Sunday, 30 September 2012

Snippet from my latest short story...Candy

So for all of you who enjoyed reading my first story here is a snippet of my latest short story.  Let me know what you think, suggestions, constructive criticisms are all welcome.

If you missed my first short story you can find it at:

By Morwenna Petaia

My name is Candice Palemia, but people call me Candy.  You would think that Candy is a shortened version of my name Candice, but it’s not.  My Uncle Iosua came to visit from Hawaii when I was just learning to speak.  Being Samoan he brought over an oso, which is a cultural tradition of bringing a gift to those you are visiting.  Uncle Iosua brought over a whole bunch of Hersheys chocolate kisses and nuggets.  Living in Australia we call them chocolates, but being American Uncle Iosua called them candy.  When I indicated for some he wouldn’t give me any until I called them candy.  Even after I cried and cried and rolled on the floor stopping only to bang my forehead on the ground he would not budge.  I tried and tried first it was tandy, then it was gandy then two weeks later it happened, I stood in front of Uncle Iosua with my outstretched hand barely reaching his knee and said “candy?”  I was so happy to get my candy that anytime I saw someone I put my hand out and said “candy?”  Even after the bags of candy were finished I would still ask people for candy.  This went on until I was around three.  Ever since then I have always been called Candy.

In Samoa names usually have some sort of significance.  For example my dad’s name is Fata, he is named after his father Fata who was named after his father, Fata.  Fata has been the name of the eldest son in my dad’s family for the last five generations.  Then there was a girl I went to school with at Leifiifi College; she was named Anzac Day because she was born on Anzac day.  I also have a cousin who was named after two of her grandmothers because both had passed away shortly before she was born.  Names are really important in the Samoan culture, particularly your last name because it is through your family name that you represent your aiga, your family, siblings, parents and grandparents.

The Palemia family has attended Samoa College for years and years.  Ever since I started school my dad had always told me that I need to study hard and get good grades so that I can be like him and his siblings and parents and great grandparents and great great grandparents who all attended Samoa College, the college where all the smart people go.  As hard as I studied and listened in all of my classes I just didn’t get the grades that would give me a place or an award in any of my year levels.  Even with my less than great grades, my dad still had the expectation that I would follow in his footsteps and attend Samoa College.  When my results came in telling me what school I got into I was not at all surprised that I didn’t get into Samoa College, heck I didn’t even get into Avele College that was how bad my grades were.  Needless to say I heard the whole spiel from my dad, “you are a disappointment to our family.  You are the first person in our family since the beginning of time who will not be attending Samoa College.  Do you realize the shame that you have brought to our family?  How could you do this to us?”  The burden of being a Palemia felt heavy on my shoulders, especially being an only child, as I tried to live with the fact that I had failed my family and killed my father’s dream of having a child follow in his educational path.  Who could have imagined the weight one would feel from trying to live up to a family name.

All my life we moved back and forth between Samoa and Australia.  Mum’s a palagi from Australia and would always get homesick so we’d move between our house in Holsworthy in Sydney and my dad’s family house in Vaivase Uta.  We moved to Sydney again half way through year 10 in high school.  I went to All Saints Catholic School.   You would not believe the teasing the kids were capable of, especially over a name.  Our science teacher’s name was Mr Cox.  As you can imagine the minds of sex crazed teenagers, who had nothing else on their minds but that three lettered word, made vulgar remarks about our teacher’s name.  One day in science class while Mr Cox was at the whiteboard one boy yelled ‘Dick’ from the back of the room.  Mr Cox turned around and asked who said it, no one confessed so Mr Cox said the whole class would be on detention.  He turned around to write on the board and a different boy yelled out ‘Willy’, this time Mr Cox ignored the yelling.  That is when it got worse, students all around the room started yelling out different words for the male reproductive organ.  By this time Mr Cox had turned around but as hard as he tried he couldn’t regain control of the class.  The yelling went on for what seemed like half an hour, with loud laughter mixed in.  On the outside Mr Cox looked like a strong man.  At close to six feet tall he towered over all of us, he purposely wore tight t-shirts to show off the muscles that lay hidden beneath cotton.  Yet even with the stature of a warrior the name calling of ego driven teenagers brought him to tears and pushed him to flee for serenity into the class storeroom.

This was a complete culture shock to my days at Leifiifi College where speaking out of turn was considered disrespectful and not tolerated by any teachers let alone the students.  I sat like a stunned mullet in my chair still trying to process what had just happened.  How could they do that?  Do they not know the shame that it will bring to their families when they find out about what they had done?

It was my third week at school and I was finding it a little hard fitting in.  I found that I didn’t do things the way the other kids did, I didn’t think the same way they did.  I looked like I would fit in with my green eyes and straight golden brown hair flowing down past my olive skinned shoulders, I could have been palagi or Greek or Italian.  The only thing that gave me away was my last name and slight Samoan accent.  So when I was befriended by Kayla I was a little apprehensive as to why the hot popular girl was trying to be my friend.  Kayla and her friends invited me to hang with them at “the spot” a concrete area behind the toilet block and across from the canteen for easy access to food.  It was so much fun we shared food and talked about teachers and the other kids.  Some of them would then go to the lower oval and smoke; too scared to try I just tagged along for fun while wondering what was so good about smoking.  I mean seriously it stunk and made you smell like a chimney no matter how much deodorant you spray on your clothes to cover it up and it doesn’t look very attractive pursing your lips to a little stick thing then looking like a dragon who couldn’t breathe fire exhaling.

I was becoming a little lonely and homesick, noticing how much I missed my friends from Leifiifi and how we would joke and share thoughts on everything together.  What I missed most was speaking in Samoan.  I may not look Samoan, but it is my first language and the one that I am most comfortable with.  Kayla was such a cool person, which helped me a little.  She was more than just pretty and popular; she was actually smart and cared about her education and her future, which was good for me because my grades were pretty atrocious.    We became pretty close, I was comfortable enough with her that I was able to confide in her some of my feelings that I didn’t think I would be able to say to anyone here, like the fact that I thought David liked me because he keeps texting me, but I never gave him my number or that I think Pooja has ukus cause she is always scratching her head and I actually saw something crawling around her hairline near her right ear.  Kayla was great about it too affirming my fears that a boy actually liked me and that she too had seen the same creepy crawlies in Pooja’s hair.

It became almost a ritual where every Friday night for the last two months I would finish school, walk to my house and get my stuff then I would go to Kayla’s place to sleep over.  This Friday was just like the others but what happened that night changed everything.  

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