“Are you sure we have time, babe?”
The couple, dressed in hiking boots, vests, and mirror sunglasses, stood in front of a wood and wire gate.
He glanced at his watch. “The van will leave without us.”
“No, it won’t.” The woman pushed open the gate. “Come on. I think I see one over there.”
They walked out on a narrow trail that meandered across a barren volcanic landscape of red cinders and odd-shaped cones. “We’re supposed to see this on our way down from the summit.” The man hurried after his wife.
They stopped in front of a grey-green shrub popping out of the maroon earth. The plant, a ball of long, spiky leaves, was about three feet in diameter.
“So, what is it?”
“Show off,” he said. “Translation, please.”
She dog-eared a page in her guidebook. “I think you pronounce it A-heena-heena. Hawaiian silversword—it’s one of the rarest plants on earth. See how its leaves look like grey-green daggers? They think a California tarweed seed got stuck to a bird’s feather six million years ago and took a 2,000-mile flight across the Pacific. Once ungulates were brought here…”
“Ungulate. It means hooved animal, like goats or sheep. They must have gotten overpopulated, ran wild and trampled all the ahinahina.” She read silently for a moment. “My gosh—this is the only plant that lives up here.” She moved her finger across the page as she read aloud. “Ahinahina have no defenses against predators. Yet they have survived…”
“Don’t worry, my leetle one,” he leaned over and spoke to the jagged, grey-green plant. “I promise I won’t hurt you.”
“Hey,” she shouted. “Come look at this!”
He followed the trail in an arc and came upon his wife standing next to an ahinahina, its ball of leaves wilted and collapsed to the ground. From the center, a single stalk soared skyward, its stem encircled with massive purple blooms resembling sunflowers.
The man stood still for a moment taking in the vision. “What are the odds we get to see this?”
“One in a million. Right after it blooms, the ahinahina dies, shedding its seeds into the wind for a future generation. Just think—you and I are here for a once in a lifetime moment!”
“Take off your sunglasses,” he said. “I’ll take a photo. Immortalize you both.”
“How’s this?” she asked, positioning herself in front of the plant; its fragrant purple blooms rose behind her and stood nearly eight feet tall. She smiled, and her teeth flashed in the sun.
“Just a sec.” He stepped back to get a better shot. The sound of his Vibram sole crunching the cinders stopped him. He stood still for a moment, looked around, and then took three more steps, quickly crouching down. He pointed his camera up, taking in the tree from top to bottom, and framed his wife in the photo so that the blooms appeared as a lavender aura around her. He stepped back onto the trail, leaving behind, in the dented cinders of his footprint, a flattened grey-green bit, spread-eagle squished on the ground where his heel had trod.
Packed full of wonderful details. Beautiful story!
Big mahalo for your comment, Julia!
Linda is wonderful to read your story. I really enjoyed it.
I was soo hoping he would take the final photo losing his balance, then throwing the camera in the air, and fall into the volcano. Since you hammered the once in a lifetime experience, the wife in her grief would look at the series of photos last taken. Her smiling face, the Ahinahina, then the series of changes in expression from joy to horror as he disappeared into the caldera. All in all a fun story, ungulates and all.
Your scenario sounds pretty fun, too. Thanks for reading!
I love the way you handled this subject: selfish tourists unthinkingly smashing indigenous species to get a picture. Very relevant to the times and wonderfully handled. I’m sharing it on Twitter.
Took me awhile to realize the husband’s foot destroyed the other rare plant as he was taking the photo
Interesting touch of irony at the end of your tale
Love your work Linda
Thanks so much, Judy!
It’s a beautiful, but sardonic story that prods me to think of the times I’ve strayed off the path myself. Funny, I really like the couple and their interaction. I look forward to reading even more of your wonderful stories.
Big mahalo, Gary!
Great story; hope to read more. We have several ungulates at the San Diego Zoo—good word for crossword enthusiasts.
Don’t mess with an ungulate!
Thanks for reading my story, Jan.
A very vivid description of the trail and volcanic surroundings which embeds itself delicately in my mind. A powerful few minutes the couple has captured as a once in a lifetime experience filed in their minds as memory and tangible photo. ♥️
Wonderful description and use of words, accurately describes the beauty of Hawaii. Lovely story
Amy, thanks for leaving me a comment!
Linda your stories are always filled with action n details that makes my imagination go wild. Some are so real, I really enjoyed this story. Can’t wait to read your next up coming adventure! Take care and God Bless!
Blessings to you too, Kathy!
Love the story of the beautiful rare plant & the couple’s fascination with it…& the desire to immortalize the moment…sacrifices the plant
A lot of wisdom to your story Linda. Look forward to reading more of your great work Linda
Thanks for your comment, Ron. Sometimes when we immortalize something, we destroy it in the process.
Wonderful story, Linda! I’m afraid that scenario has actually played out in real life a few too many times over the centuries, with equal obliviousness among the offenders….
Keep writing great stuff!
I’ve seen it happen too. Thanks, Julie.
I loved your story, because as a gardener, I have an interest to rare plants. When I researched your plant, Ahinahina, I could not believe that it is now an endangered species. It is a rare plant, grown in Hawaii, and can grow up to 6ft tall. I love how you captured this plant within the story, especially describing the landscape. Now, I wouldn’t mind going on a mission to discover this plant! Keep up the good work.
Thanks for your encouragement, Michele!
Interesting read! Very clever!
Beautiful descriptive story – loved all the sights, sounds and smells it evoked as I read it! ♥️
Yes, it’s an all-too-real commentary about our precious environment being destroyed by the insensitivity of man. Keep up the good work!
Enjoyed your story relating to the islands and with a twist to the ending. Thank you for sharing and keep writing and sharing. Love your work!