When I turned 16, my dad bought a white 1969 Toyota Corolla with only 9,000 miles on it. By then, our blue '62 Impala wagon that had gotten us around the island for years was a piece of junk. But it had four wheels, and it rolled and when he got that Toyota, he gave it to me.
When I drove into the Kalani High parking lot with it for the first time, my status among the kids in the neighborhood shot way up. Some kids from the Kalani side had cars, but not the ones from Kaimuki. That old station wagon was magical. It could hold three surfboards on the roof. It seated nine, with plenty of room for food and drink. It was a rolling Hawaiian party.
Unfortunately, the Chevy with a two-speed automatic transmission sucked four times as much gas as Dad's little Toyota. Dad's deal with me was simple. I had to keep straight A's in all assignments and classes. Then he would pay for the gas and oil and enough junkyard parts to keep it rolling. Keeping the car stopped my partying during the school year.
After Christmas break of my Senior year in high school, there was a new face at school, and it was beautiful. Her hair was ginger red, her eyes were bright green, and her name was Kathleen O'Hara. Her dad's job transferred him to Hawaii from Boston. They lived in a palace right on Niu Beach.
I admit it. I wanted to get into that wahine's bikini. But that isn't what melted my heart. There was something about her that was so sad. It was something deep. I couldn't help but feel sorry for her, and I just had to make her happy. I tried to sit by her at lunch and in classes we had together. I offered to help with her homework, and she accepted.
Part of the deal with my getting the station wagon was that I had to do family business with it. That included taking Marlene once a month to confession at Star of the Sea Church. I usually studied in the parking lot. One day I saw a shiny Lincoln with Massachusetts plates, so I went in. I saw Kathleen in the mob of people and smiled. She smiled back. She was with a woman who looked to be her mother. She looked even sadder.
We stayed for 5:30 Mass. I would look at them, and Kathleen would smile back. As much as I enjoyed looking at her, I kept wondering what was wrong. They lived on a beautiful beach in a huge house, not like our little Kaimuki shack. Why weren't they happy?
In March, Kathleen told me before English class that she had convinced her parents to let me drive her to Church on Palm Sunday and then to the Prince Kuhio Day festivities. We went to the 5:30 Mass but after Kathleen said she wanted to see the real Hawaii and not just Tourist stuff. I smiled. I loved talking to the old people and writing down their stories and their ways.
I got some Huli Huli chicken and some cans of Bireley's Orange to drink. I drove her up to the First Presbyterian Church. As I expected, nobody else was there. By now night was falling. The glowing eyes of feral cats hidden in the trees followed us everywhere.
I grabbed our picnic and a tatami mat from the back. We went through the break in the bushes that led to the stairs and then down to the old, old bridge. The view was incredible, down to Honolulu and up to the old Pali road and the new Pali highway. We sat and ate the delicious chicken. "This is real Hawaii. At the Battle of Nu'uanu in 1795, King Kamehameha and his fleet of 10,000 warriors invaded from the island of Hawaii. They backed the warriors of King Kalanikupule against the Nu'uanu Pali and forced them over these cliffs. With that, Kamehameha the Great united all the islands and became the Great King."
The wind was picking up. Kathleen was getting cold. I held her close for warmth. "Isn't that just an old legend?"
I shook my head. "When they made this road, they found more than 800 of their skulls. Nobody knows how many they didn't find. The old people say that King Kalanikupule and all his warriors still haunt this valley."
"And you believe those stories?"
I thought of old Martha and smiled. "People I loved told me what they saw. Besides, how could you be Irish and not believe in ghosts?
She laughed like music. "My father says to only believe what you can see or touch."
"That seems dreadfully dull." I looked up at the moon. Almost full but not quite. I remembered what old Martha had told me. The moon was in the wrong phase to be on the Pali at night. "We had better get going."
We gathered up the picnic. As we walked back towards the stairs, I began to hear something in the distance. Kathleen heard it too. She stopped, looking around. "What is that, drums?"
"You don't want to know," I said. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up. My heart was pounding. "We need to go, now."
She was still looking around for the drums. I was about to pick her up and carry her when we saw the light of thousands of torches. "Too late. Take your clothes off," I said, frantically unbuttoning my shirt.
"What," she said. "If you think I am ..."
"That's King Kalanikupule. You must lay on the ground naked to show respect to the king, but don't look. If you catch their eyes, they will take your soul. You will die and join the Night Marchers forever." I kicked away my slippers and tossed away my pants and lay on the old road, my hands covering my face.
The drumming grew nearer and nearer. I closed my eyes.
"They are floating," Kathleen shouted. "Their feet don't touch the ground."
"Hurry up and don't look at them."
The drums came and came and came. I just lay there completely terrified, the pounding going through my skull. The many torches shined so brightly I could see with my eyes closed and looking down. It seemed like they were marching and drumming right on top of me all night long. As I waited and waited, keeping as still as possible, I had no idea if Kathleen was still there. Had they stolen her soul?
Finally, the drumming faded. I heard soft sobbing next to me. "It's alright now. We're safe." She cried as she shivered in the wind. I could feel her heart racing against my chest. I held her close, her skin soft like velvet, warming her gently with my hands.
If you are wondering what happened after that, the Goddess Haumea blessed us with an 8 lbs 2 oz souvenir in nine months. But that leads to yet another story.
Written by DrBobSmith