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Kirby Wright

Kirby Wright was a Visiting Fellow at the 2009 International Writers Conference in Hong Kong, where he represented the Pacific Rim region of Hawaii and lectured in China with Pulitzer winner Gary Snyder. He was also a Visiting Writer at the 2010 Martha’s Vineyard Residency in Edgartown, Massachusetts, and the 2011 Artist in Residence at Milkwood International, Czech Republic. He is the author of the companion novels Punahou Blues and Moloka’i Nui Ahina, both set in Hawaii. The End, My Friend, his futuristic novel, will be released in 2013.    





Bluey Mark




I WAS SPENDING the summer with Troy, my brother, at our grandmother’s ranch on Moloka’i. Gramma thought Troy was sexually pent-up, like a volcano ready to blow. He didn’t have a girlfriend back home in Honolulu and had quit talking about the wahines he liked after a cheerleader snickered when he asked her to our high school carnival. His unwillingness to date caused inertia in me because I kept waiting for my big brother to take the lead. Then Gramma accused Troy of “rubbin’ his wolly wogs” in his bed out on the lanai.  After that, there was a tension in the air whenever my grandmother and brother were in the same room. I tried breaking that tension with jokes but both refused to laugh. Troy ate his meals alone perched on his bed.  

                                                *                       *                       *

            One morning, Gramma called me into the bathroom. She was studying her reflection in the mirror. She had on her ranch clothes: palaka shirt, denims, and cowboy boots. She was fat in places and shriveled in others, so at times she reminded me of a prune but at other times a plum. Whenever I looked at her I wondered if, when you got old, your body decided where to pool the blood to keep you alive. “Look at this bluey mark on my neck, Peanut,” Gramma said, pointing to a bluish-purple mark the size of a nickel midway down her neck. It looked like a hickey. 

            “What’s that from?” I asked.

            “Wot’s it look like?” she asked me.

             “I dunno.”

            “Size uva thumbprint.”

            “Whose print?”

            “Who’d ya think?”

            I’d just gotten my driver’s license in Honolulu. I was familiar with thumbprints, since I’d rolled my inked thumb on the licensing document for the clerk. Then Gramma told me Troy would slip into her room, jam his thumb against her carotid artery to knock her out, and then have his way with her. All this was happening while I was sleeping soundly on the pune’e in the living room. I’d known her mind was freewheeling since I was ten, the summer she claimed thieves had stolen her Scout’s engine and replaced it with a Japanese one. When I told Dadio, my father, he said living alone challenged the mind and not to worry because her fantasies were fairly harmless. But this rape fantasy was pure evil. I thought maybe the veins pumping blood to her brain were failing. I told her to bolt her door every night before bed. 

            “You keeds don’t need to crap?” Gramma asked.

            I realized locking the door would prevent Troy and me from using the only toilet in the beach house. “We’re practically men,” I conceded. “We can go outside.”

            She nodded. “I’ll put toilet papah in the kitchen.”

            That ended the bluey mark talk. Then Gramma had a disagreement with Troy about what to watch. It was The Lawrence Welk Show vs. The Rifleman and I was the deciding vote. 

            “The Lawrence Welk Show!” I cheered, mainly because I wanted to keep the peace with Gramma, but partly because I had a crush on the oldest Lennon Sister. 

            Troy sulked off. He spent the evening cleaning his rifle on the lanai.

                                                *                       *                       *

            I found Troy on a sandy knoll jutting out into the ocean. He was surfcasting for papio. His blond hair covered his ears like muffs and his biceps flexed when he pulled back on the rod. He wore a Surf Hawaii tank top and trunks. His skin was bronze from the sun. He was one of the best looking guys on campus, with his muscular build and perfect white teeth that Dadio had paid a small fortune to straighten. Troy made me look like a wimp. But he carried the burden of never realizing the achievements Dadio had expected of him, such as being class president, playing varsity football, and getting on the honor roll. He rarely smiled. I watched my brother reel. He was reeling too fast. It was as if he was trying to make summer speed by, or dull some hidden pain through repetitive motion. 

            “You want the fastest of fish,” I kidded.

            He said nothing.

            “Won’t like what I’m about to tell you, Troy.”

            He cast his lure past the breakers. “Then don’t tell me.”

            “Gramma said something horrible.” 

            “I don’t care what that bitch says.”

            I started with the bluey mark. I told him her theory of how he paralyzed her with his thumb so that he could have his way with her, without her even knowing.

            “She’s ready for Kaneohe,” he said, referring to Oahu’s hospital for the chronically insane.

            I tried changing the subject. I talked about the foxy coeds at Punahou and the senior prom, and how he’d be packing for college next summer. 

            Troy didn’t say a word.

                                                *                       *                       *

            Gramma called me into the bathroom our last week of summer. She was back at the mirror. She showed me another mark—this one the size of a dime on her throat. It was more black than blue, not far from where the Adam’s apple is on a man. “Mistah Troy’s work,” she said, prodding the mark with a finger. 

            “How’d he get in?” I asked.

            “Damn keed slipped in through my window.”

            “He’s not Houdini, Gramma.”

            “Christ,” she answered, “that one makes Houdini look like a bloody saint.”

            “Let’s check for forced entry,” I suggested. 

            She followed me back to her bedroom. I tested the horizontal glass louvers in the window above her twin. They seemed fine. But there was a greasy smudge on the lowest louver and one of the brackets that held it was bent.    

            “It wasn’t him,” I surmised.

            “’Course it was,” she countered.

            I said the smudge matched the size of the mark on her neck, and that both were smaller than that first mark.   

            “This one’s smallah?” she asked. 


             “Then I wondah,” she said, eyeing me suspiciously, “I wondah who he is.”





palaka:  checkered red and white

papio:  skipjack

pune’e:  big wide bed that doubles as a couch

wahine:  girl

lanai:  veranda



©2013 Kirby Wright



Author Links


Kirby Wright at Wikipedia

Wright at Poets & Writers

Work by Wright at Amazon (Kindle editions available)






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