The heart is the organ of desire. Mine weakens every day. Pupu and I piled the Canadians along with the politico that had been left out on the beach to fry. Four hours left to our shift. Sometimes the mornings are the hairiest, sometimes afternoons. Depends on the time of month rather than how busy the season. Many people don't even find out when is a good time to visit paradise and end up here in the rainy season. Relative cumulative frequency curves are plotted and smoothed by a computer. We're usually ready for what has been predicted to be.
Next thing we had to do was to drive all the way out to the airport to pick up an old fart who had collapsed when a stacked, in hula skirt, greeter had kissed him, put a lei around his neck. The widow was not in good shape, but they had managed to get her away. The body'd been put in a janitor's closet and was waiting for us when we arrived.
We were led to the closet, which was nice and close to where we were parked, by an airport guard. Pupu had the blanket in his hands. The guard wanted to leave immediately. He didn't want to watch us work. Typical enough. After unlocking the closet, he scurried away without too much politeness. I reached in to haul the old man out.
"He's not cold," I remember saying very nervous right at my first touch of the perspiring skin. "Stiffs don't sweat do they?" I said glaring at Pupu.
Papa shoved past me and fumbled for a light switch. Light blazed on, a pair of hands feebly went up to protect the eyes. A voice followed . . . "Bastards! What's happened to me? Where am I? My son's a lawyer!"
"That might not be too good in this case," Pupu told our corpse. "You died about threequarters of an hour ago."
"Where's my wife? She's aware of my condition. Where is she?" our corpse said pushing aside brooms and towels and trying to come forward. Papa gave him a slight push backward. He doesn't have any sympathy for pushy white people who threaten and scold without considering the position they are in.
"Your widow's taken care of," Pupu snarled. "We gonna take care of you."
The Destroyer's words had an effect. The man's false teeth slipped out of his mouth and he fainted away. "We can get him into the ambulance now," Pupu commented.
"What do we do with him then?" I smirked. "He's not extinguished. If we wrap him up, we might smother him."
"It's a sad tale you tell Buzzed. I'd like to do what you think is fair."
"I say we hike him up to the first waterfall at the end of Palolo Valley and read in tomorrow's paper whether or not the scared sucker's been born lucky. He came to see paradise. Let's sink him in the middle of it and see what happens," I suggested.
Pupu gently closed the closet door and scratched his cheek whilst speaking. "That would sure kill the afternoon," Pupu said dreamily. "But too many folks hike up that way. Any trail this side of the island is likely to have folks on it."
"You can always hear people from way off if they're coming on any of the trails. We slip off, wait for them to pass, then go ahead," I sailed.
"Palolo. Alright. But we take him up to the second waterfall, take the identification off of him, and give him something that will cut his believing that he's still on the planet," Pupu insisted. "Got anything available which will take this man's mind off of himself for a full day?" I did.
This stuff may seem sadistic and cruel to some of you, but you have to keep things in perspective. If Pupu and I turned the old bastard over, they would have snuffed him. Life or extinction? A tryst with adversity, at any age, is better than being flattened out and shoved into a crematorium, ashes into the trash. The second waterfall idea was the rotten part of our idealistic scheme. The trail led easily out of the valley from the first waterfall. From the second waterfall, you have to come down a steep and slippery trail, around the first falls, then hunt for a not highly visible trail. It would be spooky to find yourself up there at night. What I was going to give our client might put him to sleep for four to eight hours.
Undaunted, Pupu and I had Mr. Clark on his way to the valley soon after making the decision to give him a chance to save his own life. Clark was unconscious for the entire ride. Pupu and I split the $2,341 he had on his person, threw the wallet and identification/credit cards, at intervals, back to the city, along the Likelike Highway. Parts of the person every few miles.
"We cuttin' this guy up," Papa yukked.
"It's called dismemberment," I said informatively.
"Awwyou gonna spoil my mood if you play superior turd on me," Pupu complained. "Throwing a guy around a little, I had that kind of experience a lot you know. Don't try to tell me what I'm doin' when I know what I'm doin' you Buzzing word dog," Pupu cursed. I considered getting just enough on the wrong side of Pupu not to cause danger of physical injury an art.
We drove as far up the valley as a car can go. There didn't seem to be any other vehicles parked near where the trail started. You could smell the rotting guava fruit as soon as you got your feet on the ground. The forest is always lots cooler than even the back settled part of any of the valleys. In Manoa, the locals keep the tourists from hiking by keeping their dogs hungry and letting them run around. Palolo was a better choice. No locals up this way. The end of the valley had some prefabs in it, but nothing more. Another nice thing about the valleythe beeper signal couldn't creep in. We could perform our chore unmolested.
Pupu took Clark's legs and I got the feet. We didn't bother wrapping him. I'd forced the pill down his throat when we'd put him in at the airport so now, Clark was behaving cooperativelycompletely out. I checked the pulse and heart rate to be certain that we weren't about to waste an effort. It was nearly three miles to the second falls. The path was narrow. I recall walking the trail once with a friend out for a visit from home. The trail has a water pipe running beside it for quite a ways. The sound of the water rushing through the pipes scared the crap out of my pal. He thought that wild boars were running toward us and that in a few seconds we'd be run off the path, maimed or pushed to our deaths into the deep ravine inches to our right. Our imaginations run us right to oblivion lots of times, don't they? You can feel firm and sensible only when surrounded by the familiar. I was feeling more and more certain that the second waterfall wasn't right for Clark. As we carried the body along, I tried to say so to Pupu.
"You softening Buzz," Pupu replied to my suggestion that we not take Mr. Clark quite so far away. "Left by the first falls, this bugger will be back in town by tonight screamin' those same things he was sayin' in the closet at the airport. I know these people better than you do. All their lives, they feed and feed, makin' things the way they want them, gobblin' up what they don't like."
"You're right Pupu," I said gravely nodding my head and readjusting my hold on Clark's ankles. "I'm wrong in believing this polyester saint is going to reawaken converted once he finds himself between lives and in the trees. Please forgive my faith."
"He's not going to wake up a polyester saint cause he ain't gonna have on no clothes," Pupu snorted. "And don't talk to me about how cold it gets up here at night. Risks is for tightrope walkers and other types of artists who got audiences to play for. I don't need to prove nothin' and I don't like talkin' to cops."
Since Pupu had outlawed dissension, I threw away any words I may have wanted to use and concentrated on the simple pleasures of the journey. Small birds would fly up in front of us as we rounded corners of the trail and I would try to have my eye chase its flight across the green masses of gyrating leaves.
Parts of almost every trail that you hike on Oahu will be muddy from where a stream cuts across or the water runs during rain. Papa and I were stepping carefully through some mud when we heard three or four happy voices trying to sing a tune in harmony approach. Slipping through the slop, I looked up and saw Papa grappling to maintain his balance, drop Clark, and disappear down the side of the trail. As I hopped forward to examine our patient, the doggerel words of the tune that was being sung penetrated my ear . . . "First there was Newton, then there was Bohr, next we have Einstein who settled the score. Now we're subsubatomic and always there's more . . ." It was the University Physics Club out on a hike. They like to take hikes. I dragged Clark off the trail as quietly as possible although I doubt those egomoron ergs could have heard anything above the sound of their own caterwauling.
I kept looking around for Pupu, couldn't see him anywhere. I visualized his having slipped several hundred feet down the side of the valley, a tree limb tearing a hunk out of him as he sweeps by on his tumble past. The universe revellers a safe distance offno lyrics distinguishable, I pulled Clark onto the trail and commenced a search for The Destroyer.
Fifteen minutes later, I crawled back up the side of the slope thinking that I would have to forget about Pupu and bring Clark in for crisping before chaos triumphed completely. The wrestler was licking the pink inside of a guava with his tongue beside the body. "Good for the bowels, guava fruit," Professor Pupu lectured. "The things clean you out."
You can't fume at someone like Pupu. Fuming at them makes them gloat at you all the more. "This was a particularly nice guava tree that I met because it didn't have those messy thousands of gnats swarming about the fruit rotting on the ground," he continued in hopes of conjuring an ineffective remark.
I checked in on Mr. Clark. He was dead. When Pupu had slid off the trail, he had dropped Clark's head on a rock. There was a lump the size of a handball where the spinal column encased the medulla.
"Accidents," said Pupu flipping the skin of the guava into the valley. "This job sometimes has me thinking about all the people that have ever died. I dream about corpses being stacked around my bed at night while I sleep. I think that when I wake up that I'll have to wade through them in order to get into the bathroom, thenI dream that I'm awake, wading through the stiffs. Somehow I don't think that there won't be corpses in the hall, but there are."
"Let's just get Clark up the valley. We're losing time."
"You're not bein' courteous Buzzy. This dream is one of those dreams a Kahuna would give his boodle of tricks and herbal medicines to have. It's a spirit dream. You're supposed to revere people who have spirit dreams. It would be foul of you not to revere this dream."
"Clark must have befouled himself before he went," I noted lazily. "Let's clean him up before we carry him like this all the way up to the falls."
"Ahh, you're right," said Pupu sniffing the air. "I'll enchant you some other time with this power you weren't aware that I have. Since you figured out that we have to dump Clark in the valley because we've stolen his money and he has to be a missing person and not a stiff in order for us not to burn, I take back thinkin' that you're backward, Buzz brain," Papa announced while we were busy preparing the corpse for rapid transit.
"We've really got to hurry back into town," I saida drop of sweat rounding my eyebrow. "We can only pretend to have been searching the airport for this gone to glory soul for so long. I bet the beeper will start screeching as soon as we get to the road."
"Oh, say, you're right," Papa puckered. "Let me help us out," he said grabbing the corpse out of my hands. I was not watching in fun as Pupu bent his back, raised Clark over his head, spun him in a circle, and flung poor granddad in a high arc over the edge of the trail. Swish, swish, thunk, thunk, crack. The disgusting Pupu was rubbing his hands in selfsatisfaction. I was grinning. We dogtrotted the mile and a quarter back to our vehicle.
The University Physics Club had been taken by the ambulance. One of the toadying geniuses had had a black magic marker in his shirt pocket and now our vehicle was tattooed with duration and distance formulas.
"How we gonna get that crap off!" Pupu exclaimed.
"We go through a car wash. Does it matter that we pick up a few more witnesses to say that we were up here?" I said slouchily.
"Sure it does," Pupu retorted. "Our bets are still pretty good. This guy isn't gonna get in the papers, you think?" Papa said, thinking.
"I keep seeing myself on the carpet in front of Danny Sing," I confessed.
"Car wash in Palolo Valley?" Pupu asked lifting his head to the sky showing between the tops of the trees.
"One down in Kahala," I reminded him. "There's a stream a little ways down the road. We stop there and smear the symbols over with mud."
The beeper went off. We threw ourselves in the car and wheeled toward that stream. While Pupu smeared the car, I knocked on the nearest door, pretending to be official, and asked the young man who came to the door who was trying to stuff his erection into a pair of cutoff shorts if I could use the phone. Calling in. I let control talk without interruption for as long as possible to try and spark what kind of condition we were in. A cutie drifted into the kitchen with only her panties on and, after shooting me with a disdainful glance, opened the fridge to fish out an avocado. She excused herself to me as she brushed past to get a spoon from the drawer I was blocking, then glided off. Torture/teaseall of the great hot way. I shouted thanks for use of the look and the phone and ran back to the ambulance.
"What kind of shape we in?" Pupu said slinging the last gobs of slime from his hands.
"We seem to be fine for now. Control wanted to know where we were. I explained the walked away corpse and how I didn't want to call in until we got the matter of this missing man cleared up."
"Any other work?" Pupu asked.
"Not yet," I replied. We zoomed off. Papa was nervous. Bounced in his seat, hands on the dash. He took a few more pills.
The beeper went off while we were in the middle of the car wash, rollers coming up across the front of the windshield. "Like bein' at a movie," the unrealized wrestler beamed with his usual force of insight. Peering intensely into my famished eyes, the Destroyer accused, "What's the matter Buzzard Honey, don't you like Papa Destroyer?" He tried to turn one of his paws into a crosier and haul me toward him for a sloppy kiss. I scrunched in my seat and avoided the meeting. "You don't love the Destroyer!" he screamed pounding his fists on the dash. "That's O.K.," Pupu said smiling flashily now, "The Destroyer doesn't love the Destroyer either." From then on he was sullen and shrank up into himself.
We were wanted urgently in Waikiki. Two miserable writers had hung themselves in the lobby of the biggest hotel with piano wire in protest over materialism and their own mediocrity. I could almost guess who they were. I'd dated a Chinese girl briefly who once was remiss and smudged enough to drag me to a "reading." The experience had been queasily familiarlike having to haul a decomposing corpse out of the hotel room in which the spirit had abandoned the flesh as much as a week before.
I fretted that this part of the day would go as miserably as the rest. "Local Artists Shock Hundreds," or something to that effect on that evening's news. We were all spared. To be completely "honest" in what they were about to do, the twig of a male and the obese female suicide couple had decided to do it in the nude. The plan was to hang from a sculpture and be on display for as long as possible. Clumsy as they were, they took a long time to do what should have been done in a hurry. They had difficulty looping the wire over a piece of the sculpture they had decided would hold them both. While the male played cowboy, the poetess found some chairs.
Needless to say, these activities attracted some attention. The manager of the hotel, a healthy Korean/Japanese lady with lots of sense, feared something subversively intelligent was going to happen, that a bomb was going to be set off or something. Having cleared the lobby as discretely as possible, she was about to plead with the couple not to . . . but they "jumped from the little stools they were perched on looking like two kids about to hop into a wading pool," the manageress, Mrs. Jo, confessed. "The beam broke, and, oh God, if they hadn't been using that awful wire nothing would have happened. I got the boys to throw a canvas over them making it look like the lobby had been cleared to protect people from a rickety piece of art. Please, I'll have the boys clear the lobby again so that the rubbish' can be cleared. I'll have an elevator waiting and you can take them out in the basement parking lot."
I liked the lady's savvy. Pupu eyed Mrs. Jo drowsily. She didn't take an immediate liking to him. We got the two out of there. By the time we got them to the morgue, it was time to turn in our taxi and part.
Pupu wanted to go out together drinking so that we could, hushhush, worry about what was going to happen to us when Mr. Clark appeared. I'd done most of the lifting and carrying of the fat poetess. I was tired. I wanted to see Ruth. My mind wouldn't have too much trouble pretending she was the casual sass that had troubled me when I made my call in from Palolo.
Nothing happened about Clark as it turned out. No one in the man's family would miss him that much. Ruth squeezed me more greedily than usual when I dragged myself through our cottage's door in the evening.
"What's up?" I said looking down into those firedup eyes as we held one another.
"Oh, baby! You're so lucky. The research vessel you were supposed to go out on this morning sank like a ton of bricks in the Kauai Channel an hour ago."
AhhhhSit tibi terra levis, my friends.