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Raising Sand

By T.R. Healy

"I thought you said it was right around the corner?" Maura complained to her husband as she searched the cluttered square for the Damien Museum.

"I thought wrong."

"Just like yesterday."

Ignoring her rebuke, Haynes unfolded the street map he got from the concierge at the hotel, slid off his sunglasses, and searched again for the museum among the confusing and exotic Hawaiian street names. His eyes crinkled in frustration.

Maura stood in the shade of a banyan tree, rankled by the obstinacy of her husband. All he had to do was ask someone for directions but he refused, which was so typical of him, she thought, unwilling to admit he was lost and confused like so many other visitors to the islands. Desperately he was trying not to stick out as a tourist, despite his ashen arms and legs and the camera slung over his shoulder. It was foolish of him, really, since wherever they went they found middle-aged couples just like them, pale as Alaskans, visiting paradise for the first time. They were really not as out of place as Haynes thought, she believed.

"I think we better ask someone where the museum is."

"I'll find it," he said petulantly. "Just give me a couple of minutes."

She frowned, afraid they were going to waste this afternoon much as they did yesterday, going around in circles, as Haynes tried to sort through his map. He could be as stubborn as an old mule sometimes.

"You looking for anywhere in particular?"

She turned and saw a young man leaning against the banyan tree, dressed in khaki shorts and a worn floral shirt. A smile, almost as bright as his streaked hair, shone from his polished brown face.

"We're trying to find the Damien Museum."

Haynes cringed, wishing his wife had kept her mouth shut.

"Oh, yeah, the missionary who took care of the lepers."

She nodded, carefully measuring the eyes of the affable young man.

"Oh, all that happened on Molokai. You'll have to board a plane to get over there."

"Not according to this guidebook I have," she said, showing him the address in the book.

"I'll be," he said in surprise. "I know where this street is, but I didn't know there was a museum there. You want me to show you where it is? I know these streets like the rooms in my house."

"Hear that, Haynes? This young man---"

"Bradley," he introduced himself.

"Bradley here can lead us to the museum you want to visit so badly."

"That's right, sir. I can guide you right up to the front door."

"Is it very far from here?" Haynes asked warily.

"Oh, no," he said. "It's quite close."

"Let's get going then before the whole afternoon is over," Maura urged, nudging past her skeptical husband.

She and Bradley proceeded across the street, with Haynes half a step behind, scarcely listening to the two of them discuss the exotic plants they passed along the way. He was amazed how his wife could blindly follow someone she had never set eyes on until a couple of minutes ago. It was not that she was a particularly trusting person, but more likely that she was trying to get back at him for wasting so much time fooling around with his map. She was rebuking him, he believed, as surely as if she had raised a hand to his face.

Moments later, as promised, Bradley led them around a corner to the front of the Damien Museum, pointing out the small sign that listed the hours the museum was open. He was clearly pleased with himself, his lopsided mouth splitting into a broad grin.

"You were certainly right about it being nearby," Maura remarked.

"I told you I know these streets as if I'd grown up on them."

Derisively she glanced at her husband then back at Bradley. "If you hadn't come along, we'd still be going around in circles, looking for this hole in the wall."

"Yes, we certainly appreciate your help," Haynes said grudgingly and reached into his wallet for a dollar bill to give the young man. "Thanks, or should I say, Mahalo."

Bradley shook his long, wavy hair, declining the gratuity. "I'm coming in with you."

"That's not necessary," Haynes said anxiously, still holding out the wadded dollar. "We're just going to browse around for a while."

"I'm coming," he insisted. "Anything you want to know about the leper priest I can tell you. I'm as fine a guide as you can find here."

As they looked at some of the stark photographs of Father Damien at his colony at Molokai, it was obvious that Bradley did not know anything more about the leper priest than what was written on the captions beneath the photographs. He was just some guy off the beach, Haynes suspected, hoping to lighten the wallets of a couple of naive visitors from the mainland. Haynes, not knowing what to do, became increasingly tense, concerned that Bradley might want to tag along with them for the rest of the afternoon.

When another couple briefly blocked Bradley in a corner of the museum, Maura whispered to her husband, "I don't think our young friend is much of a guide."

"Of course he isn't a guide," Haynes snorted.

"Whatever he is, I think we better get rid of him."

"I tried to, remember, but he didn't want to go."

"We're going to have to do something, though."

"If it wasn't for you, he wouldn't be here in the first place."

"If you weren't lost, I wouldn't have had to ask for directions."

Bradley was right beside them when they left the museum, agitatedly fingering the string of white shells around his creased neck. Haynes ignored him until they reached the sidewalk, then he pulled out the dollar again. "Please take this for all your trouble," he said. "We're much obliged."

"That's all right," he said, ignoring the dollar. "I'll come with you."

"That's not necessary, Bradley."

"I want to come."

"Sorry."

"I'm a guide, sir. I can show you things you might not notice otherwise."

"We're just going back to our hotel room."

He smiled cryptically. "I'll walk you there."

"Oh, come along if you want," Maura said in exasperation.

Haynes was startled and gave her an icy look, but she had already started across the street with Bradley at her side. Reluctantly he trailed after them, furious at himself for not being able to get rid of this parasite. He felt so impotent, so helpless, as if he were a hostage of this blond young stranger. He didn't know if Bradley was dangerous, but was mindful of the stories he had heard about tourists being robbed in broad daylight right outside their hotels so the longer Bradley was with them the more worried he became. Tightly he held on to the strape of his camera and kept a close eye on his wife's purse, which she carried on her wrist, just in case Bradley was a thief. Knowing how callow Maura could be at times, he doubted if she suspected they might be in any jeopardy with this man, idly chatting away as if nothing serious wrong could happen to them in the middle of Waikiki.

"You folks hungry?" Bradley asked suddenly, pausing in front of a convenience store.

Haynes shook his head. "No."

"I am."

"Well, then, why don't you go inside and get yourself something to eat?"

Again he smiled cryptically. "If I do, you'll be gone when I come out, won't you?"

"We'll be right here."

"I don't think so. Why don't you come in with me?"

Haynes gripped his wife's wrist. "We'll wait right here."

"I think you should come with me."

"No."

Bradley stared at him hard, his breath hissing in his nostrils. Haynes stared back, just as intently, refusing to acquiesce this time. His heart pounding, he loosened his grip on Maura's hand, ready to protect himself if the young man tried anything.

"All right, but if you want anything inside," Bradley said after a long pause, "you'll have to give me some money because all I have is enough for myself."

"What?" Haynes exploded. "We---"

However, before he could say anything more, Maura pulled a ten dollar bill out of her purse and handed it to Bradley. "JUst get us a couple of sodas, please."

He nodded. "Sure thing, lady."

They waited until he went into the store then, without exchanging a word, they climbed into a pedicab and headed back to their hotel. Just as Bradley said they'd do, Haynes thought to himself. His heart still pounding fiercely, he took several deep breaths, trying to collect his composure. But he was so furious with his wife he was unable to contain his temper and, suddenly, bluntly, clamped his hand on her left knee.

"Don't," she groaned. "That hurts."

"I hope it does," he snapped, removing his hand. "Because I don't want you ever to get involved with anyone like that guy again. You don't know what he might do."

"You're imagining things again."

"I'm not, either."

She shook her head. "What's the long face for? He guided us to the museum you wanted to see, didn't he?"

"Lord, woman, you don't know what he had in mind for us. And, believe me, I wasn't about to stick around and find out."

"All he wanted, as it turned out, was a few dollars. Nothing more. He didn't mean any harm."

He glared at her. "Just don't get involved with anyone like that again, Maura."

"You don't think I did it on purpose, do you?"

He most certainly did. He was convinced she got involved with Bradley in order to get back at him for being too stubborn to admit he was lost and ask for directions to the museum. It was the stupid sort of cruelty they had been inflicting on one another for years. They had come to the islands to repair some of the angrier sores in their marriage, hoping a change in climate would bring about a change in their hearts, but they remained as petty and mean to one another as they were on the mainland.

(C)opyright 2007 T.R. Healy All Rights Reserved

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