Poi Dog by Georgie Morvis

He’s never walked this street before. Normally he turns right at the sign of the banana trees but today he blazes right by them, walking downhill, leaning like a weatherman in a hurricane. One of his slippahs is on the precipice of coming undone.

He’s staring straight ahead, wondering how much longer this road goes on before he will have to turn, when suddenly he careens to the ground. His hands catch the sidewalk first, then his knee. He stays down for a second, just in case someone has seen him, in case his mom followed him after he said her lolo ass would be lucky to ever see him again.

Red dirt stains his raw hands. His knee is bleeding. He reaches for his slippah, already knowing it was real kine broken, when the puka rips and the only way to keep it on is to squeeze your big toe and the next one together. Alongside the useless slippah is a muddy tennis ball, brownish green fur patches worn away, exposing the rubber underneath.

He turns to his right and sees a chain-link fence, with a dog behind it, staring directly at him. The dog is somewhere between a terrier and a retriever, the color of wet cardboard. One ear stands straight up while the other flops lazily to the side. The dog pants heavily but his eyes are lit up, charming and cute and deranged all at once.

He grabs the ball and flings it over the fence. The dog runs after it, tongue bouncing like a hand stretched out the passenger window. He smiles for the first time after a full day of grumbling and rolling his eyes and screaming and choking back tears and trying to astral project to San Francisco or Los Angeles or at least Honolulu.

The dog comes back every time. It drops the ball under the gate and bounds away the second the ball leaves his hands. They play fetch like that for a while, hurling the ball as far as he can, wincing as wet fur kisses tender skin, forgetting about his broken slippah or his bleeding knee or the sting of his mom’s quiet final words: I’ll pray for you. It could have been two minutes or twenty. He wonders how many passersby this dog had tricked into throwing the ball, how many people he has trained.

His phone vibrates in his pocket and he pulls it out. He clears a bunch of texts from its cracked screen and only reads one: proud of u. grab u at menehune mart after my shift?

The ball lands at his foot, the one with the broken slippah. He tosses the ball over the fence, one last time. When the poi dog returns, he’s already gone, and the ball rolls to a lonely stop in the middle of the road.

Georgie Morvis is a writer based in Chicago, by way of Kalaheo, Hawai’i and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Their writing has been published in Pigeon Review, Cast of Wonders and Querencia Press. They were a Lambda Literary Fellow in 2023 and won the Judges’ Prize at the ‘Ohina Filmmakers Lab 2022. You can follow them on Twitter at @gmorvis and Instagram at @georgiemorvis.

grayscale photography of boy playing ball with the dog
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com
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