Notes From Tha Cove – Welcome to the Cove, Kid
By Bill Boyles
I’m going to start this one off with a warning: this one might be a little difficult to read, even by the standards of this blog. In fact, I will describe in this story the most brutal act of violence I have ever witnessed in my life, a life that has at times been filled with violence. So you’ve been warned. This NFTC is going to take some back story, but stay with me. The first thing you need to know about Paradise Cove for this story is that the boys of each beach were divided into groups of 15-25 boys each and labeled “families.” Each family had its own fale, or hut, and its own set of staff that were in charge of it. These staff were called “fathers”, and rarely switched from one family to another. Families did everything together, and rarely did anything with other families. In fact, for a lower level to even speak to someone from another family, he had to ask his father, then go the other family’s father and ask him too. Breaking this rule was serious. So it was rare for anyone to interact at all with anyone from a different family, except on holidays and such. The attitude at Paradise Cove can be summed up as “family first.” The families competed often on a wide range of things, from competitions to make up the funniest headcounts, to volleyball games, to contests to see who could do the best work project or who had the best looking hut, etc. This had become fully developed into a gang-like mentality. If one person in your family had a problem, everyone did. I was ironically in a family called Peace (you’ll get it later), and at the start of this story a kid nicknamed, appropriately, Shorty had arrived a short time before. Shorty was covered in tattoos that were mostly pretty clearly jailhouse tats and that were even more clearly gang-related. Shorty had spent a lot of time in lockup. He was violent. And he knew a lot of tricks for making shanks and such. For those who don’t know, shanks are improvised knives used for stabbing or cutting. Well, after a short time, Shorty began to beef with a kid in another family who had been affiliated with another gang, and that meant both families began to get involved. A showdown was clearly in the making. During this time, my family had a work project on a Saturday morning. We decided to put in a garden on the side of our fale. My best friend and I went to go get soil for the garden. We dug it up from the side of the hill with coconut shells and placed it into empty 80lb rice bags, then carried it back to the garden and dumped it in. While we were digging one time, we somehow found several huge nails. These things were probably 8 inches long and as thick as a cigarette. I mean, spikes is probably a better word., but the had heads and seemed proportional to a nail scaled up to that length. Being Level 3′s, we weren’t being watched, so we managed to secrete these nails where we could grab them easily later. And that’s just what we did, managing to hide them in our hut. I’m not even sure why, to be honest, but in Paradise Cove any time you found anything that might have the slightest utility later on, you kept it. As things escalated between Shorty and this other kid, the whole family began to get involved. We started stockpiling weapons, starting with a stash of fistpacks we made out of coral. If you don’t know what a fistpack is, it’s a small, hard cylinder you hold in your fist so that when you punch someone, it causes more damage. We also threw some bars of soap and handfuls of rock into socks. And then we began making shanks. The whole family got in on it. I remember a Group Therapy period, where the father turned a blind eye, and so we spent the entire hour sharpening up toothbrushes on the bare concrete spots on the floor, and that’s when I remembered the nails. We told Shorty about them and he eagerly took them. We sharpened them up too and then Shorty made handles by wrapping the top portion of the nails with a kind of rope it was common to make in Paradise Cove out of strips of our lavalavas or old shirts, braided together.
He put them away and I didn’t see them again. We fast forward to some time later, maybe a month or more. I was headed to bed. I was sleeping in the school fale at this time, along with around 60 other kids. The night was like any other. There was a new boy. I had seen him arrive earlier. He had been placed in the family we were feuding with. We went through the typical new boy ritual, part of which is singing a song (more in another NFTC on this ritual). He sang, and Reflections was over and it was time to go to sleep. I laid down and closed my eyes and quickly fell asleep despite the fact that they left some of the lights on every night. In fact, later on those lights being on were how I clearly witnessed one of the most blood chilling things I have ever seen. I woke up abruptly. At first I couldn’t tell what was going on. Nightmares were a common occurrence; it wasn’t all that odd for a boy to be crying out or thrashing at night, so I was more annoyed than concerned as I sat up. But when I sat up, that’s when I saw what was going. Two boys were on top of another boy who was laying on the ground. He was the one screaming, and all three of them were flailing around. At first I thought it was just (JUST!) a fight that was a really one sided fight or maybe someone getting jumped, but as I stared I realized the kid was getting stabbed, over and over and over again. He was screaming for help, but no one was doing anything. Jumping in would mean getting in the same trouble as the rest of them. We all waited for the staff to appear, but they didn’t. The stabbing and screaming went on and on. In my memory, it goes on for what seems like hours. In all reality it probably lasted 2-3 minutes, but for anyone who has not witnessed something like this, that is a lifetime. These kinds of things are usually over in seconds. I started to wonder where the staff were, and even considered calling out for them, but I didn’t want to seem like a snitch, so I stayed silent, and for that I still feel guilty to this day. Eventually the staff showed up and broke up the fight. They had to drag the two boys kicking and screaming off the other boy. That’s when I saw that one of the boys was Shorty. The other was aa boy who was also affiliated with his gang (or maybe an allied gang…the gang thing always confused me in Paradise Cove.) The kid who had been stabbed was the new kid. I didn’t know his name then, and I don’t know it now. But he was screaming and sobbing and rolling around on the ground. He was bleeding EVERYWHERE. The took him off, hopefully to the hospital, and we were told to go back to sleep. It’s worth noting that you got in trouble after Lights Out if you even had your eyes open. It was a Category 2 offense for Non-Verbal Communication. So I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. The next day, I felt even guiltier (and still do) when I found out the shanks used had been the two nails my friend and I had found and given to Shorty. The rumor mill (which was pretty accurate in Samoa- we loved us some juicy gossip!) said that the kid had 27 stab wounds, and he had gotten them because he looked at Shorty the wrong way as our family passed his family. He lived, and I can only assume most of the wounds either bounced off his ribs, didn’t go that deep, or hit him in the arms and legs. It’s strange. I never knew that kid at all, never learned his name, and yet he is one of the people I think about the most from Paradise Cove. The memory comes to me often as I lay in my bed at night, and I close my eyes and imagine what getting stabbed with those huge freaking nails must have felt like. The pain, the fear…on your very first day, for no reason you know. I should have done something, but I didn’t, and I have to live with that. But, in case this unnamed boy ever reads this (you definitely know who you are), I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize. Even though I didn’t know you, you deserved better as a human being. I’m sorry. I hope you healed up physically, and I hope you have found peace mentally. I know the mental wounds are the hardest to heal. That was Welcome to the Cove, Kid; and this was Notes From Tha Cove.