M.I.A. Art & Literary Series Presents Don’t Look Back
Join us at the January 2013 M.I.A. Art & Literary Series evening on Monday, January 21 at Fresh Cafe’s Loft in Space (831 Queen St.), 7:30pm – 9:00pm, to hear readings from Don’t Look Back editor Christine Thomas and contributing writers, Timothy Dyke and J. Freen. The event is free and open to the public.
To whet your appetite, here’s a teaser taste of the three authors’ stories. (Click through for longer excerpts.)
Timothy Dyke’s story, “No Look Back,” inspired the anthology’s title. His take on the legend of Māui the Fisherman:
I’m trying to construct a tale about my friend, Logan Cabrera. It’s difficult for me to look back at all the events that happened between us and find one clear instance of narrativelaunch. I could begin on the day we met, or on the day I was born. I could focus on the way the trouble started. I could start with the morning I came out of the closet. I could begin today and move backward.
Back in the day, there was a high school teacher and a former student. Once upon a time, I drove the kid out to Sand Island when he was strung out on OxyContin. I could begin with the moment I picked up the telephone. I could describe the afternoon in Phoenix when I watched him snort heroin through the shaft of a ballpoint pen. Or I could start, as I often do, by wandering off on a tangent connected to some recent conversation from English class.
I teach an elective for high school seniors called “The Bible as Literature.” Early last semester, I was talking to my students about the story from Genesis about Lot and his wife. I find that story hard to analyze, and I was asking the kids in my class to explain specific plot points. Some of them have it in their heads that God destroyed Sodom to purge his land of gay people, and while I wasn’t necessarily trying to contradict their upbringings, I was attempting to steer them toward a more nuanced interpretation.
“Hey,” I asked my class as we got to the part where Lot’s wife turns to a pillar of salt. (She would have been fine if Lot had resisted the temptation to turn around and check on her.) “Doesn’t this remind you of the Greek myth of Orpheus?” They looked at me with mild recognition. “In Greek myth, Orpheus goes down to the underworld to rescue his lover, Eurydice.” I saw a kid move a thumb toward his iPhone, but I ignored him. “Do you all know this story?” Most did, but some didn’t, so we etched out important details: Orpheus is allowed to take Eurydice from Hades, but he’s told that when he exits the underworld, he’s not to look back at her. He starts walking and, as he gets anxious, he turns around to gaze behind. Eurydice disappears, never to return again. Erica, the girl with the mushroom design on her hoodie, announced that a Māui story went the same way.
J. Freen’s modern version of the legend of O‘ahu Nui, the Cannibal King, and the ‘Ai Kanaka has been popular at our past reading events:
Try GoogleEarth 1188 Bishop Street, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Take off from above the mainland, cross the Pacific in a second or two—makes you kind of dizzy the first time. Before you know it you’re above the harbor, coming in, coming in, mouse in hand—hold it—hovering above the office tower on the corner of Beretania and Bishop, at the gateway to the city’s financial and legal district. Lots of stuff goes on here, interesting stuff, but to find out you need to climb out of your computer screen, put on some clothes, some shoes, and hit the street for real.
It’s a toasty January morning in the city. You feel the sun on your face. You are standing on the corner, looking up at the steel and glass tower. In front of you is a short, dark-haired fellow dressed in a bland aloha shirt and neatly pressed slacks—the uniform of the local businessman. His name is Case Izumi. Follow him. He won’t notice you because, actually, you’re still back home, staring at the screen, dressed only in your underpants. I was just kidding about making you do anything realworld today.
His finger is on the button for floor number 21 and up we go. Suite 2110 is to his right, the door with the tasteful sign that reads: Alvin Alakawa, Attorney at Law. Push the door open, and the warm and pleasing face of the receptionist greets the visitor.
Her name is Kilikili, which means “fine misty rain” in Hawaiian. The kind of rain that often fills Nu‘uanu, the big valley behind downtown, in the morning and evening of a day like today. Kilikili’s last name is Pulena, a famous name in Hawai‘i, the family name of a long line of kings and nobles. She is proud of this but more proud, truth be told, of her two sons, Kai and Kawika, aged six and seven—kids she has raised as a single mom ever since their dad took off and left her to fend for herself, which she did, landing a job with big-time attorney and politician Al Alakawa. For six long years now she has been Al’s factotum, a fancy Latin word that means slave treated like dirt.
Editor Christine Thomas was inspired to assemble an anthology of re-invented Hawaiian legends when she discovered that a story she had in the works bore similarities to an old Hawaiian myth:
Pua taps on the redwood door of Kai’s room, and then shouts her brother’s name loud as she walks in. The room is dark, the afternoon sun blocked by a coarse bamboo shade; when she rolls it up, Kai’s deep voice cracks, asking her to close it again. She hears but acts like she doesn’t, leaning over the bed to peer at his face, casting a new shadow over him. She keeps her voice crisp, not wanting to betray worry or acceptance of what could still just be elaborate self-pity.
“What you doing? I have for go school or work ev-ery frick-in day and you just lying in bed whenever you like. No fair.”
“How ’bout I lie down and you go serve grumpy mainlanders at that dumbass Convention Center. ’Kay? Get up or you going be late.”
The mattress dips as she squeezes in beside him and then shakes as she forces a laugh. But when humor provokes no movement or response, the knots return to Pua’s stomach, tentacles tightening. Tutu leans her head in, then vanishes.
“You okay? Should I be worried?”
“It’s nothing. Just go. Go to work.”
“Tutu says you’re not eating. And you sit in here all day, see nobody or even talk. I mean, alone time is one thing, but…”
“You need to eat, Kai. Get fresh air.”
She stares at the ti leaves outside the window, can almost feel the heat soaking into the soft fibers. She gets up and turns on some music. Still nothing.
She is definitely going to be late, and if it’s even one minute they dock her pay. So she asks the inevitable question, utters the name she thinks will rouse her brother and allow her into his thoughts.
“Is it Eliza?”