Happy Year of the Pig. On this day, we will move to launch the final chapter of our stories for the Year of the Dog.
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* * * * * Story Number One * * * * *
“So wat da buggah said?”
ma madda asked afta ma
fadda dropped me off.
“About wat?” she said,
mocking me. “How about
wat he wen promise fo
pay me in child support?
How about wat he owes
me fo trowing one brick
true ma windshield?”
She sat at the table gazing
out da window, her eyes
neva meeting mine.
I always hated wen she
brought him up.
Even yeas afta, wen I
taut she wen foget him
longtime already, she
go, out of da blue,
“Dat buggah was one
real piece of shit
I tell you.”
I neva saw ma fadda
trow da concrete brick
true da windshield of
ma madda’s cah
but was obvious wen
I came home from
school dat day an wen
see da brick laying
on her dash
dea must have been
plenny angah, plenny
violence fo lodge da brick
halfway true da glass.
Ma madda could do
dat to one man, drag
her finganails true da
chalkboard of his back.
She wen leave da brick
like dat for days an wen
call all her friends
fo checkom out.
“Imagine driving around
town wit dat!” she wen
say, an everyone
Wen I was young
ma fadda wen move
us to one small town
fo make one new life.
He really moved us
so he could be wit
his new fling.
Ma madda neva knew
til was too late.
Da night she found out
she came home
smelling like cigarettes
I could hear her
sobbing in her room.
I opened da doa
an she stay laying
naked in bed, weeping.
I wanted fo comfort
her but I felt shame
since she no mo
All I could do was
shut da doa quietly
as she cried herself
One story ma madda
could tell ova an ova
again is da one wea ma
fadda wen almost get
run ova by his mistress
in our yard.
“She was da crazy one,
driving around in her cah,
screaming at da top of
her lungs, ‘I goin kill you!’
An just like one true punk
he go diving in da bushes
afta she wen accelerate,
lights blazing in his eyes.
Dat witch used to drive
by our house every
I could see her from
our lanai, her head
sticking out da window,
driving back an fort,
back an fort.”
I came home
from school an
Ma madda was
yelling at da top
of her lungs.
How could you
do dis to us?”
I took a seat
on our steps
an waited fo da
scrap to end.
you cheat on
yo own damn
I neva heard
“I want you out
of dis house!
I want you out
of our lives!”
One doa wen
slam an ma
I opened ma
bag an found
one piece candy.
Wen taste like
Da only time
I saw ma
he wen drive
me to da
an he wen
was fo him
da hard part?”
“I loved yo
Dats wen he
wen buss out
“Wen she left,
my heart wen
wat he wen
how he wen
all da late
I decided fo
“Da pass is pass,”
“Once you ask God
no need bringom up
Like how yo fadda
wen cheat on us.
How he wen spen
every dime I eva
I worked hard
fo earn dat money.
I worked da phone
I worked da pineapple
I waitressed tables.
I even sole my house
in Aiea cause he
wanted fo move
Would be wort
millions by now.
An look at me,
living in one dump,
no can pay rent.
An he stay sleeping
in one mansion.
No sense bring
up da pass.”
* * * * * Story Number Two * * * * *
So What da Buggah Said?
“So what da buggah said?” Rudy the barber asks me.
“Some bullshit about Denise and Chris.”
I’m waiting for a haircut. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Christopher Andaya enter. He’s dark, looks real Hawaiian.
Suddenly he pulls a knife, comes at me. I grab my gun inside my jacket and shoot him three times, but instead of dying, he turns around and staggers outside. I follow.
I say, “Chris, you’re supposed to be dead already,” and boom, he goes down. I flip him over.
His face looks weird, his eyes all glassy, looking up at me like I’m God.
“Hey, Chris. No ack. We bot’ know dis not no real gun. Don’ go Deadman’s Gulch on me.”
“You mean Old Pali Road?”
“Yeah, wotevahs. Wit’ one trunkload of pork.”
“An’ da cah when stall.”
“An’ no staht.”
“Bumebye dey trow away da pork.”
“Hey, if dey when turn da cah aroun’ an’ head’m back down da mountain . . .?”
“Dey gif da peeg to somebody goin’ da uddah way.”
“K’den, bra. Bra, you doing OK?”
“Yeah, no. Nevah bettah.”
“Den gif back da gun.”
“Dis not no real gun.”
“Gif’m to me, Chris.”
“Firs’, da shiv.”
I feel the warmth disappear, see the light. Where –
“You talk plenny kine when you asleep,” Rudy says.
I feel my face. Clean. This guy can handle a straight razor. “I fell asleep?”
“Yeah. You was talking all kine. Had someting about a Chris somebody. Someting about Denise. What’s wit all da guns an knives an shooting? Whas wit God? Tell me you not born again.”
“I . . . Rudy, I haven’t seen Denise for days. I don’t know where she is. You haven’t heard of Chris Andaya?”
“Oh, Chris Andaya. Scary. He get someting to do wit Denise?”
“She nevah go your mom’s?” Rudy asks.
I tell him no, it’s my mom who said she couldn’t get ahold of Denise.
“Rudy, you know Andaya. Like I said, Kuroda been talking shit about Chris and Denise.”
“Not good. Yeah, no, I nevah hear nuttin’”
Rudy knows people. But you gotta pay up front. Like a haircut and a shave is a good start, but maybe just a down-payment depending. Maybe you gotta tip heavy kine.
Rudy knows people as tough as Chris. Maybe tougher. People who come from dark spaces, do their job, disappear. You’d never see them strolling the mall at Ala Moana. The only time you see these guys is when they materialize on your doorstep. And the only thing they bring is bad news. Sometimes a warning, sometimes a little hurt, and sometimes, well, you know. They’re like ghosts.
“Rudy, who can I talk to? I need to know if she’s gone back to work. If she really is mixed up with Chris again.”
Rudy rubs his chin. “You mean someone you can talk to, or someone who only goin’ talk to me?”
“Whoever, Rudy. Whatever you can do to help my sister. You tell me.”
Rudy runs the razor over the strop, thinking. The steel looks lethal.
One time mom, Denise, and I visited the Daoist monastery up Nu’uanu. We heard this music coming from the back. Amazing. We went around the side and found this maybe 70-something woman playing flute. We sat. Her music was other worldly.
When she stopped, Denise clapped. I didn’t think that’s what you should do, but Denise, she just does things like that. Spontaneous. The woman smiled, then thanked her.
“That flute looks heavy,” my mom said.
The woman laughed softly. “It’s a good weapon.”
The blade flashes against the dark leather. “I tell you what,” Rudy says. “I tink bettah I talk to my friends first. You like um talk, hard, to Kuroda, see what he really know?”
I thought about that bastard. Miles Kuroda had been an asshole even back in elementary school. He learned kung fu then high-jacked kids and beat them up. Listening to that fucker snear about Denise being back with Chris Andaya made me want to kill him. He thought he was tough? A gun beats martial arts every time.
Worst of all, if Denise was with Chris, it was my fault.
“Nah, Rudy, if can find out where she is, would be great. Fucking Miles may just be talking out his ass.”
Rudy runs his finger down the blade of the razor. He looks up at me and smiles a wicked smile. “Dat Kuroda, I really hate dat punk.”
I picture blood bursting out of Miles Kuroda’s slashed throat and smile my own wicked smile.
“Mahalo, Rudy, what do I owe you?”
“Ah, one nice ahi nex time you go out. If canna catch, den one case Bud.”
Wow. That’s a deal. Rudy could ask for the moon if he wants it.
When I was in elementary school, Miles Kuroda made life hard for me. He was a bully, and I was one of the people he bullied. But I didn’t tell my older brother. It wasn’t unusual for Miles to randomly pick out someone and beat him up. He never beat up a girl, but he would push girls around too. That changed the older we got. By the time we moved on to middle school, he was only pushing boys around.
Maybe I shouldn’t call what he did to me bullying. Maybe it was more like stalking. Whatever it was, he definitely intimidated me.
It wasn’t until we moved on to high school that he really took an interest in me. He started being especially nice to me. Still, the first time he asked me out, I thought it was strange. I had no interest in someone who had treated people the way he did.
But you know what? The more time he spent with me, the more mellow he became. As we grew friendlier, he actually went, well, soft. He was even polite to teachers, something far from his radar in earlier days.
And when he asked me to junior prom, I said yes. My brother thought I was insane. His hated Miles’s for his behavior in his younger days. My brother was so angry that he threatened to come over to the high school and beat the living daylights out of Miles.
I finally mostly convinced him that Miles had changed. I told him how my being with Miles made him a different person.
“We’ll see about that,” my brother said.
Can you imagine a college student coming to a high school to beat someone up? Sometimes I thought my brother was crazier than Miles.
But that was then, a long time ago. Miles reverted to his former behavior once I went to the mainland for college. He stayed at UH and got into some pretty bad fights. Eventually he quit school. He took up with some shady people, and he’s been running with them ever since.
When I came home after college, I met Chris Andaya. I thought it was the kind of love that would last, that we’d get married, have a family. But then he began to beat me. I didn’t tell my brother, not until I finally had the courage to break away from Chris.
I hate phones, but this was Rudy.
“Dey foun Chris.”
“Da cops. My friend from inside da depahtment tole dey foun him at his place. One twenny-two slug in da haht. Close range.”
I put my leg up on the bench and felt for the .22 on my inside ankle. “They got any idea who did it?”
“Nah, dey jes figgah gotta be someone he know. To get dat close.”
I hung up, touched the small automatic again. Someone had killed Chris Andaya about the same time I was thinking about doing it myself. I had a real bad feeling.
After my sister broke away for good from Chris, I bought her a .22 just like mine, to carry with her. I took her to the Koko Head range, taught her to shoot. She got better than me. A natural. If Chris had come at her again? Shit.
I called my mom to find out if she’d heard from Denise. She’d not.
If she’d actually killed Chris, what would she do? Get on a plane? Maybe go to frickin Miles Kuroda? I never did understand how she could love that asshole. But looking to hide, would she run to her one-time true frickin love?
I got in my car and headed for the bar where Miles used to hang out. It made me ill to think about him, but if Denise had killed Chris and run to that chicken-shit, then I had no choice. If she were with him, I’d find out. Maybe I’d get lucky, finally, after all these years. Maybe I’d have a great reason to kick his ass.
Miles used hang out with his gangster panty-ass friends at an armpit of a bar by the University. When I walked in, a couple of older haole guys who looked like college professors were shooting pool. Through the smoke – I guess this shithole didn’t care about smoking laws – I could make out guys who looked like college dropouts.
I went up to the counter and asked the bartender if he knew Miles.
“Sure, yeah, he’s in here a lot. Not today, though. If he’s not here by now, he won’t be in until tonight. Nine or ten.”
On the way out, I heard one of the haoles say, “Good shot, Jim. Minnesota Fats move over.” The guy named Jim laughed. That laugh sounded familiar.
“Jim, Mister Harstad, is that you?” I walked through the smoke cloud to the table. The two stared at me.
It wasn’t my old high-school English teacher after all. “Sorry, sorry. I thought you were someone else.”
I went out into the sunshine, stinking of cigarettes. Slumping into the seat, I tried to think.
Okay, if I couldn’t get ahold of Miles until tonight, what? Let’s say Denise didn’t go to him after all. Where? Where would –
And then I knew. I drove up University and got onto the H1 freeway heading west. I knew she hadn’t gone to Miles Kuroda at all.
* * * * * Story Number Three * * * * *
When you wish for something hard enough, you just might get it. Then
comes the part about how hard you thought about what happens next, as
in being careful what you wish for. Jiminy Cricket says nothing about
which star you should wish upon, nor about possible evil consequences
of choosing poorly. How about the venerable first star I see tonight?
Does that imply a filter, a guarantee against bad choices and evil
consequences? Suppose you say you’re bored stiff and wish something
interesting would happen? By interesting you mean? Who cares? Nothing
could be worse than this. Let’s give it a shot: I really wish
something interesting would happen. Oh-oh.
Wisharama in Wishitopia in G-flat minor
How old were you when you realized “I wish I knew” does not
necessarily mean you want to know?
What it more likely means is that you don’t want to take the time to
find out. Or it’s not worth knowing. Or you’re too lazy. Or . . .
Or maybe you do know but telling would take too dang long. Or you
don’t want us to know. Or . . .
How old are you, anyway? What makes any of this the least bit scary? (Isn’t it?)
I wish I knew. I wish, really wish, you’d think hard about it, then
let us all know.
The list of things people wish for is endless. Ever try to visualize
“endless”? What’d you see?
I see a long, long adding-machine tape with individual handwritten
entry after entry after entry, curling and unfurling slowly out into
dark and endless space, destination infinity, wherever it can be
I wish I could see what Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking saw. Or what
Neil Degrasse Tyson sees.
Elon Musk. Does he really wish to spawn the movement that puts humans
everywhere? Literally everywhere? Would that be wishing well? I wish I
Wait. I know.
Only look at planet Earth. Clever humanstuff everywhere. Everywhere!
Purely natural stuff nowhere. Nowhere! (Hippie stuff, we smugly
Will we learn better over time? Or will we remain too clever by half
until the too-rapidly-nearing end? When the cows come home? When what
goes around comes around?
What do you wish to be when you grow up? An NFL star? Rock star? Movie
star? Media star? Multijillionaire on-line entrepreneur? Maybe a
pussygrabbing USA President? (Or, you know, grab whatever.)
How about alive and well in a shared natural setting? Are we wishing
well? Wish you knew?
You know you know.
If it’s worth wishing for,
It must be worth working for.
If you wish/work hard enough for something worthy,
Will luck be a Sinatra lady?
“The harder I practice,
The luckier I get.” —Tom Watson, golfer.
“Pray for a good harvest,
but keep on hoeing.” —Future Farmers of America.
Praying. Anything like wishing?
Are they the same?
One sma’keed time I wished for something worthy
and got it.
Don’t recall being into prayer yet.
Mom prayed. Both grandmas.
Couldn’t’ve hurt. Could’ve helped.
Working definitely helped.
The desired object was a bicycle.
Arden Farms Dairy and the City of Bremerton co-sponsored a traffic
safety jingle contest for kids, parental help allowed, even
We did seven entries, each one penned carefully, laboriously by my
reluctant second-grade hand. The first six were random shots. Maybes.
The seventh was my own inspiration, the simple idea of connecting
traffic light colors to their one-word directives:
Red is for stop.
Green is for go.
Yellow is for slow.
By then experienced jingleists, we massaged it into something we all
liked, I copied it neatly, and we sent it in. This was the one. We
were sure of it. And it was.
Mrs. Bostrom bolted out of her house clutching The Bremerton Sun to
her chest, shouting my name. “You won!” she cheered, shouting my name
again. “You won!”
In a special box on the front page, on a list of jingle contest
winners, my name.
At the presentation ceremony, the neatly racked boys’ bikes looked
sturdy, solid, and plain. All except for one gleaming red-and-white
tank model, a ruby among agates.
I wanted that very one, of course. Who wouldn’t? But to get it? I
fervently wished it would be awarded to me. And it was.
Have you ever wished you could go back and revisit some part of your
life? Not actually relive it, maybe, but watch it happening
fly-on-the-wall style? Would it look the same as the memory you now
Does memory automatically confer enhancement? Or is it only randomly
different from the original, better in some ways, worse in others? Is
it ever exactly the same?
A long time ago, as an English teacher at Wai’anae High School, where
students’ use of Hawaiian creole English was considered a problem, it
occurred to me that if we treated pidgin as the acceptable cultural
variant it should be, not the enemy we’d made it, it would be easier
to teach American standard English as the cultural variant it is, not
the enemy we’d made it.
Mark Twain became my ally. Each of my eighth-grade students had a copy
of “Huckleberry Finn”. I had them translate the whole “You don’t know
about me” first paragraph twice, first into standard English, then
into pidgin. We had fun comparing the results.
Then we read the whole book aloud together, with everyone
reading-along in their own copy. I told them to think of Huck’s
language as a kind of mainland pidgin and did most of the
That approach worked so well that I next tried it with an
eleventh-grade English class using Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”.
It took about a semester, and students seemed respectfully attentive,
though evaluation is always difficult.
Years later Glenn Kila, one of those eleventh-graders, told me it had
changed his life, inspiring him to go to UH as an English major.
Before, he’d never thought of going to college at all. He became a
teacher, then an administrator at more than one school on the Leeward
Of course I feel good about that, but do I wish I could go back to
relive even one class session? I do not.
I’ve been logger, longshoreman, gravedigger. I’ve hitchhiked from
Boston to Seattle and bicycled across northern Europe. I’ve hiked the
ridgeline from St. Louis Heights across Ka’u Crater and down the
Nothing I’ve ever done was harder work than teaching English, and I
wish never to do it again. But to be a fly on the wall of that
eleventh-grade Wai’anae classroom just one time? I can only wish…
I wish Joe’s lights had not gone out yesterday.
Today a large truck rolled up displaying the legend: “Leave the heavy
lifting, sorting, and transport to the professionals.” And
professionals they seem, clicking into place pieces not designed to
click into place — Joe’s old lumber, pipes, buckets, tools — once
wished-for, once-useful stuff.
Joe was not a hoarder; everybody collects stuff. Some of the stuff
I’ve collected once rested under neighbors’ houses, neighbors now
gone, like Joe. Golf clubs from Burt, coiled copper wire from Mark,
sage words of advice from Joe.
The neighborhood was ten years old the summer we moved in with our
children, our wishes — ten years older than us. It’s getting younger
around us, now among the old ones, all obedient to time. I would not,
do not, wish to be an exception.
Blessed far beyond my just desserts, I often think. Blessed? It seems,
yes. Undeniably. While it is metaphorically true that I hoe for a good
harvest, it is literally true that I keep on praying. Truly.
Like Joe, like Mark, like Burt, I’ll stop everything soon enough —
praying, wishing, hoeing. Everythinging.
I wish that truck would leave.
Ah, there it goes now.
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