READ A SAMPLE


MANA

by

John A. Broussard


 

Chapter 1

The breeze was onshore. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep the volcanic haze, the “vog,” away from the Angela C. From here, a hundred yards from the fresh lava, it was hard to believe that less than a week before, the black rock had been a red-orange molten stream. Back then it had been flowing into the ocean, sending fountains of steam dozens of meters into the air, accompanied by the crash and crackle of fire doing combat with its arch enemy, water.

Carlo Carlton pointed a dark finger at a sharp outcrop almost directly opposite them on the shore and said to his two passengers, “There’s Noenoe Point. It’s just to the left of that. From what I can make out, the lava built up along there, and the weight of it broke through into an old underground tube.”

Bill Wu, the vulcanologist on the boat, shook his head as he worked his way into his wet suit. “More likely it’s that 5.4 we had last month. A quake that size could easily have shaken away some debris from the mouth of an old tube. Or maybe the explosion of the hot lava hitting the water just broke up some barriers in front of the tube mouth. We might be able to tell what happened when we get down there.”

Carlo grinned. “Whatever caused it, we’ve got a new cave to explore.”

That was what Bill Wu had announced to Lehua that morning. “A new cave to explore.” Bill was one of the dozen or so vulcanologists who had been watching over Kilauea’s long years of eruption. For him, each new fissure, each new flow, every rumble of Hawai’i’s active volcanoes was the lure of drama added to the excitement of science. So, when Carlo called to tell him about Madam Pele’s latest accomplishment, he knew this was his chance to be the first to see what the volcano had uncovered. The next day he was on the Angela C., cruising south from Hilo toward the new find.

While Carlo, Lehua and Bill finished helping each other on with their gear, Carlo’s hired hand dropped a sea anchor. He then heaved the float with the brightly colored diver’s flag over the side and watched the trio, one by one, flop backwards, flippers disappearing beneath the shallow chop of the blue-green water.

Carlo led the way. He had explained how, early the previous day, he had found the mouth to the cave but had been running low on air and had left the exploration of it for today. Now, unerringly, he skirted a frozen peak of basalt, stirred up a colorful school of butterfly fish, dropped twenty feet further, down to the ocean floor, and pointed to a jagged opening almost hidden by some overhanging rock. Smiling behind his mask, he waved Bill on and took up the rear as the other two paddled slowly toward the hole over a bed of pillow lava.

Before entering, Bill explored the opening. A shake of his head indicated he had come up with no explanation for the sudden appearance of the cave’s entrance.

The third member of the group, Lehua Watanabe, had grown up on the Big Island, or rather she had grown up next to it, since her earliest and fondest memories were of the water and surf she had virtually lived in while doing that growing. Even though she thought of the warm ocean as a familiar friend, she knew it always held the threat of death for the unwary, especially where its waters touched the shore.

Opihi pickers, one moment safe and secure while hunting for the small mollusks, could in the next moment be swept out to sea by that one unexpected wave. Surfers, steering for the open beach, could suddenly be slammed onto rocks by a cross swell. Swimmers, tantalizingly close to the elusive shore, could find themselves pulled out to sea and exhausted by the undertow. For Lehua, the dangers of the ocean, too close to the land, made themselves most clearly felt whenever she swam into one of these tubes scattered along the rocky coast of Hawai’i’s newest island.

The prickle of fear added to the thrill of adventure. Ahead, she could see Bill’s light, and she watched him rising up inside what now promised to be one of the largest underwater caves she had ever been in. Following him, she broke to the surface and paddled along in the large pool. He had already removed his mouthpiece, was pointing to the ceiling some thirty feet above them, and saying, “Fantastic!” His voice reverberated in the peculiar way sounds did in these caves half-filled with water. Bouncing off the rock walls and ceiling, the returning voices were muffled by the liquid floor.

Carlo emerged next to them, and their lights darted up and down the sides of the cavern. “Looks like a big one,” he said. “Most of the sea caves I’ve been in don’t go back more than a few yards.”

Bill nodded his head toward the distance. “Yeah. This one sure looks different. Up there, it may be a dry tunnel.” It was—almost. The tube continued on, sloping slightly upward, its floor emerging from the pool. A slender stream flowed along the floor, emerging from the darkness beyond. Finding firm footing, they waded to where the underground creek joined the ocean.

Carlo tasted the water as Bill and Lehua sat at the poolside removing their flippers. “Fresh,” was his verdict. “Not a sign of salt.”

Lehua scanned the length of the tunnel with her light. “I can’t see the end of the tube. Maybe it goes clear up to the top of Kilauea.”

“More likely to an old vent in the southeast rift zone,” Bill said, pointing up at the roof of the tube. “This one’s an old one and a deep one. There are no tree roots or anything else to indicate we’re within yards of the top.”

Once free of their footgear, the three started up the gentle slope, walking along the edge of the stream. Bill unstrapped a small rock hammer and began to break off chunks from an outcrop in the wall. “We know the new flow is covering eighteen-twenty-three lava. A few samples should tell us whether this is the twenty-three flow or an earlier one.”

While Bill was collecting his samples and Carlo explored ahead, Lehua spotted a crack in the wall, wide enough to accommodate her slight figure. As she entered, Bill shouted an unnecessary warning. “Don’t go too far! If you get hurt, we’ll have a tough time getting you out of there.”

Lehua smiled to herself at Bill’s concern, then peered into the recesses of the small cave ending just a few yards beyond the opening. Flashing her light around its perimeter, she was just turning to leave when a gleam from a nearby ledge caught her eye. Using a well-positioned rock as a step stool, she reached up to find a strange rubbery surface. Prodding it, she dislodged what seemed at first sight to be a giant brown egg, some two feet across in its shorter dimension and half again as long.

“Bill!” she shouted. “Look at this.”

Bill peered in, “What’ve you got?”

“That’s what I was going to ask you.”

“Looks like some sort of plastic wrapping, but that doesn’t make sense. Can we get it through the opening? Carlo may know what it is.” Their companion was just returning as they emerged with the object.

“The tube does look like it goes on forever,” he said, then seeing their find, added without being asked, “Whale bladder.”

“Whale bladder?” Lehua asked.

Carlo nodded. “The old Hawaiians used them for containers. See?” He pointed to a knot at one end. “Whoever made this took a chunk, blew air into it, then tied up the loose end. Guess they intended to make a float out of it.”

Bill lifted the unwieldy item, shaking it as he did so. “There’s something solid inside.”

Carlo reached for his fish knife, saying, “Let’s open it up and see what’s in it.”

Lehua shook her head. “No. Let’s get it to the surface first. Whoever put that thing together must have wanted to keep the contents dry.”

Carlo laughed. “How are we gonna do that? There’s so much buoyancy to that thing, we’ll never be able to go down and out through the entrance with it.”

“Let’s give it a try first, before we give up.”

Carlo checked his watch. “We still have some time, you know.”

“I want to see what’s inside,” Lehua said, “and it may take some time to wrestle this thing out of here. Let’s try it now.”

Bill and Carlo looked at each other, shrugged and smiled at Lehua’s impatience.

“OK. Let’s go,” Bill said. “I’ve got my samples, and Lehua has her find. If worse comes to worst, we can slit that thing and get it up that way. Now we know we can breathe down here, we can figure on a lot of time exploring on our next trip. We’ll bring walking shoes, extra batteries, maybe some climbing gear. There’s no telling what’s up there.” He nodded toward the darkness of the tube’s interior.

Lehua was still examining the whale bladder. “Maybe we can all three throw an arm over it and swim down toward the entrance.”

“I’ve got a better idea,” Carlo said, unstrapping some looped cord from his waist belt. “I’ll tie this on the knot and we’ll pull it through the entrance. I betcha that’ll work.”

He was right. Any attempt to wrestle the buoyant float down to the narrow opening and out into the ocean would have been hopeless. With the cord in place, however, and with Lehua guiding the bladder and adding her weight to it, Carlo and Bill managed to pull it down and out with comparative ease, letting it then bob up to the surface. Later, on the boat, the three of them marveled over the contents.


* * *

Lehua and Bill had met at a faculty party almost a year earlier. They had been attracted to each other from the outset, though their explanations for the attraction differed sharply. “I caught you on the bounce,” Lehua insisted. It had been quite a bounce. The woman Bill had married back in graduate school had changed, but even the acrimony of the divorce had barely dented his love for his childhood sweetheart. Perhaps it was the contrast of this small, deceptively fragile-looking Hawaiian/haole/Japanese to his tall and sturdy blonde ex-wife that caught and fixed his attention.

It was more than that. As he soon discovered, the personalities of these two women differed as much as their physical characteristics. Marcella, belying her appearance, had been dependent. The frail-looking Lehua, on the other hand, was strong willed to the point of stubbornness, and she kept a jealous guard over her independence. Where Marcella had been a manipulator, Lehua’s directness had more than once been a source of grief for her, but never of regret.

Bill’s explanation for why Lehua had taken to him was less complex. “That nebbish you came to the party with would have made anyone look good by comparison.” The “nebbish” had been a colleague in Bill’s own department who, soon after the night of the party, had become involved in a scandal surrounding the use of government research money for personal purposes.

Lehua had grinned at Bill’s explanation. “I have to admit you did look pretty good by contrast, but he was hardly a regular date. He was just my excuse for getting to know some of the faculty, to see how the other half lives, and I told him as much. That’s how an investigative reporter gets leads, you know, by just circulating around. I already had some suspicions about what was going on behind the scenes, but the story broke before I could get a handle on it.”

“So you started going out with me, just to pump me about what was going on.”

“I had something like that in mind, but you managed to distract my attention. If you still have any memories of that evening, you’ll recall I never once asked you about grants or what happened to them.”

Lehua did not elaborate on how much Bill’s physical appearance had contributed to her attraction to him. He was tall for a Chinese, and she came only to his shoulder, a shoulder giving little hint of its underlying strength. It was only later in their relationship, when he had invited her along to his Kung Fu club, that she fully appreciated how much speed and power his slender and smooth-muscled body disguised. Lehua admired athletic skills, since hers, other than excellent swimming abilities, were virtually nil.

For his part, Bill had to confess Lehua’s physical attractiveness was what had made him drift to her end of the room at the faculty soiree. Lehua told him she had inherited her Polynesian nose, with its low bridge and slightly flattened tip, from her mother, but her small and slender build had come down to her from Japanese ancestors on her father’s side of the family.

“Mom always said I got my hazel eyes from Grandma Kate. She was Scotch-Irish. But no one seems to want to take credit—or blame—for my hair.” Lehua was referring to her unruly thatch of black hair that was neither the long, resplendent, wavy shower of the native women pictured on Hawai’i post cards and travel brochures, nor the shiny silken halo that crowned most of her female Japanese friends. It had been a pleasant relief when she found her hair so easy to adapt to the “unmanageable” style which had become popular in recent years.

Whatever the chemistry drawing them together, the relationship had now weathered a few minor storms, and both parties had gone beyond the early stage of passionate infatuation, to that feeling of ease in each other’s company which presaged permanency.


* * *

Today, as the two sat on the deck of the boat contemplating the swollen whale bladder, their early encounter was the furthest thing from their minds. “Ready to open it up?” Carlo asked, joining them around the prize.

“OK,” Lehua replied, “but go easy on the packaging.

“Couldn’t that bladder be dated, Bill?”

“I doubt it. Relatively recent organic matter doesn’t lend itself especially well to being dated, but I’ll see if I can find someone at the university who can make an educated estimate.”

Carlo carefully cut the knot and opened the bladder, only to find another inflated one inside. A second cut produced a third bladder.

“Whoever packaged this thing sure wanted to be sure it was safe,” Lehua observed, as Carlo’s knife slipped into the third wrapping. The three of them almost bumped heads when Carlo reached in and removed a piece of flat brown wood, some ten to twelve inches across and roughly square in shape. One side was smooth and blank, the other was covered with incised markings.

“They looks like some kind of petroglyphs,” Lehua said, holding the wood so the morning sunlight heightened the contrast of the carved figures against the lighter background. Maybe there are more down there.” The tone of her voice expressed her excitement.

Carlo looked up at a massive thunderhead on the eastern horizon. “If there are, they’re gonna have to wait for another day. The forecast was for squalls, and it looks like a good-sized one in the making. Time to haul ass, like now!”

The boat soon rose to planing speed and, after they had settled down into canvas chairs on the rear deck, Lehua continued to examine the strange piece of wood. “Maybe Tessa could figure out what it is.”

“Tessa Kaholakula?” Bill asked. “She’s just a historian.”

Lehua laughed. “Just a historian? So you figure unless someone’s a laboratory scientist, they aren’t worth consulting?”

Bill protested. “That’s not what I meant. It’s just that historians only deal with written history. My guess is this thing goes back to pre-Captain-Cook days.”

“Tessa also specializes in Polynesian culture and mythology. If she can’t figure out what this is, she probably can point me toward someone who can. It’s worth a try.”

“You know Lehua, that’s your favorite statement . . . ‘It’s worth a try.’”

“Just think how dull it would be to be around someone who didn’t have a spirit of adventure.”

“OK. You concentrate on that chunk of wood. I’m going to get back into that cave as soon as possible. Think the weather’ll clear in the next two days, Carlo?”

“Why two days?”

“He’s off to West Africa,” Lehua explained. “There’s a group of vulcanolgists going there to pass judgment on one of those poisoned lakes that keeps erupting and killing people.”

Bill nodded. “I’ll be gone for a week. Can you keep anyone else from finding out about this tube in the meantime?”

“Lotsa luck! The Park Service is warning everyone away from here because of the lava flows. But you know how that goes. There’ll be boaters sneaking around to take pictures, and there are bound to be some divers along.”

“I’d sure like to take another look before anyone else goes banging around down there,” Bill said, “especially right around the entrance. I’m still stumped over what opened it up.”

Lehua smiled at Bill’s expression. “You’re never happy unless you have a scientific explanation for every mystery.”

Bill’s frown turned into a grin. “You’re never happy with any explanations. You’d much rather have mysteries.”

Lehua’s reply followed a long, thoughtful pause. “Maybe some things are better left that way—just as mysteries.”



Chapter 2

Tessa Kaholakula’s office was a disaster. On campus, rumor had it she could quickly locate anything in the mass of books, papers, magazines and the other debris. Tessa insisted the rumor had no basis in fact, that she was going to clean up the mess one of these days and put things in order, and that she actually spent a good share of her life looking for things she knew were there in the piles, but which she never found until later when looking for something else. She had once told Lehua her husband Chuck, owner and manager of Kailua’s private trash collection company, had threatened to back one of his trucks up to her office window and to start shoveling out the room’s contents.

“Put that rubbish on the floor.” A welcoming smile spread over her brown face as she indicated a laden chair to Lehua.

They chatted for a moment before Lehua got to the reason for her visit. Reaching into the oversized shoulder-purse she was carrying, she took out the piece of board and found a place for it on a stack of journals in the middle of Tessa’s desk.

“Hey,” Tessa exclaimed, reaching eagerly for the board. “Where’d you get that?”

“Bill and I were exploring an old lava tube down in Puna with a friend, and we found this wrapped in three whale bladders. Do you have any idea what it is?”

“It’s a talking board . . . or a damn good imitation.”

“A talking board? What’s that?”

“What kind of a Hawaiian are you? You mean you never heard of a talking board?”

“Remember, I’m only a quarter Hawaiian. So if that’s something out of Hawaiian legend, I should tell you my mother was reading me Mother Goose stories while yours was telling you all about Maui pulling the islands out of the Pacific, and Madame Pele making her fiery bed in each of them while running away from her angry sister.”

“Talking boards aren’t legends. They’re real enough, even though we still don’t know what they actually are. There have been several of them found on various islands in Polynesia. I think about a dozen of them have been authenticated as dating back to before European contact.”

“Are they writing? Can they be read?”

“That’s the mystery. One theory is they’re actually a written form of early Polynesian, a form preserved and understood only by a few kahunas who passed the secret down from generation to generation. At the other extreme is the opinion they were just idle doodling and actually meaningless. In between, there are some scholars who say they were mnemonic devices to help recall genealogies or perhaps some kind of star map information to be used on voyages. Anyway, if this is genuine, it’s quite a discovery. It will be the first one found in Hawai’i. What do you plan on doing with it?”

“Donate it to the University or to the Bishop Museum, I suppose. I can’t think of any good use for it. It really isn’t much of a table decoration.”

While Lehua spoke, Tessa rummaged through a bottom drawer in the large desk, came up with several sheets of paper and a piece of soft graphite. “If it’s OK with you, I’ll hold onto it until we can check on its authenticity. It’d be kind of embarrassing for our museum to put it on display and then find out it’s some mass-produced item from Taiwan. Is Bill trying to date the tube?”

Lehua nodded, following with interest Tessa’s production of a rubbing from the board. “I’m going to send a copy over to Cyrus Walton,” Tessa said. “He’s the head of the Center for Hawaiian Studies on the Manoa campus. He’s big on petroglyphs, so maybe he can tell us something about this.” As she spoke, she peeled back the paper, nodded in satisfaction and placed another sheet on the board. “This one is to take to Anuenue Makua.”

“You mean Auntie Annie, down at Miloli’i?”

“Right.” Tessa checked her second rubbing, crumpled the paper, tossed it in the direction of her overflowing wastebasket, selected a new sheet and tried again with long smooth strokes.

“Why her?”

“She’s a kahuna, you know.”

“Uh-huh. I can remember her blessing the boats when they went out on long fishing trips, but . . .”

“Actually, she’s a kahuna nui.”

Lehua was not impressed. “Sure, but what makes you think she’ll know anything about this? She pointed to the talking board.

“One day I was out at an old burial site with her, and she claimed she knew what the petroglyphs on a rock near there meant. And she made sense. I can’t be sure exactly how right she was, but some of what she said agrees with what little the experts know about the carvings.”

Lehua laughed. “Maybe she boned up on what’s been written about them.”

Tessa smiled in agreement. “I wouldn’t put it past her. She still has a healthy sense of humor, even though she’s well into her nineties. The only catch is, she can’t read. At least she can’t read English, but she sure is knowledgeable when it comes to old Hawaiian customs. I’ve filled a dozen notebooks with her ramblings, and I’m amazed at how much of what she tells me checks out.”

“When are you going to go see her?”

Tessa leaned over to check her calendar after searching for it and extracting it from the rubble on her desk. “For sure, I can’t this week. I’m giving some lectures over at the high school in addition to my other classes. I’m full up until the weekend.”

“Bill and I wanted to go back to that lava tube tomorrow to do some more exploring before he leaves, but from the looks of the weather, it’s not too likely we’ll try. So we could drive over to Miloli’i and see Annie instead.”

“That would be great. She’s only too happy to talk to anyone about the old days. Here; take this rubbing along and see if she recognizes any of it. You’d better take along a magnifying glass too. Her cataracts are getting bad, and she’ll need help. Get her out in the strong sunlight, and don’t forget to take a tape recorder. I’d like to hear what she has to say about those symbols.”

Tessa paused for a moment, then picked up the board and handed it back to Lehua. “You know,” she said, “Auntie Annie might be able to tell us more about the genuineness of this board than anyone else. Why don’t you show it to her? If her eyesight isn’t good enough to read the rubbings, she might be able to feel the marks on the board and make something out of that. I’ll send it over to the main campus after she’s had a look at it.”


* * *

The weather was as bad as expected, and Bill moaned his disappointment as they drove south on the belt highway. “I’ve got to catch the first flight to Oahu in the morning, so there won’t be time to even try another run tomorrow.”

“Cheer up,” Lehua said. “Instead of spending the day chipping rocks, you’ll get to meet Auntie Annie. Even if she can’t tell us what’s on that talking board, she should be able to tell you some stories about Kilauea. She’s probably seen that old mountain erupt more times than anyone else alive.”

Anuenue Makua lived near the edge of the fishing village in a metal-roofed coffee shack, moved there by her youngest son. He had long ago left for construction work on Oahu and was now retired on that island. Currently, her sole companion was a tall, rangy niece, deaf from birth. Anuenue, herself, was much thinner than Lehua remembered her. Her cheeks sagged with the excess of skin left behind when the obese lose large amounts of weight. Heavy grey hair, once blue-black, cascaded down her back, and a dark red muumuu with a black flower design hung loosely on her thin frame. Lehua identified herself and introduced Bill. Annie scarcely turned her murky eyes to him, but instead tried to place the young woman.

“Yes. Yes. Now I membuh. Your ma’s one Kamai, old Wilson Kamai’s granddaughter. She married one Japanese. Yes, and I membuh you now. You was no biggah den one cockaroach, and you wen’ swim out to da breakuhs. I can membuh your grandmaw screamin’ at you for be careful, and you no listen den no moh dan any of da keikis dese days.”

Bill sat transfixed by the flood of memories their visit evoked. Gradually, he steered Annie around to the volcanoes to hear tales of Kilauea and Mauna Loa. She even told him of Hualalai, the brooding, cloud-covered mountain hanging over Kailua-Kona that had been quiescent for almost two hundred years, but whose 1803 eruption had been described to Annie by her grandfather, who in turn had heard the story from his own grandfather. Her memory was clear. The extent of major eruptions, and the dates, as she tied them in to other events on the island, closely matched what Bill knew from historic reports and the geologic record. To have lived for almost a century on the slopes of active volcanoes was something only a dedicated vulcanologist could appreciate and actually envy. And she told them of the legends surrounding Mauna Kea; how the tallest of the island’s mountains would one day awake from its long sleep, break through its high snow cover, and once more send streams of molten rock down it’s steep sides.

While Bill and Annie explored the past, Lehua took out the rubbing and tape recorder, waiting for an opportune moment to break in with her own concerns. At first, Annie was puzzled by the piece of paper, and Lehua realized she could only barely see the figures. Handing her the magnifying glass, she watched as Annie scanned the markings.

“Where you get dis?” The tone was almost accusing.

Lehua reached down to the bottom of her knapsack and brought out the board. “Bill and I found this in a lava tube. Do you think it’s a real talking board?” As she handed the older woman the piece of wood, Lehua depressed the record button.

Annie said nothing as she held the board with one hand and gently passed the fingers of her other hand over the carved surface. She nodded, then turned her clouded eyes in Lehua’s direction. Seeming not to have heard Lehua’s answer to her question, she again asked, “Where you get dis?”

Before Lehua could answer, Annie’s tone shifted. A strange falsetto crept into her voice. Was she reading it? Her hand moved over the board, but somehow it seemed what was coming out was memory and not a description of what the marks might have stood for. The language was Hawaiian—and yet not Hawaiian. Lehua knew only a smattering of the native speech, but enough to be certain no Hawaiian speaker would have understood the sounds coming from the old woman’s lips. The recital lasted a scant two minutes and, as it ended, Lehua could feel herself letting out her breath.

“What does it mean? What language is that? Is that what it says?” Her questions tumbled over themselves.

Annie handed back the glass, the paper and the board. “It’s dah old tongue. My gran’paw teach me. I nevah know what it mean.” She turned her fog-shrouded eyes toward her interrogator.

“You must know what it means. You just read it.”

“I know da sounds.” Annie shrugged her thin shoulders. “Dat’s all.”

“Could you read it again?” Lehua tried to press the board back into Annie’s hands.

Something like fear flickered across the face of the old lady, and she pulled her hands back from the proffered object. “No! One time. Only one time.”

* * *

For the past six months Bill had been trying to shake Lehua loose from living in her apartment, but she had refused to budge.

“It just makes good sense,” he said, though knowing this independence, which at the moment was a source of annoyance, was also one of the qualities about her which so much attracted him.

“Uh-uh. The one thing I wanted most when I got home from college ten years ago was my own apartment. Mom wanted me to move back in with her and Sis, but I wasn’t about to. Besides, it’s more romantic to go to your apartment some nights and then to mine on others.”

She laughed, and Bill again marveled as he had so many times before at the deep chuckle that rose up in such a small throat and seemed to be the very essence of amusement. It was difficult to deny this lovely, fragile creature anything she wanted. A separate apartment was, after all, a small concession.

Tonight, they had gone to her place and were sitting at the kitchen table, her with the board and rubbing, and him with a series of printed articles.

Lehua finally pushed the objects aside. “You packed?”

He grinned. “Yup. All set to go come daybreak.”

“What do you have to do when you get to Lagos?”

“There are eight of us. Three Americans, a Japanese and the rest are Europeans. We’re meeting some native geologists who are going to take us to two of the lakes that are the biggest problems. There are signs of increased carbon dioxide levels occurring simultaneously in them, even though they’re seventy miles apart. That’s what has them worried.”

“They think there’s an underground connection?”

Bill nodded. “Yes, but that goes counter to the current theories on the origin of the CO2 and the plumbing under these guys.”

Lehua looked thoughtful. “The earth’s such a mysterious and frightening thing. The first time I saw lava fountains coming up out of the rift on Kilauea I knew why some of my ancestors thought of hell as being down there some place. Now there are those terrible lakes. So peaceful one day, and then hundreds of villagers die from the poison they spew out on the next day. Do you ever feel you’re studying some sort of black magic rather than something that can be explained scientifically?”

“Anything that exists can be explained scientifically. You’ve been listening to too many of Auntie Annie’s incantations, Lele. Those Hawaiian genes of yours have been stirred, and the hard-headed reporter has been swamped by all that gibberish the old lady was spouting.”

“It wasn’t gibberish. I’m sure it had meaning, even though she may not have had any idea what it was.”

“No way. I’ve heard people speaking in tongues before. That’s just what it was.”

“Let’s listen to the tape.”

“No. It’s getting late. I have a long flight ahead of me tomorrow, and I can think of better things to do than to listen to Annie fake it. You should have recorded all that stuff she was telling about eruptions instead. Now, that had some meaning.”

Lehua laughed her musical laugh. “OK. Since I won’t have you distracting me for the next week, I’ll provide some other entertainment for us tonight, and I’ll save the tape till tomorrow. How’s that?”

“Great. When does the entertainment start?”

Lehua stood up, moved around the table to his chair, leaned over and pulled his mouth up to hers. After a long kiss she asked, “Why not now?”
As he stood up, Lehua thought for a moment Bill had pushed her. A rolling noise outside the house, the rattle of dishes in the cupboard, and a feeling of being off balance told her it was a quake—a typical Big Island earth shock.

Bill turned and grabbed the portable phone. As he was punching in some numbers, he grinned and said, “4.6, 35 miles west of Kawaihae.”

Speaking into the phone, he said, “Hi, Ed? Where was it?”

There was a pause, then he nodded. “I wasn’t too far off.” Then, “I didn’t think it was that big. Anything else happening?” Apparently there wasn’t, because Bill ended the conversation with, “I’ll let you get back to answering phones. Thanks, and take care.”

Turning to Lehua he said, “It was northwest of the Island, and was a 5.2. Now, where were we? Seems to me we were doing something like this.” He pulled her towards him.

 


END OF SAMPLE



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