Formerly Chapter 1, here I introduce most (but not all) of the “Hermits of Hermitville” who live in an intentional community on Hawai’is “Big Island.” Chapter narrated by Babe Bump.

Babe Speaks: The Drill in Hermitville

“One… two… no, no, support zir head and neck, please! … three! Lift!”
Tomma was good at playing almost dead. We found zir tall, lanky body sprawled on the
lawn next to a patch of ginger and fragrant maile vines. Zir bright red braids were tangled with leaves and twigs. Ze was so limp it was hard to shift zir to the makeshift stretcher (a repurposed surfboard with straps) let alone carry zir to the designated medical treatment tarp.

“I forget, is Tomma green or what?” Oyster—cleanshaven, boyish, with longish dark hair and dark brown eyes—was our newest resident. He wasn’t quite clear on the concept of triaging injuries during a disaster but then he’d only been with us six years. Give him time.

“C.E.R.T. for dummies,” Aarrf snapped and Oyster looked hurt. Aarrf—wearing their official badge, yellow-green vest, and hat—took Hermitville’s monthly “Community Emergency Response Team” drills very seriously and expected everyone else to do the same.

Joe took pity on Oyster. “No, green is for ‘walking wounded,’” he said. “Red, ze’s red. Immediate. Urgent. Got that?” Joe, a professional fitness trainer, had the best physique in Hermitville. He squatted comfortably beside the surfboard waiting for the rest of the group to get their act together.

Oyster grimaced. He squatted less comfortably. With both hands under the surfboard, he was unable to swat a mosquito which was tormenting him. “Why no red tag then?”

“‘Ze gets it when ze’s on the tarp,” Aarrf muttered impatiently.

“Guys, my bindi is slipping!” Glysandra cried, as she clutched at her share of the
surfboard. She’s a thin, sharp-featured brunette loaded down with beads, bracelets, flowing scarves, and other “tantric” finery. Her rationale? “What if I’m teaching a class when it happens?” “It” being an earthquake, lava flow, hurricane, flood, geothermal plant meltdown, mosquito bite, whatevah!

Frank, at the other end of the surfboard, rolled his deep blue eyes. The limp body on the surfboard snickered.

I leaned over Tomma, “Ssh! You! You’re supposed to be…”

“…Unconscious, with a fractured umbilicus. Yeah, yeah, I know. But I can still feel my kundalini!” Ze wriggled suggestively on the surfboard. Zir bare midriff was tanned and toned. Glysandra gave zir a peevish look as we all hoisted Tomma aloft and carried zir to our mock triage station.

We set Tomma gently down on the red tarp under a canopy in the permaculture orchard. Glysandra peeled the bindi off her forehead and stuck it onto red plastic armband we tied onto Tomma’s wrist. “There. That’s for your kundalini,” she said, with jangling bracelets and barely concealed irritation.

Tomma just waved languidly, “Much obliged, much obliged! And a heart-felt, aloha-filled mahalo to the little people who have made me what I am today!”

Joe walked over with a glass of filtered water, handed it to Tomma with his usual atheltic grace. “Here, hon, I would have dumped this on your wrinkle-free forehead, but this one’s for your so-called ‘umbilicus.’ Drink and shut up! We’re supposed to assess your damage.”

“Too late for that, girlfriend!” Tomma sat up, sipped demurely, and then sank into zir best imitation of a Victorian swoon. I couldn’t help giggling. I pulled a few twigs and some leaves from zir braids. Ze continued to feign a faint. I fanned zir with a large, broad ti leaf, just for fun.

Puna life has finally normalized after our last big lava flow. Most of it has cooled and most of our roads are reopened. Those whose homes survived have gone back to them and we’re learning to do without some of our favorite landmarks. Even so, we, the Hermits of Hermitville, are determined to keep our emergency prep skills honed with monthly practice. Life in Hawai’i Island’s Lava Zones One and Two could change in the blink of an eye. There’s not one thing you can take for granted in this place.

It was a typical high humidity morning. It’s only eight and already my hair, shorts, and tank top are soaked with sweat. Glysandra’s pantaloons and glittery tunic are equally damp—no wonder her bindi had slipped! Joe’s t-shirt is moist in all the right, well-muscled places, showing off his dark brown arms and perfect body to advantage. Frank and Aarrf? Their damp t-shirts are never as exciting as Joe’s. Frank is your typical “hipster” with a greying goatee and nerdy glasses. His body, though adequately attractive, always seems like something of an afterthought with him. He’s an “alive only from the neck up” kind of guy, except when he’s on stage. Aarrf is slightly stocky, of medium height, cleanshaven, with cropped brown hair and fair skin that burns easily. They could easily “pass” as a butch dyke, but their gender is multiple and their identity is human canine. Aarrf is a rescue mutt in search of an owner.

As for Oyster, he was sweat-soaked like the rest of us but I seldom noticed what he wore. He had such georgeous eyes, it was hard for me to focus on anything else.

“C’mon, herms, next victim.” Aarrf liked to stay on task. I kidded them once and they simply said, “We’re a working dog.” That shut me up! Among other things, Aarrf handles farm security, runs our emergency drills, maintains tools, and manages our cache of emergency food and medical supplies.

“Herms.” Short for “Hermits.” I’m not wild about the moniker. They call us that in Pahoa, a few miles up the road. We’re the fortunate residents of the Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective, forty acres of zoned agricultural land in the heart of the jungle. Our founder is “Aunty” Ginger Croom, a California winery heiress. Of course, there’s no paradisiacal ointment without a fly—so that would be her brother, Sidley. And here comes Sidley now, wearing a kilt made of Hawaiian-print khaki. This should tell you everything you need to know about the man.

Run. Run far away. Now.

Sidley looms over Tomma on the tarp and nudges zir with his booted foot. Ze moaned suggestively. “What’s wrong with her?” Oh, that’s one of the things we all love about Sidley. Misgendering. Yep. It’s one of his little tricks. He’ll get you wrong, then apologize and say something like “it’s so hard to remember when Tomma looks so lovely.” He says it now. I shoot him a dirty look, and clear my throat, while Tomma stops groaning, opens zir eyes, and looks daggers.

“I can see up your skirt, Sid,” Tomma smiles, still dangerously glinting.

“Don’t call me ‘Sid!” Sidley sputters. “And it’s not a skirt!”

“Exactly,” says Tomma, and closes zir eyes with a grin.

Though busy rummaging through triage supplies over on the yellow tarp, Aarrf overhears and growls. Sidley’s ruddy face momentarily blanches. He’s afraid of dogs in general and finds it hard to cope with Aarrf’s human canine persona.

“So, Sidley, are you here for the drill?” I ask. As if. Sidley never attends. He’s too grand.
Aunty Ginger seldom flashes her trust fund at us, but there’s always a “big man with money” vibe with Sidley.

Sidley stroked his bushy red beard and tried to look apologetic, “Sorry, Babe, not today. You guys carry on. I’m sure you’ll do great. I’ve got to see our bankers in Hilo.” He tromped away, to our collective relief.

At least he called me “Babe” today and not “Barney.” Well, to be fair, it’s been a long time since he called me that. But even though Tomma is non-binary and gender fluid, Sidley constantly refers to zir as “her” or “she” even when ze is definitely not doing femme.

Bastard!

Yes, I do feel strongly about such things.

As we were packing up our gear and figuring out the rotation for our next monthly drill, Rozaline wandered past. “Hey Roz,” Aarrf yelled, “Have you seen Aunty yet this morning? She never showed.”

Rozaline, the redheaded rhythm guitarist who also assists Ginger with personal care, stopped and said, “No, she seemed tired at dinner, so I let her sleep in. I’m going to check on her now.”

“I’ll come too,” Aarrf said.

As for me, I dropped the tarp, alarmed. Behind us, Glysandra yelled, “She was fine at midnight. We had a sweet Shakti fire breath and then I tucked her in.

I run.

[END OF EXCERPT]

Copyright Amy R. Marsh, January 2019.