PLACES OF ENTRY by Christine Thomas - Excerpt from DON'T LOOK BACK



Don't Look Back

Hawaiian Myths Made New – An Anthology of Modern Mo‘olelo. In this one-of-a-kind anthology, old meets new as Hawai‘i’s best writers present favorite myths and legends in surprising contemporary settings.


Christine Thomas, editor of Don’t Look Back, was raised in Kailua and born in Honolulu, where she again resides, after earning a B.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley and a master’s in creative writing from the University of East Anglia in England, as well as other stints living and working across the U.S. She has worked for more than fifteen years as a freelance features and travel writer and book critic and has taught creative writing and literature at Punahou School and to undergraduates across the country. Her short fiction has been published in anthologies and literary magazines in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom, and her current work-in-progress, To Lose is to Win, features inter-generational short stories spanning the globe.



More myths, please!

Read excerpts from other tales in the Don't Look Back anthology:

Timothy Dyke's NO LOOK BACK

J. Freen's IF YOU GOOGLEEARTH 1188 BISHOP STREET

Darien Gee's PELE IN THERAPY

Gary Pak's LANGUAGE OF THE GECKOS

A.A. Attanasio's SEX, LOVE AND THE MIGHTY FINE STRUCTURE CONSTANT


The perpetuity of myth and legend is, and has always been, paralleled by a lively tradition of distilling, retelling, and recasting the epics and grand tales in completely new, often abbreviated, contemporary forms. These recast stories are themselves brand-new and sometimes spontaneous productions. With themes and dynamics drawn from the classics, the characters are often contemporary and may barely reflect the original heroes and gods, the settings are intentionally familiar, and the issues and actions are intentionally current. The myths, in their “classical” forms, connect the common roots of human society from times ancient to today, while the recastings make the longevity of those attitudes, principles, and ethics immediately relevant.

The contemporary tales in this collection are presented as chants of celebration, arias of advice, and revelatory refrains, composed in resonance with the tempos and scales of stories long known and legends long told.


— Dr. M. Puakea Nogelmeier, foreword to Don’t Look Back


PLACES OF ENTRY

Christine Thomas

INSPIRED BY THE LEGEND OF HALEMANO

Halemano dreams of a woman named Kamalalawalu—the daughter of two high chiefs, raised under a strict kapu—but upon awakening can’t remember her name. He falls so deeply in love that he won’t eat or drink, becomes very ill, and finally dies. His sister, the sorceress Laenihi (who can transform into a fish), arrives at Halemano’s bedside at their grandmother’s house and brings him back to life. When Laenihi learns of the mysterious dream woman, she tells Halemano all about her, her favorite brother, and their beloved dogs.

I discovered the myth while doing research for my first novel at London’s British Library, which has a surprisingly ample Hawaiiana collection. About three-quarters of the way through my draft, I came upon “The Legend of Halemano” and realized its strange echo of my story. I hadn’t intended or ever thought of rewriting a myth, but there it was—an ancient tale to which my contemporary one was unintentionally connected. In retrospect, this discovery was the first seed of this collection, so I wanted to include a portion of the story to reveal how I unknowingly inverted the original 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.”

“Go. Away.”

“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…”

Silence.

“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?”

No response—not even a shift in position or tensing of muscles. He remains stiff, cold, as though long soaked in water.

She looks again at her watch. “Hey, I’ve gotta go. I’m really gonna be late.” She hesitates. “But I’ll be back later, ’kay?”

Then she creeps into the hall, afraid of what might happen if she stays, of what will happen if she leaves.

On the way to the car, she and Tutu just look at each other. Sometimes it’s difficult to speak the truth in words.

The next day, Pua drives through the carved wooden gates of the Rothwell Estate just as Eliza and her brother Ryan are returning from surfing. Their four poi dogs cavort in the grass, rolling in plumeria petals fallen from rows of trees lining the property, shining in oranges, yellows, and pinks. But Pua is watching Eliza’s face as she catches sight of the car, watching so she can’t try to hurry inside as if she hasn’t seen her. But it’s Ryan who calls out, carefree and in charge, and waves her on to park on the lawn. After all, he’s expecting her.

As she climbs out of the car, the mountains rise up in the distance and Pua stares for a moment at the deep notches in the highest peak, shadowed in stories. It can be difficult to believe those tales when the sun is blazing and the reality of modern day glares the brightest of all. Pua doesn’t want to be here, doesn’t want to see Ryan any more than Eliza, but she has to find out what’s going on. Even though Kai said nothing, she’s sure only Eliza will have answers. …

“I need to understand what happened,” Pua blurts. “Kai’s doing really bad, and you’re not looking great either.”

Shaking her head slowly, Eliza fixes her eyes on a point much farther away. But when she finally looks up, Pua sees Kai’s face emerge from hers like a figure appearing in a dream.

“Whatever it is, you can tell me. We used to talk, once. We used to be there for each other.” Pua reaches out her hand, then drops her arm at her side. “I’m just saying, I can still be a friend, you know, even if things are different now.”

Eliza stares at Pua as if she is going to break open, as if the truth is finally going to spill out. But all she says is: “What did Kai say?” Her face brightens strangely at his name, but retains its tight mask.

“He won’t say anything. Just lies in his room, doesn’t eat.”

Pua’s fists clench and unclench as she thinks of him. Of all the times Eliza does whatever she wants, no matter whom she hurts. She didn’t have to put Kai in this position; she could have released him a long time ago.

“I can’t believe this. You’ve always been like this, E, like you’re above it all, above me. And now Kai? You have to have it all, don’t you? Even when it hurts people.”

Eliza’s face contorts. “You haven’t called me ‘E’ since high school,” Eliza says, her voice surfacing, soft but flat. “Remember when we’d be out with everyone? Hanging out at the pumping station, and I’d always seem bored, or like I didn’t want to be there? That wasn’t it at all. I just didn’t fit.”

“I remember you used to be honest and tell me what you really thought. I know you’re upset, but you owe me an explanation. And Kai, too. If you won’t tell me here, come with me and tell us together.”

“I’ve talked it over with Ryan, and I think he’s right. I’m leaving tomorrow night. Back to the mainland. For good. Like you say, me being here does no one any good.”

Pua fights the haze of this new information. For good? She can’t pretend that surge of excitement doesn’t flow through her at the thought. But it’s there and then gone. “I thought you loved Kai. You said … you said he’s the man of your dreams.”

“I do!” says Eliza, too quickly and too loud, jerking to her feet. “Pua, talk to Kai about this, not me. It’s not right. It’s not my place.”

Pua rises and looks toward the mountains. The clouds are thick and dark, moving swiftly into the valley like fallen warriors. “He won’t talk to me, remember? Why else would I come here? You think I like that I need your help?”

“No,” Eliza repeated. She looks as if she is about to cry, but then her body stiffens. “I’ve said too much. I’m sorry.”

“You’ve said nothing!”

Eliza runs into the house and Pua senses that this encounter might have hurt more than helped. She calls out anyway, trying to keep her voice calm.

“Is this really the way you want to leave it with us?”

A few seconds later, Eliza comes from the house carrying a lei, and holds it out to Pua. “For Kai.”

Pua takes it, and Eliza walks away, locking herself inside. And no one, especially not Pua, can enter.

Now it’s up to her to help Kai, and as Pua drives away she reminds herself that there are many more places she can go that Eliza cannot.

* * *

A longer excerpt from Christine Thomas's novel Places of Entry appears, along with 16 other tales, in the anthology Don't Look Back: Hawaiian Myths Made New, edited by Christine Thomas.

All stories in this anthology reprinted by permission with copyrights retained by individual authors. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information retrieval systems, without prior written permission from the publisher, except for brief passages quoted in reviews.