It was difficult to get through the night, and then stay on to clean up the club after almost everyone else had left. Jimmy’s condition was unknown and Darren had no way to find out, except to go to Jimmy’s house and talk to his parents. Jimmy was an only child and highly doted on, which made his life so much different than Darren’s own that it was a wonder to both boys that they were such fast friends. Darren didn’t have it in him to bother the family at such a late hour, or under the circumstances of Jimmy’s injury. He would simply have to worry through the night that the results were not good until he heard something else.
It was full dark by the time he was finally done, and it wasn’t until he was closing the fence gates and making believe he was locking the chain that he saw Star Black.
The young woman sat on a parking stop at the very end of the empty lot, the part of asphalt closest to the upsloping edge of Diamond Head’s nearby flank. She sat in the very place the Bofors rounds had landed following the downpour. The mud was long gone, with the mist providing nothing more than a heavy wetness to the air all around.
“What?” was all Darren could think to say, as he walked the short distance from the chained gate to where she sat, her legs tucked up under her, her arms hugging both knees.
“He’s doing fine,” she said, without any preamble.
“What?” Darren asked again, knowing he was sounding stupid.
“Your friend Jimmy is in good condition with a very good prognosis,” Star went on as if Darren hadn’t said anything. “He should be home by tomorrow if all goes well.”
“How do you know?” Darren asked although he knew it didn’t make any difference how she knew.
Star was not given to either lengthy discussions or to telling fibs or embellishing stories.
“You going to go with that surf accident fable the Duke came up with?” she asked, not bothering to answer Darren’s question.
“You waited for me to get done with work to ask that question?” Darren said while thinking about the nature of the relationship Star might have with the Duke since she’d walked right up to him and his followers and been accepted well beyond how most Haoles were treated.
“Which question?” Star asked her voice one of pure innocence.
“Colonel Banks came to my house,” Darren said, not really caring about any of the questions asked, or the answers that might ensue.
“He’s a powerful man,” Star replied, “and you don’t want to get on his bad side. He runs that super-secret Special Forces thing here and nobody messes with him or those men that work with him.”
“Don’t I know that,” Darren breathed out in tone little more than a whisper, thinking about how the colonel had saved him from some draconian punishment for something he hadn’t done, but would never be able to say he’d never done.
He’d also never seen his father so abruptly cowed and in retreat. Darren knew that feeling well himself, and felt sorry for his father, while at the same time the whole incident thrilled him to the core.
The next day, Saturday, was field day at home. Darren worked on his part of the house, polishing brass (the door jams and handles had all lacquer removed with acetone when they moved in), scrubbing wood floors, and cleaning the windows with ammonia, and using old newspapers to dry them. Darren worked hard and fast, wanting to get over to Jimmy’s as soon as he could, but also knowing he had to endure his father’s white-glove inspection, pass that inspection, and get his twenty-five-cent allowance before he could leave. Except there was no allowance. His father informed him that he’d done a passable job getting his part of the house in shape but that, since he had a regular job his father had gotten him, he was no longer eligible for an allowance. Darren didn’t change expression, as he stood at a position of attention to receive the announcement. He made a dollar and a quarter an hour at the club with tips that about equaled that amount or even more on weekend nights. Saturday was the big night for the club. He wanted to get away as quickly as he could. His father would interpret any expression as disobedience and therefore, it would have to be punished with more work.
“Yes, sir,” Darren said, with some enthusiasm, generating a look of surprise in his father’s facial expression.
Since the incident with Colonel Bank, his father had not spoken to him. The damage to the Ford had to still be fresh on his father’s mind, Darren knew, and he fully expected that there would be some fall out that would land on him like a ton of bricks at any time, but there was nothing so far.
“Dismissed,” his father said, turning without further comment or ceremony to walk into the kitchen.
Sergeant Cross and Chef Wu were both in obvious evidence out in the main dining area of the club, when he got there which was unusual. Normally, Wu stayed back, deep inside the protective layers of stainless tables, stoves, and warmers that acted as a barricade between him and regular humanity. For some reason, he and Cross had taken up seated positions at the general officer’s corner table, the one that was positioned so that all of Waikiki was spread out down below through the giant single pane glass windows. The two men talked and smoked away, the glass-walled corner having become less visible through a thick pall of slowly swirling smoke.
“Bring a coffee, and tea for the chef,” Sergeant Cross ordered, without looking at Darren, seeming not to notice the fact that he wasn’t a waiter, and that the rest of the wait staff would be angered by his being treated as if he was one of them.
Darren left the two men and headed for the kitchen, having overheard enough of the conversation between the two men to understand that the plan to have Elvis and Duke Kahanamoku as guests for dinner was the subject they were discussing. He never made it through the kitchen swinging double doors to get the coffee and tea order, however.
“The coffee and tea are coming right out,” one of the waitresses he didn’t know by name said, her tone hard and sharp. She stood in front of the swinging doors as if guarding them against unlawful entry. Darren had no doubt that she’d likely guard the doors with physical force, if necessary.
It was a rebuke, so Darren wouldn’t get the idea he could perform wait staff duties on any kind of regular basis, although the mostly Asian group of women would never oppose Sergeant Cross or complain directly to him about anything. The negative feeling generated by the seemingly minor slight Sergeant Cross had committed was to be fully played out, but not on the Sergeant.
Darren sighed, turned, and went about his work, hauling dishes, silverware, and table cloths to prepare all the tables for dinner service.
The Cannon Club didn’t change, the only feature showing any difference from the many days before Darren had worked there, was the dance floor. For some reason, unbeknownst to anyone using the floor, the building architect had left a square portion of the ceiling fully open to the elements, although the space for the live musicians to play was covered. The dance floor was made of polished concrete. The slightest moisture laid down by rain, or even a heavy mist, made the dance floor so slippery that it was nearly impossible to stand on, much less dance on. Fortunately, the Diamond Head location was so dry, almost year-round, that the floor’s surface wasn’t much of an issue, and the only live music for dancing was played on Friday and Saturday nights.
Darren knew that he had somehow been placed in a position of danger by the Sergeant, and he needed his job at the club for at least the remainder of the summer. The women would do him in, he knew. He’d seen it happen to the busboy he’d replaced not long ago. The young man told off one of the waitresses when he was criticized for being too slow at clearing tables so waiting customers could be seated. That’s all it had taken. A week later and he was history, secretly fired and sent packing without so much as a word back to any of his friends still working at the club.
It was near the end of the second dinner service that fortune changed violently, before smiling down upon him. A group of four couples occupied one of the largest tables in the main dining area. They were Navy officers, all dressed in whites, with big gold buttons and every piece of leather they wore polished to a glittering spit shine. The order was for lobsters around. All four men, and the women who accompanied them, ordered the special full pound lobster with double beakers of heated and liquefied butter, the butter having half an inch of lemon juice on the bottom with the butter ‘floating’ on the juice below.
Darren took the order, which was finished and properly presented by Wu. His tray would hold all eight plates with the beakers gathered in the very center. It was a challenge to carry so many plates on a single flat aluminum serving tray, but Darren had done it many times before, without missing a beat or spilling a drop of anything. He arranged the plates carefully, braced the butter beakers in the very center, and then hoisted the load to his right shoulder.
The club was busy, with wait staff running around and through the open spaces between tables. Darren saw an opening to his target table, but the half-open hallway that ran around the dance floor was populated with customers and wait staff. The dance floor was empty, as the band had been sent home due to the misting conditions. Nobody wanted to dance in the rain.
Darren cut across the wide-open dance floor, his tennis shoes making a slight squeaky sound barely audible over the din of the place. His transit went perfectly well until the last few steps of his travel. The table was the first one off the far side of the dance floor. He was almost too it before he slipped slightly on the smooth wet floor. He caught himself, panic leaping to his throat. He balanced and then corrected and rebalanced his load as he fought to stay upright. He succeeded with a feeling of relief, until the flat aluminum serving tray tilted, seemingly on its own, forward, and slightly down. Just as he arrived at the table the whole load of lobster plates and butter beakers rushed onto the tabletop and slid all the way down its length, dumping lobster, butter, and lemon juice into each and every lap of each and every person at the table.
Darren stood absolutely still, the serving tray still canted down, the blood leaving his face, his chest seeming to nearly explode with horror. The Cannon Club came to a halt. All noise faded until there was complete silence.
And then the laughing started. It wasn’t other customers laughing at the horrid mess of food, butter, and lemon juice all over the four officers and their consorts. It was laughter from them, as they stood and worked to clear the mess from themselves as best they could.
Darren stood frozen in place, the tray still balanced, but empty, still tilted forward and down.
Sergeant Cross appeared out of nowhere and started yelling. He first berated Darren for his clumsiness and then sent him to the kitchen, before turning to apologize to the officers and their wives for the actions of one of his employees.
Darren waited in the kitchen for the ax to fall. Amazingly, the other female members of the wait staff, one and all, came to console him. He was the best busboy they ever had, they said, but their tone converted everything they said to the past tense.
Sergeant Cross came through the swinging doors. He motioned for Darren to follow him to his tiny office in the back. Once there, Cross closed the door carefully.
“I had to say all that to mollify them, although I think they’re mostly too drunk to care what happened,” he said, to Darren’s complete surprise.
“We’re even when you walk out that door, understand me?” the Sergeant said, pointing his right index finger at Darren’s chest.
“Yes, Sergeant,” Darren replied, his relief so great he could say nothing else and nothing further.
“Stay in here for a while, and then get back to work,” the Sergeant said, and then left the small office, closing the door behind him.
The night, after that disastrous event, went by uneventfully, only Wu giving Darren any idea that everything might be returning to normal by telling him that the big Elvis dinner was going to happen in two weeks and that he would be promoted to wait-staff for that night only. Darren was elated, even though he knew, in his heart of hearts, that the existing wait staff would never forgive him completely for the earlier violation. The club had no waiters. Only females worked as waitresses and they were very proud of that established fact. Not only that, but all the waitresses were locals. None were Haole women, although that was never discussed by anyone.
After dinner and clean up, the staff departed one and two at a time until only Darren was left to close up.
He needed Jimmy desperately. Jimmy would know exactly how to handle each and every nuance of the complexities that had been thrown his way. Sunday could not come too soon, and Darren could only pray that Jimmy was not only to be released from the hospital but that he’d be the same Jimmy he’d come to know and love.
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