Kill ‘em With Kindness
To the memory of Monica Ovens, 1967-1990
SPECIAL THANKS TO
Andrew Annenberg, Jamie Bellman, Lois Bisquera,
Arlyne Davis, Arnawood Iskenderian, Cheryl Kauha‘aPo
Owen Laster, Chris Magee, Lyra McDougall,
Leslee Matassa, Victor Pellegrino,
Ron Kenar (Art to Print)
Stand Up written by Leo Anderson Akana. Printed with permission.
ACCOMMODATIONS FOR MAN AND BEAST
It is only at very long intervals that I mention in a letter matters which properly pertain to the advertising columns, but in this case it seems to me that to leave out the fact that there is a neat, roomy, well-furnished, and well-kept hotel at the volcano, would be to remain silent upon a point of the very highest importance to anyone who may desire to visit the place. The surprise of finding a good hotel in such an outland-ish spot startled me considerably more than the volcano did.
The house is new-built three to four months ago-and the table is good. One could not easily starve here even if the meats and groceries were to give out, for large tracts of land in the vicinity are well paved with excellent strawberries.
One can have as abundant a supply as he chooses to call for. There has never heretofore been anything in this locality for the accommodation of travelers but a crazy old native grass hut, scanty fare, hard beds of matting and a Chinese cook.
From Mark Twain’s Letters from Hawaii, June 1866.
Edited by A. Grove Day, University of Hawaii Press. Reprinted with permission.
THE PLACE AND THE MAN
The isolated lodge was precariously perched on the summit of Kilauea, Hawaii’s most active volcano. Actually, the lodge is situated right on Kilauea’s rim, majestically overlooking the volcano’s vast, steamy, spooky bottomless-crater. The landmark inn is appropriately named Volcano House.
The three-story stone building has stood watch over the caldera for over a hundred years. In the immediate vicinity earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have been dramatic examples of the volcano’s violent ways. During past eruptions Kilauea has coughed up countless tons of lava. The volcano’s continuous regurgitating nature keeps the process going. The mountain has rebuilt its rigid cliffs many times over. Those mammoth cliffs that supported Volcano House, in the past, have been violently shaken by gigantic tremors and engulfed by curtains of smoke and fire rumbling, shaking and teetering, only to tumble back into a sea of hot boiling lava.
Kilauea’s characteristics and history are like the mythical bird Phoenix. After the collapse those tumbled walls immediately start to rise again and like Phoenix Kilauea begins the laborious process all over again.
There are stories about the volcano. Hawaiian mythology infers that Pele is the possessive caretaker of Kilauea. Legend has it that this Polynesian fire goddess still resides deep inside the volcano. Some say that her spirit has been known to take on human images. Supposedly, from time to time, she has ventured out of the core of her fiery home and mingled with Hawaii residents and visitors.
Countless stories have circulated about her sudden and unexpected appearances around Kilauea and throughout the entire Hawaiian Island chain. She’s been coined by students of Hawaiian folklore as the “queen of manifestation.” It’s said she takes on a multitude of identities and disguises while fooling unsuspecting mortals. Legend further states Kilauea’s seductive madam has a reputation and a rabid appetite for certain tastes such as tobacco, gin, danger, along with a hunger and a somewhat raunchy desire for saucy favors from wayward men. Her royal title and status as “reigning fire goddess,” along with peoples’ good Hawaiian manners has enabled her to maintain her immortal dignity. Keeping in mind her colorful image, Hawaiians have refuted all attempts that try to deem her as tramp-like. Natives Hawaiians have elevated her status far above any other common less-deserving fire goddess.
“Who`s to judge the morals of an immortal?” asks those who delve into Hawaiian mythology. Perhaps immortals have their own set of scruples? After all, even a Hawaiian kahuna respects Pele’s blazing fickleness. Those who have listened to the whimpers and whining of her so-called victims point out, by referring to an old adage with an island-style twist “it wen take two to mango, Brah.”
Her legacy carries a rich, rabble-rising tradition, yet in the eyes of those who reside in the Aloha State, and especially those who are respectful of the is1ands’ “Aloha ways,” she’s always considered very much a lady. Those who cross the path of this torrid wahine are better off if reminded how all is fair in love and war.
Nothing can remain sacred especially when one is within the confines of Pele’s fiery domain. Mortals, weakened by her power may find her lair alluring and appealing, yet in reality, no more than an opportunity to participate in a mere indiscriminate interlude.
Oh! That Pele, she sets a tasty table, a smorgasbord of what seems to be servings of genuine beauty, promise, joy and passion. They’re guises better left alone. She sends out lures that can suddenly transform into a nightmarish world of anguish, disappointment, pain and even death. Once her victims are caught up in her escape proof web there’s no way out. Visitors of Hawaii should note that past earthquakes and firestorms are proofs of Pele’s disconcerting wrath. Traveling men should take heed if they come in contact with a mysterious unaccompanied damsel while roving through the land of the volcanoes.
Ancient Hawaiians referred to hot lava as a‘a. Maybe the native word, a‘a was the cry shouted out by early Hawaiians whose asbestos-like feet became scorched by hot remnants of recent lava flows. During prolonged eruptions, boiling liquid matter violently vomited up from deep within the caldera. Undauntedly the lava streamed towards the blue Pacific. Despite the obvious dangers, Hawaiians in the immediate area still moved between their villages while in the midst of the ongoing eruptions.
Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions were not enough to stifle the commerce of the old-time islanders.
Kilauea is on the Island of Hawai‘i, which is commonly referred to as “The Big Island.” Of the three active volcanoes on the island, Kilauea is the most active rift on the southeast slopes. From Honolulu, Kilauea is located about two hundred and fifty miles to the southeast and far from cosmopolitan Honolulu. The Big Island is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of honky-tonk Waikiki.
Kilauea, as far as Hawaiian volcanoes go, shares the Big Island with Mauna Loa, the Big Island’s other active volcano. The dormant Mauna Kea also leases space. Just to the northwest, about 50 miles away rests Maui’s volcanic entry, Mt. Haleakala also deemed dormant.
Kilauea is the most active of the Hawaiian volcanoes, and fairly so, gets most of the attention.
Twentieth century Hawaii, including the state university and the U.S. Government keeps a watchful eye on Kilauea. Volcanologists from all over the world venture to Kilauea to study its slopes and investigate its steam vents. The National Park Service actually continues to encourage tourists to come and observe the active volcano despite the hazards. Within the eruption area are a number of observatories with scientific instruments for various field experiments. Scattered throughout the park are monitors that keep track of the volcano’s every movement. Petro graphic fields and lava tubes are easily accessible to hardy hikers.
It’s not unusual to hear about wayward explorers taking tumbles down a lava tube maybe falling into oblivion. Despite the dangers, visitor pavilions, restrooms and marked scenic sites pepper the park. Areas that are volcanically active are usually kept off limits to onlookers. Still, with safeguards, modern technology hasn’t always been able to predict the time, place or the precise direction of the lava flow oozing off Kilauea’s east ridge.
Many isolated homes, just outside the park, have fallen victim by being in the path of renegade lava flows. The families who once resided in those now burnt out houses come to realize the downside of their homesteading. Perhaps they were afflicted and suffered from wishful thinking, mistakenly relying on the notion that Pele might show compassion and spare their Hawaiian homestead. Fat chance!
The most significant manmade feature in the park is Volcano House. The inn has a rich history. Since it was built, Hawaiian royalty, U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries along with a plethora of VIPs and celebrities have observed Kilauea’s caldera from the grounds of the lodge. The inn and its sturdy granite walls have provided warmth, shelter and good-spirits to many over the years. Ripley’s Believe It or Not published sometime back in the thirties describing how the flames of Volcano House’s fireplace, burns around the clock 24/7/365. The fireplace’s warmth enjoyed by Volcano House’s chilly guests.
Folks visiting Hawai‘i don’t always suspect how it can get relatively cool while 6,000 feet above sea level; despite the fact Kilauea rests on the 20th parallel. It can get downright cold.
The innkeeper of the Volcano House, Darwin Kindness had been the inn’s thoughtful guardian since who knows when. He’d become a fixture atop Kilauea. Folks at the lodge stopped trying to guess Darwin’s age yet he stood tall and erect, not rigid, but relaxed. His head was aristocratically shaped. His features, sharp. His royal-blue eyes sparkled like windows might on a downtown skyscraper with reflections of the sun while showcasing what might only be described as an end of the trail finality. He sported a somewhat pointed nose, like a French poodle. Darwin boasted hound-dog-like ears. His face remained contoured, its upper portion fitted with sturdy facial bones, them protruding somewhat, pressing outward towards his skin. All of that beaming life, the smile, the persona, rested upon a clean-shaven, elongated chin. His crown was more than adequately capped with a snow-white mane highlighted in the rear by a flamboyant ponytail, always lassoed together with a thick rubber band. Matching his eyes, deep blue veins, looking more like road maps, crisscrossed over the tops of his tanned hands. The bronze pair of mitts could have been those of a classical pianist. He dressed casually, usually in well-pressed, soft-looking khakis. Often, new employees, recent business associates or houseguests could be overheard asking Darwin his age.
Darwin’s pat answer had him paraphrasing the old-time, Major League baseball player, Satchel Page, “I don’t quite know,” he’d drawl. Then he’d ask back, “How old would you say you was, if you didn’t know how old you is?” Such responses usually silenced the questioners until they placed Satchel’s “old black-Joe” shtick in some sort of order.
Darwin was romantically attached to that old baseball player’s antidotes and more so he was romantically attached to all of baseball. Darwin could talk baseball with the best of them. He knew and could rattle off precisely and infallibly names of the 500-home-run hitters, the 300-game winners and those who had achieve that lofty plateau of 3,000-hits. But he especially relished those moments he spoke about the old ball player, Satchel Page. Old Satchel, the super-star pitcher from the old Negro leagues, played most of his career in the minor leagues and didn’t get a chance to show his stuff in the majors until he was well past his prime. Satchel had been robbed of his youth and further stifled during the dark time of segregation. By the time baseball came to its senses and Satchel finally made it up to the Majors, smart-assed sports writers showed more interest in his increasing age than the decreasing speed of his once mighty fastball. According to Darwin, the strong-armed pitcher may have been capable of equaling the feats of the all-time great starting pitchers who ever played the sport.
Besides baseball, and the volcano, the other passion in Darwin’s life was the music of Frank Sinatra. Those three were definitely the cynosures in Darwin’s life in the order of Kilauea, Major League Baseball and Sinatra. Darwin derived much pleasure slipping Sinatra lyrics and baseball jargon, integrating them into his day-to-day conversations.
Often, while strolling around the inn he could be overheard crooning to himself blissfully, “I did it myyyyway.” When feeling extra chirpy, during baseball season, he’d hot-step it through the lodge’s hallways, snapping his fingers and singing: “I got you . . . Dodger blue … under my skin. I got you deep inside of me.” And then he’d go on to fill in the rest of his Sinatra tune with frivolous lyrics about the Dodgers.
Darwin was thoroughly acquainted with Kilauea and its immediate surroundings; so much so, he was considered as its foremost expert.
He led many an expedition around Kilauea’s vast caldera. His volcano trudging troops ranged from escorting seasoned geologist to snot-nosed cub scouts. Darwin’s caravans of backpacked, hiking-shoed and mostly amateur volcanologists snaked their way through the crater all year round. At times they found themselves perilously positioned within pockets of bubbling lava. Lucky for them, with Darwin at the lead, there was no need to worry.
Darwin Kindness, the ideal employer, always- pleasant, considerate and even-handed, the temperament of mensch, perhaps the nicest person one could imagine.
His congeniality melted away any uptightness or insecurity. Darwin, in an effortless manner, quickly erased any misgivings or inhibitions a new employee might harbor. Initial tense guests too were quick to find out, after being introduced to Darwin and soon enough would find themselves smiling.
As could be expected, considering the hotel business, guests may have experienced a rigorous or aggravating journey while making their way to the Islands. Shortly thereafter Darwin’s for-real demeanor had them feeling right at home. For example, if the new guests’rooms weren’t ready, he’d escort those concerned about their accommodations outside to the gardens, while their rooms were being readied. His handholding methods relieved anxieties pent up and stowed away during treks to Kilauea. His actions offered those lucky souls a foothold relationship with a man that I’m sure most would never forget for the rest of their lives.
Most of the employees could recall at least one favorite story about how Darwin soothed disgruntled recent arrivals with his calm, collective mannerisms.
In my mind, I can still hear his pleas, “Please sir,” or “Steady ma’am. Let me be of some service to you . . . I’m sure I can have someone help you with what must be an urgent problem or I can handle it myself. Why not for the moment accompany me outside and permit me show off our Hawaiian nene birds? You know, while you are here you should take the rare opportunity to observe these fascinating birds. This is one of the few places in the world that they live. They’re almost extinct. Afterwards perhaps, we can go into the dining room and we’ll have one of our waiters bring us all something refreshing. Please, try to relax. No need for worry, you stay Hawai‘i now. We’ll have everything straightened out in no time.”
Darwin’s expression spelled out confidence. His argument always velvet gloved convincing. Despite the corniness his formula was consistent. First, as I’ve said, he’d relax the guests. Then he’d convey they (the guests) were in Hawaii, so remote, so far away, so far away from what might seem as a crisis. “Therefore” he’d sum up, “your problem is too far away for you to do anything about.”
By some’ strange coincidence, which only happened ALL THE TIME Darwin’s new guests’ looming ills quickly evaporated into mountain thin air or became no more than a secondary nuisance. Those annoyances, which might be construed by others as far out of Darwin’s jurisdiction, were resolved in a jiffy.
The unflappable Darwin enunciated some of his reassuring oratory in speech, with a baby talk accent, an accent likened to a singsong, a verbiage Islanders refer to as Pidgin.
I was privy to the magic firsthand. I discovered concepts about how to handle peoples’ problems. I was proud to be his protégé. Over the years Darwin and I had nurtured a bond. Darwin shared his philosophical strategies. He tutored me and further shared his knowledge with whoever was smart enough to listen. Hearing his wisdom was a perk that came with the job.
“Calmness,” he’d say while coaching me. “Calmness is the key, Louis. Calmness showcases the very soul of a Man. Calmness advertises a person’s confidence, a positive attribute. One who exercises calmness, exercises self control; therefore he or she is capable of genuine leadership. Those who display calmness possess the power to reinforce the shrinking spirits of their subordinates. Calmness also warns potential enemies of the consequences, and if they attempt foul play. Calmness might forecast that there could be serious trouble. A calm person has the tendency to be efficient. Those who exude calmness send out a message, less likely to fall victim to the whims of the conceited or selfish.
“Note that the calmness of cool headed leader allows them to place their priorities in their proper perspective. And most of all it’s contagious too, Louis. Thank goodness for mankind that calmness is contagious.
“On the other-hand, don’t forget, never panic! On the backside of the coin of emotion is panic. Panic is just as contagious as calmness. Only worse. Panic’s a killer. Panic splits alliances. It reduces once disciplined armies into a pack of murderous thugs. When panic occurs, then chaos isn’t far behind. For its victim comes the inevitable–sure death! Panic destroys from within. It can express-mail both a man’s body and soul straight to hell.
“Always try to stay calm, Louis. More than anything, stay calm,” he’d preach.
After observing Darwin’s miracles over the years, I no longer was surprised by his pacification program and its success after he’d lay dose of Darwin on bitchier guests as he turned them into pussycats. By the time those grumps had finished their first walk with the boss, presto! He’d have those crossed-up reservations straightened out.
Abracadabra! In no time the lost luggage? Found. Miraculously, those misplaced keys or travelers’ checks somehow reappeared.
Whamo! That all-important phone call came through. And for the “umpteenth” time, and for that moment, everything seems perfect. Darwin was remarkable.
I can still see Darwin, standing off the lobby, ease-dropping on a telephone conversation that’s “the angel-of-mercy call.” He’d remain ultra humble, but still, while listening he made sure he maintained eye contact with the guest.
At the same time he’d gleam with a confident smile that it just had to be good news on the other end of the line. Relieved by the news and no sooner had the guest let down the receiver he’d politely ask, “Is there anything else we can do to make your stay pleasurable?”
With all the humbug I never once saw him fail nor had I over witnessed him fuss or fret. His office was always strewn with recent mail from all around the world. Once home, past guests, who may have lost their composure in Darwin’s presence and who were now perhaps embarrassed, wrote letters that reflected their past actions.
Many didn’t wait until they returned home for their mea cupas. Much of their time was spent making up to Darwin and the staff, some over-ingratiating, yet sincere.
Darwin in true Victorian style reacted oblivious to most of it. With all the letters and fanfare one might think that eventually it would have all gone to his head. Often, he’ d pretend to have forgotten the entire, silly episode.
“My dear man, why of course anyone would have been upset. We were fortunate that everything worked out.”
He insisted that his guests maintain their dignity. He’d let on as if nothing had ever happened. At times he confided in me the fact that he never demeaned or ever once tried to make a guest feel uncomfortable, even after the worst faux pas.
Darwin preached a “turn the other cheek” philosophy, “Volcano House belongs to each and every guest who honors us, as much as it belongs to you and me,” he’d insist.
Short errands by Darwin, while passing through the lodge, could take almost an hour. Once outside the confines of his office the guests descended upon him the way paparazzi overwhelm celebrities, desiring to shake his hand, talk story, or at least be acknowledged by “the man.” Some envisioned themselves as automatically becoming prestigious or prominent if seen hobnobbing with Darwin. Around the banquet tables guest often could be overheard bragging, “Darwin told me this and Darwin and me were discussing. Me and Darwin . . .”
The fanfare annoyed the staff that he was always being constantly sought after. They appreciated his time too and perhaps they were jealous, feeling as if they were being denied some of his much-wanted light that stemmed from Darwin, He didn’t take time for himself while pestered by favor-seeking lodgers. Employees marveled how Darwin remained kind and attentive to the petty needs of those who were just passing through and those who in the future could never be counted on to repay their host. But Darwin ate it up and acted more like a vote stomping politician. He’d shake hands, share tidbits and pat youngsters on the head. He pointed out vistas thousands of times over. He never appeared to get upset or flustered. Despite the enormous load he was forever pleasant.
I‘d been Darwin Kindness’s head Bell Captain at the lodge up until last November. I worked directly under Darwin Kindness for over ten years. On October 31st, last Halloween I closed my career at Volcano House. Louis is my name. Here is my story.
One day last August, Darwin suddenly informed me the Volcano House reservations were then booked up for the last week of October. Furthermore, he wanted me to cancel any outstanding reservations that we may have accepted beforehand. Most peculiarly, though, he ordered the main dinning room for dinner also be closed to the public during that time, but that usual buffet breakfast and lunch were to be offered daily to the public.
Darwin explained, there was a special party arriving that week instead of the status quo. This was the first instance that I ever remembered such exclusivity being extended towards a private party. There had been other requests in the past, but all were turned down. Regardless of the irregularity,
Darwin was the boss and if he said the inn was going to be closed due to a private party, well, that was that as far as I was concerned.
Each Thursday I drove Darwin into the small town of Hilo, the Island of Hawaii’s county seat. Once there he’d shop for personal items. With all of his worldliness Darwin never mastered the practicality of driving an automobile. As a matter of fact, Darwin didn’t have the knack or desire to operate any type of equipment. He’d kid about the idea that he couldn’t even use an electric shaver. Once, both of us went together – to the Mainland, to San Francisco for a convention. Darwin insisted our suite be no more than three flights of stairs from the ground floor. He had some sort of phobia about operating an unattended elevator. If he were to return to the hotel without me he’d be sure to use the fire tower stairway. Other than a few minor quirks Darwin was an easy traveling partner.
So, every Thursday Darwin and I motored off to Hilo, shelving our Volcano House chores for the time being. The trips to Hilo and our trip to San Francisco were the only times I ever remember Darwin leaving the park. I enjoyed immensely those times alone with the boss. On the road, Darwin would pontificate his wisdom and thoughts.
“Technology, Louis-technology is the key Louis. It’s mankind’s vehicle to eternal bliss.”
Darwin Kindness said that to me on one of our trips to Hilo last August. His statement about technology was a standard setup for one of his patented enlightenment sessions. At the time, it did run across my mind and I did find it kind of funny that technology was one of Darwin’s taboo subjects.
There he was touting technology as being man’s key to eternity. I wasn’t meaning to be argumentative but I was loading up my mind with plenty of arbitrary ammunition and even chomping at the bit on how I was going to grill Darwin and bring into the argument his own played-out phobia regarding technology. In all actuality, Darwin expected my iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove response. My role, in private, was always to play the devil’s advocate, and attempt to shoot down in a good- natured way some of his way-out theories.
For the rest of the ride into Hilo, Darwin went on to tell me how much progress modern man had attained up to our time. “Just think! Not so long ago, an abscessed tooth, a foot blister, a compound fracture were considered plenty dangerous, even lethal. Today Louis, such ailments are considered routine or even minor. The future is here, now, today. Why physicians are replacing kidneys, lungs, and other vital organs every day, enabling people to live far beyond their wildest dreams. These medical miracles are so widespread and happen so often now that they aren’t even considered newsworthy anymore.
“Do you remember the newspaper headlines when the first heart-transplant occurred? That event has become no more than trivial now, since they’re so common. I can visualize that soon enough, the replacement of mankind’s most vital organs will be classified by those in the medical field as to be no more significant than the mere shedding of baby teeth.”
Darwin paused momentarily. My curtain was rising. He desired my response. I didn’t say anything at first summing up that what he said was true. My predetermined disposition, as it had been so many times in the past, told me to accept the obvious with the same amount of intrigue as the unknown. When Darwin unfolded his theories, he did so in such a manner that it might remind one of being in elementary school. He taught, as I remember, the same way my parochial school nuns used to teach-the rudimentary way.
“First I tell, you, what I am going to tell, you. Then I tell, you. Then I tell, you, what I told you!”
It was as if he were teaching a tot ABCs. Anyone who knew Darwin well enough realized he wasn’t patronizing, but his teaching method was, having a tendency to be didactic. He couldn’t help it, though he had to be satisfied that the target of his instruction was absorbing it all.
“Just try to imagine, Louis! Imagine a society that wouldn’t be permanently affected by disease. If a part of the human anatomy became infected or defective it would just have to be surgically removed and replaced, the same as this auto. Every intricate part can be reproduced and substituted for the original part. The transplants taking place today are nothing compared to the ones to come. Not so far from today people will become rejuvenated after receiving a new heart, a liver, lungs or even a functional, reprogrammed brains. Even reproductive organs might be transplanted!”
Eventually, Darwin exhausted himself from all of his babbling. That was a sure sign that by then it was time for me to play out my role. I was supposed to conclude and separate what I thought was rhetoric, pin fact against possibility and identify truth versus conjecture. I have to say he prompted my own imagination inviting me to participate along with him while he expanded his theories. As I’ve already stated, my responsibility during those sessions was to play the devil’s advocate. I’d say my piece and he’d listen.
After I was finished Darwin then resorted to his thesis by going back into his own think-tank to further perfect his premise. His latest scenario was thought provoking yet it did raise specific questions. I began my cross examination, first with the obvious questions: “Wouldn’t the world eventually get too crowded? How would the world feed everybody? And what about the economy? Vast unemployment–wouldn’t Social Security go broke? Don’t we need death to appreciate life?” I spit out those “doubting Thomas objections” in machine-gun fashion.
“Nonsense, Louis. The world has plenty of space. Just drive across North America. There’s plenty of room for everybody. And there’s more room on the other continents. Why, with the money and energy that we’d save by not having to care for long-term sick people, we would certainly expand our civil horizons. As for your question about nutrition, don’t forget, there’s the sea and outer space. There we could house people into the next millennium. Technology comes into play of course. We’d turn deserts into utopias. People with new supped-up digestive systems could eat foods derived from new systems. People could be nourished by synthetics, manufactured from materials that were once thought of as indigestible or poisonous. As far as your socialistic concerns, the idea of ‘retirement’ just might retire. Healthy, vibrant people might look forward to their eternal professions.
“If folks have all eternity to perfect, and to choose what they want to do for a living they are less likely to come under stress. They might be more apt to enjoy what they are doing, especially if there aren’t pressed for time to find their true calling.
“Finally, Louis, the distorted idea that man needs something as tragic as death, for there to be life-now, that my friend is a ridiculous and a very sad myth. Louis, I’m surprised at you.”
Then, as usual, Darwin would shake his white-maned head and in a mocking manner “tsk-tsking” me.
“Shame, Louis, shame.”
He did all this with great glee. I was good sport for him, as if I had entered some “logic-bee” with the master himself, me as a worthy opponent good enough to dual but I never could I checkmate or stymie the man. His use of the word “eternal” got my attention. It added an extra dimension to his theory, a forever perspective drawn up by him in his makeshift world.
“Touché, Darwin!” I complemented my boss. It never hurt to pay proper homage. But I gave him only a brief time out before picking up where I had left off.
“Ding! Round two.”
I still had more rocks to throw.
“What about aging? How are you going to stop people from getting old and rickety? What good is it do to be one- hundred fifty years old if one can’t run, jump, swim, toss a ball or even get a hard-on?”
“Excellent question, Louis! Excellent. I’m so glad you brought it up. Excuse the pun. Louis, notice the small animals, say kitty-cats or birdies. Have you ever noticed that after they mature they never seem to age? They just seem to remain the same. Or how’s this for another example? The handicapped.
Surely you’ve seen people with Down’s syndrome or with Mongolism? Don’t you find it as unusual that these people seem not to participate in the aging process? Oh, one could say about the mentally retarded that they posses a certain panache about them and how they don’t show their age. Nonchalance you might say. Why I believe that it’s more than being labeled or officially categorized as being considered no more than a fool. Did you ever think that perhaps the notion of dying never crosses those peoples’ minds? The same goes for animals.
“Think of it this way, Louis. If one never worried about the concept of death or dying, perhaps one wouldn’t deteriorate. Insects and fish don’t die of old age. They get eaten up by something else, get stomped on, or get caught, but they don’t die of old age I bet. As far as mammals and animals dying that they eventually do, it’s because the more intelligent animals or those with larger brains mimic man. Aging and dying in the animal world is more of a case of “monkey see, monkey do,” mankind’s paranoia perhaps, wearing off on them. I believe this is true. Now I will share with you why I think that it’s the idea of death that ages one.”
I needed to understand more about what he meant. As far as I was concerned he still had some pieces missing. I asked for more.
“Let’s say, Louis, it’s the idea of dying that kills us. Most people don’t concern themselves too much with the reality of finally becoming dead. Mankind surely realizes by now that everybody dies. Death isn’t so bad. After all, don’t forget that most of our relatives and heroes have been through it. Listen closely. It’s the dying part that’s the kicker, or should I say a killer? That’s what bothers them. I surmise that man isn’t afraid of death yet he’s petrified about dying. I’ll use this analogy. You’ll find that people might accept the fact that they’re crazy, bald or broke. They’re very possible eventualities but it’s the thought of “going” crazy you see that gets their goat or the dreadful time that one goes through being driven batty. Now, that’s scary for them! Going broke, watching everything going down the drain has to be way worse than already being broke? The process of losing one’s hair is humiliating, but once gone, there’s nothing more to lose. Those processes are bothersome.
“Try to imagine how people would feel if they never had any fears or anxieties about dying. Then perhaps, they wouldn’t worry so much about the eventuality of death. Therefore, one may not age at all. The moment one finds out about death the process begins to take its toll. At three or four years old children one way or another discover the idea of death and never again come to grip with it. Try to imagine yourself never worrying about the boogieman, or that your parents or loved ones might die. What a load that would be off your shoulders . . . now do you get what I mean?”
Enough had been said for the moment. Darwin and I stared straight ahead. I contemplated for a while about what Darwin had just said. He sat there smug, satisfied he jump-started the wheels turning inside my head him flashing the expression of the “cat that just ate the mouse.” He seemed pleased that he had my noodles cooking within his simmering batch of homemade theories.
Near the end of our trip to Hilo, Darwin broke the silence. “Louis, if mankind were to escape the claws of death and achieve eternity, do you realize that then poverty could be wiped out? War would have no use. Crime might be totally eliminated. Mankind would have the time to work things out. I believe that it’s the fear of oncoming death that panics man into making poor decisions. Especially when it comes to global decisions. It’s the pressure of it all, Louis.
“Pressure leans on man. He feels his time running out. Next thing you know, man begins to root against one another. Unable to come to grips with shortcomings, he might fear the idea of possible failure. He hasn’t achieved his dreams. He hasn’t straightened out his life. There hasn’t been recognition by colleagues or peers in a fitting manner. This goes for nations, too.
“Time’s running out! Forecasts predict goals may not be achieved and brings on despair. The pressure can become so intense. It’s a chaotic situation that usually forces him to choose the wrong paths of action.
“Pressure brings on panic, and panic is the hot, burning knife that spreads rancid, erratic behavior on a stale life… serves itself up… it’s the death express, buddy.”
During the afternoon of the last Sunday in October Darwin’s special guests started to arrive as scheduled. I was manning the front desk. They arrived independent of each other by bus, taxi and limousine. None came in their own rented car. Rented automobiles are the most common mode of transportation used by the inn’s guests. The unanimity demonstrated by their pedestrian ways was somewhat unusual, particularly for independent traveling guests such as them.
Soon after I noticed other oddities. First, to a man, all claimed that they came from Manitoba, Canada, yet none offered drivers licenses from that Canadian province. People have a habit of waving their I.D. in front my face, especially drivers licenses when checking in.
They checked in one by one. All were men. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but there was something unique about their persona. They had a certain crusty, wrinkled, moldy and worn-out look. Used paper bags is what their worn thin faces reminded me of, sacks whose carrying days were over. Each, to a man, appeared haggard with the complexion of cigarette smokers or heavy drinkers. But that wasn’t all I observed. Their dress was strange too. It was more the cut and tailoring of their suits. They were either very old-fashioned or a look I’ve never remembered as being in vogue.
There was a distinct difference between the newer garbed men than those wearing tattered, worn out duds. The men in the newer threads were also decked out, wearing expensive, ornate jewelry. None wore a wristwatch. Those in beat-up clothes wore no jewelry. Yet, somehow they appeared united, while somewhat uniformed in their dated suits and ugly ties. All paid in advance and strangely enough, none used a credit card. Instead, they all paid in U.S. currency with old bills, ones still on the silver standard minted by the U.S. Federal Reserve Banks before the Great Depression of the Thirties. Despite the age of the bills they were still valid. All asked independently for car and chauffeur. They offered no credit cards, no checks, no need for outside phone service and no other information. Their few requests were for copies of the morning paper and just about all asked a clock be installed in the lodge’s upstairs hallway. None wanted a clock in their room.
The weirdest aspect about these guys was their outrageous, peculiar names. They had names that I never heard of before. Dermal Crustacean was the first arrival.
“Dermal Crustacean” What the hell kind of Canadian name was that I wondered? He was a small man, whose leathery skin boasted a deep, dark tan. He checked in from behind expensive, Polaroid leased sunglasses. He spoke in a precise manner and remained cool and aloof.
Soon thereafter another checked in under the name of Artimus Sclerosis. He was a heavyset man. Despite the coolness of the lodge he was still perspiring from his arduous journey. His paper-bagged face looked as if it once had been filled with French fries. He chain-smoked all while checking in. The theatrics stunk up the entire check-in area. He was one of the Manitobans who was schlocked-out with ostentatious looking jewelry. He was rude and loud to all within earshot. After receiving a proper answer to each of his inquiries, he’d wheeze and then put on a sour puss.
Another of our new northern guests was one Thor Destructo, a large, powerfully built man, very formal who spoke with a ridiculous, thick, Bavarian-type accents. Almost comical he wore an eye patch and then seemingly just a ridiculous his other eye’s socket held onto a chipped monocle. He was a sure fit, a true son of “The Third Reich,” a perfect Aryan.
Sounding as if his voice was blasting over a loudspeaker, “I vust have a vroom vith proper ventilation! I vant no disturbances! You vill have my breakvast brought to my vroom at precisely 6:30 AM. Do you vunderstand?”
By 2:15 the comings were hot and heavy. Darwin was nowhere to be found. The men disappeared to their rooms as fast as they checked in and none as I remember were seen roaming the grounds after checking in.
All weren’t unpleasant. On the other hand, there was H.l.V. Bruce, gay and effeminate with perfectly manicured nails. Every finger donned an emerald, a ruby, diamond or some other fine stone. All the jewels were embedded in an impressive, heavy gold setting. Bruce was a breath of fresh air. He showed impeccable manners as he registered, most gracious to the staff and me.
The staff and I acknowledged each other by using a series of expressions and displaying silent body language that we had our own reservations concerning this lot. They weren’t anything near the “normal” tourists to Hawaii who we’ve processed through the lodge countless times.
They were beyond provincial. They were more independent than the sheepish, stand-in-line Japanese nationals and more formal than the mostly stodgy Europeans. They piqued our interest and stirred our imagination.
This macabre crew, who claimed to be from Manitoba, had something up its sleeve I concluded. By the time all checked in, the cast of sinister characters numbered just past thirty.
Darwin showed up out of nowhere and called me into his office just after my shift ended that Sunday afternoon. He closed the door behind me.
“Sit down, Louis, I wish to speak with you.”
His request had an urgent ring, a certain tone that I hadn’t before recalled hearing. He paused for a moment before he spoke. I could tell he was going to slowdown his delivery and become deliberate.
“Louis,” he said, “what I am about to discuss with you might sound awfully strange at first-very, very strange indeed, but I want you to listen me out and I beg you to trust me.”
Despite the fact I damn well more-than-suspected Darwin sensed I maintained a certain trust in him, I felt compelled by his tone to reassure him that he had my full trust. I conveyed those feelings towards him. I was more intrigued by the idea that Darwin would go to such lengths before he spoke any further. I could only think discussion was going to be one of Darwin’s patented sermons. I presumed that he was going to focus in on the subject of trust.
“Louis, you’ve been my trusted subordinate for well over ten years now. I’ve grown very fond of you. I don’t mean to be presumptuous but I’m confident that your feelings towards me are mutual. I like to think that you also trust me. Of course, you must realize that you aren’t the first that I’ve put in that position. I’ve had scores of trusted subordinates in the past. Once I had the same assistant for well-over sixty years!”
I must have been spaced-out, or my ears or mind for that matter not listening or not picking up on the sixty-year bit.
“Really, what ever happened to him?”
“0h, he died.”
“How?” I asked.
“Oh, I suppose he died like the rest. He got old.”
“When?” I pried.
Then, without a trace of exaggeration, “I think he died somewhere in the eighth century, give or take half a century.”
I needed to catch up to my senses. The sixty years part registered. Then the unreal sound about the eighth century felt like a torpedo with enough impact to have sunk the Titanic.
“He must have misspoken,” I thought. “He had to mean in the eighteen-hundreds, but still?”
Rather than dwell on those unlikelihoods I just let it go. I needed to hear more. While being employed at the lodge for the last ten years
I had never really heard Darwin speak of anyone else as an assistant. He had to be pulling my leg. I was waiting for the punch line.
“Sounds weird, doesn’t it, Louis?” Then he went on soberly, “Here’s one for you, Louis. How about if I told you how old I really am? You’ve never heard me admit my age to anyone, have you? Would you believe that I’m well over sixty thousand years old! Furthermore, what if I went on to say that all of our recent arrivals, the new guests, the ones from Manitoba, are to a man, all well over sixty-thousand years old!
“A practical man such as you, Louis, hearing that sort of rhetoric from a old man like me would think a fellow such as myself to he really off his rocker …wouldn’t you?
“You don’t have to answer that, just yet. For the sake of our relationship, for the moment you’ll think of me as comical rather than tragic. But I assure you I’m not trying to be comical or tragic nor am I off my rocker.”
I remained tongue-tied, unable to respond to the way that Darwin was talking. He wasn’t drunk. He rarely drank. My faith in Darwin was strong but I wasn’t deaf. I had respected and trusted him for a long time. I had so much respect for him that I couldn’t even bring myself to say, “C’mon Darwin!” I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. I just sat there, silent and stunned, not sure that I wanted to hear any more. I couldn’t wait ‘til he gave me some sort of a lucid signal that all this was some sort of jive. Yet he wasn’t much of a kidder. Perhaps he was just testing me? Down deep inside I knew better. Darwin Kindness had too much moxie to pull that kind of shit on me.
“What if I revealed to you, Louis, that all of our newly arrived guests are immortal. That’s “i-m-m-o-r-t-a-I!” He spelled out. “Not human, but ancient sages with absolutely nothing to do with their lives except face eternity.
“Wait a minute, Louis, let’s start over,”
I thought, “At last!” I began to feel some relief.
“Let’s be easier on ourselves for the moment. I can see by the expression on your face we are getting nowhere fast.
Relieved somewhat, I said, “Boy! You can say that again.”
“I feel that I’ve thrown you a curve, unfairly perhaps. Let’s from now on use the word ‘pretend.’ Better yet, let’s use the term, ‘imagine.’
I’d be more willing to pretend or imagine for the time being. It wasn’t that “imagine” or “pretend” validated the situation but the words did take off some of the pressure. I couldn’t comprehend what Darwin was getting at.
“Try to imagine Louis, a long time ago. Try to imagine a different world in a totally different dimension a place where nothing is as it is here, a place not like outer-space, not like anyplace else that’s been depicted in books or movies or in your imagination but a much different place.
“Imagine, in this far away world that there is a Master, one who has great powers and insight. This Master is more of a power source, rather than the ‘Father in Heaven’ stuff portrayed by organized religion. On the other hand this Master is not as sterile as some faceless alien or a magnetic field. Let’s say, for lack of better words, that he falls somewhere between those two impressions.
“Let’s say this Master envisioned some place such as Earth. He visualized it so much that it actually happened. Now try to stay with me. This Master, as masters do, had incredible powers. Powers that could be delegated; powers that could be shared with selected subordinates. So this Master created assistants, ones that he could delegate his powers to. After he finished whipping up his assistants, he filled their tanks with those special powers, and he then sent them off from his domain to the place he so visualized, a place called Earth.
“Now these produced molds, druids, robots, clones, if you will, became the Master’s emissaries. Somehow they arrived at various intervals, trudging through the many volcanoes that dotted the young Earth. The emissaries found nothing in animal or human form. Then there were only traces of life on Earth. These emissaries were all tooled and powered-up, just a little too early and mankind had yet to evolve.
“You can throw that Adam and Eve stuff out the window. These emissaries took it upon themselves to prepare themselves for the coming of man. Centuries later, man eventually arrived, but only after squiggling up from the seas in lizard form. The emissaries began their work. What the emissaries had to work with at first was a clear slate. They saw man as no more than a blank canvas. We had plenty of time to prepare for you; after all, your kinds’ jaunt from reptile to Homo sapiens was no mere weekend. It took thousands of years before mankind was mentally mature enough to absorb even an iota of pertinent information. At first your kind was impervious to any sort of knowledge. Eventually our persistence paid off. The emissaries installed into mankind his every thought, every move, every reason and every aspiration. It took generations.”
Darwin broke the pace of his orientation for a moment and asked, “Are you still with me?”
I could only nod.
“So, as I said, this Master sent these emissaries thousands of years ago without any further instructions than to use their programming powers in this venue called Earth.
“‘Til this day, the emissaries, along with mankind have been marooned on planet. One can only conclude that they have been exiled with the humans, to be here on Earth forever. While stranded on Earth, the emissaries concluded it might be better to take on the appearance of humans. (I should have told you that – they first arrived as spirits.) Their only luggage, the Master’s delegated powers. Those emissaries were man’s first and only encounter with what your astronomers have coined ‘an encounter of the third-kind.
It happened! It happened over sixty thousand years ago!
It happened to me! And it happened to each and every Manitoban that you’ve just checked in! Louis, I tell you all this first hand!”
I was not looking forward to the time when I eventually would have to acknowledge Darwin’s babbling. I reached for my voice. “Were. . . were there many emissaries?” I asked, unsure of myself.
Darwin went on, not skipping a beat, confident that I was taking it all in. “Why, there were thousands upon thousands of them.”
“Where are they all now?” My curiosity had the best of me.
“At first we all co-existed. All of the emissaries went about their tasks working hand-in-hand with mankind. It was a ‘Garden of Eden’ with countless varieties of emissaries. There were reproducers, coordinators. They set up mankind in certain tribes. They showed man fire. They helped domesticate man. They taught him how and when to plant, plus instructed him how to build dwellings. I’m sad to say that they taught him how to kill. There were others such as kinetic specialists. They were invaluable to man, instilling all of his physical abilities, strength, balance, speed and the senses, the ability to taste, to see, to hear, to smell and to feel. There were ‘wisdom-doms,’ those who fine-tuned the human brain, carefully fitting it with logic, reason, and things like con-science. All of these complex emotions were woven into the first computer, man’s mind. Every aspect-and so-called human trait that he possesses today was given to him by our kind’s many contingents. All this accumulative knowledge came from the emissaries, the brethren, the fellowship, my contingent, pioneers who came via the volcanoes from that mysterious dimension.
“Early man saw our kind as his power and glory. They saw us more as parents. Man put us on such a pedestal, a feat to itself for a species that didn’t have an indigenous sense. We had such impact we were adored. Naturally, we were perceived as gods. You’ve heard of us, Neptune and Zeus. We’re in your history books. For centuries, physically, we were easily recognized by your kind. It was a long time before mankind attained a physical parody compared to us. Perhaps that’s where religions adopted the idea that man was created to mirror the image of God, and most still do. In all actuality it’s one of those reverse rules. Surprisingly, it was over a certain aspects regarding mankind’s final act. Our contingents’ only mission has been to clean house. We are the cleaner-uppers, the weeder-outers. Ever since mankind achieved physical and mental maturity, our job has been to indiscriminately and on a wholesale level put an end to human life. Our methods for killing people are unique, clearly reflected by our persona.
“For instance, remember back to some of the men that you’ve just checked in. Remember the man with the thick European accent? You might be shocked to find out that Her Destructo is the King of Conflict, the Potentate of Battle, and the Chief of Hostilities. He’ s the ‘God of War.’ He, my friend, has had something to do with each war, every skirmish, and all insurrections that have ever occurred. All the destruction and misery that you’ve ever read about in your history books were instigated by that one immortal-him.
“Then there’s Dermal Crustacean. Knowing you as I do, I bet you gave him the ‘once over.’ Can you figure him out? It’s a little tricky. ‘Dermal’ It’s the definition of skin, right? Crustacean’s a name lending itself to the sign of the Zodiac, the crab-the symbol for Cancer. Surely a smart fellow such as your self can figure it out. ‘Skin Cancer.’ He’s a bad one all right. So, chic, did you admire that perfect tan? He’s a rich son-of-a-bitch, and a nasty one at that. He also is well known for his warped sense of humor. For instance, he founded and is the l00% stockholder of ‘Koppertone’ It’s not the first time he’s burnt mankind. He spends most of his free time spreading the word that having a tropical tan is healthy. He’s even organized a syndicate that promotes junkets to sunny resorts around the globe.
“Now, shall I go on?”
There was no need for me to reply.
“I’m sure you couldn’t miss Artimus Sclerosis, that overweight, nicotine ingesting smokestack. Besides being obnoxious, a glutton, and your typical ‘Type A’ personality, He holds the franchise on ‘hardening of the arteries’- aka ‘Coronary Artery Disease. He’s extremely repulsive. He’s been on top of his game for a long time. Back during Rome’s heyday he was the one who instigated all of the decadence, slothfulness and even food orgies, and if you’re wondering, the bulimic notion of vomitoriums was his creation.
“You couldn’t have missed that little mahu… ”
For the first time, interrupting, I whispered with a horse voice, “H.I.V. Bruce-AIDS.”
“By Jove, Louis, you’re catching on. For years the little twerp was without much of a role. His past victims usually were only those who were bashed in by conniving thugs. He forced aggressive homosexuals, who in most civilizations were closet-dwelling malcontents or lechers who usually met their doom by hanging out on the seedy-side of some enclave. Unfortunately for them, too many times they hooked up with were a bad element or visa versa. But now, the little devil has gone legitimate. In many eyes with this H.I.V. epidemic, he’s a real comer. Christ, he may have forever ruined sexual promiscuity among mortals. I must admit though, that despite his devious methods he’s always been extremely pleasant. Almost as nice as me, perhaps.
“I’m telling you Louis, that each and everyone of them here, even as we speak this very minute, has a death program that’s in play and continues to be active. So far, death eventually comes to all creatures because the parts wear out. But our contingent has made it more adventurous. Mankind has only to look over its shoulders. We’ve made it more of a jungle out there. There’s something to the human saying, ‘If that won’t get you something else will.’ Out there, lurking in the dark shadows is the lot of us: Manny De Pressi-suicide, Ebony (Blackie) Plaque-Black Plague, Misquite Malaria, Artimus, Thor, Dermal, the whole rotten bunch. By week’s end you’ll have met them all. They’re lethal, Louis. More deadly than a silo filled with thermal nuclear weapons!”
I sat silent, with my head down. My feet in my shoes read “ten-after-two”. From a distance I must have taken on the image of a naughty student, red faced and brooding while waiting outside the principal’s office.
Darwin remained patient as he waited for some sort of response. We both knew that he would not say another word until I replied. With my head still down and my elbows resting on the inside of my thighs, I said sheepishly, “How delightful. I can’t wait until we’re all buddies.”
Darwin had over-stoked the fire of curiosity that he usually lit up inside of me. The fire was almost out. Like a seasoned camper he felt compelled to rekindle the flame.
Darwin went on.
“You know Louis, every century we all get together. One of us plays host to the rest of the brethren. As you can see, this century it’s my turn. I’m the host. Our get-togethers always take place within the confines of an active volcano somewhere on Earth. I suppose it’s no different than any other business convention, a gathering of a fellowship. Let’s say we get together to sum up the ‘state of death’ here on Earth. We’re like stockholders at a convention. There’s business to be done.
“There are dividends that need to be shared, debts to be settled, deep animosities that need to be put to rest. Some of our gods of death aren’t so happy with the state of things these days. There are stockholders who never are. For your information, the proprietor of Bubonic Plague, Ebony Plaque, is one member of the brethren who for centuries now hasn’t been very pleased with the direction that has been taken by the fellowship. Did you notice the old man? Did you see how he appeared to be down and out? He’s been that way now for centuries. Louis, he once was the talk of the town. Back during medieval times he was a real killing machine, a big man he was, a man whose name was feared around the moats. To his dismay, and perhaps strong evidence that there was a chink in his armor, a chink even beyond the Master’s foresight, mortals have been able to place in check most of his killing powers. A moral victory, brought on by the early advent of medical technology.
“You see, Louis, even gods have their limitations. Certain deaths over the centuries have been neutralized. Some have run their course and others have been thwarted by research and science. I suppose even the Master had no way of knowing or forecasting mankind’s sudden defensive posture. No one predicted the extent or evolution or man’s accumulative powers. Don’t forget, those attributes are the same powers that the Master originally programmed into his emissaries. But to his credit mankind has wisely parleyed them to their own needs. The Master and our brethren never foresaw the magnitude of those intangibles, those that hold mankind together such as love, faith, hope and promise. You see many of my colleagues have considered humans as no more than vermin that refuse to be stamped out. So far your kind has always been able to reproduce and prevail in spite of our horrendous eradicating methods.
“Your kind has become immune to some of my colleagues’ most destructive powers. Those other gods (Remember the good emissaries?). Well, they handed down and bestowed certain esoteric talents to you humans. Over the centuries those secret talents handed down have merged with the man’s mysterious intangibles such as faith, love, so forth and so on. By now they’ve become embedded in man’s psyche to form an immune system.
“Long ago, my contingent did away with your kind’s altruistic patrons. The good emissaries were tossed into the volcanoes during our Halloween get-togethers. Once we figured them out, we eradicated them before the human race could achieve an impervious shield against all of our brethrens’ spells. Banishment was their reward for benevolently planting resistance into mankind. Before we had a chance to permanently eliminate the so-called good emissaries, they instilled their values, immense gifts they were, such as the ones that I’ve mentioned. The gifts that you’ve received, especially the physical attributes that too often you take for granted are irreplaceable bequeaths. Mankind’s strength, sensory perception, communication skills-all were activated by the good emissaries before the rest of my contingent caught on. Once we did catch on, we permanently wiped out the human race’s emissarial allies.
“Louis, do you really think that those early reptiles who continuously washed up on the shores of a young planet could have ever figured out how to build a bridge or manufacture automobiles, let alone fly an airplane? Your kind, in the beginning, was dumber than dirt. Mankind, to their credit, has made the best of their given talents enabling them to propagate and nurture. Louis, the only thing standing between the ability of the human race to attain peace, prosperity and permanency is cooped up in this inn. It’s our kind. Without us in the way your kind may be able to go on forever.”
Darwin cleared his throat. “Hold on. Time out a second. Let’s take a seventh inning stretch. Here Louis, pour yourself a stiff one. You look as if you could use it.”
I reached for the bottle of Sambuca Romana, a licorice liqueur Darwin kept on the windowsill for those damp foggy evenings up on the mountain. Pouring myself a good belt, then swallowing it down, I attempted to formulate a question, one that I had shelved and had been storing in my mind for the past twenty minutes or so.
“Ahem, says Darwin, so, just what kind of death god are you supposed to be?”
“Oh, yes,” Darwin flashed. “How foolish of me, I’m so sorry, Louis. I should have mentioned it earlier. I suppose it has always been there, for you to-figure out that is. How could you though, before today? Why it’s in my namesake. You might find it interesting to learn just what means of death I use while eliminating your kind. Why it’s by applying my virtue, the virtue of kindness.
“Sounds strange, huh? Louis, I’m death by kindness. If you can believe that?” Darwin further broke out in a grin as if he was looking to find my approval.
“Death by Kindness,” I stammered. “How can there be such a thing? What kind of death is that?”
“Oh, it’s unique all right. There’s no other death like it. Believe it or not, every once in a while, I’m able to knock a few poor souls out of the ole’ ball game. My forte is that I enable individuals to touch others in such a way that I flush their systems with selfless joy. I can create joy, so immense, so loving, and if the conditions are right, an elderly person’s heart may not be able to absorb all of that joy at once. And, just like that, for them, it’s off to the showers. For instance, maybe I’ll influence a not-so-strong person; again, usually it’s the elderly, who I prompt to extend an extra kind act towards someone. I might, with my own given powers, suggest subtly that my prospective victim commit a philanthropic act towards a sibling or a loved one. The act usually has significant value from the handing over or the dispensing out funds, to the passing on of a valued family heirloom. When my predetermined victims become so ecstatic while taking part in the joys that go along with giving, then suddenly the magnitude of the moment overwhelms the poor souls. Then they actually pass on and expire in peace, reassured that their good karma has been registered and substantiated. I can’t tell you why, but it happens.
“Or it might go like this: every once in awhile, an elderly, loving couple, two who have shared a good life together, made a good home, raised nice kids, even been blessed with healthy grand-kids, plenty of money in the bank, so forth and so on. Maybe, I’ll get them contemplating that there might be a way for them, when it’s time, to pass away together by taking some overdose. With the faith of their conviction, tenderly, they can roll over one morning while still in each others loving arms and cherish their last moments and their last breaths together while face to face. Entwined in each other’s all-time, all-loving arms, they can peacefully expire together; fully knowing they’ve shared a worthwhile life. My interference ensures those folks might be spared from having disturbing thoughts about dying without the other and leaving a lonely survivor or worse, not being with each other.
“I suppose your kind would see it as a kind act or something touching. It only works after I find a pair possessing the right chemistry. Not often does this happen, Louis. Not very often, but it does.
“In my case, perhaps the Master was clairvoyant, or while taking no chances somehow perceived that mankind might become immune to the eliminating ways of some of the others. Perhaps I was nothing more than an afterthought, or some sort of back up or even a whim. I don’t understand myself exactly why or how come. All I’ve come to understand is that the entire process works.
“Compared to the lavish riches attained by some of the other brethren, my means have made far from prosperous. If you were keeping score and I’ll remind you that the brethren does, I’m in the big leagues when it comes to taking people. Well, I don’t know if I’m proud to say that I dwell in the cellar of the standings.
“My brethren and I manifest ourselves from wherever we are based and our powers are thrust worldwide. No race or any corner of Earth is exempt from our finality. We’ve planted all the seeds of death a long time ago. Some of our plagues are time-released. They were installed centuries ago. As you can imagine, people are dying worldwide this very moment. As strange as it sounds, those who are staying within this very lodge are executing every death-taking place. That’s each and every death–without an exception.”
My mind was taking this in at a much slower pace than Darwin was dishing it out. As they say on Wall Street, I was about “ten minutes behind the ticker.” My comprehending faculties eventually caught up to the part where Darwin’s so-called method was “death by kindness,” and how one needs to possess a caring personality to carry out such a deed. There was a certain relief discovering the fact that kindness was part of his self-confessed homicidal tendencies. I had absorbed every weird word of it. The initial shock of his story was still with me. I was far from being convinced or a believer however, I had to reinforce the commitment that I made with Darwin, to go along with the premise that we were just “imagining,” I felt compelled to stop Darwin right there to ask him why he was telling me all this? And I did!
“…telling you all this, Louis? Why I’m telling you all this for many reasons! Why Louis, I have tremendous respect for you. I’m confidant that you are an honorable man. I admire your aptitude. You’re sharp, and I’m counting on you to ask some piercing questions. I’m taking the liberty of informing you about all this because, if you have some background regarding the situation, you’ll understand more when it comes time for you do your part!”
“My part! How’s that? This sounds as if it’s a lot more than what you normally ask of me, Darwin. This seems a lot more than having me just play out the devil’s advocate? This isn’t play like one of our little chats on the road while we’re on our weekly trip to Hilo!”
I’m sure that I was beginning to sound agitated, and I wanted to sound that way for obvious reasons.
“Louis, I wouldn’t waste your time or tell you all this if there wasn’t a serious-minded mission in store for you. I’m afraid you’ve been destined. I can’t tell you why or elaborate further. Certain information may be better understood if you receive it piecemeal. Many of your questions will be answered as the events during the up-coming week evolve and unfold.
“Let me put it to you in simple terms. I need you! I’m going to need you further. I’m going to need you like I never needed you before. Mankind needs Louis Cantrell. There you have it!
“Actually, I don’t have all the answers myself, or the ones that you might want to hear right now. I can’t explain, but as I’ve already told you, you’ve been destined!”
“What kind of mission?”
“Excellent! I see new that ‘I’ve sparked your curiosity, or is it your attention? Forgive me, Louis. Here’ s where the trust part comes into play. It’s better that we not discuss certain aspects of the undertaking especially those tasks that involve you. There’s more for you to learn and perceive. As I’ve mentioned, you’ll be exposed to additional information before this week is out. By then, hopefully, you’ll be prepared to accept and fulfill your mission. Now Louis, don’t forget, after all, that we are still saying ‘Let’s pretend?’”
There was a light tap on the door. “That must be Elizabeth,” said Darwin. “She wishes to meet you. Wait just a moment and I’ll show her in.”
Darwin popped up and walked towards his office door. He opened it. His ever-present smile hadn’t diminished even by the magnitude of the subject matter. I noticed, perhaps for the first time, that his radiant smile over the years may have become somewhat used up but far from extinguished. His smile was more like a well, burnt-down candle, still with enough warmth and light to illuminate the darkest of rooms.
“Elizabeth!” Darwin greeted the woman with much enthusiasm. “How nice it is to see you! Won’t you please, come in?” Taking Elizabeth by the arm he escorted her towards me. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet. I’d like to introduce you to our Head Bell Captain, Louis Cantrell.”
Before me in a statuesque manner stood a stoic-looking, older woman, in control, reserved with the air of a convent’s mother superior, minus the rosary beads and religious habit. She boasted beautiful, Mrs. Santa white hair, much like Darwin’s but longer. Hers piled up, all atop one another, whirled into a perfect tight bun without a strand out of place. A scrimshaw braid kept it all in place. She wore a traditional, patterned, muumuu wrapped around her fragile frame from the top of the garment’s neckline to the top of her rubber-soled slippers. Her eyes were pale blue, same as Darwin’s, her crowning jewel so perfect that they seemed to possess yesterday’s knowledge, today’s wisdom and tomorrow’s compassion.
After Darwin’s introduction she extended an elegant hand establishing a regal aura. For the moment I almost forgot about the nonsense Darwin had been discussing. She placed me at ease. She went on to tell me how much good she heard about me from Darwin. Her knowledge prompted me to wonder, but not ask, why I hadn’t ever recalled hearing anything about her. She went on to praise a few positive attributes I assumed were mine. I soon realized I was probably being Darwin-ized.
Darwin explained to Elizabeth he was bringing me up to date. Elizabeth acknowledged that she had been already aware about most of the details, including those about our newly arrived Manitobans without unleashing her blue eyes from the sight of me. It was as if they were peering right to the depths of my soul. While her eyes held me down, she said, “He’s so right. Darwin, it’s so obvious that you’ve made the right choice. I do say Louis appears destined for such a mission.”
Without warning, she indicated that she must go. “I only stopped by briefly so that I’ d have the opportunity to meet you, Louis. I’m sure we will be seeing much of each other during the up-coming week. There’ll be moments when we won’t have time to talk, but after this meeting I have a strong feeling that we’ll be communicating, at least in mind and spirit. You look like a magnificent young man. God bless you.” She was off.
After she left l asked Darwin if Elizabeth was a guest. “She’s always a guest, and in other ways, she’s always a host.”
I remained befuddled. During the past two hours I had absorbed way more than I could ever imagine on normally quiet, autumn Sunday afternoons.
Darwin suggested we take a break.
“Perhaps you might want to take some time and care to digest just what I’ve said?” `
I answered like a wise guy. “Digest! First a guy has to chew then try to swallow and then maybe he can digest. What I’ve just been fed is way more than a mouthful. You can sure dish it out, Darwin, but I’d like to see you swallow or even attempt to hold down all that I’ve just taken in. “Right now, I’m promising nothing! I won’t say what’s on my mind, but if you insist, Darwin, for reasons that I can’t fathom, I’ll still play the game.”
Acting oblivious towards my doubts and less compassionate about my concerns, he went on. He put on the charm and asked as kindly as ever if I’d be willing to listen further.
He said that he still had much to tell.
Undaunted and never waiting for my reply, he further elaborated about the idea of my so-called mission in the strictest of terms that I ever recalled Darwin uttering. He warned, “Time was of the essence and that time will soon become our enemy.”
I decided I had heard enough and it was time to take advantage of Darwin’s suggestion. I suggested we pick up the conversation later on that evening.
“Normally,” I should say, if there still was such a word, I’d attend the Volcano House banquet hosted by the lodge on Sunday evenings. This week’s banquet was reserved for the recent arrivals. With Darwin’s approval, we could continue our discussion prior to the banquet.
Before l left Darwin’s office, he requested I be available for the remainder of the week and throughout the Manitobans’ stay. Placing myself back into my bell captain role I assured Darwin I’d comply with his request.
Somewhat shaken by Darwin’s esoteric revelations and not particularly caring to go directly to my Jeep and drive off to the solitude of my lonely bungalow, I opted to head straight for the lounge for another Sambuca. Christ, I could have smoked a Marlboro.
Once in the lounge I was relieved to see that Kimo was still on duty rather than the new guy. He was the bell-weather bartender, a steady fixture.
“Kimo, how ‘bout a Sambuca. Make it a double.”
His bloodlines had yet to be broken by haoles. Pure Hawaiian Kimo fit the prototype, a large pleasant man with a big smile and with much aloha in his heart.
Pure Hawaiians are a rarity these days. During the twentieth-century, Hawai‘i had become a hybrid-society. The influx of Caucasians, Asians, Filipinos and Portuguese mixed with the Hawaiians diluted the ranks of the state’s original inhabitants.
Statistics show that pure Hawaiians add up to only four percent of Hawaii’s population. Still their numbers are steadily shrinking.
Hawaiians might be the friendliest people on Earth. They’re quick to smile, helpful and they always share. Kimo was made up of those inherent characteristics. He was the best-case scenario when it came to stereotyping, being every bit as congenial as Darwin. In many ways they complemented one another.
Besides being an excellent barkeep, Kimo had another talent or I should say a certain sixth sense, a sense that lent itself uniquely to the summit of Kilauea. It was widely known within the ranks of the staff Kimo had an uncanny knack to accurately predict volcanic eruptions on Kilauea. His track record, though not always one hundred percent flawless, was still quite impressive. His few false alarms in no way diminished the pride he displayed about his internal, volcanic erupting, warning system. During my tenure at Volcano House, Kilauea never erupted without Kimo first forecasting the event. Kimo called for major eruptions no less than a dozen times.
I sort of surprised Kimo on two counts, by being in the lounge in the first place, and second, by ordering a drink, a double one at that. While pouring my drink he leaned over the bar and said to me with his heavy Pidgin accent, “Eh, Brah. So what? You get fired?”
Then he broke out into his familiar laugh. A laugh I had become so familiar and accustomed to, a laugh I had marveled at many times over. It was a sensational dirty laugh. The laugh one might hear erupting from a co-conspirator or irreverent accomplice taking part with you after pulling off a great practical joke. The kind of laugh I remember joining in on with my boyhood chums during our elementary school years. Kimo laughed that way, as did other good-natured locals. During the elaborate “egotistical-eighties” and during the nil, “negateev-o-nineties” I remember only Hawaiians laughing that way. His laugh let me shelve for the moment the weight of Darwin’s incredible tale.
I returned Kimo’s smile, never afraid to Yuk it up with him. The idea about me getting fired, especially then, was sort funny. I assured him that that hadn’t been the case.
Kimo shifted from his carefree smile and then sported another one, one of some urgency. His set of low riding eyebrows rose up higher on his forehead before he spoke further.
“I feel’ da kine coming, brah! One big bugga, dis one gonna shake allllll the brownies up, brah!”
Waves of emotion stirred his Polynesian features, all while his intent body language backed up his claim. After each claim, he’d hang open his large heavy-lipped mouth and bulge his large, brown eyes, as if waiting for me to flash some sort of positive response. He turned his head and leaned to war me again. “Dis one gonna be one big one, brah. Auwee! She gonna pop, brah. . . killahs!”
He nodded in an affirmative manner while he talked. Shifting gears, Kimo changed the subject and went on to lament about how during the upcoming eruption that there would probably be no days off.
“Ho, gonna be choke tourists, brah. Me frigg’n feet wen tell me brah. me feet feel ’m com’n! I tell you one ting, ma feet nevvah stay wrong, brah. Auwee! lt gonna be one killah, brah!”
“Killer,” rang in my mind. Killer or killers on the loose on Kilauea?
Kimo left me for dirty glasses. I sat alone with
Just with my thoughts, my momentary solitude was interrupted by a boisterous couple’s laugh from the rear lounge. Turning, I noticed it was one of the Manitobans.
I suspended my woeful mood and rejoiced for the moment that at least in my mind I still referred to our new guests as Manitobans. It was the fat one, Artimus Sclerosis, Darwin’s heart-stopping buddy. (Now, I was back into Darwin’s story.)
He was with a woman, also stout. Their chuckles demonstrated a merry ole’ time.
Darwin’s revelations stirred my curiosity. I couldn’t help but stare. I checked out Artimus’s hands, including his chubby fingers adorned with all that finery. Those puffy, swollen fingers monkey wrenched and put a plumbers grip around a frosty mai tai. With the rings and all, the cupped mai tai could have passed for a royal crown or even a tiara.
I didn’t recognize the woman. The men had all checked in solo? I tried to figure. I was wondering how come those two became chummy so fast? Hey, these Manitobans must act pretty fast. It was obvious they had a few, the way they were ogling all over one another. After further inspection, the woman was just as gaudy as Artimus. She too was decked out. No hiking boots for her. An array of earrings, bracelets, necklaces finger rings and anklets hung from her like ornaments from a well-rounded Christmas tree. The assortment of rings and finery on both their fingers were such for an accordion player to die for.
As an employee I didn’t appreciate their overtures towards one another were becoming more overt so much so that I was happy no other guests were in our lounge. Thankfully no one else was present other than Kimo and me. Volcano House, thank heavens, never had the reputation for being a pick-up joint.
Kimo re-entered my space. He had some Observations of his own.
“Eh, brah, what you tink of the haole guy and that bwala-kine tita? To me, she look like one, fat, friggin’ hookah, brah,”
“You ever see her around here before?” I asked.
“Nah, I nevvah wen see her before, brah. Hey! When they reach, bowf started jamm’n, full on.”
Kimo cupped his large hand into his version of a shot glass and motioned it a number of times towards his lips.
“They drink plenty too, brah, and start acting kinnah stupid. I like trow ‘em out, brah but I figgah, he stay, yeah?”
“Yeah, he stay.” I echoed Kimo’s Pidgin. “I checked him in along with the others a few hours ago.”
“Hey, they some strange lookin buggas, brah. I was
check’n dem out. Auwee! Kinnah give me da creeps, brah.”
I concurred. Kimo’s sharp instincts had reiterated my own misgivings about our new, exclusive guests.
“Yeah, Kimo, they sort of give me the creeps, too.”
Soon after, the rotund couple waddled their way out of the lounge, arm in arm, smooching all the way like lovebirds, not paying attention to anyone else.
The idea of my being a bachelor along with fact that I wasn’t involved in a serious relationship was no big deal. I did have some particular lady friends I could spend time with during off hours. I was lucky enough have a few female friends who along with me shared a penchant for slow dancing and French kissing. Still, I didn’t have that special person-a main squeeze. More important, I didn’t have “that” special someone who I could talk to.
After listening to Darwin’s story I regretted not having such a relationship; I was blue and I wanted to bleed my heart. I was at a loss and suddenly became like a melancholy teenager experiencing the pangs heartbreak. I was even envious of the jaded relationship I recently witnessed at the bar involving the two tubbers. The void that I felt could have been brought on, because in the past when I felt this way I had relied on Darwin to straighten me out. Obviously, in this case I couldn’t rely on his what used-to-be his steady pragmatic judgments. My thoughts shifted to Darwin in general. I wondered why he never before mentioned that he had a female confidant.
What about this Elizabeth? Where did she come from? Where did she fit in? It was a foregone conclusion that they were linked. Knowing Darwin as I did, their relationship didn’t just started up yesterday either.
As I drove home I rehashed the whole scene. I continued to rehash it all during my shower and while I changed clothes. I couldn’t conclude anything.
“Jesus, how could he proclaim to be sixty thousand years!” I said aloud.
“How could there be a “gods of death” convention right here in Hawaii during the ’90s‘? What kind of mission could Darwin have in mind for me?”
Questions. . .Questions . _ . Questions _ “Could I ever entertain the notion of such a ridiculous idea?”
I wondered even more about the weirdoes from Manitoba, with their morbid names and odd clothing. I asked again, who the hell was Elizabeth?
Still, my loyalty outweighed my logic.
I just had to go along with Darwin, for a while at least and try to adapt to his “pretend” and “imagine” concept. Hopefully, at best this really was some sort of a prank. I’d have welcomed the thought that I’d been the brunt of such a goof. It would be much needed relief. My mind searched out every conceivable scenario. I even went so far as to think that I might be on “Candid Camera.” A few years back Allen Funt and his band spent a week at the volcano, pulling their usual tricks on unsuspecting guests.
I was unable to shake the bad feelings that hung with me. On top of that, I didn’t care much for the tone of Kimo’s voice either, particularly the way he said, “killer”. With all of Darwin’s wild talk, it looked as if we were now going to have to contend with an upcoming eruption and another lava flow.
That’s if Kimo’s volcanic eruption barometer was up to par.
JUST ANOTHER NIGHT
As per Darwin’s request I returned to the lodge at about seven. I made my way from the parking lot towards the main entrance to the lodge. I noticed a couple in the moonlight near the railing, the railing that extends all the way around the crater’s rim. They were holding hands. Not an uncommon sight on the grounds of Kilauea. The volcano can be a romantic place, especially on a Hawaiian, moonlit night. The only noteworthy aspect of my sighting was that both of the hand-holders happened to be men. I couldn’t help but notice that the enchanting moon’s glow was reflected off the moonlit face of H.I.V. Bruce.
Both men appeared to be replicas of each other-bookends. “Funny,” I mused, “but maybe not so funny.” As I compared the similarities between the two, unfortunately I suppose I did so with a certain backward prejudice. Before my nonchalant glance ripened to a geeky gawk, I turned away. I chastised myself for being more of close-minded chauvinist, but not too much. I couldn’t help but be engrossed about how those Manitobans weren’t wasting time setting up side action.
I went directly to Darwin’s office where he’d be waiting. Darwin created a fuss as soon as I came through the door.
“Louis, my boy! How are you, Louis?” acting and sounding as if I had just returned from a far away, strenuous journey. I wished that he had been more concerned about my present mental state.
Darwin stood up. He folded his hands behind his back. “Louis,” he had a genuine twinkle in his eye, “Louis, I can empathize with you. I bet that you’re still dizzy from our earlier talk. I hope you’re not too perplexed by our conversation this afternoon. I want to assure you, Louis, just for the record nothing has changed since our conversation.”
I refused to pass up the opportunity to be somewhat sarcastic. “Well, by now wouldn’t you say, Darwin, by your own count that there are a few hundred thousand less people breathing air on Earth since the last time we spoke?”
Darwin waived his finger and grinned. “Actually the birth rate usually exceeds the death rate except during wide scale catastrophes. But I’m glad to see that you are thinking. That’s why I care so much for you, Louis. You catch on so quickly. But lest we forget,” still waving his crooked index-linger, with ever smiling eyes he repeated, “but lest we forget that we are still saying ‘imagine’ and pretend.
“Let me share something with you, Louis. I respect the fact you’re a serious man. Besides, you’re my close friend and I give you my word. I wouldn’t patronize you for a moment. I’m serious, too.”
I thanked Darwin for being considerate and expressed as best as I could about how I was having trouble balancing loyalty with logic.
“It’s-a lot for me to try to fathom, Darwin.” I reiterated.
“I can only imagine,” Darwin said sympathetically.
“It would be tough for the best of men, Louis. That’s why I’ve chosen you, Louis. ‘Cause you’re one of the best.”
I thanked Darwin again. “I appreciate your accolades but have you ever stopped to consider that perhaps you’ve overrated me somewhat?”
“Then, for your sake I’ll put a stop to it, Louis. Enough of this self-indulgent BS! We have more important things to talk about.
“I took it upon myself to ready the staff for the host banquet. You’re aware that I’ve closed the main dining room. We’ll be just serving pupus. We don’t need a food feast. As you can imagine, we’re not much for that stuff, except for Artimus. His appetite is nonstop.”
Darwin was entering into a new stage of the storytelling. Certainly not prompted by me he revealed details about his brethren with ease.
“Back in the opulent Roman era, food orgies were initiated by Artie. It was Arte who coined the phrase, ‘When in Rome . . . ’ That’s where he picked up his appetite for rich foods. Have I told you that he is the innovator of vomitoriums?”
Darwin didn’t give me a chance to nod a yes.
“You won’t find that same kind of thinking coming from our friend ‘Deprivio Famininni,’ that bag on bones. He’s just the opposite of Artemis, even though he’s another of the Italian based brethren. He vacations in Africa. He loves Ethiopia and Somalia. Imagine, taking pleasure at starving your victims. Hmm . . . different chokes to kill your folks.”
Becoming further and further out of character Darwin chuckled at his own morbid joke.
“I find it incredible, knowing you, as I think that I do, that you can find humor about such things,” I returned instantly.
“Louis, you are going to have to begin to face the fact that I am in a morbid business. Don’t forget, within the ranks of your own kind, and over the centuries, mankind has been able to laugh in the face of their darkest fears. Some on your kind’s greatest minds consider morbid sense of humors as healthy.
“Have you noticed that some of the funniest situations are the most tragic? It’s hard not to laugh while seeing someone slip on a banana peel. I’ll tell you something, or let me ask. Where do you think that mortal man got his sense of humor? Why from the earliest jesters. We had a cadre of them. They were a separate contingent. In the recent past, Charlie Chaplin, Abbot and Costello, the Three-Stooges all poked fun at tragedy. Shakespeare and Cervantes before them, and Homer before them. They inherited their humor from the ‘gods of jest.’ They pulled off some very funny stuff. So funny, that I find myself fifteen to twenty centuries later chuckling at some of their antics. I often paraphrase the silly sons-of-bitches. The last two organized groups of emissaries to share the planet with each other were the theatrical duo ‘comedy,’ their guys, and ‘tragedy,’ my guys. Too bad, our side won-out.
“They, the jesters, were something special. Especially the ones who lived in Ireland, They were funny buggers.
“Back to business. I still want you to attend the banquet, Louis. Oh, it’s against the rules all right, but since I’m the host this time around I’ll call the shots. Don’t concern yourself. I won’t be setting any precedent. Over the years there have been mortals who have been privy to our centennials. All those planning on being present tonight know of this. One time when we wiped out the entire population of Mexico’s lost city of the Mayans in one fatal swoop we brought in the chieftains from other tribes in order to give them a warning. And there were other instances.
“It’s important to me that you hear certain things for yourself, direct from the mouths of others. Just don’t appear as if you’re shocked by some of the revelations. That would be bad. Appear to stay perfectly calm. You’re well aware of my philosophy about calmness. Remember, calmness advertises leadership.”
Darwin and I ventured out of his office and into the main lobby. By then, some of the Manitobans had gathered. Some milled around while others were making their way to the banquet room.
The room was stately. It was carpeted with a thick red, wine-colored floor covering, fenced in by rich koa wood paneling. Silent, stuffed, taxidermy heads of wild boar and elk, species that once roamed the park at will, would witness that evening’s goings-on in the dining room.
An appropriate fire roared in its place.
Taking back the managerial reigns from Darwin, I instructed the staff that there was no reason to be disturbed* during the banquet. I sent all unnecessary employees home early. Before whatever festivities opened the men could have been ordinary convention goers anywhere. They mingled and small talked.
Darwin moved towards the podium at the center of the room. He placed his hands together assuming a pleasant, statuesque kind of stance. Once he had the attention of all in the room, a hush fell over the assembly. `
“Aloha and good tidings. I’d like to welcome all of my old associates, friends and colleagues to Kilauea and Volcano House. I hope you find your accommodations fitting and I will do everything, ahem, humanly feasible to see your stay is as pleasant as possible. I’d like to introduce you all to someone I think most of you have already met. May I present Louis Cantrell, the Volcano House Head Bell Captain and my trusted confidant. He’s present during these proceedings at my request. Before any of you object, if the host deems it necessary it’s the option of the host to have their choice of mortals present. For my own reasons I wish to exercise that option.”
No one in the brethren showed signs of objection. ` I realized at that moment two things: first, that Darwin created the same mesmerizing effect on the so-called immortals as he did in the company for so-called mortals. Second, all the immortal talk between Darwin and me was now out in the open and being discussed with more than three-dozen others.
I panned they assembly while trying to fathom the possibility that this crew, that these creeps could be a composite, made up of all the grim reapers who ever stalked the Earth.
Their look was macabre enough, along with their demonstrative monikers but that alone couldn’t be enough to systematically knock off chunks of mankind. How any of these homicides could be manifested from here to there was far beyond me. The past history between us, and my unwavering belief in Darwin, was the only glue that held together what was becoming at most, a flimsy faith.
Darwin’s voice was heard again over the P.A. system. “Shall we get down to business?”
One of the Manitobans stirred in his seat, then got up, and moved towards the podium. It was one Mesquite Malaria. He was carrying with him a black valise. Once there, he dug into the leather satchel and pulled out some manila folders. He stared out at the crowd and squinted his eyes. He reached into the top pocket of his jacket and pulled out and put on a pair of extra wide, steel-rimmed glasses. The magnification of his eyes created by the thick lenses gave him the appearance of almost insect-like.
Evidently he was the reporting secretary of the group and prepared to give a report. He fidgeted a moment and then began to rattle off the most morbid composite of statistics I have ever heard. His tally accounted for the deaths of all Earthlings who’ve met their demise during the past one hundred years. His solemn readings touched on every conceivable way of dying. Wars, diseases and accidents made up most of the means. Proudly, he went on to point out how they, the Manitobans, wore people out and wreaked havoc on society. By his revelations I concluded that not even McDonald’s and their billions sold could compete with such numbers. Mystique glorified every epidemic of any significance.
During his speech he became very hyper. He moved his body to accentuate each bushel of numbers. By the time Mesquite Malaria’s death-filled speech expired, his clothing was drenched with his own perspiration. He proudly announced that in the past one hundred years more people had died during that period than in any other century since the beginning of time. They, the self-proclaimed assassins, according to Malaria had surpassed every killing record ever set. He said that therefore “the state of death” has never been healthier.
As he went on he appeared radiant. With precision, he rattled off statistic after statistic. He was actually reveling in the facts that he and his peers could legitimately take credit for their homicidal tendencies. He reveled so much so that he worked himself into the type of frenzy normally reserved for fundamentalist preachers at a church rally. In a demonic way he had risen, or I should say lowered him self into a sleazy nirvana. Finally, exhausted and exalted he staggered off the podium bathing, or I should say drenched in his own perspiration, while being showered by the applause of by his fellow death masters.
My eyes darted directly to where Darwin was standing. He was politely clapping but with less enthusiasm than most of the others. He was unruffled. He returned to the podium to introduce the next briefer, Manny Depressi.
Manny was a sorry sight. He was pale and emaciated. His face was pockmarked, a skin once ravaged with acne. Along with those bad looks he was graying, balding, wrinkled, snaggle and yellow toothed and nail-bitten. I’m sure that a closer inspection would have further labeled him as bad-breathed, b.o. – smelling, toe-jammed and itchy-footed-who also was a nervous wreck.
What my ears heard for the next ten minutes, even more than the last speaker, I will never, ever forget. As before, Manny delivered a corporate style report, an account that probably was the most successful yet depressing list of figures tallied in the history of the world. Manny Depressi, in his own disturbed manner, grumbled, complained, moaned and cried at just how sick the state of mankind’s mind was becoming. He painted a picture of a world filled with woes, racked by distrust and squeezed to death by famine.
“With our influence and the injection of alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, mind-altering drugs and then if you were to count the mammoth economic pressures of twentieth-century living.”
He bragged, “We have efficiently reduced mankind’s mind to Ishkabibble! The future never looked so bleak for mankind!” indicating that the future fortunes for the killers was becoming grotesquely bright.
He clutched the podium as if holding on for his life.
“The continuous pressures that mankind are under are becoming so taxing that they will drown themselves in their own sorrows!” he squealed. Tears streamed down his cheeks while flooding the deep ruts of his etched out jowls. Then the run-away tears dribbled off of his weak chin, dripping onto the floor. He rambled on. When he completed his report, he raised his fist in defiance and concluded his thundering address with a depressing joke. “Say, NO to drugs, especially lithium!”
The Manitobans stood in unison while applauding even more loudly than they had for the last speaker. A mess, Manny abruptly turned away and left the podium in a hurried state. Manny buried his head in his hands, dramatically trembling and sobbing without shame. Passing me, while still in hysterics I overheard him express his despair to those who would listen. He choked, “Oh! I’ve never been more depressed! I’m so nauseous! It’s so wonderful, thank you, thank you!”
I was lost! Was I in the midst of devils or lunatics? What were my options? The idea ran across my mind to dial 911.What would I say?
The unflappable Darwin reclaimed the podium. Seems there was a long-standing tradition amongst the brethren that the chair would be opened up to any delegate who asked for such a quorum, a set protocol for this segment of the meeting. Past rules deemed that each delegate had right to be heard without interruptions or challenges until finished.
Darwin, keeping with tradition, opened this segment with a ceremonial chant, uttering this chant in some sort of tongue. With a solemn nod, one could assume that the forum was open.
Like a piece of burnt bread popping out of a toaster, Ebony Plaque, leaped out of his seat and power-walked towards the podium.
By the explosiveness of his gait, there was no need for any acknowledgment by the chair and there was no argument that he was a man who had something on his mind. He took on the disposition of a man who had been waiting for years to get something off his chest. And, if what Darwin said was correct, he certainly had waited that long. As he made his way towards the front I overheard him talking to himself. Perhaps he was rehearsing his speech or just, so excited, that he was going to get his own two cents in.
Blackie, as he was referred to, had all the appearances of a broken man. His clothes were rumpled ad old. His herring bone sports coat had worn out elbows. Hi fedora’s felt was a mix of lint and gabardine with the nineteenth-century perspiration marks left all around its shriveled, uneven wavy brim, A cheap, food stained, wide necktie hung from a dirt rung neck. His once white shirt was faded to some sort of shade, too colorless to describe. His scuffed, brown, winged-tip shoes had holes their soles with worn down heels. His weather beaten suit pants hung from what appeared to be tired and skinny legs.
With a scratchy sounding voice, as unsettling as nails-on-a-blackboard–more like an old time, stumping politician saber rattling in a town hall, Blackie began his oratory.
“Last century, when we all gathered in Italy at Mt. Vesuvius it was agreed by this contingent, that a study be completed about the feasibility on how to curb mankind’s technical advances, especially advances against “Infectious Diseases.
“It’s quite evident that in the past one hundred years that this forum has yet to follow that recommended course of action. INSTEAD, we’ve mistakenly taken other routes. This body, I’ll remind you, has chosen to go with the sooo-called modern method. For the past one hundred years the existing powers of this brethren have attempted to poison mankind’s mind and body with bent ideology and chemical pollutants.
“Marx, Engle, Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Tojo, Stalin, Poppa Doc Duvalier, Big Daddy Amin, Khadafy, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein have been capable, yet in all actuality, all have failed. The chemical pollutants have fizzled out, too.
“I’m not one to ignore the modest gains created by corporate incompetence in conjunction with our own industrial sabotage. That’s all clearly evident by the magnitude of disasters such as Exxon’s major oil spill, Chernobyl’s nuclear debacle, Union Carbide’s gassing of thousands in Bhopal, and Niagara Falls’ Love Cana’s long term affects and genetic disorders. Yet in all actuality these have only been samples of bad ideas getting worse.
“What happened to our plans to increase the spread of contagious bacteria? Contagious bacteria, you might remember, is where most of us served our brethren apprenticeships. That’s always been where it’s at. Are we ignoring the basics? Are we abandoning our bread and butter? I can tell you that from my perspective we are not applying the tools of our viruses and bacterial infections! Sure, some of you out there have created sensational accidents and I’ve already given you credit for them. We’ve even been able to entice mankind into poisoning their resources, the sources of his food and water supplies.
“We’ve orchestrated great world wars and have continued to fester hated amongst men. It’s no secret that the dismantling of the Soviet Union was a setback, but that alone will not stop hate. Arabs hating Jews and visa versa are no brainers! With our help the Armenians will continue hating the Turks, the Croats and Bosnians will detest the Serbs, the Serbs will hate back, and everyone still hates the Japs. But, that alone won’t do the trick! Man will continue to hate forever as long as we keep nipping at his heels. But again I ask, what ever happened to ‘Infectious Disease?’ Hasn’t it been our mainstay since the beginning of time? Are we getting soft or something? Are we going to let those sterile-minded sons-of-bitches like Pasteur, Sabin and Salk, run us out of Business? Other than ‘AIDS’ and a few other runny nose ailments, we’ve made no bona tide advancements in the very field that has gotten us all this far.
“Whatsamatta here? Look around, where’s ‘influenza?’ Wasn’t he gonna be the new boy wonder, the scourge of the roaring Twenties?’ Instead, he’s become no more than ‘the flu!’. . . take two aspirins and call me in the morning. I’ll tell you where he is. He’s stuck… he’s stuck, and now he can only wallow with the weak. The State of Death can’t depend on him if he can only take out the feeble, elderly, and steal the life from defenseless infants.
“What ever happened to ‘Scarlet Fever?’ Remember him? He too was once touted as the new future of our people-ending process. Well, he petered out and became no more than a pink eye. Just three Tylenols and they don’t have to be ‘extra strength? Let me ask you all an intelligent hit man question. When was the last time that any of you recall anyone healthy dying from Measles, Chicken Pox, or Mumps? In the good old days we used to wipe out whole generations with just those three bad boys.
“Don’t get the wrong impression about personal remunerations. As for myself, all of you are well aware that I’ve been busted out for almost four hundred years now. It’s too late for me. But I share in the disgust the way some of the others in this room do. I’m just tired of hearing, ‘Wait ‘til next century.’ Polio is paralyzed, Diphtheria is dormant, and Tuberculosis is on his deathbed. These are my friends and along with me we’re getting sick and tired of not having an organized agenda for ‘Infectious Disease’ We’ve sat back and have seen for ourselves just what organized agendas can do for a disease. Cancer and Heart Disease can attest to that. I believe they’ve flourished only because they’ve had an organized agenda.
“But I’m still not so sure that they’re the real answer to achieve permanent elimination. Beware! Those killing all-stars also must guard against man’s technological advances. We should be placing strong emphasis on ‘Infectious Disease.’ I’m saying, that if we all put our shoulders to the wheel of bad karma, we could spread infectious disease into quadrants of society that so far have been impervious to our wrath. I implore this body, before it’s too late, to form some sort of killing-committee, and do it while we are here this week. We must address this problem head-on. You Cancers and Heart Diseases, listen! You might be on top today, but tomorrow is what you have to worry about.
“Where are we going to be next century‘? Who’s gonna show up at Mount Saint Helen’s? Mankind has now been around for over thirty thousand years. The mortals have attained great amounts of powerful technology, technology so potent that even the Master may not have ever dreamed up its potential. Who would have ever thought that back in the beginning some of them would evolve to be such pains in the asses, with the likes of the Danny Thomas’s and Jerry Lewis’s and other soft hearted sons-of-bitches. It’s a different time today. Back in my day, during the ‘Great Plague,’ the streets of London were strewn with rotting bodies. People ignored them and stepped right over them. People barely cared for their own let alone others. It’ s not like that anymore. There are too many do-gooders.
“The days of easy pickings are over. Imagine, the nerve of them. Only a few years ago they even recorded a music album, ‘We Are The World’. Would you have ever in your eternal life imagined that? I’ll tell you, it’s goddamned scary.
“Take it from me, old Blackie, unless some of you have forgotten. I once was on top’ of it all. I was somebody. Penicillin, antibiotics, genetic-engineering-they’ve all but ruined me. Watch out! You could be next. Don’t be so confident. Don’t let the same thing happen to any of you! Thank you.”
The disgruntled segment of the brethren rang the room with bravos. Mesquite Malaria was clapping’ his clammy hands together rapidly, and others followed suit. The affluent, on the other hand, sat on their hands, remained silent, and acted unimpressed and disgusted with “who-needs-to-hear it” smirks on their pusses. Some of them could ‘be seen commiserating with each other.
So, there I was in the midst of a perverse evening. The proceedings went on. I was getting used to, but far from believing, the rhetoric. I summed up that all those applauding death had to be nuts-pseudo-kooks and self-proclaimed deities. I couldn’t believe that Darwin Kindness would adhere to it all. I felt helpless and disgusted. I had had enough. I bolted out the door.
I felt every evil eye on my back as I scooted. Behind me the temperature felt as if it were below freezing. I made my way outside where it was much warmer. I couldn’t help but feel exposed from the rear, worried that they would try to stop me. They didn’t.
I returned to my bungalow not so sure that I’d ever return to Volcano House again.
A TRIP TO THE GROTTO
The next morning the sun rose and duty called. My work ethic pushed me out the door and had me steering my Jeep. It was as if it and I were on automatic pilot rolling magnetically towards the lodge. Once there, I found everything normal. The lodge was busy preparing for the daily onslaught of tourists. I scanned the front page of the morning’s Honolulu Advertiser.
Near the bottom of the front page I read the headline, “KILAUEA SHOWS SIGNS OF ERUPTING”.
After being brought up to snuff by one of the other staff I was informed that my presence was requested by Darwin, I reluctantly joined him for morning coffee.
Darwin sat tin the center of the cafeteria as peppy and cheerful as ever.
“Good morning, Louis.”
“Here he was, as usual, sitting alone, the way he did for those years, enjoying his coffee along with an English muffin and orange marmalade. As a matter of fact his coffee and muffin were commonly referred to around the lodge as “Breakfast Sinatra”. There were other eponyms too. “Breakfast my way,” a Darwin special. Darwin had many Sinatra-labeled combinations. There was “Tuna Sinatra,” tuna on toasted English muffin, lettuce, tomato, capers, no cheese, eighty-six the mayo. “Coffee Sinatra,” coffee in a Styrofoam cup with a touch of milk. Darwin said that the Styrofoam cup kept the coffee warmer longer. The kitchen staff, up-to-date with Darwin’s Sinatra menu, remained flexible and ready to add any new entrée under the crooner’s heading.
Darwin inquired about that day’s itinerary. I more or less, responded, that for me, it was a normal Monday and there was nothing specific on the calendar. I don’t believe that I displayed any signs of stress from the revealing evening, the one that I shared with him the night before. Beforehand, I had made an effort to convince myself that this was going to be a new day.
“Why don’t you pass on your responsibilities to Raymond, today. I want you to take me on a drive.”
Since Raymond was my long-time assistant, Darwin and I both knew that the lodge would be in good hands. We agreed to meet outside, in fifteen minutes by my Jeep. Before we left, I wanted to check out for myself results of some extraneous chores that I had assigned the prior week.
Once outside I noticed our guest, Thor Distucto and a female, returning to the grounds of the lodge. Both were huffing and puffing. By look of their outfits and perspiring foreheads they must have just returned from either a long jog or a strenuous walk. Both wore old-fashioned sweats, ones that had seen newer days. As they slowed to a walk I overheard Thor’s female companion speak. I couldn’t get just what she was saying, but I was able to understand that she also had a thick European accent much like Thor’s.
She was a large woman, big-boned with strong features and for a gal she boasted well-defined, muscular legs. It seemed to me by their fuzziness, that those exposed National Football League type calves had never been introduced to Lady Remington. Here was another instance where one of our weirdo guests matched up with a compatible mate. Despite all of its qualities, Volcano House never had much of a reputation for being a haven for lovebirds. Volcano House was no Club-Med. I could only sum up that each of these guys must have scheduled prearranged bimbos on call and they were all hooking up once they were settled-in, but, from where?
I’ll have to ask Darwin about this, since he held onto the answers. Darwin showed up and we drove off together.
“Louis, take us for a ride down by the coast. There’s activity I want to check out.”
We drove east of Volcano House, all the while still within the confines of the park. During the next half hour we would descend from 6,000 feet in altitude to sea level on about 20 miles of winding road. The drop was so severe that the road had to be designed as switchback. Hairpin turns had to be negotiated every few hundred yards. The terrain remained rugged littered with debris from past eruptions.
All the way down the vista was of epic proportions grant boulders leaned out taking on the appearance of patient hitchhikers, leaning over the roadway waiting for a ride.
The roadway split a sea of dried lava and wild vegetation. The vegetation sprouted through the dense lava from within the soil below. Here and there small kiawe forests eked out. As we weaved our way down the mountain before us fanned out a far reaching blue-Pacific a breathtaking view spreading over the yonder of the world.
In the distance we noticed giant white steam clouds rising towards the heavens, the puffs looking more like oversize cotton balls were the only objects contrasted against a bright Hawaiian blue sky before they evaporated into the cold thin air.
Rivers of hot molten lava streaming directly into the ocean created the clouds. It wasn’t alarming just part of the continuing process The Island of Hawaii always adds to itself as long as the volcano is erupting. In Kilauea s case eruptions were frequent. The volcanoes created the Hawaiian Island chain. Tons of lava poured out from below the sea pushing back the water to form peninsulas of new land.
Darwin remained silent until we reached a familiar fork in the road. He motioned to take the less used road, the one clearly marked kapu, the Hawaiian word for “keep out”! 0f course the sign wasn’t meant for Darwin. He had the run of the park.
Those signs were mostly for tourists who sometimes got waylaid or stuck in mud, sand or ruts. Auto rental manuals warned tourists to keep off those roads. Besides, car rental agencies didn’t care for their rentals’ wheels bouncing off the sharp edged lava, and worse, they really detested sending their tow trucks out to pull their rule-breaking patrons out.
“Louis,” Darwin began.
I braced myself for the next episode of revelations!
“Louis, you’ll trust me when I tell you that mankind has been tormented and disappointed since the beginning of time. They’ve been disillusioned. They’ve been constantly lied to. Every nasty trick ever devised has been carried out on them. The idea of Santa Claus, the promise of heaven, the notion that the good guy always wins and gets the girl. All are mischievous fallacies that are played out against mortals. Mortals, on the other hand, have never really wanted to face the facts. Now here you are finding yourself at an ambiguous crossroads. Your faith in me has been questioned. Perhaps the ‘god of hope’ did too good of a job on your ancestors and it’s embedded in your genes. You might be tormented, suspecting that your friend Darwin Kindness has gone over to some off the wall way — out cult. I assure you, Louis, I haven’t! You must trust me further Louis because I have a big job for you, and you are to play a key role if it’s to be successful. Your input is paramount. I don’t say this lightly, Louis. You will be instrumental in saving of mankind!”
I said nothing. I just tried to hold onto the wheel and swallow hard.
After silent moments I annoyingly blurted, “Who are these women that I see these so-called Manitobans with?”
“You mean to tell me, Louis, with all that I’ve exposed you to, the only characters that you find impressionable are the female escorts of some of our new guests? Why I was confident that other tangents of my story so far would intrigue you more so. To say the least, I’m somewhat disappointed. But to answer your question for the moment, let’s say these women actually are emissaries of mine. More or less, I’d classify them as lobbyists.”
“Whose side are they on? But before you answer that question Darwin, Who’s side are you on?” I queried.
“Why Louis, I’m on your side. And all my emissaries and lobbyists have given me their full allegiance.”
“Darwin, I’ll accept your answer. But one more question . . . Whose side am I on?”
Darwin laughed in amusement. “Louis, there’s no doubt in my ancient mind that you, sir, are on the side of good.”
“Who says, so?” I implored.
“I say, so! That’s why I’ve chosen you, nurtured you, and prepared you for this week. You are the future, Louis. Don’t let it all go to your head. There have been others who’ve qualified, who possessed your kind of stuff, but the time or place wasn’t right. It is now. Louis, you have the timing.”
We drove to where the road was no longer paved. My Jeep, as if doing a mean rumba on its four wheels, rumbled its way to the ocean. We pulled up next to tide pools ringed moss-topped lava rocks. Next to the pools was a woman who resembled Elizabeth. It was Elizabeth. Behind her, floating in the largest pool was a rubber Zodiac.
We drove directly up to where Elizabeth stood. She greeted us warmly as we emerged from the Jeep. She kissed us both on the cheeks. Without saying much, Darwin immediately began removing his shoes and socks and rolling up his pants. He motioned to me to do the same. Elizabeth was all ready prepared to go to sea.
“Louis, we’re going to take a little boat excursion and we need you to pilot the Zodiac, okay?” He had to raise his voice to be heard over the prevailing trade winds.
The three of us boarded the Zodiac. I started the Johnson-35. We motored down the coast towards those billowing steam clouds.
I’ve always surmised Hawaii should be seen from aboard a ship at least once. I often wondered what it must have been like for those original explorers. Exhausted from their trek and perhaps low on faith they may have been afraid that Hawaii was no more than mirage when they rested their sea-weary eyes on these glorious isles for the very first time. Let’s face it, they never beforehand viewed any full color travelogues previewing majestic Hawaii with its mountains, their peeks contrasting sharply against the clear, blue sky and carpeted by emerald green close-cropped vegetation.
I often wondered what it was to first view the mountains from the sea. I’ve also often wondered what it was like to first see Pele’s mountainous face, especially the leeward side. It was a face sculpted with deep rutted ravines, lined by character, brought on after centuries of erosion. Various forms of cloud from time to time plop themselves on the mountain’s head. Perched like silver colored hats, they create a silvery boarder between mountain and sky. I’ve also often envied those early travelers, imagining how they once escaped from dreary, dank, places like Newcastle, Southhampton or some other foggy port on the coast of England. They sailed for months, I suppose, without seeing even a glimpse of land on the horizon, let alone a postcard type mural featuring an up-and-coming Hawaiian Isle.
Those first to eye the vistas and panorama of old Hawaii unknowingly perhaps became very wealthy men. Scenery-wise they hit the jackpot, the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. When it came to scenery its value was unshrinkable. Memories of such sites could never be entirely spent!
Those whose eyes lapped it all up could always savor those memories. If they took the time they could reflect about how back in England even someone as rich as the King had only gray, damp, granite castle walls to nibble his hungry “eyes” upon. On the other hand, some of his subordinates, even those cast as low as a sea-swabby, feasted on sumptuous views, arrays of rare, lush flowers, birds and other wildlife coexisting in a tropical paradise.
An assortment of delightful aromas filled the air and beckoned those early sailors to sample those fresh fruits. The contrasting scenery of mountain, desert and tropical forests was magnificent.
I reiterated out loud how I hoped if possible all could view Hawaii from the sea. Those afterthoughts were welcomed distractions, occupying my mind while I captained the Zodiac. Shielding my mind perhaps from the Darwin’s scheme, I wondered how I was going to fit myself into his game plan. After being reawakened to reality, I tried to snap myself back into my seafarer’s trance, but I couldn’t. We continued to cut a wake through the waters
During the sea journey Elizabeth and Darwin continuously held hands the way honeymooners do on a whale watch. Elizabeth stared straight out. Darwin motioned to me to head towards a rocky cove. He waved me further, signaling for me to pass the cove. He hollered over the noise of the engine for me to make a sharp turn between two dangerous looking reefs. Waves viciously pounded the exposed reefs relentlessly. The Zodiac became difficult to steer as we came closer to the exposed reef.
“Go ahead, Louis. Go ahead! Run right between them! Straight ahead! It will be okay.”
I did as he said and passed over the stirring waters away from the protruding rocks. We then were amongst aisles of rocks staved off the pounding surf. Almost instantly we were in much calmer waters and in a hidden inlet. The inlet was out of view, by land and sea fortified by tall rock formations. The rock formations were numerous and unusual. It was as if we were entering some sort of hobbit-land. Ahead, I could see the entrance of a natural grotto. Darwin motioned again for me to head towards the grotto.
I cut the engine just inside the entrance of the grotto. To one side was an old dilapidated dock. I wasn’t sure if it could support Darwin’s weight after he leaped onto it from the Zodiac. Darwin tied the Zodiac line to a weather-beaten post and I helped Elizabeth out of the craft. Evidently Elizabeth must have been familiar with the dock.
She, right away, marched down it as if she had been there before, moving directly to a solo sconce. She yanked it out and then promptly lit the end’ of the torch.
“This way,” she said. The three of us made our way about fifty yards on the rickety dock, paralleling the grotto’s waters. Once deeper inside I was astonished when we came upon a good-sized boat, about a 50 footer. The boat was very old and not in the best condition. I was surprised to see that an antique steam engine had been installed, one that I had never seen before. The installation must have taken place years before, long after originally built, more or less a mini-ferry. The only other vessel that it reminded of was the one featured in the film classic, African Queen.
I had no idea how to jump start the engine. I assumed that a crank that extended from the bottom of the engine was the starter. I gave it a couple of hardy turns and the old engine sputtered to life. 0n the boat’s modest bridge was a wheel and some wooden handles that I figured out to be the ferry’s transmission.
Darwin barked instructions to prepare to get under way. Then he spoke further, “Louis, pay attention. I want you to memorize the way in, and the way out. It’s important to you. Keep as close to the dock as you can all the way back. Where the dock stops, you’ll notice a slippery looking trail carved out of the side of the grotto. Keep your eye on it. It goes all the way back to the rear of the grotto.”
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a beautiful Hawaiian girl appeared in our midst. She had striking long, straight, jet-black hair, contrasted by a white gardenia. Its sweet aroma offset the dank smell that lingered in the damp grotto. Her face glowed from the reflection of Elizabeth’s hand-held torch.
Despite the lack of light the reflection of the flame off her face made the confines of the grotto appear brightened. Her bronze skin glistened like a Rodin sculpture. Her svelte body had all the right equipment. My eyes focused in on her taut exposed navel, which was centered in between her white halter-top and her island wrap hugging her hips. She was barefoot. When I finished my inspection and ended up at her feet, I couldn’t help but notice her toe nails, well trimmed and neatly tucked into the soft mounds of flesh. Her hands, exquisite strong looking with long lingers, highlighted by the whites of her fingernail cuticles.
Darwin, not surprised by her presence said, “This is Maile, Louis. Do precisely as she says and watch her closely.”
That was no problem. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I hadn’t even noticed that Elizabeth was no longer with us but had left the torch though, in a sconce on the ferry’s bow
Where’s Elizabeth?” I asked.
“She’ll join us on the way back.” answered Darwin.
Darwin ordered that I should take the wheel and that we should cast off. Maile untied the line. We chugged away from the dock through the murky waters along the dark passage way with only a torch as our guide The ferry at first moved slowly but the current enabled the steamer to pick up its speed nudging us along as if we were in an amusement park’s tunnel of love. I kept the ferry as close to the dock as possible just as Darwim ordered. We heard rumbles deep inside, rumbles I suspected from inside the volcano, rumbles that made me anxious.
“What s that noise, Darwin?”
“Oh it’s only the bowels of Kilauea, Louis.”
“That s what I was afraid of.”
Maile grabbed onto my arm and confidently said, “There’s no reason for fear, Louis. We are an safe sacred waters.”
She, by touching me and acknowledging my presence raised my spirits, with me no longer full of apprehension. Maybe I should have been. Having Maile as an escort eased my anxiety. She ignited my libido offering me a rare chance to display my machismo. So much so I began experience a sense of invincibility.
“I believe you, Maile. I believe you!”
We continued our way deeper into the grotto at least four hundred yards back. Underground, a distance measured in one’s minds seems much further. We were greeted by two, huge, wooden doors serving as the back wall of the grotto. They were at least fifty feet high! I couldn’t imagine how they could ever have been constructed or by whom. The only doors I ever remembered looking like them were the ones in the film classic, King Kong. The only difference was that the ones in the movie, as I remember, opened out. These were designed to roll up, like a garage door, substantiated by hefty, rusty hardware and additional chains and pulleys hanging above the massive doors.
We moved the ferry nearer to the massive doors and then bobbed beneath them. Darwin ordered me to take the ferry about. Maile left my side and went to the port side of the boat.
Once near the sidewall she jumped ship, leaping off the side of the ferry and landing atop some flat-topped rocks. Once stable, she hopped boulders to the side of the grotto. Maile inched her way along the precarious trail and up to where the door’s hardware came to the end of its line. She then demonstrated the mechanics of the door’s mechanism, much like someone playing a parlor game or as effortless as Vanna White on TV’s Wheel of Fortune. She finalized the mime act and then disappeared in the darkness along the rocky trail that led back towards the dock. She was gone!
“Did you see how she did that, Louis?”
“Where did she go?”
“Never mind that now!” Darwin growled in an irritable manner unusual for him. “Just remember how she did that!”
Darwin tossed the anchor over board. He went to the bow of the boat and pulled the torch from its holder.
“Look Louis, “See that chain and pulley? They open the Doors of Ustulation?”
“The Doors of Ustulation?” I repeated, “What are they?”
We continued bobbing in the ferry beneath the doors as Darwin explained to me in detail about the mechanics of the doors
“Those doors, when finally opened will rid mankind of the deaths and plagues that have enslaved them from the beginning of time. Now you can take us back to where we embarked.”
Darin lifted the anchor. “This anchor will not be aboard the ferry on Friday night.”
We puttered our way back against the current and towards the dock I parked the ferry. Elizabeth was on the dock in the dark patiently waiting for us. I couldn’t resist the temptation peering back into the darkness to search for Maile, hoping I’d see her again, sure for that moment I wouldn’t.
More than any schoolboy I was taken by her already infatuated perhaps even (gulp) in love. How could this be especially then? I had not the slightest idea of where Maile had gone I knew though that I was completely enchanted by her.
I had seen beautiful Hawaiian women before. As a matter of fact I was partial to them. Their Polynesian features did that certain something to me. Those pleasant facial configurations that Hawaiian women boast-eyes spread apart enveloped with soft brown skin. Oh, how I admired her sensuous mouth, lips plump and full as if permanently puckered. They were lips that I desired. I noticed too her good-sized, sturdy feet, custom shaped for taro stomping. They had a distinct sexiness about them despite their size. The total image of Maile was embedded in my mind, maybe forever. I guess I shared a fascination of Hawaiian women in the same way the French artist Gauguin was fascinated by Tahitian women.
The three of use made our way back along the shaky dock towards the parked Zodiac. We boarded in silence. We left the grotto and headed back out towards the open sea. I looked back, so to be able to find again the hidden passage. Darwin caught my drift. I suppose he didn’t have to remind me to remember my way back. Once back we sat by the tide-pools. Elizabeth had stashed a picnic lunch for us. The three of us stayed near the pool, sat and ate, while dipping our naked feet into the water.
Elizabeth spoke like a matriarch. “Louis, you must realize that Darwin sees you as a very special person. He’s chosen you. Hopefully you’ll be a savior to mankind, What he’s asking you to do in many ways is simple, yet it will be a heavy burden for you to bear. Such a burden is reserved for those who are deserving-so deserving that for the rest of time you may be known as a redeemer.”
“Now just a minute, Elizabeth!” I barked. I acted annoyed.
“I may be willing to go along with a lot of stuff even though I’m not a religious person, but I’m not one for blasphemy!”
I was then counter punching yet despite reading my anger Elizabeth took off the gloves, so to speak while completely ignoring my righteous indignation.
“We can only call a spade a spade, Louis. I’m not trying to allude to the fact that you might possess some super natural powers. But you have to classify yourself as more than some ordinary ‘Harry.’ Let’s face it, you’ve been chosen. The mission is yours to complete. Like it or not you hold certain traits that meet the criteria for the job. You’re the hand that Darwin has chosen to play. Blame it on your upbringing or perhaps your nature, but you possess the essential qualities.”
Not to be hoodwinked. I responded, “You guys don’t realize that you are asking an awful lot of I need to understand much more, like specifically just what the hell you want me to do and why?”
Directing my attention to Darwin, “You’re trying to persuade me that you’re sixty thousand years old!” Then, looking back at Elizabeth, I opened up to her. “He’s got me involved with some weirdoes proclaiming themselves as kill-masters!”
I stared down, gazing into the pool. “Then I’m taking mysterious boat rides into a hidden grotto and all of a sudden I’m introduced to a beautiful local girl. In addition to that, you folks are laying on me this mumbo jumbo stuff about some sort of’ mission. And now you are telling me about these certain qualities that you say that I only possess. C’mon guys, give me a break-‘cause I’m getting awfully sick of it!”
“Louis, Louis, Louis!” calmed Darwin. “We don’t desire it to come to this. I’m sorry that we haven’t been able to tell you everything all at once. But as I’ve said, time is our enemy and I for one am not used to that. I’ve never been pressed for time before.
“I’m about to make a serious proposal to my fellow brethren and the issues here are very sensitive. Any disruption of those plans by either you or them can be a wild pitch and all hell will break loose! At best, certain distractions can set us back a minimum of one hundred years and maybe for all eternity. Please, Louis, be the even-handed man I know you are, just continue to listen me out. Just trust me for a short period of time. Then my boy, and believe me, then I’ll be forced to trust you!
“You see Louis, ‘gods of death’ are not totally indestructible. You could say that we have one hole in our donut.”
“So what does that mean?” I asked.
“In terms that you’ll understand we have a Kryptonite Syndrome, just like Superman. We too can die or be thrust back to where we came from, but only by certain means and at specific time. We only can be destroyed if consumed by the fires of a volcano and it must be on Halloween. It was on Halloween that we first arrived, and it’s only on Halloween that I believe we can leave. Perhaps we too, are destined. If it weren’t for our group there wouldn’t be a Halloween. It’s a holy night for the gods of death. We instilled the fear of the devil into cavemen. We chose Halloween as the devil’s night just to keep people away from our rituals. It was on Halloween nights that we cast the good emissaries into the fires of the volcanoes!
“In the beginning we still had faith in the Master. We’d gather every year, yearning for a sign and hoping that he’d beckon us back or even destroy us. We’ve always been in the dark ourselves about trying to understand the length of our own mission. Only on Halloween could we perish by returning to our original home. At other times, the fires of volcanoes had affect on us. Those who challenged their immortality and tested the fires, we believed, either perished or returned to that unknown dimension. Every hundred years, on the anniversary of our coming, we still gather at the sacred spots on earth.
“I’ve calculated that there are left on earth only a few volcanoes whose fires are blistering enough to pass us through. The fires are slowly extinguishing. If we aren’t destroyed within the next couple of hundred years, I’m afraid we just may torment mankind forever!
“After I introduce my proposal to the fellowship, I will need you, Louis. You will be the one who will help me achieve my goal. Surely, Louis, you’ve noticed over the years how I can’t operate anything mechanical. That’s a human attribute. We immortals have a certain magnetism rendering us mechanically useless. That’s why none of us drives. I can’t even operate a simple lawn mower or wear a watch. We have built-in atomic metabolisms. That’s specifically why I have counted on you or somebody human to drive me to town on Thursdays. That’ s why I needed you today to pilot the Zodiac. That’ s the main and only reason why I need you for the mission. I need you to again pilot the ferry. That’s why mankind needs you for this mission!
“Louis, as I said, I want you to motor us all back to the grotto, back by those ‘Doors of Ustulation.’ And It’s no joke and as serious as I can be when I say that I want you to jump ship as a leap of faith at the last possible moment onto the ledge. Then I want you to climb up the trail, just the way Maile did, and with the help of the chain’s pulleys I want you to open those mighty doors!
“Those doors are all that separate us from the core of the volcano. Once the doors are hoisted the ferry carrying the brethren, including me, will be caught in the whirlpool created by the water rushing through the then open doors. We’ll drift past the threshold of the doors, then tumble over the waterfalls and finally and hopefully, we’ll all perish on our 60,006th Halloween. Even if some of the spunkier brethren jump ship, by then the whirlpool will be too strong for them to swim back.
“If my hunch is right, once we’re gone, perhaps then mankind can live in peace and prosperity forever.”
“Hunch! For Christ sake! You gotta be kidding! You mean to tell me that you want me to jump out of that ferry, in the pitch dark, scale a slippery wall, try to open those doors and after I do, watch you all plummet over a waterfall to your demise?
“You’re assuming I’ll survive? And who is to say that the rest of your fellowship is going to go along with this? I’ say you might find yourself in the midst of a mutiny.”
“All of this is my responsibility, Louis. You have but one job. Leave the fellowship to me.”
“What if none of what you say is true, Darwin? What if your scheme makes me an accessory to murder? Makes shit! It would! Why you’d be the first to agree that if what you say isn’t true, then you have and the whole bunch have to be insane.
“What do you ‘expect me to do?”
“Trust your feelings, Louis. I assure you that each and all of the brethren will take that fatal ferry ride, on an absolutely voluntary basis. Each will be enlightened well in advance. If you wish you can witness their decision for yourself.”
Not being so convinced, I snickered, “Yeah, great. What about the district attorney? Will you also clear it with him first? Will he witness it, too? What will he say? ‘So, Mr. Cantrell, you say you abandoned thirty some helpless people on a ferry, one that you were piloting, and then you opened these doors and watched them all go over to their death! But, you say they can’t die ‘cause you believe they’re ‘gods of death!’”
“Louis, sure you can jump to such conclusions, but I assure you that they are irrelevant. Won’t you give us and yourself a chance?”
I was losing my composure, “Who the hell’s us? And just how are you going to talk your fellowship into committing mass suicide in the first place? To tell you the truth I’ve just about reached my boiling point!” Saying all in an indignant manner. “Who the hell do you think you are, Darwin, Jim Jones?”
“No,” he said calmly, not missing a beat, “but Jim could have never pulled it off if weren’t for the help of Manny DePressi. Manny influenced Jim Jones, you see. Manny planted the whole idea into the head of Jones, giving him the ability to convince over nine-hundred people to poison themselves.”
Darwin went on, passively ignoring my tirade. “Believe you me, on that day Manny’s coup earned him big points within the contingent. After all, that was his territory.”
I gritted my teeth in despair. “Jesus!” Here I was debating with the one man whom I had gained the most respect for more respect than I had ever attained for my own father. Darwin was the man, who less than twenty-four hours before I would have told anyone who would listen that I’d do anything for him in the world. I was refusing to play this game any further. It was just too painful for me to see our relationship unravel this way. As strange as it was, I couldn’t explain Darwin’s source or his supporting cast or props. So far, I had agreed to do nothing. I had agreed to listen. I had agreed to “imagine” or “pretend” That was it. I wasn’t sure if I still owed Darwin that much?
Darwin and I said good-by to Elizabeth. She must have sensed that there was trouble brewing between Darwin and me. She kissed us both. Kissing me last, she pulled me away from Darwin and close to her side.
“Please, Louis,” she spoke in a hushed tone. “Give Darwin a chance. He’s placing his trust in you. We both have faith in you. You must show faith in us. Sometimes Louis, and you’ve heard it before, ‘truth is harder to believe than fiction, and oftentimes it is stranger than fiction. All that we say is true.”’ I tried to eke out a reassuring smile. I couldn’t. I was miserable.
Once in the Jeep, Darwin and I headed back up the mountain towards the lodge. We said nothing much most of the way. Darwin opened my glove compartment searching for a cassette tape. He passed one for me to place into the Jeep’s player to be soothed by the sounds of Sinatra.
We drove back up Kilauea listening to the classic hits of Darwin’s favorite singer. I suspended my anger, nostalgic, as those old standards soon reminded me of sweet Maile.
This time, I broke the silence. “What about Maile?” I inquired.
“What about Maile?”
“Where does she play into all this? Is she on our side? Is she one of your lobbyists?”
“You may call her that. You could call her what you wish.”
“Are you attempting to induce my services by arranging for my seduction?”
“Don’t be absurd. I’d never think of patronizing you Louis, besides!”
Discounting his denial in a “who cares? Manner, “She’s a knock-out all right. Stunning is more like it. I’ve only imagined having girl like that for my own. But even she isn’t enough to sway my thoughts about being part of what you’re talking about. I’d rather meet a girl such as Maile under different circumstances, to tell you the truth . . . ”
“Oh, don’t get so serious about women, Louis Besides, I suspect that she’ s attracted to you. I can tell. Let me be fair with you, Louis. I’ll answer your first question, she is on our side and very much so. To answer the other, yes, perhaps I am trying to induce you.”
“Is she your version of a blind date, custom made for me? Darwin, are you somehow trying to tell me that along with all of this other stuff, which you perceive as being Earth-shattering, that now, here you are trying to fix me up? Don’t answer! ‘Cause I really don’t want to get into that with you right now.
“If you must know what I’m curious about, Darwin, it’s about one thing. How are you going to try to convince the others to go over the falls and plummet into the volcano‘?”
“Louis, I believe at this stage you deserve such an explanation. It’s like this Louis. Wait! Pull over, pull over!”
I pulled my Jeep to the side of the road. Both of us got out. Darwin led, hands in pocket surveying the lava field with his eyes all the way down the mountain. I more or less followed, disinterested in the vista and stared downward, watching my step on the sharp lava and wondering what more my ears were in store for? We strolled amongst the open fields.
We came across a field with petrographic drawings, more like markings, ones that once had been etched into freshly spewed and solidified lava during another era, centuries ago. The ancient Hawaiians drew the images. Most people interpreted the drawings as no more than crude etchings depicting the likes of “stick people.”
These likenesses accurately depicted the lives of ancient Hawaiians in their day. The drawings were mostly made up of images of people, sea life, farm animals and the few tools that simple islanders employed hundreds of years ago.
There’s never been a written Hawaiian language, so those crude drawings are the only documented Hawaiian history available, besides “talking story” and hula. Despite the fact that the white man has tried to reset the stage of what life was back during those times, those drawings are the only records left behind by the Hawaiians themselves. There were no state libraries, but only caves and lava fields on Maui and the Big Island served as lonely and windswept keepers of Hawaii’s ancient ways of life.
A few years back the University of Hawai‘i re created a real life-size replica of the Hokulea. Hokulea is the name for the Hawaiian sailing vessel with credentials equal to Columbus’s Santa Maria. It has been all but proven that the first Polynesians who arrived in Hawaii from Tahiti sailed to the islands on the original Hokulea.
Petroglyphs from around the state were precisely copied so to replicate the design of the new Hokulea. Such action would insure the authenticity of the project. The idea of these etchings still being easily accessible has to be considered as amazing, and a blessing, especially during this day and age. The fact that some of these valuable etchings essential to Hawaiian history have yet to be carted off to some museum or worse, to some bozo’s living room or den right next to the synthetic bear rug, reflects the respect that locals have for such keepsakes.
* * *
Darwin laid out his plans, previewing how he was going to deal with the brethren. He did this as we marched over the lava fields.
“Communication, Louis,” Darwin voiced.
He stopping abruptly, turning a full three hundred and sixty degrees, with his large hands on his hips and taking into his sights the entire petroglyph-filled field.
“Have you ever stopped to realize Louis, that individuals intelligently and constructively communicating with one another can checkmate most dilemmas? History notes great moments, especially when mankind stood on the edge of conflict. Miraculously, it was communication that saved the day. Why it’s documented the way Moses and the Pharaoh, Pope Leo and Attila the Hun, and in your time, J.F.K. and Khrushchev communicated just in the nick of time. Those gallant actions are proof of mankind staving off horrible catastrophes. The method can be effective. I have great faith in communication. I suspect that it can be effective even while working with immortals.
“I too, plan on taking the road less traveled by communicating my thoughts and aspirations with the others. This is the time, and this is the place when the rest might just listen to reason. To a franchise they all had great success at one time or another. You’ve heard them. Some are fulfilled for the moment, conceited peacocks for now, but whose eggs are all dangerously placed in one fragile basket. Others predictably are unhappy, reduced to the role of vultures, positioning themselves for scraps while they continue to be disheartened about the events of the day.
“The rest are ambivalent, much like ostriches, with their heads in the ground. All perhaps should subscribe to the ‘Sinatra Theory,’ and adhere to the lyrics of, ‘That’s Life.’ You know, ‘flying high in April, shot down in May.’ I bet ‘Ole blue eye’s’ lyrics just might help out. As an afterthought, Frank’s songs will last as long as man does, anyway.
“Louis, you must be horrified at the immense size of just what we have done to mankind over the centuries. I ask you, what have we accomplished? We’ve established killing amongst ourselves as an art form, in our eyes, a refined occupation. But have we tried to streamline our horrendous methods or arrange them so that they’ll be more altruistic?
“Hell no! The agony that has gone along with death still persists. The suffering continues. We’re notorious for saying that man has yet to learn from our wrath. Well neither have we. We’ve simply become nothing more than habitual killers. The most humiliating summation of all of this for me is that beyond satisfying, what’s become our fellowship’s warped addiction? Death actually has no viable purpose.
“As for myself, Louis, I feel that I’ve been much more privileged than the others. I’ve been able to get by oh my own and set up shop in this place. I love Hawaii. Or I should say that I’d love it if I could. It appeals to me. I’ve looked out from the tops of its mountains. I’ve scanned the skies. I’ve experienced all the natural wonders that take place in this great place. Yet, I’ve only been able to imagine the passion sensed by humans, romantically in the moonlit, with the branches of coconut trees showing as shadows dancing off a face one might fancy. Believe it or not, I’ve always been intrigued at the idea of being human on such romantic nights. During other times, I have yearned to be human even if it meant the end of my immortality. Death, at times over the centuries might have been a welcomed relief for me. If I could but touch the pulse of love, just for a moment, my death would be welcomed reward.
“In just the same way as mortals, I can only fantasize about certain things. When one thinks of it, in all actuality, my sole function is to be merely ‘kind. In retrospect, it makes me somewhat bland, one-dimensional and I’m afraid that has made me awfully boring. As a matter of fact, and you might also find this hard to believe along with the other things I’ve told you, I might even welcome the idea that in certain circles I’d be considered nasty, grouchy, or even downright selfish. Immortality, you see, has stifled me. Can you relate to that? Have you any idea how disenchanted I’ve been at times being only thought of as a nice-guy? Why it’s a curse! All these centuries I have been perceived by big shots such as potentates, popes, and presidents, as being kind … tsk…tsk…it’s shameful. Ironically, mortals, even with their idiotic human limits have been able to be immortalized. Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Caesar are immortalized. You know why? They’re killers! Imagine!
“Even the myth of the devil, who we created, has outdone the brethren. My ilk has never really gotten the deserving credit.
“Even the so-called ‘Almighty’ has been wrongly credited. How many times have you heard uttered by bewildered grievers after a calamity that it was none other than ‘God’s will?’ Well! It was. It’s just that mortals never fingered which specific god was responsible.
“You’ve never read in a history book where it was Thor Destructo who ravaged a countryside in Poland, or that it was his prompting that instigated the assassination of Duke Ferdinand and subsequently started World War I. What about the countless hearts that Artimus has clogged and stopped? So much for their destructive powers they’ve achieved nothing. It’s a cruel joke on the brethren. The facts are that the Master has abandoned us and there’s likelihood that the Master may no longer be viable himself. Furthermore, the mortals are our only audience.
We’ll never be fathomed as credible, as immortals or bonafide gods if you will, unless we’re finally acknowledged by your kind, the meely-maley mortals, the human race.
“Louis, with my plan all the others on Earth including yourself, the fellowship, and I, can achieve infinite immortality. By all of us joining in on my plot the brethren can eliminate death while reducing sorrows, and at the same time, the brethren would be ridding themselves of the guilt they’ve accumulated since the beginning of time. If everything pans out, mankind will mark our demise ‘til the end of time. That’s all anyone could realistically want.”
Darwin went on. He went on to emphasize about Hawaii. “The placid nature of these fragile isles has molded and sustained an easy going, tranquil mood. That’s why I’ve stay at this place. The islands are special. And so are those who have found their way to these pristine shores. Many fortunate pilgrims arrived from far away places, such as yourself and lucky ones have been able to understand and achieve Aloha!
“The more fortunate are able to further be humbled with an opportunity to give Aloha, a loftier reward. Regardless of the fact that I’m immortal, I’ve still been able to recognize and respect the kind traits of humans. It’s my namesake. I believe the subtle ways of this place, once unleashed, can be contagious and spread a gentler way around the whole world. Here, love, beauty and bounty neutralize hate, blight and poverty. Without the fear of death, man can be set free from atrocities and miseries brought on by the brethren, plus the genocide that he brings onto himself.
“Why should mankind be forever kept in the dark? We, the brethren, at this time control our own destiny and I believe we can release man from his captivity. I’ll do my best to explain to the fellowship with all my reasoning. I only hope that they will see it my way. The plan is in play and can be successful. I am convinced it will work with your help and the help of others.
“You’ve mentioned to me about the women. Thanks to the help of Pele, our brethren at this very moment are experiencing some of the pleasures of the heart. For all of eternity the fellowship has viewed mating or close relationships between male and female, other than reproductive sessions, as weak human traits. We don’t feel love. We’ve seen and employed women almost exclusively as field whores. As for myself, I’ve chosen to remain celibate rather than participate in an unrewarding affair. Pele is responsible this week for creating infatuation among the ranks of the fellowship. Her powers are such that she can melt the iced-heart of an immortal. I’ve sought her help. She’s helping them and even me. Somehow I’m counting on her to give them some sort of zest for life from a human perspective, even if it’s a result of trickery. She’ll do her part.
“As for you, Louis, you sell yourself too short. You’re a special type of man. You may not realize it, Louis, but you have true humility, a rare human trait. It’ s not an attribute some emissary programmed you with. Only the Master himself had the power to hand down humility. Humility, as kindness, is a title much like knighthood. I bet hunting a deer for sport could never be your forte. But I’m positive that you could’ slay a wild boar to feed your family. Why Louis, you’re not one to swat a fly. You respect life. I’ve observed you and I’ve observed the way you respect the way of the islands and its people. Louis, you are keiki 0 ka aina. Not to embarrass you, Louis, but you’re one of those people who make this Earth a much better place. I’ve never known you to chase had luck, dirty bucks or tainted women. While handling your duties you’ve delegated authority with dignity and without showing off. Louis, you’re pure of heart. That is why only one who is deemed to have a pure heart will be able to complete the mission.”
“Jesus, Darwin, that was a mouthful. In many ways I’m flattered even amazed that you can say those things about me. But as I’ve stated, on the other hand this becomes more and more like’ a dream or a sci-fi novel. Only thing is… I’m in it!
“Besides just filling me in about jumping ship and climbing a wall to open doors, which are physical things, now, low and behold, I have to be ‘pure of heart’. What else?”
“I’m afraid I haven’t told you everything. There are other risks! When, and even if our Manitoban friends go along with my plan there could follow other repercussions. There are powerful forces that may react negatively to what I am proposing. I have no idea what they are or how they will retaliate, but I’m sure that pre-programmed defense systems will come into play. The fellowship’s inherent immune system will not just capitulate and let itself die. They have century upon century of death stored up in their immortal souls. These inbred retaliatory measures will attempt to protect the fellowship perpetually. My proposal will take place only moments before we cast off. This will not give such defenses much time to muster. There will be attempted retributions against you. It’s only to be expected. That’s why I’ve insisted since” the beginning that time is our enemy. These forces will focus directly towards you. Once they realize that you are the adjutant who has been chosen by me to drive them to their death, they will activate their defense systems. An impure man cannot stand up to such onslaughts because any evil within him will bum him up from the inside. With my plan, Pele’s help, the others, and a little luck, you’ll be able to fend them off. If I’m right about you, you’ll make it.”
“What if you’re not right and I’m not the ‘goody-two-shoes’ you think that I am? Then what?”
“Then you’ll perish, which you’ll eventually do anyway. I’ll still be here along with the others and ‘we’ll more than likely stay for all eternity.”
“I knew there was a catch, Darwin. Goddamn it! All and all there are an awful lot of ifs! Let me start to count ways.”
“Think of the bottom line, Louis. Mankind is asking very little of you. Better and lesser men than you have sacrificed themselves during peace and war in order to save their brothers. If you fail, it’s academic. As I said, you’ll die, sometime, someplace, somehow. Face my facts. Take in the big picture and come to grips with the scope of it all.”
“What if your theory is only half right? Say mankind goes on forever and we continue to be greedy, selfish and continue to insult, maim and kill one another. What if we don’t deserve such bliss?”
“Mankind only deserves the opportunity for such a time. I have faith that this action will precipitate a ‘Camelot-like’ atmosphere. Planet Earth will become a utopia, a paradise without fear of disease, oppression or death. Mankind will prosper. We have to take chances. I’m willing to take mine. My days of influence are certainly numbered, no matter what.”
“Darwin, I’ve always taken pride in carrying out my duties. But please take into consideration that I’m only an employee. I mean so far, up to this point, it has only been a job.
“If I only had a sign. All this has been a bit much for me. I’m confused. Let’s head back to the lodge.”
We hadn’t noticed how far we had strolled down the mountain from the Jeep. Just as we started to tum around head back up to the Jeep, a huge humpback whale breached out of the ocean. We heard the loud impact regardless of the fact that we were at least a mile away.
Darwin turned to me with his hand, and flashed towards me some sort of a combination of signs perhaps used by Spock or TV’s Mork to send out an alien greeting, or maybe another interpretation of what could be translated as a dorky ‘Nixon victory sign.
He had a grin on his face and he said, ‘May the humpback be with you. ’ It was comic relief at its best. I almost felt normal.
ENLISTING NEEDED HELP
Within forty-five minutes we were back at the lodge.
Darwin suggested, after I checking with the staff that I’d go to his office. Fifteen minutes later I stepped into the office. He had company. Standing erect in front of Darwin’ s desk was Thor Destructo. Seated next to him was his fraulein exercising companion who I seen him with earlier that morning. The introductions went around and Thor introduced his close personal friend, one Countess Madeline Gauche. Darwin suggested that we all have a drink.
Thor formally clicked his heels, clearly an affirmative.
Ms. Gauche excused herself and abruptly departed. Darwin reached for three glasses and the bottle of Sambuca.
This would be my first personal encounter with one of the Manitobans, other than at the lodge’s check-in desk. I had my guard up. I was nervous. Hopefully it wasn’t noticeable. After all, supposedly I was in the midst of the “king of conflict.”
“So how goes death, Thor?” Darwin parried.
Thor, comically reminding me of Hogan’s Heroes Colonel Klink, adjusted his monocle, placed his other arm behind his back and paced towards the room’s only window. Once there, he stopped and began to answer Darwin’s inquiry.
“Vaar, is not vat it vonce vaas my dear friend!”
“Nothing is what is used to be,” retorted Darwin.
Thor pivoted, turning suddenly. He aimed his only seeing eye at me through the lens of his much worn monocle, as if to be sizing me up.
“Voyer name is Louis. Vem I correct?”
He went on. I’ll skip his accent.
“Louis, have you ever been in combat? Have you ever shit your pants from fright? Have you heard the pathetic, pitiful cries of grown men calling out for their mommies? It’s awful witnessing warriors withering away, ones once sturdy who are about to become shells of men, a pathetic mush, reduced by the horror of war.”
Thor pressed for an answer?
I admitted with an unsteady voice and told him that I had served in Vietnam, in 1967, with the 25th Infantry Division. After displaying an initial astonishment Thor broke into it comfortable smile. He placed both his arms atop my shoulders and leaned his face directly in front of mine.
I braced for the worse, anticipating the stench of death expecting to be grossed out by him interfering in my personal space. None of those sensations materialized. He just held on to my shoulders, not a vice grip but firm remembrance, a tribute perhaps to all unknown soldiers dead and alive. He still held on to me; his baldhead slightly bowed and his one working eye closed. He then snapped out of his self-imposed trance.
He slowly lifted his head and said quietly and in a respectful manner, “Then Comrade, we’ve been together.”
“I suppose so,” I answered in a shy way, never forgetting about his rumored legacy.
So far in life I hadn’t dwelled much on the past. Twelve months in a combat zone undoubtedly leaves a knot in your laces. I erased most of the bad memories. Knowing war I praised every day I had survived with all my limbs and senses intact.
Thor barked in Darwin’s direction, keeping both his hands and his one good eye on me. “Darwin, as usual, your choice of assistants is still excellent. I still have fond memories of Alika.”
Darwin thanked Thor for his compliment and then picked up the conversation in order to fill me in.
Thor and Darwin worked in tandem on at least on two occasions. Once, back in the seventeen hundreds, Thor came to the islands while making the acquaintance of Kamehameha the Great.
Thor struck up a relationship and influenced the then young Hawaiian chieftain. Before long, the yet-to-be-proclaimed great Hawaiian leader was waging war against the other islands.
To hear Darwin tell it, like it or not, Kamehameha’s sometimes harsh efforts united the islands and created a kingdom. Darwin had settled on Kilauea volcano centuries before Kamehameha the Great was born. Soon after Kamehameha’s successful conquest, Darwin intervened and stopped the fighting, while informing Thor Hawaii was exclusively his turf.
He reluctantly sanctioned Kamehameha’s victory but refused to tolerate any further interference of Thor’s aggressive influence anywhere in the region. Thor and Darwin negotiated a peace treaty insuring Kamehameha’s power, and thus began an immortal friendship that has lasted ‘til this day.
Also at that time, Darwin had an assistant named Alika. Alika’s family’s village wasn’t far away from Darwin’s retreat. Soon after Darwin and Thor’s treaty, Kamehameha was on an exploratory mission. With him was a detachment of his ali’i. The ali’i were an elite fighting force, considered royalty, the cream of the crop Hawaiian warriors. Kamehameha decided to lay siege on A1ika’s nearby village. Kamehameha’s scouts informed him most of the able-bodied men were out fishing. Women, children and the elderly primarily occupied the then defenseless village. Darwin’s assistant, Alika, was one of the few able-bodied men in the village. The Hawaiian chief sent a small negotiating party to the village with orders. His surrogates ordered the village to surrender or be enslaved.
When the king and his highly skilled warriors showed up at the village’s frontier, to their surprise, they were greeted by a savage counterattack led by Darwin’s, Alika. Despite the fact the village’s regular defenders were far off, the few fit elderly men, women and youths fought vehemently, matching the fury dished out by the ali‘i. Kamehameha’s force was repelled on each attempt. The ferociousness of the defenders at first infuriated Kamehameha. He put to death some of his own commanders for their failure to overpower the meager force. In retrospect, the villagers’ valiant effort impressed Kamehameha and it gnawed at his sense of chivalry. After sizing up the condition of his own forces, his impressions of the villagers broadened while the hopes of the defenders skyrocketed as the king called off the siege and left them in peace.
He further issued a decree throughout his kingdom that his ali’i warriors would never again attack a village unless it was properly manned and fortified. History substantiates this story.
Once Darwin got wind from Alika, he cornered Thor and implored that he’d take the young Hawaiian chieftain aside and instill some additional compassion in him. Darwin told Thor that he had a whole globe to work with in the real world and that he never again wanted war or its savagery spilled onto the civilian population of Hawaii.
Thor complied. Thor then placed Kamehameha under the tutelage and guidance of Darwin. After Darwin’s kind and steady influence, and only then did Kamehameha come to be known in the united Royal Kingdom, the protectorate, the U.S. Territory and the 50th State, and until this day as Kamehameha the Great.
Kamehameha complied so much so with Darwin’s theory that when Captain Cook and the first Europeans sailed their way to the islands, they were greeted with extreme kindness.
So kind was their greetings the Hawaiians eventually gave away all of their earthly possessions including the never-to-be-gotten-back ‘aina, their sacred lands.
Then once again history shows that back in l94l Darwin checked Thor another time. Thor whipped up a grandiose scheme to cast the entire world into a sensational war. According to Thor, an essential part of his plan included a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Thor pleaded with Darwin to let him lease the right of war for just one day! For that moment in history, he’d be forever thankful.
The Japanese were to attack only military installations in Hawaii. A masterly planned Japanese invasion of the Islands, contrary to Darwin’s accord, had to be scrapped. The limited action in Hawaii certainly altered the events of the World War II and vastly reduced the number of casualties. Thor was grateful for the opportunity and followed Darwin’s terms.
Thor maintained deep respect for Darwin contrary to his own savage personality. Between them, maybe the old adage was in play, that opposites attract, even amongst so-called immortals. The strict, military minded authoritarian, Thor, and the overt, kind, somewhat irreverent Darwin, both coexisting with no qualms.
Darwin finished his long-winded yet fascinating biographical information about Thor Destructo and himself.
“War!” Thor bellowed. “War is becoming less and less profitable, less appealing, less romantic and I’m ashamed to say, less honorable!
“I’m tired, Darwin.
“Sunrise! Sunrise once had an air of excitement. The drums, the sounds of reveille used to stir my very juices. They were sacred rituals before the attack.
“There was a time my friends when the world’s brightest, wealthiest and most sophisticated people looked forward to mortal combat. Why, hand-to-hand combat was an art. Wielding a saber, positioning a shield or being able to ward off the thrust of a bayonet were envious talents. There are no real warriors today. They’re nothing more than pansies with soft, mushy hands-fucking computer operators.
“Where are the Pattons, the Custers and the Bonapartes? The only action that I’m able to stir up these days is in low life, shit bag third-world countries. Now, it’s embarrassing, especially while attending affairs such as this. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the debacle in the Persian Gulf.
“Do you remember? Do you remember when Thor Destructo strutted onto the convention floor a hush fell over the crowd? No more. The proof is in the pudding. What have I got to show for stirring up trouble between the Iraqis and the Iranians? Will I ever be able to count on those mental midgets in Central America? Africa? Forget it!
“I get no thrill out of enraging, hapless ignoramuses. Not so long ago, the utterance of an insult was enough to entice the Romanovs to invade the Ukraine. A slight by a Polish princess might precipitate the Czar’s cavalry, rushing into the soft underbelly of Eastern Europe, butchering Poles or Turks on a wholesale level. The English, Spanish, Dutch and French were staunch advocates of mine. They might have fought on for a hundred years and still wouldn’t have had their bellies full. Détente, glasnost, IBM treaties, arm reductions. Such notions are destroying the very fabric of war. They’re killing me!
“At times Darwin, I’ve suspected that even you, with all your pleasantness, have to toughen up in order to be nice. You, the crown prince of sweetness, have to get your hands dirty now and then, at least more so than today’s so-called generals. There are no more secretaries of war. They’ve been renamed ‘secretaries of defense,’ ‘chiefs of staff,’ or ‘public safety directors’. They can’t remain combat ready while hiding away in a fortified bunker or some air-conditioned war room far away from the action!
“That’s not WARRING . . . smelling the stench of death . . . hearing the cries of pain _ . . seeing the destruction caused by one’s troopers, that’s what separates the men from the boys, plus it keeps one’s mind fit for battle.
“There are the subtle moments. On one hand, a commander can show compassion towards the enemy but at the same time the same commander should be able to squeeze the breath out of a man with his bare hands.
“There’s etiquette. There are honorable gains, distinguished by-products evolving from conflict.”
Thor numerously contradicted himself. At times pointing out certain instances where he felt humans excelled beyond his expectations, but only toward those whom he felt showed valor. He admired leadership, boasting about commanders who displayed chivalry in the face of defeat, impressed about how sea captains, although on opposite sides of battle, would see to the wounded were evacuated from sinking ships or how captains stayed aboard even after a cause was lost, even if it meant that they too were doomed.
Thor delivered to Darwin’s and my ears the speech he would never choose to deliver, but one he may have uttered if he felt so inclined.
“There’s no valor anymore. There are but few pug face soldiers willing to dive on a live grenade. There’s genuine glamour while sacrificing one’s self. It’s romantic to imagine staving off an overwhelming force, despite the odds.
“Discount peaceniks! There are valid reasons for conflict. Pride, power, philosophy and self-perpetuation are much more appealing than those of today’s petty-scoffs. Today, I can only entice peons to kill each other over greed, drug routes and more money. The whole idea of war seems to depend on the numbers posted in the ledgers of their Swiss bank accounts.
“The Swiss, who were once the world’s best mercenaries, the protector of popes and the most ferocious fighters in Europe have been reduced to potbellied bankers.”
Darwin interjected, “Perhaps the Swiss are brilliant, Thor.”
“Darwin, I’ve never been willing to deem low life humans as brilliant. It seems that your hand holding philosophy has never permitted them to act like real men. You’ve always wanted to baby them. You’ve never trusted them to make it on their own with you flashing a weak spot in your heart for them.
“Perhaps, with you, it’s inherent. After all, aren’t you ‘death by kindness’? My subjects-why they can’t prevail unless they fight. Now Darwin, your tactics are downright sneaky.”
Darwin scoffed at Thor’s accusations; still saying he was impressed and flattered by Thor’s recognition, despite his tone. He said that maybe it was time once again to speak about their long-time alliance. Darwin told Thor that it was he who needed his assistance.
“Thor, stop and think for a moment. You are one who has rolled up your sleeves and worked hard over the centuries. You’ve been one of the most productive of the brethren. Your exploits are documented in the annals of history. The fellowship respects the fact that if anybody, Thor Destructo has lived up to his potential. You could never be accused of being a ninety-year wonder such as some of the plagues, famines or bad times that man has lived and died with. You’ve riled the Israelites and Philistines and you are still doing it. You’ve festered the hate between the Turks and Armenians. What about the American North and the South? You tutored Hitler less than three quarters of a century ago. Your genius is envied by some of our great minds as much more than being brutally barbaric or brilliantly academic. You’re a leader above all others and the most admired by your peers. If the Master were here today, he’d be proudest of you.
“Thor, surely you’ve been involved in conspiracies. How about participating in one right now? I believe my friend that today’s atmosphere has changed. Your exploits have been more than just cyclical. You’ve been consistent. So here we are, for the first time ever the king of conflict facing what some might consider as tough times. You see Thor, your so-called lame brain humans have coined the phrase, ‘tough times don’t last forever, but tough people do.’
“Like it or not, Thor, there’s merit to that statement. They’ve held up pretty damn well. Think of the magnitude of woes we’ve thrown their way. Our devious methods have preyed on them relentlessly during their every age. We’ve exploited their passions and aspirations, enslaved their children and poisoned their very souls. You alone have sent millions upon millions to early graves. We’ve tortured them with outlandish ideas. We’ve made them almost delirious by setting for them unreachable human goals. They’ve fantasized and have ridiculously grasped the idea that they might actually reach those unattainable goals. We’ve painted a false picture that Jesus and Allah might be lovingly waiting for them with open arms in places such as heaven or Avalon. Worse, we’ve planted the foolhardy chance that they might achieve incarnation. They’ve died needlessly over loyalty, love fame. They’ve died for nothing at all. Our bottom line has been but one thing: Sheer numbers. I ask you, Thor, where has all the carnage gotten them or us? Right now, today, six-hundred-centuries later, we’re still bickering amongst ourselves. We’re never satisfied and there doesn’t seem to be an end to it all. Don’t you think it’s about time we give mankind his fair due? We’ve had a good run. We’re all tired. We’ve become more like them and they more like us.”
“Oh, C’mon Darwin. What are you getting at? Your little earthlings are a lot of nothing and they’ve been doled what they deserve. Why should you or I feel any different today than we have for years? The brethren on a whole possess no weak-kneed emotions. We have no conscience or sense of idealistic fairness. Mankind is nothing more than an over grown wheat field that should be combined every autumn. The Earth is ours and solely ours and humans are our harvest. It’s as simple as that. We are the Masters here. Our means are irrelevant. As I said, Darwin, you’ve always been weak on their account. I recognize your kind nature only because the Master himself bestowed it upon you. I’ve developed a liking for you, and because I’ve long understood how you feel about this part of the world, I’ve tried to keep my conquests away from your pristine Hawaii. Perhaps your new way of thinking has gone a bit too far, oh god of kindness. Maybe, Darwin, you should stop pussy footing around and say just what you really mean?”
“I haven’t gone too far, Thor! I haven’t gone far enough! What I’m telling you I’ll be glad to share with the others. That is, that the killing should stop! It’s about time we give mankind the opportunity to control his own destiny and give mankind much more than simply an abbreviated lifetime. If you, the others and I eliminate ourselves, plagues and calamities will no longer besiege humans. That’s why I m going to suggest that we must now retire-forever!”
“Retire or expire!” Thor lashed back without missing a click. “Which of those do you suggest, my friend?”
“You understand well what I suggest. You’re deeper than that. I’ve never accused you, Thor, of being a master of the obvious. I’m taking a chance here believing that you’re more than just a death machine. I sense that like me, you’ve seen enough. I have a plan. I want to include you! I want you to listen! I need your help!”
By that time Thor already had Darwin figured out. Thor set the stage. He wasted no time painting a close to accurate picture about what was going on, including the “Doors of Ustulation.” He informed Darwin that by his tone he was on to him. Thor went on to unfold Darwin’s plan before us.
“You’re saying what we already know, that you subscribe to the theory we will either return to our original dimension or perish in those fires on the ‘Eve of All Saints Day’-Halloween-a fact that we’re all aware of. All good soldiers are cognizant of their vulnerability. I consider myself an excellent soldier.
“Are you saying that here at Kilauea there are ‘Doors of Ustulation’?”
With nothing to hide, Darwin affirmed, “Yes, there are.”
Darwin took time and went on to explain to me that the caretakers of the volcano had built the doors beneath Kilauea, same as they had at other locations, beneath volcanoes that were bordered with a body of water. The doors were built with layers upon layers of rock-hard Hawaiian sandalwood, sturdy enough to hold back the fires of a hundred nuclear power plants. They had been painstakingly built, originally to protect the brethren but also to insure a way’ back for them in case that day would come to be.
“I’m sure you’ve figured out and perceive plenty, Thor, but I want you to listen further.”
Darwin told Thor his plan, including the details about my participation. He strongly reminded Thor about the time that he permitted him to lease Hawaii for one day back in 1941. Darwin didn’t mince words reminding Thor that it was time he’d cash in on their past agreement. Darwin told Thor that this Halloween was the day that his note was due. Sparing my ears exactly the precise terms of their agreement, Darwin pressed Thor. He counted on Thor’s honor and the owed debt to be his trump card.
Thor, not one to show his hand, listened intently to every word.
When Darwin concluded Thor said, “Let’s say I went along with such nonsense. How do you propose at getting the rest of the brethren to put themselves in such a volatile position?”
“Thor,” Darwin said kindly. “Forgive me, for the moment. I want to change the subject. I’m inquisitive about your acquaintance. What’s her name? Madeline. Yes, Madeline. Why she seems like a remarkable woman. And she’s so much so like you, Thor. For the life of me, I can’t remember you, taking a fancy to the opposite sex during any other time up to this point, other than for mere pleasures of the flesh. As a matter of fact, I don’t ever recall your keeping company or having a lady friend.”
Darwin said in a mocking manner, perhaps with tongue in cheek.
Sounding like an innocent man, Thor retorted, “I think Ms. Gauche is marvelous, but what the hell are you trying to get at Darwin? Since when does my recent change of heart about such trivial matters affect you? Even immortals such as us vary our tastes from time to time.”
“0h! I don’t know, Thor. Other than the idea having your way with her, what’s the use of wasting your, the brethren’s or my time by participating in such a adolescent encounter?”
“See here, Darwin! I travel with whom I wish.”
“Travel! You say, Thor. Wouldn’t I be correct if I surmised, that you recently met your Ms. Gauche right here on Kilauea? I’m miffed how an immortal of your standing can take up with someone, someone so new and so quick and at the same time become so defensive while discussing such a trite, meaningless relationship.
“I can only imagine, meeting a woman such as she the way you have Thor. She must be a warm, sensuous endearing type. Why it could be enough to prompt an all-of-a-sudden lover-boy such as yourself to take a little, mortal slut on a romantic Hawaiian sunset cruise. Let’s say, an outrigger canoe trip. Ah, yes, a romantic ride in the tunnel of love!
“Thor, it has been a tradition for years around here that on every Friday, weather permitting, we host and provide a sunset outrigger canoe cruise. By now, you’ve surely noticed that much of our brethren, to a man, have met someone to their liking and, in addition, have been keeping steady company with them. Hasn’t it been a well-known fact that for all these years we, the brethren, are incapable of falling victim to the weaknesses of the heart? There’s never been any chance that a mortal could sway our way of thinking, especially by trying to influence us who possess black souls with no hearts.
“So I suppose, Thor, in your case you see it as just a coincidence that you’re showing so much interest in this Madeline. We all know well enough that females in estrus have never been able to stimulate us stoical, unemotional immortals? Some have tried haven’t they? From the start we’ve always been able to see beyond the female human species and their worn out ruse. Some of the brethren aren’t beyond using the cunts for their own satisfaction?
“Are you trying to make a statement, Thor by insinuating that Madeline has talents, super talents, ones such as you and I have never seen before during the entire evolution of mankind? Or could you be signaling, along with the others, that Thor may have softened-up a bit, and the almighty Thor has the blues and needs a damp-crotched female infidel to soothe his woes-a wench whose persona is surrounded with heavy whiffs of built up passion that’s exuding from love-starved clitoris?”
“See here, Darwin. I don’t ever recall your being so vulgar. Besides that, I and only I decide what and who Thor Destructo needs.”
The impact was out of the old warrior’s punch. Feinting about the vulgar stuff ‘was no more than a “red herring”.
Darwin picked up on it and probed further into Thor’s acquaintance.
“Oh really! You mean that it’s just you? Do you see this action by the once-selective Thor Destructo exercising a passing fancy by one who has chosen a female companion while attending a mundane summit? Then how do you account then for the sudden change of character being displayed by all of the fellowship? Some actions that I’ve observed must seem to be more than just lovey-dovey or gah-gah kissey face. How do you account for the type of behavior taking place across the board? Perhaps it’s romantic Hawaii with its breath-taking sunsets and all that. Perhaps abstinence or our traditional anti womanizing are void here in the islands. Maybe the Master predetermined Hawaii as an immortal love nest.
“Let’s take a cold-blooded killer such as yourself. Seems funny that you’d find someone to your liking, and someone so much like you, so far away from your ordinary leaching grounds. Don’t you think, Thor, that that is somewhat unusual?”
Thor pressed his lips and hmmm’d. . . and hmmm’d further.
I could tell that from behind that ancient eye patch, all the wheels from his past campaigns were turning. Thor was too much of sleuth.
“The nymph! Pele! That hot wench! Darwin, you devil! Are you implying that she’s been working hand-in- hand with you on this plan of yours? I’m astonished!”
“I was worried,” confessed Darwin. “I was worried especially about your seeing through it all, especially recognizing her resemblance in Madeline, piecing all the other similarities between the brethren and their new-found friends and then perhaps revealing your suspicions to the others. So’ Thor, you see my theory was right. Immortals have such large egos that they don’t notice some obvious similarities about their contemporaries’ immediate company and habits. Sorry to disappoint you old friend, but up to this point I’ve tricked you. I should say that Pele and I have tricked you along with all the rest.”
Thor’s ancient face flustered, “You two wouldn’t dare. . .”
“Of course we would _ _ _ I did . _ . she did . . . we have. She’s immortal you fool! She has the powers. Why can’t you see it? The whole megalomaniac bunch of you are under her spell? Do you all really think that you’re all in control here? She’s taught me during the last two days that even the sharpest of you can be hoodwinked. In cousin Brucey’s case, Pele has gone beyond her reputation by manifesting herself as a cute little companion, just for him. As a matter of fact you might find it interesting to note that not one of you can account the time, place or instant when you had struck up an acquaintance with any of these new-found, intimate, companion.
“And Thor, you might want to take odds that I’ll further bet they’ve become more than intimate with you and the brethren? They’ve become familiar. They’ve become confidants
“Councilors? Odd they’d be trusted so much for someone who has “just sort of showed up. Strange, wouldn’t you admit?
“It’s no secret that for centuries Pele has had the ability to captivate whomever she wishes regardless of their make up-mortal or immortal. Her web has no limits. My dear, Thor, I’d say with all your caution and military preparedness that your eternal alarm system has been duped.”
“So you’ve tipped the scales, hey, Darwin, you’ve spiked the punch. In your “smug little way you’ve made fools of us. Imagine, my Madeline, Artie’s, Wanda? Dermal’s, Mona. Brucee’s little pal, all, Pele, all Trojan horses. Why all along we’ve been acting like rubes, babes in the woods.”
“Come now, Thor. You can’t be that surprised. It has been my experience and yours that we immortals do exactly as we wish. Perhaps in this case we yearn affection, even if it’s tainted. I say that it’s a chance for a fresh start, when a cold-hearted conqueror such as yourself permits himself to be thawed by a torrid wahine, especially when it’s one to his liking.
“Don’t fret, Thor. What’s good for the brethren is also good for me. Surely you’ve noticed my friend, Elizabeth. She’s also an extension of Pele’s multiple personality.”
My own thoughts after hearing all this shifted to Maile. Was she one of Pele’s manifestations too? Where did she fit into this soap opera?
Darwin went on. He passionately reiterated all the reasons why he, Thor and the fellowship should sacrifice them selves for the sake of the world, employing all of his persuasive skills on Thor. He was as deliberate as Perry Mason, convincing a jury that mankind was innocent. He was as persistent as Lee Iacocca, trying to push new Chryslers, insisting that their demise was what was needed to cleanse their own immortal souls. He portrayed the clear eyes and the innocence of a child telling Santa that he had been a good little boy.
Thor was coming around, falling prey and submitting under Da1win’s spell. It’s hard to say if his immortal mind could have become hypnotized by Darwin’s precise oratory. It became clearer and clearer every passing second that Darwin wasn’t gambling once he had dealt out the cards. He turned over ace after ace to win Thor over. Every word became another milestone nudging Thor a bit further beyond the point of no return-far, far away from his original stance.
He was coming around a lot easier than me.
I took into consideration there was a rapport between them that supposedly had been built up for years.
Thor, for the first time, acted passive.
“There’s no fool like an old fool. It just might be time to cut losses. As much as I hate to admit it, much you say is true, Darwin. I’ve probably agreed with you for some time. Maybe that is why the ‘king of conflict’ has not been that productive for the last twenty-five years. I’ve had my finger on the button but couldn’t bring myself to press it. Perhaps like you, Darwin, I too have seen the waste in it all. It has taken me listening to you and watching the rest of the fellowship act like schoolboys to convince me that what you say might be true.”
“Thor, try not to feel bad. Our Pele works in very precise and convincing ways.”
Thor brought his attention back to me.
“What about you, Louis? How do you feel about all this? Has Darwin’s magic worked on you?”
I had been intrigued while taking it all in. It had been as if I had been engrossed in a fictitious novel or absorbed in a feature film. Thor thrust me back to reality. Still I had my own doubts-serious doubts.
“Darwin knows my feelings. I’m having strong reservations. On one hand it is an interesting scenario. On the other, it’s the scariest stuff that I’ve ever heard. I’ve seen magicians and have been unable to explain what my eyes have seen-or not seen for that matter-but I’ve always concluded that illusions were not real occurrences, but tricks.”
Darwin said, “Louis will have to make a human choice for himself. He’ll weigh the facts as he sees them. He knows all the particulars. I have trust that he’ll come around, the same as you have.”
I spoke, unsure if I were going to make any sense. “I want you both to understand that the principles you speak about are agreeable to me, but it’s the substance that seems so far-fetched. Perhaps if I were immortal, the way you both claim to be. Perhaps if I possessed the knowledge and experiences that you two hold claim to; perhaps if I really believed that eternal bliss could actually be achieved, perhaps then I’d be more cooperative and more responsive and consider making a commitment. I suppose I just need more time.”
It was time that I excuse myself. Thor and Darwin must have sensed that it was time for me to take a breather.
Again, for the second day in a row, I found myself in the lodge’s lounge.
“Hey, howz it, Louis? How was da-kine-trip?”
“What trip?” I questioned.
“To da-kine, brah, with Darwin.”
I was so taken by the recent conversation between Thor and Darwin and myself that I had almost forgotten the trek to the grotto. It had been less than twenty-four hours since my first, awkward, astounding conversation with Darwin and in that time there had been the macabre gathering, the Zodiac ride, including Elizabeth and Maile, the grotto and the most recent revelations between Darwin and Thor. I was becoming too exhausted to recall anything.
“Interesting, Kimo, most interesting. We took a ride down by the sea. Say, how ‘bout another one of those double Sambuca’s, Kimo.”
Sashaying up to the bar, wearing fine leather shoes, nicely woven gray slacks and blue blazer, and taking the stool next to me was none other than one Dermal Crustacean.
“Bartender! Bartender, one pina colada,” he ordered.
He turned towards me and gave me the once over. “Ah, nothing like a pina colada after a long day in the sun. The sun can give a man a tremendous thirst, you know?”
“Sick,” I thought. He certainly knew by then that I knew about him, since I was present at last night’s festivities. He must have known that I was aware of the fellowship and its vocation. Here he was, apparently wanting to play a game with me. I wondered what he was up to? Shit, I chastised myself, as if I’ve taken on a stand on the tomfoolery, as if I had drawn a line in the sand. What the hell did I know? I figured I’d stop thinking so much and just play along.
I decided to take the bait and start things off. “So, I hear you’re quite a sun worshipper, Mister Crustacean. I suppose that super tan of yours sums it up, hey?”
“It’s my life.”
“Darwin tells me you founded ‘Koppertone.’ That’s quite an achievement.”
“Darwin seems to have told you plenty, Cantrell. Tell me, do you find it all amusing or fascinating?”
“I can’t always tell, at first, what I find fascinating and what I find ridiculous, to tell you the truth, Mr. Crustacean. I certainly couldn’t have dreamt up such a wild tale. That’s for sure.”
“History is made up of many tales, Cantrell. It’s up to you to either absorb them or cast them aside.”
We both fell silent for a bit while Dermal sipped his cocktail, “aaahing” it to his satisfaction. I studied him. His most noticeable feature was that magnificent, bronze tan that he boasted. Upon closer inspection I noticed that even though his hands were well tanned, his fingers were marred with nicotine stains.
At a glance one could easily figure out that he was a man of great means. Besides his dress, which I’ve already mentioned, he was one of those guests who sported fine jewelry. His nails were well manicured. He was ruggedly handsome, capped off with a shock of well-trimmed, salt and peppered hair, not a feather out of place. I held on long to the belief that the “not-a-hair-out-of-place-look” as a guaranteed sign of vanity. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but he was just one of those guys that I found easy to dislike. It was obvious to anyone right away that he was a pompous, “I’m better than you are,” or “Hey, you! Wait on me, I’m rich,” persona. He was the condescending the way he adhered to everyone he felt that was in his service. Over the years while at the lodge, I’ve been disenchanted by those kinds of tourists.
Dermal, again for reasons that I didn’t understand at first, other than his own conceited manner, attempted another effort to drum up a conversation with me. On his overconfident, smart-assed face, he pasted on a sneering smile.
“You should see this one that I just met.
“You’ve never seen a broad like this one. I’m telling, you. She’s fucking dynamite and to go along with that she’s got a sweet, fucking ass that just won’t quit.”
I just sat there, pretending to show no interest, not wanting to give him the satisfaction about my own curiosity. It became my chance to be slick. I knew what was coming next. I had heard it all before, from other wise guys, mortal ones. He couldn’t wait to vomit out how he had something fantastic, yet I was hip how he had ulterior motives. What he really wanted to do was humiliate me by telling me that he experienced something he sensed I hadn’t.
My disinterest ignited his determination to spill out the sexual talents of his latest. Unstoppable, he went on to graphically describe what he thought was his latest conquest. He gloated while describing how in every detail, his piece (a term he used) contorted herself while under his ever so passionate spell. He only corroborated what women in private label as those perverted, kiss-and-tell Casanova slime buckets.
“As you probably have figured out a guy like me has been around with a lot of broads, but this one might be the best ever. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on some of this stuff that you have around here. I’ve been sending my clients here to Hawaii for years. You know, for the sun. I’ve just realized that I’m the one who should have come here all along. Then I would have ‘come’ more often. Ha-ha! Get it‘?”
I stared straight ahead.
“He nudged me. ‘“Ah, you got it all right. Get this. Tonight she’s gonna take me down to some of them hot springs that you got inside the volcano. I I’m gonna show her. I’m going to show her what hot springs are all about! I’ve got hips with hot springs! I’ll fuck the bitch cross-eyed!”
Kimo, while doing his duties behind the bar, was picking up on the conversation and every now and then he’d show a wayward eye. I could see that he wasn’t buying Dermal’s act either.
A sleek looking woman entered the lounge from the outside lobby. Her platinum hair contrasted sharply as did a tight-fitting, short-short black knit dress, trimmed in lace. The dress contrasted against both her hair and her own sensational tan. Once inside the lounge she suddenly screeched to a halt, the way fashion models do. She eyeballed the lounge and searched for familiar faces. At the same time she had to realize that all eyes, including the familiar ones, were already focused in on her.
Then feigning signs of relief, she strutted right up to where both Dermal and I were stooled. Zeroing in on Dermal she flashed a terrific smile that showed off a perfect set of pearly whites. Placing her leather purse on the bar she then planted a dreamy wet kiss on Dermal’s aristocratic forehead. With her free hand, through his opened shirt, her hot-pink, nail-polished fingers massaged his chestnut-colored chest. She then looked up and focused her attention toward me.
She extended her hand and surprisingly said,
“Hello, Louis. It’s nice to see you. You look wonderful, darling.”
“Hi,” is all I could say. I was sure that before this moment I had never met the woman before.
“Oh, so you know Mona, eh, Louis?” said Dermal with what at first sound like regrets.
Then he sneered mockingly while making a joke to himself. He said while still laughing, “Hope she’s not your sister?”
“We’re old, old friends,” interjected Mona, seemingly unperturbed by his obvious and revealing sexual comment. I was impressed about how she was able to come to my rescue while still maintaining her dignity.
“Louis and I are fixtures on top of Kilauea.”
Our eyes rendezvoused. My pair caught the subtle link that both were paired, sidekicks in an innocent conspiracy. I was comfortable, and if our conspiracy had anything to do with getting something over on Dermal that would be even better. I did sense though that I had stared into those very blue eyes before, but they didn’t belong to any Mona.
Without shame, while re-examining his date he brazenly said, “So, what do you think, Cantrell? Do you think Mona’s a candidate for having the most luscious tan in all Hawai‘i?”
“You mean, other than you, Dermal,” Mona wise-cracked.
“But of course,” He “Grey Pouponed”.
I could only raise my glass. My guts were almost spilling over. I was seething, fully appreciating just what an evil son-of-a-bitch Dermal was and how he relished at taking down those who he considered as “small people.”
I analyzed that if these guys really were gods of death that there remained a distinct difference between them. Despite what Thor stood for, he saw it as a matter of principle, a thing related to honor or goal setting. Disease was a vile word and so was anyone who perpetuated it. But this was one of the few times in my life I really began to hate someone, detesting everything about Dermal Crustacean. While vindictive temptations were passing fancies, Artimus Sclerosis and his portly, lady friend roly-polieed into the lounge. “Arti baby,” beckoned Dermal, welcoming his fatso buddy. By then, he had one of those micro-sized, cigar-paper wrapped cigarettes between his teeth.
“Say, are you and Wanda going to accompany Mona and me down to those hot springs tonight or what?”
Artimus didn’t answer and appeared bewildered. He was as disheveled as when I first saw him, back the day before when he checked in. His expensive, Ralph Lauren shell-top shoes were store-bought new, yet the laces remained untied.
I figured that he was either too lazy to tie them, or he couldn’t bend down ‘cause he was too fat. He wasn’t clean-shaven. His clothes were so wrinkled that he looked as if he had slept in them. The front portion of his oxford shirt inched itself almost all of its way out from beneath his bulging waistline. His expensive trousers and the “what-had-to-be” the smelly seat of his pants were lint-filled and shiny-assed.
The crotch of his shit-brown pants slid down to the middle of his fat-boy thighs. He and his plebeian date were a perfect repulsive match.
I finished my drink and not so politely excused myself. As I left the bar area, Crustacean hollered out, ”Oh, Cantrell, you should do something; you should do something about that tan of yours! You’re looking somewhat pale to me, pal.” I could hear them laughing; worse, I could sense their disdain.
While getting away from them and traveling through the lobby I ran into Darwin coming out of his office.
SEEKING MORE HELP
“Louis,” he took me aside. “I’ve been thinking. I’m going to suggest that you take a few days off to think this thing out. We can get along around here. I’ve come to realize the pressure that I’ve put you under. You’re not going to be doing me much good. It’s written all over your face. I can understand how difficult it is for you to be yourself right now. After a few days off, with some rest, I’ m confident you’ll come to a just decision.
“How ‘bout coming back Thursday morning and we’ll take our weekly drive to Hilo. I’ll see you then. I’ll be here if you need me.”
I told Darwin that I’d take him up on his offer. Glancing outside I observed the waning sunlight. I needed a nice sunset.
I moseyed my way outside via the dining room’s French doors leading to the veranda overlooking Kilauea’s caldera. Out on the veranda I decided it wasn’t secluded enough. I started walking further away. I didn’t want to be around a soul and headed for the path that made its way around the caldera. The path was then deserted of the midday crowds of tourists who earlier scampered over its narrow asphalt walk. Just off the path there were sprinkled steam vents. Thin streams rose up out of the vents, originating from lava tubes further down. The steam authenticated the fact that there was heat and moisture stirring deep below. In the past I found it invigorating taking in the steam. I waded through a couple of hundred yards of the steam and came to my favorite vista.
From there I could see the entire perimeter of the caldera. The floor of the caldera housed more steam vents, too many to count, most going about their business evicting their steamy tenants. While atop Kilauea I noted that beneath the cool woods, beneath the wildlife, beneath it all lay a real live, genuine, active volcano whose fiery roots go as deep as the center of the Earth.
The sun was in its final decent.
Each visible boulder and piece of vegetation cast long shadows as the day’s final rays illuminated their silhouettes. Beyond, the Pacific lay motionless, calm and beautiful. This particular evening the sun seemed to set prematurely, appearing as if it were going to come to a rest on a puffy cradle-shaped cloud hovering on top of the horizon.
I hadn’t thought about the significance of being alive for a long time. I took much for granted the same way that many of us do. The heavyweight questions, such as the reasons for being here, ran around inside my head while never bothering to stop for a logical answer. The how comes or those analytical equations about serious matters rarely, if at all, entered my mindset. At least I hadn’t brought those thoughts to light since adolescence.
Defensively perhaps, I shelved those worries and so-whated the whole concept.
Mumbling to the confines of my mind, “You wake up, take a leak, get some chow and hope your day doesn’t turn to shit.”
In my opinion I had always put my best foot forward while prescribing to and embracing an optimistic way of thinking. I noted what I thought was the norm and held on lightly to usual aspirations and those fantasies and outside chances of hitting the lottery or finding true love. I concluded all feasible though highly unlikely yet all still gave way to hope.
When my life finished, was somebody going to tally it all up? Like most people I believe the good days far outweigh the bad.
I continued to enjoy a spectacular sunset and ingested the clean air from atop the world.
“Louis! Louis!” I was called.
There stood Maile! Wow! I rallied! Taking in another beautiful sight for lonesome eyes. She moved towards me coming up from behind. She reached for me, resting her slender arm on my waiting shoulder.
“This is a pleasant surprise!” I searched my mind for more things to say. I just kept on repeating what a surprise it was to see her. I said a few other awkward sounding stumbles. Seems I couldn’t place myself at ease yet Maile eased any sort of tension.
Within moments she calmed my anxieties. She appeared eager and genuinely enthused.
“Let’s enjoy the sunset together,” she said, then wrapping her arm around my waist erasing all doubts about my insecurity. We said nothing as the sun slowly closed its shimmering orange eye behind a cloudy grey eyelid on the horizon that remained illuminated. Brilliant rays reflecting off the clouds created a vibrant spectrum of color ranging from hot pink to terra cotta. The far edges of the bigger clouds absorbed all turning into a cloudy batch of deeper ginger shades, them being slow moving cotton-ball sky travelers soaking up the remaining rays. More translucent, less dense and faster-moving clouds turned to the color of crayon-orange.
Venus and Jupiter, Earth’s two far away neighbors showed up while in the midst of their planetary day.
I extended my own grip around Maile, pulling her closer. I sensed then how I’d come to recognize that special feel from a woman: soft, yet not mushy, strong but not callus, willing but not so-easy. Those were the physical sensations that electrified me from Maile’s touch.
“Where did you go this afternoon?”
“How come you never returned to the dock?”
“I had something to do.”
“What did you have to do?” I then caught myself, “Sorry, I suppose it’s none of my business. But what do you think of all this?”
“Think of what?”
“The goddamned grotto, the boat, the ‘Doors of
Ustulation,’ Elizabeth, Darwin, me?”
Not appreciating my tone, she looked away and stood back.
“Louis, I don’t think much about those things. Except I’ve been thinking about you.”
Her evasiveness was frustrating until she mentioned the part about me. I cooed, “What have you been thinking about me?”
She put on a shy, downcast expression. I interpreted the look as a sign of she perhaps being then embarrassed. Still, I summed she was teasing.
“I’ve been thinking that you’re a good man who right now is somewhat confused. I have confidence that everything you’re concerned about will turn out alright and that goes for you too,” she smiled.
“What makes you perceive me as a good man who’s somewhat confused right now? What you might think may not always prove out to be what really is.”
“Darwin says you’re a good man. So, I’ll take his word.”
“I have taken Darwin for his word for years. I’ve never doubted his word up until now.”
“Then there’s no reason to start doubting him now. Haven’t you witnessed fools in the past who didn’t take him for his word?”
Suddenly, it was I who became standoffish, all-of-a-sudden overcome with curiosity. I felt compelled to ask an imposing question.
“Say, I know this is going to sound kind of crazy, Maile and I ask your forgiveness in advance since it’s such a silly notion.” I cleared my throat. “Are you, by any chance, Pele?”
“Don’t be silly! I’m Maile.”
“Well, I’ve been around here for ten years. How come I never remember seeing you around here before?”
“Seems there’s much around here you’ve never seen. Why should I be any different? Every day we see things for the first time. Maybe you should start paying better attention and start to open your ears, too.”
I “hmmed” the heed. I suggested that since we were speaking about senses we had better get off the path before it became too dark. We marched back towards the lodge arm-in-arm. Right before we entered the inn’s gardens, Maile pulled me close and kissed me passionately!
A sensation came over me. I was confidant, assured that my kiss had the same riveting effect. Foolhardy perhaps, I sensed she could sense my own libido
She responded favorable and as her warm and eager mouth became more inviting. I couldn’t help but wonder whether what occurred was real or an illusion, but I didn’t care.
“I want you to come with-me tonight.”
“With me, to meet my family. They’re having a luau. I should be there now. I only came here so I could find you.”
“Who’s your family?”
“The Kahanas! Why I know them all. How come I don’t know you?”
Without answering she turned away and led me to my jeep parked close by. We drove for a short time, only fifteen minutes to a local Hawaiian neighborhood. Many residents from the subdivision were employed at the lodge. Pulling up to a cul-de-sac cars and pickup trucks were scattered around in no special order. We parked and strolled towards the sounds of the on going luau.
The heartiness of Hawaiian laughter filled the night. The distinct pickings on the steel guitar and the strumming of the ukulele confirmed that we were at the right spot. Young dudes and giggling teenage girls hung out on the outer fringes them being the first layer surrounding the affair, them insulating the warm center of goings-on. The air permeated the sweet aroma of da-kine as the young bucks smoked and drank their respective buds. The next section we waded through consisted of younger youths, cousins running around, playing grab ass as they do at family affairs. We finally passed beneath the strung up lights and hung tarp that separated the dark sky from the lit festivities. Long picnic tables butted up to each other supported the luau offerings.
Throughout the outdoor makeshift auditorium Hawaiian-kind folks talked story and laughed, substantiating a family affair as aunties and uncles bounced the many infant keikis on their happy laps. Young and old gave time to each other.
Hawaiian luaus aren’t much different than an old fashioned Polish wedding in Chicago or a whiskey toasting Irish wake in Boston. As a youth, attending type of events close family gatherings represented the bonding, the sharing of life, celebrating arrivals of new family members or saying good-bye to the old.
In Hawaii there’s warmth amongst people unlikely matched anywhere else. There’s a distinct essence. To recognize this difference, one only has to witness a cadre of Hawaiian women who have been aroused by the sweet sounds of Hawaiian music.
Witnessing an authentic hula can put a lump right in one’s throat. Goose bumps, or as they say in Hawaii, “chicken skin,” Brah, can break out. Warm-hearted, graceful ladies are what they are. Their appearance might be seen as them being somewhat matronly or heavy-set, since Polynesian women do get big, yet when they dance they gracefully transform themselves into desirable and sensuous women. The distinct movements and genuine beauty of hula, along with its tranquil melodies, discounts the Playboy or Cosmopolitan magazine image of an attractive woman. Those publications limit their more close-minded readership to view women unfairly, falsely suggesting that desirable woman can only be portrayed by 100 to 110 pound bambies.
The hula enables a woman to showcase her true beauty so much more than a pretty face, pushed up boobs and a bubble butt. Seeing first hand ten or twelve mixed-aged wahines gently swaying their arms and hips to the sweet sounds stemming from the slack key guitar is a bona fide wonder of the world. Ever so unique, the high falsettos reached by singing Hawaiians are a sound that lends itself exclusively to the fragile, tiny archipelago. A collaboration of smiling faces, graceful hands, happy feet and rhythm of the body, in a distinct way depicts the history of the islands. The feet, placed close together do a rumba that might not be able to compare to anything close to Fred Astaire’s best. Draped around their necks, with plumeria leis and sporting garlands on their heads made of wild flowers, Hawaiians celebrate in a special, loving way. It’s usually a love feast.
Foods, such as kalua pig, are traditional at luau feasts. The whole pig is buried underground in a makeshift Hawaiian oven called an imu. This takes place at least twenty-four hours before the affair enabling the final product to have that special kalua flavor. Surprisingly, for a people who are traditionally easy-going, when it comes to preparing the imu, the mood gets serious. Certain, no nonsense elders are chosen to be the luau foremen.
A pit had to be dug beforehand at least six feet deep. Green, unseasoned kiawe wood is then layered on the floor of the imu. The wood is covered with carefully chosen smooth lava stones. The imu is lit at least ten hours before the pigs are placed into the imu, giving the rocks plenty of time to get hot. Once hot, the stones will act as coals. Beforehand the pigs are gutted and salted. Hot rocks are inserted into the animal, especially the pits of their four legs and up their rectums to insure thorough cooking. A layer of banana tree leaves is placed on top of the hot rocks. The pigs are then wrapped in chicken wire and lowered into the pit. Another layer of banana leaves and stalks are put on top of the prepared pigs. Burlap and canvas top off the entire endeavor, all then totally buried and covered with dirt so no smoke escapes. The now insulated imu traps and holds in the flavor.
Traditional luau foods are poi, lomi-lomi, laulau, poke, chicken-long rice, macaroni salad and more than ample amounts of steamed, sticky, white rice. The luau table might often have an array of treasures from the sea. Ocean-loving residents risk their lives in heavy surf to retrieve opihi, a Hawaiian mussel indigenous to the Islands grow on rocks just above and below the water line. Tasty tako (octopus) cooked is a luau favorite. A pudding, made up of spooned meat from inside the coconut mixed with cornstarch and then chilled is called haupia, offered for dessert.
Hawaiians are renowned worldwide for being the most gracious while sharing the food from their luau tables. Great kidders they do get a kick out of observing some of their more squeamish dinner guests who perhaps might cringe the first time sampling unfamiliar appetizers.
The world famous poi is the Hawaiian food that Westerners seem most curious about. Unfortunately they are often disappointed with their first taste giving away their distaste by facial contortions. Often are embarrassed about making a funny face and afraid they may have offended gracious their Hawaiian host.
A common comment and comparison about the brown-colored, thick-textured puree made from the taro root is that it tastes more like wallpaper paste. Similar to a good scotch-whiskey, caviar, Brussels sprouts or other palette challenging dishes, one might have to develop a distinct taste for poi. No one familiar with the ways of the islands will recommend to an outsider that poi should be eaten by itself.
It’s a food enhancer.
Dipping one’s kalua pig into the poi, is the answer. Yet some Hawaiians like eating their poi directly out of the container. (“No need for an enhancer, Brah!”) Many locals tout the older kine is mo’better especially because of another flavor that evolves as the poi sours.
In the twentieth century, Hawaiians have been known to wash down their feasts with lots of beer.
Over the years, many forms of music have invaded the Hawaiian Islands. Contemporary Hawaiian music is made up from a potpourri of sounds. Folk, country, reggae, traditional Hawaiian and other Pacific-islander music makeup modem tunes of the present day. In some circles it’s referred to as
‘island-peoples’ music.” Many of those forms of music were prevalent at the Kahana family’s luau.
I recognized many of the faces. I had acquaintances with many of the Kahana clan including Kimo. Most of us had crossed paths at one time or another. Maile and I strolled though the crowd while meeting smiling eyes. We’d stopped to shake hands, brother style and say “howz’t?” (aloha in the ‘90s)
We made our way to a distant table occupied by two other local couples. I was glad to see Kimo. “Hey, bruddah, how you stay?” Kimo greeted me with a brother handshake reinforcing his corresponding handshake with an additional tap on my wrist with his other free hand. I shook hands with the other fellow. All kissed Maile while sharing warm embraces.
While we situated ourselves Maile hardly let go of my hand as if she were broadcasting she was with me. I liked it. Elder women offered pupus along with good manners over to our table. One uncle, with a toothy grin, pulled a cold one from the cooler handing the beer to me.
Not that there has to be a specific reason for a luau but there was one for this occasion. Cousin Eddie’s first-born girl, Georgina, just reached her first birthday. Hawaiians aren’t much on celebrating births or christenings, but they do go all out when their first child makes the age of one. Their reason is based on the idea that because the child has survived the initial crucial year of life, more likely then to become a permanent member of the ohana. This was one of those occasions. The truth of the matter is that Hawaiians can celebrate everyday for a cavalcade of reasons.
They are inherently happy people.
No Hawaiian get-together is complete without entertainment. They love to be entertained as much as they enjoy entertaining. A variety of groups were lined up to play. As the evening moved on, the traditional sunset music makers gave way to the younger more contemporary musicians. The younger folks, who had been frequenting the outer fringes, now joined the mainstream. Perhaps they anticipated the quartet that was about to man the stage.
The new band was made up of stocky Hawaiians, boy whose make up was highlighted by mustaches, ponytails and homemade tattoos. Their instruments consisted of a bass guitar, ukulele, acoustic guitar and a series of percussion instruments. Without much ado they swung into a set of pulsating tunes that ran the gamut. The kids got up and boogied as they may have in anywhere USA. The songs had a definite defiant sound, yet the band’s attitude remained friendly. As the band cranked it up Maile got into the music. She swung from side to side. Maile turned to me. “What do you think of this group’s music, Louis? Have you been listening to the words?”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t listening to the words. I was just digging the music,” I replied, not so sure at just what she was getting at.
She suggested that I listen to the lyrics of a particular song about the destruction and the rape of the precious aina (land) of the islands. Some compositions touched on parts of Hawaii that had been urbanized, especially the areas on Oahu where once the favorite fishing and hunting grounds had given way to urban development. They referred to the honky-tonk of Honolulu and the blight on Waikiki. They mourned about how they had lost the old ways that once graced Hawaii. Other lyrics, told about the goings-on on Maui.
There was talk around the table and concern the birthplace of Kamehameha the Great, right there on the Big Island, might be in trouble. His birthplace was in danger of being asphalted over by an expanding, urbanized Kona. A few extensive, locally owned corporations controlled most of the land in Hawai‘i. They were a monarchy in their own right, an extension of the missionary families who opened the islands up to the outside world. Then, big Japanese money and Mainland investors were buying up much of the precious real estate that was left. As I’ve said, areas where local people’s predecessors had abundantly hunted and fished for years were rapidly shrinking. Only the beaches were considered as public domain and free access was still guaranteed giving any fisherman the right of way, but no one could guarantee that they would stay-open forever. The once sensational views and open vistas were gradually being blocked out by a skyline of concrete buildings. The jet-age ghetto was reaching epidemic proportions blighting the land with high rises and insensitive commercial establishments, creating a paradise lost.
Environmental watchdog groups were wholeheartedly trying to stave off such not welcomed progress. Most times in futility though. Big money has a way of exhausting little folks’ defenses against such onslaughts. The big boys could easily afford high power lawyers, who have nothing to do but carry out their mercenary task. Darwin referred to them as twentieth century hired guns.
I wasn’t much into politics, but the songs and the talk around the table did remind me of Darwin and his plan that envisioned a world without greed. If folks thought they were going to live forever, then they might be more selective about destroying resources that could never be replaced or restored.
Fuck it, I surmised. I had had a couple of beers, I needed to cast these thoughts aside and make my way to the dance floor with the best looking gal in the joint. It felt so good holding onto Maile. Other couples twirled with us. Some looked a little surprised seeing us together. I was hoping we made a striking couple.
“Louis, I suppose you’ve been giving much thought to all Darwin has been telling you.” She startled me for the moment. Pulling slightly away from her I peered into her warm brown eyes. I spoke, “To tell you the truth, while I’ve been with you I’ve been able to suspend most of those thoughts.
“Ever since you’ve showed up in my life I’ve been able to forget for awhile about Darwin, the Volcano House, the grotto and all that stuff.”
Since it was Maile who brought me back to reality, I inquired, “Do you know and understand what Darwin has been telling me about?”
“Yes,” she said shyly.
“What do you think?”
“I thought that I had already told you what I think. You should trust Darwin.” She answered me somewhat flippantly, acting annoyed that I would even bother to solicit her opinion about such matters.
“Do many people know about the grotto?”
“Only the kaka’olelos.”
“Who are the kaka’olelos?”
“Kaka‘olelos are orators with distinct knowledge. About some matters they possess more knowledge than kahunas. Usually they’re laymen who’ve had such matters handed down to them orally from generation to generation, and some of them know and understand the darkest secrets of the islands, the aina and the universe. They’ve familiarized themselves with places and things, even those far from the shores of Hawaii. They know of all times in the islands, times even before the first Polynesian arrived.”
I knew about kahunas. They are the holy men of the Hawaii. They need not be ordained in a traditional sense. I was very familiar with them. In Hawaii, they’re mostly known for giving blessings. Their forte is to rid people and places of bad spirits. If one were to build a house or open an enterprise there could be some lingering spirits lurking from the past at that location. Legend has it that if the area isn’t cleansed of bad spirits, evil things could continue to happen at that spot. In the 50th State even the most conservative and pragmatic businessmen usually do not ignore the power of the kahunas, and they are sure to schedule one of them to come to perform a ritual before any business takes place in that spot.
I had been an enthusiastic student of Hawaiiana ever since I first arrived in the islands. Soon after arriving, I figured out that I was part of the problem. There was only so much land. Each year, people from all over the world discover Hawaii. They flock to the islands and become infatuated with the place. Many desire to stay. Many do. It’s getting too crowded. Still, people want to live in the islands forever.
Uh-uh, forever! The word forever gave my drifting thoughts a wake-up call. I couldn’t escape Darwin’s words even while holding on to sweet Maile.
As if she could read my mind, Maile pulled away slightly from my embrace. “Do what Darwin asks, Louis. Trust the man who has chosen to trust you. I’ll tell you what. If you like, I’ll take you to visit a kaka”olelo, a man named Lono. He will help you make a decision-the right decision-the decision that you really want to make. I will try to make arrangements so we can see him either tomorrow or the next day. We can go together.”
“I’d like to do that,” I answered.
On the surface the boys in the band appeared tough and abrasive. Yet they had the voices of choirboys as they swooned sweet harmonies, respectful and friendly towards the folks that they played for. Many were family members. While listening to the love songs aunties and uncles smiled with approval. Many of the songs were rock oriented, but still they sang of great loves, loves that transgressed over generations.
Hawaiians sang other types of songs too. They loved to sing about subjects that might be perceived in other societies as trite or mundane. Tunes about the sea, fish, vegetable roots, and even limu (seaweed) are some of their all-time favoritesm songs that carried strong meanings, meanings that could even be appreciated by outsiders. As far as I knew, songs about such insignificant and petty matters were not sung with such sensitivity and compassion anywhere else on Earth. It was a blessing that I chose to live amongst a group of people who had yet to be tainted by the cruelty of the outside world. I felt it was true, as did other kama‘aina, (an outsider who respects the ways of the islands) that being exposed to daily doses of beautiful mountains, pure ocean and glorious skies has a distinct way of melting away contempt that people might carry in their heart. The idea that Hawaiians could put so much emphasis on minor ecological milestones was refreshing.
Other societies might pooh-pooh these environmental reverences as mere nothings. Hawaiians, through song, dance and talking-story, have shared their culture, showing how they respect all stages of evolution and all aspects of life.
Maile and I were back at the table cutting it up with the other couples. We were having a good time. The bandleader placed his hand above his eyes and scouted out the audience.
He stopped his search when his eyes hooked up with our table. He thanked the crowd for their attention. “We like to dedicate one song. We’d like dedicate one song to a surprise guest, to brother, Louis. Yeah, he’s the haole guy sucking ’em up back there. See ‘im, brah? He wen sit back there with one sistah, sistah, Maile. Eh bruddah, what’s your secret? How you score one, ono wahine? We nevvah see Maile with any white boy before. It can’t be the looks. Must be the bucks, eh? Nah- nah-nah. Hawaiians love everybody, brah.
“For you brownies who nevvah know, brother Louis here, he wen work at da-kine lodge, for Mister Darwin. So dis tells us folks that brother Louis must be one good man, just like Mister Darwin.
“Dis song for you, brah.”
I blushed, a bit, flattered. I didn’t know if this was something spontaneous. I noticed when
Darwin’s name was mentioned “right-ons” were uttered and affirmative nods displayed. Some turned towards me, politely applauding making feel welcomed. Was it a coincidence that the song they dedicated to me hinged on the day’s events?
BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF THESE ISLANDS
WHAT ARE YOU LIVING FOR?
CAUGHT IN THE SHUFFLE OF THE MONEY JUNGLE
WALKING RIGHT PAST THE DOOR.
IF YOU CAN FIND YOUR WAY OUT YOU MUST
STAND UP (FOR THE ISLANDS)
STAND UP (AND HER BEAUTY)
DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S GONE BEFORE YOU
BLOOD IN THE STREETS OF OTHER ISLANDS
WHERE PEOPLE STILL ARE NOT FREE
WE HAVE PAID THE PRICE OF FREEDOM
WE’RE LIVING IN DEMOCRACY
WE HAVE THE CHOICE TO DO NOTHING OR
STAND UP (FOR EACH OTHER)
STAND UP (AND ALL MAN KIND)
DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S GONE BEFORE YOU
HARD TO KEEP A CHILD FROM DANGER IN THIS
WORRY ABOUT MY WOMAN
WHEN SHE’S NOT HERE WITH ME.
HOW CAN ONE MAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
STAND UP (FOR THE FAMILY)
STAND UP (AND ITS POWER)
DON ’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S GONE BEFORE YOU
STAND FOR THE MAN WHO FEEDS HIS
CHILDREN FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA
HOW WILL HE FEED THEM WHEN THERE ARE
NO FISH FOR HIS FAMILY?
AND NO GROUND TO GROW ANYTHING TO EAT?
STAND UP (FOR THE CHILDREN)
STAND UP (FOR THE ‘AINA)
DON‘T WAIT UNTIL IT’S GONE BEFORE YOU
The band continued to pulsate its defiant message. A large portion of the crowd was on its feet dancing and swaying. Tots to tutu did their thing. It was easy to get caught up in it.
The luau ran its course. Gradually family folks started to file out. We left the luau in an aloha-frenzy stirred up by the hand shaking, back slapping, kissing and hugging Kahana clan.
Maile and I zoomed off in my Jeep heading nowhere. Within no time we were at my bungalow.
It was a night to behold!
When I suspected that morning had broken, I was hesitant about opening my eyes. I was skeptical, afraid that Maile wouldn’t be there. Perhaps last night was a fantasy. I lay there for a while with both of my eyes still closed and just thought.
My inner thoughts registered the dreaded idea of dealing with the Darwin thing. My heart jumped with anticipation about how all this huhu had brought on the acquaintance of sweet Maile. I could hear the outdoors. Still, unable to face an empty bed, I reached out ever so slowly with my eyes still closed. I was relieved when I sensed her warmth breathing only inches from me. My touch on her slumber released traces of a feminine scent. She sighed. I felt her stir.
There she was with her back to me, curled up like a napping kitty. Before long, I inched over and situated myself towards her and pressed my chest up to her naked back. We fit, bent together like put-away spoons. I was aroused as I pressed my naked self against the crack of her bare behind. Her backside’s slight response encouraged me further. Sliding one arm under her and wrapping the other arm around her front, I cupped each of her breasts. In between her parted hair I softy kissed the nape of her neck. She turned, craning her neck to face me. She kissed me fully on the mouth while I still pressed up against her backside! She then maneuvered around and perched herself above me on all fours. Her exquisite hair fell down over me. She kissed me tenderly. We tenderly stroked one another. At the right moment, she sat back and mounted me. With one hand she reached down and took charge. The sounds of our low moans were countered by the chirping of the morning birds just outside my bungalow window. They, along with us, were praising the glory of a new day.
It was the best way I know of to start a day, especially with someone the likes of Maile. Most other days were pale by comparison. Only a few mornings had that special feeling.
There are the first thoughts streaming into peoples minds when opening their eyes on days such as birthdays or Christmas etc. I was forty years old and experienced. I had been with other women, not truckloads but enough. With Maile I had achieved a new state of passion.
Most of my past relationships, I suppose, were no different than anyone else’s, wonderful in the beginning, only to wear thin as time went on.
All I had to go on was my sexual intuition. I realized that a mature minded person would classify this as a guy solely thinking with his dick. I was confidant, in this case, that wasn’t the case.
In many past instances my first inclination was to get my rocks off. Some women have a way of putting a guy on the defensive. Having sex with them, though always appreciated, sometimes has a way of making one feel shallow and not sure if I were the recipient of true affection. There were times when I, the seducer, reversed roles and became the seduced.
During those uncomfortable moments I sensed those wenches were sucking the very life out of me. “Do it to, ‘Me’!” was their cry, and the “me” wasn’t, me.
There were those times though, not enough, when things just gel. It’s when the score isn’t the most important thing. Even after ejaculation the sensation goes on. The desire to give more love still exists. One’s needs seem insignificant, but somehow one’s immediate needs are being taken care of simultaneously. Premature ejaculation or limp dick might be a sign of being turned-off or just plain selfish. When cumming ceases to be the most important part of fucking, then hopefully fucking grows up and graduates to making love.
I was sure that this was how it was going to be with Maile. I was truly beginning to savor lovemaking with Maile. I wanted to make love with her, to her, for her. There was no rush. I couldn’t find in myself the hint of selfishness. I loved moving with her, feeling her, holding her.
After the beach, we four-wheeled it back up on the mountain, over back roads. I shared with Maile stories from the past, as did she. I was curious about how she thought about things, and what her aspirations were. She laughed at my corny jokes and touched me the way a man wants to be touched. Her hand stroked the back of my neck while I drove.
She massaged my forearm while my hand rested on the gearshift. When we got out of the Jeep and strolled she fastened onto my arm with both of hers. I enjoyed wrapping my arm around her and cupping her hipbone and pulling her real close. We responded positively to one another all day. It was a perfect day.
After a romantic dinner we spent another passion-filled night at my-bungalow. Yes, it was night even better than the last.
I awakened to the sound of my Jeep starting. By the time I got my wits about me she was off. There was a note on the kitchen table for me to wait and that she’d be back. She came flying through the door, flinging herself at me and driving me backwards. Our weight carried us back as we both flopped onto the bed. She was giggling and peppering my face with kisses.
“How soon can you be ready? I’m taking you to see Lono. We have to meet him down by the grotto. You’re gonna have to hurry. It’s bad to keep the kaka‘olelo waiting. It’s bad luck.”
She placed her hand up near her face and fish hooked her lower lip. She teased and smiled a somewhat sexy, naughty smile. “Well, maybe we can be a little tardy.”
She proceeded to thoroughly seduce me.
We drove down the same direction Darwin and I had gone Monday. We pulled up to the exact pool where we had met Elizabeth. No one was around. We got out of the Jeep and meandered around the pool.
There were rain showers in the distance dampening the mountain between the sun and us. A brilliant colorful spectrum arched across the entire face of the mountain. I believed I saw it first and I pointed it out to Maile.
A voice broke the silence. From behind me as I heard, “Hey! You! You no point! You no point at rainbow!”
I spun around and before me stood a man, an old Hawaiian man with stern look on his face. He boasted an ultra large Hawaiian face and head with curly gray hair. After further inspection I couldn’t help but take notice that all of his features were big.
He not only claimed a big face, big stomach, big hands and big feet, yet he stood no taller than five-feet-six.
Looking past me now, ignoring me, he addressed Maile. “Girl, this the haole guy who wen wants talk with me?”
By his tone it was easy to tell that he wasn’t going to lighten up nor did I think just then that he’d be very helpful. He was still frowning about me having pointed at the rainbow. He had such a scowl I couldn’t even fathom someone as open as Darwin mellowing out this guy. ‘
Maile said, indeed I was the said fellow. She called him uncle and told him, in spite of my faux pas, I was a good man and I needed his help. Without going into specific details, Maile touched on the events that brought me before him. Lono spoke.
“Darwin Kindness is an old friend. Elizabeth is my friend. I wen got aloha in my heart for those two people. I have Aloha in my heart for you too, my niece.”
He finally directed his attention towards me.
“I no know you. I know of the people you talk about, the one who wen stay at the lodge. I understand you have a decision to make.
“All are forced to make decisions. Sometimes decisions aren’t easy. The hardest decisions are those that have to be made without counsel. I can’t counsel you about a decision that’s going to be yours, a decision that you are going to have to live with. Search your own soul and come up with the truth. Only you can do this. You might find a decision made without counsel offers the most personal fulfillment.
“You come back tomorrow at sunset. Bring with you my friend, Darwin Kindness. You will reach your decision here, tomorrow, while in our presence.”
That was it.
Still frowning, he turned and walked away.
Maile looked up-at me and gave me a cute little smile,
“See, now don’t you feel better?”
“Oh, great,” I grumbled.
“Now, I just feel fucking great!”
I brought to mind the lyrics from that Patty Lee song: Is That All There Is. “Is that all there is my friends. Then let’s keep dancing?” Is that all there was to a kaka ‘oleIo?”
Right then, I all-of-a-sudden decided that I wanted to spend the remaining part of the day by myself. It was okay with Maile. She understood and she’d meet me back at the pools tomorrow, just before sunset. I told her that I’d be there, along with Darwin.
There were but a few times in my forty years that I wished that I were more of a religious person. If I were a religious man I could call on the Almighty for guidance. I reflected back to many of the wise men that had lived before me. How would Franklin have handled my dilemma? What about Plato,
Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Edison, da Vinci or some of the other great minds who’ve enhanced the human endeavor? Would Sigmund Freud diagnose that Darwin was sexually deprived and that this story was an extension of his unattainable sexual fantasies? Would Einstein have insisted that Darwin present him with precise mathematical data? Would King Solomon, with all of his wisdom, suggest that Darwin point a gun at his head and pull the trigger to prove beyond a doubt the authenticity of his immortality? Mike Wallace or Geraldo may have trucked in glaring stage lights and scrutinizing news cameras, placing Darwin in the limelight and unmercifully, relentlessly, grilled him to no end. Did I have the right to place myself in such company?
After some thought, I concluded that it wasn’t up to Darwin to prove anything. He was entitled to say and share with me what he wished. It was up to me to either believe or not believe. I had nobody to blame. It was up to me to face.
Those lyrics from last night’s luau kept on coming back to my mind.
STAND UP (FOR THE CHILDREN)
STAND UP (FOR THE ‘AINA)
DON ’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S GONE BEFORE YOU
Too late for what, too late to take advantage of a one-time opportunity, an opportunity to live forever in peace and harmony? I just didn’t know.
While at home for the rest of the evening, through the night and into the dawn, I spent the time reading and thinking.
I researched what had to be considered by any scholar as limited resources. After scanning my world atlas, I searched out the section marked “active volcanoes.” Wiping off a dusty copy of Poor Richard’s Almanac, Hawaii’s Mysterious Legends and a hardly opened version of Gideon’s bible.
I read most of the night. After that, I thought to myself until daybreak. It was Thursday, Darwin and my Hilo day. I arrived back at the lodge around mid-morning. Once there, I noticed much tourist activity. Seems that the news about Kilauea’s recent rumblings whet the appetite of volcano watchers. Besides Kimo’s intuition, the Honolulu Advertiser reported extra seismographic activity along the entire rift zone. Tour buses lined both sides of the road that led towards the main entrance of the lodge.
Kimo was inside. His shift didn’t start ‘til three. He was holding court. He was telling wealthy-looking Japanese tourists, with the help of a hired, Japanese-speaking interpreter, about the volcano and Pele. He left the side of his audience as I passed him and he button-holed me.
“Hey brah, I wen told you so. One tour guide, he wen offer me two-hundred and fifty bucks, brah, just to show up and talk story with dees folks about da kine.” He turned back and looked towards his audience. “Unreal, huh. Da-bugga gonna
blow and dees dummies wanna get close.” He again peered back towards his waiting audience. “Da-kine got lots of bucks, brah.”
Kimo and I cruised further into the lobby now crowded with tourists. We couldn’t help but notice one of the Manitobans and a woman walking arm and arm.
“Eh, biah. You ain’t been around all week. You should see how dees buggahs when score da-kine chics. Even dat old frigg’n man in the raggedy-ass clothes, he wen score one wahine. Ever since they reach, all kine chics come around here.”
It didn’t make sense to then share with Kimo what I’ve been told by Darwin. Not at that moment anyway. Besides, I had questions for Kimo.
“Kimo, how come I never saw Maile around here before? She’s your cousin, huh?”
“Cousin! Shit, brah, she’s my sistah. She stay mostly Maui. She come visit now and then. You mean, you nevvah know?… You nevvah come round the right time, I guess. Hey, you no get too fresh with her, you hear!” He planted a smart ass smile on his face.
. “Aloha is love, brah. Hawaiians understand, brah. Us folks love to make love. We tink everybody should make love-as long as there is respect. That’s what counts, brah.
“You enjoy my sister? She should enjoy you. Just don’t do anyting stupid. No hurt my sister, brah. Nevvah act like dem udder fools. Nevvah mistake our kindness for weakness. Just love her, brah.”
I was taken by Kimo’s insight. Despite articulating in island Pidgin, I was impressed with his eloquence, strength and wisdom all spit out in the same breath while touched by Kimo’s words and concern.
I found Darwin speaking with some tourists. Evidently one of the tourists was a film producer. I overheard them discussing the feasibility of the fellow doing a documentary about Kilauea. Darwin was suggesting music he thought appropriate for the prologue of the film project. He could clearly hear Sinatra singing Moonlight Becomes You as the camera panned the moonlit mountain.
“With that kind of start I think you have an interesting concept, my friend. If you decide to take on such a project, please feel free to call on me for my assistance. Right now though, you’ll have to excuse me. This gentleman (referring to me) and I have to scoot off to Hilo together.”
The tourist thanked Darwin and gleamed at the thought that his brainstorm had met a positive response in a mostly negative world. In addition he had the main-man’s blessing.
Darwin and I conversed about the lighter side of things for the most part during our ride towards Hilo. We talked of music and how we thought that it was one of the great pleasures of life. Darwin serenaded me with Sinatra tunes. He went on to tell me how Sinatra once recorded an album that was made up of songs exclusively dedicated to the passion and power connecting love and the moon. This talk led to talk about love.
“Do you ever think about love, Louis. What do you think true love is-selfless or selfishness?”
I pondered for a moment, not really understanding how those two words compared.
“I don’t quite understand?”
“Case in point, Louis. Someone very close to you passes away, a parent, mate, loved one. What’s the norm, what’s one’s immediate concern? How do you interpret the loss? Are we concerned about the poor soul’s spirit, or their welfare? Do we concern ourselves with worrying about whether they still experience pain? Do we ever really stop to think about where they are now? I ask you, is it our feelings or their feelings that we’re most concerned about? Maybe all we actually mourn is the void that’s left behind. We mourn the idea of being without them and us being on our own dealing with our own lives without those loved ones around, perhaps to do for us.
“How many times have you heard the grieving say things like ‘How am I going to live on without you? How could you leave me?’
“It seems to me that ‘me’ is what some of those people really worry about. I suppose most times the self-grieving might be more concerned about their own loss than for the person who is gone. Oh, people might say, ‘He or she’s not in pain anymore. They’re up there in heaven with God. They’re not so quick to appease the deserted, those family members or creditors who are holding the emotional or economic baggage.
“You just might feel both ways, Louis. You may give some thought, perhaps subscribing to the traditional myth wondering if they’re up there in you ridea of heaven as saints, or down there suffering in hell. Your particular lost loved-one may have been a real S.O.B. while here on Earth, and your lost loved-one may have perpetrated a lot of injustice towards others. Because you may have been aware of your friend’s bad reputation you may have summed up in your own mind that it was guaranteed that his soul would be thrust into darkness. That’s of course if you’re a religious person or if you believe in such things like most people do. I’d bet you’d mourn your lost scallywag’s spirit, hmm, Louis? Think back, Louis. Tell me. Can you recall for an instant or for the first time you experienced selflessness rather than selfishness?”
I pondered Darwin’s question. I had an answer for him. “I remember back in the army, in Vietnam. Once when things got especially rough. We were up North. I was serving in an infantry company. Highly mobile, we were beating the bush tracking down what we thought was a VC patrol. To our chagrin, we caught a tiger by the tail. Seems we lassoed onto a full-strength regiment of North Vietnamese regulars, a formidable fighting force. Once we made contact, the tides quickly turned. The hunters became the hunted. They counterattacked. Within fifteen minutes every officer and every NCO above the rank of staff sergeant were either killed or wounded. We had no pre-designated leaders in good enough shape to give appropriate orders besides directing or leading the firefight.
“We were getting chopped up and absorbing punishment from incoming mortar rounds. Disoriented and almost in a state of panic, we had no choice but to dig in and attempt to fend off the NVA’s superior fire power. Our only hope was to get rescued or reinforced.
“Buddies all around me had already gotten it. My turn would be soon! Then, something funny came over me. I wasn’t scared anymore but I became blue. My primary concern fell on the welfare for my family and my girlfriend. How would they react when they got the news?
“I mourned for them, in advance, rather than for myself. Right then, I didn’t care about myself. I was almost to the point where ‘getting-it’ would have been a welcomed relief, perhaps an act of mercy. I suppose that was the first time I ever dealt with what you refer to, Darwin, as ‘true love’ selfless love . . . That’s my experience anyway.”
“Fascinating! Well what finally happened?”
“We held out for eighteen hours before help was able to breakthrough their lines. Our radio operator saved us all. He stayed on the horn with Division Headquarters, directing artillery fire on the advancing North Vietnamese. We were spread out and he had to be sure not to have them rain that shit down on us. He got the Medal of Honor. Even General Westmoreland, the Commander of all U.S. forces in Vietnam, talked firsthand with our radioman for almost the entire siege.
“He ordered from his command post that we not return fire from our positions. He didn’t want us to give away our positions. We hung tough. Of the 184 men who ran up the back of the NVA column, 44 of us walked out. I was one of the lucky ones.”
“You’ll have to tell that story to Thor. Those are the type of stories that he cherishes.”
“I don’t tell that story much anymore. You’re the first person that I’ve shared it with in almost fifteen years.”
“So Louis, you understand. You experienced true selflessness during that chaos.”
“Well, Darwin,” (still playing my role) people don’t act that way about their children. Parents show uncontested love towards their children.”
Darwin, if anything scoffed, “That’s not so endearing. The emissaries stocked humans with the tendency to perpetuate, instilling in them a kindness towards children. Not to their credit, even those with strictly selfish motives are susceptible to the effects of children.”
“Darwin, for a man who has hope of saving mankind you’re quick to point out their flaws. For a person like you who’ s about to go out on a limb and differ himself from his peers, which you claim to be about to do, you certainly must recognize redeeming qualities in mankind. Why would you be willing to upset your immortal apple cart for such low lives?”
“You really want to know why, Louis? I suppose you deserve to know. Mortals have two worthwhile traits. You’re hearing this from an immortal. Mortals have the ability to achieve ‘true love’ and ‘mortality,’ two distinctive traits.
“Out of all your suffering and tears has evolved a most precious emption. Mankind has perfected the essence of ‘true love. As you know I’ve admired this trait. I’ve desired it. But, I’ve been unable to achieve true love. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why I see your species as worthwhile. It has been my view, and others, that people cannot experience joy if they haven’t already experienced suffering and pain. Mankind has that kind of experience. If I can offer back to mankind a chance for immortality and a millennium to express true love towards one another, then perhaps all can be equal. One won’t have to wait for death ‘to achieve full equality.
“As for mortality, it cleans the slate and cancels all debts.
“Yet, I ask? What is great wealth? Those who have achieved great wealth over a lifetime, at their time of death may be no better off than a measly pauper. Stockpiling riches may be a greedy by-product of one’s selfishness.
“Louis, I’ve observed men on their death beds. Two men lay across from one another, both strangers. One man may have come from the privileged, bred by a prominent family while living in a loving home and having the best of an education. Marriage, family, business, prestige in tow, this now dying man has led a pleasant, productive and full life.
“His counterpart, dying across from him, perhaps hasn’t had such a rosy existence. He may have suffered from disappointments. Heartache, failure and other sad times may have nodded their ugly heads towards him during a lifetime. It’s not that there weren’t gains, but there were always the emotional scars left behind from the wounds incurred after those sometimes crushing defeats.
“Now, fate has determined that they are going to die together. There’s likely to be a moment, just a brief, passing instant, if it happens at all, that both men will simultaneously achieve equality. The fellow who experienced challenges may have actually endured a richer life than the fellow whose aristocratic existence was more of a lark. Turmoil, mixed within a full life may produce an emotional bouquet. Instances of crisis may blossom worthwhile characteristics and leave indelible battle scars that enhance rather than sieve. For Mankind, death has been the final equalizer, especially for those who realize misfortune. Death is the beautiful losers ultimate pacifier. The premise, you can’t take it with you has been the rallying cry of peons since man first started to complain about elitism. Finality has been the little guy’s last chance to get even and stick it to them. I personally do not aspire to that way of thinking. Mankind needs not either. With my plan he won’t have to.”
Darwin unfolded another of his patented enlightenment sessions, exposing his thoughts while provoking insights. I attempted to visualize his oral exploration. I conjured up my own visions using his words as my flashlight in the darkness.
I thought about Earth’s history, pinpointing what I thought were the peaks and valleys of man’s existence. What he pointed out was true.
His frankness was always most revealing. He was a man with nothing to hide. I took in Darwin’s commentary with no reservations up to the recent past. If anything, his long-winded sermons were damn right interesting, and he was fun to be around. So many times before, I concluded that his steady logic not only intimidated, but compared to him it also dwarfed my own Tinker Toy mentality. I could only try imagining myself attempting to deliver my own unrefined verbiage in a fashion similar to Darwin’s, knowing fully that I’d be forever embarrassed by my own stumbling and bubbling. Such an unnatural utterance from one the likes of me could only be construed as that of a lame attempt of a fool mangling Darwin’s eloquent insights.
I took it upon myself, for the moment, ‘to’ shelve the talk about true love, mortality and the equality of life and steered the conversation towards the present. I filled Darwin in about my appointment with Lono.
“Darwin, have you ever heard of a kaka‘olelo?”
“Of course, I’ve known a few in my time,”
“Do you know one named Lono?”
“Sure, I know Lono. He’s a salty bugger.”
“I’ll say he is. I met him through Maile. First, I should tell you that during this past week Maile and I have spent some time together.”
“I presume she knows an awful lot about all this stuff you’ve been talking about. I asked her to help me. She said that maybe Lono would have some answers for me, so we went to see him down by the pools where you and I went the other day. So when we got there, he startled me when he came up from behind us. I didn’t see him.”
“What did he say to you?”
“Not much, I’m afraid, except that he almost took my head off for pointing at a rainbow.”
“Oh, Louis, tsk. You never point around Hawaiians. It drives them batty. You know why? It’s something to do about when the first Europeans arrived in this part of the world. Why, they attempted to put the Hawaiians to work.
“Pointing is considered a sign of bossism-do this, get that, go there’-not taken lightly by the normally easy going Hawaiians.”
“He told me to come back today, with you. Will you go there with me?”
“If you think it will help, Louis, I’ll be glad to accompany you.”
“That’s good. We can stop by and see him when we return from Hilo. He wants to meet us back down by the pools just before sunset.”
“Actually Louis, I have nothing to purchase today. I’d like to stop by Chop Suey Sam’s for some chow fun (Chinese noodles). Then maybe we can take in a matinee. There’s a movie in town that I’d like to see, Field of Dreams. Have you heard of it? It’s about baseball and it’s about the dead, two of our favorite subjects lately, huh? Baseball is an eternal game. There’s no time limit. Perhaps that’ s why I admire the sport so much. Baseball could go on forever, if the conditions were right. The same goes for mankind.”
Ignoring the hint, I told Darwin that I had heard of the film and that it was supposed to be good. I didn’t comment on his forever theory. The truth of the matter was I was exhausted for the time being from discussing deep subjects. I told Darwin, though, that I’d be glad to accompany him.
“Let’s go get some good chow fun and see a good movie,” hooted Darwin.
When we arrived at Sam’s most of the patrons’ ears were glued to the radio’s midday newscast, reporting on the recent activity around the volcano. Earth tremors were becoming more frequent. A number of rejuvenated lava flows were expanding their boundaries. The National Guard was being called out to help evacuate the residents of the Royal Garden subdivision. There was only one road open to and from the volcano.
Darwin remained unconcerned about the reports. We had a hearty lunch and went on to enjoy the film Field of Dreams. We enjoyed it. Afterwards, drove directly towards the pools.
All the way down the mountain we couldn’t help but notice how many more steam vents were huffing and puffing.
Lono, along with his scowl was waiting for us when we arrived down by the pools. There were some other people standing around. My heart jumped at the sight of Maile. Kimo was there, too, along with Thor and Madeline, Elizabeth, cousin Eddie and a few other Hawaiian folks. They all nodded toward Darwin as he got out of the Jeep.
We exchanged aloha with the others. Darwin and Lono gave each other brother handshakes and embraced. Maile came right to my side and planted a sweet kiss on my cheek.
Elizabeth found her way to Darwin’s side.
Darwin spoke up first, addressing himself to Lono.
“Time has come, my friend.”
“Lono replied, “Time wen come and time wen go, and so will those who use time, but the aina will remain.”
Darwin responded, “Time has come for those who ride the tide of time. Their time has come to depart.”
“It is said only those who control such things can predict such happenings,” said Lono.
Darwin gazed down by the pools. No one said a word while waiting for him to respond. He gradually moved towards Lono and Thor and placed his hand on Lono’s shoulder. He directed Lono, Thor and himself towards the pools, a few yards away.
They latched onto me and the four of us positioned ourselves, with our faces toward the others and our backs to the pools. Darwin spoke, “As you’ve wisely said, Lono, those who have control can rescue those who are about to swept away with time. I, along with the others, have that type of control. We can finally do something.
“My friend, Louis, isn’t so sure though that what I say is true. Lono, I want you to help Louis make a just decision. Shed some light on this matter for him.”
Lono said grouchily, “Why should I shed any light on such matters for Louis? He has his own eyes and ears. He wen have his own mind and a haole’s sense of logic. He wen make up his own mind?”
“Let’s say that my friend is willing to make up his own mind, but he needs to be reassured about what I say. He has to believe that it’s for real. He understands and knows good friends only speak the truth to one another. Louis has been inundated with much information. He doesn’t doubt the sincerity of my plea, I believe, but he’s not sure that it’s correct. My friend needs to be assured that the data he has been exposed to is not only true, but infallibly correct.”
Lono stared hard at Darwin and for a long time. Then he peered at Thor, with even more of a scowl. Not forgetting me, he gave me a cold stink-eye. He changed his expression, a look that I couldn’t identify. He turned and looked towards the mountain. He raised his arm slowly, unfolded his fist and extended his index finger towards the mountain. He muttered, just above a whisper, “Never point.”
We leaned forward, as if signaling to him that we needed to hear his muttering again, not entirely sure that we got it all the first time.
“Never point!” This time, he said it with great conviction.
“Never point! Never betray one friend! Never disrespect the aina! Never kill! These are laws of nature and laws of man. These are laws that have boundaries. They can only be crossed when given permission by the gods.”
He pointed again, even more defiantly. This time he pointed towards a tree that stood fifty yards above the shoreline.
“Perhaps the hau tree holds the answer to your dilemma, Louis. The hau tree’s roots know if what your friend says is, a truth, or a lie. Let the hau tree’s branches spread out and weigh da-kine, facts for you–branches that can determine if you yourself should ever break the laws of nature and perhaps even point, betray, disrespect or even kill.”
Lono waved his arm forward, not bothering to offer options whether we should follow him or not. Obediently, we filed in behind Lono. We all herded towards the straggly tree.
Once there, we saw that it was a non-flourishing, insignificant looking bush, which was growing right out of the hard, crusted lava. We stood around what Lono labeled as the hau tree. “We predict such happenings,” said Lono.
We gazed at it, not knowing what to expect, curious about what it would tell. We glued our eyes on it as if it were a TV monitor about to broadcast pertinent information.
Lono spoke to me. “Louis, study this tree. Louis, this hau tree must have fresh water in order to flourish. That seems impossible here. This is the desert. Here mostly no rain and when it does, it’s not enough to support this kind of vegetation. There is no fresh water here, yet how am I to explain how the tree lives?
“Horticultural books will tell you that this kind of tree needs soil that’s packed with minerals for its roots to dig into, yet here it stands where there is no soil, where there is only hardened lava.
“According to other books, geography books found in libraries around the outside world, this tree is supposed to grow high on mountains, only at the six thousand foot level. And here it rests not more than fifty yards from the shoreline?
“This tree has a reputation of being a family tree and it usually grows in a forest occupied by many of its own kind. What’s to explain the reasons as we look at this tree why it stands alone? Wouldn’t you say, Louis, that according to man’s reasoning that this hau tree should not be here at all?”
“What’s the point?” I asked.
“Never point, Louis. Pointing is a puzzle. Puzzles mask truth. Things aren’t always what they seem, yet there are answers to every puzzle. If a man lives long enough, he will figure out all the puzzles. Who, how or why did this hau tree’s seed get to this place? Was it the wind, a bird, or maybe a runaway mountain goat with a seed nestled in its fur? Other seeds have arrived at many different places and we don’t know how or where they’ve come from. In that aspect the tree is not alone. We cannot blame the tree. It wishes only to exist, to survive. The world is filled with innocent bastards.
“Take notice of the wind. This wind wen blow, lifts the salt water off the ocean’s surface and blows it toward the shore. The salt, once dried by the wind, separates itself from the moisture and falls back into the sea. The remaining moisture’s mist blows ashore and sprinkles the thirsty hau tree and sustains it.
“Here, look at this lava. This lava is very hard, too hard for the tree’s roots to get down into the soil. Yet, when the ground wen shake from below, the rumblings open small cracks and crevices on the lava’s surface, and the tree is given space to squeeze its roots through to the soil below.
“As for this tree being able to grow at this level. These mountains are thirty thousand feet tall if measured from the base of the sea. Bear in mind, only one third of these mountains are above the sea. Here we stand, in all actuality, at the twenty thousand foot mark of this mountain, high enough for this tree to grow without moving an inch higher.
“Yes, this tree does stand alone, against the rules, alone, without others of its species. Living things have a purpose. Those on one mission have to separate themselves from others and stand alone, without counsel, tossing away all knowledge gained in the past and total disregard for logic! That’s if they are ready and wish to achieve total truth.
“We, the kahunas and kaka‘olelos have been handed down knowledge about such things. Our predecessors have told us none of us possess any of our own original wisdom yet possess information others have implanted in us. You might ask: How we determine what is right, and what’s wrong if the origins of our conscience have been manipulated by others since the beginning?
“Therefore all that is programmed in us may not always be true. In the end we only do for others and forget ourselves.
“Stand before this hau tree Louis, and feel the wind wen blow in your face. You can’t see it but you can feel it. Smell the sea spray. Taste it salt-less water.
“Feel mother Earth tremble below you and let her shake the foundation of your soul. This is the same mother Earth who has breathed life into all of us. Only mother Earth should have the right to take away the life that she has created. She is the only one who can take life away, not those who have placed themselves ahead of her.
Louis, you are keiki o ka ‘aina, not a child of the Master or someone else. You stand alone now like this tree. Can you survive like this tree? Believe what you believe. Do as you wish.”
Lono then gestured us all to follow him back towards the shoreline. Once there, he began the chant of a high priest. He ceremoniously pulled a long machete type knife from a sheath that hung from his side. He spoke again. “Back, during the day of the ali‘i, the ali‘i wore their hair long. Excess hair was tied back into a ponytail. Their hair was considered sacred and was a symbol of sexual masculinity. When the king called for war, just before battle, the warriors loyal to Kamehameha in unison pledged their unwavering allegiance to the great king. The most common act of loyalty before hostilities was for the ali’i to rid themselves of their tail-feathers, a favorable sign directed towards the king. After such ceremonies they would sing together, squelching any anxieties that they may have built up about possible defeat.
“Our Kamehameha was considered very much a god. On the morning of his birth a lightning bolt struck and burned a village to the ground, the earth trembled, and volcanoes erupted. The same was said to happen the morning Alexander the Great was born back in ancient Macedonia. Before battle all those loyal to the great king shed their manes, not only as a sign of allegiance but as a gesture that they whole-heartedly believed in the immortality of their king.”
Before all of us, Lono reached back with his left hand and grabbed onto a thick hunk of his curly hair. Then, with his other hand, with a blind swoop he cut off a swatch and then tossed it into the ocean. Almost on cue, Darwin stepped forward and bowed his head. Lono, still with his scowl, unceremoniously swiped away Darwin’s gray white trademark, and he, too, tossed it into the water.
Thor was next. Though bald, he had enough hair on the back of his head to cut off. Then Kimo, followed by cousin Eddie, and one by one all the men stepped forward. I just stood there a moment. Then with all my faculties intact and without further hesitation, I stepped forward and felt the strength of Lono’s tug and the sharpness of the blade as it separated the hairs from my head.
I let Lono cut away from me of what I always had mistakenly and foolishly thought belonged to me. I owned nothing. I had claim to nothing. I was free.
Darwin’s gray, Lono and the other Hawaiians black, and my reddish brown locks formed a hair slick that floated on top of the water in no special cadence, bidding us good-bye. Lono once again began his ancient Hawaiian chant, soon joined by the tiny sounds of strumming on the ukulele. Pulsating vibrations broke out from giant gourds. We chanted together, held hands-united, focused and free of fear. We were ali’i-the pure, the elite, the undaunted.
We stayed throughout the sunset. I spent the rest of the evening with Darwin, Maile, Elizabeth, Kimo and cousin Eddie. Darwin gave me my final instructions-instructions for my important mission-my mission on Halloween.
Maile and I went home together. She left me in the middle of the night. Whispering in my ear before she left, she said that she loved me, that I should remain strong and keep the faith, and that everything would go well.
DAY Of RECKONING
I spent most of the next day, Friday, October 31st, Halloween, taking care of personal matters. I had no reservations about my decision. Final was final. I wasn’t about to look back but I decided to put my life in order, just in case. I jotted down a few final thoughts and left some instructions, and mailed them to my brother who would be shocked by its contents. The last thing that I wanted to do was leave any dirty laundry. I did some wash and made my bed for a change plus covered some bills that I thought had better not be left outstanding. I even scheduled my Jeep to go in for servicing.
If anything, this mission was a good excuse to tie up loose ends. I scoffed at the idea that I was killing time.
During the stay most of the fel1owship’s spare time was taken up by their new company. Some hardly attended the scheduled functions of the brethren. The Manitobans, still dressed in their unusual attire, casually strolled the grounds of Volcano House-uninhibited, hand in hand, with their newfound sweethearts.
Darwin had told me that most Halloweens in the past had a ceremonial aspect connected to them. During the past few centuries though, things were not so formal. The host usually determined what activities would take place. For a long time, Darwin had everything planned.
Rather than by Zodiac, a fleet of Hawaiian outrigger canoes would transport the fellowship and their guests, from the pools to a landing at a small beach near, the grotto. It would be at that landing where Darwin make his sales pitch to the
Two buses sat empty outside the lodge when I arrived on Halloween, about three-thirty in the afternoon. That was the time that Darwin said that I should show up. The buses outside assured me this was no rehearsal. This was it- the real deal.
The fellowship and their friends filled up the lodge’s lobby. Their demeanor had changed and taken on a more casual, outward type of appearance, since I hadn’t been around. One could feel an almost jovial, carefree atmosphere; most seemed enthusiastic about the outing. One hundred percent were in attendance. The men acted very affectionate towards the women. I could overhear, “Oh dears,” and “Let me, sweetie, and “I’ll get that,” dripping off the lips of the homicidal maniacs. Evidently, romance built up during the course of the week. It was incredible that in each and every case one of the brethren had hooked up with a female counterpart. It was even more-uncanny that since they were so into their own infatua tion, they never even bothered to notice the coincidental, similarity between all of them. Amazing, I thought.
Maile had yet to arrive. I was anxious to see her. We traveled the familiar route down towards the pools. The pool area was crowded with people. Darwin and_Lono arranged for a small flotilla of outrigger canoes. They’d be crewed by barrel-chested paddlers. Kimo, cousin Eddie and many of the others, who were present the night before, were on hand as well as others I had seen at the luau. All manned the fleet. To my relief, Maile was at my side.
We boarded the canoes and headed down the coast. Six paddlers engined one of the hulls belonging to the two-hulled canoes while eight passengers were situated inside the other hull. The sleek boats had been hand carved from koa, the bronze-colored hard wood which grows exclusively in the Hawaiians Islands. The crews rhythmically powered the boats; in unison and in silence they extended their wooden paddles and methodically stroked at the blue ocean’s water. After twenty consecutive strokes on one side of the boat, a pre-designated stroke counter shouts out, “Hut.”
In unison the paddlers answer “ho” and subsequently switching their paddles to the other side of the canoe without missing a stroke. The steady cadence and efficient paddling made the canoes rise up on top of the water and sort of glide on over it. The men’s power and strength could be felt with each stroke. Unlike before in the Zodiac, this time there were no noises or smelly fumes. All that could be heard above the tranquil sea was the disciplined cadence of the crews and the swoosh-of-the-paddles.
The multi-boat regatta, laced up against the late afternoon Hawaiian sky, the mountains and that sea, must have made a striking picture. One by one the long boats beached themselves on the landing. The crews hopped out in order to help off their distinguished guests. Maile, Kimo and I, having been paddled by our own crew, went on in advance towards the grotto.
We boarded the old steam engine ferry and-got it started. We motored the old steamer back out of the grotto and anchored it near the entrance. Now closer to evening, the waters were much calmer than they were that windy afternoon where Darwin, Elizabeth and I first visited the grotto. Once satisfied that all was okay, we then paddled back to the landing. By then the outrigger canoe crews had converted themselves into tent assemblers and turned the once deserted shoreline into a cabana-clustered, beachhead.
Darwin began explaining, for the sake of some of the others, some of the geographic distinctions along with some colorful historical aspects about the island. I should note that the volcano was showing signs of new life. The gods of death showed keen interest about the recent volcanic activity. Perhaps they were becoming nostalgic, appreciating the ever-decreasing number of active volcanoes then left on Earth.
Up the mountain, steam was escaping from a bevy of steam vents. Black smoke formed from a myriad of pukas signaling to an experienced eye that Kilauea’s rumblings were more critical than usual. The tremors, occurring with the frequency of an expectant mother’s contractions, forecast its own imminent eruption. In the past eruptions would usually break out at no more than two or three locations. That night the entire southeast rift, for miles around, advertised that the seams holding the mountain would soon burst open. The entire face of Kilauea was bellowing, rumbling and belching.
For the most part, the party on the landing all but ignored any threat from the percolating mountain.
The landing party went about their business perhaps feeling exempt from the wrath of the mountain. Instead of taking precautions, some of the crew hooked a large ulua off shore. They carved up the fish and served it raw as sashimi. Some of the paddlers/tent assemblers whipped out musical instruments. Despite ominous signs, a jovial mood continued. The makeshift, up-beat orchestra played a clever contemporary dittie, a tune casting light on the virtue of patience. The lead singer sang about how maybe all folks should emulate the fish that swim in the sea. He sang about how people have to hold on because sometimes the sea gets rough. He further sang about how people had to hold on like the fishes in the sea. The words of the song were more than just a little thought provoking, especially now.
The entertainment went on. Traditional Hawaiian tunes were sung, ones that were fitting for the outing. The music lasted ‘til just before sunset. The thought dawned upon me that this very evening was going to be my last sunset. That is, if everything that Darwin said was true it would be my last sunset with the man that I had learned to care for so very much. My heart flooded with sadness. I also had butterflies. The moment of truth was rapidly descending upon me. I dreaded it. At that moment I would have gladly given up the idea of keeping Maile, just to have Darwin back the old way. I was committed though, and had the resolve to carry out my pledge.
Maile glanced at me and must have sensed my uneasiness. I figured I had taken on the appearance of a pale, worried assassin. Kimo noticed me, too. They both counseled me to be strong. Kimo said, “0nipa‘a,” a Hawaiian term meaning to hold strong together. With their help I regained my composure and was soon feeling almost normal.
Shortly before sunset Darwin ordered the torches lit and then called us all together.
“Aloooha, Alooooha,” he shouted. “Come, come sit close. As you know, this will be our last evening together. At least the last evening scheduled together for yet another century.
“I’m going to alter the usual closing ceremonies somewhat. For all those of you here who have never familiarized yourself with Hawaiiana, I’m going to share with you a formula developed over the years by Hawaiians. They have a special method, a way they resolve disputes. Of course it’s not to say such a method wasn’t bestowed on them by some anonymous emissary. We here are all aware that these (ahem, please excuse me men, referring to the crew), poor savages could never muster up such wisdom on their own.
“I wish to share with you and instigate at this time the Hawaiian art of Ho‘oponopona Ho‘oponopono is a formula where families with problems sit down and hash out all differences. The Hawaiian term means, more or less, ‘make it right? Differences sometimes the hu-hu infests a clan, weighing them down and creates problems that could start to strangle the family tree. We the brethren, much like other clans, are a family in itself. We’ve become a disjointed family originally homogenized by the Master. Our common interest has been perpetuating death. It has given all of us a common bond.
“This past week all of you have recounted, bashed-out, and surmised this past century’s accomplishments, along with its pitfalls. We’ve been voicing some of our contingent’s stumbling blocks. Ho‘oponopono might be the best remedy for us to study and then master. By applying its merits hear and now, this very evening, we can forever rid our organization of some cumbersome unneeded baggage, which has the tendency to weigh us down while we trek from century to century.
“To tell you the truth men, I’m exhausted. I’m sure that all of you are, too. If statistics prove me correct, which they will, I haven’t killed nearly as many people as have all of you.
Perhaps I have no right to suggest, but at this time I am going to suggest to you actions that many of you may consider as drastic-perhaps dynamic or even idiotic. In my mind I believe I have found a real solution!
“Afterwards-after I present what might be construed
as radical solutions to this distinguished body, we can then practice the Hawaiian an of Ho‘oponopono-just the way the ancient Hawaiians did.
“Let me begin. As you all know, when the Master first sent us here, mankind hadn’t even sprouted out of his seed. Later on, still a seedling, we were still without a trace or a hint about what he would eventually evolve into. I’m well aware that it has been we, the emissaries, the various contingents, who have provided man with almost every fiber of sensitivity and logic that he possesses. In retrospect, all we had to work with was this ignorant species, a bunch of louts who never had an original thought. Yet! Even we, the princes of darkness, have to admit that they’ve shown remarkable resiliency.
“Despite the fact that all during history they’ve remained weak, greedy, and conniving, along with being self-serving and conceited, this piss-ant species has endured. At times, we have to be honest; they’ve showed flashes of brilliance, individual heroics, generosity, compassion and honesty. Through it all, mankind has consistently displayed a unique weakness. They have fallen prey while adhering to a notion that they can somehow achieve this thing called ‘true love.’ Humans have placed nit-wittedly, an over-emphasis on this worthless emotion. What is this idea of tme love? They’ve placed this pagan sensation ahead of other more important priorities. They’ ve permitted themselves at times to be slaughtered by us, just to preserve this human mystery. Perhaps there is something more to this muddle and their love thing than we ‘give them credit for.”
I sat on the beach and listened to Darwin as I had so many times before. I noticed strands of his recently trimmed hair do a hula to the whims of the wind as he spouted out his revelations. He elaborated, as he had, to quell the feisty Thor Destructo and me. In no time he mesmerized the group of deadly and supposedly all-knowing sages who made up the brethren. His kindness enraptured the group. He went on to sermonize. He spoke with authority, confident and sincerity. Behind him the Hawaiians stood with arms folded, taking on the appearance of Roman sentries or Nubian guards.
Their stern attention substantiated Darwin’s right to speak.
Other than the rumblings of Kilauea all became quiet. Eventually even that noise fell attentive to Darwin’s talk. Birds landed nearby-cardinals, sparrows, and nene. Even the thug-like mynahs stood still for a while, pointing their beaks at Darwin as if they were paying attention to what he was saying. The mongoose and rat, two natural enemies, popped out of the same holes and took heed. Horses, cows, goats and wild pig moved close up behind Darwin’ s entourage to witness firsthand what might of been the speech of the millennium. Dolphins and sharks swam close to the beach and circled each other without provocation. Whales languished
off shore, like bench-sitting big judges in black robes, perhaps condoning Darwin’s oratory. Moses in the desert, Lincoln at Gettysburg and even Christ on the mount may have yearned for the attentiveness. I’m not so sure any of those mentioned, on that day, could have held a candle to his verbalizing.
In the background it was becoming more and more evident Pele’s Kilauea was going to confirm
Kim’s suspicions. Darwin continued. He didn’t mince words. He painted the real picture, the same one that he had done-for me. He addressed each brethren member by name, peering into their eyes and appealing to their old logic. Although what he said may have been considered as a real surprise, Darwin hardly met any resistance to his theory.
Obvious questions were put to Darwin. He fielded each one with precision. When any stumbling block arose, they conversed in a strange tongue. I could sense by the tone that the tongue talk wasn’t emotional or even arbitrary. It was more like the official stamp
of approval had to be attained on some points. Without a doubt Darwin’s charming persuasion was working. Darwin’s collaboration with Pele was taking hold. Those companions with the brethren could be overheard encouraging the fellowship to go along with Darwin’s daring plan to actually go over the falls. They were saying things like “I’m with you,” and “I’ll follow you anywhere,” and “We can go together.”
The crucial moment came when Darwin made his move to board everyone back into the outriggers and head for the grotto. All complied. The steamer was anchored just off shore. The entire contingent, including myself was ferried out solemnly to the waiting steamer. Torches mounted on the canoes gave the regatta a ritualistic demeanor. The sight of it all prompted in my theatrical head an epic kind of music.
The fellowship and their companions boarded the steamer with the help of the paddlers. Once safely loaded, all the paddlers- departed, leaving just the principals, Maile and myself aboard. Kimo and Lono were the last to abandon ship.
They gave Darwin, Maile and me hearty hugs. With all clear I started the steamer and we chugged back towards the grotto.
Once in the grotto, Darwin motioned me to take the old ferry back close to the dock. There, to my disappointment, he ordered only Maile off the steamer. She obeyed without hesitation, jumping off the boat onto the dock. Darwin assured me that she, too, had a special mission, but that we should be back together soon.
Artimus Sclerosis was the first to appear visibly shaken and was holding his hand over his heart and gasping for air. “You’ll be okay, honey,” consoled Wanda, his portly girlfriend. Wanda attempted to bolster his not-so-sure spirits.
Blackie Plaque, cloistered in one comer of the boat with his “Infectious Disease” co-ed contingent seemed to be resolved by the situation. They and their lady friends, if anything, acted disinterested with the course of events and could have been amused by it all. Thor and Madeline stood erect directly behind Darwin and Elizabeth and next to me at the wheel. H.I.V. Bruce and his chum went to the rear of the boat, and while holding hands stared back at the waning light on the fast darkening horizon. Dermal Crustacean stared blankly. He ignored the soothing overtures being directed towards him by the sexy Mona. Paralyzed by the event, he took on the appearance of a man not comfortable with the future. Manny Di Pressi wept openly, verbalizing how he couldn’t get over the fact that it was his “death franchise” that had been chosen to be the final solution.
“Who would have believed? Who would have ever believed that it would be my method of demise that would take out the brethren?” he moaned. His worrisome mate was just as neurotic. Most of the rest just meandered around the deck of the boat and shuffled their soon-to-be-dead feet. For the most part the passengers were surprisingly serene. Regardless of this fact, before this moment they were considered as immortal. It was as if, to a man, they at least realized that someday they too would come to a permanent end. Some may have been enthusiastic about the thought that tonight they just might meet their maker. Some displayed a certain satisfaction perhaps at the idea of being soothed by their newfound companions. The presence of the females was grace saving.
All knew death. All knew what to expect, hoping that in their case that they really knew what was coming.
While at the wheel Darwin placed his arm around me; “Louis, I love you. Don’t miss me too much, but still do a little, okay?” He flashed the paternal smile of a heavenly father. “Help shape the new society that will emerge because of the worldwide phenomena that I expect to take place once the mission is complete. I don’ t think the magnitude of this matter will sink in until it’s all over. You, Louis, like it or not, will be
a force to contend with, and you’ll play a major role, while the world forms some of the concepts that will emerge. History and the state of man’s mind might depend on you to set the record straight. The rest of the world might see all this as downright ambiguous. They’ll need to be straightened out.
“You’ll do an excellent job. I have no doubts. Now, take this god-damned tub near the back of this grotto!”
Elizabeth came close to me. Placing both her hands on my cheeks, she gave mea kiss. “Thank you, Louis. Thank you for being so loyal to Darwin. Mankind will never forget you. You’ll be immortalized on both sides of the ‘Doors of Ustulation.’ We’ll never forget you.”
My emotions ran away from me. I bit my lower lip and it took every bit of strength to maintain my composure and avoid spooking the others. Inside, my guts were tight. My legs twitched and felt weak, and I wasn’t sure that they would continue to support me. I could hardly hold onto the wheel or, for that matter, steer the boat.
Father-like, Darwin said, “Steady, Louis. Remember, calmness, calmness, Louis. Now is the time to show your leadership. Show your inner strength. You’re in charge here. Your time has come!”
We motored up to the front of the doors. I could sense the excitement of the others once they sighted the doors. Each member of the contingent must of have had private thoughts about times before when they had visited the doors in unison. Never before though, did they contemplate going through those doors together. The inside of the grotto was shaking from the frequent quakes that were taking place. Good-sized chunks of the grotto’s ceiling were breaking loose and falling around us. The waters were rippling from the tremors! Vapor was rising up from the grotto’s waters! The quakes started to stir the passengers somewhat. An eerie mood engulfed and stemmed from the brethren.
“There’s your ledge, Louis! Now head for it-quickly!” I steered the old ferry towards the point of my disembarkation. “Go for it, Louis. Go for it!” commanded Darwin.
I let go of the wheel and sprinted to the side of the boat. I brushed past some of the brethren and pushed them aside. Without hesitation, I stood up on the rail and leaped to the slippery ledge that paralleled the grotto!
Already I was out of breath and the inside of my mouth was dry. Shakily, I made my way up the slippery rocks towards the housing that stored the hardware that would finally open the “Doors of Ustulation.” The light was bad and I had to feel my way. I-felt weak and wanted to quit then and there. I had to fight the temptation that was telling me to run away. For the first time since I jumped ship I glanced back at the steamer as if lay adrift. All in the boat focused their eyes and attention towards me. I couldn’t tell if they were rooting for my success or cursing my ascent.
Without warning, there was an explosive sound that came from the boat. Looking back, I saw a mist rising above the old boat. It took on the form of a transparent bubble. It was flume-like and it had images filling it and forming inside. The flume looked more like a giant light bulb as it hovered just above the old tug. Inside it, I could make out the captivated likeness of Elizabeth! Madeline! Mona and the rest! I could see now that there were no longer any females left aboard the ferry. All images in the bubble started to merge, incorporating themselves into one. The image was none other than the queen of Kilauea, in all of her majesty. Unmistakably it was the image of Pele. A sinister, evil cackle, a cackle that shocked all senses came from inside the bubble. It was a frightening sound! The cackle filled the grotto and I’m sure it riveted even the wise, old occupants in the ferry with fear and panic. It was a real death rattle!
Shouts of dissatisfaction broke out aboard the tug. I heard someone yelling, “What is this, Darwin? Some sort of trick!” My hands moved as fast as they could to unravel the rusty chains that led to the pulleys to hoist the old wooden doors. It was now up to me to open the giant doors, the mighty doors that separated the treacherous falls from the old rusty boat and its passengers.
I cringed when I overheard Dermal Crustacean’s voice rise above the rest. “CANTRELL! CANTRELL! YOU MISERABLE SQN-OF-A-BITCH. I’LL GET YOU! I’LL GET YOU!”
A bolt of lightning exploded right next to me. Its violent impact threw me to the ground. Thunder racked the grotto and the earth shook violently beneath me. I was blinded by the bolt and unable to see! I still heard Dermal’s voice. He was cursing, ranting, and raving. By his hurried tone of voice I sensed that he was attempting, along with some of the rest to abandon ship and get to me. I summed up that he or his spirits were hell bent on getting at me and stopping the mission. I couldn’t move. His growl roared in my direction. “STOP! STOP, YOU PEO!”
I reached out to feel with my hands, frantically groping to find the chains. I did. Now with more urgency I continued to crank the pipe. I was sure that once turned all the way that those chains would hoist those doors. I could barely make anything out, but I saw, not too well, that the doors were actually moving. I cranked harder and harder. I churned and churned, confidant that soon the doors would raise out of the water. They were inching up ever so slowly and I began to hear the hissing of steam coming from the other side of the doors. This had to be steam that was being created by the onslaught of water that was now flowing into the center of the volcano. My sight was returning and I could see a red glow coming from beneath the doors. That had to be the core of the volcano!
The ground shook beneath me and I tried to stand up. I heard a long, hard crack unzip the ceiling above me. It was an unmistakable sound. The grotto was cracking and ripping open. The sound of Dermal’s voice screeched over everything else, over the mayhem, over the impending apocalypse, over the scariest damn sounds that one’s ears could ever imagine. Over and over he chanted my name. He’d slip in an out of tongue. I could make out the sound of his voice, but not the weird sounding words. I could see that I had the doors now more than halfway up. Then I started to get hot all
over. I mean, my skin began to burn. The bum built from an at-first unpleasant sensation to an agonizing raw sensation.
The burning began to debilitate me. My mind immediately flashed back, recalling Darwin’s warning, the warning about those forces that might be released once the brethren realized it was I who would be the pilot of their demise. The burning became more intense and I was in agony. I no longer could crank up the doors. I was incapacitated and fell down writhing in pain. It was hell. I felt as if I was a goner.
Suddenly I felt the presence of someone next to me. The pain was so intense that I couldn’t even open my eyes. I couldn’t make the person out. I feared that it might be Dermal or one of the others, or some dark spirit. It, or whoever it was began frantically going through my clothes. Then, there was a delay, a ceasing of action and it backed off for a moment. Then it was suddenly back, ripping away at my clothes. I was trying to fight off the attack, but because I was in so much pain I was practically helpless. It was still touching my body and spreading all over me some sort of ointment. The ointment, wherever it was spread, provided an almost instant relief and dulled the tormenting pain!
I made out it was Maile!
“Maile! What are you doing?”
“Aloe! I’m rubbing the aloe on you. Dem1al’s spirits are attacking you. You’re being bombarded with sunrays. The only thing that can repel them temporarily is this sunscreen with aloe. Remember I gave it to you for the beach?
“Lucky for us you left it in the pocket of your safari jacket the other day.”
“What about you?”
“I’ve got some on already. Besides, he doesn’t know that I’m here. You can rub more on me as soon as I get you protected.”
I was coming around. The doors weren’t all the way opened. The boat still bobbed near the doors, not yet caught in the fall’s current. The entire mountain seemed ready to explode. After Maile applied the sunscreen, I was able to return the favor. She helped me to my feet and we both turned the crank as fast as we could. I could make out the steamer. Mass panic and havoc continued breaking out from within the ranks of the brethren. I could no longer make out individuals, or who was who. I could overhear both Darwin and Thor trying to calm. My thoughts were with Darwin who was down there with that evil bunch. I was concerned for his welfare. In this situation, I could only wish for his quick and merciful demise.
Maile pulled me by the arm and beckoned me to come with her as quickly as I could. We started to make our way back, out of the now hellish grotto. We scampered on the crudely etched out path that was cut into the stone. I peered back, one last time, and at that instant the boat and all of its passengers was shrouded with a vapor that rose from the core of the volcano.
The ferry, and a few overboard who had abandoned ship, began twirling in an inescapable whirlpool. The ferry picked up speed and spun like a turnstile as moved toward the edge of the eternal falls. Then, for a brief moment it paused as an acrobatic high diver might while at the end of his board.
Just like that, it was gone, carrying with it all that was supposed to be the cause of all the torments of mankind. Right after it tumbled all hell broke out. The intensity of the already high energy ramped up a few more degrees.
Maile and I scraped our way back to the dock. At times we found ourselves on our hands and knees. Using all of our faculties as we put together a combination of stooped running, so as not to lose our balance.
I was flabbergasted to see the dock still standing. Chunks of debris continued to fall around us. A powerboat waited. Darwin, the man with the plan, had thought out my escape to the end. It seemed as if everything was about to collapse upon us at any given moment. We had to get out of there quick! We both jammed ourselves in and I started the engine. I took the wheel and we motored off as quickly as possible.
We tore through the inlet and out towards the open sea. Behind us was a wall of fire roaring at us, chasing us away from the island. Kilauea sputtered and shook like I had never seen it shake before. All along the face of the mountain fountains of hot lava shot up and emerged from scores of fissures. It was a spectacular eruption. With the help of the moonlight I could see large sections of the mountain, further down the coastline, falling into the sea.
Far up on the ridge, even the sanctuary of Volcano House appeared to be in jeopardy, no longer safe from Pele’s wrath. Soon, thereafter, Darwin’s beloved Volcano House, like the steamer, the brethren and Darwin toppled back into the waiting arms of Mother Earth. The process continued. The entire mountain, as it had many times before, was feeding on herself. It was a process that always ignored the whimpy wants of mortal or immortal-a process separate, non-judgmental and with no scales of justice. Her process would go on regardless of whom or which group held a claim on its dangerous surface; They could never alter the will of Mother Earth.
They could only hang on as she spun and spun and spun. Those who chose to hang on only occupied and were stuck-to by the force of gravity, despite what they thought. Both mortal and immortal thought that they controlled twenty-five percent of
Mother Earth’s mighty surface, a surface that consisted of a mere one billionth of her entire global bulk. The odds are always on Mother Earth’s side.
About a mile off shore we cut the engine. We held on to each other and just watched and listened to Kilauea’s swansong.
It has been six months since that fateful night. Because of the magnitude of the eruption the authorities did not investigate the permanent demise of the brethren. Maile and I were the only survivors from the grotto cruise. All were safe-Kimo, cousin Eddie and the other sunset paddlers. Miraculously, the rest of the mountain’s residents, including every- one left up at the lodge, were evacuated from the containment area just in time. There were no other fatalities.
Since then, there occurred remarkable phenomena around the world. There was a dramatic decrease in the reporting of infectious disease. No new cases of cancer or any other of mans’ plights have been recently diagnosed. Doctors were speechless. Death notices were becoming a rarity. All local, national and international conflicts ceased. World leaders were holding summits to discuss lasting peace.
I’m soon going to go public with Darwin’s and my story. Maile and I are very much in love, and we are expecting a child. I’m a different person. I think about Darwin all the time. His presence, it seems, is always with me. I often catch myself talking to him. The idea of fear is something that I don’t live with anymore. It’ s far behind me. I have no doubts about my fellow man. I truly believe, as Darwin once predicted, that we are all going to live happily ever after.