Orchids in the Sun

© by The Lavender Quill, 2002

Warning: the following story contains graphic descriptions of male/male sex between consenting adults. If that sort of thing bothers you, or you are a minor, or it is illegal for you to read this type of content under the laws of your area, don’t read any further.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual people or events is purely coincidental.

Chapter 3.

My dad and I lived in a small two-bedroom apartment. The concrete building was built in the early 1960s when Maui was going through a boom cycle. Maui seems like a paradise to tourists, but this apartment building had all the charm of a military barracks. After forty years of minimal maintenance, it was barely habitable. Neither of us cared. I didn’t spend much time there anyway, and it was cheap. We had moved there shortly after I finished high school. Now that I contributed to the rent, it was better than the place we’d lived before.

The tiny living room was mostly filled with surfboards, windsurfers, dive and snorkel equipment, belonging to both of us. We periodically tried to vacuum the sand out of the carpets, but it was a losing battle. I’d feel guilty, but the carpets were already pretty thrashed when we’d moved in.

It was late, and I quietly let myself into the apartment. I leaned my board against a wall—if I left it on my roof rack, it would have been stolen by morning—and carried my guitar to my room.

My dad’s bedroom door was closed. I was fairly sure he was in there. I’d seen his car in the parking lot when I arrived. I thought about knocking, but decided against it. I could wait till morning.

My dad and I can talk. We have a pretty easygoing relationship. That was largely his doing. He is a very easygoing guy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get mad at any thing or any body.

He was a baby boomer who grew up in Indiana. He had joined the Navy to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War, but served less than two years before being kicked out for drug use. He was processed out at Barbers Point—a Navy air base west of Pearl Harbor—and never returned to the mainland.

He became totally absorbed by the hippie surfer culture, and surfing remains his biggest passion to this day. He still smokes a lot of pakalolo, but he told me he used to do other drugs back before I was born. He never married any of the women he bedded, including my mother. She had been quite a bit younger than he. At the time, she was in her early twenties, he in his mid thirties.

I don’t remember my mother much. She was also a mainlander. One of her grandparents had been half Hawaiian, though, and she had moved to Oahu to “explore her roots”. Like many mainlanders, however, she grew tired of the islands after a while. Island fever, they call it. They feel trapped if they are used to living on a huge continent. Hawaii is beautiful in many ways, but it is a relatively small land mass in the middle of a vast expanse of ocean. It is pretty easy to move among the islands, but it is a long and expensive flight to get to the mainland very often. Some people can’t handle it. My mother was one of them. When she moved back to her family in West Virginia, she left me with my dad. We moved from Oahu to Maui shortly after that.

My dad always said I was an accident, but a happy accident for him. It had never been his intention to get married and have kids. It didn’t fit the surfer lifestyle. He said when I was born, he discovered to his own surprise that he liked having a kid. He had paternal instincts he was completely unaware of.

So while I had an absentee mother, and my father and I rarely had much money, he loved me and I had a pretty happy childhood. He actually laughed when I came out to him when I was sixteen.

“Dad,” I’d said. “Sit down. I have something to tell you.” I was very serious. Very nervous. Isn’t everyone? “Dad, I’m… I’m g-gay.”

And he laughed! I almost died on the spot, I was so shocked. I had prepared myself for rejection, for acceptance, for argument, but not for laughter.

“Phew,” he’d sighed. “Is that all?” He got up and grabbed me in a big hug. “You wanted to make some big announcement, and I was afraid you were gonna tell me you wanted to join the Army.” He released me from our hug, but still held me by the shoulders. “Now that would really have freaked me out. I don’t care if you fuck chickens, Trevor. Just don’t ever tell me you want to join the Army.” And that was it. He couldn’t care less. “Lets go surfing!” His solution to any problem.

I smiled at the memory, and decided to wait and talk to him in the morning.

* * * * *

When I wandered out of my bedroom in the morning, I found my dad sitting at the small table in the corner of the kitchen. He was drinking some fruit drink he had cranked up in the blender. He is in one of his vegetarian phases again. He is what I call a ‘cyclical vegetarian’. He’ll be a strict vegetarian for six months, a year, even a couple of years at a stretch. Then he’ll get a craving for some kind of meat and go off of it. After a while, he’ll start feeling guilty or fat or whatever, and start over again. Being the easygoing guy that he is, he never forces me to adhere to the same dietary requirements he sets for himself. Thankfully.

It is Saturday. We often surf together on Saturday mornings. Then I do my normal routine. Weekends at the nursery are busiest, especially during tourist seasons. I take a day or two off during the week when I can, but rarely a weekend day.

I’d had a lot of food at the party, but I was hungry again anyway, and I usually require a lot of food intake when I’m surfing. So I ate a fairly large breakfast. We didn’t talk much as we ate. Neither of us is prone to much conversation that early.

We strapped three boards to my roof rack, one of mine, and two of his. He likes to have options, depending on the wave conditions. I was indifferent to where we surfed that morning, so we went to one of his favorite spots. I wore my shorty wet suit. Dad just wore shorts, he being of the old school of surfers. That and he was bigger than me and a bit overweight, so his body temperature doesn’t drop as fast, or as easily as mine.

My father looked like he was having a good time, but I couldn’t concentrate. Good surfing requires an accurate sense of wave movement, and precise timing. My timing was shot to hell that morning. I was too early, too late, or I missed good waves altogether. Ugh. Mildly disgusted with myself, I finally went ashore.

I stripped out of my shorty wet suit and put on some baggy shorts. I strapped my board to the roof, and went and sat on the sand watching my father. It was a nice warm morning, and I lathered on some sunscreen. After a while he joined me on the beach. He set his board down and sat beside me. I offered him some sunscreen, but he refused. His skin was like rust colored leather, and he’d had one skin cancer lesion removed already. I had little doubt there would be more if he continued to refuse to wear sunscreen.

“Hey, Trevor,” he said. “You looked like shit out there this morning.” This was not said in an insulting way, just a statement of fact. “Is something on your mind? Wanna talk about it?”

I rolled over on to my stomach and started doodling in the sand with my fingers. “Dad, have you ever gotten high and slept with a friend, and wish you hadn’t, and had it ruin your friendship?”

“You mean ‘slept with’ as in ‘had sex with’, right?”

“Um, yeah dad.” I scribbled nervously in the sand, not looking at him. I usually feel at ease talking to him, but this was an uncomfortable subject.

“Well, Trevor, you know I’ve never been the kind of guy that settles down with just one woman. And I’ve been high during sex pretty often, though mostly when I was younger. I kind of like mellow sex when I’m high. I don’t think I ever regretted it afterward. Don’t remember it being the cause of a ruined friendship.” He paused for a minute. “I take it this is a specific question, and not a hypothetical?”

I tried not to blush, and was still having a hard time looking at him. I nodded my head.

“Then it really doesn’t matter what I did or what my experience was. You ain’t me. We have some similarities—surfing, for one—but we are a lot different in other ways. You are quicker to anger than I am, and yet, in some ways you are more sensitive than me too.”

I looked at him and smiled. “Dad, everyone I’ve ever known is quicker to anger than you. I don’t think I ever remember seeing you angry.”

He laughed. “That’s probably true, but don’t change the subject. The point is that we are two different people, you and I. We would react differently if put in the same situation. Plus, you being gay makes it different too.” I looked at him and scowled. “I mean, love is love, I suppose, regardless of the gender of your attraction. But there are different societal pressures and expectations.” He paused to think. “I never wanted to get married, even though that is what our culture has always expected of me, especially raising a son. You always tell me you want to find one guy to be with for your whole life, to marry a guy if you could, even though our society won’t allow it.”

What he said was true. A sad irony, when I thought about it.

“I could always move to Vermont,” I said. Vermont allowed gay people to get married.

“Can’t surf there,” he said, dismissing the choice utterly.

“The Netherlands?” I teased.

“Can’t surf there either, and you don’t speak Dutch,” he said. “And stop trying to change the subject.” We both laughed, then sat silently for a few minutes, contemplating. “So, who did you sleep with? Nick or Kenji?” He knew, of course, who my two best friends were.

I blushed again. “Does it matter?”

“Not really, I guess. I was just curious.”

“It was Nick.” There didn’t seem to be any point in not telling him. “I guess it was just a little birthday sex.”

“Maybe physically that’s all it was,” said my father, “but it has you so messed up that you can’t even surf this morning.” I certainly wasn’t fooling him.

I rolled on to my back and stared up at the sky. “I’m so fucked up, dad. Nick and Kenji are my best friends. I love them both. What if I’ve ruined everything?”

“Why do you think you’ve ruined anything, Trevor? Is there something real wrong, or is it just your own insecurities? You say you love them both, so you aren’t mad at them. Is one of them upset with you?”

“I…” He had a point. “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

“So you are worried about what might happen? Not anything that has already happened?”

“I suppose,” I admitted.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. I just can’t figure out why.” I rolled up and sat cross-legged. “I mean, we’ve known each other for ages, and we’ve never done it before.” I struggled to find the words to describe what was going through my head. “Like you said, though, I wanna find a guy to settle down with. I don’t want to be one of Nick’s conquests. He’s a great guy. I love him a lot, and the sex was great, but Nick’s not exactly a settling down kind of guy.”

My dad pondered that for a couple of minutes, aimlessly waxing his board.

“Do you think you know him pretty well?” asked my father.

“Him and Kenji, yeah. Better than anyone else.”

“Do you think he knows you pretty well too?”

“Of course…” I wasn’t sure where he was going with this.

“Well, don’t you suppose he knows your feelings about relationships?”

“I’m sure he does. All three of us have talked about that kind of thing a lot.”

“I don’t know him as well as you, of course, but he seems like a decent kid. I can’t imagine him doing something mean to you, to intentionally hurt you. And he seems savvy enough and respectful enough not to mess you up in a colossal way by accident.”

“I suppose.”

“So if he’s never made any advances on you in five years, and now all of a sudden he has, then I would guess that he has something in mind besides his usual quick fling. He knows that’s not what you want.”

“Maybe,” I conceded.

“Have you talked to him about it? What he wants with you long term?”

“Not really. It was kind of unexpected. At least for me.”

“Well, then,” he said. “Don’t make a problem where none exists, Trevor. You seem like pretty close friends. There is no reason that this has to ruin a friendship. It could just as easily be the start of something new and wonderful between you two.”

“I suppose you’re right,” I said reluctantly. I blew out a breath. “It just isn’t what I had planned, you know?”

“Trevor, having a kid wasn’t what I had planned either, but I love you more than anything. I wouldn’t trade you for the best surf and the best sun and a thousand of the best babes in the world. You can’t always plan for what will make you happy.”

Of course there was no response I could make to that.

* * * * *

After taking my father home and seeing to Masashi’s lunch, I drove to the nursery. I went to the office and did the bookkeeping for the previous two days and processed the paperwork for some orders that had been received. I do most of the administrative work for the Hitohana Hinata Orchid Gardens. I finished by mid afternoon.

I knew the retail area would get busy soon. The nursery is not far off Highway 36, the main road between Kahalui and Hana. A few miles east of us, the highway narrows down to one lane to cross over a tiny bridge. The road to Hana from that point onward becomes a twisting winding endurance test with many blind turns, narrowing down to one lane in dozens of places. It used to be much worse before they widened it and repaved it in the early 1990s. It’s not bad now, really, if you’re careful, but the road to Hana still suffers from a bad reputation, and tourists, especially, are nervous to drive on it. Consequently, there is always a rush late in the day on weekends: tourists flocking back from Hana to Kahalui, afraid of being on the twisty road at night.

I started doing some office work waiting for the rush to start. It is not something I liked to do, and I wanted to get it out of the way. After I had done as much of it as I could stand, I went off to find Kenji. I found him in the packing shed, preparing some orchid plants for shipment. As soon as he saw me, his face lit up with a huge grin.

“Hey Trevor!” He set down the plant he was wrapping and gave me a big hug. “Great party last night.”

I suddenly felt odd hugging him. We always hugged, but I was feeling a little guilty about Nick. I felt strangely that I had somehow left Kenji out of something. There was now something that Nick and I shared that Kenji did not, and I felt as if I had let him down. I wondered if I should tell him. I probably would eventually, but I didn’t feel right about telling him just then.

“Your great uncle is doing good today,” I said. “He made his own lunch, and mine too. Didn’t mess up anything, put everything away, and cleaned up. I didn’t have to do a thing.”

“Thanks, brah.”

We chatted for a few minutes, and I found myself relaxing. Just talking with him about our usual Saturday afternoon nursery stuff was making me feel more normal again. Before I left to go back out front to up to the retail shop, I gave Kenji another hug, and this time didn’t feel so strange about doing it.

Marlene and Nick were working the retail shop when I arrived there. Nick looked at me with an open leer. He would have no regrets for last night, of course. He pulled me aside. He couldn’t do anything overt with all the customers in the shop, but the sexual energy was obvious to me.

“Where you been hiding, dude?” asked Nick.

“The office,” I said. “Just catching up on paperwork before the rush starts.”

He stopped leering at me and smiled. “Bring up some phalaenopsis, will you? We’re going through a ton of them this afternoon.”

“Sure Nick.” Phalaenopsis are a type of orchid that is popular with tourists, generally easy enough to grow in a sunny window, even in a cooler climate. We sell them boxed and sealed, certified by the agriculture inspector so people can take them through the airport. There, they are cleared to be taken to the mainland or to Japan, the two places the vast majority of tourists are from. “I’ll bring some right up.”

When I returned, the place was a mob scene. The road to Hana is far too narrow and twisty for big tour busses, so the touring companies load tourists on to smaller busses—just more of them. There were three of them parked out front. I quickly restocked the phalaenopsis, and started helping people. Both Nick and Marlene were stuck behind the counter, so I answered questions as best I could.

One heavy, middle-aged woman in a bright yellow dress and a huge sun hat pulled me aside. She had an alarmed expression. “Young man, there is a lizard on the wall. See, look, over there.” She pointed.

I tried not to laugh. “Yes, ma’am,” I said, trying to sound calm and reassuring. “It’s a gecko.” She maintained a death grip on my arm. “They’re harmless, ma’am. You’ll see them all over the islands.”

She relaxed her grip slightly. Maybe it wouldn’t leave a bruise. “It won’t bite? It isn’t poisonous?”

“No, ma’am. They eat insects, not people. In fact, we find them quite helpful. There’s lots of them back in the growing areas, and we rarely have to use any insecticide on our orchids.”

That seemed to please her. She released my arm. “Really?” she asked. I nodded and smiled. She dug a camera out of her oversized purse and took a picture of the gecko.

Great. Another happy customer.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty frantic. I didn’t even see Kenji, and barely had a chance to say a word to Nick. We were all worn out by the time we closed, and wordlessly, we all went our separate ways. Really, if I could just stop worrying about Nick, it was a completely normal Saturday afternoon at the nursery.

* * * * *

I went surfing with my father again on Sunday morning. I was in a better mood. I brought a short board. Dad tends to favor long boards. Long boards are easier to learn to surf on, and many guys switch to shorter boards as soon as they are able to. Dad has been using long boards for decades, though, and prefers them. He is not the type of guy to switch to a short board just to prove that he is a good surfer. I like the short boards sometimes because it is easier to do acrobatics and tricks with them than long boards. Some guys like to go for speed. I like to play with my board. If I catch a long slow wave, I get in to a creative groove where I feel like I am doing kind of a dance along the face of the wave.

I hit several really nice waves and stayed out quite a while. My father was waiting for me when I finally dragged myself out of the surf. He was lying on top of his board.

“You’re looking a lot better out there this morning,” he said as I pealed my shorty wet suit down to my waist. “You talk things out with Nick?”

“No,” I said. “It’s always so busy at the nursery on weekends, we barely had time to talk at all. But everything seemed so normal. I think maybe I was being a little neurotic yesterday.”

Dad raised his eyebrows a little at that admission.

“I still want to talk to him, but I don’t feel so freaked about it anymore. It will probably be as busy today as it was yesterday. I’ll probably try to see if we can get together tomorrow night. It should be slower at the nursery. Nick isn’t working, but he has classes all day.”

Perhaps it was the talk I’d had with my dad the previous day, or perhaps it was just the passage of time and the normal chaos of the last twenty-four hours, but I was more at ease with my relationship with Nick at that moment.

Sunday went much as predicted. We tend to get more Japanese tourists on Sunday because many of the mainlanders are catching flights home in order to return to work on Monday.

Marlene, Kenji, and I all speak fluent Japanese. This is not uncommon among kids who grow up in Hawaii, particularly on Oahu and Maui. People of Japanese descent are the second largest ethnic group in Hawaii, and the second largest group of tourists, though less the last few years than when I was a kid. I grew up hearing Japanese constantly, and probably would be able to speak it adequately even if I hadn’t taken classes in school. Nick, being a more recent transplant to Maui, didn’t learn Japanese when he was a kid. He started taking Japanese classes in his senior year in high school and continues to take it in college, but he has a lot of catching up to do. Sometimes Kenji and I speak really fast in Japanese just to mess with Nick.

So on Sundays, Marlene and I try to handle all the Japanese tourists, and Nick is left with most of the mainlanders. The tourists are often pleasantly surprised that I speak Japanese, and I think we tend to get a lot of extra sales because of that.

At the end of the hectic day, Marlene and Kenji left, while Nick and I cleaned up and secured the nursery for the night. When we were done, we stood together behind the retail shop.

“Hey brah,” I said. “Can we get together tomorrow night? Maybe around seven or so when I get out of here?” He would be done with his classes much earlier.

“Sure, Trevor.” Smiling, he bent and gave me a brief kiss. I melted just a little. “Why don’t you just swing by whenever you get done? I’ll be waiting for you.”


“It’s been so strange the last two days,” said Nick. “We’ve been together in the same store most of the day, but never get any time alone.”

“Yeah,” I said, intelligently.

I was suddenly tongue-tied. I was of half a mind to pull his shirt off. But I was hungry and exhausted from the long day on my feet, and Nick looked pretty wasted too. I figured it wouldn’t exactly be the end all of sex if we started something then. And more than sex, I really wanted to know where we stood with each other, and where he wanted to go with this. We’d known each other for a long time, I decided. It could wait till tomorrow.

“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” said Nick.

He gave me another kiss, this time with a bit more tongue. I melted a little more. Nick broke away, smiled at me kind of funny, and walked to his car. He gave me a little wave as he drove away. I slumped back against the wall for a minute and smiled.

* * * * *

On Monday, Kenji and I were alone, with both Nick and Marlene off. It was raining, so I skipped surfing in the morning. I spent the morning processing orders that had come in over the weekend on our website, and mail orders that had come in Saturday’s mail. Kenji took a couple flasks of seedlings and some flats of small starter pots to keep him occupied in the retail shop when things were slow.

At mid day, I drove to Masashi’s to see to his lunch. I was saddened to see he was in a pretty bad way. He had urinated in his pants, and was sitting on a kitchen chair, apparently unaware that he had soiled himself. For an agonizing minute, I didn’t think he recognized me. I was afraid I was going to have to call Kenji for backup.

“Trevor?” said Masashi, obviously struggling to recall my name.

“Yes, Uncle Masashi,” I said, bowing formally. “Nice to see you today.”

Good. At least he recognized me. As long as I didn’t scare him and have him thinking I was a stranger, I could probably deal with him on my own. I hoped. I wracked my brain, trying to think of a way to get him cleaned up and changed without embarrassing his Japanese sense of dignity.

“Uh… Kenji told me it was going to be very hot today,” I said. “He said I should run you a nice soothing bath. Would you like that?”

“Kenji?” The name seemed to perk him up a little bit. “He is a very good boy. You should meet him.” He switched languages and continued in Japanese. “You would be honored to have a companion such as Kenji.”

“A great honor,” I agreed in Japanese. We had been instructed by his doctors not to argue with him when he went off topic, but simply try to steer him back. I switched back to English. “Kenji asked me to pour you a bath. Wouldn’t a bath be nice?” I tried repeating the word bath a few times, hoping that it would get through. Repeating words was supposed to help. “Wouldn’t you like a bath?”

He looked at me blankly for a minute, but finally said, “Hai.” Then in English, “Yes.”

I wasn’t sure he got it. “I’m going to go run a bath for you,” I said, getting the word in once more. “I’ll be right back.”

I bowed again, then dashed to the bathroom. I plugged the tub, and turned on the water. When I got it to the right temperature, I quickly went to Masashi’s bedroom. I got a complete set of clean clothes. I felt the bed, to see if it was damp. It wasn’t. I would have to check around to see if any of the chairs had urine on them. With any luck, it was confined to the kitchen chair, which wasn’t upholstered. That would be easy to clean. I went back to the bathroom, and turned off the water in the tub.

I went back to the kitchen, carrying Masashi’s fresh clothes. He was still sitting where I’d left him. His eyes were tracking me, so I figured I hadn’t completely lost him. I picked up his cane, which had fallen on the floor near the counter. I bowed again. I wondered if I was overdoing the bowing thing, but I figured it was better to do it too much than not enough.

“Your bath is ready Uncle Masashi,” I said. “I’ve brought you some nice clean clothes to wear when you’re done. Won’t that be nice?”

I held his cane just within reach where he could see it, but carefully avoided looking at it or mentioning it myself. I didn’t want him to lose face by acknowledging his disability. I pretended the cane didn’t exist, even though I was holding it in my hand.

At first I wasn’t sure if he was going to move. He still sat where I’d found him when I first came in to the house. Crap! What would I do if this didn’t work? I lowered my eyes and tried not to stare. Staring was rude. At last I watched him take the cane in my peripheral vision. He stood, and I stepped back, relieved.

“If you would like to follow me to the bathroom,” I said, “I’ll put your nice clean clothes on the bathroom counter.”

It was entirely possible that he might have forgotten where the bathroom was, and I had just given him a legitimate excuse to follow me without him having to ask me where it was. When we reached the bathroom, I stepped past the door, turned, and bowed. I waved my hand toward the open door, indicating he should go first.

“Please enjoy your bath,” I said. “I’ll just set your clean clothes on the counter.” Hopefully I had mentioned the clothes enough that he would remember. It was the short term memory he seemed to have the most difficulty with, though it wasn’t consistent.

Masashi bowed slightly to me and stepped into the bathroom. That was a good sign. He seemed to grasp what was going on, even if he wasn’t talking much. I set the clothes on the counter as I’d said I would, making sure he saw me do it.

“Let me know if you need anything,” I said.

“Thank you Trevor. I will be fine.”

Great. That was progress. I backed out and closed the door. I reached above the frame to make sure the little doorknob tool was there. We kept it there in case he locked himself in. And if I suspected trouble, I wanted to be sure I could get in quickly, locked or not.

While Masashi was in the bath, I made two sandwiches. There was food left over from the party at the nursery I could eat, but I decided I should lunch with Masashi, just to make sure he ate something. When I finished that I listened at the door to make sure he was okay. I could hear him mumbling something to himself, and little splashing sounds. I figured he was fine for the moment. I went around the house checking to see if he’d sat on anything in his urine soaked pants, feeling all the chairs or anything else he might have sat on. Finding nothing, I checked the bathroom door again. I could hear the water draining from the tub. Hopeful that all was well, I went back into the kitchen and quickly scrubbed clean the chair he’d sat on.

A short time later, Masashi came out of the bathroom, and I was relieved to see him dressed in his clean clothes.

“I was hungry,” I said, “so I made a sandwich. I made one for you too. I hope you don’t mind.”

He came in to the kitchen and sat down in the same chair he’d been in before.

“Thank you, Trevor.”

He ate his sandwich, and I managed to get him to drink a glass of milk too. When we finished, he got up from the table and walked out to the patio behind the house. With the bath, the fresh clothes, and some food, he seemed more alert. Although none of that may have made any difference. It was hard to tell. Alzheimer’s is weird that way.

I quickly cleaned the kitchen, not quite ready to trust it to Masashi yet. I went into the bathroom, picked up his soiled clothes, and took them to the laundry room across the hall. I started a load in the washing machine and then went back out, closing the door behind me. I didn’t want Masashi messing with the laundry machines either.

I checked on him again, and he smiled up at me from a patio chair.

“I’m going out to the nursery,” I said. “Kenji and I will be there all afternoon. Call us if you need anything.”

It was unlikely that he would call. Asking for help from either of us would not fit with his sense of values. But I felt I had to make the offer anyway.

Masashi was inspecting an orchid on a table next to him. “Kenji grows these orchids, you know,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

“He is very talented.” I nodded to him in answer. “Please pass him my greetings.”

“I will.”

I decided that he seemed to be okay now. I really needed to get back to the nursery. Kenji was there by himself, and I really hadn’t intended to be gone so long. Seeing that I had done everything I could for the moment, I bowed and left.

I raced back to the nursery. By the time I got there, Kenji was pretty busy with a mild afternoon rush of tourists. The Monday tourist crowd was usually manageable, so he didn’t seem to be having any trouble. He gave me a worried look. He obviously realized something was amiss to cause me to be so late. I smiled to reassure him everything was fine, and started helping with the customers.

It was some time before the retail shop cleared of customers completely so we could talk. As soon as we had some privacy, Kenji turned to me.

“What happened?” he asked.

“He had a little accident, brah,” I said, trying to sound casual about it. “I’m not sure, but I think maybe he couldn’t remember where the bathroom was, and he peed himself.”

Kenji propped his elbows on the counter. His head slumped into his hands and he groaned.

“Tell me about it,” he said.

So I did. I told him in as much detail as I remembered. I told him how I had repeated words like bath and clean clothes, and that it seemed to work. How he had switched back and forth from English to Japanese. How out of it Masashi seemed when I arrived, and how much better he looked when I left.

More customers came in to the shop then. Kenji looked up, trying to put a smile on his face, but to me he just looked weary. Damn, I thought. He’d seemed so happy at Nick’s party a few days ago. Now look at him. I would have sent him back to the tents, but I knew he would want to finish our conversation. Kenji was really happier with the orchids than the retail customers. He generally only worked in the retail shop when no one else could. Nick and I have always been better with people than Kenji, who is a bit introverted by nature. I quickly moved forward to assist the new customers.

When we got a break again, I turned my attention back on Kenji.

“I think he’s okay, brah,” I said. “He seemed more alert when I left. He knew who I was and he talked about you, so he wasn’t totally lost.”

“You think?” Kenji sighed. “Maybe we could make, you know, da kine signs to put on the doors or something, so he don’t get confused. Think that’d help?”

“Might,” I shrugged. “Can’t hurt. It wouldn’t be all that much work. I can make some nice ones so he don’t think we’re patronizing him too much.”

“That’d be cool. Trevor… I’m sorry you had to clean up after Masashi. That couldn’t have been much fun. Thanks a lot.”

“Don’t worry about it. It could have been a lot worse.” I held my nose and fanned my hand back and forth over my ass, trying to make light of the situation. It would have been pretty gross if he had shit himself.

Kenji cocked an eyebrow. “Eew. Well, thanks anyway.” He picked up his trays of small orchids he’d potted up. “I’m gonna go back and get some transplanting done. If it’s not too busy later, I think maybe I’m gonna leave early. Go home and check on him.”

“No problem, brah,” I said.

Kenji was usually the first person to the nursery in the morning. I usually came in mid-day and stayed till closing. Kenji usually left earlier to get home to Masashi. On days where it was just the two of us, he would sometimes stay right through till we closed. I tried to break him of that. It made for a really long day for him. Sometimes I think he wanted to make sure everything was going smoothly at the nursery. Other times, I had the impression he just liked spending time with me.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in the retail shop. When no customers were around and I was alone, I doodled and sketched some ideas for door signs. I was thinking of ways it would look decorative and fun, rather than simple reminders for a proud man who was losing his mental faculties.

Around 4:30, Kenji came up to the shop. He dawdled for a few minutes while I helped a customer. When the shop was empty again he came up to me.

“I’m gonna go,” he said.

“Okay. It’s pretty quiet.”

“You staying over tonight.”

“Uhh… I’m not sure.”

I was planning on going over to talk with Nick after I closed up the nursery, but wasn’t sure what that would lead to. It occurred to me suddenly that I might now have a third option for a place to crash for the night. I had only twice before slept on a couch at Nick’s house. His parents tolerated, but clearly did not approve of my vagabond ways. Like many people, Nick’s parents had never adjusted to the island lifestyle, and I have no doubt that were it not for his father’s job at the observatory, they would have moved back to the mainland.

“I’ll call and let you know later,” I said, “okay?”

“No prob, brah.”

I gave him a long warm hug. He looked like he needed it. Then he left. I was glad he had decided not to stay till closing. I knew he would not relax until he had a chance to check on Masashi himself.

There was a middle-aged couple in the shop when the phone rang about forty minutes later.

I answered it. “Hitohana Hinata Orchid Gardens,” I said, reeling off the standard greeting.

“Trevor!” It was Kenji, and I could here the panic in his voice from just that single word. “Masashi’s gone. I can’t find him!”

(To be continued.)

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