Sudden rain shot from the charcoal sky and the couple, hiking boots splashing water, fled towards the pavilion.
“What luck!” the woman called to her husband behind her. She raced into the shelter and sat on a bench overlooking the steaming cauldron of Kilauea, a dark gash of crumbling earth stretched below their perch.
The man remained standing and shrugged off his backpack.
“Look at that—” he motioned to the bench across from them. A single lava rock shaped like a large black sponge rested on a plank glistening in rain spray, a red ohia flower pushed against it.
He went over to take a closer look.
“What are you doing?”
Her husband ignored her warning and crouched an arm’s length away. His hair dripped water as he peered at the stone through the condensation on his wire rim glasses.
“Don’t touch it, Stevie. That must be some kind of offering. You’ll piss off Madame Pele.”
He chuckled, stood back up and sat next to her, leaning his shoulder against hers. “You’ve been reading too many guidebooks.” He nuzzled her neck with his nose. “I think a stone from the volcano would make an awesome souvenir. Something to show our grandchildren someday.”
She breathed in his kiss and then opened her eyes. “Didn’t you see that bin of rocks at the museum? Visitors stole one from the volcano and then all kinds of bad things happened to them.”
She leaned against him as the rain hammered the metal roof. “Their luggage got lost…their pets died…their fillings and crowns fell out. Crazy bad luck. Had to Fedex the stones back to Hawaii.”
“I had no idea you were so superstitious.” He squeezed her shoulder. “It’s an urban myth, honey. A good story for the tourists.” He stood up. “Curse of the Goddess of the Volcano.”
Before she could stop him, he went over and picked up the stone. “Ooga-booga!” he teased, and she let out a little squeal as he thrust it toward her.
“Bad things happen because people do bad things—not because things are bad.” He put the stone back. “I wouldn’t be scared to pilfer a rock from the volcano. Who would miss one or two from the bazillion that are here? I could give them away as gifts.”
Outside the shelter, a grove of hapu’u ferns drooped under the weight of the rain. The couple was silent for a while, listening to the downpour dwindle to a drizzle.
“Removing stones from a national park is against the law, you know.”
“What for—illegal possession of a mineral? Give me a break.”
The air, thick and salted with sulphur, curled up from the damp earth.
“Look—if you do something stupid like picking up that stone and sneaking it out of the park and bringing it home, don’t you dare tell me. And if anything bad does happen, I’ll know what you’ve done, and—
“And what?” he flashed a nervous smile.
“And it will take me a long time to forgive you.” She stood up without looking at him. “Anyway—Let’s see if we can find our way back to the car.”
She went on ahead as he lingered at the steps of the pavilion. He shouted to her back, “I’ll catch up in a second.”
He listened to a pair of plovers stitch a song in the wet air. Then he picked up his backpack and walked toward the stone on the bench. Standing in front of it, he loosened the cord lashing of his pack, making the opening wide, then wider. He flipped the bag upside down and dumped its contents—careful not to let his fingers interrupt the four black lava stones that tumbled to the ground.