Tawhiri pulled himself over the lip of the grotto and froze, knee half on the rock, foot still dangling.
A fire crackled a few feet away from the grotto, in the shelter of a few trees and rocks to escape the wind from the ocean. Some coconuts and soursop lay beside it, and a wizened form bent over it.
“Don’t you come back up here without something to eat.” Ooma shook her fist at him, as if it were the natural thing in the world for him to climb out of the sea, soaking wet. “The fire is nice and hot, and I have some banana leaves all ready to wrap them in.” She patted a mound of green beside her.
“You aren’t going to go get your own fish.”
Ooma lifted an eyebrow. “Do the old care of the young. No. I have fed you long enough, now you will feed me.”
Tawhiri hesitated at the lip of the grotto. “You aren’t mad?”
Ooma lifted her chin, a smile wrinkling her sagging cheeks. “Why would I be angry. You are doing what you were born to do. You are of Mona Loa, so you are of the ocean.” She turned back to the fire.
Tawhiri smiled and dropped the ax head on the dirt before sliding back down into the now-nearly full grotto.
The water was full of good things to eat. He pried a few open clams from the walls, tying them in his lap-lap, and spearing a fish to share.
He climbed back over the lip of the cliff, dragging his dripping catch, and Ooma looked up from the fire. She had the ax head in her hand, and was turning it over and over.
“Where did you find this?” She asked as he dropped his catch by the fire. Golden light flickered off her skin and danced in her eyes. And something else… memories.
Tawhiri had long ago learned how to recognize memories when they slipped into Ooma’s head. They were dark things. Not always sad. Sometimes like thunderstorms, and sometimes like starry nights, but always dark.
This memory was no different, but it made Tawhiri uneasy. He sat on the ground by the crackling flames and began to pull away the scales on the fish.
“You found this in Mona Loa’s heart?” She held up the ax head.
“I found it down there.” Tawhiri motioned to the grotto. “Is that the heart?”
“That is what we called it when I was a child.” Ooma didn’t look up from the ax. “Because when you swim down, you can hear the heartbeat of the Island. Boom, swish. Boom, swish. Boom.” She mimicked the flow of the waves and smiled softly at Tawhiri. “I’m glad you went to listen to it. Because it’s your heart beat too.”
“Why do you speak with such colorful words, old woman?”
Ooma cracked a clam open and flushed it in a pot of sea water before sucking it from the shell. “Why? Don’t you like a little color?”
Tawhiri wrapped the cleaned fish in a banana leaf and threw it onto the coals on the edge of the fire. “It is an interesting thing, isn’t it? I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“It is an ax. But not one like ours.” Ooma handed him the ax head.
“You know of this thing?” Tawhiri asked
Ooma gathered her lap lap around her knees and leaned forward. “I know much, and yet so little.”