Kumai rose early, grabbed a kitchen spatula, and drove her mangled little convertible to Honokohau Marina. The sun would hopefully soften the marshmallow crust on her dashboard and she could scrape it off after she retrieved her credit card from the Harbor House.
Waking to no obligations had felt unnerving. Kumai liked her jobs and felt no need for a vacation. The Four Seasons’ understated entrance was in her rear view mirror before she snapped out of a daydream involving Taka. She had intended to stop by the resort office. But now she would introduce herself to the new person in charge on her way back home.
Not much was stirring at the Harbor House. The early hour meant she had to rouse the manager from his boat down in its slip. Clearly he had spent the night streamlining tavern operations.
Once her credit card was safely back in her wallet, she considered celebrating at the Blue Ginger Boutique. Her favorite dresses had come from there, although she had yet to wear most of them. Shopping at the Consignment Shop was an even better idea. In fact, she should have brought unused treasures to consign, especially with how few paychecks she could expect in the near future.
She sighed. Maybe she would consign the spatula. It would make a great excuse to go see Charlie and whatever was new at her shop. That still left her with time before they opened. She ambled along the marina slips to the harbor mouth, saw fishing boats going out in the direction of Ahi Alley, and wandered North along the coastline to revisit Turtle Cove. A thatched shelter offered her shade where she could sit on the sand and watch waves roll in.
Chaz strolled into view with a homeless woman walking beside him. Kumai felt pleased for the man that he might have a ladyfriend. Since this was twice she had seen him at this beach, she wondered if he had a squat somewhere in the kiawe thickets that surrounded the marina.
Bright haze in the sky and sunlight reflecting off of the water combined to backlight their silhouettes. Chaz waved hello. She waved back and stood up.
“Howzit?” Kumai asked.
“Pretty good.” Chaz answered.
His companion greeted her, “Howdy.”
“Bonnie?” Kumai asked.
“I’ve been calling you.”
“Nothing bad, I hope. Everything in your house can be changed back.” Bonnie pulled out her phone from the front of her overalls. “Doesn’t seem to work since I dropped it in the drink.” She blew on it.
“Maybe turn it upside down.” Chaz instructed. “Shake it sideways.”
“It’s not an Etch-A-Sketch.” Bonnie scowled, then said to Kumai, “All your stuff is in the closets. Why were you calling me?”
“I wondered if we could work out some sort of compromise with you staying at my hale.” Kumai said.
“Oh?” Bonnie asked.
Chaz wandered away.
“Yeah. Maybe we could do a trial basis. Say, three months? Let’s see if I can live with you doing housekeeping in exchange for a place to stay.”
“Why?” Bonnie asked. “You weren’t so hot on the idea yesterday.”
“I needed to rest yesterday. And I needed time alone. But I’m realizing that I also need help.”
“You need me?” Bonnie said.
“Um. Yeah. I guess that’s what I’m saying.”
“Well, that’s alright. A person needs to be needed. Will I still do the garden too?” Bonnie asked. “That would keep me outta your hair if I have work to do outside.”
“Gardening should be okay.” Kumai nodded. “We can hash out other details as they come up. Do we have a deal?”
“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.”
Bonnie spit into her right hand and extended it. Kumai fished out a tissue and offered it to Bonnie, then extended her left hand for a shake to seal the negotiations.
“Do you need a ride back to Puako?” Kumai asked.
“I might, if you’re around later.” Bonnie said. “I got a bunch of things to do in town today. Tell you what, I’ll go to the Harbor House for a root beer float ’round 4:00. You can leave me a message at the bar there if I haven’t gotten my phone fixed by then. If you’re already gone, I’ll hitch a ride back to your hale. Is it locked?”
“Hide-a-key’s hanging inside the bell on the gekko windchime.”
“Got it. I’m happy you reconsidered. It’s good for me to have some work to do.”
Kumai nodded yes but part of her wondered what she had just done. Had hunger driven her to sacrifice her one haven? Time would tell.
She walked back to Inigo and tried scraping the dashboard with the spatula. Nothing budged. As she really put her body weight into it, she heard a scooter pull up beside her. The little horn beeped. The rider removed his helmet and she was somehow glad that this bizarre scene was witnessed by the one person who might not be too surprised by it.
“I didn’t know you drove a scooter.” She said.
“I didn’t know you’d gone solar.” Taka said.
“Nice to know we’re both doing our part to help the environment.”
“I like my eggs more white than black.”
“It’s cake and marshmallow.” She explained.
“That makes more sense.” He chuckled. “Want a kava?”
Kumai dropped the spatula on the dash. “I’ve never had one, but this would be the perfect time to give it a try. I need outta the kitchen.”
“I don’t have a helmet.”
Taka extended his helmet to her. “I’m not as interesting as you. The world needs your brain.”
Kumai took the helmet, wondering if he wanted to say that she didn’t have margin for damage.
The Kanaka Kava Bar was a tiny pocket of Polynesia tucked back from Alii Drive. Nestled between big chain restaurants, sushi, and coffee spots, it was distinctive with its one picnic table in the open air. The bench for seating faced a lauhala-weave bar with six wooden stools. Thatched grass hung down from a shade structure covering it all. While closed it looked like a tribal cart, the sort that basket-making gypsies might use to travel with their caravan.
“They open in a few minutes.” Taka said. He gestured for Kumai to take a seat at the bench.
“Taka? Is that you?” A voice called out from the mat-covered Dutch door.
“Yup.” Taka called out. “I can wait.”
“No need wait. I got one bowl mix now. How many cups?” the voice asked.
“Two for us. One for you.”
The top door opened and a young Fijian man grinned out. He handed out a large wooden bowl to Taka. The bowl had three small feet carved on the bottom for it to stand on the table. It sloshed with a muddy liquid as Taka set it down. Next the man handed Taka three cups made from coconut shells. “None for me yet. Use this one for scoop.”
“Mahalo.” Taka said. “This is my friend Kumai.”
“Hello.” Kumai said with a tiny wave.
“I’m Zach.” The man offered. “You like Ulu?” He asked.
Not no but heck no. “Um.” Kumai said.
“Make you strong.” He said, flexing a bicep. “I geev ‘um.” And with that he closed the door.
Kumai hoped that meant that they would not be having breadfruit. To her it was a subsistence food, like poi. She’d eat it. If she were starving.
“Here’s how you drink kava in Fiji.” Taka instructed.”Clap once with a cupped hand to make a hollow sound.”
Kumai tried and made the right sound on the second try.
“Bula!” Came from inside the caravan cart.
“Then you yell Bula…” Taka instructed.
“Okay. What’s it taste like?” Kumai asked, getting ready to take a sip.
“Ah no! Don’t sip. You won’t drink any more if you do it that way. Besides, that’s considered bad manners. Drink it in one gulp. Chug down the first bowl, sip the second.”
“That bad, huh?” She asked again.
“Dusty, peppery. With a watered-down medicinal aftertaste. It’s earthy, like mud.”
To keep from asking how he knew the flavor of mud, Kumai took the bowl, yelled “Bula!” and drank it in one swig. She clapped three more times as Taka instructed.
“Mathe.” Taka said in unison with the voice inside the door. “You say that after you clap.”
Kumai’s nose went into a reflexive sneer. “Mathe.” Her eyes squinted as if blinded by bright sun. She tried to smile at Taka.
“You like it?” He laughed. He clapped, yelled, downed a cupful and made the same wincing face. He clapped three times. “Mathe.”
“I thlikk th link my tunm hath gone numb.” Kumai said.
“Yup.” Taka agreed. “Now just sip the next cup and let that numbness wash over all of you.”
But I had things to do today. She sighed and stretched out her legs to watch the world go by. Kona unrolled its sidewalks, travelers begin to walk Alii Drive, and Zach got the Kava Bar opened up.
As her finger tips got more numb, she sipped. She rubbed her hands together and was glad that she could still feel the soothing movement of the air around her. A banyan tree shuffled in the breeze. As the air circulated the highest branches, each moved in its own direction like a stadium audience waiting for the big play. Stronger wafts bent all the branches in a singular direction as if they were straining to see one hit out of the park. Then the clumps would return to their individual conversations with the swirling air.
“What are you thinking about?” Taka asked.
Kumai paused, then blurted out, “Trees playing baseball. Well, actually, observing base… uh. Nevermind.” She waved her hand for an eraser.
“We think differently.” Taka chuckled. “Some time when we have more time you can introduce me to how you think. I enjoyed showing you about my traditions.” Taka dipped more kava for each of them.
“Do you miss your home?” Kumai asked.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“Your village, wherever you came from, your family, do you miss them?”
”The question doesn’t make sense.”
“It’s a pretty basic question.”
“Not for us.”
“Who’s us?” Kumai asked.
“People of Oceania.”
“Is that your village’s name?” She asked.
“We think differently. Look at this bowl of kava.” Taka said. “Zach? Got a chunk of purple sweet potato?”
“Yup. Hereya go.” The proprietor handed Taka half of a potato which was a dark purple on the cut surface.
“I see a sweet potato sitting in it.” Kumai leaned back, arms crossed.
“Right.” Taka said, “What else?”
“I think that’s it, unless a bug fell in while I wasn’t looking.” Kumai leaned forward and examined the surface of the liquid for anything else.
“Right.” Taka said. “I see kava. And I see all that it touches from the wood rim to the potato skin. The kava connects them all. I am from the kava.”
“Huh?” Kumai said.
“The sea. Oceania. What you call the Pacific. That is where I am from. So how can I miss it? My people are scattered along the rim of the bowl, and on many different potatoes that stick up out of the kava. But because of the ocean, we are all connected. Do you see?”
“Yes, I think I do.”
“My ohana is everywhere.” Taka fanned out both his hands. “My family that I grew up with are Samoans living in New Zealand. In fact, I will be going to see them at the end of this week.”
“You will? For how long?” She asked. I knew it. Men always leave, just like my father did to my mother…
“Several months. That’s why I came looking for you, to tell you. I didn’t want you to wonder.”
“That was kind of you.” Taka was looking for me. “Can you say why you are leaving?”
“I patrol the edges, where the sea meets the land. I go wherever my chief sends me.”
“Manya.” I should have guessed.
“It’s not like that. What we have unearthed here has an effect on all of Polynesia. I need to supervise on the New Zealand shores while you and Peter keep the Big Island covered.”
“I don’t have the Big Island covered! I can’t even keep my own chest covered.”
Taka chuckled. “I’ll miss you too. Drink up and then I’ll take you back. I have to leave soon.”
“You’re leaving today? I thought you just said the end of this week.”
“I’ll go to D.C. first. Then New Zealand.”
“Yeah. Long way from the Pacific. But I have ohana there too.”
“That’s good. But I was thinking that this whole thing is bigger than I realized.”
“And dangerous. I won’t be here for you to watch over me. So I’ll be extra careful. Watch over yourself since you won’t have me to give you something to do, okay?” He smiled, but only with his mouth. His eyes were worried.
“Count on it. Anything I should know about all this?” She waved her hands to encompass the balmy air.
“Whoever is involved will stop only when they get what they want. You don’t survive if you get in their way. They’ve already killed three people.”
“What do they want?”
“I only have guesses. Nothing sure. I know we were diving for medical supplies. But I’ve also heard rumors that it’s all about ancient treasure. There are lots of stories on the coconut wireless. Often as not the rumors have a grain of truth to them. Best to keep your eyes open and an escape route handy.” He put his arm around her, gave her a squeeze and asked, “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be. Mind going around the loop at Kailua pier?” She asked as they got up to leave. “I want to see who’s at anchor there today.”
“‘Kay.” He buckled the scooter helmet onto her head.
Taka rolled the scooter past the taxi parking and tour buses onto the pier itself. People were milling around from cruise ship tenders. Others were organizing lines for tours. Taka parked. Kumai stepped off the scooter, removed her helmet, and fluffed her hair. She walked to the end of the pier where locals were casting lines for reef fish. The smells of cut bait, coconut lotion, and rusty metals were released in the hot sun.
Out in the bay, the palm tree island for jet skis was doing a brisk business. White trails of foam followed small dots of activity.
A sailboat bobbed and tilted, all sheets down. She was glad not to see Bradon’s boat. The glass bottom boat was already under way above the coral garden where she liked to free dive.
And the Shades of Summer still pivoted at anchor farther out in deep waters. The helicopter was gone from the top deck.
She walked back to Taka on his scooter where he sat with one leg outstretched like a Maori model.
“You make a scooter look good.” She said.
“See what you wanted?” He asked.
“Oh yeah.” She smiled.
“I meant on the water.” He nodded his head in the direction of the yacht. “Don’t think I’d want to go on a boat with the initials SOS.”
Kumai laughed. “I met the owner at the White Benefit. Skip Somethingerother. And I think they call that kine boat a ‘yacht’.”
“Yeah? There’s a fella over there watching you. Know him?” Taka asked.
Kumai looked at the row of tarpaulin shade covers. A man in white shorts, white short sleeves, white socks and Sperry Topsiders looked down at a card in his hand then back up to Kumai. She waved. He waved.
“I would never associate with someone who wears socks with shorts.” She said.
“Then why’d you wave?” Taka asked.
“My way of saying ‘I see you’.”
“If that’s your way of watching out for yourself, maybe I need to stick around.”
“Good idea.” She agreed and hopped back onto the scooter.
She was buckling the helmet when the stranger called out, “Ms. Kaimana?”
“I thought you didn’t know him.” Taka said.
“I thought I didn’t too.”
“Ms. Kaimana? Wait, please. Are you Kumai Kaimana?”
“Who wants to know?” Taka asked.
”Oh, excuse me. I am James, Chief Steward for Mr. Summerbourne. We were told to watch for you here and at the marina. Mr. Summerbourne thought that he was unclear about where you were to meet the tender.”
“Meet the tender?” Kumai asked.
“To the vessel.” James said.
Maybe it was the kava. It certainly wasn’t the socks. But Kumai wondered if it would hurt to take a peek at the Shades of Summer.
“Mr. Summerbourne apologizes that he is not present on the vessel to greet you. But you would be welcome to relax for as long as you wish to remain aboard ship.”
That clarified her decision. No Skip Summerbourne aboard ship meant that Kumai could really enjoy some yacht time. Taka put out his hand for the helmet without saying a word.
“Reconn.” Kumai explained, lifting the helmet.
Taka took her forearm, pulled her close and put his other hand behind her head. She tilted her head down to touch his forehead. He leaned up and kissed her instead. It was a tender kiss, a warm brush against her lips. Kumai stepped back and looked at his eyes as if to ask “what was that?”
He smiled, took the helmet, started the scooter, and said, “See you in a few.”
Kumai shook her head in disbelief. Do men think it’s cute to leave?
As Taka drove away, Kumai turned to James and said, “Please, lead the way.”