Authors: Jill Marie Landis
Sophie signaled to a tall, thin man with a gray ponytail. Buzzy, the waiter with no last name, had to squeeze his way thought the crowd to get to the bar and pick up the tray of drinks. When he finally made it to the bar, Buzzy fumbled his notepad and finally tore off three more pages of orders for Sophie to fill. He smiled at Em then concentrated on lifting the heavy tray to his shoulder.
She’d hired the aging hippie to officially wait tables until their return when she promoted Sophie last week. Buzzy was always around, though not always sober, but he was trustworthy and always voluntarily pitched in bussing tables whenever they were slammed. Em was confident Buzzy would stay on the wagon until the end of his shifts. If not, Sophie would fire him.
“If you can juggle this place while we’re gone, I’m sure you can handle Letterman.” Em watched Buzzy scan the room with a befuddled expression. “I hope he can get those to the right table,” Em said. “I’m not so sure he’s cut out for official employment.”
“Not to worry. Tiko will be full time until you get back.”
The diminutive local gal from Wailua was scooting through the crowd with a megawatt smile that never dimmed. Tiko usually filled in part-time but with Em leaving, there was no way Sophie and Buzzy could handle busy nights without another waitress on the floor.
“How are you doing?” Sophie glanced at the next order and grabbed some rocks glasses.
“I’m baking in here.” Em picked up a napkin and dabbed perspiration from her brow and her throat.
Sophie reached over and pulled a scrap of paper napkin off Em’s neck. “You know you’re having fun when you’ve got a napkin stuck to your neck. Louie said this is your first trip off island since you moved over from the mainland. You excited?”
“I was until I got a phone call from my ex. Phillip read about the Regional Shake Off in the
. Louie was featured prominently, of course. It turns out Phillip’s going to be in Waikiki when we’re there and wants to see me. He has something to tell me.”
Ever since the reality show aired they’d all had more time in the spotlight than Em wanted or needed, but unlike her, the Maidens thrived on celebrity and so did Louie in a more casual way.
“So are you going to meet up with him?”
“My gut reaction was to say no, but things ended so badly between us that it would probably be a good idea to have some closure. Hopefully things are looking up for him. He was broke when we divorced. We both were. So I agreed to meet him for lunch, put the past to rest.”
“I’ll take it, but I hope I won’t need it.”
“Maybe if you settle the past, you’ll be able to heat things up with your detective.” Sophie winked.
detective,” Em said.
“So you say. Seems like it to me.”
Em couldn’t deny sparks flew whenever she was around Roland Sharpe, the tall, dark, and handsome
-Hawaiian detective who moonlighted as a fire knife dancer at luau shows. But it was too soon after a messy divorce to ride that wave again.
“Where is he? I thought he’d be here tonight,” Sophie said.
“He ended up on a case.”
“Wonder if it had anything to do with all the cop cars that raced by headed north a few minutes ago?”
“Probably. He called about forty minutes before. That would have given him time to drive out here.”
“Too bad he won’t be here.” Sophie nodded toward the ladies’ room door. “Looks like the old girls are good to go. Kiki said she has a special number planned.”
“When doesn’t she plan something special?”
“Hopefully they won’t set the place on fire tonight.”
“I told her all dances that involve flaming coconuts or anything to do with fire are
. Don’t let them try anything dangerous while we’re gone.”
The last time Kiki and the Maidens performed a “special” number they’d nearly burned the place down, though the incident inspired the flaming cocktail that Louie entered into the regionals.
“How much damage can they do in a week?” Sophie wondered.
“Don’t even go there.” Em saw Louie waving her over to the table and waved back.
“I’ve got this,” Sophie said. “Go join Louie. The show’s about to start.”
“Go. Your dinner is probably cold by now.”
“No worries. Kimo’s macadamia nut-crusted seared
is perfect hot or cold.”
Em left the bar and threaded her way across the room to a table right in front of the stage. Her uncle was holding court wearing a pile of lei from well-wishers. They were so thick around his neck they nearly reached his chin.
Completely oblivious of the humidity, he looked as dashing and debonair as ever in one of the colorful silk aloha shirts from his vast collection of originals made in the forties. Loose white linen pants completed his outfit. His thick white hair and golden tan accentuated his deep blue eyes. Six foot two and in great shape, Louie could command a room with his megawatt smile.
“Here she is.” He rose and pulled out Em’s chair with a flourish and remained standing until she was seated. “Em, you know everyone, don’t you?”
She smiled at the people gathered the table and nodded.
“Of course. Thank you all for coming.”
“Are you kidding me?” Jack Robbins, the part-timer from New York, had to yell to be heard over the din. The crowd nearly drowned out the Tiki Tones, the three-pieced combo playing old retro Hawaiian tunes on stage. “We’re delighted to be here!” Jack pounded Louie on the back with one hand and fanned himself with a dessert menu with the other. “Louie and Irene were the first people we ever met when we bought our condo here thirty years ago. Never saw two people as full of aloha, that’s for sure.”
“They were quite a team,” Em agreed.
A life-sized portrait of Louie’s deceased wife, Irene Kakaulanipuakaulani Hickam Marshall graced the wall above the stage. Irene appeared to be smiling her regal Hawaiian smile down on the revelers. Each evening Louie wrapped up the nightly entertainment with a song he had written especially for Irene, his Tiki Goddess. All the old timers, the
, and the newcomers,
, joined in to help Louie salute the one true love of his life.
Em took a bite of her
. It was so delicious she stifled a moan of delight. Kimo, their chef, was Kiki’s husband. He had outdone himself tonight. The thick fillet of
was seared to perfection. His aioli sauce to die for, and the
was nestled on a creamy bed of whipped purple sweet potatoes.
“Aren’t you having a Great Ball of Fire?” Annette Robbins, Jack’s wife, was a blonde. She was seated across from Em. She held up her glass for a toast.
“I’m fine with water.” Em figured it best to stay clearheaded while the Hula Maidens were on stage. She picked up her water glass. “Plenty of time for a drink later. Cheers, though.”
Just then Brandon, one of the Tiki Tones, executed a drumroll, and the leader of the band Danny Cook slipped into MC mode.
“A-looo-ha!” he shouted.
“A-looo-ha!” The crowd called back. Cheering and whistling commenced. Danny waited until the audience died down then said, “You all know why we’re here.”
someone yelled in Hawaiian.
“Well, just in case you maybe stumbled in here off the cruise ship and have no idea whazzup, we’re here to give Uncle Louie Marshall, owner of the Tiki Goddess, a big send off. As most of you know, tomorrow he’s going to Oahu to do us all proud at the Western Regionals of the National Cocktail Shake Off competition.”
Brandon hit a drumroll again. The crowd roared. Beaming from ear to ear, Louie got to his feet and waved to the assemblage. He stepped on stage, his eyes suspiciously bright when he took the mic. He let his gaze roam the room before he spoke.
Em knew Louie loved nothing more than packing the place full of people from all walks of life to share a few hours of fun. He truly was the ambassador of aloha and good times.
“Thank you all for being here tonight to celebrate with us. I’m so thankful for all of your support and aloha. I’m really looking forward to heading to the contest even though I’m never anxious to leave Kauai. As you all know, Kauai
no ka ‘oi
. Kauai is da best!”
He waited for the thunderous applause and wolf whistles to die down.
“I’m excited that my niece, Em, is accompanying me to Waikiki. She’s been such a big help that she deserves a little
too.” He paused and chuckled. “For those of you who don’t know,
means to take a pleasurable trip. Hopefully, it’ll be really pleasurable, and I’ll be bringing home a trophy to share with all of you.”
Louie opened his arms to include the whole room and made a gracious bow before he turned the mic back over to Danny.
Danny glanced toward the small alcove between the ladies’ room and the bar where Kiki and the others waited just out of sight.
“The Hula Maidens are anxious to perform for you tonight, so without further ado, here’s their leader, Kiki Godwin!”
A hush fell over the room. Fans of the reality television series
Trouble in Paradise
knew Kiki was the outspoken leader of the troupe of aging dancers. The minute she appeared the crowd went wild. Cameras and cell phones came out, and people jockeyed to get a better shot of her in her full performance regalia.
Her faux-leopard, off-the-shoulder full length sarong was so tight it forced her to take mincing steps. When she reached the stage, Danny offered his hand. She smiled at the crowd, shrugged, winked, and hiked up her skirt in order to manage the steps.
Her hair was swept into a tight bun on the crown of her head and held in place with a pair of long ebony chopsticks. Small golden tikis dangled from the ends. Kohl eyeliner swept almost all the way to her temple to give her an exotic Asian look. Her false eyelashes were so thick they looked like fans flapping up and down when she blinked. Her lips were bright crimson outlined in deep magenta.
She waited in silence, drinking in the applause while the crowd cheered and continued to snap photos. Kiki turned left and right, striking poses that would have been sexy if she were thirty years younger. Now they were just odd. With her heavy lashes flapping and golden tikis bobbing, she was a sight to behold, and she milked every minute.
Finally Danny waved his arms and motioned for everyone to sit. As people settled back into their chairs, Kiki blew into the mic to test it.
In a low, seductive voice she began, “You’ve all seen the movie
, haven’t you?”
There was scattered applause, and some folks even answered back.
“Well, if you haven’t, you should. It was filmed right here on Kauai in 1957, back when folks on the mainland were working hard to buy their first homes and nice cars in the suburbs. But every once in a while some of those hardworking folks dared to dream of traveling somewhere that was still primitive, somewhere forbidden, somewhere that spoke to the savage in all of them.
“So they gathered around barbecues in their backyards, mixed up cocktails with exotic names like Mai Tais and Singapore Slings, and after couple of sips they were dreaming of hot tropic nights, trade winds, and palm trees. They dreamed of tearing off their neckties and aprons and sailing away to distant shores where they could dance to the beat of native drums and either chase pagan goddesses or become one.”
She paused and took a long, slow breath and let the crowd imagine. Then in just above a whisper she said, “Tonight we will present what we call our Dance of the Pagan Goddesses just for you. This dance is dedicated to Uncle Louie, and we sincerely hope it brings him luck at the Shake Off. So now, without further ado, the Hula Maidens are proud to present our rendition of ‘Bali Hai,’ from the movie
KIKI SLOWLY TURNED and mermaid-walked off the stage. Everyone in the room waited in breathless anticipation.
Danny stepped up to the mic holding a conch shell in his hands. Brandon began a slow and steady drumbeat. Em glanced over at Louie who was as mesmerized as the rest of the crowd. She wished she could relax, but there was no telling what Kiki and the others had cooked up. All she could do was pray it wasn’t dangerous.
The Maidens filed on stage more or less (mostly less) moving in time to Brandon’s steady drumbeat. Eventually there were seven of them crowded on stage: Kiki, of course, and then came Flora Carillo, trinket shop owner. There was Suzi Matamoto, a successful North Shore realtor, Big Estelle Huntington, a retiree so named because of her Amazonian height and also to distinguish her from Little Estelle, her ninety-two-year-old mother who was also named Estelle. They were joined by Trish Oakley, a professional photographer, as well as Lillian Smith, a recent Iowa transplant, and Precious Cottrell, a hairdresser who was a little person and the newest member of the troupe.
All of the Maidens were dressed in ultra-tight, off-the-shoulder leopard print sarongs just like Kiki’s. In her leopard print with her top knot speared with chopsticks, Precious reminded Em of Pebbles on
. She had taken to dancing with the group like a duck to water.
Watching Precious’s short legs tackle the low steps to the stage, Em tapped Louie on the shoulder.
When he leaned toward her she asked, “Do you think we should build a ramp for Precious?”
Louie leaned closer to Em’s ear and whispered, “If we build a ramp then Little Estelle can ride that motorized sit-down contraption onto the stage. We’d never get her off.”
“You’re right. Bad idea.”
Little Estelle got into enough trouble
stage. Supposedly a former Rockette, she sped around on a Gadabout, a powered scooter equipped with an irritating horn. She attended every Hula Maiden meeting and performance with her daughter.