Steve Carr, from Richmond, Virginia, has had over 490 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, reviews, and anthologies since June 2016.
He has had seven collections of his short stories, Sand, Rain, Heat, The Tales of Talker Knock and 50 Short Stories: The Very Best of Steve Carr, and LGBTQ: 33 Stories, and The Theory of Existence: 50 Short Stories, published. His paranormal/horror novel Redbird was released in November 2019. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice.
The Pineapple Disillusionment
by Steve Carr
Kelli Osawa stepped out of the skiff and onto the pier carrying a small suitcase. Her purse hung from her shoulder by a long silver chain. Mr. Koa, the owner of the skiff that had carried Kelli from Honolulu, had spoken only a few words to her from the start to the finish of the ride.
“Sorry, I was trying to figure out if you’re Hawaiian,” he said when she caught him staring at her face.
“I’m not from Hawaii. My grandparents were interracial. Japanese and French.”
As she walked away from where the skiff sat, its motor idling, she could feel his eyes on her, or more precisely, on her white jersey skirt being flung about by the strong breeze blowing in from the open Pacific waters. With the one free hand she barely managed to keep the skirt from being lifted like a parachute above her thighs. Stepping from the pier onto the concrete pathway that led to the Four Seasons Resort, Kelli looked beyond the resort to the rocky, gently rolling hills that led north, toward the island’s center. Somewhere in those hills was to be her new home. She had only seen pictures of it, and except for the two weeks spent in Honolulu and on Maui, this was the first time she had been to Hawaii. Coming from her birthplace and where she grew up, Cincinnati, Ohio, setting foot on Lanai felt like she had finally been set free from the prison of her unfulfilled past.
It was only when she was near the resort that she found a taxi parked at a curb, whose driver, Ben Mahelona, was leaning against the front of the taxi and vaping on an e-cig. He eyed her up and down, lowered the e-cig, and pursed his lips, about to whistle.
She grabbed the e-cig from his hand, and glared at him. “Don’t even,” she growled. “I need a ride to here.” She uncrumpled a small piece of paper she had waded in her left hand and handed it to him.
“There’s nothing there but old plantation houses and one of those tiny houses they brought in and set up a few days ago,” he said.
“The tiny house is mine.” She had received an email while at the hotel in Honolulu that her 8 x 20 ft house on wheels had arrived a few days before at the dock near where she had disembarked from Mr. Koa’s skiff and was being hauled to its location on the distant outskirts of Lanai City.
His embarrassed gulp was audible. “It’s real cute.”
“Can you take me to it?”
“Sure, hop in.”
He opened the back door of the taxi and took her elbow as she climbed in, holding onto it a bit too long, resulting in her jerking it from his tanned fingers. “Don’t touch me,” she snapped, threw his e-cig at him, and pulled her door shut.
Catching the e-cig, he hastily took several drags from it, and then got into his taxi. In the rearview mirror he watched her dab her eyes as tears ran down her cheeks. He started the taxi and headed north.
The narrow dirt road that cut through a large field of fountain grass led straight to Kelli’s tiny house. She had gotten out of Ben’s taxi after throwing his fare money at the back of his head as soon as he stopped at the beginning of the road she now walked on. She looked all around, not seeing a single pineapple growing anywhere. Back in Cincinnati it took some doing, and a bit of research, to dislodge her thinking that pineapples grew on trees, like coconuts. In the grass and scrubland that surrounded her on all sides, not a single wildflower lent color to the grass and earth colors. As she neared her tiny house, dozens of green anole lizards jumped from her boxes and trunks that had been stacked in the dirt in front of her house. She screamed in frustration and dropped her suitcase in the dirt as the lizards scurried away. She had been told that her things wouldn’t arrive until after she did, not that they would be left exposed to the elements and blocking her ability to get into her house. What’s more, the tiny house leaned a little to the right, the wheel on that side having sunk a few inches into the soft earth.
She glanced around, removed her skirt and pumps, and in her panties and blouse and barefoot, she first made a path through her things to the door of her house, and then slowly unpacked the boxes and trunks, and carried her things inside. It was midnight and in full moonlight that she sat on the stoop of the stairs leading to the front door and watched the shinning lights go out in the nearest house almost a quarter mile away. Until it had turned dark, and the lights shone through the windows, she hadn’t noticed the house at all.
After a sound night of sleeping in the loft bed built above the back section of the main living area, Kelli was lying awake staring up at the ceiling that was an arm’s length above her head. She was annoyed with herself for not asking more questions about pineapples on the property before buying the very expensive small plot of land. Then she heard a light but steady tapping on her front door. She slid out of bed, careful not to hit her head, climbed down the ladder and put on her robe that she had hung on a hook above the kitchen sink. When she opened the door, Rita Louise, was standing on the top stair holding a wicker basket containing a pineapple.
“Aloha, you poor thing,” Rita said, her voice a mixture of cheerfulness and gloom that matched how she was dressed; in a calf-length black and white polka dot dress with a bright purple corsage pinned to the right shoulder, a black straw hat with a black veil that draped down over her eyes, and elbow-length black gloves with the fingertips cut off, exposing her bright yellow painted nails. “I’m Rita Louise. I live in the next house over. She pointed toward the house Kelli had seen the lights shinning from the night before. “Ben told me you were brokenhearted. Whoever hurt you, think of me as an adopted sister, on your side. Men can be such beasts!” She handed Kelli the basket and lifted her veil. She was much older than she sounded; her face was very tanned, as if she had once had fair skin but had spent too much time in the sun, unnaturally darkening it, and lined with deep wrinkles. Her thin lips were hidden by black lipstick, thickly applied.
“Who’s Ben?” Kelli asked, staring at the pineapple that had a smiley face carved into it.
“That darling young man who drives the taxi. Quite a catch, that one. When your heart mends you two would make a lovely couple.” She reached out and gently laid her hand on Kelli’s arm. “I’m very empathic when it comes to matters of the heart and I can tell you’re suffering.”
Kelli looked up from the pineapple. “My heart’s not broken, least of all by a man.”
“Don’t worry dear, I’m a very modern girl. It’s not my thing, but liking other women is very natural for some gals.”
“No, it’s not that either, although at times . . .”
As if suddenly confused, lost in a myriad of questions, none that she could verbalize, Rita’s fingers fluttered in mid-air for a moment before she lowered the veil over her face. “Well, you know where I live if you ever want to talk about it.” She turned to go.
Kelli burst out in tears, and sobbing, said, “I’m just so lost. In the world, I mean.”
Rita turned back. “Oh, sweetie, we all are in one way or another.”
“Please come in,” Kelli said, stepping aside and waving Rita the way into the house.
“By some miracle, I won the state lottery, which allowed me to finally get out of Cincinnati and to buy my tiny house and this property to put it on. I always wanted to live in Hawaii and grow my own pineapples.” Kelli poured a little Scotch in the steaming tea in Rita’s teacup. A wedge of pineapple hung over the lip of the cup.
Rita picked up her cup, took a sip, and licked her lips, savoring the taste. “Pineapples are very tempting things but Lanai is no longer the place for growing them. For the most part, that time has come and gone.” She took another sip of the tea and then tilted her head one way and then the other. “Is it your Scotch that you put in the tea or does your house lean a bit to the right?”
“It’s your Scotch,” Kelli said. “You brought the bottle.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Rita giggled as she patted the bottle in her skirt pocket.
Feeling another crying jag coming on, Kelli poked at a chunk of apple on the plate in front of her with a toothpick. “Is it easy to grow a pineapple plant?”
“Not too difficult. I grew a few when I first arrived here from New York, but buying them from the market or in a can is a lot easier.” Rita finished her tea, stood, and on wobbly legs headed for the door. “The lure of the pineapple may just be a siren’s call to those of us seeking some direction in life,” she said over her shoulder.
“Or a cruel trick.”
As the crew of four men righted Kelli’s tiny house, she planted the top of a pineapple in the sandy soil not far from where the men were working. “What’s she doing?” she heard one of the men say.
She poured water from a watering can on the planted pineapple top, sat back, shook her head, and then ripped the pineapple top from the mud and tossed it aside. She stood up and walked over to where the men were pouring concrete inside a wood frame where the right wheel would set upon. “Would any of you guys be interested in helping me start a pineapple plantation.”