There’s a picture of me somewhere, wearing a space suit. My little brown bob, grown out from the last time I got ukus, dusting the metal ring around the neck hole. I couldn’t believe how heavy it was, my arms and legs swimming in puffy whiteness. My hand shot up so fast when you asked who in the class wanted to try it on, my dreams of rocket ships and space, sparkling around me. I didn’t know who you were then even though I had visited your parents’ general store in Kealakekua after every coffee picking day, my back sore from carrying a basket of coffee beans around my waist all day. No matter how fast I picked or how many baskets I filled, I was never fast enough or skillful enough, each hundred-pound bag filled by my parents, extra money for school shopping and Christmas presents. Maybe you picked coffee too? Maybe you were never chastised because your best was good enough to get you out of Kona and into space. On the day you died, I cried. In that moment, when the Challenger exploded, I saw the end of all of our dreams, Kona boy made good. And I remembered the kindness of your parents giving me a free cup of vanilla ice cream and a bag of freshly fried kettle chips, my face sweaty, my hands sticky with sap.


Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has work published or forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, Reckon Review, The Hennepin Review, Cheap Pop, The Razor, Cotton Xenomorph, Lost Balloon, and Atlas + Alice. She is in Best Small Fictions 2021, Best Microfiction 2022, and Wigleaf Top 50 2022. Read Hard Skin, her short story collection, from Juventud Press. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at