A TIME OF SECRETS
I wasn’t always lolo, you know. People didn’t think I was crazy. Keeping silent is where I went so wrong. And nothing was ever right again.
– My Book of Revelation
Excerpt from the Year 2012
Tattooist Found Guilty of ‘Ass-inine’ Crime
By Jackson O’Reilly
Excerpt from the Keawalani Voice, 2012
Kaleo Palea, proprietor of the Tat Joint, has been sentenced to thirty days in the Hamakua District jail. The judge also closed his tattoo shop for six months, a little extra punishment to dissuade him from vandalizing the backsides of others in the future.
In the opinion of most villagers, including this reporter, Kaleo Palea does not deserve his fate. “He’s not a bad guy,” his sister Nani Palea said in his defense. “Just a little unrestrained in anger management.”
The blonde muscle man who was his ‘victim’ is a locally-known blowhard from California . Everything is better in Pismo Beach, according to him, so everyone here on the Big Island wondered why he didn’t just go back home. Apparently he has now done just that. Surfer Dude made bail and skipped town, but Kaleo will serve his time. For the next thirty days, prison tats received in the Hamakua jail will no doubt be of a distinctly higher grade.
Nani Palea was philosophical about the temporary closure of her brother’s tattoo shop. She figured business would have been bad anyway. Even though the town did think he’d done the right thing, who’d trust her brother with their skin now?
Kaleo had told her – and the rest of Keawalani – all about it. Surfer Dude had swaggered into his shop, interrupting him in the midst of sketching a delicate hibiscus. The Californian had demanded a tattoo on the small of his back.
“What you want in such a hurry, haole?” Kaleo had asked using the not-necessarily-flattering term for a Caucasian mainlander.
Surfer Dude explained he wanted a naked chick who would bump and grind when he flexed his butt muscles. Wouldn’t that be ‘fuckin’ awesome’ undulating above his Speedo? He pointed out a girlie pattern he liked from the designs tacked to the Tat Joint’s wall. For the next three hours, Kaleo worked. When at last he finished, he said, “Some of my best work, haole.”
“I gotta see it.”
“Not yet. Leave this bandage on it ‘til you get to the beach then remove it and lie in the sun. Bright rays bring out the colors. Them beach babes gonna love it.”
Kaleo was right. The women did love it when Surfer Dude unveiled his body art. They pointed and laughed. They made fun of his ass. That’s how Surfer Dude discovered his tattoo was actually Kamapua’a, the Hawaiian Pig God, a porker best known for vulgar conduct.
When Surfer Dude busted in to confront the tattooist, a waiting customer called 911 before Kaleo could beat the snot out of the idiot. Police arrived and arrested them both.
Today, thirty days later, Kaleo was getting out so Nani was anxious to get to the Hamakua District jail. If she were late he’d start thumbing, and he’d be cranky enough as it was. But she couldn’t rush Bethie Kalapana’s feet. Bethie’s tongue relaxed right along with her arthritic toes as Nani worked to loosen them. The brittle-boned woman was on the massage table, fussing about the new people who’d purchased the house just downhill from her own.
“She move da bonsai wikiwiki. Even before Martina Martin stay gone.” Bethie used the pidgin English that was Hawaii’s unofficial language, a rich stew from the immigrant populations who had settled the islands. Nani translated in silence. She moved her bonsai plants in fast, even before Martina Martin moved out.
Bethie’s eyes were shut tight as Nani’s talented hands manipulated hot stones to release the hammer toe. “Thirty da kine bonsai all over da lanai. Jacaranda … shower tree … all kine.” The buyer of the Martin home came each day to water, prune and talk with her plants.
Nani understood that new neighbors were big news and no small cause for alarm, but she hurried the session as much as she could while still giving her client more than her money’s worth. She believed in the art of touch, that all humans benefit from contact with others. Through massage or reflexology, she helped those around her with their physical woes.
What had surprised her early in her career was the amount of emotional woes that also came her way. Clients told her the most remarkable tales. Through no intent of her own, Nani Palea had become the Big Island secret keeper. Secrets that she kept, and sometimes even acted on, if she felt her involvement was justified.
Bethie finally climbed down from the table, slid into her slippahs, and wrote her check to Keawalani Hands.
“You know you need better support for your feet, Auntie,” Nani said, using the respectful title for older women whether they were relatives or not. She said it well aware that flip flops were the only footwear Bethie would ever consider.
“You da support fo dese feet,” the old woman said, stretching up to kiss Nani’s cheek. Bethie was actually up on her toes. She could barely hobble before her session.
At last, Nani closed down her massage salon which was once the front bedroom of her house. She hurried out back and started up her Vespa. A car would have been better today, but the scooter was her only vehicle. It could just barely carry two when one was the size of her brother, Kaleo. He had customized her bike with a surrey top made from woven palm, and as long as she kept under 40 mph, the top stayed in place protecting her from sun or rain.
Nani putted through the village at slow speed then accelerated out the other side. Keawalani was far enough off the Big Island’s beaten path that the air was still perfumed by plumeria more than by exhaust. Few tourists made it up the secondary road from Highway 19 to the village perched on the shoulder of Mauna Kea, the highest peak in the Pacific. If they did, they might stop for a pineapple shave ice at Halemano’s Heavenly Treats or even a loco moco at the Big Island Girl, a diner whose signmaker had misheard the word grill. The islander attitude was “no worries” so Girl it remained.
After filling their bellies and maybe their fuel tanks, tourists moved on. There was no Hilo Hattie or Walmart to keep them or their money in the village. They traveled back down the road through cattle pastures to the highway and turned left toward Kona or right toward Hilo. It was the road that Nani took now, turning to the right to pick up her little brother, the convict. Kaleo had been in the slammer for thirty days sitting out his sentence. He’d been released to the custody of his big sister who was widely known to be the more dependable of the two.
Nani saw him walking along the side of the road and knew she was late. His boardshorts and tee-shirt looked a smidge tight. Prison food must have appealed to him. She’d get him off the fried rice and back on fresh fruit and mahi mahi.
“Aloha, bruddah,” she said after she u-turned and pulled up next to him. They exchanged the Hawaiian embrace, kissing cheek to cheek. Then she placed a lei around his neck. “Welcome home.” She’d made it from brown kukui nuts because they symbolized knowledge. Maybe some would actually rub off on her little brother.
“You’re late,” Kaleo griped. “I was released hours ago.”
Okay, maybe knowledge will never rub off on him.
“You’re welcome for picking you up at all.”
Kaleo climbed aboard the Vespa behind her, grabbed hold of her waist and said, “You can drop me at the Tat Joint. I guess I’ll stay there until I find someone to rent it. Hit it, sistah.”
“No you don’t, bruddah. According to the judge, you’re coming home with me.”
The Great Loco Moco Debate
By Jackson O’Reilly
Excerpt from the Keawalani Voice, 2012
This reporter was hanging with the boys down at Sunny Daze barber shop, awaiting a bi-monthly scalping. The conversation turned to loco mocos. Rumor has it this Big Island comfort food was invented in Hilo after WWII to keep the cholesterol of hungry guys climbing sky high.
“You gots to start with da good ground beef,” Sunny claimed. “Not dat low fat crap.” There was general agreement except from Motorhead who claimed to prefer his loco moco with pork or fish.
“But that ain’t right,” Sunny snapped back, snipping the air with his scissors. (Note to readers: you don’t want to make Sunny mad just before you get your haircut.) “A real loco moco got da big scoop white rice under da burger patty, eggs sunny side and plenty brown gravy. No onions, mushrooms, kim chee, dat kine stuffs.”
Vincent Moy revealed that his family’s secret for a superior loco moco was bacon fat in the gravy, but others shouted him down using an unprintable phrase implying he didn’t know poop from polish.
The battle raged over long or medium grain rice … Worcestershire in the gravy or chili pepper water … shoyu, Maui onion or daikon pickles as a condiment. But everyone did agree on two things:
First, the proper way to eat a loco moco is to break the eggs and blend with a bit of the meat, rice and gravy on your fork, then devour together in one ono bite after another.
Second, the best loco moco on the island can be had at the Big Island Girl. Asked later for a comment, Daya the Waitress said their secret ingredient was safe with her. She followed up with her enigmatic smile before gliding away to serve another round of the village’s best coffee to her happy customers.
“Got any ice cream?” her little brother asked. ‘Little’ was misleading for Kaleo. True, he was twenty-six which made him three years younger than Nani. But at six foot four, he was ten inches taller. While he had the size of his Hawaiian ancestors, she’d inherited the slighter height of their Filipina great grandmother or maybe the Chinese plantation worker even farther back on their family tree. The Palea family, like most Hawaiians, was a mixed bag of backgrounds. Chop suey as the local slang went or poi dogs which meant mongrels.
Nani was a little brown dove of a woman who could best be called curvaceous. Her body wanted to be as lush as the island greenery, and it required as much maintenance to keep it trim. She wasn’t crippled by body shame issues like so many of her haole sisters on the mainland, but she felt better when fit. It was easier to perform her job when her hands and arms were in peak condition.
Her round face was the perfect frame for an easily evoked smile. Her almond shaped brown eyes were as dark and welcoming as Kona coffee, yet an empathic spirit might divine the sadness always there, just behind the smile.
At long last, Nani’s shiny black hair had outgrown the oddball slant created by Sunny Daze, the Keawalani barber. He disliked it when someone called him a stylist. Nani wouldn’t make that mistake again. Snipping at the ends a bit at a time, she’d finally been able to even out the cut until her hair once again draped straight down to the middle of her back.
“There’s frozen yogurt, non-fat vanilla,” she said to her brother.
“Wailelenani. That is unfit food for a big man.” Kaleo used her full name when she annoyed him. It meant beautiful waterfall. Her nickname, Nani, was common in the islands and simply meant beautiful.
“That man better not get any bigger if he doesn’t want to look like a certain Pig Man himself.” She believed he’d been making a few too many loco moco runs to the Big Island Girl.
By now Kaleo had been living in Nani’s house for a couple weeks. He’d claimed the lanai so he would have his own back entrance without bothering Nani’s clients who came through the front door. He’d busily framed in and screened its open walls, moved his bed into one end and reassembled his sound equipment along the other. Soon the entire residence – including Nani’s massage table – vibrated with its volume. Their first argument had been over the use of headphones whenever clients were in the house.
Kaleo took on the job of doing all her spa sheets and towels since the washer and dryer were also on the lanai. The old machines seemed to dance along with him as music pounded through buds directly into his eardrums. He kept fresh Kona coffee brewing all day for her clientele, made sure there were plenty of water bottles in the fridge, chatted with clients who had to wait while Nani finished up a session, and took to answering Nani’s phone to schedule appointments. He also launched into household maintenance, fixing the wobbly handrail out front, replacing a faucet washer and cutting the tough centipede grass with her hand mower.
Nani knew he was trying to earn his keep, and she appreciated most of his help. But she just never knew what change in routine awaited her each time she finished with a client. She was not pleased when he rearranged her kitchen cabinets to suit himself and updated her bookkeeping program. Now she could no longer find a frying pan or call up a balance sheet for Keawalani Hands Massage and Reflexology.
Today, Bethie Kalapana was back for her second appointment of the month. She was filled with news about the new neighbors soon to move in next door. “Martina Martin yard sale tomorrow den she goin’ afta. Da peoples moving in wid all the bonsai name stay Yohay. I finally seen him first time oddah night. Now I get big problem, I tell you.”
Bethie had begun to gesticulate with both hands while Nani decoded the pidgin: Martina Martin was leaving right after she held a yard sale. The Yohays, who owned the bonsai plants, would then be moving in. Bethie had finally seen Mr. Yohay the other night, and now she had a problem.
“You must keep still, Auntie Bethie,” said Nani. She was trying to loosen the joints in the old woman’s arthritic fingers. “Your hands are fluttering like ‘i’iwi birds.”
Bethie stopped her waving but continued her story. She had recognized Mr. Yohay as the boyfriend of her best friend, Likolani, who’d shown her a lovey-dovey photo of them together at the beach. “How you figgah? How he be husband of dis Miz Yohay and boyfriend of Likolani? I tink somethin’ not right, yeah?”
“Hmmm. Sounds like one too many women to me,” said Nani.
“How I tell my friend Liko? Do I tell her? She hate me for telling? For not telling? Auweeee.” Bethie had worked herself into a snit again.
Nani knew her massage efforts would go to waste if the old woman didn’t settle down. She thought about the problem for a moment then said, “I’ll tell you what we will do, Auntie.”
After Bethie departed, Nani had a half hour before her next client. She padded barefoot to her kitchen for a cup of coffee. She was humming as she bent down in front of the fridge to get the low fat milk from the bottom shelf. While she was down there, she opened the crisper and rummaged around for one of the carrots she had cleaned. They had to be there. Kaleo wouldn’t have touched them.
Now let’s see …
“Nani? We have a guest.” Kaleo’s voice was right behind her.
She shot straight up, slammed the refrigerator door on the gaping crisper drawer, opened it enough to shove the drawer back in, then whirled around as she kicked the door shut. Kaleo was sitting at the table in the breakfast nook with a smirk on his face and a stranger in a deep blue uniform sitting across from him. A stranger who’d just received a view of her blue jeaned butt gyrating to the Lady Gaga tune she was humming.
“Oh!” she said. “I didn’t see you!” She glared at her brother who should have warned her.
The officer had a wide smile on his face as if he’d seen plenty of her. He stood and offered his hand. “I’m Officer Lindsey. You can call me Hank.”
The handshake was a good one. Not the bone crusher she’d found common among men with a little authority. But not limp either. Firm and warm. She felt like the tropical temperature was rising. His face was all chiseled planes and sun browned skin and his pumped-up arms were …
Maybe I better open the fridge again for a shot of cold air.
“It’s the long arm of the law checking up on me,” Kaleo said. “Hank here is the one who arrested me.”
Nani bristled, tender thoughts of the cop dispersing. Any cop might bring back memories of that bad time years ago, of course. And this one had recently busted Kaleo. Her brother might be a pest, but he was family which made him her pest. “I assure you my brother is here all day long with me, helping run my business. He will be no further trouble to the law, Officer Lindsey.”
“Glad to hear it, Ms. Palea. So you do massages here?”
Not the kind you’re picturing, Officer Friendly. In a haughty tone she replied, “I am certified in Swedish, cranio-sacral and sports massage. As well as Thai, Danish and American reflexology.”
The doorbell rang.
“Excuse me, officer, my next client is here. If you are through with my brother, he has work to do. I’ll show you out.” She turned to go then whipped back around. She wasn’t giving him another rear view. “Please, after you.”
Hank Lindsey must have substantial haole blood for his eyes to be that pure blue. They sparkled at her as if he saw right through the ‘stick up her butt’ routine.
Of course he would. He’s a cop. He pries truth out of suspects.
His only parting shot was a smile that added laugh lines to those ocean blues. He went out the screen door as the village librarian scuttled in for her session. As Nani watched him go, she thought this cop was the most intriguing Big Island scenery she’d seen since cancelling her wedding two years ago.
My Book of Revelation
Excerpt from the Year 2000
Tomorrow I’ll be fifteen. But a birthday party for me? That’s totally not happening. I have to babysit for the dentist’s kiddies. And give Father all the money.
He says it’s for my education fund. Yeah, right. How much does home schooling by Ma cost, anyway? It’s not like he’s ever going to send me to college or anything. I’ll never be out of his sight long enough to do anything but work my butt off.
I’m sure most missionaries who came to the Big Island in the olden days were well-intentioned. But my parents are descendants from the other sort, the ones who turned the good in the Good Book into something unrecognizable. They’re stone cold unforgivers, teaching the golden rule with a golden ruler across our backsides. I’ve learned such fear of damnation from them that it feels safer to never utter a word.
My BF begged me to come outside after the kiddies I’m babysitting go to sleep tonight. To meet him on the lawn behind the dentist’s house. He says he’ll give me my birthday present then. As if I don’t know what kind of present he has in mind.
I shouldn’t go. Ma will kill me if she ever finds out. Father will kill my boyfriend if he ever finds out his name. I can never tell, so BF will have to do. And nobody but he will give me anything. Nobody else will even remember. So I will go.
My Book of Revelation
Excerpt from the Year 2000
Oh my God!!! Oh shit. Maile Palea is hurt, really really hurt. And we did it. My BF and me.
Jesus help me now.
It all happened so fast. My heart was flying high, then wham! it plunged like a bird shot from the sky.
I was lying in the tall grass, gasping. But he was pinching my nipple again even though he was still soaked with sweat, and so was I. We stank of it. There was that other smell, too. Not just the sweet grass or the flowers. That sex smell. Boys are so messy. At least if they’re all like my BF.
We could hear a kids’ birthday party next door. Children were hunting some sort of prizes that Mrs. Lopaka had hidden in the yard. Flashlight beams danced. Little girls laughed, sounding so happy. The way kids are supposed to sound if their parents aren’t shitheads.
BF whispered that the children were celebrating my birthday, too. I don’t like his tongue in my ear. It makes me shiver, but he thinks it turns girls on so I let him do it.
Or maybe the shiver is because I’m always scared what will happen if anyone finds out about us. I said, “No they’re not. They know nothing about me. Nobody can ever know about this. That I’m here with you.” I put my hand around his penis and felt the life surge inside. I squeezed. “Promise me.”
He promised. But he’s a boy. What does he stand to lose?
My need for him frightens me. He’s the only one who cares if I live or die. I know that sounds all over-the-top and shit, but it’s the truth for real. Does he need me as much as I need him? Won’t all the boys at his school laugh if he scrawls that I suck cock on the locker room wall?
He climbed on me again. That’s when we heard footsteps. Coming nearer. Nearer. We froze. His naked ass was a second moon in the night.
“Oh!” said a little voice. “I was just looking for these. I’m sorry.” Maile Palea held out one of the little prize boxes. She began to back away. Her eyes locked on our nakedness.
Then, I don’t know. I think I screamed something about stopping her. BF leaped up and pounced. Maile fell backwards. She dropped her prize box and her flashlight. Its beam went out. She started crabbing backwards, out of his reach. I grabbed her arm, pulled her up and pushed her back toward him. Between us, she turned like a rabbit looking for a bolt hole. She tried to scream but somebody, BF or me, told her to shut up. We jumped her again, both of us, I think. I grabbed for her mouth, but she fell again. A slushy thump like a muskmelon split with a mallet. A little cry. Then quiet. This time she stayed still.
I think I cried my boy friend’s name over and over. He shook Maile but couldn’t rouse her. He turned on her flashlight, and we saw lava rubble in the grass where she fell. Jagged shards. One rock had blood on it. She’d hit her head on the sharp edges.
Together, we wrapped her and the rock and the prize box in our beach towel, the one we’d been making love on. I couldn’t stop tears flooding from my eyes.
“I better get someone. Mrs. Lopaka,” BF said, his skin looking pasty and his body shivering now as much as mine. He snapped off the flashlight and began to cover his nakedness.
“Jesus, no! The questions. We can’t.” I pulled my muumuu on over my head. His semen sticky between my legs. Hide it, hide the evidence.
My brain couldn’t go forward, couldn’t go back. Stuck in neutral. We continued to dress. In the moonlight, I saw him forcing his shirt buttons into the wrong buttonholes. I pulled my panties on backwards.
Then we heard another little girl. “Maile? Maile, where are you?” she called.
No time for more talk. No time to figure what to do. Just time for panic.
BF picked Maile up. Gently, gently, but she groaned. Rolled in the towel, her little body was limp as bread dough. “I’ll take her to my place. You go back inside. Meet me when you can.”
Then he was gone. My knees didn’t work right, but I wobbled up onto the dentist’s lanai. It was dark there behind the screens. I stood in the shadows, shivering in the hot night from the cold in my soul. This wasn’t real. A horror movie. Not real. But it kept on.
I heard the child call for Maile again. I saw her flashlight beam approach the yard. Then she saw something on the ground. She picked it up and turned on its beam – it was the flashlight that Maile had been using. She aimed it at herself like she was seeing if the bulb was getting dim. I saw the child was Lynn Martin. But I don’t think she saw me.
Nobody ever really sees me.
My brain feels paralyzed. But in my gut I know the world changed forever.
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