My Kind of Town

Don Chapman

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Get plenty sharks

>> Kona

Aumakua, totems of the ancient Hawaiian religion, once played an integral part in the daily lives of Native Hawaiians as wise and protective family deities. But today aumakua are little more than logos. Most modern Hawaiians have no more of a personal relationship with an owl, a bat or a shark than they do with Boy George.

"Your aumakua is the shark?" Cruz MacKenzie said.

"That's who I'm named for, Mano the shark."

"You can't take this too personally. Get plenty sharks out there."

Someone whistled sharply. Mano turned and waved at Robert Yee, the owner of the fish auction house. "I gotta go get paid," Mano tried to chuckle. "That Chinaman nevah geev away so much money so fast in his life ... Catchou later."

>> Off Leeward Oahu

The creature that knows neither fear nor peer was still hungry when the first light began to show. Dawn is last call for tiger sharks. A night of inconsequential foraging was almost over for the graceful beast, 13 feet and 1,500 pounds on an empty stomach, where it felt pangs of urgency that grew with the light.

For the first time in 10 hours, its fin could now be seen gliding over the reef, but dimly. And the two sets of eyes on the beach were blinking sleep away and through the steam of hot coffee focusing further out, where waves broke steep and glassy. Unlike the tiger shark's, these eyes were not looking for breakfast. They strapped on fins, grabbed Boogie Boards and stepped into the surf. One paused, dipped his hand into the water, touched moist fingers to his forehead, crossed himself. The sea was his holy water. He plunged into his daily communion with eternal nature. Take this bread, it is my body ...

The tiger continued down the shoreline hoping in its gut to find a late-staying lobster or an early seal, then looped back and gradually worked its way to deeper water, out to where green sea turtles sometime bob just beyond the surf line.

Sure enough, there, on the surface, a silhouette -- oblong, with flippers. Twenty-twenty eyesight is not important when you normally hunt in the dark.

But it was on the surface and moving, so it must be food. Ugh. A mouthful of fiberglass and Styrofoam and something with way too much bone and not enough meat. But a small bite is better than no bite at all. And there! The taste of blood! The sea beast shook the Boogie Boarder, found a softer spot and bit again. The night would not end hungry.

The full orb of the sun rose over the walls of Makua Valley and the tiger swam sated toward deeper and darker water, unaware that it was about to make CNN.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek. His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin. He can be e-mailed at


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