Sunday, November 27, 2011

I "Heart" Animals

[Congratulations to Pam Woolway for her runner-up written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition.]

He ran as fast as his little legs could carry him. Later that day I would call him Kenny, named for the friend who helped coax him from beneath our truck, but I get ahead of myself.

My husband Wes is a paddler. His relationship with water is why we moved to Kauai 10 years ago. Wes, a paddle buddy named Kenny and I, were on our return drive from the boys having done a “run.” A “run” for a paddler is a trip by sea along the coast of the island. I had dropped them off with their boats in Poi’pu a few hours earlier and we were driving north on the highway from Ele’ele.

That’s when we saw him. The goat, soon to be christened Kenny, was on a thin strip of asphalt running along the highway. Accelerating up the steep incline with a parade of other weekend drivers, Wes spotted him first.

“Whoa, check out that dog? No. Wait. That’s a goat,” he said as he slowed to approach the running goat from behind.

Fearing the worst, a panicked b-line into traffic, Wes realized his mistake and pulled back on to the highway to cruise a few hundred yards ahead of this little gray goat no larger than my 25-pound terrier.

Our friend Kenny jumped from the truck on the passenger’s side while Wes and I climbed out next to the 50-mile per hour traffic racing past. As soon as I knelt next to the rear bumper of the truck, the goat began to bleat and run faster toward us. Thankfully he recognized us for the saviors we were intended to be.

He slid past me to seek shelter beneath the truck. Kenny and I drew him out and I rode the remaining miles home to Kapaa in the bed of the truck with this goat nesting in my lap.

At home he immediately fit into our little family of three juvenile sibling cats and three curious dogs. Our terrier, Flip, was the one most endeared to him, and the little goat now named Kenny, sparred with her ruthlessly for the rest of the afternoon.

“I want to keep him,” I said, stating the obvious.

My marriage is one of mutual support. I shuttle Wes when he wants to do a “run” with his buddies, no questions asked. In exchange I get to bring home any wayward animal in need of a pillow and a warm meal. It’s a very nice arrangement.

The next morning I sat drinking coffee on a bench beneath our Kari tree in the backyard idly scratching Kenny between his two nubby horns. In Flip’s exuberance to greet him, he startled and leapt straight up in the air to land lightly on my lap I didn’t even spill a drop of coffee -- he was that nimble. That’s when I realized how very small he was: the points of his hooves didn’t even dig into my thighs. He was definitely lighter than Flip.

Kenny followed me around the yard as I watered and when I’d disappear into the house he’d stand on the back patio bleating.

“He is obviously someone’s pet,” Wes said with a warning in his voice.

I didn’t want to hear that. “I want him,” I whined.

To further enforce my case I drove fence posts into the ground and wrapped five-foot high
chicken wire around them to create a 15 by 15 foot corral for Kenny.

Wes returned from work that Wednesday quite impressed. Twelve years of marriage and I’d never displayed any handywoman prowess.

I was motivated.

Then my conscience got the best of me and I told Wes I’d list him as a found pet in the paper. I offered to even make a phone call to one of the only people I knew on the West Side.

“Hey Shan, it’s Pam,” I said into the phone. Shan works for my brother-in-law in Ele’ele and is a
native of these islands. “You don’t happen to know of anybody missing a goat?”

She said she didn’t. Whew.

But then she added, “I know a lady who raises goats and can call her.”

Shucks. “Um, okay. Call me back.”

A few minutes later she calls to describe my goat and say this friend has a son who lost a goat over the weekend.

“And it’s not a baby goat Pam,” she chides. “It’s a pigmy goat.”

Damn that coconut wireless. “Why did I make that call?” I scolded myself.

The following day Kenny accompanied me to my job at the Kauai Humane Society where his “real” owner met me.

As we walked Kenny on a leash to his truck I asked what the goat’s real name was.

He looked at me quizzically and said, “Gabe.”

For some reason I found this funny coming from a big, handsome Hawaiian guy named Kawika.

He sort of blushed and smiled.

“My daughter named him.”

That’s when my goat envy vanished. There was a little girl at home waiting for my Kenny.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Taro Nagashi 

[Congratulations to Jean Rhude for her runner-up written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition. Check back daily for the next several days as we post other recognized entries.]

I live on an Island in the Pacific Ocean. It is located half way between North America and Asia. They say that an ancient chant still sung by New Zealanders about celestial navigational routes, will lead you across this great expanse of ocean to the Wailua River on the island of Kauai. Kauai is a gentle place where the cultures of the East and those of the West blend beautifully with what are left of the Polynesian culture. I moved here seven years ago drawn by a silent chant, the coconut wireless, as modern locals refer to it. I make my home near the Wailua River. I came here to heal.

. . . .

The child's blue eyes sparkle as he watches from atop his fathers' shoulders. At about five years of age he is aware of the solemnity of the event. Even the lights strung along the park, at the river, seem to know better than to appear festive on this night. Even the ringing of the bells and clanging of the symbols carry a resonance of seriousness. This is not like when he and his father launch their kayak or picnic here on the bank of the Wailua River.

There is no program, just a quiet surrender to the unfolding of the event. Undoubtedly the coconut wireless has sent her silent message and I am captive to the ancient unfolding. I am here by her invitation, an invitation that nourishes like the milk from her cavity. I am both a participant and an observer.

The mostly Japanese participants welcome the other Asians, Caucasians, Hawaiians and Portuguese that make up the crowd of 150 or so. A portable altar is faced so that Sensei can look out to the river as he chants and lights a candle. A line forms and members of the Jodo Buddhist Temple bow before the altar as they pass in single file, bowing and dipping their fingers into a bowl of water. It reminds me of taking communion.

Several go to the hundred or so lanterns attached to a series of five barges and begin to light each individual one. Each lantern is inscribed with the name of someone who has died and for whom it has been purchased. This ceremony symbolizes their spirits returning. It is believed that the family members come down from the mountains/afterlife to help with the planting and harvest during the Bon season and now they return as the lanterns are floated out toward the sea, lighting their way. The boat that will pull them is lighted by a large lantern and an offering of fruit is placed inside. The barges, each containing twenty or so lighted lanterns, attached to the barge with a decorative lotus blossom, are gently placed in the water. Immediately their illumination is intensified by their reflection. The full moon shows through the swaying palm tress.

Slowly the series of barges are taken up the river and then brought back down where they pass the crowd of people on the shore. We are mostly holding hands or hugging. Young children sit on the sea wall and their Tutu's, (Grandmothers), have brought them couchin, paper lanterns, attached to sticks, with candles inside. They sit and watch in silence, dangling their feet just above the water.

There is the fragrance of incense. I stand holding the hand of my sister and we silently contemplate the lantern we have purchased for our mother and also one for my son. We do not know the precise lantern that floats their names but this is not important in the collective glow of their light. I consider the healing represented by grieving in this way, with strangers, whose shared experience is stronger than our separateness.

We share in the glow of that mingled light in a celebration of our collective love of our ancestors. It feels good to create ceremony here in this land that has become my home.

The young father leans low to explain to his son, the sweet boy with blond curls and blue eyes, "The candles are for peoples’ family members who have died. The candles light their way."

“Their way to where daddy,” the boy asks.

I listen closely to what the young man will say. His gentle reply, ". . . on their way to eternity."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chicken Little Calling

[Congratulations to Hob Osterlund for her runner-up written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition. Check back daily for the next several days as we post other recognized entries.]

On a windy day in January, 2011, dense clouds body-slammed Kaua`i’s north shore with torrential rain. Within an hour of the deluge, dozens of waterfalls gouged vertical valleys of the Na Pali coast, canyons more typically draped by gentle green shadows. The Hanalei River ran milk chocolate and flooded its banks. A robocall went out to every home on the island.

“This is your Kauai Civil Defense Agency,” the flat Voice said, then issued a four-word declaration. “The sky is falling.” Click, buzz.

I did not alert Ducky Lucky. I did not run to tell the king. I did not follow Foxy Loxy to his lair. I did squeal like Piggy Wiggy. I did play the message several times before the power went. I did scratch my head and try to figure which of my friends could be so crazy good at faking a robocall. Ultimately I decided the call was authentic and began a new line of questioning. Why would any civil defense agency have a sky-is-falling option? Is there a pre-recorded stable of messages for every possible catastrophic event, or is each an original? If the latter, did the Voice emanate from an unwitting man whose parents failed to read him fairy tales when he was, er, little?

Perhaps it was recorded by a well-meaning government employee eager to make light of heavy rain. The humor would not have been altogether inappropriate, since it was not truly a disaster ----unless you count decades of saving (Henny) Pennies for a sunny Hawai`i vacation. No homes or livelihoods were truly threatened. No lives were lost except possibly a few dozen roosters too high on their own relentless crowing to notice their feathers floating. Of course, there was bad news elsewhere in the world. There were disastrous explosions and horrible diseases and shocking betrayals; there was the ongoing international epidemic of spiritual blindness. But there was also some better news: that day Rep. Gabrielle Giffords took breath unassisted by a ventilator and wiggled her toes on command. A Cooper’s hawk took shelter inside the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress. Zsa Zsa Gabor took courage and smiled, her leg just amputated. Nothing was reported about whether she wiggled her remaining toes.

Back on Kauai, electricity was restored and another robocall went out. “This is your Kauai Civil Defense Agency.” On the edge of my seat, I was eager for the next sentiment. A confession of comic relief? A comforting quote from Drakey Lakey? Or would words gush like a geyser from a lower realm of human response, soaking the terminal paycheck of a suddenly-unemployed worker?

“The message you received earlier was a test message sent by mistake,” declared Mr. Nasal Voice, then repeated all four guilty words. “The sky is falling.” The sentence dangled in space like a once-omniscient, now-decommissioned satellite. “Please disregard and we’re sorry for any inconvenience.”

What? Disregard a falling sky? Forgive the inconvenience of a panicked stampede of Turkey Lurkeys and Cockey Lockeys tumbling hell-bent toward the palace, scaring the poor king? Forget about Foxy-Loxy’s hungry intentions toward a vulnerable, plump-breasted Gander Lander?

Then, a final robosentence. “Please do not call the police.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I think I heard a subtle plea in the Voice. Perhaps the repentant tone Chicken Little used, acorn squirreled under his wing.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Coconut Wireless

[Congratulations to Lea Kala for her runner-up written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition. Check back daily for the next several days as we post other recognized entries.]

You left me-

Now you ask
Who I tell

People talking

You mo’ kea
How you look-
How she do-

No kea bout me

You no want
This wahine
I know

I no tell her name
I say nada

People get eyes

Her friends make
Buzz buzz buzz
Busy bullshit bees
Pointing fingers
Lak I make
Big stink over nuting

It not nuting
It something-

I feel it-

Like befo’

I no talk
I no kea bout her-

Its you

I know
If I talk
You punipuni - lie
Say I ʻō.pule.pule - crazy

Her friends
When they buzz like that
They point fingers-
At you-
And her-

I no need.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kono and the Chest of Drawers

[Congratulations to Brian Doyle for his runner-up written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition. Check back daily for the next several days as we post other recognized entries.]

Kono, despite being unmarried, had no children, a source of quiet dismay to him, and something of a stain on his reputation in the community, in which generally those who were married were striving socially and economically and had no time or inclination for children, and those who were not married took solace and found fulfillment in having gobs and tribes of them. There were exceptions, like the Hualapai family, with many children, and the seven Taamami brothers, none of whom had children or appeared to desire same, but still Kono felt holes in his heart where children would be, and even past the age of thirty he continued to ponder the matter.

One day at a yard sale he found just the triangular chest of drawers he needed and he bought it for ten dollars. The chest was long and lean and fit beautifully into the corner of his cottage near the crown-flower trees. This corner had always been a problem, because the man who built the cottage was a shaman who refused to cut down any tree or bush whatsoever, because of primogeniture, of course, as he said, and so built the cottage around the creatures who already lived on the property, because they were in residence there before Kono was, and in matters like this one, respect is paramount, as the shaman said, almost politely. This is why the cottage had that narrow corner between the two momentous crown-flower trees who liked to tap on the windows, and the east wall curved around a patch of taro shaped roughly like a former queen of the islands named Kapiolani, a wonderful and imposing woman much esteemed and remembered by all for her courage and kindness. Many people had carved trees and gardens and boats and hedges in her likeness, a custom regrettably diminished in our day.

Kono, despite being past the age of thirty, was a strong man, and he carried the chest of drawers into the cottage himself, and installed it properly in the corner, and went over it carefully with gentle oils to pay respect to the wood, and he sanded the places that were rough with careless handling, and eased the workings of the drawers so that they would slide in and out without moaning, and tightened the circular handles so that they were fitted flush with their bases, and then he welcomed the chest to his home, and hoped it would be comfortable and peaceful there among the other working parts in the house, and said to it that he would now respectfully use the drawers for clothing and letters, if that was agreeable to the chest, but when he opened the top drawer, out came the spirit of a boy, about age five, with long black hair.

The boy perched on the top of the chest of drawers and said that his name was Lula and that he would have been Kono’s oldest son if matters had conspired in different directions, which they had not, such being the way of things, but that Kono had been blessed with a special blessing, and the spirits of the other children he might have had were now resident in the chest, each in his or her own drawer, and so Kono, near tears, opened each of the drawers carefully, and discovered three girls and two boys, all told, approximately ages nine, seven, five, three, and one. The baby, a girl, had not yet been named, said Lula gently, and he and the other children would very much like Kono to name her, so they could care for her better. It’s a lot easier to hold someone if you have a handle, said Lula cheerfully.

Kono, despite being an organized and meticulous man, was open to dreams and wonders, and he went walking on the beach with the spirits of his children, the four older ones holding hands and running in the surf and himself cradling the baby. The baby was mute and smelled like mist and cinnamon. One of the girls fell down and cried and Kono knelt, juggling the baby, and dried her face with his shirt and held her until she stopped crying and ran off to join the others, her feet kicking up feathers of surf. He knelt with the baby and she held his pinky fingers and kicked at the wavelets and made sounds like the sea. Once her wet hands slipped from his fingers and she fell face-first but she rose laughing, and Kono saw that she was related to the ocean, so he named her Kai, which is the sea. When the other children wandered back along the beach he told them her name and they were delighted and all the way back to the cottage they flitted around Kono and Kai, saying her new name with great glee and merriment. So that is the beginning of the story of Kai, the girl who was related to the ocean, and there are many more stories of her adventures, which began in the chest of drawers that Kono bought for ten dollars.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Coconut Wireless: Kekaha-style!

[Congratulations to Jose Bulatao, Jr. for his runner-up written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition. Check back daily for the next several days as we post other recognized entries.]

Any time of the day...."morning, noon, and night" could not traverse Elepaio Street in Kekaha, Kauai without being accounted for, wondered about, or merely noticed. It was back then, in the good-old, sugar-plantation era when the town did, literally, mind each other's business.

It was the coconut wireless in its highest and purest form.

From east to west or in the opposite direction, someone knew, someone saw, someone could verify, someone would report, someone heard, someone remembered, someone "observed" (which was a tinge more than just merely seeing)... and someone could get you into trouble or exonerate you from guilt)....whatever the case might be.

The coconut wireless was consistent and reliable, Kekaha-style!

There were specific reasons why. It was at a time when many variables contributed to that consistency and reliability. Most of the housewives in that era were the domestic engineers at each household. They were on duty, 24-7. Occasionally, there may have been a sick child at home who could serve in the capacity as "extra eyes and ears" monitoring what's going on right in front of their houses. There was no television, so one was not glued to a television set. To keep a radio on was fine, because one could do household chores while tuning in to the day's episode of a variety of soap operas.

Hanging the clothes out on the line was an excuse to keep one's eye on the road from the side of the house. The party lines via telephone kept everyone connected, one way or the other. One could tend to the roses in the front yard. One could "talk story" with a neighbor over the fence line while really keeping an eye on whatever might be going on at the moment in the neighborhood. And most of all, one could sit on the front porch relentlessly, to note the comings and goings of family, neighbors, friends, deliveries, passers-by, and downright matter what!

"Hmmm, the kids late stay again this morning! As the second time this week, da madda gotta drive them to school! Dey must gat plenny money fo' buy gas. Ke expensive!"

"I wonder, only now the husband had come home? His shift pau 7 o'clock. Where he went? No take that long for come straight home from the mill! Da wife nevah figure dat out yet ?"

As the third time I had see dat boy go to that house when dat girl's madda no stay home. How come he go ovah deah only when da madda stay go to da hospital for visit her sistah? And her daughah, she no mo' shame, or what?"

"Ay, as Consing with her 'friend'! Where they going now? As not da dress she had just buy from Woolsworth? And can smell da perfume she stay wearing all day way to my front doah! Ke strong!"

"Look how many times dose keeds stay go back and forth on dere bikes? Dey bettah not be going to Kuramoto Store for steal candy. I going call up da store and tell dem fo' watch when da keeds go by da store every udda minute. Dey nevah catch on yet?"

"Who dat in da blue truck? I neva see him ovah hear befo'! I bettah ask da keeds if dey know who da ownah of dat truck! He gat all white-wall tires. Must gat plenny money for afford all dat!"

"As da fourth time she going to da store today. and not even lunch time yet! I wonder if she stay meeting somebody by da stoah. Da next time she pass, I going follow her. I like look fo' myself what she stay doin'."

"As must be da guy who stay talk to Tita's daughter, da one who nobody had know she was pregnant because she was always pudgy! You teenk he da baby's fadda? Look like him, lilli-bit!"

These are the kinds of thoughts and words that were exchanged at the dispensary while people sat and waited for their doctor's appointments....or in telephone conversations that innocently asked what one was cooking for dinner to begin the litany of exchanges about these various things or occurrences....or around the kitchen table when it was time for a neighborly chat and a quick cigarette....or between prayers at church, much less a funeral service....

These were the thoughts and words that reverberated through the community as people speculated with their suspicions, their remarkable intuitiveness, their outstanding attention to detail----to share with one another the comings and goings on the street where they live!

This was, as said, the coconut wireless, in action, in a given neighborhood down a particular street! It has dissipated, somewhat, in deference to the constancy of TV soap operas and reality shows and the cell phone which can keep people abreast of anything and everything anywhere and anytime.

It proves, somewhat, that the more things change, the more they remain the same! Only... with greater intensity and mobility!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Day in September

[Congratulations to Patrick Stack for his third-place written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition. Check back daily for the next week, as we post other recognized entries.]

He was rousted from sleep by a pre-dawn telephone call. The early morning calls from the east coast always pissed him off. When will they learn that Hawai’i is six hours behind New York?

“Max? Max? Are you there?”

“Yes Frank, I’m here…and don’t shout. I can hear you fine.”

“Max, the Trade Towers have been bombed. There are thousands of people unaccounted for.”

“Bombed? Both towers? Am I dreaming?”

“Yes, both Towers are completely down. It looks like a planned demolition where they implode from within and crumble into a pile of debris.”

“Hold on for a minute, Frank. I’m going to turn my TV on.”

“No Max, I gotta go. I just wanted to let you know. I’ll call you back later.”

“Okay, thanks for the heads up. Take care of yourself.”

Max watched the television incredulously. It was surrealistic for him to see the images of the place where he had worked for nearly twenty years in total shambles. How many of his former colleagues were dead? Are we at war? What about the markets?

After watching media images and listening to speculative jabber for two hours, Max decided that there was nothing he could do. He looked at his watch. It was 7:30. He remembered that he had a golf date at 8:45 with his regular foursome and thought that he should drive to the clubhouse and see if they’d be there. And, in any event, there’d be people there to discuss this tragedy with.

Max parked in the lot and walked past the cart barn and into the grill. Patrons, employees and golfers were all fixated on the ceiling-mounted televisions. And the news stations were beginning to show video of two different United Airlines planes crashing into the respective towers and the subsequent collapse. The god-awful images were disturbing in a way that made viewers want to watch but not see.

Max felt a hand on his back. It was Elliot Kulahele.

“Hey Bruddah Max, I guess it’s going to be just you and me today. The other guys called and cancelled. You still up for it?”

“Sure, there’s nothing we can do and, besides we’ll practically have the whole course to ourselves.”

As the two were driving their golf cart to the first tee Elliot asked Max if he knew anyone that might have been near the Trade Towers.

“Hell yes. I lived in Los Angeles but commuted to Wall Street every week. I had an apartment in Battery Park City and walked from my place, across the West Side Highway, through The Trade Tower’s atria and then to my office on Water Street.”

“So Max, you must have known someone there.”

“For sure; I just don’t know who, yet.”

“I’m sorry for you. Are you sure you want to play?”

“Yeah, in fact, let’s dedicate this round to all those who lost someone today.”

“How about you Elliot, do you know any one that will be touched, personally, by this?”

“No, thank God. My ‘ohana is all from here, safe and sound in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.”

“What about your daughter, Hannah? Doesn’t she travel to New York with her job?”

“Yes, she does, but I talked to her last night and she said she’d be flying from Boston to Pittsburgh. So, she is far from the Trade Towers.”

They teed off on the short, three hundred yard, par four. Both men birdied the hole which caused them to switch from their somber demeanor to a more accustomed, light-hearted, banter. Driving to the second tee both men agreed that they had made the right choice about playing versus not.

Elliot had honors, so he teed off first and found the green. He removed his tee from the sod and turned to see Scott, the club professional, driving towards them.

“Hey Max, here comes Scottie. He’s probably going to give us shit about playing, today.”

“Good, maybe he’s going to play with us.”

Scott was in an odd mood. The usually effervescent pro had a strange look on his face; he looked scared.

“What is it Scott? You want to play in with us?” asked Elliot.

“No. I don’t know what’s going on, but a representative from Governor Lingle’s office and a State Trooper is waiting for you at the clubhouse.”

“Get outta here Scott. You’re just busting my balls.”

“No, really Elliot, they need to see you right now. I’m not fooling around.”

“So, Elliot, what,did you rob a bank?’ asked Max..

“Very funny. Okay, Scott I’ll play along. Let’s go see what the Gov wants.”

“Mr. Kulahele, I am from the Governor’s office in Honolulu. It is with profound regret that I inform you that your daughter is dead. She was aboard the United flight which crashed into the World Trade Tower this morning. We have at your availability Sergeant Kua of the State Police. He will assist you and your family with all travel and hotel accommodations for your whole family.”

Elliot was motionless as he listened. Then like steam engine rising to a full boil he lunged at the Governor’s representative, grabbing him by the throat. The State Trooper jumped on Elliot s back and wrestled him to the ground. It all happened in an instant. Soon, all three men were back on their feet and brushing themselves off. The rep and the trooper were not ready for that reaction, but tried to be as sympathetic as they could under the circumstances.

Elliot’s demeanor changed. He apologized for his assault on the messenger and assumed a state of despondency, whimpering like an inconsolable child.

“This is some kind of mistake. I talked to her last night. She said she was in Boston and flying to Pittsburgh, not New York.”

“Mr. Kulahele, that is correct, however her flight was hijacked and diverted to lower Manhattan where it was crashed, we believe intentionally, by an unknown group.”

“Does my wife know?”

“Yes sir. She told us where to find you.”

“How is she? I’ve got to see her, now.”

“She’s at your home with two neighbors and her sister. Would you like to go there now?”

“Yes” he said in a whisper.

Max turned to Elliot hugged him and quietly said “Whatever I can do Brah.”

Scott was still seated in his golf cart, staying a proper, but curious distance from Elliot and the other men. After an instant of silence Scott said “Go Elliot. I’ll take care of your clubs.”

“Elliot, you want me to come to your house?” asked Max.

“Thanks, but no. I want to see my wife first and see how she’s doin’.”

“Do you want me to drive you?”

“No thanks, I brought the ’55. I gotta get that back home.”

It was agreed that the Governor’s rep and the State Trooper would follow Eliot back to his house and wait to see what they could do to assist. The distance back to Elliot’s house was barely a mile, but the entire way he was uncomfortable about driving such a blithe and sportive car. His customized Chevy convertible seemed to be most inappropriate, now.

The bright red Chevy and the Police car approached Elliot’s house only to find the driveway blocked with four cars. Elliot saw eight or ten women standing on his lanai with folded arms and sad faces. Elliot abandoned his car in the middle of the street and quick-stepped to his lanai and into his house. There he saw his wife lying on a couch sobbing into two pillows while her sister stroked her hair. When she saw her husband moving to her, she sat up and hugged him fiercely.

“Daddy, Daddy, bring our baby back.”

As the bereft couple clung to one another, the Governor’s rep and the State Trooper stayed outside moving cars around so they could get Elliot’s ’55 Chevy into his garage.

An hour passed while most of the ladies on the lanai questioned the Trooper and the rep as to what happened and what information they had. The ladies were generally disappointed that the two men knew less than they.

Inside the house, Mrs. Burnham the next door neighbor placed herself in-charge of answering the telephone calls. The calls were coming so fast that Mrs. Burnham started writing down names and numbers; the whole time explaining the obvious “She can’t talk now. Give me your name and number.”

Mrs. Burnham thought it appropriate because she was more than a neighbor. Mrs. Burnham baby-sat Hannah, taught her how to play the violin and served as her most important auntie.

Mrs. Burnham had just hung-up from caller number 12 when the phone rang instantly.

“Aloha, this is the Kulahele residence. No one in the family is unavailable now, but please leave your name and number.”

“Auntie, it’s me…Hannah.”

Mrs. Burnham made a gurgling, choking sound as she dropped the phone to the floor; both her hands were gripping her chest and her eyes rolled back in her head when she collapsed in a heap.
Two women went immediately to her side while a third hung-up the phone that was lying on the floor and another called for the State Trooper to provide assistance to Mrs. Burnham. In the confusion, Elliot and his wife became aware of what was happening, but both could not let go of each other. The State Trooper used his radio to call for an ambulance. Amid the excitement, no one bothered to deal with the phone that was still on the floor.

An ambulance was at the house almost instantly, but it didn’t matter; Mrs. Burnham was lifeless.

The telephone rang while most everyone was focused on Mrs. Burnham and the EMT’s. The Governors rep was listening to the phone ring when he decided that someone might be calling from the hospital for vital information.

“Hello, this is the Kulahele residence.” said the rep.

“Who is this?” asked the caller.

“Never mind. Who is calling?”

“My name is Hannah Kulahele and I demand to speak with my mother or father, immediately.”

The rep’s face drained of blood. “Is this some kind of joke?” he asked.

“This is no joke. I am Hannah Kulahele and there’s been a huge mistake. Let me talk to my mom, now.”

The rep was assessing whether this was some sick trick or if he should tell Elliot right now. He didn’t wait long. The State Trooper was marching toward the rep with information radioed to him: Hannah Kulahele is alive and in Boston. She failed to board the plane despite having been assigned a boarding pass.

“Ms. Kulahele, hold on for your mother.”

“Hannah is that you?” wailed her mother.

“Yes, mom. I’m okay.”

“What happened, dear?”

“Just as I was to board the plane I came down with severe cramping. I raced to the ladies room and had a diarrhea attack that lasted nearly forty minutes. Knowing I missed my flight, I went back to the ticket agent to re-ticket the next available flight. That’s when everything went crazy. Police everywhere, airlines announcing cancelled flights and I was taken to a holding area where I was asked a million questions. I’m sorry I couldn’t have called sooner.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011


[Congratulations to Anne Dimock for her second-place written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition. Check back for the next 8 days, as we post other recognized entries.]

I saw him again this morning, the skinny haole guy, this time dumpster diving at the thrift store before it opened. He was just leaving when I drove by, putting on a new old shirt for himself, hopping on that rickety ole bike of his – probably from the same dumpster a year gone by – and riding off to home which was sometimes the beach, sometimes Chucky-Boy’s carport.

Skinny guy, carrying nothing extra on that frame of his, he looks like one a those feral cats he is always feeding. Who knows where this one came from, he been here a long time already, pretty brown all over but different. His hair was light and he just looks so different from the mokes he hangs with. He came from the mainland, but he had a light wispy look to him that made me think he could be from Iceland or somewhere like that. Light gray eyes, light hair waving like dry guinea grass around a head shaped like a heart with a little pointy chin. Kind of pretty that way.

He was headed to the beach wearing his new old shirt and clutching a bag of bread scraps. He pedaled on over and I followed ‘cuz I was going there anyway. So I drove slow and let him get way ahead of me, gave him the whole road, why not? Enough potholes for all of us.

Hunched over his handlebars, the muscles on his back switched back and forth underneath the new old shirt as he pumped his way up the rise. He just wearing swim trunks, nothing else there, though he ought to think about what the chaffing is doing to the equipment, that bike seat is as sorry-ass as his sorry ass. He stands on the pedals as he goes over the bumps, but you can still see the jarring he and the bicycle take, almost like his frame was just an extension of the bike’s.

He’s fast on his wheels, his muscles revved up and working. Of all the flesh surrounding his bones, I say 95% of it is hard muscle. He looks good and women who like the pretty haole guys like him. He has the body of a young athlete but look at his face and you see he’s in his 50s. And I have to wonder what a guy his age is doing buying his shirts and his ride from a dumpster.

He’s not the only one, all sorts of people wash up here, some stay for a while and leave when they run out of whatever they came here with. But he’s been here a long time and he’s the one I wonder about and worry for a little too. I drive around to the beaches on this end, taking blankets and soap and canned meat to some people. I don’t bother with none of the cats, but my goodness, some people do. Well, let them, they got their path in life and I do too and mine is with the humans.

Mr. Iceland, that’s what I call him, but I think I heard his name is Josh. Lots of Joshes wash up here. I wonder about his people, where he comes from and if the folks he left know about his life here. If he were my uncle I would wonder, even if I don’t see him for, say, fourteen years. I been seeing Mr. Iceland about six years on this side of the island, and someone said he was on the north shore before that. He guides kayak tours for one of the outfitter companies. It’s not a steady gig, especially now with tourists staying home, but I heard he screwed up on one of the trips several years back and now he’s just occasional. Today is Wednesday and that means he isn’t working this week ‘cause if he was, he’d be unloading boats at Ha`ena right now. Instead he’s here feeding scraps of bread to cats.

I park my car and get my stuff and walk over to the dunes where I know some people are. I walk by Mr. Iceland feeding the cats and we say “hey” to each other. He just sits for a while with a dozen cats curling themselves around his ankles and he smiles. I go do my work and I come back and he’s still there but most of the cats have moved back into the bushes and out of the heat. He sits with his head tilted back, eyes closed, a thin smile on his thinner lips, Nordic cheekbones rising up like two boulders. The guy could use some sunglasses and I try to remember that.

“Howzit?” I say.

He opens one eye and half turns his head towards me, not shielding the sun with his hand. He’s already taken the new old shirt off and draped it from his head. Up close I can see the bedrock of his muscles, the strength and vitality from lean living and hard paddling. And I know it won’t last.

“Just enjoying another day at the office,” he replied.

“Need anything?”

“Got everything I need right here.” And he turned his heart-shaped face to the light like a sunflower.

Who’s to say this isn’t a good way of living? Visiting a trap line of dumpsters on a rickety old bike. A little bit of cash once in a while. The gratitude of some cats. Maybe he’s got it all figured out. But in case he don’t, I hand over a couple of cans of Vienna sausages I held back from the beach rounds.

“For the cats,” I say and place them on his bench, then I walk away.

I can see how this will go, his leanness already making inroads into the core of his life. He teeters on the fulcrum of robust good health and a precipitous decline. When his illness comes – and it will come – there is nothing to spare, nothing to absorb the ravages of a tumor, a virus, an infection that won’t heal and travels up the sinews. He’ll get sick and it will be awhile before enough people notice that he hasn’t shown up lately, but then the coconut wireless will whiffle the news out like wind on water. Then the posters will go up, a benefit for Mr. Josh Iceland Haole Guy so he can get some medical treatment for the leak that is draining away his breath. The wireless will vibrate a little while with this news and the request to buy tickets for the benefit, to donate the ono food, to give a gift certificate to the silent auction. And it’ll be in the paper, the radio, the bulletin boards, and Josh will be this month’s poster boy for the generosity of the island, his heart-shaped face from better days smiling into the backs of your eyes. The cat people will come, the paddlers will come, the places where the dumpsters are will give the gift certificates. The outfitter that occasionally employed him will make the biggest donation of two kayak adventure trips and a tourist from Montana will buy them and brag about how he got a real good discount from the full price.

But then his story runs its course and the wireless falls silent on the subject of this particular Josh. The benefit raised $1,042 and that keeps him going until that time when his body utterly fails him and his lungs collapse upon themselves and this haole guy really becomes without breath.

Nobody from the mainland comes to claim him as one of their own, so there was another little benefit to raise the money for the funeral house. Coconut wireless only work on the island. I wonder if all the Joshes that end up out here are somehow related and I ask a few of them if they knew Iceland Josh but they don’t.

The cats somehow get fed.

The Montana tourist has a really good time on his trip and he comes back year after year and finally buys a timeshare.

The thrift store puts its extras outside so those that need them can take.

And Iceland Josh fades from everyone’s memory.

I did find him a pair of sunglasses and dropped them off one time before he got sick. His pale eyes were getting paler. Couldn’t really say the glasses were for the cats so I just handed them over.

“Might save your sight for a little longer.”

He looked them over carefully, mumbled something about how we’re supposed to live unmitigated lives in the full blast of the sun’s furnace. He put them on and struck a pose like he ‘tink he all dat’, then laughed at himself.

“See what I mean? They’re just filters. Polarized filters.”

He took them off and placed them in the pocket of the new, new-old shirt he was wearing.

“Mahalo, brah – I’ll save them for Halloween.”

The light burned right through him, and soon enough he ended up as sun-blasted as the blistered paint on my car, as bleached and crushed and the corals we walked on. But he had learned to see past the glare of the sun bouncing on the water, and in that way see everything.

I sat with him for a while, took off my own shades, narrowed my eyes into a squint and turned my face to the sun. And I think that maybe it isn’t such a bad way to live, seeing everything if you can stand it, allowing the end to come when it does. We sat like sunflowers, offering our hearts to the sun, and let the coconut wireless talk of other things.

Friday, November 18, 2011


[Congratulations to Frank Reilly for his first-place written entry in our 2011 Creative Competition. Check back for the next 9 days, as we post other recognized entries.]

Jared Walker steps up to the return counter at Walmart. He's been there before, at different Walmart locations in too many different parts of the country to count. This time in Lihu’e, the County seat of the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

The return counter is where Jared picks up the cash when it's wired in. He never goes to those cash advance places like Pay Day, or anyplace else where it's brutally obvious what he's doing.

While he hadn't reached his father when he called, Jared left the same message for him that he had many times before, about the severity of his situation, his need for money and his expectation that it would arrive quickly so that he could get back on his feet again and establish himself in this new place.

Because there is always a new place. This is what sets Jared apart. He is an adventurer, he would tell you. Someone who is able to cast off the shackles of the connected world and go, without a laptop, without a cell phone (save the occasional call for cash on a borrowed line), without an X-box, an iPod, a Wii - no small feat for a twenty-year-old. He is busy living, he would tell you.

Jared is prepared when he steps up to the return counter. He is prepared to check on the wired funds in a voice low enough to be heard by the counter woman only. He is prepared to count the bills without ostentation, because who knows how many thieving eyes are on him?

What he isn't prepared for is what he gets.

Ten dollars.

"There must be some mistake,” Jared sputters to the slight Filipino woman behind the register who handed him the wilted bill. She smiles warmly and shrugs.

There has been no mistake.


Lani, a local girl, is three people behind Jared on the return line at the counter.

Lani is sixteen, but you wouldn't think that for seeing her. She has a shapely pair of muscular legs that can only be described as womanly. Her mother's legs, her increasingly nervous father has come to realize; the very thing that turned his head at nearly the same age. But there's something else that makes Lani seem older. Something about her composure. Something about her calmness. She is not disaffected, as teens often are. She is not bothered by or impatient with the line she waits in. There is too much to watch to be bored. In every person that passes her line of vision, too much to process, too much detail, too much subtlety to drink in all at once.

Her eyes are locked on the back of Jared's neck. The tattoo there doesn't surprise her. Tattoos are everywhere after all, so a single one rarely stands out. But this one does. Not because it presents a striking image, but because it offers an incomplete thought. In a florid script that begins just below Jared's shaggy hairline, are the words:

"My life is like a stroll upon the beach,"

...and the thought ends there, disrupted by the ragged collar of his plain black tee.

The comma that follows the word "beach" is what gets to Lani. That tiny mark implies that there is more to be said, that there is more to hear. But her thoughts are interrupted when Jared turns to look behind himself and she can see into his eyes, which are full of a watery fear that the ten dollar bill has dropped upon him.


Jared's legs carry him out of the Walmart and to a bus stop a few paces away from the front door. As the bus pulls up he is thankful that it does not resemble any other bus he's ever ridden. He decides that he will ride it to a beach that will not resemble any other beach he's ever been to. And there he will meet people unlike any of the others he has met before. And surely these people will understand him. And feed him.

Lani gets on the bus because she is headed home. There are a handful of other seats available, but Lani chooses to sit next to Jared, because Jared is different.

Lani's classmates don't understand her, nor have they ever really tried. As is the case with most sixteen-year-olds, their attention is focused inward. They are the raw and tender centers of their personal universes. But Lani's attention is focused out. She is content to be a satellite. She is happy to orbit those around her and revel silently in their diversity. Her contentment and her quiet are often mistaken as arrogance. Her selflessness is like a too-bright light in a too-dark room. And so, Lani is weird. Lani is strange. Lani is different.


The word "Aloha" opens a conversational door for Lani and Jared. She offers it as a matter of course, along with a wide smile. Jared grabs hold of it as a drowning man would a life preserver.

After a brief exchange about the lack of AC on the bus and the relative merits of flip flops vs. hiking sandals, Jared finds he is increasingly comforted by the warm glow of Lani's attention. He uses it to talk through his crisis, to vent thoughts to her that would be bouncing around his skull now, were he riding the bus alone.

He can't let go of the idea behind that damned ten dollar bill. The thought of it carries him back to his family's apartment, a duplex at the top of a doorman high-rise in Manhattan's financial district. He tells Lani about the expensive marble floors his father installed in the foyer there, practically on a whim.

Marble, he repeats, scoffing. Like in the suburban bank branch his father had managed before the family took to Wall Street: a cavernous space, with absurdly high ceilings and marble everywhere. Marble, he tells Lani, that was used to lend substance to a financial process that had become increasingly weightless.

Banks like those were long gone, Jared continues, but his father never abandoned his need to use the same theatrics in their home. Past the cold, marble floors are thick, steel sculptures on large, mahogany bureaus alongside deep, leather sofas. The thought of them all taunting him as his hand worries the lousy ten spot in his pocket.

Lani does her best to absorb Jared's description of this other world. But she doesn't ask him to explain what she can't understand. She notes, instead, the rise and fall of his anger, which runs alongside the constant hum of his fear.

And floating above his monologuing self, Jared is all too aware of his creeping sense of Lani as another pigeon, because his travels have been filled with them: attractive, wide-eyed girls waiting to be noticed, appreciated and seduced. He is able, however, to resist the urge to look down at Lani's brown, shapely legs.

When he finally gets to his plight - no money, no place to go, nothing, Lani reacts as she was taught to: with empathy. She had not spent her youth side-stepping homeless people, as Jared had every morning near the heavy glass doors of the Walker's building. She had not lived in a place where the high-flown idealism of a Sunday sermon was mocked by the venality of the world right outside the church doors. The teachings of Christ were applicable for Lani on Kauai, and Jared was giving her a chance to prove that.

She speaks, when the opportunity finally arises, of the coconut wireless, or at least of her youthful and idyllic interpretation of the phrase: A network of local connections that insures that those in need in her community are looked after.

When hurricane Iniki hit Kaua’i, a few years before Lani was born and years still before cell phones were everywhere, she was told that people who needed help were found quickly and attended to.

"People don't need to ask here", she says, "because word travels fast. And people are always ready to help."

And hearing that, Jared allows himself the luxury of a long, relaxed exhalation as the bus rolls on its way.


Lani's father, Kaikona, was younger than Jared when he started working at the resort. He made it through the first half-day of training for poolside services and thought he could coast through the afternoon when he was introduced to the ten-and-five rule.

On approaching a visitor, at ten feet away hotel staff should acknowledge the guest with eye contact. At five feet away, a greeting is required.

At first the rule didn't seem like much. It brought on some eye rolling and some head shaking from the other trainees. But that was it.

Beside the pool it became something different.

Kaikona found that when he did look up to meet the eyes of approaching guests, they were either staring at him expectantly, as if his congeniality was part of their vacation package, or deliberately looking away, as if they couldn't be bothered to be engaged by the help.

He over thought these tiny transactions and as weeks became months they began to exact a toll. His natural affability was overwhelmed by a constant parade of remote New Englanders, curt Germans, gruff Texans, stuffy Brits. Over a few short years, his rancor metastasized, to the point where he found excuses to linger in the kitchen rather than make his pool rounds.

He tried to empathize, thinking of what his expectations would be if he were dropping two thousand dollars a week on a hotel room, only to have all logic collapse beneath the insane weight of that cruel math.

When you could afford to fly halfway around the world for some blue-green surf, how could you be anything other than grateful? The question gnawed at him, slowly filling his blood with a rage that, by the end of a week, coursed through his body like race cars with severed brake cables.

He kept his surf board locked in his truck during the work day and spread his anger liberally over the pounding waves at his favorite shore break at dusk. Until, one Friday, he didn't. And a minor parking lot scuffle escalated into a severe beating that landed him in prison for aggravated assault.

Kaikona's too-young wife was at her wit's end by then. She dropped Lani, who had just turned four, with his parents and left the island for good.

When finally released three years later, a still-simmering Kaikona was saved by his young daughter, who seemed to absorb his fury as soon as he took her in his arms.

With Lani to return to every day, Kaikona reconfigured Kauai - the only home he would ever know - into what he needed it to be so that they could remain a family.

He found work at a different resort, loading and unloading massive, industrial linen driers, which satisfied him as a hellish kind of penance as well as a way to sweat out more of his rancor. Then it was home to Lani in the early evening before heading to a second job bouncing at a local bar, where any remaining ill will he carried found a fitting outlet.

Lani had a way of invading his thoughts during the day, her poise and unflappable calm an inspiration to him. He could never decide whether her easy-going nature was a gift to him from a benevolent God, or if it was forged in his hot temper as a corrective for them both. "Chicken-egg thing,” he grew fond of saying.

Kaikona's eyes are as wide as saucers, then, as he trudges up his driveway at dusk and spies Lani through the window to her room, pulling a plain black tee-shirt up and over the head of a blonde white boy who is perched at the foot of her bed.


Jared didn't put the pieces together when Lani walked him through the rooms of her family's small plantation house, perhaps because there was no one else home. Even her bedroom, with its attendant pop idol posters and pastel drabness, didn't sound the alarms it should have. He mumbled a half-question about "her roommates coming home" to the back of her head and took her non-reply as confirmation of their existence.

He cleans himself up in the bathroom and, noting the presence of a razor and aftershave in the medicine cabinet, goes down what had become a well-traveled mental avenue for him: This chick lives with some dude and she didn't even hesitate to bring me here when he's not around.

And with that, the tumblers on the tiny lock that hold his libido at bay turn to their open positions, and his feet carry him along to the threshold of Lani's room.

She lay on her stomach in bed, thumbing through a magazine, her toned legs flexing back and forth beneath the breeze from an old ceiling fan above her. She turns and, seeing Jared there, smiles amiably. A smile he loses no time labeling as "come-hither".

Jared sits down beside her as she sits up on the bed. He turns to face her just as she turns toward him. And in the heat of that moment, he is suddenly confronted with something he has never faced before.

A complete lack of guile.

With all the girls he had made advances on since he came of age, Jared had always been comforted by the unspoken fact of the transaction.

If his father had taught him anything, it was that all human interaction boiled down to this: An agreement between two parties. As he once described it, via a hastily sketched Venn diagram, a stock broker begins his sales pitch knowing that his client is looking to make money with no effort expended.

"If they have money to invest, it certainly isn't money they need, so losing it isn't a serious concern. The cost to them" he stressed, "is simply exposure to financial risk".

In much the same way, Jared came to hypothesize, a casual lover's pitch is about selling a similar fantasy, about feeling wanted with no effort expended. The less you know about a lover you are about to take, in fact, the more likely that fantasy will take flight.

"There isn't even a risk,” he tells himself. "If you aren't presenting your true self, then what are you exposing? And who the hell presents their true self?” he wonders. "Ever?"

All Jared needs from Lani, from any woman, is complicity. If she is party to the transaction, then she is the buyer and "let the buyer beware" - one phrase his father never lost an opportunity to trumpet.

But Lani is not buying anything.

She looks directly into his eyes, smiling openly, without an expectation of any kind. That look is not coy or coquettish, demure or demanding, hungry or hopeful. In its youthful innocence, it implies two things only; interest and concern.

And it stops Jared cold.

In the stillness of Lani's room, he is struck by how far from home he really is. How long it's been since he was pulled along a crowded avenue by a current of people, all of them rushing somewhere to get something. How unprepared he is to handle a situation that isn't about need and its fulfillment, about wanting and getting, about the transaction.

If he chooses to pursue what he wants from Lani, he realizes, he will be taking something from her, plain and simple.

Then another realization strikes him with enough force to rob him of his breath.

What Lani is already giving him is all he's ever really wanted. This rapt attention. This silent acceptance. He's left his home because it doesn't offer this. He's boarded and unboarded, hiked and hitched from place to place only to find the exact opposite of this. He doesn't move for fear of breaking the spell and losing this.

Lani watches Jared, her eyes widening, waiting for his next breath, wondering why it doesn't come. It frightens her enough to make her speak.

"What else does it say?"

"I...I'm not sure...what?" Jared stammers. "What else does what say?"

"On your neck. The back of your neck?"

Jared stiffens, flushing.

Lani smiles and grabs his upper arms, moving to spin him around playfully. He complies, allowing himself to be turned like a marionette, floating. Wireless.

His back to her now, she tries to pull down his collar and read, but there isn't enough give. The elastic scratches his throat and he instinctively crosses his arms, reaching for the bottom of his shirt. He lifts it half-heartedly, then struggles with it, blinded by it, lost in black fabric.

Lani laughs and pulls it up and over his head.

Then, able to see again, Jared is confronted with his own reflection. The sky having darkened outside, the bright light on Lani's nightstand switched on, the bedroom window has become an unwelcome mirror. He stares at himself forlornly.

And outside, Kaikona has stopped walking dead in his tracks.

As he watched the tee-shirt rise, so did his blood pressure. That soft, pampered, white body, like so many others he'd seen basking, lounging, burning willfully around him at the resort pool. Is that here? In his home?

He's looking Jared straight in the eye now, though he isn't seen.

What is stopping him, he wonders, from diving through that window, an angry, single-minded, animal force? It could be Lani, he thinks. He would never willfully traumatize her. But more likely it's Jared. Or rather, it's the look on Jared's face, which is not that of a young man on the make. Kaikona recognizes it because he's worn that look himself on occasion; the same slack-jawed, vacant stare of a lost soul.

Kaikona runs to the front stoop, kicks off his slippers and pads silently to Lani's door, steeling himself for a stealth entry in which he'll lift the boy up by the scruff of his neck and bounce him out good and proper.

But he's stopped again, just outside the threshold, by Lani's voice.

"My life is like a stroll upon the beach," she says, "as near to the ocean's edge as I can go.”

The words hang in the air like smoke.

For Jared, this moment typically plays out differently. The girl he's pursuing usually asks him what the quote means right away. And he dazzles her with a few scripted lines about its author (because Jared is well read), about his travels (because Jared is worldly), about his "quest.” But by then the girl is busy exposing a tanned shoulder, or rotating a taut calf, or pulling down her shorts just enough, in order to turn all attention to her tattoo, to her tiny, inked defiance, to her three-inch by three-inch summation.

And as this girl would run her fingers along the words on his bare back, his fingers would feather the spot where her rose bud, or her butterfly, or her bleeding heart lay. And from there they'd be on their way.

But Lani says nothing.

Jared turns to face her and he sees that she is thinking. Thinking, he guesses correctly, about everything she's learned about him in their short time together and how those things might coalesce into the words in his tattoo. And her eyebrows raise just slightly, as if she can't quite make the connection. And for this he is beyond grateful because he is finally freed.

"It's a lie.” He answers her unasked question.

"My life has not been a stroll. Hell, I've only ever run. And it's never been on a beach, but it should have been because I've never wanted for anything. I'm embarrassed by those words now, and I've never been before. But something about today, something about you..."

Kaikona peers around the doorjamb now, because this pause has got to be the moment when this boy is leaning in to kiss his Lani.

But Jared is not. He's pulling away, in fact. He's pulling his tee shirt back on.

"Thank you for taking me in,” Jared mumbles. Then more earnestly; "Thank you so much."

Jared stands up. He backs toward the bedroom door, drinking in Lani's confused smile, not realizing that the rogue wave that was Kaikona has receded now, away from the ocean's edge.

For Lani's father is stepping lightly, making his way back toward the front door as quietly as he can so he can enter his house again. But this time he'll let the screen door slam loudly behind him.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Where Kings Bathed

[Congratulations to Aaron Feinberg for his first-place visual entry in our 2011 Creative Competition. Check back for the next 10 days, as we post other recognized entries.]

Thursday, November 03, 2011

2011 Creative Competition Finalists Announced

KauaiBackstory is pleased to announce the 2011 Creative Competition finalists are:

Jose Bulatao, Jr.
Anne Dimock
Brian Doyle
Lea Kala
Hob Osterlund
Mahealani Perez-Wendt
Frank Reilly
Jean Rhude
Patrick Stack
Pam Woolway

Winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at Kauai Community College in the library, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at a special reception and reading. All finalists are encouraged to read their submissions at this public reading. Finalists are asked to please RSVP to

The 2011 winner in the visual category is Aaron Feinberg.

Time permitting, other writers may sign up to read their own original works of writing on a first-come, first-read, sign-up basis. Time limit not to exceed five minutes.

Publication of the contest winners and runners up will begin posting on the day after the public reading.

We’d like to extend a big mahalo to Jocelyn Fujii, our guest judge this year, the Garden Island Arts Council for sponsoring the prize money and Kauai Community College for providing a place for our reception and readings. is a venue for rigorous writing with a view about Kauai. Year-round, the on-line literary journal welcomes high-quality writing and thoughtful images from the public. All submissions are moderated by a three-person editorial board, however, not all are posted. encourages the expression of all voices and delights in words and images that shift thinking and open minds. Much like an on-line blog, encourages interactive dialogue with the hopes that the time-honored tradition of kama'ilio, talk story, will build community and understanding.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Save the Date: Wednesday, Nov 16 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Thank you to all who entered this year's Kauai Backstory Creative Competition--Coconut Wireless. All the submissions are now in the hands of our judges. We'll know the results later this month.

In the mean time, though, please mark you calendar for our awards night--the Kauai Backstory 2011 Reading Series. This year's readings will be held at co-sponsor Kauai Community College's Library on Wednesday, November 16 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. We hope to see--and hear--many of you that night.

And if you run into Cammie Matsumoto or any other administrator with Kauai Community College, please thank them for hosting us. If you see Carol Yotsuda, please give her and the board members of the Garden Island Arts Council a big mahalo for ponying up the prize monies for this annual competition and helping keep Kauai's literary arts alive.

More to come.

Gae, Kim & Lois Ann

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Jocelyn Fujii: Guest Judge

Have you heard? The award-winning Jocelyn Fujii is this year's guest judge for Kauai Backstory's annual Creative Competition.

Jocelyn is the founder of Hula Moon Press and the author of more than a dozen books on Hawai`i and the Pacific, including Stories of Aloha, Homegrown Treasures of Hawai'i, and Under the Hula Moon. Jocelyn's articles have appeared in many national and international publications, including the New York Times, International Herald Tribune and Westways. In 23 years, Jocelyn wrote 130 profiles for Aloha Airlines' in-flight magazine, Spirit of Aloha.

What's more, Jocelyn is a Kauai girl.

Are you writing? We hope so. There are 3 weeks and 2 days left to submit to this year's Kauai Backstory Creative Competition.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Hello? Can you hear me now?, an online literary journal, announces its sixth annual writing competition. This year’s theme, “Coconut Wireless” is again sponsored by the Garden Island Arts Council.

Cash prizes will be awarded in the following manner. Written: First place, $100; second place, $50; third place, $25. Visual: One $100 award. Winners and other noteworthy contributors will be posted on and invited to read on a special night in early November. (Date and place to be determined.)

Writing form does not matter—essay, story (imagined or real), memoir or poems are all welcome. Visual entries must be submitted in jpg format.

As in previous years, entries must be relevant to Kauai, in some manner. is a venue for rigorous writing with a view about Kauai. We look for writing that builds understanding, not walls. We encourage writing and imagery that engenders respectful dialogue for we believe one way to build community is through conversation. values the expression of all voices and delights in words and images that shift thinking and open minds threading us ever closer together in this calabash of a world in which we live. Entries will be judged on whether they achieve this vision or not.

A student category will be created pending interest and writing quality.

Contest participants may submit one entry per category. That is, participants may submit one written entry and one visual entry; however, you may not submit more than one written entry or more than one visual entry. This also means you get once chance per category to get it right, so please double-check spelling and grammar before hitting send. Please do not submit revised entries. We recommend using 12 pt. Times New Roman font on written entries. Please do not use a stylized typeface; do not use colored type fonts; do not use a variety of different type sizes. Entries must be pasted into the body of an email (no attachments) and sent to Images must be sent as a jpg attachment. On images, please do not include a name superimposed or embedded into the jpg in any way.

Visit to view the quality of works posted and the blog’s mission statement.

The deadline for submitting entries is midnight HST September 30, 2011. Entries must be pasted into the body of an email (no attachments) and sent to Images must be sent as a jpg attachment. is intended to serve as a timely, interactive forum. Readers are encouraged to visit often and post comments.


Friday, July 01, 2011

2011 Creative Competition

Word on the street is that the 2011 Creative Competition is open for submissions.

We know three things at this point:

1. This year's theme, if you weren't watching the votes [aside: sarcasm coming] roll in on our poll, is:

Coconut Wireless.

2. The deadline for submissions is September 30, 2011, midnight HST.

3. The Garden Island Arts Council is once again sponsoring prizes.

So, have at it. Start creating. We'll post more information as we come up with it. But, generally, you can assume the same basic rules and regs as prior years, so scroll down, if you're interested. And, as always, read some of your fellow writers' words, make a comment, get inspired.

Oh, submissions can be sent to

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two Bonus Events for Friday, April 15, 2011

1. Celebrate National Poetry Month
A Discussion of Poetry
3:45 - 5:00 p.m.
Kaua’i Community College
Technology Education Building, Multi-purpose Room

In honor of April as National Poetry Month, Brian Cronwall, Assistant Professor of English at KCC, will lead poetry lovers in a discussion of the April issue of "Poetry" magazine, a publication of the Poetry Foundation. The first 10 people to sign up (RSVP to Susan Ullis @ or call 332-5694 with name, phone number and mailing address) will receive a free copy of April's issue. (RSVP to Susan Ullis @ or call 332-5694 with name, phone number and mailing address.) And, bring your own poetic composition to read if time allows.

2. Reception and Readings
5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Kauai Community College
Technology Education Building, Multi-purpose Room

Guest authors and local Kauai writers are invited to attend and read. Contribute to the literary potluck with a poem, a story or an essay and a pupu or bottle of wine.

The afternoon and evening sessions are co-sponsored by The Garden Island Arts Council, and Kaua'i Community College.

The Technology Education Building is located at the end of the parking lot. Look for the "Technology Education" banner hanging above the double doors.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Promise to Lumahai

by Kari Marie

Lumahai, beneath the sky

a silvery moon fills my eye

a blanket of stars descends on me
the waves sing a soothing melody.

Lumahai, it’s been a ride,
I’ve washed my sorrows in your tide
I’ve made a friend upon your shore
and lost a lover here before.

Lumahai, I say goodbye
and touch your sand with grateful sigh
I shall return some better day
with happy heart to stay, to stay.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

2010 Creative Competition Reading Night

Thanks to the gracious and generous Anne O'Malley for sharing these images from our November 2010 Reading Night.