Mr. Santos could not even bring himself to cook. The heat made him sick to his stomach. There was no way he’d be able to eat. He sat down on the door stoop with a glass of water and watched the termites swarm about the streetlights.
Berna came out with a beer and a cigarette. “Mr. Santos, good evening.” She sat at the bottom of the stairs.
“Every day,” Mr. Santos said, “the weather gets worse. Tonight it’s so hot the termites look like they swarming the lights to cool off.”
Berna laughed. “Ay, all those little fans. You’d think with so many thousands of them around each streetlight, we’d have natural air conditioning.”
She blew a long stream of smoke into the air, looking as if she were aiming for the cloud of little flying bugs. “Did Rollie bring you the fans today?”
Mr. Santos wiped his face with a white handkerchief. “No, Berna, he never. He didn’t come home last night, either. I never seen him all day.”
“Have you called the hardware store to see if he went to work?”
“No, he would be off work today. And besides, now we no more phone.” Since he’d retired, Mr. Santos had been able to afford less and less. The phone was a luxury he had to live without.
“Ay, nowadays,” Berna said, “everything always comes down to money.” She sipped her beer. “Did you get the letter today?”
“Yes, yes. So we get three months, then. Where you goin move to, Berna?”
“My sister lives in Pauoa Valley. They have a room downstairs. I can live there until I find a permanent place. How about you, Mr. Santos? Where will you and Rollie go?”
“I think I can stay my brother’s house Kalihi. I gotta ask him. If have to, me an Rollie can share one bedroom, I think. I wonder what they goin do here once they move us out an knock the buildings down?”
Berna said, “I heard maybe they will be putting up some kind of huge building, some kind of cultural plaza, they called it, for the Chinese in Hawai’i.”
“Hah, for real?” Mr. Santos said. “What about you an me? You think they ever goin put up one building for the Portagees or for da Filipinos? You think das gonna happen?” He laughed.
Berna laughed too. “Ay, maybe right after they build a place to thank the Japanese for bombing Pearl Harbor.”
They both laughed.
Just then, Jesus and Christina came up the street.
“Yo, Berna,” Jesus said. “You out here protecting your house from the termites, o’wot?”
Mr. Santos said, “Eh, Jesus, Christina, you seen Rollie?”
“Not me,” said Jesus. “You, Chris?”
“No, Mr. Santos, not for a few days,” Christina said.
“Geez, I never seen him since day before yesterday,” said Mr. Santos. “I’m worried. He was supposed to bring us some fans. You know him. What he says, he does. I’m worried.”
“Fans, yeah,” Jesus said. “The weather been so bad, even da Follies sign stay melting.” He pointed up at the missing S. “Follie. What you tink?” He lit two cigarettes, one for him and one for Christina. “Maybe one idiot climbed up da pole an stole da S o’wot?”
They all laughed. “I don’t know,” Mr. Santos said, “but for sure that S not coming back. The Follies is dead already. Nobody go anymore. Folks would rather go Club Hubba Hubba kine. Why fix um? They going bulldoze this whole place down anyway.”
“Yeah yeah,” Jesus said. “We all gotta get outta dis place, yeah. Where everybody goin go? Not like we all can buy house or pay mo high rent. Try watch how many guys goin end up sleeping ‘A’ala Pahk or even down da beach.”
The two started walking again. “Have a good night,” Christina said, and the two disappeared around the corner.
Berna stripped her cigarette, took the last sip of her beer, then stood up. “Goodnight, Mr. Santos. I sure hope Rollie comes home soon.”
“Thanks, Berna, me too. I just like know he’s okay.”
“Ay,” Berna said. “Me too, Mr. Santos, me too.” She waved and then disappeared around the corner too.
Mr. Santos stared at the termites (snip)
* * * * *
Today’s word is
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