By Victoria Heckman
Malama Price stepped onto her lanai, carefully balancing her tumbler of gin and her monkeypod cane. She hung the cane on the low railing and slurped a small wave of gin that threatened to overflow. Then she settled herself into the cushions of her koa rocker and eased her new lime-green rubber slippers from her gnarled toes. She tucked her mu'u mu'u around her legs, secured her tumbler in her crotch, and rocked.
"Today da kids is coming," she told herself. Nearly eighty years old, she was proud she remembered that.
Her daughter and granddaughter had taken her out shopping a few days ago--or was it a week?-- to the KTA in Kona where they bought the slippers. Her granddaughter, Kekoa, suggested hot pink, but Malama wanted the lime green. Her daughter Lani laughed while Malama and the eight-year-old argued over color.
Malama watched the horizon, a gray-blue blur from this high up. Too far to see straight down into Kainaliu, the small town where she'd grown up, where little had changed in eighty years. Still had boardwalks in places, H. Kimura's dry goods store, and the Aloha theatre where she'd watched movies before they changed it to a theatre with plays.
She still lived in the coffee shack where she'd been born, built by her parents when they moved here to work in the coffee plantations. She loved the wrap around lanai, where she'd spent so much time as a child and where her grandchildren now spent many happy hours. The small house nestled between a macadamia nut farm and a banana grove. Scrub and wild land extended behind her property up the volcano.
Malama breathed deeply and smelled the sweet rotting scent of tropical vegetation and the faint breakfast smells from her distant neighbor. It was still early in the morning, she guessed. She didn't sleep much anymore, but time had a way of passing unnoticed since Walter died a few months ago.
She remembered her last conversation with her husband.
"Walter! Go find that lolo poi dog's been at my chickens!"
"Yes, babes. In a bit. I'm so tired. Like one nap, first."
And she'd grumbled, but let him have his nap. He never woke up.
Malama rocked. Her eyes drifted shut. She awoke to the sound of car doors slamming and the familiar pounding of children's feet on the front lanai. It sounded like several cars and she was puzzled. Lani and Nelson had a large station wagon, its rumble familiar, but whose were these others?
She knew they'd find her on the back lanai, so she didn't move. Anyway, she was tired.
Lani slowly entered the house where her mother had lived her whole life, where Lani had been born and also lived until her marriage ten years ago. Long time. The familiar smell of coffee, so entwined with her family's history, never seemed to dwindle.
Family photos, gray brown with age, hung on the dark wood walls. Daddy, there, with the others from his coffee picking crew before they used so many machines. How young and handsome he was! There, Mama and Daddy at the beach with friends, in then-scandalous swim suits that covered most of their bodies. Other photos, tracing a hundred years of family.
Lani's brother, Sam, here from the outer island. He'd promised to help cook and clean. Other cousins, relatives, friends, here too. Lani sat on the sofa and listened to the tick of the clock. It matched the dull thud of her heart.
"Mommy! Mommy!" Kekoa called from the lanai. "Tutu's slippers is out here again!" Lani stood and sighed, then went to the back door.
Malama sipped her gin. Nearly finished now. Was that Sam's voice? Her son? When had she last seen him? Long time, she mused. He had moved his family to Maui, to be a ranch foreman.
"I too old fo' dat," she mumbled, meaning airplane trips off island. "I nevah like da wife."
Sam had married a haole lady from California. Malama, slightly buzzed now, decided that Sheila might not be so bad after all.
"Dey make pretty kids," she admitted. She dearly loved her two grandchildren, Randy and Gina, although she saw them so infrequently. But Kekoa, her granddaughter who lived right here in Kainaliu, and whom she saw almost every day, was the apple of her eye. Kekoa came onto the lanai.
"Hi, sweetheart," Malama said.
Kekoa watched the rocker curiously, circling it. "Mommy! Mommy!" she called. "Tutu's slippers is out here again!" Kekoa picked them up, turning them in her brown hands. A curtain of too-long bangs hid her expression.
"Don't take Tutu's slippers, girl," Malama scolded. Lani appeared in the doorway.
"Mommy, should I put them back in her bedroom?" Kekoa asked.
Malama looked at her daughter. Lani didn't answer, but her eyes filled and she blew her nose on a wadded tissue.
"Mommy. Every day this week, we come to clean and I put them back in her room. And every day, they back out here!" Kekoa's eyes grew round. "Tutu doing it?"
Lani shook her head. "Course not, little one. Go ahead and put them back if you want."
Kekoa left the lanai, taking the slippers.
"And how am I supposed to feed the chickens without my slippers, missy?" Malama asked sharply. She finished her gin and set the glass back in her crotch.
"Oh, Mama. I miss you so much. I love you, but you gotta go now." Lani turned and went back into the house.
"She's right, you know." Walter stood at the end of the lanai.
Malama smiled. "You was always too good looking for your own good."
"So you always told me."
"Why you leave me, Walter?" Malama started to cry.
"It was time. Now it's your time. Past time, but you don't see."
"What?" Malama wiped her eyes on her print dress.
"Take my hand, babes." He stepped to the chair and offered his smooth, brown hand.
She examined it. The pinky he'd lost in his thirties was back. She put her wrinkled hand in his strong one and gazed up at him. She felt that old tingle when he touched her--the moisture in her hand, the pounding of her pulse as she drank in his clear brown eyes and dark hair. His broad smile brought forth her own. She pushed herself out of the chair and stood freely, no longer needing her cane. Her back grew straight, her hair long and thick.
"We go," he whispered.
The gin glass slowly slid off the rocker, shattering on the planks.
*Kipuka--a small patch of fertile soil amid barren lava, untouched sometimes for hundreds of years, often supporting uniquely evolved species.
About the Author
Victoria Heckman is a writer, actor, director, and teacher with over 30 short stories and articles published. Her first mystery novel, K.O.'d in Honolulu, originally came out in 2001. K.O.'d in the Volcano, the second in the series, came out in 2003. K.O.'d in the Rift is out in print and came out as an ebook with Writers Exchange in 2008, and Victoria will be making numerous signings and appearances.
She is a past president of Sisters in Crime-Central Coast Chapter, as well as a member of Sisters in Crime National's E Publishing Committee.
You can keep track of all of Victoria's books on her author page:
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