With Don tucked safely away in my pocket, I resumed my trek along the trail.
I came to an old man standing in front of a strange little hovel. He had long white hair and a knobby walking stick. He looked like he had many stories to tell, so I kept going past him.
I came to the top of Aloha Ridge. There, in the distance, was the shimmering sea. I took Don out for a look. Soon we would be back home in America.
Home. The memories flooded back. The crack of the bat and the crack of your nose when another fan slugged you. The taste of that first big lick from an ice cream cone before handing it to your little nephew. Going for a stroll in the park, even if the sign said “No Strolling.” Laughing at whatever your boss says, in case it was a joke. Teaching a boy to fish and teaching him to run from a ranger. The wonder of getting a new job and the wonder of getting fired. Going mushroom hunting, and blasting them with your shotgun. Enjoying the crisp fall air with a big bowl of Rice Crispies. Going to Carlsbad Caverns and running out with a fake bat on your neck.
I wondered if Don had memories of home. Did he remember that I wrecked his car or that I owed him money? And would he agree that since he was now shrunken the amount I owed him should also be shrunken?
Who can know the mind of Don?
Don and I continued down the trail. At sunset we came to a group of men around a campfire. They were all wearing the Hawaiian shirts and cutoffs of the convict. They were tough-looking, with facial scars and scraggly, dirty hair. One man had a hook for a hand.
I waved, but they just glared at me. Finally, a couple of them waved back, but they weren’t very enthusiastic waves.
I asked if I could join them. After a long pause, a big man that I guessed was their leader said, “Sit.” They were sharing a bottle of a locally-made Scotch called Loch Aloha. I held my nose and took a swig.
They were close-mouthed at first. But gradually I learned that they had formed a gang of outlaws. After several passes of the bottle, they asked me if I had any ideas for crimes they could commit.
I suggested we get some dynamite and blow up some train tracks. When the train came along and derailed, we could break into the mail car and steal any money that was there.
“But if the train derails, couldn’t some people be injured?” said the leader.
“Yeah!” I said, laughing.
They frowned and shook their heads.
“O.K., how about this,” I said. “We counterfeit paleekas.* We could set up a printing press right here in the jungle.”
“But that might undermine the value of the paleeka,” said one man. “My grandfather gets his pension in paleekas.”
I sighed. “All right, what about kidnapping? If they refuse to pay, we cut off body parts from the victim and send them.”
The man with the hook for a hand started crying. The man next to him put his arm around him and comforted him.
I took the last swig from the Scotch and tossed the empty bottle over my shoulder. “That bottle could be recycled,” said the leader.
They broke out a guitar and began singing folk songs. I told a ghost story, but they told me to stop before I got to the end. They said it was too scary.
Some say I betrayed the other fugitives, but that’s not the way I see it.
The next morning I wandered off from the others to find a piece of aloha fruit. I thought, Maybe if I just take a little bite I won’t go completely unconscious.
That’s when I was surrounded by some of Ishimura’s thugs. I demanded to speak to Ishimura’s assistant, the one I had seen in the helicopter. They said he wasn’t with them, that he was busy at the office. What the hell?
I told them that if they let me go, I would tell them where the other fugitives were. They said they weren’t interested in others, just me. Finally I convinced them to go capture the others. They did, but get this: They took me too! So who was really betrayed here?
They marched us off toward the prison. On the way, I felt Don wiggling in my pocket. I took him out, but he kept wiggling. He squirmed out of my hand and rolled down the hill. I went after him, and the guards didn’t seem to notice. I yelled after them, but they didn’t hear me.
I slipped away.