Sun Struck, No Mind: 2nd Tuesday of June 2018

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River Styx, Special Double Issue: “A Readable Feast” (2008)

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Francisco Arcellana was born 6 September 1916 in Santa Cruz, Manila, the fourth of 18 children. A graduate of the University of the Philippines, he went on to become a 1956-57 Rockefeller Foundation Creative Writing Fellow and attended the University of Iowa Writers Workshop and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Call for Submissions: Michigan Quarterly Review Special Issue on Iran

The issue to be guest-edited by Kathryn Babyan, Associate Professor of Iranian History and Culture at the University of Michigan, “seeks to present a collective of voices and reflections born in the shadow of revolution. We especially encourage translations from Persian, Kurdish, Armenian, and Azeri languages spoken in Iran.”

Here’s the link to the journal’s submissions page. Work will be accepted through 30 June 2018.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Desire” Part 7

The manager of the boardinghouse paced the lobby, throwing curses right and left. His wife, who was in charge of the kitchen, moaned Dios mio, Dios mio. One couldn’t have asked about breakfast at such a time. Epifanio wandered the streets, willing himself into exhaustion.

Eventually, he found himself on the street with the bar. He felt like sinking down on the pavement, but looked in disgust at the gobs of spit that formed a dense pattern by the gutters. When the woman finally came out, she seemed to be looking for him. Her eyes found him, and he sensed the invitation and longing. He came forward.

“What’s your name?” he asked. He spoke very softly, hoarse with fear and desire.

“Honey,” she said, smiling. “What’s yours?”

He shook his head and paused. Then he decided that she deserved to know at least this about him: “Epifanio,” he said.

She kept smiling. She leaned against him. He could feel her small breasts, pressed against his chest. He raised his right arm to circle her waist.

“You like me?” she whispered.

He nodded. From his pocket, he pulled out all the money he had. She grabbed the bills eagerly and started to count. Then she said, “You rich? Did you really mean to offer this much?”

He didn’t even know how much he had in his pocket. When did he get the money? This morning? He saw the eyes of the dead man. He staunched the memory.

“Yes, I meant to offer that much,” he asserted. He felt manly now. Strong.

Honey laughed. “You can have me the whole night,” she said.

Epifanio nodded. She drew him inside.

THE END

“Desire” Part 6

Epifanio walked quickly away, his thin shoulders hunched up and his hands jammed into the pockets of his jeans.

Epifanio easily found the bar again two nights later. There was some kind of program going on: he listened to a man reciting lewd jokes into a microphone. The bar seemed full: the laughs were raucous. A young woman kept going in, out, in, out. She was not pretty. She wore a tight, silvery blouse that emphasized her breasts, her slim waist. Only after she had gone back and forth several times did it dawn on Epifanio that she was aware of him, that she was interested in him. She stood on the sidewalk, peering down the street as if looking for someone. He watched her turn, this way and that. She wore gold sandals; her toenails were painted bright red. Because she was taking her time about going back inside, Epifanio was sure: she wanted him! But he could do nothing, only stand and stare.

She came out a third time and stood on the sidewalk. Her lips seemed brighter. No one else was on the street, or in the world: there was only the girl, and Epifanio, and an aching need.

She turned in a slow semicircle. She seemed to be urging him on, trying to rouse him to some form of action.

When she had executed every possible movement, she turned and walked slowly back to the bar. She held her head high, but Epifanio could sense her disappointment. He had saved her, or himself, he didn’t know which.

***

The city had always existed in his head. It was his last remaining opportunity, the one he would run to when everything else had failed, his last card. He didn’t want to be playing that card so soon, but he found the situation with Sheryn unbearable. So, like a gambler, he had played it.

Epifanio went to see Sheryn one last time before leaving. Her eyes were puffy and red. She grazed his cheek with the tips of her fingers. “Silly,” she said softly. “Silly, silly.” Epifanio’s gaze traveled to her stomach, the roundness there. That was when she pulled away, both hands over her belly as if protecting it. “Please go.”

He left.

***

The men’s breakfast was provided by the boardinghouse. For lunch and dinner, however, they spent their own meager funds. Someone said that the food stalls near the bus terminals had the cheapest food. The pork barbecue, dripping with fat, was ten pesos a stick.

For the past week, he had subsisted on a meager breakfast of two thin sausages, an egg, and a small pyramid of rice. By noon, he was faint. By dinnertime, he was angry. But he found a way to endure the hunger; he had no choice.

(To be continued. For a short short story of approximately nine pages, dear blog readers are probably thinking, why is it taking sooooo long to get to the point? GAAH!!! Get a move on, Epifanio!)

“Desire” Part 5

A disagreeable man has just been murdered.

Epifanio, the main character, finds himself thinking of a lost sweetheart named Sheryn.

Had to edit out some sections to avoid trigger warnings. Whew! It is hard work typing everything.


She also had a more winning manner, a more inviting style.

She had not exactly been a closed door. That, at least, was the implication of the smirk that had accompanied the dead man’s comment about “morning sickness.”

But — was he really dead? What if he had merely been wounded, and the ambulance had rescued him in time? What if, even now, he was lying some hospital, with a drip affixed to one arm?

Was he the father of the young woman’s baby? Epifanio was surprised at the despair that accompanied this thought.

To hold a woman, any woman — to know the warmth of a woman’s embrace.

Epifanio’s parents had loved each other with a purity and single-mindedness that he had tried to emulate. But the ferocity of Sheryn’s desire had unmanned him. They had been classmates in high school but Epifanio never dreamed of courting her. Then, one day in October, right in the middle of the Masskara Festival, she came up to him in the plaza. Her tone was teasing. “Do you want me? O, tilawi!” Try me.

Their first time together: she had grabbed him and drawn him close. She had called up his courage. She had luxuriated in his desire.

After, when Epifanio and Sheryn encountered each other on the street, they feigned aloofness. Her family was not rich, but they were better off than Epifanio’s; his father eked out a hard living as a fisherman. Epifanio had done many things: he had been a tricycle driver. A waiter. A traffic enforcer. Sheryn had graduated from college, whereas Epifanio had dropped out after two years. She worked as a bank teller, and wore nice clothes to work. Still, Sheryn wanted him! When they caught each other’s eyes, they smiled surreptitiously, like conspirators.

Then, disaster: I am carrying your child, she whispered. The future shrank to the width of one hand. Her desire withered. There was a new, hard determination in her face. He talked of marriage; she said, Wait.

***

Sheryn’s voice was strong near the bar. A sign said, Deep and Deeper. Epifanio had passed it before, had noticed the women going in and out. They wore tight clothes, they walked languorously, aware that men were watching.

Epifanio lurked, throwing quick glances at the door. A tall man with a smooth-shaven head and tattoos running down both forearms stood just inside, where he might easily have been mistaken for a shadow. He uttered a warning and made a derisive gesture with his hand.

(To be continued)

 

 

“Desire” Part 4

Wrote this story for Jessica Hagedorn’s anthology Manila Noir. It’s a wonder what you can do if the opportunity presents itself!

I’ve been posting in sections. There was a post earlier today.


He remembered going there with her, the taste of the small, tart fruit in her mouth, and then his.

Epifanio was not physically strong. He was a rather small man, with a slim waist. His forearms were corded from years from having worked as a welder at the sugar plant in Victorias. Six months earlier he had been let go. The foreman refused to give him a reason.

To dream! Ah yes, he had dared to dream. The news spread quickly in the town. He slunk along the seafront, downing bottle after bottle of Ginebra. When he next saw Sheryn, it was on the arm of another man. There was only the smallest hint of a bulge, beneath her waist. Only someone looking for it would have noticed.

Julio was tall and fair-skinned. He spoke good English. He worked in the business office of L’Fisher Hotel, one of the best hotels in Bacolod.

Epifanio’s eyes reddened. My child! he thought. Mine! Mine! Mine!

 

Was Epifanio sorry about the fate of the smirking man? Naturally, yes. But he was also a little tense. Epifanio had disliked the man; it was this that made the guilt grow. Could his thoughts have somehow assumed a walking shape and descended from the room to the first floor, where the smirking man sat nodding off behind the desk in the small office?

Was Epifanio interested in the young woman because she reminded him of Sheryn? They had the same kind of hair: long and shiny, a treasure of fragrance. Sheryn was a little shorter.

(To be continued)

“Desire” Part 3

from a story published in Manila Noir, edited by Jessica Hagedorn (Akashic Books). Self will post the entire thing, in installments. This is the third posting:


Gonzago gestured, his right arm driving cleanly through the air.

Only then did Epifanio realize that the floor of the Lobby was covered with the same dark substance that stained the soles of his sneakers. It was everywhere. There was even some of it smeared across one of the lobby’s light blue walls. He saw what might have been a handprint.

Spit was collecting at the back of Epifanio’s mouth. He managed to ask, “Who found him?”

*****

Sheryn said, “I’m in love with Julio. He will make a better father for my child.” Epifanio closed his eyes. When he opened them again, everyone but Gonzago had left. Gonzago was chuckling to himself. “Eh?” The police ask so many questions. But all the wrong ones.”

Epifanio turned from him and walked out the door.

“Eh?” Gonzago called after him. “No one is supposed to leave. The police are still taking statements.”

Epifanio kept going. The street began less than a yard away. There was almost no sidewalk to speak of. There were spit stains on the buckling sidewalk, and horrendous smells. Banana peels, empty soda bottles, scraps of paper all formed a clotted mess in the gutters.

God is love. God is love. God is love. Epifanio trembled: Sheryn’s pet mynah bird knew only this one sentence. Every time Epifanio called on her, the bird would direct a baleful glance at him and begin its monotonous chant.

There was a small of cherisa trees behind Sheryn’s house.

(To be cont.)

 

Desire (Cont.): from MANILA NOIR

He thought he heard the policeman say, Ngunit — but — and then, “mga estudyante.” Epifanio did not want to listen anymore and turned away.

He found a few of the men gathered by the front door, whispering urgently to one another. Epifanio forced himself to approach.

As he took a step forward, and then another, he felt a slickness on his shoes. He looked down, and dully noted that something dark seemed to have smeared the soles of the sneakers that were practically brand new, bought from Gaisano Mall the day before he left Bacolod. He didn’t understand. His thoughts were slow. Perhaps that was Sheryn’s laugh he had heard, ringing in his head when he reached the urgently whispering men.

“Epifanio?” said Benedicto, the big man from Murcia. “Did anyone tell you what happened?”

Sheryn’s laugh was almost ear-splitting. The day was just beginning, but already he detested and feared it.

“Gonzago here thinks he heard something,” said another man, the one Epifanio knew only as Baby. Epifanio had heard some of the men gossipping about Baby. It was strange: he had angered his in-laws by slapping his wife, and they had made it impossible for him to remain in his own home, constantly abusing Baby in front of his own children.

Gonzago was old, almost forty. Everyone knew he roamed the halls in his sleep.

“If I did hear something,” Gonzago said, “it wouldn’t have helped. I might have heard this man’s soul leaving his body, yes. It sounded like water slipping down a riverbank.” Gonzago gestured, his right arm driving cleanly through the air.

Only then did Gonzago realize that the floor of the lobby was covered with the same dark substance that stained the soles of his sneakers. It was everywhere. There was even some of it smeared across one of the lobby’s light blue walls.

(To be cont.)

In Honor of Independent Bookstore Day, 28 April 2018: Novelist Lillian Howan Lists Her Favorite Books

Lillian Howan is the author of the recently published novel, The Charm Buyers. (University of Hawai’i Press, 2017).  She spent her early childhood in Tahiti and later graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. She is the editor of Wakako Yamauchi’s collection, Rosebud and Other Stories (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011). Her writings have been published in the Asian American Literary Review, Café Irreal, Calyx, New England Review, Vice Versa, and the anthologies Ms Aligned 2 and Under Western Eyes. Lillian will be reading as part of the Ms. Aligned 2 panel at the Hawai’i Book and Music Festival on Sunday, May 6, at 11 am.Da22aPwU0AEXI99About her list, Lillian says:

  • This list of my recommended books is incomplete in the interest of space – I apologize for any omissions! I’d gladly send a list of 500 recommended books by women authors and poets.
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Lillian Howan, Author of The Charm Buyers

FICTION

Green Island, Shawna Yang Ryan
Home, Marilynne Robinson
Island of Shattered Dreams, Chantal Spitz
Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich

Steelies and Other Endangered Species, Rebecca Lawton
Swimming in Hong Kong, Stephanie Han
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, Lydia Davis
The Complete Stories, Clarice Lispector
The Country of the Pointed Firs,
Sarah Orne Jewett
The Lost Language, Marianne Villanueva
Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys (the 2016 edition features an excellent introduction by Edwidge Danticat)
Women Without Men,
Shahrnush Parsipur

GRAPHIC NOVEL

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir, Thi Bui

POETRY

Conjugated Visits, Diane Kirsten Martin
Dream City, Karen Carissimo
Invisible Gifts, Maw Shein Win
Power Made Us Swoon, Brynn Saito
She Had Some Horses, Joy Harjo
The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, Lucille Clifton
The Complete Poems, Anne Sexton
The Darkened Temple, Mari L’Esperance
This House, My Bones, Elmaz Abinader

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Just Published: THE COST OF PAPER, Vol. 5, an International Anthology of Short Fiction

Published April 3 by 1888 Center in Orange, CA. Series Editor: Julianne Berokoff.

Self was so busy with the DAMN TAXES that she didn’t have time to announce, much less celebrate.

The anthology includes her short story, “This Is End.” In the story, Dragon’s BFF Her is possibly deceased but her ghost appears and re-appears. Dragon thinks he’s seen her on the wreck of the space station the Kobayashi Maru (Yes, the choice of name is self’s little homage to Star Trek):

  • It caught fire. The wreckage drifted, was lost. Then found. Then lost, and found again.

Parts 1 and 2 of this story are on Juked.com and Quarterly West, respectively. The Juked.com story, “First Life,” is available, here’s the link. Not sure where to find it on the Quarterly West site (Story Title: “First Causes”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

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