Talking Story

Mainland Living

Last week I slipped into the Twilight Zone. It was an ordinary day at my computer when my cell phone rang. I glanced at the screen and saw an 808 number—Hawaii! Don’t know the number, but maybe it’s somebody calling about the book!

“Hello?”

“EhsistahBarrystay?”

Double-blink. The words were slurred and so fast and unexpected it took a minute for my brain to switch gears and recognize Pidgin.

“Barry? You want to talk to Barry?” Said way too haole.

Longer pause, then slower, “Get Barry dere?”

“I’m sorry. You have the wrong number.”

“Oh.”

We hung up.

I sat staring at my phone for a minute wondering what the odds where that such a misconnection would happen, thinking of the long ago commercial where somebody trying to call across town ends up talking to someone on the beach in Fiji.

I bet he dialed 801 instead of 808. Or a joke? One of my old friends playing a joke? But they’d have said something, surely.

I’d made it to the living room holding my cell phone before it rang again. 808! Same number. Here we go!

“Hello?”

“Um, can talk to Barry?”

“Eh, cuz, I tink you get da wrong numbah. You like talk Barry, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Barry stay Hawaii, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“You calling Utah, brah. Dis one Utah numbah.”

“Utah? Fo’real?”

“Yeah, sorry.”

“Oh. Okay. T’anks.”

I hung up the phone and looked up the stairs to see my daughter standing there, mouth open and catching flies. “Who was that?”

“Barry’s friend. He like talk story.”

“Who?”

“Never mind. Wrong number.”

“Mom that was so funny! I never knew you could talk like that! So fast!”

“It’s Pidgin.”

“Why were you speaking Pidgin?”

“Because he was.”

“Say some more!”

My son came around the corner. “You mean you got a wrong number from Hawaii and the guy spoke Pidgin? What’s up with that?”

I laughed.

“Da-na-na-na, da-na-na-na,” he sang, the theme from The Twilight Zone.

Tell me about it. Wonder what Barry’s friend thought when he heard Kahului tita coming via Utah?

The Hunger Games movie opens this weekend. My kids and I been waiting for over a year to see how this story and characters transition to the screen, sighing or exclaiming over every casting choice and set design chronicled in Entertainment Weekly. Wanting to be surprised, my son has refused to watch any trailers and has resorted to sticking his fingers in his ears when the ads come on tv.

I just finished re-reading the series and fell in love with Suzanne Collins’s imagination and writing style all over again. Like all really good fiction, it’s a story that can be read on many levels. It’s a little unfortunate that the one generating the most buzz around the tween and teen sets is about the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.

This is particularly frustrating to Aaron, my 14-year-old son. “Did any of these people actually read the book? Team Peeta? Team Gale? Get real.”

Cheryl, my 12-year-old daughter agrees. “This is not about the boys. It’s not even about the girl and the boys. It’s about Katniss. I hope the movie doesn’t screw that up.”

Me too. While The Hunger Games is ultimately a story about love, it’s not about the kind of teenage puppy love that features so prominently in Young Adult fiction. Aloof and prickly Katniss loves deeply; it is her greatest strength and weakness; it is her weapon and her shield. The arch villains in the novel—Snow and Coin—don’t understand love and that ultimately leads to each of their downfalls. Snow fails to understand that “forbidden” love is the biggest form of rebellion and galvanization to action, and Coin, well, what can you say about someone who thinks marriage is no more than a new housing assignment? It’s an epic failure on both their parts to understand that what motivates Katniss is not power, political change, safety, or even fear of death. It’s love for those she calls family that motivates Katniss to greatness, that throws her into a spotlight she’d rather not seek. As Machiavellian as some of her actions are, it’s her underlying motivation of love for her family that elevate her character into a real three-dimensional personality and out of the clichés of so much of Young Adult fiction.

Katniss is a pawn, but a pawn with teeth and claws. She can be manipulated, yet also understands something of the dance of illusion versus reality she has to move through to survive in Panem. She wastes very little time bemoaning how unfairly life in the Districts compares with the Capitol. Collins is a master of showing the contrasts and letting the reader come to the logical conclusion. Katniss doesn’t deal with what should be; she deals with what is right in front of her, and this keeps the novels from bogging down into an Orwellian treatise on human nature while still developing much deeper themes than survival and teen romance.

I can’t recall another character in fiction quite like her. Team Katniss anyone?

Remember those timed reading tests in elementary school? At high tech Kahului Elementary in 2nd grade, I remember my teacher pushing play on a cassette tape and then watching me as I read aloud and moved my finger along the text, keeping pace with the voice on the cassette. She held bent soda bottle caps in her hands and each time you met one of the milestones, she’d set one down on your desk. When you had three you were done. In the spirit of those timed tests, here’s a link where you can check out your reading speed. Apparently I’m still above Diamond Head Lemon-Lime, but not yet to Shhtrawbarry. Bummahs!

http://www.staples.com/sbd/cre/marketing/technology-research-centers/ereaders/speed-reader/index.html

  1. I already did the dishes.
  2. Frizzy? When you say frizzy I think Bozo the Clown. That’s not frizzy at all.
  3. What? That little thing? It’s so small I don’t think anyone noticed.
  4. A Lifetime movie? Sure, I’ll watch the game later.
  5. Wow, your toes are cold! Don’t go higher than my knees.
  6. I hung your laundry in the closet.
  7. I like it a little burnt.
  8. I’ll get up with the kids.
  9. I put new tires on your car.
  10. I saved the last one for you.

How does your significant someone say I love you? Happy Valentine’s Day!

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