“Da Pier” by Melissa Llanes Brownlee

Issue 21 / Spring 2020

Note: This piece is written in Hawaiian Pidgin Creole, and most of the language has been preserved to maintain the originality and truth of the author. For more information about dialect and publishing, please contact the author via her website or the Managing Editor, Monica Prince.

We hemo our shorts and t-shirts and kick off our slippahs. We throw ‘em on my backpack and I run off da pier. I pull up my legs to make the biggest splash. My little sister, she stay right behind me. I hit the water hard. It’s cool but feels good after walking in the sun. I kick myself up and take a breath. I dive back to the bottom so I can touch it. My ears ache and my eyes burn as I look at the hazy shapes of the coral, rocks, and big tires around me, little groups of striped manini picking the limu off of them. I turn over. I can see my sister above me. I swim up and grab her leg. She kicks me in the head, and I come up coughing and laughing.

“How come you wen try scare me?”

“Cuz funny, das why.”

“I going tell mom.”

“Why? I was just kidding. You know she going give us dirty lickins.”

“I no care.”

“Fine. Be li dat. Go tell mom. See if I care.” I swim away from her towards the little sandy beach against da seawall.

We wen leave our mom where she wen park the car behind World Square. She wen give us five dollars each and told us to come back by six and to not bada her at work. She’d been wearing her short work mu’u mu’u. She hated it. She always kept pulling its pink flowers away from her. She worked at the Pearl Factory. They made all kine bracelets and necklaces from freshwater pearls, because they were cheaper than the real ones. They sold real ones, too, but they were real expensive. They had one tank with oysters inside and you could pick one and cut ‘em open, and if you found pearls, you could keep ‘em. They were like five dollars so you could score big time if you got any kine pearls. Mom had to talk story with the tourists and try get ‘em to put their pearl in one setting, you know like one ring or one necklace. She got a good commission if she could do that. And if neva have one pearl, she’d try talk story with ‘em and get ‘em for buy something else. She’d give ‘em one discount, so the tourists no feel like they wen get scammed. One time she got one tourist for buy not only da oyster that neva have pearl but also a real pearl necklace and one ring to match. That was one good day. She wen take us all out Sizzler for steak and all you can eat shrimp to celebrate. Was so ono.

I try catch one small kine wave onto the beach but it isn’t big enough for bodysurf. I dunk my head back into the water so my hair not all hamajang and walk to the stairs on the side of da seawall. I want for climb the rock wall next to the dock but I still small kine angry at my sister and I neva like hassle with her. I can see her scrambling up it like one monkey. She going jump in the water before me. I hope she try flip and land on her back. I know she going cry but I not going be looking. When I climb to the top, da pier stay busy. I can see one boat dropping off da tourists from the big cruise ship that stay out in the bay. Just great. They going be throwing coins in da water for us for dive. I know my sister going dive. She neva like spend any kine money but she sure like getting free kine money.

“Hey lolo get tourist stay coming. You going dive?”

“What you think? And no call me lolo or I going tell mom.”

I can hear them talking about us.

“Oh look at those cute little brown kids.”

“Aren’t they adorable? Look at them jump off the dock.”

The kids who like money always wait on the dock for see if da tourists going throw money or not. The kids who still stay in the water climb up so fast when they know they stay coming. I just sit on the side and wait for ‘em to pass. Some of the kids show off doing flips. I just roll my eyes.

“Should we throw some money in the water for them?”

“Do you think it’s safe?”

“Look at them. They are practically fish.”

I listen and stare at the dark steeple on top of Mokuaikaua Church. I don’t want ‘em talking to me.

We wen cross Ali’i Drive before mom’s work. We neva like get dirty lickins for bothering her. We wen walk under da big banyan tree next to Hulihe’e Palace, trying not for step on the squashed and stinky seeds all over the ground. The palace used to be the home of the ali’i when they wen stay in Kona. Now it’s one museum. I wen go there for one field trip. The beds stay huge. My tutu said da ali’i were real tall. He wen tell me King Kamehameha was over seven feet. I wen believe it. The palace stay across the street from the church. My dad said the church was the oldest one in Hawaii. We went to the Mormon church up Hamburger Hill so I never been inside. The outside was covered in lava rocks and cement like they wen just scoop up all da rocks around dem for make their church. The roof stay white but the steeple stay brown. I wen hear that the buildings in town no can be higher than the steeple. I was pretty sure da hotel was taller but maybe I stay wrong.

We wen walk along da palace’s rock wall before we wen get on da seawall. There was one baby beach but we neva like swim over there. It stay too shallow and we like jump. I wen try for help my little sister climb da wall which was higher than her. She was my kuleana but she really was one brat.

“I no need help.”


I wen watch her try lift her leg up over the top. She look like she was trying for climb out of the pool. Wen she almost wen make ‘em. I wen try push her okole up for help.

“I get ‘em. I get ‘em.” But she neva get ‘em. So I wen push her okole anyway. I was going laugh at her and ask her why she always neva go up da easy way, but I neva like make her mad because I neva like get hassle all day. She neva even wen say thank you. Then she wen start running.

“Ho slow down. You going fall in da water.”

“So what? I can swim.”

“Not if you hit your kolohe head on da rocks.”

“I no stay kolohe. I going tell mom you called me kolohe again.”

“Kule kule. You know she going give us dirty lickins if we stay bada her.”

“Then no tell me what for do.” See what I stay mean? Kolohe.

“Whatevahs. Go drown den. I no care.”

“I going tell mom you wen tell me for drown.”

“You stay crazy. You like run. Go den. Da wall stay slippery. You going fall. You going hit your head. You going drown.”

Lucky calm the water today so no stay slippery but she was too kolohe for notice. Sometimes get big waves and no can walk on da wall. When that happens, we sometimes sit across from it under da big banyan tree next to the Banyan Court Mall and laugh at da stupid tourists that walk on the sidewalk next to da wall. All the locals who stay working in the restaurants and shops just laugh wen da tourists get hit by big waves. I remember one time one guy was walking on the top and he neva even see da wave coming and he got hit so hard he fell off da wall onto Ali’i Drive. They wen have to call the ambulance. I neva wen laugh then.

“Hey little girl.”

I hope they aren’t talking to me. I look over and, of course, they are talking to my little sister. She smiles at them. Her teeth stay white in her dark summer skin. Her long brown hair stay wet against her back. She stay the perfect little Hawaiian. I see an old haole man waving a big quarter at her. I like tell her for no go but she neva stay listen to me.

“Would you like this quarter?”

I can see my sister’s smile get wider. She one shark now. She not going be one tiny manini. He throws it way out into the water. My sister’s eyes stay follow it until she knows where it’s going for hit and she runs and dives off da pier.

“Look at her go. I don’t know if I could swim half so well when I was her age. These kids must be born in the water.”

I like tell him that we wen learn because our dad wen throw us in and wen tell us for swim. Sink or swim. Not real hard for learn. My sister’s head pops out of the water and she’s holding the quarter.

“Hot damn! I can’t believe she actually found it.”

She puts the quarter in her mouth, swims back to the rock wall and crawls up it like a spider. She takes the quarter out of her mouth, smiles and shows it to the old haole man. His old haole wife looks at my sister with stink eye. “Thank you.” She says to the old haole couple.

“We better get going Herbert. We’ve got a lot of sightseeing to do and we have to be back at the boat by sunset.” She pulls her husband hard as he stay staring at my little sister’s wide happy smile.

Another tourist walks up to her. He’s holding a quarter too. “Would you like to dive for this one too?” She nods. She stay smiling still. I know what she stay thinking. She can buy one ice cream now or play two video games and she not going have to spend da money our mom wen give us. He throws the quarter way past where the old haole man with the angry haole wife wen throw his. Again, my sister, she stay watch it until it’s about to hit and she runs as hard as she can, jumps and dives as far as she can.

“Just look at her.”

He’s just staring at where my sister is swimming under the water. He’s not as old as the old haole man but he’s still old. He’s by himself. No more old stink eye haole wife. No more friends. He stay tall, wearing long white shorts and an orange striped shirt. He watches my sister. She’s taking her sweet time. Finally, I see him smile. His teeth stay white in his gold skin. I look out and I see her little head floating on the blue water and her arm is in the air. I neva going hear the end of it. She going brag about how she got both quarters all day. He waves at her, gives her a big thumbs up and walks along the pier to the seawall. I watch him go down Ali’i Drive, his shoulders and blonde head disappearing behind the wall as my sister climbs back up.

“You wen see dat? I da best!”

“Yeah yeah. No need get all high maka maka.”

“You stay jealous. Cuz you neva get free money.”

“I no stay jealous. I just no like tourists.”

“You stay crazy. Tourists stay give us money.”

“Yeah they stay give you money but it no stay free.”

“Why? We stay already swimming.”

“That no stay da point.”

“You jealous is why.”

I neva like keep hassling with her. “You stay pau swimming? I like go already.”

“I like try get more money.”

“No more any more tourists.” She looks around and they had all moved on to wherever tourists go when they come visit our island.

“Shoots. Let’s go.”

I pick up our clothes, our slippahs, and my backpack, and we walk across da pier to the other side where the hotel’s tourist beach stay. It get one shower we can use. We pass where one of the canoe clubs keep their canoes. They look ready for get in da water. Neva have too many tourists on da beach yet. We walk past the beach to the pool and I try not for listen to da tourists around us.

“This beach is very cute.”

“Yeah but it’s too small. Too bad it isn’t bigger like Waikiki.”

“Those tiki look strange. You’d think they’d be scarier.”

“I think that’s a temple but it’s not a very good tourist attraction. Why don’t they just tear it down and make something more interesting?”

“We went to the hotel’s luau last night. They pulled out a cooked pig from the ground.”

“Did you see those poor saps get pulled on stage? They made them wear coconut shell bras and grass skirts.”

There’s a big sign next to the pool entrance. Hotel Guests Only. I hate that sign. I neva like go swimming in their stupid pool anyways. I turn on the water and rinse all the salt and sand off of me. I think about sitting on the lounge chairs by the pool or soaking in their hot tub.

“Hyaku. You taking forevah.”

“Kule kule. I trying for get da sand out of my suit.”

I get out and my sister gets in. I dry off and wait for her.

“Now who stay taking forevah?”

“I getting out already.” She dries off and we go to the bathroom nearby. It’s still clean. Neva have all the sand from all the tourists and locals yet.

“One day I going get so much money for diving. I bet I going get five dollars.”

“You going have to dive like twenty-fives times. You stay crazy.”

“Why bada you?”

“What tourist get twenty-fives quarters for throw you? You so lolo.”

“I not lolo.” She gives me the stink eye as she walks out of the bathroom. I wen follow her because I know she stay getting ready for do something stupid like call mom on da payphone.

“Hey where you stay going?” She neva answer me and I knew she going try for get me dirty lickins.

“Fine den. You not lolo.” She stops. “You know tourists no care what kid go dive for them, right? They just like watch you get their money.”

“So? It’s free money. I no care. I stay like diving.” She looks at me. She neva have stink eye so I know I stay safe.

“I know dat but it no stay free. You like diving but you stay diving for tourists.” I look at all the tourists sitting on the beach in front of da hotel. “They no care. They just want one show.” She looks at them.

“Maybe I no care. Maybe they stay lolo for giving me free money.”

We walk past the shower by the hotel pool, the beach that get too many tourists, the canoes that stay ready for da water, back to da pier and all the kids that still stay diving and swimming. We climb up on da seawall, leaving the pier behind.


Melissa Llanes Brownlee is a Native Hawaiian writer. She received her MFA in Fiction from UNLV. Her work has appeared in Booth: A Journal, The Notre Dame Review, Pleiades, The Citron Review, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the 2018 New American Fiction Prize and the 2019 Brighthorse Prize. She likes to talk story at www.melissallanesbrownlee.com.

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