A week ago Peter and I waited in the mist. In Hana, dawn commences as much with the lifting of its mist as it does the sun rising. We sat on kikuyu grass, an introduced grass from Africa. It covered the valley like an emerald carpet, beautiful, though robbing the moisture from other, native plants. The prevailing trade winds keened through the bamboo grove, another aesthetic but deadly import. Chinese lace-necked doves – gray wings tucked in tight – sped over the guava trees Peter and I leaned against.
"Ehako," whispered Peter, glancing up.
Something moved makai of us. Peter cupped his left hand over his left ear, then pointed out an opening in the bamboo with the other hand. Black ships out of fog, four pigs materialized, three adolescent boars and a sow. The alpha patriarch would soon arrive. I looked to Peter.
"When the waiawi get ripe the pua'a going come," he explained.
The strawberry-guava bushes grew twenty yards in front of us, half the distance to the animals. Dark red, almost purple, the waiawi fruit ripened to the size of cherries. Two sows reached a bush; the sound of tearing leaves and the smell of crushed berries broke the morning.
There were at least fifteen pigs in the valley. Keiki chased each other around the bamboo. Several approached Peter and me. One of the sucklings turned its head to see what smelled so strange, then ran back to the mass with a snort. Two half-grown males, each about a hundred forty pounds, mocked battle. Quartering one another they tried to tusk the other's flank. Grunts warned the younger pua'a away.
"Two braddahs get hot one party. Go outside, throw couple blows. Stay pau then," said Peter, smiling.
I had met Peter only two weeks prior, the day I had begun work for Hana Ranch. Peter worked there as a cattle driver, a fence mender and, until I had arrived, the ranch's hunting guide. He stood about my height but carried more muscle. Like many native Hawaiians, his hair curled naturally, although his eyes indicated his hapa-Asian lineage. Tanned brown like the hard shell protecting the meat of a coconut, his hands bore the calluses of a working cowboy. Peter could, however, still claim all his fingers and thumbs.
From just above his right wrist to halfway up the forearm a scar stuck out above the skin. Pig hunting the old way – with dogs and a blade, with no guns – could be as hard on men as it was on their dogs. On his left arm, between the elbow and shoulder, "O" shaped cigarette burns gave proof of brotherly aggression.
I looked at my own hands, smooth, not soft like dude hands, but not callused either. Their color matched Peter's. Ethnically I was pure Chinese but after six months of eradicating feral animals in Haleakala Crater my complexion had changed.
Peter shifted position. "We gotta go," he said.
The mist was nearly gone and the pigs stood out clearly on the kikuyu grass. Already, a keiki squealed an alarm, its false parent – makua hanai – raising her head. Two nearby boars sniffed the air, stomped the ground.
"Or you going need for kill one," Peter finished. He squinted at the closest problem, less than twenty yards away.
My hand touched the .44 Smith and Wesson on my right hip. Recently, I had heard a pig being shot illegally close to where Peter and I sat. I had been unarmed. My handgun represented the ranch's resolve and my own security should I witness another poaching. Killing these pigs would not have been difficult but as no one needed a pig to kalua I really didn't want to.
"We go," I nodded.Relying on their poor eyesight, we waited until the wind cycled away from us, then slipped behind the guava trees that had hidden us. We made our way through the grove towards the Ford truck, leaving the grunts of the pua'a to the dryland forest.
It surprised me that Peter had taken me to the animals, to see how the dew glistened on the waiawi. Two weeks ago, Pete had known little about me except, perhaps, my flight-number from Honolulu. Another fuckin city-boy with an economic feasibility report on how best to utilize the natives. His bringing me here frosted my buns big-time; just outside the vehicle I expressed, "Mahalo, braddah."
"No worry, Grey," Pete said, " I get cousins look just like you."I punched his left arm, right on the biggest scar I could mark. Peter lit up a cigarette.
Thirty yards downwind of a statue of some Roman Catholic female saint, stuck into a rock shrine carved by nature into the mountain, Peter and I sit in the Isuzu. Parked in front of us are three vehicles. The passengers from the two lead cars – both maroon Dodge Caravans, both rented – decided this scene required a Kodak moment. Traffic freezes on this section of Hana Highway; in reality, two narrow twisted lanes of broken asphalt. Pete winds down his window a few inches although he doesn't turn off the ignition. Neither of us wants to exit the Trooper as the air conditioner makes bearable the high humidity outside. Pete pulls out an unfiltered Camel, lights it up, and balances it out the left side of his mouth. He wears shades and a dark blue Makita Power baseball cap. From the side, I can see he's squinting. That bothers me.
"If I gotta get out this car," Pete says without looking at me, "I going get pissed." He blows a long drag out the window.
"Eh, Queequeg, we not being proper natives." I suggest, "Why we no go outside, let them pet us." Pete doesn't say anything. He and I both know that we, along with Hana's other residents, put on the craft shows, the cultural fairs, create the ambiance that draw in these haole. They, in turn, pay our salaries. Pete's sister, Malia, dances hula at the commercial luau. Pete knows all the words to "Blue Hawaii," sings it after a case of Moosehead. A couple tunes later, the luaupays him enough cash to score us another case. Too bad Elvis died.
"Grey, go over there, tell 'em you cool with the Virgin of Guadalupe."
"Bumbye somebody believe, follow me back like one puppy."
"Maybe you get lucky. The sunburned one with the plastic visor, brown shorts, look edible to me." Peter smirks, then chuckles. His Camel still hangs out the left side of his mouth.
Pete teases me. I haven't slept with anyone since I began working for Hana Ranch last month and the ranch's paniolo think my lonely is a big joke. Two days ago, when I watched them save a calf at birth, Peter, one hand deep in the mother's uterus, warned, "Hold Grey back. This cow stay mine." Outside of his inclination to – "I only do it at parties" – cocaine, there's little Pete and I can't talk about.
"Hala! She younger than Sonny's granddaughter," I contest. "Your kanaka legs more better anyway."Peter gives me the stink-eye, smiling, "Braddah, you one sick Chinaman." We both laugh so hard I can barely hear the radio through the cigarette smoke.
The nine Caucasians still snap pictures of one another in front of the statue. We try not to stare at them. The oldest couple wears matching prints of Polynesians weaving lauhala, brown-skinned wahine surrounded by red and yellow hibiscus that never bloomed so loudly. After the couple returns home, the muumuu and aloha shirt will sit in a closet for many months, before fluttering, novelties, on a Fort Collins yard sale rack. Wearing an "I puked on the road to Hana" T-shirt, available from Hasegawa's Country Store in Hana, their granddaughter, the "edible" young woman, creates a bouquet of ginger, selecting the fragrant blossoms from the stalks that delicately edge the highway.
"One more haole," Pete groans. He opens the ashtray, puts out the half-smoked Camel. The state estimates that each day, twelve hundred tourists drive to Hana, a rural community of about two thousand. Those traveling on to visit Charles Lindbergh's grave in Kipahulu also need to pass through. After living on the East Maui coast for a month I find myself groaning a lot too.
"I get one idea, Peter," I say, throwing him my daypack. "Bring the glasses." He digs out the binoculars and follows me towards the nine visitors gathered around the weather-beaten saint. We move deliberately. It must be in the high eighties as the perspiration beads on my arms just ten steps out of the Isuzu.
Pete and I stop fifteen feet before the statue, next to a bird of paradise. Several of the tourists regard us. I study the uppermost branch of a rose apple tree ten yards mauka – mountainside – of the road, growing between our two groups. In the mid-morning light a cluster of its yellow fruit shine. Peter follows my lead, starts pointing at the cluster. Most of the adults in the group try to appear disinterested but it's hard to ignore Peter and me; already, the grandmother motions her grandchild's attention to the tree. Removing her visor, the teenager squints, first, at us, then at the rose apples.
Cocking my head slightly, I reverse my visor. Peter again points his right index finger, thrusts out his chin. Four of the adults drift together. They still do not look at us directly. I raise my hands and shake my head. Pete frowns, stands frozen, as if in deep thought. His face cracks a smile. He takes the binoculars out of his chest pocket, hands them over to me. I focus on the branch. The grandfather points to the tree Pete and I fake concern over.
"Gotcha," I say.
Peter starts to laugh, groans, "Moo."
"Slack key," I scold him. Taking a deep breath, I lower the binoculars and nod excitedly. Pete and I hear the others talking but can't make out their words. "Had these three keiki pua'a," I begin, "the first one was kanaka, the second one pake." Forming my thumbs and index fingers into a rectangle six inches away from my face, I "snap" my right index finger, as if I take a photograph.
Peter shakes his head, raises his hands in front of his shoulders, and turns the palms in and out. "But the second braddah stay brown, like one kanaka," he says. "And the second braddah get one Black Lab that went grind like one pua'a." Neither Pete nor I can stop grinning. Two of the tourists aim their cameras at the rose apple tree.
Peter starts for the Isuzu. "And when the three keiki pua'a got pissed off with the Pilau Wolf," he continues, "they went fake-out the haole."
When we reach the car, Pete looks back at the tour group. They also approach their vehicles. My partner pulls out another cigarette and shakes his head. He smiles so sternly, it threatens to broke his face. Before opening the passenger door, I congratulate him, "F-en good show, Gunga Din."
Peter lights up.
©Copyright Gary Chang