After being fingerprinted, photographed, strip-searched, and issued prison jumpsuits, they lead us down corridors to a heavy steel door. The guard inserts a large brass key. Shoving the heavy door open, he grins, “Welcome to The Hole, boys.”
Jail Unit 1 (J-1) has three tiers of cells stacked inside a three-story building. I am dumbfounded seeing a huge steel cage squatting inside of a confining concrete structure. We climb a staircase to the second tier then walk along a row of cells with their despairing human cargo. The cells are ten-feet long, six-feet wide, and less than eight-feet tall. From the cells, adult male eyes stare. Some are fearful or hopeless, but many are predatory. There is the murmur of voices, mostly angry and threatening. I walk close to the railing, avoiding the physical threat exuding from the cells’ dark interiors.
The guard stops at a cell midway down and opens the grill. “Arrington,” he orders, “inside.”
I peer into the dim interior—abruptly the guard shoves me fully into the cell and slams the grill. It smells rank and stale like a musky tomb or damp cave. A steel toilet, its bowl soiled with a busted seat, crouches in the corner. I place a hand against the wall to steady myself. The concrete is grimy, my hand comes away slimed with a caking of tobacco residue that over the decades has turned a greasy nut brown. A dull glow from a dim yellow light recessed into the ceiling barely reaches the lower bunk, which is shrouded in shadows. A huge black man lies there. He is naked but for a pair of torn and stained boxer shorts. The man emits a heavy musk that fills the tiny cell. I look at his thick muscular arms, barrel chest, and hateful stare. I am instantly terrified but know not to show it. He glares with bloodshot, red-rimmed eyes.
“Hello,” I say warily, “My name is Steve.”
He shakes a meaty fist at me. “Don’t gives a damn what’s your name is whitey, stay out of my face or I’ll bust you up.”
Under threat and feeling exposed, I climb onto the top bunk. The concrete ceiling looms above me, it is like lying down in a cement and iron coffin with a half-closed lid. There is barely enough room to sit up. I shut my eyes and listen to the sounds of the cellblock. An argument spiced with foul words, and vile threats reverberates from the cell above. I hear the flushing of a toilet, a cell door slamming, and the creaking of bedsprings from the bunk beneath me. As the huge man rustles about, the upper bunk magnifies his movements—it is a very weird and disturbing feeling.
Gazing at the ceiling light, I close my eyes, wishing I were anywhere but here. I stare at the yellow glow of the bulb as my mind journeys inward seeking happier times.
* * *
It is December 1979, and a big winter swell is pounding Oahu’s northern reefs. I, however, would remember it as the day I met Susan.
Standing on the beach, I am capturing spectacular wipeouts with a three-foot long, 650 mm telephoto lens. The monstrous waves have closed out the North Shore. Only the big breaks, Waimea, Sunset, and Pipeline, are barely rideable. The trade winds are holding the four-story-tall waves super critical before they break with the crashing sound of rolling thunder. Only a few surfers are riding the huge waves. A half-dozen broken surfboards have washed up on the beach, and the morning is only half over when I see two exquisite blond women walking in my direction. I, like most males on the beach, watch them striding across the white sand. I just did not expect them to stop right in front of me, but then I recognize Caroline whom I met several months ago at a beach party.
“What happened to your hair?” Caroline finds my near baldness amusing. I avoid the subject of the naval brig where they shaved my head as I think about my recent release from there a week ago.
Caroline is on the University of Hawaii’s swim team. Her figure is sleek as a seal’s. She looks ravishing in her white nylon dolphin shorts and red bikini top. However, my attention rivets on her friend who is stunning. “This is Susan,” volunteers Caroline, “meet Steve, he looks better with hair.”
Susan is wearing jeans, a white cotton blouse and holding a pair of sandals. Her long blonde hair falls in a silken cascade halfway down her back. She is a few inches shorter than my six feet with the physique of a dedicated athlete. She wears no makeup and is unaware that my heart is flopping in the hot sand at her feet.
“Mind if we join you?” asks Caroline, laying down a towel.
“Sure,” I grin happily.
Hidden behind my sunglasses, I ogle Susan as she slides out of her jeans. I noticed that she has the figure surfers daydream about while waxing up their surfboards. She checks that her burgundy bikini is in place—as did most of the males on the beach. Then she lies down on a beach towel. She and Caroline share a bottle of coconut suntan oil. I take off my sunglasses to wipe away the sweat hindering my vision. I miss shooting some hot double overhead, tube rides. My surfer friends will be upset, however, at the moment, I did not really care.
The girls are basking in the tropical sun when a black Great Dane arrives at a run spraying sand everywhere. Caroline glares at the big dog as she brushes at the sand sticking to her oil-covered skin, but Susan does not seem to mind. She pushes playfully at the big Dane, “Who are you, you big mutt.”
“His name is not mutt, it’s Puu,” I ruffle his floppy ears.
“Is he your dog?” asks Susan.
“Yeah, his full name is Puu Kane. I thought it meant mountain man in Hawaiian, but it means lump man. So I just call him Puu.”
“Hi lump,” laughs Susan.
Puu leans against my legs sopping up the attention, “He tends to be rather possessive of his dog dish and me.”
Puu barks then pulls on my swim trunks.
“What does he want?”
The Dane braces his paws in the sand and tugs harder. “He wants to be fed,” I laugh, “Want to watch? It’s amazing what he can do to a 40-pound bag of dog food.”
“Sure,” Susan’s smile is radiant in the morning light.
I shoulder the camera and tripod as Caroline elects to work on her tan. I like the idea of being alone with Susan.
“How long have you had Puu?” Susan asks rubbing Puu’s ears.
“Just three months.”
“Really?” she asks. “You two are like soul mates.”
“I hear that often. Puu and I have much in common. I stole him from a sailor who was abusing him something terrible.”
“You stole him?”
“Yep, the guy kept him tied to a tree in his backyard, often without food or water. The neighbors came out to encourage me to take him. He was howling and whimpering a lot.” I rub Puu’s ears while smiling at Susan. “When I took Puu he was covered in sores, skinny as a rail and beginning to turn mean.”
Susan stares at Puu’s black shiny coat and muscular body. “He seems to be recovering quickly.”
“He’s young, and getting the best of care. We do a lot of hiking, and he loves running on the beach.”
“Is that what you have in common with Puu? Have you been abused too?” asks Susan, her eyes full of innocence.
I stare a moment into her deep brown eyes, “Couple of months after I grabbed Puu, I was confined in the Navy brig in Pearl Harbor because of marijuana. So yeah, I guess I’m a little abused too.”
Startled by my straightforward answer, Susan asks, “When did you get out of the brig?”
I glance at my watch, “Eight days and three hours ago.”
Susan stares then picks up a stick and throws it for Puu. He is off in a burst of speed, snatching up the stick and charges back. Arriving in front of Susan, he chomps down crunching the stick in half. The pieces fall at Susan’s feet.”
“Does he always do that?” Susan picks up and inspects the two-inch thick pieces of crushed wood.
“It’s why I usually throw much bigger sticks.”
In the parking lot, Puu leads the way to a commercial van. Susan peers in as I open the backdoors. “Is this where you live?” she asks.
Puu jumps inside. “It’s where we live, he considers it his mobile dog house, I call it Revelstoke.”
“You made this?”
“Yeah, it used to be a Chevy commercial van until I altered it a bit.” From a heavy bag of dry dog food, I half-fill monster dog’s dish, which is the lower third of a metal trashcan. Susan watches in amazement as Puu inhales his mountain of food.
“Do you need feeding too?” I ask.
Susan grins, “I wasn’t going to tug on your shorts to ask.”
I fill two wooden bowls with plain yogurt and top it with lots of fresh tropical fruit, granola, nuts, and seeds.
Susan looks at her bowl. “Certainly looks healthy.”
“I am a health fanatic. I want to die healthy.”
“Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?” she asks.
“When I was a teenager, I read an old Arab saying, “Health is a crown, worn by the well, that only the sick can see.” It opened my eyes. I try only to eat what’s good and am addicted to self-propelled and gravity sports. I love exercise.”
“We have a lot in common,” Susan’s eyes are captivating. I try not to stare as she continues, “I work at a health food restaurant and run with a cross-country team.”
“I love running,” I say eagerly. “I finished the Honolulu Marathon in three hours and forty-one minutes.”
Susan grins, “That’s a great time.”
What Susan does not share is that she ran the Honolulu Marathon last year and beat my time by 18 minutes. Susan is a class act—I, however, am an egotistical dope.
After we eat and Puu has gone out to play, I realize she probably wants to go back to the beach. If I am going to ask her out, now is the time, the thought makes me tongue-tied. Susan crosses her long legs, brushes a wisp of hair from her face, looks right, then left, and takes several deep breaths, while I struggle with embarrassment issues.
“Anything you’d like to ask me?” She smiles innocently.
“Ah, want to have dinner tonight?” I croak.
“Hmmmmm,” she ponders my offer.
“Well?” I ask.
“I’m thinking about it,” her eyes glint mischievously. “Okay, can you pick me up at the restaurant where I work? I’m off at nine. If you arrive early, I’ll make you dinner and then we can go out.”
Susan stands. “I’m glad we finally got that over with,” she teases.
Later, we are standing in the parking lot beside Caroline’s VW bug. Susan smiles and innocently asks, “Do you want to know the name of the restaurant or maybe its address or telephone number?”
I feel like a clod as she writes on a piece of paper and stuffs it into my T-shirt pocket. “Don’t lose that,” she quips.
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