Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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Aunty He'e

By Donald Carreira Ching / Special to the Star-Advertiser


It was one of those Windward nights in late October: cold, quiet, raining hard. The electricity had gone out and the only thing I could do to keep myself busy was to go for a drive.

I made my way through Kaneohe town and then hung a left onto Kamehameha Highway, heading toward Heeia Kea pier. A buddy of mine had a boat out there that he used during big blackouts. With the generator pumping it was the closest thing you'd get to HECO getting their business together, and I figured he'd probably be setting up camp right about then. I could almost smell the vienna sausage simmering in the can.

The lot was empty — no sign of my friend anywhere. I thought it was better to wait than go poking around, so I found a stall near the front and cut the engine, then cracked the windows and put the seat back. I could hear the hulls rocking in the waves. Hollow thuds, lulling everything to sleep.

I don't know when I noticed the humming, the half-mumbles of song that woke me. I reached for the volume knob on the radio, but it wasn't on. Nothing was. I sat up in my seat and that's when I felt the chicken skin bubbling up my arms.

I couldn't see her at first, but I could make out the tentacles — the long tangles of shadow that fell from her shoulders and snaked over the sand. She was hunched over on the shore, singing to the whitewash, begging it to break, begging it to give her back what she had lost all those years before.

It had been a while since I had heard the story. Her son, a young fisherman, had gone out reef walking. A tournament was coming up and he needed bait. She told him to wait for his father, that he shouldn't go out by himself, but he didn't listen. She waited up that night, but he never came home. They found his truck, his three-prong, even his head light, busted and covered in limu, but they never found his body.

I wanted to move, to crank the ignition and get out of there, but I couldn't. I couldn't do anything but sit there and listen, lost in her song.

And that's when it happened. The car door swung open and I felt her tentacles fall over my face. I could feel her lips on my ears and her hands caressing my cheeks. Rumor has it that she's always searching for her son, or looking for someone to replace him. Someone she can care for. Someone she can carry off into the water and never let go.

A whisper later, everything went black.

I woke up the next morning in the same place I had seen Aunty the night before, in the sand fronting the canoe house. The waves were rolling up my ankles and all I could taste, all I could smell, was the salt water on my lips. A couple paddlers were standing over me and asking if I was OK. I told them I didn't know. I didn't tell them what I had seen. That I was lucky to be alive.

Sometimes, on nights like that one, when the rain falls in sheets across my windshield and everything is black, I drive by the pier and look for Aunty He‘e. I turn down the radio and listen for her song. I want to ask her about that night, why she had left me where she did, why she had left me alive.

But I keep driving. I don't ever dare stop because, if there's one thing I do believe, it's that Aunty He‘e is still searching for her son. Still crouched by the shore, waiting.

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