7 Ehiku ~ Exchange Vehicle

hualalai lighted entryKumai wasn’t going to try to work at the office today with fresh produce in the trunk and a dog tagging along.  She passed the entry to the Four Seasons Hualalai resort, marked by a sole acacia tree out on the lava field.  She drove twenty miles farther up the highway, turned onto Puako Road, and shifted down into second.

The dog sat up and rested his chin on the door frame like he was lost in the moment.  What would this moment be like for a dog?  Kumai rested her hand on his back where warm sun and cool shade alternated gently on his black fur.  The scent of the air changed from baked rock to sea breezes to plumeria-blossom perfume.  They passed a full dumpster and the dog sat upright, nose twitching at the aroma of rotting fish.  Puppy potpourri.  Kumai held her breath until they were past the odor.

The Puako General Store looked busy as they passed.  Like an Old West trading post, the convenience store had a wide covered porch out front.  Two horses were tethered to the wood railing.  Parked between Mercedes and BMW’s were a 1980’s wood-side Jeep Wagoneer, a nondescript minivan, several scooters, two identical white rental cars, and a black Hummer.

Kumai released the accelerator and hesitated.  Should she go back and see if the Hummer was Kane or just go on?  If it was Kane’s Hummer, she would be seeing him Friday anyway.  The memory surfaced of slowing him down on the way to the airport.  He hadn’t actually seen that she was the driver of the annoying blue convertible.  Maybe she would rent a car for Friday.  Or maybe she would be on duty with her client’s pickup truck.  A lot could change in two days.  Right now, stopping by to say hello this far from town might look like stalker behavior.  She pressed gently on the gas and continued toward home.

The little yellow plantation house never looked so inviting as today.  Her dinner-plate hibiscus at the mailbox had opened a blazing golden bloom with orange flare in the center.  Kumai unloaded the car and got to work right away on her laptop at the kitchen counter.  Three windows were open:  Craigslist Big Island trucks and cars for sale, email, and a text document titled ‘dog names’.  She piled fresh produce into her nearly-empty refrigerator and dialed the number for a toyota pickup for sale.  She typed in dog names as they came to her, referred to the book she got at the pet store and opened another web page to google dog names.

“Hello?”

Kumai had to pause for a second, trying to remember who she had called, “Uh, Hi!”  She clicked on the Craigslist tab.  Oh yeah, “I’m calling about the truck you have for sale.”

“Sold.  Sorry.”

“Wow.  Okay, thanks.”

“Have a good one.”

“Aloha.”

She went straight to the next listing out of the three potential vehicles.  She dialed and got the same response, sold this morning when he placed the ad.

Kumai had thought her client’s $20,000 was excessive.  Maybe she was going to have to use it all.  Which reminded her to open her Square account and check.  Yep.  The money was there.  What if she couldn’t find a truck?

She dialed the third number, not her favorite make of vehicle but she might have to settle.  This time the seller had a recorded message, “If you’re calling about the truck, it’s sold.”

By tonight, her client would be on-island and expecting to have a truck.

Kumai refreshed the Craigslist page.  Sure enough, the trucks she had seen were removed.  A dump truck, military transport, and 1949 pickup remained.  The antique had been souped up and looked good.  Only, this truck was in Hilo, the other side of the island.

******49 Ford Pick Up Truck***** – $20000 (Hilo)

lightning11949 Ford F-1

49 ford pick up truck….V8 302 mustang engine,auto trans w/shift kit.9 inch rear end,
nice truck and fun to drive,seriouse people send your contact info PH# and I will call you as soon as I can.
Mahalo

They were asking exactly $20,000.  It must be a sign.  That, and Kumai was feeling desperate.

“Hello?”  A woman answered.

“Hi, I’m calling about your truck.”

“Okay.  What can I tell you?”

“You know, I would ask the usual questions, but I’m trying to buy it for a woman who has everything.  Is this the truck for that woman?”

“Is that woman you?”

“Nope.”

“Do you know her taste?”

“Haven’t a clue.”

“Well, that’s a challenge.  But if health and true love count for ‘everything’, then I’m just like that woman.  ‘Cept I don’t have cash and it sounds like she does.  Me?  I love this truck.”

“But you need cash, so you’re selling.”  Kumai finished her story for her.

“That’s da kine.”

“Would you be likely to deliver to Kona?”

“Would you be likely to fly me back over to Hilo?”

“Can do.”  Kumai answered.  “If the truck isn’t what I need, I’ll pay you for the gas round trip, and your time.  Deal?”

“I can be anywhere on the island in around three hours.  Where’s there?”

“Do you know Puako?  Near Hapuna?”

“Sure.”  The woman said.

“Do you have a smart phone?”  Kumai asked.

“You called it.”

“Maybe download the Square app if you haven’t already so I can transfer the money straight to you.”

“I’ll try that.  I’m Bonnie, by the way.  Do I use this number if I need to call you?”

“Yes, great.  I’m Kumai.  Thanks, Bonnie.  I’ll see you some time after noon.”

“A hui hou!”

Kumai’s stomach clenched as she touched the end-call button.  What did she just do?  She refreshed the Craigslist page.  The dump truck disappeared.

She finished up the list of dog names and sent it to Susan, her client.  She didn’t mention the truck — yet.

puneebedBy quitting the gardening class, she had gained two hours in her day.  It was a little after nine in the morning.  Kumai felt exhausted.  Out on the lanai, the pup was curled up sound asleep on the punee bed.  Pretty day, nice breeze, good idea.  She went out, stretched onto the bed, and closed her eyes to listen to the surf and birds.  The sea breeze kept her feet cool while the dog snuggled along her back and warmed her.  She didn’t remember the cushions being this comfortable.  But she also couldn’t remember the last time she’d lounged out here on the punee.

She woke up sweating.  Something in her dreams, a backhoe screeching on rocks or something metal, she couldn’t quite grasp the dream before it evaporated.  The dog was sitting up, staring at her.  Maybe she’d been whimpering in her sleep, kicking her legs like she was running.  The dog actually looked nervous.

The nap had rested Kumai, but now she wanted to stay there and rest for the entire day.  A do-nothing day sounded just right.  Except that she had plenty to do.  Guilt washed over Kumai as she thought about how she could perk up.  It wouldn’t take much of a hit now that she didn’t use cocaine regularly.  Regularly?  At all.  She went back inside and logged into SOS.  Her sponsor was online.

The dog whimpered and yelped.

“Yeah, buddy.  I understand.  Don’t take the first hit.”  Kumai said.  She refilled the dog’s food and water.  She went to feed Dave and remembered that he was with Uncle.

Kumai’s sponsor messaged back and forth for a while then suggested to Kumai that it was time to call a safe friend to come over.  Kumai sounded like she was getting too lonely.

At first the idea of loneliness peeved Kumai.  Then she realized that her sponsor was right.  She dialed Sage, “Want some garden-fresh produce?”

“Give me thirty?”

“Great.  Thanks, Sage.”

“No thanks needed.  I love getting to see you!”

Sage was Kumai’s ocean friend.  They met at the pier when they both were going to work one day, Kumai with the dive charter and Sage as a professional mermaid.  They had shared a bento of sushi and become friends in spite of their very different lifestyles.

Thinking about that sushi reminded Kumai that she was also thirsty and hungry.  No wonder she was struggling with the urge to use.  She rifled through the fresh kale, boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables, and decided she would make a smoothy.  Under a bag of spinach was the package of snoballs.  Maybe she would skip the smoothy.  She poured herself a glass of water and sat down to gently tear open the package.  The dog sighed and put his head on Kumai’s lap.  Small bits of pink coconut dropped from each bite and he searched them out.  Tongue prints from the dog dotted the floor around her chair.

Her cell phone rang and showed the caller to be Susan Winters.

“Aloha, Ms. Winters.”

“Hello, aloha, Kumai.  I’m not sure I’m going to get to Kona tonight after all.  Do you think you could go to the ranch without me if I have to postpone?”

Kumai looked longingly at her bedroom, then looked away to be less tempted to think of her comfort more than work.  Unfortunately, she looked out to the punee bed.  She looked down and reflexively opened her notepad on the table, “I’d be happy to go to the ranch.  Is tomorrow soon enough?”

“Tomorrow?  I was thinking tonight.  But I guess that’s because I hope to be coming in tonight …and there was something else.  Oh, the dog.  But the dog’s with you.  Is the dog with you?”

“He’s right beside me.”

“Okay, good.  So, sure, tomorrow’s soon enough if it looks like I’ll be flying there tomorrow.  We can go up to the ranch together.  And I’d really prefer that you call me Susan.  How is it coming buying a truck?”

“I got the money in the Square account, thank you.  And I sent you a list of potential dog names via email.  And, about the truck…”

Susan interrupted, “Oh good!  You found one?  You’re amazing.”

“I haven’t bought it yet.  Trucks are selling quickly, so this was an alternate choice.  It’s not typical.  In fact, it may be something of a surprise.”

“Oh!  A surprise!?  I love surprises.”

“Oh?  Okay, good.”  Kumai jotted in her notebook ‘SW:  + surprises.”  It was helpful to note any of her client’s preferences until she got a better sense of the person.  She added ‘+ Susan’ to remind herself to use her first name.  “So, it’s not your typical truck, as I said, it’s…”

“No, wait! Don’t tell me.  Let it be a surprise.”

“How surprising do you like your surprises?”

“Very.  Ok, okay.  You can tell me what color it is.”

“I haven’t bought it yet. I’ll be looking at it in a few hours.”

“You don’t think anyone else will get it, do you?  Want me to send more money in case anyone outbids you?”

“I think we’re set if we want it.”

“If?  Do you even know what color it is?”

“It’s gold.”

“Oh, wow.  One of my favorite colors!”  Susan said.

Kumai wrote ‘+ gold’ on her notepad.  “Well, that’s good.  You sure I can’t tell you about it before I buy it?”

“Just the color.  I can picture it and I love it already.”

Bet you can’t, Kumai thought, and said, “What are your other favorite colors?”

“Green.  Those two:  green and gold.  Love them because they’re the color of money.”

Kumai wrote ‘+green’ and said, “Okay.  If the truck looks okay to me, I’ll buy it.”

“Perfect!  Thanks.”  Click.

Kumai added to her list ‘+ $’ although she was likely to remember that one.  She thought about what would be the color of money for her.  Red, most days, with some copper thrown in at times.

She walked over to her model ship and dropped a twenty into the hatch to add to the dive boat fund.  She felt sure that more was on its way.

The day was warming up so Kumai opened her front door to get a breeze going.  She turned on the ceiling fan of slow rolling bamboo slats carved like palm leaves.  The air stirred and smelled of the gardenia blooming by the entry.  She moved out to sit on her front porch until Sage came but had to go sniff the flowers first.

Bright blue flecks of paint on the end of her driveway puzzled her.  She walked over to investigate when it occurred to her that the chips were exactly the color of Inigo Montoya, her Miata, which she looked at to see the trunk wrinkled up in an ugly sneer and laying ajar.

 

And then…

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