Friday, October 11, 2013

His Greatest Gift

Dawn, with its cool crisp mountain air, the hilltop overlooking the valley and river below, pines and cedars giving way to the high sierra dessert in the distance. This was Brett’s favorite place and time of day.

Shelby had given him this treasure with the cabin behind him and the surrounding hillside acreage as an unexpected inheritance. A place to find seashells far from any sea; a place filled with summer memories as he grew up to become a man - to take walks with Shelby and make sense of the world that he would become part of. A place, in fact, that had given him his greatest gift.

Shelby had always been just Shelby. Brett never called him grandfather. He was the man that his Grandmother would find solace with after Brett’s maternal grandfather passed away unexpectedly before Brett could ever know him.

There in the distance an eagle rose in the warm thermos to glide out and then back in, now almost directly over head, a master of the sky. The eagle considers every angle from above, a terrain that he knows as well as his talons which he keeps clean and sharp.

A rustle in the leaves brings Brett’s attention to a movement in the open bush where he hears a scamper and sees little puffs of dirt kicked up into the air. The hare dashes at sharp angles but the eagle anticipates his every move correctly. A few swooshes of his wings and then the silence resumes.

A stone tumbles down the slope of granite under Brett’s feet and finds a new resting place as he gets up, turns and makes his way back to the cabin.

Well, it had now come to this.

Reaching the stairs leading onto the deck, he opens the door to the cabin and reaches for his cell phone and dials a number. While he listens for his call to be answered, he steps out again.

“Brett, it’s early, what can I do for you?”, a man answers.

“Morning Steve! I’ve made a decision. I’m selling.”


“Brett, I’m so sorry it’s come to this. If that’s what you really want, come in and let’s get this started.”

”Will do. When can you have it ready?”

“I’ll call you Monday around 10.00 am. I’ll be on it first thing in the morning.”

“Good enough, Steve. See you then.”

“Okay. You at the cabin?”

“Where else?”

“Figured as much.  Later, Brett.

Brett pushes the ‘End’ button, and slips his phone into his pocket.

From the deck, he looks out over the valley and then walks towards the cliff trail, subconsciously thinking, this may be my last walk here. He picks up the pace, scouring the valley where he sees the river at its base. Back and forth, he scans this beautiful vista that he’s loved all his life. Ahead the trail curves around the promenade point. He slows his pace there and then stops. He breathes deeply.

Brett and his wife, Sue, had spent all of their vacations and spare time here at the cabin.

Now sitting on their favorite boulder at Promenade Lookout, Brett recalls the first time he had seen Sue. Trespassing, no less! He watched her come unto his property, climbing over the ridge just below him and sauntering nearer and nearer, and, without noticing him, she had turned around to look out over the valley. She stood there and slowly scanned the horizon in apparent awe of its beauty. Then she sat down on the same boulder he was sitting on at this very moment, contemplating the scenic view, seemingly unwilling, or unable, to leave. After about twenty minutes, she got up, dusted the back of her jeans, looked around again and met Brett’s eyes, watching her!

To this day they have joked about what was said between them. She was flustered and felt spied upon. He told her she should have known that this was someone’s property – not a National Park with marked trails. But she had been all the more defiant.

“Where’s your ‘Private Property’ signs?”

“I don’t like them.”

“Well then! What do you expect?”

“Well, you, I guess!”

There was total silence as they sized each other up. And liked what they saw!

Brett was the first to break the silence. “Well, you don’t look like you’re up to too much mischief. Enjoy your hike. My name is Brett. Brett McCormick.”

She stepped forward to shake his hand, smiling and showing her dimples. “Hi, my name is Sue. But don’t sue me okay?”

They both had laughed.

Now he reflected back and thought of that first encounter. Okay, I won’t sue you, Sue! Hell! Now I am selling this property for you. For us.

With a heavy heart, he remembers that horrible day. After going to her doctor, it was here that she had told him that she had discovered two lumps on her breast and they were malignant. She had cancer.

Now years later, after a period of remission, the cancer had returned. The insurance company was not going to cover additional medical care costs because of a release form they had signed after Sue had gone into remission. They should have known.

Thank God for this property. Selling it will ensure we’ll be able to manage the treatments without the stress of worrying about money.

I will miss this place.

But Sue is my greatest gift.  And I would miss her more.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Mystery Still

Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best have gone to their eternal rest…

But, wait! What is that?

Who stirs there in the darkness of folded shadows that descend like steps into the depths off an ocean reef with light to dance on the surface above and foam-tossed surf, brilliant and bright into a void of knowing below?  

Is it something or it is just another play of water like on the surface where you look through the dance of wakes to make out the movements of a fish as it resists the flow of currents only to discover later a simple leaf caught on sea grass there.

You drift out and away from the reef, without any movement on your part, out over the void below and feel the anxiety of being vulnerable to a world where the rule is and always has been eat or be eaten.

How far and how long can you go before being detected?

Not wanting to find out, you turn and swim back over the reef and the shallows leaving the resting place a mystery still.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Red Tent Times

The wind had picked up again, leaves and debris in the air, the trees bent against their will.  He had been at it for most of the day.  He figured he must be pretty close to his destination.

Going up the ravine on a gradual, steady assent from the north and  almost to what he thought must be the pass, he stopped every once in a while to turn around and look back into the Silverton Valley. The headwaters of the Animas River, in one of the most patchwork rugged terrains of granite, pine, spruce and then aspen, which gave way again to ice-cut granite.  Again, he stopped in admiration of this beautiful vista, and to catch his breath.

Such a contrast.  So majestic. The sky also seemed to have been painted by nature’s paintbrush, from the cut edge ridges straight to deep purple overhead.

He went over another rise and then he saw it - Silver Lake, set in the basin of this high plateau basin with five of the fourteen thousand footers in Colorado now surrounding him.  Five, like a star. The Silver Lake its center.

Leaving the ridge top and now entering the basin, the wind had died down as he descended towards the lake.  All was still now,  an almost perfect quiet. Marmots, their world infrequently invaded  by the two- legged buggers, scurried into their burrows to pout.

He stopped short of the lake and surveyed the place where he would make camp, ensuring that, according to the sun’s path, he would be able to see the sunset and wake to the sunrise. Both a must!

He saw it then, clear as a chart with a diagram. Always a stickler for the important things in life, he walked directly to the cleared area. He double-checked the views to the east and then the west and then he dropped his back pack.

First things first, he went straight, as straight is in granite cut stone, toward the grove of spruce and pine. With the rope he had tied around his waist, he collected more firewood than he needed, but all he wanted, for he knew of the sudden chill of evening and the downright cold of the night. With the load on his back, he returned and dropped it where he could do his work.

With his handheld axe, he quickly splintered the tender he would need in the evening and if need be, in the morning to kick start it again. He set the longer pieces between two granite stone blocks and snapped them in half with a shape kick. Looking at the pile, he decided to get a few more thick pieces. Returning, he placed them with the others, and decided, OK, this should do!

Now the tent! He would want it to face east so he could draw the zipper back and watch the sunrise. Accordingly, he began clearing and leveling the ground.

Taking the carryall from his pack, he set out again to the pine and spruce grove to get a load of needles to make a bed. A second and third trip ensured he had enough of nature’s best needles. Once his bed was completed, he laid spread-eagled on it to test it for comfort. Spongy, he thought to himself. Nice.

The sun dropping toward the western sky, he arranged the fire and put everything in order with his jacket and hat on the awning of his tent.

As he took a couple of steps back to admire his work, he suddenly recalled a childhood jingle and changed the words to fit. He started singing out loud, ‘Little red rented red tent. Little red rented red tent, Ain’t much better than no tent but at least it’ll keep you dry, dry, dry. At least it will hopefully keep you drrrrry.’ The marmots scurried back into their burrows.

Well! Double-check time while it’s light! Fire, lighter , kindling, wood. Dinner - steak, corn, potatoes all wrapped and ready.  Water. Lots of water.  Plate, fork, knife. Good! Breakfast - coffee, cream, cup. Everything sealed, he set it all inside the tent and zipped it.

He looked at a ridge which was about five hundred yards away from his campsite. He walked to it singing, “Little red rented row boat, little red rented row boat. Ain’t much better than no boat, but at least it’ll go and row, row, row. At least it’ll go and row, row, row, row,  rooooow,” and sat to take in the view of the Animas Valley running all the way down to Durango, and out through the mesa towards Arizona in the west to eventually reach the Pacific.

Behind him was the Continental divide where, just over that ridge, all the precipitation goes to the east and  reaches the Atlantic via the Gulf, probably refilling at one the BP platforms sucking the natural lubricants from mother nature.

But now he gazed towards the west again. The solitude had always waited patiently for him to return.  He leaned back on a slab of granite which had a natural back rest.

Let the show begin. Sunset, stars like you have never seen.  A beautiful sunrise to wake up to.

It was his life until he met her.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Man’s reflection on love and life

A Man’s reflection on love and life

The river was as calm and smooth as a mirror except for where the canoe left 'water wings' in its wake.  The bullrushes and cattails at the edge of each bank harboured a plethora of water fowl - ducks, geese and even the odd swans. All this solitude, being one with nature, was a definite balm to the soul.

Around the bend, the dawn mist lays like a shroud on the surface reflected unto itself on the water’s surface.

With his head tilted, he sees the gray give way to light blue and directly overhead, almost purple.

He slows his pace so he can correct his course if need be and continues.

The even pace of his journey matches the margin of his senses and he feels the harmony of all that nature has to offer around him.

Pines, out of the mist along the defined banks on both sides, pay him little mind.

Quietly, he glides past each tree, each shrub, which seems to be a sentinel to all his consciousness as well.

The earth rolls like the perpetual machine that it is - the very thing that scientists have wanted to create or find all their lives. And yet they live on it and don’t even recognize it. You can even set your clock by it. But he doesn’t think in these terms.  He only wants to live on it and with it and enjoy it to the fullest.

Glad for the grace and majesty to be.

Glad for the beauty to see.

Glad for the sun and rain.

Glad to have finally found Lorraine.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

An Adventure

Too Cool for School!

The school children, boisterous and happy to be free from their daytime prison, came out of the building's main doors to the waiting buses. The short ride home, which was usually uneventful, suddenly turned into an adventure.

Halfway over the San Clement Street Bridge, the bus suddenly dropped, and splash! An expanse of the bridge had literally cracked under them and fallen into the river. The bus, unable to stop, was suddenly buoyed in the water and with the current, floating out to sea. Sandra, one of the students on the bus who was in a conversation with Deb, turned to look out the front window. All she could see was water, water everywhere. Bus number eleven was suddenly a boat heading out to the mouth of the river.

You might have thought that the seventh through ninth-graders would have panicked, screaming their heads off. Sandra candidly asked her classmates, turned ‘shipmates’, “Did everyone bring their bathing suits? Next stop ‘Channel Break’ surf spot.”

Laughter resounded in the bus-boat.

Bridget, the driver, was the one freaking out. She literally forgot which side of her phone to put to her face and, in her panicked haste, called ‘411’ instead of ‘911’,not even waiting to hear a ring tone.

Tom and Hank, sitting behind Bridget, looked at their adult driver-turned-captain, who was now stark white, and looked at each other and fulfilled the vacant mode of being grown up and responsible. Tom took charge and made the correct call to 911.

911 Police dispatch: “Tom Bartlett”, in answer to the first question. “Not sure yet. Do I have to push a button for more options?”, to the next question, ‘Medical, Fire or Police?’ “Me and my fellow Harbor Bay Intermediate classmates are on bus - now boat - number 11 heading out the harbor juuuust now going past the inner jetty”, in reply to the question of their exact location.

Looking at Hank, listening in as his phone was getting a busy signal for the same 911 number, Tom answers the next question with a “Probably! Maybe the Coast Guard. Oh Wait! Dispatch? You are Dispatch with the Police, aren’t you? Good! Good! I think we just got the attention of the Coast Guard.” Tom, Hank and the rest of the shipmates are all looking at the pier. “Yes! Yes! They clearly see us. I think our next ride will be on the cutter.
You want me to stay on the line? Okay! What’s your name? Helen Pereira? Ahh! Hold on Mrs. Pereira.”

Tom looks across the aisle at Jackie Mattice, his next door neighbor, and asks, “Hey Jackie, isn’t Pereira your Aunt? Do you know Helen Pereira at the Police Dispatch?”

Jackie answers, “She’s my aunt. You remember her!”

Tom says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah! I met her at your house once. You want to talk to her?”

Jackie responds with a frown, “No! She forgot my birthday!”

“Mrs. Pereira, did you forget Jackie Mattice’s, your niece, birthday?” asks Tom.

Tom turns to Jackie, telling her, “Jackie, she says she’s sorry! She will make it up to you.”

Meanwhile Bridget, remember the driver turned captain?, is filling out her resume for the Costa Concordia * and has finally discovered that her phone functions better when the receiver is facing you and right side up.

All the Boat number 11 shipmates are watching the growing number of Coast Guard sailors scurrying along the deck of their cutter, clearly visible puffs of smoke emitting from its stack. Shore lines are being thrown to the shore and, ah ha! yes, the cutter is casting off and coming to their aid. The bus-boat rocks as it floats by the first set of breakers at Channel Break and now the group of surfers all point to them.

Behind them, the cutter is flagrantly breaking all the harbor 5 MPH speed limit signs, which are posted in huge numbers on both sides of the river channel.  There are now turbulent wakes to both shores of the river’s edge. The unprepared boats at their moorings attempt to shake it off. Instructions are now audible from the speakers of the cutter as it is literally flying toward bus-boat number 11. “Don’t panic! Do not panic! Stay seated in your seats. STAY SEATED IN YOUR SEATS!”

Bridget, of course the only adult (?) aboard, is the first to disobey the blaring instructions as she rushes towards the back of the bus. I mean boat. She tries to unsuccessfully open the rear emergency door.

A loud voice from the cutter issues the order, “DO NOT OPEN THE REAR EMERGENCY DOOR! DO NOT OPEN THE REAR EMERGENCY DOOR!”

Bridget, seemingly getting bonus points for her resume for the Costa Concordia, continues to work the door but the force of the water from the outside –thank goodness! - is not allowing her to do so.

The entire shipmates shout in unison, “DO NOT OPEN THE REAR EMERGENCY DOOR. REMAIN IN YOUR SEAT!” This apparently registers with Bridget and she looks around and sulks back to the driver’s seat.

The cutter is now easing up alongside, dwarfing the bus-boat and several loud thumps are heard coming from the roof. Sailors have heavy ropes and as they look into the bus through the open windows, they ask the students to pass the ropes through and out the other windows on the other side of the bus.

In less than a minute, six heavy duty lines have secured bus number 11 to the cutter. The cutter now makes a tight U-turn and heads slowly back into the harbor.

As they are returning to the harbor and dock side, all the students wave at the surfers, who wave back. They can hear one of the surfers calling, “Better luck next time! Too cool for school!”

Suddenly, a ladder descends along the side of the bus and a sailor comes down and climbs through the window. Looking around at the calm, relaxed faces of the students and the horror-stricken face of the driver, whose lips quivering, he walks to Bridget and quietly tells her, “We’ve got it. Everything is good. You do not have to worry.”

Turning around facing the students, he says, “Okay Gangie, here’s the program. First, remain in your seats. We’ve got the bus completely secured. One by one, from both ends of the bus, at my instructions, you will proceed to the ladder that I came in on and go out the window to climb up the ladder. Several of my buddies are outside ready to assist you as you go up and get on the cutter. Everyone understand the program?”

Again, in unison, the students answer, “Yes Sir!”

“Okay. Good. From the back”, he points to a young girl, “you first.” The girl walks calmly to the middle of the bus and goes out the window, like she does this every day, where she is greeted by waiting hands from above.

“Okay, you next!” again pointing to another student.

... Now aboard the cutter, the assembled students talk quietly in groups.

Bridget has aced her commission for the Costa Concordia.

* Costa Concordia was the Italian ship which ran aground in the Mediterranean Sea killing 34 passengers all due to the ‘skills’ of the Captain who was the first to leave the ship.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Heavenly Rain

This is actually a true story about a French Canadian Farm girl. It is dedicated to Loleina, (her Hawaiian name).

Most people don't like the rain.  I love the rain!  The sound of big, fat drops on the windowpane, the warmth of it on a hot summer day.
I remember a day, when I was about 7 or 8 years old, walking home from my friend’s house on the dirt frontage road of our farm. I could see off in the distance either my brother or father on the tractor, going through our fields. Grasshoppers buzzed in the fields. The sparrows were in a hurry as usual, always having somewhere to go to. There was a sudden gust of hot wind behind me and I turned to look over my shoulder. An arising thunderhead bloomed high and higher in the afternoon sky.
With my hands shielding my eyes, I stood there to smell the earthy-scented wind and watched the thunderhead now almost over me so high in the otherwise bright blue, clear sky. It wouldn’t be long until it blocked the sun.
Another gust of wind rushed through the fields of wheat towards me. This one had a hint of moisture or was it my eager wish.
It was hot. The earth along our dirt road was cracked and baked into earth chips.  Not having any of my ‘good’ clothes on, my only concern, with the next gust of wind, each gust now longer and stronger, beating the rain home to avoid getting wet vanished from my thoughts.
I turned to walk towards my house, and with my stick, I whacked! whacked!  the heads off all the dandelions who dared cross my path. Take that you fuzzy heads, I mused. The guillotine for you!
Then the sun was blocked out by the shadow of the cloud now racing past me toward my home as if to say, ‘I’ll win girl!’
‘Okay, you! But only you!’
I walked over to the drainage ditch and climbed up on the crossover steps to the top of the fence. I stood on the wood platform and looked out over the fields, flat and smooth for as far as the eye can see, the waves of wheat now in a dark green shadow. The thunderhead was spread out directly over me. Suddenly, there was a light crackle of running lightening from inside the thunderhead, like a conductor tapping his baton to get the ensemble’s attention.
In silence, I waited. We all waited - me, the earth, the wheat, even the beheaded dandelions, as if to revenge their recent decapitation. The sparrows were long gone, seeking shelter from the brewing storm. Even the wind was suddenly holding its breath, not knowing where to go.
A moment passed and then another. You could tell the majesty of the moment was building, building… then, crack! boom! A triple fork dashed to the earth. The rumbling intensified as the gray mass fell in sheets towards me. The grey gates hidden in the undersides opened, releasing their fury.
I smiled and said to myself, ‘Man, I am going to get wet!’
... Even to this day, on hot summer days, I can’t resist going out and standing in the rain.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Cost of living in Paradise

The Cost of Living in Paradise
 By Bob Palmer  

Disclaimer: This is a fictional story as are all of the characters.  As a long-time resident of Hawaii and having previously worked in the hotel industry here,  the following is a collection of individual ‘snapshots’ of actual conversations,  but not with any one person. I chose Alabama because my sister does reside there, having moved there by choice. So I am going to make fun of her in this story.

 The story…

My sister lives Birmingham, Alabama
I know! I know!
Every once in a while, someone from Alabama somehow saves enough money, or inherits it from a deceased relative or something of that sort, to have the means to go on a vacation. A ‘once in a lifetime’ great adventure! Of the few Alabamians who do achieve this, the usual destination is Disney World in Florida. But, every once in a while, someone from Alabama has a fond memory of Elvis in Hawaii and gets it in their heads, not sure if that qualifies as a brain, to head out here. As a matter of fact, so seldom does a vacation to Hawaii by an Alabamian occur, that this particular occasion which I am about to share with you, is one that I personally don’t recall ever actually happening.
When my sister Pat called me - she still uses phones to communicate – I was surprised to learn from her that a sister’s niece of a friend of hers was coming to Hawaii with her boyfriend and another couple. She wanted to know if I could be of some assistance to them.
“What two couples?”, I asked.

 “Oh, sorry!  My friend’s sister’s niece, her boyfriend, his best friend and his girlfriend.”

 “Just to make sure that I don’t get this wrong Pat, you are asking me to meet your friend’s sister’s niece. Her boyfriend. His best friend and his girlfriend. Is that correct?”

 “Yes. Can you?”

 I have no response to this and so she continues.

 “You see, they have never been to Hawaii before and when my friend called me and asked me if I had lived in Hawaii, which of course you know I have - but she wasn’t sure, you see, I told her, ‘Yes, I had and I even have a brother who still lives in Hawaii’. She was so surprised and I immediately thought of you as someone who could help them, you know, get around and maybe if you have some time, show them around.”

 Having regained my composure and collected my thoughts, I asked,  “When is this historical Great Alabama Event going to happen?”

 “Why, they are arriving at six this evening, Alabama time.”

 Doing a quick six-hour conversion, I realize that these Alabama people are already here!

 She continues, “I gave them your phone number and your address.  I knew you wouldn’t mind. They are apparently nice folks, as I understand.”

 “Do these nice Alabama folks have names?”

“Why of course they do, you silly.”

 I waited for more information as I picked up a pen and paper. "I am now ready to write down their names", I said.

 Realizing that this question for their names did not connect with a response, I asked again, “Yes, they are?”

 “They are what?”

 “Pat, what are the names of these Alabama folks who are arriving, or who have already arrived, and having not received a call, I might be expect them to show up on my front porch at any time?”

 “Oh, do you think they might already be here?”

 “Pat, 6:00PM Alabama time is noon here. It is 2:00PM here now.”

 “Oh wonderful, I’ll call my friend and tell her that they arrived.”

 “Wait, Pat. Don’t hang up. What are their names?”

 “I’ve got it right here. Oh, I am so glad they arrived safely. Okay, I have it, are you ready? Do you have something to write with?”

 “Yes, Pat”, I say, just as I hear four car doors slam behind me. I turn around to see four obese, white bodies emerging from a compact car that literally rises up on its springs about four inches once relieved of its burden of sheer weight. They look around as Pat continues talking to me on the phone, “The name of my friend's sister's niece is Debbie. Her boyfriend is Fred. Fred’s friend is Shawn and his girlfriend is Galena.”
“Well Pat, I have to hang up now because Debbie, Fred, Shawn and Galena just drove up and they’re walking up the stairs to my front door.”

 “Oh, really! How nice!”

 “Yes, I’m thrilled. Talk to you later.”

 “Okay, Bye!”

 Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock!

 ‘Oh, God!’

 I wonder if they heard my voice. Maybe it's not too late to hide.

 From outside, “I gotta pee, Fred! Knock again.”


 ‘Oh God!’

 I definitely don’t want her to pee in the bushes, nor on the front step, so I open the door. “Hello.”

 “Hi. Are you Bob? My aunt's sister’s friend Julie said that your sister is Pat, is that right? She said you would help us get around and maybe if you have some time, show us around. My name is Debbie and this is Fred. Our friends are Shawn and Galena.”

“Yes I am Bob.”

 “Bob, can I ask you a huuuuge favor? Galena needs to pee something fierce, can she pleeeeze use your toilet?”

 “By all means, Galena, it is right down these stairs and to the left as you walk through the kitchen.”

 “Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” As she steps into my house and walks down the stairs, she yells back, “God bless you! You are a life saver!”

 “Why don’t we go sit out in the garage. It’s cooler there and I can get you something to drink.”

 “Got any Bud?” says Fred. “Is Hawaii part of the states?”

 “No Fred. Sorry, we are fresh out of Bud here, but yes, Hawaii is the 50thstate.”

 “Fiftieth!? Well I’ll be! When did that happen?”

 “Nineteen fifty-nine, Fred.”

 “Really! That was, wait... let me think, yes, that was before I was born. How could that be?”

 “The garage is down here. Let’s go have a seat.”

 “I got to pee, too. Can I use the toilet after Galena?”, says Debbie.

 “Yes, of course Debbie.”

Debbie waddles down the stairs calling for Galena for directions like Marco and Polo and I follow Fred and Shawn as they also waddle down the outside stairs and into the garage. They pull the chairs up and have a seat.

 Standing there I tell them I have Corona and Heineken. Fred turns to Shawn and whacks him on the arm, “I knew we should have stopped at that store back there. They got a case of Bud advertised for eighteen bucks.”

 “Well, then why don’t we go get some?”

 This seemed to be all the input they needed because suddenly they’re both standing and ready to walk to the car when Fred stops. “Hey Bob, do they accept United States dollars here? I have a Visa and Mastercard as well.”

 “Yes, Fred, they will gladly accept your dollars here in Hawaii.”

 “Well, that’s a relief. Whew!”

 Just at this moment, the girls, with less stressful expressions, descend down the stairs, “Hey you guys, where you running off to?”

 “We are going to get some beer. Want anything else?”

 “Don’t forget chips.”

 “We’ll be right back.”
 Galena, followed by Debbie, now take the seats vacated by Fred and Shawn. While snickering, Debbie says, “I can tell that Fred’s been sitting in this one.”

 Galena snickers back, and Galena gets up and sniffs the seat of her chair, “Ok, you got me on that one.” Giggle, giggle.  Hee,  hee!

 The giggles fade into a smile and a serious question forms on Debbie’s face as she looks at me. “Bob, does the ocean go all the way around the island here in Hawaii?”

 Up to this point, nothing was surprising me about anything that was transpiring, but the sudden reality of this particular question caught me off guard. The saving grace preventing me from bursting out in laughter was that I was so shocked that my face was actually composed. Straight-faced, tortured by shock and agony, I respond, “Yes Debbie, the ocean surrounds the islands. There is no land connection to the continental United States.”

 She looked at me somewhat befuddled, and then frowned. She held it for a moment before she uttered, “Oh!”

 “You will have to excuse me, but my sister Pat just called me and told me you were arriving just as you were getting out of your car and as I was finishing my conversation with her about your arrival. I wasn’t even expecting you. I don’t even have a cake!”

 So there I was, sitting in front of the two girls, and you would think they'd just heard the funniest joke of their lives. They're knee slapping, bending over, all red-faced with tears of laughter until Debbie recovers sufficiently to volunteer, “Shut up! I just about peed in my pants.”

 “Well, you know where the bathroom, I mean toilet, is.”

There’s more slapping on their knees, bending over, red-faced with tears as Fred and Shawn arrive in the driveway.
All faces are directed toward the car as Fred and Shawn exit and the car rises two inches again being relieved of its load.

 Fred carries a case of Bud under one arm, the car keys in his teeth, and two family size bags of Lays potato chips in his other hand. Shawn likewise carries a second case of Bud under one arm while in his other hand, raised high over his head, he tightly holds a fistful of family-sized potato chips bags. 

 I get up and set out two more folding chairs for them to sit in.

 Fred and Shawn set the two cases of Bud down in the middle of us, one stacked on top of the other and toss two of the bags of chips into the laps of Debbie and Galena. Shawn hands me one of the bags saying, “Thanks for your hospitality.”

 Fred is meanwhile ripping the case apart from the end and grabs his and says to all, “Dig in.”

 I get up to get myself a Corona with a wedge of lime from the kitchen and come back out to join them.

 Fred looks at me and at my Corona and you could actually see the wheels in his brain turning as he slowly thought about how he would say what he was thinking. Finally, he blurts out, “Is that there a Mexican beer?”

 “Yes it is.”

 Not knowing how to respond to that, he says, “Oh” and looks away.

 “Shawn pops up with the next question for me, having had the advantage of a lot more time to think about it and says, “Bob, how long have you lived here? We understand that you were raised here.”

Before I can answer, Galena jumps in all smiley-faced and gives him a pucker-lips smooch, “Ah Shawn, you remembered all that?”

 Shawn returns the puckered-up lip smooch and in the silence, they realize there was a question in the air that was asked but not answered. Everyone takes a sip of beer. Shawn and Fred look around for the rubbish can for their empty beer cans.

 Seeing their quandary, I point to the bins outside by the fence. “The recycling one is the blue one - the middle container,” hopeful that one of those two references would register with at least one of them. Sure enough, they got it right! Hark!

 Snap, snap! They pop two more beers.

 Debbie is the next to express a puzzling thought which you can clearly see reflected on her face because of the frown lines between her eyebrows. “We're supposed to check into our hotel at 3:00PM. Do you know how far away the 'Halie Koah' is from here?”

 “Do you have a confirmation slip, or something? Maybe if I see it, I can help you with that.”

 Debbie digs out her hidden pouch from under the folds of her belly fat, tries to unzip it, but can’t work the zipper since she is not able to see it. Frustrated, she starts sweating profusely and then pulls it around her waist in order to get to the clip so that she can remove it altogether. Accomplishing that, she unzips it and sees the note she'd written earlier with my name, phone number and address and takes it out to show me. She smiles then continues leafing through her pouch until she finds the confirmation. “Yes, here it is.” She holds it out to me.

 I can see that it is wet, and not wanting to touch it, I look at it and read, 'Hale Koa'.

“The Hale Koa is in Waikiki. It’s about an hour's drive depending on the traffic. If you leave now, you can just make it by 4:00PM, which is probably a good idea because of the afternoon traffic commuters going home.”

 This thought percolates in all of their brains. Fred and Shawn each gulps down their second Bud while Debbie and Galena do like-wise with their first. They snap, snap, snap, snap open their third, and the girls, their second beers, as Fred volunteers, “Drink up girls! We're going to 'Why-key-key'! I don’t know why! I’ve got the keys right here!” He holds up his set of car keys and shakes them proudly, laughing at his own joke.

 “Yes, Fred, you do got the keys there!!” They're all knee-slapping again, killing themselves laughing, and Debbie saying, “I just about peed in my pants!”

 They down their opened beers, burp and stand up on cue. “Bob, it was really nice meeting you. Can we buy you dinner? Debbie said there was a 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' in Why-Key-Key. Want to come on in and join us?”

 “Oh, I have plans this evening and have to work the next several days. Call me in the evening if you have anything that I may help you with.”

 “Sure enough, ol' buddy.”

 “Last call for peeing,” booms Fred. They all head off to the toilet.

 Okay... I won’t bore you with the evening conversations that I had to endure with them this week, but here was the grand finale.

 To appreciate this voice mail you must understand what transpired earlier.

 Fred called me and said they were leaving the next day. They had to go get some Hawaiian gifts and were thinking of going to the ‘International Market Place’ to buy them. I told him to go to the Wal-Mart next to the Ala Moana Shopping Center as it would be far cheaper and they'd have a better selection.
But Fred said that they wanted to go to the Market Place because there were so many weird people there. I told him that if he really wanted to see some weird people, I mean really weird, weird people, to go to Wal-Mart and go into the dressing rooms and look on the wall.

 Phone message:
There is a message from Fred on my answering machine. He says he and Shawn did what I had suggested, but they only saw a wall with a hook on it.  They gave up looking for the weirdos after about ten minutes. Fred mentioned it was kind of tight in there, just the two of them. Then, when they came out some clerks were asking them what they were trying on. They told them that they weren’t trying on anything. The clerks looked at them kind of strange and then they said, 'What were you doing, if we may ask, for ten minutes in the dressing room if you weren't trying on something?'

 Fred then explained about his friend Bob in Ewa Beach who had said that this was the best place to see weirdos. We were going to go down to the International Market Place and look for them, but our friend Bob, he's a good guy -kind of weird himself, but nonetheless a good guy! -  said that if we was to be really serious about wanting to see weirdos, then the dressing rooms here in your store was the place. The congregation of Wal-Mart clerks having now grown to an intriguing seven altogether, listened to Fred, but then the supervisor said to Fred, 'Well, what did you see?'  This time, it was Shawn's turn to jump in. By the way, at this same time, Debbie and Galena, who were shopping for gifts in another part of the store, suddenly realized there was this announcement being PA'ed which was in code, but after a while they thought, ‘Gee! What is that coded message? But back to Shawn.  Shawn now jumps in and says, “We were looking at the walls for secret passages and maybe some door or something. We even tried the seat to see if it lifted up to see if it might provide some clue to where these weirdos are. The giant mirror was firmly attached to the other wall. We finally gave up”.

 The supervisor, with a plethora of now seventeen blue-shirted Wal-Mart employees, and two white-shirted ones with ties, who suspiciously looked like office types said, 'Let's go back into this dressing room to have another look.' So, Fred and Shawn led the way and opened the door to the dressing room that they had been in and stepped in, followed by seventeen  Wal-Mart employees, all wanting to see the weirdos!

 End of phone message.