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Date: Thu, 8 Feb 1996 14:23:42 -0500
Ben goes loping across the parking lot at the Kahalui airport in Maui
toward some tall palms, we're unloading luggage from the rental van with
the kids and Cristina has just said how she wants to take a coconut back
to show to her class in Augusta. Ben goes up the tree like a native only
he has these size thirteen black sneakers on, Cristina says in wonder Does
Ben really love me that much and I tell her yes, Ben is grabbing at a cluster
of small coconuts trying to get one to let lose, he shinnies up another half
a foot, tries again, none of them will budge, they're rooted in there good,
and finally he comes down, Zachary is there to greet him and they head back
to us. Someone says it is the thought that counts, maybe him, but what a
thought. We go into the departure terminal and there's a flight leaving
in ten minutes so we get that one and we all go through security, my suspenders
set off the alarm, I am electronically swept in a crucifixion position and
allowed to go on. The kids are way up there, Ben asks if I had a moment of
guilt while I was there taking them from their mother and I look around my
head and heart and can't find anything like that, it was a cold hearted thing
though my heart was very much with me, it was a soulless thing though my
soul has never been stronger, it was a violent and aggressive act, though
I never felt more at peace. So there ya go. Life's funny. We get to the gate
and hug Ben goodbye, thank him for coming over, he thanks us for getting
him here, he's decided to stay, he's gonna do massage on Kuaia, the next
island west, less hoteled and prepared for popular enjoyment than this island.
He's been with us for a week, he'll take the van back tomorrow, Monday, spend
the night at our room at Nona Lani down the Kihei highway.
I felt my way along this whole thing like a blind man along a cliff,
I drank a lot of wine in the evenings, ate more than I needed, couldn't bring
myself to get any exercise. My body was falling apart, couldn't sleep and
yet we were dealing with life and death things and doing it good. The local
lawyer working on our ex parte order, Liz , told us the day before we made
our move when she was giving us the court documents signed by the local judge
that we had done everything perfectly. She said if we'd snatched the kids
on that first visit the court would not have backed up our bid for temporary
custody pending the court thing March 30 in Helena, Montana. And yet everything
we did right was inevitably judged as wrong by most of the people we shared
this ongoing stuff with, including the San Diego paralegal we've been in
touch with this past month, including our own attorney in Helena who said
legally he couldn't urge us to but we might just take them if we got the
chance. And the day we picked for the pick up, Sunday, that was considered
wrong by some, it was a weekend, the kids could be away with friends, it
was two days after Cristina's birthday, the mother would certainly anticipate
us if she had intuited our presence at all the five days we'd been there,
sure that was a bad day to move in. It turned out Cai planned to leave with
the kids very early Monday morning and would have been gone for three days.
But I made my choice, a blind man in a high wind, all frail and tapping with
my stick along the edge, glass of wine in my freehand, nose up sniffing.
The police had come to Liz's office Saturday and we'd made an appt. to meet
them at the community center in Paia across from the Buddhist temple. It
was dark when we got there, Marilyn had a cup of coffee that smelled like
battery acid and a sweet roll we'd gotten at a donut shop. Next to the temple
is a cemetery. As the dawn came some cars pulled into the cemetery and people
got out and stretched and walked around following a leader, never did figure
out what they were doing there, just wending their way down toward the sea
and back. I somehow expected Cai to show up in her van to join them and we'd
walk across the road with the cops and they'd present her with the summonses
and the ex parte order, we'd go back, get in drive to the airport and leave.
I wanted it that way. My deep down hunches told me we would get the
kids, it would be easy, it was meant to be, not because of any universal
shift but because I wanted it clearly and was totally committed. Everyone
would be where they were supposed to be to do their part in this play, everyone
knew at a soul level what was coming down.
We drive out, three cops in a marked white Bronco following, Ben and
Marilyn remind me about following the speed limit which brings to my mind
a pretty funny sequence. We get there, Ben and I move up the driveway to
the main house area, the cops following at fifty feet. I've told them no
gun play. I want these baggers alive. I have to stop to take a leak in some
bamboos next to the driveway, we come into the estate, there's Cai's green
Toyota van, move by, no one around, sun still behind the promontory across
the way to the east, up to the pool area, Cai comes around a corner, almost
bumps into me, veers away as if I am one of those awful apparitions you sometimes
find in your way I'm telling her I've come to get the kids and take them
back to school, she says Oh no you're not, then sees the cops move over the
tiny arched bridge over the goldfish pool and stop. One of them has a hand
full of papers. She looks at them, at me, I turn and go up the stairs to
the second level where the kids and she sleep, go in and roust the kids.
now there is a lot of angry voice down by the pool as she explains to the
police that she was never married to me therefore the kids belong to her.
She is trying to reason with them. Then she starts screaming and crying.
Zachary begins to cry. Cristina is sitting up in bed with clear eyes looking
at me. I told you I was coming to take you back to school, darlin I tell
her. She nods. For the next hour we deal with Cai's attorney from next
door who comes over in levis and oxford button down blue shirt, thick glasses
and a mean mouth who jumps all over the police and takes the papers from
Cai and reads them like a librarian just out of solitary after forty years,
tells the Sergeant these mean nothing, I've lied in my affidavit when I said
the kids have been in Montana for six months, the cops can go back now and
take me with them, the ex parte is over. Ben is hanging in close to the
kids while this is going on, helping them get dressed, The Central Casting-ACLU
lawyer is now on the phone to the judge who signed the order telling him
he made a huge error, I'd lied about everything, I didn't even really exist,
the mother had had these babies by spontaneous combustion, Liz got it all
wrong, he'd better get out here and call off the cops if he expected to be
around for any length of time or schedule a hearing for the next day. Then
she listens, counters, listens, attacks, listens, gets docile, dociler, now
she is no longer fanged into the receiver, her gums are bleeding, she hangs
up and says to me with total victory disfiguring her face, You have this
option Mr. Underhill, you can take the children now and I'll have them back
in two days. I am licensed to practice in California and here. Or you can
leave them here and try again when you get your facts straight! Hands on
hips, chin jutting out, eyes tiny and blue. This woman is remarkable, invincible,
impressive. I applaud, take the kids. Zachary gives me dirty looks in the
van all the way to the airport but when Ben goes for that coconut he seems
to forget about it and sometime during the long walk to the gate I find his
hand fitting itself into mine.
Listen to this, between Sunday and when we get back the temperature
in this part of Montana goes from 40 below to 50 above, 110 degrees spread.
That comes from my attorney in Helena. The Chinooks have melted all the snow
and moved us into springtime. This morning it was 45 degrees when we woke
up. Yesterday, when the kids went to their lockers all these children crowded
around them with such intensity and happiness I got a little teary, it was
like Marilyn said if you'd taken all the sun in all the Hawaiian islands
and put it in a bottle and brought it back and poured it into this hall that's
the kind of light you'd see.
Marilyn and I are played out but we're going up to walk the mountains
now so I'll write more later. This is the main crux of it though. Thank
you for putting Garcia on the web, what a good guy you are. I may need to
edit it a little in light of some things I've learned over the past month.
I have some other questions I'll pepper you with too.
Thank you for leaning on me at the right times, Dusty, you are
one damned good friend.
What did you decide about letter 40?
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