THE DUKE

Part XVI

 

Darren moved toward the Moana Hotel, using the hot sidewalk instead of the more protective cooler sand along the shore.  He’d left his flip flops in the car, but it had only occurred to him that he’d done so when he began his trek back to the hotel.  His feet hurt, but not overly much, as he’d built up quite a callous on the sole of each foot from running around so much without any cover on his feet at all.  Just before going up the steps and entering Lewis of Hollywood, he made his decision.  His place wasn’t at Jimmy’s side.  He wasn’t family and he had had enough experience with the Naval Hospital that he knew he wouldn’t be welcomed with open arms by the stiffly starched and rigidly traditional operation.

Darren would have avoided seeing his Mom if he could have but knew life would be unlivable when she came home later to be enraged about not being filled in.

The shop was filled with women of all kinds, sitting in cutting chairs, drying chairs, or being worked over getting shampoos and rinses.

“How’s Jimmy,” his mother yelled, from one of the cutting chairs, spinning her client’s chair so that the older woman faced Darren.

“He’s at Tripler,” Darren responded, shakily, suddenly embarrassed at becoming the center of attention.

“They flew in a helicopter,” his mother went on.  “He must be in real trouble.”

A million thoughts went through Darren’s mind at once about the potential of damage Jimmy had suffered, but he knew deep down there was nothing he could say about the subject because he really knew nothing.  The fact that his friend had been flown to the hospital aboard a military helicopter probably, had nothing to do with Jimmy’s injuries, but there was nothing to be said about that either.

“Ah, they said he’d be okay,” Darren intoned, no emotion in his voice, never expecting his reply to be accepted.  His mother was Germanically harsh, under most conditions, and never missed much of anything.

“Okay,” she replied, spinning the chair back to where it had been originally been positioned. “Go home and wait to hear.”

Once again, Darren was surprised.  Without knowing much of anything his mother had come to the same conclusion he himself had.  Darren waited for her to say more, or for any of the other stylists to comment, since they’d all been so concerned earlier, but nobody said anything.  Darren turned and departed the way he’d come.

The car was right where Jimmy had left it.  Darren pulled the keys that the disappeared West Pointer had given him from his back pocket. The Spyder’s engine turned over and fired up almost instantly like it had been waiting for any opportunity to power the car out of there.

Normally, given the opportunity to drive the Corvair alone, an opportunity he’d never had, Darren would have found an open stretch of highway to let the Spyder’s turbocharger howl the vehicle up to top speed.  Jimmy always said it would do a hundred but had never taken it there.  Darren drove slowly, down Kalakaua, intending to round the tip of Diamond Head and bring the convertible into Fort Ruger, and the officers’ quarters, from the rear of the dominating crater.

Darren didn’t think of Star Black until he saw her. She was sitting alone at one of the park tables on the side of the road where the Kapiolani Park Bandstand stood, permanently erected and open between the road and entrance to the Honolulu Zoo.

She sat with her feet pulled up, her arms wrapped around her knees, and a look of expectancy on her facial features. The wind blew her deeply black hair off toward Diamond Head.  Darren wondered about such a young woman of such beauty but so seemingly hardened by life.

Darren pulled the Corvair over to the side of the road, put the transmission in neutral, and looked across the grass to where she sat.

“Where have you been?” Star asked, languidly unfolding her body to stand next to the picnic table.

Darren made no reply, his head turning toward the ocean, his attention drawn by the fact that there was nobody there.  The entire mass of police, military, civilians, and even the islanders themselves were gone.  There was no one on Queens Beach and only an occasional tourist couple walking down toward Waikiki from the zoo.

Star crossed the road at a loping amble, ran around to the passenger side of the Spyder, and hopped over the closed door.  Landing heavily down on the well-padded seat she seemed to settle in before turning her full attention on Darren.

“You going to punch it or sit here idling away all day?” she murmured, before turning her head to watch the road in front of them.

“Okay,” was all Darren could get out. He looked back, wanting to be particularly cautious, as the day had become a mess of failed experiences and it wasn’t half over.

They drove in silence up the road and past the Coast Guard station.  The builders of the road around the tip of Diamond Head, after the war, had constructed many turnouts and lookouts, the view being wonderfully spectacular at every point from the raised conveyance.  The view was great even driving by in a car, as the lookouts dotted by, only low walls used to protect the public from falling over while sightseeing.  Parking at the lookouts was common, especially in the evening when taking a girlfriend there was referred to as "going to watch the submarine races at Diamond Head.” Darren thought about the expression as they whizzed by each lookout, but the thought was driven from his mind when Star spoke again.

“So, you want to go out and see what this little unknown hotrod will do?”

Darren was shocked again, a condition that he found to be frequent whenever the strange girl was around.  How could she come to the same conclusion about what he wanted to do without ever having talked to him about it?

He was struck dumb since he didn’t want to admit ever having had such a thought, nor the violation it would be to take his friend’s car and secretly push it to its limit without his knowledge.

“You thought about it and decided not to because of what happened,” Star concluded, the sentence not being phrased as a question.

Darren sucked in some passing air, trying to show no emotion by using the passing wind and his concentration on driving to avoid saying anything or looking at her. The woman was so uncanny in coming to her conclusions that she was scary.  Really scary.  Like ‘read your mind,’ kind of scary.

“I’m taking the car back to Jimmy’s,” Darren said, finally, hoping that Star would leave the other issue alone. “He’s going to be okay the military guy told me, and I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I’m not family.”

“That was a whole weird scene at the beach,” Star replied. “Jimmy was great in facing them down, though.”

Darren frowned but kept his attention on making the turn onto Diamond Head Road, to get to the backside of the crater.  Jimmy had faced them down… Darren said to himself.  Facing someone or a group down didn’t have to be getting hit in the face as part of the bargain.  The only ‘down’ had been where Jimmy’s body had struck the stand.  Darren watched Star, as surreptitiously as he could while driving.  She hadn’t communicated anything about where she wanted to be taken or dropped but he was too afraid to ask.

The turned right on 18th  Street, then left on Kilauea, up the steep hill until turning the Spyder left again on Makapuu Avenue to come into the main body of camp housing from the Waikiki side.  Star lived across the common, or what had come to be a baseball field over time.  Without comment from her, Darren had decided to drop her at home, leave the Corvair at Jimmy’s place and then climb the wall where 16th Street dead-ended into the fifteen-foot security wall that ran all the way around the base. The wall was made of lava rocks held together with cement mortar. It was intimidating but extremely easy for any teenager to climb and then descend on the other side.  Lava chunks sticking out all over allowed for great foot and hand gripping surfaces.

“The good news about Jimmy,” Star said, as they made the last turn into the side entrance to the housing area.

“What good news?” Darren blurted out, in questions, unable to stop himself.

“Jimmy got hit in the head,” Star replied, raising herself up to jump from the Spyder once Darren brought it to a complete halt in front of her housing unit.  “If there’s anybody who can spare a bit of brainpower, then Jimmy sure fits the bill.”

Star hopped out of the car without opening the door, just the reverse of how she’d gotten in earlier, and then was gone without another word.  Darren wondered about how he always felt like he was a bug, or less, in her view of existence.  Jimmy had some-place with the strange girl but even that was as odd as everything else about her.

Returning the car to Jimmy’s house was uneventful.  He left the keys in the glove box, after carefully backing the Spyder into the garage.  For some reason the Dorrenbacher’s never closed or locked the garage, so he left the sliding door open.

When he scaled the wall at the “T,” formed by 16th Street butting into Kilauea, he hit the concrete running.  He raced at top speed the three blocks to his own house, trying to use the heavy exercise to calm himself.  On the outside he appeared fine, he knew, since nobody had commented about the fact that inside, he was an emotional nightmare. Jimmy was his hold on real life. Jimmy’s family was a real family, not the fractured fighting thing his own was. Jimmy was accomplished and revered by his parents while Darren was constantly criticized and diminished by his own.  In fact, Jimmy’s parents complimented Darren more than any adults had ever done in his life.  What would he do if Jimmy didn’t make it?  His plan to go off to college was closely tied to remaining in contact with Jimmy for friendship and advice.

When he got to the lava rock wall running low in front of his own house, he stopped to catch his breath.  He leaned on one of the high rock posts that stood on either side of the driveway leading down to the garage that served as the entire basement of the home.  He saw his mother’s 57 Ford parked sideways, out from the carport the house above served as.  He saw his father’s work car parked next to his mom’s.  Darren leaned out from the column of mortared stones that hid him, to stare at the right side of the Ford.  The passenger door was dented in. He felt scared and relieved at the same time. Although Darren had his driver’s license and permission to drive the Ford on occasion, in practice he never did.  His mother always had the car for her job, or for when both his mom and dad were going out somewhere together.

“Oh no,” he breathed out, knowing what had to be coming when he went into the house. His mother had crashed the car and there was going to be hell to pay. His father would go berserk. It had happened once before when the only car they had was a 49 Chevy, and the ensuing battle between them nearly destroyed half the interior of their house at the time.

Darren turned away from the driveway and headed to the front door, his thoughts on how the day couldn’t get worse. Before he could grip the knob and turn it the door swung inward, and Judy Levy stepped out, with a big smile on her face.

“It’s only a car,” she laughed out.  “I talked to them and I think they understand. Because of what happened to Jimmy you were upset, and not yourself. Your mom forgives you for taking the car without her knowing or giving permission.”

Judy walked toward the sidewalk, only looking back with her devastating smile to meet my father’s eyes, as he sat and glowered, waiting for me to come fully into the house so he could begin.  She glanced once at me, blinking her big eyes in her way, and then headed back, walking the reverse of the way I’d just come from Fort Ruger.  I steeled myself for the confrontation with my parents over the car accident I hadn’t had but would have to admit to, and to the loss of driving privileges for the same car I’d also never really had.  There was no strength within me to deny the accident.   Dad would simply take it out on my mom if he knew. I had to go to work at the Cannon Club so there wasn’t much he could do to me physically, because work was more a religious belief to him than any other belief he held.

A car pulled up, silently appearing out of nowhere.  There was no traffic on the too-narrow 16th Avenue, so cars were uncommon, and those that passed never stopped in front of our house.  I turned to stare, doing anything to delay entering the house.

The West Pointer stepped out of the driver’s door and stood where he was, the large Chevrolet sedan idling.

“Your friend is going to be fine,” he said, his voice almost too soft to hear. “They have to sandbag his head and keep him down for a day or two.  A small hole was drilled in the back of his skull to release the pressure.  I thought you might want or need to know.”

I could think of nothing to say that might keep him where he was and therefore delay my facing my parents, but then my father pushed me aside and walked over to the passenger side of the still idling Chevy.

“What’s your business here?” my Dad asked.

“I was filling your son in about the surfing accident down at the beach today, and how his friend was doing, but I’ll be on my way now.”  The West Pointer started to get back inside the car.

“We know all about the accident, and you didn’t say who you were or what your business is that brought you to my home,” my Dad said, using his tough Coast Guard boatswain’s mate voice.

The West Pointer stood to his full height once again.

“If you have a question then end the sentence with a Sir,” the man said quietly, his tone more a whispered hiss than anything else.

“I don’t know you,” Darren’s father replied, this time a bit more hesitantly.

“You don’t know me, Sir,” the West Pointer said, pronouncing the last word much harder than the rest, “but I know you.”

Neither man said anything, both just standing and looking at one another for many seconds. Finally, Darren’s dad turned and went back into the house. The West Pointer’s gaze fell upon Darren, and the softening was as surprising as it was effective.

“Don’t be late to the club,” the West Pointer said, folding his body down to get into the car.

After he was gone, I turned back to the still-open door of the house.  Neither my father nor my mom was anywhere to be seen.  I went to my room, changed for work, and then left, retracing Judy’s steps toward the base, thinking all the time that somehow, the West Pointer’s visit had changed everything at home, at least for the time being.

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