fiction

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White Socks, Short Nails

A tale of two Ayis – fiction by Magdalena Navarro

 

Auntie Han took two steps back and looked at me as if straightening a crooked painting.

"Are you wearing the new socks?"

She stepped forward to flatten my hair to the sides of my head.

"Yes." Plain white, no patterns. I had changed into them at the train station that morning.

"Hmm. Show me your hands."

I obeyed, my eyes fixed on her mouth. Two of her front teeth were missing, but that did not make her look endearing. She was getting them fixed now that she had saved a bit of money. Besides, her mother-in-law's funeral had given her an excuse to go back home for a while. I was her replacement.

“Good." She dropped my hands. "Keep your nails clean and short. That's how they like it.”

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Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Fresh blood – fiction by Max Berwald

 

All morning a cool, hard wind blew out of the north. At noon his phone vibrated against his arm and he sat up in bed and the wind stopped blowing. “Hello?”

“Mr. Zhang?”

“Hi.”

“I’m calling from People’s General Health Services in Haidian.”

Chongan nodded, rubbing his eyes. “I already...” He was still high. He scanned the bed but Morgan was gone. No, she’d fallen asleep at Olu’s– he’d gone home without her? “I already picked up my results.”

“I was hoping we could meet for lunch.”

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Friends Hospital

Fiction by Bradford Philen

 

“No, not figuratively dimmer, actually dimmer.” 

With that, professor Zhi Xun nodded to the student in the audience who had asked the question. He was a doctor actually, professor Zhi Xun: an esteemed Doctor of Philosophy in Chinese history. The student was Bill Hurley, an American, from Dover, Indiana, studying and working in Beijing on a Fulbright scholarship. Bill figured he was nearly fluent in Chinese, but thought maybe he was missing something. 

The panel discussion Life after Mao and Mao in the After-Life had just ended. There were artists, politicians, government officials, writers, and scholars on the panel. Mostly Chinese men. Zhi Xun was taking a few questions.

“It is a scientific fact,” Zhi Xun continued. “When Chairman Mao died in 1976, we have astronomical measurements that the sun grew dimmer.”

His face didn’t move or twitch and his eyes didn’t wander to see the audience react. It was as if he’d said something so known to be true, speaking it had little value. Chinese eat rice with chopsticks. True always and always true. The birth of Mao brought the shining sun in the Far East. True and true and true.

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The View

Flash fiction from Shanghai by Josh Stenberg

 

Jason called out of the blue. He was staying at a fancy hotel in Pudong; I should come over. The view was amazing, he said. Had I ever been? So, come.

I was startled and almost stumbled in the street. I agreed instinctively, out of confusion. Once I put down the phone, a prick of self-loathing. I wasn’t going anywhere special, so I bought a pair of new shoes in self-parody. Leather is also a kind of substance abuse.

Despite the shoes, the day was suddenly empty and smelled perilous. There was too much time before I was to go meet him and I knew that at home I would only mull and stew. So I just kept walking. The streets were cradled in that brief spring when the temperature is still comfortable but the threat of summer has already made the rounds. Things begin to sweat, especially things like us, who don’t belong, who prickle and rash. The climate is trying to excrete us.

This thought proved I hadn’t slept enough, so I repressed the desire for a cigarette and groped about in my mind for some duty or escape. I followed a sign, as if it held some kind of authority, like it might fulfil a perverse need to foil expectation. I turned into the Sun Yatsen residence.

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Aquila

Bedtime texts – short fiction by Kevin McGeary

 

Fantasising about Minnie was the best way to ignore his sister’s snoring. On the top bunk, where he could still smell shoes and discarded instant noodle packets, he saw Minnie the way she appeared last week on Lianhua, a breeze blowing black hair over her eyes.

It was there, under the watchful statue of Deng Xiaoping, that everything had gone wrong. His imagination wasn’t strong enough to alter what had happened. He saw himself whip out his English grammar textbook and three pages of hardcore Japanese porn fall on the grass. Minnie gave that absent gap-toothed smile that appeared to have nothing to do with happiness or amusement. The magazines weren’t his; they were courtesy of his prankster roommate, the spotty police chief’s son who went by the name of Angelababy.

As he felt the train slow down, sliding into another dark town, he focused on Minnie’s buttock cleavage and the way it rose above her dropped waist jeans.

“I need to borrow your phone,” his Sister Yezi called from below after being woken by the alighting passengers. He wiped the phone on his blanket before handing it down.

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