March 19, 2020 by The Citron Review
by Melissa Llanes Brownlee
Turkeys screech on the oil-stained concrete driveway. She watches them through the louvered glass windows of the living room, strutting back and forth over greasy rainbows as she sprawls on the couch, her right leg draped over the top, calf grooved with curved indentions of rattan. She hopes the neighborhood dogs won’t scare them off or some asshole driving a truck too fast along the road. She likes the idea of wild turkeys wandering around the rainforest behind her house with their red wattles dangling on plump chests, pecking their way through the ferny undergrowth. She’d told other students on the mainland about them, but no one had known about the turkeys. They like to eat the fallen avocados from the tree next to the driveway. She doesn’t blame them. They are delicious. Really, what kind of person would bring a turkey here and release it? She’d heard stories of pythons curled up near tiny streams, Jackson chameleons cruising tree branches, flocks of parrots buzzing people’s houses. Turkeys? The idea of someone, or multiple someones, bringing in a turkey as a pet or as food and then thinking hey let’s just let them go and see what happens makes her smile and cringe at the same time. She’d once found a polaroid she’d never seen before in her sister’s photo album. She was small, sitting on the hood of a white sports car at night, holding a baby cougar, the dark sepia bleeding in from the white edges. If someone could bring in something that dangerous, then a turkey wouldn’t even be a big deal.
She listens to their squabbling as the breeze raises tiny bumps along her exposed arms. She can smell the afternoon rain coming. Its green, wet scent nags her to take the clothes off the line. Instead, the sounds and smells drive her deeper into the hard, bird of paradise patterned cushions, the rattan creaking under her. She hates it. Hates its cheesy, mocking aloha print, reminding her of mu’umu’u worn for weddings, funerals, May Day celebrations, long, stiff material scratching her skin. The rattan furniture was for company, her parents insisted, but she likes the breeze that passes through the room. She stares at the palm leaf fan above her, dusty webs clinging to its wide bamboo fronds. The whole room makes her think of a hotel. Not a nice hotel like in Waikoloa, where the rich tourists stay, but an old hotel like Uncle Billy’s in Kona with worn carpets, faded drapes, and chipped furniture, remembering better days when Kona was just a small fishing village and the hotel was a primo place to stay. They used to stay there for family reunions when rooms were cheaper. Now, they just have reunions at Old A’s in one of the pavilions or camp down Napo’opo’o. Going to reunions always meant work, cooking, cleaning, babysitting. People she didn’t like talking to her about things she didn’t care about. When she was younger, she always felt like she had to please everyone. Now, she counts the days when she can just be away from them again.
She forces herself to roll off the couch onto the ceramic tiled floor. The rattan bites into her side while the grout between the beige tiles presses into the edge of her knee. They are almost too cold to touch. She pushes up, each of her hands spread wide, fingers soothed and repelled by the chill, and gets to her feet. They don’t feel the cold as much as her hands. Years of walking barefoot on smooth lava rocks to jump into the ocean had hardened and widened them. She hates shoes with their heel bleeding blisters, toe cramping, make your feet look pretty in not quite Chinese foot binding ways. She walks through her mother’s idea of a haole country kitchen, all white crockery and towels you can’t use, and out the screen door. She puts on her slippahs and realizes she’d forgotten to grab a laundry basket. She hates laundry. She hates the sorting, hanging, folding. She hates that she can’t use the dryer unless it rains all day. She kicks off her slippahs and slams open the screen door, hitting the side of the house with a loud bang. She hears a concert of squawks from the front of the house. She walks quickly through the kitchen and into the living room only to see that all the turkeys have vanished.
Melissa Llanes Brownlee is a Native Hawaiian writer. She received her MFA in Fiction from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her work has appeared in Booth: A Journal, The Baltimore Review, The Notre Dame Review, Pleiades, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the 2018 New American Fiction Prize and the 2019 Brighthorse Prize. She currently resides, pretty much, in the middle of Japan.