Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings (Random House 2007)

I look around the airport. I keep thinking I’ll see Brian or at least someone I know. It’s hard to go anywhere here without running into someone you know; you can’t get lost on an island. I wonder if we should move, head for the hills of Arkansas or some ridiculous place.

Sure enough, I hear, “Yo, Matt King!” and cringe, recognizing the voice of one of my cousins. I don’t know which one. I don’t even know all of their names—they all look the same, like chestnut horses. I turn to see Ralph, aka Boom—God knows what that’s supposed to mean. All of the cousins have nicknames with mysterious origins that imply something rowdy or nautical. Ralph is wearing an outfit almost identical to mine: khakis and a Reyn’s Spooner, rubber slippers and a briefcase, the briefcase proving he has some responsibilities in the world. I don’t know what he does. I don’t know what any of them do. To their credit, the cousins are not greedy or gaudy or ostentatious. Their sole purpose in life is to have fun. They Jet Ski, motocross, surf, paddle, run triathlons, rent islands in Tahiti. Indeed, some of the most powerful people in Hawaii look like bums or stuntmen. I think of our bloodline’s progression. Our missionary ancestors came to the islands and told the Hawaiians to put on some clothes, work hard, and stop hula dancing. They make some business deals on the way, buying an island for ten grand, or marrying a princess and inheriting her land, and now their descendants don’t work. They have stripped down to running shorts or bikinis and play beach volleyball and take up hula dancing.

No comments: