Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fiction: Bones

The new puppy begs for a name with his droopy eyes, long lashes that cover half of his face and a pale cream coat stamped with a pattern that resembles...lips.

But the boy doesn't think so. He too has dark brown eyes that drop at the corners and long lashes that cast shadows halfway down to his cheeks. His lips are full, puckered while thinking.

"They look like milk bones. Puppies like bones. That's why he is bones."

He tilts his head and knocks a dimpled finger against an imaginary chalk board, mimicking the teachers he has observed so carefully, so quietly at kindergarten. The boy speaks so rarely that his father is always surprised to hear it--thoughtfully constructed sentences, an adult vocabulary rather than baby talk.

At the moment the puppy is worn out from a surgery to remove a cyst from his belly. The boy has brought him water, kneeling to push the ceramic bowl under Bones' chin. He patted Bones' head. The puppy whimpers and licks the boy's hand.

"Dinner time, Austin!" His father unties an apron from his waist and pats the boy on his shoulder.

Austin slides his hands around Bones' belly and attempts to carry him. They are on the small patio extending from the two bedroom apartment. A streak of twilight livens the auburn in the boy's hair. His father squints to see the blue in his eyes.

"No puppy, just you at the table." He says gently.
Austin looks up, eyes glassy.
"It's pizza bagel," James says. "But no puppy."

 Austin follows James inside. The phone rings. It's the hospital. Austin's mother Gina is scheduled for surgery tomorrow. The surgeon wants to assure the family they are in good hands. The nurse reminds them of the schedule. They can come and pick her up at 11am. Gina will be rolled into surgery at 8am.

Dinner is still warm. Two pizza bagels dressed with ham and tomato and cheese: Romano, Parmigiano and cheddar. Austin picks off bits of red stained bagel flesh and leaves them on his plate. James knows he hates tomato but he leaves it on anyway but ignores his attempts to take it off. When he stands to clean up, Austin's plate looks like the affect of a post surgery tray, littered with soggy red tissues.

He drains the last of his wine and leaves the dishes in the sink.

* * *

The next day, Austin can't find his shoes until 7:45. They rush out but misses saying goodbye to Gina before they roll her inside. The waiting room is warm and comfortable with plush chairs and thick carpeting. Austin lies down in Jame's lap and props his feet up against the chair legs to watch Monsters Inc. on TV.  James dozes off when the sunlight pours through the bay window and his breakfast of pastry and tea settles soothingly in his stomach.

"Mr. Greenwall..."

James wakes to see the surgeon standing before him, tall like an alpine spruce, accentuated by his green scrubs.

"Can I see her now? How is she?" The surgeon's flat eyes and pressed lips spell out news James doesn't want to read. He presses forward with questions he wants to ask, questions that assumes another outcome.

"The surgery... she experienced a cardiac arrest after an hour. We are very sorry."

James let the words float over him as if they are debris in a neglected pool.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Season

I dream of a white Christmas. Snow covered streets dream undisturbed dreams, with only whispers tossed in between each flake.

I live near the beach where Christmas is as blue and expansive as the rest of the year. The sets come up near the shore, drawing smiles out of glassy folds in the water. Surfers slash it open, leaving behind foamy scars that recedes into the sun.

I fold myself between white sheets like I was a packet that can be sent away.  I can't read the message inside, but it feels like a tear that goes on and on.

Sirens blare into the twilight. My friends look at me with sad eyes, tired from traveling. We ride the roller coasters together, our tickets stamped with: single, unlimited rides. We try to sip on our tea, but it spills as soon as we press close. The train puffs white smoke and blue dust unto its gray tracks. We get ready for photos.

Our Christmas cards cross paths but departs before a meeting is possible. Soon there will be a new year, and another set of seasons, dreams, waves, rides and unfolding white sheets.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Nov 8. It is beginning to feel a lot like I am living in the middle of a dystopian novel.

The catalyst and plot twists are looking all too familiar. I don't want to read it, let alone live it. The book hides its covers and refuses to be put away. I traverse the lines with my own feet and brace myself for the next pages.

They are written. We can smell the ink, see the blurry cloud of black words bleeding out like a river breaching into beds of white rocks.

Too tiny to see ahead, no matter how long we try to stretch our necks.

We know the good news. Eventually will be a resolution of sort, then a lesson. The bad news is that those living in the midst may not survive the conflicts. We are due for this, many say. Though the word due implies too much to think about now. Our feet bump against those rocks, white as snow.

So I pray, that it will be a very short short story. Flash fiction. Mini-word play.

A single tweet. And hide those access buttons.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Three Beautiful Things

* * * Going out to breakfast on a weekday.

The bagel joint is not quite awake. The muscular bald man who punches the keys on his point of sales system gives out a motorbike riding, leather boots wearing but friendly nonetheless uncle Jimmy vibe. He gets the order wrong three times and cusses in between takes. I wait patiently. We are so early this is amusing rather than frustrating. He sees the smirk on my face and waves me away.

Please take a seat and we will get it out to you soon.

Somehow he can act frustrated with himself and the register without making me feel bad. It's a gift of sort. We get our orders sooner than expected. More people file in as we wait--long haired high school girls glued to their phones. Dads whose wallets bulge from the back pockets of their jeans. The older crowd hasn't arrived yet. They know to wait out the morning rush by settling into Thai Chi poses somewhere near the greens, behind the home plate at the nearest community park.

* * * Curly hair

He was born with baby hair so tawny and fine it curled  up at the ends, a bit Shirley Temple like. Then he became a toddler, and his hair straightened out, though still soft. Too soft to curl, it seemed at the time.

- Did I really have curly hair when I was a baby? He'd ask me on the way home from preschool.
- Yes. Your hair was longer then. It's too short to curl up now, perhaps.
- Then I want to grow my hair out so it can curl again.
- Maybe.

It was only a mild case of intellectual curiosity. I figured. We never did let it grow. Little league, cub scout, violin recitals. Many more things demanded our attention, and time. He never mentioned it again, not one to fuss about his appearance.

He is fifteen suddenly. One day I looked up, his head now somewhere above mine. His hair has grown darker, longer. It has been six weeks since his last hair cut. Tendrils have grown past his ears, reached down his neck and are touching down to his eyebrows in gentle, curling waves.

- Your hair is curly now.
- Yes.
- Do you remember...?
- Yes.
- Oh.

He still spends no time on his appearance. No time in front of the mirror other than putting on or taking off his contacts. I reach out on my tiptoe and touch his hair. Surprised.

It's still soft.

* * * Candles on my desk

There are pots of candles on my desk. They are thick and white pillars set inside flower pots. When they are lit, it looks like I have orange and red flames growing among my piles of electronics. Contained. For now.

I love to buy orchids from the supermarket when I spot them. Weeks after in fact. They are lovely, tendrils too weak to carry the heads of flowers so they get propped up by a green floral stick, clipped with a tiny hair clamp. I like the white ones, for they remind me of clouds. Of Beijing. For some reason I know once but can no longer remember.

The orchids never survive for more than a week or two, unaccustomed to the sharp changes in temperature, moisture level and erratic watering routine. I bury them away but save the pots. Then I place my candles in them, and watch the warmth kiss the raw clay surface inside, until it too, glows.


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