Hawaiian Ice By Stephen E. Richter
To Lisa Simon, who set the experiment into motion. Thank you for making me stretch, for creating such a fertile playground, and for allowing me a few amazing months to play there...
For those forced to endure the madness, I offer my thanks: Rebecca Hein Chelsea Smart Jean Wolf Chloē Woodmansee Zak Zeiner
“Open your mouth!” said the Hawaiian. His eyes flashed in the light of the campfire. “Wider!” he said. Judith gagged. She shook her head from side to side, fighting to keep the piece of sugar cane from entering her mouth. The man persisted. Fishing line bit into Judith's wrists, bound behind her back. A chain encircled her waist, attaching her to a diesel water pump. A teenage boy emerged from the darkness with another piece of rope. Judith found him familiar, one of her son's friends perhaps. The boy’s necklace of shells bounced. A telephone rang from inside the mobile home somewhere behind him. “Leave her alone!” said the Marine. He writhed in the mud by the mobile home’s rear tire. His wrists and ankles were bound together as well. A chain anchored his body to the axle of the vehicle. Someone placed a sandaled foot between the Marine's shoulder blades, preventing him from rising. “Come on! It's not like anyone can hear us out here!” said the Timeshare Salesman. He was hog-tied, lying on his side, at the feet of two more thugs. A chain attached his body to the stump of a Banyan tree. Firelight glowed on his face. One of his eyes was swollen shut. “Aloha, you have reached the home of Judith Friedman…” The answering machine picked up inside the trailer. The Hawaiian swung the piece of sugar cane above his head. “You've got a big ass mouth, lady!” he said. “Do it,” said Judith, spitting blood. “You fat-fucking coward! You ignorant excuse of a small-dicked-cock-sucking-latent-” “Hi, mom. It's me,” said a young man's voice, over the answering machine. Everyone froze. Eyes darted around the campfire from one face to the next.
“I'm over at Leilani's place in Volcano. I just thought you'd be home by now...” More men in tank tops materialized from the darkness beyond the campfire. They carried pick-axe handles and pistols. “Well, whatever. I mean, I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday, mom.” Tears fell from Judith's eyes for the first time that night. “I'll try you back in a bit. Aloha, mom. Aloha nui loa.” The machine clicked then beeped. Men gathered together by the open door of the mobile home. “I know where dat' is.” said on of them. “K-den',” said another, “We handle dis' shit when we get back, brah” The men ran off into the bushes. Engines roared to life. Brakelights glowed. Off-road tires spat mud in the darkness. They were gone. Judith's chest heaved from her breathing. “Oh god!” she said. “My son! My son!” She began to fight against her bindings again. Her wrists bled. She bared her teeth. “Judith, wait.” said the Marine. “Don't waist your strength. We have to use our heads here.” “Oh, they're gonna' use our heads here, Gene!” said the Timeshare Salesman. He kicked and struggled in the dirt. “They're gonna use em' to put on their fucking totem poles!” “Shut up!” said Gene. He fought against his own bindings with no success. “You can die here by yourself then, Al!”
“Fuck you!” said Alex. “Fuck the both of you! I shouldn't even be here! I only came here to buy-” “Help!!!!” screamed Judith. “Help me!!! Sombody help me!!!” Her cries echoed over the lush landscape. The moon rose over the Pacific. Night birds flew above the cliffs, towards the slopes of Kilauea. Down below, a river of lava flowed from the mouth of Pele to the sea. Clouds of steam rose. The ocean bubbled and glowed. Two hours passed. The band of thugs didn’t return. Judith, Alex, and Gene had exhausted themselves. Now they only waited in silence. Each of them was chained and anchored to a heavy object. They looked from one to another. Firelight magnified the look of fear on their faces. No one spoke. It was now midnight. “I'm sorry,” said Judith. “This is all my fault.” “You’re damn right, it is.” said Alex. He fought against his bindings then slumped back to the dirt again. “Nobody put a gun to your head until you got here, Al.” said Gene. “You came here tonight for your own reasons, my friend.” Gene rolled onto his back. Stars shone overhead. He squirmed against his bindings, breathing through his teeth. His eyes widened. “Damnit!” he said. “No, it really is my fault,” said Judith. Tears welled up in her eyes again. “Gene you are a good man, and you didn’t have to come back to help me.” She shifted her weight and winced from the pain. “Alex, you’re a piece of shit and I hope you rot, but I want to apologize to both of you. I want to ask
for forgiveness. I just want to be pardoned for everything I’ve done that caused this to happen.” “I don’t understand.” said Gene. Judith took a deep breath. She looked up at the stars then closed her eyes. She swallowed. “It started when the stock market crashed.” said Judith. “Or maybe the first mistake was marrying my ex-husband, Saul, 18 years ago.” “And you still look great, Judith.” said Alex. “In fact, if weren’t for all the torture and kidnapping you’ve exposed me to, I’d be your number one stalker right now.” “Why are you such a misogynist?” said Judith. “Just let her finish,” said Gene. “Ow!” He rolled onto his side. Sweat poured. It trickled over the USMC letters tattooed to his shoulder. “Go on, Judith. What he meant to say is that you look amazing. And to say that you look amazing, under the circumstances we’re under, is pretty amazing in itself.” He fell into a fit of coughing. Judith smiled. Her nose continued to bleed. “Well it wasn’t me,” she said. “It was having money, and that’s what money means on the mainland. You can take care of yourself. Which for me meant Genesis, Botox, Pilates, Burke Williams, and good Brazilian sex whenever I wanted it. I’m still not sure which one cost me the most.” She stared off into the distance. Everything seemed to fade into the background. “My mother warned me about Saul. He was a Persian Jew but he wasn’t like us, she would say. Never trust a man named Saul. Saul’s hatred and jealousy nearly destroyed Israel, you know.
I didn’t listen though. I was at the top of the wheel. I had just been promoted to regional accounts coordinator at Ernst & Young. I had a corner office on the 30th floor of 7th and Figueroa. I had expense accounts, stock options, a male secretary, and a loft with a view of downtown L.A. I was living the quintessential southern California success story, to everyone except my family. To them, I was 35 years old, with no husband and no children. All the other stuff really didn’t mean that much to my parents. So when I met Saul at Skybar on Sunset, I guess he just caught me during a moment of weakness. By then, I had already acquired quite the reputation for being a ball buster, a man-eater, and an ice queen. At least that’s what they’d call me, when the boys club gathered around the copy machine wasting company funds. Most men from corporate would shrivel up and shrink, when faced with a real woman who had intelligence and net worth, especially when you’re under 4o. But no, not Saul, for him it was a turn-on. I found Saul assertive and confident, and I liked that. Plus he was an attorney at the William Morris Agency. So he made much more money than I did, and he was on a first name basis with all these celebrities. It excited me. The glass broke under Saul’s shoe. Everybody shouted “Mazel tov!” and we were married. The following year Levi was born. Saul was obsessed with getting me pregnant right away. It was like he wanted to take me off the market or something, because I know he wasn’t really that in to Levi. He never was. I’ve always called Levi Levy though. He’s my retaining wall that keeps me from drowning in a river of sorrow. Saul was more into having control over where we were and what we did, than actually spending time with us. I wasn’t used to that sort of thing at all. Then there was the issue of Levy learning Farsi as his first language instead
of English or Hebrew. Saul promised Levy would learn them down the road eventually. Then Saul moved us into that cavernous mosque of his on Mulholland drive along with his mother, Bita. We fought all the time in those days. So I went back to work. Saul hated that, but it saved our marriage for the following eight years. I stuck it out for Levy. I didn’t see him much though. I had made a lateral move into auditing and became a “black-belt” in the company’s efficiency implementation program. Levy lived with the nannies. I could care less what Saul was up to, and I had become the head of the Gestapo at the office. When Levy turned 12, Saul was nowhere to be found. I had to plan a Bar Mitzvah all by myself, and that son of a bitch Saul didn’t even show up for the celebration. He said he was in the middle of contract negotiations and that he couldn’t leave until they finished pounding out the last few details at the Vantage building in Beverly Hills. I remember leaving the party so pissed off that I forgot to put my shoes back on. I valeted the car, took the elevator up to his floor and burst into his office, only to find Saul fucking David Solomon in the ass. Right there in the middle of the room. “Are you happy now?” he said. That was it. He didn’t stop. He didn’t apologize. Just, “Are you happy now?” I ran out of there screaming and crying. I don’t remember how I ended up at my attorney’s house, but that was pretty much the end of it. Saul wasn’t even gay. That’s what pissed me off the most. Dave Solomon was the newer younger competition at the agency. And Saul just wanted to fuck the competition in the ass, I guess. That’s what I’ve always hated about lawyers. It’s a universal thing. Anywhere in the world, at any time in the world, you will find a lawyer fucking someone else in the ass. And at that moment I knew it was true. It sickened me. I was able to get full custody of Levy. I enrolled him in the best Hebrew academy in west LA and went on with my life at the Gestapo. I took on a Brazilian lover. I had sex standing up for the first time in my life. I took up
surfing at Malibu. Levy graduated high school and went on to UCLA as a chemistry major. Then the changes began. First came 9/11. Then Levy gets arrested for making Xstasy on campus. My attorney got him off with probation. My stress levels at work started to go through the ceiling. Ernst was downsizing. They circulated a memo that said they planned to slash half of all department heads in the company, worldwide. I came up with an idea to move the entire accounting division back to Chicago. The boys in New York loved it. People were given the option to take a 50 percent pay cut and relocate to Illinois, or take their severance package and resign without benefits. Corporate said I was a genius. Over 90 days, I watched everyone I’d ever known in my professional life pack their things and leave, like refugees. I didn’t sleep well in those days. On October 24th 2008, I woke up at 4:00 am. I loaded my epoxy surfboard onto the roof of my car. I had just lost half a million dollars in the stock market that week, Levy hadn’t come home for two days, and my insomnia had grown worse than ever. I paddled out into the darkness alone at Ventura. The swell was huge, scary, black, foggy and dismal. I didn’t care though. I knew I could easily die out there, but my life on dry land had become so terrifying to me, that the water seemed a better place to be. My heart pounded. It took me 30 minutes to muster the courage to paddle into one of those vertical grey beasts rolling in from the Alaskan storm. The drop was endless. Falling, falling, falling, I dropped through the air until my fins bit. I made the bottom turn and pulled into the first barrel of my life. Time slowed. The sun was rising over the mountains. I stood there, arms stretched over my head, floating in that mammoth cavern of water. It whispered to me, hissing. Like the voice of God was saying, “I see you. I am with you. Remember me, for I am God…”
That morning, I jumped from my car and ran for the subway at the North Hollywood Metro Park and Ride. The smile on my face felt like it was mile wide. On the train, I offered my seat to an elderly lady and opted to stand. I could still hear the sound of that massive tube of water roaring above my head. I hadn’t noticed the man staring at me from across the aisle, holding his newspaper. “Next stop, Hollywood and Highland.” The voice said over the intercom. The doors opened. The man pulled a pistol from his newspaper and pointed it at my face. I screamed. “You ruined my life!” said the man. It was Valeri Kuzenetsov. Tears streamed down his cheeks. I had terminated him from Ernst the month prior for his personal use of our Fed Ex account to send his daughter a birthday present. He pulled the trigger. The round hit me in the shoulder. I fell to the floor. Valeri shoved the barrel of the pistol into his own mouth and killed himself. Ernst let me go a week after I was released from the hospital. No severance package, no nothing. The press had been way too sensational. Valeri’s family filed a civil suit against me. Levy wanted to get out of L.A. so badly that he threatened to go to Israel and enter a Kibbutz. So, in December I applied for unemployment, got myself a PO Box for the checks, and packed our bags for the Big Island. I never meant for any of this to happen.” said Judith. She sniffled. The blood had dried and caked above her upper lip. “I never thought Levy would get into trouble here in paradise. I guess I’ve just been too focused on my own healing process, on my own grieving, so much so that I’ve forgotten about what Levy must be going through. So you see, Gene, this really is all my fault. I’m so sorry” Tears rolled down Judith’s cheeks. A vehicle approached. Headlights cut through jungle foliage, illuminating the campsite.
“Open your mouth,” said the Hawaiian. Her eyes flashed in the moonlight. “Wider,” she said. The young man complied. She placed a slice of mango between her lips then kissed the young man on the mouth. She was naked and smelled of the sea. They rolled on her bed. They moaned and kissed. Candles burned. Frogs sang, and the moon illuminated their embracing bodies through the open bedroom windows. The volcano continued to flow. “I love you, Leilani,” said the young man. Perspiration rolled over his shoulder blades. It pooled at the small of his back. Leilani wrapped her legs around his waist, locking her ankles together behind him. She whispered in his ear. “You can come inside of me if you want to, Levi. It doesn’t matter.” Headlights flooded through the bedroom windows. Car doors slammed outside. Voices argued down below. Levi jumped naked from the bed. He crawled to the window and peeked over the sill. “Shit!” he whispered. “They’re back!” Leilani covered her breasts with the bed sheets. “You gotta’ get out of here!” Levi rolled onto his back. He struggled with his jeans, kicking his legs. “Leilani! Where you at?!” Voices and footsteps thundered down the hall, from the stairway. “Where’s my glassware?!” whispered Levi. He zipped up his fly. Sweat poured. “Go!” whispered Leilani, “out the window, quick!” “You got that howlie-boy in there, Leilani?!” They were outside the door now.
“My chemistry set!” said Levi. Leilani pulled a duffel bag from under the bed and threw it at him. He caught it. Levi reached for his shoes. The door burst open. “Howlie-boy, you gonna’ get a Hawaiian beat-down right here!” said the biggest of the bunch. There must have been twenty of them, “right here in front of Leilani!!” “Sorry, fellas.” said Levi. He dove out of the second-story window, headfirst. “You can run, Howlie-boy, but you can’t fly!” said one of them. Levi didn’t listen. He spread his arms. The duffel bag fell from his hand. He closed his eyes and wished to almighty god that he could fly. But he couldn’t fly and he didn’t fly. He smacked into the black volcanic mud, belly-first, with a thud. He coughed. “Get him!” “How’s that feel, Howlie-boy?” “You like that?!” “Just wait till you get your real Hawaiian beat-down, Howlie-boy!” Levi rose to his knees. He grabbed his duffle bag and took off limping, halfrunning into the jungle bushes ahead. “Fuck your Hawaiian beat-down!” he said. “You hear that shit, Noodles?” said the smallest of the bunch. “Oh, I heard him,” said the biggest one. “He’s begging for a Hawaiian beat-down now. Your ass is mine, Howlie-boy!” They fanned out, flashlights in hand, running through the bushes behind Levi.
“Oh, thank god, you guys showed up,” said Judith. A police officer wiped the blood from her nose with a napkin. A second officer examined the chain that fastened Alex to a banyan tree. “They all wore white tank-tops and black boardshorts,” said Gene. He rolled onto his side and tried to rise, using his elbow. “And big fucking flip-flops,” said Alex. “Look, can you please just unchain me, untie me, and get me the fuck out of here! Please, I’m claustrophobic!” “But you outside,” said the officer. “I’m chained to a fucking tree, asshole!” said Alex. “The big one had a tattoo on his forearm,” said Judith. The officer in front of her took notes. “Hey, I don’t need you yelling at me, howlie-boy.” said the other officer. “And so the truth comes out,” said Alex, “you fucking racist!” “Shut up!” said Gene. “I’m sorry, officers. It’s just been a very intense situation for all of us.” “Everybody shut up!” said the officer in front of Judith. He pointed to Alex. “No one is going anywhere until I get some more information, understand?” “Oh my god, he had that exact same tattoo on his forearm, officer.” said Judith. Both cops looked at each other. “What?” said the officer.
“The tattoo on your forearm,” said Judith, “He, wait, what are you doing?” The officer put his pen and notepad back into his pocket. The other officer dropped Alex’s chain. They stepped aside, conversing in Hawaiian. “Officers?” said Gene. “Sweet holy fuck,” said Alex, “These local-boy motherfuckers are in on it too.” “Shut your stinking hole, Alex!” said Gene. “Officers, is there a problem?” “Well, it wasn’t exactly like yours,” said Judith, “I mean, what do I know about tattoos?” Both officers looked back at Judith, Alex and Gene. One removed his pistol and racked the slide. “I’m sorry,” he said. “We’ll have to leave you here for a minute.” said the other. “We’ll be back.” They walked off into the jungle on foot. “Hey!” said Alex, “Wait, don’t go. I’m sorry, just let me out of here!!!”
**** Levi ran. His lungs burned. His knee was pretty much blown out from his leap of faith, but he pushed on. Shouting and footsteps echoed behind him. A spider web engulfed his face. Levi screamed. Branches cracked and snapped. Threats of Hawaiian beat-downs reverberated through the jungle canopy. Flashlights cut through the darkness.
**** “If you were a marine, then how come you’re such a pussy-assed pacifist?” said Alex. “If you were a successful salesman, then how come you’re so broke, alone, and such an utter failure?” said Judith. “You know nothing about me, you cunt!” said Alex. “You have no idea what I’ve been through!” “Boo-fuckin’-hoo,” said Judith. “You can dish but you can’t take it, little man? Grow some balls, or at least some thicker skin if you’re gonna’ live around these parts.” “I butchered 31 people on my twenty-third birthday.” said Gene. He stared off into the distance. “I destroyed them – men, women, teenagers, kids… I took every last one of their lives, alright?” “What did you say, Gene?” said Judith. Levi reached the old cemetery. The moon shone on a decline of grass and gravestones. It illuminated trees at the tsunami line, then sloped to the black sand and sea below. Levi was limping now. He dragged his bag full of glassware behind him. He looked over his shoulder. “I broke a razor on my face, shaving that morning. It was my birthday. I’d been in Mogadishu 513 days.” Gene’s words hung in the night air. Levi dove behind a headstone with columns of white kanji written on its front.
“You’re desecrating the remains of our ancestors now, Howlie-boy.” said Noodles. “Spread out. Find his ass!” “I was on a 50 cal. on the roof of a Humvee. We left the Mogadishu airport with a convoy, but we broke off and headed down an alley, that same alley. This time they were waiting for us.” Levi looked around the corner of the grave. They were everywhere. He pulled his head back. A Maglight swept over the stone surface. “This way, over here!” said one of them. “A crowd of people were blocking the end of the alleyway. They threw rocks and bottles. Just regular people though, some were pretty young. Gunney had the staff sergeant stop the vehicle. I just felt something. I looked back and saw a white Ford Ranger blocking the way out behind us. The guy in the bed had an M-60 echo3. It was jammed. He was trying to clear the round.” Levi’s chest heaved from his breathing. Footsteps crunched volcanic gravel. “Howlie-boy?” “Hands and feet, brudders, let’s do this. He’s over there.” “I pounded my fist on the roof of the vehicle. ‘Light em up!’ said gunney. I opened up on the crowd with the 50cal., tracer rounds. It was like slow motion. The people melted, man. They exploded. We 4-wheeled through a fog of arterial spray. The whole vehicle was covered in blood. It completely blacked out my goggles. I was screaming.” Levi rounded the gravestone screaming, skipping, limping, and sprinting. The local-boys ran an angle to intercept him. “When I say Hawaiian you say beat-downs! Hawaiian-” “Beat-downs!” “Hawaiian-”
“When they debriefed me in Virginia they told me there had been 31 people. 31 people died on my twenty-third birthday. Life has never been sweeter or more horrific ever since… That’s why I offered you a ride home from Crony’s when you told me it’d been one hell of a birthday, Judith.” Levi reached the highway, slipping on gravel. Headlights approached. The Hawaiians descended the hill at a dead run. Levi crossed the Kamehameha highway. The smallest of the local-boys reached out, stretching. He grabbed a hold of Levi’s shoulder. An 18 wheel semi truck ploughed into the boy then slammed on its breaks. The truck skidded then tipped onto its side. It trailed sparks. Levi descended the hill on the other side of the highway as a silhouette. Lava flowed to the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
Kelani Joe stood in front of his second story office windows. Moonlight illuminated Hilo Bay. A mist of rain began to fall. Neon glowed along the bay front. Local boys sold ice, crystal methamphetamines, on the street below. They ducked in and out of the shadows of the wooden colonial buildings. A blonde girl in a tide-dyed dress entered the building downstairs. She climbed the stairwell. “Open the door, Kimo,” said Kelani Joe. Kimo was a tanned mass of tribal tattoos with Von Zipper sunglasses propped up on his bald head. He opened the office door. The girl in the tide-dyed dress stood in the doorway. Rain drummed on the roof of the building. “Come in, girl,” said Kimo.
“Aloha, Joe” she said. She entered the room. Her blue eyes were red with dark circles underneath. She looked around the room chewing on her bottom lip. “Howzit, howzit?” said Kelani Joe. “What you up to, little sister? You look nice.” “My hair doesn’t look crazy?” said the girl. She seemed about sixteen. She walked over to the mirror on the wall. She fussed with her wet hair. “It’s just gotten away from me lately, it won’t-” “No you got dakine, sister, what’s up? I gotta’ work.” said Kelani Joe. “I was just wondering if you had any Aloha bags this evening?” she said. She looked at Kimo, at his tattoos, then looked away. “No no, we not doing aloha bags tonight, girl.” said Kelani Joe. “You want aloha bag you go see the cannabis guru up the street. We got dakine here for sure, but you gotta’ pay up, sister.” He looked out at the street and bay, below. Downstairs, a young man with a duffel bag climbed out of a black pickup truck. He gave the driver a “hang loose” with his thumb and pinky finger. “Besides,” said Kelani Joe. He turned back around, “making money on the Big Island can be a hairy bitch, sister, plus people talk. Big Island – small world, you know what I’m saying?” He dug into the pocket of his cut off khakis and produced a small plastic baggie full of white crystalline shards. The Hawaiian Island chain was printed on the outside of the bag. “Here, tell me you want it and that you’ll pay me latter.” “I want it and I’ll pay you later.” said the girl. “You want what?” said Kelani Joe. He smiled. “Say it. It’s good manna.”
“Hawaiian ice,” said the girl. “I want dakine.” “Shoots…” said Kelani Joe. He tossed her the baggie. Levi knocked on the door. Kimo answered it. The blonde girl walked past Levi. She lowered her gaze. She stopped. She started to say something to Levi then decided not to. She walked down the stairs. “May I come in?” said Levi. “For sure,” said Kelani Joe. “What happen to you, cuz? You look like you just took a Hawaiian beat-down.” “Don’t start.” said Levi. Kimo closed the door behind him. “I want to do some business, Joe,” said Levi, “I want to sell you my glassware.” “Is that right?” said Kelani Joe. “How come you got no shirt, local-boy?” “You interested or what?” said Levi. “Well sure, cuz,” said Kelani Joe. He motioned to Kimo with a nod. Kimo put Levi into a bear-hug from behind. Kelani Joe snatched the duffel bag from Levi’s hands. “What the fuck, Joe?” said Levi. “What I’m interested in, is how come you told me a month ago that you didn’t make the boo-ya, Levi? You said your chemistry set was back on the mainland. What’s up with that shit?” Kelani Joe dug through the duffle bag. He removed a flask filled with a fluorescent blue liquid. It was sealed with duct tape. “And what’s this?” he untaped the lid and smelled its contents.
“Don’t do that,” said Levi. “I forgot to throw that out. Look, Joe, I don’t cook, alright? I did save my glassware because I wasn’t sure if I was gonna’ enroll at U.H. this spring and finish my degree. I’m just in some trouble right now, that’s all.” “With who?” said Kelani Joe. He held the flask under Kimo’s nose. Kimo sniffed the opening. He smiled, nodding his head. He held Levi tighter. “Dakine, brah,” said Kimo. “That’s not dakine,” said Levi, “Look, Noodles and his cousins are looking for me.” “Noodles?” said Kelani Joe, “Aw, you royally fucked now, howlie-boy. Noodles an ultimate fighter, bruddah. His family royalty, for sure, they go all the way back to Kamehameha.” “I know,” said Levi. “Lelani and I-” “You ever hear of the Hawaiian beat-downs, howlie-boy?” said Kimo. “No,” said Levi, looking up over his shoulder “Look-” “You get a Hawaiian beat-down from Noodles, you could be knocked-out for months, howlie-boy.” said Kelani Joe. “Is this shit blue Hawaiian, shambu?” He took a small sip from the flask. “No!” said Levi, “Don’t do that, Joe. It’s not what you think.” Joe gave Kimo a little sip. Kimo winced. He held Levi tight. “Boo-ya!” said Kimo.
“Don’t worry, Levi,” said Kelani Joe, “We can handle dakine, brah. I just don’t know if I want to pay you for this stuff.” He unpacked Levi’s glassware onto a desk by the window. Pickup trucks skidded to a halt, down below. They parked in front of the building. Noodles jumped from the passenger’s seat of one of them. “I mean, you in a real fucked up situation, bruddah,” said Kelani Joe, “and we in a recession right now. I couldn’t give you more than a couple hundred, I don’t know…” “Done.” Said Levi, “when?” “In a minute,” said Kelani Joe. He smiled. He scowled. His khakis bulged with a grossly exaggerated erection. He grabbed a hold of it, screaming. Levi felt Kimo’s hard-on poke himbetween the shoulder blades. Kimo released Levi. “Arrrrgh! What is it?!” said Kimo. He doubled over, grasping his crotch. “It’s a generic I’ve been working on,” said Levi. He pulled a wallet from the back pocket of Kelani Joe’s khakis. He removed three one hundred dollar bills. Levi tossed the wallet on top of the desk. “It’s industrial-grade Viagra, and don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.” He noticed the column of local-boys charging the entrance of the building, downstairs. “It’s the new Tylonol. Haven’t you heard?” said Levi. That’s some cold shit, howlie-boy!” said Kelani Joe. He rolled on the wood floor. “You gonna’ get a Hawaiian beat-down for this!” Levi opened the window. He climbed out onto the fire escape. “Get in line, cousin,” said Levi. “Shakka, brah.”
He released the ladder, climbed down to the end of it, then cherry-dropped to the street. Levi ran up Bay front, limping in and out of the shadows.
**** “I’m sorry, Gene.” said Judith. She shifted in the dirt, trying to take the pressure off her bindings. “It wasn’t your fault, though. No matter how terrible it may have been, you only did what you had to do.” “It’s not that easy, Judith.” said Gene. He bowed his head. Shadows from the campfire danced on the side of the mobile home behind him. “I carry it with me every single day… But at least I can explain my behavior. What about you, Alex? Why the hell are you such a foul, foul person? I’d really like to know.” “Fuck you,” said Alex. His eyes narrowed. “No really,” said Gene, “I mean, what if we don’t make it out of this? Do you really want to go to the grave with all that bullshit sitting on your chest?” “Sure he does,” said Judith, “He doesn’t give a fuck about anything.” “Lady, I have loved more and lost more in the past year than you have in your entire life!” said Alex. “Oh, really?” said Judith. “Yeah, really.” said Alex. “and I don’t want to talk about it.” He stared into the fire. His lips trembled. Tears flowed over his cheeks. Alex closed his eyes. He clenched his teeth.
The sky reddened over the Sea of Cortez, at the bottom of a hill of cactus. Alex stood in the living room of a massive beach house. Dawn was approaching. He looked at the Rolex Submariner on his wrist. He’d won it for taking salesman of the year at the Westin Regina, Los Cabos. He frowned. The nanny was late. He rolled up the French cuffs of his white shirt and walked to the kitchen. He unlocked a cabinet with a key. Inside, rows of prescription medication filled the first shelf. He couldn’t quite understand the Spanish labels, but he removed a bottle with an X written on its lid in red marker. He opened it and tapped two tablets into the palm of his hand. He exhaled. His hands shook. Alex grabbed an empty glass, a gallon of water and walked towards the bedroom. Inside, a newborn slept in a bassinet beside a four post bed. On the bed, a thin woman laid on her back. Ribs showed against her skin, beneath her tshirt. Her hands and feet were tied to the bedposts with belts. Her eyes widened. She shook her head. “No no no no please, baby. I’m better now, I swear.” she said. “You have to take your medicine, Helena.” said Alex. I have to go to work soon, honey. Lupita will be here any second.” “No!” said Helena. “No, don’t go, Alex. Lupita hates me. She wants to take the baby. She wants to steal him because she doesn’t have a son. She wants to take you from me too. That’s why she always wears miniskirts. You don’t know what she tells me while you are gone! She says I’m crazy, and that no one will believe me, that she is going to sleep with you and get pregnant on purpose and that you will marry her and put me in a mental institution in La Paz. You have to believe me, Alex! I shouldn’t even be taking that medication! It’s making me worse, the Virgin Mary told me last night! It’s the medication, don’t you see?!”
Alex filled the glass with water. He walked to the bedside. His shoulders shook. He was sobbing. “Please, baby, come on open your mouth. Let’s take your medicine…” “No.” said Helena. She closed her mouth. Her lips tightened. Her jaw muscles rippled. “Come on…” said Alex. He squeezed Helena’s cheeks together, puckering her lips. Helena grunted. She tried to turn her head but Alex pinned it between his arm and his chest. He leaned his weight on Helena and forced the blue pill into her mouth. “Please,” he said. Helena spit the pill into the air. “Please!” said Alex. He tried again with a new tablet. Helena spit it out. “PLEASE!!!” said Alex. He shoved a pill into her mouth then clapped a hand over her mouth and nose. His eyes widened. Helena’s eyes widened. She couldn’t breathe. Alex let go. Helena spit the pill into the air. “Burn in hell!” said Helena, “I won’t let them steal my son! My son! Somebody help me!!!! I’m tied up! He has me tied up in here!!!!” “Stop it! Stop it! Please! Just take your fucking medicine!!!!” said Alex. He shoved another tablet between Helena’s lips. He grabbed the gallon of water and poured it over her face. “Swallow!!!” he said. Water poured. Helena screamed, gurgling, choking on the stream of water. “God damn you, swallow!!!” the gallon of water was empty. Alex threw it across the room. The baby was crying. Alex backed up against the bedroom wall. He slid down to the floor, screaming into his hands, covering his face. “A gringo psychologist showed up with an ambulance and the Federales.” said Alex. He stared into the fire. Judith and Gene were silent. “They would have taken me to jail, but the doc spoke good Spanish. He explained that Helena was in a state of postpartum psychosis and that we had to get her to
proper medical attention. The Baja was no place for her condition, he said. I’d tried everything by that point. I’d hired a staff of nannies, I had taken her to the best doctors in Los Cabos. I had tried to reason with her. That was the worst part of it. There were moments where Helena was so lucid. Moments where it seemed like she was actually getting better… They injected her with such a strong sedative, like triple the normal dosage. She did not want to be sedated and her body had fought the first two injections at the clinic. At the airport, she was slumped into the chair next to me. Her jaw was stuck, locked and frozen to one side. She was drooling. On the flight to Guadalajara she looked at me, whispering the whole way. “You’re gonna’ burn in hell for this.” She’d said. She kept saying it over and over, all the way to the hospital in Zapopan. She was saying it when they rolled her away from me to start her electroshock treatments. Her doctor had studied in London. He patted me on the shoulder and told me I was doing what was best for my wife. He followed her gurney down the subterranean hallway. I watched them go. I was wearing the same grey suit Helena had bought for me in Paris when we had taken ten days off to go baby shopping in October…” Alex wept without restraint now. Gene and Judith watched him. “Her family found out about everything from the doctor.” said Alex, “I was in Cabo trying to put together 150,000 pesos to pay her bill by the end of that week. They only take cash on the barrel-head down there. Asi es. Helena comes from a very powerful Political family in Zacatecas. They flew to Guadalajara and took her away. They had her transferred to a hospital in Zacatecas, then called me and warned me to never come around her again. That evening her father and a Hummer full of bodyguards showed up at our house in Cabo and took my son away. I didn’t even try to stop them. I walked out my door. I left it wide open and walked off into the desert. I left everything. I’d lost everything. I know I started drinking somewhere along
the line. I know I pawned my watch in La Paz. I remember that. I bought myself a ticket to the big island, from Tijuana and well, here we are I guess…” “Alive and kicking,” said Gene. The police officers returned with their pistols drawn. “Sorry guys,” said the officer with the tattoo. “We didn’t want things to go down like this, but we’ve got no other choice.” He racked the slide of his pistol. “Wait,” said Judith. ****
“Open your mouth,” said the Cannabis minister, “wider,” he said. His eyes shone in the high pressure sodium grow lights. The young Hawaiian man opened his mouth. The minister squeezed a dropper-full of green tincture onto the man’s tongue. The young man nodded. He closed his eyes. A tribal tattoo stretched from his neck to his shoulder blades. “I’m feeling something, Randy,” he said. “I thought you would,” said the Minister. “The tincture may give you a light sense of euphoria. Would you like me to anoint you with holy oil?” He walked to a desk, by the windows. He looked out at the moon over Hilo bay and the street, below. The rain had stopped. “Please,” said the Hawaiian, “and if there’s still time, I would like to partake in sacrament.”
“Of course,” said Randy. Two Cannabis Indica plants sat beneath lights, in the corner of the room. Randy returned with a bottle of oil. He uncorked it. “I followed the exact recipe found in the Torah,” said Randy. He poured a small amount of oil into the palm of his hand. “3 part s olive oil, 1 part Myrrh, 3 parts qaneh bosm (Cannabis).” Randy smeared the handful of oil over the Hawaiian’s forehead, then face. “The Levites were the priests of Israel. They made this oil to anoint their kings.” “And would they have visions?” said the young man. Randy walked back to his desk. Trash bags of cannabis bud were stacked all around. “Some,” said Randy, “It depends on the amount used. The olive oil serves as a catalyst. It allows the THC to penetrate the skin.” He filled a freezer bag with buds. “For instance, when King David was anointed, he would have bathed in this oil the night before his coronation. Imagine that. No wonder he had visions. Here you go, son.” “Thanks, Randy,” said the Hawaiian. He tucked the bag into his pants. “You always give me a fresh perspective, more reasons to keep fighting for the sacred tree.” “The tree of life,” said Randy, “the burning bush.” “Moses inhaled, baby,” said the Hawaiian. “He inhaled the immortal fragrance, his spirit went forth from him, and he was borne upon the odors of Eden into the presence of the Lord.” said Randy. He opened his office door. The hall outside was full of people,
waiting. “Take care, brother,” he said. A Dashiki-clad doorman sat on a stool, holding a clipboard in the hall. He opened the front door. “Shoots,” said the young Hawaiian. Levi slipped past the young man, the doorman, and into the crowded waiting room. Randy’s expression paled. “Howzit, Randy?” said Levi. “Howzit, brother,” said Randy. He smiled. “I was just talking about your wonderful tribe, my boy. Come on in.” The crowd in the waiting room growled their disapproval. “It’ll be just a second,” said Randy, “ If you’re only waiting for sacrament, please tell Miki what sized donation you would like to make, then I’ll handle all dispensary before the next appointment comes in, all right? Aloha nui loa.” He shut the office door behind himself. “Well you’ve always had good timing, Levi. How can I help you?” said Randy. He ran a hand through his feathered hair. The tips were touched with grey. He wore a hemp shirt and vintage Daisy Dukes for men. “I need some clothes, Randy,” said Levi. He examined a poster of Randy standing in a field of Marijuana, smiling like a celebrity. The words High Times were printed across the top of it. “Clothes and a ride back out to Puna, if you can take me.” “Where’s your mother at?” said Randy. “She hasn’t been answering the phone,” said Levi. “That doesn’t sound right,” said Randy. “It’s her birthday. I was going to meet her for dinner downstairs, at Cronies, once I finished up here.” He unlocked a second door then motioned for Levi to follow him.
Inside, books lined the walls of a larger room. Randy and Levi crossed the Persian carpets barefoot, heading for the closets on the other side. “My god,” said Levi, “that thing is huge.” A giant glass tank sat on top of a claw-foot copper stand, in the middle of the room. It nearly reached the ceiling. A ladder was propped up against the glass. The giant vat was full of an amber colored oil. An entire cannabis tree floated inside it. Randy opened the closet doors and rummaged through shirts. “Jesus, Randy,” said Levi, “You could anoint an entire–” “An entire nation?” said Randy, “That’s the idea, Levi. Ganjanomics, selfsustenance, the return of the Tree of Life, my boy. It’s the only thing that can possibly save the island now. Here, try this on.” Randy turned around. Levi stood on the top rung of the ladder. He looked down into the amber liquid. The office doors flew open. “Oh my god!” said the girl in the tide-dyed dress. “Levi, what are you doing here?” Levi fell into the vat, headfirst. “Oh sacred tree of life!” said Randy, “pardon this idiot boy, for defiling your holiness!” **** Kelani Joe’s office door burst open. A column of bare-chested, tattooed, Hawaiian men poured into the room. They carried baseball bats and machetes. Noodles shut the door behind himself. “What the hell happened to you two?” said Noodles. “Where’s the Howlie?” “Get back!” said Kelani Joe. “for reals!” He pulled a pump shotgun from behind a filing cabinet. He chambered a round with his thigh and the butt
stock of the weapon. Kelani’s other hand clutched his turgid penis. “I have no beef with you, Noodles, but I will fuck you with this if you push me!” “Get off me!” said Kimo. He shoved the man standing in front of him in the chest with both hands. The man slammed into the wall opposite them, making a hole in it. He fell limp to the floor. Two of the Hawaiians, who were circling behind Kimo, scurried away backwards on their hands and feet. “Who wants some of this?!” said Kimo. He pounded his own chest. Kimo’s erection was massive. It throbbed. The men contemplated Kimo, then his erection. They looked to Noodles. “Be cool, bruddahs,” said Noodles, “Kelani Joe, this ain’t between us, cuz. We’re just looking for the Howlie-boy who came up here.” Noodles lowered his machete. “This ain’t the way you come at Kelani Joe, cousin!” said Kelani Joe. He panned the aim of his shotgun over the crowd of men, “not when you come in here asking for favors. Now back up!” Perspiration rolled down faces. Bodies tensed. No one spoke. “Fuck you, Joe!” said one of the men. He lunged at Kelani Joe. Kimo snatched the machete from the man’s hand and buried the blade into the man’s own thigh. A shrill cry pierced the tropical night. Birds flew from the banyan tree across the street. **** Leilani tied the drawstrings of her sweatpants. She wrapped her hair into a ponytail and pushed a chopstick through it. Her bedroom door was still open. She looked to the open windows.
“Leilani!” a woman’s voice called from the hallway downstairs. Leilani took the backpack from her bed and tossed it out the window. It fell to the ground with a thump. She straddled the window sill. “What in the world do you think you’re doing, young lady?!” said an elderly woman. “Just leave me alone, grandma.” said Leilani. A stone pelted Leilani on the side of her temple, knocking her back inside the room. Blood trickled from the abrasion. “Don’t you ever disrespect grandma like that!” said a young woman from the driveway, down below. She wore a football jersey, flip-flops, and nothing else. Four other young women stood around her dressed the same way. They voiced their approval. Gold chains jingled. Manes of black hair tossed as they entered the house. They gave each other high fives.
**** BLAM BLAM BLAM Rounds ricocheted. Sparks flew. Chains broke and Judith blinked. “Come on,” said the officer, “get up. I need you to tell me everything that happened here tonight. Don’t leave anything out.” He helped Judith to her feet. She gripped his biceps for support, then for the hell of it, she ran a hand over his ass. “I’m sorry,” said Judith. “Go on. I must look terrible.” “Look,” said the officer, “Look, listen up! come on now, let’s get our shit together here.” Gene and Alex staggered to their feet. The other officer helped them. “You see this tattoo?” said the first officer. He pointed to his own forearm.
“The one that started all this trouble?” said Judith. She’d found her purse behind a log. She removed her compact from it and looked in the mirror. “It’s like a coat of arms,” said the officer, “It symbolizes royalty, dating back to Kamehameha. the Great.” “So you’re a royal pain in the ass, then.” said Alex. “You’re a royal pain in the pee-hole howlie-boy!” said the other officer. “Like a case of the clap!” “...applauding your achievements in civil service, you inept fuck,” said Alex. “Stop!” said Gene. “Enough of this shit, I’ll try to explain everything that’s happened here so far, okay?” **** “Oh god, Levi!” said Randy. He scampered about, gathering up towels. “What the hell have you done?” Levi glowed, glistening with oil. He laid naked on a pile of newspaper, spread on top of a persian rug. He was unconscious. The girl in the tidedyed dress blotted Levi’s skin with a towel. “He’s still out cold,” said the girl. “Why the hell did you have to yell at him like that?!” said Randy. “I didn’t expect to see him here,” said the girl.
“What do you mean?” said Randy, “Are you fucking him too?” The girl rolled her eyes. “Please,” she said. “Well you’ve been fucking me, haven’t you?” said Randy. “You mean, you’ve been fucking me,” she said. “There’s a difference. Stop grossing me out, okay?” “That’s not what you said when you were sucking my penis, Jen!” “What?” said Levi. He was coming to. “His mom is your girlfriend, asshole!” said Jennifer. “Asshole?” said Levi. He wiped the oil from his eyes. “penis?” He tried to sit up. “What’s happening?” “You’ll be okay,” said Jennifer. She continued to dry the oil from Levi’s body with a towel. Levi jumped. “Relax, It’s okay. You just fell into the anointing oil, that’s all.” “That’s all?!” said Levi. “Yeah, no shit,” said Randy. “You know, Levi, you come in here all in a huff, give me this, give me that... then you desecrate our place of worship, man. You befouled our holiness, Levi! I can’t even deal with you right now or they’re gonna start a riot out there.” Randy walked out of the room. He threw a T-shirt back at Levi. “Get him cleaned up and get him out of here!” The door slammed shut. “I’m sorry,” said Levi. His left eye spasamed and twitched. “I just wanted to get home, to Puna.”
“It’s okay,” said Jennifer. She kissed Levi on the cheek. “You’re with me now. I’ll get you cleaned up. You’ll be all right.” She kissed him on the nose. “Don’t you remember, Levi?” She kissed him on the lips. “Don’t you remember me?” She slid her tongue into Levi’s mouth. Her hair was still wet. Her nose was running. “No. No no no!” said Levi. He scuttled backwards. “I don’t understand what’s happening, completely happening... Fuck, I’m seeing trails.” “I really need to talk to you,” said Jennifer. “Now?” said Levi. He licked his lips. they tasted of Meth. “Yes, fucking now!” said Jennifer. “Okay, okay, we can talk,” said Levi. “Please, we can talk all you want on the way to Puna, if you’ll just give me a ride home.” “I don’t have a car,” said Jennifer. “Randy does,” said Levi. “So?” said Jennifer. “So steal it, Jamie” said Levi. “Jennifer,” said Jennifer. Levi tried to stand. He fell. Jennifer helped him to his feet. “If you’ll get Randy’s keys, if you help me get the fuck out of here and home to Puna, I’ll sit on the beach with you and talk until the sun comes up okay?” said Levi.
“Promise?” “Yes,” said Levi, “I swear to god, please! Let’s just go.” Jennifer rummaged through the drawers in Randy’s desk. Levi put on the Tshirt Randy had thrown at him. He took a pair of Daisy Dukes from the closet then slipped into Randy’s Birkenstocks. Levi looked in the mirror. He shook his head. A hand, with its middle finger extended was silkscreened on the front of the T-shirt. Jennifer read the inscription, “Fuck the pigs. Save the herb...” she said. “Come on, I found his keys. Let’s get out of here.” Jennifer walked to the window and opened it. Lightning flashed over Hilo Bay. Rain poured again. Jennifer climbed out onto the fire escape. She wiped her nose with the back of her hand. Cars and pickups skidded to a stop down below. Jennifer extended her hand to Levi. It trembled. Levi gasped. His eyes widened. “Fight it.” said Jennifer, “Give me your hand. No matter what you think you are seeing, do not let go of my hand!” she pulled Levi onto the fire escape, into the rain. “Did you say someone was fucking my mom?” said Levi. **** “Mom, I love him!” said Leilani. She held an ice pack to the side of her head. “Why is that so hard for any of you to understand?” The kitchen was full of women. The oldest was 87, the youngest was three and a half. “He is not one of us,” said the woman who had thrown the rock. “There are plenty of good strong local men who would kill to be with you, girl.”
“Yes, they would,” said Grandma. “I don’t want any of that,” said Leilani, “I love him.” Her eyes searched the room for an exit. Her aunts were blocking the kitchen door. “And Levi loves me, Moana. He loves me.” She backed up towards the entrance to the living room. “He is the only man I want to be with... and you can all go to hell!” Leilani ran. “Stop!!!” “Come back here, girl!” “Get her!” Leilani didn’t look back. She sprinted down the driveway, down the dirt incline and climbed into her cousin’s Camero. It roared to life. Hands flattened against the driver’s side window. “Get out of the car!” Leilani floored the gas. The Camero fishtailed into the courtyard. There was a thud. Leilani’s aunt Sophie flew through the air, flailing her arms. “Sorry,” said Leilani. She was crying. The Camero fishtailed again then rocketed down the one lane dirt road. It exploded onto the highway with a mass of cane stalks and dirt. Lightning flashed. The volcano glowed in the background. Rain began to fall. The Camero raced up the Kamehameha highway towards Hilo Bay.
**** Kelani Joe and Kimo stood in silence. Their chests heaved from their breathing. The machete and the pool of blood on the floor were the only evidence left, of the Hawaiian beatdown that had taken place there. The lights from the street cast shadows of their erections against the office walls. Kimo bared his teeth. He put the shotgun down on the desk.
“This is bullshit, bruddah,” said Kelani Joe. “I am in so much fucking pain.” “We’ve gotta find that Howlie-boy and make him fix this,” said Kimo. “Either that or I’ll beat him to death with it.” “Maybe we should just find his momma then,” said Kelani Joe. “beat her to death with it.” “Boo-ya...” said Kimo. He gave a lethargic pelvic thrust. “Ow! Ow! Oh, god!” He pulled his waistband out with his thumb and looked down into his pants. Lightning flashed. His eyes widened. “Oh, no! Joe, I think it’s turning inside out!” **** Rain fell. A crowd gathered outside the Lava Lounge. People shuffled their way into the Irish/Hawaiian/Piano/Reggae Pub on Kinoole street. Harley Davidson Choppers, Hawaiian Monster Trucks, Classic Woodies, and bicycles were parked out front. A tattooed Samoan Sumo wrestler sat on a barstool, in front of the double doors of the entrance. He wore a rain slicker. “Keep it clean, gentlemen,” said the Sumo. “It’s all good, Sonny” said a customer. Blue and green lights cut through the clouds of cigarette smoke inside. Island Reggae swirled around the room. Tattooed bodies swayed to the groove. Local women with black hair and black ink danced with each other. Their Hawaiian gold jewelry shimmered in the stage lights. A police SUV pulled up to the curb outside. Blue and red lights rotated on its roof. Gene, Judith and Alex exited the vehicle, running through the rain. The officer in the driver’s seat pointed to his wristwatch. Judith squinted.
She nodded her head, then followed Gene to the entrance of the bar. The jeep drove away. A Volkswagen Bus with “Ganjanomics Now!” painted on its side drove past the bar heading in the opposite direction.
**** The noise was deafening. First came a Bang. Then a crash, with woodsplitting sounds. Finally there was a screaming coming from the hallway outside. Randy stood. He motioned for his guests to remain seated. “Hello?” said Randy. He ran a hand through his hair. “This is a place of worship, you know.” Punches, then the sound of bone connecting with cartilage, then a hollow ring - an aluminum bat connecting with something solid... Randy swallowed. The door burst open. “Please,” said Randy. “Oh god, please don’t do this!” **** Whitewall tires spun. Rain poured. A Volkswagen bus sputtered down Kinoole street. Jenifer drove. She bit her thumbnail. Levi sat in the passenger seat. His eyes widened. Rain pelted the windshield in white sheets, making it impossible to see the road ahead. The gas lamp glowed. “We’re running out of gas,” said Jenifer. She put on a turn signal. “How can you take an aircraft up without checking the fuel supply first?!” said Levi, “I mean, who does something like that?” He fastened his seatbelt.
“We’re in Randy’s bus, Levi!” said Jenifer, “I stole it for you because I really need to talk to you, because you promised me that if I did, we would talk until the sun came up. That’s what you said, Levi, and all you’ve done is freak out since we left the ministry.” “What do you expect me to do?!” said Levi. “I’m flying with someone who obviously doesn’t know shit about flying-” “Shut up!” said Jenifer. “-someone who didn’t even take the initiative to check the fuel before we took off!” said Levi. “Shut up!” said Jenifer, “You’re going to make me crash!” “If we crash,” said Levi, “my blood will be on your hands. My mother will find you.” “You better get it together, Levi, and start making sense,” said Jenifer. She made a blind left, heading towards a glowing yellow sign. There was a chug, a shimmy, then a bang. The Volkswagen stopped. “We’re out of gas,” said Jenifer, “and I’m bone sober now. You’re such a buzz-kill, Levi.” She opened the glove compartment. “Great,” she said, “Do you have any money at all, Levi?” “I’m wearing Daisy Dukes,” said Levi. “man-shorts that belong to my mom’s boyfriend.” “And?”
“And that makes me reluctant to put my hands in the pockets,” said Levi, “I’m in a very fragile mental state right now.” “Oh, for crying out loud,” said Jenifer. She dug through Levi’s Levis then looked Levi in the eye. “Don’t,” she said. Levi swallowed. “Sorry,” he said. “Sorry for what?” said Jenifer. “For whatever made you mad,” said Levi. “You’re lucky I’m obsessed with you, you know that?” said Jenifer, “very lucky, man, cause the way you’re acting makes someone want to go off, I mean really go off.” Levi blinked. “Okay,” said Jenifer. The rainfall lightened. “You have no money. I have no money. We’re out of gas and you want to get to Puna so we can talk on the beach until the sun comes up. Right, Levi?” “That’s the plan,” said Levi. “The agreed upon plan,” said Jenifer. “Correct,” said Levi.
“Great,” said Jenifer, “I just feel clarity is always best when dealing with people’s expectations.” Jenifer ran out into the rain. She opened Levi’s door. “Come on,” said Jenifer. “We’re gonna need some chocolate coins and a little sacrifice,” “Sacrifice?” said Levi. “Not you, silly,” said Jenifer, “me, and only because I am absolutely mad about you, Levi.” She pulled Levi across the parking lot, through the rain, towards a neon sign that read, Keiki Klub – Teen Dance Palace. Bass thundered from inside the purple-lit doorway, open to the rain. **** Leilani climbed the stairs of the Moses building. At the top of the corridor a plaque read the Hawaiian Cannabis Ministry. The door was ajar. She stepped over an overturned bar stool and entered the room. “Aloha?” said Leilani. Glass, rubble and splintered wood littered the carpet of the waiting room. “Levi?” said Leilani, “Randy?”A photograph of Randy laid on the floor. Its frame was smashed. Glass crunched under Leilani’s sandals. “Horrible, isn’t it?” said Randy. He slurred. Leilani turned around with a start. “Randy?! Oh my god, what happened to your face?” “Come now, Leilani,” said Randy. His hairline was askew. A small flap of skin and feathered hair hung, dangling above Randy’s ear. “You’ve lived on this island for seventeen years. I’m sure you recognize a Hawaiian beatdown
when you see one, especially when the recipient is standing so close to your face!” He grabbed Leilani’s wrist. “Your cousins did this!” “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” said Leilani. She pulled free and pushed Randy in the chest. “I’m looking for Levi.” Randy groaned. “Levi is responsible for pretty much everything bad that has happened here tonight,” said Randy. He adjusted his cutoffs then spat a mouthful of blood on the carpet. “Well, it’s my fault too, then.” said Leilani. “Levi and I are in love.”
**** “She give me love, love, love, love, crazy love….” Singers sang on stage at the Lava Lounge. Reggae played. Rain drummed on the tin roof of the building. The crowd thickened. Judith struggled to keep up with Gene. Alex fell behind them. They traversed through the bodies, dancing and shuffling towards the bar. Gene looked back at Judith. He smiled. Judith smiled. Something poked Judith between the shoulder blades. She looked back over her shoulder. “Howzit?” said Kimo. **** Wide-eyed teenagers danced at the Keiki Klub. They held water bottles in their hands. White clothing glowed in the blacklights. Sweat poured. Meth wasn’t visible, not outright. It was present though, palpable in the drips and
drops of fluids that circulated through the room. Sniffling and grinning, people tweeked on Industrial trip-hop and Tranz that pumped through the array of speakers. Jenifer and Levi hobbled across the dance floor. Strobe lights flashed. Children smoked cigarettes that smelled of cloves then of chemicals, then of cloves again. Jenifer and Levi climbed a staircase on the other side of the dancehall. It led up to an upholstered door. Jenifer knocked on the door with both palms. It opened. Shag carpets, lava lamps, and aquariums were abundant inside. A large Hawaiian man wearing a Kangol hat sat side-saddle, reclining on a Lazy-boy chair. A U-shaped desk separated him from the rest of the room. T.V. screens formed a wall behind him. They displayed the activity from the dancehall downstairs. “Well, well, well,” said the man, “Look at this, Jenifer has resurfaced at Uncle Billy’s romper room!” Levi fought to keep his attention off the lava lamps. They were everywhere. He looked at Jenifer. Her eyes were blue. “Howzit, uncle Billy?” said Jenifer. “Howzit howzit?” said Billy. “I need a favor,” said Jenifer. “In the shape of?” said Billy. “In the shape of a boat ride to Puna tonight for my friend and I,” said Jenifer. “We don’t have any money for diesel though.”
Uncle Billy laughed. “Oooh, you are dakine, girl,” said Uncle Billy, “You always make Uncle Billy laugh, for sure. Hey, howlie-boy, what’s wrong with you?” “He just took too much Robutussin,” said Jenifer, “So what do you say, Uncle Billy?” “Well, you know what I’m gonna say, Jen,” said Uncle Billy. He laced his fingers together behind his head. “The question is, are you prepared to get a little dirty for this boat ride of yours?” he said. “Right here with no shame, here with me, right in front of your friend?” Jenifer looked at Levi. Levi shook his head. Jenifer closed her eyes then nodded. “Okay, Uncle Billy,” said Jenifer, “right here, even with Levi watching. I’ll do it if you’ll promise to give us a ride to Puna when you’re finished, deal?” She extended her hand over Billy’s desk. “Deal,” said Uncle Billy. He loosened his belt. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, girl. Here, let me take off my shit first.” He removed his socks. “Hey look, wait,” said Levi, “I’m really out of it, please, don’t do this, guys.” “I don’t think this concerns you anymore, howlie-boy,” said Uncle Billy. “Hey, Jen why don’t you bring some of that Lubriderm over here. I’m not down with doing you dry, alright?” “Wait,” said Levi.
Jenifer tied her hair back. Uncle Billy reclined his Lazy-boy all the way back. He spread his legs. “Please wait,” said Levi. Jenifer cracked her knuckles then poured a massive dollop of Lubriderm onto her palm. Billy raised his eyebrows. “Wait!” said Levi. “Don’t worry, howlie-boy,” said Uncle Billy, “It’ll do you good to see a miracle like this.” “Hey, come on, don’t,” said Levi. Jenifer rounded the desk and knelt between Billy’s spread open legs. Levi looked away. There was only the squishing sound of lotion, then Uncle Billy began to moan. Levi clapped his hands over his ears. “Come on, howlie-boy, look,” said Uncle Billy, “I bet you’ve never seen this before, howlie- oh, shit, yes! Just like that!” Jenifer laced her fingers with Uncle Billy’s toes. She massaged the ball of his foot with her knuckles. She worked his arches with her thumbs. Levi watched. “You see that shit, howlie-boy?” said Billy, “ a nice California pie like Jenifer, massaging a tired old local boy’s feet. Can it happen? Why not? We’re all just people, right? Thank you, Jen. That feels real nice.” “Thanks for doing this, Jamie” said Levi.
“Shut up, Levi,” said Jenifer, “you’re only making it worse.” She cracked Billy’s toes, one at a time. Billy squealed with delight. “So a couple of howlie-kids need a local boy to give them a boat ride to Puna in the middle of the night,” said Jenifer. She pressed her thumb into a pressure point above Billy’s heel. Billy cooed. “Can it happen?” said Levi. “Why not?” said Uncle Billy, “We’re all people with our own reasons, right? So, did you bring me my chocolates?” **** “You have five seconds to remove your nasty little dick-skinner from the lady’s shoulder there, hard-on.” Said Gene, “Do it now!” Kimo laughed. The crowd parted then tightened. Judith reached into her purse. Her fist closed around her pepper spray. The music continued to play. “Excuse me,” said Kelani Joe. He carried a carved boat paddle. His baggy sweatpants bulged. Sweat poured down his face. “Judith, baby you’re not gonna believe this shit.” “Boys, please,” said Judith, “there is no reason to get so aroused on my account, come on now.” She took out a clove cigarette. **** Noodles and his men charged across the screen of a T.V. monitor, behind Uncle Billy’s empty desk. Uncle Billy wore velvet Adidas. He led Jenifer and Levi down wooden stairs, through a gap between the two colonial buildings, to the street, to a Lincoln Continental with suicide doors.
Uncle Billy drove. The rain blew in a light mist. Levi sat in the back. Jenifer turned on the stereo. The song was by Sting. King David falls for Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite in the subtext of the lyrics, thought Levi. He stared through the rain and thought of her. A stone’s throw from Jerusalem I walked a lonely mile in the moonlight And though a million stars were shining My heart was lost on a distant planet The Lincoln glided past the statue of King Kamehameha. Banyan trees blurred by. That whirls around the April moon Whirling in an arc of sadness I’m lost without you, I’m lost without you Though all my kingdoms turn to sand and fall into the sea I’m mad about you, I’m mad about you Noodles and the men grappled and questioned people at the Keiki Klub. And from the dark secluded valleys I heard the ancient songs of sadness Lelani ran. She ran up from the bay front heading for Kinoole street. But every step I thought of you Every footstep only you Jenifer looked back at Levi. He stared through the window. She looked down at her lap. She held a baggie of Hawaiian Ice tucked into the palm of her hand.
With every prison blown to dust My enemies walk free I’m mad about you, I’m mad about you **** Gene watched Judith deal with the two men with the two erections. He frowned. Gene couldn’t hear the music anymore. Judith laughed, tossing her head back. Gene’s stomach sank. Alex smiled. “There’s only more of the same,” said Alex, “This is exactly what I am running from.” “Yes, well there was a time there, Kimo, where you and I would have got along pretty well, my friend,” said Judith. “That’s fabulous, fellas, I can totally appreciate the way you roll. You know, people may think I’m pretty square. But you see, I understand business. That’s the difference. Well, I better stop before I cross the line, you boys are just awful, awful. I don’t want you to Patty Hearst me or anything.” Kimo lit Judith’s cigarette. “I would never patty hurt you, baby,” said Kelani Joe, “for reals.” He maintained eye contact with Judith despite the throbbing. “You’re sweet,” said Judith, “So tell me, Joe, how much money does my son owe you and how are we going to fix this?” “Wow, like that?” said Kelani Joe. “You’re goddamned right like that, Levi’s my son,” said Judith. ****
Levi walked through the double doors of the Shell Mini market. He carried a plastic bag. He walked towards the Continental. Jenifer ran to him. “You look better,” said Jenifer, “ Do you feel any better?” “No,” said Levi, “Here, I got you a bottled water. Yeah, I’m pretty much an extra in Charley in the chocolate Factory still. I’ve just been flat out ignoring anything not Hawaiian or Hawaii related and it seems to be working for me. But it’s kind of like trying to hold back diarrhea.” “It’s gonna go,” said Jenifer. “That’s what I’m afraid of,” said Levi, “Wooo, man of steel, mind of steel. Let’s do this.” They climbed back into the Lincoln. “Here,” said Levi, “two gold coins for me and two gold coins for Jenifer, my good boatman, mahalo.” “Mahalo,” said Uncle Billy. He opened one of the gold coins and ate the chocolate. He drove off towards Suisan’s and the Hilo marina. They climbed down a ladder to a gangway then onto a large sport-fishing boat. Across her bow it read:
The River Styx Newport Beach, CA **** Leilani ran. She looked towards a row of off-road vehicles parked in front of the Keiki Klub. She picked up her pace. The rain drizzled. A flood of
teenagers poured from the entranceway of the dancehall. Bruises and abrasions peppered the faces of a few of them. They ran through the parking lot, dissipating into the night. Leilani entered the building. Bass thundered. Lights flashed. People fled all around Leilani. Noodles stood at the center of the fray, surrounded by his men. He lifted a surfer kid up by the shirt collar. “That’s not him!” said one of the Hawaiians. “Noodles!” said Leilani, “Put him down! This is crazy!” “Lani?!” said Noodles, “What are you doing here?” His chest heaved. The men backed into a semicircle, allowing Leilani to draw closer to Noodles. She was soaked with rain. Her skin glistened in the club lights. Noodles looked at her. He swallowed. He smiled, then he frowned. He released the howlie-kid. “You’re breaking… You break our hearts,” said Noodles, “How could you do this to everyone?” “Everyone?!” said Leilani, “I haven’t done anything to anyone, except try to make my own decisions for once!” “But this is different, Leilani,” said Noodles, “the whole family is looking to you for-” “For what?” said Leilani “Why are you so mad, Noodles?”
“Because you have a-” “How come my being with Levi offends you so much, Noodles?” said Leilani. “It doesn’t offend me,” said Noodles. “Then how come Levi and I having sex in my bed sent you on this-” “Because it drives me fucking crazy!!!” said Noodles. He snatched a machete from the man next to him and swung it overhead. “Don’t!” said Leilani.
**** “Gene don’t,” said Alex. Gene walked up to Judith, Kimo and Kelani Joe. Gene opened his wallet and removed three one hundred dollar bills. “This is what we're gonna do, gents,” said Gene. He handed the money to Kelani Joe. “Here’s money to cover whatever Levi owes you. If none of you knows where he’s at, then I guess that’s it and we’ll be on our way now. Come on Judith.” “Easy there, Rambo,” said Kelani Joe, “Slow down before you hurt yourself, for reals.” He took the money from Gene. “You don’t understand the half of this shit. No one is listening to me. You have no idea how hard our predicament is.” He grabbed his crotch. “We need the antidote!” said Kimo.
“Right,” said Alex, “the antidote. Okay, good luck with that.” He walked behind Gene. Gene, Alex and Judith began to back their way across the dance floor towards the door. The crowd thickened. “You think this is some kind of game?” said Kelani Joe. He bared his teeth. “The agony I feel, because of your selfish son!” “Look what he did to me,” said Kimo. “Hey, wait!” said Alex. **** “I shouldn’t have to,” said the officer with the tattoo on his forearm. “I shouldn’t have to break the law to protect my own family.” The living room was filled with family members. Grandma sat on the couch between two enormous uncles. Everyone listened. “My family members shouldn’t feel they need to break the law in the name of preserving our heritage,” said the officer. “But if it were that way,” said Grandma, “if you felt you had to break the law to protect your family members, would you do it, Kani?” “I am an officer of the law,” said Kani. “Who’s butt I used to change while your mother was working,” said Grandma, “Would you do it, Kani?” Silence “Kani?” said Kani’s mother.
Officer Kani looked around the room. Eyes implored him. He looked down at the ground. “Yes, Nana,” he said. Kani’s uncles patted him on the back. Their tattoos were faded but identical to his own. “Yes, I would.”
**** Randy limped across the Persian carpets towards the great vat of oil. He climbed the step-ladder, grunting. Moonlight poured in through the open windows. The tree of life floated, rotating in amber liquid, surrounded by the air bubbles left over from Levi’s fall. Randy shook his head. He leaned against the handrail for support, breathing through his nose. He looked down into the vat. “And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons,” Randy quoted Exodus, “that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.” He removed his t-shirt. It dropped to the floor. “And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be a holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations.” He unzipped his cutoffs, slid them over his knees then kicked them off. Randy stood. The moon cast his naked silhouette against the wall behind him. “Upon man’s flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you.” Randy took a breath. He dove into the oil, headfirst. Lightning flashed over Hilo Bay. **** Jenifer inched her way towards the bow of the boat, balancing herself against the turbulence and speed. She pinched at her nose. Uncle Billy steered from the spotting tower above. The Pacific rolled, thick with swell,
beneath shafts of moonlight and cloud-cover. Levi sat on a bench at the back of the boat. He stared at the horizon through the spray, where a band of light met the sea. “Levi,” said Jenifer, “are you alright?” she sat down on the bench beside him and grabbed a hold of the guard rail. Both their faces were wet with mist. The boat ramped over a whitecap and free fell. It landed with a thud. Levi’s grip tightened. He gazed at the horizon. “It keeps me from getting seasick,” said Levi, “or airsick, or jello-sick or whatever the hell we are really going through.” “Levi, I need to talk to you about California,” said Jenifer. “What?!” said Levi, “I can barely hear you.” They both steeled themselves against the next free-fall. “You were at UCLA,” said Jenifer, “remember, you met me at the Getty then invited me to a party called Weird Science in Brentwood?” “Weird Science…” said Levi. His eyes widened. “You wanted me to try Xtasy with you,” said Jenifer, “You told me it was just a placebo and that everyone would think I was high even though I wasn’t. Please, Levi, you remember!”
**** Noodles hurled the machete like a throwing knife. Leilani flinched. The blade shot across the dancehall then stuck into the upholstered door of Uncle Billy’s office, upstairs.
Leilani stepped forward. She made direct eye-contact with Noodles. “What is it?” said Leilani. She touched Noodles’ forearm. Her thumb ran over his tattoo. “Why are you like this with me?” She reached out and touched his cheek. Noodles backed up. “No, ” he said, “don’t –” “Why, cousin?” “You are the youngest, Leilani,” said Noodles. He stepped backwards. “You're our –” “No,” said Leilani, “it’s something else.” “Noodles, up here!” said one of the Hawaiians. “He was here, look! They must have bounced out the back staircase!” A dark figure entered the dancehall then vanished into the shadows beside the DJ booth. No one noticed. “Let’s go, bruddahs!” said Noodles. He ran for the stairs. His men followed him. “Go home, Leilani! This ain’t about you no more!” “Noodles!” said Leilani. Noodles stopped at the top of the staircase. His men charged into Uncle Billy’s office. “Look at me!” said Leilani, “Noodles you look at me and tell me this is only about Ohana, the family rules and nothing else!” Noodles turned around. He looked down at Leilani. Her chest heaved from her breathing. Noodles could see her breasts. Something moved in the shadows. There was a click, a pop, then a hissing arc of red light.
A flare impacted into Noodles’ shoulder, knocking him to the floor. Leilani screamed. Noodles howled, shrieking and kicking at the top of the staircase. The flare bounced like a pinball. A man in a ski mask materialized behind Leilani. He grabbed her by the hair then ran towards the entrance of the dancehall. Leilani’s cell phone fell to the floor.
**** “Eventually,” said the white-haired tourist. He drew an X in a box above two zeros, on the backside of a place mat. “once you’ve played the game long enough, no one can win anymore. It’s called an impasse.” A boy with red hair and freckles took another spoonful of ice cream, contemplating the piece of paper. “Why, grandpa?” he said. A group of men ran up the sidewalk, outside the café. They passed in a blur. Their shouts echoed into the night. The rain began to fall again. “It’s our nature,” said the man, “The observant ones learn there are only a finite number of possible outcomes to the game. Once the first move is made, the road ahead becomes as familiar and predictable as the road leading back home.” “Then how do you win anymore?” said the boy. He fished for the cherry at the bottom of his glass. “You don’t.” said the man. He sat back in his chair and looked out at the rain. “No one does.”
“Stand down, big guy,” said Gene, “I can appreciate your predicament but I have no quarrel with you. Step away.” Kelani Joe circled Gene’s flank, towards Judith. The crowd moved away like a baitball. Judith and Alex stepped behind Gene. Kimo flashed his teeth. He growled. “Kimo, right?” said Alex, “Listen, man you really need immediate medical attention. I’m serious.” “We’re done talking!” said Kimo. He grabbed Kelani Joe’s boat oar wielding it like a baseball bat. “Judith, you’re coming with us,” said Kelani Joe. He grabbed her wrist. “We have to find-” Gene didn’t remember grabbing Kelani Joe’s windpipe, but there it was, clamped between Gene’s thumb and forefingers. For Gene, the music was gone now. There was only the sound of air-raid sirens and helicopter rotors. “Grab, twist, pull, grab!” said Gene. “Gene, don’t!” said Judith. “Step, step, and break!” Kelani Joe’s arm fractured. “Kick and place!” Blood sprayed. Gene was expressionless. “Switch and twist! Sweep!...” Kelani Joe rotated through the air above Gene’s shoulder then slammed onto the floor at Gene’s feet. “...and STOMP!!!!”
“Gene, don’t!” said Alex, “Oh, god! You’re killing him!!!” Kimo swung the boat oar. It connected, glancing off the side of Gene’s arm, raised in a block. Gene stepped to Kimo, closing the distance between them, bringing Kimo into his kill radius. He clapped his hands over Kimo’s ears. “Gene!” said Judith. She fumbled for her pepper-spray. “Two-point-five,” said Gene. He pulled Kimo’s right ear off. People ran. Gene showed it to Kimo. “Two-point-five pounds of pressure, ladies!” said Gene, “Show it to your enemy and he will go into shock, giving you the time needed to make a clean - Arrrrrrrgh!!! Stop!!!” Judith sprayed Gene in the face with pepper-spray. The crowd on the dance floor scattered, running for the door. Alex grabbed the back of Gene’s t-shirt, pulling him away. Judith took Gene’s forearm. His fist trembled. They ran for the exit. “I’m sorry,” said Gene. Tears streamed down his face. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do this! Judith, I didn’t mean it!” “Let go of it!” said Judith. Gene dropped Kimo’s ear. Judith laced her fingers with Gene’s. They were covered in blood. The ear fell to the floor, trampled by the stampeding crowd. Gene, Judith and Alex surrendered themselves to the momentum of the crowd, over the fallen, through the door, past the sumo wrestler, and into the night. Judith’s cell phone rang, inaudible beneath the sounds of sirens.
**** “To Puna,” said Uncle Billy, into his cell phone. The River Styx hit another whitecap. Uncle Billy squinted, straining to see through the spray and darkness ahead. **** “He’s going to Puna,” said Randy. Four men wearing hempen robes stood before him on the Persian carpets. Randy’s naked body glistened with oil. It stained his Birkenstocks. “Find him,” he said.
“She’s not answering the phone,” said Officer Kani. He stood outside grandma’s house with a group of Leilani’s uncles. He dialed another number on his cell phone. “What about the boy’s mother?” said one of the uncles. “She’s not answering her phone either,” said Kani, “Hang on a second.” One ring Two rings Three rings “Aloha, you have reached the direct line of Officer Mike Kahanamoku…” “I don’t understand,” said Kani, “What the hell is going on here?” 60
**** Headlights cut through the blanket of drizzle and mist. A group of hitchhikers waved their arms above their heads. A vintage school bus pulled over, onto the shoulder of the Kamehameha Highway. The bus had been converted into a mobile home. The doors opened. The driver wore a white beard, bifocals, and a Grateful Dead t-shirt. He smiled. “Are you folks all right?” he said. “Thank you so much for stopping,” said Alex. “You wouldn’t happen to be heading towards Puna, would you?” “Sure am,” said the driver, “I’m going as far as Volcano if you guys need a lift?” “Please,” said Judith. She trembled. Her body eclipsed the driver’s view of Gene. She smiled. The rain intensified. “Well, come on up then,” said the driver, “I could definitely use the company.” Alex climbed aboard. Judith and Gene followed him. The driver looked at Gene’s haircut. He noticed the blood on his hands. He closed the doors then turned on the windshield wipers. The bus pulled onto the highway, heading south.
**** “You told me to wait for you, Levi,” said Jenifer. The River Styx hit one last whitecap then landed with a splash. They glided now, free of the rain,
beneath the moon and stars. “You locked us in the upstairs bathroom, remember? You were trying to calm me down.” Levi swallowed. His expression paled. “I told you I wasn’t feeling good,” said Jenifer, “I couldn’t physically close my mouth. My teeth were chattering. My jaws kept trembling. I asked you what was wrong with me.” “It wasn’t supposed to do that,” said Levi. “I didn’t realize-” “Levi, I trusted you!” said Jenifer. “You said you’d be right back. I was fucking scared. I didn’t know what was happening to me, where I was. I couldn’t drive. I asked you to take me home and you told me you’d be right back.” “Jenifer, I’m sorry,” said Levi. He took hold of her hand. Jenifer’s eyes widened. “I only went downstairs to the kitchen to get my car keys,” said Levi. “I meant to come right back.” Jenifer shook her head. “You left me there,” she said. “I got a phone call while I was in the kitchen,” said Levi. Tears welled up in his eyes. “My mother was shot, Jenifer, alright? She was unconscious in the hospital.” “Then why didn’t you at least tell me that?” said Jenifer, “You could have explained it to me, Levi.”
“She was alone with a gunshot wound, Jenifer!” said Levi, “My dad and I don’t even talk. He was the one who finally had to call me, okay? So I’m sorry if I didn’t come back and hold your hand!” “You could have put me in a cab, asked someone to give me a ride, anything, but you left me there!” Levi closed his eyes. “I was sick and scared and high,” said Jenifer. “I just wanted to go home!” “I was in shock!” said Levi, “I didn’t know what was going on. I thought you might have-” “Might have what?!” said Jenifer, “calmed down, sobered up all by myself? I was having a bad trip, Levi, thanks to the pill you gave me!!!” She punched Levi in the face. “Stop!” said Levi. She punched him in the eye then in the mouth. “Why?! Why did you do it?!” “I don’t know!!!” said Levi. He scooted away from her. “I can’t just make something up.” “My life ended that night!” said Jenifer. She hit him again. Blood flowed from Levi’s nose. “I looked everywhere for you, Levi. I thought I was losing my mind. The music, the people, it was too much. So, I got in my car and drove home.” Jenifer looked up at the moon. Tears flowed over her cheeks.
“I never made it, Levi,” she said. “I don’t understand,” said Levi. He touched his nose. Blood ran onto his fingertips. “My life ended four blocks from that house,” said Jenifer, “There was a man crossing the street at the intersection and I didn’t see him. I smashed into a telephone pole and totaled the car. The man died two days later in the hospital, and my life…” She closed her eyes. Her face contorted. A tear rolled down Levi’s face. “You know, for three and a half years I’ve imagined what I would do to you if I ever saw you again,” said Jenifer, “I’ve obsessed on it, every single day. I came here to the island so I would stop obsessing on it.” Levi stared right through her. He swallowed. “But now, the only thing I really want from you is to know why, okay? Just tell me why, Levi?” “I don’t know, Jenifer. I’d be lying if I said anything else.” “I went to jail, Levi! I got expelled from school! I lost my spot at Berkeley! My family disowned me!” She pummeled Levi with her fists.
“Everyone thought I was doing drugs behind their backs! Why?!! Why me?!!! Why did it have to happen to me?!!!!” Levi threw his arms around Jenifer. Blood trickled over his chin. He held her to his chest. “I’m sorry, Jenifer. Stop. Wait. I’m sorry, please. Forgive me!” They rocked back and forth, weeping, holding each other. Uncle Billy looked over his shoulder, from the steering tower. He watched them embrace then returned his gaze to the sea ahead. He smiled. The world was still except for The River Styx. She planed across the black glass of Pacific Ocean. Her wake fanned out behind them. “I forgive you,” said Jenifer. Levi held her tighter. Jenifer closed her eyes. She touched the back of Levi’s hair. “My life ended too,” said Levi. “We lost everything, Jenifer. My mom and I share a room in a trailer. We work on a farm now, picking vegetables. I’m glad you found me, Jenifer. I’m sorry I don’t have an explanation for you, but I still wonder how and why myself.” “Why are you running, Levi?” said Jenifer. “Literally or metaphorically?” said Levi. Jenifer laughed. She wiped her eyes then looked at Levi. “It seems like everyone on the island is running tonight,” said Jenifer, “like the whole world is running from something.” “Does your family know where you are right now?” said Levi. “No.”
“Is that jellyfish sitting next to us for real?” said Levi, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to change the subject. I just had to ask, because it’s been looking at me the whole time.” Jenifer laughed. “I’ve been trying to maintain so we could talk, but I’m so out of it still and I don’t even know for sure-” “It’s not,” said Jenifer. She gave Levi a hug. “It’s not real, okay?” She looked out at the water, over Levi’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Levi. I’ll watch out for you until you feel better again,” she said. “Life is so strange, one big circle, man.” Levi sobbed on Jenifer’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Jenifer.” “Why does Noodles want to hurt you, Levi?” “I’m in love with his cousin and it’s destroying their culture.” “Oh, come on,” said Jenifer.
**** “What are you doing, Mike?!” said Leilani. She struggled to sit up in the backseat of Officer Kahanamoku’s Bronco II. Her hands were cuffed behind her back. The vehicle swerved then regained traction. They raced up the highway.
“You and your boyfriend are fucking up the program, girl!” said Mike. His cell phone rang. He looked down at the number but didn’t answer. “Everything was just fine, but you had to put the whole tribe on the warpath, didn’t you?” “What are you talking about?!” said Leilani. “This has nothing to do with you, Mike. This is all about me!” “You know, your generation is always saying that same shit,” said Mike. “It makes me worry about the future.” His cell phone rang. “Hey, zip it, I gotta take this. Hello?” He turned into an alley behind an elementary school. “Yeah, that’s me. I’m coming up on you now.” He turned off the headlights and parked the truck. **** “This is amazing,” said Alex. The driver looked up at the rearview mirror and smiled. “She’s all that remains,” said the driver, “a few memories, creature comforts, things I haven’t read yet, things I’ll always read,” He squinted at the road ahead then downshifted, “something to eat, drink, smoke… a lifetime of sacrifice, sodomy and salvation, simplified to a turtle’s shell. She’s all I really need now.” “Is that you standing with Jim Morrison?” said Judith. She climbed down from the make-shift sleeping quarters above. Gene sat at the back of the bus. His head rested in his hands. “I knew his old man,” said the driver, “He got me a recommendation to the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, in 1963.” Gene looked up. The driver was looking at him in the rearview mirror.
“Is this your wife and kids here?” said Alex. He squinted at a picture of a family smiling, standing on the Great Wall of China. “Yes it was,” said the driver. He looked up at Gene again. “I’m sorry,” said Alex. “Don’t be,” said the driver. “It was a beautiful life. You married?” Judith walked to the back of the bus to check on Gene. “Yes, I… yes,” said Alex. He sat down. “Any kids?” “One.” “How old?” “He’s two,” said Alex. He looked away. The driver nodded. “Been a while?” he said. Alex nodded. “That’s alright,” said the driver, “She’ll probably make you do all of the potty-training when you get back, but that’s what life’s all about, right, coming home? It’s the reason we do everything else, all the things we must do in our lives, isn’t it?” Judith looked up.
“We work, we fight, struggle, strive. We kill a Caribou so when the sun sets, we can return to the one place we call ours and ours alone. We go home.” He looked up at Gene again. Judith placed an arm around Gene’s shoulder. “You alright, son?” said the driver. Gene looked up. “I noticed you have blood on your hands there,” said the driver. Alex and Judith looked at each other. “Yes,” said Gene. “I’m afraid I do, sir.” “That’s alright,” said the driver, “I guess everybody does in one way or another. Marines, right?” “Yeah.” “Combat?” “Yes.” “Well, she’s a funny bunny,” said the driver, “hard to put back in the hat sometimes. People tend look at you crazy if she ever pops out, especially if you don’t have your cape on, and the wand, you know, if you’re not dressed like a magician, that is.” “You see much yourself?” said Gene. “And then some,” said the driver, “But you know what? I’ll tell you a secret.”
“What’s that, sir?” “Stop calling me, sir. My name’s Herman.” “What’s your secret, Herman?” said Gene. He looked at Judith. She stared out at the rain. “When we do the unspeakable,” said Herman, “we set up camp and squat there, up here in our heads. We get stuck in that terrible place and carry it with us everywhere we go.” “That’s not really a secret,” said Gene, “I’ve known plenty of people who’ve never been able to bury the past.” “Sometimes other people are the ones who refuse to let it go,” said Alex. “True,” said Herman, “but that has nothing to do with up here, unless you let it.” He pointed to the side of his head. “You see, the moment we forgive ourselves, we build a bridge between all that was lost and all that may be found or gained from it.” “What could possibly be gained by what I’ve done?” said Gene, “by the pain and death and evil I’ve witnessed?” “What did we learn from the Holocaust?” said Herman, “What would the world be like if no one knew it happened?” “That’s not the same thing,” said Judith, “I see where you’re going with this, but it’s not the same thing.” “I know,” said Herman, “but there’s more, and a potential for much worse if we bury the bodies with our silence.”
“Well that’s what therapy’s for,” said Judith. “And I’ll be the first to admit we could all use some.” “I’ll probably develop post-traumatic stress, just from tonight,” said Alex. “That rough?” said Herman. They all nodded. “Damn,” said Herman, “but that’s just the illusion part of it. How will you choose to address it? What are you going to do? The past happened. It won’t go away. You can’t hide it. Someone will always discover it, usually at the least opportune moment.” “So what are you saying?” said Gene. “Nothing,” said Herman. He turned off the windshield wipers. The rain stopped. The bus rounded a curve in the jungle road. “Well?” said Alex, “how do you deal with all of the loss, then? If this is what’s left, you’ve lost plenty, my friend. Why are you still smiling? You don’t think about it anymore? ” “I think about it now more than ever before,” said Herman. “All the bad, all the wrong, all the loss and everything I can learn or pull from it, right there with the good as well. It would be a disservice to all the lives my actions have touched over the years I did otherwise.” Judith nodded.
“They’re in every poem I write, in every sketch, in that book you’re sitting next to,” said Herman, “See for yourself. Open that book behind you there, marine. It’s from Egypt. What does it say there on the first page?” Gene complied. “When we speak the names of the dead we make them live again,” said Gene. “No matter how repulsive, embrace those lepers of your past,” said Herman, “Let them dance. Let them sing. Oh, they can sing so beautifully, if you’ll just open your heart and listen, Eugene… ” Herman pulled over to the side of the road. Judith looked up. She stood. “We’re here,” she said. She helped Gene to his feet and walked to the exit. “Thanks, Herman,” said Alex. “My pleasure,” he said. “Thank you so much, Herman,” said Judith. “Not too bad for a sailor,” said Gene. “Thank you, Herman. Semper Fi.” “Goodbye,” said Herman. He drove away. Gene ran past Judith then Alex, taking the lead. He took in his surroundings, listened for man-made sounds. He scanned the tree-line with his eyes then signaled for the others to follow him. They disappeared into the bushes. A Bronco II, with four passengers inside, drove by in a blur.
**** Noodles opened his eyes. He lay on his back, on the floor of a cargo van. It was filled with bails of cannabis bud. Randy sat on the wheel well, looking over him. He wore a hempen robe and Birkenstocks. “I bandaged your shoulder,” said Randy, “It’s time to put an end to all this madness. Love is not your enemy, my friend, and neither am I.” “What happened?” said Noodles, “Where’s Leilani?!” “Listen to me, son,” said Randy, “between your haste and my vanity, we’ve ignored and aroused the only true threat to our way of life here.” “What’s going on? Who took her?!” said Noodles. “Your Meth-dealing local boys have her,” said Randy, “In your hunt for Levi, you stepped on a hornet’s nest, Noodles. You didn’t even notice, did you?” Randy lit up a joint. Noodles tried to rise. “Not yet,” said Randy, “We’ll need you when we get there. You better dig deep and honor that blood of kings running through your veins, man, because I can’t help you with this. The ministry and I have another work to do tonight.” Randy held out a small book. “The Little Book of Aloha” was written across its cover. Noodles took it. “This is your island,” said Randy, “your people. It’s your responsibility, Noodles, not just a privilege.”
Noodles nodded. “I get up every day, with the spirit of Aloha, and work to heal this island,” said Randy, “to help her people find self-esteem and self-sustenance. That’s what Ganjanomics, the Tree of Life, and the ministry are all about, man. That’s the true meaning behind the spirit of Aloha. Your ancestors were proud and wise, Noodles. Now you need to be just like them.” “Randy, I didn’t know… I didn’t mean to disrespect your church like that,” said Noodles, “I just thought –” “Aloha, bro, okay?” said Randy, “I’ve seen much worse from our government. The point is, I care, man. I believe in this place, Noodles. The Manna here is powerful stuff. We need to tap into it and take the island back.” “What should I do?” said Noodles, “I can’t fight them all.” “Maybe you shouldn’t try,” said Randy, “That’s not always the answer, man.” “Well I can’t just talk them out of it,” said Noodles. “If you can’t make them stop and remember who they were,” said Randy, “before they were poisoned by Hawaiian Ice and money, then Leilani could be lost, and so could you.” Noodles stared at the floor. He nodded. ���I can try,” he said. “Here’s Leilani’s cell phone,” said Randy, “They’re in Volcano, son. That’s where they cook their poison. That’s where they’ve taken Leilani.”
“Okay,” said Noodles, “Let’s do this!” “If you can tap dance a little bit,” said Randy, “if you get them talking, perhaps buy us a little time…” Noodles stared into Randy’s eyes. His nostrils flared. “Then maybe,” said Randy, “we can expect a little miracle.” He winked at Noodles then exhaled a cloud of smoke. He ran a hand through his hair. It was slicked back with holy oil. “Volcano up ahead!” said the driver of the cargo van. “Alright, man,” said Randy, “this is it. We’ll drop you as close as we can.” Noodles grabbed a hold of the handle on the back door. The cargo van turned onto a saddle road. It climbed over rocks, lumbering up the base of Mona Loa. Lava glowed. It flowed in a molten river beside them, writhing to the sea.
**** Gene, Judith, and Alex crouched beneath a tree, surveying the situation in silence. Embers glowed in a hearth where a fire had burned earilier that evening. The door on Judith’s trailer was still ajar. The beam of a flashlight played over the walls inside. Gene signaled for Judith to hand him something. Alex shook his head. Gene repeated the signal. Judith pulled a knife from her purse and gave it to Gene. He disappeared into the shadows.
“Hello?” said officer Kani. He walked out of the trailer and into a headlock. The blade of a knife pressed against his throat. “Gene, wait!” said Judith. “Sorry, man,” said Gene. He let Kani go. “Where the hell have you guys been?!” said Kani. “You don’t want to know,” said Alex. He wore a shirtsleeve tied around his forehead. His other sleeve was wrapped around his wrist. Everyone was covered in mud. “Have you heard from your son?” said Kani. His cell phone rang. “Just a second,” he said, “Hello? What? Well, where are you now?! Are you sure? Hello? Hello?!” “What is it?” said Judith. “Come on,” said Kani, “Everybody in the truck! We gotta hurry!” They ran. Car doors slammed. The Cheerokee roared to life. It fishtailed onto the dirt road, spitting rocks and dust.
**** Steam and smoke billowed from the surface of the Pacific. A vein of lava poured from the cliffs to the breakwater. The ocean boiled. It screamed, hissing with fire and color.
The River Styx approached the coastline with caution. A makeshift pier jutted from a lavabed to the waterline. Three offroad vehicles parked near its base. Police lights rotated on the roof of one of the vehicles. “Hey, Uncle Billy!” said Jenifer. She stood beneath the steering tower, “What are we doing in Volcano? I thought you were taking us to Puna?” “Hang on, Jen!” said Uncle Billy. He toggled the gas, steering with his fingertips. “If I mess this up, we’re screwed here.” Levi strained to see through the smoke. Men exited the vehicles onshore. Flashlight beams moved along the pier. Dogs barked. The River Styx glided to port, sideways. The sea bubbled against her hull. “Oh, no,” said Levi. “Jenifer, are those -” “Yeah, they’re real all right,” said Jenifer. She looked all around the boat, “Damn you, Billy.” Several men on the pier carried shotguns. They chambered rounds. Levi backed up against the entrance to the cabin. Oxogen tanks rattled, strapped to the bulkhead behind him. “Aloha, cousin!” said Uncle Billy. He trained a spotlight over the group of men standing on the dock. He tossed them a rope. The men pulled the vessel towards the pier. The largest man held a chain attached to three Rottweilers. They pulled against their choke-collars, growling. One of them barked.
“Cerberus!” said the man. He wore a headdress or turban of some sort. “Be still, you’ll get your turn, bruddah.” The dogs sat up at attention. The River Styx pulled nearer. Levi’s eyes widened. The man smiled. Cerberus snarled over insisors and I-teeth. “Hello, Howlie-boy,” said Kimo, “welcome to Hell.” Blood oozed through his bandages at the side of his head. “Screw you!” said Levi. He grabbed an oxogen tank with the regulator still attached and hugged it to his chest. “Take him!” said Kimo. The men on the pier aimed their shotguns. “Levi no!” said Jenifer. She ducked inside the cabin. Levi rolled over the rail backwards. Gunfire exploded from the dock. The men rushed aboard the River Styx pumping rounds into the water. Levi had vanished. The sea boiled beneath the hull.
**** “Oh, come on!” said Kelani Joe, “for reals?!” He paced, with a cell phone to his ear, in front of a massive cave opening. His other arm was in a sling. The sound of generators echoed from inside the cave. Grass huts peppered the decline of rock below him. A chain link fence with razor wire stretched to the entrance of the compound, at the bottom of the hill. Clouds glowed red above the volcano. “Well, bring her ass on up here too then!” said Kelani Joe. He hung up. Groups of men hauled fuel drums to the cave entrance using ropes. Other men patrolled the hillside with automatic weapons.
“Hurry up, let’s go!” said Kelani Joe, “We ain’t got all night for this shit!”
**** Noodles crouched behind three empty fuel drums outside the fenceline. He pulled Randy’s Little Book of Aloha from his pocket and stared down at it. He peeked his head around the barrel, observing the activity on the hill, then pulled back. “Tap dance?” he said. He opened Leilani’s cell phone and dialed a number. “There’s no way, Randy...”
**** Levi climbed onto a reef, 500 meters from The River Styx. He was stonesober now. He watched the men argue on the pier. One pushed Jenifer into the backseat of an SUV. Two others removed Leilani from a Police vehicle. They shoved her into the same SUV as Jenifer. “Lani,” whispered Levi. He crawled ashore then ran to the bushes beside the road. Uncle Billy wrapped Kimo’s head with more gauze. The rest of the men piled into the vehicles. “Let’s roll!” said Kimo. They drove off, headding towards the volcano. Levi ran. ****
Three cargo vans raced down a dirt road with their headlights off. The road ended at a field of grass. The vans pulled up beside a two-story building with a tin roof. Operation Peacful Skies was printed across a banner hanging above the doorway. A bamboo tower stood beside the field with a windsock blowing on top of it. Next to the tower, a schoolbus sat with its engine running and the interior lights on. Randy ran to the schoolbus and banged on the doors. “Herman?!” said Randy. “Well good evening there, minister,” said Herman. “What’s the occaision?” “I need your help, Herman,” said Randy.
**** Lelani’s aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and grandma climbed into a column of vehicles. They drove down the dirt road, across the back property, onto the saddle road, and headed towards the volcano.
**** The gates of the compound opened. Three SUVs drove inside. Leilani’s face pressed against the backseat window of one of them . They climbed the hill in a column. Tires lost traction then regained it again. The guards below watched. Engines struggled against the incline all the way to the entrance of the cave. Noodles ran. He slipped through the gates then walked towards a stack of fuel drums. Men paired up in front of the barrels with ropes and harnesses.
The word, Sisyphus was stencled on the side of each barrel in green spray paint. Two by two the men headed up the hill, straining under the weight of the drums. Noodles removed his shirt. He avoided eye contact with the other men. He squatted down, slipped his arms through a pair of ropes, then stood. His partner did the same. Levi and Noodles stared at eachother over the lid of the barrel between them. Their eyes widened, then narrowed. They looked around themselves then back at eachother again. “Hurry up!” said a sentry on the hillside, “Let’s go!” Levi and Noodles started up the hill. “You better pull your own weight,” said Noodles. “Don’t worry about me,” said Levi, “just make sure you don’t slip. We can’t afford to start all over again.” Noodles rolled his eyes. “Push!” said Noodles.
**** The SUVs parked at the top of the hill. A group of men pulled Leilani and Jenifer from the back of the vehicle. They marched them into the cave at gunpoint.
“Do you have any idea who my brother is?” said Leilani. Her eyes flashed. “No,” said Kelani Joe, “but I sure know who you mother is, baby girl, let me tell you. She’s got some ass on her too.” Kimo laughed. “Oooh, that’s terrible,” said Officer Mike. His cell phone vibrated on his hip. “You know, I’ve always wanted to see this place,” said Uncle Billy, “I’ve only heard stories.” “You’re all crazy,” said Jenifer, “Just let us go. What could you possibly need us for anyway?” “We’ll get to that little plot point in minute, Jen,” said Kelani Joe, “but for reals though, gentlemen, we try very hard here.” They continued down the passageway. “We’ve pretty much gone all green now. We’re using geothermal energy to cook the methamphetemines, you know.” “Hawaiian Ice,” said Kimo, “Clean energy from the Big Island.” “It’s like an Ad campaign,” said Kelani Joe, “Everybody got their gasmasks?” **** “You’re right,” said Gene. He stared at the screen of Kani’s blackberry. “He’s at the volcano, or at least his cell phone is.” Kani floored the accelerator. The Cherokee powered over a riverbed then climbed a dirt hill to the Kamehameha highway. Clouds gathered, darkening the night sky. ****
Music played. A Massive lava pocket had formed the 20ft cielings of the cave’s inner cathederal some 150,000 years ago. In what was once a place of worship to the goddess Pele, a man in an asbestos firesuit swung through the air, 15 feet above the ground. He was harnessed to a boomlift. The crane’s control rested in the man’s gloved hand. He sang at the top of his lungs. “Well it seems so real I can see it! And it seems so real I can feel it!” Blonde dreadlocks trailed out behind him. He wore goggles. Heat waves rippled through the air. “And it seems so real I can taste it! And it seems so real I can hear it!” He flew from Vat to Vat, over factory-sized tubing and glassware. He took readings with digital instuments.The room resembled the industrial lovechild of a micro-brewery and a pharmaceutical company. “So why can't I touch it?! So why can't I touch it?!” “Hey, Tantalicious!” said Kelani Joe, “Aloha bruddah, come on down here!” Tantalus stopped. He looked down at the group, gathered by the entrance. Pairs of shirtless men passed them by, carrying fuel drums. The men left the barrels in a staging area, then followed a painted line on the floor back to the passageway. With a thumb and forefinger Tantalus controlled his decent to the ground with grace. He smiled. Only three teeth remained in his mouth.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you?” said Tantalus, “too many cooks spoil the broth, Joe.” His feet dangled a few inches from the floor. “Don’t worry, T-dog,” said Kelani Joe, “it’s not that kind of party, bruddah.” “Well, what kind of party is it?” said T-dog. He looked at Leilani and Jenifer, at their handcuffs. He looked at officer Mike in his uniform, then to Kimo and Kelani Joe’s bandages. “I never thought you were into B&D, Joe. Seems like you have a real hard-on for it though.” T-dog raised himself a few more feet off the ground. Uncle Billy laughed. Levi and Noodles walked up the cooridor behind them. They lowered the fuel drum. “Look out!” said T-dog. Levi snatched Officer Mike’s pistol from its holster. He pointed it at everyone, except Lani, Noodles and Jenifer. “Get down on the ground! Get back! Back away! Get into the room! Get away from those! Get down from there! Get off of that thing! Get out of there! Get back under there! Get on the floor, man, or I swear I’ll kill every motherfucking one of you!” said Levi. “It only has six shots, howlie-boy,” said Officer Mike. His hands were behind his head. Levi shot Mike in the ass. “Five,” said Levi, “Who else wants some of this?!”
“Gimmie your keys!” said Noodles. He ripped them from Officer Mike’s belt and uncuffed the girls. “If any of you follow us,” said Levi, “your ass is mine!” “Let’s go!” said Noodles. They ran down the cooridor. “Get them!!!” said Kelani Joe. Levi took Lelani’s hand. They sprinted towards the exit. Lelani smiled. “I love you, Baby,” said Levi. Noodles ran past Jenifer and grabbed her hand. “Come on, girl, run! Let’s go!” Jenifer smiled. An alarm sounded. Lights flashed. Kelani Joe, Mike, Uncle Billy and Kimo climbed onto the Boom crane. Uncle Billy drove. “Wait, motherfucker!” said T-dog. He lowered the boom just in time to clear the roof of the passageway. They raced down the cooridor with T-dog hanging from the crane, like a flag tied to the tip of a lance. Kelani Joe lifted a bullhorn to his mouth. “Kelani Joe’s ass belongs to no man, Howlie-boy!” said Kelani Joe. At the mouth of the cave, Noodles, Jenifer, Levi and Lelani stopped short. They looked down. An army of sentries stormed up the hill with their
weapons at the ready. The boom crane raced up the passageway behind them. A staging area for empty fuel drums sat beside the cave entrance. “Ever play Donkey Kong?” said Jenifer. “Come on!” said Noodles. They ran to the stacks of barrels and pushed them down the hillside. “Run!” said Levi. “Here they come!” “I see you, Howlie-boy!” said Kelani Joe. The boom crane burst through the cave opening at full speed. Levi, Lelani, Noodles and Jenifer ran. They slid. They tripped. They bounced then rolled down the hill, above the wall of rolling barrels, in front of the boom crane, it slid sideways out of control, towards the backsides of the fleeing sentries, plummeting for the gates of the compound.
**** The Cherokee skidded to a stop. Gene, Kani, Judith and Alex climbed out of the vehicle. They looked up the hill with their mouths agape. “Cover!” shouted Gene. He grabbed Judith and dove behind a boulder.
**** The caravan of Lelani’s relatives rounded the corner. Uncle Ricky slammed on the brakes. They all watched the human avalanche with shock and awe.
The impact shook the earth. It sounded like a train wreck. A great cloud of dust rolled over the ground. It covered everything. People ran, blindly through the dust, pushing towards the epicenter of the conflict. Everyone was shouting. “Don’t move!” “Put it down!” “You put it down!” “Get back!” “Fuck you!” “Fuck all of you motherfuckers!” When the dust cleared, Noodles, Jenifer, Lelani, Levi, Judith, Gene, Kani and Grandma stood at the center of the situation, surrounded by gunmen. “How dare you,” said Grandma. “I mean it, lady! Now drop it!” said a sentry. Grandma dropped her 22. to ground. The arm of the crane jutted skyward from the wreckage. T-dog dangled, unconscious in his firesuit. All weapons pointed at the group in the middle of the circle. The sentries looked from one to another. “What do we do?” said one.
“Kill them all!” said Kelani Joe, “We’ve already crossed the point of no going back!” He climbed from the wreckage of the boom crane, limping. He snatched the pistol from Levi’s hand and pointed it at him. “Wait a minute,” said Noodles. He stepped forward, pulling Levi behind him. “This ain’t about him, Kelani Joe.” Kelani Joe stepped backwards, pointing the pistol at Noodles now. “Is that right?” said Kelani Joe, “well why don’t you enlighten us then, Noodles?” He pulled the hammer back with his thumb. “You really want to know what this is all about?” said Noodles. “Yes,” said Kelani Joe. “You really want to know?” “I said yes!” “Right here?” “Quit stalling!” said Kelani Joe. “Okay,” said Noodles, “here it goes.” Noodles danced. Dust rose from the shuffling of his feet. “What the fuck?” said Kelani Joe. Everyone stared. What started out as a soft-shoe became the Charleston, then the Mashed Potato, then a Polanisian riverdance. Noodles kept dancing.
The sound of heliocopter rotors filled the air. Only Gene noticed. “Fuck you and your tap dancing, Noodles,” said Kelani Joe, “I’ll show you what it’s all about, fool! On the count of three, fellas...” “One..!” A CH-53 Sea Stallion broke through the clouds. It raced over the slope of the volcano, diving towards the crowd. “Two..!” In the cockpit, Herman gave Randy a thumbs-up. “Open the cargo bay!”said Randy. Hydraulics squealed. The CH-53 flew over the heads of the crowd. Everyone looked up. Five-hundred gallons of holy anointing oil fell to earth at 120 miles per hour. “Three..!” It smacked into the crowd. Levi stood. He stumbled. He looked down at his arms and hands. He was drenched in oil. “Oh, come on,” he said. Someone turned on a stereo. People laughed. Music played.
Fifteen minutes later, everyone was dancing, even Grandma. Fires burned on the mountainside above them. There was an explosion. Sirens echoed through the canyons below. The CH53 landed in a clearing. The cargo doors opened. Randy waved his arms overhead. Gene smiled. “We better get out of here,” said Kani.
**** 5:30 a.m. The sky turned shades of pink. Levi and Leilani sat against a tree, watching the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean. Their skin glistened in the pre-dawn light. Alex played the guitar by a campfire while Leilani’s Uncles sang. Noodles massaged Jenifer’s feet. They talked on a blanket by the ice chests and grocery bags. Noodles laughed. Randy and Lelani’s aunt Moana shared a joint beneath a palm tree. Herman and Grandma sat in lawnchairs under an umbrella. They looked at photo albums.
Kani viewed messages on his cell phone then stopped. He tossed it into the back of his truck. He pulled a surfboard from the roof and ran towards the beach hooting like a school kid. Judith kissed Gene on the lips. She looked up. “Come on!” said Kani. He ran past them with a surfboard under his arm. Judith grabbed her board from the sand and ran after Kani. She stopped. Judith kissed Levi and Leilani on their foreheads. She ran to the waterfront. Kani waited for her. The surf roared, hollow and mighty, beyond the reef. The world was blue and green again. The night was over. Judith and Kani smiled at each other. They dove into the water and paddled out. Kani dropped into a massive tube, shouting in Hawaiian. He raised his hands, reaching for the roof of the barrel. It took Judith ten minutes to muster the courage to paddle into her own Hawaiian giant. Her surfboard surged forward. The drop was endless. Falling, falling, falling, she dropped through the air until her fins bit. Judith made the bottom turn and pulled into the second barrel of her life. Time slowed. The sun was rising over the mountains. She stood there, arms stretched over her head, floating in that mammoth cavern of water. It whispered to her, hissing. Like the voice of God was saying, “I see you. I am with you. Remember me, for I am God…”
What good doth it profit a man or woman, to lose their whole world yet gain their immortal soul?
Aloha nui Loa.