A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

Polynesian Dueling Kites
by Gordon Eskridge (Jan 2010)

        At last they are free from the ground sailing through the air like giant birds of prey. Their clothing snaps on their bodies like sails on boats sprinting before a typhoon trying to reach a safe harbor. The two young men are roasted brown in color, strong of sinew, and eyes like eagles with a single metal claw attached to a bamboo fishing pole clenched in their white-knuckled hands. They stand on blocks attached to lower poles of their three stick fighting kites, their waists tied to the crossing point of the three poles of their airborne chargers. Each young man is carried into the air higher and higher trying to gain the advantage of height over his opponent.

        The brothers of the two men race down the beach into the wind guiding the ropes attached to their brothers’ kites as the combatants soar into the morning sky. The young maiden, the object of this battle, faces the water, high on a cliff overlooking the battleground, guarded by her father and uncles. Her blue black hair glows in the early morning light as she stands statuesque in her pose as she awaits her future.

        Atea, named for the God of Light, and Tanaoa, named for the Lord of Darkness in Marquesas Island mythology, are reliving their history. Tanaoa wants to change the ending of their grandfather’s story where the God of Light conquers the Lord of Darkness.

        The racing men have reached the end of the beach and their ropes. The two young men drive their charging steeds of the air towards each other. Each young man tries to reach the others kite with his claw of flashing metal.

        The law allow a combatant to shred his opponents kite with his claw, but he must not sever the guide rope or tear the pilot’s body. If one antagonist does either, his brothers holding the life line must let go of the rope and allow the gods to determine the pilot’s fate.

        As Tanaoa has gained the greater height, he has the advantage of greater diving speed. Atea must wait and try to maneuver, blocking his opponent’s first strike.

        Guiding the raven-black diving kite by the bridle reins, Tanaoa strikes out with his extended claw reaching Atea’s kite’s upper wing area with a telling ragged ripping rake, slicing a long tear in the almost blinding white skin of Atea’s kite. Atea strikes back, unable to deflect Tanaoa’s blow effectively. He is able to inflect only minor damage to Tanaoa’s kite, as Tanaoa and his brothers try to regain the upper hand again. The gods lift Atea’s kite into their heights and maneuver him into position for a screaming dive towards Tanaoa’s struggling kite. Atea reaches out and begins to tear at the black-winged, manned eagle while Tanaoa, partially blinded by the sun, strikes back, but to no avail. With his kite in shreds, Tanaoa plummets to the earth.


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