The Duke

Part XXIV

Johann Strauss, the composer of the Blue Danube Waltz, took over the next few minutes, as the three of them sat on top of the thick concrete slab that made up the protective roof of the closed and shuttered observation slit below.  All the WWII emplacements and storage areas underground had been long ago sealed by military forces from all the services.

“What’s this week’s subject of discussion?” Star asked as the wonder of the waltz ended.

“The coming big meeting with everyone at the Elvis dinner,” Jimmy replied.

“I told Sergeant Cross that I was in direct communication with Hickam’s commanding general,” Darren blurted out, unable to think about anything else.  “I don't know the general and have never talked to him.  I’m supposed to arrange for the general to give Cross the leave he needs to get away, according to Jimmy’s plan, and then make sure it's ‘off the books,’ too, whatever that means.”

“It means that it will not count as actual leave,” Jimmy said.  “It’s free time, but it doesn’t matter because you can’t talk to the general, much less ask him for anything.”
“Have you two really thought about Elvis?” Star asked, causing both boys to turn to face her in silence.

“Have you spoke to Colonel Tom Parker or any of his handlers, agents, or any of those?” she went on.  “You really think you can reach Elvis Presley through the blizzard of people surrounding him dedicated to making sure that people like you don’t get through to him?”

“What?” Jimmy replied, dumbly.  “Darren’s already talked to him.  He sat in Judy’s house and listened to him play the guitar and sing.”

“Trust me, you’ve had your last conversation with Elvis on this earth and the chances of his attending some ‘wish list’ party of nearly unknown local players isn’t ever likely to take place.”

The radio grabbed their attention as Star finished speaking.  The German announcer had introduced Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement as they’d been talking.  The Ninth’s “Choral” movement began to play.  With the trade wind blowing lightly, the sun shining gently and the layout below them of Waikiki facing out into the sparkling Pacific Ocean was too much to oppose.  They sat in silence as the movement played through to its climax.

“Why wouldn’t he come?” Darren asked Star, his voice weak and unsure, up against the seeming powerful wisdom the woman emanated.

“What’s in it for Elvis, or Tom Parker?” Star replied.  “No media, nobody important, and they plenty to do elsewhere.”

“What about Judy’s sister?” Darren asked.  “She’s his girlfriend,” he went on.

“For as long as he’s on Oahu,” Star shot back.  “After that, there’ll be another girlfriend, and you can take that one to the bank.”

Darren stared down, watching the surfers sitting on their boards waiting for the next big wave, which wasn’t likely to come since the leeward side of the island got none of the big stuff that rolled all way the down from the Bering Sea.

“Then there’ll be no party and I’ll be off the hook,” he mused, more to himself than to Jimmy or Star.

“Not so fast,” Star laughed.  “I didn’t say that he’d say he wouldn’t come.  All that will happen at the last minute.  It’s Hollywood.  Big stars are notorious for it and everyone is used to them not showing up.

“I’ll lose my job,” Darren said, rising to his feet in order to start pacing the twelve feet or so that measured both the length and the width of the stone block they were on top of, the drink and snacks Star had brought all but forgotten in his renewed misery.

“Wait a minute,” Jimmy said, excitement in his voice.  “We can cancel the party without telling Elvis or any of the rest of them that he’s not coming, and you can avoid the whole issue of not being able to talk to the general, much less get any kind of leave for Cross.”

“What if he shows up?” Darren asked, stopping his pacing to stare intently down at his friend.

“Who?” Jimmy asked, his brows furrowing.

“Elvis,” Star replied, with a laugh.  “Wouldn’t that be something?”

“This is all just great entertainment to you,” Darren said to her, with anger in his tone.  “I need the money from my job to go away to college.  The first semester has to be paid before I even get there, plus room and board and books.”

“Then just tell your sergeant that the general said no,” Star replied, the humor still coming through in her voice.  “Tell him that the general wants him there to make sure it all goes well since he has run the club so excellently over the years.  Cross will have a big swollen head, the dinner won’t happen and your job will be saved.  The Duke doesn’t matter and none of the rest of them do either.”

“That way Sergeant Cross will want to put the thing on to please his general, instead of making sure it never happens,” Jimmy concluded, obviously impressed with Star’s plan.

“Now you’re thinking,” Star said, taking a swig from her bottle.

“This all has such a bad feel to it,” Darren said, finally drinking from his own soda after sitting down as far from Star as the stone surface would allow.  “I am, we are, so far in over our heads it’s unbelievable.  Jimmy's dad threatens my dad and Duke calls him on the phone. Elvis or no Elvis? Generals! Sergeant Cross! How did I get into this mess?”

“Stop complaining, any kid your age would give everything he or she had to be in your shoes.  Your Dad runs Pearl Harbor, for Christ’s sake, and your mom has a great job.  You have the grades and the money to go off to college thousands of miles from here.  You’ve met Elvis Presley and Duke Kahanamoku, and your on this idyllic island having the time of your life.  What more do you guys want?”

“She’s right, you know,” Jimmy said, so quickly that it seemed like he was part of some scripted kid’s television show.

“So," Darren mused, "I have to tell Cross that the show is a go but he has to be in charge of it and stay?  That’s the plan?  Why don’t I feel better about it? Wu is going to kill me anyway when the thing doesn’t go off.  This is his big shot at stardom.”

“Wu’s the cook?” Star said, laughing again.  “He makes dinner for Elvis Presley and that’s going to make him famous?  He’s not even going to meet Elvis.  He’ll be cooking.  And if the others would let Wu close to him he’d simply be the object of "say hello to the cook who made dinner" kind of thing.

“That’s not the way Wu sees it, and having him as an enemy again is something I want nothing to do with,” Darren replied.

Everything Star said made all the sense in the world, but the way she said things rankled with Darren.  Star was maybe two years older than he, and only a year older than Jimmy but she made herself sound like she was an aged woman of the world.  Even accompanying Darren and Jimmy to their secret special spot, she’d managed to do it in such a way that he and Jimmy seemed like elementary schoolers instead of experienced high school graduates.

The rest of their two hours was spent with Jimmy and Star talking about the difference between her University, Stanford, and Jimmy’s, which was only the University of Hawaii…still unaccredited as a college back on the mainland.  UH had one great feature in its favor, however, other than where it was located. That was the East/West Center that Darren had been a part of since transferring in to finish high school at Maryknoll on Oahu.  His comments about the origin of the universe at lectures there had made him a favorite of some of the speakers to the point where some had come to his home.  When his dad found out that two of the men were from Africa that had been the end of home visits.  Darren stayed quiet as Jimmy and Star talked on into the early afternoon.  They weren’t really talking about their colleges, he knew. It was about them and each other and if there might be a ‘them’ at some point.  It was boring to sit through, even with the wonderful music and even more terrific view.

“I’ll be the busboy, maybe, if the things does happen” Darren interjected at one break in their conversation, "the 'say hello to the busboy' kind of thing.

“What, you want to become famous too?” Star asked, “just like Wu.  Let’s see, how many former busboys’ have been president, or even a governor?  None?  That would be my guess too.  But the money at least gets you into college, not that you're likely to stay there.”

“I lectured once at the East/West center,” was all Darren could think to reply to her comment, and the nasty tone it was delivered in.

“Hence, that explains why the place is unaccredited,” Star replied.

Darren knew he was out of his element, that Star would be able to win any contest that made her seem superior to him.

“Time to go,” Darren said, deciding not to reply to the ridiculous conclusion Star had delivered.

He’d looked over at Jimmy when she’d made the unaccredited comment and he’d seen that it had bitten Jim pretty deep too.  He was studying at a college from which a diploma might one day be worthless, compared to the highly touted, vaunted, and expensive Stanford University.

Jimmy jumped to his feet, shoving the empty bottles and napkins back into Star’s pack.  Star got slowly to her feet, giving away no emotion at all, which was her normal way of setting her features to not allow any expression to appear that she wasn’t completely in control of.

The hike back was easy, the only difficult part being the razor-thin edge that had to be crossed with two hundred foot vertical drops on both sides.  The eight to ten-inch edge was about twenty feet long.  Jimmy ran across it lightly, as he always did, flipping around at the other side and laughing, knowing I could only cross by getting down and slithering over, one leg down on each side.  Star walked across without looking down, also showing no emotion.
Later, before we made the easy climb down to the back of the club, she made a comment about their return.

“We should call that short stretch ‘Lizard Crossing,’  after Darren and how he looks when he’s down on his belly like a snake.

Jimmy said nothing and neither did Darren.

Darren swore to himself, however, that no matter what the woman might have on him in the future he would never ever make the Diamond Head climb with her again.  His analytical mind would also not let him forget that the irritating but brilliant woman was absolutely accurate once again.

The surf was low but the tide was well on its way to coming in so Jimmy and Darren got into their suits and headed for the beach. Jimmy parked the Corvair right in front of Lewis of Hollywood Salon, able, as almost invariably happened for him, to get an open spot right in front of the place.  Darren’s mother didn’t like them using those spaces as Lewis, the shop owner claimed that customers should only be allowed to use those spaces.  Kids of workers should have to walk.  But the car was Jimmy’s dad’s car and Darren had no power over him when it came to such things as pulling stunts that made Darren’s Germanic mother angry.

They rented the largest boards they could get, having been forced to use the ‘big guns’ by the big Hawaiian and then, upon using them, discovering that the man knew exactly what he was talking about.  They surfed for an hour and a half until the tide began to change.  They rode almost any wave they wanted, didn’t get one scratch from the coral on top of the reef and Jimmy was able to move forward to the front of his board and ‘hang ten,’ a move were all ten toes are curled over the very front tip of the board.  He would then yell “Cowabunga,” as he raced toward shore, over the reef, nose-diving into the sandy bottom on the other side.

Darren asked Jimmy to drive him to work when they’d turned their boards in and were racing back along Diamond Head Road, the back way into Fort Ruger that had much less traffic so Jimmy could make the rear-engine and rear-wheel vehicle slide around corners.  The moves made Darren nearly sick every time, not to his stomach but in fear that Jimmy would one day lose control of the speedy convertible.  Darren turned on the radio, to which Jimmy promptly grabbed the little volume knob and twisted it up all the way.

Puff the magic dragon, lived by the sea and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Hanalei,” burst from the front and rear speakers.  Both boys loved the new song because they instantly thought of Hanalei on the island of Kauai. Neither boy had ever considered that there was no autumn mist around the ocean where the Hawaiian Islands were located.

Darren changed clothes as fast as he could and then ran to where Jimmy was, engine running and radio blasting right out in the street, blocking the Makai Lane if there was any traffic coming from behind him.  Fortunately, there was never any traffic on that street.

The trip to the club was performed in minutes, Jimmy parking where Wu usually left his cycle. It was too early for the chef to be at work.  Sergeant Cross’s car was parked in his usual slot of self-made importance.  For some reason, having Jimmy at his side made Darren much more courageous.  They walked in the back door and went straight for Sergeant Cross’s office.  Jimmy had counseled him about how to speak to the sergeant.

Sergeant Cross looked up as they approached, his eyebrows going up when he saw Jimmy.

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