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Ching (and other winners) will read at the MIA Literary Series on Mon., 1/16 at 7pm.
Image: courtesy Donald Carreira Ching

Da Same but Different

Fiction Contest Runner-up

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 the following piece “Da Same but Different” as this year’s runner-up.


I nevah seen Jimmy in years. We talk hea and dea, we still braddahs, but y’know how it is. Both get girlfriend, start fo get serious, pretty soon I get tchree kids and my girl like talk Koolina, Crystal Chapel. Her friend stay tellin me no get da round one, she like cushion cut. But when Ma call me up, tell me I need fo go talk to my braddah, nutten else mattahs.

Ma when tell me he stayin wit his girlfriend’s aunty. One nice cottage up Lulani Street. I grew up Kahaluu my whole life and I nevah knew wea da fuck dat was.

“Stay jus befo Hygenics,” she tell me. “Get Kam. Highway and right next to um stay Okana road, right up dea.”

Aftah couple back and forths, I figgah it stay da shortcut fo go pier, when you no need make beer run at da service station. Nice place, plenny haoles, too good fo pick up their dog shit. Too good fo wave hello or move out of da road when dey walkin or ridin their bike, y’know da kine.

“How he afford one place up dea?” I ask her.

She pause, can hear her playin wit her cough drop. “Das what I like you talk wit him about.”

Tell you da truth, Ma always li’dat, like exaggerate everyting. When she when catch us sellin da vicodin Jimmy got aftah he when get his wisdom teeth pulled, was like da end of da world or someting. Like she when hear Da Bold and Da Beautiful gon be cancelled. Was Christmas time y’know, we jus like get her someting nice. I mean she nevah complain when she open up her brand new, not from da outlet, Coach bag. But y’know I had fo go return da Playstation I wen buy and she even made Jimmy beg da lady at Gold Mart fo take back his rope chain. Was cool though, couple months latah, I wen get all of mine pulled, bought him one twice as big.

Stay late by da time I finally find da place. I dunno what fo expect when I park in da gravel lot and walk down da private road to Jimmy’s. Da way Ma talkin, I half-expect da house fo look like one-crack seed shop but nicah, like one drug store, or like Hygenics: one door, no windows, cigarette postah wall paper, meth heads hoverin around da open door like termites.

Fuckah nice though: wrought-iron wrap around, bird of paradise, pikake, one mango tree in da corner. Even get one koi pond next to da tile walkway and da large wood doors. Jimmy’s place stay off to da side, get his own gate, strip of grass, two parking stalls wit one SUV right out front. Da paint sparkle flawless, like da rings my girl keep tellin me I no can afford.

I try fo da kine, compose myself. Pull my jeans up, make sure my shirt straight. My girl when try give me advice da night befo, try fo tell me what fo say. Stupid her, she tink cuz her cousin’s cousin’s friend had one caffeine problem that it stay da same. She had all da advice books out, Dr. Phil, li’dat.

“Dis kine stuff,” I tell her, “no can look em up in one book.”

Standin dea though, was kinda feelin like was okay fo at least check da table of contents, maybe even da introduction li’dat. I mean what da fuck I gon say, “Eh, Jimmy boy, long time, ah? Ma said you was sellin Ice.” Or maybe gotta be da kine, at his level, “Jimmy, y’know, I just concerned. I no like you end up in prison or worse yet make, dead li’dat.” Direct prolly da best way, “You stupid fuckah, what da fuck you tink you doin?”

Jus den, I see one guy bikin it down da driveway, fuckah was cruisin it. Podagee lookin guy, backwards baseball cap, UH t-shirt, had one orange fanny pack holdin up his shorts. He wen stop and put his bike up against da fence, walk up to da door.

“Howzit?” he says.

Up close, can kinda tell someting wrong wit da guy. His face look worse den da kids I see outside my girl’s sku. No mo pus eithah, jus blood, like all da fuckah does is scratch. He unzips his fanny pack and pulls out one inhalah. “Hate da Summer time.”

I go fo knock, but da door opens and I see Jimmy standin dea. He looks at me, den at da Podagee guy, and den back at me. “What’re you doing here?”

“I like talk.”

He looks at Podagee. “Just you?”

Podagee nods, “Yah, but I get couple friends. Good guys, Jimmy, you gotta meet em.”

“Nah,” Jimmy says, “but can tell them I said Aloha, yeah?”

“Shoots.”

Listenin to da two of em talk, Jimmy look da same but different. Still get Pops’ jaw, Papa’s nose. Sound da same too, his English was always bettah den mine. Fuckah always told me he when cheat on da vocab tests, but I knew bettah den dat. Even get da rope chain I when give him, look biggah now, but can see um peekin out undah his collar.

“Nick, you heard what I said?”

“Huh?” I look at him.

“Can you give us a couple minutes?”

I look at him, den at da Podagee guy, and das when I smell it. Sweet Pakalolo mixed with someting else creepin out from behind da door.

“Yah, yah,” I tell him.

“Thanks.” He opens da door widah and Podagee walks in, givin me one wave. “Couple minutes, Nick,” Jimmy tells me.

Da door close, I jus stand dea. I wonderin who dis Podagee guy to Jimmy. Maybe Jimmy like Costco, Podagee comin fo stock up or maybe he da delivery service. Prolly jus one user, one fuckin good fo nutten. Kine guys me and Jimmy sold to in high sku. Guys tryin fo ack like dey party hard, poppin pills in math class, laughin when da numbahs no add up.

Fo real though, I nevah know what fo tink. I when walk up da road, wea could get one nice view of da Koolaus. On da ride ovah, on da H-3, da mountains when look like like they used to, lush, green like da syrup when it first hit da shave ice. Make me tink of da days when me and Jimmy stole nickel candy from da Goodie Korner. When we still when smoke candy cigarettes. Now, look dingy, da clouds rollin gray, dense.

Couple cars go speedin past, I recognize one of da songs blarin from da guys radio. Old sku jam, no can membah da name now. Jimmy though, always could get em, even knew all da lyrics, and when no can, he just make up his own.

He should be singin em wit me, but he not. I dunno what da fuck he doin, I no even know why. My phone ring, fuckin Ma. I feel um vibrate in my pocket till it go dead, not sure what fo tell her. Not sure what fo say.

Donald Carreira Ching was born and raised in Kahaluu and recently completed his first novel, Between Sky and Sea, excerpts from which have appeared in Bamboo Ridge and Hawaii Review.