Like One Fish Out of Water

hawaiian writers

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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.

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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.

Book 2 is heading to the copy editor where all the commas get put into the right places!

Until then, here’s a little taste of One Shark, No Swim.

full_9_bigI climbed on the toilet tank and stuck my head out the window. The drop was near the front door to Hari’s store. A little below me and to the left was the hand railing for the upstairs lānai that ran along Uncle Kahana’s living room. I was pretty sure I could make it.

Pretty sure.

I was holding onto the window frame hugging the outside wall with the ball of my right foot resting on the railing when I heard a plop. I looked down. A young haole girl with a sunburned nose was looking up at me. A large yellow and orange shave ice was melting at her feet.

“Mom!” she yelled. “There’s a naked boy covered in lipstick climbing out a window!”

I froze. I couldn’t go back and I couldn’t go forward.

“Jeanie!” a woman’s voice scolded from the store.

“Mom! He’s got weeds wrapped around his ankle and wrist!”

Please, let me die and end this, I prayed. But whatever happens, please don’t let anyone show up with a smart phone or camera. If this gets out I’ll never live it down.

“Go away!” I mouthed at her.

“He wants me to go away!”

“What did I say about telling stories?” the woman said.

“But Mom, this time it’s true!”

I sensed more commotion under me, shadows and light flickering like schools of fish on the reef. I peered down.

“Jeanie! Look what you did! Your snow cone’s all over—” the voice trailed off.

Bleach blond hair and mega-sized sunglasses stared up at me. I closed my eyes.

Next to me the sliding door swept open and a strong brown arm wrapped around my body, lifting me over the railing and onto the lānai. Uncle Kahana leaned down.

“Aloha! So sorry about the shave ice! Tell the girl at the counter Kahana said to give you a new one! On the house, of course! Have a nice day!”

As he pushed me through the open door and into living room I heard the woman say, “Hush, Jeanie, hush! I told you it’s another culture! The whole island is like going to Chinatown in San Francisco. Now do you want a free snow cone or not?”

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.

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‘Ewa Which Way by Tyler Miranda peels back the bandage of what adults think adolescence is like to expose the raw, oozing strawberry of reality. I loved this book for its ability to show all the complicated rules, expectations, and entanglements of being a 12-year-old boy trying to make sense out of adult behavior. Set in ‘Ewa Beach, Hawaii in 1982, Landon DeSilva and his brother Luke know that lickins can fall from the sky like lightning, that a certain side-eye from a parent means a storm’s coming, and that sometimes no matter how long you hold your breath you can’t escape, but have to endure the wave to the end.

For Landon, things are bad at home, but not bad enough. Not enough for child protective services to swoop in and spirit Landon and Luke to a new home, not enough for the cops to do more than show up when his parents’ fights wake the neighbors, and not enough for his mother to realize her marriage is over. Throughout the novel Landon tries to figure out what he’s supposed to do when there’s really nothing he can. His parents’ troubles are deep—there’s guilt, prejudices of class and race, loss, alcohol abuse and valium popping coping mechanisms, unfulfilled expectations, and sheer dysfunction. Landon sees it all with the clarity of a twelve-year-old and his reactions and understandings are heartbreaking and true. Adult readers will read not only the story, but all the words and character motivations between the lines. It’s powerful, immediate, and like a bloody scrapped knee, painfully evocative of the transition between childhood and adulthood.

Tyler’s lyrical writing hit so many of the details of growing up in Hawaii pitch perfect—the politics of school bullies and teachers, the endless hours of chores (I so remember scrubbing toilets with Comet and Scott towels and weeding Saturday mornings in heat that felt like standing in a clothes dryer), frustration with siblings who seem to glory in amplifying the problems instead of flying under the radar, conflicting messages between Catholic church teachings and family actions, and the blessed escape an hour in the ocean can be. I particularly enjoyed Tyler’s description of surfing and futzing around in the shore break as a kid. It’s some of the most evocative passages about being in the ocean I’ve ever read.

There’s an argument in literary circles about the difference between books about kids and books for kids, with the educational conceit that kids will read stories about characters their age and a little older, but not younger. While Landon begins the novel as a sixth grader, (well, technically looking back to sixth grade), this book is not for the fourth–seventh grade crowd. My recommendation is for readers grade eight to adult for several reasons.

‘Ewa Which Way is finely crafted as literary fiction and by that I mean it’s rich in symbolism, allegory, metaphor, and has well-developed themes. As entertaining as it is, it’s also perfect for deconstruction in a literature class for kids old enough to appreciate the nuances in the writing. There is much for readers to explore in this novel that goes beyond a simple analysis of plot, character development, and setting. Like To Kill a Mocking Bird, Huck Finn, and The Chosen, ‘Ewa Which Way is a peek into a world few readers know and understand with a storyline that feels universal.  (And yes, I do consider ‘Ewa Which Way  a Pacific Lit equivalent to Huck Finn. Thanks for asking.)

Another challenge is the language—there’s a lot of Pidgin English construction in the dialogue, mainly dis, dat, an’ da oddah ting kind of phrasing. This version of Pidgin is common on ‘Oahu public school playgrounds, and I think ultimately easier for the non-Pidgin speaker to understand than a more a hard-core version of Pidgin liberally sprinkled with words like hammajang, lolo, and pau. In telling his story Tyler used an authentic interpretation of Hawaiian Pidgin English’s sounds and rhythms that native Pidgin speakers will have no trouble reading, but it requires a little more decoding for English-only speakers. I think this extra work puts it out of the range of most mainland elementary and intermediate readers.

A final red flag that it’s for older kids is the occasional swearing, which might make parents and teachers of younger readers uncomfortable. Don’t worry, the language isn’t a  gratuitous Sopranos-bar-of-soap-on-the-tongue fest and it’s used to good effect. Yes, I understand kids know, hear, and use these words, but parents and teachers are the ones who buy the books, and in their eyes, there’s a big difference between what’s appropriate for sixth and eighth grade. It’s the only reason I mentioned it.

I loved this book and can’t recommend it too highly. It’s the kind of novel that makes you think about all the Landons in the world and the DeSilvas next door. Readers looking to remember growing up in Hawaii or wanting to experience life as an island kid are in for a real treat.

‘Ewa Which Way by Tyler Miranda is published by Bamboo Ridge Press and is available in trade paperback at most Hawaii bookstores and Costco or online at Bamboo Ridge Press, SPD, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

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On June 21, 2013 I was privileged to meet some very talented young authors at Brigham Young University. Click on Fan Art to see how they answered the question, “What would you draw on the bottom of a surfboard to chase away a shark?”003_ws

 

sniff_cover_blogLater, after his parents were snoring, safe in their bed, Kona tiptoed back to his room and carefully placed the perfume bottle on his desk chair.

Nothing sweeter, he thought.

He double-checked his bedroom door, making sure it was closed.

No way I’m risking it.

 

 

To download the entire story, please click here.

Excerpted from Sniff by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2013 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Lehua Parker, LLC and Lauele Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher or author.

 

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“Boiled cabbage, brussels sprouts, potatoes, beans, and onions. That’s it.”

“What?” Mom said, doing a double-take.

“Mom, you said you’d cook whatever I wanted.”

“Yeah, but trust me. You’re not going to like this.” She shook her head. “Nobody likes this!”

“But I have to eat this for dinner!”

“Why?” She cocked her head to the side.

“For, um, school. Extra credit. Teacher said.”

“Your teacher said if you ate boiled cabbage, brussels sprouts, potatoes, beans, and onions for dinner, she’ll give you extra credit?”

“Yeah, well, I gotta write a report on it after,” Kona grumbled.

Mom shook her head again. “Should’ve sent you to a private school. Maybe you can go to Ridgemont for seventh,” she muttered, opening the fridge and turning on the stove.

 

 

To download the entire story, please click here.

Excerpted from Sniff by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2013 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Lehua Parker, LLC and Lauele Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher or author.

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There are moments in The Kona Shuffle where your eyes scan the words as fast as they can as your jaw hangs open catching flies. Esther and Tommy with the gun. The naked guy strapped to a chair and tortured with cheesy steel guitar music and a sunburn from hell. Gerald who wears plaid shorts in the Kona heat and speaks in a brogue because the father he never met is Scottish. I can’t even mention the whole fertility idol thing without cracking up because I remember those from Woolworth’s tourist souvenir selection as a kid.

Tom Bradley’s The Kona Shuffle is a screwball detective comedy about four identical backpacks that get mixed up during a hard landing at the Kona Airport. Of course none of the bags are carrying the typical tourist maps and sunscreen and all of the owners are highly motivated to get their bags back. As the bags are stolen, swapped, and misdirected, deals are stuck and double-crossed in hilarious situations. It’s up to private investigator Noelani B. Lee to figure it all out and ultimately decide who gets the goods.

There’s just the right balance between locals only inside jokes and a fast-paced action-packed narrative. Like a good plate lunch, there’s a little bit of everything here that satisfies. If you’re heading to Hawaii, it’s a great beach or plane read that guarantees you’ll be checking menus for loco mocos and paying a little more attention to your fanny pack in Waikiki.

Can’t wait for the next Noelani adventure, The Hilo Hustle.

The Kona Shuffle by Tom Bradley, Jr., is self-published and available as an ebook or trade paperback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

tom_bradleyConnect with Tom Bradley, Jr.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TBradleywrites

Blog: http://headfirstintothedeepend.typepad.com/blog/

 

 

sniff_cover_blogNo matter how hard Kona tried to stay awake, it always waited until he was asleep.

Shhhhhh, shhhhhhh, not settling, moving. A dry sound, like snakes, like sand, like crisp, dried leaves against a window screen.

Shhhhhh, shhhhhhh.

The bed’s dust ruffle ballooned, then lifted.

“What’s that?” croaked a voice dry like sawdust cookies, followed by a snuffling, sniffling sound, the sound of a hound on a trail or pigs tracking truffles. 

Sniff.

“What’s that,” sniff, snuff, snort—now not dry, but slobbery, hot, greedy—“What is it? Smells,” sniff, “sweet, like flowers, like,” snuff, drool, drip, “like clean.

Kona held his breath and jammed his hands deeper into his armpits.

Sniff.

Closer, hotter, heat against his cheek.

Sniff.

Greedy.

Kona puffed out his cheeks and blew with all his might.

“Ugh! Onion! Rotten, stinking!” rasped the voice.

Snort, wheeze, gasp.

“Rancid! Not flowers! Where flowers? Want flowers! Where’s that smell?”

Hissing, chaffing, breathing deep.

“Under? Is it under?” scratched the voice.

Snuffle, sniffle, puff, truffles beneath a tree.

“Smells under.”

The edge of the bed dipped. The covers pulled away from Kona’s neck.

It was now or never. Kona clenched his stomach muscles and let one rip.

Ppppttthhhhhhhttttt!

“Phew! Oh, oh, stinky, rotten, smelly, horrible, horrible, little boy!” The bed bounced back. “Oh, woe, woe is me.” The voice a child’s whimper, the sound of a birthday present taken back, a rotted piece of maggot cake, no candles left to light.

In the dark and through his terror, Kona grinned.

A sound like sea wash kissing sand, a moving sound, shifting away from the bed, low toward the floor.

Sniff.

“What’s that?”

Snuff, puff, gasp.

“Smells like sugar and mangos and sunlight. Mine!”

Kona heard the mango cobbler pan thud on the floor, then a terrible licking sound, a greedy slurping sound, a sound made by a too long tongue.

As the pan disappeared under the bed, Kona let a last one rip, just to be sure.

There was only a little bit of mango cobbler left, he thought, but enough in the pan for tonight.

Kona glanced at his bedroom door to make sure it was still shut tight, and, tucking the covers snug around his neck, he drifted back to sleep.

 

To download the entire story, please click here.

Excerpted from Sniff by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2013 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Lehua Parker, LLC and Lauele Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher or author.

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In his room, Kona rummaged in the bottom of his closet and pulled out a wadded pair of boxers and worn soccer shorts, the same clothes he’d worn each night and hidden in his closet for over a month. Putting on the rank and musty clothes, he immediately felt better. It was going to be all right.

He carefully closed his closet and bedroom doors, making sure they were shut tight. Eye-balling the distance to his pillow, he set the mango cobbler on his desk chair, turned off the light, and took a flying leap into bed.

As he pulled the covers up to his chin and tucked them under his shoulders and behind his neck, he smelled his hands, clean and fresh, like flowers after rain.

Dang. Better hide ‘em in my pits.

His tummy rumbled ominously.

Looking good, he thought.

 

To download the entire story, please click here.

Excerpted from Sniff by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2013 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Lehua Parker, LLC and Lauele Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher or author.

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Click here to go to
the Niuhi Shark Website.
One Boy, No Water
Zader's living like a fish out of water.
One Shark, No Swim
Because even out of the water Zader's not safe.
Birth
Uncle Kahana and Ilima find Zader abandoned on the reef at Piko Point as a baby.