Authors: JoAnn Bassett
KAUA'I ME A RIVER
© 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 dead, is
in the United States of America
by JoAnn Bassett:
of the Tiger
one’s for Diana and Roger Paul.
for including us in your Kaua'i
hau’oli la hanau
Up until noon I’d avoided
thinking about my birthday. But then the mail carrier came in and thumped a
stack of bills and bridal catalogs down on my desk and waved a white business
envelope under my nose.
“You know anybody this name?” growled
the mailman. It wasn’t actually a mail “man”, but a mail “lady,” but not by
I stared at the envelope. The
name I go by is Pali Moon. But the letter in question was addressed to my birth
name—a lengthy string of celestial gibberish that my 1970’s hippie parents
must’ve considered real ‘far out.’ I never use my real name. In fact, I can
count on one hand the number of people who even know it. But there it was.
“Oh, this must be a friend
messing with me,” I said. I hoped the mail carrier hadn’t noticed my eyes bug
out when I’d read my birth name and put two and two together and realized this letter
had come on my birthday. Even under the pressure of her scowl I managed to come
up with an almost believable fib. “My college roommate and I took Astronomy
together and we came up with crazy handles for each other.”
“I didn’ know,” she said. “I almost
throw it in the ‘return’ pile but I think I betta ask. We gotta do the
job, ya know.”
, and sorry about
the confusion. I’ll tell her to knock it off.”
The return address was a
lawyer’s office in Hanalei, Kaua’i. I assumed it was a lawyer because,
honestly, who else but a lawyer would use the word ‘Esquire’ after their name?
What does the word even mean? It conjures up an image of a chap in top hat and
leather breeches gripping a riding crop and clopping through town on a chestnut
mare. Not exactly the image I had of the residents of the little town of
Hanalei on the north shore of Kaua’i. Hanalei’s enduring claim to fame is it
was the inspiration for a hippie-days ode to
“Puff the Magic Dragon.”
It took me a minute to calm down
after the mail carrier left. Why would a lawyer in Kaua’i send me birthday
My birthday has always been a
downer. When I was a kid, I didn’t like it because it fell in mid-June when school
was out for the summer. I never got to wear the crumpled Burger King crown in class
and I never got to ask the girls in my room to a sleepover. Now that I’m a
fully-functioning adult, my birthday bums me out for a different reason. It’s
not the getting older. I don’t mind getting older. I turned thirty-five this
year and it’s fine. I’m a lot more confident at thirty-five than I ever was at
twenty-five. What’s depressing is my birthday shines a light on my almost
complete lack of family, or
. In Hawaii,
backbone of society. But aside from a half-brother on the mainland, I don’t
share even a smidgen of DNA with another soul on the planet.
The good news is I’m usually too
busy in June to sit around fretting about my birthday. I’m the owner of “Let’s
Get Maui’d,” a wedding planning business in Pa’ia, Maui. June is my
second-busiest month; December being number one. For the past couple of years
I’ve managed to dodge my ‘special day’ by concentrating on pleasing fussy
brides on their ‘special day.’ And that’s fine with me.
Soon after the mail arrived my
best friend, Farrah Milton, called me on my cell. “Happy birthday, Pali. When
are you coming over to get your present?” Farrah works right next door to my
shop, but she has to call and ask me to come over if she wants to see me. She runs
the Gadda da Vida Grocery and she can’t leave the store for even a couple of minutes.
The residents of Pa’ia are prone to ‘the munchies’ at all times of the day or
night. A locked door between a guy and the Snickers bar he’s craving is an
invitation to major property damage.
“You free now?” I said.
“Not free, but the price is
“Okay. I’ll be right over.”
I went in through the front. There’s
an annoying little tinkly bell on the front door that announces anyone coming
or going. I used to come in through the back to circumvent the bell, but Farrah
got jumped last year so now I’m careful to avoid startling her.
hau’oli la hanau
she said, wishing me happy birthday. She dashed around the counter and gripped me
in a tight hug. Farrah isn’t fat, at least by American standards, but she isn’t
wiry like me, either. If I were making a stick figure of Farrah I’d draw her
middle section as sort of an oval. I’d put in a sideways “8” to emphasize the
girly parts. She has major “girls” that are hard to ignore.
“You don’t look a day over
thirty-four,” she said with a wink. “You and Hatch going out tonight?”
“No, he’s working today. He’s
planning something great for tomorrow, though.”
“Well, I’ve got something for
you right now.” She handed me a small box wrapped in newspaper and tied with a length
of dried palm frond. “Totally recycled wrapping. Cool, eh? But no worries, I
didn’t re-gift you or nuthin’. I picked your present out special.”
I tore off the wrapping. Inside was
a jeweler’s box. I don’t wear jewelry so I hesitated. I needed to prepare
myself to say, ‘
Oh, I love it’
when I really didn’t.
I popped up the lid. Inside was
a necklace with a gleaming Tahitian pearl strung on a black rubbery cord. For
someone who isn’t into jewelry it was a great compromise.
“Wow, it’s perfect,” I said
truthfully. “Really gorgeous.” The large pearl was a deep smoky gray. When I
held it up to the light it shimmered with jade green and rosy pink highlights.
“Okay, like I get it that you
don’t dig jewelry, but your birthstone is pearl. And I thought the black rubber
thing makes it more like an amulet than a necklace. And you know how I feel
Farrah’s chosen lifestyle puts a
capital “C” on the words ‘counter-culture’. She owns an impressive assemblage of
Tarot cards, Ouija boards, crystals, pyramids and charms. Her collection of all
things paranormal is along the lines of a foodie collecting cookbooks or a cat
lover filling her house with cat calendars, kitty T-shirts and feline figurines.
for the beautiful
amulet,” I said. “I’m going to put it on right now.”
She helped me with the clasp and
we hugged again. A customer came in so we said our good-byes and I slipped out
the back. In the fuss over my birthday present I’d totally forgotten to tell
her about the lawyer letter.
I took the unopened envelope home
with me that night. Farrah had been busy with customers for the rest of the
afternoon, so I hadn’t been able to go back over and show it to her. I wanted to
open it with a friend standing by to offer moral support. Next to Farrah, my
roommate Steve is just such a friend. From the day he moved in we’ve been way more
than just roommates. We’re close. Not in the way you might expect a boy/girl thing
to go, but close like brother and sister. A couple of years ago when he
responded to my ‘roommate wanted’ notice I’d balked. I was a bit leery of
taking on a guy as a house mate. I didn’t need the aggravation of sexual
tension and double entendres with my morning coffee. Luckily, Steve cleared things
up right away.
“Uh, are you in favor of gay
marriage?” he’d asked after I’d given him a short tour of my three bedroom, two
bath house in Hali’imaile.
“Well, yeah. I’m a wedding
planner. I’m pretty much in favor of any kind of marriage there is.”
“No, what I mean is, I’m gay. So
would you find it offensive if I had friends, you know, like gay friends, visit
me here at the house?”
“You mean like sleep-overs?”
“Look, I don’t care what you do
in the privacy of your own room. I only care that you obey the law, keep the
noise down and clean up after yourself.”
“You know guys like me sort of hold
the patent on clean,” he’d said. “You want to check out my car? You could eat sushi
off the floor mats.”
“Got it. So, I guess my next
line is ‘
to your new home.’ That is, if you think you’d like to
live here with me.”
He hugged me. And that was the
start of a beautiful friendship.
On my birthday night I parked my
decrepit green Geo Metro on the street and came up the front steps. I rarely use
the front door, but since it was a special occasion I thought I’d get festive.
“Hey,” yelled Steve. “I’m in the
kitchen making you a fabulous dinner. I hope you weren’t expecting a surprise
“Thanks but once a year is
enough for me.”
Steve had organized a big
blow-out party when I’d been released from witness protection right before
Christmas. It’d been fun—the party, not witness protection—but I was glad he’d
stifled the urge to go for an encore after only six months.
“I’m pulling out all the stops,
girl,” he said as I came into the kitchen. “Steven hinted he’d like to be invited,
but I told him I wanted to give you my full attention.”
“I still think it’s funny your
boyfriend’s name is Steven. Do you both turn around when someone at the Ball
and Chain calls your name?”
He looked puzzled. “No. Because
his name is Steven and mine is Steve. I think I can recognize my own name when
I hear it.”
“Ooh, touchy,” I said. “Sounds
like this topic’s come up before. Sorry. Anyway, speaking of names, get a load
of this.” I handed him the still-sealed envelope. Steve was one of the handful of
people who knew my real name.
“What’s this? Looks like it’s
from a lawyer,” he said.
“Yeah. A lawyer on Kaua’i.”
“Weren’t you born on Kaua’i?
Maybe it’s something to do with your mom.”
My mother had been a 1970’s
hippie who’d lived at Taylor Camp, a hippie haven on the North Shore. She died
when I was five years old. My little brother and I were taken in by her best
friend, a woman we called Auntie Mana. Auntie moved us to Maui to be closer to
her extended family. As a single mom with three teenagers of her own and now two
kids—that’s what Hawaiians call foster kids—Auntie Mana
needed all the help she could get.
“I don’t know. It’s been almost
thirty years. You’d think anything to do with my mom would’ve been cleared up by
“Why haven’t you opened it?”
“I guess I’m afraid of what it
“Do you want me to do it?” He
pulled a paring knife from the knife block on the counter.
“Sheesh, you’ve got a black belt
in martial arts and you’re scared of a piece of paper,” Steve said in his
voice. “Maybe you’ve got ‘p
“What the heck is that?”
“Fear of paper cuts. Look it up, it’s a real word.”
He slit the envelope and pulled
out the letter. It was a single sheet. From what I could see, it didn’t look
like there was much writing on it.
“Hmm” Steve said when he was
finished reading. “Confucius say:
You are about to embark on a long journey
“Well, I guess a trip to a
neighbor island would be a long journey for Confucius,” he said. “They didn’t
have airplanes back then, you know.”
“Give me that.”
Steve handed me the letter.
I read it. When I finished, I
was even more confused than before.
Sure enough, the letter was from
a law office. The attorney who’d sent it wasn’t the same person as the name on
the return address, however. The signature was that of one Valentine Fabares,
and she didn’t use the honorific “Esquire” after her name but rather “Attorney-at-Law.”