Short Stories


1  Reunion : Available from Amazon Books

2   Guiding Star Available from Amazon Books;

3   The Tramway

4   Grandmother's Diary; Available from Amazon Books;

5   The Fish Hook

6   The Lizard God

7   At His Moument




Guiding Star

The Tramway

Guests at the governor of American Samoa’s mansion, were greeted by a driver and waiting car at the foot of an inclined driveway.
Two by two, and four by four, guests were chauffeured up a winding road flanked by a tropical rainforest. Once the cars reached the top of the drive a smartly uniformed greeter opened the door and escorted them to the bottom of the steps leading to the porch of the great old house. Governor’s had lived there for more than one hundred years. During the naval era the governor’s and their military guests were uniformed in polished whites This night the host and his guests were attired in what was known as island formal. For men, dress consisted of a flowered shirt and light colored slacks or khakis. Women wore off the shoulder evening dresses with billow skirts that allowed passage of air in the humidity.
Forty years ago Paul wasn’t afforded the luxury that came so easily tonight. Then he was one of many who had come to the island to perform and represent his own island nation. Then he carried the burden of unofficial ambassador. Tonight he is the ambassador with portfolio. He didn’t, however, forget the time a couple of generations ago when, in his youth, he played the role of keeper of the culture. Paul was a performer of arts and beliefs so essential to his upbringing he barely recognized that not everyone shared in such an intense, yet singular understanding of ways of living and life and the reality of what it means to belong to a Pacific clan.


The greeter opened the car door and Paul stepped into the receding daylight. He was surprised to find that the governor himself was there to offer the traditional welcomes of a flowered wreath and a hug kiss that officially admitted him to the evening’s festivities. There were, of course, other faces he was long familiar with. Long time diplomats who curried his favor over the years in exchange for the support of members when crucial votes in the United Nations spelled thumbs up or thumbs down on issues such as global disarmament, international courts of justice and unilateral trade agreements. He spoke easily to them. Once, forty years ago, Paul represented his nation. Tonight, as was the case of many nights, he was his nation’s face.
The barman drew Paul’s favorite late afternoon drink and Paul stepped onto the veranda that overlooked the great harbor. The fog of years lifted as he recalled events of his past trips to the island. He saw the old hotel where bands played deep into the night and when they stopped guests coupled and went off for midnight swims at the hotel beach. He saw below the stretch of beach where once houses stood, occupied by contract workers who provided essential services. Trying to recall the once familiar layout, he thought he recalled the house occupied by the staff nurses who attended all residents of the island either in the military quarters or at the public health station.
Once Paul’s mind grabbed a piece of the past his memory bank flowed with a stream of long forgotten events. It was the kind of a moment when forty years flash by in an instant and an experience comes to life as clearly and vividly as if it were happening just now.
Paulo turned quickly to see what his friends and fellow entertainers had already noticed. She was a Caucasian woman not more than twenty- four, only slightly older than Paulo. She was dressed in nurses’ whites with a bib cover over a white collared blouse. Even in the heat she wore white, semi sheer nylons and pump shoes that steadied her stature. It was a fleeting glance, one of forbidding intent. And one that came and went as quickly as a furtive sentiment between two young people yearning to meet and say something more but never consummating the opportunity. That was forty years ago. But he didn’t forget. Later that evening Paulo broke from his fellow performers and made his way back past the house where the nurses were boarded. This time she came to him directly and made herself welcome. She was an American. The first American he had ever met. They talked about the mundane topics that make up an awkward union touched by nothing less than inquisitiveness and nothing more than healthy lust. That night they walked along the ocean’s edge and shared ten thousand miles of lives about families and ideas and where they wanted to be in ten, twenty, thirty years. She seemed so confident. Paulo seemed so insecure. When in a long and undecided lengthy minute the couple was drawn to the water and its darkness and coolness and foreboding. Where in daylight, blue and azure and ripples of white edge a break in the reef, where now a mystery of the unknown of what lie beneath the water was as unsure of what could happen next unfolded. At high tide they only needed to take a few steps before they were waist high in the water. The depth when the buoyant salt sea makes a body float and rise and ebb in the waves. They romanced and shared long, languorous kisses and explored each other’s body.
What seemed like what would never end, ended. She was on call she said and he was not the decider. Had she? Played him for the moment? Tested the potential of another world or sank into the life deeper and more meaningful than when just a passing glance with no denouement tugged and teased at the inquisitive mind of a young woman.
In those moments it all came back to Paul. Forty years as if it was happening now, right now. As if it was still happening or could happen.
More cars arrived and more guests. The crescendo of the formal party grew into the hum of new friendships and old acquaintances. There were Paul’s old friends from Hawaii and from Tahiti and Wellington in New Zealand.
Paul, though, slipped away from the crowd and found a bench in a darkened corner of a garden near the open house of the traditional kind where chiefly meetings and family events normally took place in villages. “Remember me Paulo?” She was about Paul’s age maybe a little older but he was confounded. He wanted to remember. Wanted to say how lovely it is to see you again. He wanted to rekindle a moment in the past but there was no spark, no flash. No vivid recall of professional or personal acquaintance. She persisted. “I’m surprised because we met right up there”. She pointed to the overhead cable that once ran the now inoperable tramway that stretched an unimaginable distance across a span of the great harbor. “We rode together that day, just you and I in the gondola to the top of that mountain. It was cool there when we reached the top. Don’t you remember? I can see it in my mind like it happened just yesterday”. Paul could not remember. Could not recall that day or whatever happened on that mountaintop.
But now he saw and recognized a different light. Why, he asked himself, try to remember something that will not come back from the mind’s recesses? Take this moment, this friendship and relinquish the hindrance of time. “If I recall,” she added, “the cable car entrance is just up this hill.” The two found themselves heading up the hill along a dirt track woven through dense underbrush. The fading light made the way even less certain. Paul was gladly overcome by his mystery guide. Hand in hand they clutched roots and branches and handholds to further and further inch themselves up. A twig snapped and the sweet smell of the tropical bush revealed itself. They reached a clearing where the old cable car once traveled.
From the governor’s mansion to this place where the mouth of the harbor opened and the expanse of the Pacific showed the width and depth of infinity Paul knew and she knew. The reality of their fantasy was conceived. Now disregarding the past, if not spoken, then surely silently agreed upon, they delved into a place in their minds confirming the reason they came to this island deep in the Pacific in the first place. To retrace the romance and to experience the mystery one more time. To step into the black water and love to live. To ignore the past that carried of names and suits and titles and chauffeur driven cars.
They walked along a set of steps until they reached a lookout where surely lovers had rendezvoused and met and embraced and loved. She slipped into his arms and wanted to be loved because there may never be another time she surely knew. And he knew too and he loved her and she loved him.


Grandmother's Diary

“We know,” she said.

She, being Dr. Elise Tournotte, a professor of Pacific Culture at the prestigious Elysee de Cultur Pacific d’Sud in Noumea, New Caledonia,

“that ancient Pacific islanders were primitive people who did not advance past stone age technology until the arrival of western explorers well into the nineteenth century.”


The Fish Hook
 I looked at him and saw the resemblance. He looked like me. I can’t say it was the eyes or the nose or the mouth or even the fact that our skin color was brown; but not quite brown like you might think of as brown. There was some yellow. I see people whose skin is brown too. Usually their skin is more brown than mine. When they go in the sun their skin gets really dark; really brown. His was not like that. His skin was more oriental. I don’t want to say that because I never thought of him as a Chinese or Korean. 
That was two years ago. I still think about him. We message each other a lot still. Those were such joyous days. It was a time when we could go back to olden days of our ancestors. Days when time stopped for a while; when we wore costumes that bespoke a time when things were more natural. I’ll never know the real time back then. Even my grandfather doesn’t know that time. What’s important is that that time existed. Those ancestral days are in my blood forever. His ancestry is in his blood too. Maybe that is why we still talk. We are related. 

Two years ago, when we first met, it was different. We wanted to be together and find things about us that we could talk about; and relate to. And convince each other that we liked, and loved, one another. Today it is so much different. We are together. We do love each other. Our relationship is deep and meaningful and spiritual. These days our souls touch where before only our bodies came together. I’m not sure if I will ever see him again or if our bodies will ever come together again like they did then. Now we are more apart and at the same time so much more together. I’ve decided that the love we have for each other will finally be consummated, again, in a spirit world. That’s how we are related now; as spirits. 

That’s not at all how it began. We were so naive. Now I feel so much more mature about myself, about who I am and where I came from and who my mighty ancestors were and why the beliefs and feelings I have today originated so long ago. He and I discovered these feelings together and I will never forget, or regret, that time. My daughter turns two next week. 

I’m a single mom and proud of it.

The day when we met, or more exactly the day I discovered I had a huge crush on him, was his day to perform. This may sound strange but what attracted me to him, aside from the fact that he was, and still is, so handsome, was the way he walked. I mean he was noble like a high chief. But what really got my attention was the fish hook he was wearing around his neck. His fish hook was almost exactly like the one my grandfather wears when the council of chiefs meet in the village house in our village. He’s from Yap. That is an island in the Pacific that is way west and north of here. So I wondered why his fish hook looked like my grandfather’s. So I asked him.

“I love your fish hook. Where did you get it?”

 He looked at me quite intensely. I’m sure no young woman, I don’t and never have considered myself a girl, had asked him that question before.

“It’s not mine,” he answered, looking me directly in the eye which I thought was so cool. 

“It belongs to my grandfather. Grandfather told me it belonged to his grandfather which makes it pretty old.” 

He took the fish hook off from around his neck and handed it to me.

As I held the piece in my hand a certain feeling overcame me, and I’m not kidding. You would think the shell it was made from would be rough. It was was smooth, like someone had held it in their hand many, many times. I gave it back to him. I thought about my grandfather’s fish hook. I wanted to run back home and feel his fish hook in my hand to see if it too was smooth in the same places. I believed it would be.

To be honest my next impulse was to touch his skin and to caress his shoulder where the lanyard holding the fish hook turned around his neck and dipped onto his chest. I wanted to but I didn’t.

“Are you performing?” he asked.

“No, actually I’m a volunteer. I’m supposed to help the visitors acclimate themselves to the island and feel at home.”

“Oh wow”, He said. “Maybe you are the person I’ve been looking for.”

“Go ahead,” I answered. “Tell me what you want.”

“What I want is to eat some food that reminds me of home. I’m from Yap in the Marshall Islands”.

“Well,” I said, “I’m not really sure what they eat in Yap.”

“We eat mostly the same things as all Pacific Islanders, taro, coconut, yams and breadfruit. I thought I would find something similar here, but I haven’t.”

“Oh, “ I replied, “we have all of that. You just have to know where to find it.”

That being the case I invited him to come with me. We headed for the farmer’s market together. He changed out of his performance costume and put on a T-shirt and sandals he had stored in a plastic bag. He was wearing shorts under his costume anyway. So we looked OK together. I was wearing a lava lava over my shorts and a tube top with regular old jandals. He kept grandfather’s fish hook around his neck.

I was trying to think of something to say to him that would start a conversation.

“How did you get picked to be a performer”, I asked

“I’ve always been interested in our culture,” he answered. “Its really fascinating to think about where our ancestors came from and how we have come to honor and uphold the traditions we have now.”

“Really, what do you mean”, I asked.

“I mean I come from a small island like yours and some time ago, long ago, people on boats from another place found our island, settled there, and established a life for their ancestors to be, which are us.”

“I guess you could say that about my ancestors too.” I deduced. 

“Does that mean we are all related?”

“It means we all have a common heritage of Pacific people.” he said.

Along the way to the market place we passed a community hall where mostly women were playing bingo. It sounded like they were having fun so we looked inside. At the front of the stage was a large metal cage filled with numbered balls. The bingo woman turned the cage as the balls mixed themselves into a random sort so that when the turning stopped and a ball fell out of the cage and into a slot no one could ever say for sure how that particular ball, with its number, was chosen over all the rest of the balls. She called out the number of the ball and the bingo players oohed and aaahed simultaneously and  at different pitches because the number called matched, or didn’t match, the number on their card which brought them closer, or farther. from the eureka experience of calling out the magical word, “bingo” and the right to step ahead of the crowd and have a bingo worker call out the numbers of a row that made her the winner.

“I suppose that’s the chance our ancestors took too,” he said. “Maybe that’s why they like to play so much. Anyone can win.”

“It seems there are more losers than winners,” I said.?

“The ancient voyagers”, he said, “they kind of knew where they were going but it was always a chance that something might go wrong. That’s what we have in common. Our ancestors took a chance on hitting the island right on the mark. We are, then, the lucky ones, the strong ones, who succeeded. But not without help.”

“What kind of help?” I asked

He took a hold of the fish hook and held it away from his chest so that I might see it more clearly. 

“There is power in this.” he said. 

“ My ancestors carried this to help them make the right decisions about how to find the island when they were at sea. I use it today because I have made a long journey to this island. When I need guidance, I go to the fish hook that has passed down over the centuries through my family. Feel how smooth it is? That’s from my family using it over and over and over again for the guidance and spiritual advice it gives.”

I thought about my grandfather and his fish hook. I looked at him and saw in his face and eyes three thousand years of voyaging from ancient Asia until now. I saw his eyes closer to Asia than mine and his skin a bit yellower than mine. But in all of that I felt the fellow traveler of a Pacific man who knew the risks and the chances of succeeding and of the possibility of failure not unlike the bingo players who pack up their bags and go home for the night, but the men and women who plowed through the waves certain that the skills of their captains and navigators and boat builders and the gods of the heavens and the celestial sky and the trees of the forest would propel them to safety and another bit of land where they could rest until the next urge to move ahead and find a new place overtook them. The most adventurous people the world has ever known and they were his and my ancestors. And I was totally, helplessly in love with him and certain that before too long, maybe in an hour or so, I would fall into his arms and we would come together much as those brave adventurers did so long ago. I had found my adventure and would not, could not, let it go unfulfilled.

After crossing a small stream bridged by a rickety structure the market appeared before us. First a glow behind a small hill and then in full form. The market was inside a building built by Korean people for a long forgotten fishing fleet that served the canneries just a short distance up the harbor. The upturned roof with its red tiles and bright mosaic tiled walls never really seemed conspicuous to me before. But tonight, looking at his Asian features and knowing that my and his ancestors were of a common stock somewhere on dry land west of the first Pacific islands, this market place drew us together as kin. He picked out pieces of baked taro and coconut milk baked in young taro shoots. There were small slipper crabs so succulent and sweet. He choose his pieces carefully and surely, knowing which ones were bruised or not fully cooked which could leave an itchy taste in your mouth. We paid and walked away.

Just before the small bridge, to the right, was a stand of large mangrove trees. Their roots spread out wide to anchor the tree tops in violent storms. How many generations those trees had stood the test of the environment and nature’s throes I cannot say. 

We made our bed there, ate our food and relived the ways our ancestors crossed the waves, settled in, and made the babies that we call our great and greater and greatest of all grandparents.



Nadia and Sven lived a half a world apart. Yet it was on Tutuila, a small island in the Pacific, where they learned how their own cultural veneer  could be either projected, absorbed or swallowed in a period of three months.

She was born and raised in the Philippines in a coastal village fifty miles from the capital city of Manila on the island of Luzon. Sven from Sweden. His parent’s home is in Helsingborg, also a coastal town. It sits just across a narrow straight of water from Helsingor, Denmark where Hamlet’s Castle in Shakespeare's play stands. Sven’s parents own a summer lodge on the inner banks of a glacial fjord three hundred miles farther north in Norway.

Both young students found their way to Tutuila by enrolling on-line in the local community college academic programs. Nadia signed up for the nursing program and Sven enrolled in rainforest biology and coral reef ecology. Nadia planned to immigrate to the United States with her nursing degree and license. Sven would be heading back to Sweden to pursue his undergraduate degree in environmental studies.

From these two divergent backgrounds, two young people were cast together to sort out uninhibited emotions of youth and to explore individual aspirations. Like so many young people on a journey, they hoped to find new meanings in life and, in doing so, bear the risk between personal exhilaration and disappointment. 

What lay ahead was a period of time punctuated by study, academic routines and student life. And by an experience. For Sven at least, his experience could only be classified as naturalistic and psychic. Nadia seemed more grounded, practical.

The best way to explain the events that followed would be to say Nadia and Sven entered a zone of psychic awareness. This "zone" aroused primal instincts of the union and spirituality of an ancient culture’s deeply held religious beliefs.

The hallways of the community college were sectioned off by academic disciplines such as science, English, social studies and the arts. So when Nadia and Sven started their coursework that summer it was to be expected that the nursing and biology classrooms were not far from each other. The reef and ocean science classrooms were there too. Aside from the fact they were both students at the same school almost everything else about them was different. Nadia’s family scraped to pay for her tuition and living expenses in the hope that a good job in the United States would soon pay off with a nurse’s salary. 

Sven’s family considered his trip to Tutuila a social learning experience. The cost was negligible. They knew an environmental learning experience in the South Pacific would enrich his life in addition to the already long list of study adventures he had taken such as his trip to the south pole three summers earlier.

Nadia was a Pacific islander by birth. Her Filipino heritage accustomed her to Tutuila’s tropical green plant life of bananas, coconut palms and especially the aqua marine coral reef that fringed the island. For Sven the beginning of a new adventure and immersion into a new culture was something he had done all of his young life. His family had vacationed on Mykanos off the Greek Adriatic coast and spent several weeks on a cruise up the Amazon which passed primitive villages deep in the rainforest.

The arcs of their separate lives heretofore, however, would behold a psychic energy when combined, far exceeded each of their single identities and opposites.

When they parted at the end of the summer term their physical beings would no longer be together. But in their spirit world, when sleep overtook them both, simultaneously, they meet again and again in a dream world, but not a dream, where sounds and smells find each other and breath finds breath and blood was shared when there was no wound but only the opening of the flesh where they touched to feel the warm warmth of human life in a free and carefree world where our personal ghosts rule the senses because in the infinity of the mind all things are real when we cease the sensory perceptions of our waking hours. 

Nadia was born to the notion that lives have spiritual lives within them. She felt guided to the island by a force she well respected and followed. Once she arrived on Tutuila, those forces began to reshape themselves from her home island. She noticed small things like the way the tropic birds played in the currents and how the frigates scanned the reefs. She saw the herons and listened and attuned to their cries. 

“May I sit down?” Sven had noticed Nadia in the hallway on several occasions since classes began three weeks earlier. Now she was seated with her friends in the school cafeteria chatting casually in Tatalog, the language of the Philippines. When Sven was invited to join the group of young women, all of whom bore a striking resemblance; jet black hair, olive skin, diminutive, but stately stature and the noticeable resemblance of Spanish beauty, indeed a part of their inherited ancestry. Looks aside, Nadia included, the young women were islanders. Their deep and long historical past had its roots in people of the sea, something that would not be lost on Sven before the summer ended.

“My name is Sven. I have come from Sweden to Study in American Samoa.” 

The young women, all students in the nursing division, appeared shy in his presence. Sven’s blond hair, so modernly spikeynordic blue eyes shot glances among them like crystals of ice carved from a glacier. His looks were piercing unlike what they were accustomed to. Each of them wondered what he might be like outside the constraints of the college campus. Had Sven noticed, or cared to notice, several of the women, Nadia too, drew a bead of nervous perspiration at the spot  between the place where the vocal chords protruded from the neck to where the cleavage of their breast began. All of the women could feel their breasts firm merely from the excitement of his presence. They cast their eyes down and sloped their shoulders to mask the emotion which overran them.

“What classes are you taking?” he asked.

Nadia answered since it was apparent Sven had directed his question to her. Her friends demurred, hoping perhaps Nadia would be a conduit of the quietly known but little spoken knowledge that marriage to a European or American was another ticket to a new life far away from the isolation and bare existence they all knew as children.

“We are all nurses, or should I say, nursing students.” she answered in quite a bright and confident manner which pleased Sven.

”In the Philippines we are considered nurses but none of us have licenses to work in the United States ,so we are here to earn our registered nurse license and hopefully move to the US or Europe and earn good salaries.” Nadia quickly gathered herself hoping she hadn’t exposed her and the other women’s desire to find a way to another country. Men, she thought, knew the tricks of Filipino mail order brides.

“Oh that’s good,” Sven added. “You are looking for a better life. Maybe you can come and work in Sweden. We need nurses. too.”

The women were collectively relieved. In that moment a barrier was crossed that drew on the reality of their lives and the situation they were individually dealing with. That Sven was able to see and appreciate their personal goals and aspirations pleased them too. He understood. Maybe he didn’t know where they came from to be in American Samoa, but he knew where they wanted to go.

“Actually I’ve come here to better my life as well.”

Sven’s words drew the women closer. They were visibly nervous of his good looks and angular physique. The women straightened their shoulders. Inside they felt pride, courage and a growing confidence for advancing their own lives.

“I believe these islands in the Pacific, especially Tutuila, have something mystical about them. That’s a little strange to say, especially since I am studying science. But before I came here I read some about Polynesian ancient beliefs and religions. This may sound silly to you nursing students but I want to experience for myself the spirits of the oceans, the heavens and the forests.”

One of the students, her name was Raquel, interrupted Sven.

“And the underworld too. You know there is another place where the spirits reside.”

Sharp glances were aimed at Raquel from around the table, which prompted her to stop talking.

“Yes, and the underworld too,” added Sven. 

Like a moment earlier when Raquel and Nadia and the other women felt acceptance from Sven’s support of their goals, another secret threshold had been breached; that of powers of an extra natural force, and healing powers too. Sven would not discover immediately that a small but increasingly firmer bond was growing between him and his fellow students. He continued to share his classroom experiences.

“I’m taking marine science, ethnobotany and rainforest biology. One of the subjects I like is how the people use natural things to build houses, boats and make medicines.”

The women nodded and each one of them privately recalled their own past when fathers and uncles cut bamboo to build houses on stilts and lashed together rafts to fish from in the evenings.

“Every week,” he said, “we take a field trip to the forest and collect samples and measure the growth of tress in measured transects.”

The women recalled silently trips to their own bamboo forests where their mothers showed them how to cut bamboo and which part of the plant was good for what particular purpose.

“What do you do in, where Sweden?” asked Nadia.

“My father is a manager at a company that makes cellular telephones. Its called Ericsson. Actually my grand father began the company way back in 1974.”

Nadia could only imagine. It seemed like everyone in the Philippines owned an Ericsson telephone. But how ironic she thought; she and her friends communicate with his family’s phones. He wanted to talk with a spirit world she all to well knew about.

Sven and Nadia saw each other from time to time in the hallways at the college. There wasn’t much time to talk. Passing nods, eye contact, a raised eyebrow and body language evoked a kind of bond that brought them together, each in their own time space, each in their own mind space.

Three weeks after the conversation in the school cafeteria, they met face to face again in a public laundromat in a small village on the main road facing the large turning basin in Pago Harbor. It was just below a promontory point which overlooked the mouth of the great harbor.

Sven had packed his laundry in a backpack. Nadia was more organized. Hers was piled in a plastic laundry basket with laundry powder and a packet of sweet smelling drier towels neatly placed on top of the pile. She came to the landromat with a Filipino family in a pickup.

Immediately they began a conversation. Now, however, their demeanor was casual and relaxed. Nadia smiled and blushed a bit when she placed her bras in the top loading wash machine. She tried, unsuccessfully, not to notice when Sven put his Euro styled men’s crew briefs into his machine. After a bit of jiggering with the dials and settings each of them pushed the buttons that started the wash, rinse and spin cycles.

They stepped outside to escape the heat inside the Laundromat. Nadia let her friends know with a nod that she would be outside with her classmate friend.

“Well,” she said, “are you learning about island life?” she inquired.

Sven nodded, “the coral reefs are interesting. I didn’t expect so much chemistry was involved.”

“How about the animals and the birds of the rainforest?” She posed the question in a particular way that set up Sven’s answer before he had a chance to respond.

“The rainforest habitat is so complex. I see the birds in flight, but to see birds roosting, or other animals on the floor of the forest is difficult. They are very elusive.” he said.

“The animals show themselves to you when they want you to see them,” Nadia added. She looked at Sven squarely in the eye trying to detect if he was connecting where she was taking the conversation.

“There look!” she exclaimed. The pitch of her voice rose with excitement.

In the late afternoon dusk a tropical fruitbat glided overhead, soared in the air currents and screeched a high pitch tone to measure the obstacles before him.

“Let’s look at one of the bats really close,” she told Sven and took his hand. 

Just behind the laundromat a path led upwards. The footpath was overhung with branches from the tall forest trees. Creepers and vines grew along the path’s edge. Within minutes the canopy opened and the Pacific spread out before them. Just then a fruitbat passed directly over them less than ten feet away. Sven reacted by ducking away from the bat.

“Did you know islanders believe that animals in the bush and many sea animals such as sharks and turtles are forms of human beings or spiritual gods?”

Sven was taken aback and slightly disoriented by Nadia’s totally unexpected comment.

“That’s not science. I’m studying science and so are you,” he exclaimed.

She laughed and replied, “Do you have scientific proof of God?”

“Well,” said Sven, “that depends on what you believe in in the first place.”

He was actually annoyed by the conversation because his secular European world had settled these issues long ago. To be involved in another God argument seemed a bit regressive.

Nadia became quiet sensing Sven’s aversion to the topic of his personal brand of spirituality. She stood motionless for a moment. Just then a breeze sprang up and the salt spray was noticeable on her and his face and neck.

“You think I’m talking about your parent’s religion. I’m not.”

As the breeze settled in, Nadia seemed to enclose herself in a  sublime and calm state. From the trunk of a tree next to her a large blue and green lizard leapt and landed on her shoulder. She never moved, twitched or seemed to notice the animal. The lizard crawled across her bare back and ran down the front of her body until it reached the crotch of her bluejean shorts. Still she did not move. The lizard flicked his head from the left and right up raised up looking directly at Sven. After a short while the lizard moved down Nadia’s bare leg and across her sports shoe until it reached the ground and disappeared into the bush.

Sven was frozen in his feet to the ground. He tried to decipher the meaning of the lizard and what he had just seen.

Finally Nadia regained a conscious state.

“We are of the animal world. All of us have a partner in the forest that lives another animal life for us. It means that our lives are eternal: that there is another world where we came from or where we will go when this stage of our lives are over. Where we are now is a stage of life like when a larvae evolves into a butterfly. You, Sven, and I have our own partners, but we must have a belief within us to see ourselves in other ways and to share nature in other ways too. One day, perhaps soon, you will find your animal partner too.”

Sven summoned up the courage to ask, “ but I don’t have your ancestral blood or your ancient beliefs.”

“Oh, its not about that,” she said. “Its starts within you. Its more about how you see nature and the world around you. Don’t think you cannot pass through this window, I truly believe your time is soon.”

Nadia motioned to Sven that is was time to return to the laundromat. She took his hand to begin the walk down. When they returned to the ridgeline at the head of the trail, Nadia turned abruptly into the thick bush away from the trail. Even in the darkness her footing was sure and Sven followed without making a misstep. Within minutes the laundromat was in view one hundred feet below them at the bottom of a steep cliff. The ocean shore was visible too, just across a wide street not two hundred yards from where they stood.

“Do as I say,” she told Sven. “Imagine the fruitbat who spreads its wings and glides and soars on the currents where the cool ocean touches the warm land. Imagine even a heavy body is light and can escape the bonds of earth to look down and see things and people from above in a way that the animals of the land, and you and I, cannot.”

Sven looked up to see the bats as they circled above, drawing a loop from the water’s edge to the rim of the cliff. And without noticing, or caring, he and Nadia took a step forward. They soared together, lifted and light and free from their earthly constraint.

In a moment it was over. They were back on the ground in front of the laundromat. Sven was not quite sure what had transpired, but he did know he was not the same as a minute before and would never in his life be the same or have the same thoughts about matters of the spirit as he did just then.

“You’re wash cycle just ended.” said Nadia’s friends. “There are a few driers still warm from the other customers.”

“We are going for a swim, care to join us?” Nadia asked them. Her friends politely refused, worrying more about keeping an eye on their laundry.

Nadia pulled a wet cloth wraparound from her clothes basket and put it around her. She bent over, lifted one leg a little awkwardly while steadying herself on the wash machine and took off her shorts and underwear until the only thing she was wearing was the single piece of rectangular cloth. She put her dirty clothes in the basket, ready to be washed.

Sven thought about doing the same but felt a bit uncomfortable about the idea. After depositing five quarters in each of the machines, Nadia and Sven checked the time and crossed the road to the beach opposite the laundromat and down a slight embankment of grass until they reached the sandy shore only a few steps away. When they got there Nadia said to Sven,

“Are you afraid to go in the ocean at night?”

Sven was afraid, but he denied his fear and told Nadia he was not afraid. Nadia first walked into the ocean alone. When she reached waist high depth she took away her wrap and looked back to Sven motioning him to join her. 

He looked out at the ocean and he saw the horizon where science told him the curve of earth created an illusion of an end of the earth where a body or a ship could fall off and never return. Then he imagined a bird in flight who if flying high enough could see farther and farther out to sea until if, high enough, would see the earth round and not flat. But even yet in his mind it was difficult to accept the science and he was still wary.

Finally the image of the bird flying above made him relent and in that moment he stripped himself bare. When he walked into the ocean, coming closer to Nadia, he felt a pull from her; that her presence bargained a relationship from the creatures beneath the surface he knew existed but he could not see. As he neared her and felt the adrenelin rush of facing the unknown, the dorsal fin of a shark passed between them.

“Its you,” said Nadia, “don’t be afraid.

The shark circled around Nadia and swam directly at Sven. When the large animal passed, his rough skin slid across Sven’s legs. Sven felt the pressure of the animal against him. It was however, more as a child would crawl in a father’s lap and feel secure. In that moment Sven felt the power of the shark in its natural environment and shared with it the confidence of being one with nature. 

Sven lowered his body into the warm ocean water. Nadia embraced him as lovers do in the darkness of night and the coolness of the air, thick with the scent of the land.


At His Monument

The cement benches were cold and hard; meant to be that way. Impervious to the salt spray; daily wear and tear of high schoolers. 

She and I sat beside each other and took our pleasures; one on another. In the not quite dark. The security guard just nodded and smiled and passed by.

He had died many years before. Classmates,  some time later, memorialized his death. And like the death of many young people, it was probably unnecessary. A drowning. Just across the street on the beach. 

Strange now that we are celebrating this death memorial place as a rebirth of culture. Anyway here we are. She’s a dancer from Palau. A place I don’t really know too much about. Her English is good, colloquial, so we were easy when we met.

 “Where you from?” “Enjoying the festival?” The usual banter. 

It was the oral foreplay that leads up to the moment where we are now. We both know it. We’re going to have sex of some sort. The electricity is there. When you are our age and know what we know from our parents and older siblings, nothing is going to stop that. 

This time, right here, right now, is fun for both of us. After all, we’re right across the street from about a thousand people. Any of them can walk right in. But the gate is locked and the only entryway is a complicated road back to the village with a turn off to a parking lot and then a pass through a gate that looks locked but isn’t. That’s how we got here. Tonight.

Between us there’s electric tension. Rumbling anticipation.  And some doubt. Getting “caught” is not really a problem for either of us. Who cares? Sex without guilt. Its what I’ve learned from the beginning. My big sisters with their boys. Mom and dad still having children. And I’m nineteen. How different can Palau be for her? Island life.

We’re both way beyond guilt. For us beyond guilt is really genuine pleasure. And there is no denying it. There’s where our tension has settled. A nervous twitch at the bottom of the spine where when we reach an orgasm the sexual jolt is pure pleasure. The kick of our bodies sending that clear, oh so clear, message, that sex can’t be a confessional act. It’s meant for joy. At our ages that is. There is so much to discover.

The inscription on his monument was plain and straightforward. He died too early. He never knowing the joy that we were about to share on each other. In the darkness there was no name. The slab of his memorial marker needed no explanation. The benches. Were they there to relax, reflect. A warning not to swim alone. 

That’s what made our coming moment so, well, sensual. Classes of graduating seniors and beginning freshmen were forced to ponder the grim realities of death when they sat on those benches. We knew nothing of that. Our mission was to explode within our selves. To celebrate life and what the future of our progenitor capacity had to offer before we went back to our homes to seriously consider parenthood and parental life.

We had settled deep in the shadows. Lights glowed not very far away, but far enough. The sounds about us clamored for attention in so many ways. Laughter and music and cars. There was a rustling of leaves too. The pitch of birds, no they’re bats, above us. We wondered if their battle was for food or was it the tone of a mating ritual. We assumed it was. Sensuality was about us in the air.

The moment was easy and natural for both of us. We stood up and rested our shoulders against the funeral block. I could feel the etching of his name carved into a sheet of cold copper, green in a patina of age as if he had his own life beyond death. A few years earlier I would have kissed her. Now we knew better.  So I pressed my hand against her skin just where a curve defines the line of her flattened stomach and the crease below the bones of her pelvis. She didn’t refuse me. Nor did I think she would. Her pleasure was too great and perhaps too long since the last time. I wondered how many disappointments she had had with other guys. The ones who kiss and fumble. Who grasp to please themselves, not her. 

This was why her pleasure was great. She knew and anticipated when and how her body would play within her. When the moment would arrive when she knew she was coming and settled in and smiled when she could feel a bolt of energy amassing in her gut ready to play out and drive sensations of joy and fun and daring and yes I need to do this because this is what my mother and sisters and my father are hoping for me. That I will have the genuine experiences of growing wise and choosing and discovering the energy within me. That I will be able to keep the glorious ways of my island and everything that goes with it alive. Some day. But not quite not now.

Her finger nails bit into my forearm. It was good and she told me it was good. “I’m going to come,” plainly spoken. And her arms became powerful around me. When she arrived I held her up and quickly she went soft and relieved. The moment was done. And in that orgasmic energy burst she did for me what few women rarely do. She held me and trusted in me and joined our arms in that moment when we became locked in a kind of human bonding where our energies leap around us and in us. The fact that our time was short made no difference. That moment. The one moment of her power she released to me was all that mattered. And we both knew it.

We sat for a while. In not too soon a time another couple found our place. We talked for a few more moments. Our time was done and done so well. We left the monument and its cold cement benches. 

We both felt the presence of a lingering soul there wanting his long lost chance to live and breath heavily and lurch at the moment when two bodies squeeze together when in another place and another time the consequences he might have, but never did, know. 

His time had been swallowed by the eternal ocean not far from us.

Our time is now. 

These seven short stories are from the collection, "The Handy Couple's Guide To Bush Sex In American Samoa"

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