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Big Island Story

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New Member
Mar 2, 2002
Take me back!

This story will come in bits and pieces because it was too convoluted to put down all at once. Check the box above "receive updates" if you want to read more.

Big Island

He pulled himself over the last shoreline boulder and stood on the dried grass which grew out of the rocky soil. Resting in the sunshine and gazing
to the Southeast, the long slopes of the volcanoes were hazy in the distance. As his respiration slowed he moved again and navigated around the
sharp Keawe thorns in the dust and entered the sparse shade of those thin dry trees. He leaned his spear up against the side of the truck and sat
heavily on the tailgate. The spear screeched along the paint as it fell to the ground.

Had the truck not been in the terminal stage of island rust Kai might have cared. Making it up the hill last he grabbed the fallen spear, put it against a
Keawe tree and dropped a large muscular fish into the truck bed. He dropped his armful of dive gear, stripped out of his wetsuit and chucked it all into the truck bed
behind Spence who looked down in disgust. "Nice shot." Kai grinned, "yours get away?" Spence winced, "Very funny,". The cool morning breeze
had died out as the sun heated the land. Beads of sweat ran down Spences pink forehead. He was looking down at the fish in the truck as he
unbuckled his watch and depth gauge.

I thought of all the times that day I’d heard Spences spear plinking and snapping under water as he fired away hoping for a lucky shot. Kai got on
his slippers and T-shirt. He grabbed a plastic bottle of tepid water he’d left on the dash, squirted some into his open mouth and spat...
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Spence unclipped the extra stringer from his weight belt, untangled the lure he kept for attracting curious fish, got the knife sheath off his ankle and put everything in a neat row next to his leg. He still had to coil line and get a little square of carpet out to stand on in order to keep his feet clean as he extracted himself from his wetsuit. I made myself comfortable in the shade.

Kai spat into the dust, "Brah, so much equipment, so little fish!" Spence lurched and patted an empty pocket on his wetsuit. "Shoots! I lost my dive light." He was teetering with one foot on the carpet as he raised the other to yank and pull at the stubborn wetsuit leg. He huffed, "Kai you gotta put a flag on you’re floater. I can’t keep track of you out there." Kai acted apologetic, "I left it in the truck. How’d I get any fish if I had a human Humpback next to me hauling that pile of spears and junk around on a floater!"

With Spence finally ready Kai fastened his tailgate closed with a bungie cord. We squeezed in and pulled the squeeky doors shut. I put my elbow out the window and looked again at the flat ocean. Since moving to the island it turned my head as magnetic north does a compass needle. I couldn't get enough of all that flat blue open space.
and then...

Kai turned the key in the ignition. The old truck broke the silence of the empty coastline as we backed up the short dirt track to the roadway. We were halfway to Kawaihae when Spence straightened up, "Shit! I forgot my spear." Kai’s eyes searched the ceiling of the cab as he let his foot off the gas.

Of course you turn around for a spear, maybe not for a snorkel or a slipper, but definitely a spear. "You need some kind of check list for all that crap. My fish is dryin’ out back there." On the empty highway it was only a few minutes back up the coast. The saltwater had dried tight on my skin and the deep clear water of South Kohala sat there waiting. Squeezed between Kai and I, Spence looked ready for the water again too. He was a big guy and bound to feel a little crowded sitting three across. He ducked his head away from the ceiling of the cab and looked from under his meaty brow toward the water.

Kai shook his left arm low out the window and Shaka'd about every vehicle we passed. I wondered if he actually knew that many people or wanted it to appear so. A shiny Ford King Cab with a custom fiberglass flat bed passed by pulling a fine looking fishing boat. Instead of his usual shaka Kai, hailing the truck, waved wildly and pulled over. He jammed it in reverse and raised dust as he backed down the shoulder. The guy in the Ford looked like Kai but with sharper lines. He was of Japanese descent but with a thick Hawaiian frame, as brown as Kai but lean. He had bristly short black hair and even white teeth. Gesturing with bare arms he and Kai broke into heavy pidgin.
"Eh cuz, whea you been?"
"I had get da boat!"
"We wuz looking fo you fo go diving at the crack brah. I went poke one big bugga!"
"Whea you going now?"
"Lolo hea fo’get his spe-ah back unda one Keawe tree! Eh, you get ice? My fish look like one half day Aku already"
"Shua, you get a coola or somting?"

Kai got out, grabbed his fish by the small of the tail and hefted it out of the truck bed. "How ‘bout I trow him in you’re fishbox?" Kai crossed the hot pavement on his caloused feet. His brother got up on the flat bed and lifted the top off an oblong fiberglass box. He took the fish from Kai and dropped it in. I could hear the ice slosh in the box from my hot seat on the road.

Kai got back in the truck, "Tanks eh, catch you latahs." And from the red ford "eh, you like go blue watah? Who de otta guy in deah?"
Kai said, "He Spences new boss, he O.K."
"bring him too, meet you at da ramp!"
On the corner where the rutted road from the Kawaihae boat harbor meets the Kamaehameha highway sits an establishment that has one of everything for sale, Doi’s store. In this rural community when something runs out or a part breaks on a machine you go to Doi's for help. Most mornings in front of the store sitting around a stained plyboard picnic table you’ll find guys who could lay a new runway, rewire a power grid or establish an interem government. At least that’s what they would have you believe.

They talk story and slap at the flies around their ankles. They eat thin egg sandwiches and drink percolator coffee lightened with whitener. Eddie stops at Doi’s on the way home from his graveyard shift as a hotel engineer. His dusty truck is draped with cable, ladders and Larriats. He has a habit of telling everyone how busy he is. He starts with a question, "How’m I gonna do ‘dis? I gotta finish wiring Pico’s house and move my cows to a free pasture I found up in Waimea. Aftah dat I gotta collect late rent from one guy in my coffee shacks and be back in Kona tonight for my girls softball game. You like help collect da rent? If can then I get time to..."

Bryson Kawamura was at the table with Eddie as we climbed up the worn cement stairs to get some breakfast. Here where most people fished or made a living with their hands Bryson stood out like pressed pants. His were pressed Levi’s over shiny western boots. His light blue office shirt wasn’t exceptionally fashionable but his appearance suggested he was making his living while keeping his nails clean. He sold real estate, insurance and vacations or served subpeonas as a Sheriff’s deputy depending on the drift of the economy.

Eddie and Bryson looked up and smiled. Eddie jerked his chin, "How da watah boys? Hana Paa?" It was the mainland equivelant of "catch any?" Kai said, "ho, da watah nice! Yeah we get one Ulua". "Oh yeah? I like see?" "my braddah get’em in his fish box. We going again aftah we get some grinds." Bryson said "Eh, how’z Ikaika now?" Bryson’s question somehow implied Ikaika had received a subpeona recently. Kai answered quick "he fine".
The local boys conversation quickly rolled from Kai's brother past the weather which is always the same around here and on to Ikaika's new Whaler. I slipped passed Spence and pushed open the screen door to the store. It was dim and cool inside and smelled crowded with canned goods, auto lubricant, clothing and ripe Bananas. A mounted Big Mouth Bass and stuffed game birds hung on the walls behind stands of fishing poles and Hawaiian sling spears. T-shirts with images of Pit Bulls, tatooed hunters and thrashing Marlin’s hung behind the register, or rather the cash box. The young woman sitting on a stool behind the counter was nineteen or twenty. She smiled and gave a "hi" as if she had not yet grown tired of greeting customers.

I walked to the back of the store past shelves of fishing tackle, cookies and Twinkies to the take-out window. Another young girl there, high school age and not as outgoing as the one on the counter asked me what did I want. I ordered an egg sandwich and a Loco Moco for each of us. Loco Moco is a recipe engineered to assist gravity in holding you down to the earth permanently, a layered pile of white bread, rice, hamburger and eggs topped with brown gravy. I grabbed three quarts of "POG" a blend of Passion fruit, Orange and Guava nectar and went back outside to wait.

Breakfast was served on paper plates stacked in the official serving tray of the Pacific, an empty cardboard soda flat. Kai and Spence wolfed their Loco Moco’s and stood up with their egg sandwiches in hand. We were leaving and I was still trying to get ketchup for my sandwich. Kai explained, "Once his boats off da trailah he gone!"
Spence came out of the store with a case of beer and we headed for the harbor. Ikaika was tied up to a bright orange Sanpan out among the slips reserved for local fisherman. The Sanpan had a wide, low working deck in the stern, a covered wheel house a midship and it’s sharp bow arched up to deflect the seas it ran into. As we walked down the floating dock Ikaika and a short old guy were on the aft deck of the Sanpan yelling at each other as if being on boats had ruined their hearing. The Sanpan’s name was Ikamaru "Squidboat" and the old man went by the same, "Squidman". Squidman was Ikaika and Kai’s pop.

As we reached the slip He was yelling at Ikaika that his new boat didn’t have a live bait hold in it. It didn’t have room for Crab nets or cross nets or a power winch for bottom fishing. It didn’t even have shade to stand in. Ikaika just said "You guys ready already? The old man’s driving me crazy." Sqiudman turned to us up on the dock and cracked a grin in a weathered face "you going in his boat? You bettah bring a hat cause deah’s no shade on dat boat!" Kai grabbed his father’s hand as he stepped into the Sanpan. He greeted Spence similarly then asked who was I. "Who you?" a simple question , no exteranious meaning. Glad that he took the time to notice I replied, "I work down in the hotel with these guys" "He Spence’s new boss, new shark bait! Na na na jus kidding, he ok." "Ho!" He said to me, "you going let dees guys show you diving? You bettah stay hea wiff me, they jus’ going drink bea and float around in the middle of nowhere all day!"

Shark bait in the middle of nowhere? We walk up the deck and climbed over the rail into the Whaler. The shift from the relatively fixed surface of the Sanpan to the roaming deck of the skiff caused me to stumble and nearly go over the other side. I sat down where I landed trying to look unaffected. Kai whiplashed the bow line off Ikamaru’s forward cleat. Ikaika clicked the new engines on and throttled them forward gently to take us over to the rampdock. We loaded our gear from the truck and headed out of the inner Kawaihae harbor.
Can't a guy take a little dive break?

Curving ripples born off the bow distorted the clear views of the shallow harbor bottom. Fish sending bolts of scarlet and lemon color darted away from under us. What looked like a large boat when it was on the trailer was suddenly small filled with four men, piles of diving equipment and an oversized fish box which seemed to have the best seat in the boat.

I sat where I had landed and tried to act natural. Launching myself into a new situation site unseen made me feel a little tight and it brought me back to a horse back ride. The horse seemed to have an attention span deficiency. Shannon, my lady friend, had coached me eagerly as she twisted around in her saddle and looked back. "Be firm with’m or he’ll take advantage of you." I remember thinking that handling the horse was the easy part.

The Chestnut Gelding picked his way up the trail following Shannon’s Mare along the American river. The scent of horse sweat, cackling river water, and hot mountain air was palpable even as a memory. My horse followed Shannon’s up to her "favorite spot in all the Sierras". Off to play in the mountains for the day with me feeling like a conscriptee headed for battle. On again off again we’d been and I was flying away the following morning.

A top popped on a can of beer and brought me back. Spence had his right hand on the transom in front of me to balance himself and his left foot up and braced on the boat rail. In his free hand he inverted the can of beer over his mouth. As I watched the can, it never actually touched his lips. The stream of beer dropped cleanly in and seconds later when the can was empty he shut his mouth. The engines whined as we shot further off shore. I stretched out a little, felt a loosening in my shoulders and took a deep breath in. There was no horse sweat here.
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At some point so far out on the flat blue plain that the Island behind us had shrunk to the size of my fist on the horizon Ikaika cut the engines. In the new silence Spence belched as he opened the cooler for another beer. The ice sounded gravely as his hand struck for a can. The cooler lid slapped down. Kai began contorting into his wet suit and the pile of spears next to him tapped against the hull. It was all coming from inside the little boat. Around us was endless, quiet, still liquid.

I wondered what we could possibly find out here. Monsters? If little fish are in the shallow water how big are they in water one mile deep? "Ho! that’s some ripe palu." Spences face was tightened around his big nose as he watched Ikaika leaning over the back of the boat with a plastic bag. The instant he poked it the stench hit me too. Blood and liquified fish parts slurped out into the water behind us. The Chum line left a flattened slick that began to string away from us. Chumming was illegal back home. As a seven or eight year old I’d sit in the front of grandpa’s aluminum Sears Gamefisher out on the stocked County reservoir and watch as he’d pretend to sip coffee from his Coleman thermos, then he’d swish out the cup in the lake and pour himself another. It wasn’t until thirty years later on the day of his funeral I learned from hilarious stories that he’d been chumming and I was only along so he could bring in twice his limit in Trout.

Kai sat on the fish box and looked out at the chum line which had been set parallel to a natural kind of crease in the water behind us. It was as if two different qualities of water were running next to each other one slightly cloudy and the other crystal blue. His look was speculative. He spat in his mask, rinsed it out over the side and without as much as a word since we’d stopped he stretched the mask’s silicone band over his dry hair, crossed himself and rolled quietly into the water. It seemed to me he just did what he does. Ikaika handled things and took charge, Spence followed and Kai was a hunter. He moved purposefully. In the water he looked up at me and said "ay boss, hand me my spea’ and floata’" I picked his spear off the pile and trying not to tangle the line and the float carefully played it out as he swam away from the boat.
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It seemed strange to me to get out of a perfectly good boat and swim away. I turned around and Ikaika was sliding off the other side. That left me and Spence. I looked at him and he said, flapping his egg sandwich lips, "go ahead boss, I’m gonna finish this". I figured going over the side and holding on couldn’t hurt. What did it look like to lay face down in over a mile of liquid. Taking my tee shirt off and feeling white and frail I sat on the gunnel and pulled on my fins. I dipped my mask and rinsed it out. Sunshine heated my shoulders and the back of my head. I stuck the mask to my face and regretfully leaving the heat behind slid into the water. Spence had to yell to get through the water in my ears. "ay! You not gonna fish?" He was holdling out a spear. I took it more for reassurance than anything. I’d only learned how to pull the heavy rubber bands back on it earlier in the morning. With one hand gripped to the side of the boat I put my face down and floated. Laying face down in the water muffled surface noise. The only noise seemed to be coming from the thump of my heart and my nervous breath. As the initial shock of the temperature change faded away I relaxed a little. My breath lengthened and the sound of my heart left my ears.

Rays of filtered sunlight shooting down through deepening shades of blue. There wasn’t much to focus on. After a glance or two at the boat hull and Ikaika off in the distance the attention grabber was the lack of input. I floated face down gazing into an agate. Or a cup of water. Or a dream or closed eyelids. Into blue eyes. Rays of light traveling the entire distance from the sun plunging into an ocean on Earth and being swallowed in the first 80 feet of liguid. It absorbed my attention the same way. First there was energy, anxiety, nervousness then, looking down into it, all that felt absorbed. Part of me tried to worry. What if the boat drifts off? What else swims out here? But the rest of me let go of the gunnel and kicked away a little.

I felt the spear in my hand and remembered my supposed purpose. In front of me the chum line rained down bits of flesh followed by smoking tails of blood and juice. Out beyond it Ikaika and Kai drifted on the surface. I pulled back on the first band and loaded my spear. My stomach was sore from loading it earlier in the morning so I had to let the butt of it push against my hip. I gave a gentle kick and drifted out copying my guides. I watched them for a change in hunting profile and scanned the area around me for something other than the penetrating rays of sunlight wavering below.
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I had to remember to breath while reading this one! Good stuff all around.:D :D :D
Where's the rest of it??? Oh I hate university libraries........well I mean I wish I would be diving I guess...:duh
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