Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Treasure Pool

The Treasure Pool
James Strauss

The sun was perfect, as I stretched back on my chaise lounge and took in the fall of the sun. It tantalized, still well above the horizon, but low enough to signify its passing was imminent. I looked at the near empty bottle of Corona, my favorite beer, then tipped up the clear bottle and drained the last of its yellow ale. The beach at Kahala. A few people walking up and down, just sort of straying into the near silent lapping waves. An on shore breeze. The trade winds. Wonderful. But I was bored. I had done nothing for weeks except sit around outside, go in to sleep, and then rise to the same routine. Corona beer was ever present, but only consumed between four p.m. and sunset. I am not an alcoholic because I can give up the beer anytime I want. I just have never really want to. I am supposed to be writing. At least that is what I claim to the world. My prior success as a novelist keeps everyone at bay. At least, that has worked so far.
I decide, tossing the bottle back onto the deep Korean grass that grows
from my house to the edge of the sand, that a walk on Waikiki Beach will do me a world of good, and maybe drive away my ennui. I sigh deeply before getting up. It’s a short drive to Waikiki and I can count too many bottles on the grass for me to make that trip safely. I call the number for a taxi to come get me. The number is conveniently taped to the back of the phone, as my days have been especially Corona disabled lately.
I am okay in appearance. Not too old. Not too young. An author of substance. A day old beard, but that's chic for today. My old style OP shorts are too short to really be in, but then I have never been able to quite get Magnum out of my life. Even the Vietnam thing. I went there too, and had a much worse go then he did. And mine was real. My aloha shirt is very in, however. It is much older than the shorts, but that is the rage now. Its pale green and filled with crossing palm trees. An ex-girlfriend told me that it was ugly as sin, but then, she's an ex. My sandals are Teva. Comfortable. Cool. Just right for a walk in the sand. Not too comfortable if I get in the water, but then I am not planning on taking a dip in them.
The cab is the usual Oahu affair. A small white van with a local driver, as loquacious as he is overweight. Finally, I stop him, well short of the beach itself. The road is Kalakaua, and I get out at the Coast Guard Station near the tip of Diamond Head. I once saw Jim Nabors running there and said hello to him as he passed. He said hello back, in that same voice he used for his role in the television series that made him famous. I loved it. And him, until I found out he was gay. I decided, at that point, that I just liked him a lot.
The cab driver shouted Mahalo six or seven times before he drove away, and waved at me with that 'Shaka' hand wave so popular in the islands. I nodded. I had tipped him twenty dollars for a five dollar ride. I always do that. I am not that generous, really, but I always feel that the cab drivers all somehow know that it is me they are taking into Waikiki. When they get the call, I mean. And I want them to want to come get me right away. It must work because they are always there in minutes of my call. But I don't really know.
I walk down to the park along the road. The road is always filled with cars and the walkway filled with runners, walkers and skate-boarders.
After I bought the house, two years back, I ran for a bit. Up the other way, past the Coast Guard lighthouse, it rises at a pretty steep angle there. One day, when I thought I was doing alright near the top, I was passed by an old Chinese woman wearing a kimono. She said "aloha" in that local sing-songy style, as she went by. She was being led by a tiny white dog which she had on a thin gold leash. I think it was the dog passing me that made me quit running. I have not run since, but I still look around occasionally for that old woman in the kimono.
I cut through the park and walk back in the direction I came in from. Before heading into Waikiki I am going to make another attempt at trying to find John Wayne's old house. It is supposed to be tucked in among the local flora just below the Coast Guard station, but I have never been able to find it. As I reach the end of the park I look down. I am walking right next to the old rusted railing atop a wall. Below is the ocean, but the tide is out so there are no waves pounding into the side of the wall. Just at the end of the park, and in front of me, is another wall. This one extends out, beyond the railing, and runs into the water about a hundred feet before ending. Its an old wall, and falling apart. Down in the sand, with small waves lapping across his ankles, crouches some guy faced into the corner where the two walls come together. I stop to see what he is doing. Ita too shallow to fish but maybe he's chumming for bait or something. I stand just above him and stare down. His aloha shirt is older than mine, but looks like it has been worn through all the ensuing years. The man's white cotton shorts are nearly as tattered, and he has no covering for his feet. None that I can see, anyway. I cannot see what the man's hands are doing, but he is moving them in a slow circular way. As I watch I hear him exclaim.
"Got ya! Yessiree babe, do I have you. The catch of the day. Oh thank you God! Suddenly the man stands, his right fist raised up to the sky, as if clutching something. And he see's me. He turns slightly toward me,
his head at the level of my feet under the bars. He's tall and gangly, this strange long-haired water creature.
"Who'er you?" he asks, his hand lowering to his side. He steps away from the corner, then glances back, before looking back up at me.
"Ah, I'm not really anybody," I fumble to say, not having expected the question. "I was just admiring whatever it is you are doing there." I point weakly at the corner he has backed away from. I note that water seems to swirl a little in some sort of natural basin at the bottom, where the two walls come together.
"Doing?" the man says, then smiles more to himself than me. "I was just getten' some treasure from the treasure pool."
"What's the treasure pool?" I ask, not really caring, but the character before me is unusual, and therefore of some passing interest.
"That," and the man points his still clutched fist at the basin.
I stare down at the oddly swirling water. Every time a small group of waves hits the corner it creates a vortex right where the walls come together I see. "Mind if I come down and see for myself?" I ask the strange man.
"Not a bit. Not a bit," the man repeats.
It takes me a few minutes to retrace my steps back to a part of the wall that has fallen. The rail is bent into odds shapes with openings big enough for me to slide through. I cross the sand with small waves lapping over my Teva's, which I have forgotten to remove. I shake my head in disgust. The Teva's take days to dry out, and then sometimes smell for awhile.
I finally stand before the small water carved basin. The lanky man is crouching before the bowl, as if before an altar. I crouch down at his side and stare with him.
"That's it," the man says, in a whisper, then takes his fist and extends it over the indented rock and opens it. A shiny object falls into the bowl and begins to rotate and jump about, as more small waves swirl the water around and around.
"What is that?" I whisper back, staring, and now quite interested.
The man laughs, then plucks the object out of the water and holds it out to me on the flat of his hand. I stare. It is a woman's diamond ring. The metal is obviously gold and the stone looks to be at least half a carat.
"It's a ring," I state rather dumbly. Then I recover. "Where is it from?"
"From?" the man intones, his voice rising from a whisper. "Every day I come here. Sometimes more than once a day. Sometimes, not often mind you, there is something in the treasure bowl. I get coins, rings and even interesting glass pieces now and then. The good stuff goes straight to Kaimuki Pawn, but I still have plenty left in my collection."
"But how does it get into that bowl? I ask, looking first from the ring and then down into the pool. Back and forth my eyes go, several times.
"Hydraulics," the man says. "Or, at least, that's what I think. The water swirls about at high tide and makes its way through the reef there around from the beach in Waikiki. It picks up stuff that the tourists have dropped and then deposits them here as the tide falls." His non-ring bearing hand completes an arc describing the travel of treasure objects from Waikiki beach to this small indentation in stone, while he talks.
"Where you from?" the man asks, suddenly, again catching me off guard.
"Up the way. I have a place on Kahala beach, that way," and I point back toward Diamond Head. He nods.
"Well, be seein' ya." Like a cat, the man twists and vaults upward, catching the lower bar of the railing with one hand and then swinging up.
He is gone before I can say another word. I stare at the small swirling pool skeptically, then retrace my own steps and climb to the top of the wall. I walk Waikiki Beach but my thoughts keep staying back to the strange occurrence at that corner pool. Maybe the man palmed the ring to be able to tell me that story. But why would he bother? He asked for nothing. And he seemed to have almost nothing. I could not get it out of my mind.
Three days later I return. I arrive earlier in the day. As I approach the area I see that the tide is not high but it is higher than the last time I was here. I climb down. My Teva's are left atop the wall this time. I approach the corner and stare down. Six inches of water covers the small bowl and the waves are more active. But there is a definite swirl and spirals of sand make neat designs, as they form and fade in and above the base of the corner.
I lean down closer.
"What are you doing?" a deep voice in my right ear says, as I jump back and almost fall full form into the water. I stumble and recover my balance. "What are you doing?" the voice says again, as the strange man
of days earlier comes around from behind me.
"Looking for treasure," I say to him weakly and, for some reason, with embarrassment.
"But its my treasure pool. I only told you about it…ah hell, I don't know why I told you about it." The man places his hands on each side of his head and presses. After a moment he puts them down at his side. "You have a house on Kahala beach. I have nothing. I live in the bushes by John Wayne's old house. Why would you want to take stuff from my treasure pool?" He shakes his head and a tear falls from one eye. Suddenly, he leaps to the bottom of the rail and does his disappearing act, up and over the wall.
I pull myself up a little and see him, sitting despondently at one of the picnic tables in the park. I get down and crouch over the swirling water at the corner. There is nothing in the worn stone bowl. I take off my watch and toss it into the pool. It’s a heavy diving watch and the water does not move it at all, simply swirling sand around it in different patterns than before.
I work my way back up the broken part of the wall and walk over the picnic table.
"You're right man. It's your treasure pool. Sorry." I sit down, but the man gets up and leaves without a word. He stops at the railing and vaults over. How he lands on the sand ten feet below without hurting himself I don't know. I sit for ten minutes before my curiosity gets the best of me. I walk to the railing overlooking the corner. The man is standing with one fist raised in the air.
"Thank you God," he says aloud. "It's a Rolex God. A God blessed real Rolex. Not one of them phoney one's. No sirree God, this is the real article." I can't help but smile, but then I fade back into the park before being noticed again. I never liked the Rolex. I'll get something else that nobody can identify when I buy a new watch.
Every once and awhile I return to the treasure pool and put some other piece of interesting jewelry into it. I always go early in the morning. I wonder what the strange man thinks of my choices. I always make sure they are things that a pawn shop would like to have. Strangely enough, I began to write again after the incident, and, it seems the more I put into the treasure pool the more I seem to be able to write.
I have never seen the man again,and I wonder if, when I do, he will show me where John Wayne's old house is.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful story! Redeeming factor... Refreshing... Being an island girl myself, I can relate to it. Thanks for sharing.

    And... you know me electronically, d.