The Shine Journal

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Almost Like  Only a Cloud


John Cravens

As the man and woman walked away from the open front doors of the one-room church, they saw two people inside with the elderly woman who was kneeling beside her husband where he had collapsed.  The man turned to a young man and woman who were standing nearby watching; the young man was holding a small digital video camera ready.

"Has somebody called an ambulance or a medevac helicopter?" the man asked.

"Nobody's phone is working," the girl answered.  "Do you have a satellite phone?"

"No, I've never gotten one."  He glanced at the silver stud in her navel and to her tight, tanned stomach.  "What about those stables near the turn?" he asked her.  "Maybe they have a landline."

"Nothing comes down this far, no electricity or anything."

"It's half an hour back to Hana on that road, but the park is no more than ten minutes away.  They might have some communications--the rangers--maybe even a paramedic."

"Someone's already gone there," the young man said.  "But the old gentleman may not have that much time left."

The man nodded.  Then he touched his wife's arm and they walked into the strong sunlight, past the stained glass window of Jesus with black hair and wearing a Hawaiian king's robe.  Across the open lawn at the fence near the edge of the high cliff, they both looked to the islets of black rock in the surf and at the island of Hawaii hazy across miles of ocean.

"Hawaii looks almost like only a cloud," she said.

"This is a good place to leave this earth," he said.  She slipped her hand into his.  He looked back at the small church.  "Maybe they feel that way too."  He glanced toward where he had parked.  "I'm not sure if we should go now, or if it's more respectful to wait with them."

"I doubt that it matters to them either way," she said.  "I wonder if this has ever happened before."

"Everything has happened before."

She looked at the ocean and the distant island.

"I have a lot of confidence in Dr. Unpronounceable," she said.  "I believe that what he's telling us is the entire and complete truth of this situation."

"I know," he said.  "I feel very fortunate to have found him."

"But we don't need to talk about that now, in such a pleasant place."

"We have all come this far from everything else solely to see a famous man's grave," he said.  "Perhaps that's something left of a primitive emotion."

They looked across the wave-flecked ocean, bright in the sunlight, feeling the strong tradewinds.

"This is truly beautiful," she said.

"If people knew about this place there might be a rush for burial space here," he said, suddenly.  "They could even go condo, with high-rise mortuary vaults."  She looked at him with a patient expression.  "Sea views could get quite expensive," he continued.  "There'd be speculation of course, with futures bought.  Those who got in early could do well for themselves; maybe even pull out enough profit for a small private tomb."  He regarded the land behind them.  "Clear out these trees--this jungle--and sell plots, not just vaults.  Helicopter service too, with hotels for families who want to come and pay their respects, a good golf course, restaurants and a small shopping area:  all very exclusive.  This could be a unique development in the islands."

A strong breeze lifted along the cliff face.

"Ashes might go for thousands of miles on these trades."

She said nothing.

"But the question is," he said, "will that be more profitable than a jeans factory in China.  There's the suck of capital to watch now."

"I know you're only being cynical--or dark--but please don't say anything more about this," she said.  "It could happen.  Someone with means may come here and have the same thoughts and do something about it."

"There's so much wealth now in the hands of so few people, some of them intensely scrambling to have everything the way that they want it--fast.  The only jolt to the plan is that a lot of them don't intend to die.  There are solid schemes afoot that will make the next got-to-have be a perpetually extended life:  not growing old but eternally middle-aged."

They walked back beyond the front of the churchyard.  The lane and where cars were parked was hard-packed and rutted; there were puddles from the morning's rain.  A young Hawaiian woman sat in a canvas chair beside the low stone wall.  On top of the wall beside the fruits she offered for sale were sliced samples of star fruit, papaya and passion fruit on an open newspaper.  Near her a boom box blasted heavy metal music.  She did not look up when the haole man and woman came through the opening in the wall and paused by the banyan tree. 

The tree screened most of their view of a clearing where several horses grazed.  They watched a young boy and girl swinging from the low limbs of the tree, the children looking quietly confident as they hung there and swayed.  A slender and very old woman with white hair came nearer the tree.  Then holding her features expressionless, in Hawaiian she spoke softly to the children, as if they all were in this place because of a purpose that they each understood.

"Would you like some of that lovely fruit?" the woman said to her husband.  "Doesn't it seem completely right and fitting to take that enjoyment of this life--and this place--with us now?"

"Yes, that and also the impression from what was on the Lone Eagle's grave stone," he said.  "'. . . If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea . . . .'"

"I don't know what that means."

"Isn't that the point--and the power--of enigmatic metaphysics?"  He smiled quickly.  "I'm sorry; I'll stop."

"Good, at least for awhile, please.  Are you becoming too tired now?"

"No just in the normal way."

"Then let's not let in anything that's gloomy."

"I understand," he said.  "I'll try."

John Cravens is an architect.  His first novel, "Swimmers in the Sea", was published by CreateSpace in 2009.  A graduate of The University of Oklahoma,  he lives in Tulsa with his wife.  His story, "Ink On Woven Paper", was selected by "Slow Trains" for publication.

Motivation: Seeing the place of the story, and reflecting on how the subject of its concerns is faced by different people, caused the story to come into being.

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Editor: Pamela Tyree Griffin

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