Jay Dayrit's ''cli-fi'' story in WIRED's new FICTION ISSUE is well worth checking out!
Yesterday I posted this note: ''Jay Dayrit's ''cli-fi'' story is well worth checking out in the December issue of WIRED magazine, in print and online.''
LINK to the story HERE:
Later, Jay in an email exchange wrote: "Thank you, Dan. I am glad you enjoyed my story. It is a subject near and dear to me, because I grew up in Micronesia, and it’s heartbreaking to see what is happening to the atolls there."
Hold Dear the Lamp Light: Before the Tides Rose Up
a short story by Jay Dayrit
copyright WIRED, copyright Jay Dayrit (c) 2017, 2018
The year Jojo and I started 8th grade, the power plant officially cut electricity to 2 hours a day. We’d already been through years of brownouts, of flickering lights, blinking monitors, older ag drones without artificial neural networks rebooting in their stations and randomly launching to spray the fields again or overfeed the chickens.
So when Public Works & Electric issued a message to all our devices telling us about its irregular hours of operation, no one was surprised. The message was full of obfuscating language, but anyone with a tide chart could spot the correlation. Anyone driving down the causeway to the airport, past the power plant, could see through its chain-link fence the turbines standing silent, tense as raised shoulders; the grounds swamped in seawater, the ebbing tide dragging out an iridescent Rorschach of petroleum.
A year before, the garbage dump had had to be relocated, a comparatively easier undertaking, after disposable diapers and plastic bottles began washing ashore on what was left of Ant Atoll, which had already lost its status as the premier diving destination for the Chinese.
The imminent blackouts stirred little protest from a population accustomed to making do. Aging water pipes had given rise to improvised cisterns situated at the eaves of every house. Unreliable supply chains necessitated that we all have competence in maintaining our equipment. Mother Necessity knows how to weld with a zip tie, patch with duct tape, and repurpose a soda can.
Our father took Jojo and me, along with a box of winged beans, bitter melon, and a dozen eggs, over to Bauer’s Hardware. He and Friedrich Bauer had been tennis buddies before the tractor accident. Back then the hospital was even less equipped to handle emergencies, and Friedrich died before he could be medevaced to Guam.
The produce was for Yessica, who had taken over the hardware store. In return, she discounted the Coleman lantern and three bags of charcoal, throwing in a 10-pack of Diamond Strike matches for free. She marveled at how tall Jojo and I had grown but confessed she still couldn’t tell us apart. Our father placed his hand on my brother’s shoulder. “Joseph here is interested in civil engineering. Alejandro, medicine,” he said, as if we’d come up with these ideas on our own. “They’ll be going to Central Pacific next year.”
Yessica’s smile couldn’t mask the flutter of melancholy in her eyes. Friedrich had graduated from there. Anyone from Micronesia who went to Hawaii for school attended Central Pacific High School. Its boarding program had gained a reputation for welcoming students from other islands like the Marshalls and Pingelap, lower-lying atolls that had all but disappeared. When the Office of Insular Affairs renewed the Compact of Free Association for the second time, the penultimate wave of Micronesians arrived in Hawaii, seeking access to better education, jobs, and health care, especially for the blood-borne cancers and autoimmune disorders that were still persistent three generations after nuclear testing. With that influx into Hawaii came a resurgence of housing and job discrimination, racial tension, and violence.
We’d heard that the faculty at Central Pacific encouraged empathy between Hawaiians and Micronesians, highlighting cultural commonalities like celestial navigation and traditional dances. But the fact that there wasn’t a lot of bullying, we knew, had more to do with safety in numbers. A few friends who were home for the summer had reassured Jojo and me we’d be OK, because we were Filipinos who sounded American. With our straight hair and lighter skin, we could pass. Still, we were told to learn how to block a punch. Better yet, learn how to throw one. Jojo and I practiced in our bedroom, aiming for the shoulder, where the sleeves of our T-shirts concealed the bruises that might betray to our parents how we were preparing for high school.
After returning from the hardware store, Jojo and I helped our mother empty the refrigerator, defrost the freezer, and scrape the barbecue grill. She marinated all the meat in soy sauce, calamansi juice, and garlic. Our father threw pork chops and steaks on the grill, but we all felt decadent eating so much red meat. And our mother worried about gout, to which Filipinos were predisposed. She rattled off the names of five of our uncles back in Pampanga as evidence.