My Kind of Town

Don Chapman

Death squad breakfast

>> Big Island

With a flash of its tail the huge shark -- at least 14 feet, Cruz MacKenzie guessed -- dove with the ulua breakfast pupu it had just snatched from his hand. And Cruz started to think he might survive this insane ordeal when another shark darted under his mask from the left. He jumped as another bumped his right flipper. They were now surrounded by a swarming school of sharks.

Death squad, Cruz thought. So why was his friend Mano Kekai grinning so broadly behind his mask?

There were so many and they moved so quickly, Cruz couldn't count them, but everywhere he looked there were sharks excited by the smell of food. None was smaller than 4 feet long. One brushed his shoulder and it really did feel like sandpaper.

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

Mano elbowed Cruz, held the bag in front of his mask. Tentatively, he reached in, took out a piece of raw fish and held it out. A 5-footer darted in, grabbed it and darted away. Mano elbowed Cruz again and he repeated the procedure with another, larger shark, and kept going until the bag was nearly empty.

And then Mano the shark, the one Mano the man called Father, was there again and the other sharks swarmed around him, deferring, allowing him to eat the last morsels of sacred offering. When the bag was empty, the great shark circled the two swimmers once, dived and disappeared toward the open sea.

The other sharks followed.

And Cruz wasn't nearly as glad to see them go as he would have expected. Back on the beach, Mano began packing up their gear, loading it onto the little Zodiac.

"That's it?" Cruz said.

"What else you want to know?"

"Oh, man, I got a ton of questions."

"Let me give you the pure and simple answer. For as long as anybody knows, my family has been coming here, to this place, bringing offerings to Mano.

For those hundreds of years, a thousand maybe even, our family has communed with the shark god. Mano reminds us that we are part of nature, just as he is. And from that we are connected to the oneness of life."

"It's just so hard to believe that I was swimming with sharks, and survived."

"What you saw, what you did, that was real," Mano said. "Those sharks were real. Your presence and my presence, they were real. You just got to start believing some new things, bruddah."

"Already have, Mano. Already have."

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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