Sherri and I were walking home from school when we saw Roger playing in the street. We always walked through Kaimalino Housing. That’s where all the people on food stamps lived. Kaimalino was old with paint that looked like black lines dripping down to the concrete and skinny louvered windows that stared down at you as you walked by. Roger was in Mr. Chee’s class with us, but we knew he was lolo because he went to a special room for lolo kids. His hair was always dirty, he probably had ukus, and his clothes were always ripped up and holey. Even his slippahs had holes in them. Kaimalino had a huge monkey pod tree that dropped pods all down the slanting street, getting squished by cars, and sometimes we would throw the pods at some of the kids that lived there because they were on food stamps and my mom said that people on food stamps were lazy. Teri, dea stay Rogah. Let’s go make fun of him, let’s try make him cry. Nah, I no like. How come? You chicken? I no stay chicken. I just like go home watch She-Ra. Let’s just throw some monkey pods at him and go home. I still gotta cook rice and clean da bathroom before I get dirty lickins. Shoots, we go. I liked Sherri. She lived two streets up from me, and she was in the same Ward. We played together at school and sometimes at church, if we could get away with it, and told people that we were calabash cousins, even though we really wanted to be sisters. Walking over to where Roger was playing with his Transformers, I wondered where he got them because his mom was on Welfare and both my parents worked, and I never got toys to play with. I didn’t even have a Barbie doll. Sherri bent down and picked up a pod from the ground. It looked like a long curving claw that belonged to one of those monsters we read about in school during story time. She started to sing Rogah is lolo, Rogah is lolo, and she threw the pod at his face. She missed, but Roger looked up and smiled. Why you stay smiling? Stupid ha’ole. Don’t you know when people stay making fun of you? I picked up a pod, the sap sticking to my fingers, and threw it at his head. I didn’t miss, and he started crying. Rogah is lolo. Rogah is lolo. Why for you stay crying, ha’ole? Stop crying, or else we going beef you. You like me give you something to cry about? I going, you know, if you no stop crying. He just kept crying. Hanabata was hanging down his nose, and he wasn’t even wiping it off. I just wanted to keep throwing monkey pods until he knew how stupid he looked. I bent down to pick up another pod, but my hand grabbed a rock. It felt sharp in my hands and the gray dirt stuck to the sap between my fingers and on my palm. I saw Roger’s head, and all I wanted to do was throw that rock as hard as I could. Maybe then he would stop being so lolo and I would stop wanting to hurt him. Rogah is lolo. Rogah is lolo. And, all I wanted to do was stop her and stop him. I knew if I threw it hard enough, they would both shut up. I just wanted to throw and throw. Stop crying, stop crying, stop crying. I lifted my arm over my head and let fly. Rogah is lolo. Rogah is lolo. Rogah is lolo. The rock hit him right in the face and Sherri shut up. He just sat there, not crying, and I wanted to tell him, what, one rock finally shut you up, but I didn’t. Then, he started to cry, but it wasn’t the loud cry from before, it was a quiet cry. His body just shook, and I didn’t like it. I wanted the loud cry back. Sherri touched my arm. We started walking, and I could just barely hear Roger crying, and I wasn’t mad at him for being lolo anymore and for having Transformers when I couldn’t even have a Barbie. I just wanted to go home and watch cartoons. I got home and cleaned the bathroom and straightened up my room and cooked the rice and did my homework in front of the TV. He-Man was fighting the evil Skeletor and She-Ra was lost and the SDF-1 was stranded out towards Pluto and had to fight its way back through the Zentradi fleet to Earth. I heard my mom’s car in the garage. She was home early. I quickly turned off the TV and sat at the kitchen table, pretending I was doing my homework. 9 times 9 is 81. 8 times 9 is 72. I hated the times tables, but we got gold stars, if we finished the fastest. My mom came in; I got up and gave her a kiss. She smelled like the bank she worked at, like money, or, how I thought money smelled like. How was your day, mom? Teri-girl, how come you didn’t change out of your school clothes? Didn’t you clean the bathroom today? I thought I told you to clean the bathroom. I did clean it. Don’t you talk back to me. She turned me around and pulled at my school clothes. Then, she walked into the bathroom and lifted the seat. I see you did clean it. Well as long as you didn’t ruin your school clothes. Go change right now, and come help me with dinner. Yes, mom. After I changed clothes, I walked back into the kitchen and my mom was standing by the sink, washing lettuce. Teri-girl, where’s the Tupperware you took your lunch in? In my backpack. You never clean them out yet? No, I neva. You come here, right now. Why? Don’t you make me ask you again. I walked over to her at the kitchen sink and she had the big wooden spoon in her hand. I knew I was going to get it, because I forgot to clean out her Tupperware when I got home. She hit me on the head real hard because I have a real hard head, at least that’s what she says, and I started crying. No cry or I going really give you something to cry about. She raised the spoon above my head. I tried to stop crying, but my head really hurt. I rubbed my nose on my shirtsleeve and she hit me on the head again. Damn that spoon hurt. I was grateful that was the first thing she grabbed to hit me with. Could’ve been my dad’s army belt. One time she got so mad at me and my baby sister because we ate all her Oreos that she made us pull down our pants and she had my dad give us lickins with his army belt. That belt had ridges on its buckle to keep the belt in place and when my dad whacked me with that part of it, it would catch and yank skin off. My ‘okole was sore for weeks. I even had to go to a slumber party, where all the girls showered together, and I couldn’t because I didn’t want them to see the bruises and scabs. So I was pretty happy it was just the wooden spoon and not the belt, or the vacuum cord, or the cast iron frying pan, or the back of a knife. I rubbed my face on my sleeve again. Go get it, now. She hit me on my ‘okole as I walked to my backpack by the kitchen table. I pulled out the yellow square as big as my hands. There was still food inside and I knew my mom would know that I ate school lunch instead of home lunch, and I was really going to get it, but it was hamburger day and that beats mushy canned corn beef any day. You kids, you neva appreciate anything. Dad and I, we work all day. Your dad, he gets up four o’clock in the morning to work at the hotel and for what? So his kids no appreciate what he works so hard for buy? She raised the spoon again. I tried to duck out of the way when I gave her the Tupperware, but she pulled on one of my braids, yanking me back towards the sink. I almost yelled out, but I knew if I did she would pop me one in the mouth. What is this? You neva eat your lunch? I didn’t want to say anything, but I knew that she would whack me if I didn’t. I neva like eat em, was hambaga day at school, so I when eat that. I was crying. Her hand was still pulling my hair. I wondered if my older sister hadn’t braided my hair, would mom have been able to grab me so easily? I hated my sister. This was all her fault. She should never have braided my hair. I wouldn’t be getting lickins from my mom, if it wasn’t for her. So you when eat that, huh? You when waste good food, so you can eat hamburger? Well you going eat it now. She opened up the container, a stinky sweet smell reached out to my nose. She shoved the Tupperware in my face. Eat it, eat it now. I want you to lick it clean. I don’t want to. She hit me across the back and then on the head again. If you don’t, I’m getting the belt. Eat it. The smell made me want to throw up, and I didn’t want to eat it, but I knew that if I didn’t, she would really give me dirty dirty lickins, so I lifted the mushy sandwich to my mouth and shoved it in because I really didn’t want it in my mouth, and I held my breath as I chewed and my mother just stared at me with that look. I swear she just wanted to break me into little pieces and dump me in the ocean. I was trying so hard not to cry and I wanted to really throw up because I had to breathe and the mushy sandwich was so gross, but if I spat it out, she would get the belt. I swallowed and she hit me on the head again, and I ran to the bathroom and threw up. She came running after me. Why are you throwing up? Don’t you dare throw up! I couldn’t stop. I just kept throwing up and crying, and I was glad I did change into my home clothes because there was hanabata and mushy corn beef and Roman Meal bread down the front of my t-shirt. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to put my hands over my head, but she just kept hitting me again and again, and I couldn’t stop heaving. I wanted her to stop. I wanted her to be a good mother. I wanted her to bake cookies. My hands felt broken as she hit them out of the way. Finally, she stopped hitting me and sat down next to me. I’m sorry. Sometimes you kids make me so mad. She rubbed my back right where she hit me and I tried not to move. Why don’t you go ‘au ‘au, and then go to bed. I’ll bring you some milk to settle your stomach. She got up and walked out. I tried to stand, but my legs wouldn’t hold me up. I crawled into the shower and took off my home clothes and tried to clean myself up. I couldn’t stop crying. On TV, parents don’t make their kids eat rotten food. I wiped myself off and picked up my throw up clothes. I tried to rinse them but pieces of bread and corn beef stayed stuck to my t-shirt. I squeezed out the water. I tried to clean the tub and the toilet but my head and hands hurt. I knew I was going to get it for messing up the bathroom. I walked to my bedroom and put on my sleeping clothes. I wiped my eyes and nose on the towel before wrapping my hair because I’m not supposed to sleep with wet hair. It was heavy and made me feel like my hair would come out. I tried to stop crying. I went back to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I couldn’t go to bed without brushing my teeth and my breath smelled like throw up. I didn’t look in the mirror. I got my toothbrush and put toothpaste on it. I looked at my arms and hands. I wondered what I would tell Sherri. I knelt down by my bed. I ran a finger along a single raised stripe. I put my hands together, bowed my head and closed my eyes. Dear Heavenly Father, please bless my mother and father. Please bless my sisters and Sherri, and also please bless Roger. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. I pulled off the bedspread and folded it neatly. I got under the blanket and pulled it up to my chin. I closed my eyes. I imagined a mother tucking me in and kissing my forehead and telling me she loved me and to have sweet dreams. And I prayed.
-- Melissa Llanes Brownlee is a writer born and raised in Hawaii. She graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with an MFA in Fiction. She then moved to Japan to teach English as an Assistant Language Teacher, where she continues to do so. Her work will appear in the Fall 2015 issue of Waccamaw, a journal of contemporary literature, as well as in Issue 5 of the Guide to Kulchur Creative Journal.