Virtual Web Art Museum
May 28, 2013
of in the Backyard
by Rodney E.J. Chang
Rebecca was having a hard time in life.
Things had to get better. She
just turned 40, was overweight, had two children ages 10 and 8, wasn't married,
and had been unemployed for over two years.
She was fortunate to qualify for state assistance, the kids were doing OK
in school and not running wild, and finally managed to get herself and children
out of her single father's house. She
had had a earful of advice and criticism from the old man to last her a
lifetime. Rebecca was tired of being
treated like a loser and now had a chance to stand on her own two feet.
Having found a cheap rental in the basement of an old house, miles away
from her father's place, she still could afford to take business classes to be
more employable. Without much
self-confidence and having always struggled in school, she was exploitable.
Her gullibility also didn't help,
nor did moving in with
the landlord that she had. She
was fortunate to find a basement unit of an old house in Honolulu.
Rose Santiago and her husband, both in their
late 50s, where originally from the Philippines.
They had managed to save enough to acquire the mortgage on the old,
single-wall wooden house in need of repairs,
in Liliha, an old neighborhood with old people and recently arrived
immigrants. The congested area
with link fences and above ground telephone poles and wires
hemming in winding narrow streets was looked down upon by the more
affluent that lived above Liliha valley up on Alewa Heights, from where there
was a fantastic view of downtown Honolulu as well as infamous Pearl Harbor.
After a few months as landlord above the
tenant in the basement, Rose took a liking to struggling Rebecca.
She started to treat the single parent as her own daughter, giving advice
whether Rebecca wanted it or not. People
always seemed to want to counsel the woman.
She knew she needed help and was always all ears to free advice.
But besides practical advice on getting a job, and offering her a measley
10 cents an hour to babysit Rose's 90 year-old mother who lived on the first
floor and was confined to a wheel chair, Rose filled Rebecca's mind with her
superstition about the little people.
Menehunes live in my back yard.
Maybe sometimes they come up to peek inside the basement windows.
How do you know,
Rebecca would trepidly ask with credulousness.
Because when I water the plants in the
back yard I can hear the sound of running. In
the bushes next to big mango tree.
Soft steps like that of little children.
But have you ever seen any of them?
No but I can also feel them watching
Feel them? Rebecca
was trying to decide if she should believe this too.
Their rental space had a back porch landing that led to the back yard.
She wondered if she had to worry about the safety of her young children.
You know a few months back my husband
asked me in the morning if I pulled his hair last night.
Well, Rose, did you?
I've been with that old man so long, why
would I bother? Of course not.
I told him it was probably one of those menehunes.
They can be rascals, you know.
So what did he think after you said
He agreed with me.
He always does. He knows I'm
smarter than him.
I know it's true, you know.
How can you be so sure?
You told me you never really saw any.
As you know, I just went to visit
relatives back in the Philippines. There
I meet with a seer and told him about my suspicion concerning menehunes living
in my back yard. The old man closed his eyes and when he opened them, told me,
'It's true. I could see the little
people running about in your yard at night.
They pulled your husband's hair because they were angry at him.'
What did he do to get them angry?
The day before he had cleaned up the
back, mowed away much of their hunting area, reducing their camouflage from
I can see why they are upset.
That's not all.
What else did you discover?
They're also upset with you.
After the clean up, you after neglecting
the back for so long, the way they like it -you know, privacy and natural
bushes, started to water the back.
Well now that's things are tidy back
there, I thought I should take care of the yard better.
Well, you got them all wet.
And continue to do so every time you spray water over the area.
You better stop this when you go back to Hawaii or else something bad
will happen to you.
Rose believed it all and told the soothsayer
she'd stop watering the back
and tell her husband not to trim things back again.
She had no choice but let the place become unkempt again.
There's one more thing.
Those chickens that you keep in the coop back there.
What about it?
Well notice how sometimes a little chick
or some eggs are missing?
You mean it's those little people?
Yes, and they don't like the fact that
you only have one chicken left. Stop
killing and eating the lot; let that last one live.
But that's why we keep the chickens.
For the meat.
Having heard the session between Rose and
the visionary, Rebecca said,
But I notice the cage is empty now.
Yeah, by the time I got back, that
husband of mine had killed it and made chicken adobo and chicken papaya soup.
So now what? asked Rebecca in a
Well, I'm bringing all this stuff about
menehunes up because I just cut your hair.
Rebecca need her hair trimmed, to look more professional before doing job
interviews. Money was tight and Rose
wanted to lend a hand. But not
wanting to get hair all over the floor inside the house, she led Rose to the
back porch for the haircut. Most of
the hair was sweep up but some blew into the yard or was sweep there from off
the porch's landing.
Sorry, thinking things over, I made a
mistake by cutting your hair back there.
Well, remember those creatures coming
inside my house, even up to the 2nd floor where we sleep, to pull the
hair of my husband? What
little he still has?
I think the menehune's in my yard can use
hair to communicate or even make a curse.
What are you saying? Rebecca
now said with fear on her face.
I'm sorry but you may now be cursed.
If I was you, I'd make an offering to
them, like I sometimes do.
Is that what those soda cans are back
Yes, they especially love Coke.
That's silly... I don't believe that..
You better believe.
If you don't want your own hair pulled some night, or even have something
worse happen to you. Or maybe even
to your children.
Thinking it over, Rebecca thought, OK,
why not be safe? I can afford to
waste a can of soda.
I would also place a raw piece of
chicken. Really make nice to
That would be a nice gesture, replied
I guess I could spare a wing the next
time I buy a pack of chicken pieces from the market to make dinner.
I wouldn't insult them and look cheap, cautioned Rose.
Better to give them a nice big thigh or drum stick.
That's the best parts, thought the overweight tenant, but answered, OK, if you think
OK then, concluded the landlord.
So it's agreed. From
now on you'll be the one to put chicken and soda out back for them, not
Hey, you're the one in trouble.
I stopped watering and the grass and tall weeds are growing back in.
Think of your kids. And don't
you forget, they got your hair.
But do I still have to place chicken if you just buy another
chicken for the coop?
We don't plan to. We're getting too old to take care of
chickens. It's cheaper today just to
buy the meat and eggs from the supermarket.
Well, OK, if you think it'll keep them away from me and the
Absolutely, my dear.