great unpardonable sin of shaming him in his public capacity. There had always been an unspoken understanding between them that no matter how she wanted to behave at home, never would she do anything to cross over the line into his public domain. That was biting the hand that fed them both, and this she understood and respected.

It was Sunday morning, and there was no waiting until he left for the office. She was so parched and thirsty that her tongue seemed glued to the roof of her mouth. There was no getting around it, no summoning him on the intercom this time, she had to get up and go out to the kitchen.

“Well by God, you did it this time,” Avery said she emerged from her bedroom and walked into the kitchen. “You really outdid yourself! Thanks a helluva lot! You made a complete ass out of yourself, and a total shit-wit out of me! Thanks!”

Despondent, hung over, and disinclined to rise to the provocation, she held her aching head in her hands. “Avery, get me some orange juice.”

“Oh, was that ‘juice’ I heard you say? How about another goddamned drink?!”

“Avery… stop it,” she said in a small voice.

“Stop what? You mean you don’t remember? Well, let me refresh your selective memory! Don’t you remember coming on to the Chairman of Island First Bank?! The chair, no less, of the banking group that we’re looking to finance Aloha Tower with! ‘I’ll bet Josh would like to play some Goof!’” he mimed cruelly. “And then when I tried to sic you offa him, you stand there in front of God and everyone, like some kind of a goddamned lushingtonian, with not one but two glasses, one in each hand! and ‘Avery, just get me another drink!’ while my benefactor stands there and takes it all in!”

“Avery… why are you being so mean to me?!?”

“But wait, there’s more! We’re just getting started! Me and Josh weren’t discussing anything so important that we couldn’t take time out to watch the wife of Avery Bagwell dance a little hula, and wind up on her goddamned ass–great finish! Couldn’ta gone to the Bolshoi Ballet and seen anything that good! Great entertainment! Who the hell needs dancing bears and elephants when you got the whole goddamned Ringling Brothers all wrapped up in one silly woman— my wife, namely!”

“Avery, stop it!” she pleaded. “Get me some orange juice!”

“How about some coffee, sweetie pie?!” he hissed. “Maybe it’s time you woke up and smelled the coffee— you’re a goddamned drunk!! I brought forty of the most important people in this community together, so that we could all get comfortable doing business with each other! And what do they get but a goddamned command performance! Me and my drunky-ass wife! What a team! Great confidence booster! Just the kind of clown they’re looking to invest money with! A man whose wife can’t even restrain herself from mooning and slobbering over whoever’s unlucky enough to come along and fall into her clutches! Even if it is the chairman of the goddamned bank! Hell, you shoulda had your goddamned dog out there, too, humping on his leg!”

“Avery, stop it! I didn’t do any—”

“You’re so right! You haven’t done a goddamned thing! Everything I’ve done, I’ve done in spite of you! If you’re not going to be any help to me, then why don’t you get some help!?!”

With that, he rose from the table and stalked off and out the front door, slamming it on the way. She called out at him weakly. Then she broke down and wept. That’s when the Wall crumbled.

Hawaiian music

Maybe it was time to admit it. She was miserable: the hangovers, the swollen ankles, her sagging breasts, the weight gain and rolls of cellulite. She was mortified. She had become a physical wreck, to say nothing of what was happening to her marriage.

That night, she came in to the kitchen and sat down across the countertop from Avery. “Ave?” she said, in that small voice that was so unlike her.

“What!”

“Ave… I’m sorry.”

Astonished, he looked at her. “Well you damn well oughtta be! I’m the biggest joke in the business now, thanks to you! I might as well become some real estate whore and twist someone’s arm for a listing. I think Aloha Tower’s a dead letter.”

“Ave, please. I’m sorry.”

“Well, what does it matter, I guess. The damage is done.”

“Ave, I’m quitting. Not another drop. I mean it, Ave. You can get rid of it all. Get it out of the house. Not another drop.”

Hawaiian music

Thus resolved, Desiree drank not another drop, not all week. Instead, they talked. She could still be attractive to him, he said. He still loved her, and he would give up everything they had, would gladly return to the days when they were broke and she didn’t have this monkey on her back— any monkey but this! She wanted him to succeed with his dreams.

The road back, arduous that it would be, began with the first few stumbling steps. Falling just a bit short of any commitment to quit drinking himself, Ave put all the booze out in the garage and locked it up. She didn’t ask what became of it.

Hawaiian music

What might it be like, she thought, to get rid of the flab, burn away the ugly spider veins on her ankles, get a tan, get a tummy tuck and a breast lift– no, she caught herself, never mind that, she was going to do it the right way, and exercise it off.

She checked into a fat farm, and submitted herself to the care of counselors running around in white physicians’ robes. She bought their whole line of in-house meals, the microwave frozen dinners and the kind you dropped into a pan of boiling water, plus nearly the complete line of nutritional supplements. Their objective wasn’t to sell food, they assured her, although this stuff was pretty expensive. But it looked good and it was fun to leaf through the glossy catalog and read the testimonials. It almost seemed that the more you ate, the more pounds you could lose! She was thrilled beyond words when after the first week she had lost six pounds, mostly water albeit.

She cleaned out all the old crap from the pantry, thinking how awful it was, and she re-stocked the shelves with a whole new way of life. She laid in a stock of mineral waters and minerals and compounds and stuff from the Mother Earth store. She bought a running suit, a steady state suit, a warm-down suit, running makeup, a collection of sports bras, and the highest-tech running shoes. Avery was a bit put off by what he found to eat now— mostly health foods. People could get sick from eating that stuff, he thought. But what the hell, he had given up golf, and if he could do that, he supposed he could give up food too. He could stand to lose a few pounds.

She even went to see a substance abuse counselor. Part of the program– an absolutely essential part of getting well, it was explained to her– was going to AA. Her counselor warned her that alcoholism could never be overcome if the Wall of Denial wasn’t regularly chipped away at, and that was something that no one could do without the support of others who were going through it too.

But Dez wasn’t sure she saw it that way. She didn’t think she needed to demean herself in front of the whole world to get over it. This business of standing up in front of an audience of drunks, and declaring herself– that left her cold. That was some kind of New Age thing.

Hawaiian music

A month went by of good behavior. Then at lunch one day she broke the happy news to Avery. “I don’t need it,” she said when he asked if she had remembered to take her Antabuse.

“What do you mean, you don’t need it?” he said. “I thought you understood you had to take this stuff whether you need it or not.”

“Avery, I’m perfectly happy with a bottle of Perrier. I’m telling you, I don’t need it.”

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Dez. Alcoholism’s a cunning disease.”

“Ave, I resent that, really! I am not an alcoholic! It’s not as if I’m some kind of lush in the gutter!”

“I didn’t mean that.”

“Well, what did you mean? As far as I’m concerned, you and I had a problem— golf, maybe, I don’t know! And that’s how I dealt with the problem! Now the problem’s over, and I don’t need it. Avery… I still look good– you said so. So what’s the problem?”

Hawaiian music

This wonderful wilderness trail was right here in her own backyard. It was all mapped out for you. Ave had thought to install the World Trail so that residents— he never imagined his own wife would make use of it—would have a terrific fitness program that combined jogging with doing the exercises that were described on the signs along the trail. Dez took it by the numbers, and painstakingly went through the motions of each exercise.

It began with the Body Bend– three times for beginners, six times for advanced, and continued with the Quarter Squat: hands on hips, standing in the quarter-squat position ‘til the count of ten. Three times for beginners, and six times for advanced. She huffed and grunted and sweated, and dutifully progressed through the Leg Raise and Opposite Toes Events arenas, where she was instructed to Warm Up, Cool Down, Leg Raise, Body Curl, Achilles Stretch, Sit Up, Push Up, Chin Up, and Log Jump. At first, she thought that one would be a killer. But after a couple weeks, she had gotten better and better at it. With her feet together, she hopped over each log without even stopping between the logs, then returned from the end to the beginning. My God, Avery, she thought, what must you have been thinking– people came here to live, not to kill themselves! That was pretty funny, now that she thought about it. But you know what, she couldn’t argue with results; not even her back bothered her.

Today there was no one but her as she jogged along, all the while looking at the mountains and the sky. She never realized that she lived in such a beautiful place. Shadows drifted and played on the mountains, their cloak of hardwoods scenting the breeze. There were purple clouds and dancing butterflies, breathtaking beauty that left her just shaking her head in disbelief. The mountain-fresh air poured off the ridge, and cloud shadows rose and fell like great waves.

She chugged and heaved over the last of the obstacles before breaking into the quarter-mile stretch of cruising. She had reached that state of grace that came at last to the long-distance runner. She knew the joy of overcoming physical obstacles, knew that she was no longer constrained by her physical manifestation and its cravings, and had virtually freed herself from the earth plane. She felt one with the whirling cosmos overhead, and her essence drifted like the clouds as she surveyed the sky and sea and emerald mountains. Jogging along in her Lycra skintights and electro-luminescent inflatable Air-Glides, she stepped on a stone in her path, tripped, and broke her ankle.

Hawaiian music

She lay in bed all day and night under the influence of painkillers, watching glassy-eyed as the dog licked and chewed itself. She was miserable. She hadn’t regained the weight that she had lost, but she felt flabbier than ever. She was angry that good health had done this to her.

“What a lousy thing to happen!” Avery said.

Fuming, she said nothing.

“You were doing so well,” he said. “What a goddamned lousy thing to happen.”

“Well, Avery. At least you don’t have to pretend any more.”

“What do you mean, ‘pretend?’ What have I been pretending? What on earth are you talking about?”

“Oh, just leave me alone!”

She had been doing so well. She was on the way to becoming a new woman. But the ankle put an end to all that, and there she was, back in bed, her ankle propped up, with Dijon beside her, licking his lipstick. The pain pills the doctor had given her were strong, but they just didn’t have that certain something.

These hand’t been the greatest of days for Avery Bagwell, either. His deal for financing the Aloha Tower redevelopment had gone pretty much as he thought it would. The sentiment had changed overnight, he could feel it. Nobody was interested anymore, and the champagne had gone flat. Bollinger wouldn’t return his calls, but finally his vice-president had called, saying there were some concerns about credit quality, and some damned equity to debt ratio divided in turn by some stupid-ass formula or another that put him over the line. Sorry, but they had to defer.

Yeah, he had been slow with a few payments— and banks liked to be paid on time, he knew that. But that was just bullshit. In the old boy network, they worked with you if they liked you. Well, he guessed they didn’t like him anymore— no surprise there.

But when he came home one night, he knew that another battle had been lost. Dez had somehow hobbled out on her crutches to the garage with the key he hadn’t bothered to hide, and unlocked the cabinet and brought in the booze. He found her on the floor of the bathroom, dazed.

“Avery!! Avery!!!”

“Oh God, Dez! What the hell happened?!”

“Avery!! I can’t move!! Help me!!”

Drunk, she had caught her crutch on the baseboard in the bathroom, and come crashing down, wrenching her ankle anew. For most of the afternoon she had lain there, helpless on the bathroom floor, too drunk and in too much pain to get up. She had sat there in a fog, unable to move or do anything except bleat for Avery, while the dog gruffled about, whining. She had been there for hours like that, unable to get up. Her ankle was badly swollen and twisted.

“Oh my God, Avery!! I can’t get up!!” The dog yipped and whined and barked as it pranced around its fallen mistress.

“Oh shut the fuck up!” Avery said, and brushed the animal aside. “Get out of the way!” He got behind her, and tried to lift her. But she was dead weight, and the first attempt failed, and as he lowered her to the floor, she screamed in pain. “AWWWWRHHHKK!!! My foot!!! Oh my God…! No!!”

The dog bit him on the ankle. “Son of a bitch!!!” He kicked at it, and sent it clattering across the floor.

“My dog!!! What are you doing… to my dog!!”

“Son of a stupid fucking bitch!! Look, this isn’t going to work! You’ve busted your ankle again, sweetie pie! We gotta call an ambulance!”

“Avery! You have to… take the dog out!”

“Oh for Chrissake! Never mind the goddamned dog!”

“Avery!! Listen… to me! Listen to me… NOW! Take. The dog. Out!” The dog was back, pawing at her and barking.

“Get the goddamned hell—” he said, and pushed it away again.

“Avery! Dijon is trying to… tell you something!! You’re not listening to him!”

“Just forget the damned dog, all right?!”

“Don’t you talk about my dog that way!!”

He called 911, and after the longest while a siren was heard wailing its way up the mountain. The ambulance pulled into the driveway, and Bagwell opened the front door to admit the two paramedics. They came in, lugging a stretcher and their black box of equipment, and Avery led them down to the bedroom and into the bathroom. They checked her vital signs and examined her ankle.

“Avery!” she agonized, “what are they doing!!”

“Sir, she’s pretty agitated,” one of the paramedics said. “We’ve got to try to settle her down so we can move her. We can’t give her a sedative with the level of blood-alcohol that I think she’s got.”

“What are you doing?!!” she said.

“Desiree, be quiet! Look, we’ve got to get you into the hospital! There’s no other way.”

“Hospital?! What… are you talking about!?! I’m fine!! Avery… ?!”

“Ma’m, we’ve got to get you onto the stretcher here,” the paramedic said. “You can’t walk on that ankle.”

“What are you talking about?! I’m fine!! Avery—no! I want to go to my room! I want my dog!! Avery! Where’s my dog!! No!! I’m not going anywhere! You get! Away! From! Me! NOW!!!”

She protested loudly, but in time they managed to winch her onto the stretcher, and with that, everyone left for the hospital.

Hawaiian music

After several days, Desiree was at last re-installed in her lair. The hairline fracture had become a compound fracture, a pretty serious break, actually. Those few days in the hospital were spent sober, though drugged, and now that she was home again, well and truly marooned in bed, she was helpless to do anything but bray in the intercom for booze and her endless other needs. Bagwell soon realized that he couldn’t possibly afford to stay home and care for her. He decided to look into having someone come to be with her.


Chapter Sixteen


“Good morning, Aloha Home Care. May I help you?”

“Yes, hi. I’m just looking through the Yellow Pages here, but I need someone to come in and care for my wife. She’s got a broken ankle. There may be some light housekeeping duties as well. Do you folks do that sort of thing?”

“Yes, sir, we do. All of our care-givers are experienced and bonded, and well-qualified for a wide variety of home care situations.” They discussed terms, delved into what his particular needs were, and so on.

“Well, that sounds okay to me,” Bagwell said. “When would you be able to send somebody out?”

Hawaiian music

The help showed up at at the house first thing the next morning. “Hello, Mr. Bagwell? I’m Haunani, with Aloha Home Care.”

Cunt-struck, Avery stared at her. Fucking beautiful! he thought.

Dazed, it took him a moment to recover his wits.

“Oh yeah, yeah. Come in.” They sat down at the table in the kitchen. “What was your name, you said?

“Haunani, sir.”

“And you’re the, uh, housekeeper?”

“Yeah, that too. They told me you wife was sick?”

“Yeah, oh yeah… that.” This would never work, he thought. He’d never get away with it.

But he just couldn’t resist. She smelled like soap, and between the doggy smell and Desiree’s overwrought perfume, he thought that nothing smelled so nice as the scent of soap on these island girls… it just intoxicated him. They were like that, golden nymphs. But he never had the chance to experience one up close, until now. He answered her questions, and then took her on a tour of the house. He told her the story of each of the household gods, talked about anything that popped into view, just to keep from becoming tongue-tied. For he was smitten.

It was Haunani’s first look at wealth, and for a girl from Hi’ilawe, it was an eyeful. She had never thought much about what it would be like to have money. No point. For her, the good life was just being with friends and going beach and pick opihi and drink beer. But this just dazzled her, and she oohed and aahed at everything he showed her.

Bagwell wondered if she sounded like that in bed. God, what a piece of candy, he thought. Beautiful bitch! For all his wealth and experience, he had become giddy as an adolescent, and he preened himself nervously. He was captivated by her shyness and the demure responses she made with lowered eyelids. He felt absolutely jelly-kneed in the freshly-scrubbed presence of this delectable flesh-pup.

Amidst his reveries, he caught himself, and ice water suddenly coursed through his veins. He realized that he had yet to introduce her to Dez. He would never get away with it, he thought. But what the hell, there was nothing for it, and he walked over to the master bedroom, knocked timidly and slowly slid the door open.

“Dez? Dez?” He had awoken her.

“Sweetheart, there’s a girl here from the agency. You remember?”

“Well, does she have to come in?! Can’t you bring her back some other time?! I haven’t been able to sleep all night, and you came in and woke me up.”

“Sorry, but it’ll just take a moment. You don’t have to do anything but meet her. She’s here to start work. I’ve taken her around the house, shown her what has to be done, and where things are. I’d like to bring her in.”

 He returned a moment later with Haunani. What the hell, he thought, it wasn’t his doing.

“Hello, Mrs. Bagwell? I’m Haunani.”

 Her mouth dropped. “Who are you?!” she said.

“Hi, I’m Haunani.”

She looked at Avery in dismay and shock. The old fox had let this little hen into her own henhouse? “You’re a housekeeper?!”

“Yeah. I used to work housekeeping. You hurt yourself, you husband said?”

“Yes, she broke her ankle, Haunani,” Avery volunteered. “It’s very painful.”

“How old are you?! Who sent you here?!”

“I’m twenty. The company wen’ send me.”

She shot daggers at him, aghast that he would have the temerity to do this, to take such advantage of her helplessness.

Looking back on it, he couldn’t believe it either. His judgment must have been addled by his infatuation. It was a cannonade across her bow, an act of hostility so audacious and unexpected that it made a mockery of any answer on his part. And the more he talked, the more foolish he felt. She had him dead to rights.

But why punish a poor local girl who needed the work, just for being pretty? He decided to put a bold face on it, tough it through, and dismiss her resentment as sheer nonsense.

Hawaiian music

“My, my, my!” she sallied that night. “That’s quite a good-looking wahine you’ve brought home to mama!”

“Look, Dez, don’t be silly. I called these people to send someone– and I didn’t specify who or what she looked like. I called them to send someone to do a job– nothing else! As far as I’m concerned, if she does the job, I don’t have a right to–”

“Oh, don’t be silly… darling! Of course it’s not your fault! I’m sure you’re being entirely objective! You always are! And for all that you consulted me about this–”

“Look, you’re the one who got so goddamned falling-down drunk that you busted your ankle! Or did you want to blame that on me, too!? I’m just picking up the pieces! Do you understand that?!”

“Goof! Do you hear me?! Goof!! Oh boy… why chase it around at the club when you’ve got it all right here at home!”

“What the hell do you mean, chase it around? I’ve never chased anything at the club, except a deal!”

“Don’t bother to explain yourself, dear! I understand completely! Your wahine’s a very lovely girl– unlike your old bag of a wife with… with her foot in a cast.” She started to tear up.

“Oh Lord, what am I supposed to do?! Seriously! What do you want me to do?!”

“That’s up to you, dear. As you can see… there’s not much I can do about it.”

“Whadda ya want me to do, get rid of her?! Good Lord, she’s just a girl that came here to do a job! Why don’t you just give her half a chance, and get off this idea that somehow I’m, I’m… chasing anyone!”

 “You do exactly as you want!”

Hawaiian music

Haunani performed her responsibilities faithfully, sensing that she had to avoid giving the slightest reason for suspicion. She came to work every day, dependable as clockwork, and was meticulously solicitous of the mistress of the house as she dusted and cleaned around her all day. Mrs. Bagwell’s needs were few. Mostly she needed help with the VCR, needed her to take the dog out, needed ice for her icebag to keep down the swelling on her ankle, or ice for the plastic tumbler.

Such a good girl she was, cleaning, checking in with her to see if there was anything she could get her, or do for her, to make her more comfortable. In spite of herself, Dez almost wanted to like her. But ultimately, the only thing Haunani could do to make her comfortable was leave.

Bagwell was almost getting to enjoy the silent treatment, though the midnight summons had not let up. Okay, he thought, if that’s how you feel about it, I’ll show you, prove to you that you’re wrong, and make you feel as stupid as you’ve made me feel. See how you like it. He wasn’t about to be unfair to this girl, just because Desiree was being stupid about it.

But she finally broke the ice. “Avery! I want that girl out of here!”

“Why?! What has she done?!”

“I don’t care! I want her out!”

“Dez, you’ve always thought… for whatever stupid reason, and I know what you’re thinking, and I have absolutely not even thought about this girl in any other terms than, is she doing her job! If she is, I think you should leave well enough alone!”

“Why are so being so protective of her, darling?!” she said. “You’ve fired your share of people before, without so much as an afterthought!”

“Yeah, if they weren’t doing their job! But why the hell do you have to take this girl’s work away from her, when she probably needs the job! She’s probably not making more than ten bucks an hour out of this, and—”

“My, you’re so considerate, aren’t you! Why don’t you have some consideration for me?! I’m the customer, okay? If I say she goes, she goes!”

Hawaiian music

And so she went. Bagwell called the agency that afternoon, expressed his regrets, saying that his wife felt that she was well enough now to get by without someone, sorry but thanks anyway.

After Haunani left, things went back to normal in no time. Bagwell came home to fixing his own dinner– a salad and something micro-waveable. The We Clean It Right maids came once a week after that, did their usual half-assed, over-priced, superficial job– nothing like what Haunani did– then left the house to quickly become filthy again with dog hair and doggy smell. Desiree’s leaden presence had re-established itself.

Left with only the memory of what sweetness and light this girl had brought into his life, Avery pined for her. Seen in contrast to his sad sack wife, he found her irresistible. It was a heady sensation, contemplating forbidden fruit, and he dared not seriously consider it. But he was powerless, and found himself impelled forward in spite of himself. That sweet innocence was as much of a come-on as an engraved invitation, so compelling was its attraction.


Chapter Seventeen


He called and left a message with the agency, asking that Haunani call him at his office number the next day. When the manager undertook to return the call, she scowled at the message, couldn’t read the phone number, and took the liberty of calling the other number they had on record.

“Hullo?” Desiree answered.

“Hello, this is Susan at Aloha Home Care. Is Mr. Bagwell there?”

“No, he’s at the office, I think. What is it?”

“I was just trying to return a call from him. I couldn’t read the number on the message, so I thought I’d try to reach him at this number. It looks like 529-4375.”

“That sounds like my husband’s office number. Four-three-nine-five, actually.”

“Well, is there anything we can do to help? The message was for Haunani, actually, but Haunani’s on duty at another residence.”

“The message was for who?”

“Haunani. The girl that used to work for you.”

There was a long silence. “I see.”

“The number’s 4-3-9-5, you say? I’ll give him a call at that number, then. Thanks. Sorry to bother you.”

Hawaiian music

Haunani returned the call. Bagwell was breahless… could he really bring this off?

“Hey, Haunani. Glad you called. The thing is, I just wanted to explain why your contract over at our place was ended. It had absolutely nothing to do with your work. You did a great job, took great care of things. But Mrs. Bagwell felt that she could get along well enough on her own now. Both she and I felt that you did a fine job.”

“Thanks.”

“In fact, the other reason I called is… well, we have an opening over here at company headquarters, in catering. It’s nice work, a pleasant place to work. And it pays pretty good. I’m wondering if you’d like to stop by and discuss the position.”

“What kine job is this?”

“Well, I’d have to tell you more about it when we have a chance to talk. Are you still off Thursdays?”

“Wednesdays.”

“Well, why don’t you stop by Wednesday, about eleven? You catch a cab, and I’ll have someone downstairs waiting for you, and we’ll take care of the cab, okay?

Bagwell wanted to show Haunani something that he had in mind for her, but he wasn’t sure what. The company had no catering department, so he called up a catering company and had them prepare a luncheon for two and deliver it to the executive suite. They set up the table and a pretty display of flowers, and laid out lobster club sandwiches and vichyssoise, along with a couple bottles of sparkling water. He thought about ordering wine, but he didn’t want to make it seem like a seduction– he’d have a hard enough time making this seem credible.

Credibility mattered. His office was furnished with leather-bound classics, Hawaiian antiques and curios, including a framed numbered copy of the old broad Liliuokalani’s song “Aloha O’e”— that had cost him a bundle! But the rare leather-bound books had never been opened, much less read. Nor had he ever dipped a quill into the antique crystal inkwell, or used the old English stand-up desk for penning inspirations in his less formal moments. But in the dicey business of developing, it was impressed upon him how essential it was to present an image of enlightened sensitivity to things Hawaiian.

Bagwell would create a job for her at the company: Catering & Social Director/Personal Assistant, perhaps. He could decide the title later, whatever the occasion demanded. Actually, he had always meant to put in an executive lunchroom, thinking it would really impress the people he did business with. He might even put in a wine cellar, and teach her how to pronounce the varieties. It would be a project on par with Pygmalion, but once his clients got an eyeful of her, he knew she’d be as irresistible to them as she was to him. He even sounded out his secretary Frances on what it would take to set up an executive lunchroom.

“They don’t allow cooking on premises,” she said.

“How about cold cuts and cheese, or something like that?”

“Then what’s the point of having a lunchroom?” she shrugged.

But these were just details that would have to be worked out later. That’s why there were leaders and there were secretaries. Some people had no vision, no inspiration.

Hawaiian music

Haunani arrived, dressed in a simple white cotton shift that emphasized her simple sensuality. So simple, so clean. Her pussy smells like soap. What was he to say to this girl? They had nothing in common, came from two very different worlds. Discuss the position, he told himself.

“This is a nice place, Mr. Bagwell.”

“You can call me Avery.”

She screwed up her little nose, looked at him funny. “I dunno. If I’m going work for you, I no like call you by your first name.”

“Well, as you wish. I just want you to be comfortable.”

“Are you sure you like talk to me about some job? It looks like you going have lunch with someone. I no like boddah you.”

“Actually, I’m having lunch with you,” he said, managing a foolish grin. “Nothing much… just sandwiches. I hope you’re hungry… and I wanted to show you the sort of thing you’d be doing. Setting up lunch in some of the offices. Like this. Doing a little serving.”

“Gee, that’s nice. But don’t you already have people ‘round here for that… I mean somebody set the table here, yeah?” Her lilting patois teased him, and coming from such a sensuous mouth, his bone began to grow. It made it hard to focus.

“Well… that may be true. But it’s important to have someone that… looks nice. I know that sounds funny. But that’s how deals are done in business. Impressions are absolutely all-important.”

She flashed him her prettiest, most dazzling smile. Such perfect white teeth… to die for.

“Like I said, it’s easy, pleasant work. Pays well. Twenty thousand a year. Plus benefits.”

She blanched. “What! Twenty grand?! For just that?! Unreal!”

Bagwell hadn’t discussed this with anyone at the company yet, which he thought was pretty ballsy. But he’d figure it out as he went along.

Hawaiian music

When it came time, Frances walked Haunani over to Karen Webster– it was, supposedly, a position that fell under the purview of Public Relations. “This is Haunani,” Frances said. “She’s new here.”

“Nice to meet you,” Karen said. “But Frances, are you sure you have the right department? I didn’t request any new hires.”

“Haunani is here on special requisition as Mr. Bagwell’s personal assistant, and she’s going to apprentice as social coordinator,” she said, looking at her significantly. Karen was astonished. Where did he get this cupcake, she thought. God, what balls!

“She’ll be coordinating executive lunches with our catering company,” Frances explained.

Karen didn’t know what to say. What could this child possibly have to offer besides a pretty face?

“What experience do you have, Haunani?”

“I work housekeeping, and home care.” Dazzling smile.

From behind, Frances caught her eye, knitted her eyebrows and drew her mouth into a little frown that communicated her concern that she was saying too much.

“We’re very happy that Haunani is with us,” Frances said. “I’m sure she’ll do very well. And by the way,” she added, “Mr. Bagwell would like you to schedule Haunani for some wine tasting courses at the community college. It’ll be part of her new job.”

They would have to make up stuff for her to do. Why in the world did he hire such a nincompoop, Karen wondered– as if she didn’t know.

Hawaiian music

Whatever her responsibilities, Bagwell was pleased. There she was, in her new uniform, a stylish custom-made pants-suit with the Bagwell Development logo embroidered in gold on each cuff and a name tag that said Haunani. What a sweet name, he thought. “Well, my goodness… just look at this!” he exclaimed. “You’re beautiful–I mean, that looks really nice on you! What’s the caterer got that’s good?”

“Oh, I forget what they call ‘em. Some kine bake fish, in little pastry li’ dat,” making her thumb and forefinger into a circle. “Salad… wit’ goat cheese. Fancy sandwiches. How many people going come today… sir?” she strained.”

“One will be joining me. You.”

“Huh?”

“Yes, just you and me. Just to see what you’ve learned. Next week we’ll fire for record.”

“You mean, this is practice, kind of?”

“That’s right. Do you have a wine list?”

“Yeah, I get ‘em.” She produced the wine list.

“Let’s see now, Bagwell mused. “How about a bottle of Napa Ridge 1984 Sauvignon Blanc?”

Haunani had tried to learn all these funny French names, but just pointed at the wine list. “This one over here?”

“That’s a Cabernet Sauvignon,” he corrected her.

She screwed up her face. “What?”

“Caber. Nay. Soh. Veen. Yon.”

She felt so inadequate. But Bagwell was prepared to be patient. Told her to just relax, she was doing fine. When she had a problem uncorking the wine, he helped her pull the cork. She poured, and he motioned for her to drink.

“I gotta drink this?” she asked.

“Sure. ‘Bout time you acquired a taste for what each wine tastes like. So you can help the guests decide.”

“I going get drunk already.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll take it nice and easy. You’re doing fine.”

The personalized wine tasting course continued through the next few days. As the lessons progressed, Bagwell gave her not just one to sample, but a second, and then a third.

But she had had too much. She flushed, looked at him with that smile of hers. To die for. She giggled, then held her hand to her head. “Oh… dizzy, already,” she said, her head was spinning. She faltered a bit, and Bagwell took hold of her arm and steadied her.

“Why don’t you come sit down,” he said. “Over here.” He helped her over to the sofa. He brought the two wine glasses over and put them on the coffee table. He put his hands on her shoulders, and reached over to smooth her hair.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, just too much wine!”

“Is that a blush? Or is that the wine?” he asked as she stroked her cheek.

“Both.”

“Why? Are you still shy around me?”

“No, not really. I don’t think so.”

“You’re more than lovely to me, Haunani. I mean to tell you… I really, really like you, and he kissed her.

This was the first time she had been in love, and the cares of the world took a distant second. She was walking on clouds, breathless, her eyes distant and dreaming, happy.

She wondered what it might be like to live with this man forever, to be lavished upon and ravished endlessly, even as she wondered how she could ever fit into his world.

Though Bagwell shared the exhilaration, it was tempered by other considerations. Haunani was naive in the matter of sex. Now that she was really enjoying it, her longing for it was becoming insatiable, and Avery was just worn out by her.

He never thought of asking her until their third or fourth time together like this. “Are you doing anything to protect yourself?”

“From who, you?”

“I guess you could say that,” he said. “You know what I mean, don’t you?”

“What, no like baby?!”

“I hardly think I want to become a father at age fifty-three. I really think we should do something.”

“You mean the kine… use rubbah?”

“Well, something like that.” He hated condoms. “Actually, I was thinking of the pill.”

“I don’t know nothing about it. I always thought, you know, if no more experience, no can come hapai.”

“Yeah, well, whatever that means. I think it’d be a real good idea if I made an appointment for you to go see a doctor.”

“See doctah?!” she said, alarmed. “What doctah going do?!”

“No, it’s no big thing. He just gives you a prescription, and you take a pill. Once a day, I think. That’s all.”

He made an appointment with a gynecologist and took her to the office. But he decided to wait outside in the car, ashamed of being seen as a dirty old man fixing up a young girl with contraceptives. He’d be up a little later, he said.

As he didn’t sit in on the consultation, he was not able to appreciate the depth of her befuddlement at the pill’s use. The doctor had to go over it with her real slow— how they worked (she was clueless), and how to make sure she didn’t skip a day, and what to do if she did.

When it came time to settle the bill, they looked at him funny… he knew what they were thinking.

Hawaiian music

After he lost out on Aloha Tower, there wasn’t much to keep Bagwell occupied, apart from chump change jobs, the occasional strip mall and a custom-build home or two, renovations and stuff. At that point, he had begun to think about actually leaving Hawaii– maybe going to Vegas, where things were booming, or maybe New Orleans, and build a riverfront casino.

But he’d also been hearing a lot about the Big Island. The Japanese were buying some big-ticket items over there. It was a shame that he didn’t have access to the kind of money. Maybe what he needed was his own fat Nipponese sugar daddy. That would seem to have its advantages, including the fact that he wouldn’t have to go through all the bullshit with the banks.

He had Wendell Fujiyama put out the feelers among other attorneys who represented the Japanese. But then again, he didn’t have the first idea about the Big Island. He’d need to go there for some due diligence. He wasn’t so sure at first, but then he thought, what the hell, they would be there on business. And who better to accompany him than his executive assistant, Haunani? She’d love to go, she said. She’d even take him to meet her family, she offered, in Hi’ilawe… wherever the fuck that was.

Hawaiian music

Kona, where the Japanese were buying, captivated him. It seemed to just drowse beneath the dense belt of forested uplands along the great mountains, and out there, the broad blue Pacific lay calm and glassy as a millpond.

She took him home to Hi’ilawe. It seemed like a helluva ways, sixty miles or so along a winding, pot-holed road, then along a dirt road that wound down a valley wall so steep that, had he taken his eyes off the road for even a moment to take in the view, it would have been curtains. It was way out of the loop of everything else that was happening, but God it was beautiful! Of course she’s from someplace like this, he thought, how could it be otherwise?

Hawaiian music

What a surprise! Kaipo exclaimed, that Haunani came home li’ dat, right outta nowheres! They were so surprised, and when they found out that Haunani was one executive assistant for this rich haole guy, they just couldn’t believe it.

Bagwell was surprised he enjoyed himself so much that day… he wasn’t sure what her family would think. But it was all business. He was here to look at some development prospects, he said, and he needed her to show him around. He enjoyed himself more than he had in a long time, in the company of these simple and good people. They loved to talk. It seemed to him they could sit there all day, every day, out there on the lanai of the old store, and never run out of things to talk about. He could almost get used to this, he thought.

Haunani told him all kinds of stories about the place, told him about the old whiskey priest who lived in the broken-down old church. “Uncle Herman said was some kine monkey business at the church long time ago,” she laughed. “But he’s just as confused as the monkeys!” she said. He thought that was a hoot.

He just never imagined Hawaii was anything like this. Here was a valley filled with birdsong and waterfalls and rainbows, and as the sun broke through the clouds, the valley was lit golden, right before his eyes. It was like a dream.

Then it came to him that this was where his dream could take form! He had always imagined a place like this, a valley with waterfalls, with guests arriving by helicopter, with a championship 18-hole course and course-front homes and a clubhouse like the pleasure dome of Xanadu! It would be the playground of the elite, former presidents and corporate fat-cats— the rich and famous who would be his captive audience!

He could even rename the valley to something that people could pronounce. But that would have to wait, since a project like this would demand planning, financing, and vision on a scale that he had never contemplated as a developer of malls and gated communities.


Chapter Eighteen


Mrs. Bagwell’s vision, on the other hand, was a bit blurred, and her designs were not so much those of enrichment but of entrapment. The phone rang at Bagwell’s office.

“Hello, this is Frances, Mr. Bagwell’s secretary, may I help you?”

The voice on the line was slurred and surly.

“Is he there?”

“I’m sorry– is who there?”

“You know. My husband, Avery Bagwell.”

“Is this Mrs. Bagwell?”

“Yes. But I don’t want you to tell him so.”

“How may I help you, Mrs. Bagwell?”

“I just want to know. Is he there?”

“I believe he’s in a luncheon meeting. He asked that I take messages for now. May I tell him you called?”

“No!! Are you sure he’s there?”

“Yes ma’am. Quite sure. He’s in a lunch meeting with someone at the moment.”

“Who?”

“I… I really can’t say… I’d have to check Mr. Bagwell’s calendar.” Amazingly, this drunken woman had caught her, a seasoned executive secretary, off guard. Had it been anyone else, she would of course have summarily deflected this line of inquiry, but how was one to tell the wife of the Chairman and CEO of Bagwell Development to buzz off?

She recovered. “I believe it’s one of Bagwell Development’s clients, m’am, if that’s what you mean.”

“Who is it?!”

“Well, I’m not sure, exactly. I’d have to check his calendar to get a name. And I’m afraid that’s in his office, and he asked that he not be disturbed at the moment.”

“Ah hah!” she triumphed. “Well, let me let you in on a little secret. Not that I think it’s much of a secret to you. I’ll bet he’s having dessert!”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean, Mrs. Bagwell. Would you like to call back later?”

“What I mean is…. he’s having something sweet, if you know what I mean!”

“I’m sorry, but—”

“He’s having lunch all right! With his… wahine! Go on, tell me I’m wrong! Prove it!”

This being the first such initiative on the part of Mrs. Bagwell, it had succeeded by virtue of its element of surprise. But then it happened again and again, and whoever answered the calls would be similarly engaged in Mrs. Bagwell’s inane cross-examination– whether it was Florence, Grace, or even Security, as when she blustered her way past the various gatekeepers to demand that someone check on Bagwell’s car to see that it was still there in the garage. They tried to remain polite, though the nuisance calls aroused considerable consternation. Yet, nobody wanted to tell Avery Bagwell.

Finally, they decided to consult Karen Webster in Public Relations. She knew him as well as anyone, and perhaps she would know how to handle it.

“Mr. Bagwell,” she said. “I really need to speak with you… about Mrs. Bagwell.”

“What about her?”

“I’m sorry to have to bring this to your attention, but it’s gotten to the point where I must.”

“Well, what is it?!”

“Mrs. Bagwell has been calling here… constantly.”

“Why? What does she want?”

“Actually, these are calls you’re not even supposed to know about. She’s been calling Grace, calling Florence, calling Security– whoever she can get ahold of, several times a week, sometimes more.”

“Jesus Christ! Why?”

“I think she’s trying to find out where you are. And who you’re with— that kind of thing.” She paused, allowing a moment for her meaning to dawn. “We tried to keep it from becoming a problem for you, but it’s just gotten to the point where it’s out of control. I mean it’s your business, I realize that. But when it gets to the point where the whole company knows about it… I mean, it’s one thing that I get these calls,” she continued. “I can deal with that. But I don’t think it’s in my job description to be making excuses to the others all the time! Then when Haunani’s here, it’s almost a full-time job trying to keep her busy all day, and she’s always taking my time with questions… and situationslike this are just so embarrassing! I feel like I’m covering for you! I mean, I’m sorry I have to say this, but people talk!”

It wasn’t like Karen to be upset like this. This was serious.

“What are they saying?”

“It’s an open secret, sort of. But still, I’m the one that has to apply spin control. And I don’t want to see us get hurt by—“ she searched for the word– “scandal?” Yes, that was the word. “We can’t afford that.”

“Yeah,” he said, reluctantly acknowledging the import of these confidences. “I guess I know what you mean.”

Hawaiian music

His cell phone rang. He answered. There was a panting noise on the line. “Hello? Hello?” he said, but he recognized the number. There was giggling. “Haunani? Is that you?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh Lord, you should at least say so.”

“What, you don’t know who I am by now?! Then you better come over, and we going get better acquainted,” she teased.

“I can’t right now. I’ve got a meeting coming up soon, in about an hour.”

“Well, get plenty time, then! Ten minutes for come. Ten minutes for go Holiday Inn. Twenty minutes for show you love me!”

God, he was almost tempted. But even if there was enough time, that would leave him just wasted and out of breath. It wouldn’t do for him to come into a meeting like that. He wouldn’t be able to follow what was happening. “Sorry. I really can’t.”

“Eh, the more you just t’ink about it, the more time you wasting! You busy, but I got nothing to do– ever since you wen’ send me home.”

That had been weeks ago. This whole thing, he knew, was just disgraceful. His relationship with Desiree had deteriorated into little more than acrimony and accusations ever since the agency screwed up and gave her the message that he had left for Haunani. He tried to explain things to her, that she wasn’t being let go, certainly not after doing such a good job and all. She was “on retainer”, as he put it, with full pay.

“You make me feel like one whore,” she mumped, “sitting around waiting for you. So you better come treat me like one.”

“All right. I’ll be over– after the meeting.” He could still get home at a plausible hour.

He was a bit ashamed of himself. An old man, carrying on with a young girl like this. He could hardly keep up with her. It was every damn day, some days, more than once, even. For a man in his fifties who was used to once a month or so, it was more than he could rise to. It was a nuisance, really, since there was business to attend to that wasn’t getting done.

Apart from the occasional teasing, Haunani didn’t really press him. “What you going do?” she’d say, “just keep me here?” But even that was just teasing.

“I hadn’t really thought about it,” Bagwell said. “Why, aren’t you happy?”

“Yeah, kinda. I guess so. But I keep wondering.”

“About what?”

She looked up at him and pouted. “You not supposed to say that! You supposed to say you love me… you want me… you like be with me.”

“But you know all those things.”

“You just come and go. Then I never see you for long time!”

“Long time? Whaddya mean…  coupla days, at the outside!”

“Yeah, but I like be more than just your main squeeze! I like be your woman.”

“You are my woman.” He instantly regretted saying it.

“Not! How can?! You married.”

He drew his breath, looked around, and slowly exhaled. It pained him when she brought that up. He really didn’t how to respond. He loved his wife, but he also pitied her, knowing she could never survive a week without him. She’d become a a bag lady or something, pushing around a Safeway cart full of bags and rags and a bottle of booze tucked away in there somewhere.

“I can’t leave my wife,” he said. “She’s not well. She needs me.”

“Me too.”

He wondered what this girl really understood of what it was like for him. He wasn’t in the position that she was, of being carefree and in love for the first time and excited about building a life on that foundation of first love. He wasn’t able to commit to that, and he was a bit irked that she didn’t seem to understand that.

Then there was his reputation–what was left of it, anyway. Could anyone in his right mind imagine this dumb Hawaiian girl as a society wife, entertaining government and business leaders? The idea was absurd, that this girl might be at all capable of conduct becoming a lady, wearing an expensive evening gown and sipping champagne from a long stem glass, when she couldn’t even speak English! And here she was, mumping about a life together.

Still, Haunani was necessary to him, as a source of reliable, relatively uncomplicated sex. The heady impulsiveness– indeed, the madness– of their first days together had become tempered by discretion. From time to time, he took her to a nice hotel. And it was on just such an occasion that he found himself, lying in bed with her, exhausted from their lovemaking and woozy from the wine. They both had dozed off, and he hadn’t awakened ‘til two in the morning.

“Oh, Christ!” he said when he looked at his watch. “It’s eleven pm! Oh God, I’ve gotta get outta here!”

She jolted awake, stared at him through half-opened eyes. “Whassa matter?”

“Look at the time, for Chrissake! I dozed off, and oh God, how the hell am I gonna… oh, fuck! C’mon, we gotta go, quick!” He threw on his clothes, went into the bathroom, checked himself in the mirror to make sure there wasn’t lipstick or something. “Hurry up, will you?! We gotta go!”

They went to the lobby, and she waited as he went up to the front desk, gave the guy his credit card, told them to please hurry it up, they had a plane to catch. The clerk looked slyly at Haunani, standing there disheveled and dazed. A likely story.

Hawaiian music

Desiree was waiting for him, like a goddamned she-bear with its disgusting little cub right there in the living room. She snarled a war-whoop and launched into a “Well, well, well!! Here’s lover boy, coming home from another all-night business lunch!”

Bagwell was in no mood to engage. “Just go to bed, would you?!”

“Was she that good… darling?! That you had to stay out half the night with her?!”

“Just shut up, will you?! I’m tired. Go to bed!”

“Did you have a good time, old boy?! Oh, that’s right, I forgot! It was a business lunch! All work and no play! The poor boy must be so tired from all that work! No wonder he needed to lie down for a little nap!”

“Just leave me the hell alone, would you!”

“Then tell me, lover boy, how was it?!”

She followed him around the house, cawing at him, mocking his “wahine.” He just wanted to go to bed. But she kept following him, dogging him and stalking him from living room to kitchen to bathroom to bedroom, in an endless stream of snide invective.

She grabbed at him as he lurched into the bedroom, and hungover from the wine and more than a bit mean himself, he turned on her and, unable to restrain his hatred for what she had become, he slapped her. She fell back against the wall, then collapsed, sobbing.

At once he was horrified. He had never struck his wife before. Mortified that he had done such a thing, he couldn’t believe his own eyes, and he instantly despised himself as a beast. He fell to his knees, saying “Oh my God I’m sorry, Dez. I didn’t mean it!” He pitied her, sitting there in a pathetic muddle, sobbing.

“Get away, you monster!” she lashed out. “How could you do this to me! How could you hit me!”

“Oh Jesus! Dez, I didn’t mean it! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”

“Get away from me!” she hissed. “Just get away!”

 Back and forth it went like that, until at last he mollified her with the promise of a drink. Her venom exhausted, she let herself be led back to her bedroom. They’d work this all out tomorrow, he promised her. Appalled with himself, Avery Bagwell went to bed.

Hawaiian music

He didn’t get up until around ten that morning. Having always gotten up before the sun, it seemed forced and unnatural for him to doze fitfully through the daylight. His head ached, and he felt ragged and worn.

He dragged himself through the motions, brushed his furred tongue and teeth, then shuffled into the kitchen and pushed the button on the coffee-maker. He sat in the breakfast alcove, and regarded the empty kitchen with remorse. His ears strained, and he could detect no noise from the bedroom downstairs.

But then, the intercom came alive. “Avery! Bring the paper towels!”

It was way past time to take the dog out. He went down the stairs to her bedroom, and opened the door. The dog stood there by the bed, shivering. Shit, he thought, what a great way to start the day. It tried to make its escape through his legs, and Avery gave it a kick–not a kick, really, just a helpful shove with his foot, sending it skittering down the hall. It ran up the stairs to the front door, where it waited anxiously to be let out.

He returned to the bedroom and opened up the windows to air the place out. Desiree glowered at him, her face bruised and her lip swollen. “How could you kick my poor little dog! It’s not enough that you beat up your wife, is it?! No, the big man has to beat up my poor little dog!”

“Dez…”

“Don’t talk to me! You’re just a creep! You’re a wife-beater!”

“Dez, I’m really sorry.”

“I don’t want to talk about it! Do you hear me?! Just leave me alone! I’m going to talk to a divorce lawyer! So just get me a drink… and leave me alone!”

Hawaiian music

These days, he almost welcomed her demands for a drink. At least it was an entree of some sort, and he tried to open a dialogue. But all she said was the same old fix the VCR and take the dog out. As for anything else, she didn’t want to hear about it.

He felt as bad as he possibly could feel, he thought. This time it really was his fault. The only thing worse than being locked up with a scorned woman was being locked up with his own conscience. He would never be able to forgive himself, even if she did.

Hawaiian music

Haunani hadn’t called him for three days. He was less troubled by this respite than by the certainty that if he didn’t call her to ask why, she’d take it the wrong way. He wondered if this wasn’t a good opportunity to just let the whole thing wither on the vine. She’d find someone else, he knew. But then, he also knew that he didn’t want her to go away anyway.

Back at the office, he picked up his phone and dialed her number. “Hi!” he opened.

“Oh, hi.” She sounded subdued and dispirited.

“I haven’t heard from you. Everything okay?”

There was a pause. “Yeah.”

“Whadda you mean, ‘yeah.’ Sounds like you’re not so sure.”

“No. It’s okay.”

“I don’t think I believe you. What’s the matter, huh? Something’s the matter, I can tell.”

“I get something for tell you.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I’m hapai. Never get my period for two months already.”

Bagwell sat there, the blood draining from his face, his heart in his throat. “Are you sure?”

“I just forgot, thas’ all! I wen’ mix up the days or something, I dunno!”

How could she be so forgetful? Then again, he thought, she couldn’t even count to ten on the fingers of both hands and feet, much less be depended upon to keep track of her pills.

What did she think was going to happen, anyway? Did he look like he was going to be the father of anyone’s kid?! Christ, he was fifty-three already… and married!

She was crying now, like a schoolgirl. “You said you love me.”

“Haunani, look, this is… this is just out of the question! We can’t possibly have a baby!”

“Why not! You said you was going leave you wife!”

“I didn’t say any such thing! Haunani, we can’t have a baby! We just can’t.”

“Then you lied to me! You don’t give one fuckin’ damn about me, do you?!”

This was just unreal. He just couldn’t not believe how stupid he felt for having knocked up a young girl with an IQ in the mid-range of the Richter Scale, for Chrissake. And now she wanted to have the the baby. That was absurd. What right did she have to think she had any claim whatsoever on his world? She belonged with her own people. They had had an affair– it was fun, and so what?! Did she really think there was anything more to it than that? Didn’t she realize that he had his own family? Didn’t she comprehend the first thing about loyalty?

“Look,” he said. “This isn’t the best time or place to discuss this. How about I stop by tonight, say around six?” 

Hawaiian music

He liked it here. The club was the only place, absolutely the only place, where he could get away from things and think. The whirling ceiling fans rustled the pages of the Wall Street Journal, and a Filipino waiter in gold-buttoned uniform brought him a beer.

Putting the paper aside, he groaned. Shit. How much would it take to buy her off? Would it work? Would she be quiet? He buried his knuckles in his eye sockets in a futile agony, then glanced at his watch. It was already past five-thirty, and he better get going.

Haunani’s apartment in Chinatown was a twenty-minute walk from the club. He could smell the place before he could see it, he thought. Chinatown’s stores were redolent with anise, dates, ginger, garlic soaked in red pepper mash, rhizomes and tree bark and fungus, dry prunes and olives, boxes of dry shrimp and sides of salted fish. In glass cases beneath infra-red lamps, reddened ducks dripped grease among pans of white tripe.

He walked along Hotel Steet, where music pulsed and catcalls resounded. The front door of Hubba Hubba was open wide to the night, offering a sneak view of the girls strutting inside on the stage. Outside, they coiled themselves around lampposts like tawny cats, their eyes glowing like fireflies in the shadows.

Groups of tars on leave from Pearl Harbor lurched along under a marquee that proclaimed, “Moe Keale and His Hawaiian Jug Band Tonite!!!” In a dirt parking lot, bored Filipino cab drivers passed the time in rickety aluminum chairs, caring little whether they had a fare or not, and street arabs plied hands of apple bananas and bunches of white and red torch ginger from cardboard boxes.

He elbowed his way through a crush of cigar-brown faces, withered crones with their gray hair tied severely into buns, and young mothers carrying babies astride the hip. A pockmarked whore sidled up to him with a toothless grin. He lowered his eyes and pushed past her.

Haunani’s apartment was on third floor. He pushed the button on the intercom, and waited. Haunani answered, and buzzed him in.

He sat down on the couch next to her. She looked at him, forlorn. Her cheap rayon mu’u looked like a maternity dress.

“Is he here?” he asked.

“Herman? He went out.”

Satisfied they were alone, he continued.

“We need to talk.”

“What for? I not going get rid of the baby.” The resignation in her voice meant that she had already made up her mind.

“Why won’t you?”

 “Maybe you think you can get rid of me. But I’m not going get rid of the baby.”

“I’ll give you money, Haunani, and what you do with it is up to you. But I think we should just go our own ways.”

“How come you like give me money? You think that’s all I want from you?!”

“What do you want then?!”

“How come you hate me?” she said. “How come you want me go away? How come?!”

She was crying. “Nobody gotta know. I can stay here, with the baby.”

 “Listen, Haunani,” he said. “I don’t hate you. You haven’t done anything… it’s my fault. Come on now, don’t cry.”

Without speaking, she got up and went into the bathroom for a moment, and came out with her face washed, and and dress smoothed. She was sullen, but composed.

“You just going leave me? Thas it?”

“Yes, Haunani. I’m sorry.”

“Then go.”

Hawaiian music

The letter arrived from the attorney. The funds enclosed were intended as a cash settlement for any paternity claims against Mr. Bagwell, it said, and her endorsement of this check constituted acceptance of that settlement. The check was for $50,000.

She had never seen anything like that. It had to be a mistake, all those numbers and zeroes. Was just like one of those phony checks that came with the cancer insurance ads in the Sunday paper, or from Publisher’s Clearing House— only you had to get cancer and die, or win the lottery to cash it. But this was one no-bullshit check for real money, and man, was plenty money.

She the letter and the check to Herman, who hooted and cackled. He tried to read it, then she snatched it back. She was being offered the money to just walk away. It was hers for the asking. All she had to do was take it to the bank.

 “I feel like one whore,” she said, sadly. But then she grew animated: “It’s his baby! How come he treat me like one whore, think he can just pay me?! Whores make better money that that!” 

 “Don’t take his money!” Herman said. “Big shot like him, you know how much money he’s got? Must be millions! Don’t take his lousy fifty grand! You can do better than that!” She listened and slowly nodded. It was just the money, after all.

Hawaiian music

She sat on the living room floor with the Sunday paper, leafing through the classifieds. “Where we going live, Herman?”

“What you mean?”

“I like find one place, yeah? I like find one nice place for the baby.”

“What you mean? What did you do?”

“I wen’ cash the check, that’s why. Money’s in the bank.”

“How come you did that?!”

“I no like hassle, already. I just like to get on with my life, yeah?– make one nice place for the baby. If the buggah no like raise his own kid, I don’t want him around neither.”


Chapter Nineteen


There were crowds everywhere, bumping and heaving and stepping around each other as yet more crowds disgorged from subways packed solid by pushers. They coursed through a byzantine maze of alleys in a cement city-scape of shades of gray: cement-gray, dirty street-gray, old wood-gray, sky-gray, rain-gray, suits-gray, brick-gray, mud-gray, holding handkerchiefs to their mouths against the 10 parts per million of carbon monoxide declared by the pollution monitor, grimacing from the steady blare of car horns, sidewalk loudspeakers, and crush of traffic. 

Above were neon signs in English and Japanese in a hundred different plastic colors: Cutty Sark, Coke, Play Club, Los Angeles Club, jazz clubs where single men danced with themselves in front of full-length mirrors. Spoiled by the dearness of their country’s currency and the sweat of their father’s brows, girls sported Euro-snob handbags as they sat in coffee shops, drinking lattes.

Ugly cement buildings and houses of wood, tile, and bamboo jostled each other helter-skelter for precious inches of space. Washing hung from porch lines provided more shade from the steaming sun than did the occasional grimy tree.

On a hot day like this, with humidity and pollution thick as molasses, bathers were packed like Cape Buffalo in an African mud-wallow, into water thick with piss and snot and acrid with the smell of chlorine. A recorded voice emanated eerily from the pirate ship wreck anchored at the far end of the pool, warning of the mercilessness of the sea. At nearby Yokohama Chuo Cemetery, Hideo Hamamoto sat in a pew and watched impassively as a robot prayed over the soul of his dear departed comrade, Major Ishii.

The stress of business had taken its toll on Ishii at an early age. He was not even sixty, younger even than Hamamoto. Men everywhere these days were keeling over from karoshi, a mysterious affliction ascribed to overwork.

It was hard for an old tiger to hang it up. But hadn’t he done all he had set out to do? Ingeniously and single-handedly, he had developed the only weapon that could deal effectively with China’s swarming anthills. If anything, it had worked too well, and he could not be blamed if incompetent higher-ups and over-zealous idiots had caused it to go awry.

The robot, a mechanical Buddhist priest with blinking eyes, convincing skin tone, and moving mouth, uttered its sutras for the departed, then disappeared on its platform back into the ceiling. Hideo hadn’t thought much about death, though so much of it had been inflicted at his hands. He should retire, he thought, before the mechanical priest chanted its prayers for him. But he couldn’t afford to.

Hawaiian music

The thunder of the Japanese Army’s advance had surpassed the long-dormant glory of the Great Khan. The Chinese had fired obsolete and homemade rifles and rushed at the Emperor’s finest with crude bamboo spears and sharpened kitchen utensils, knowing full well that their cause was hopeless. Even so, they killed and maimed Japanese soldiers.

A sniper would peer from some dark corner, fire, and be annihilated for his audacity. But a Japanese soldier had been felled, and the Japanese were obliged to punish this cowardice by punishing not only the perpetrator, but those who had countenanced the cowardice, as well. They shot and bayoneted old men, old women, and infants. Women were raped without regard to age. Some were defiant, and had to be bludgeoned into submission, while others lay petrified and motionless.

Consumed with their vision of subduing the endless reaches of this dust-blown, primitive land and awakening its decayed torpor to a new era of Asiatic pride, the armies of Japan swept on. Out of this cesspool would arise a new China under Japanese dominion—no, a new Asia!

Kindergartens, women’s colleges, hospitals, hotels, and even cemeteries fell to the Imperial Army. In Nanking, the Japanese chose their targets with utmost caprice, and the city resounded with the lethal chatter of automatic weapons fire. Hundreds were lined up on the banks of canals and machine-gunned, and thousands more were executed and buried in pits with their wrists wired together. When ammunition ran low, ordinary men were roped by the hundreds and doused with gasoline and burned alive. In all, some three hundred thousand men, women, and children– officials, teachers, laborers, soldiers, beggars and shopkeepers– were murdered in six weeks of mayhem. It was a prodigious effort, though not one that went unrewarded. Twenty thousand women were raped, and when the screams of infants annoyed their mothers’ rapists, the babies were bayoneted. Pregnant women were eviscerated, and fathers were ordered to rape their daughters.

Following the glorious capture of Nanking, the Imperial Army found its advance through central China increasingly hampered by its perilously distended lines of supply. Food was not as great a problem as clean water, and only occasionally could the soldiers find it. They took to cooking in river and pond water, even drinking it. The soldiers became ill, stricken with diarrhea and cholera and typhoid. Without clean water, the Imperial Army could no longer move forward.

Hawaiian music

Hideo recalled the endless frigid expanses of Manchuria, dun brown under a frosty pale blue sky. It seemed to him the end of the world, the farthest-flung reaches of the glorious Empire of Japan. After four days on the train from Pusan, he arrived in Harbin, the northern Manchurian city known as the Paris of the East, with its wide streets and many Russian-style buildings dating from the time of the czars.

It was there that his water filters were made, in a reconditioned soy sauce brewery outside Old Harbin. They had proved successful in enabling the army to resume its advance through central China, and his project burgeoned from relative obscurity to one of the utmost urgency. A new facility, for expanded research into disease prevention, was needed.

Hidden behind a high wall, dry moat and high voltage wires, Pingfan now had its own railway now, which brought freight by the hundreds. There was an incinerator and electrical utility with tall cooling towers, an airfield, an insectarium, a capacious headquarters building, an exercise yard, and a facility for keeping the rats.

The animal house roiled with tens of thousands of them. The putrid stench of their urine was everywhere, and the storehouses of millet that were plundered to feed the rat colony resulted in prodigious quantities of droppings whose odor mingled with that of the urine.

 The odor was everywhere at Pingfan. But its source was more than rat excrement. It was the germ factory on Ro Block’s first floor, where factory workers pushed trolleys along dimly-lit corridors, trolleys laden with bottles of cultures: plague and anthrax, botulism and tetanus, tick encephalitis and tsutsugamushi fever. Each day, the workers donned lightweight rubberized silk suits, heavy rubber boots, gloves, goggles, and gauze masks and waded through a trough of antiseptic phenol water to enter the production line.

There, they boiled up the culture medium of meat bouillon, and poured it into cultivators in high-pressure autoclaves. After the medium cooled, they swabbed the gelatin base of each cultivator where the cultures festered in optimal conditions of temperature and humidity.

In the labs, they injected cyanide, nitric acid, and strychnine nitrate into the rats to induce seizures, and endeavored to determine what animal of what weight had died in how many days after an injection of what strength. The heart, liver, kidneys, everything was removed, cultures made, and toxicity levels tabulated.

Apart from the rumble of the trolleys, the factory in Ro Block was eerily silent, since the workers could communicate with each other only by hand signals, so as to avoid opening their mouths and inhaling the deadly bacteria that floated invisibly throughout the factor. Sweat dripped from their foreheads as they went about their macabre labors. They skimmed the slurry from its gelatin base and poured it into bottles that were then trucked to the storeroom, where sufficient stocks of plague germs were added each month to kill the entire population of China many times over.

But the harsh Manchurian winter hampered experimentation, and made it difficult to procure supplies and heating oil adequate to so much as keep the water supply from freezing. It was also hard to obtain from Japan any of the lab equipment that was needed. The only thing there was enough of in China was people.

Hawaiian music

“Ito, I am tired of rats,” Hideo said. “There are just so many things that can be done with rats. Headquarters must provide us with worms to study, not rats.”

“There are many worms underground, sir,” Ito said. “In the basement of the Kempeitai Headquarters in Harbin.”

“Then see if you can dig us up a few worms.”

Throughout Manchuria, the worms were unearthed by the Kempeitai– intellectuals and labor agitators, suspected spies and saboteurs, ideological criminals and drug addicts, pro-Soviet and anti-Japanese elements, disloyals, those of no fixed residence, or simply those who were otherwise undesirable.

Others, innocent and unsuspecting, were lured under false pretenses. Children, mothers, and pregnant women were trapped and held with the others in the basement of the Japanese Consulate in Harbin, to await collection and transport in windowless four-ton trucks as “special consignments” to Pingfan.

At Pingfan, the prison was a canvas from Hieronymus Bosch. Prisoners writhed and moaned, grasping limbs that had nearly broken through skin mottled by necrosis. Others were racked with coughs–pneumonia and bronchial fever. Some were disfigured with swelling, others wasted away to skin and bone. Some were blistered and had open and running sores. Some were held in isolation, and others were thrown in with others to see how fast their diseases would spread. In desperation, some of the prisoners would try to practice old wives’ cures, black magic, and shamanistic quackery to escape being contaminated.

Thuggish guards patrolled the corridors, helping to restrain the prisoners as doctors drew blood samples and injected contagions. There was no point in resisting, since the germs could be sprayed, instilled into drinking water, or smeared onto chocolates, jam buns, melons and crackers.

Some of the research was carried out in a steel chamber the size of a telephone booth, where a fan in the ceiling drew hydrogen cyanide gas into the chamber. The prisoners became confused and dizzy within seconds, and lost control of their breathing. They gasped and convulsed as researchers coolly observed through the chamber’s reinforced glass windows. A young mother and her baby were put into this chamber, where she tried to protect her child from the gas by covering it with her body.

The thick glass window of the pressure chamber afforded the scientists a view of other procedures as well. Air was pumped into the chamber to evaluate resistance to pressure. Eyes popped out of their sockets, eye membranes ruptured, and blood was forced out through the pores of the skin. Others were given transfusions of horse blood. Some were sweated to death and mummified beneath dry heat fans that baked the subject of the experiment until all moisture had completely evaporated, and the corpse weighed less than half of its normal body weight. Prisoners were electrocuted, boiled alive, pureed in giant centrifuges, and irradiated to death with x-rays in the name of research.

There was no possibility of escape, either from infection or through the ponderous steel doors that sealed off Ro Block from the rest of the world. But an incident occurred when a prison warder tried to give a prisoner lunch. The prisoner had cut off his wrist manacle and attacked the warder. Corporal Ito placed an emergency call to headquarters building.

“Sir! There has been a disturbance in Ro Block! One of the prisoners cut off his handcuffs, and attacked the warden.”

“Is the situation under control?” Hideo asked.

“Not yet, sir. The warden was injured and badly beaten, but not killed. His keys were taken!”

“The fool! So what happened?!”

“Sir! The prisoner opened all the cells, and all the prisoners came out. There’s a riot, sir!”

“Are they still inside Ro Block?”

“Yes, sir. They have not been able to break down the steel door.”

“Then get the guards there immediately! Tell them to wear their gas masks!”

Hideo ordered a tank of phosgene gas brought, and a rubber hose was ran up a ladder from the inner courtyard. He was patient. For nearly an hour they tried to reason with the prisoners, encouraging them to return to their cells peaceably. But his patience was sorely tried, and in the end, it took them only a few minutes to kill enough of them to convince them to return to their cells.

An example was to be made of the ringleader. “Everyone is to assemble in the courtyard at noon!” Hideo ordered. “Make sure the prisoners are handcuffed, and chain their feet as well! Station guards everywhere around them!”

This was hardly the first time Hideo had taken a head. It was something an officer had to do. If he didn’t, the men would say, “He’s nothing but appearances.” Nobody wanted to have that said of them. Still, there was a lot of pressure, with everyone watching.

The thin, worn-out prisoner kneeled in front, blindfolded. Hideo unsheathed his sword, wet it down, and walked up behind him. The prisoner didn’t move. He kept his head lowered, resigned to his fate.

Hideo drew his sword, a Sukesada, and took a deep breath to ensure his composure. He steadied himself, holding the sword at a point above his right shoulder, and swung down with one breath.

The head dropped to the ground, rolling a short way until it stopped, and the lifeless eyes of the prisoner stared. The blood spourted from the torso, and soon, the air reeked of blood. He washed the blood off the blade, then wiped it with paper. But a piece of fat stuck to it that just wouldn’t come off, and as he sheathed the sword, he noticed too that it was slightly bent.

Although his very first execution had been imperfect, he had felt something change inside him just then. He didn’t know how to put it, but he had gained strength somewhere in his gut. From that time, he had personally severed more than thirty heads.

His everyday sword was a Showa sword. His other sword was called Osamune Sukesada, which had been given to him by his uncle and which was more than 300 years old. The Showa was a sword made for fighting. It cut well, even if you had no talent, and was the kind that samurai appreciated. It was also the best implement for generalized murder. But the Showa wouldn’t always remove a head with a single stroke. The neck would be cut through, but it might not fall. On the other hand, heads fell easily to Sukesada. It was sufficient to draw it from its sheath and just draw it across the neck. It cut right through. You didn’t have to expend any real effort, or swing it from way up high.

Hawaiian music

Corporal Ito had grown tired, as well, of the grim daily agonies he dealt with at Pingfan. It was annoying to listen to them plead for life– whether their own, or that of their loved ones or friends. Some got down on their knees and grappled with his legs, tears streaming, and pleaded desperately for the release of their relatives. He kicked them away brusquely–they had nothing to offer but crude entreaty and baubles. Many brought but a ring or such, being all they had. He took the ring just the same, since he was under orders to give it to Commander Hamamoto so that he might impound the bribe and note its receipt in a special log book that he kept for the Imperial Army inspector.

But when someone brought him the carving, Ito was struck. “This is different,” he remarked to Commander Hamamoto. “Inspired, don’t you think? It is so ingenious, perhaps you should keep it as a remembrance.”

Hideo ran his fingers over the lacy jade carving of the album’s cover. Within, there were twelve ivory leaves, called “Pleasures of the Months for Court Ladies.” On a leaf entitled “Search for Plum Blossoms on a Chilly Evening,” a blind eunuch held a lantern as he and his mistress engaged in illicit amours beneath two plum trees in full flower. The risen moon, illuminating the scene with reflected light from the white walls, was implied though not depicted. The ivory was accented, sparingly and judiciously, with painted gold on the hair, the collars, and sashes of the woman. Even the veins on the man’s penis were visible.

“This is unexpected,” Hideo said. “Who gave this to you?”

“Someone’s brother, sir.”

“Do we still have the prisoner?”

“Yes.”

“Then remove him from his cell. Put him on the labor crew. Tell his brother that the prisoner’s freedom cannot be bought– though with diligence it might someday be earned.”

Word got around, and their magnanimity was rewarded with other treasures, including a “Hundred Treasure Inlay,” a covered rectangular box of red sandalwood, in which a still life of lotus seed pod, persimmons, chrysanthemums, and bamboo leaves was rendered in mother-of-pearl, jade, and gemstones.

A twin-humped Bactrian camel, with still-lustrous polychrome glaze, was tendered. Slipped over the humps was a wool saddle cloth with ruffled border, and hanging over it were saddle bags decorated with tiger heads, one on each side, a length of folded cloth, a skein of silk yarn, a roll of bread, a leg of meat. And there arrived a wan bowl, made of pure white Xhotan jade from Xinjiang, described by the Chinese as resembling congealed lard. A gold-rimmed floral design of ruby flowers bore the inscription of the Qianlong emperor’s poem:

         “The pink peach blossoms harbor raindrops of yesterday.

         The green willow branches carry mists in the morning.”

When the time came that it would be convenient to turn them over, the treasures would grace a display case at Imperial Army Headquarters. But for now, it was inconvenient.

“Ito,” Hideo said. “the logbook, it is a nuisance. I don’t have time to keep track of every little piece of gold that families of the prisoners bring! I am tired of keeping such records. I am not a moneychanger! From now on, the logbook is your responsibility. I trust that the inspector’s curiosity will be satisfied– if and when he comes.” His meaning was unspoken, but understood: a judicious portion of the gold that came in might be withheld from recordation in the logbook.

“Another thing,“ he said. “There are too many things here now that do not accord well with the atmosphere of a military research facility. You’re up for home leave in a few weeks. I want you to take them to Japan, and put them in safekeeping until conditions stabilize.”

He himself could not run the risk of removing them from the country. As an officer, he was too susceptible to the wiles of informants, and it would be awkward to explain such things to an officer of the Kempeitai.

That summer, Ito returned home by train to Shanghai and by ship to Nagasaki and then by train again, an interminable journey in creaking railway cars. The crate followed in the baggage car.

Back in his home village at last, Ito packaged the treasures of Pingfan in cedarwood boxes and entombed them in a pauper’s cemetery. He shoveled mud and gravel over the wooden crate and smeared it over with cement, added a choice selection of rusted metal, chicken bones, and rubbish, and defecated upon the lot.

Hawaiian music

  That spring, carrier-based American warplanes had inflicted casualties when they had mistakenly strafed a school in Japan. The bombers had dropped their payloads and then flown on and eventually ran out of gas over free China, and their crews had parachuted into friendly Chinese territory. General Shunroku Hata, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Expeditionary Forces in China, ordered that the Chinese be punished for accommodating the pilots that had inflicted this humiliation upon the Sacred Soil.

Commander Hamamoto arrived at 13th Imperial Army Headquarters, in a new uniform with new black leather boots and a bandoleer he had ordered. His brass pips were polished to a high gleam, his cap was sharply creased, and he presented the very image of spit and polish.

He bowed to the correct angle to some, snapped off a diligently practiced salute to others, and strutted down the corridor of the Headquarters building, heels clicking smartly and the Sukesada sword jangling at his side.   

He had given considerable thought to how to employ various agents and delivery systems that would best accomplish the stated purposes. He was certain of his data on the effective duration and range of the viral agents he would recommend, and was confident of the specific tactics to be used to clear the campaign territory of populace.

Hawaiian music

Commander Hamamoto broached his plan. Units would spray germs in huts, and in wells and reservoirs in and around the towns, and bottles of contagion would be dropped from airplanes. Then, it was expected, Chinese forces would counter-attack and become engulfed in epidemic.

The economy of the disease was such that a modest amount of plague virus diffused into a target population could wreak such havoc that entire cities and swaths of countryside would be devastated within weeks. Medical facilities would become overwhelmed with casualties, and vast populations would flee in terror, ensuring massive and widespread contamination. In China, where plague was an age-old animus, many might never suspect.

To manufacture his bombs, Commander Hamamoto explained, clay would be ground to a powder, mixed with water and then worked into a paste. The paste would be poured into a plaster mold and shaped like a shell. The bomb shells would then be dried in special kilns. At the bottom of each shell would be a screw-threaded aperture with a timefuse, and light explosives tamped into the grooves for the purpose of fracturing the shell.

High-altitude balloons would carry the bombs all the way across the Pacific to California. These would be made of four or five sheets of mulberry paper bonded with cellulose cement. When filled with hydrogen, the balloons would have a lifting capacity of about 150 kilograms at 30,000 feet. The balloon would drop the bombs, and when they broke open upon impact, they would scatter the fleas to the four winds.

“Are you able to assure us of the results?” the colonel asked.

“There is no question,” he said. “We have tested our agents extensively. We know how effective they are, and for how long. There is a sufficient concentration of population in the campaign area to support an area-wide contamination, with a ninety percent casualty rate!”

“Seems almost too good to be true,” the colonel remarked.

Hawaiian music

Pingfan supplied the hundreds of kilograms of anthrax, cholera, dysentery, plague, and para-typhoid. Bottled and sealed with paraffin and cellophane, they were packed sixteen bottles to a box marked “Water Supply,” and sent by rail to 13th Imperial Army Headquarters, from whence they were to be deployed.

The contagions were dumped into reservoirs, wells, and rivers, and sprayed into huts. The Chinese losses that resulted were beyond reckoning. Worse, it was a calamity for the Japanese as well. Thousands of the Imperial Army’s finest had also been infected after Japanese regulars, who had not been informed of the operation, inadvertently overran a contaminated area. The victims were rushed, uncomprehending, to hospitals in the rear, where some died from the myriad contagions that had been loosed by the Japanese from Pandora’s Box.

Hawaiian music

Hideo was summoned to Headquarters, knowing nothing of this and expecting to be promoted and congratulated.

“You are a disgrace!” the colonel screamed. “How could you let this happen?!”

Shocked at this unexpected abuse, Commander Hamamoto stammered. “Sir… I had no control over the troops that overran the contaminated areas!”

“You had responsibility! You should have made sure that the risks were clearly understood! Obviously, there were many that did not clearly understand! If you cannot accept responsibility, you are not fit to be a Japanese officer! You are as great a danger to us as the enemy! I will have you beheaded!”

Confined to quarters, Hideo was left to contemplate his fate. An entire week went by as he listened with his heart in his throat for the approaching footsteps of his executioners. One morning, they came. The door flew open, and a junior officer stood rigidly at attention.

“Escort the prisoner!!” This is it, he thought. He hoped that the sword would cut cleanly. They led him away, but not to the edge of a pit. He was taken instead to the Harbin train station, where he was given a copy of his orders and a packet of money for expenses. He was being returned to Japan.

Reduced to the rank of sergeant, he spent the rest of the war working as an assistant in an army lab outside Tokyo. His pay barely allowed him and his wife to get by, and as the war effort became increasingly desperate, so did his own circumstances. In the days after the war, money and its equivalent were very hard to come by. Those who had gold or other valuables enjoyed an enormous advantage which, once attained, was never relinquished. As for the valuables he had entrusted to Ito, he had no idea. He wasn’t even sure where to find him—some village in Kyushu, but Commander Hamamoto had not been given the liberty of consulting his records on the way out.

Hawaiian music

After Hamamoto returned to his ruined homeland, he and his wife Gamera made a meager living from bento that they took to a wholesaler in a pullcart. They sold them also to movie theaters, playhouses, too, and to Takaraya, a shop for passenger boats departing for Oshima. But in time, rice became unavailable, so they had to change their business to sandwiches, buying ten loaves of bread, slicing them as thin as possible, and filling them with ersatz whale ham.

When bread disappeared, then even whale ham, they had to give up the sandwich business, so they tried “cut bread.” It was for the army, so they could get plenty of supplies. They kneaded it, filled it with sweet bean paste, shaped it into a cylinder, baked it, then sliced it into pieces.

Eventually they had to give up even their baking equipment to the military because it was made of iron. They were paid nothing for it, just as people had been forced to contribute watches, gold teeth, anything valuable, all without recompense. Honest people like him contributed whatever they were asked for, while the crooks in China made fortunes.

While Hamamoto’s life had been spared, everything else– all the shops along the street belonging to the fishmonger, the tempura-maker, the vegetable vendor, the dry goods dealer, the proprietors of the general sundries, the paper goods, and the shoji-screen shops, as well as the little house where he and Gamera had lived– had all been leveled in the air raids.

Although their house was gone, they were able to live in the little shop they had fashioned from whatever lumber they could scrounge. They even found some rice bowls and other household things that they could still use, including a mixing bowl, almost as big as a washtub. They took baths in it.

During winter they made straw rope to tie charcoal bags, and made the bags themselves. In summer they raised silkworms. They hardly bought any food, but ate what they raised at home. There weren’t any shoes. During the winter, when there was deep snow, they made footwear for themselves from rice straw. They picked fiddleheads and other wild vegetables and grew vegetables in buckets. In those days, even a single apple was hard to get.

Hawaiian music

It wasn’t until long after the war that his life began to turn around once again. But even as founder and president of the Yellow Cross Pharmaceuticals Company, business was sparse and life continued to be hard for many more years. His heart just wasn’t in medicine any longer. This was such a comedown from Pingfan. But it was a living.

At 73, he was tired. He wanted to retire, but even a lifetime of work had been insufficient to provide him with a comfortable retirement. For 40 years, he had lived a frustrated life that wasn’t much better than that of the most commonplace salary man. He didn’t even have children, since Gamera was barren.

His comrades from Pingfan feigned to know nothing about what had gone on there, and there was little communication over the years. Many had come to Pingfan from top schools, and had returned to positions of honor in Japanese medical circles. But there was an old-boy network called Seikonkai, the Refined Spirit Association, whose members, like himself, met from time to time to commemorate the passing of one of their own. But no one who had heard of Corporal Ito.

Hideo had given up attending those meetings, but this time, when the announcement arrived in the mail, he was saddened to learn that the bell had tolled for his old comrade, Major Ishii. This was one meeting he had to attend.

As he sat in the pew at the Yokohama Chuo Cemetery, his sorrow at the passing of Major Ishii was leavened by a fortuitous meeting. He thought he looked familiar, something about his eyes that even forty years could not obscure. Hideo introduced himself, and accepted a card in return. It read: Ito Minato, Chairman and Chief Executive of Golden Bear Gold Service, at an address in Tokyo.

He knew it! “Is it really you, Ito?”

“Commander Hamamoto! Ah! I cannot believe my eyes! It is as if the last forty years had overlooked you! I would have expected an older man!”

Nonsense, Hideo thought. “Well if that is so, then it is because I have not been burdened by success. But I imagine you have become wealthy! It must be the best of all worlds, to become wealthy on golf!”

“It’s a bit like becoming wealthy on women,” Ito said. “who are once beautiful but become ugly and demanding. It keeps me so busy I can seldom enjoy the game myself.”

They drank, and became drunk. They reminisced, and sang songs. What a great neck, Hideo thought drunkenly. Whenever Hideo met people, he appraised their necks and made a judgment. Would this be an easy head to take, or would his sword get caught up in the folds of the chin, or stuck in the bone? The best necks were neither skinny nor fat. Ito’s was an easy neck to cut, he thought. He hoped there would at length be some accounting of the treasure he had long ago entrusted him with.

Ito invited him for a game of golf. As chairman of Golden Bear, whose shares traded at phenomenal levels on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Ito had leveraged their inflated value to borrow money that was nearly free, from banks who lent freely in the delirium on Japan’s bubble economy. Incredibly, he now owned his very own exclusive course outside Tokyo.

Hawaiian music

They played eighteen holes, and back at the clubhouse, ate wagyu beef sukiyaki and drank Scotch. Hideo could not imagine how it was possible to be so wealthy. But later, in the locker room, he encountered a tattooed man who had emerged from the furo and now stood next to him before the lockers, getting dressed. The man was missing the tip of his finger. Then it dawned on him: he was yakuza.

Golf clubs tried to weed out these flowers of evil, and in some cases, it was simple. Many of Japan’s gangsters were conspicuous, not just on account of their expensive cars, but because part of the pinky on the left hand might be missing—a self-inflicted amputation. Then too, they always wore long-sleeved shirts even in Japan’s soaking-hot summer to conceal lurid, polychromatic body tattoos. All of this to advertise their loyalty to their overlords. But in other cases, where the flower of evil owned the golf course, it was not so easy.

Hawaiian music

Hearing that Commander Hamamoto had been executed for his errors in the 13th Army’s campaign, Ito had used some of the treasure to buy a lot in the rubble of downtown Tokyo, where he stored and sold military surplus during the Korean War. His property had mounted in value to incredible, ridiculous heights.

Golden Bear Golf Service was started later, as Japan’s economy mended and fortunes were made by buying and selling golf club memberships. Ito leveraged their soaring price to lend money to his customers at interest rates as high as 54%, the usury limit in Japan. 

But apart from the golf course, Ito’s acquisitions had been uncontroversial, and without glory. He had grown restless. As Golden Bear’s leader, he wanted more than anything to emulate the glorious success, now legendary in Japan, of big boss Katsutami of Usutani, a Japanese golf empire that had acquired Pebble Beach in California for nearly a billion dollars! Or Sports Winko, whose big boss Kinoshita had been so taken with the fabulous course at La Costa outside San Diego that he offered to buy it on the spot, price no object. But in another sense, money wasn’t the point at all, since the acquisition of trophy properties earned great face for the samurai who conquered them.

They talked and talked. Ito grew wistful, while Hideo wondered when the subject of his treasure might come up, or if not, how to broach it. “In Hawaii there are no gray days like this,” Ito said. “No gray streets in gray cities crowded with people in gray suits. It makes me want to trade it all for a golf course in Hawaii.”

“I look at you and wonder what it must be like to be able to have whatever you dream of,” Hideo said. “Even the simple dream of retiring has been denied me.”

“There’s a problem with wealth, my friend. The more you have, the more you want. You never seem to catch up to the point where you say, ‘I am satisfied.’ It is a compulsion and an obsession, a fire that consumes more and more until at last it burns itself out. But even then, it is not satisfied. It has merely consumed itself.

“Tell me,” Ito continued. “Do you remember the pillow-time storybook?”.

Hamamoto couldn’t help himself, and smiled.

 “It reposes in a bank vault, wrapped in its cedar box. It is yours, of course. The other pieces were sold. I thought you were dead. But I want to compensate you.”

What could he say, Hideo thought. It wasn’t something he could name a price for, and bargaining with an old friend was unseemly. It was just something best left to Ito. Still, he was surprised at the check for two million.

Hawaiian music

Several weeks later, the phone rang. It was Ito, who wanted another meeting. At the club, he told Hideo that he had discussed the ivory album with a wealthy collector, who was keenly interested in acquiring it. Would Commander Hamamoto accept $10 million for it?

While this was indeed a windfall for Hideo, the greatest prize of all for Ito could only be a trophy course that would place Golden Bear Golf at the very pinnacle of the esteem of his fellow yakuza. But it was beyond his reach. It wasn’t because of the cost. Ito simply could not risk it, not even with the millions on offer from the banks. For a yakuza, golf conferred the one thing a gangster was unable to buy: prestige. But Ito could not buy the prestige he craved for any amount of money.

The problem, as he put it to Hideo, was that there was controversy over the activities of certain Japanese elements who were doing the buying. Then he confided in him. “Because of the sensitivity of my position, I regret that I cannot bring my dream to fruition. If things are not handled properly, if there is scandal, all that I have done here could come undone. My business would suffer. That is why I need someone.”


Chapter Twenty


There was money, so much of it! Was such a trip, Haunani thought, can live anywhere they like. But they liked Chinatown, and they knew all the good places to go for Hawaiian food, knew where to go for Hawaiian music and drink beer. Was just folks around here, and wasn’t so expensive.

They were so excited when they got the apartment, a two-bedroom in a brand-new high-rise on Smith Street for $1,725 a month. When they moved in, it seemed like they had a new lease on life. You could smell the new carpets, the new paint, new wood in the cabinetry. The microwave and convection oven and refrigerator, and washer/dryer were all brand new. Unreal, she thought. She had never seen anything like it. Didn’t even know what a microwave was, and all this stuffs just boggled her mind.

“Try look the toilet, Uncle Herman! Get one handbar for you. That’s for hold on tight when strain real hard! So if pass out, no fall in and drown!”

They went to Safeway and bought beer, bought poki and raw crab and ahi sashimi from the seafood counter. They didn’t have any pots and pans to cook with, no utensils even, just a pack of wooden chopsticks and they just ate it out of the containers, so much they was sick almost. But that was different from morning sickness.

No sooner did she tell him she had cashed the check, than Herman touched her for five grand. In her giddy state, Haunani gave it to him without hesitating, wrote him a check straight away like one big shot. Maybe that was why he never discouraged her from settling, so he could go on squandering money on that silly old woman Yvonne.

They burned through the money in no time. Bought one truck for nineteen grand, fully loaded with options like 8-track, wire rim hubs, and glass-pack muffler. Was so boss, the truck! She sent five thousand home to mom and dad, spent a few thou on furniture and stereo and a big screen color TV, and every night was KFC and plate lunch and beer and cigarettes, even though she knew she shouldn’t. And on it went for the next six months.

Hawaiian music

The baby came after ten hours of labor. But all that sweat and agony was made better by the happy, bright, congratulatory euphoria and sparkling clean hospital room. Was like staying in one nice hotel, with room service, although the food was so junk. Herman brought flowers, some poki, and a six-pack of beer that he poured into two plastic cups from the sink in the room.

She spent three days and two nights in the hospital. At home, there awaited a new crib, some toys, a large box of diapers, formula, everything that made things so nice for Isaac, her first-born. There were the usual hassles of learning how to do things, and getting up in the night to change and feed the baby. Mostly it was a joy. But then the bills started coming in, and their out-of-pocket quickly exceeded the $5,000 deposit they had paid the hospital up front. They just never ended. There were doctor bills, hospital bills, anesthesiologist bills. Was plenty, when no more insurance.

Isaac lit up Haunani’s life with a joy she had never known. But the joy was short-lived. He screamed and screamed all night long, every night, and pretty soon the building management came by to tell Uncle Herman that Haunani and the baby could no longer stay. Children were against the rules.  But now there wasn’t even money to move with. Just the same, with the money from the furniture and their deposit money, they did, and even had a few bucks left over.

Their new home was very different: four bare cement walls in the Kee Wong Building, vintage 1922, a decayed structure of yellow brick covered with a scabrous coat of paint and festooned with rotted iron awnings. A banyan seedling had taken root in the façade.

The apartment was small and crudely furnished to the normal standards of Chinatown. The walls were barren of any adornment apart from a filigree of cracks in the masonry, and papered over with old Chinese newspapers, the windows served as a natural sunscreen, while admitting the aromas of leis and fermented fish paste from the restaurant downstairs.

Next door could be heard yammering and hoicking and the clattering of plastic mah jong tiles. Downstairs, a tattooed man took out a plate lunch of Filipino food from the New Cafe Dalisay, and Violet’s Lei Stand next door sold leis of cigar flowers, pakalana, white ginger, Hilo maile, and red carnation. Each time the door of the refrigerator was opened, their fragrance wafted out on a carpet of cool air. There were long strands of pikake and plumeria– in red and cream pinwheel and yellow and ivory– and tuberose hanging from the eaves over the entrance. They dripped water into a tin trough beneath them, and the cement floor was wet and littered with bits of blossoms. A rack of fluorescent lighting buzzed above the entrance.

A drunken whore in dirty denim shorts lurched down the sidewalk, sipping something out of a thermal mug. Every other woman on this block was crazy. They leered at you, bobbed and nodded their heads at you, and drooled and muttered and laughed softly to themselves. Some of them hung around the dives– Smith’s Union Bar, Swing Club, Two Jacks, and Hubba Hubba. Some of the women were men–tall, overgrown Franken-mahus with big flat luau feet. But there were pretty girls in Chinatown, too, pie-faced alabaster-skinned Chinese girls with tits that grew so nicely in the hothouse atmosphere of Chinatown.

Hawaiian music

The first year in their new home went by uneventfully, and it was okay after they fixed up the place little bit and put one AC in for Isaac. They paid the rent and the bills pretty much on time, but that was only because Haunani sold the truck. Was such a hassle trying to sell it. All kinds of sharps came by to try to steal it from her, thinking she was some kind of dumb girl. They all wanted to take it for a test drive, but the truck was like new already, still get warranty. Well shit, if you like one new car with nothing wrong, no more scratch even, you gotta pay new car price, yeah? But no, not them. Damn people always acted like they was entitled to something for nothing, ‘cause their money was more precious than yours. Finally, she took an offer, just took it so no more hassle.

She had to go back to work, but do what? And who was going take care of Isaac? Herman? She didn’t want to go back to cleaning rooms. She didn’t want to clean up after messy haole people any more. It gave her a bad taste in her mouth. Maybe she would go to work in a bar round here somewheres.

The only thing that paid any money was hostess, but she was losing her looks already, had put on ten pounds from the baby that she couldn’t get rid of, and another ten from eating and drinking. She looked frowzy and tired and irritable, which she was most of the time. She had bags under her eyes and her body felt leaden. She looked at herself in the mirror, at her swollen abdomen and stretch marks, and gazed at her drawn and haggard face. Her complexion was wan and pasty from not enough sleep and too much cigarettes and beer.

Only thing she could get was tending bar day shift, at Anchor Club. Didn’t pay shit, tips was junk, just a bunch of old drunks left over from the night before, hangin’ around nursing a beer, or falling asleep at the bar, their heads in their arms, and a few rowdies that had been up all night and had managed to hang in there through the couple hours interval between when their bars closed and something opened. Was like one flophouse.

Hawaiian music

Was never enough money, all that first year, always gotta buy diapers, formula, this thing and that—no more money for nothing except maybe plate lunch, then nothing left over for pay the rent. On the table was bills– second and third and then final notices from the electric company, the Board of Water Supply, the phone company. She even wen’ Welfare. They helped her with food stamps, but not money.

Now was the damn landlord. She just couldn’t imagine anything worse than being behind in the rent with a Chinese attorney. Was always calling her, and whenever she did give him money, he stood there and licked his fingers and counted it, one filthy bill at a time, then licked his fingers again and counted the bills again, then asked her when the rest was coming, trying to pin her down. Soon, she said. But after while, he resumed the calls, called her again and again, and she just kept putting him off and falling farther and farther behind.

What had happened to the days of wine and roses? Haunani didn’t know. Now was no more nice apartment with AC and nice thick carpet and nice furniture and color TV and no more cockroach and a fridge full of beer and poki. Nobody called her and sent her flowers and candy and took her out to fancy restaurants for drink wine and eat lamb chop with fancy paper stocking. No more trysts at Royal Hawaiian Hotel in $200 suites with room service and champagne. And no more money. She was just one whore that had run out of luck, had one kid, and no one wanted any of that.

She stood at the kitchen stove, stirring a pan of scrambled eggs. She was so tired, and wanted nothing so much as a good night’s sleep. But Herman couldn’t even be trusted to watch the baby. He fed the baby Pepsi instead of formula, gave him gas and cramps. Then there was the time when Isaac crushed and ate a Christmas tree ornament. Coming home, she could hear him crying and screaming from a block away, but when she walked in the apartment, Herman was sound asleep.erman wasspund asleep She thought maybe it was just the baby had gone all day with shitty diaper, like before. Thank God it never wen’ swallow the glass, only cut his mouth a little bit.

She also remembered the time he had dozed off after she went out to buy plate lunches, and when she came back the plastic bottles in the stove-top sterilizer had melted into a slag, and the place was filled with the smell of scorched aluminum and burnt plastic. She was so pissed, that damn thing cost good money, and then was no more bottles and the baby was screaming and the store wasn’t even open for buy new sterilizer. So she just heated up some regular milk on the stove.

Isaac was all hers. He only slept for a couple hours at a time before he woke up and started screaming, his diaper soaked and heavy as a Persian rug with piss and shit. She got up, swollen, and changed him. Then he was ready to go, jumping up and down in his crib, happy as can be, but he soon de-stabilized and became cranky for want of attention.

It seemed that he just screamed and screamed all the time, no matter what. Once, she stalked into the room, picked him up and shook him. “Shaddup, goddamit!” she screamed. “Just shaddup! I can’t stand it no more!” She half-threw him back into its crib, then collapsed onto the floor next to him, crying. The baby screamed louder than ever. With all the commotion, even Herman woke up.

“Hey, hey!! What’s going on in here?! Whassa matter wit’ you?!”

“I can’t stand it no more! He just cries and cries and I no can do nothing for make him stop! I get no help from nobody! I no can sleep, I got no money! I get no more nothing except this kid! Always screaming his head off!!”

Was no place for take him, no park nearby except for A’ala Park where all the homeless and crazies were. The only time she took him there he screamed when he crawled on the pokey plants and got bit so bad by fleas, and his legs was all red with bites. More better stay home and watch TV, and more and more it seemed like that’s what the baby wanted to do. But then the cable company came by to collect or disconnect, and she told ‘em disconnect. Now, she only got the main stations and the reception was shitty. Was no more fun, watching TV li’ dat.

Was all dark and dirty, this place, and she was no housekeeper no more. Dishes piled up in the sink, and the ashtrays stank, and the plate lunch boxes attracted roaches and flies. The noise from boom boxes downstairs and all the traffic and yelling outside made it hard to sleep until real late, and some nights she only got a few hours before all that and the baby that started up again. Then it was day, and it got so bright and hot that she couldn’t sleep no matter how tired she was, so she just sat there with the baby crawling around, watching TV and smoking cigarettes, then wen’ get plate lunch from New Dalisay downstairs and maybe, just maybe, take one nap.

“Why don’t you call da kid’s faddah?” Herman said. “You way too easy on him, girl! The guy no can ignore his own kid! Call him, tell him you need money! You gotta do that much– if no try, then no can complain!”

“Plenny help you!” she said. “You more worthless than you damned advice!”

But her indignation over these dire circumstances and the injustice of it all ate at her, and at last she called the front desk at Bagwell Development. They put her through to Bagwell’s secretary.

“Will Mr. Bagwell know what this is regarding?” the secretary asked.

“Yeah. I think so.”

She waited, on hold. After a while, the secretary came back on the line.

“Ms. Wongham?”

“Yeah?”

“Mr. Bagwell’s in conference at the moment. May he return your call?”

“Yeah. I guess so.”

She waited by the phone all day. No call. She tried again the next day.

“Oh, I’m sorry he wasn’t able to get back to you yesterday, Ms. Wongham,” the secretary said. “Mr. Bagwell had to leave on some urgent business to the mainland. Shall I have him return your call when he gets back?”

She waited couple weeks, then tried again. More evasion, more delay. Her anger mounted. Her calls were never returned, always some bullshit excuse. Finally, they put her through to Karen Webster. They knew each other from back then. Haunani told her the whole story– about the kid, about how she no more money, no can take care the kid, and how Bagwell had to do something. Was his own kid, for chrissake! Karen wasn’t in much of a position to do anything until Mr. Bagwell returned, but as a single mother herself, she sympathized.

Bagwell had wondered how long it would be before she hit him up. So typical of welfare queens— no matter how much money you throw at them, they throw it away even faster. But knowing it was his own kid, he had to be careful– this kind of thing could get out of hand. He thought he better talk to his attorney. 

Hawaiian music

The phone in Haunani’s apartment rang. “Ms. Wongham? I’m Wendell Fujiyama. I’m an attorney, and I serve as staff legal counsel for Bagwell Development Corporation. I represent Avery Bagwell in certain matters, including the one concerning the settlement that he reached with you two years ago.”

“Who are you?! Whatchoo– some kind attorney?!”

“Yes. As I said, I represent Avery Bagwell.”

“Did he tell you to call me?! What you want from me?!”

“It’s not really a question of what we want from you, Ms. Wongham. We’re more concerned about what you may want from Mr. Bagwell. Which is why he asked me to return your calls, and ask if you could clarify some things.”

“Look! If I like talk to you, then I going call you! I like talk with him! About his own flesh and blood kid!”

“Yes, I understand, Ms. Wongham. As I said, I do represent Mr. Bagwell in this matter, and I do need to ask you what it is that you’d like to discuss with him?”

“His own kid, like I said! And I no like talk to no fuckin’ attorney about it! The kid needs a nice place to live, not some shit place li’ dis! You should see him– all bit up on his arms and legs from bugs! And he needs somebody for take care of him– day care, not Uncle Herman– the buggah no can take care himself!”

“I see, Ms. Wongham. But I must remind you that all of Mr. Bagwell’s obligations in this matter were settled when you accepted the settlement of $50,000 that he paid you two years ago. And while I certainly understand– ”

“You don’t understand shit! You listen to me! This his own kid we talking about! And if he don’t help, going be plenny trouble, you hear!?!”

“Ms. Wongham, I must reiterate—”

“You shaddup, you!! You tell him what I said, thas’ all! Then you shaddup!” She slammed down the phone.

Wasn’t right that he refused to even see his own kid. Wasn’t right that he would let him suffer and itch from bug bites and no can go pre-school like other kids. Was so unfair, jerk her round li’ dat. She was so pissed!

Hawaiian music

The next morning, Haunani took Isaac into her arms and marched into the headquarters of Bagwell Development. “I want to see Avery Bagwell!”

The receptionist looked at her, wondering just what sort of business this woman holding a runny-nose child and clearly upset about something, could have with Mr. Avery Bagwell. “Is he expecting you?”

“Yep!”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“I don’t need no appointment, lady! Just tell him I’m here!”

 “And who is it may I say is here to see him?”

“What is this, some kine entrance examination?!”

“I’m sorry, but I have a responsibility to tell his secretary who it is that would like to see Mr. Bagwell. He’s very busy.”

“Thas’ his problem! Too busy fuckin’ people over!”

She wondered if she should call security.

“Ma’am—Ma’am, I’m sorry, but what is your name?”

“My name is Haunani! He knows me… real good!”

The receptionist picked up the phone and placed a call. She turned her head away, spoke in a low voice with someone, and after a while, spoke with someone else.

“Ma’am, please have a seat over there,” the receptionist said, returning to Haunani. “Someone will be with you in a moment,”

“All right, but no jerk me roun! I know he’s there!”

Presently a woman emerged from the inner corridor, and walked into the lobby. It was Karen Webster. She smiled and greeted her. “Hello Haunani, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?!”

“I like see Avery Bagwell.”

“Mr. Bagwell is out of town on business now. We don’t expect him back until next week.”

“You lying! Don’t gimme no story li’ dat!”

“Haunani, you can’t come just in here and talk to people like that!”

“I wen’ call and call and call, and every time the woman says he’s out of town, he’s in a meeting, he’s out to lunch! They lying! And now you come out and lie some more! The hell wit’ you people!” She swept past the woman and rushed into the corridor.

“Call security!” Karen told the receptionist. 

Haunani ran down the hallway, clutching her screaming little boy, and yelling out “Where’s his office?! Where you at, you fuckin’ coward– I going find you!” In a moment, the hallway filled with people who came out from their offices to see what all the noise was about, then around the corner came the security guards.

“She’s over there!” Karen said.

The guards chased after her as she stormed down the hallway, the child squealing like a dentist’s drill. “Wher is that son of a bitch!?!” she shouted.

When security caught up with her, she fought them like a lioness. “Get you fuckin’ hands offa me! Where is that son of a bitch?! See this kid, eh?! Thas’ his kid! Thas’ right!” The guards took hold of her and bundled her off and Isaac back down the hallway and out the front door. “Hey everybody, listen up!” she shouted on her way out. “The buggah wen’ made me hapai, wen’ give me this kid, then paid me money for go away!! Now his kid no mean nothing to him!!”

Outside on the sidewalk in front, her invective, and all the juicy particulars of her complaint, poured forth. A small crowd had gathered, and even people in the stores across the street came out to watch. Finally, the police came. They tried to settle her down, but Haunani would not be mollified. So they led her away– dragged her, more like it, kicking and biting.

She spent the rest of the day in the cell block. They took Isaac away somewhere, and she wen’ beef with the sergeant over that.

“Where you going wit’ my kid?!” she yelled. “Where you going take him?!”

“We’re just going to have someone look after him while you’re with us.”

“Who going look after him?! I’m his mother– I’m going look after him!”

“Don’t worry, the boy’s fine. This ain’t no place for one kid, lady.”

The sergeant was patient, and slowly she settled down and regained her composure. Was no place for one lady for sure, locked up like this with some hooker in the next cell and some drunk mumbling shit in the cell across the aisle.

She cried, and by and by she cried so hard and so loud even the drunk spoke up.

“Shaddup, bitch!”

“You, shaddup, you fuckin’ asshole!!” she said.

“The fuck I’ll shut up, bitch! You shaddup, you whore!”

“Eh you fuckah! I not one whore! If I get my hands on you I going rip you tongue out! You no can talk to me li’ dat!”

“The fuck I can’t, you stupid bitch!”

“Eh, both of you shut up in there!” the sergeant shouted. “Both of you in here for the same damn thing– disturbing the peace! You ain’t going nowheres ‘til you both shut up!”

This was some kine hellhole, and beneath the white fluorescent lights that flickered and buzzed, nobody rested, and the row never ended. Haunani sat there and stewed as the hours dragged by, wondering where Isaac was. Probably in some place like this where all the kids was screaming and some sergeant-mother said shaddup! and nobody wen’ change his diaper and feed him.

She tried again and again to call Herman, but was no answer. Down at Duke’s already, dancing and bullshitting people, she thought. But maybe he wasn’t there neither, was pretty early for that, so maybe was just asleep and not even the phone could wake him up. Finally, on her fourth call, he answered, and they talked, but wasn’t ‘til late that afternoon that he finally showed up with bail. There went the hundred she was going give the electric company for keep the power on.

“What’s this, girl!?” Herman said. “How come you got arrested, already!? How come you in here?”

“Where you been?!” she accosted him. “Where you been while I been sitting in here all afternoon! I was calling and calling you, and you was sleeping!”

Hawaiian music

Bagwell was mortified. He hadn’t thought a week or so would make any difference in getting back to her. That’s how things ground along in the business world, it took time to get anything done and everyone had to get in on it and attorneys had to be consulted. So he had just put it on the docket and got on with all the other things that had to be done to make money, not give it away. The attorneys would take care of it.

He had almost lived down this scandal. But now it came back to bedevil him, a hundred times worse. Good God, this she-bitch had actually come to his office and made this wild scene, shouting and telling the whole world about his love child and demanding money! It was as if a storm had sundered the once-industrious, buttoned-down atmosphere of Bagwell Development, and nobody could talk about anything but. Worse, it was on the brink of becoming a public relations crisis.

“Karen, I need help,” he said. “This is out of control.”

“I quite agree,” she said. “But first of all, are you sure it’s the same girl? My god, I hardly recognized her!”

“It is,” he said, nodding his head sadly. “What the hell can we do? I feel like a goddamned fool, and the company’s practically dysfunctional. I can’t believe that any serious work is being done around here, not when there’s so much to talk about!”

“We can deal with that,” she said. “But what we can’t afford is to let it get beyond this. If we lose our credibility, we’ve lost the game.”

“I know, Karen. And I’m sorry, more than I can say. But it’s beyond me, now, and I have to count on you to help clean up the mess.” Christ Jesus, he sighed. “Well, what can I say? No fool like an old fool, I guess. And I feel pretty damned old and pretty damned foolish.”

Bagwell had always been able to look to her for perspective. As Senior Vice President of Public Relations, Karen Webster was the public face of Bagwell Development and the prime mover of its efforts to successfully positioned itself as a kama’aina firm working for local people and sensitive to local traditions. He looked to her for advice and direction in all sorts of things.

Karen wasn’t mad at him anymore. She felt sorry for him. Avery Bagwell, she realized, probably needed nothing more than a normal, decent woman in his life. Not some drunken albatross, and not some twit whose affections he had sought in a moment of desperate loneliness.

Some women just didn’t appreciate having a nice home, and a husband that provided. She would never make a disgrace of a man who made all that possible… but that’s why she was a single mom. Her own husband—the jerk– had left her for another woman, and looking back on it, she hadn’t made the stink she should have. And now that the guy had gone on to make good money, it was all too late for her. Some men just had bad luck with women, just like some women did with men.

“It’s nothing that I don’t understand, Avery. Really, in a way, I’m very, very sorry.”

“About what? It’s my fault.”

“Not about ‘what.’ I’m sorry for you. I know how hard you’ve worked. I know how much you care for your wife. I know she’s not well. I just wish there was something more I could do.”

“Well, I appreciate that. The fact is, Mrs. Bagwell and I haven’t been able to talk to each other much lately. Any more than I can talk to that girl. Hell, she and I don’t even speak the same language. Sometimes I wish there was someone I could talk to.”

“There is, Avery.”

Karen was there for him— not just as a colleague and a confidante, but as a woman.

Hawaiian music

Wendell Fujiyama called, this time to bargain another deal for Bagwell. He advised him that if he wanted to be sure of containing the damage, the best way was probably to pay her more money. Yes, the attorney agreed, that kind of thing could go on forever. But he reminded him that he had gotten off cheap the first time. Anyone else would have made it a lot worse.

It was agreed, then. The attorney called Haunani, and told her that Bagwell would give her a fifteen hundred a month in child support. There was no sense in her going to court to try to get more, and as for any consideration, the lawyer said, she had already settled that, and had no basis for any further claim. What’s more, the deal came with a non-disclosure agreement. Any mention of any of this, any more public controversy about anything, and the deal was off. Mr. Bagwell had decided to draw the line, the attorney said, regardless of the consequences. If there were any further disturbances, any more demands, Mr. Bagwell would press charges against her for harassment. She should consider going back to the Big Island, he said, so that she and her son could have the support of her family.

Just now, Haunani had hit rock bottom. Earlier that week, she had gone for fod stamps to Health and Human Services on North King Street, a neighborhood of crumbling warehouses and sidewalks littered with used syringes and plastic crack bags. A bag lady pushed along a shopping carts full of rags and plastic jugs and shit, her bare feet blackened with filth, arguing with unseen antagonists. Haunani wondered how long it would be before that was her. Now, she had sold the last of the food stamps at fifty cents on the dollar for cigarettes and beer. With what was left over, she had bought one plate lunch from New Dalisay for share with Isaac. It was that bad.

So, when Bagwell’s attorney called and offered fifteen hundred a month, there was no hesitation. “Tell him we start today. I like pick up the check today.” It would buy them a ticket back to a better life on the Big Island.


Chapter Twenty-One


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’s boat was only big enough for two, and Izzy and his friend sat under the blue plastic tarp in old pavined aluminum chairs, smoking a joint, as Fish Hawk pulled at its mooring lines and thumped into the tires along the pier.

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 money. Why is why Izzy and his friend were sitting around on the 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.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, man. The cane hide ‘em good. After six months, get buds ‘already– six ounces one plant!”

“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.”

Hawaiian music

Izzy liked Hilo. He had come for the weekend, and wound up staying. The guy put him onto the biz, and they went up to the national park, hiked way back in, and put in a few plants. After a while, he even did a few deals.

Now he had his own place, a small A-frame for $500 a month with a lanai where he and his friends drank beer and smoked and played Hawaiian guitar. He even had one truck, and 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 for talk story and trade tips with his friends, put each other on to some samples, have 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. Here, your friends and their friends were your customers.

Was two kinds of people: local and not. With local people, was easygoing. Everyone was growing it. Sure there were some that weren’t involved with it somehow. But even grandmas were involved, 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. White folks moved in, hippies, or maybe they was hippies at first, then later on was something else altogether. Was so full of shit, some of these haoles, with all their talk about love and getting mellow and fuck the establishment and coming back to Mother Earth and live off the land. They wen’ meditate on the beach, sit 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 wore 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, stealing other people’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 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 expensive Maui potato chips that tourists bought and paid top dollar for. They brought girls from Honolulu, and they had all the coke they could handle. But they would never get their hands dirty growing. They didn’t even know weed, hardly. It was a way of life they didn’t get.

Hawaiian music

Some girls got ten bucks an hour for cleaning weed; but Izzy paid Kathy by the ounce. 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 whole pound in two days only. She made a hundred bucks a day at that rate, and Izzy thought she was worth every penny.

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 like smoke it herself. She had one noddah job, working at Hibscus 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, boil peanuts and musubi rice ball and kimchi, sometimes even slice steak with little dish ketchup for dip ‘em, or shoyu chicken wing, or slice octopus with shoyu and hot mustard. She paid for those pupu 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 her for what she was worth to him. He thought Kathy was the sweetest girl ever, and in time they fell into a relationship.

Kathy didn’t mind he was growing. Didn’t seem so bad, didn’t hurt nobody. She was more worried about someone hurting him. 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 had thought about all that he stood to lose if he got into trouble, but he always came back to the same conclusion: he didn’t know what else he would do. 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 anywheres — 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. “Everyone scare,” he said. “Everyone getting ripped off. Nobody trust nobody no more. Humbug already!”

So many people were growing, even way out in the middle of nowhere, 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.

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 here 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 up there, but you always thought the worst. 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 that took them away to somewhere where they burned them with gasoline.

Then, was those little crop dusters that flew ten miles an hour and sprayed with herbicide. If it didn’t kill the plant, the stuff damn near killed you. 

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 give me some. It’s nice, and…”

“And what?”

“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.

Hawaiian music

Usually when she came home Kathy was real tired, tired from a long night 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. She cleaned house and still wen’ talk his ear off if he was still up. Wasn’t like her.

“How come you not all tired?” Izzy 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?”

“What stuff?”

You know. Whatevah you was smokin’ before.”

“No.”

“You sure?”

“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. Not going starve.”

“What, work McDonald’s?”

“Hey, no make fun! I’m just worry, already. You come home, you act funny, you 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 he 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.

Hawaiian music

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!”

“Police!”

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?”

“Yeah.”

“You know one Kathy Hirono?”

His heart leaped into this throat. His mind swam, 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. But 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, parked 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, he 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 weed war. 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. He put his lights out, beat him up real bad. 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 probation and ordered him to get a job.

He did get a job, working in a furniture factory. Was the pits, working for money— the money was shit, and was one stupid-ass supervisor, always on your ass like one dirty diaper, always wen’ treat him like one dumb Hawaiian, whatever he did was always something wrong.

But there he made friends with 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 them into the warehouse. They 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 each got probation, one year for Elton, being his fist offense, and five years for Izzy, plus restitution of the retail value of the table.


Chapter Twenty-Two


“What we going do now, brah?” Elton asked.

“I dunno,” Izzy said. “I no like stay here. No sense going home. I dunno.”

“My friend stay Kona– get one 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 tourists like rent snorkel, swim fin, that kine stuff. 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 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 get tourists. Too wet, too dull. Just a bunch of 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 necklace 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 even 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. Izzy felt like some kind of comedian, taking their money and putting on his Hawaiian 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 a 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 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.

Hawaiian music

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 his own people and their traditions.

The brouhaha over the bones touched a nerve, and inside was something that started to grow and become malign. He 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 and fucked over by people that were even more out of touch than the tourists were. Like the feds and their fucking 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.

Hawaiian music

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, 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, with him sitting right there in the car, but he finally succeeded.

Hawaiian music

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.

“Sorry?”

“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 Hawai’i, which was illegally stolen from Hawaiian people by the United States of America. Those laws is illegal!”

The prosecutor interrupted. “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.” It was normal, he said, to catch people with no insurance or registration or safety check. But what’s with the phony plates?

“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?”

Silence.

“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?”

“I did.”

“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 into 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?”

“No, sir.”

“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. 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.

Hawaiian music

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 Kailua, 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 and with dentures, the removal of which, Leland said, facilitated superior oral sex. He preferred older women; the merits of geriatric amours were manifold. The older woman was so grateful, so avid in 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 said. 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. Now, 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 the “Liberty Account,” 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 its proprietors.

Hawaiian music

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.

The Liberty Account 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 the next morning by Fed Ex. Izzy opened it up, finding a set of glossy color brochures and a thick prospectus and a Q & 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 a 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.

Hawaiian music

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 from 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 Waihee. 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. Best of all, it would put twenty grand into his account, no need do nothing.

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.

Hawaiian music

At the 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. Even with child support, that kine money was not even enough for pay rent, which meant that for the foreseeable future, she and her boy Isaac would continue to live at the store in Hi’ilawe, with her dad and mom and Uncle Herman. 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.

Hawaiian music

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 was 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. 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.

Hawaiian music

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, and they argued and Elton got pretty mad, who was going run the business while he was off doing whatevah? “What business?!” Izzy said. So much for Hawaiian solidarity. Fuck the guy.

The next day, Izzy 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.

He 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. Most of the 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.

Eventually a security guard down at the beach 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 was buried– the bones was in the caves over there 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 I.D. 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! 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’ll give you a receipt, for confiscated goods. You can claim ‘em when you show up at the station.”

“Then 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.”

Hawaiian music

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 Kailua Police Department for get his truck back. Then, back at the shithole apartment he once shared with Elton, he gathered his stuff and cleared out and headed to Hi’ilawe.

Hawaiian music

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 thirty-three 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. So 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 and 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 nice to be home.

Hawaiian music

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 suit 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 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. The lamp brought mosquitoes at night, since the lanai screens now had big holes in them.

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 round 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 folks were buried in the plantation cemetery. And everything in between, for four 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.”


Chapter Twenty-Three


Hideo Hamamoto came 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 Katsuko 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. She would ensure that Mr. Hamamoto’s every need was attended to.

Hideo and Gamera emerged from the hotel and strolled down Kalakaua Avenue toward the restaurant. 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 hadbags, 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.

At the Guy Flournoy flagship store, 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 its 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.

Guy Flournoy’s concierges and hostesses were well-versed in the art of evincing polite contempt and sniffiness toward interlopers— anyone apart from its Japanese clientele who behaved so worshipfully in the store, as if it were a shrine. Their ladies came attired for the occasion in expensive and flowing Chanel skirts, Hermes scarfs, and exquisite Shiseido makeup, and clicked about quietly in their lucite heels, speaking to each other in hushed voices scarcely able to contain their excitement.

They came and they conquered, and then returned with their trophies to their rooms at the hotel, packed with Japanese and staffed by Japanese who spoke Japanese and mimicked the “aroha!” of their guests. Signs invited them to join the likes of the glamorous American couple pictured in the ad, sipping cobalt-blue drinks and eating lobster and steak with painted-on grill marks. Dutifully, they went to the restaurant, where each and every one ordered steak and lobster and rainbow sherbet at prices double that for locals, who never ate steak and lobster. The locals ate saimin, which Japanese had never heard of.

Another ad invited Japanese to tour the island in sleazy stretch limos with smoked-glass windows, retrofitted with TV, VCR, CD player, telephone, a bar with cut-crystal flagons of brandy and scotch, and even karaoke, chauffered by a man in a tux with white gloves and slicked hair. God only knew why anyone would want to want to watch television and sing karaoke and drink themselves stupid while they made their way around the island and its magical, breathtaking scenery. Some Japanese just hired a limo to take them to the airport, where they picked up their boxes of New York steaks and pineapples and papayas, bought duty-free Martel cognac and Johnnie Walker Black and cartons of Dunhills, and boarded their flights for Narita.

Hawaiian music

Hideo and Gamera arrived for their dinner meeting with Katsuko 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.

The waiters dressed as beachcombers, and the waitresses as hula sirens. Sarongs, flower leis, grass skirts, and tattered pants all lent a picturesque flavor. There was an abundance of greenery including ferns, palms and philodendrons, and a profusion of fresh flowers and tropical fruits. Strolling minstrels plucked their ukuleles, and water gurgled through the fountain near the cash register. This was the real Hawaii, Hideo wondered?

Katsuko 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, quickly becoming swollen and scarlet on these high-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, and for 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.

After a week of looking at homes, Hideo met with the attorney, Wendell Fujiyama, who had been introduced to him by Katsuko. The meeting with 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.

Hawaiian music