01. June 2013 · Comments Off on The Other Soul Mate · Categories: N. Staying Alive, The Beast

People have asked me, why didn’t you scream and holler, tell a visitor, or feign illness and refuse to get out of bed?

Why didn’t you steal a stamp, sneak into town and mail a letter?  What is the matter with you?

The scream is inside but it can’t get out.


Detail Children copy


Children of the Red Rain (detail) oil on canvas 1989 by Neil Grayson


Where was your family?

Worlds later, my uncle said that he was told that instead of going on to college I had become a nun.   He said to his wife, que pena, what a pity, but they never thought to question nuns.  To them, religious women were nuns.   They never heard of lay women who made vows and also made up their own rules.

Someone said that if you are thrown off a tall building and you survive, that is your demon.

If you go into the wilderness you will meet your demon.   Actually, you are both there on a date and you found each other on an Inter-dimension Akashic dating site.

At sixteen I was too dumb to know anything that useful.




Minotaur by William Blake

31. May 2013 · Comments Off on Blue Heaven · Categories: N. Staying Alive, The Beast

It has been many years since I left Grailville and graduated from college.  I married my soul mate.  Herb and I are living with our son in the dream house we built in a town we chose.   As the song goes We’re happy in our blue heaven.


Plum Blossoms


Then an impending snowstorm threatens our dinner party and my husband roots for the snowstorm.   He refuses dinner invitations.  Friends come for three dinner parties in a row and then do not want to come again unless we go to their dinners too.


4 R


I take our small son to the Magic Kingdom.  My husband stays home.  I take our son to the city for the weekend.   My husband stays home.




I take our son to Stonehenge, to Loch Lomond, to the Caribbean Islands.   My husband stays home.

I go to the hospital alone.   He empties the mailbox each day and throws away wedding invitations and my friends’ letters.  He forgets my phone messages.

I can see that he is truly sorry.  He makes a new effort.  It lasts for a while.  I think of all the happy things,


Neil0776 copy

4 R




I count our blessings.

We accept an invitation to a birthday dinner party at the home of very dear friends, Fan and Les.   Their son Fred and Herb were roommates in their fraternity house at the University of Pennsylvania.   They spent a lot of time in each other’s homes.

Fan gave Freddie a department store in Salt Lake City and he moved out there.   Herb has not been in touch with anyone in that family for many years, but they always loved him.  After Fan and Les hear that Herb has married and settled down, they invite us into their lives.

From the moment we meet I feel that I know Fan.   We have something in common that she also feels.

In some way I do not clearly understand, we are like instant family.  I am perfectly at home in her house.  They live at 666 Park Avenue in New York in a maisonette with twenty seven rooms.  The main rooms have 18 foot ceilings

There are several antique rooms which have been transplanted from European houses.  The dining room is English.   The main salon is a pine room from Spettisbury Manor. There are two rooms from the Chateau de Courcelles in France.

FanFoxSamuels8-25-2012 1-31-42 PM


Fan and Les live as though they are still in the New York society that Edith Wharton describes in The Age of Innocence.

They have a staff of two chefs and five Irish maids.   They have a butler.  They have chauffeurs.   They even have their own curator from the Metropolitan Museum.

They dress for dinner every night.   That is black tie and evening gowns.   The long table with a runner of fresh flowers glitters with multiple stemmed crystal glasses at each place setting, surrounded by rows of sterling flatware.

Les says that Fan wants to use her favorite antique china every day, but Lloyd’s of London would not insure it for daily use.  So what you see on the table is an amazing copy of the real thing, which they have to keep protected.

Why am I so at home here?  In the best of times our family in Macau did not live like this.

The Grail had separated me from my family in such a profound way that I simply thought of myself as being on my own.  Yes, there was the memory of my grandmother’s home deep inside me.  Until I was married that was still the place I thought of as “home.”   That’s where I am from, if someone asks.

But too much time has passed.   I do not think of actually going back there again.

After Herb and I get married, my sister becomes interested in my life again.   We correspond.    As in the past, she enjoys having tailors in Hong Kong make clothes for me and now also for Herb.  I send her American inventions and clever children’s clothes.

I never tell her what happened to the college wardrobe she had made for me.  Actually, I do not talk about those years at Grailville with anyone.

My sister and her husband take their five children on a trip around the world, and they stay at our home for two weeks.   Still I do not plan to visit them in Hong Kong any time soon.

Fan young

It is Fan who encourages me to go back to Macau and reclaim my roots.  It is strange, really.

Here Fan is, living in this grand house with her second husband and a large staff of servants.  Her only son lives thousands of miles away.

She lives surrounded by all these treasures made by artists the world over, with such natural grace.  I sense that though most things here are museum quality, nothing here is for show,

The furnishings and art are all personally chosen and part of daily life.  She reminds me of what that fortune teller said long ago which I could never figure out.  He said that wealth would just flow through me because I have open hands.

He could have been talking more accurately about Fan.  She truly has open hands.

Wealth just flows through her without her grasping it, without her taking credit for anything.  I think one could arrive at that state of grace even if one did not have very much.  But most of us would not be tested by such great wealth.

Like me, Fan had a competent and take-charge kind of older sister.  Her sister worked with their father in his business.   She was the CEO of his department store in Connecticut.   She helped him extend his empire, and in the process built a magnificent legacy for herself.

Fan, on the other hand, shares her inherited wealth quietly and in a very personal way.   When Fan and her sister were girls, their parents took them on extended tours abroad.  Fan developed a deep love for the arts, especially the performing arts.

Fan says it is important for me to go back and renew ties with my family, although many of them have scattered.


Fan42674 copyFan72674 copy


After more than twenty years away, I finally take the trip back.

Now, in spite of Herb’s reluctance to go anywhere, he has accepted an invitation to Fan’s birthday dinner party.   Herb knows that their dinners and their guest lists and even seating arrangements are all carefully thought out in advance.

He knows that Fan and Les entertain purely for their own and their friends’ enjoyment.  He is always relaxed and comfortable with them.

One day before the party I get a call from Les.  Who in Washington is competing with them?  Herb just sent them an impersonal lettergram, of all things, regretting that he suddenly has to go to Washington.  Can’t he pick up the phone?

I cannot hide that I am just as stunned as they are.   They are dismayed.   They know my husband’s history.   This is an ominous sign that his demons have returned.

In one inexplicably cold and deeply insulting gesture, Herb has cut us off.


Fan NYT copy

Fan NYT 2copy3

28. May 2013 · Comments Off on The Crusher · Categories: N. Staying Alive, The Beast · Tags:

Dr. Lowen asks me why I have come to him.

What is the matter with me that I find myself in this situation?  I need to know.

Good, he says.  Now we can begin.


Dr. Lowen looks intently at my face.  He has been working on my facial muscles.

Someone terrorized you.   It happened a long time ago, when you were vulnerable.

He makes a malevolent, devilish face at me.


Mephistopheles Faust


No, I say.  That is Mephistopheles.   He is the one that made the deal with Faust.  He is not my demon.  My demon is the one who sits on your chest.


Nightmare engraving Thomas Burke

The Nightmare, engraving after John Fuseli, 1783 by Thomas Burke

In this famous painting an ugly demon squats on a young woman’s chest.   It is facing her.   My demon has its back to me.  It is faceless, anonymous and heavy as a stone wall.

I cannot breathe.  I cannot move.

You think that you are going to die.

I don’t know.

Yes, you are dying.   You can’t move.  You can’t breathe.  If you stop breathing you die.   You are terrified to death.   To death!



Final Figure, oil on canvas, 1990 by Neil Grayson


I don’t want to die.  I shake to my bones.  My body remembers.

It’s okay.  It’s over.  You are safe here.

What do you do when you can’t move?

I pray to the Holy Spirit.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Love.  The Holy Spirit is the spirit of love.

Then suddenly I can move again.

Dr. Lowen calls himself a secular humanist.  He has had thousands of psychiatric patients, many of them Christians.   Still, his grasp of Christian symbols surprises me.

Then what do you do?

I believe in love.   I look for something to love.  There is always something.

You think that if you do everything well and please everyone they will like you.

I know that some people will never like me.   But I don’t do it for them.  I do my best because that has always brought me good things.  Eventually, things always work out.

That is what kept you there.   It is an illusion.

But there is a darker side.

You are defiant.  They cannot break you.  We will see how you were colluding.


26. May 2013 · Comments Off on Leitha · Categories: N. Staying Alive, The Beast

Maybe it is just a way of coping, but I separate the sometimes hurtful things they do from the earnest and talented young women I work with every day.

I make excuses for them.   They are just obeying their leaders.  They trust them.  They don’t question them.   But they have good intentions.

The real soul breakers, I tell myself, can only have come from anonymous central planning.

This stratagem is not working well when it comes to Leitha even though I know that she is not in the top circle of power.  Maybe it is her body language.  She does not even wear that cover-up smile.

Leitha heads the other arts center in the Caravansery, a converted barn near the bookstore.  There they weave cloth on a loom and make tapestries, liturgical vestments and dance costumes.  I am never in her household.    But somehow she shows up at unexpected moments wherever I am.

After my first summer on the kitchen staff they put me in the agricultural household.  It is called Pneuma.  Because of the hours dictated by farm work, we have our own cook, me.  But somehow Leitha is often presiding and reading at our meals.

Singers in long robes, holding lighted candles, wake us up in the middle of the night.  I am in the top bunk.  I sit up, too groggy to remember the sloping ceiling.  I hit my forehead again.  Now I am awake.

We dress and stumble down the road to the main hall for another prayer vigil.  There is Leitha, in charge of things.   I struggle to keep my eyes open.  In just a few hours, at five o’clock, we must go and milk the cows.  I am sure that Leitha planned this.

It is Christmas morning.  Even though I am no longer a year school student I am told to join the new students in the hall.  We are opening our Christmas presents.  Everyone has letters and cards except me.

They distribute the gift packages.  There is a large box for me.  The girls are opening their gifts from home, laughing at the thick woolen undies and sharing their photos and their candy.

I open my box.  Inside there is another box, gift wrapped.   I unwrap and open it.  Inside, there is nothing.  It is a totally empty box without even a Christmas greeting in it.  I stare at this empty box.  I get what they are saying:

Nobody cares about you!

I hear a gasp.  The girls try not to look at me.  I am ruining their Christmas spirit.  I put the top back on the box.  I leave quietly.   This one could only have come from central planning which I am beginning to associate with Leitha.

It is Lent.  We are having a simple supper in the fields.  I am enjoying the thick slice of freshly baked bread and the hunk of cheddar.  I hold a ripe tomato in my hand.  We picked that only minutes ago.  The setting sun casts its last rays of gold across the fields.  It is a perfect tomato.  I take a big bite.  It is delicious.

You do not have the right spirit!  I look up and see Leitha glowering at me.  You are taking too much pleasure in your food.  It is against the penitential spirit of Lent.   But whether it is Lent or not, you should always have something unpleasant at each meal.


I have an idea for a chicken dish which I could not try out when I was cooking in the main kitchen.  There were five of us, and we cooked three meals a day, with strict deadlines, for up to one hundred and fifty people, plus special meals for special people upstairs.

Maria was in charge.  Though she was good natured she did not allow for any experimenting.  But now I am cooking for only a dozen or so, and it is my chance to try out my “smothered chicken.”  The pieces are lightly breaded and fried in butter, seasoned and then very slowly cooked until you could cut them with a fork.

I expect my farm girls to gobble it all up.   But when I see Leitha eat a large second helping I realize why I made that special effort today.  What do I care what Leitha thinks anyway.  It makes me uneasy.

Whatever household I am in, they often pull me out to conduct Mass or sing folk songs.  They just need more conductors than they have, especially when there are many visiting priests.



On Pentecost Sunday I conduct Mass in the parish church.  The hymn Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit) is sublime.  Everyone loves it.  However, it spans octaves.   I know that.

I should have used my pitch pipe, but I have become so sure of myself that I never even carry it.  I give the choir the pitch.  As soon as we sing the first phrase I realize that I did not pitch it low enough.   Disaster!

At the highest notes Rosemarie is the only one left who can squeak them out.

After Mass no one says anything.  I know it is my fault – it is pure hubris, that’s all.  Yet I am saying to myself, why didn’t Leitha stop me after I gave that too high pitch?  She was standing right next to me, and she has sung this for ages.   She wanted to see me fail.

That’s when I realize with a shock that something is happening to me that I hate.  I am blaming someone else.

It gets worse.

We are required to go to a lecture that Leitha is giving.  It is a special lecture on clothes and woman.  We are not allowed to take notes.

Leitha comes to the podium dressed in a suit and a man’s tie.  I cannot believe the nonsense she says about her subject.   Hasn’t she ever felt the pleasure of wearing pretty dresses and hats and walking around in her mother’s heels?

I should try to understand her.  Instead I think, no wonder she doesn’t want us to take notes.   She suspects her lecture is total rubbish yet she wants us to endure it.

I am back in the main kitchen for a second summer.  Summer is our busiest season with crowds of visitors.  It is a seven-day, all day job with breaks of only an hour or two each day.

Often I am still scrubbing pots so large I could fit into them, and measuring out breakfast coffee long after the lights go out in the other households. This Sunday, amazingly, I am given the whole day off until dinner.

After a festive breakfast with a full dining room, Leitha, who is presiding, says that she wants a volunteer, just one person, who would make the sacrifice of doing all the dishes.

No one volunteers right away.  Leitha scans the room.  Slowly, one and then two hands go up.  She looks directly at me.  I raise my hand.   Doreen, she says.

I just knew she would pick me.  Why am I doing this?  With a sinking heart I see the dirty dishes pile up all over the counters of the washing-up kitchen as people stream out of the dining room.

Even when there is a large group pitching in, it takes considerable time to do all those dishes.  There is no dishwasher.   There is only one double sink.  You scrape, you wash, you rinse, you dry, and you put away dishes for about a hundred and fifty diners.   I am there for almost all the rest of my free time which I really needed.

I have a lot of time to think of what I am doing to myself.  I see why I am doing this.  I am saying YOU CAN’T BREAK ME.

But I volunteered.

21. May 2013 · Comments Off on The Sleeping Hand · Categories: M. 16 years, The Beast

Flying is still an occasion.  People expect to enjoy themselves.  Even on this red-eye flight.

When we are at cruising altitude the upbeat stewardesses serve champagne in crystal glasses.

After they have collected the empties they bring soft lap blankets and little pillows.  Then they dim the lights.

I am dozing off.  I feel something land on my lap like a dead fish.

I glance at the man next to me.  He is as old as Uncle Pedro.  His head is back and his eyes are closed.   I know his hand is not asleep.

I take his limp hand and place it firmly on his lap.

He is pretending that one hand does not know what the other is doing.  He knows that I know.

It does not happen again.

sleeping hand1

11. May 2013 · Comments Off on The Claw · Categories: N. Grail School Year, The Beast

I hear Juanita’s merry laugh.   She is on the driveway saying goodbye to friends.  She calls me over and introduces me.  One of her relatives is a young priest.  They have just come back from a day at an amusement park.

Juanita describes how thrilling it was.   I remember an amusement park called Luna Park in Hong Kong, but it was small and didn’t have roller coasters.

Juanita tells her friends that I am from the Far East.  So far from home!  They say you must come along with Juanita next time.  Of course I’d love to.

I head back to the house.   I feel a sharp pain in my shoulder as I am pulled back.   I turn and face Leitha.  She is an older staff member going way back to when they were in Europe.

Whenever I see Leitha looking at me she seems to be disapproving of something.  I try to avoid her.

Now her eyes are boring into me and her expression is unmistakably malevolent.  I am an insect she must crush.

Special friendships are not allowed here!  She practically spits it out.


Her hand is still dug into my shoulder like a claw.   Why is she so angry?

Do you understand?  It is not a question it is a command.

She was watching me laughing with Juanita’s friends and she does not like it.  I don’t understand.

I just want to get away.   I nod yes.

She lets go and I walk away quickly.


10. May 2013 · Comments Off on Dressing Down · Categories: N. Grail School Year, The Beast

My trunks are still on the floor of my room.  Whenever I have a little time, I sort out and put into one trunk the warm weather clothes I won’t need till next spring.  All my clothes are new.

My sister has done a marvelous job of putting together this wardrobe, which really is her idea of what a college girl should wear.    Going with classic and elegant, she said, you can’t go wrong.

But just for fun she threw in a ready-to-wear bright red wool jacket with whip stitching.  It has a warm yellow sun and happy palm trees embroidered on the back.  She said it was the latest fad.  It would be perfect for going with Juanita to an amusement park.

My sister kept a team of tailors, dressmakers and knitters busy for weeks.  I designed some of the clothes, just as I did for my paper dolls.  But it was my sister who made them real.   She saw to every detail so that everything fits me and is so comfortable to wear.

She suggested that we order a padded mandarin jacket for dressy occasions.   Wouldn’t that be smart and original?  I find Chinese high collars uncomfortable, so she had the tailor make a lower collar for me.  I chose a pearl grey silk satin with gold dragons.  It is my favorite jacket.

My sister gets the best of everything at unbelievable rock bottom prices.   She knows fabrics and cut and what each tailor is best at.  But most of all, she knows how to bargain.

At tea time we go to Dairy Farm and order their huge, preposterous ice cream sundaes.  I love to read aloud the elaborate descriptions on the menu and am always amazed when the waiter brings in what the chef dreamed up.

My sister and I have so much fun when we are in her world.

Oona comes into my room.  She is a staffer with an officious air.  She gets right down to business.

We need your camera for our missionaries, she says.  She picks it up and puts it on the other bed.

It is an expensive new camera in a leather case.  My uncle’s clients in Hong Kong gave me a farewell lunch and presented me with it.  I didn’t even use it on my voyage because my friends were better photographers and took lots of photos.

What?  She is not even asking, she is just taking the camera.  I feel shock and outrage, but I freeze.

Oona then goes to my trunks.   She sees the souvenirs that I bought in Japan.  She takes all of them and puts them next to my camera.  We need these for the Oriental Room, she said.  That is a room in this house that the staff uses to entertain guests.

She sees the six beautiful silk scrolls that Father Minelli asked me to bring.  They are scenes from the Gospels that Chinese artists have painted in original Chinese settings.  Father wants me to try to find buyers for his artists.

They are not mine, I explain.    Oona doesn’t care.   She takes them and all my souvenirs to the Oriental Room down the hall.

Oona returns.   She goes through my clothes.  She picks the red jacket first, and then all the dressy pieces and whatever else she wants and piles them high on the bed.  The whole time she is giving me a lecture on giving of myself.

Then she slings my camera on her shoulder, grabs the pile of clothes, and walks out the door.

It feels like a mugging.

09. May 2013 · Comments Off on Narrow Bridge · Categories: N. Grail School Year, The Beast

There is going to be an evening of entertainment.  We are continuing the World Vision theme.  Each one of us is expected to contribute a song, a story, something from our own national culture.

Officially, my nationality is British.   But I’ve never even been to England.  Nor have I been to my mother’s home country, Portugal.  Our Eurasian culture in Macau is a hybrid and hard to pin down.

Then a light bulb comes on.  I know what I will do.

When my turn comes, I tell the audience that I will say a poem in Cantonese, which I learned with my tutor, Miss Wu.

I am wearing my mandarin jacket with the gold dragons, which Oona overlooked.

I tell the audience that the poem is from the Chinese Fourth Reader.  Chinese students habitually memorize all the poems.

This one, my favorite, is about an old man, feeble in mind and body, who struggles to cross a narrow bridge.

 The bridge is tall, the boards are narrow.  The old man’s knees weaken, his heart flutters, and he falls.

A young student sees him and rushes to his side.   He lifts up the old man.   He calms him.   He helps him cross safely to the other side.

I say the poem in Cantonese.

I remember the poem, word for word, even though it has been four years since I learned it by heart.   Or as Miss Wu would put it, since I learned it in my heart.

The audience loves it.

As we are leaving the hall, Leitha steps out of the shadows and takes me aside.

We need your jacket for our member Connie, she says.  She is Chinese and needs it for social events at our city center.

I say nothing.

Leitha starts to take the jacket off me.  I shrug out of it as quickly as I can and hand it to her.

I can’t get away fast enough.



08. May 2013 · Comments Off on Rubbing It In · Categories: N. Grail School Year, The Beast

I am told to go to the bookstore for a book.  It is the Liber Usualis, the official book of Gregorian Chants.


I walk into the bookstore and see Leitha.  She is waiting for me.  She has the book in her hands.  But first, she has something to say.

She says that they had written to my family for money and was told that there was no more money for me.

Sounds like Titi.  Did they really write to Titi?  I suppose that my grandmother’s address is on my school records and that is what they have.

Some people, she says, will send their children to school and not even give them money for books.

She knows very well what they took from me.  It is the triumphant malice on her face that starts the chain of outraged responses in my head.

Since they took my camera and most of my brand new clothes they have also taken all my money.   My family gave me enough cash to cover what I was likely to spend this school year.  I spent only a fraction of it on the voyage.

And in the unlikely event that she did not know, even though they have endless committee meetings, why didn’t she ask me to write home for money?

No, she knows.  The triumph in her eyes tells me she knows and enjoys making me suffer not only loss but also injustice.

Except for Leitha’s demand for my mandarin jacket they don’t do it in my face anymore, as Oona did.

My things just disappear, one at a time.  They know how to cause prolonged, maximum pain.

They took every bit of jewelry including my watch.  They took my new leather handbag, and even my two trunks.

They have all the power.  They have my passport and all my documents, they control my mail and they control my activities every minute of the day.

There is no one to talk to.  Juanita has gone, as have a few others.  There were no goodbyes.

I keep my thoughts to myself.  I thank Leitha for the book and go back to my chores.

05. May 2013 · Comments Off on The Abyss Yawns Open · Categories: C. 1 to 4 years, Take Bull by Horns, The Beast · Tags: ,

I see the boy at the top of the slope just as he is coming down.  His bicycle has a bell – rrring – rrring – rrring.  His white shirt is blowing, the wind is in his hair, he has the widest smile.  Rrring – rrring – rrring.  Oh, how I wish I could do that!  I lean forward on the balcony to see him speed by.

I see the bus coming at the bottom of the street.  I hear the crash, but I can’t see because Ah Seem has grabbed me against her tunic.  I know the boy died.  I feel the horror filling up inside me.  It makes me sick.  No one says anything about the boy.

The next morning, when I go with Ah Seem to the park, we pass the crossroad.  Ah Seem pulls me along quickly, but I look back and I see the bloodstains on the road.  The horror comes back.

I am not yet three.  How can I know death, why do I feel that horror?  But even when I learn these things later, I would never again feel horror in the same way.

I become sick.  I remember Dr. Gomes with a big needle I don’t want.  Then a lot of darkness, of shadows, then my mommy’s face, then my daddy’s.  Dr. Gomes is here too.  They smile, but they are not happy.  They blur, and I go back to sleep.

But I wake up.  I learn a new word: crisis.  It’s what I came through.  I get a lot of hugs.  But I still want to sleep.

Weeks go by.  One day, a man carries a bushel basket into my room.  Look, Ah Seem enthuses, your godfather, the big judge, sends you a big present!

I am too tired.

Ah Seem reaches into the basket.  Look!  There are many pretty packages!  She holds out a brightly wrapped little package.

Too tired.

She opens the package and sets down a little pink glass pig with a curly tail.  Then she puts down an even smaller pink piglet with a curly tail.  There are two more.  They are so cute.  What else is there?

Ah Seem hands me a package.  I want to know what’s inside.  You can open it, she says.  Soon we have little goats, buffaloes, dogs, swans.

I pull aside layers of soft tissue and find a glass dragon with many colors.  Ah Seem laughs as she holds it up and makes it dance.  Good fortune!  Good fortune!

The dragon sparkles and reflects a shaft of sunlight into a million dancing lights.  I want to go outside with my dragon and make it dance in the sunlight and show everyone.


glass dragon

The Glass Dragon

10. April 2013 · Comments Off on Casting Doubt · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years, The Beast

My mom is talking about our going to the United States.  I don’t have to ask why.  I heard her say to the lieutenant that he must go home and marry the poor girl in Portugal that he forgot about.  She says it in a tone that even I know she doesn’t mean a word of it.

When she notices that I have entered the room, she glares at me.  It is not a good sign.

Why is she saying this now?  She always knew that as long as my dad is alive she is married to him.   My cousin’s dad got divorced, but actually his wife divorced him in Hong Kong, but in Macau he is still married.

I don’t know what my dad thinks.  He doesn’t write and he doesn’t visit.  He forgot my birthday for years.  We never talk about him.

09. April 2013 · Comments Off on The Hunted · Categories: D. 5 to 8 years, The Beast

The whole compound is in an uproar.   We are told to stay indoors.  Soldiers patrolling the back of the island found paw prints in the mud.  They are of a tiger or maybe a leopard.

The paw prints point in one direction only, towards us.  There are no prints leading back towards the mainland.  All day long, groups of soldiers search every inch of the hill behind our house.  They find nothing.

We hope to see the tiger.  Maybe he will come out of hiding at night.  They leave all the lights on outside the barracks.  Our lights are on too.   We watch searchlights on the hill moving with the soldiers among the trees.  But nobody sees the tiger.

The next day, after school we are allowed to go and see the paw prints in the mud.   All day long we hear about the different ways the tiger could have sneaked away.

Bronze blue tiger copy

07. April 2013 · Comments Off on My Worst Fear · Categories: G. 8 years, The Beast

I am playing with my paper dolls on the stairs.  Titi walks in, Ah Ngung behind her.   She starts taking clothes out of the tall dresser that came from our house.   Titi hands the clothes to Ah Ngung, who stares down at the floor.

I hear a wail that wakes up all the fears in my heart.  It is my grandmother in her bedroom.   I know that my mother is dead.

My grandmother’s cries do not stop.  There are other sounds, my brother sobbing, the amahs crying.

I run outside and sit on the front steps.

My mom is gone.

Never again will I see her, hear her voice, or hug her.  Not in my whole life.   Not my tears, not my fury, not my prayers, nothing will ever bring her back to me.  It is hopeless.

Somewhere inside, a void opens.

My tears are useless, but they run down my face like rain.

I don’t know how long I sat there.


18. March 2013 · Comments Off on Too Far To Go · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years, The Beast

Green trams

The developers are tearing down our house.  We move to Shaukiwan, too far for me to walk to school.  We are in a temporary apartment, waiting for our house to be built.   It is going to be in the yard inside the walls of the church.  There is already one house there.

I wake up very early, wondering how much time it would take for the tram and then the walk up the hill to school.  I have final exams.

I see my school uniform soaking in a bucket in the corner.  Linda says she is not going to wash it.  When did she ever wash clothes?   I’m panicking.  Can I wring it out and iron it dry?

Linda says no because she is not going to give me tram money or lunch money either.   Before I can catch my breath she goes into a rage.  It seems she was expecting some money when we were dumped on her by our mother’s rich family.

She spits out ugly things about my mother.  Then she grabs the framed photo of my mother that is my sister’s and smashes it on the floor.   Before she can hit me I duck and kick her in the shin.

She screams for my father.  She kicked me, she kicked me!

He comes into the room.  Without even asking what happened, he slaps me in the face, hard.

She insulted Mommy, I cry.

My father says, “Your mother ruined my life.”

It does not sound like heartbreak.  It sounds like anger, a thousand furies held back behind clenched teeth.