Ch. 14 Attack of the Zombies

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"Nope. That was a warm-up." She started wolfing down her muffin, which seemed very small. In between bites, she told him to tell her more.

"More, all right," he said. He took a swig of beer, a local brew with the picture of an erupting volcano and hula girls on the label, and nodded. "More. So...what kind of more?"

"Tell me about the trouble you used to get into. And don't lie; you have a tattoo, so obviously you used to get into trouble."

"Trouble and tattoos. Yes, I do have some stories about that." He leaned across the table, placing his elbows on it, partly exposing his rippling bicep and the tribal tattoo that circled it.

Beth sucked down half of her zombie to keep calm. "Start talking," she squeaked after she swallowed. Dizziness hit her head. She should probably eat more if she was going to drink.

"Well, I got the tattoo the last time I came. I was nineteen years old. You may or may not believe this, but I was something of a loser through high school, but when I came to Hawaii, I could be someone else. I could ride the waves and hang out doing nothing. You know, escape from the high school shit."

"I understand," she said, sipping steadily on her zombie. It was almost empty. She waved at the server for another one.

"At I went to college, I was able to recreate that feeling with some success. I met my girlfriend, Zoe, who was very sporty. She loved to jog, box, lift weights, go climbing, everything."

"Which kind of explains the weight lifting instructor," Beth interjected.

"Yes."

"So when does the trouble and the tattoo come in?"

"Patience. She broke up with me right after I turned nineteen, in November. Now, I knew I was going to Hawaii that next summer and I wanted to really be a different person. I started working out and jogging all the time; Zoe's new girlfriend even made me a personalized program to get me in shape."

"Wow, I've never heard of anyone's ex and her new squeeze doing something like that before," said Beth. Her fresh zombie arrived and she dove in.

"I think they were simply thrilled to have a pet project and by the time summer arrived, I was...how to say this without sounding conceited? I was finally a man. There you have it. My ex-girlfriend and her lesbian lover had transformed me. I hit the beaches that summer, no longer a plucked chicken, but a real rooster." He finished his beer and chuckled. "Well, I was young and you do stupid stuff when you are young and you think you are totally hot shit. Right?"

"Right. We aren't going to talk about my stupid stuff tonight, though." Beth said. "We are going to talk about your stupid stuff."

"I made a habit of going around the island of Kauai to try different beaches, and find new challenges. Now the problem with beach hopping, is that every once in a while you will come across beach gangs-territorial surfers, mostly Hawaiian, who think that they alone can surf a particular area. Well, one morning some guy picked a fight with me. He started pushing me, acting tough, telling me to take my skinny, white ass off his turf. So I pushed him back." Russell took a drink of beer.

"Then what?"

"Then six of his friends jumped out of a truck and proceeded to beat the hell out of me."

"Oh, my God. Seven against one just because you wanted to surf there? The ocean isn't big enough for eight people?" Beth asked, incredulous.

"It has more to do with the history between whites and Hawaiians than surfing, but basically, yes. Lucky for me a couple of older guys showed up and saved my skinny, white ass. I wound up with a black eye, some bruised ribs and very sore stomach muscles. One of the guys, Chuck, was covered in tattoos. He took me aside to check me over and see if I passed out or not and we started talking. Or, actually, he started talking to me. He explained that there are two ways to deal with jerks: you can stand your ground or you can walk away. My problem was that I thought I could force my way in and be accepted. We sat there, me spitting blood in the sand, staring at his tattoos and wondering if I was going to pass out, and him telling me how beautiful the islands were and how the gangs were really just good kids who were tired of tourists taking all their waves. By the time I was able to stand up and walk, I had the address of his cousin's place where he got all his tattoos and a much better understanding of the Hawaiian mentality. It is a beautiful place, but most people only see the shiny surface. They don't see how hard it can be for the people who live here and are a part of the islands."

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