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'Every Drop is a Man's Nightmare' short story collection explores lives of Hawaiian women

Megan Kamalei Kakimoto is the author of "Every Drop is a Man's Nightmare." (Van Wishingrad)
Megan Kamalei Kakimoto is the author of "Every Drop is a Man's Nightmare." (Van Wishingrad)

Host Deepa Fernandes speaks with author Megan Kamalei Kakimoto about her new short story collection “Every Drop is a Man’s Nightmare,” which tells stories of mixed native Hawaiian and Japanese women and explores their often hidden lives and desires.

The cover of “Every Drop is a Man’s Nightmare.” (Courtesy of Bloomsbury)

Book excerpt: ‘Every Drop is a Man’s Nightmare’

By Megan Kamalei KaKimoto

A Catalogue of Kānaka Superstitions, as Told by Your Mother

Don’t sleep with your feet by the door! Those dangling, dreaming toes are sweet as sucrose to the Night Marchers, and they will drag you from your slumber by your feet.

Don’t sleep with your head under the open window! When the demon visits, he will wedge his knife through the slit and slice you open by the neck.

Don’t drive over the Pali with pork in your car! The spirits of Kamapua‘a and Pele will kindle a war in that tinderbox you call a head, leave you with the ashes of lifelong bad luck scattered over your mushy brain bits.

Don’t saddle your boat with bananas! You’ll flounder along the seas with more bad luck, and, of course, no more fish for you.

Don’t smash the mo‘o with your rubba slippa! That’s our ‘aumakua. Every dead relative who hasn’t passed over, confined to the wet elastic limbs of the house gecko. Could be cousin Jerry, he died last year. Or Moloka‘i grandma. Or your father.

Don’t kill the moth! Could also be your father.

Don’t give your sister a closed flower lei! She’s hāpai, you know, due in just a few weeks, and if you close her womb like that, the baby will slip from her legs before it’s ready, choking on its cord.

Don’t bury those chopsticks in your rice! That’s how we left the chopsticks at your dad’s funeral, all straight up like that. Bad luck!

Don’t whistle at night! You know what happens if the Night Marchers hear you? You know how fast they’ll climb over the Ko‘olaus just to whittle down your spirit? You’ll have to put everything you’ve got into evading them should you hope to whistle and live. My baby honey girl, don’t you want to live?

Don’t stack those dishes like that! Four is a rotten number. You know the kanji for shi is the same kanji for death? How much money we’ve spent on your Japanese lessons, and still you make mistakes. You should study longer, work harder, learn our language, practice your penmanship, do good. Make your father proud. After everything that has happened to us, don’t you want to make your father so proud?

Don’t stand between your sister and her husband like that! You’re not their kid, and anyway, you standing in the middle like that means you’ll be the first to die. You like make dead die? What would I do without my baby? I can’t live without you, my baby.

Don’t pinch your nose like that! That smell is only fresh flowers, a flute of music in our house. No matter that we don’t keep flowers here, the smell stay from the other side. The rush of plucked ‘ilima, sweet pucker of puake-nikeni, don’t you know these are the fragrances of your father? His spirit is paying us a visit…finally.

Don’t point at your father’s headstone like that! His soul should be at peace, not summoned by the strength of your baby finger. You think he wants to be anywhere near this place? Leave him be, let him sleep.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.