THE DUKE

Part XXX

The night’s work was one of intent busy work, Darren running back and forth to the kitchen from all dining positions out on the open floor.  A small musical group played on the small stage set behind the open-air dance floor.  Darren avoided the dancers and the floor, for fear of any moisture causing him to lose traction and potentially unloading a huge heavy tray of either filled dinner plates waiting to be consumed from or empty crockery and silverware.

The night passed, and Darren was able to get dressed and get out of the house before the morning dawn was in all of its full glory.  He had nowhere to go at the early hour so he went to Jimmy’s house to once again, wait for Jimmy to get up.

He sat in front of the house, admiring the flowers fanning out over the front yard, like a giant umbrella made of thousands of much smaller umbrellas.  The aroma was one so pleasing it was very easy to close his eyes and simply breathe in and out slowly.  He could not help smiling and then wondering what Wisconsin would smell like.  The coming fall would be the first in years where he would need to be staying mostly one of wearing heavy coats and staying indoors for almost half a year.
Jimmy finally came out, although it was just after sunrise and to Darren, who’d been waiting more than an hour, it felt like several hours had gone by.

“I figured you’d be out here,” Jimmy said, laughing lightly, before sitting down next to Darren on the top step of the front porch.

‘What’d you do, pee the bed again?” Jimmy asked.

Darren was instantly hurt by the facetious question, having shared with Jimmy his experiences with the bed-wetting issue he’d finally gotten over.  It had been such a pleasure to move to Hawaii and get his own bedroom with a floor made of polished wood.  The ‘cure’ he’d devised had been based on that floor’s hard surface and an overhanging quilt cover. Instead of sleeping in the bed, Darren would go to bed every night, and then stay awake until it seemed like everyone in the house was asleep.  At that point, he’d crawl over the side of the mattress, pull up the hanging cover, and settle himself on the hardwood surface under the bed.  In the morning it was only a little inconvenient to clean up any mess he might have made in the night before anyone else got up.  The best part, other than not being humiliated for wetting the bed or having to launder the mess and air out the mattress, was that the bed didn’t have to be made.  His dad did take note of the fact that the rate of use in toilet paper in the hall bathroom was more than the other two bathrooms combined, but that mystery was never solved.  Only through the last three months had Darren finally escaped from the scourge of wetting the bed.  He could sleep a whole night through in his bed, finally without fear of spoiling it.  He didn’t know why and had come not to care why only wishing that the time he’d spent sleeping badly and fewer hours than normal under his bed had created an unexpected result wherein he only seemed to need a few hours of sleep a night instead of the eight or nine he’d once craved.  The hours when he wasn’t asleep in his house were fraught with danger because he had to stay silent, without light, unless he went out into the night.

“I still go out,” he replied to Jimmy, although the words did not belie much of a reply at all to the question Jimmy’d asked.

“Yeah,” I haven’t forgotten,” Jimmy replied, looking over at Darren’s profile.  “I didn’t mean anything by my smart-ass remark,” he continued, seeming to indicate that he was aware that the comment had hurt his friend.

“Tomorrow’s the big day,” Darren said, changing the subject.

“More like big night,” Jimmy came back, “given that seven’s around sunset and considered late in this strange culture we’re living in.  If you go visit her today she might just change her mind and do the work for us without us having to show up.”

“You don’t want to see Elvis?” Darren asked, surprised.

“Not if it costs you the money and your job,” Jimmy replied.  But, I think it’s a moot point, anyway.”

“Why’s that?” Darren asked.

“There’s this strange thing about you,” Jimmy said, his voice getting gentle but serious.  “Not about me, but about you.  Some people like to spend time with you, for no good reason at all that I can see.  I mean, I do too, but I’m not certain why.   What I’m getting at is that Mrs. Levy might just be one of those people who simply like to have you around and so your presence, probably much more than mine, is important to her.  You want to take the chance that I’m wrong?”

“I don't want to take any chances at all with this,” Darren replied. “I need the money and the rest of what’s left of my job.  I can’t be certain of getting a job on campus when I get to St. Norbert’s.  My uncle is head of the music department and got me in with my mixed grades but that doesn’t mean he can or will get me a job.  He once loaned me a trumpet but only for two days.  He came back, listened to my first notes, and then quietly took his trumpet, put it back in the case, and left.”

“I didn’t know you played the trumpet,” Jimmy said, surprise in his tone.

“That’s a whole other story,” Darren said, nearly sighing at the end.

“Judy and Joe Pillsbury have it a bit easier than us,” Jimmy said, no laughter left in his tone whatsoever.

“Yeah,” Darren replied, glad to have his friend back, even if the conversation had gone in a direction that was much more serious.

“We’ll go over there before the dinner to see what we can do, and if Judy’s there, then fine, and if her mother likes to have me around, then fine too.”

“Hey,” Jimmy replied, “this isn’t like being led to your own execution, or anything like that, you know. We are going to college and we’re making that happen almost all on our own, both of us. There’s got to be something said for that.”

Darren looked up and down the street.  There were a few cars pulling out of driveways and one pulling from the curb further away.  There was only one human figure visible, however.

“It’s too early for her,” Darren said, nodding his chin in the direction he was looking.

“Star,” Jimmy exclaimed.  “You’re right.  She sleeps in.  Always, and she’s headed here.”

“Your romance is heating up,” Darren observed, not looking forward to Star’s arrival.

“No, she’s like Judy, except a lot smarter and nicer,” Jimmy said before the beautiful purposeful girl was within earshot.  “She’s headed back east to some upscale school and I’ll never hear from her again. Oahu’s an island, physically and socially.”

Star unaccountably waved, smiling as she came closer.

“Good morning,” Jimmy said, getting to his feet, and waving after he did so.

Darren stayed seated and said nothing.

“Who’s your dour down and out friend?” Star asked, stopping when she got to the bottom of the steps.

She leaned on the railing and bent toward Darren, her smile getting bigger.

Darren couldn’t help himself. The woman was simply infectious and her uncommon and unusual positive attitude impossible to ignore.  He smiled back at her and got to his feet to join Jimmy.

“What, exactly, does the word dour mean?” Darren asked.

“Relentlessly severe, stern, or gloomy in manner or appearance,” Jimmy quoted as if reciting some memorized stage line.

“I’m not relentless,” Darren said, his smile fading away. “I change all the time.”

“Yes, that's true,” Star agreed. “You change from severe, to stern and gloomy all the time.”

Darren was struck dumb.  He tried to reply but realized he had nowhere to go with her comment.  It was like he’d been set up by both of them and fallen right into their trap.

“Lighten up on him Star, he’s having a bad day,” Jimmy said.

The short lighthearted defense made Darren feel instantly better.

“Why are you up and here so early?” he asked, not really caring but happy to change the subject.

“Because the Duke called and wants to see us, I mean in preparation for our visit to the Levy household for the purpose of getting Elvis to do whatever it is you really want Elvis to do.”

“The Duke called you at this hour of the morning?” Darren asked, wanting to ask more questions even before she answered that one.

Why would the Duke call Star at all, and what did she mean by ‘our visit’ to the Levy household?  Star was somehow invited or self-invited or what?  He breathed in and out gently to get control of himself, as he waited for her answer to his first question.

“No, silly, he called last evening,” Star replied.

“How come you didn’t come by last night then?’ Darren asked back, forgetting the other questions he wanted answers to.

“Come to your house?” Star said, her tone one of derision. “Like I want to run into your father.  He looks at me funny.  It gives me the creeps.”

“Do I look at you funny?” Darren blurted out, her answer shocking him.

“Nope,” Star answered.  “You are funny.”

She started to laugh to the point where she was nearly bent over.  Jimmy began laughing with her. It was contagious and soon Darren was laughing, although he really didn't know why.

“Okay, okay,” Jimmy said, getting himself back together.  “So, when are we supposed to be at this meeting and where’s it to be.

“Just about now, at the Moana out on the lanai for breakfast,” Star replied. “We better get going, I mean if your dad lets you have the car.”

“Dad left at five this morning and he took the other car,” Jimmy replied.

“I can’t eat breakfast at the Moana and I don’t have that kind of money, anyway,” Darren said, disappointment in his voice.  “The Moana is expensive and my mom works there. Employees aren’t allowed to stay or eat there.”

“You’re such an idiot,” Star said, laughing again. “I told you that you were funny.  Your mom works for Lewis of Hollywood.  That place rents space from the Moana.  Your mom works for Lewis, not the hotel, and you don’t need any money, which you’re lying about, anyway.  It’s not like the Duke’s going to let you pay for anything.  He wouldn’t reduce himself enough to let any of us pay.  Do you know anything about the operations of the social order out here?”

Darren was amazed, too amazed to be angry, although he felt he ought to be.  He’d never thought the employment thing through.  His mother said her family couldn’t eat or stay at the hotel and that had been it. He was also immediately intrigued by Star’s comment about the social order and how it might work that the Duke would never let them pay.  It was a new thought to him.  Star was right.  He’d been on the island on and off for seven years and still had little or no idea how the rules of the mixed societies on the island worked to influence conduct.

“Okay,” he whispered in response, eliciting more laughter from Star.

“Funny,” she breathed out. “I mean funny.  Okay, he whispers out, stunned to stupefaction, and then innocent silence,” she went on, still laughing.

“Let’s go,” Jimmy said, taking her by the arm and heading toward the garage.  “Don’t pick on him.  He’s absolutely defenseless, which is why he’s my best friend.”

Jimmy pulled up on the garage handle, got into the Corvair, and turned it over.  Darren expected to have to do his magic trick on the carburetors as the engine whined away but didn’t start.

“Stop,” Darren said to his friend.

Jimmy stopped turning the starter over.

“Wait a few seconds, and then hit it lightly,” Darren ordered, having paid close attention to the sound of the starter and the engine turning seconds before.

“Now,” Darren said.

Jimmy twisted the key quickly for just a second before turning it back.  The turbo engine turned over and almost started.

“Now, do it for real,” Jimmy said, hopping over the back and into the rear seat.

The engine caught and Jimmy spun the engine up to a high rpm, while Star ran around to open the door and get into the passenger seat.

“Your dad was going to take the car, I’ll bet,” Darren said, as much to himself as to his friend.  “It was flooded, which means he had his foot on the floor when he tried to start it.  Never do that with a turbo.  That asks the carburetors to dump a full load of gas right down into the chambers.”

Jimmy backed the car up and stopped.  Darren was about to get out and close the garage door but stopped at Jimmy’s command.

“Leave it open, because we’ll be right back, I think,” Jimmy said, then roared up the driveway and onto the street without slowing, slinging the heavy rear of the Spyder swiftly around the corner without the tires sliding.

“Up up and away, High Ho, Silver,” he yelled, blasting the Corvair toward Monsarrat and eventually the Moana Hotel.

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