MILAKALE, KAUA‘I, THE REPUBLIC OF HAWAI‘I | 1889
Jun was in the small taro patch he had cultivated just out the back door of his kitchen when Maleko Mahoe, the nephew of one of the native staff employed by the Lanthiers, came running up from the direction of the beach.
“Mr. Jun!” the breathless boy gasped. “Come quick; it’s Mr. Lanthier.”
Jun dropped the pitchfork he had been using to pry the large tubers from their swampy purchase and grabbed the boy by the shoulders, anointing his bronze skin with the iron-rich red mud of the island.
“Tell me.” Jun asked with an air of quiet authority that calmed the panicked Maleko.
“I was out swimming and saw Mr. Lanthier riding Lucifer along the surf as he does every morning when something spooked the horse. He got throwed pretty bad. I think he might have hit his head.”
“Listen, Maleko, go and find your uncles. Tell them to meet me at the beach.” The two figures were propelled in opposite directions as if by a repellent magnetic force. Maleko flew off toward the center of the compound while Jun turned to run down the well-worn trail to the water.
Emerging from the brush onto an expanse of sand as white and fine as a spilled bag of sugar, Jun saw Lanthier’s imposing black steed standing over the prone body of his employer at the water line as if guarding him until help arrived. The horse snorted and shook its massive head as Jun lifted its reins from where they trailed in the surf.
The most cursory look at Lanthier revealed that the master of the house had not done himself a service by falling from such an imposing animal. The man’s head lay in the sand with his face licked by gentle waves as his bony posterior stuck up in the air as if doing an esoteric t’ai chi ch’uan pose. As Jun watched, a roller filled Lanthier’s mouth with salt water and was expelled by an automatic fit of coughing.
At least he’s not dead, Jun surmised. But can he be moved?
“Jun!” voices called out from beyond the high tide mark. “Don’t move him! He could have broken his neck.” A group of three stout Hawai‘ian men ran toward him, their bare feet pounding a triad of tracks into the sand.
“He is still breathing,” Jun reported out. “We need to get him out of the surf before he drowns.” Jun knelt down by Lanthier’s head and gingerly felt along the man’s neck checking for an obvious fracture. Maleko’s uncles surrounded the pair without comment and awaited Jun’s diagnosis.
Jun looked up the beach for a place to move the man as the tide was coming in and soon would cover most of the beach.
“There,” Jun pointed toward the abandoned heiau. “We will carry him there.”
The three Hawai‘ians looked at each other, each willing the other to explain to the foreigner why that shouldn’t, or more emphatically, couldn’t, be done.
“Now! Help me move the master before he drinks the entire ocean!”
“Jun Jin, we cannot move him there,” one of Maleko’s uncles finally spoke. “It is kapu.”
“It would be better to let him die in the sea than to bring down a curse on his whole family,” another explained.
“Jun Jin, we are strong,” the third broke in. “We can carry him to the big house without causing him more harm. Let us do that.”
“Fools!” Jun exploded. “Enough of your superstition. I will carry him myself if I must.” With that, the cook squatted down and cradled Lanthier’s head close into his own abdomen. With surprisingly powerful core muscles, he slowly rose to a standing position, holding the supine man in his arms. “Out of my way, if you will not help,” he admonished the three men and staggered his way down the beach.
Maleko’s three uncles stood at the edge of the surf and watched as Jun climbed the ancient lava stones and laid Lanthier out on what was still one of their most sacred places on the island.
“We are doomed.”
“Not us, brother; this will bring sorrow to the house of Lanthier. Should he survive, or no, the sun has set on the master’s family.”
“He is no master of mine.”
“Nor mine. But, he was a fair man, for a haole.”
“Fair or no, he has now earned the wrath of the gods. Being fair will not change things.”
“Shouldn’t it be Jun that has earned the fury of the gods? He is the one who carried him there.”
“Jin Jun is a heathen. He is already damned.”
“I don’t think we are without blame. We should have stopped him.”
“Indeed, we should have stopped him.”
“We are doomed.”