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The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes life stories

Full Circle
James C Clar

Dayton Apana got up early and went for his usual run from his condo on Ala Wai Boulevard down to where Kapahulu intersected Paki Avenue. From there he made his way along the back fence of the Honolulu Zoo to Monsarrart and then up the long, steep stretch around the ass-end of Diamond Head. Once he reached Diamond Head Road the route, blessedly, wound downhill past the lighthouse. At the bottom of the hill he turned left onto Coconut and, then, Kalakaua Avenue. Across from Kapiolani Park, he cut through the grounds of the Natatorium. At that point, a paved path ran parallel to the ocean. By then he was glad for the cooling Pacific breeze and the salt spray that hit his face as he jogged in back of the Waikiki Aquarium.

Each morning the venerable old Moana Surfrider had an urn of coffee out under the famed banyan tree for their early-rising guests. Dayton grabbed a cup and walked down to the beach. He sat on the sand and watched the sun rise. Everyday since his return from the Mainland two years ago, Dayton went for the same run and, at the end, stopped off at the Moana where he filched a cup of free coffee. No one minded. This was the Land of Aloha, after all. Besides, Dayton Apana was a bit of a local celebrity. The author of three bestselling novels, he was a local boy who had made it big. The fact that he had returned to Hawaii only after a very nasty divorce – his tail may not exactly have been between his legs but he had certainly been hunched down on his forepaws – didn’t seem to matter. Nor did anyone dwell on his failure to publish anything new beyond the occasional newspaper or magazine article since then. At forty-eight, he was accepted as a kind of half-assed elder statesman. No one placed any demands on him and, lately anyhow, he placed very few demands on himself.
Resting his coffee cup in the sand Dayton stripped off his sweat-sodden shirt and walked out into the warm amniotic water of the ocean. The tide was relatively low, so he had to wade about two hundred or so yards out from shore before it was deep enough for him to begin swimming.
Twenty minutes later he was back on shore. What remained of his coffee had grown cold. He bent down to pick up his shirt. As he did so, he noticed something shining in the sand just off to his left. Dayton put his shirt back on and, picking up his blue Royal Kona Coffee cup, took a few steps in the direction of the object he had spotted. Crouching down on his haunches, he picked up a class ring from his own alma mater, McKinley High School. Dayton’s heart skipped a beat. He cleaned the wet sand from the ring with the hem of his tee shirt and squinted in order to make out what was engraved around the inside of the gold band … “D.A. 1978.”
“Son-of-a-bitch,” Dayton exclaimed out loud. This had to be the freakiest, most improbable thing that had ever happened to him.
 “Yo, Day, whatcha got? You find some change so you can finally pay for that coffee you help yourself to every morning?”

 Dayton stood up and turned to face his old friend, Eddie Nahinu. He and Dayton had started working at the Moana together during their junior year in high school back in 1977. After graduation, Dayton had left for college and, then, graduate school and a failed marriage on the Mainland. Eddie, who lacked anything by way of academic initiative, remained behind to raise a family in the only place he could ever imagine living. He’d been employed by the hotel ever since. He was now the Director of Beach Services. He and his wife of twenty-seven years had four grown children and were as comfortable and happy as Dayton was restless and disillusioned.
“Put it on my tab, as usual, Eddie-boy.” Dayton responded. “Have a look at this. You’re not going to believe it.”
Dayton handed Eddie the ring he had just extracted from the sand. Eddie’s expression was one of puzzlement. He looked down at his right hand. He still wore his own class ring on the finger next to his pinky. His graduation from McKinley High remained a source of pride and accomplishment worthy of celebration. Eddie would never admit it, but Dayton’s achievements in school and in the world of letters were, to him, mystical, almost mythical even, in aspect.
“O.K., Brah. It’s your school ring. What’s the big deal with that?”
 “You don’t get it, Eddie. I lost that ring thirty years ago right out here on the sand. I just found it a few seconds ago. You watched me pick it up and clean it off.”  
“No shit? That sounds like the plot out of one of your novels. Hey, I remember something about you and that ring.”
 “Yeah, it was May of ’77, about a week after they were distributed. I had just given it to Maile Aleo. Remember her? She took it off and set it on her towel when we got up to go swimming. When we came back, she picked the towel up and the ring went flying. We looked for the damn thing for over an hour and never found it. What are the chances that I’d stumble over it today in just about the same spot?”
Eddie shifted his weight and placed the ring back in Dayton’s hands.
“I remember Maile, alright. You guys went out for what, almost two years? You blew her off once you got to college and decided to make a name for yourself as a hotshot writer. She married a military dude named Stoner, I think, from Ohio or someplace like that. He was stationed here. It only lasted a year or two. She used to own a gift or craft store down at the Ward Warehouse. Maybe she still does. Listen, finding that ring must be a sign or something.”
 “Sure,” Dayton said with a chuckle. “It’s a sign. A sign of all the bad choices I’ve made in my life, of all the time I’ve wasted. “
 “Day, I work around rich people all the time. I can never figure you guys out,” Eddie said with more than a hint of frustration. “Nothing makes you happy. You’re always pissing and moaning about something. We working stiffs don’t have that kind of time to waste. I’m just looking forward to the weekend. Gonna cook out, do a little surfing, maybe take Mary to a movie. But seriously, you’ve been away. Maybe you’ve forgotten that there’s still magic in the ‘aina and the kai. You found that ring this morning for a reason. Don’t ignore it.”
Dayton crumpled his coffee cup and tossed it into one of the many trash containers that were half-buried in the sand along this particular stretch of beach, one of the most visited in the world. He placed his ring into the pocket of his running shorts.
“Magic, sure, signs and wonders. You know, when I came back to Oahu I still half-believed in all that Island-mystique shit. Not any more. I’ve pretty much used up any magic that was out there with my name on it. I’m on my own now … and not doing a very good job of it.”
Dayton gazed past his friend as he watched a giant container ship about a mile or so off shore make its way east toward the Molokai Channel and into the rising sun. He lost sight of the vessel as it passed round the flank of Diamond Head. Diamond Head: an extinct volcano that last erupted 150,000 years ago or so. What a great symbol, Apana thought, for his life and his career; When the sun hit the sides of the landmark in just the right way, the calcite crystals in the lava rock shimmered … hence the name it was given by the first European sailors who caught sight of it in the 1700’s. Up close, however, Diamond Head was brown, sere, used up. Inside it was little more than a hollow crater. That’s the way Dayton felt most days. If you asked him, though, he’d have been hard-pressed to articulate the precise etiology of the pervasive malaise that gripped him and which sapped his enthusiasm and creativity. 
“Eddie, maybe if I had stayed here like you did, who knows. Maybe then I’d still sense the magic in the land and the water the way you do. Anyhow, I don’t mean to make fun of you like that. You’re a good friend.”
“No problem, bruddah. Hey, why don’t you come by this weekend? Mary would be glad to see you. We can have a few beers. Don’t even worry about calling, just drop in anytime.”
“Thanks, Eddie. Maybe I will. I’ve got to get home. Need to shower and see if I can get some writing done.”
“Yeah,” Eddie said facetiously, “sounds like a plan. Meanwhile, I’ll sweat it out here passing out towels and seeing to the needs of our guests. You want a sense of purpose in your life? Let’s trade places for a couple of days. You’ll feel fulfilled in no time.” Eddie lifted his right arm, made a fist and extended his thumb and pinky. “Hang loose, my brother,” he said, giving his hand a vigorous shake. “Don’t worry about the coffee. I gotcha covered … as usual. And, I meant what I said. There’s a reason you found that ring. All you gotta do is figure it out.”
 “O.K., Eddie, I’ll get right on it. See you tomorrow.”
With that Dayton walked across the sand and crossed through the courtyard in the shadow of the Moana’s signature banyan tree. He climbed the steps onto the veranda and, cutting through the lobby of the grand hotel, emerged again on Kalakaua Avenue.
Once back at his apartment, he showered, dressed and sat down at his computer. The blank screen in front of him both oppressed and depressed him at the same time. Three hours or so later, having written nothing but a page of very tired and wholly uninspired prose, he hit “delete.” He pushed back his chair and stood up. Without really being conscious of what he was doing he left his apartment and walked a block over to TheBus stop in front of the Food Pantry on Kuhio between Kanekapolei and Walina. It had turned into a glorious morning. The sun was shining brightly and the palm trees rustled dryly overhead in the light trade winds. Dayton could smell the scent of ginger and plumeria borne on the breeze as well.
Apana boarded the first Number 19 bus that came along. It was crowded, as always, with the usual multi-cultural assortment of students, tourists and locals who preferred Oahu’s efficient and user-friendly mass transit system to negotiating the island’s ferociously congested roadways on their own. The bus reached the corner of Olohana Street and turned left. As they crossed Kalakaua Avenue and took a right on Saratoga, Dayton noticed a young Asian woman sitting across from him reading his last novel in a cheap paperback edition. His photograph stared at him from the back cover of the book. Perhaps sensing that she was being observed, the young woman looked up. She made eye contact with Dayton. She smiled and, maybe recognizing him, gave him the “thumb’s up” sign while mouthing the words, “It’s good.” If Eddie were there, Dayton thought as he, too, smiled in acknowledgement, his buddy would undoubtedly have determined that this was a “sign” of some sort as well.
Ten or fifteen minutes later, after disgorging about one-third of its passengers at the Ala Moana Center, the bus pulled up in front of the Ward Warehouse. Dayton exited the vehicle and walked up the path that led to the center of the rectangular structure. The shops and restaurants all faced inward toward an open-air courtyard. Hesitating momentarily, he consulted a building directory. The truth was, he had no idea quite what he was looking for. It was one of those “I’ll know it when I see it,” kind of things.
As he scanned the listings he was almost overcome by the ridiculousness and the futility of what he was doing. Even if he found her, there was no telling what might be going on in Maile’s life after all this time. His decision to leave the island in the first place had been heart wrenching for both of them. What’s more, his shameless abandonment of her once he got a taste of life on the Mainland made it quite probable that Maile would be less than happy to see him again. He’d left so many things undone, so many loose ends in his life. No matter, Dayton finally decided, finding that ring – and what was a ring but a circle after all – had indeed been a sign that this was one episode in his life that, for good or ill, he could finally bring to a close. That was something, at least. Who knows, maybe Maile felt the same way.
Dayton reached out and tapped the Plexiglas that enclosed the directory. Island Creations, it was the only item that made any sense to him given what he remembered of his old flame’s artistic proclivities. Feeling a little like an adolescent at a high school dance … or like a pirate walking the plank in one of those old adventure movies he loved to watch as a kid … he marched across the courtyard.
When he opened the door of the Island Creations store, he was greeted by the gentle sound of bells jingling against the glass. The woman standing behind the counter doing paperwork had gained a little weight since he had last seen her but her jet black hair and brilliant blue eyes were a dead giveaway. It was Maile Aleo, late Maile Stoner. Damn, Dayton thought, she looks almost like she did in her graduation photograph from thirty years ago. No one could possibly say the same about him.
Maile looked up and, about a half-second or so later, she began shaking her head in bemusement.
“Dayton Apana,” she said. “’Of all the gift shops in all the towns in all the world, you had to walk into mine’. What the hell took you so long? You’ve been back for what, two or three years and you’re just looking me up now? I was beginning to think you had forgotten all about me."

Dayton for a moment felt awkward. He hadn't thought of a thing to say and she actually looked pleased to see him.

"Actually, I’m amazed we haven’t bumped into one another before now on this rock," she was saying. "Hey, you remember that day we lost your class ring down at the beach? I think about that all the time. I have a ‘thing’ about that stupid ring; it stands for everything I hoped for when I was young … all those things that just kind of slipped away or vanished before I even realized they had gone. You know what I mean?”
“Funny you should mention that,” Dayton said without preamble. He reached into his pocket. He pulled out his class ring and placed it on the counter. Maile looked on uncomprehendingly. Suddenly their eyes met and she understood. They had both come full circle.
The next morning Dayton finished his run and, as always, stopped off at the Moana for some coffee. He sat on the damp sand and watched the waves lap gently, ceaselessly against the shoreline. A lone frigate bird soared high over his head in an ever-expanding spiral against the slowly brightening sky. He was beginning to understand once again why people loved this place so. The most remote island archipelago in the world, it truly was a land of endless possibility. Cradled as it was in the embrace of the ageless ocean, it was a land that was washed clean and reborn each day … each moment. Whatever the future might bring, Dayton knew one thing; he had the seed idea for his next novel. He couldn’t wait to begin.
“Excuse me sir. That coffee you’re drinking is for registered guests only.”
 Recognizing Eddie’s voice coming from behind him, Apana didn’t turn his head.
 “Yes, well, I have a good friend who’s worked at this sorry joint for years. He’ll take care of it.”
 “Sure he will,” Eddie responded. “What are friends for?”
Dayton stood up and brushed the sand from his shorts. The two men faced one another.
“Listen, Eddie, I was thinking I might actually take you up on that offer and stop by your place this weekend. You were serious, right?”
 “C’mon, man. I’m part Hawaiian. Do Polynesians kid around about shit like that? ‘Me casa est tu casa’.  You were born here, too. Remember? You know better. In fact, I mentioned it to Mary last night and she was psyched. She’s not getting her hopes up, though. She knows how you are. Anyhow, if Saturday works for you, that’d be great. Stop by around 3:00 or so. Like I said, I’m going to cook out. We can have a few beers and you can maybe help me haul some rocks up from the beach. I’m putting them around the base of those banana and breadfruit trees I planted last year. They’ve been growing like crazy since the last time you were over.”
 “O.K. Eddie, it’s a date. I’ll buy the beer … and help with the manual labor.”
 “Now you’re talking my man. It’ll be good for you to see how the ‘other half’ lives. Listen, I’ve got to run. One of my guys called in today and I need to figure out how I’m going to cover his shift. Tomorrow’s Friday. We’ll touch base then.”
 Eddie turned and began to walk away.
“Hey Eddie,” Dayton called to his friend. Eddie stopped and looked back over his shoulder. “You mind if I bring someone along with me on Saturday?”
© James C Clar June 2008
JCC55883 at

James C. Clar
Dayton Apana sat at a window table in the Honolulu Coffee Company café. The window was open, the trades were blowing ...

"James C. Clar is a teacher and writer living in upstate New York. His work has appeared in a variety of print and internet publications including, Long Story Short, The Magazine of Crime & Suspense, Taj Mahal Review, Orchard Press Mysteries, Powder Burn Flash and Every Day Fiction. James is an ardent jazz fan as well as an avid digital photographer."

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