Etude in Fiction

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Fiction

Here’s a little sample of what I’m working on.  It’s the beginnings of a story that will form part of a series of short stories I’m working on for a collection I hope to accomplish (someday).  I think I have the first section down that leads into the family’s first major year – 1984 – and may well keep the first paragraph of the new section.  But I wanted to share it.  Thoughts and comments would be appreciated.  I have to work out what comes next which should be a fun journey.


It never rains here, said Mr. Liux adding to the polite banter around him, for as long as I’ve lived here rain has eluded this town.

He said it with authority, as if he’d been born and raised here and was well aware of Kingsville’s acute weather phenomena; the meteorological misnomers that plagued the city: the weatherman calls for rain and the grayest of clouds can be seen scurrying across the city sky like rabbits across the chaparral. Not a drop of rain. But in fact, he’d been here a brief ten years, leaving China in the early 80’s. He had married his childhood sweetheart, Keiko. She was not your typical Asian woman; the quiet and demure little Geisha of dreams and lore.  She was a tall factory of a girl, with fierce dark eyes and flowing tendrils of hair that fell onto her uncommon frame. When they met, it was the unconventionality she possessed that he fell for, and fell hard. They had always made plans growing up to move to the West and make their life together in America. They had been married for a brief time, only a year in fact, when the news of their first child crystallized those Westward passions. The year was 1980 and China was changing. It began in August with tearing down portraits and toppling the statues and it flourished into something more: an all out assault on the system Mao had created.

Xiaoping had promised a lot. But I was not going to stay to see if they came to fruition.

Mr. Liux looked deeply into his cup of coffee thinking about his parents. And sharing further:

My parents had gone through something like this, the promises. In the 60’s they were educators under Mao. Though they profoundly disagreed with his politics and reforms, they were loyal to their country. They towed the Party line and taught what was demanded of them (Like all freethinkers living under hostile regimes, they lived under the constant shambles of their principles, Keiko added). When he summoned “a thousand flowers bloom,” they naively believed him. Eager to participate in the changes, and “if it pleased the Chairman,” they offered to teach English. This act alone brought them under investigation. This act alone kept them under Mao’s Eye until they were found guilty of “sedition” against the State and were taken off into the labor camps. I rarely saw them after that. I was ten. I went to live with relatives. Lived with them until we received word that they succumbed to cholera and died.

He sighed. Again he looked deeply into his cup, swirling the coffee about, rather baffled as to why he had shared this with those around him. He always guarded the stories about his former life. But perhaps it was the celebratory environment, the friends around him, or maybe it was the prize he was receiving, that he was older now and that Keiko was with him that caused him to let down his guard.

He was the year’s recipient of the Chamber of Commerce Achievement Award for excellence in business. In the decade since he arrived, he was the owner and operator of four convenience stores around town. His arrival to America and to Kingsville proved fortuitous. The corporation, F.F.P. Partners, the conglomerate company that owned virtually every convenience store in town had filed for bankruptcy the year before. That year, they closed four of the ten stores they operated, followed by four more the year after (Keiko would surmise: It was a golden opportunity for the growing immigrant community in Kingsville who gobbled up the available stores; a veritable entrepreneurial Awakening, surpassing many of the locals). This was a glaring opportunity. Caused him to open his first store within a year of his arrival. Though he never considered the venture before this, he was desperately seeking a better life for his young family. He expanded into another store a year later, and then another; opening a store roughly every two years until he was the marvel of the business community. It was this achievement they celebrated at the annual awards ceremony, the first such award for an immigrant.

Mr. Liux, we’re ready for you,” called out Mrs. Bellows, head of the awards committee, announcing it was time for his speech.

Dear friends, esteemed colleagues, and members of the business community of Kingsville. Thank you for bestowing upon me this honor. For as much as it has pleased me to receive this award, I could not have so much as breathed the last ten years on my own were it not for the undying partnership and loyalty of my wife, Keiko, and my son, Xiaobo, who are here tonight. Their courage has been my courage, their faith my faith, and together we have over come many, many obstacles that have led us to this day. To the City of Kingsville, whose citizens welcomed us and made us feel at home and to the surprising friendships we have found: I raise my glass. Thank you!

It was not entirely disingenuous, the toast. There were many kernels of truth behind it. But there was that bit about being “welcomed” and being made to “feel at home”, that was a bit of rhetorical honey to fit the occasion. And although it would very well be true now, those “surprising friendships,” well, that had not always been the case.


One has to imagine how hard it must have been for them. Leaving the only country they had ever known to come to a new one. So far away. It’s not like receding into a dream from reality, or for that matter, waking from a dream into reality. It’s more like a zombie’s existence. A psychic-social death sentence half way complete, where one is forevermore in the interstices. Never fully leaving home, but never finding oneself fully at home either. Anywhere. Forevermore in the interstices. But here they were.


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