House of Thieves
We are floating on our surfboards in a loose circle beyond the break so we can
talk about the emergency: Wendy’s brother is back. “What does he want?”
Nicole asks. She’s holding the nose of Wendy’s board to keep from
“I don’t know,” Wendy says. “Maybe he wants to come home.”
Belle is tucking her breasts back into her bathing suit top. They are getting
really sloppy. I look down at my chest. I have nothing to fix and arrange. I’m
“Did he look good?” Belle says.
“I guess,” Wendy says. “I didn’t see him up close.”
Wendy is sad, though I could be wrong. I’m a writer and a diarist and also
an actress at the Diamond Head Theatre so sometimes I see things that aren’t
really there. We are moving farther away from shore, past the rocky fingers of
reef. The water here is a blackish blue. I’m thinking about Wendy’s
brother, but also about sharks. Echo Point is known for having them. We’re
all gripping our surfboards between our thighs. The sun stings our backs; eight
legs dangle in the water. To any sharks below us, we must look like sea turtles.
When I tell this to the others, they lie on their stomachs. Sometimes my prose
is very effective.
“He was swimming at our beach,” Wendy says. “He must have used
the access by the lighthouse.”
“Whack-job,” Nicole says.
Wendy shrugs her burning shoulders. “It’s his beach, too, I guess.”
“Why don’t we like him?” Belle asks.
“I like him,” Wendy says. “He just makes me angry sometimes.”
“I like him,” I say, even though I feel guilty about it. I know that
her brother has done more than steal a car. Belle and Nicole think Perry’s
just a runaway thief who has abandoned Wendy and scarred her emotionally. My dad
scarred my mother emotionally. He has a license plate that says SUE EM. My mom
divorced him then sued him, but now they’re back together again. They dance
on our balcony to “Shake Your Groove Thing,” their second wedding
“He’s a thief, that’s why we don’t like him,” Nicole
says. “He’s come to take our money, I bet, but we’ll kick his
ass. We’ll egg him.”
I imagine how we’ll do it, like the Sharks and the Jets. I choreograph fight
sequences: Pas de bourrée, kick kick, neck hold. Pirouette, layout, punch
punch, jazz hands. If we get caught for fighting or vandalism I will simply say
that we’re just kids growing up on an island, doing bad things in pretty
places. I test this line on my friends because it sounds stylish and dramatic
and just right.
“Niner,” Nicole says, which is this week’s term for loser.
Sometimes my verse doesn’t work so well, but Nicole’s a skank and
I take this into consideration. She’s always reaching behind her legs to
pull the flesh of her inner thighs apart and saying, “If I looked like this
I’d be perfect.” Tomorrow, at Secrets, or Old Man’s, or No Place,
I will drop in on all her waves. I’ll do a cutback. I’ll pump my board
and ride out a wave to shore like a boy. This is how I win arguments with Nicole,
my third-best friend.
We paddle in closer to shore. There are no waves. We’re lifted and dropped
by swells that don’t break or take us anywhere. “Let’s go,”
Belle says. “This sucks.”
“You go,” Nicole says. “You suck.”
Belle and Nicole are sisters. They don’t like each other much, in a sisterly
way. On dry land they wear their dad’s scrubs––just the pants
part. They pair them with bandeau bikini tops and claim that the other has copied.
“Race you,” Nicole says. She splashes water on all of us and it’s
freezing since we’ve been cooking in the sun. Then she paddles in so fast
her arms blur like insect wings. Nicole gets babysat by this white pill her parents
force her to take, and it makes her either freak out, or focus intensely on inanimate
objects, or it makes her get angry and cranky and two-year-old–like. I’ve
caught her sucking her thumb.
Wendy doesn’t want to go, I can tell. Seeing her brother again has upset
her. It’s truly a disaster. He’s really sweet and really real and
handsome, but he moved out of the house five years ago when he was sixteen because
he accidentally touched her inappropriately or something. I know this because
I accidentally caught a glimpse of the December 12 entry in her old diary. The
glimpse said something about them playing Escape from Sing Sing. She was eight
years old. He’d give her five seconds to escape from his room before he
tackled and pummeled her. One time he tackled her and they starting kissing and
their mom found them kissing and touching inappropriately. She called a professional
who was like a referee but with a pen and weird glasses. The family hugged and
cried. Wendy is a good writer. Due to the suspense she created I couldn’t
help but read more. The entries stopped on February 18 with this very emotional
paragraph: “When he said he was sorry I thought he meant for the charley
horse, but maybe it’s cause of the before part. Now he’s going to
the North Shore. He stole Dad’s car, but Dad’s not telling. I’m
worried for Perry.”
Because he banished himself, I find myself truly believing that Perry’s
a good person, noble even, like the Christ figures in the plays I’ve been
in. I got to play a Christ figure once. I played Annie in Annie. In addition to
being noble, Perry is a very good long-term connection for us because we’re
planning to live in Haleiwa one day on the North Shore. It’s where all the
real surfers live—Mark Occhilupo, a.k.a Occy, a.k.a the best surfer ever,
Shaun Tomson, Curren, Hans, the Ho brothers, and the lost-at-sea legend, Eddie
Aikau. I know their stats and bios, their likes and dislikes, their favorite bands,
their sponsors, if they have a cat or a dog or a wife. Perry is just like these
guys. He used to be the best of the amateurs. We watch his old contest videos,
which proves Wendy has forgiven him for whatever happened. When he surfs he looks
like he’s doing something illegal. I bet one day he’ll have his own
line of shoes.
Wendy stays by my side as we paddle in, though she can go much faster. She’s
the strongest girl I know. I feel so lucky that we like to surf even when no one’s
looking. I feel lucky that we aren’t girls who sunbathe, although I know
that Belle and Wendy have given blow jobs. Nicole told me what a blow job was
and I can’t see why a guy gets pleasure from someone blowing on his dick.
My friends are in seventh and eighth grade and they have knowledge I don’t
have yet. I can’t wait till November when I’ll be a teenager. I can
date guys like Perry and it won’t be considered harmful to my childhood.
Except now he’s twenty-one—I think that’s still in the danger
zone. I want to be older. I hate my grade. Kids my age listen to Tiffany and Debbie
Gibson and know nothing about Oingo Boingo or life.
When we aren’t surfing or hitchhiking or sliding down Maunawili moss slides
into pits of mud so we look like the boys in that movie, Lord of the Flies, we
hold car washes to raise money for summer concerts and for Budweiser. If any customer
asks, the money is for children with some sort of disease. We have the wash at
Wendy’s because she has a circular driveway right off the avenue. Her house
looks like something exotic and Greek and breakable. It slopes towards the ocean.
It flickers at night. It has an alarm that sounds like the sirens in last month’s
production, The Sound of Music. I played one of the von Trapp children. All the
other child actors were Hawaiian and Filipino. I had artistic problems with that,
but our director said, “You try finding actors in Hawaii who aren’t
Hawaiian or Filipino.” On stage, next to my brothers and sisters, I looked
No one’s coming to our car wash. Nicole stands on the side of the street
trying to lure them in. She’s wearing boxers, a men’s V-neck Hanes
with holes in both of the armpits. She takes off her shirt, showing off her black
bathing suit with buttons down the sides. She rolls the waist of her boxers down—it’s
how we all wear our boxers and trunks.
“What if Perry comes to the wash?” Nicole asks.
“Someone will come,” Belle says, “if you keep standing there
looking like a Waikiki hooker. You’re going to get us all raped.”
“You do look like an asshole,” Wendy says.
Nicole smiles; she takes to teasing well. She believes it’s something the
less fortunate do for survival. Her goal is to be a surfer-slash-model, which
totally hurts our cause.
I remember the customer who asked us if we gave body washes. He was old, maybe
thirty. It was weird because all of us got really shy. We’re usually loud
and wise, but when he asked us if we would wash his body, we just giggled and
said no. We never giggle. Nicole still hasn’t learned that we can’t
act how we’re used to acting because those actions make perverts horny and
that’s why we wear baggy clothes.
I’m sitting on the low rock wall, letting the water from the hose run over
my legs. Wendy is helping a worm right itself. I like her so much during the day.
At night, I miss her. I realize she has older girl things to attend to, like drinking
without making a scene and blowing on dicks, but I’m always left with evil
Nicole. Sometimes Nicole and I drink and play Jem and the Holograms, but whenever
I talk about it the next day, she just stares at me in a disgusted way.
“Nicole, ’member my killer solo last night?” I ask her this
for everyone to hear.
“I remember that you suck,” she says. Her voice echoes off the cliffs
so I hear “you suck” three times.
“Do you really want Perry to come home?” I ask Wendy. I want to tell
her that I know her secret and she shouldn’t be ashamed. It was like playing
dress-up or physical therapist. We’ve all done it. We’ve French-kissed
our stuffed animals and even each other sometimes. It’s pretend. It’s
“Of course I want him home,” she says. “We’re best friends.”
This hurts my feelings. “If you’re best friends then why doesn’t
he ever come to see you? Why’d he abandon you?”
“He hates our parents. It has nothing to do with me.”
Nicole comes in from the street, takes the hose from me, and holds it above her
head, lets the water run down her brown, burnt hair and small body. There are
bumps on her skin from the cold. She puts her mouth to the stream of water and
drinks. I wish I looked like her. She reaches around and grabs the insides of
her thighs and looks down at the triangle of space between them. “If I looked
like this, I’d rule,” she says, then turns to me. “So, Kora,
what are you going to do?”
Steel Pulse is playing at the Shell tonight and everyone’s on my case for
not chipping in. Wendy’s having the car wash at her house and her neighbor
is buying the beer; Belle and Nicole stole their mother’s canned goods and
returned them to the grocery store for cash.
“Better ask your parents to give us a ride,” Belle says. “Kora
No way. Around my parents, I belt out show tunes and perform plays that I’ve
written or updated or regionalized. If they knew that I drank beer, even though
I fake my drunkenness most of the time, they’d think I’d been putting
on an act, impersonating an innocent girl.
I try to get us off the topic, and then on the avenue I see a car slowing down,
blinker blinking. The plants surrounding the driveway are quivering wildly, warning
me. It’s called foreshadowing, when things quiver, like my “Maybe”
solo in Annie, my lonesome trembling voice foreshadowing that maybe my parents
would pick me up, but maybe not. I should have known he’d come.
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