Excerpt of Honolulu by Alan Brennert
(Page 5 of 9)
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Yeah, sure, all the time. Young boys go diving down looking for them,
but they dont always find them all. I happen to know for a fact theres a
quarter buried in the sand around here somewhere. You want to try look?
He started her searching on the dry sand and just when she was starting to
get bored, I saw him slip a coin out of his pocket and bury it into the sand.
When Grace found it a few minutes later, she cried out, Look! A dime!
Well, thats swell, Duke said with feigned frustration, but I know theres a quarter a little farther out.
He showed her how to use the glass box to view the sandy bottom of the
shallows, pointing out frightened little puffer fish burying their heads in the
sand and tiny sand crabs skittering sideways like tipsy spiders. Grace began to
brave the deeper water without even realizing she was doing it. Duke turned
her toward a school of silvery needlefish, slanting below the surface like a torrent
of silver rain. When the water grew too deep for Grace to wade in, Duke
picked her up in his big hands and gently floated her on the surface. She
peered through her glass box at the schools of yellow tangs, blue-green unicorn
fish, and black-and-white butterfly fish swarming around the pink coral
heads. Grace was so entranced by this colorful undersea world that it didnt
even occur to her to be afraid. And Duke didnt forget, as they came ashore
again, to have her look again for that quarter in the sandwhich, of course,
she triumphantly discovered.
Grace was never afraid of the ocean again, and from that day on, Duke
Kahanamoku was as much royalty to me as Lili'uokalani had been.
As the sun slid below the horizon our new friends invited us over to the
gazebo at the end of the three-hundred-foot Moana Pier, where they were
joined by Hiram Anahu, another beachboy as well as a talented painter and
composer of popular songs. In the limelight of the newly risen moon the
beachboys played ukulele and steel guitar, and sang both traditional Hawaiian
standards like Kalena Kai and hapa-haole songs like Honolulu
Moon. Their voices were the sweetest I had ever heard, falsettos blending
together in angelic harmony. This was a Sunday night tradition I would be
lucky enough to experience again over the yearsbut I will never forget
that first night out on the pier, listening to songs of moonlight and romance,
and to the sigh of the tide as the moon tugged on it, its light scattering like
daydreams on the waves breaking across the reef. I rested with my head on
Jae-suns shoulder; Beauty looked adoringly at Panama, strumming his
ukulele; Jade Moon cradled her youngest child in her lap as she looked up at
the stars, sprinkled like sugar across the black bowl of the sky. These young
men with their music and their magical voices were the very embodiment of
aloha, of the spirit of the islands; but the true measure of their magic was
that as we listened to them, we were not so much transported as transformed.
Because for as long as we listened, reflected in the sweet light of their songs,
we were all, every one of us, Hawaiian.
Sundays were always over too soon. The next morning Jae-sun
would be up before dawn to make his daily pilgrimage to the O'ahu
Fish Market, where limp stacks of bonito, skipjack, yellowtail, and ono, all
fresh off the fishing boats, were piled high for inspection. Battalions of
restaurant owners and chefs swarmed over the mounds of dead fish, checking
for color and texture, hefting for weight and size. I went once with Jae-sun.
The place reeked of brine and seaweed, and the sight of so many deceased
fish staring at me with open eyes reminded me unpleasantly of the butcher
shop next door to Aunt Obediences. Jae-sun was always frustrated that he
could never find anything resembling mudfishsmall minnows that live in
the muddy mouths of rivers in Korea. These fish were but three or four
inches in length, thin as pencils and usually dark with ingested sediment. Jaesun
knew an old recipe for a soup with stuffed tubusoybean curdthat
called for mudfish. First, he said, you placed the fish in brine, which made
themlets say ejectthe mud, after which they shined like newly minted
coins. They were then tossed live into a heated skillet filled with tubuwhere,
in an effort to escape the heat, the poor things would dive into the soybean
curd, obligingly providing a stuffing for the tubu before expiring.
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.