Excerpt of Honolulu by Alan Brennert
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Charlie, meanwhile, was constructing a rather elaborate sand castle, in
which I now recognized some disturbing shapesnot just the familiar pailshaped
towers, but a kind of cupola with suspiciously similar proportions to
a rice bowl I had brought to the picnic. I now discovered that while my attentions
had been focused on Grace, Charlie had ransacked the picnic basket
and dumped the rice into a sandy grave, along with the kimchi I had packed
in a tall jar that he used to make an admittedly impressive sand-tower.
I made my displeasure known, and only after I had finished scolding him
did I suddenly realize that someone was missing. Where was Harold?
My annoyance with Charlie was quickly replaced by panic over Harry.
He was a good swimmer, but even so I anxiously searched the rolling surface
of the ocean for some trace of him. I looked up and down the beach, toward
Diamond Head in one direction and the Moana in the other, but still no
Harry. I told myself to remain calm, trying to think of where he might have
gone; and then I noticed again the pile of surfboards stacked up beside the
Moana. After placing Charlie and Grace in my husbands care, I hurried
down the beach.
The Moana Hotel was a large, modern white building with plantationstyle
verandahs facing the sea. On this autumn day the beach was populated
mainly by local residents, surfers, and a handful of Moana guests: pale flabby
haoles gleaming with coconut oil, looking and smelling like haupia pudding
as they sunned themselves in beach chairs. I saw no sign of Harry on the
grounds of the hotel. I looked seaward, where a handful of surfers wearing
dark tank tops and trunks were serenely gliding atop cresting waves. When
a surfer with skin as bronze as a new penny came ashore with his board, I
went up to him and asked, Excuse me, buthave you seen a little Korean
boy? About four years old?
The surfer looked over my shoulder and said, Is that him?
I turned to see another surfer riding a low swell in to shore, a small boy
perched on the prow of the long board like a hood ornament on a Model T.
Momma! Harry called out, never happier. Look! Im surfing!
I ran to him as the surfer beached the board and told him, Uh-uh oh,
jigs up. Everybody off. Harry obediently jumped off, into the shallows. I
gathered up my son in my arms, so happy to see him that I barely chided him
for going off alone. Harry, you nearly scared Momma to death!
The surfer on whose board Harry had been ridinga broad-faced
Portuguese-Hawaiian with a few front teeth missing from his smilelooked
at me, then at Harry and said, Kid, youre a spitting chip off the old block.
In all the years I was to know this man, I was never sure whether his
scrambled metaphors were accidental or intentional clowning.
Sorry, he apologized, my fault. Your boy came up, asked if I could
teach him to surf, so I offered him a ride.
The other surfer grinned and said, See, the keiki follow Panama around
cause they know another keiki when they see one.
Panama expressed mock indignation. If that aint the Tarball calling the
Hey, I may be short, the one called Tarball said, but Panamas so
short, other day he got beat up by some kid smaller than Harry here.
She was not, Panama shot back, and they both exploded into laughter.
I soon learned that these amiable watermen with the colorful names were
among a select group known as beachboys, who served visitors to Waikïkï
in a wide variety of capacities: surfing instructors, outrigger canoe pilots,
island tour guides, drinking companions, and occasionally companions of a
different sort for mainland wahines who could not help but be impressed by
their charm, athleticism, and exotic good looks.
Excerpted from Honolulu
by Alan Brennert, Copyright © 2009 by Alan Brennert. Excerpted by
permission of St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, Inc. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.