Angel met us at the airport with pink plumeria tucked behind her right ear. “I am your parent’s landlady here in Kauai,” she explained. “Your mother, nopoopoo. I drive her.”
“She’s our step-mother,” Jane was quick to point out.
“But Bob was your father, right? Bob was nice man; now he flies with the Iwalani – the gulls.”
“Where is Nopoopoo?” I asked. I’d worn blue jeans on the trip over which, upon landing in 90 degree pre-tropical storm weather, instantly sponged up fifty pounds of sweat.
“In the car,” Angel explained, “She refuse eat or sleep.”
“I need to stop in the restroom to change my clothes.”
“No, no. She’s waiting. She’s most anxious. She has appointment.”
“I’ll just be a minute.”
“What were you thinking wearing blue jeans?” My sister interrupted. “You know how Kathy gets.”
On any other day, I would have said ‘who gives a fuck’ but the woman had just lost her husband. “Does the car have air conditioning?”
“Yes, has air-conditioning but menehune in engine.”
“I think those are elves,” Jane explained.
“Ah.” Angel was an islander with perfect skin whose relaxed features masked the fact that she was probably in her late forties. On the way to the car she explained how we must not sweep the sand out of the condo for the next few days in case Dad came by to leave his footprints. Very important. The spirits leave their footprints to let loved ones know they’re okay. Then she asked which one of us would drive our stepmother from then on. She’d had enough Nopoopoo. Besides she was not really licensed to drive.
I took one look at my sister whose eyes were swollen shut through tears and knew it would be me. It was always me, the sister whose first reaction to tragedy is creating a robotic inventory of what needed to be done. I guess it’s all those Nordic ancestors. “Yah, Lars has frozen but we still need to catch the Gefilte fish.”
By the time we reached the car, Kathy had already cranked up the air conditioner to subzero levels. I seriously considered stripping off my wet jeans and driving around in my underwear but the seats were vinyl and the thought of sticking to them, icky. “Okay,” I asked as we exited the airport, “which way?”
There was no response from the backseat where my sister and step mother huddled and wept. “To the left,” Angel said. “Always to the left and then we will go to the right but not long. Then to left again.”
“Is there a map in the glove compartment?”
“We no need map. Impossible to get lost.” I already had no idea which way was north or south or east or west. I was already lost but she seemed so certain and besides those menehunes in the engine probably knew their way around.
We were about 10 miles from the airport when the car began to slip out of gear, generally on a hill. “I see what you mean, Angel. We should turn around and take the car back. The transmission is shot.”
“You’ve got a line of cars behind you!” My sister unnecessarily pointed out. “And they’re already beeping. How the hell do you think you’re going to turn around.” It was true. The road was barely two lanes wide with flowering bushes and trees spreading their roots under and over the asphalt.
“Okay, well at the next road we’ll turn around.”
It was then that Tennessee Williams decided to rewrite my script.
Blanche DuBois: “I said we’d be at the Funeral Parlor at precisely one o’clock! It just won’t do to be late and I just won’t have it!”
Stanley the Brute: “The car is a pile of crap!”
Blanche: “It ran so beautifully when Gentleman Bob drove it.”
Stanley: “Yeah, I’m a crappy driver.”
Stella the Peacemaker: “I can drive after we get to the Funeral Parlor.”
“We’re here,” Angel announced. We’d just passed a large colonial style house with verandas the size of which are generally only seen in the deep South. I turned into the gravel parking lot, trying to avoid the chickens.
“Okay Mr. Williams, you can get lost now,” I said to the interloper. “This is my script.” But he didn’t listen. He carried on:
Blanche DuBois to the funeral director, a layback son of islanders who had the audacity to wear sandals while meeting customers in their most devastating moments of severe bereavement: “My family ran a string of funeral parlors in Festus Missouri for over eighty years and we were quite proud of the fact that we were family owned and run. I assume that you too are family owned.”
Funeral director: “Most parlors on the islands are owned by a Japanese consortium.”
B: “Not family owned?”
FD: “I suppose you could ship your husband’s remains back to Missouri after the autopsy.”
Blanche: “Autopsy! Oh my word! NO, NEVER! What if this gets leaked to the press? Only murder victims are autopsied and Gentleman Bob would never associate with murderers! Never. He died snorkeling on a perfectly respectable beach.”
FD: “It’s Hawaiian law. Any non-islander who dies here has to have an autopsy.”
Blanche: “Are his remains here?”
FD: “Oh no, they’re at the morgue. The coroner does the autopsy, not me.”
Blanche, rising to her feet in outrage: “Come girls. We must stop this travesty.”
FD to my sister: “Are there religious objections?”
Stella: “God no.”
Stanley: “I’m not driving to the Coroner’s office!”
Blanche, ignoring the impudent, uncouth brute Stanley: “First we must stop at the hospital before they throw away Bob’s bathing suit.”
Blanche, with fresh sobs; “I must, I must have the sand that was next to his body when he breathed his last.”
Stella to Stanley: “The sand next to his scrotum?”
Dear Producer, Director: I really must insist that Mr. Tennessee Williams stop interfering with the writing of this script. Otherwise, I quit