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In The Torrid Zone

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Old 08-19-2006, 10:06 AM
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In The Torrid Zone


On rare occasions in Hawaii the tradewinds stop blowing and an equatorial air mass creeps north to cover the islands for a few days. The tropical belt just north and south of the equator is known as the doldrums or the horse latitudes. Without a breath of wind, the stagnant air is unbearably hot and humid -- fit only for dolphins and whales, according to sailors who are sometimes trapped in it for weeks. On land it feels even worse, like drowning in honey. The sky often has a sickly yellowish tint reminiscent of jaundice.

In my second year in Honolulu I caught a raging fever during one of these awful heat waves. I had fever for an entire month and I was forced to try to sleep sitting upright since it was too painful on my joints to lay down. Dengue is also called breakbone fever because the joint pain makes it feel like your bones are broken. I was so delirious I could barely function. I lost my apartment keys twice, ate practically nothing and I took two or three cold showers each day to bring down my temperature. I sat on the sofa with two fans blowing when the mid-afternoon heat made me swoon. I felt like I existed outside my body. My apartment seemed unfamiliar and I was sometimes paralyzed by a sense of unreality.

After my doctor misdiagnosed the illness as influenza, I discovered I had dengue fever, a mosquito-born disease which hadn't been seen in Hawaii for half a century. There were lasting effects -- perhaps even brain damage from the dangerously high fever. I'm not sure and I no longer trust doctors to make judgments about my health condition.

I sweat 24 hours a day now. I have learned to despise the tropical heat more than ever because I feel as though I am living in some sort of hell from which there is no escape. I pray for the cooling rain that seldom comes, yet I shiver with chills whenever the air temperature drops below 80. My body is addicted to the very thing I hate. I sleep fitfully during the worst heat of the day and stay up all night like a bat. I feel more animal than human. I walk the lonely city streets at night, looking for other creatures of darkness: stray cats, prostitutes, muggers who might take pity on me, anyone with whom I can make a connection. I can't relate to day people anymore. They seem like suntanned freaks in a speeded-up movie.

The sun is my enemy. Solar rays sear my skin with heat and ultraviolet radiation and suck the breath out of my lungs. I have nightmares of dying from melanoma, covered with carcinogenic blotches like a rotted prune. Even at night I wear sunglasses to guard my eyes against the reflected sunlight of a full moon. If only this hot ball of gas could disappear from my horizon -- but I know it's impossible.

I dream of blizzards and lakes frozen in ice. After fleeing the arctic Michigan winters as a teenager, I now look back on those days with a nostalgic longing. I ache to feel the bite of sleet on my face and numbing cold in my toes, to leap head-first into a snow bank. These fantasies comfort me on sweltering nights.

But I can't return to the cold country. Living here so long has thinned my blood and I would die with chattering teeth. I am condemned to live in the torrid zone until this terrible heat finally consumes my body like a smouldering flame.

My intellectual dreams are dead. When I was a young man, I wanted to become a famous writer. I foolishly thought I could find adventures to write about in the tropics, not realizing this was the exception among writers rather than the rule. For every Joseph Conrad there are a thousand would-be authors who venture into jungles and exotic islands but never write a single worthwhile line. The tropical regions of the world represent a vast intellectual void painted in bright colors. Real literature is native to temperate climates and doesn't feel at home under a palm tree. To write about the human condition from a hammock is a sham. Why write about anything when frangipani blossoms fill the air with soporific perfume?

The majority of island Kanakas know this truth and have absolutely no interest in books. They are semi-literate on purpose, even speaking a sort of baby talk called pidgin with stubborn pride. Like bronzed gods, they thrive on emotions, not words. They are violently impulsive, as quick to take offense as to love. They are perfectly adapted to the strange subtleties of life in the tropics. I envy them, but I also fear them because they are suspicious of people like me who live largely inside our minds. Locals give me "stink eye" when they notice me reading a book at the beach or on a bus, as if they had caught me masturbating in public. To them reading is little more than mental masturbation.

I never wrote the great novel I imagined, but what is worse, I saw through my dream. The natives are right. Words don't really matter in the tropics. They are superfluous sounds and symbols compared to the immediate realities of island existence. Yet I can't help myself. Out of habit I waste precious time reading and writing when I could be surfing or spear fishing or pig hunting in the mountains. Or making love to a bright-eyed coconut girl like Kini Hoopai.

Kini is the Hawaiian equivalent of Cindy, but she hates that haole name, even if it is on her birth certificate. Kini is hapa-haole, part white on her mother's side of the family and somewhat embarrassed by this lineage. Along with countless other young locals, she has gotten swept up in the sovereignty movement in Hawaii which teaches a return to local language and culture and hopes (unrealistically) for the American government to relinquish ownership of the islands.

Kini is an enigma to me, as many island girls are. On the one hand she has a stunningly beautiful physique: perfect face with dark almond-shaped eyes and a gleaming smile, long black hair down to her waist, a voluptuous figure and small feet. She looks like the quintessential Hawaiian beauty worthy of any magazine cover. But she is also a rabid tomboy with distinctly unfeminine traits. She speaks too loudly and often curses like a sailor. In spite of her hula lessons she is clumsy and moves without a hint of gracefulness. When she drinks too much, Kini tells filthy jokes that embarrass even me and she sleeps around too much. I think of her as a gorgeous mess and this contradiction has a troubling effect on me. In some respects she scares the hell out of me. She is too intense and direct for me to feel comfortable when we are together because I never know what she might do or say.

Kini would rather go barefoot than go to heaven. She is more competitive than an all-pro linebacker and I mean physically. Although all women have a small amount of testosterone, I think she has more of this male hormone than any three average men. She likes to ridicule me for reading books and she makes fun of my writing if I show it to her. She doesn't respect me at all, thinks I'm a haole wimp. But in her quiet moments, when she is relaxed with a far-off gaze, she reminds me of an angel. I can't get over her exquisite beauty, even if it only goes skin deep. I could sit for hours and just stare at her as long as she didn't talk. I wish I was a painter like Gaugin or at least a photographer so I could capture her still form for posterity.

On my night prowls I sometimes go visit Kini at her apartment in Kalihi. If I have to awaken her, she grouses at me.

“Don't you frickin' haoles ever sleep?”

“Only in the day time. We're all vampires, you know.”

“Shit,” she mumbles, reaching for a cigarette.

“Do you have any beer? It's past take-out time.”

“Look in the refrigerator.”

From the kitchen I ask her if she wants one. No answer, but she shakes her head in disgust when I return to the living room with only one can of beer.

“You didn't say you wanted one.”

“Next time bring your own beer,” she snaps.

“You're in a good mood tonight.”

“I got fired today.”

“Why?”

“What's the difference? I have to find another job now.”

Kini had worked as a waitress in the restaurant of a Waikiki hotel. Since I met her, she had also been an office receptionist in the business district, a sales clerk at a jewelry store and a groom for a dog trainer. She changes jobs once or twice a year and new employers keep hiring her because of her looks.

“Do you need any money?” I offered.

“Not from you.” She went to the kitchen and got herself a beer.

“What's wrong with my money? Tainted or something?”

“You'd want me to fuck you for it,” she said, returning to the living room.

“Not necessarily,” I said. “We could call it a loan.“

“Don't gimme that. I see the way you look at me.”

“Most women are flattered by a man's attention.”

“You're old enough to be my father.”

Kini had been married to an older man when she was a teenager. They had two children and he beat her whenever he got drunk. She divorced him and left the children in the care of her mother, who lived on the North Shore.

“Tell me what happened at the restaurant.”

Angry tears welled up in her eyes. “Frickin' manager always hated me. I don't wanna talk about it.”

“What did he do?”

“Leave me alone!”

When Kini cried, her beautiful face went to pieces like a jigsaw puzzle dropped on the floor. Although it was painful to watch, I couldn't help being fascinated by the amazing transformation. She was twenty-six, but she suddenly looked old.

“It wasn't much of a job in the first place,” I said to comfort her. “You'll find something better.”

“Don't try to cheer me up,” she sobbed.

“I wouldn't dream of it.”

“What are you doing here anyway? Don't you have a home?”

“I wanted to ask you for a date.”

“Like hell you did.”

“Maybe a movie and dinner somewhere nice.”

She wiped her eyes with the back of one hand. “I already told you I'm not going to fuck you.”

I was certain she didn't remember we had made love once at a party several months earlier in Kaimuki. She had been too drunk and stoned on pakalolo to remember anything from that night. I never tried to revive her memory and considered it my little secret.

“I'll give you twenty dollars if you stop saying fuck. It's very unattractive.”

“You just said it.”

“Listen, you eat dinner, don't you? All I'm saying is let's have a meal together some night. On me.”

“I'm not gonna sit through one of your high mucky muck movies.”

“All right, no movie. Just dinner.”

“I get to pick the restaurant?”

“Anywhere you like.”

“Delco's!”

That's where she lost her job. “Why in the world do you want to go there?”

“To rub it in the bastard's face. Order the most expensive food and bitch that it tasted like shit. Then leave no tip.”

“I always tip.”

“If you do, I'll kick your ass!”

She meant it, too, but I could only smile. “Okay, no tip.”

“How come you're being so nice to me?”

“You look sad with mascara running down your cheek. Sort of like a sad clown.”

“Not funny,” she said, wiping her face with a Kleenex tissue. Then she giggled and suddenly she looked young and beautiful again, like a chameleon changing colors.

After I finished my beer, I slipped a hundred dollars into her hand as we stood in the open doorway.

“I don't want it,” she said.

“You can pay me back when you get another job. You might need it for something in the meantime.”

“You nevah give up, do you? You're one stubborn haole man.”

“And you're a bitchy Kanaka woman.”

When I said it, she smiled like a naughty little girl proud of her mischief -- that perfect radiant smile that melted my heart. Too bad there was no real affection behind it.

As I walked down the hallway, I wondered if I heard Kini mutter thanks. I suspected it was only wishful thinking on my part. Her teeth would probably fall out if she forced herself to thank a haole. It wasn't her fault, though. Kini had a damaged personality like so many native islanders. Most were trapped in a crippling cycle of hatred directed against haoles, Japanese, other outsiders and ultimately each other. The ancient kahuna's prophecy had come true: some day you will be strangers in your own land. The spirit of aloha began to die when white explorers discovered Hawaii and introduced the two most destructive drugs of western culture -- alcohol and Christianity -- along with venereal disease and mosquitoes. The result was a 90% decline in the Kanaka population, genocide by negligence in a fragile paradise.

And so tomorrow night I have a dinner date with a gorgeous foul-mouthed coconut girl. I'll try to keep her from drinking too much wine and insulting the restaurant manager, but I know in advance that my efforts may be futile. I only hope she doesn't punch him or throw the wine bottle at him. If we can get through dinner without a riot, I'll take Kini for a long drive along the windward coast of the island. She loves to hang her head out of the car window and howl like a dog in the balmy night air. We'll stop at Makapuu and Waimanalo and walk on the beach. Then I'll head for the Pali tunnel and drive her home.

I'll be tempted, but I won't try to get into her panties because she will be very drunk and I wouldn't know what to say to her in the morning. I'll be content to spend part of the night with an exotically beautiful woman who is half my age. In my small Michigan hometown there wasn't a single female as good looking as Kini and I feel like I've come a long way since then.

In the torrid zone this is what I do for an evening's entertainment. I pass the time with an overpriced meal and a long drive in the moonlight with a coconut girl who doesn't love me. Or time will simply pass me -- it's difficult to tell which is the case. In practice we live on Hawaiian time, another way of saying time means very little in the islands. It ticks away unnoticed, like water flowing underground. We drink at the well of time and don't care to know when it will run dry.

I will sleep through the following day and never see the merciless tropical sun that cooks my flesh. With any luck, I will dream of blizzards and mountains of snow.

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Last edited by starrwriter; 08-19-2006 at 10:10 AM..
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Old 09-30-2006, 05:43 AM
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Starrwriter...Oh God, I nearly wet myself! This is absolutely beautiful. You have to send this off somewhere...you just do.

At first I thought, ‘here we go...some abstract history lesson that doesn’t go anywhere...’ Was I wrong...oh yeah! It doesn’t go anywhere, but that doesn’t matter. It stands tall in its own right, a singular piece, that gently meanders through elegant prose and delightfully rich images, as the reader gently journeys through this mans life and experiences.

You have to be well pleased with this. I only wish I could write as half as good as this. You can definitely write and with a fantastic style.

I have gone through it and marked up a few things I thought stood as marks of brilliance, generally to so others can learn. The bits I have noted, as possible edit issues, are so minor I’m almost embarrassed to mention them.

However I am the critic...
General comments:
There are places where I feel the prose should have commas so that it flows smoothly. I haven’t marked them. If you want me to I will go back and do it.

And occasionally, your graceful style is let down by the odd sentence, or phrase...which I have pointed out. The sentences are not necessarily incorrect, they are just my opinions on the style and the tone and flow of the prose. At the end of the day...this is your baby, if you love it keep it.

On rare occasions in Hawaii the tradewinds stop blowing and an equatorial air mass creeps north to cover the islands for a few days. The tropical belt just north and south of the equator is known as the doldrums or the horse latitudes. Without a breath of wind, the stagnant air is unbearably hot and humid -- fit only for dolphins and whales, according to sailors who are sometimes trapped in it for weeks. On land it feels even worse, like drowning in honey.[This is a beautiful analogy, where the reader can really feel suffocating through the thick, sticky and even sweet atmosphere.]The sky often has a sickly yellowish tint reminiscent of jaundice.[I think this is a bit wordy, not incorrect, like I said a matter of style, but I think something like: The sky was often a jaundice yellow, is a more simple and elegant way of putting it. I feel that the addition of the adverb is unnecessary and is a distraction]

In my second year in Honolulu I caught a raging fever during one of these awful heat waves. I had fever for an entire month and I was forced to try to sleep sitting upright since it was too painful on my joints to lay down. Dengue is also called breakbone fever because the joint pain makes it feel like your bones are broken. I was so delirious I could barely function. I lost my apartment keys twice, ate practically nothing and I took two or three cold showers each day to bring down my temperature. I sat on the sofa with two fans blowing when the mid-afternoon heat made me swoon. I felt like I existed outside my body. My apartment seemed unfamiliar and I was sometimes paralyzed by a sense of unreality.
[This whole paragraph is an excellent blend of the factual, practical and emotional, which adeptly describes the feeling of having a fever]

After my doctor misdiagnosed the illness as influenza, I discovered I had dengue fever, a mosquito-born disease which hadn't been seen in Hawaii for half a century. There were lasting effects -- perhaps even brain damage from the dangerously high fever. I'm not sure and I no longer trust doctors to make judgments about my health condition.
[I quite like the link between the invasion of Dengue fever to the Islands and the history bit later describing the invasion of the haoles, plus the misdiagnosis and the misbelieve that the while colonists had in bring ‘civilisation’, and both being destructive as a result]

I sweat 24 hours a day now. I have learned to despise the tropical heat more than ever because I feel as though I am living in some sort of hell from which there is no escape. I pray for the cooling rain that seldom comes, yet I shiver with chills whenever the air temperature drops below 80.
My body is addicted to the very thing I hate. [Nice simple style that says everything] I sleep fitfully during the worst heat of the day and stay up all night like a bat. I feel more animal than human. I walk the lonely city streets at night, looking for other creatures of darkness: stray cats, prostitutes, muggers who might take pity on me, anyone with whom I can make a connection. I can't relate to day people anymore. They seem like suntanned freaks in a speeded-up movie. [Again, this is a style thing. It seems a little awkward. I’d get rid of They seem like, and just have They are suntanned freaks in a speeded-up movie.]

The sun is my enemy.
Solar rays sear my skin with heat and ultraviolet radiation and suck the breath out of my lungs.[Personally I would have stuck in a comma rather than put in the extra ‘and’, so it read: Solar rays sear my skin with heat, and Ultraviolet radiation sucking the breath out of my lungs.] I have nightmares of dying from melanoma, covered with carcinogenic blotches like a rotted prune. [Fantastic image, simple but very descriptive] Even at night I wear sunglasses to guard my eyes against the reflected sunlight of a full moon. If only this hot ball of gas could disappear from my horizon -- but I know it's impossible.

I dream of blizzards and lakes frozen in ice. After fleeing the arctic Michigan winters as a teenager, I now look back on those days with a nostalgic longing.
I ache to feel the bite of sleet on my face and numbing cold in my toes, to leap head-first into a snow bank. [Again, stylistically beautiful. I like the link of the ‘ache’ he feels and the ache he would feel in snow and sleet]
These fantasies comfort me on sweltering nights.

But I can't return to the cold country. Living here so long has thinned my blood and I would die with chattering teeth. I am condemned to live in the torrid zone until this terrible heat finally consumes my body like a
smouldering flame. [I’m being really picky here...but flames blaze, cinders and coals smoulder.]


My intellectual dreams are dead. When I was a young man, I wanted to become a famous writer. I foolishly thought I could find adventures to write about in the tropics, not realizing this was the exception among writers rather than the rule. For every Joseph Conrad there are a thousand would-be authors who venture into jungles and exotic islands but never write a single worthwhile line. The tropical regions of the world represent a vast intellectual void painted in bright colors. Real literature is native to temperate climates and doesn't feel at home under a palm tree. To write about the human condition from a hammock is a sham.
Why write about anything when frangipani blossoms fill the air with soporific perfume? [Why indeed? Good use of questioning technique. The reader finds themselves answering the question and no further description is required]

The majority of island Kanakas know this truth and have absolutely no interest in books. They are semi-literate on purpose, even speaking a sort of baby talk called pidgin with stubborn pride. Like bronzed gods, they thrive on emotions, not words. They are violently impulsive, as quick to take offense as to love. They are perfectly adapted to the strange subtleties of life in the tropics. I envy them, but I also fear them because they are suspicious of people like me who live largely inside our minds. Locals give me
"stink eye" [Single expression, the locals are doing this not saying it. Only use double, if its dialogue. You could have got away with italics, but that is a matter of preference only] when they notice me reading a book at the beach or on a bus, as if they had caught me masturbating in public. To them reading is little more than mental masturbation. [This is excellent observation of human behaviour and very amusing.]

I never wrote the great novel I imagined, but what is worse, I saw through my dream. The natives are right. Words don't really matter in the tropics. They are superfluous sounds and symbols compared to the immediate realities of island existence. Yet I can't help myself. Out of habit I waste precious time reading and writing when I could be surfing or spear fishing or pig hunting in the mountains. Or making love to a bright-eyed coconut girl like Kini Hoopai.

Kini is the Hawaiian equivalent of Cindy, but she hates that haole name, even if it is on her birth certificate. Kini is hapa-haole, part white on her mother's side of the family and somewhat embarrassed by this lineage. Along with countless other young locals, she has gotten swept up in the sovereignty movement in Hawaii which teaches a return to local language and culture and hopes (unrealistically) for the American government to relinquish ownership of the islands.

Kini is an enigma to me, as many island girls are. On the one hand she has a stunningly beautiful physique: perfect face with dark almond-shaped eyes and a gleaming smile, long black hair down to her waist, a voluptuous figure and small feet. She looks like the quintessential Hawaiian beauty worthy of any magazine cover.
But [not strictly incorrect, but a pet-hate, don’t start a sentence with But, if you don’t have to. A comma and continuation of the sentence would do.] she is also a rabid tomboy with distinctly unfeminine traits. She speaks too loudly and often curses like a sailor. In spite of her hula lessons she is clumsy and moves without a hint of gracefulness. When she drinks too much, Kini tells filthy jokes that embarrass even me and she sleeps around too much. I think of her as a gorgeous mess and this contradiction has a troubling effect on me. In some respects she scares the hell out of me. She is too intense and direct for me to feel comfortable when we are together because I never know what she might do or say.

Kini would rather go barefoot than go to heaven. She is more competitive than an all-pro linebacker and I mean physically. Although all women have a small amount of testosterone, I think she has more of this male hormone than any three average men. She likes to ridicule me for reading books and she makes fun of my writing if I show it to her. She doesn't respect me at all, thinks I'm a haole wimp.
But [see previous comment]
in her quiet moments, when she is relaxed with a far-off gaze, she reminds me of an angel. I can't get over her exquisite beauty, even if it only goes skin deep. I could sit for hours and just stare at her as long as she didn't talk. I wish I was a painter like Gaugin or at least a photographer so I could capture her still form for posterity.

On my night prowls I sometimes go visit Kini at her apartment in Kalihi. If I have to awaken her, she grouses at me.

“Don't you frickin' haoles ever sleep?”

“Only in the day time. We're all vampires, you know.”

“Shit,” she mumbles, reaching for a cigarette.

“Do you have any beer? It's past take-out time.”

“Look in the refrigerator.”

From the kitchen I ask her if she wants one. No answer, but she shakes her head in disgust when I return to the living room with only one can of beer.

“You didn't say you wanted one.”

“Next time bring your own beer,” she snaps.

“You're in a good mood tonight.”

“I got fired today.”

“Why?”

“What's the difference? I have to find another job now.”


[Good dialogue. Only has one ‘said’ in it but you can follow who is speaking, without any problems. A great example to show that hundreds of ‘said’ are not necessary]

Kini had worked as a waitress in the restaurant of a Waikiki hotel. Since I met her, she had also been an office receptionist in the business district, a sales clerk at a
jewelry [spelling: jewellery] store and a groom for a dog trainer. She changes jobs once or twice a year and new employers keep hiring her because of her looks. [I would have thought a combination of her looks and temperament, rather than looks alone would be more realistic]

“Do you need any money?” I offered.

“Not from you.” She went to the kitchen and got herself a beer.

“What's wrong with my money? Tainted or something?”

“You'd want me to fuck you for it,” she said, returning to the living room.

“Not necessarily,” I said. “We could call it a loan.“

“Don't gimme that. I see the way you look at me.”

“Most women are flattered by a man's attention.”

“You're old enough to be my father.”

Kini had been married to an older man when she was a teenager. They had two children and he beat her whenever he got drunk. She divorced him and left the children in the care of her mother, who lived on the North Shore. “Tell me what happened at the restaurant.”

Angry tears welled up in her eyes. “Frickin' manager always hated me. I don't wanna talk about it.”

“What did he do?”

“Leave me alone!”

When Kini cried, her beautiful face went to pieces like a jigsaw puzzle dropped on the floor. [Really great turn of phrase, unusual and creates just the right image
]Although it was painful to watch, I couldn't help being fascinated by the amazing transformation. She was twenty-six, but she suddenly looked old.

“It wasn't much of a job in the first place,” I said to comfort her. “You'll find something better.”

“Don't try to cheer me up,” she sobbed.

“I wouldn't dream of it.”

“What are you doing here anyway? Don't you have a home?”

“I wanted to ask you for a date.”

“Like hell you did.”

“Maybe a movie and dinner somewhere nice.”

She wiped her eyes with the back of one hand. “I already told you I'm not going to fuck you.”

I was certain she didn't remember we had made love once at a party several months earlier in Kaimuki. She had been too drunk and stoned on pakalolo to remember anything from that night. I never tried to revive her memory and considered it my little secret.

“I'll give you twenty dollars if you stop saying fuck. It's very unattractive.”

“You just said it.”

“Listen, you eat dinner, don't you? All I'm saying is let's have a meal together some night. On me.”

“I'm not gonna sit through one of your high mucky muck movies.”

“All right, no movie. Just dinner.”

“I get to pick the restaurant?”

“Anywhere you like.”

“Delco's!”

That's where she lost her job. “Why in the world do you want to go there?”

“To rub it in the bastard's face. Order the most expensive food and bitch that it tasted like shit. Then leave no tip.”

“I always tip.”

“If you do, I'll kick your ass!”

She meant it, too, but I could only smile. “Okay, no tip.”

“How come you're being so nice to me?”

“You look sad with mascara running down your cheek. Sort of like a sad clown.”

“Not funny,” she said, wiping her face with a Kleenex tissue. Then she giggled and suddenly she looked young and beautiful again, like a chameleon changing colors.

After I finished my beer, I slipped a hundred dollars into her hand as we stood in the open doorway.

“I don't want it,” she said.

“You can pay me back when you get another job. You might need it for something in the meantime.”

“You nevah give up, do you? You're one stubborn haole man.”

“And you're a bitchy Kanaka woman.”

When I said it, she smiled like a naughty little girl proud of her mischief -- that perfect radiant smile
that [You already have a ‘that in the sentence, this one is not needed and getting rid of it does not detract form the style of the sentence]
melted my heart. Too bad there was no real affection behind it.

As I walked down the hallway, I wondered if I heard Kini mutter thanks. I suspected it was only wishful thinking on my part. Her teeth would probably fall out if she forced herself to thank a haole. It wasn't her fault, though. Kini had a damaged personality like so many native islanders. Most were trapped in a crippling cycle of hatred directed against haoles, Japanese, other outsiders and ultimately each other. The ancient kahuna's prophecy had come true: some day you will be strangers in your own land. The spirit of aloha began to die when white explorers discovered Hawaii and introduced the two most destructive drugs of western culture -- alcohol and Christianity -- along with venereal disease and mosquitoes. The result was a 90% decline in the Kanaka population, genocide by negligence in a fragile paradise.

And so tomorrow night I have a dinner date with a gorgeous foul-mouthed coconut girl. I'll try to keep her from drinking too much wine and insulting the restaurant manager, but I know in advance that my efforts may be futile. I only hope she doesn't punch him or throw the wine bottle at him. If we can get through dinner without a riot, I'll take Kini for a long drive along the windward coast of the island. She loves to hang her head out of the car window and howl like a dog in the balmy night air. We'll stop at Makapuu and Waimanalo and walk on the beach. Then I'll head for the Pali tunnel and drive her home.

I'll be tempted, but I won't try to get into her panties because she will be very drunk and I wouldn't know what to say to her in the morning. I'll be content to spend part of the night with an exotically beautiful woman who is half my age. In my small Michigan hometown there wasn't a single female as good looking as Kini and I feel like I've come a long way since then.

In the torrid zone this is what I do for an evening's entertainment. I pass the time with an overpriced meal and a long drive in the moonlight with a coconut girl who doesn't love me. Or time will simply pass me -- it's difficult to tell which is the case. In practice we live on Hawaiian time, another way of saying time means very little in the islands. It ticks away unnoticed, like water flowing underground. We drink at the well of time and don't care to know when it will run dry.

I will sleep through the following day and never see the merciless tropical sun that cooks my flesh. With any luck, I will dream of blizzards and mountains of snow.


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Old 09-30-2006, 08:12 AM
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Starpanda, thanks for the praise and the extensive critique. You like this story, you really like this story. (Picture me in drag as Sally Field.)

It's one of my favorite short stories of the 78 I have written, probably because it's a mostly true account of some of my experiences in Hawaii. I did submit it and two online fiction magazines have published it. The New Yorker and a couple other print magazines that pay well turned it down -- the philistines!

Incidentally, jewelry is the correct spelling on this side of the pond.
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Old 09-30-2006, 11:49 AM
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OnceUponATime (Offline)
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Location: State of Insanity - I must be in order to start my own paper...
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The sky often has a sickly yellowish tint reminiscent of jaundice.
Great description - sort of reminds me of the skies here in the muggy Southeast during August...

I can't relate to day people anymore. They seem like suntanned freaks in a speeded-up movie.
'a Speeded-up movie' sounds funny - suggest maybe 'a sped-up movie(?)'

My intellectual dreams are dead. When I was a young man, I wanted to become a famous writer. I foolishly thought I could find adventures to write about in the tropics, not realizing this was the exception among writers rather than the rule. For every Joseph Conrad there are a thousand would-be authors who venture into jungles and exotic islands but never write a single worthwhile line. The tropical regions of the world represent a vast intellectual void painted in bright colors. Real literature is native to temperate climates and doesn't feel at home under a palm tree. To write about the human condition from a hammock is a sham. Why write about anything when frangipani blossoms fill the air with soporific perfume?
Liked this - the very same thing happened to me when I moved from smoggy southern CA to the cool, pine-covered mountains of N. Arizona in the 90's - I spent too much time hiking and thinking about writing rather than actually doing any writing. Good point, here.

To them reading is little more than mental masturbation.
Again, another terrific line.

Kini would rather go barefoot than go to heaven.
I wish I could write like this... (sigh)

When Kini cried, her beautiful face went to pieces like a jigsaw puzzle dropped on the floor.
Awesome description!

Enjoyed reading this - you're several levels above me on the writer's 'food chain,' so this isn't really a critique. Do you plan to add more to this unlikely romance? If so, I'd definitely read on.

Terrific work - hope to see more of it,

Jillian
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