“The door is wide open, you know?” Kumai asked the dog. He looked at her like she didn’t understand anything. “Okay, I get it. I’m still in training.”
She had thrown off all her covers. Her phone said it was almost ten in the morning. Instead of putting it back down, she dialed her mom while she escorted the pup through the open door to the mango tree.
“Hola!” Her mother answered.
“Mama! It’s Kumai.”
“Kumai, mi chica! How are you? Is everything okay?”
“Everything’s fine, Mama. And you?”
“Good, good. It’s really good here, you know? There is so much need.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet. I know.”
“We’re still short doctors, so if you know anyone…”
“I’ll keep my ears open.” Kumai said. “Say, Mama, I met a woman here who told me I needed to learn about my heritage. You know, like research my family and our culture. What can you tell me?”
“Your Hawaiian heritage, you mean? I don’t know. That’s something you need to ask your dad. I’m just not sure.”
“Okay, yeah, I’ll ask Dad about the Hawaiian part, but what about your part?”
“Oh, the Mexican part? That’s not really a heritage, I think. It’s just who we are.”
“Um. Okay. But don’t you think there are certain ways to being Mexican?”
“What, like ‘eats beans’?” Her mother scoffed. “That sounds like racism.”
“Mama, no. Can you really say there is nothing distinctly Mexican about our family?” Kumai asked.
“Well, okay. We value family. Some of us more than others, sure, and really who doesn’t value family? But we have some traditions, like, say, your quinceanera. Except for that girl with the weedeater, that wasn’t traditional.”
“Mostly the two mountain villages where I practice here with Doctors Without Borders. You should come spend some time here, get to know your cousins, find some roots.”
“Yes.” Kumai said and shook her head no. She had heard the stories of the crushing poverty and never wanted to go where people were suffering and she was powerless to change it. “For now, I’ll have to settle for learning by telephone.”
“That will give you only words, mi chica. Culture is to be lived, not observed. You cannot separate yourself from life forever. You need to seek out family or build your own.”
Here we go. “Thank you, Mama. You’ve given me things to think about.” Mostly bad memories.
“You know, before coming to these villages, some of our ancestors came from the Aztecs, and some from Spain. So even before your father and I blended two cultures and made you, you were a blend.”
For a doctor, her mother was not very technical. Before they had me, I was? “Before you had me…?”
“The egg. Now you need to call the other part of you. Call your dad. He’s been worried about you.”
“Dad? He has?” And how do you know this?
“Yes. He had a bad feeling, so he called me to ask if I’d heard from you.”
Because it would be weird to call me. “Okay, well, tell him I’m doing great. I’m sorry to make this such a short call, but I gotta go now Mama.”
“I love you! Come see me. Soon.”
“I love you too. Bye bye.”
Kumai touched END and refrained from throwing the telephone at an imaginary Manya and her heritage ideas.
She dialed the resort and asked for the customer service director. Kumai waited on hold for the Big Island’s most expensive development to take her call while they piped the song Poli-ahu I Ke Kapu by Hawane Rios to listeners who probably did not realize that this pretty song was about respecting the land.
The dog stared at her holding the phone. He poked her with his nose and panted.
“Oh yeah. Food.” She led the dog upstairs, keeping the phone to her ear.
“Concierge office, Director Jenkins speaking.”
“Jenkins? Ben Jenkins?” Kumai cringed as she asked.
“Speaking. How can I assist?” He asked.
Ben was the concierge who sneered at Kumai for ‘lying’ about Alii Drive opening at 8:00. And now he would be, or would have been, her boss. “Uh, um. Well, hello. This is Kumai Kaimana.” If he remembers me, I can always hang up.
“Hello, Kumai. How can I help you?”
“Hello. I am interested in continuing my consulting concierge work with the resort and wanted to make contact with whomever is now in charge of guest services.”
“I see. Do you have time for a brief entry interview?”
“Sure. Do you mean right now? That would be fine, if so. I can do an interview via telephone.” She was still hoping that he didn’t connect her name with her face. A telephone interview might be her last hope of work with the Four Seasons.
“Yes, yes, good. For starters, when I have clients ask for supplies not on the usual list of offerings, are you willing to be our resource person?” He asked.
A long silence followed. A cat meowed somewhere nearby. Kumai knew what he was asking. How far would she go to get people what they wanted? Was she willing to break the law? With Annamae, Kumai had traveled the value scale of grey area. Lately she wasn’t feeling as willing to break the law. Maybe her dead neighbors had sobered her.
She sighed. “Mr. Jenkins, I will do everything in my power to get our clientele what they want. What is not in my power, however, is an ability to change laws single-handedly. For that reason, there are requests which I am sorry to say I would decline.” Goodbye, dream job.
“Let me be sure I understand you correctly. Are you saying that you will not break any laws? What if they prevent you from fulfilling your concierge duties?” He asked.
“That’s correct. I will not intentionally break any laws.”
“Do you have some sort of religious or moral grounds that prevent you from performing your full duties?” He asked.
“No. I simply want to keep things as low stress and as clean as possible. I see myself as able to perform my full duties as a concierge and easily remain within the law.” With a little creative-connecting.
“You surprise me, Ms. Kaimana. I would expect you to do whatever it takes to please the customer.” He paused.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you. I would, it’s just that…”
“Please don’t interrupt. I said surprise, not disappoint. Unless you’ve changed your mind about what you would be willing to do?” He asked.
This guy was not what she was expecting at all. Did she want to change her mind and go back to full service? “I’m sorry. No.” She said.
“So then as I was saying, I have held the wrong impression about you. When Annamae would refer clients to you, I assumed it was for our clientele’s fringe activities. When you made up a time for the opening of Alii Drive, I saw that as confirmation of your willingness to go to any length to please the client. I think I may have gotten you wrong.”
No, no, you got me right. But it’s too bad that you remembered the Alii Drive thing.
He continued, “Of all the contract concierges available, you are the only one so far who has refused to break the law.”
Really? Peer pressure? If all the concierges jumped off of a cliff… He’s going to tell me not to let the door hit me on my way out.
He was still talking, “As you might imagine. This leaves me short-handed in specialty areas.”
I wouldn’t think you’d miss me. I didn’t do that much.
“But if you can handle the work load, I have several clients to send your way.”
“Work? Sent my way?” Kumai asked. She didn’t understand what this guy was saying. Maybe he was too young to communicate effectively in a leadership position.
“Yes, Ms. Kaimana. Your contract is renewed. You are the only independent concierge who has been reinstated. Our resort wants no association with illegal activities. When are you available?”
“Oh, well, thank you? I, let’s see, I’m committed through tomorrow.”
“Very good. I will call you tomorrow afternoon to give you client info and requests. Welcome back.”
“Thank you.” Kumai said, taking Mana inside and sitting down on the lanai to think.
“Aloha.” Ben said and hung up.
Kumai squinted out to sea. A haze of vog obscured the horizon. No boats were on the water. She had chosen the hammock chair for her seat and the gentle swaying made her eyes heavy. She yawned. The cat meowed again somewhere. Her uncle said, “Hello.”
“Uncle Leo?” She asked.
Mana went racing back into the house and ran into each room, looking.
“Hello.” Uncle Leo said.
“Where are you?” Kumai asked. Mana looked at her with the same question.
The cat meowed.
“Wait.” Kumai said. “I know that meow. Dave?”
“Hello.” Came the distorted imitation of her uncle’s voice.
“Dave!” Kumai laughed. Mana barked. They followed the bird’s calls to find him down on the dryer in his cage. “Buddy! How are you?”
The bird flapped and fluffed and turned his head down to look at her with one eye.
“Ready to come out and play?” Kumai asked, unlatching the door. She carried the bird back up with her to the kitchen. Mana wanted to sniff Dave, so she let him do a brief check on the African Gray.
While making coffee and feeding the dog, she asked the animals, “What just happened? Am I still supposed to direct clients to resources, but not say I’m doing that?”
Mana looked up to her, wagged, then returned to eating. Dave walked the counter sideways away from her.
“You’re right, of course.” She said to the bird, “Every questionable interaction will feel like a sting operation now. I can’t risk it.” She returned to the hammock, placed Dave on the wood cross bar, put her feet up and sipped some coffee.
Banana leaves clacked in a gentle breeze. A hen and chicks clucked and peeped cheerfully as they hunted for bugs under the lanai. A Kalij pheasant pestered another for attention, then thrummed the air with its plumage.
When Kumai woke up, her coffee was cold. She got up, microwaved it, and returned to the hammock. Her stomach twinged with a slight pang of hunger, and she thought about getting out of her seat again to rummage through her ohana’s refrigerator. But just then Dave flew down toward Mana where he was stretched out sleeping. Kumai watched as the bird backed up into the circle of the dog’s tail and nestled in to sleep.
She yawned, stretched, sipped the coffee and then set it on the lanai railing. When she woke up again, the coffee was cold.
She got back up to heat the coffee, debated brewing a fresh cup, and glanced at the digital clock on the microwave. Either someone left three minutes on the timer or Kumai had slept away the middle of the day. She checked the time on her phone. Three o’clock. She would have to skip coffee now or she would never sleep tonight.
The microwave could hold a pile of leftover containers, so she stacked them from the refrigerator and started heating foods. The coffee went down the drain and she poured herself a cold glass of sparkling water. The dog was carrying Dave on his back. He trailed her to the lanai table where she set out her small feast and ate in near silence. An occasional bird twittered, dove cooed, and car passed, but the farm was definitely quieter by day than night.
“Like Las Vegas, only really different.” she said to Mana who took that as an invitation to sit near by. Dave hopped onto the the back of her chair. She lifted a small bite of her food on the tines of the fork and put it in front of the dog. His teeth clinked on the metal. By the third bite, he had learned to remove the food without biting the fork, like a dolphin removes bait from a trawling hook. The bird got small bites of food next.
Saying Las Vegas made Kumai think of Kirby. She had put him out of her mind because after some time in the twelve-step community, she knew that his drinking would fast become a problem for both of them. She might be seeing glimmers of healthy choices from herself, first about Kirby, then with the resort. Maybe she was getting stronger. That idea was worthy of note, but did she want to celebrate by having champagne or logging on to a meeting?
She took the dog and bird for a short walk around the place. Under the mango tree the ground had been turned up by foraging pigs. The air was sweet and sour with the scent of fallen fruit. Mana trotted over with an avocado he had found and sat down to work on it. Dave waddled over and pecked at the black leathery skin as well.
“Leave it, you two.” Kumai commanded. Mana hesitated then got up to follow her. Dave hopped onto his back. The lemon and lime trees were bearing fruit. Kumai picked a few of the small perfect citrus, breathing in the electric smells. She piled them into the upturned hem of her shirt to carry them.
Her ohana’s landlord walked up the driveway as she headed back. She cursed silently and wanted to drop the fruit but it was too late for that.
“Well hello lovely lady.” He said.
“Hi, Mr. Richardson.” She answered and kept walking.
He stared at her bare waistline and where her folded shirt revealed her toned stomach. “Whatcha got there?” He asked, uninterested in the fruits.
“Lemons!” she called out as she continued walking away. “Tree’s loaded.” She raced the dog back into the house. Great. Now he knows I’m here alone.
Determined to enjoy her stay at the farm, she let go of any worry about the landlord’s attentions and fixed a beer with lime. She fired up her laptop and took it to the hammock chair, but caught herself before she sat down. Instead she chose an upright lanai chair and the table for logging into the meeting.
It was dark by the time she logged off. She closed the glowing screen and let the cool night air and changing sounds swirl around her. A cat meowed.
“Dave?” She called out. “Where are you?”
“Hello.” came the mock-uncle’s voice from out near the garden. A surprised screech came from the bird and something ran past the house under the lanai. Pigs?
“Shit.” Someone whispered in the distant darkness. “She’s not alone.”
“No, dude. And she has some sort of flying attack cat. I’m outta here.”
Kumai held very still, one hand resting on Mana’s neck where she could feel the bristle of his hackles and the rumble of a building growl.