Talking Story

Hawaii

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From the first page, I felt like I was back on Maui.

When I was a kid, my mom used to work for Longs Drug, a store with a pharmacy and a little bit of everything from snacks and groceries to cosmetics and fishing lures. Mom was an accountant, usually in her office upstairs and behind the one-way mirrors that ringed the back of the store and looked out at the shoppers below. My sister and I waved at ourselves in the mirrors like idiots every time we walked in.

Occasionally, when they were having a big sale or short-handed, Mom used to cashier. Back in the ’70s, people worried less about titles and job descriptions and more about keeping a job. On big sales weeks when she knew she was going to cashier on Saturday, she’d make us quiz her on the items and prices as we cleaned house, folded laundry, did the dishes. She had to know the ads cold because back then there were no scanners or bar codes.

And planny people get huhu if the haole lady cashier no can remembah if Spam was 32 cents or 43.

I loved it when Mom brought home foreign coins mistakenly spent by tourists and accepted by cashiers. (Really? This one has a hole in it, five sides, and is bigger than a quarter. How did someone not see this?) I kept them in an old mason jar on a shelf in my room. But my fondest memories of the years she worked at Longs are about Easter. Every Easter Sunday, the whole store had a potluck picnic at the beach. The store managers–half-baked from too many Primos and not enough pupus–had all the kids run relay races, and the winners got baskets with chocolate Easter bunnies bigger than their heads. I never won the big baskets, but I can still taste melty, waxy chocolate and the hard yellow sugar eye from the Palmer’s runner-ups.

So I feel like I know a little bit about the kinds of folks who shop and work at Longs.

But not as well as Lee Cataluna.

In the pages of Lee’s collection of flash fiction stories, you’ll find neighbors, friends, aunties, uncles, and even local, ahem, collection workers and former disco queens. They’re all there, shopping for unmentionables, looking for love, and just trying to get through one more day. Lee’s gift is the complete picture she draws with minimalist brush strokes. We fill in the details, the backstories, the motivations, and the ultimate consequences and conclusions to her stories because these people are us. Lee has a fine ear for Pidgin and she uses it to bring to life people that we immediately recognize as prep school kids, tutus, popos, thugs, cops, and everything in between.

And the stories are bus’ laugh hilarious, poignant, and true. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Folks You Meet in Longs and Other Stories by Lee Cataluna is published by Bamboo Ridge Press and is available as a paperback and eBook from Amazon. Click on Lee Cataluna to find out more about her and her amazing stories on her website.

 

Hey, Gang!

I’m fleeing the snowy Utah winter to talk story, teach workshops, and work with some incredible keiki on the Big Island of Hawai’i. So excited! I’ll post some of the students’ work when I get back. (If I come back!)

 

Feb. 22: Kahakai Elementary, Kailua-Kona

Feb. 25 – Mar. 1: The Kamehameha Schools, Kea’au

Feb. 27: Ke Kula ‘o Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, Kea’au

Feb. 27: ‘Ohana Story Night, The Kamehameha Schools, Kea’au, 5 pm

Mar. 1: Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo PCS, Hilo

Mar. 2: Basically Books, Hilo, 1 pm Book Signing

It’s finally ready for pre-order! Pua’s Kiss tells a significant part of the backstory to the Niuhi Shark Saga. In it you’ll learn why Justin came to Hawaii, how Pua and Justin met, hooked up, and how all of the events in One Boy, No Water; One Shark, No Swim; and One Truth, No Lie; came to pass–and who was really pulling all the strings.

This was a tough book to write. The characters fought me every step of the way. It wasn’t until I let them speak the story they wanted to tell that I made any progress.

A word of warning–this one is not middle grade. It deals with some mature themes. Two adults fall in lust–off camera, closed door lust, but it’s clear that’s what’s going on.

Pua’s Kiss is available in a collection of five novellas called Fractured Sea on Amazon for 99 cents until August 31, 2018.

 

Matthew Kaopio’s Written in the Sky is one of those rare books told from a kid’s perspective that’s not for kids. It’s raw and real, and certainly true to the experiences of many homeless kids in Hawaii, but it’s not one I’d give to a kid the age of ‘Ikauikalani, the abandoned Hawaiian kid at the center of the story. The language is coarse, the action violent, and the circumstances bleak. But for anyone high school or older, it’s a must read in the cannon of Pacific Literature.

Fo’real.

Written in the Sky tells the story of ‘Ikauikalani, a middle grader who is adrift after the death of his grandmother. Through ‘Ikaui’s daily experiences, we see firsthand the effects of mental illness, drug abuse, bullying, and dispossession faced by the homeless living in Ala Moana Park. We see how ‘Ikaui struggles to eat, keep clean, and fill his days. There’s real physical danger of death as well as a fear of spiritual death if ‘Ikaui’s swept up by social services. But in the middle of a survive or die situation, there are remarkable moments of grace that allow ‘Ikaui to thrive, to choose to be someone who helps instead of hordes, and to ultimately create a family—an ‘ohana in the truest sense—where there were once only strangers in Ala Moana Park. The kindness of college students, fast food workers, guardian angels, and others allow ‘Ikaui to discover who he is, connect his amazing gifts with his ancestral past, and heal generational wounds.

It’s a book that can be read on many levels. To say it’s about kindness triumphing over evil dilutes what I think is the real message at the heart of the story. I loved the way traditional Hawaiian culture and values were woven into the narrative.

For me, the one jarring element was the Indian guest lecturer who gives ‘Ikaui insight into his gifts. While I appreciate the pan-world, indigenous peoples, we-are-all-one perspective, I would’ve have liked to have seen this insight come from a kupuna. It’s a small rub in a beautifully paced novel and doesn’t really distract from the overall story. However, it’s an odd choice that rings true, and I wonder if the author based some of this novel on his own experiences or on people he knows.

Written in the Sky by Matthew Kaopio is available in paperback and eBook from Amazon. If you love Hawaii and Hawaiian literature, this is an exceptional book.

Tourists_lehua_parker

When a young location scout from Hollywood dashes into a local Hawaiian bar, she bites off a little more than she can chew. Set in Hawaii with a hint of ancient mythology, Tourists is a companion story to the Niuhi Shark Saga and is intended for adults.  Like the woman in  the story, there’s no long-term commitment here. Tourists is a quick coffee break and dessert read.

Available in eBook from Amazon.

 

lanai_smalllānai

(LAH-naheye)

(n) Hawaiian for porch, patio.

Example

English: They like to set those kinds of glass balls on their coffee tables, but I’m only going to sell the small ones. The big ones are for us. They’ll ;ook nice on the patio.

Pidgin: They like those popo aniani for put on the coffee table. But I only going sell the small kine. The big kine’s for us. Look nice on the lānai.

Note: ‘Ōlelo is a Hawaiian word meaning language, speech, word, etc.  To see the current list of Hawaiian and Pidgin words, definitions, and usage please click on

Pidgin Dictionary

 

sandboardingkolohe

(koh-LOH-heh)

(v) Hawaiian for mischievous, naughty, a rascal.

Example

English: Mitsy laughed. “Oh, Kahana! How I delight in your rascally nature! You haven’t changed a bit!”

Pidgin: Mitsy laughed. “Oh, Kahana, you still kolohe, ah you!”

Note: ‘Ōlelo is a Hawaiian word meaning language, speech, word, etc.  To see the current list of Hawaiian and Pidgin words, definitions, and usage please click on

Pidgin Dictionary

Before Jay saw the Niuhi Shark in One Boy, No Water he used to think sharks were no big deal. Hard to believe, yeah?

spot_boardI watched Jay make his bed. “Going surfing?”

“Yeah.”

“Early, yeah?”

“That’s when the waves best.”

“Meeting Frankie?”

Jay grabbed a t-shirt off the floor. Through the shirt he mumbled, “Later. He no like surf before dawn, the panty. He comes an hour or two after sunrise. He says his mother makes him do chores, but I know the truth. He’s scared of sharks.”

I thought about what I knew about sharks and decided Frankie had a point. “They come in at night to feed, yeah? In close to shore.” I said.

“So they say.” Jay picked up the sunscreen from under the dresser.

I cocked my head at him. “You not afraid?”

“No.”

“No?”

“No. Terrified,” Jay confessed.

“You ever seen a shark? I mean, out there, surfing?” I asked.

“Couple times.” He paused, sunscreen white on his nose. “Plenny times. I seen them along the reef bottom, cruising out by first breaks at Nalupūkī.”

“Fo’real?” I asked.

“Yeah, fo’real.”

“How big?”

“Small. Baby kine. An occasional bigger one, two to three feet. Once, I seen one about nine feet, longer than me on my board. Mostly black tip reef.” Jay shrugged. “Not too big.”

“Big enough.”

He nodded. “One time when I dove under a wave I seen one out in the distance, a hammerhead. Had to be twelve, maybe fourteen feet.” He shook his head. “That time I got out.”

I watched him take an old beach towel from the back of our door and toss it over his shoulder. “Why?” I asked. “If you know they’re there, why surf at all?”

Jay turned to me, chewing on his bottom lip, choosing his words carefully. “Don’t tell Mom, yeah? But one time, I was hanging out with some seagulls, just floating out past first breaks when I saw a shark go after a bird that was floating right by me. The bugger was so fast! He hit the bird and swallowed it before the bird even knew it was coming. I was sitting on my board not fifteen feet away and the shark went after the bird. He’d rather have a mouthful of feathers than a chunk out of me. That’s when I knew.” His eyes held mine. “I knew then that it didn’t matter if I was surfing in the early dawn or high noon, in shallow water or deep, by myself or with choke guys. If a shark wanted me, it would have me. There’s nothing I can do, except stay out of the water. And I can’t do that.” He looked down. “If no can do nothing, waste time being scared, yeah? And I no like waste time when the waves are pumping. Besides, everybody knows sharks only like white meat. Good thing I’m tan.” He grinned and opened our bedroom door.

“Jay,” I said.

“Yeah?”

“Be careful, yeah?”

“Always, brah, always.”

All excerpts and short stories copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpts from the Niuhi Shark Saga by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of these excerpts may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. No part of these short stories may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

jetts

My cousins, sister, and  I were supposed to be doing the dishes, so of course we were fighting.

“Bruce! Don’t dump silverware in the rubbish can!” I shrieked.

“What? What did I do?” Eyes wide and fake innocent.

“You threw away the fork when you scraped the plate,” my sister Heidi said. “I saw.”

“Not!” Bruce snapped.

“Yes!” Heidi said, tipping the rubbish can forward. “You can just see the edge of it right there!”

“Where?” Bruce said.

“Right there! Under the napkin!” Heidi said.

“Busted!” Carly chortled, putting leftovers in the fridge.

“Get it out,” I said.

“No way,” Bruce whined; “It’s ugi! I’m not putting my hand in there!”

I turned from the sink where I was washing the chopping knife. “Do it!”

“Make me,” he said.

I waved the knife at him. “Eyes or alas, your choice!”

“You gonna get it now, Bruce,” Taylor said, dumping a stack of plates on the counter.

“Better choose alas, Bruce,” said Glen with a sly eye. “It’s not like you going need them.”

“Ooooooooh!” everybody inhaled.

“Good one, Glen!” said Taylor the troublemaker.

“I mean it, Bruce!” I snarled and waved the knife some more.

“That’s not how you hold a knife, Lehua.” Uncle Dave stood in the doorway, amused.

We all jumped back. Although if we were going to get caught fighting, we’d rather it was by Uncle Dave than anyone else. Anyone else usually involved more chores and sometimes lickings. With Uncle Dave the odds were better he’d just say knock it off. On a really good day, he’d just laugh and take us to the beach to cool off.

“What?” I asked, soap suds dripping off my wrist and running down my elbow.

“Nobody’s going to be afraid if you wave a knife like that at them.” We all looked at the knife in my hand, nonplussed. “Give it,” he said. “When you’re in a knife fight, you gotta hold the blade like this.” He whipped it around, sharp edge up. “Stand like this. Put your weight like this. See?”

We nodded.

It didn’t matter that Uncle Dave was almost as wide as he was tall. We watched him weave the knife through the air, shifting and swaying like a palm tree in the breeze. I kept thinking about West Side Story. I didn’t think the Jetts knew what Uncle Dave knew.

“That’s how you hold a knife,” he said and handed it back.

“Thanks, Uncle,” I said. “Now everybody back to work!” Being bossy comes naturally when you’re the oldest cousin and expected to keep everyone else in line. “Bruce, get the fork out of the rubbish can.”

“No,” he pouted.

I waved the knife at him the way Uncle Dave taught me. “Do it!”

“Okay, okay,” Bruce grumbled, “no need get huffy about it.”

“Not bad, Lehua,” Uncle Dave laughed, “not bad.”

More than 30 years later when I was writing the first draft of One Shark, No Swim it suddenly occurred to me that Zader was fascinated with knives—that’s one of the reasons he carves. When I wrote that lua training scene it was really Uncle Dave I saw in my mind dancing and fighting off imaginary dragons with a kitchen knife. A hui hou, Uncle Dave. Rest in peace.

hula_male_sm2

hana hou

(HAH-nah ho)

(phrase) Hawaiian for again, do it again. It’s often called out when a performance is especially pleasing or powerful.

Example

English: Wow! George, I wish I could see that again!

Pidgin: Hana hou! Hana hou!

Note: ‘Ōlelo is a Hawaiian word meaning language, speech, word, etc.  To see the current list of Hawaiian and Pidgin words, definitions, and usage please click on

Pidgin Dictionary

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When you’re allergic to water,
growing up in Hawaii
isn’t always paradise.

With Niuhi sharks,
even out of the water,
you’re not safe.

Everything you thought you knew
about Zader is a  lie.