Saturday, February 04, 2012

Kristina writes a story from the Islands, and more

You never know where you will encounter writing talent.  My most recent experience in that regard was while getting fitted for sandals at the most famous -- and longest lasting -- provisioner of custom made sandals, Zora of St. Thomas.  A visit to the shop is an experience that can last quite some time as your measurements are taken and a mock-up is made of your sandal.  Then you come back another day for the final fitting, which includes walking around the shop until you have taken 5000 steps to stretch out the leather.

Before meeting Zora, I was assisted by one of her folks, Kristina Diaz.  Kristina has been in Charlotte Amalie for a while but -- much to Zora's dismay -- is leaving soon to get an advanced degree.  She notes:

I started writing stories in the third grade, and although my writing has evolved in tone and skill, I would like to think that a sense of adventure mixed with a little of the supernatural magic that exists in our every day world is still there. I'm inspired by science fiction and magic realism such as 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, and City of the Beasts by Isabelle Allende. Right now I'm polishing a scifi novel I've written and hope to find a venue where I can get it published.

I asked Kristina if she would send me a story that I could share with my readers, and she did so.  It is too long for this blog, but I want to post an excerpt.  Maybe some talent scout or publisher out there will be intrigued and will follow up.  (You can find more on her blog.)

This story is entitled "Falú" and is about a boy who is the spirit of a storm heading through St. Thomas.  He mistakenly gets separated from the storm and the storm in return sweeps up Luis' cousin, Pablo. Falú, assisted by a street vendor, teaches Luis some lessons about the old days in Charlotte Amalie. Here's the ending: 

Falú smiled at both of them and looked up into the swirling clouds. He squeezed Luis’ hand and pointed to a point inside the clouds and said, “ That’s where I belong. That’s where your cousin is.”

Luis knelt next to Falú, put his hands on his shoulders and looked the boy in the eyes. “Ok, explain.”

Falú smiled. “All storms come from Africa. They follow the ships that brought the slaves. Their spirits become the storm. With time people who die in the ocean are also picked up by the storm, and it becomes bigger. When you forget, the storm passes and takes things away so that you can remember.”

“Remember? Remember what?” Luis asked.

“That you are here because of those who survived, and as such honor and respect needs to be given to our home.”

“I don’t understand.”

Falú stared at Luis and put his hands on his shoulders and pressed their foreheads together. In that moment Luis saw St. Thomas for how it used to be. The island came to life with color. People knew their neighbors and the entire community was invested in the care of  its children, related or not. Nothing was wasted. The town was not filled with eager tourists littering the streets with trash. Children actually had somewhere to play, and respected their elders. People greeted each other as they walked about after dark unafraid.

Then Luis saw himself pulled into the storm. There he saw the faces of his ancestors. He was surrounded by millions of faces and they were all saying: “You need to know better. The whole world is an island in the universe. If it hurts you as an island image how it hurts the world. Something has to change. Something has to change. Something has to change…”

Luis let go of Falú, startled by what he had just seen. The fruit stand lady smiled and laughed out loud.

“Yes! You understand now, don’t you?”

“I think I do.”

“Right then. Hurry! Before the storm moves on,” said the woman to both of them.

“Ok. What do we do now?” said Luis looking at the both of them.

“I need to go home. Back to the storm."

Luis ran his fingers through his curly dark hair and paced for a moment before he clapped his hands with a loud crack and said, “Ok, lets do it.  How do we do this?"

The fruit stand lady smiled, “I’ll go get the rope.”

Before he knew what was happening, Luis had a harness made of rope tied around his chest. Falú clung to him piggyback. The fruit stand woman fastened the end of rope around a mooring hook and retired back into the safety of her stand. Luis could barely make out the whites of her eyes in the doorway.

The storm loomed dangerously to his right. It was creeping toward them.

“Whatever happens Falú, you hold on, ok?”

“Ok,” whispered Falú, and they both closed their eyes and the storm cascaded over them, sucking them up into the sky like a human kite. All Luis could hear was the rush of the wind. He couldn’t see past his own hand, and yet he couldn’t help crying out, exhilarated. He was flying! Up they went until they were deep with in the clouds and water had soaked them through. Luis laughed until he felt Falú let go of his shoulders. Panicked, he grabbed him by the arm and swung him around, so that he was stretched out before him like a free faller without a parachute.

"Are you sure this is the right way?” yelled Luis over the wind.

“Yeeeessss! As long as you don’t forget! Ok?!”

“I won’t forget!”

The wind pulled Falú out of Luis’s arms before he had a chance to say anything else. He stared at his empty hands in shock, until he saw a body falling past him. With fierce determination he tucked his arms to his side and sped toward the falling body. They connected in mid-air with a bone rattling crash.



In unison, “You’re alive!”

They fell head long into the Charlotte Amelia harbor, and Pablo clung to Luis as they were pulled back on to the waterfront by a couple of policemen that had come to rescue the fruit stand lady. Soaked and exhausted, they were dropped off at their home in French town, but before she left, the fruit stand woman pulled Luis through the window and kissed him on the forehead.

“Remember not to forget what you promised to remember.”

“Alright,” said Luis with a smile.

“Oh!” She yelled as she pushed several baggies into his hand,  “And have some pineapple, dear, share them with your cousin there.”

Luis nodded and took the baggies and waved good bye as he pushed through the chartreuse colored front door.

“What was that about?” mused Pablo.

“Here have some pineapple, and I’ll remind you okay?”

“Remind me?”

“Yeah, you already know even if you sometimes forget.”

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