Authors: JoAnn Bassett
O’AHU LONESOME TONIGHT?
By JoAnn Bassett
© 2013 JoAnn Bassett
part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording,
or otherwise, without the written permission of the author.
published by JoAnn Bassett
Valley, AZ 85614
book is a work of fiction. Places, events, and situations in this book are
purely fictional and any resemblance to actual persons, living or
Kirsten and Jay
on May 10
Here’s to never
being lonesome again.
My brother’s plane
was late. And not just a few minutes late; it was a whole lot late. Jeff was
coming in from SFO, a five-and-a-half hour flight. It could take longer if they
encountered stiff headwinds or bad turbulence. That would account for a
half-hour; maybe even forty-five minutes. But the scheduled arrival time was
ten-thirty and it was now five minutes to noon.
The arrivals board hadn’t budged in the past hour; it showed the
flight as ‘delayed.’ The blank-eyed gate agent at the Hawaiian Airlines podium
might as well have been a robot. “We have no information at this time” she
said. “As new information becomes available, it will be posted.”
Is this how it
went when a plane crashed? Did the airlines wait until their army of lawyers
showed up before they ‘fessed up to the bad news?
I should have
seen it coming. This little vacation had come together too easily. We were
going to meet in Honolulu in mid-September—slow season in Hawaii—for a week of
sibling bonding. I’d be coming over from my home on Maui and he’d be flying in
from San Francisco. We’d both gotten killer airfares and our flight schedules
had synched up perfectly. Then my brother called to tell me we wouldn’t be
paying Waikiki hotel prices after all. A former frat brother of his owned a penthouse
apartment across the street from the Trump Hotel and he’d offered it to us for
just the cost of the cleaning fee, around a hundred
I’m not good
when things go too easy like that. It’s nothing new. I was an anxious kid
from the get-go; always glancing over my shoulder or peering around corners
expecting the worst. And recent history has only stoked my cynicism. The past
year has been one long string of unfortunate events. So, even though I live in
a place where hardly anybody wears shoes, I’m pretty much always waiting for
the other shoe to drop. But having my brother’s flight lost somewhere over the
Pacific was a heftier shoe than I’d expected.
My name is
Moon, but maybe you already know that. You may also
know I own a wedding planning shop in
called “Let’s Get
.” I live upcountry, away
from the beach, in a little place called Hali’imaile. The area used to be sugar
cane and pineapple fields as far as the eye could see. A small army of
planters, pickers and millworkers used to live in my neighborhood. Now the
mills are shut down and machines do most of the field work.
still some sugar cane fields around, but Big Pineapple got moved to countries
where ‘minimum wage’ has no local translation.
I trotted over
to Hawaiian Airlines’ Gate 52 for what must’ve been the tenth time in the past
hour and a half. I was only one of three people there since all the other
people waiting for this flight were out beyond the security area. Since Jeff’s
flight was a jumbo with three or four hundred people onboard I could only
imagine the bedlam happening outside the secure area.
“Look,” I said
to a woman wearing a purple Hawaiian Airlines shirt, “I’m not trying to make
this anymore stressful for you than it is.”
She shot me a look
then back off
someone you can trust,” I went on. “I was a federal air marshal for a while,
and I know how these things go.”
her eyes. “I’ve told you everything there is to tell,” she said.
official line, right? But I figure you know more than you’re saying. All I’m
asking for is an update. Is the plane lost? Or did it have engine trouble and
have to turn back or something?”
She picked up
the phone and made a call. She turned away so I couldn’t hear what she was
When she hung
up, she put a sign on the counter that said, ‘This counter closed. Please use
other counter” with an arrow pointing to the empty podium at the next gate. She
plucked her purse from under the counter and strode away in a fast trot; like
she’d just robbed an ATM and was headed for the getaway car.
“Wait,” I said.
I sprinted to catch up with her. “Hawaiian Airlines has a stellar safety
rating. And the best on-time arrival record in the business.”
She didn’t even
turn around to thank me for the suck-up.
I slowed and
then stopped. There was nothing I could do but sit and wait.
A couple of
weeks earlier I’d left my shop on Baldwin Street and gone next door to the
da Vida. The
that story about the blind men and the elephant—it’s different things to
different people. To the locals it’s a grocery store, with milk and eggs and
disposable diapers—for both babies and grandma. To tourists it’s a place to
grab a picnic lunch for the four-hour drive up the Hana Highway or to buy a
boogie board for playing in the waves at Baldwin Beach. For pot heads and
surfers the store stocks rolling papers and Sex Wax. But like most things in
Hawaii, it’s not for the budget-conscious. If you want cheap, go to the
in Kahului; if you want handy, check out the
My best friend,
Farrah Milton, runs the
da Vida and she has for
nearly twenty years. That wouldn’t be surprising except the woman is the same
age as I am, thirty-five. She inherited the store when her hippie parents died
in a car accident while she was still in high school.
busy?” I said as I came in. The
bell on the
door tried to drown me out but I was used to it and I adjusted my volume to
“As a bee,”
Farrah said. “But I’m not making honey; I’m making money!”
It was one of the few times I’d ever seen Farrah
excited about how her business was doing. She’d more or less adopted her
parent’s lifestyle along with the store and that included a counter-culture
disdain for all things capitalist.
I entered a contest from my magazine distributor and
“What was the
peddled the most
magazines in August would win a prize. And I
did it. I even beat out the ABC Stores and
possible?” I said. “You have way less customers than a Front Street ABC Store,
and probably only a tenth of what they get down at the
“Yeah, I know.
But I’ve got a secret weapon. Guess what it is?”
I waited for
her to go on. Farrah and I have this thing about guessing games. She loves ‘
; I hate ‘
. Every now and
then I go along, but this wasn’t one of those times.
hurt. “Don’t you want to know?”
I nodded. It
wasn’t a total surrender, but darn close.
“I give a free
copy to everybody who comes in.” She beamed as if she’d just cracked a safe
Think about it. Even if you only have like fifty
customers a day you can win if you give everyone a magazine. It worked.”
“But how much
did you have to pay for all those magazines?”
“Way less than
the cost of the prize,” she said.
Huh. I had to
hand it to her. It was starting to make sense, in a Farrah sort of way.
“An all-expenses-paid weekend at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in
I get an ocean view suite, and it includes Sunday brunch. I’ve
heard their brunch is bitchin’. You know the Royal Hawaiian’s the hotel they
call ‘The Pink Palace’.”
“Oh, I know.
Remember, I went to college over there. When the rich kids’ parents came to
town that’s where they stayed.”
“Well, now I’m
going to be staying there—in a big
“But how’re you
getting to Waikiki?”
“It comes with
a plane ticket.”
I shot her my ‘
“I know. I’m
have to work on that.”
Farrah had only
used air transportation once—to come to my college graduation at the University
of Hawaii in
, an area
or inland, from Waikiki. She’d been so traumatized by the experience I’d had to
liquor her up with four
at eight o’clock in the morning just to get her on the plane to come home. As
you can imagine, it didn’t end well. It’s only a half-hour flight. The entire
journey is like a dance step: slow, quick, quick, slow. The slow parts
are the takeoff and landing, and the
actual time in the air.
could plan your weekend so you go with me when I meet up with Jeff. It’s kind
of short notice, though, only three weeks from now. You’ll need to check with
the hotel and see if you can get in.”
“I’ll call ‘
today. But I
it. Maybe the flying thing’s not
work out after
At one o’clock,
the arrivals board at Gate 52 clicked over to show that Flight 38 from SFO
would arrive at one-thirty. The gate agent took her place back at the podium
and a clutch of attendants pushing a fleet of wheelchairs began lining up
I felt my blood
pressure slide down a few notches, but I still wasn’t breathing normally. Until
a couple of months ago, Jeff was the only family member I had. Losing my
brother would be like losing a limb. I’d never stop feeling the pain.
I trotted to
the counter and cleared my throat, loudly. When the agent looked up I said,
“So, now can you tell me the cause of the delay?”
She looked over
my shoulder at the floor to ceiling windows that looked out on the tarmac. “You
see any fog out there?” she said.
So much for
A week before I
was supposed to meet up with my brother I had one more wedding to do. The
wedding was scheduled for early Friday afternoon, the seventh of September. It
was being held in the clubhouse of a private community on the south side of
. I’d coordinated events there before so I wouldn’t
have to do ‘recon’ on the venue. But I still had vendors to call and arms to
twist. One thing about living and working in America’s paradise is the
laid-back lifestyle is all well and good when you’re relaxing from your
stressful job back on the mainland. But it’s not so great when you’re putting
on the most important event in a young couple’s life and the limo driver takes
off to visit his new grandbaby on the Big Island or the caterer shows up with
Korean short ribs when the bridal couple clearly ordered prime rib.
that some of the more important wedding duties are shouldered by an understudy
of sorts, my roommate Steve. Steve is a professional photographer and I use him
for all my weddings. He’s meticulous, punctual, and he’s got a great eye.
And, not only does he take fabulous photographs, but he’s also worked as
a Hollywood hair stylist and make-up artist. And, as if that wasn’t enough,
he’s a self-taught cook who can whip out meals comparable to the most
celebrated local chef. Even though
stereotype people, I’m thrilled my dear roommate fits central casting’s profile
of a twenty-first century urbane gay man to a “T”.
I got home that
Monday night and Steve had dinner waiting.
“What did I ever
do to deserve you?” I said as we tucked into a crisp Caesar salad with homemade
“Maybe in a
former life you were a nun,” he said. “Like a Mother Teresa-type nun. Not one
of those knuckle-busters like I had in grade school.”
“I didn’t think
Catholics believed in reincarnation.”
“They don’t. So
maybe you were a brave Hindu girl martyred in the fight for Indian independence
I was, good for me. This salad is fabulous.”
fabulous,” he said. Steve and I have a kind of code. He loves the word
‘fabulous.’ If I want him to dish, I simply use ‘fabulous’ in a sentence and
he’ll follow it up with something ‘fabulous’ of his own. “I got a callback from
another staff photog. They want me to present my portfolio in person.”
based in Honolulu?” I said.