6.2   "Return of the Rain" (cont'd)

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The first drop of rain fell just as Prudence passed by the old sugar mill makai of the Highway in Kea’au. At first she thought it was a bird dropping but it shimmered in the oncoming headlights and then fizzled into tiny beads as it disappeared into the wind.

A few more drops came and a handful more and within an instant an army of rain fell from kū-lani-hākoʻi, the great pond in the sky, as it overflowed onto the earth. The water fell hard on the roof of the truck. The windshield became flooded and for a moment Prudence couldn’t see a thing.

 (Whenever the rain caught Prudence off guard, she always greeted it with a sort of smile. In Hawaiian the word ililani means a sudden rain. Her good friend, I’ilani the cook, was supposed to have been named Ililani. Her parents were older and her mother had unexpectedly become pregnant, like a sudden rain, so when the baby was born they decided to name her Ililani. However, because the father had a mild stutter, when he came forward to announce the infant’s name, what came out was I-i-lani. He tried again but couldn’t force the first L from his mouth. So I’ilani it was, and like the sudden rain on the windshield, she had come into Prudence’s life as a welcome gift back in her earlier days on island.)

Auntie Ruth Wana'aonani, caretaker of the Kilauea caldera, was the first to notice the rain approaching. She had been standing watch over the crater from her lodge’s windows ever since the night of the fierce Kona wind storm, as though she were on the lookout for trouble. During the afternoon on this second day of cleanup after the storm, the rain clouds began as a shadow along the horizon, where the ocean folded into the open sky. As the day carried on, they emerged as discernible, billowing shapes of grey and made a slow, steadied progression toward land.

The first rain to fall on Prudence’s way home was Hilo’s dark rain, heavy with hardship and grief: ka ua ʻawa. It was succeeded by the angry downpours of the Rift Zone, ua lani pili, full of wind and urgency, as she passed by Pahoa town. The rain calmed down a bit by the time she arrived at Ohalani Road. A steady, constant rain, ua hoʻokina, fell across lower Puna as she drove along the battered drive, whose mangled gate lay against a mound of branches and tree trunks.  As she pulled up in front of the house, it seemed to her as though the cycle of rain had been recounting her recent tales, from the death of Manu to the unfortunate appearance of Kyle, the drought and then the storm… Maybe now things were getting back to a semblance of normal.

Down at Four Corners, in the small studio house where Tita ‘Aina lived, behind the General Store, the rain fell upon her roof as if they were tears of joy. All week long ‘Aina had been going out to her catchment tank, watching its last few inches of water slowly slip away. She didn’t make much money off the General Store; most of her meager profits went to feeding herself and paying the government. Filling the catchment was an expense she hadn’t factored in, and it had been slow this summer. Slow, slow.

“Blessed rain,” she whispered, looking upward.

Back in Hilo Town, Pastor Grace and Fishbone were coming out of Walmart when the rain arrived. Fishbone was pushing a shopping cart along the parking lot, its wheels rattling noisily on the pavement. Grace was busy talking to herself, testing out lines for an upcoming sermon or reciting some list of to-dos. “Hurry up!” said Fishbone, as the rain began. But by the time they got to the car, tossed everything into the trunk and shoved the cart out of the way, it was too late: they were drenched.

“Thank God for the rain,” declared Grace, her body feeling like a sopping mop against the seat.

“Yes,” said Fishbone with annoyance. “Won’t have to water the yard.”

Prudence parked right in front of the house. She tucked her incense underneath her blouse and then quickly got out of the truck and scampered up the stairs.

Down at the southernmost end of Puna, amid a vast black sea of hardened lava, on a lush private island of green, Lau Lau arrived at Uncle Billy’s kipuka after a long day toiling outdoors. There was a good deal of clean up to do in Puna after the wind storm. Lau Lau been out all day helping where he could, clearing yards and undoing damage to houses caused by so many falling albizia.

“Howzit, Pops,” he said as he lumbered onto the lanai.

The old man lowered his head slowly and then lifted it.

“Everything ok?”

Uncle Billy gave him a thumbs-up.

“Hello, Lau Lau,” whispered Cousin Violet from within the low light of the lanai.

Lau Lau stopped. He hadn’t seen her tucked away in her chair. “Aloha, Violet.” He went over and gave her a kiss.

“Lulu is in the kitchen with your uncle,” said Billy. “Brought your favorite for dinner.”

“Yeah?” Lau Lau clapped his hands together. “Ho brah..! Auntie,” he called into the house, “gonna clean up first!”

Lau Lau ran across the yard to the shack where he lived. The rain was following him relentlessly but he barely noticed it. His hale sat in a patch of yard surrounded by banana trees, palms and the heart-shaped leaves of waist-high ‘awa plants. A large avocado tree stood off to one side; on sunny afternoons it would shade his small house.

But it was night now and the only light illuminating his hale was a small solar lamp sitting on the covered front porch. He went around back in the darkness to the outdoor shower. He turned on the nozzle. He peeled his wet blue jeans from around his waist and tugged them off of his legs. He tossed them onto the ground by an old teak table where he kept his soap and shampoo. His t-shirt was next; he rolled it into a ball, squeezing out the excess water, then tossed it like a baseball over the hedge onto the floor of the back porch. He took off the rubber bands binding his ponytail and leaned backward into the warm stream of water. It felt good on his muscles. The combination of that and the cold flowing rain on his face made him feel wholly alive and uplifted.

Source: http://www.kehenahoneyhouse.com/

“I’m heading out,” said Katie, the girl who worked the front desk of Kukio Kai. “I’m pau. I’ll leave the lights on but can you turn off this switch,” she pointed to the wall, “when you leave.”

“Will do,” answered Willow.

“Just give the big door a tug. It’ll lock by itself.”


She was about to leave but stopped. “You sure you don’t want me to wait?”

“No no, I’m fine. Thank you.”

She came over to Willow and Noby and lightly touched the baby’s feet. “You think he’s gonna show up?”

Willow nodded assuredly. “I’m sure he will.”

“Ok, then,” Katie said. She wished them goodnight and went to the front door. She peered out, paused as she readied her keys, and then dashed to her car, her slippers slapping against puddles along the way. Not realizing it, she ran right right past Matthew Lawless, who was standing in the parking lot beside his truck in the pouring rain. Through the screen in the windows of the main office, he could see Willow calmly moving around the room, orbiting its invisible center like a planet in rotational bliss. In her arms was the tiny bundle, which she raised and lowered gently, rocking him to sleep on the dewy whispers of the breeze.

Source: Pinterest

Prudence made a pot of poha berry tea. She went over to the sofa to sit and listen to the rain and do some dreary math. She had on her lap a pad of paper and  pencil, with which she tabulated the following:

Front gate: $400
Lower drive gate (Manu’s gate?): $250 (should be able to economize here)
Diesel for clearing the driveway: $80
Labor, clearing trees: $200
Lower driveway clearing: $1,000

“Ugh.” She tossed the pad and pencil to the side. Heavy pellets of rain were ricocheting off the aluminum rooftop of the house. She tilted her head to listen.

Down past Kalapana, Lau Lau lingered longer in the rain shower than he normally would. With the drought apparently lifted – it smelled to him like a week-long rain was in their midst – he could afford to expend the water. He scrubbed the straining muscles of his chest and mighty legs and emitted a gladdened sigh.

Prudence, meanwhile, lay on her sofa scratching through her memories of the past few months. So little of it seemed to matter at the moment. No, there was work to be done, renters to interview, a revised order of life to reorient herself to.

Amid her contemplations the rain turned softer, a light kilihune that kissed the property like the landing of sprites throughout the yard. This easy rain would continue throughout the night, a steady rhythm lulling Puna to sleep, until the rain itself slipped into a solemn rest just before sunrise.

Prudence had difficulty focusing on the questions she was going to ask potential tenants. She felt a tug to go outside, like a pair of hands pulling her out onto the lanai.

Lau Lau’s hands lingered low on his torso. He closed his eyes and breathed slowly in and out through his nose as the rain continued to fall. It felt to him like with every inhalation he had sucked in his entire universe, and with every escaping breath he’d re-painted it anew.

Prudence went out the door. Standing beneath the eaves, and breathing in the soothing aroma of the rain, she removed her clothes and laid them on top of her napping bed. The night was warm and pitch black and the rain brought with it a chill. As she stepped onto the open air of the lanai, a billion little fingers of icy starlight raised bumps across her flesh. They teased from within her a visceral sort of longing, one which she’d hadn’t yielded to during the long season of drought.

She laid down naked on the lanai. The wet, painted wood was cold against the skin of her shoulders, her buttocks, and her back. At first, the fine droplets of rain chilled her all over. But as her body warmed, when the raindrops landed on her skin they turned into tiny wisps of steam.

Prudence closed her eyes, impervious to the cold and in full enthrall of the dewy outdoors. She liked to think of life as a garden: Love is the rain, and everything else is our actions. We manage our gardens the best we can. There were many things that had gone wrong in her life. Certain things she definitely would have done differently.

At the moment, though, none of that mattered: the morning belongs to Ku, the afternoon to Hina.

Down at the kipuka, Lau Lau moaned.

Up on the lanai of the small white house on the hill, Prudence drove her hand lower, and from within the deepest wilds of Puna she heard a calling. She parted the folds of her longing and welcomed the return of the rain.

* * *

Volume 1 is now pau. Mahalo for your support.
Stay tuned for more of The Punatics.

Aloha nui loa,

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