We first traveled to the Hawaiian Islands when our kids were small. We all liked it so much that we visited up to four times a year, which was relatively simple--us living on the west coast at the time, and my wife, Kay, working for an airline. As the kids grew and developed other "interests" (mainly not hanging around with their parents), Kay and I continued to revisit Hawaii, most often remaining in Maui rather than island hop. As long as we have tennis, sun, sand, good restaurants, snorkeling, and access to sailing vessels we're content. |
Sometimes we take little day trips like helicopter rides or a catamaran to Lanai, but mainly we just laze and relax. We usually stay at or near Ka'anapali Beach in either a beach front hotel or guest house.
Kay enjoys sleeping in, but I'm a bit like a rooster; that is, as soon as the sun creeps over the eastern horizon, my eyes pop open. I'm what you would call a morning person, eager to rise and full of joy that I get to exist another day. After brushing my teeth and smearing on some deodorant, I put on shorts, tank top, and shoes and hit the road. There are several routes I favor that vary in distance from three to five miles. Since there are no nearby lap swimming pools, after my run I hit the beach, strip to shorts, and swim back-and-forth between hotels. Usually, I have this ritual completed before eight o'clock, and I'm famished. I collect Kay for a leisurely breakfast and we plan our day--if you can call it a plan. It goes something like this:
"What do you want to do today?"
"I dunno. You?"
"I don't know; hang around the beach; play a little tennis; maybe go to LaHaina for dinner...?"
(Yawn) "Sound good to me."
However, one day my swim took on a completely different character, and transported me into the Twilight Zone. At least, that's what I think happened. Did you ever have something really improbable (impossible?) happen to you; something that defies explanation, and then as time passes you deny (to yoursef) it ever happened--like maybe your imagination carried you away, and you thought the whole thing up? This was one of those times. To this day, I want to believe I was having a wide-awake dream, but on the other hand, I have little recall--if any--of my dreams while this experience is crystal clear. Anyway, here it is: any normal person would question my sanity for telling this story. So why, dear reader, am I sharing it with you? I'll tell you why: keeping it to myself is driving me nuts! I have to tell somebody whether or not it makes me out to be some kind of looney-tune. Here goes...
Having finished a five-mile run, dripping sweat I walked to the beach at the Sheraton Maui, removed shirt, shoes and socks, and entered the water near an outcropping the Sheraton staff calls Black Rock. The water felt refreshing. After bobbing around for a few minutes and gazing at the sun-drenched islands of Molokai and Lanai in the distance, I began swimming in the opposite direction from Black Rock. The beachfront hotels were on my left. I turned around at the Whaler Condominium, and was about twenty meters from my original point of entry into the sea, contemplating turning around for another lap, when I sensed a strange and alien presence. It wasn't especially threatening, but definitely disquieting so I stopped swimming, treaded water, and looked immediately ahead. The head was as big as mine, dark green, scaly, and looked prehistoric. The mouth was a perpetual frown, and the eyes heavy-lidded. I was thinking sea serpent while at the same time knowing that was ridiculous.
The creature looked at me suspiciously. "Hey, how ya doin'?" It said.
Now I became a bit frightened. What was on the other end of that head?
"Hey, how ya doin'?" The creature repeated.
"Are you really speaking to me?" I said, "Or am I imagining this?"
"Who else would I be talkin' to? You see anyone else out here?" The creature looked around. We were alone. No witnesses. Isn't that always the way?
I was dumbfounded. "C'mon, I know better. Sea creatures can't talk. I mean, you gotta cut me a bit of a break here; I'm a bit in shock!"
"We only speak when there's somethin' to say. We're not like your species blatherin' on-and-on; sayin' nothin'. Except for dolphins--they're as bad as your kind. Whistle, whistle, click, click...drives me freakin' nuts."
"You have something to say to me?" I asked still in a state of shock, but eager for some kind of life-changing revelation.
"Not really. For you I make an exception. See, it's just that you swim pretty slow. Never escape from a predator."
"Well, we're not made for the sea. We move around up there." I gestured toward the beach.
"Yeah," he snorted, "Tell me somethin' I don' know. You're not exactly greased lightnin' up there either. How does your puny kind escape the quick-and-strong land predators?"
"Mainly, we're smarter. We set traps for them, capture them, and put them in cages or fenced-in territories. Sometimes we eat them." Me and my big mouth!
"So you're the real predators, right? I'll bet you even catch some of us and put us in water cages. Think before you answer, land creature, I've seen your floatin' conveyances that drop nets and kidnap."
I didn't like the way this conversation was going. Suddenly, I remembered an article I read about the Boston Aquarium. To summarize, it said when divers entered the tank to feed the animals they stood back-to-back--but not because of sharks! In fact, some sharks were mysteriously disappearing, victims of a giant octopus. Bottom line: The greatest danger to divers came from large turtles!
With that in mind, and feeling defensive I said, "Not me, but some do. Don't you have some evil creatures that prey on others, say, like great white sharks?"
"Yeah, yeah, but the Orcas take care o' them. Come up beneath them, turn them over, and kill them--even the big fifteen to twenty feet sharks. Problem is that Orcas are a noisy lot--like you and dolphins."
"Say, what kind of creature are you?" I was pretty sure I knew.
The creature surfaced a bit more, and I saw a huge shell the size of a dining room table that could easily seat six to eight for Thanksgiving dinner. "Satisfied?" he asked.
"You're a turtle!" I exclaimed triumphantly, and again remembering the article about the Boston Aquarium. Could I beat him to the safety of the beach if I had to? Probably not. Having snorkeled the islands for years, I'd seen and swam with scores of turtles, the largest with a shell the size of a trashcan cover. This guy was huge. "But I've never seen one your size in these waters. What gives?"
The turtle kind of smirked and it looked like he rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I get that all the time. See, I been around about two-hundred years. I'll still be here when you're gone."
"What should I do with the rest of my life?" Maybe God was speaking through this turtle, and was going to tell me something to help myself...or even mankind.
"How should I know," said the turtle. He turned and ducked his head ready to dive.
"Hey, c'mon!" I yelled after him. "You said you never speak unless there's something to say!"
His head popped up. "Think about it, my friend. You already know the answer." and he dove beneath the surface and vanished for good.
Nothing more? Surely he had more to offer than that I swam slowly. I waited a time to see if he would return. He didn't--not that day or any other. I stood on the beach drying in the sun--wondering. By then some others were emerging from the hotel for an early dip or a walk on the sand. I wanted to grab them and tell them what happened to me, but...
There was something in that turtle's last glance that was vaguely familiar. I puzzled about it as I walked to our room. I also wondered how I could dream while wide awake--and in broad daylight. Maybe I was nuts. The whole episode seemed senseless to my conscious mind. There was no way to explain it in the time-space framework of reason and sanity. What I had observed could not exist in two different forms--reptiles talking and reasoning like a human? No way! I tried to brush the fantasy aside relegating it to a wishful delusion.
When I returned to the room Kay was up, and heading for the bathroom as I opened the door. I decided to tell her.
"Hey, guess what happened to me? When I was swimming this huge turtle..."
"That's nice," she said smiling, and closed the door.
I never brought it up again. What would you do?
Copyright by Gene Myers http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/AfterHours.html
Read "AFTER HOURS: Adventures of an International Businessman" available from www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com and www.borders.com
NEW from Gene Myers, "Songs from Lattys Grove", PublishAmerica (August 2010)
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