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My Kind of Town

Don Chapman

Wednesday, October 22, 2003


Feeding time


>>Big Island

The water was remarkably clear at this remote lagoon, visibility at least 120 feet. But all Cruz MacKenzie wanted to see was Mano Kekai, and didn't plan on letting him get more than a foot away. Cruz had read somewhere that just entering the ocean lowers your blood pressure, and often found it to be true. Not today. His heart pounded out the "Jaws" theme. Behind the mask, his eyes looked like balls in a fast-forward pinball game as he scanned for sharks and stayed half a fin-kick behind Mano, half a kick ahead of panic.

Rays of morning sun angled down through the turquoise water, refracted and danced on the salt and pepper bottom, a mix of both lava and coral sand. Cruz saw the shadow of their flippered forms swimming across the bottom. And then he saw a third shadow alongside Mano's shadow -- three forms, parallel, moving as one! Cruz forced himself to look left. Mano swam exactly between him and a huge shark. He nudged nearer and swam so close to Mano that their shadows appeared as one on the bottom. Together, they weren't even half as big as the shark's shadow.

Mano glanced over, gave the thumbs-up signal. Inexplicably, Cruz nodded and gave him the thumbs-up, clearly delusional.

Mano slowed and pivoted, and suddenly Cruz was face-to-face with the shark. If Mano the man was six feet tall, Mano the shark was at least 14 feet long, maybe more. The sea beast fixed its eyes on Cruz. He was too scared to move.

Cruz felt Mano his alleged friend put a chunk of ulua in his left hand and force it toward the shark. He wanted to look at Mano and say "Are you insane?" But he was afraid to take his eyes off the shark. So Cruz had an excellent view of the inside of the shark's mouth as it opened wide and in the twinkling of an eye chomped down on the fish and jerked it out of Cruz's hand, and the water grew uncontrollably warm between his legs.

With a flash of its tail the shark dove with its breakfast pupu and Cruz started to think he might survive when another shark darted under his mask from the left. He jumped as another bumped his flipper. Suddenly they were surrounded by a swarming school of sharks.

Death squad, Cruz thought.

There were so many and they moved so quickly, he couldn't count them, but everywhere he looked, there were sharks excited by the smell of food. None was smaller than 4 feet long, others were at least 12. One brushed his shoulder.

Mano reached into the bag and began feeding them, one at a time, as if they knew proper manners in his presence.



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 dchapman@midweek.com

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