(* no wild pigs were injured in the writing of this book, albeit theoretically)
Moku heard the shot that killed the sow. He was almost relieved. The feral pua’a were overrunning the mountains and pigs stunk up the place. They’d made mud holes in Moku’s lawn again.
He hadn’t thought about the boar piglets until he saw them foraging under the mango tree. He pulled out the traps Auntie had bought to catch the mongoose that was chewing into her packs of cuttlefish. Every time she set them, the cages turned up empty, the bait missing.
The piglets had already lost weight. One was limping. Moku was never much of a hunter and they were good as dead anyway so Moku baited the cages with rotten mangoes stewing in a puddle of Bud Light.
By the next morning, two cages contained the thrashing bodies of small pua’a. Their snouts were bloodied from lunging at the cage walls. Their beady eyes panicked as they shook and squealed. It had been hard to see them as the true pestilence they were. The third cage was empty, both of pig and bait. The work of a mongoose.
Moku had laughed. Always the third little pig that gets away. He puffed up his chest and exhaled loudly and deliberately in the direction of the closest pig cage. When his lungs were empty, he laughed again, more loudly this time.
“Some big bad wolf, eh?” he’d said to the pigs.
Moku’s first impression of Carol was from her car. The three black boar had squealed in their kennel at the hairball hacking sound it made as it bounced down his dirt road.
Moku had been sitting on a plastic lawn chair on the porch, smoking and thinking about reseeding the St. Augustine grass where the pigs had torn it up. When Carol parked the green car, crooked and mostly in the road, it backfired and Moku had flinched. He had stared past her then, hoping she hadn’t seen. When she’d spotted him on the porch, she laughed nervously, shrugging and looking sheepishly from the car to Moku as though it was the first time the car had ever embarrassed her.
Up close, she was smaller than she had seemed from Pahoa’s house. Her cheeks were wizened from too much sun and sinewy blond hairs glittered against her tanned forearms. She walked like a mynah bird, strutting and stomping, a kind of falling forward like she was hopping from rock to rock. Before now, he hadn’t given her much thought. Auntie always had enough to say about her for the both of them. Carol probably didn’t know that Pahoa was such a gossip. He reported everything he saw or heard and he and Auntie speculated together.
Carol seemed younger that day, probably because she was so short. Her tank top had been tied into a knot at her middle where a thin strip of pale skin was visible when she raised her arms. It was white as coconut flesh. She had a quick smile, apologetic almost. He was the one who’d been sorry. She shouldn’t have come here.
“Hi, I’m Carol. Are you Manu?” The words were spoken clearly; the vowels clipped and with too much emphasis on the last syllable, just like a haole would say it.
“Moku,” he’d said. His high had been wearing off and it was making him raw, irritable but also open, like when a song touches you somewhere dark and fragile and you hear it for the first time.
“Oh.” She gave a nervous laugh and surveyed the house and yard. “Sorry. Moku. Got it. That means island right?”
“Yeah.” He had thought about telling her his whole name, all twenty one letters of it, but didn’t feel like explaining it.
“Hmm.” Looked around again as though the conversation no longer interested her, she then regained with, “It seems like there are so many meanings to Hawaiian words. Things are described more than said.”
Moku had shrugged. “Yeah, maybe.” Despite Auntie’s nagging, he’d never learned Hawaiian and only knew a smattering of words and phrases, some of which were perverted hybrids of Hawaiian and some other language. “Pahoa says you, da kine, animal doctor.”
Carol had wrinkled her nose and smiled, her eyes looking away. “I wouldn’t go that far. He said you have an injured baby boar?”
Moku had snorted. “No. I get tree of dem.”
“Three!” Carol’s eyebrows had pressed into her scalp, buckling the skin between. “Their mother?”
Moku replied nonchalantly. “Dead.”
“Dead?” The pitch at the end of the word had accusation.
“Yeah.” He’d looked away and pulled a pre-rolled cigarette from his pocket.
“Ok. Three. How big are they?”
“Bout da size of…” Moku remembered trying to answer. The three boar were like a litter of puppies, their small bodies sandbag tight and pegged upon stick legs that shot up from hooves the size of nickels.
“Maybe a coconut. Football sized coconut, I dunno. Not even big enough for a snack.” He’d meant it as a joke, mostly. But the way Carol’s face cinched up, he felt a little guilty.
“Are they aggressive?”
Moku thought. The little pua’a were quick. And strong. Moku wondered whether they couldn’t have survived in the wild. No, he reminded himself. He’d fed them consistent meals for two days and they were stronger for it. “Not yet. But dey pretty shifty. And dey stink.”
Carol had nodded and, in a very local gesture, flipped her chin in the direction of squealing. The memory of them, in the yard like that, was sweet, like a scene in someone else’s life. It felt fuzzy, maybe because he’d been a little high. That was before the night with the girl. Before the accident.