CHAPTER 2: Lawless Jungle

2.1   "A Basket Full of Mangoes"

Prudence Overmeyer was in her side yard pulling stink maile from the bamboo clusters in the upper yard when her neighbor Matthew Lawless came rumbling down the driveway in his ratchety old pickup truck. She could hear the Toyota bouncing along the road and eventually she saw the dark silhouette of the truck passing through the thicket of jungle trees as she headed over to the garage.

yoda-with-mangoes and bananas

Matthew pulled into the yard and turned the pickup around. Pru hadn’t noticed it before but he had painted over the leading T O on the Toyota’s tailgate letters and turned the remaining “T” into a passable “D”, yielding a classically Puna variation on the name for his truck: “Yoda”.

“Hey, Pru,” Matthew called through the open window.

“Aloha, neighbor.”

He wrenched the squeaky driver side door open and hopped out of the cab. “Sorry to come over unannounced. You said it was ok—.”

“Of course. It’s nice to see you adopting island ways.”

“Cool. What’re you up to?”

“Keeping the jungle at bay.”

“Always, huh—.”

“Yep. But especially now.” She pulled off her work gloves and patted him on the back, giving his shoulder blade a quick rub. “Have to get ready for the luau.”

Matthew went to the side of the truck and hefted a big stalk of apple bananas from the bed. “Hey Pru, take a look at these. How about these beauties?”


“Want some?”

“No. Thank you.” She sort of laughed and pointed into the yard, toward a cluster of half a dozen broad-leafed banana trees of her own bulging with fruit bracts on the verge of turning ripe.

“How about some mango then?” He put the bananas back and pulled out a basket mounded full of fruits the size of his large fist. The skin was a supple airbrushed blend of yellow, green and red. He held a couple aloft. “Amazing, huh? I was doing some work for David and David over in Wa’wa and they gave me a bucket full of these. They’re called Haydens.”

“Gorgeous. Those are the best mangoes on the planet.”

“That’s what David said.”

“I’ll definitely take one.”

“Nah,” he said, “take a bunch. I’ll never be able to eat all these.”

Prudence grinned. “The perils of paradise...”

She grabbed a handful of firm fleshy mangoes and then started walking toward the house. “Come on in,” she offered. “I’ll make some tea and we can share a couple of these.”

Matthew followed her across the yard.

She stopped at the bottom of the steps leading up to the front door. “You do drink tea.”


As Prudence stood on one of the lower steps, she found herself eye to eye with Matthew.  He was taller than her, on the lanky side, in his late 20s, maybe 30.  Generally speaking, he was present in the moment, affable and kind. She’d only met him a few times and found him to be very genuine. Nice. But there was always a noticeable little piece of him that lingered somewhere else.

“Great,” she said. “I make my own concoction. I have friends up in Volcano who grow and process their own oolong.”  She explained that she steeped her tea with mint and kafir lime leaves from the yard. It was a bright and vibrant tea which to her mind captured the green, grassy, brightly lit flavor of where she’d been living these eleven years: land borne upon land, wrapped in wind and capped by towering blue skies, where every day is both a beauty and a challenge.

“That’s a mighty hefty endorsement,” Matthew replied.

Prudence grinned.


In the kitchen, Prudence filled a kettle with water and rinsed the mangoes under the tap. “There’s some weed, if you want.” She pointed to a hutch against the wall. “It’s in the sugar jar. It’s good stuff.”

“I’d love to, but…I’ll pass. I can’t work when I’m high.”

“You have another job today?”


“Well then, roll yourself a joint and take some seed for your collection.”


“Totally.” She turned the tea kettle on high and went over to the hutch. She rummaged through one of the drawers and pulled out a small pouch of fabric and some rolling papers. She untied the string at the neck of the bundle and pulled out three or four seeds. She set them on the table in front of her neighbor and said, “Don’t lose them. Germinate them like you normally would. Except make sure you put a cup of black cinder in the grow mix when you pot them.”

“How come?”

“Because all life comes from cinder.”

“That’s epic, thanks. Where’s it from?”

“Nearby. It’s a smooth high, almost like tequila.” She retrieved a plastic sandwich bag and handed it to him. “Don’t keep them in the baggie for too long.”

“Not a chance. But don’t you want to grow them?”

“No. I don’t grow. I keep the seeds for barter. Or as thank you gifts. These are my thank you for the Haydens.”

“Wow. It’s totally not a fair trade.”

“Don’t worry about it. Raise them well. And when they’re ready to harvest, just be sure to share.”



Matthew looked up from his tea. “So what are you up to today? You said you’re getting ready for a luau?”

“Yes. We’re having Manu’s memorial luau here on Ohalani Road. Two weeks from Friday. The council met yesterday and decided that, since he spent the last years of his life here, this is where his spirit is strongest.”

“That’s cool. It sounds like a great idea.”

“It is.”

“You know, I totally get the spirit lingering thing. People hang around for a while before they fully move on. My father did, after he died. I’m sure you experienced that with Manu.”

“I—I did. I do.” Prudence was surprised; she hadn’t taken Matthew as the spiritual type. “When did your father pass away?”

“Few years ago.”

“Still difficult?”

Matthew shrugged. “Guess I haven’t gotten used to it yet. But you know what I mean, about them lingering?”

“I do. Sorry about your dad.”

“Anyway. Let me know if you need help getting ready.”

“I will. That’s very aloha of you. The Aunties will be doing a lot of the coordination, I just need to get the place ready. I’ll be down at the ‘ohana today.”

“What are you going to do with it after? You gonna rent it out?”

“I’m not sure. At some point, I’ll have to. But for me it’s still Manu’s house. And as long as I feel like it’s his I’m not comfortable renting it out.”

Matthew nodded. “I understand.”

“You know what you could do for me, though?”

“Name it.”

“The gutters need cleaning. Manu never said a thing about maintenance; he just – went with whatever. But I was down there yesterday and the gutters are filled with leaves and little branches. Would you mind?”

“Not at all.”

“That’s great, thank you. I’m not going to do much to his place for the luau. But that definitely needs doing.”

“Glad to help.”

“You’re a good guy, Matthew Lawless.”

“And you’re a nice girl, Pru.”

Prudence chuckled.

“Sorry, I’m a dork sometimes.”

“No. No apologies. I’m far beyond being a girl, but I’m flattered.”

“Well, I try to be right – appropriate, as my mother says – but when you get down to it I’m really just parking lots and strip malls. Not a lot of finesse in that.”

“That’s ok. I’m a once-upon-a-time academic brat with a litany of bad decisions on my resumé.”


Matthew looked around the room. Prudence’s house was simple yet inviting: the living, dining and kitchen areas all merged into one, creating a warm and welcoming space that led out onto the wraparound lanai with a view of the ocean and the vibrant, mythical, mystical wilds of Lower Puna down below. “I think you’ve done pretty well, Prudence Overmeyer. Looks to me like you made some very good choices.”

“You think so?”


Prudence offered him more tea.

“No, thanks,” he said. “I need to leave soon.”

“What’s your afternoon job?”

“Helping out on a kitchen redo down in Seaview. We’re starting demolition today. Which is why I definitely can not be high.”

“Two jobs in one day is very industrious. That’s very un-Puna.”

“Gotta make a living. And I told Bob I’d be down there at two.”

Prudence grinned. “How long have you been on island now?”

“Hmm. Six or seven months, give or take.”

“You’re very conscientious. And very responsible.”

“Thank you. Feel like I gotta be.”

“Well. Give it time,” she said slyly. “We’ll make a Punatic of you yet.”

* * *

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