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The Birds and the Boys
The sky used to be red, white and blue. Now it was just red. Inoke watched the planes fly down in flames as he stood next to Timi, who, in an utmost ravenous nature, was eating the jackfruit he held in his shaking palms,as if he was tearing the back hide off of a dead animal. Inoke looked up at the plane and then he stared down at Timi with disgust. Inoke always wondered how Timi could be so content at a time like this. How could he be eating a jackfruit so gleefully, when planes were shooting down from the sky like comets? There were people in those planes, and Inoke acknowledged that heart wrenching fact. How it must feel, to know you are going to die. How it must feel to know there is no hope. Inoke’s mind raced. Timi licked his fingers.
When Inoke was young, his grandfather always took him to the jet hangars near their village. Inoke loved to look at the planes and sit inside the Mirage, which was a French plane. He stared at the plethora of buttons on the dashboard, enamored by their complexity. How does a pilot remember each and every function? Inoke’s dreams of becoming a pilot suddenly seemed more complicated. Now as he sat, looking at the planes shooting down like gull’s ready to catch their midday meal, he realized that his dreams evolved from being complicated to being near impossible.
“What are the planes shooting down for?” asked Timi, sitting on the ground continuing to lick his syrupy fingers.
“What do you think stupid?” mocked Inoke, using the same squeaky tone that Timi talked in. Inoke and his friends constantly mocked and made fun of Timi for his stupidity, but Timi wasn’t stupid at all. He was just clumsy and young.
“Dad told me God is angry”
“Don’t be ridiculous, God doesn't get angry…only men do”
“So the men are shooting the planes down?”
“Yes…because they are angry at each other. Like I’m angry at you right now,” Inoke laughed, and quickly opened Timi’s pant’s and dropped a baby crab in.
“Help me!” screamed Timi at the top of his lungs. Tears started flowing down his eyes and he thought for a moment, about getting back at Inoke. One day he will have the last laugh.
“When men are angry, they kill each other,” explained Inoke.
“I’m going to kill you, you monster” replied Timi, angrily.
“Ha ha” laughed Inoke.
“Leave me alone!” yelled Timi, sick of Inoke’s little wicked lectures. Timi left for the house holding his behind as if he was afraid it was going to fall off. Inoke ran closer to the ocean, which by now had turned a magnificent tangerine color; matching the flames of the planes as they continued plummeting down like dead birds. Inoke looked up, the water of the ocean gently advancing onto his feet, and retreating again. He began wondering all over again. What are those people in the planes thinking? He ran back to the house as it was almost time for hapa (dinner).
Timi, Inoke, and their parents sat at a large wooden table laced with fanciful palm leaves. Karolina, the boys' mother, brought in four plates of palusami, which made the boys' mouths water. They tore through the taro leaves that uncovered a savory and sweet smelling mixture of corned beef, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. The boys stuffed their faces four spoonfuls at a time, while their parents daintily ate the food, sipping juice between bites. Solomon, the father of the boys, looked up from his food, and frowned at the boys' greediness and impatience.
“You eat fast, yet, in mind you are slow” Solomon darted.
“Solomon, there is no need for unpleasant talk now. We are in the middle of war. We need to respect each other in violent times.” Karolina replied, trying to create peace at the table.
“The war is not ours. The American’s will protect us. They protect everyone.” Solomon spoke words of hope. This made Inoke cold.
“There is no hope! We are going to die whether we want to or not!” Inoke thundered, like a tsunami, nearly setting tears in his mother’s eyes.
“Why do you speak like this?” questioned Solomon.
“Simi died. Her father died. They went out fishing in the waters in their boat, and they were killed in crossfire between two destroyers. You tell me what you think of that. That men at don’t care enough to spare the lives of innocents. Tell me what that says to you. ”
“I did not know Simi and her father, Jope had died. Why did you not tell us sooner?”
“I want to leave the table…please,” requested Inoke.
“Fine…but stay in your room, I want to have a word with you.” Solomon commanded. Inoke got up and headed towards his room. Timi also rose up, but only for more of his mother’s delicious palusami.
Inoke’s room was cluttered with posters and clothes. His baseball caps though, were placed neatly on a rack, and his model airplanes, all facing the door, were positioned perfectly parallel to one another. He picked up a green airplane, a French fighter jet, and held it in his hands. Inoke thought about what he would to if he were about to die flying a plane. He stood up and threw the model plane in to the wall, and yelled.
Solomon, hearing the loud noises and cries, walked upstairs towards Inoke’s room. He stood by the door but did not knock. He waited for Inoke to calm down. Timi eagerly, with a slight grin on his face, was behind Solomon, but not for long. Karolina came from behind and grabbed Timi and dragged him away.
“What is wrong with you child?” question Karolina, angry and concerned. “Enjoy witnessing your brother’s distress, you sick boy?”
“Mama, he was talking about Simi. That’s his girlfriend at school. She’s really ugly and yucky. Like a slug,” laughed the ignorant Timi.
“What am I going to do with you?” Karolina stated, unable to get her anger out. Timi was still a young boy, unaware of love, destruction and death. He sat watching the planes crash down, void of any sympathy for the screaming faces of the pilots plummeting to earth at magnificent speeds, inside powerful metal birds. Timi felt nothing. How could one expect him to?
“Inoke, may I come in?” Solomon said, in a very fatherly tone.
“Sure,” puffed Inoke, about ready to settle down.
Solomon entered the room, and frowned automatically at its untidiness, but quickly realized that he did not want to upset Inoke with criticizing statements. He sat down next to his son, and looked at the model plane on the ground, and the hole in the wall where the plane hit. He turned to Inoke and put his hand on Inoke’s thigh.
“You are mad about Simi,” Solomon whispered. “She was a very beautiful girl. She was like a dove, wasn’t she?”
“Kids in my school said that she deserved to die because she was Japanese. That her country was the reason for all of the problems here in Samoa. Like she had any control over that!” Inoke’s voice rose like a tidal wave, ready to crash.
“Children are ignorant. They don’t know as much as you do. They are not as smart. They are probably the ones who can’t tell the difference between a Mirage and a Tomcat fighter.” Solomon laughed, trying to mitigate the tension. Solomon and Inoke both looked at the planes. There were less of them now. They fighting must have seized, and the victors must be celebrating. Inoke laughed. Celebrating for the killing of others; what a thought.
“Remember Inoke, Simi is still there, and I bet that she loves you as much as you loved her.” Solomon said.
“I wish I could tell her.” Inoke sighed.
“Maybe you still can,” Solomon determined.
Inoke walked outside, looking at the sky, bloody and buzzing with the sound of the planes. He saw, yet another jet propel downwards, crashing into the ocean. He looked up and prayed. He hoped for the war to end fast, to know that he was safe. He hoped that Simi would talk to him in his dreams. Timi walked nearby clasping a large shell in his palm.
“Look, you can hear the ocean,” Timi stated. Inoke held the shell to his ear. He heard Simi’s voice, and it made him smile.
“Nice huh?” Timi said joyfully.
“Beautiful,” Inoke said. The two boys turned around and walked up to the waves and sat down, letting the water splash onto their feet. They looked at each other, smiled, and looked up and saw a lone plane with an American flag appear from the clouds and zoom off into the horizon. The sky was red, white and blue once again.