International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes life stories
James C Clar
Apana got up early and went for his usual run from his condo on
Ala Wai Boulevard down to where Kapahulu intersected Paki Avenue.
From there he made his way along the back fence of the Honolulu
Zoo to Monsarrart and then up the long, steep stretch around the
ass-end of Diamond Head. Once he reached Diamond Head Road the route,
blessedly, wound downhill past the lighthouse. At the bottom of
the hill he turned left onto Coconut and, then, Kalakaua Avenue.
Across from Kapiolani Park, he cut through the grounds of the Natatorium.
At that point, a paved path ran parallel to the ocean. By then he
was glad for the cooling Pacific breeze and the salt spray that
hit his face as he jogged in back of the Waikiki Aquarium.
Each morning the
venerable old Moana Surfrider had an urn of coffee out under the famed
banyan tree for their early-rising guests. Dayton grabbed a cup and
walked down to the beach. He sat on the sand and watched the sun rise.
Everyday since his return from the Mainland two years ago, Dayton went
for the same run and, at the end, stopped off at the Moana where he
filched a cup of free coffee. No one minded. This was the Land of Aloha,
after all. Besides, Dayton Apana was a bit of a local celebrity. The
author of three bestselling novels, he was a local boy who had made
it big. The fact that he had returned to Hawaii only after a very nasty
divorce his tail may not exactly have been between his legs but
he had certainly been hunched down on his forepaws didnt
seem to matter. Nor did anyone dwell on his failure to publish anything
new beyond the occasional newspaper or magazine article since then.
At forty-eight, he was accepted as a kind of half-assed elder statesman.
No one placed any demands on him and, lately anyhow, he placed very
few demands on himself.
Resting his coffee cup in the sand Dayton stripped off his sweat-sodden
shirt and walked out into the warm amniotic water of the ocean. The
tide was relatively low, so he had to wade about two hundred or so yards
out from shore before it was deep enough for him to begin swimming.
Twenty minutes later he was back on shore. What remained of his coffee
had grown cold. He bent down to pick up his shirt. As he did so, he
noticed something shining in the sand just off to his left. Dayton put
his shirt back on and, picking up his blue Royal Kona Coffee cup, took
a few steps in the direction of the object he had spotted. Crouching
down on his haunches, he picked up a class ring from his own alma mater,
McKinley High School. Daytons heart skipped a beat. He cleaned
the wet sand from the ring with the hem of his tee shirt and squinted
in order to make out what was engraved around the inside of the gold
Son-of-a-bitch, Dayton exclaimed out loud. This had to be
the freakiest, most improbable thing that had ever happened to him.
Yo, Day, whatcha got? You find some change so you can finally
pay for that coffee you help yourself to every morning?
Dayton stood up and turned to face his old friend, Eddie Nahinu.
He and Dayton had started working at the Moana together during their
junior year in high school back in 1977. After graduation, Dayton had
left for college and, then, graduate school and a failed marriage on
the Mainland. Eddie, who lacked anything by way of academic initiative,
remained behind to raise a family in the only place he could ever imagine
living. Hed been employed by the hotel ever since. He was now
the Director of Beach Services. He and his wife of twenty-seven years
had four grown children and were as comfortable and happy as Dayton
was restless and disillusioned.
Put it on my tab, as usual, Eddie-boy. Dayton responded.
Have a look at this. Youre not going to believe it.
Dayton handed Eddie the ring he had just extracted from the sand. Eddies
expression was one of puzzlement. He looked down at his right hand.
He still wore his own class ring on the finger next to his pinky. His
graduation from McKinley High remained a source of pride and accomplishment
worthy of celebration. Eddie would never admit it, but Daytons
achievements in school and in the world of letters were, to him, mystical,
almost mythical even, in aspect.
O.K., Brah. Its your school ring. Whats the big deal
You dont get it, Eddie. I lost that ring thirty years
ago right out here on the sand. I just found it a few seconds ago. You
watched me pick it up and clean it off.
No shit? That sounds like the plot out of one of your novels.
Hey, I remember something about you and that ring.
Yeah, it was May of 77, about a week after they were
distributed. I had just given it to Maile Aleo. Remember her? She took
it off and set it on her towel when we got up to go swimming. When we
came back, she picked the towel up and the ring went flying. We looked
for the damn thing for over an hour and never found it. What are the
chances that Id stumble over it today in just about the same spot?
Eddie shifted his weight and placed the ring back in Daytons hands.
I remember Maile, alright. You guys went out for what, almost
two years? You blew her off once you got to college and decided to make
a name for yourself as a hotshot writer. She married a military dude
named Stoner, I think, from Ohio or someplace like that. He was stationed
here. It only lasted a year or two. She used to own a gift or craft
store down at the Ward Warehouse. Maybe she still does. Listen, finding
that ring must be a sign or something.
Sure, Dayton said with a chuckle. Its
a sign. A sign of all the bad choices Ive made in my life, of
all the time Ive wasted.
Day, I work around rich people all the time. I can never
figure you guys out, Eddie said with more than a hint of frustration.
Nothing makes you happy. Youre always pissing and moaning
about something. We working stiffs dont have that kind of time
to waste. Im just looking forward to the weekend. Gonna cook out,
do a little surfing, maybe take Mary to a movie. But seriously, youve
been away. Maybe youve forgotten that theres still magic
in the aina and the kai. You found that ring this morning for
a reason. Dont ignore it.
Dayton crumpled his coffee cup and tossed it into one of the many trash
containers that were half-buried in the sand along this particular stretch
of beach, one of the most visited in the world. He placed his ring into
the pocket of his running shorts.
Magic, sure, signs and wonders. You know, when I came back to
Oahu I still half-believed in all that Island-mystique shit. Not any
more. Ive pretty much used up any magic that was out there with
my name on it. Im on my own now
and not doing a very good
job of it.
Dayton gazed past his friend as he watched a giant container ship about
a mile or so off shore make its way east toward the Molokai Channel
and into the rising sun. He lost sight of the vessel as it passed round
the flank of Diamond Head. Diamond Head: an extinct volcano that last
erupted 150,000 years ago or so. What a great symbol, Apana thought,
for his life and his career; When the sun hit the sides of the landmark
in just the right way, the calcite crystals in the lava rock shimmered
hence the name it was given by the first European sailors who
caught sight of it in the 1700s. Up close, however, Diamond Head
was brown, sere, used up. Inside it was little more than a hollow crater.
Thats the way Dayton felt most days. If you asked him, though,
hed have been hard-pressed to articulate the precise etiology
of the pervasive malaise that gripped him and which sapped his enthusiasm
Eddie, maybe if I had stayed here like you did, who knows. Maybe
then Id still sense the magic in the land and the water the way
you do. Anyhow, I dont mean to make fun of you like that. Youre
a good friend.
No problem, bruddah. Hey, why dont you come by this weekend?
Mary would be glad to see you. We can have a few beers. Dont even
worry about calling, just drop in anytime.
Thanks, Eddie. Maybe I will. Ive got to get home. Need to
shower and see if I can get some writing done.
Yeah, Eddie said facetiously, sounds like a plan.
Meanwhile, Ill sweat it out here passing out towels and seeing
to the needs of our guests. You want a sense of purpose in your life?
Lets trade places for a couple of days. Youll feel fulfilled
in no time. Eddie lifted his right arm, made a fist and extended
his thumb and pinky. Hang loose, my brother, he said, giving
his hand a vigorous shake. Dont worry about the coffee.
I gotcha covered
as usual. And, I meant what I said. Theres
a reason you found that ring. All you gotta do is figure it out.
O.K., Eddie, Ill get right on it. See you tomorrow.
With that Dayton walked across the sand and crossed through the courtyard
in the shadow of the Moanas signature banyan tree. He climbed
the steps onto the veranda and, cutting through the lobby of the grand
hotel, emerged again on Kalakaua Avenue.
Once back at his apartment, he showered, dressed and sat down at his
computer. The blank screen in front of him both oppressed and depressed
him at the same time. Three hours or so later, having written nothing
but a page of very tired and wholly uninspired prose, he hit delete.
He pushed back his chair and stood up. Without really being conscious
of what he was doing he left his apartment and walked a block over to
TheBus stop in front of the Food Pantry on Kuhio between Kanekapolei
and Walina. It had turned into a glorious morning. The sun was shining
brightly and the palm trees rustled dryly overhead in the light trade
winds. Dayton could smell the scent of ginger and plumeria borne on
the breeze as well.
Apana boarded the first Number 19 bus that came along. It was crowded,
as always, with the usual multi-cultural assortment of students, tourists
and locals who preferred Oahus efficient and user-friendly mass
transit system to negotiating the islands ferociously congested
roadways on their own. The bus reached the corner of Olohana Street
and turned left. As they crossed Kalakaua Avenue and took a right on
Saratoga, Dayton noticed a young Asian woman sitting across from him
reading his last novel in a cheap paperback edition. His photograph
stared at him from the back cover of the book. Perhaps sensing that
she was being observed, the young woman looked up. She made eye contact
with Dayton. She smiled and, maybe recognizing him, gave him the thumbs
up sign while mouthing the words, Its good.
If Eddie were there, Dayton thought as he, too, smiled in acknowledgement,
his buddy would undoubtedly have determined that this was a sign
of some sort as well.
Ten or fifteen minutes later, after disgorging about one-third of its
passengers at the Ala Moana Center, the bus pulled up in front of the
Ward Warehouse. Dayton exited the vehicle and walked up the path that
led to the center of the rectangular structure. The shops and restaurants
all faced inward toward an open-air courtyard. Hesitating momentarily,
he consulted a building directory. The truth was, he had no idea quite
what he was looking for. It was one of those Ill know it
when I see it, kind of things.
As he scanned the listings he was almost overcome by the ridiculousness
and the futility of what he was doing. Even if he found her, there was
no telling what might be going on in Mailes life after all this
time. His decision to leave the island in the first place had been heart
wrenching for both of them. Whats more, his shameless abandonment
of her once he got a taste of life on the Mainland made it quite
probable that Maile would be less than happy to see him again. Hed
left so many things undone, so many loose ends in his life. No matter,
Dayton finally decided, finding that ring and what was a ring
but a circle after all had indeed been a sign that this was one
episode in his life that, for good or ill, he could finally bring to
a close. That was something, at least. Who knows, maybe Maile felt the
Dayton reached out and tapped the Plexiglas that enclosed the directory.
Island Creations, it was the only item that made any sense to him given
what he remembered of his old flames artistic proclivities. Feeling
a little like an adolescent at a high school dance
or like a
pirate walking the plank in one of those old adventure movies he loved
to watch as a kid
he marched across the courtyard.
When he opened the door of the Island Creations store, he was greeted
by the gentle sound of bells jingling against the glass. The woman standing
behind the counter doing paperwork had gained a little weight since
he had last seen her but her jet black hair and brilliant blue eyes
were a dead giveaway. It was Maile Aleo, late Maile Stoner. Damn, Dayton
thought, she looks almost like she did in her graduation photograph
from thirty years ago. No one could possibly say the same about him.
Maile looked up and, about a half-second or so later, she began shaking
her head in bemusement.
Dayton Apana, she said. Of all the gift shops
in all the towns in all the world, you had to walk into mine.
What the hell took you so long? Youve been back for what, two
or three years and youre just looking me up now? I was beginning
to think you had forgotten all about me."
Dayton for a moment
felt awkward. He hadn't thought of a thing to say and she actually looked
pleased to see him.
Im amazed we havent bumped into one another before now on
this rock," she was saying. "Hey, you remember that day we
lost your class ring down at the beach? I think about that all the time.
I have a thing about that stupid ring; it stands for everything
I hoped for when I was young
all those things that just kind
of slipped away or vanished before I even realized they had gone. You
know what I mean?
Funny you should mention that, Dayton said without preamble.
He reached into his pocket. He pulled out his class ring and placed
it on the counter. Maile looked on uncomprehendingly. Suddenly their
eyes met and she understood. They had both come full circle.
The next morning Dayton finished his run and, as always, stopped off
at the Moana for some coffee. He sat on the damp sand and watched the
waves lap gently, ceaselessly against the shoreline. A lone frigate
bird soared high over his head in an ever-expanding spiral against the
slowly brightening sky. He was beginning to understand once again why
people loved this place so. The most remote island archipelago in the
world, it truly was a land of endless possibility. Cradled as it was
in the embrace of the ageless ocean, it was a land that was washed clean
and reborn each day
each moment. Whatever the future might bring,
Dayton knew one thing; he had the seed idea for his next novel. He couldnt
wait to begin.
Excuse me sir. That coffee youre drinking is for registered
Recognizing Eddies voice coming from behind him, Apana didnt
turn his head.
Yes, well, I have a good friend whos worked at this
sorry joint for years. Hell take care of it.
Sure he will, Eddie responded. What are friends
Dayton stood up and brushed the sand from his shorts. The two men faced
Listen, Eddie, I was thinking I might actually take you up on
that offer and stop by your place this weekend. You were serious, right?
Cmon, man. Im part Hawaiian. Do Polynesians
kid around about shit like that? Me casa est tu casa. You
were born here, too. Remember? You know better. In fact, I mentioned
it to Mary last night and she was psyched. Shes not getting her
hopes up, though. She knows how you are. Anyhow, if Saturday works for
you, thatd be great. Stop by around 3:00 or so. Like I said, Im
going to cook out. We can have a few beers and you can maybe help me
haul some rocks up from the beach. Im putting them around the
base of those banana and breadfruit trees I planted last year. Theyve
been growing like crazy since the last time you were over.
O.K. Eddie, its a date. Ill buy the beer
and help with the manual labor.
Now youre talking my man. Itll be good for you
to see how the other half lives. Listen, Ive got to
run. One of my guys called in today and I need to figure out how Im
going to cover his shift. Tomorrows Friday. Well touch base
Eddie turned and began to walk away.
Hey Eddie, Dayton called to his friend. Eddie stopped and
looked back over his shoulder. You mind if I bring someone along
with me on Saturday?
© James C Clar June 2008
JCC55883 at aol.com
James C. Clar
Apana sat at a window table in the Honolulu Coffee Company café.
The window was open, the trades were blowing ...
"James C. Clar is a teacher and writer living in upstate New York.
His work has appeared in a variety of print and internet publications
including, Long Story Short, The Magazine of Crime & Suspense, Taj
Mahal Review, Orchard Press Mysteries, Powder Burn Flash and Every Day
Fiction. James is an ardent jazz fan as well as an avid digital
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