Semu Fatutoa was once a highly ranked Samoan Chief. Technically, he still is; the tattoos shrouding his legs are immutable proof of the pain he endured to earn his title. But those tattoos cost him something else: His daughter, nine year old Aveolela, drowned in the ocean on the day Semu received the tattoos. Weakened by the grueling ceremony, he lacked the strength to swim out to save her. No one blamed him for her death, but Semu blamed the tattoos. Rather than assume his chiefly duties, he fled.
Two years later and thousands of miles from home, Semu is the only cab driver in Honolulu with the rank of Chief. He ferries tourists and Japanese businessmen to and from the airport. He drives in circles, keeps his legs covered, and slowly forgets his old life. But his old life wants him back. First, there is the mysterious Samoan staking out his apartment in Waikiki, calling him on the phone, following him home from the beach. Then there are the news reports: An earthquake on the Big Island threatens to unleash a tsunami on the city of Honolulu; anyone with any sense is heading for higher ground. Probably the Chief would go, too, except for the eight year-old Hawaiian girl wandering the city in her bathing suit. She has crossed his path twice today, and both times he let her go. But now the girl’s intrusion into his sequestered life begins to feel to Semu like a message. A calling. Any minute now, these streets will be silenced by a wall of water. Semu begins to realize that it’s high time he started living up to his title.
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