The Movie Made

Ralph says, When I first came here, my Army days, this whole place was kind of a blank canvas.

We’re sitting on the wall at Magic Island watching the waves roll in under the setting sun.  I’ve known Ralph for 50 years.  We met in a philosophy class at the University of Hawai‘i.

I know what you mean, I say.  It was like that when I first visited you on your home turf in Connecticut.

Right, Ralph says.  It’s like that whenever you go someplace new.  The picture gets painted for you as you see more, experience more.

Eventually more than a picture.  It’s a movie, I say.

Where there was nothing, he says, it becomes something.  Life, you know.  The way it builds and builds.

We can hear picnickers singing somewhere behind us in the growing dark.  A Hawaiian song, of course, but not one I know.

The waves keep breaking against the seawall below us.

You smell that? Ralph asks.  It’s unmistakeable. That’s teriyaki on the hibachi.  That is the signature smell of Magic Island.  There’s no stronger scent memory about this place for me.

Yes, I say.  The music and the cooking.

And of course, I got married here, he says.

Yup.  I’m sorry I was living in Wisconsin at the time and couldn’t be here.  But I’m glad I was here for some of your folks’ family picnics.

Ralph laughs.  Yeah, my her family and Magic Island.  We picnicked the hell out of this place.

Right, Ralph, they should have a plaque on one of the benches.  Like the one where you sat when you got married.  It would say that you and your extended family hold the record for the most picnics at Magic Island.

The sun is just about down.  I’m wondering if we’ll see the legendary green flash.

Ralph says, I miss this place.  I mean, it was good moving back to Connecticut because of my teaching job, and we raised two great girls there.  But Hawai‘i, once you’ve lived here, it’s always on your mind that there’s no better place to be in the world.

We sit watching for the flash.

There it is, Ralph exclaims.  I can’t believe it.  All the times I’ve waited to see it, it’s never happened.  This is terrific.

Yes, I say, it’s something we wait for, watch for, and then it happens.  It’s a miracle.  Hey, now your movie is kind of complete.  That’s a great closing shot.  We finally see the green flash.

Ralph laughs.  Nope, Lanning, my Magic Island movie won’t be finished until I’m gone.

Until you die?


Really?  That’s kind of grim.  Plus you don’t get to see the end of the movie.  That sucks.

That’s okay, he says.  I’ll imagine the ending.  I can kind of see it now.

Huh.  And what would that ending be?

My ashes, Ralph says,  I want my ashes to be scattered here.

We sit there in the dark, listening to the rhythm of the waves.  In the background we can hear the picnickers packing up, another scene from their Magic Island movies in the can.

Well, Ralph, I know how much Hawai‘i means to you, and I know how much Magic Island means to you, so that’s great, man, I’m glad you know how it’s going to end.  A happy one.

Right, he says.  The perfect, happy end to what’s been a fantastic film.

It’s very quiet now.  We might be the last two people left.

“Excuse me, sir.”

I turn around.  It’s a policeman.  “Yes?”

“We’re closing the park now.  You’ll have to go.”

“No problem.”

I get up to go and take a last look at the lapping waves.

I’ll see you, Ralph.  You take good care.

“Sorry?” the policeman says, “I didn’t catch that.”

“Oh no, nothing.  I was just saying goodbye to a friend of mine”

“Ah, okay, all right.”

The lamplight in the area is dim, but I can see the questioning look on his face.

“You have a good night,” the officer says.

“Yes, good night,” I say.

Good night, I say.

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