Year of the Rooster

CHAPTER 1

Aloha

When the Estonophie brothers boarded the plane in Newark, they pretended they didn’t know one another. Terry, the bruiser, flew first class. Larry, the pipsqueak, sat in coach, near the restrooms. You could take a magnifying glass to the flight manifest, but you’d find no one named Estonophie listed.

Ah-Ston-Ah-Fee. It was pronounced like astonishing, but with a fee at the end. They’d often had to instruct nuns, police officers and probation agents in the proper pronunciation of their name. They’d pestered Mom: All our friends are Irish, Polish, or Italian, so what are we?

You’re Proud Americans, Mom replied.

At Honolulu International, Terry, first off the plane, marched through the tunnel, a death grip on his suitcase. Heading for the cab stand, he glanced neither left, at the lei stands, nor right, at the hula girl greeters, nor back, at his brother.

Larry was the last to debark. In the flash of a camera’s strobe light, he let a hula girl kiss him. Then he lounged at the airport’s Flying Aloha bar, sipping Primo beer, watching TV and, during commercials, gawking amazed as gorgeous wahines walked by. 

After a restless hour of watching Danger, Hawaii on the bar’s TV, Larry, carrying no baggage, headed for the bus stop. Buses were for losers, so Larry hated this part of the plan. But Terry had insisted, and this was Terry’s show. Larry hadn’t taken a bus since he’d dropped out of school at age fourteen, two years sooner than New Jersey law allows.

At an outdoor lei stand he bought $2 worth of sun-wilted flowers, strung them around his neck, and studied a bus schedule. A perfumed breeze signaled his brain that he was a long way from Jersey. As he turned to look for the bus, Larry gazed upon Honolulu’s blue-green, cloudy hills, and was overcome by the first mystical experience of his life. It was a flood of emotion that convinced him he had visited these islands in some other lifetime.

It was such a strong feeling that he was breathing hard when he boarded the crowded bus. He sat sweaty next to a fat lady who wore a bright flowing muu-muu and a straw hat. His legs kept jimmy-jumping, and the fat lady gave him the Evil Eye. 

He tried to calm himself. Perhaps Oahu’s green hills seemed familiar because he had watched so many reruns of Danger, Hawaii. He snapped his fingers. That was it. But a moment later, he already wasn’t sure. This deja-vu was a scary feeling, so Larry avoided looking at the  mountains. 

He plucked a newspaper off the floor. The big headline read:

Governor Resigns!

Well, that might have been news to the mopes who lived here, but Terry and Larry knew that a week ago. It was, like, knowing the future before it happened. It was powers of, like, pre-déjà vu.

Deja-vu of the future, that’s what it was. 

He flipped to the comics and horoscopes. What kind of weird place had they come to? Where was Gemini? All these horoscopes were named for animals! 

The fat lady, reading over his shoulder, informed him: “I’m a Rat.”  

Larry gave her the Evil Eye.

“What’s your birth year?” she asked.

“Nineteen fifty seven,” said Larry.

“You’re a Rooster,” said the fat lady. “This is your special year, 1981, your third Rooster cycle.”

“Is that so?” Larry asked.

“Oh.” She nodded. “You’re in a very fortunate year.”

Larry was spooked because the woman had white hairs sticking out of her chin. That could only mean she was some kind of Hawaiian witch.

Normally he wasn’t much of a reader but he decided to dope out his Chinese horoscope. Maybe it would predict a change in the lousy luck he’d been having. 

“It is difficult for Roosters to accept advice because of their independent spirits. Today: The crowing Rooster awakens to new possibilities. Direction of your wind: Mauka.”

The meaning of that last word escaped Larry. But wind, yes. The bus windows were open, like they’d never heard of air conditioning here. In blew a breeze that smelled of auto exhaust, sea rot, tropical flowers. Larry sucked in a deep breath. 

So, my lucky year, he said to himself. The Year of the Rooster.

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