These are real, real emotions, man, and we are on our way downtown. Downtown with our fingers on a lipstick cap inside our jean pocket to suggest a knife. Our hood, our hat is pulled low. We got this worm-lipped grimace on our face. We glide past the bus stop and see him with black, glittering eyes. Waiting at the stop, in khakis and a black raincoat and dark glasses, and he is just asking for it. Something like a fuse sparks in our head. He is pathetic. We are furious- not at him and we know it, but we can taste our own fury sitting like blood in our mouth. Our sweat is murmuring and our hand is a sweet fist- one to pump and kiss the sky. We wonder what it would be like to crush his skull under our blind boot, because our eyes have moved to swallow something small and pebbly from the part of our brain which recalls childhood. And the drama of the everyday never shakes down like this on the sidewalk- not without us slamming into it, not until we make it. And he never even saw us coming. No, he was thinking about divorce as a way out and how his whole life has been a lie and there was no way he could have seen us coming after that. No way, not from miles away.
Cheung drew one long breath by the bleachers and coughed, setting his throat aflame. Nerves. Scorching his insides, without fail, year after year.
This year was special. Cheung’s promotion had followed a fierce string of bad luck- the loss of his mother, a cheating girlfriend- but now, he waited to usher in the new year as the venerable Head of the Dragon.
Cheung pushed through the crowd, taking his place at the head while his colleagues lined up behind him. The music began and the scarlet dragon sprang to life, undulating over the crowd’s heads like a silk ribbon threading a sea of black pearls. Cheung swung the pole deftly, in time with the drums and precise choreography that had taken weeks to master.
As the dance peaked, Cheung lost himself in the great smoking head of the beast. Tomorrow was a fresh start- the promise of a new year turned over like a leaf in his old heart.
-originally publ. on flashfriday.wordpress.com
Seven sons was too many, and a girl could have helped smooth things. Ten years between the oldest and youngest. Ten years of hand-me-downs, rocks through windows, muddy sneakers and unsigned permission slips. After their father left, she kept the box around the house. With its crudely rendered front flap, it served as a reasonable disguise. She stapled straw hair to the top, and wrapped the middle with a torn blue dress.
When she dropped the box on their heads, her sons shrank down into feeble, trembling things. She longed for a daughter, who smelled sweet, like pineapples and cream.
It later occurred to me that had I awakened that morning not as a hysterical prisoner of damp and twisted sheets, but having instead been deposited by some dreadful means into the scene of a recurring nightmare. I shouldn’t have regarded the day’s events as any less extraordinary, for by that afternoon, I would find my circumstances so frightfully confused that I wondered if I might have fared better as the doomed victim of my own tragic hallucination. Disturbed as my condition was, the prospect of a watery grave had grown increasingly attractive, and I wished desperately to be stirred into the reality of that slight, trembling boy balanced precariously against the cliff’s edge, whose terrible anguish had the haunted, distanced quality of a dream. Resignedly helpless to the brutal activity of crashing about the jagged rocks, salty thunder swirling inside my skull- consistent with the unforgiving manner with which the wind had taken to whipping about my helpless form. As it happened, the day could not have got off to a more unremarkable start, save the noisy rattling that had quite suddenly begun in the old house, startling myself (and, I believe, the house, for she groaned as if to explain that she, too, had slept fitfully).
“My vote is for coleslaw,” Greg announced to the table, sliding his green thumb along the edge of the placemat. Dad snorted, opening and closing his fist as if he held a great clump of fertilizer in his palm. Why we needed to have a family meeting for this was beyond me, but I sat in my chair anyway and twisted my ivy hair to make sure that Mom could see that I was bored out of my tree.
“Violet? Honey, we need your vote…” Mom gave me a kind of pleading look and I saw that her eyes were the colour of milk bottle beach glass. I rolled my eyes and got up to leaf.
“Violet! Sit down this instant. Finish your spinach.”
“F*ck you, Mom. You never cook what I want.”
“Well, what is it you want?” Mom groaned, pretending to hang herself with a green onion noose. Greg and Dad went hysterical. Dad laughed so hard that his big belly bumped up against the underside of the table. His brussels sprouts hopped up and down on the plate, rolling out in a dozen different directions.
“I want eggplant, tomorrow night. And you’re all going to eat it right along with me.”
“F*ck you, Violet. That’s far too exotic. Do you think money just grows on trees?”
I could just kill them.
I am leaning against the side of the house again this morning, smoking a cigarette.
I used to come out here before everyone woke up, to think about everything that is wrong with all of us. I am tired of thinking, lately, and I rest the back of my head against the brick and watch the smoke curl up from my lips. It looks awfully sexy, but strange too. Feeling sexy when your socks are soaked through with dew.
The cigarette is done now, and I stash the butt under the rock that I keep just behind the fence. My head feels strange, too, because I’ve stood up too quickly. A car starts somewhere down the street. I touch my lips and have to force myself to go back inside.