A selection from Night Flights III, a collection of short stories by Rodney Chang (2013)


                 Makapu Bystander


By Rodney E.J. Chang




                Hawaiian legend is that Pele, the goddess of Volcanoes, centuries ago, inhabited Oahu, spending time close to the sea at Makapu cliffs.  These are black lava cliffs that tower over the sea, deep blue in the area.  Lore is that Pele used to sit in a lava formation that fronted a magnificent view of the ocean.  Makapu, storytellers claim, was the last spot that Pele lived before moving permanently to the Big Island.  As the islands' goddess of volcanoes, the action was no longer on Oahu.  All its craters were extinct.  It was time for Pele to move on to the the youngest island, still emerging on its borders from lava flow that rose inside rock formations that began at the floor of the ocean. 


                 But before hopping islands, legend tells of Pele climbing one last time to sit on “her” lava mound that was shaped into her chair.  To the goddess it was more than just a chair with the best view (and facing eastward, towards the new erupting island); it was her temporary throne. 


               As a farewell to this island, the goddess made her way up by foot to the formation for a last time, only to find a night fisherman sitting in it!  There it was convenient, with the help of his lit torch, to prepare his fishing gear before hiking further closer to the cliff's edge to fish.


                 The dark complexion, white-haired Hawaiian man felt a chill engulf his body.  He shivered, thinking the sensation to be all so strange since it was a windless and balmy summer evening.  Then his goose pimples due to the frigidity instantly disappeared and was replaced with the smell of plumeria blossoms.  Where, he thought, was the fragrance coming from?  There were no such trees growing on this barren area of the lava cliff.


                Keliho, still seated in the lava chair, did not have look up and around.  He momentarily shuddered when, in this place of barren rocky cliffs and isolation, he felt a human hand on his shoulder.

          科利霍 ,仍然坐在熔岩椅子上,没有左顾右盼。当他感觉到在这个贫瘠和与世隔绝的岩石峭壁,一个人的手放在他的肩上的时候,他激灵灵打了一个寒颤。


                Panic dissipated as quickly as it had arrived when he turned and saw the face of a beautiful maiden.  Now he knew where the flowery aroma was coming from.  The shapely lass had a reef of fresh white plumeria on her head.  The band of petals that acrossed her forehead seemed to glow..  Maybe, thought the fisherman, it was the harsh light of his torch fueled with fish oil, or his failing old eyes.  The intruder was the first to speak.


               “About to go fishing, are you?” she said, in a soothing, kindly voice.


               “Yes, I'm just about ready to head out.  As you can see, I'm just about finished with tying squid tentacles to my fishhooks.” Long ago, the hooks were carved out of fish bones.

“是的,我正要准备出发。正如你所看到的,我刚刚把鱿鱼的触角绑到我的鱼钩上。 “很久以前,鱼钩是用鱼骨头雕刻出来的”

               “You have the wrong bait for this particular night.”


               “How can you say that?  I've been coming here for decades; I know the area well....  And you're so young...and a woman.”


                Hearing this remark, suddenly the woman voice sounded gruffer, older, and more assertive.

 听到这句话,女人的声音突然听起来更加粗哑 、更成熟并且更加自信。

                “Suit yourself.  And where do you plan to try and catch fish on this full moon night?”


                Extending an arm and pointing, the fisherman said, “To the right, about  a half hour's walk along the ledges.”


                “There's nothing swimming there tonight.”


               “How would you know?”


               “Because I am a woman and so young?” said the stranger, ridiculing the old man's past comment.


               “Well, no,” answered the veteran fisherman of the area.  “But because you don't look like a fisherman and I've never seen you around this area, let alone at night when the fish do bite.”


                “OK, have it your way.  It's a long night.  When you realize you have been wasting your time, go the other way, or left from this spot in which you are sitting.”


                Keliho, the life-long angler, didn't know what to say.


                “But be assured you still won't catch anything by following my directions, unless you change your bait to a big piece of raw aku.”  She could smell the strong odor of the fish from within his matted bag.  So she knew he had some.

      “不过放心,您按照我的指导还是不会捉到任何东西,除非您把诱饵改为一大块生鲔鱼。 ”她应该可以从他凌乱的袋子里闻到鲔鱼的难闻气味。所以她知道他带了一些。

                Before the old man could refute her advice, the woman suddenly disappeared.  He heard her last words, like from a distant voice up in the sky.


                “And you dare to have sat on this sacred throne of rock.  Such an act is disrespectful and cannot be forgiven.”


                The fisherman was ready to go and fish.  Maybe, he thought, he shouldn't have drank so much kava before heading out to fish.  Maybe the appearance of this woman, he reasoned, was a hypnotic narcotic affect from the native drink.  He had drunk more than the usual before heading out this night.  He dismissed the thought of the woman and went about the busy for which he had come.  The fisher went in the direction that he had planned,  and used the squid bait that he had already attached to his hook. 


                After an hour at different spots in the area, the fisherman did not feel a single nimble.  So then he decided to venture to the other location where the woman had suggested.  I was going to try there next anyway, he convinced himself.


                 After half and hour in the new spot, still nothing took the bait.  In the bright moon light he could see the surface of the sea with rolls of waves splashing in at the base of the cliff below.   I might as well switch to the aku bait, he next thought.  That's why I bought something else in case the squid failed to attract the fish.


                On the first dunk with the changed baited hook, the pole bent mightily. 


                It worked!  And whatever is on the hook is huge!  In fact, so huge that he heard his long bamboo pole start to crack.  Keliho was old but a strong man.  Without thinking, he wrapped the line around one hand and started to pull with the other.  He went closer to the edge to get ready to haul the prize in and to catch a glimpse of the mighty fish.


                The silvery streak of the side of the fish as it maneuvered to attempt an escape shone brightly in the moonlight.



                Wow!  That's the largest ulua (jackfish) I've ever seen in my life.  I just have to catch it!


                The monster was pulling hard but Keliho was determined to win.  He got greedy, moving way too close to the ledge to get into the best position to guide the fish closer.  Suddenly the fish dived forcefully, exerting such strength that it caused Keliho to slip, lose his balance, and fall over the ledge – right into the dark and turbulent sea below.


                 The fish kept diving, taking the fisherman down with him as his arm was entangled with the line.  Keliho gasped for air, swallowing more water. 


                 His eyes widened when he saw that further down, the fish had stopped next to the woman that he had met earlier in the evening.  It was her alright, but now her eyes were as bright as glowing balls of hot coal.


                 Before he lost consciousness, he mentally heard her say, 

                 “Hmm, this aku is fresh.  Thank you for delivering this snack to me.  I don't particularly care for squid.”










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