Sunday, January 31, 2010

Terror in Paradise

Missus the First and I saw the ads in the Sunday Times Travel section. Hawaii, cheap. If not we, we thought, who? If not now, when? We went. At the airport, native beauties put plastic leis around our necks and cooed, “Aloha”. It was too corny for words. It had be done.

We did this and we did that. We went to the bay with the colorful fish. I snorkeled. We bought macadamia candy. We called our daughter back in the California wine country. It wasn’t as though we could converse with her. She wasn’t even two yet.

We took an Oahu Transit Services bus to view new necks of the woods. A too-friendly guy a few rows in front of us looked like the front man of Jethro Tull. Wild hair, scraggly beard. He was trying to strike up a conversation with anyone who’d have him. We wouldn’t have him. If he’d been female, and looked like Morgan Fairchild, I probably would have chatted up a storm. But I can be fairly English about talking to male strangers who look like Jethro Tull.

It turned out he didn’t need a conversational partner. He was chatting up his own storm on his own. He seemed to fancy himself a James Bond, covert operation type. He seemed benign, and we tuned him out. He stopped seeming so benign. He bragged about how many Mexicans and “niggers” he’d killed for the government. He was getting progressively louder. I turned around and saw that there was a middle-class-looking black couple behind us. They were trying to ignore him.

We stopped at the Turtle Bay resort in Waialua Bay. A bunch of locals who I guessed worked there got off the bus. Another bunch, who’d just finished their shift, got on. This spectacle seemed to distract Jethro Tull, who gave it a rest. First Missus and I, relieved, sighed. One of our new passengers was a young wrestling team type with a big, bright smile.

We got back on State Highway 803. Jethro Tull turned out just to have been warming up before. It turned out, as he told it, that he hadn’t killed only Mexican and niggers, but Hawaiians too, over 100 of them. The locals exchanged looks. Most seemed to decide to try to tune out the crazy haole. The wrestling team kid wasn’t the tuning-out type. He spun out of his seat, stood over Jethro Tull and asked, “Why don’t you shut up?”

Jethrol Tull got up too. Whatever he said wasn’t the right thing. The kid punched him in the face. It must not have been a great punch. Jethro Tull not only stayed upright, but produced a machete.

There were screams. The bus stopped and emptied in about a tenth of a second. The driver may have been the first one off. None of this captain-going-down-with-his-ship jazz for the driver. In retrospect I was ashamed to have hurried off myself; if the kid had been killed, I would have been partially to blame. I could have tried to tackle Jethro Tull from behind. I was thinking only of my own and Missus the First’s safety, mostly the former.

Wrestling Boy, dazed but unbloodied, was somehow out on the edge of the road with the rest of us. A small mob of locals ran out of their roadside homes to find out what had happened. Jethro Tull tried to drive the bus away. He couldn’t figure out even how to make the doors shut. The locals pulled him roughly from the bus and beat him.

One of them saw me taking photographs and made clear he didn’t think it a terrific idea. He neglected to take my film. The police arrived. The one who interviewed me and Missus the First, a haole, was an idiot. He had it in his head that she and I were somehow the culprits. It took him forever to grasp that we’d only been witnesses. Then we couldn’t make him understand that it had actually been the local kid who’d attacked Jethro Tull, rather than the other way around. It occurred to me that Hawaii 5-0 might have been named for the minimum IQ required by the Honolulu Police Department.

When I returned to Hawaii seven years later, it was with my daughter, rather than her mother, and her mother’s successor in my life. We knew to rent a car.


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