pre-child sweeps moon powder under the mantle,
blinking in air. glassy hydrogen peroxide, an
ironic life, finds them quite well, for
o! does pre-child love the H2O2, taker of many forms,
citrine as the amnion round their head, bitter as
the ropes of the moon-limned
glitt’ring poisonmist they weave through and are blissful
doing, very stupidly so. how can one not be
blissful when there is no god
or foe? pre-child picks up another lambent pill thing and holds
the pill thing in their little skin-smooth paws.
o, very well indeed! pre-child
throws the pill thing up into the air and lo lo lo, the shiny
enzymes eat the peroxide and spit out oxygen,
water, and pre-child licks up
these things too, but this time they did not taste too
well. not very well at all. they blink it in,
and they feel leaden. ah, how
lead is saccharin, cold, heavy, lead is...
Late November last year, Nainai was rushed to the emergency room for heart failure.
Before this, I suppose, we lived in normalcy. But very quickly, the familiarity of our crème-walled complex, the warmth of fall, the popping of oil and salt and pork after four in the afternoon—all of it froze, cracked, and turned into cough syrup, the under-seasoned soup of the hospital canteen, and the chill of something unpleasant, impending.
Oh, yes. I hated December.
On an early winter’s day that year, Mama sent me on an errand for chrysanthemums. It was highly inefficient—she could’ve ordered off of Taobao with ease—but no matter, I suppose. Mama’s gut feeling, from her ridiculous superstitions to her outlandish medical intuition, is often irritatingly strange but always rewarding in some roundabout way. That and Nainai’s sore throat—for these reasons, I went out city-bound into the cold that evening.
A new, dreaded season was taking wing. In the metro station, people milled around with some...
“I’m pooped.” Tourist spat out a mouthful of phlegmy toothpaste and upturned the excrement bucket into the stream, sitting down on the stump of a tree he had cut. “Can’t even see stars.”
Oil Baron nodded, snuffing a cigarette in the soil. “Place is a gyp. Been a long day, too—”
Abruptly, their tent ripped from its stakes. The stream burst out, wild. One by one, behind the pollution, stars blinked back into the sky – a thousand cold eyes.
Tourist shrieked, water surging around him. Oil Baron thrashed, skin burning.
Mother Nature snarled, Now, you will pay.
Beijing, in the heat of the 50s. The light of the setting sun bleeds into the city smog. The working-class clamors, the air of the narrow streets suffused with smoke, sesame, sweat. Cicadas find their shady homes in trees, becoming the bedrock of the ubiquitous cacophony. It was a scene of life, grit, summer, and it will endure until the sun sets entirely and the pavement becomes steeped through with rain from the imminent storm. Because only when the sun dies and does everything transmogrify—that has always been the custom.
Yilei hurries down the stall-lined street, pausing for a paper bag of roasted chestnuts. She thanks the owner with a blessing from the wealth gods, drops the change in her tote, and spots her brat brother by Old Yang’s eatery.
Kaihan, youthful face flushed ruddy with sweat, waves upon seeing his sister. “Aye, Yilei, dear sister, come over! You...