Short Stories & Other Misdemeanors

New Found LandFreedom Ahn Asian Pacific Fiction

Trinh took a deep breath before fingering the cold metal handles of the double glass doors.  Holy Heart of Mary High School. High School. Three months ago she had been working as a cleaning lady for an American General, and fending off his drunken, wandering hands. He always felt bad after, and gave her an extra American dollar.  Sometimes she let his hands stay on her insecure breasts for a few breaths.  She needed enough money for two people on the boat.

She felt sweat spilling from beneath her slender arms, along down her side all the way to the belt of her jeans.   She smoothed an imaginary wrinkle from the Hot Rod t-shirt that had been in the bag of used clothes provided by the Red Cross, when she and her mother, Tam, had successfully passed through customs into this New Found Land.  They had even given her a pair of shoes to wear.  She had left Da Nang, wearing only and ao ba ba and flip-flops.  She had lost the left one changing planes in Montreal, and had to hop from the plane when it landed in St. John’s. She was afraid her foot might stick to the ice on the tarmac. She had never seen ice before. It made everything look prehistoric; fossilized.

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Low Tide

The ivory felt cool against his fingertips.

He made the journey—espresso machine, new marble countertops, scratched hardwood floor—to the white bench just beyond arms length from the baby grand Yamaha piano. The view of the beach from that bench still moved him. Back in Worcester there was one small window that overlooked the Sunoco lot. He had negotiated that beast of an instrument 180 degrees until it faced the corner. He scoured magazines, hanging photos of that stretch of pacific coastline on the walls. Until the real thing.

He made it to the bench yesterday, as well. Jacquie, his adjustment therapist, said it was a breakthrough and that he would play again. She had actually said that necessity was the mother of invention but of course she herself had never played and therefore couldn’t guarantee there weren’t orchestral limitations to necessity. He would try for a while at least. What else did he have to do? There was no work. Everyone was so understanding. And he wasn’t fully convinced that the jump from the ceramic tiled roof into the damp sand below would actually kill him. Even at low tide.

He thought of Ellen, in Worcester, but just in passing. Did she know? He hadn’t heard from Rosalyn since he came home. He hadn’t expected to. He was still amused that there were no children, but not disappointed. There’d been enough women. Even now, at sixty-four, young women still waited outside his dressing room after a performance. True, he kept himself trim and in good health. Had all his hair and his own teeth. Okay, there weren’t many nineteen-year-olds anymore, but the thirty-somethings in the greater Los Angeles area were little insult to his ego.

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English Garden

Malcolm smiled with satisfaction as he gazed out upon his English garden, warming in the California sun. He had long since left his home in the Cotswold region and had promised that when time and money permitted, he would recreate his childhood garden; but this time with Azaleas. His mother hated Azaleas. They now framed the perimeter of his lustrous beachfront home. She’d hate what I’ve done to this place, he thought smugly to himself as he stepped over her resting place.

He’d planted the largest Azalea bush on top of the moist patch of soil where her ashes were scattered, and left a dish of premium kibble out for the few neighborhood strays, enticing them to claim their territory. Azaleas and cat piss. How do I love you, mother, let me count the ways.
It had been a lovely funeral. The Monsignor at the Church of the Suffering Souls seemed taken aback when Malcolm asked him to oversee the opulent service.

“My mother was a lifelong Catholic.” Malcolm professed, with thespian perfect tears, “It would mean so much to her, to know her soul would forever rest with our Lord.” Knowing his mother’s outright contempt and hatred of the Catholic Church made it a challenge to keep the smile licking at the corners of his full lips from showing. He bit the inside of his cheek for control and allowed fresh tears to burn the rim of his steel blue eyes.

“I understand your grief, my son,” the kindly old believer offered.

He had used not a small portion of his inheritance already. The funeral, the wake, the garden. And Michael. Money well spent.

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