“What’d you order, Uncle?” Kumai asked.
”The Overboard. Auntie’s trying the Pau Hana Pahlay Ahlay.”
Kumai explained, “My uncle tends to Hawaiianize everything. He finds that a lot of streets are named OhNay LahNay Road… One Lane Road.”
“Oh, ha! The Pale Ale. Is it any good?” Kirby asked.
Aunt Helen nodded an enthusiastic yes and daubed a foam mustache from her lip. “Sit down, you two!” She extended her hand to Kirby, “Hi, I’m Helen.”
“Kirby.” He said then shook Kumai’s uncle’s hand.
“Leo. Nice to meet you.”
“Wanna try these before you order?” Helen offered her beer to Kumai. She sipped.
Kirby put up his hand to refuse Leo’s glass, “No thank you.” He turned to the waitress. “Malama Lager, please, the big glass.”
“I’ll have your darkest, whatever that is.” Kumai said while reaching for her uncle’s glass.
The waitress asked, “Dark Sabbath okay? It compares to a Chimay.”
“Oh yum. Yes.” Kumai said, then handed her uncle his beer.
“Not for you?” Leo asked.
“It’s nice. Not for me though, a little too hoppy. Where you two been today?” Kumai asked.
“Hawi for a land blessing. Friends just bought a place off the grid.” Helen answered. “Gonna do a B&B like we used to.”
Kumai smiled. She told Kirby, “Auntie and Uncle used to do Airbnb. That’s how I met them when I first came to the island last year.”
“She shut us down.” Leo said.
“Oh?” Kirby asked.
“Leo!” Helen chided.
Kumai laughed, “I ruined them for any one else.”
Leo continued, “You gotta watch her, Kirby, she can do that.”
An awkward silence followed.
Kirby asked. “Where’s your place?”
“Down Napoopoo Road.”
“Quite a view then, too.”
“One hundred eighty degrees of ocean.” Leo said.
“It’s gorgeous. And restful.” Kumai added.
“Maybe it’s time to get some rest?” Helen asked.
“I could use some relaxation.” Kumai agreed.
“Could you house sit for us on Thursday? We’re going to Maui for a wedding.”
“I think so. I’ll just set aside the time. Plan on me being there.”
“What do you do, Kirby?” Leo asked.
“I’m an EMT.”
“Is that how you met–oh.” Helen said, “The neighbors?”
“Right.” Kirby and Kumai answered in unison.
“We ordering food?” Leo asked.
“Yes.” Kirby said.
Kumai chuckled. “You know me. I can always eat.”
The waitress brought their beers and opened her order pad.
”Fish Tacos, please.”
“The Kubocha squash.”
“Green Chili Burger, with fries.”
“Everyone okay on beers for now?” Their server asked.
With glasses barely sipped, they all nodded yes. Kirby seemed to hesitate.
Kirby asked, “How long you been in Hawaii?”
“Since 1982.” Leo answered. “You?”
“‘Bout the same.” Kirby said.
Kumai laughed. “Kirby was born here.”
“Big Island?” Helen asked.
“How was it, growing up here?”
“Seemed normal to me, of course. But when I went to Colorado for college I was surprised by how different it is there.”
Kumai perked up.
“Different how?” Helen asked.
”It was bland.” Kirby shrugged.
“Bland?” Leo asked.
“Yeah. Like, I dunno. Our beers here. We have several flavors represented on this table. If you get the sampler from here, you have even more variety. Colorado was…”
“All Coors?” Kumai asked.
“Hadn’t thought about that.” Helen said. “Probably because I’m Coors.”
“The islands are full of variety. On the mainland, people still ask me if I speak any English. They wonder how I got rid of my accent. At college, the other students assumed that I was on an exchange program.” Kirby grinned, “They gave me lots of help studying.”
“I hope that you milked it for all you could.” Leo said. “So you went from Big Island Rocky Road to Vanilla Colorado.”
“Being a paniolo didn’t help either.” Kirby chuckled. “Then I got labeled as a Japanese movie star.”
“Movie star?” Kumai asked.
“Yeah. There’s a whole genre of films called Sukiyaki Westerns.”
“How did you deal with all of that?” Kumai asked.
“Not well. I took off to Vegas for a while, then flew home when I got tired of it.”
“Of what?” Leo asked.
“Of being only what I look like.”
“That’s exactly how it was for me with my years as a super model.” Helen said.
Kirby waited to laugh until Leo and Kumai did. He changed the subject, “How was your drive today?”
“Gorgeous.” Helen said, “The trade winds cleared away any vog down South. The ocean was that two-tone blue, you know how it gets, light blue at the shore and indigo out to the horizon.”
“And the Jacaranda are in bloom.” Leo said.
“Like when the coffee is in bloom.” Kirby agreed.
“Yeah. ‘Kona Snow’ looks so out of place on tropical green branches. And the perfume!”
Kumai wrinkled her nose.
“You don’t like the smell of coffee blossoms?” Kirby asked.
“They smell like, I dunno, hot wiring plus Barbie dolls.”
“I’m wondering why you would know those smells together.” Kirby said.
“Chemical?” Helen asked.
“Yes, exactly.” Kumai smiled. She looked to Kirby, “As an EMT you probably smell a lot of things plus hot wiring.”
“I definitely prefer Barbie dolls.”
”Isn’t coffee related to the gardenia?” Leo asked.
“Don’t you like the smell of gardenias?” Kirby asked.
“I love that smell.” Kumai said, then muttered, “Depending on who was wearing it.”
Kirby shifted in his seat.
“Auntie, your lei is gorgeous. What is that flower?” Kumai asked.
“Jade vine. Dontcha love the aqua and lavender together like that?”
“I do! But that doesn’t look like jade blossoms. They’re not so talonesque as the flowers I’ve seen.” Kumai said.
“You made that?!” Kirby exclaimed.
“Yes.” Helen smiled. “For Kumai.” She removed the necklace of flowers and gently placed the ring over Kumai’s head. She gave her a kiss on each cheek.
“Wow, Auntie.” Kumai lifted the lei so she could study it. “Thank you very much.” She left the back of the lei resting on her dark hair so that the flowers would be visible.
“Pass it on when you’re ready.” Helen instructed.
“Will do. What if I want to keep it?” Kumai asked.
“That would give you stagnant mana. Flowers don’t last. Generous spirits last. I’ll show you how to make it and then you can have one whenever you want.”
“Well,” Leo qualified, “Whenever they’re in blossom.”
“When are you heading home?” Kumai asked.
“Tomorrow morning. Your uncle booked us a staycation up Mana Road.”
“Mana Road?” Kirby asked.
“Yes,” Leo said. “There’s a camp up there at the Ranger Station. Speaking of mana, Kumai, your Auntie and I are worried about whatever your neighbors are, or were, mixed up in and those papers we saw. People are saying that something is brewing in the land.”
“Like Nightmarchers?” Kirby asked.
“Some of the ancient burial caves have been disturbed again. A dealer was just put in jail for selling artifacts. Spirits are stirring on the island.”
“So if you can,” Helen said, “Stay longer at our place and let things depressurize?”
“Thank you, Auntie. I would enjoy that. But work is tapping out, too. If I take a break now, I’m not sure I can get my position back at the resort.”
“Do you want it back?” Leo asked.
Good question. “Diving from the boat has gone flat right now too…”
“So you already know things are agitated.” Leo said.
“And not just on the land, apparently.” Kirby said. He sounded concerned too.
Leo’s mention of mana made Kumai think of the dog. She wondered how he was getting along with Jorge and Elena. She looked forward to playing with him when she got back to the ranch. Maybe he would curl up on her bed to sleep tonight. Warmth and company appealed to her.
Kumai sighed. “Well, until the day I get my own dive boat, I’m subject to the schedules of my employers.”
“What do you two have going this evening?” Leo asked.
An awkward silence followed.
It was an innocent question, but for some reason both Kumai and Kirby were dumbstruck. Maybe it was the idea of having an evening together.
Kirby broke the silence. “I think Kumai is back on the clock after this. I get to drive her, I mean, I get to see her client’s ranch when I drive her back there.”
They attended to their meals and the ukulele player in the corner. He played one of Kumai’s favorite pieces by Hoaikane, E Ku’u Morning Dew. The server stopped to check on them.
Leo asked Kirby, “Want another?”
Kumai still had three-quarters of hers to drink. Kirby’s was nearly gone.
“You gonna?” Kirby asked Leo.
Leo nodded yes. “One for each of us.” He said.
“Not me, please.” Kumai said.
“You’re safe.” Helen said, “Kirby’s driving.”
”Actually,” Kumai looked at Kirby, “He asked me to drive so he could have a little more to drink. Why don’t you go ahead and give me the keys?”
Kirby studied her for a moment. “Thinking of Dr. Ching?”
“Pretty much.” She said
“I’ll be fine.” He said.
“I’m sure. But I won’t.” She put her hand out, palm up.
“Just don’t take out any fenders, please.” He reached into his pocket and handed her his Toyota key with a Silver Sevens Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas key ring.
“Thanks.” She nodded to him.
Kumai actually had wanted to get another beer. She was dreading this evening’s follow up with Jorge and Elena. But she thought about Sage’s reminder to get herself to a meeting. Even though her particular nemesis was cocaine, she might want to be sober for a meeting with a group that calls themselves Secular Organizations for Sobriety. With a resigned sigh, she picked up her beer and sipped.
“Uncle,” she said, “What are your thoughts on land ownership in Hawaii?”
“I don’t know. There are many factors to consider for everyone involved. All I really know is for myself. If ever I felt unwelcome here, I wouldn’t have to be here.”
“That’s an unusual view.” Kirby said.
”For an old white guy, right?” Leo asked. “That’s okay, you didn’t say it, I did. And it’s not reverse discrimination, it’s just discrimination. And it is mostly deserved. With Anglo-Saxons, we tend to take over wherever we go.”
Kirby put both hands up palms out. He shook his head no. “Yours is an unusual view for anyone I’ve known. My experiences are teaching me to take each person as a culture of one.”
“Interesting idea.” Leo said. “In my personal culture, I’m just passing through existence for a while. I don’t have to establish my ownership to feel secure or to be able to enjoy life.”
“But what if someone started crowding you, or, I don’t know, began taking more of the space beside you? What if they let their rubbish encroach on your boundary?” Kumai asked. “Wouldn’t you want a way to move them back?”
“Without violence.” Helen added.
“I think I would try communicating my wishes, and if things didn’t improve, I would let go and move on.”
“That’s so… unconventional.” Kirby said. ‘I’m going to need time to think about that.”
“What if you ran out of places to go or the energy to leave?” Kumai asked. “What if you didn’t find anywhere that you were welcome?”
“My view does require lots of trust in life, doesn’t it? That’s why I can’t answer your question for anyone but myself.”
“Why do we make people feel unwelcome?” Kirby muttered.
“We who?” Kumai asked.
Kirby realized he had thought aloud. “Oh, uh. Humans. Everywhere. It’s the old ‘them versus us’ thing.”
“Exactly!” Leo exclaimed. He lifted his glass to toast Kirby.
Helen shrugged when Kumai looked to her for explanation.
“Why do you ask about land ownership?” Leo clinked his glass against Kumai’s on the table.
She picked up her beer to drink and said, “My new client. She would like to change how the ranch is being operated. We have a meeting tonight and I don’t want to be there.”
”A hostile takeover?” Helen asked.
“Well, that’s the weird part. It’s just the opposite. For some reason, I can’t see it going very well.”
“Reminds me of these corporations throwing around words like ‘ownership’ to their employees.” Leo said. “But they are talking about owning the work, not the company.”
“Yes.” Kumai looked up and shook a finger at her Uncle, “Exactly. It’s something like that.”
“And you can’t get out of the meeting?”
“I didn’t try. Client’s too new for me to know how that would go over.” Kumai wiped burger juice from her hands. “Anyway, enough about work. How’s Dave?”
“He’s great!” Leo exclaimed.
Helen rolled her eyes and looked at him.
“Who’s Dave?” Kirby asked.
“He’s my African grey parrot. Uncle is taking care of him while I’m away from home.”
“He’s one smart bird.” Leo told Kirby, “I taught him to meow and to bark.”
“Wow.” Kirby chuckled. “But can he fly?”
Kumai smiled, ”Some. Uncle also taught him how to play dead.”
”What?” Kirby asked. “How?”
“He curls up in your palm, upside-down.” Kumai gestured her hands into two compact claws, “His little feet in a ball and his tail straight up to the sky.”
“Then you can toss him into the air and he’ll land right back in your hand holding that position the whole time.” Leo added.
Kirby burst out laughing.
Kumai realized then that life was completely without mercy. The man sitting beside her was adorable. She felt an ache in her chest and caught her breath. She had fallen in love with a man who wasn’t Bradon.
She glanced over to see Helen watching her and returned her knowing smile. But Kumai’s smile was a sad one. Leo was saying more about the bird but she had lost herself to staring at the tiles on the floor.
Their server returned with three beers, Kumai ordered coffee, and Helen ordered a dessert for the table. As the meal progressed, Kumai could see that she would be the designated driver for everyone. She pulled out her phone and texted Susan, “Delayed by unexpected need. How essential is my presence @ meeting?”
They each had a spoon to take bites of the Mauna Kea mud pie. Kumai liked working on the same edge of the slice as Kirby. The spaghetti-scene from Lady and the Tramp came to mind and a new wave of sadness washed over her.
“Are you doing okay?” Kirby asked.
“What? Yes? Oh yes, I’m fine.” She smiled.
He studied her for a moment and she had to look away. It was either that or get a room. And Kirby was slightly drunk so she had an unfair advantage. She checked her phone to maneuver around her mental ruts. Nothing back from Susan.
“Everything okay?” Helen asked.
“Yes.” Kumai said. “I am hoping I can miss the meeting tonight.”
“Oh, is it getting late?” Leo asked.
“No, we’re fine.” Kumai said.
Everyone reached for their phones to check the time. They each responded to various alerts on their phones, except Kumai who happily continued to eat dessert. She would have to remember this strategy.
Kirby chuckled to his phone then looked up to see Kumai watching him. “Hugh.” He said.
Kumai had been wondering how she would manage two vehicles and get everyone home safely. “Is he at work?”
“Huh? Oh no. He just sent a joke.”
“Why don’t you ask him to join us?” She asked.
“Well,” Kirby said, “We’re just about done. And don’t you need to get to the meeting?”
“You could tell him all of that, and see if he wants to come anyway.” Kumai wanted to place a bet that Hugh would be there in less than fifteen minutes. Susan would have bet her and lost on this one.
She checked her phone again in case she had missed an alert. Nothing. Several alternate plans ran through her head. Her phone buzzed.
Susan had answered, “Not essential. Hope all is well.”
Kumai debated, then wrote, “Thanks. Elected as DD.”
Susan wrote back, “Yeehaw. ETA?”
“7:30?” Kumai answered.
“D’ya get out of it?” Leo asked.
“Looks like it.” Kumai said, “Unless they wait for me.”
“Let’s hope they don’t.” Helen said and raised her glass to that. Everyone toasted.
“Uncle, can I borrow your keys? I left something in your glove box.”
Leo handed Kumai the keys and she excused herself from the table. She decided that she had time to use the restroom because Hugh would want to take enough time to look good before he drove to the pub.
Then she went out to the parking lot and waited. Pau hana traffic was light on the main road since it was Saturday. For most of the island, rush hours were a slack-key crawl between the little towns that ringed the volcanoes. There were few roads while the numbers of vehicles continued to rise. A van stopped in the middle of the highway to allow another car into the flow of traffic. No one honked. They all knew to drive with aloha.
When someone honks in Hawaii, it’s because they saw someone they know and they are saying hello. Or it’s because they’re not from the islands and they don’t know any better, yet. No matter what the reason for the honk, all anyone does to respond is give a friendly wave.
“So you’re leaving, right?” Hugh said as he walked up to Kumai.
“Hello to you too.”
“Oh, sorry, it’s just, I thought… Kirby’s here, right?”
“Inside.” Kumai said, then put a hand on Hugh’s elbow to pause him. “I need your help.”
”I have two vehicles needing sober drivers and it’s just me.”
“Is Kirby’s truck one of them?”
“I’ll take him.”
“Okay, good. Thanks. Also, I need a ride back to where I’m staying. Can you do that?”
“Do I drive Kirby, though?”
“Yes, alone while following me and alone again after you drop me off.” Gotcha.
“Sure, no problem.”
They headed back into the pub together.
”Oh.” She added, “You do know how to go four-wheeling, right?”