Philip K. Ige
From Bamboo Ridge Press, Issue One
Two blocks past Johnson’s Five and Ten in the town of Kaimuki, Satoshi Ikehara, standing in the rear of a jam-packed Honolulu bus, woke up from his stupor with a start, looked outside, and nudged his little brother who stood beside him. “Hey, Yuki, we pass da store again.”
“We forget to get off by Johnson Store an’ buy flea-powder — you know, for Blackie.”
“Oh, yeah. How many times we goin’ forget anyway? Four times already, no-o?”
“Yeah. We no can get off now — too late. We got to go home.”
“’At’s okay. We can buy ’em tomorrow — Saturday.”
“I know; but Blackie cry, you know. He get so many fleas. He feel itchy an’ he cry, you know.”
“Yeah, I know. Yesterday I saw him scratchin’ up. He no can scratch da back part ’at’s why he onny cry, so I been scratch his back for him. He f-e-e-l good. He no cry.” An old Caucasian woman, sitting in a seat before them, looked up and smiled at them. The boys smiled shyly back and quickly turned their eyes away. They stopped talking.
The trolley slowed down to a halt at the end of the line in Waialae. They boarded a gasoline-engine bus, which crawled ponderously out of the terminal and roared down the tree-lined highway stretching toward Koko Head. Several minutes later in their front yard, which was also a part of the road going into the garage, a dog of mixed breed, not yet full grown, greeted them with yelps and leaps of exuberant affection.
“Hello, Blackie. Sit down, boy, sit down.” Satoshi stooped down and patted the dog. “Atta boy, Blackie, good boy. Shake hand, Blackie. Come on, shake hand —” The dog began to offer its right paw, but withdrew it suddenly and began scratching its side vigorously. It scratched now under its belly, now behind its ears, now here, and there, scratching and biting and whining.
“Come on, Yuki, scratch his back for him. You no can see he sufferin’?” Yuki ran his little fingers through the animal’s thick black coat as if with a comb. The dog complained no more.
“Come, we go in, Yuki.” Satoshi opened the door and they entered. From inside, he saw, through the screen door, the dog scratching again. Then he saw it run toward the garage, stop abruptly, and resume scratching with painful, angry whines. An uncomfortable feeling of guilt swept over him and he said to himself that tomorrow, for sure, he was going to buy the box of flea-powder at Johnson’s Five and Ten.
The following morning, having been awake earlier than usual to finish their chores on the farm, they were on their way to buy the box of flea-powder. The trolley stopped in front of Johnson’s Five and Ten to take on more passengers. A clock within the store was visible from the trolley. “Hey, Yuki, onny about twelve o’clock,” Satoshi said pointing to the clock. “What you say we go see movies first.”
“Movies? Where? Downtown?”
“Yeah. We can buy da flea-powder when we comin’ back.”
“Uh-h, boy, we go quick!”
They had seen the movies and at three-thirty were out of the theater, seated on a trolley homeward bound. The sun was warm. The song of the speeding tires was like a lullaby. A lazy, drowsy sensation crept over them. Satoshi slouched down in the soft seat and closed his eyes. Yuki stared in front of him, his eyes half-closed. Twenty minutes passed. Satoshi remained nestled in his seat. Yuki stared drowsily at the bright red and yellow hibiscus in a woman’s smooth blonde hair in front of him. Presently the woman’s hand reached out and began scratching her head. A thought struck Yuki; he came to life.
“Fleas —,” he said. The young woman’s hand dropped down swiftly to her side. “Hey, Satoshi, wake up. We stay in Kaimuki already.”
“We got to buy flea-powder — for Blackie.”
“Oh yeah!” Satoshi glanced outside. “Pull da buzzer quick.” Yuki yanked the cord. The trolley stopped just across from Johnson’s Five and Ten. They rushed off the trolley, hurried across the street and into the store.
When they reached home about four their father stood waiting for them at the front door. “Put that truck in the garage before it gets dark,” he said to Satoshi.
“Okay.” Satoshi turned to his little brother. “Now at las’,” he said, “we goin’ put da flea-powder on Blackie. Here, take dis flea-powder an’ wait for me by da garage. I goin’ put da truck in.”
Satoshi walked to the old truck parked up the road, which ran beside and in front of their house and into the garage. He jumped on and as he pressed the clutch pedal and put the gear in neutral, Blackie crawled out from under the truck to his accustomed place in the front of the truck, intending to escort it to the entrance of the garage. Down the small incline the truck began to roll, slowly at first, then gradually gaining momentum. The dog romped merrily in front of the truck, pausing now and then to bite into his flesh or scratch behind his ears.
“Doggone crazy dog,” Satoshi muttered as he nearly struck the dog once.
Suddenly, with an angry, painful whine, Blackie dropped his hindquarters to the ground and fiercely began to scratch the side of his ribs. The truck rolled on. “Look out, Satoshi, Blackie!” An agonizing cry. A sudden screeching of brakes. Satoshi jumped out of the truck. Yuki dashed over. A moment of speechless watching and silent suffering followed.
“Why you never tell me stop more quick, you,” Satoshi said bitterly.
“No can help. He been stop too quick in front da tire — was too late.”
“See, look now. Blackie dead. ’At’s your fault, you know.”
“’At’s not my fault. You been run over him.”
“Why you never tell me stop more quick, den? ’At’s your fault. If you been tell me stop more quick, I no was goin’ hit ’em.”
“I no care. ‘At’s your fault you no like buy da flea-powder more quick ’at’s why.”
“Ah-h, shullup. You never buy ’em, too. ’At’s your fault, too.”
“’At’s not my fault. I never drive da truck.”
“You like get lickin’. I said ’at’s your fault.”
“I no care. I never —”
“Shullup, I said. You like get black eye. I said ’at’s your fault — you never tell me stop more quick.”
“I never drive da truck.”
“Hey, you! You get sassy some more, I goin’ — ah, look! Blackie movin’. He no dead. He shakin’ his leg. Look!”
“’At’s right! Look. He sittin’ down now. He lookin’ at us.”
“Yeah, ’at’s right. Ah, look, he scratchin’ again! Queek, Yuki, gimme da flea-powder —.”
Dr. Philip Ige, Ph.D., was one of the first writers to use Pidgin in his works. He was previously provost of Kaua‘i Community College and Leeward Community College, as well as a former Hawai‘i DOE administrator. Ige earned his doctorate from Columbia University in 1968.