Excerpts From Selected Short Stories

Photo of self's backyard through the French windows in her office (courtesy of Stella Kalaw)

Photo of self’s backyard through the French windows in her office (courtesy of Stella Kalaw)

“Seeing” appeared in PANK Magazine (Online Issue 9.5, May 2014)

My name is Gemma.  I was born in Makati Medical, during Typhoon Yoling.  There were two of us born that night, but I’m the only one people see.

My mother accuses me of making up stories.

“She says, hija, I had one of those, too.  When I was a little younger than you.  My imaginary friend meant everything to me.  Her name was Sharylyn.”

* * *

“Jesters” appeared in Used Furniture Review, January 6, 2012

There is so much weight here:  the house, the barn, the chestnut horses in the field, the Chinese elms, the white porch, the brick path, the flowering oregano bushes, the Steinway grand, the porcelain vases, the shelves and shelves of books:  Culture & Anarchy, Multilingual Lexicon of Linguistics and Philology, Cassell’s Italian Dictionary, The World and the Text.  You run your hands over the dusty spines.  You finger the books.  You feel yourself melting, slowly.

Make it a game.  Can you?  A for Articulation.  What they are always telling you at meetings.  Something to do with “requirements.”  These are somewhat rigid.  Why can’t you follow?

B for Because.  Because you feel different.  No, are.  You are different.  Because there are built-in redundancies.

C is for crumbling.  They all say it means nothing.  C for courage, they say.

* * *

“The Hand” won first place in the 2007 Juked Fiction Contest, judged by Frederick Barthelme

In the last couple of years, time seemed to be moving very fast, seemed almost to be accelerating, and the more she tried to hold on to it, the less of it there was to hold. This was a frightening feeling, a feeling she tried over and over to analyze. On this particular Monday evening, a light rain was falling. She could hear the gentle sound of the drops against the trees outside her window.

This morning the rain made her happy, since it reminded her of her childhood in the Philippines, when the yellowish glow from the low-watt bulbs made the rooms look unearthly, and everything in them blurred, as though she were looking at her surroundings from underwater. She remembered sitting at the round table in the kitchen, which was her favorite room in the house, where she sat surrounded by the bustling maids, the sound of people entering and leaving.

All day the question had been inside her, waiting.

Read the rest of it here.

* * *

“The Lost Language” was first published in Isotope, Spring/Summer 2009.  It is the title story of a collection published in the Philippines by Anvil Press, in 2009:

Filipinos once had an ancient written language.  If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves, more like Egyptian hieroglyphics, like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The language was written on tree bark.  Epics were probably written in this language, but I don’t know what they are.  My ancestors are shadowy people.  Shadows.

* * *

“Bad Thing”, was first published in Into the Fire: Asian American Prose (Greenfield Review Press, 1996)

Her son turned six that year. She realized that, for weeks, she had been expecting something to happen. Driving him to school, a feeling would come over her and she would slow down and look furtively right and left, right and left. When they arrived at the school without mishap, she would be surprised and thankful, though she didn’t know who she should be thankful to, she wasn’t the praying sort. Dela would ease her unsteady legs out of the car, call to her son with some measure of confidence, and push herself through the rest of her day. Like that.

* * *

“Siko” was first published in The Forbidden Stitch (Calyx Books), and later included in my first collection Ginseng and Other Tales from Manila (Calyx Books, 1991)

Aling Saturnina used to live in the last house on the left, the one behind the santol tree. But last year, she and her married daughter were taken to San Pablo in a military jeep, and since then no one has seen or heard from them. The villagers don’t like to talk about the events that led to Aling Saturnina’s disappearance. When asked, they cross themselves and their eyes slide sideways and perhaps one or two will invoke the name of the town’s patron saint, as though the saying of it had the power to protect them from all harm. If the questioner becomes too persistent–as lately some of these newspapermen from San Pablo have been–they escape to the rice fields, and wait there till nightfall before returning to their homes. They are simple folk and don’t bother with things they cannot understand.

* * *

“Don Alfredo and Jose Rizal” was first published in Story Philippines, vol. 1 and later appeared in Sou’wester (with a new translation of El Ultimo Adios by Edwin Lozada), Spring 2007.

The man’s eyes, like mine, like all of ours, have an Asian cast. But his clothes are European. A tailor in Madrid made his coat, when he was a young student there. That was long long ago– before Bonifacio, before the Cry of Balintawak, before the ripping of the cedulas. And his wife has brought it to him with tears, so that he can face the firing squad with dignity.

* * *

“Silence” appeared in Threepenny Review, Issue 72, Winter 1998 and was later shortlisted for the O. Henry Literature Prize:

Before Tina got married, her mother took her out to lunch with a friend she knew only as Tita Fely. Tita Fely had a loud voice. She had hair cut short like a man’s. She was married to a handsome tennis instructor and had a beautiful house in Monterey and was raising four sons. Tita Fely looked at her and said, “Don’t let your husband push you around. Don’t be too good.”

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