What’s it take to win the Honolulu Weekly Fiction Contest? Nothing short of an intriguing, beautifully crafted story with a local edge. Judge Kaui Hart Hemmings chose “Race Relations” as this year’s winner. Congratulations, James Cave. Write on! Cave will be reading at the MIA Literary Series at Fresh Cafe on Mon., 1/16 at 7pm.
Around the first mile I’d already forgotten why I was doing it. Then I remembered: Cecilia. Or Melissa. Sissy? I hoped not, but hers was definitely a name with more than one s. Cute, in an uninvolved kind of way, and dimply, with a pudgy smile and teeth that seemed to hold on to the littlest bit of lunch. I remember I felt like I intimidated her when I asked her something, and I liked that about her, although I’d only asked two questions in our brief life together. “Are you a runner?” and “Why are you crying?” to which she replied, “[unintelligible mumbling and shaking]”. We exchanged numbers and decided to meet up at a half-marathon for some reason and here I am, running more in a day than ever I have in the first thirty-four years of my life.
By the second mile, my heart was irrigating the seed of regret and I’d pretty much decided her name was Felicia, although I don’t know why I would be attracted to a girl with that name. I also wondered why anyone would pay for this experience, would pay to do something so naturally free as the act of running, when my thought was interrupted with the realization that I hadn’t seen Sessissa yet at the race; in fact, I was entirely uncertain I might be at the wrong race. In Hawaii, five hundred races might start in the same minute: marathons, half-marathons, 20-, 10-, 5-, or 2K fun runs (of deceit), and I chose a bitch of one. Each step was leaden, and instead of ab muscles, my midsection felt like a mini fridge of melted margarine.
The tiny decisions I’d made must have gone back through previous lifetimes of evil-doing to put me in this situation, slugging my dead, wet weight uphill in eleven-year-old miniature Nikes, and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t at home instead, watching people have sex on the internet.
Around the seventeenth mile, I realized this would be a terrible time to get mugged by somebody, or see a wild pig, and around what I guessed was mile twenty one, the home stretch, I saw a smug asshole of a sign that read, “Mile 3,” with as much contempt and apathy as a Sharpie-scrawled message can convey. Now my seed of regret was a forest of trees and my heart’s tributaries had dried up miles ago. A man was pushing his pomeranian in a stroller. “Are you kidding me?” I said to the man.
If you were to look on a map of this race at “Mile 4,” you would read a caption that says, “Land of the Jog-And-Farts,” which is a horrible land no one should visit. I had to stop at the hydration station to work out my troubles. The air was so hot and thick that I immediately poured my first cup on to my head. Here’s a tip for your next race: be sure it’s not Gatorade in the cup before you pour it over your head. I was orange, sticky, sweaty, and bloated, and the volunteer standing next to me, handing cups of Gatorade to runners, was nobody other than little miss too-many-s’s-in-her-name.
“Hi,” I said, in a tone that pretended I did not forget her name. She made a face that didn’t recognize mine, which was relieving. “It’s Frank, from the other night?”
“Oh. Right,” she said. “I didn’t recognize you.” She handed cups to runners as they passed.
I tried to think of something that would make her reveal her name to me again, but I was too exhausted to do this. She was still very pretty though, if a bit miserable, but beautiful enough to make me doubt myself one hundred percent. I didn’t say anything to her for a few minutes, and chose to watch the moving mob of exercisers run together as if Godzilla was chasing them in slow motion. I like to watch people run, to study their movements and especially their faces, because almost nobody looks good when they’re running. It gives me confidence. It’s not easy to talk to women; I can’t strike up a conversation with a stranger whose vagina I’d like to see without coming off as the horny creep who wants to see her vagina. Some men make it look easy, but my skills at talking to a beautiful woman send my chest into a mosh pit of emotions.
“I thought we were supposed to meet up for the race today,” she said.
“Um,” I pointed to myself. “Racing.”
“Oh, I don’t run,” she said.
“I’m very confused.”
“I have to do this for community service,” she said, and poured vodka into a cup of Gatorade and drank it. We were off to a splendid start.
“Court-ordered community service?”
I noticed her neck tattoos and cargo shorts. Her arms were scratched a bit more than was cute. “What happened?”
Her jaw clenched. “Don’t you have a race to finish?”
“I think I’m done racing for the day. I’m probably in last place, anyway.”
“Well, call me when you clean up. I guess I’ll have a drink with you.”
I should tell you that this is the most attention I’d gotten from a woman in an amount of time I’m embarrassed to reveal. Also, sure, she was dusty, and her head could have used a shampoo, and I might have been a little scared to say no to her. But her mean eyebrows and gold teeth aside, she had a face that looked like Norah Jones, mixed with Catherine Zeta-Jones, mixed with Malia Jones, which gave her notable advantages over the last girl I’d dated, a “Tommy Lee Jones,” and I figured I could use a beer, that I’d earned it. And since the goal itself was never to finish the race, I was more than happy to consider the day a success. I, Frank Bacon, had a date.
I picked her up from the ABC Store next to the ABC Store on Kuhio, and we drove in unlimited silence (my radio doesn’t work) to a karaoke bar in Kakaako. The windows were taped with cardboard panels and a man was asleep by the door under an upside down shopping cart. It smelled like a bathroom at the Kapaa landfill.
Your honor, that’s where the defendant mugged me. I tell this under oath, it was that man sitting right there. Although in my defense, he looked very much like a woman at the time, I swear to you. He mugged me and stole my car and told me I had bigger breasts than his mother. Please. Can we be finished with this now?