We No Get Slopes

Melissa Llanes Brownlee

“I like go cruise up Mauna Kea. You like go tomorrow?” she says. I hear her breathe in quickly, worrying, “When snow.”

“Who going take us? We no get one truck.” I feel the sweat from my ear and hand slick the cordless handset. There’s no fan in my room.

“We can ask Junior for take us.”

“Then we going have to invite Yuki or she going think we trying for steal her man.” I hunch forward on my bed, thinking about being cold because I’d probably have to sit in the back of the truck.

“Who like even try fo’ steal Junior?”

“Fo’ real.” I lay back and laugh into the receiver.

Junior picks us up from my house. He knows where I live. I don’t think Tania notices. Yuki got mad at us because she had to stay home to babysit and Junior still decided to take us anyway. Tania hops in first. She straddles the gear shift. I am more than sure that Junior doesn’t mind her long leg against his. I step up into his cab and slam the door. He has woofers behind the seat and Black Uhuru pushes against our backs.

We leave Kailua behind and drive towards Waimea, turning onto Saddle Road. I stare at the rolling fields of ranch land before Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa come into view on either side of us. It’s the quickest way to Hilo and the only way to Mauna Kea. There are way too many accidents and late-night-lady-in-white-you-better-not-have-pork-in-your-car Pele sightings for my taste, but I love Mauna Kea. When I was in the fifth grade, Ellison Onizuka visited my school, and I got to try on an actual spacesuit. I used to think it was so cool that he grew up in Kona. It made me believe that anyone could go to space. The closest I could hope to get to space now is flying in a plane, or maybe looking at it through a telescope.

Junior switches to Shabba Ranks as we drive past a campsite with log cabins and bbq pits. The music has been just a little too loud to talk, which is fine with me. When Mr. Loverman comes on, I glance past Tania, singing along, and over at him. He’s smiling. I roll my eyes as we pass Pohakuloa, the army training base. It’s all long huts and military trucks. It’s quiet. No one is training this week. That’s how Onizuka got into space. The military. Who wants that? I don’t see Junior joining. Then again, he isn’t Onizuka smart even though his family is Japanese. We turn on to the road to go to the summit. It’s smooth until we hit the visitor’s center. We stop in the parking lot and Junior gets out to turn his wheels to four-wheel drive.

“You like go to the visitor’s center?” he asks Tania.

“Nah. It’s just for tourists,” she says. I just look at the side mirror’s reflection of the road we came up, seeing the red brown slopes of Mauna Loa in the distance.

Luckily, the mountain isn’t closed today because of the wind. The road is long and carves its way up the mountain, the gravel slides under the tires. We can’t see the white bubble domes of the telescopes yet, but there was the wreck of a white rental car that had rolled down part of the mountain. “Stupid tourists.” I say. They shouldn’t have driven up here in that. We don’t hit snow until we almost reach the top. The telescopes prick the sky, scattered across the snowy peak. The sun is already heading towards the horizon. A few clouds pass below. We park along the side of the road. There isn’t a place for any of us to park up here. With the stereo off, we hear nothing when we get out of the truck.

“We should’ve come up early to get snow for take Hapuna,” Junior says. I remember my hanabata days, when I was little, and my family would drive up here to shovel the snow and take it down to the beach for shave ice and snowball fights.

“I neva like go beach,” Tania says.

“You guys know anybody who stay work up here?” I ask.

“Only get haoles. What locals can afford for go school and work up here?” Junior says as he leans against his truck next to Tania.

She nods her head. “I mean what local like work up here anyway? Stay cold and get better money down at the resorts. You can make cash tips.” Her parents work at the Kona Surf. She wants a job waiting tables there during the summer. My parents don’t work at the hotels but their jobs aren’t that great either. My father cooks at a restaurant and my mother is an accountant. I don’t want to argue with Tania, so I walk out onto the snow. It’s pure and clean away from the road. I don’t have gloves but I pick some up and form a ball, throwing it as far down the slope as I can, seeing if I can hit the lava fields at the edge. I don’t make it. My hands hurt from the cold and I rub them against my jeans.

“I wonder if anyone try for ski up here?” I ask.

“If they do, they going end up in the rocks like that rental car.” Junior laughs.

“We no get slopes,” Tania agrees with him.

I wonder if the people in the telescopes came outside and played in the snow. They are probably too smart to do anything so silly. Junior picks up some snow and throws it at Tania. She shrieks and pretends to run away. I fall back in the snow, waiting for the sun to go down, so I can watch it set in the clouds on the horizon and for the stars to appear.


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