[Congratulations to Brian Doyle for his second-place finish in our 2012 Creative Competition. Check back daily as we post other recognized entries.]
Kono had two jobs, one of which was driving the bus that most people took to get to the grocery store. Soon after he got that job it had become clear to Kono that the return trip would be crowded beyond belief if he did not amend the structure of the bus, so he and the boatwright built an upper deck on the bus that you could climb to by ladders front and back. The boatwright, being a boatwright, could not help but build a deck that looked very much like the deck of a ship, with a prow and taffrail and rigging and a binnacle with a compass and sextant in it in case of emergencies. People were not supposed to sit up on the deck according to the bus company regulation but Meka loved to sit up there because she loved the wind. The first time she climbed up there, Kono reminded her of the bus company regulation, but she pointed out that as a spirit she was not technically a person, and so, technically, the regulation did not apply to her, which was a good point, Kono acknowledged, so she rode on the upper deck almost every day, smiling in the wind, even on rainy days. The boatwright, after noticing that she had to hold on to the bowsprit with both hands because she didn’t weigh anything, built a tiny forecastle for her, the size of a chessboard, with rounded railings of koa wood and sturdy ropes in case of emergencies, and Meka loved her forecastle, and would go sit there sometimes even when Kono was not driving the bus to the grocery store and back.
One very windy day Kono was driving the bus along the shore on the way to the grocery when he heard Meka banging her feet on the roof to send him a message. When he pulled the bus over and climbed up to see what was the matter she pointed out to sea and Kono saw the trouble – three people foundering in a small boat. They looked to be in fairly shallow water but the waves that day were terrific and the boat was overturned, so Kono drove off the road and down along the beach as fast as he could go. He parked at the high tide line and he and the passengers jumped out to see what they could do but the people in the water were too far away to reach, and the waves seemed to be bigger by the moment, so everyone got back in the bus to try to imagine what to do. Meka drummed on the roof again with her feet and Kono climbed up to see what the message was and she said we have to drive the bus to them, you drive and I will throw them ropes, so Kono asked the passengers to wait on the beach, and he and Meka drove the bus into the water. The bus was quite new and had a powerful engine and it drove easily right to the three people, who climbed up the ladders and lay down gasping near Meka, who gave them ropes to hold as Kono drove back up the beach. The passengers then took care of the people and dried them off and gave them food to eat and after a few minutes Kono drove back up onto the road and they went on to the grocery store, the bus sloshing a bit and leaving a gleaming trail of sea water behind on the road.
When they got home that afternoon Kono and Meka cleaned the bus thoroughly, opening all the windows and doors to let air and birds and insects in to calm the bus down, and Meka told Kono about the ono fish she had seen near the three people in the sea. There were forty of them, she said, hovering in a formation shaped like an triangle, and the one in the front, the bluest one, said that while usually they did not pay much attention to people drowning, in this case the three people were children, two brothers and a sister, and to have children die would have been a shame, so they were there to see if they could help. They were glad we came to get the children in the bus. They said they would remember us in case we needed help also someday. I told them where we lived and they told me they lived to the west, in a little bay with no name, where no one fished for them very much and they could raise their own children. They were very polite, Kono, and even though they said they were honored to speak to me I think I was more honored to speak to them, isn’t that so? Kono agreed that this was probably so, and then they went back through the bus again polishing everything until it shone like the sun.