Escape To Sunset - Sharon Hamilton
Jason Kealoha stepped out of his Hummer. The sunset was bright orange with purple and grey streaks across the early evening sky. The blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico were chummed, darker than he’d seen in pictures, worried and angry, like his own insides. He could hear the chants of his ancestors, especially the white-hairs, older women who pounded drums and beat their palms on their thighs.
He’d felt this way in full battle gear, stepping out of a Hummer into some hellhole as death and trouble lurked. Those voices kept him connected to his ancestors from long ago, giving him encouragement and reminding him that they held a spot for him if things should not turn out. Sometimes that made all the difference. Sometimes it made him settle so he could hear the voices of the other men on his SEAL team, follow instructions quickly and clearly, and be that missing piece of their puzzle, their force for good when they worked so seamlessly together.
Today, that calling, that rumble left him nervous. He had a mission. He held it between the fingers of his hands, those same fingers that wiped dirt from the face of his dying brother after several of their Team had been taken down in that red clay earth in Nigeria. He whispered things to his buddy that were untrue, that he’d be okay, that he’d make it back to the base and the evacs were on their way. His buddy knew he was speaking the lies you tell a dying man when there is no hope. You don’t ask if they’re in pain because you want them to focus on your eyes and the lies so you can walk with them home.
The blue urn was fashioned with a Trident, compliments of the Navy, as if a family member wanted this on their fireplace mantle. But his buddy Thomas had no family. There were no parents, no women or children to mourn over his passing. That’s why Jason had adopted him as his brother. The bond never stronger than that day Thomas passed into the hands of his ancestors, who would take the Haole boy and love him to eternity, until Jason joined again, and they fished the waters of Heaven together. The kahuna would pray over him and bless his journey, so his uhane, or spirit, could travel into the afterlife and to a time of great joy and celebration. Jason asked them to take care of this peaceful warrior, abandoned at birth, but never in battle.
Jason’s spine was straight, his footsteps sure. He held the urn as the valuable treasure it was, as if presenting it to the hungry mouth of the ocean. If Thomas’ uhane absorbed into a stray shark or large barracuda or even a dolphin or great whale, so be it. Far better than to rot in the ground somewhere and be eaten by worms, to smell, putrefy, decay, and become something unholy and unclean. Thomas was a warrior. His warrior spirit would live on in the unlimited ocean or inhabit the body of a great animal.
The setting sun stung his eyes, dry from the tears he’d shed in silence and in the privacy of several darkened rooms and spaces. On the plane from California, he had held the urn. He tendered it carefully upon touchdown and set it at the desk of the rental car agency when he picked up his Hummer. The clerk eyed it suspiciously but didn’t ask.
That made Jason smile. It was the first time he’d smiled in three days.
The chants got louder the closer he came to the ocean. He’d walked the archway of the wooden bridge leading across the dunes to the beach from the street, the one that had brightly painted arrows labeled Paris, New York, Barbados, Texas, and even San Francisco, pointing right, left, and straight up. He traveled on sure footing through the soft white sand to the harder white-grey sand then the wet sand that was slightly tan in color, the path bathed in the light blue and white gentle surf.
Sister ocean was a gentle lover, covering his toes with the lacy foam of her underskirts without revealing her modest parts.
With a wash, his sandaled feet were bathed in sea water up to his ankles. The women started hitting the drums louder, their voices arching up an octave. Watchers on the right and left stood still as he carried out his mission. Nobody stopped him. Everybody kept still.
The butterflies in his