From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number 16, 1982: A SMALL OBLIGATION, by Susan Nunes


           You've got to understand about Amy. She's not exactly hateful. In fact I like her a lot. I used to like her because she was tough, but now I like her because I know she breaks easily. Once at a carnival Mama bought me a glass sailboat. Sara broke it the next day, but I've still got the pieces.
           Amy often gets a faraway look, and I know she's off somewhere. Sometimes I know where she is, but the feeling doesn't last long. It must be hard being the oldest, not that it's so easy being in the middle and told to get lost all the time.
           That's what Amy told me this morning. I said, “Mother said to get up,” and she said “Bug off.” Mama called from the kitchen, and Amy sat up and glared at me. Like it was my fault.
           At breakfast Mama started checking off her list of things to do for the day. Dad had softball practice, so her list was longer than usual. Dad was trying not to look guilty about running off, but the game was tomorrow. I wanted to say, “Daddy, can I go with you?” like Amy used to, but I didn't. Amy just sat there with that faraway look. Dad had to ask for the milk twice; she didn't hear him the second time and he thought she was being rude. “Amy will help,” he finally said.
           I wanted to tell Amy that I didn't give a damn whether or not she got up when Mama wanted her to, and if I said “Mother said” it was only because Mama was always ordering me to tell her things.
           I really love you, Amy, I wanted to say. And you can be hateful and you can lie, but what you are is not as bad as how they make you feel you are. I didn't really understand then what it was about Amy that I loved. All I knew is that if she found out about what I was doing and how I was feeling, she would really hate me. Forever.

* * * * *


           “I don't like this place,” she said. “It's damp. I feel old here, and I'm not old.”
           “But isn't there anything you can tell me?”
           “There's so little to do. So little. And you can't keep books. I know the others steal them.”
           “I mean from before you came here.”
           “There's only one thing I remember from before. But it's a long story and he says it keeps changing. I tell him it's the same story, but I think he's tired of hearing it. You see, he doesn't understand the differences.”

* * * * *

BIO: Although born on the Big Island, at the time of publication of this collection, Susan Nunes was living in Honolulu where she worked as a writer and editor on the UH Manoa campus. A Small Obligation is her “account of growing up in a divided yet doubly rich family. Her fictional child, Amy, tries to piece together the scattered impressions of two worlds, those of her Japanese mother and Portuguese father.”
          Susan dedicated this collection to her parents, but she said the book was actually written for her son, Adam Woltag.

Mahalo for reading!

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