As my Popo's jeep creaked and backed out of the driveway, I woke up and stared at the ceiling. I peeked out from the edge of the curtain and could barely see the rusty, blue jeep slowly disappear. He was goin fishin. I was goin to the fights. The Sun comin through the curtains made my room red and warmed my feet. Today is goin to be hot and sticky. I could smell the Portuguese sausage cookin, and could hear the oil pop in the fryin pan. My muddah and faddah was workin today, so I slept over my Bam and Popo’s house. I got out of bed and stepped on the cold, red, wooden floor. I walked to the batchroom, so I could wash my face and get ready.
While making she-she, I could hear the chickens crow. Dey sounded real busy. I turned my head to look out the window. I saw dat Popo had put Punch on the walkin rope. He made me laugh because his head was jerkin and peckin the ground, lookin fo bugs. At my other granpa’s house, he lets his chickens run around wild. So, I found Punch last yaeh, when he was still one babae. Grandpa said I could keep him. I chose Punch because he was the only white babae chick. Turnin towards the Sun, he stretched out his wings, puffed up his chest, and answered the neighborin chickens wit a loud crow. Watchin him made me excited. I could feel sometin warm splatter on my leg and knew I made a mess on the toilet. I grabbed a piece of toilet paepah and wiped the seat.
“Boi, come on, I made yo cocoa. Bumbai it’s gonna get cold.” Bam yelled.
“I comin Bam.”
“I stay finishin makin she-she. Hold on,” lookin at Punch one more time. Chickens always look nice. Dey nevah have to comb dere feddahs or wash the makapiapia out of dere eyes in the mornin. Punch was the most good-lookin chicken I evah saw.
I grabbed the bar of soap, and used my thumb to scrape off the mushy side of the soap dat was layin directly on the sink. I turned the hot and cold knobs and let the wadah run through my fingahs. As I washed my face, some of the bubbles stung my eyes. Sometimes when chickens are born, dere eyes get infected and dey cannot open dem. So, I watched my faddah crush one chili pepah and rub it into Punch’s eyes. Aftah dat, he could see.
In the kitchen, Bam placed some sausage, scramble eggs and two pieces of toast on my white, metal plate. I pulled out the bench and sat down.
“Boi, so whatca ya gonna do today?” Bam asked.
"Um . . . I tink I goin ovah to Chris’ house and . . . bumbai we goin to long bridge and catch tilapia fo bait, so we can, um . . . go crabbin dis aftahnoon.”
Shakin da ketchup bottle up and down, I tried to look busy, so I could focus on my lie.
“I don’t wantcha you guys crabbin by Masagi’s pig pen.” She ordered.
“Dat Masagi, he’s really pilau—who knows what kine shit he throws in dat rivah!”
“I know Bam, we nevah go crabbin by his pig pen; because one time, by his house, we saw choke dead chickens floaten in da rivah,” I explained.
“Dat man is disgusting,” my Bam ended.
I was hungry, so I ate my breakfast like one of Masagi’s pigs. I saved my toast fo last. I folded it in half and dipped it in the warm cocoa. I could feel da buddah melt in my mouth, as I sucked the creamy cocoa out of the bread.
I washed my face, wiped my hands and mouth wit the cold, damp kitchen rag, and kissed my Bam on the cheek.
“Auwe, Bam!” you smell like my faddahs ashtray.”
“Come hea boi, so I can give you a couple of cracks in da head,” she laughed.
I ran towards the back of the kitchen, pushed the screen door open, and slipped on my black, rubbah slippahs,
Outside, I could hear the wadah runnin in the kitchen sink, and I knew dat my Bam was busy washin the dishes. I walked over to the garage, where my Popo kept the chicken feed. I lifted the metal lid off the rubbish can, and inside of it was a brand new bag of feed. I stuck my hand as far as it would go and pulled out a fist full of feed. I barely could squeeze my fist into my pants pocket, without droppin most of the feed on the ground. I den walked over, towards the back of the lot, behind the chicken coups. In the cornah, by the pile of chicken shit, the beautiful white coral stood out against the dark, red dirt. I turned over the big piece of coral dat I took from the beach a couple of days ago. I put it back here, so the ants would eat all the tiny dead animals dat lives in the coral. I slapped the ants off of my hands and started to dig up the dirt dat was directly undahneath the piece of coral. There’s dis haole man dat comes by and weighs my faddah’s pakalolo fo him, and he also buys, from me, the pieces of coral dat I find, so he can sell um to the tourist in Haleiwa. Haole people funny-kine, dey buy any-kine stuff. I dug until the dirt filled my fingah tips. I smiled, as I pulled out the dusty, metal Ban-Aid can. I used a red rubbah band to keep the lid from poppin open. Just to be sure, I pulled the rubbah band off the can and opened the lid. Packed tight in the can, was the stash of money I saved from Punch’s previous fights.
I crept over to the driveway. Focusin on the kitchen window, I could see the top of my Bam’s head, as she looked down into the sink and continued to wash the dishes. I walked real slow, so my Bam would not see me. I grabbed my black and silvah, banana seat, Schwinn Stingray and pushed it oveh the gravel—tryin real hard not to make noise.
I walked over to my Bam’s garden and picked up Punch. “You fukah,” I yelled, as he pecked my hand. But once he heard my voice, his eyes smiled and he started to purr. With Punch undah my right arm, I reached over with my left and grabbed my bike’s handle bars. Carefully, I walked through the gate.
I had to get to the fights early, so I could match Punch wit anatha roostah. Ridin thru mill camp was not real easy, because everyone notices a boy on a bicycle, wit one chicken in his arms. Today was Saturday, so all the plantation kids was home, just like me. The little kids laughed, as I rode by wit Punch undah my arm. I peddled fastah as the laughtha grew louder. I looked straight ahead and focused on the next pothole in the dirt road. I could feel my heart pound in my head. My ears grew warm and I started to sweat. Punch’s feddahs began to itch, as dey stuck to the inside of my sweaty, warm arm. I decided to cut through the back of Fujioka store. The only problem wit my short cut was dat I had to pass by Garyboy’s house. I hope dat punk was still sleepin. As I rounded the cornah, I could see dat Potcho’s house. “Freck,” I mumbled. “Dat Potaghee is outside shootin baskets, early in da morning”. His bruddah Wayne spotted me and started to point in my direction. I saw Garyboy turn around, and from fah-away, I saw his big mouth turn into a cave. You can always bet on Potaghee and his mouth. He yelled, “Look at da donchie boy whit his eating chicken.” As I passed by, I gave him a stink-eye. He knew dat my eyes promised him an ass kickn laydah on. “You wait, you freckn Potaghee” I told him.
Today, the fights was held behind the old Protestant Church. With cars parked all over the place, I had a difficult time pedalin through the grassy lot. I stopped, took my feet off the pedals and put dem on the ground, so I could still sit on my bike and push through, towards the big Banyan tree. I knew the Filipino ladies, from Nānakuli, was already hea because I could smell the pork adobo and lumpias cookin at the lunch wagon. I found the shady area, behind the big bird of paradise, where I usually hide my bike.
The lot was packed. Dere was people from all over the island at the fights today. I looked over to the back of the lot and saw rows of chicken suitcases lined up on the basketball court, behind the church. All the ol-timin men started to gatha and sit down on the benches next to the ring. I noticed the loud, fat laugh of my Uncle Lincoln, as I pushed through the ocean of Filipino, Japanese, and Hawaiian men. Most of dem worked fo the plantation. Punch started to freak-out, a little bit, so I pulled out his blindahs from my back pocket and tied it over his head. As I kneeled down, I felt da chicken feed poke my left thigh. I stuck my hand into my pocket and pulled out some feed to calm Punch down. I stood up and continued to walk through the crowd. I tried not to look up and into the faces of the tired men. I could feel dere stares, as I made my way towards my uncle’s voice. The funny-kine looks dat the men gave us made me nervous. Eventually, I was able to pick up and follow my uncles, loud, Potaghee laugh. I saw him by the weighing scales. He was talking to Modesto.
Modesto is crazy. He lives across the street from my Popo’s house. He was my Popo’s good friend until his sons drove over the cliff at Waimea Bay, and den he caught the Samoan guy, wit one eye, suk-suking his wife behind the chicken coups. He started to smoke pakalolo—everyday—and my Popo nevah like hang out wit him any more. Last week, he was smokin one fat joint early in the mohning, before the Sun was even up. As we left to go fishin, he was startin up his weed-whackha and beghan cuttin all the neighbhas weeds along the street. My Popo just shook his head. Dat night, when we returned home, Modesto—still—had one joint in his mouth, trimmin his hibiscus bushes wit the weed-whackah.
My uncle was holdn up a chicken knife towards the Sun. Wit his thumb on the blade and his pointer on the spur part of the knife he asked, “Are these the new ones from Manila, Modesto?”
“Yes sir,” Modesto said proudly.
My uncle noticed me standin next to him.
“Boi, I told you not to come back.”
“Aren’t you afraid dat your faddah will give you dirty
lickens when he finds out dat you’re here,” my uncle scolded.
“But Punch loves to fight,” I said.
“I don’t care. Anyways, he’s an eating chicken dat has had
plenty of good luck,” my Uncle Lincoln said, as he pressed hard and tried to smooth out the wrinkles in his forehead
“I know Uncle. He wins da fights because a Filipino man
told me dat my chicken has unting-unting.”
Modesto laughed, “Boi, unting-unting is usually a small,
white patch of feathers. Your chicken is an eating chicken, so he is supposed to be entirely covered wit white feathers.”
Dey were makin me mad, “I know dat Uncle Modesto. He is just like da chicken in da cahtoons
“What cahtoons?” my Uncle Lincoln asked.
“Yo know . . . da big white chicken . . . Foghorn Leghorn,” I said proudly.
They both laughed, “That is why no one wants to fight your
chicken; your chicken is too tall,” my uncle Lincoln said, as he raised his arms in the air.
“But he won four fights already,” I cried.
“Shit,” my uncle Lincoln grunted, as he shook his head.
“Just let da boi fight his chicken, one mo time.”
“And if his faddah finds out Modes, you will explain it to him? I don’t think so,” My uncle Lincoln refused.
“Just one mo time Uncle Lincoln,” I promised.
He looked into my eyes and asked, “Last time?”
“Yes, last time.” My eyes were wide open.
I looked up into the sky and could smell the sugah cane burnin. The plantation was harvestin today. Clouds of smoke started to block the Sun and the sky turned a dirty-gold color.
“Boi, do you have money to buy a knife?” my Uncle Lincoln
“Yes, I have da money Punch won from da last fight!”
“Okay, since your uncle Modesto thinks this is a great idea, then he can sell this special, imported, Manila knife with a good-uncle discount”
Modesto look annoyed and gave my uncle a stink-eye.
“You have a hundred dollahs Boi?”
“Don’t rip him off Modes!” “Sell it to him for at least half.”
“Shit.” “Okay, give me your money.”
I stood behind my uncle as he weighed Punch on the scale. “Dis is a big one” da man weighin Punch laughed.
“Ten pounds, two ounces,” the man yelled to the crowd, while he held Punch in the air. Some of the men laughed.
“Take dat chicken ovah to da lunch wagon!” someone from the crowd yelled. My uncle placed his hands on my shoulders, and Modesto yelled back, “Dis is a four time winnah!” The crowd grew quiet. Modesto yelled again,
“Last week dis chicken beat da Kahuku farm’s best bird!”
A popolo man in a cowboy hat pushed through the crowd wit his varnished chicken suitcase. “I have here a Johnny Jumper that I just flew over, straight from Kentucky,” he said, as he slammed the suitcase down on the weighing table. “I’ll fight any four time winner,” the man shouted. The crowd pushed in tighter, as the popolo man’s chicken was weighed. The chicken was pretty. He was dark and shiny, like the black sand on the beach. He also had streaks of red feddahs, up and down his back. “Ten pounds, five ounces,” the man weighin the chicken yelled.
The crowd started to settle around the Banyan tree. People brought step laddahs from dere homes, so if you ended up in the way-back of the crowd, you could stand on your laddah and still see the fight. Men started to run over from the lunch wagon wit dere sodas in one hand and dere plates of food in the other. You could smell someone smokin pakalolo, from behind the Banyan tree. On the other side of the ring, the men broke up the dice game and found places to stand neah the ring.
Punch had some time before the fight, so we walked over to the quiet spot next to my hidden bike. I held Punch out and turned him towards me. Gently, I placed his head between my right arm pit. I pulled him closer and cuddled him. I then grabbed both of his feet and extended them towards Modesto. A chicken’s spur is like the extra toe dat dogs have in da back of dere legs. For a fightin chicken, you have to shave off dere natural spur, so you can tie on a metal blade when dey fight. Uncle Lincoln walked towards us with a beer in each hand and a cigarette hangin from his lips. He handed one of the beers to Modesto. “Hold on Lincoln. Can’t you see dat I am tying on da knife fo da boi?” Modesto positioned the shiny, metal spur onto the back of Punch’s left leg. Next, he started to secure the knife wit a leddah strap. It takes a special person to tie a knife on a chicken. If your chicken wins, you must give your knife-man some of yo winnins.
“Modes, did you hea, last week, dat da Gemeno boi was tying
on a knife fo his friend, and da chicken got excited, so he kicked da Gemeno boi in his chest,” my uncle explained, as he moved da cigarette to da cornah of his mouth and carefully took anatha sip from his beer can. “I heard dat dey had to rush him to da hospital, wit da chicken knife still stuck in his chest,” Modesto added. “Well, dat Gemeno boi is always stoned out of his mind. He has no business tying knives,” my uncle ended.
The popolo man and me entered the ring, and the crowd erupted, as bets started to take place. You could here the bets fly through the air. Bets were yelled from across the ring. One man pointed to anatha man and yelled somethin in Filipino, or Japanese. If people were bettin fo Punch dey would cry out “Young Boi, young boi.” If people were bettin fo the black chicken wit red stripes dey would yell “Popolo, popolo.” Bets whizzed above my head and circled the ring. I felt like I was drownin in words. The old judge, at the centha of the ring raised his hands and the bets ended. He said “Come ovah, but don’t take da sheaths off the chicken’s knives.” Me and the popolo cowboy walked to the centah of the ring. The judge grabbed Punch and turned him upside-down and anykine way. He den gave him back to me. He did the same ting to the other chicken.
He den started to tell us the rules, but I was so pumped dat I nevah listen to what he had to say. “Now, go and stand at the edge of da ring, and face each adah.” I walked to the edge and looked into the crowd. My Uncle Lincoln winked at me and gave me one shaka. I turned around slowly and saw the popolo man diggin his fancy, black boots in the sandy, red dirt. I turned Punch around so he faced me, pulled off the sheath of Punch’s knife and kissed him on the head. The judge yelled “Give um!” and I let go of Punch. I covered my eyes wit my hands and stepped back into the crowd. I could hea the beatin of the chickens’ wings, and every once in a while, the crowd screamed. Elbows hit the top my head, as I stepped further back into the crowd. The fight went on, and I tried not to tink of anytin. The heat from the Sun, and the smoke from the burnin cane made the air sour. I felt my stomach turn slowly upside-down.
“Matmataiyen!” “He’s dead,” a voice snapped the tension in my stomach. I knew it was over. Some men yelled, while others said, “Fuckn’ shit.” I pulled my hands away from my eyes and everyone started to walk away. When the red dust settled, I saw Punch peckin the ground, lookin fo bugs. The popolo man walked over and shook my hand. He laughed and said, “I want to buy that there rooster from you, son.” “No ways brah.” “He’s my friend,” I told the popolo man. My uncle walked over to me and handed my winnins. The popolo man gave my uncle a funny look and asked, “Is this your son?” Uncle Lincoln laughed and whacked the back of my head. “No. This boy is my hard-headed nephew,” my uncle explained. Uncle Lincoln looked down at Punch and rubbed the top of his beak. He then looked up and said, “Get da hell out of hea,” with a smile. I walked back towards my bike and held Punch in my arms, as he nuzzled his head into my chest. I looked back towards the ring and saw my Uncle shakin the popolo man’s hands. Me and Punch rode home.
On Monday, aftah school, I rode my bike home to Bam and Popo’s house—as usual. In front of dere house, a brand new cah was parked in the diveway. It was a sparkly, gold jeep—without a roof top. Dat’s funny, only haole tourist drive dis kine of cah, I thought. As I entered through the gate, I saw my Popo walkin wit a man in a cowboy hat. The man was holdin a chicken briefcase. My heart pounded hardah in my chest and my throat swelled up. I looked down and recognized the dusty cowboy boots. The man smiled and walked towards me and the jeep. I stood dere lookin at my Popo and the briefcase. I saw dat my Popo held my metal Band-Aid can in one hand and the beautiful white coral in the other. Through my tears, I kept on glancin between my Popo’s stiff face and the wooden case. As the man swung the case into the jeep, I could see white feddahs through the breathin holes. The man waved at my Popo and backed out of the driveway. “See ya,” he shouted, and drove away—throwin rocks in the air, as the jeep sped off. My Popo walked over towards me and handed me a bunch of money, all rolled up. I looked away from my Popo’s eyes, and noticed black ashes fallin from the sky. Staring into the golden colored sky, I clenched my fists as the sour smell of sugar cane burned the air.