When Potatoes Won’t Cook

AJ Wood
6 min readNov 3, 2022

Warning: Take home only memories from Hawaii.

Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

I went to high school in Hawaii. My father was in the Navy, and we lived on a base that has been closed down for at least thirty years now. When we first got there, we did a lot of touristy stuff — went to the beach every weekend, picked guavas and passion fruit growing in the gulch just outside the back door, toured old burial grounds.

On one of these tours, the guide expressly told us, “Take nothing away from here. Leave the ground exactly as you find it. This is a sacred place, and if anything is removed the menehunes (pronounced men-a-HOO-nee) will be angry and take revenge.” My mother, being a person who demands respect from others but sees no reason to show the same to them, said, “Yeah, right.” And she spent the remainder of the tour searching out the perfect rock to take home — one that was easily distinguishable for its size, shape and color.

She set the rock on a counter, no doubt gloating that she’d pulled one over on some stupid legend whose rules didn’t apply to her. And that’s about the time things started to go wrong.

First, it was her textbooks. She was attending the community college at the time, and all her books disappeared from the locked trunk of her car. She searched high and low for them, but they were gone. She had no choice but to buy new ones.

Then she filled her gas tank for the following day’s commute. In the morning, the car wouldn’t start. This was during an oil embargo— long lines, 200 percent price hike, short supply, only allowed to buy on certain days. And my father had installed a locking cap on the gas tank, as did everyone at the time. Yep, you guessed it. That full tank had been completely drained.

Then it was her military ID card. She needed it to gain entrance to the commissary, the grocery store. And like her books, it simply vanished. She pulled everything out of her wallet and purse, searched kitchen drawers and under furniture. She accused everyone in the household and neighborhood of stealing it, even the dogs. She wasn’t able to go shopping until she replaced the card.

Then she got sick, hospitalized for a week. I don’t know the details. Nobody ever told me. Such information was considered none of my business. People would ask me, “How is…

AJ Wood

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