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Daniel A. Kelin, II

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Daniel A. Kelin, II

The Very Darkness Calls Story

It's very dark in the electrically starved part of the island where we are gathered, waiting for the surprise party to begin. We're standing in puddles and waiting. We're always waiting. But in the waiting comes story. This is the story this time.

"My jima, grandfather, told me of my father's birth. Jima always went fishing, like all the men of his island. Not like the others, though, a noniep once appeared to him. The noniep gave him food and fish. Each day following the noniep appeared to him. Each day following, more fish and food. He took lots home every day."

The growl of an overused engine momentarily covers the sounds of the ocean, interrupting the telling. Two eyes stare out of the very darkness; headlights of the car creeping along, avoiding the potholes hiding in the dark.

"The noniep told jima that his wife would have a baby. It wouldn't be the wife's baby. It would be the baby of jima and the noniep; a son. But the wife would birth it."

Rain pours down, just briefly. We hide inside a rental truck, avoiding the seats that drip with the night's previous momentary storms.

" 'My wife's not pregnant.' That's what jima said. 'Will be soon,' and the noniep gives more food and fish to make bubu, my grandmother, and the unconceived boy healthy."

We crawl out of the bed of the truck. A beam of light sweeps overhead. The electric company is searching for the fault; a man standing in the back of a truck sweeping an industrial flashlight along the tangle of wires.

"The men of the island got suspicious. They kept asking jima how he got all that food. 'I just go to the end of the island.' The men didn't believe that, because he always came back with so much more food than any of them. More food than you can find on a tiny island."

Out of the darkness others have appeared to hear the telling.

"The men followed jima one day. They hid in the thicket and watched as the noniep appeared."

Someone interrupts and says that she had a noniep. "But if you talk about it," says another, "you lose the noniep." Everyone laughs. But in the story...

"The men didn't laugh. They were jealous. Those men stepped out of the woods, ready to collect all that food, too. The noniep, and the food, disappeared."

The sky flashes and my teller friend, she tells me to look at the flashlight. Someone laughs, "That's not a flashlight."

"Four months later my bubu gave birth to a boy. That little boy was very healthy."

My friends try to figure out the English word for the 'flash light'.

"That baby boy was my father."

"So your the granddaughter of a noniep?" I asked.

My friend laughs, "No, no."

"Lightning!" someone blurts out, "That's the word. Lightning." The music starts. It's time for the surprise to begin.

MARSHALLESE VOCABULARY
Jima - grandfather
Bubu - grandmother
Noniep - generous, but private, spirit