Saturday, July 19, 2008

Night is my Playground

Photo courtesy of Photo Bucket - Rema XO.
I'm a little late with my Fiction Friday post. The prompt this week was: Pick a character who loves the dark, and tell us why. Avoid the obvious choices: stealth, monsters, sex, and anything else you immediately thought of.

At night, I am finally safe; safe from the harmful rays of the sun. I wait, hiding behind my blackout curtains, until I see the neighbor's lights wink at me as they blink on one by one, beckoning me out. The twilight of sunset is pure torture for me, as even the sun's weakening rays could cause me irreperable harm, blistering my skin within minutes. I've succumbed to the temptation a few times, desperate to see some natural colors, but have the scars as memories.

When night finally falls, like a comforting blanket, I flee from the home that is my daytime tomb. I walk miles and miles every night, hungry for the stimulation of real sights and sounds, not filtered through the tv screen. If I feel the need for real distance, I'll even ride my bike and cover thirty or forty miles. I can't drive a car as I was not able to take the test at night. Even if I were licensed, I don't think I would chance getting behind the wheel. There are just too many fluorescent lights on the highway, at rest stops and in the toll plazas.

Although the night is my prison, I don't hate it or resent it. Night is my time. Night is my domain. It's the only time when I can pretend to be normal for a few hours. In the darkness I can't see the scars on my hands or the pity in other's eyes as they look at my freakish face.

At some point, every night I make my way to the train tracks, my chosen spot, my favorite spot. I have a little flashlight to guide my steps through the field. Next summer, in early August, when the field is still full of lavender, I'll make my way to the railroad tracks for the last time. I like to imagine that my last sensations will be of the warmth of a summer night coupled with the delicate aroma of flowers. Then the blackness of night will wrap around me forever.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Free Food for Millionaires Review

Free Food for Millionaires is a sprawling novel depicting the life of Casey Han, a first generation Korean immigrant who navigates the choppy waters of the New York investment banking world. Casey is the oldest daughter of Joseph and Leah, whose lives are split between running a large dry cleaner in midtown Manhattan and participating actively in their Catholic church. Through her hard work and good grades, Casey earns a fully-paid scholarship to Princeton, but she struggles to find her identity amongst all the old money. That struggle carries on after graduation as she begins her career.

I would have loved Free Food for Millionaires, if it had ended around the middle, around page 300. I'm a quick read, and I don't mind a hefty book, but it has to be worth my time. This novel started out with a gripping plot and well-drawn characters, even with the author's confusing point of view shifts. But the author did not know when to stop. She drew out the story by devoting chapters to minor characters such as Casey's mom Leah and Casey's friend Ella.

When I finally reached the end, it was anti-climactic, one of those endings, without giving too much away, that just peter out mid-scene, vaguely hinting at what the future might hold. It seemed that, after watching Casey struggle to make money and have a successful career for close to 600 pages, the author wanted us to conclude that she did not belong in that world and did not deserve love.

I was disappointed by Free Food for Millionaires. I loved getting a a glimpse of the investment banking world and of New York Korean culture. I enjoyed being reminded of the how hard it was to forge my own identity after college. But I wish the story had been tighter, more concise, and ended sooner.

You can also read my review at Dear Reader, and see other responses to it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Luck Turns...

A few weeks ago on Fiction Friday, we wrote about a very unlucky character. Today's challenge is to have his or her luck turn around. It was so painful to write about this poor guy the last time, this should be a piece of cake!

Once the doors of the ambulance closed, it took me a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the dim lighting inside the truck. Then I noticed the paramedic who was busy working on my legs. She was so beautiful that I got scared I had died and gone to heaven and was in the presence of an angel. I didn't want to speak in case she disappeared, but she broke the spell by looking up at me with a warm smile. "I hope I'm not hurting you too much," she said. It seemed like she was speaking to me, but girls like that don't generally speak to guys like me. I craned my head around to see the lucky guy she was addressing, but the shooting pains throughout my body made me collapse back down on the gurney. I shut my eyes, overwhelmed by the pain. I felt a cool touch on my wrist and opened my eyes. She was bent over me and I could feel her sweet breath on my face. Her face was even lovely with a frown of concern. When she saw that I hadn't fainted, she smiled. "Don't worry, you're in good hands. I'm going to make sure you get better really soon." I'm not sure if it was the pain, or my unusual good fortune, but everything went black, and I fainted.

Six days later, I was able to return home. I still wasn't convinced that Joyce was a mortal human, as she truly seemed to be sent from God as a reward for being a decent guy, but I didn't want to jinx my luck by thinking about it too much. True to her word, she hadn't left my side for the entire time I was in the hospital. She'd made sure I was comfortable, that my casts were set well, and that I had my favorite foods. She had even fed me with her own hands so that I wouldn't tire myself out! And now she was wheeling me back to my apartment. Robert had come to visit from work, ostensibly to pay his condolences, but I could tell that it was to make sure I wasn't faking it. Once he'd seen Joyce, his entire attitude had changed. He couldn't believe that such a hot girl was taking care of me.

When we walked into the building, Fat Norma was in the hallway. When she saw me, ambling along with my cane and my casts, she started racing to the elevator to pull her usual shut the door in my face stint. Joyce sized up the situation immediately and briskly walked to the elevator to claim it. She smiled tersely at Norma, and said, "I'm sure we can all fit in here nicely." Norma had no retort and was forced to wait a few minutes for me to make my way to the elevator. When we got to my floor, Joyce escorted me out. When she had her back turned, I looked back at Norma and winked. I wasn't sure when my luck would run out, but it felt good to be a winner for a change!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


My writing group has gone online this summer as everyone travels to their various summer destinations. We're sharing weekly writing prompts in order to stay connected and keep writing...

Last week's writing prompt was Naughty.

Brenda sighed. She was going to have to fire the new nanny. That meant another search, another unpleasant confrontation, and more downtime with no coverage and no one to help out with Tyler and Rex. She felt her breath quicken and her heart race with anxiety just thinking about it. How on earth would she keep them busy? Maybe she could find some sort of military boot camp for little boys to drain them of all that destructive energy. She made a mental note to google that, along with miracle nannies and discipline experts.

When Brenda had hired Mathilda, she'd thought that all her problems were answered. Mathilda was an attractive petite brunette with a functional yet flattering bob. She had been polite and articulate during the interviews as she explained her discipline strategy to Brenda. The words punishment room and spanking rod in Mathilda's elegant British accent were like a beautiful melody in Brenda's ears. If the boys did not succumb to Mathilda's female charms, they would be vanquished by her iron-clad child management technique. Brenda had hired her on the spot, and had only needed one Ambien a night to get her beauty sleep in the weeks before her arrival.

The first few days with Mathilda at the helm had proceeded splendidly. The boys had been so charmed by her that they had become little angels. Brenda hadn't felt her usual need to escape the house. She'd been able to host an impromptu luncheon for the Junior Women's Club steering committee that had gone off without a hitch. Life with Mathilda was going to be wonderful.

Exactly one week after Mathilda arrived, Brenda was woken in the middle of the night out of a delicious non-Ambien natural slumber by a loud thump. It seemed to be coming from the nanny's room. She ran through the house's dark halls and threw open Mathilda's door. Brenda turned on the light and was confronted by a pitiful sight: a red-faced snot-nosed Mathilda sobbing in a heap on the floor. Her perfect coiffe had been transformed into a stringy wet mop sticking to the sides of her face. It took Brenda a few minutes to piece together what Mathilda was repeating over and over again through her hot tears. "Naughty boys! Naughty boys! I've never seen such naughty boys." Brenda suddenly heard muffled giggling from the closet and she sighed, understanding that her short-lived peace was over.

Once Mathilda calmed down enough to give Brenda the details, she'd been filled by a perverse pride for the lethalness of the boys' attack. While they had pretended to be so well-behaved, they had really been on a reconnaissance mission, quietly observing the enemy before electing a battle plan. The attack began on Monday morning at 4:47 AM with a ferocious water balloon attack on Mathilda's sleeping form. It was over as quickly as it began, and Mathilda would have been convinced that she had dreamt it, if she wasn't soaked from head to toe. She'd started walking to the bathroom to change into dry pajamas but she'd slipped on a strategically placed minefield of marbles and landed hard on her side. The thump had shaken the house and woken Brenda.

The termination discussion wasn't difficult as some others had been, as Mathilda was eager to escape the twins. Brenda, Rex and Tyler watched her walking out with her two suitcases, her functional high heels wobbling on the cobblestone street. Rex leaned into Brenda and gave her a little hug before asking, "Was that the last one Mommy? Now will you be our nanny?"