Archive for March, 2013

March 28, 2013

Post 42 — Surf’s Up! (Part 2)

nefertiti_catKaren threw herself down in the sand and immediately started sobbing and stammering something about titties. The older girls were confused because Kathy was the only one close to puberty, but then it occurred to them that she was talking about their cat. Nefertiti was a majestic Siamese given the name of an Egyptian empress; unfortunately, the children had shortened her name to Titi. The empress had just had a litter of six and the fact that they could be underwater soon made the girls momentarily forget their fears for themselves. They ran to check on the kittens to make sure everyone was warm and dry.

A car came roaring up to the house and they realized that their neighbor had not abandoned them to face the rising tides alone. She had run back to her house to get her car and two children. It was a tight fit to get five more kids in the back of a Datsun, so tight that the cats had to be left behind to fend for themselves. As the car took off, the girls were not only scared but also pretty sure they had condemned the six kits and their mom to a watery grave.

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March 25, 2013

Post 41 — Surf’s up! (Part 1)

The packing crate is at the end of the house on the right side.

The packing crate is at the end of the house on the right side.

The arrival of the household goods was the last step in the family’s assimilation. Although life before had fallen into a comfortable rhythm, now it felt like home. And while the girls were happy to have new additions to their wardrobes after wearing the same three outfits for the last few months, the most exciting thing was the actual crate itself. It was like an apology from the shipping company: “Hey, we’re sorry it took ninety-eight days to get your stuff to you, so here’s a tiny extra house for all your trouble!”

Once everything had been unpacked, a set of hinges and a cheap padlock turned the box into a useable storage compartment. The crate was built out of two by fours and plywood and looked fairly substantial. When it was new, it also had the advantage of actually keeping things dry since it was completely contained when the side was shut, whereas the house was eighty percent screens and frequently damp. People stored bikes and lawn chairs and any other overflow that might not have fit in the house.

The crates were fine for about a year until the humidity and mildew got a good foothold in the pressed plywood, and then they began to disintegrate quickly. You could tell how long people had been on the island by the condition of their packing crate. If it was standing strong with all the sides intact and kids climbing on top of it, the wood a bright yellow with a whiff of sawdust scent, the family had been there less than six months. A pile of rotting black splinters that meant a sure battle with gangrene should a puncture wound ever occur, next to a couple of rusted lawn chairs, indicated a veteran.

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March 22, 2013

Chapter 6: Post 40 — 1965!

The piano was old and out of tune but much played. Covered in tapa cloth, it became a focal point of the living room. Somewhere along the way, we also got a cat.

The piano was old and out of tune but much played. Covered in tapa cloth, it became a focal point of the living room. Somewhere along the way, we also got a cat.

1965 started out exactly the way 1964 ended – with high humidity and torrential rain. The dry spell was a thing of the past as the reservoirs overflowed and the barrage came down with a force that was off-putting for the first ten minutes; then people just shrugged and went about their business.

It was through this onslaught of horizontal showers that the household goods were finally delivered, exactly one week after the ship carrying the load had cruised into the harbor. The two large crates were unloaded in front of the Broquet house, and the children swarmed wetly as they tried to peek inside. The wooden upright piano was the first piece out and it was temporarily parked in the sand as the movers tried to figure out how to get it into the house. The doorway was wide enough once the door had been removed, but there was a sharp turn that seemed impossible to navigate in order to get past the kitchen and into the living room. The movers stood in the monsoon discussing the best course of action while the piano keys swelled and glued themselves to each other, the wooden top starting to warp as it absorbed gallons and gallons of welcoming tears from its new homeland. A screen was eventually removed so it could slide directly into the living room, although at that point it was probably more useful as a boat than a musical instrument. Fortunately no one in the family played very well, so it wasn’t that much of a tragedy.

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March 17, 2013

Post 39 – . . . ma le Tausaga Fou!

The driftwood Christmas tree.Christmas Eve day temps were in the low nineties, the air damp and the sun beating down with a ferocity that can only be found in the islands around the equator. The previous week had been full of preparation and celebrations of the holiday, topped off with a cocktail party at the Governor’s mansion. Halfway up the mountain in a large wooden house, the teachers mingled and drank in a crowd that was practically unrecognizable to themselves because everyone was wearing long pants and shoes. Larry had pulled out the one suit he had brought and cringed when he realized it was wool, but put it on knowing that the support of the governor kept the TV program going.

Plans were in motion for the family to attend Christmas Eve Midnight Mass that evening when word came of their very own Christmas miracle. This one did not involve a delivery of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but clothes, a washing machine and trolls! Christmas was nearly forgotten in the joy that greeted the announcement that the SS Sonoma had docked with the long-awaited household goods tucked in the cargo hold.

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March 11, 2013

Post 38 — Manuia le Kerisimasi . . .

Sears coverWe don’t know what the natives intend to do about Christmas but we are already thinking about it. When we went swimming last week, we found a lovely driftwood branch that looks like a denuded Xmas tree. So we hauled it home and at the present have it draped with ulas (leis made from shells). We intend to use it for our Christmas tree. We have found some little round seed pods to paint and are saving the wrappers from Winston & Salem cigarette cartons. They wrap them in red & green foil paper here; we have great plans for our decorations! Haven’t given the present idea too much thought as yet —the first thing that popped into our heads was a case of toilet paper. They want 60 cents for a four roll package here. We’ll discuss it a bit and let you know.


Chrissie waited until all three of her sisters cleared the bedroom before reaching between the mattress and box spring of her rumpled, sand-filled bed. There was a strict Mom-rule that stated All Feet Must Be Rinsed and Dried before going to bed to avoid this exact type of filler, but Chrissie may have missed that step a few times this week. Her fingers closed around the slick, shiny tome and she pulled it out, pen clenched in her fist. To have a few stolen moments with this miraculous book filled her with joy and wonder, and she planned on taking full advantage of it.

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March 7, 2013

Post 37 — Two Hundred Inches

The caption Jean added reads, "We were doing better than we looked."

The caption Jean added reads, “We were doing better than we looked.”

Larry pulled his shirt away from his sticky back as he headed into the house for dinner. After spending the day in the air-conditioned studio, he sometimes forgot just how humid it was until he stepped outside. He was reminded as soon as he saw his wife. Jean’s dress wrapped around her like a moist towelette and her dripping demeanor would put a damper on anyone’s mood. December was just a cruel word on the calendar here because the temperature didn’t get any lower – the dew point just got higher. Her pot banging seemed to be louder than usual, and Larry discovered why as he entered the dark house.

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March 3, 2013

Post 36 — Toga! Toga! Toga!

Tuffy Ware and Roger Evans.

The centaur of the universe.

Kathy and Carolyn set out through Tafuna as dusk started to close in, each headed for a different house. Both had babysitting clients waiting for them and the girls were deep in conversation about who had the best stuff to eat in the refrigerator. A boat had come in a few days earlier, and that meant there was probably a three gallon container of ice cream waiting for them in the deep freezers.

As the night grew darker, a figure emerged from the shadows and staggered toward them with a sinister lope. It appeared to be half man, half goat, with a bronzed, bare chest on the top and endless legs covered in long strings that ended in dark hooves. A wreath of laurel leaves balanced precariously on his curly head, held in place by small horns that emerged from his forehead. The creature gasped and gave a small scream when he suddenly came upon the girls.

“Oh my God, you two scared me!” he shrieked, clutching a dish of homemade stuffed grape leaves to his chest. “What are doing out here?”

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