John Tang

Where is John Tang?

Posted in Uncategorized by Jt's Item Roster on January 19, 2014

Hey guys, thank you for following me on WordPress. Sorry I haven’t been able to frequent the site. Nowadays I spend all my time writing for Brevspread.com. Please check and submit works to them. We’re open to anything, from fiction to plays to doodles to math equations. Seriously. That is a house of ideas whether you are building your resume or have awesome work to share.

I want to especially thank Joe from Thewritepractice.com for allowing me to contribute to their wonderful community. Please reach out to them and meet some cool artists there.

Best,

John Tang

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In Lines Available Now

Posted in Short Stories and Excerpts, Uncategorized by Jt's Item Roster on August 13, 2012

My collection of short stories about Colegio City In Lines is available for download on the margins under “Books” or http://www.mediafire.com/view/?vmnrsfcw1l94v2p. Thank you for reading.

 

 

Here’s an excerpt from “Another Good Thing about Ice Cream”:

 

Junko meant to own an ice cream parlor, not a coffee shop. Although he had imprecise dreams, he
was loyal to the foundation of the coffee shop. The wooden floors shined each day as if it were
linoleum. The tables with checkerboards prints were polished. At its best, he could remember when
he inherited the coffee shop from a close friend whom passed away without a spouse or child, which
at the time was convenient for both men because he needed a friend and Junko needed a job after he
had retired from accounting for eight years.

Nothing too hard. Junko said. I just want something-I can take care of.

Children? His friend smirked. I’m not a doctor, man. Or a woman.
Junko felt very old being that sentimental.
Two o’clock in the afternoon, Simon Alvarez, an anemic Junko met through bombardments
and interruption, came in with his silver sweater and a laptop under his arms. His wavy hair
disheveled from natural oils and fog. He studied at the international school for agriculture. He said
hello and the normal greetings in Japanese, and ordered his normal small Mocha Tesora. Then out of
nowhere, as he spilled coffee on his pants, he spoke of urgent news.

Mr. Junko, sir, there is a convention next weekend, he said, that I’ve been meaning to tell you
about.

Silence, with a brief hum.

Downtown. There is a contest on who can serve the best pastries. If you win, there is a
thousand dollar prize. And here’s the best part: The worst that could happen is you get free
promotion. People in the city will be asking you, oh, where’s your coffee shop, then you tell him,
then he looks at his wife, oh, it’s over there, I know where that’s at, then he says thank you, then you
have a new customer.

Simon never had the ear for tonal expression, but his heart was in the right place.
Bring your best confections, okay?

Write like You’re Writing for the Newspaper

Posted in Sketchbook, Uncategorized by Jt's Item Roster on August 6, 2012

Writing for the Newspaper

I had an idea Turkish author Mr. Pamuk inspired: Write as if you are preparing the news. That’s how I’ve been working for the last week, trying to self-publish a collection of short stories staple bound and on computer paper. I liked the texture of the cover and the harsh feeling when the pages unfolded. I print at home on Brother’s laser printer and order my covers from San Mateo for six cents a page. Where did I get the sudden burst of entitlement to my craft, one of my friends might ask. I would have to explain the argument I had with my parents about going back to Okinawa.

I told them I was unhappy in California, frustrated no one from overseas wanted me in their country. My suspicion was that I was Chinese American well seen in the last name of the patriarch: Tang. They advised me to find an administrative position around, and I agreed with some reasoning behind it. There was no incentive for me to remain in the country. I had no sacred relationships or a job. Nor did I identify myself with the culture or the architecture. The comedy was the best thing about the country, but it brought out the worst character in me. I’m sorry, I told my parents, I’m simply unhappy. They kept to themselves eating their McDonald’s burger and fries.

I texted my friends they needed to send me the image of the cover and the inside sleeve for the magazine. I explained the Pdf files needed to be in order so the printing press could have each image together. But then I remembered you could separate files and give them instructions. I was excited for the magazine Brevspread. My brother Tim Tang did the cover. With a James Jean’s influence, he rendered an ancient stork rising out of a golden tea box holding a grenade in a calico sling. For a staple-bound magazine, I was proud of it. For some strange reason my parents believe that I am bored.

Why the hell do you want to go to Okinawa? My mom said. You don’t even know what’s out there. Goddamn it. Matthew, you’re really trying my patience.

I’m sorry…I’m wrong…I’ll find a job tomorrow.

Don’t give me that shit. She didn’t listen to me. Tomorrow, you’re going to go to the outlets and apply—wherever, to Nike, to Kohls, to Banana Republic—I don’t want to hear this shit about Okinawa. I’m not going to let you waste your money. No, you’re on a loan, Matthew.

I graduated with bachelor in English from UC Davis and a master in English at San Francisco State University, with a TEFL certificate for a hundred hours. I sat on 5,000 dollars.

Okay, I will.

That didn’t happen. I applied online to more positions in Okinawa, including a concierge position at a hotel. I quickly grew bored and wandered beside my bookshelves. I remembered an interview from Pamuk as I picked up his collection of essays Other Colors. He said he was a national writer who picked up all his skills in Istanbul. Although the country betrayed via incarceration, he held no remorse. He also said another interesting thing. Before his daughter was born, he’d write from ten o’clock at night to three o’clock in the morning, when the city went to sleep.  By morning, he said, it felt like I had prepared the news for the city. I shared similar sentiments as I finished my first collection of short stories in one weekend (this was a different project from Brevspread). Feeling its feather weight and touching its stapled spine, I felt like a newspaper boy ready to deliver then by hand. I hadwished I could be an international writer like Pamuk or Marquez, the original planter to my desires, who wrote in France, Columbia, and Mexico.

You better do something about it now. My brother Tim said. Or maybe you just didn’t want it.

If someone can just give me the platform, I’ll leap.

It was quiet. I left out the part where my mother cried to my dad, and he later came back to scold me for my romantic dreams. The truth was that we lived in Okinawa for nine years. I remember the clean architecture and the warmth, the typhoons which short-circuited the whole city and the Habu snakes which inhabit the trees and the sugarcane fields. I was ready to accept that. Keep it simple, my father shouted. Goddamn it, it’s Sunday. I didn’t disagree with the candid truth coined by Occam’s Razor. In fact, I tried to apply to my writing one sentence at a time. The context was however different. While I meant skill trade, he meant for one night.

Tomorrow, my mom came to our workspace to say. You’re going to apply to the outlets. Or how about applying to Travis School District?

It made more sense to apply for Travis School District because of my background and aspirations.

Marquez said the first night he landed in the city where he studied law, he slept in a prison on bed of hay fermented from sweat the night before. He stopped writing to focus on school, when one of his friends told him to write about a riot in the city. He did and became a journalist. At the same time he continued to write short stories without royalties. I look at Marquez’s humble life and unseen events, and thought writing for Okinawa for the rest of my life would be fine.

I felt exhausted applying to fourteen different places, schools or hotels, in Okinawa. I thought about applying to Travis School District around my house, but was stopped by Pamuk’s collection of essays. The first paragraph was about the things around his desk, an essay which he wrote for Ox. It was simple infatuation for the things and their shapes and their smell. I put that in my backpack. Then I read a paragraph from a short story I haven’t completed. It was from Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. Sachi, a mother, had just cremated her son in Hawaii, and she visited the spot where he was attacked by a shark and drowned. I was three paragraphs in before I knew it. I needed to disconnect from his humble pros so I could apply to the school district. I put that in my backpack. I remembered how happy I felt around literature. How it forced you to focus to have some kind of pleasure. How you were not yourself as you naively followed the character. How it required your entire being. How it warned you about how you perceived your life.

I thought the people of Vacaville needed to know about this, so instead of visiting Travis School District, I wrote about it in the Cultural Center Library.

How I left Mr. Pamuk’s Apartment and Another Essay

Posted in Short Stories and Excerpts, Sketchbook, Uncategorized by Jt's Item Roster on August 2, 2012

How I left Mr. Pamuk’s Apartment

In a dream I came back to the apartment and asked my friend if I could borrow his coolant for the car. When he said he didn’t have one I told him there was one in the back. The back connected to four other tenants, shared through a cross section. The room was plainly painted in an orange coat closed to a pumpkin. The wainscoting was green as winter grass with frost. The coolant was on the ground in a tall gallon, standing beside a rake and box.

Is it all right if I borrow it, I asked.

It’s not mine.

You don’t mind if I ask your neighbor.

Be my guest.

I don’t know who my friend was. I had the feeling he was my friend on the account he accommodated me when my car was broken without any queries. He didn’t even question my intrusion to the backyard. He was tall and slim, had a diva-like attitude. He was bald and had a neatly trimmed mustache that seemed to be hard with hair gel. He left me alone to deal with my problem. I knocked on the door and appeared was Istanbul author Orhan Pamuk. He looked nothing like the man I’d seen in videos or university interviews. His hair was silver and oily. Face had a soft demeanor with the look of fierce inquiry.

Yes?

I was wondering if I could borrow your antifreeze. My car is overheating.

Oh, sure. It’s yours.

Could I ask you something, sir: Are you Orhan Pamuk?

Yes, I am Orhan.

I didn’t know what to say. I was sure a thousand of people asked about how to write very well, asked him how he’d endured his trial for desecrating the land.

Thank you, Mr. Pamuk.

He hummed and shrugged his shoulders, then he closed the door. I was delighted to have met the author and borrowed the thing which would fix my car. The antifreeze was cool and pretty heavy, probably fifteen pounds. It had a sticker of a mountain cap with a violet tone over the picture. I wondered what Mr. Pamuk would say about this: I woke up in the middle of the night and heard someone knock at the door. There was a young man holding a coolant of some kind and claimed it was mine. If it was true, I hadn’t seen it for years. Didn’t know when the last time I used it on my 94 Chevorlet. He asked if he could borrow it because his car had broken down, and I said take the damn thing, I have no use for it.

I carried the bottle of antifreeze under my arms and went back to my friend’s apartment. He didn’t answer the door. I wanted to knock harder with my fist, but was afraid of disturbing the neighborhood. Because I knew Mr. Pamuk’s house, I went back to his, with a little excitement that I’d enter his house.

Oh, it’s you again. Mr. Pamuk said.

My friend is not answering the door. I said. Could I exit through yours? I’m just parked on the other side.

He opened the door so I could enter. Already it had led me to his kitchen. The countertop was marble blue with a hint of smoke. On the right was a painting by Ciudad Real painter Antonio López Garcia of the apartment complexes in Madrid rendered in oil. An orange horizon stood from one side as the buildings cast a shadow over the streets below. I wondered if it told me the secret to where I  was. I wondered if Mr. Pamuk would say something profound about the painting I stared at.

He didn’t.

We passed the kitchen. In the living room the walls corrode an off-colored white. He owned a very old couch, which you could tell he read feverishly on it by the books that laid on the far side of the couch and the bookshelf that stood behind it. Because Mr. Pamuk was granting me this favor of passing through his apartment, I didn’t get a good look at his bookshelves, the one he restored after the earthquake.  Before I knew it I was in the foyer, standing beside the green door.

Thank you for letting me pass, I said.

Oh, it’s no problem. He said. I hope you enjoy my coolant.

It’ll only take me a second. I said. I don’t think you use the whole thing, anyways.

No, take it. I have no use for it anymore.

He opened the door wide which meant I had to leave.

Thank you.

Enjoy.

I stepped through the door but turned around. Instead of saying goodbye I had left the Turkish writer with a question.

Mr. Pamuk, if you could begin a story about a coolant how would you tell it?

–Owakari

What’s to come is my desire to become an instructor for Teach for America.  When they asked for my personal information, I wasn’t sure what form they preferred: The continuity of an essay or the direct bullet-point form of a resume. I chose to write in the former, but in the end they had you insert your personal information on their form.

My Desire to Teach for America

I first graduated from Solano Community College with associates degrees in Liberal Arts and English to suffice my General Education to enter into a four-year college. Then I received my Bachelors in English at University of California Davis in 2009 with an emphasis on Teaching and Creative Writing. And lastly I received my Masters in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing this year June of 2012.

This may be grand and marks of growth in my English discipline, but they do not entirely justify my development and desires to be a teacher, for a teacher requires leadership and empathy for the student.

With experiences of leadership, I would refer to my work experience. Specifically in regards education, I tutored English at Solano Community College from 2007 to 2008 and was a Graduate Instructor’s Assistant for an English class for a semester in 2012, where I had my own group of students, twenty students to be precise, for an hour every week. Some days I would lecture before a hundred students in the auditorium under my professor’s supervision. As an English tutor, I helped ESL students to more advanced students who were enrolled in critical thinking. I learned using the white board helps establish an objective view of texts. I broke down paragraphs and showed the profluency of content, from topic sentence to transitional sentence when diagramming an essay. I normally would write them down before the student arrived. Because repetition was vital to the learning experience, I learned patience is highly valued. The student may have asked me for the answer, but I had to refuse because they needed to possess the grammar rules at an independent level. “I won’t be there when you take the test,” I said. Some might be acrimonious to the standard, but those who were diligent and patient with themselves, the pass the test at the end of the semester, moving them one step closer to their college career. That was where I learned the most important value as a tutor: Have an optimistic outlook and high-expectations from your students.

My experience as a Graduate Aid Instructor at San Francisco State University was different, but perhaps closer to being an instructor. Unlike tutoring, where I tutored one student at a time every session, being a Graduate Aid Instructor allowed me to conduct my own class. I had learned the value of time management, a student’s motivation, and the significance of structuring a class session. The original class size was a hundred students, and every week I was given a group of twenty students who stayed with me the whole semester. Then two times in the semester I had lectured to the entire class about the craft of writing. Teaching the group is much more difficult than to the individual. The tempo is different because you simply cannot address everyone’s strengths and weaknesses in a session. I had followed the professor’s lessons and at the same time facilitate a discussion. This required structure: First, you want to engage the student. I would ask an interesting question or begin with an activity. Second, once you got their attention, you want to elaborate on the lesson plan, which I call the “study” portion of the day. Third, you want to give the students a chance to practice what he/she learned, hoping they played with the concept, by which I mean, experimented with the concept.

As I read back my experiences, it seems I have ignored the difficulty of fostering a productive classroom. I hope to clarify here that I had my achievements and failures during these times. Some students would be unmotivated in the classroom. Some students would be disrespectful by putting their feet on the desk or not showing up for their tutoring session and later emailing me asking for the answers to the test. For the disrespectful student, my goal is never to embarrass him. After class, I would ask him or her about how they felt about his or her expectations, skills, and desires. Getting at this level of their lives helps establish a rapport and finds solutions to the issue, because the problem is usually outside the classroom. In regards to managing a classroom, I had my share of difficulties trying to engage the students with a teacher-centered environment, where I lecture over twenty minutes. This method simply does not work, and I realized it rather late in the semester. The classroom environment is when the teacher lectures for fifteen to twenty minutes, and most of that time is to help set up the next activity.

I learned a lot over the years, how to structure a lesson plan, how to have command of the content, and most important, how to humble yourself before your students, which includes listening to them in and out of the classroom, demanding high expectations as if they were adults, and demonstrating mastery over the content of today’s lesson plans. Working for your corporation would help me improve my philosophy as a teacher by showing great leadership and empathy for the student.

The Watermark and Its Effects on Marquez’s Autobiography

Posted in Uncategorized by Jt's Item Roster on July 31, 2012

The water damage on my hardback novel was more devastating than the muscles repairing after a day of lifting at least five-hundred pounds worth of items into our new house. I remember yesterday. After my friends, dad, my brother, and I finished moving into our new house we sat in the car garage of the former household where a slight breeze blew from the hot hills in Vacaville. At first, Gabe Castro invited us to his house to make spam wasubis and play games, but there was a silence because that was routine at the Castro’s household. Three days a week someone from the group of friends would play video games at their house. Then from the top of the circle Chris Parker invited us to his house as if he didn’t want us there to his pool and smoothies made from his mother. How could we not accept the accommodations? Gabe was the first to accept it. He loved the ocean like a tourists on an island in the Pacific, and it spoke to his character that he couldn’t swim very well. We all agreed to meet at Parker’s house in an hour from now. Two hours later everyone made it with the Playstation 3s and the ingredients to produce the wasubis: three golden recycled spam cans, five cups of long rice, bacon, and roast Korean seaweed wraps. For me, I brought my underwear and a spare t-shirt for the pool, and I brought one book that served me well.

            The book stained by the watermark was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Living to Tell the Tale, which you will find in my recent journal entries my reverence for the growth of the Columbian author. It is serving me well now in the stage where I stand in life. Not that my accomplishments parallel to the classical story teller of our time, but the simple and natural act of movement that comes from life: Adjustment. Currently umemployed and twenty-six years old I am in the procession of maturity. I told my brother my wish to visit Okinawa, Japan, or as the maps know it as, the Okinawa Perfecture, even it went against my dad’s wish for me to be employed with health insurance. I debate that health insurance is worth ignoring as I look back at the passage from the Marquez’s autobiography when he left Bogotá for the warm harbors of Cartegena where the schooners drifted and where the brothels were more hospitable than the hotels. Living on thirty-six pesos, Mr. Marquez slept on his first night not in the hotel or brothel, but in the prison where the hay was fermented in sweat from the night before. He was arrested for breaking curfew in the park as he sufficed the anxious craving from the nicotine. I wonder if my trip to Okinawa would be the same.

We were never collected. Some of us played Playstation 3 on the large television screen that rendered images in standard definition. Some of us swam in the pool while the sun was lethargic. Some of us cooked the spam on a low-fire. I was part of the third group with Gabe watching the natural oil from the spam hiss like an aggravated kitten. He was on the last set, and I helped him prepare the bacon sugaring them. Everything was in order. One could imagine the American paradise here in the suburbia, where expectations dissipate in the face of friendships and unsaid forgiveness, and where the primary goal was to serve the omnipresent nature of self-enjoyment. One could imagine these are the only pieces you need to run chess board against your recurring opponent: Life. I was not immune to the idea. I had thought of nothing, for there was nothing to think of. Food and water served well during the afternoon. I had embedded myself in the enjoyment like a bronze door-knocker on a wooden door. I had lost myself and felt it was worth it.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez doesn’t recount his life with chapter numbers. Now don’t misunderstand me. Numbers one, two, three, four, five and six, are printed somewhere between page one and page four-hundred-eighty-three. And yet, that is not how one pinned the sprawl in which Marquez’s life unfolded before the author. The best term to describe the pace is natural continuity, for in nature, shifts in adjustment occurred on its own volition and fortune, with glimmers of hesitancy, reluctance, steadfastness, contralto, and chaos, and in continuity, for the prose never read as if it was not at service to the reader but to the author, a misconception from the avarice reader that has become our current standard of American literary digest that had branded on his tongue from years of institutional fortification, “It could be better.” Because if the author has entire control of the prose, then the reader has entire control of the prose in its reconstruction, and if done very well, best said by the Oklahoma journalist Ernest Hemingway, the reader will feel as if he wrote it. Marquez works in this fashion. Events and circumstances simply occur wherever the author stood at the specific moment in time. If he was in Arataca, where he heard his mother cry about the strain caused from his father’s infidelity, in the same frame of premature adulthood, he observed the intercession of Monsignor Lopez Lleras take presidency, which he believed was no good for the country because of the ideals of the Conservatism. He’d suddenly conclude the incident simply and innocently: Peace was restored to the household. Or in Cartegena where he hid away and prayed for protection from the devil’s tangible form, bats, the last situation to the sequence of events, before we felt we were about learn a new item from the author, was his imprisonment for violating the curfew in the park. I never got the hint why he retells us his life or had a hint where he was going or what he needed: The cogs which make up Aristotle’s theory of traditional narrative. Like the curfew, Mr. Marquez violates the rules of narrative, and the reader has every right to tell the Columbian author the same answer the police officer told Mr. Marquez’s when he joked about not having a place to sleep at two in the morning: “Stop being an asshole.”

As the water dripped from the ridge of my shorts I removed my shirt in the bathroom. My body was hard from lifting the boxes of books, bed parts, and furniture. The tumult was a struggle and an impossible task if it weren’t for my friends. This celebration was our reward. I learned a few things about them, especially their future prospects. Like Mr. Parker’s desire to move to Arizona because he hated the cold weather. Or Mr. Cato’s literary reviews he’d publish for the Dixon newspaper. I wondered where I was at in life. What kind of growth did I need to endure to be a more disciplined person, the kind of nature for writing? I think back to a time when I was an undergraduate student at UC Davis and my first year at San Francisco State University. Both students and professors, in one way or another, deemed my work to be an “unreadable.” In their defense the language was very tough to read. It reminded me of Faulkner. Still to this day I don’t understand his literary merit except for the experimentations that pushed the norm of literature when it was difficult to read a passage. My friend Greg made the observation as he described my work to have “a lot of color.” I was discouraged, because even my professor Junse Kim from San Francisco State University said my prose was very difficult to follow: “You want to render a moment by moment, a step by step, rendering of the vicarious experience.” It took this heart, and mean I wasn’t naturally gifted in the art. He also said something more valuable to the fiction writer than the poet: “Story comes first. Language is secondary. John, you seem to always put the cart before the horse.” I had asked myself if I had a story to tell. “How come Marquez can write a story without a scene?” I asked him. To which he replied with reverence for American authors: “I haven’t read anything from Marquez since my undergraduate years. But if you want to use models, think of Pam Houston, Mary Gaitskill, or if you like the more hyper-reality, George Saunders.” These thoughts bothered me.

Later this evening a quiet warmth pervaded the backyard. My friends were inside playing video games or sleeping on the couch. I took out Marquez’s Living to Tell the Tale with a cup of ice tea. I sat beside the stone demarcations around the pool and read the passage beginning with his new assignment as a writer. He lived with a family who read Virginia Woolf instead of Pablo Neruda, and he found it amazing. I thought being not alone but away from my friends and family and paradise, like how I’m positioned now outside, would bring me to a closer relationship to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I wanted this relationship so deeply I had held the book firmly in the y of my palm, pages held out to me like music notes on a music stand. That was when I felt the watermark on the bottom of bookcover. Particles of the cardboard began to roll, leaving a rotten residue behind. I thought about throwing it away that instant, knowing that I had three-quarters of the book, meaning I had a “firm grasp of the concept,”  to use my Political Science professor’s words, but in the same instant realized the depth of reflection it had asked me to study. As I look back at the passages, I see my growth unfold and Mr. Marquez’s prose work through me.

New Beginnings

Posted in Sketchbook, Uncategorized by Jt's Item Roster on July 26, 2012

 I Miss an Old Flame

 woke up missing an old friend, wishing one day that I could romance her. Jahara Cachola was an old flame I knew in Guam as a distant voyeur. In this dream she was slim and an adolescent. So was I. She wore a giant pink sweater covering her waist with black pants. My imagination did all it can to replace what was hidden. She washed fruits over a sink as I came around the counter. I held her around the torso and kissed her on the cheek. I was the happiest person with her long black hair which smelled of sweet salts sat under my nose. Then something only a dream could conjure for me: Peremptorily, I don’t know why I imagined this but even in dreams, as I reflect on it now, Jahara wouldn’t call herself fat, as tight as my grip around her body was. She was confident and optimistic, with a determination of a saint and engorged in false-modesty. She smiled naturally when saying oh no or when she changed the subject that instant. Her eyes were small under the bulbous curve of her cheeks. She was someone I hoped was spoiled by her boyfriend even though she’d hate after many years of taking care of her two younger sisters she care for like a parent. I miss being a hopeless romantic, and understand the cautionary dream to mean, The pure warmth was good for life. During my adolescent years I never thought of girls in the ultimate end that was sex. I thought they were there for us to pamper and assure happiness for. In middle school and the freshmen years of high school I would daydream in classrooms how I’d stand outside Jahara’s Japanese class and with a wave of a hand and a smile I’d convince her to ditch class. Or in the cafeteria we’d sit at the round table with one of the largest group of friends, which was true, and make faces at each other, a secret language under the talks about sweltering hot bus rides and mid terms. With the accessibility to pornography on the internet or at the self-help side of bookstores, pornography has erased the good intentions men once for women, speaking for myself specifically. Then my friends teased me with the greatest truth amongst men: “Don’t put pussy on a pedestal.” I woke up this morning with the warm sensation, and in the shadow of the plastic blinds felt sad how I lost a dear friend and flame from a time that’d never return in the innocence it was conceived in. I wonder if the dream was satisfied my ardor for her would dissipate on a snowy hilltop where daydreams didn’t belong with the social milieu.

Do You Spend Time with Your Family

We officially moved into our new house. With the last of the furniture, the cabinets, the shelves, boxes of cleaning solution, and the flat screen television once in the living room, we sat in the living of our new house where we watched on the flat screen the National Basketball Association’s channel screen the replays of the Olympics, USA versus the world. My father came in the living room and fell into the arms of the couch. The sound of quiet cheers, because these were only the preliminaries, washed over their tired bodies. I heard earlier today my father cried. The house meant much to him, and when I think about the time and effort driven into the house, ten years speaks volumes of tumult and tenderness into the stucco walls. Then Tim returned from his drive to Vallejo to sell our outdated cds. Are we going to throw away the stuff, he asked me, come on, let’s go, I want to get this shit out of the way. I came outside and closed the car garage door. Earlier today, as I lifted the barbeque grill from the serving tray, the serving tray flipped and scratched the corner of my eye. Tim reminded me I could avoid a trip to the wasteland because of the incident, but couldn’t because of my ego. I told Tim as we drove in the backroads where the hills were taller and more golden and the arid touch of the air attracted more flies into the Rav4. Damn, that grill bodied you, Tim said as I lifted the wet paper towel from the mark, did you want to stay here, No, I’ll go, and later down the road I had the urge to tell him about where my pride could’ve came from, Today, while I was biking, I said to him, if I get into an accident I won’t go to Okinawa, and then look at this, That sucks. I was offered an internship to Okinawa for investment bankers. They were in search of English teachers who could teach courteous mannerisms, basic English, and methods to running a bank. The internship, however, didn’t provide medical insurance and my dad assailed me to not take a job position that doesn’t offer medical insurance. Because what if something happened to you, he would say, then it’s my ass on the line. I would live there three months without medical insurance, I said to Tim and lowered the volume on the car radio, but I won’t stifle myself, I will find a way to live there, that means working nightshift, asking help from uncle Sotero, sean-sean, and Ryan’s dad, Yeah, you should do it, What do I do about papa, I would do it anyways, I don’t feel right lying to him. It was funny. Last night I got home two hours earlier than my parents and on the History channel they played a documentary on the Godfather series. I remember Marlon Brando hold Johnny Fontane by the face and ask the question which spoke to him as well as to me: Do you spend time with your family?

My Father in the Morning

Posted in Short Stories and Excerpts, Uncategorized by Jt's Item Roster on March 15, 2012

Every morning I would find my father in his bedroom with his head down over the Bible, the one with torn pages, where the plastic covering was falling apart, praying goodness comes to the family and himself. He would be in his military uniform, camouflage, green and brown, with steal-toe boots laced up the shin. He had rough skin and a flat nose that would shift in its clay-like material as my father closed his eyes, wrinkling the skin about the face with his eye lids, asking the lord to heal his brother Louie from his heart disease, to bless the Tang family, to bless him the opportunity to contribute more to this family tragedy, to give him strength to make it to through a busy day on the military base which was laying off contractors because America was bringing their soldiers back home.

I would wait for my dad under the doorframe outside his room. With sheer curtains, the window allowed some light into the room. Maybe I might save my childish query for another day: Can I have the plasma tv back in our room, because you guys don’t even use it?

Why I wrote this passage: Not only do I love my father, but I need to practice Gardner’s psychic distance. As I get closer to my father in details, I can get closer to his soul as a person, or as the modern generation tends to call the soul, the psychology of the man. I hope understood him and rendered him with care and a strong sense that I am no doubt his son. I hope it shows that I love him very much.

Renderings of a Literary Colleague and Family

Posted in Uncategorized by Jt's Item Roster on March 5, 2012

Call of Duty after Midnight

There a little boy reciting his essay, “and this happened…and this happened, then this happened…” through the wide television screen where my brother was playing a serious game of Call of Duty, a video game that rendered accurately World War I and War II, from the ruins of Germany to the guns of the French rifle called the Canine. Very interesting. It was Sunday night around eleven o’clock and there was a boy who playing a violent game. It was safe to assume that the boy—if he lived on Pacific time, and he if lived in the east coast, then it was absolutely pass his bedtime—snuck out of bedroom for a quick game before he had to submit himself to the day of responsibility that we called middle school.

Afternoon in Sacramento

We were driving to Sacramento to the Arden Mall this Sunday afternoon. It has been months since I been to the northern side of California—well, perhaps this is an exaggeration, but that is because I’ve lived in San Francisco for the last two years. So when the dry farmland, the blue skies, the broken boughs, the green Sacramento River, pass through my vision like a movie, I feel alien to the surrounding and feel almost refreshed to be there.

            “I don’t think California is the best state.” I said to my brother (who was driving) and to my cousin. “Look a Chad. He lived in Arizona and he’s happy. Look at Morris. He moved from Sacramento back to Texas, and now he’s happy.”

            Chad and Morris were close friends in high school that we’ve grown to love as brothers until now.

            “It sucks we didn’t get to hang out with Morris that much when he was here.” My brother said.

            “Yeah, it’s true.” My cousin said. She lived miserably here for the last ten years, with a boyfriend who wasn’t romantic like the men in Philippine and a job as a administrator for Bank of America who has manager who treated her poorly.

            “Maybe,” my brother said. “We haven’t really lived in the other states. So we don’t really know.”   

            “No, I have.” My cousin said.

            “Where have you been?”

            “Ohio,” she paused. “Wait. California is better. I’ve also been to NewYork.”

            “No, you haven’t.” My brother said. “When?”

            “When I first came here, we went to New York.” She said. “It was nice. I wouldn’t mind living there, but you know how much it costs to pay for parking: forty-five dollars. Just for parking! I’m not saying we’re cheap. You know, we’re coming from Philippines, so when you see forty-five dollars for just parking, it’s a lot.”

My Friend who Teaches Literature to Middle School Students

Beneath the very passage I’m writing now has a few flaws. I wrote it freely, without who has priority of desires, my friend or me. In the end I do, however, have an epiphany. Is the story for me, and is it earned?

We were moving in May, and I needed to get rid of some of my books. I’ve been boxing them for weeks now, when I texted my friend if he could take them: “I’m heartbroken I have to depart with them.” My friend, Aaron Capri, was an avid reader. He was a thin young man, who dressed well for casual days, in a dress shirt and jeans, leather shoes, in example. He was in word ready to be a teacher for the modern age. One time he came over to my house for short stories.

            “I hate kids,” he said. “They don’t have the attention span to listen in class.”

            He was a substitute teacher for high school in Fairfield.

“What were you teaching?” I asked.

“Romeo and Juliet.” He said. “Do you remember the irony in the story? It’s like the humor you get from Kafka; if you didn’t laugh, then you didn’t get the story. Romeo and Juliet is the same. You have these two lovers who disregard everything, their families, their lives, and when in the end, when Juliet doesn’t recognize Romeo and Romeo doesn’t recognize Juliet asleep—asleep, because they’re not dead–and they kill each other; that is irony.”

            I saw the tragedy in the inebriated state of romance.

            “I see.” I said. “Don’t you think you’re teaching something too hard to grasp. Kafka is a dense piece. So is Shakespeare.”

            “We had to go over Shakespeare in class.” He said. “One thing I learned about them: their teacher doesn’t teach shit. We had to memorize the end and act it out. How can you know how to act it out if you don’t understand the work?”

            I brought out the anthology he asked for. From Ralph Ellison to Gabriel Marquez, from John Keats to Yusef Komunyakaa, from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller, it carried a breath of literary masters, from traditional to contemporary—which in fact used the traditional forms. The anthology used thin pages and was worn down. I had kept the thing since my undergraduate in college.

            “So why do you need this?” I asked.

            “I’m tutoring this girl.” He said. “God, she’s dumb. We were reading Kafka’s ‘Before the Law,’ the one we read in Mr. Wiley’s class, where a guy appears at the gate and the gatekeeper doesn’t let her through. Right there, John. That is literally the plot. A guy appears at the gate and the gatekeeper doesn’t give her entrance. When I asked the girl, what is literally happening on the page, she goes, I don’t know.”

            He mocked the girl saying the last remark in an upward inflected falsetto.

            “How old is she?”

            “She’s in middle school.”

            “You don’t think that story is dense for middle school student?”

            “But it’s short.”

            “Then what’s the second one you went over?” I said. “Over the phone you said it was a Marquez piece. Was it ‘An Old Man with Very Enormous Wings’?”

            “No. I haven’t read that one yet though.” He described the second short story. I faintly remember it; I have read the entire collection of Marquez, but was never able to grasp the full meaning of the mythological renderings of people in all the stories. The one my friend described had a dentist and mayor. I tried to dialogue the meaning of the story for myself, but all I could remember was the last scene had emotional intent and the character had motivation, when the dentist drilled the mayor’s tooth.

            “Something like that happens.”

            “Doesn’t the dentist have motivation to drill the mayor’s teeth?” I said. “Something about the town’s money? Doesn’t the dentist torture him in the end?”

            “I don’t know about that.” He said. “The way Marquez described the dentist’s utensils is amazing and suggests torture is in story. But I don’t remember the dentist torturing him.”

            “Anyways, he’s as dense as Kafka,” I said. “Maybe his prose a little softer.”

            “But it’s short.” He said. “All she has to read is like three pages.”

            “I agree.” I said. “Well, all my suggestions are in that book. They use contemporary language. It’s not too highfalutin. Then some of them are even funny. I would start with Sherman Alexie. It’s accessible culturally and thematically; you have several attack points.”

            “I’ll go ahead and read them, first.” He said. “I hope the student learns from them.”

            “I think you should teach college students.”

            We shook hands, and I had to part ways with my anthology—because I knew I gave it to a very intelligent man who could reconstruct a million world-views in each story. I remembered the anthology kept me interested in literature, beginning with Metamorphosis by Kafka. As I sat on the dark-brown woven chairs on the porch, I thought, maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge what was accessible and what was inaccessible to a student. Perhaps they just need the right density to challenge their minds and at the same time keep them stone through the text. Then again that stone was a naive dream we all rendered in our minds.

Back at Prose and my Last Play, Maybe

Posted in Uncategorized by Jt's Item Roster on January 28, 2011

For Schliener

The pages of Shakespeare’s collection of works complied by Riverside were fresh and appealing to read from the beginning to the end. On the spine was a orange sticker which read in blue ink, “117 B, Schliener.” I remembered this was a gift from Winifried Schliener, a professor of English at UC Davis. He was a tall German man, fit, his face clouded in white hair, who specialized medicine in Renaissance literature. In our Shakespeare course, he was enthusiastic in one character in particular, Jacque in “As You Like It,” known at the Melancholic. Tonight I thought of writing a piece in spirit of Jacque and Schleiner; what kind of story was that in prose? The least I could repay by immortalizing a man who loved literature and its mastery of the melancholic.

A Play

Where will You be Five Years from Today?

Characters

 

Abigail—Thirty. A larger woman. Hair usually tied.

Oran—Abigail’s Boyfriend

Michael—Abigail’s Brother

Aunt Mel—Abigail’s Aunt

 

Scene

 

Evening. In a small room each person has the book, Where will you be in Five Years from Today? There is a door on the right, which opens to the living room the audience doesn’t see. When the scene opens they are writing in their books.

 

Abigail

I can’t believe I’m halfway into the book, you’d think they ask about marriage by now. When you write it out like this, you begin to notice so many things can be done in five years.

 

(Beat.)

 

Okay, guys. It’s share-time. What did you guys write?

 

(Silence.)

 

We’ll go this way.

 

(Points counterclockwise.)

 

Michael, what did you put down for Five Moral Values that are Important to You?

Michael

(Counts with fingers.)

 

Sadness, humility, family, community, and dreams.

Abigail

Oh, sadness. Why is that your first?

Michael

I didn’t know there was an order.

 

(Looks at page.)

 

I see. There are numbers. One through five. Sorry.

Abigail

It’s okay. We’ll come back to you. Think of the order.

 

(To Oran.)

 

Hi, babe. What did you write?

Oran

Didn’t get there yet.

Abigail

(Friendly.)

 

You’re slow. That’s funny. I’m already halfway inside the book.

 

(Laughs. Flips through book. Reads.)

 

This is great. “Dedicate your life to a cause greater than yourself, and your life will become a glorious romance and adventure,” by Mack Douglas.

Michael

I think some of these are too happy: “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it all the time.” Who is B. J. Marshall? Or this one: “You can’t find someone in crowd of a thousand who writes his or her dreams and say, ‘This is possible.’ Virtually nothing is too good to be true.”

Abigail

You’re always choosing what you don’t understand. Einstein is in here. Walt Disney has mission statement: “Make people happy.”

Oran

Okay. Finished.

 

(Beat.)

 

For my five morals I wrote: Love. Family. Friends. Hard work. And for fun I wrote, Food.

Michael

Food is not a moral.

Abigail

(Ignores.)

 

That’s pretty cool, Oran. What kind of ingredients do you normally work with? Some apricots powered, some cinnamon pecan. I’ll tell you now, nothing is more fun than apricots, my favorite fruit; I can smell the spicy sweetness on my lips just talking about it. You’ll love it, Oran. One time search for a French dessert and we’ll make something.

 

(Silence.)

 

It’s cold in here. I’m going to brew some coffee. You guys want anything?

 

(They say show disinterest. Beat.)

 

I’m going to ask mom if she can turn the heater. Aren’t you cold? I’m cold. I still haven’t eaten either; that’s probably why I’m cold in the first place. Funny.

 

(Exits. Silence for some time.)

Michael

 

Do you like my sister?

Oran

(Pause.)

 

I do.

Michael

(Pause.)

 

Good.

Oran

(Jokingly.)

 

There something I should be afraid of?

Michael

Depends on your fears; from there, anywhere your mind can go.

Oran

You’re scaring me. Is this part of the brother-sister love?

Michael

She’s a whore.

Oran

I don’t believe you. I’ll rephrase: Do you love your sister?

Michael

Aside from our blood? For the most part I love my sister. Don’t misunderstand me. She’s a nice person. There were many suitors before you.

Oran

She’ll tell me when she’s ready. That’s all I need to know.

Michael

 

(Beat.)

 

How was the drive? I mean where did you guys drive from?

Oran

We drove from Carmel. About an eight-hour drive and we didn’t even take the scenic route on one-o-one. You hit traffic when you hit LA—but that place is always congested anyway you cut it. I amazed your sister made it here in one shot—muggy the entire stretch on the grapevines. I was asleep the whole drive.

Michael

You’re coming from up north. Forgot Abs lived out there.

Oran

Where was she before?

Michael

My parents never know where she is. She’ll call from Arizona, Nevada, Sacramento, with a new job in every city and state. If you had all the slices of time she visited us, in a span of seven years, a couple of months she was with us. For Christmas, I don’t know why, one time she called me: (Poor imitation of her voice) “Carmel.” Hung up. You’d think it was a prank but that high-pitch voice, like a seagull, resonates. How am I expected to remember one word in a month? Before you guys got here my mom was asking, “Where is your sister now? Are we expecting her, now?  Where is she at on 5 now?” She didn’t think she was arriving with a boy.

 

(Beat. Referring to Oran’s copy.)

 

I think that book was originally for our cousin Victoria.

Oran

(Nervously.)

 

Oh, are you serious? Let me return it.

Michael

Well, you wrote in it already. Nothing you can do now except say thank you.

Oran

I feel awful.

Michael

Don’t.

 

(Beat.)

 

Our aunt is insane. Divorced now, two years by herself in the south Don’t get me wrong about her character. She’s strong, career-oriented, always updating herself with the nieces and nephews. Has our names and birthdays on the inside of her Bible. She likes these kinds of little things. For my high school graduation she bought me a travel-journal. Now I think she bought it only for the cover, because when you open it, it’s like any kind of journal with lines, you know, going left to right. She likes to know these kinds of things about us, even before our mom.

 

(Beat.)

 

Probably felt terrible if you were the only person not unwrapping a gift.

Oran

She sounds like a sweet person. By the Christmas lights she just handed it over and apologized.

Michael

(Imitating aunt.)

 

“Sorry, I know it’s nothing much, Oran. Please, we got it on short notice.”

Oran

Very sweet of her.

Michael

You must never have relatives before.

 

(Beat.)

 

By the way, did you eat already?

Oran

No. I’m tired from the ride. Thank you, though.

 

(Pause. Beat.)

 

Does your family meet every Christmas?

Michael

Normally, our parents go home to Philippines every year. Our dad’s birthday falls on Christmas and most of his friends are there and my mom’s family is there to celebrate.

Oran

That is cool.

Michael

Sorry you guys didn’t get any cake.

 

(Abigail returns with two cups of coffee.)

 

Abigail

You guys didn’t fast-forward ahead in life, did you?

Michael

(Looks at book.)

Oran

Only talking.

Michael

This is stupid. It says in here Shakespeare wrote “Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and five other immortal plays.” That’s stupid. It makes me want tie a rope around my neck.

Oran

It’s just a number.

Michael

It’s a lie. It bothers me because it’s delusion. There were five or six plays before these.

Abigail

(Flat tone.)

 

It’s just saying what you can do that in five years.

Michael

I’m saying we don’t know when his genius decided to catch on fire. To me, it’s rather showing time is irrelevant for greatness.

Abigail

(To Oran.)

 

Sorry, babe, you have to hear us. Sibling rivalry. Natural as air and blue skies.

 

(Laughs. Beat.)

 

Take this.

Oran

I know how brothers and sisters can be.

Michaels

Am I alone on this?

Abigail

(Ignores.)

 

This is for you, babe. Has everything—quarter of the cup is cream, powder chocolate; I used the real Hershey dark chocolate you put in a cake, if you don’t mind; it might be a little bitter. It’s missing only the hazelnut I know you have with your order.

Oran

Thank you. You heard me back at Carmel?

Abigail

You are the one who said “let’s prepare” and I listened. I remembered, also, I ordered my large coffee with mocha and put extra lump of sugar and topped it with cinnamon just for the road.

Oran

(Genuine.)

 

I am remembering that.

Abigail

Here take it.

Oran

I’m not really craving coffee. Can you leave it on the desk?

Abigail

Hold onto it now because my dad doesn’t want anything on his work-desk. It’s a privilege we’re in his room now. A stain will have him throw a fit soon as he sees us in here.

 

(Rubs the desk.)

 

I understand now why he doesn’t want a ring on the surface. Just ruins the wood in minutes. The ghostly ring—I imagine him asking himself where did this come from, asking the entire house how this came to be rather than the

Michael

He’d be upset when we were children.

 

(To Oran.)

 

Go ahead, leave it there. No one cares. We’re all on vacation.

Abigail

(To Oran.)

 

Oran, you’ll get used to it: Hearing him is like listening for a note in a heat wave. That’s the dogs barking . It’s going take some time.

Oran

(Stands. Takes coffee.)

 

Let’s not make an issue on Christmas Eve, okay?

Michael

And how do you know how our house functions? Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Oran

I want to be calm for a second.

Abigail

Oran, I am on your side.

Michael

No one is stopping you. Be calm!

Oran

(Beat. Sits. To Abigail.)

 

Where is your family now? I didn’t even say hi to your parents yet. I should say something, since I’ll be sleeping here for the night.

 

Michael

(To Abigail.) Why are we giving him a bed?

Abigail

Everyone is fine with it except you.

Michael

Where is he sleeping? He is not sleeping in my room. And definitely mom will not have him in your room. Losing your “face,” (To Oran.) as our dad puts it because when man and women are in the same room, together and alone, mind you, their bodies tangled at the legs—remember, Abigail, they were whispering in each other’s ear?

Abigail

Stop.

Michael

I need ask someone.

 

(Exits.)

Oran

What’s happening?

Abigail

No. Let him go. Hold onto your integrity, Oran. You’re human. You’re a little shook right now. My brother has that kind of power when his head falls off.

Oran

(Sips drink. Grimaces.)

Abigail

Is it bitter?

Oran

No, no, no. It’s a little too warm.

 

(Beat.)

 

I’m sorry. Let me introduce myself—the least I can do. I’m with your brother: You wouldn’t allow any stranger to sleep over, would you?

Abigail

No, sit. My parents are just smoking in the backyard. My God, they left the screen open and you can smell it from the kitchen. In fact I can almost smell it now…or is it me? Did the ash get in my dress?

 

(Smells cloth.)

I need to change tonight.

Oran

I feel like I should say something.

 

(Feels book.)

 

They got this for me.

Abigail

Babe, they’re all drunk out there. They’re hyper and childish right now. Pop your head in the smoke and you’re forgotten, anyways; might give you a cigar to yourself for being a man. See them in the morning, babe, when everyone has their heads clear.

Oran

Why do you keep calling me babe?

Abigail

Because we’re together now.

 

(Puts a hand out.)

Oran

(Grabs her fingers.)

 

Tell me about your parents.

Abigail

They love nice people when they’re listening. People who are carry themselves quietly. They grew up together in love and had us when they were in love.

Oran

Remember me lying on the sidewalk by the beach?

Abigail

Don’t even think that far behind—two days ago, yesterday, or last week.

Oran

I want to say, Abigail: Thank you. I remember because the ocean was sea-blue and marble and air. You sat on the jetty and said to me, “Will the otters jump out?” I lived there for five years and wandered for the last two and never asked such a silly and spontaneous question, as if I mastered the Del Monte ocean. We had to close the book store, but I couldn’t leave the ocean. Why did I come here in the first place? I’d ask myself. I forgot how the beach always drew me in, pulling me by my cold feet to never leave, its diamonds shining in the infinite sun. For the first time I felt homeless.

Abigail

Does my brother scare you?

Oran

(Silence.)

 

Your brother is a little strange.

Abigail

You have it, Oran. Come here. He is unstable. He tried to commit suicide several times in this house. In bathroom you’ll see a dent in the wall—that’s his face, when his body dropped and hit slammed wall.

Oran

That’s sad.

Abigail

He’s an idiot. I’ll tell you his logic. It’s terrible but it’s true to his nature. He said, “I know they’ll be in pain, but I won’t be around to feel it.” Isn’t that selfish?

Oran

Is he fragile now?

Abigail

He’s a little bitch, I know the asshole.

 

(Mel pops her head in the door.)

Mel

Hello. What are you guys doing? Where’s your brother at?

Oran

(Confused.)

 

He went out to eat.

 

(About to stand.)

 

Hi, Ms. Davis.

Mel.

No, stay there.

Abigail

We’re filling out the book you got us. Our first goal tonight is try to get through this. We’re half-way in. I want to show you later.

Mel

Oh my God, guys, I hope you guys think it’s neat.

Abigail

You have to get yourself one, look at mine.

Mel

No, no, no, I’m old.

Abigail

Age is has no soul. You’re modest.

Mel

There aren’t any more five-years left in my career. My body is set in stone.

Oran

Appreciated. Has been a lot of fun to imagine a future.

Mel

I know you guys are old enough and maybe don’t need it anymore. It’s fun. Don’t tell your cousin Victoria (To Oran.) that’s Abigail’s cousin—I’ll share with you an inside secret. I was on the fence the whole time, anyways, too; but I couldn’t let her have one because you don’t think it isn’t so far ahead; she hasn’t finished college and has the future is endless for her, I think. Am I being mean?

Oran

No, you’re not.

Mel

So is it changing your lives? Once I saw that red cover glistening like lipstick, I had to buy it. I opened it, it said (Eyes closed, thinking.), “Talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back. The things you naturally good at are your gifts.”

 

(Beat.)

 

I know you and Abigail don’t need it, but I consider you kids still young, innocent to what’s ahead. I ask myself all the time, where will I be in five years. Will I be in Stinson beach? On the shore Mani’s pier? Is that the Orca’s over there?

Oran

You’ll love the beaches in the north. Not now, the fog is rolling in.

Abigail

You don’t have one where you’re the president of the company; will I get married again? Will my son be working then.

Mel

(As if she heard her, so she repeats last remark.)

 

Be working then? I just thought it would be a fun idea. By the way, what do you do, Oran?

Abigail

Thanks to the book, I learned Oran loves to cook.

Oran

For fun.

Mel

That’s excellent. We don’t have enough men who cook for us. I was divorced twice. You men, all the time, would argue over chores, like normal people, though, and small things—I’m sorry, can I be frustrated—and you men argue over compromises—(As if now.) “Could you at least remove the cheese with your heavy hands,” and I’ll say he couldn’t lift the glass dish, but lift only the fat tongue on his teeth, “It’s sulking.” People are never who they are unless you have some time on them.

Oran

I can speak only for myself: I’m excited I don’t know where will be in five years.

Abigail

You don’t where?

Oran

(Ignores.)

 

A lot can happen in five years. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, King Lear and Othello.

Mel

Which one is Shakespeare? Did he write Romeo and Juliet?

Abigail

That’s him. Wrote that love is eternal.

Mel

(Still. Eyes opened. Thinking of what Abigail said.)

 

Shakespeare wrote that love is eternal. Through the greatest love story told.

Abigail

(Beat.)

 

Soon as we go home, we’re working on a French dessert with apricots and cinnamon.

Mel

Why don’t you young Blue Jays do it now? No one is in the kitchen. That’ll be like your gift to the world?

Oran

Maybe. For fun, Abigail.

Abigail

He’s modest. Our first goal is to finish this, auntie.

 

(Holds book up.)

 

I’ll show you later when we’re done.

Oran

What are they doing outside?

Abigail

I told you already, babe. They’re smoking there cigarettes outside.

Mel

(Says in the air.)

 

I don’t know, Oran.

 

(Beat.)

 

Show me later, Abigail.

 

(Exits.  Closes door quietly.)

 

(Some silence. Oran opens books.)

Oran

 

Abigail

Did you mean what you said earlier? You don’t know where you’ll be five years from today.

Oran

(Ignores.)

 

Was that your aunt? Who was your mom out there?

 

(Michael enters.)

Michael

(To Abigail.) Mom wants to meet Oran. Now she’s bothering me, how did the whole evening pass without meeting him. I invited her to come here, but she as quickly forgot what she said earlier. I turn around, forgetting as well, when she asked me to bring you both out here. (To Oran.) She’ll like you; you’re taller than Abigail. They’ll come inside once they see you.

Oran

See, I should be out there.

Abigail

You’re lying, they’re not asking for him.

Michael

Where are we going to get the room tonight for him?

Abigail

He has yours.

 

Michael

No. David, James, Arthur, are in the same bed. I’ll be on the floor tonight.

Oran

Abigail, if your parents see me, shake hands, smile, me wrapped around your waist, they’d feel safe with me around you; in your bed we’ll be warm like couples.

Abigail

Stay here with me now. We’ll have that now.

 

(From the outside, Aunt Mel calls.)

 

Mel

Oran. Oran! Abigail. Come into the kitchen.

Michael

That’s tita Mel.

Mel

They finished smoking over here.

 

(Coughs.)

 

Come in now. Don’t stay cooped up in there with each other.

Abigail

I have to take a shower first.

 

(Exits.)

Oran

Are they still looking for us?

Mel

Come out, guys…Go dressed up already, Abigail. Everyone’s coming in now. We’ll take your pictures. Hurry, hurry.

Michael

I need to see whose room are you sleeping in tonight. We have the family in the living room, my room, everywhere.

Oran

How about here?

Michael

In here? By here you mean my dad’s office? His children don’t even have the privilege. Living here for years, we lost it since we found my dad’s porno in the computer. It makes me question, how did you guys get in here in the first place. When I found you, you were innocent in the corner. I didn’t say anything because my sister knows this is a party evening.

Oran

Then there shouldn’t be any trouble. Your sister brought me in here after your cousins opened their gifts. Then I got mine.

Michael

Abigail hasn’t lived here five years now. If she is how you know our house, I don’t expect you to know anything.

Oran

(Silence.)

 

I know how to be alone. I found your sister yesterday in love with the ocean.

Michael

“Love?” Is that the word you want?

Oran

(Ignores.)

 

She asked me how, do I survive in Salinas. Living there homeless, two years, you’d think I’d lose my face to humanity. The solitude is beautiful place I recreated my world.

Michael

I’ve been alone, too.

Oran

No, you haven’t. Behind that white door is a group of people who exercise your humanity. When your sister found me, she was talking about the otters, the transparent ocean, the cloudless blue mountains. I feel in love with her words.

Michael

(Laughing.)

 

No. That’s delusion.

Oran

I love your sister to the palm of time. She saw me in a single glance and I felt the look my body wash the unforgiving two years I wandered around the ocean. Can you let me be with her?

 

(Beat.)

 

I don’t want any static between us. Let’s cool it now. I’m going out there.

 

(He opens door, yet Abigail comes in a new dress.)

Michael

You’re quick.

Abigail

(To Oran.) Where are you going, babe? Sit down, sit down.

 

(Pushes into the chair.)

 

They’re not ready for us. They’ll call us for pictures. For now we have this. You still didn’t answer my question, where do you see yourself in five years?

Oran

Where am I sleeping tonight, Abigail?

Abigail

You can sleep here tonight of course.

Oran

(Looks a Michael.)

Michael

(Takes a seat and opens the book.)

Abigail

We’ll go out there when they’re ready. Now, how are we going to past the time? I’m glad you found interest into a little optometrist.

Michael

Okay.

Abigail

(Opens book.)

 

Come here, Michael.

 

(Taps book.)

 

Direction. That’s what you need. By Armand Hammer: “It’s easy to come up with big ideas. Just think of something that everyone agrees would be ‘wonderful’ if it were only ‘possible’—and then set out to make it possible.’ Here, Whoopi Goldberg said, “If every American donated five hours a week, it would equal the labor of twenty million full-time volunteers.” Celebrities have the right mind; that’s how they achieved the ultimate dream.

 

Michael

So simple. You’re right. A dash of optimistism in my day soup.

 

(Beat.)

 

But how am I supposed to volunteer? An hour day will solve world’s problems, but…I can’t think…do you know how when you watch too much television you stand and might go the bathroom or you might go to the store for some milk?

Abigail

There you go again. If you don’t want hear any kind of optimism then you will be alone.

Oran

What she’s saying, Michael, is you can look on the brighter side.

Michael

How is it you can translate what my sister says for me? I lived with her my whole life—you not think my ears are tuned to the history behind her nonsense.

Oran

You’re becoming hostile again.

Michael

Get the fuck out of our house.

Mel

(Off stage.)

 

Are you guys coming out of that tiny space?

 

(Mel sticks her head through the door.)

 

Rains seems to be coming down tonight, all through the morning. Don’t know if you guys can drive by tomorrow because of the mud slides excepted.

 

(Beat.)

 

What do you say, Oran: Your always welcome to sleep in the bathroom.

 

(Laughs.)

 

With the entire family tonight. Thank the Lord you guys made it on time.

 

(You hear the first sign of the storm.)

Light Dim

 

 

 

 

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