OPINION

Short Story: First Cut, Uncut

April 04, 2007
Vivek Sharma

I felt like a car backing out of a driveway. I rather felt like a car that was parked in the garage of a stranger, had overstayed there and was making its escape. Her nails had clawed multi-laned freeways in my back, my teeth had plowed fresh pink wounds on her pale yellow Chinese flesh, and yet as I backed out like a car, my only thought was to accelerate away. I felt like my ancestors, the notorious Japanese assaulters who had raided mainland China and left as many corpses behind as their abacus counters could visualize.

Our escape from the Far East, from the tyranny of Japanese customs for me and from the Communist China for her, had thrown us into the misty city of Amsterdam. We both had met just two months back, when she joined as a waitress in the same Asian establishment that I worked for. Our Korean boss hated us both, her because his first wife who cheated on him was Chinese, and me because my grandfather's generation had bred more bastards in his country than his generation could in a lifetime. He was a bastard himself.

Xialong was a carrom-board breast; I, Hiroshi was a dwarf centerpiece in this city full of Redlight district display bodies. I am not certain what drew us together, maybe it was the sushi odor in her kisses that always made me hungry for her, maybe it was the soya sauce stains on my shirts that resonated with her memories of Nanjing. Our meeting or union was, as if, coming together of two exiles, two rejects, and of course, a limping horse and a blind mare can take the carriage only so far.

I pulled out, exhausted by the realization that I had ventured beyond the shutters that opened only for the privileged. "I wish to hold you so tight that you crumple like a paper," she said, while I made my retreat, as if on the percussion of my pounding heart.

"Seong Lee will kill me if I don't get there in six minutes," I said, waving my hand as I scurried away. Outside, the fog fell in thick plumes, while smoke from my lips dissipated like my thoughts about her.

Xialong wasn't expected till four. Right from the moment I got there, right from eight in the morning, I cursed the hackneyed slowness of the clock. I nibbled my finger flesh in joyous perplexity, from a spring of kissing blossoms, I had traveled to the monsoon shower of fleshy mangoes. Smiles flared on my lips, and in my eyes at every memory of my dark delights.

"Hiroshi, don't work too hard today, for the evening may not arrive in peace," she had said in a cryptic sentence that made only half-sense to me. Her straight hair, lips that pursed every time she drifted into her fancies, the palms that were crisscrossed like canals on the map of Amsterdam, her voice that I had always thought of as funny and scratchy, all seemed as pleasant as was her nibble on my ear and breath was on my neck. Xialong did not come at four.

Xialong did not come at five, did not come at six, or seven or eight or nine or ten. My smiles scuttled away, Seong mouthed more curses than I could allow for my girlfriend. I figured that she would be introduced my girlfriend from that day, and I had responsibilities lined up for me. I was ready to break his jaws but for Hannah who cajoled my anger away. I wiped the dishes with all the temper, and cleaned the floor with more ease than I could use to sweep away my doubts regarding the absence of Xialong.

I reached her house at eleven. A bullet through her forehead was as fresh as my memory of her morning kisses. Cops came. I was arrested. Two days later a letter was found at Seong's restaurant. It read as follows:

Hiroshi,

Like a filament in a bulb, that appears brightest before like flickers and fades away, I wanted to kill myself, but only after tasting the glamor fruit of Eve's sin. My dearest friend, you supplied me with the joy that I wished to be mine before I bid goodbye to this dead world. I had deduced that my efforts to survive in Amsterdam were no different from my struggles in China. I was the undisclosed daughter of a family, who had a declared son, as their only allowed offspring.

I was a shadow being, who was declared dead at birth and raised like a parrot in a pigeon coop, a parrot who must act and behave as if it was a stuffed toy. I mean I did not exist for the world, and I lived with my family as a secret, safe as long as I wasn't found out. I had escaped in earnest, hitchhiked my way into Tibet and then Nepal, and was smuggled into Amsterdam with the contingent of Hashish by a Maoist woman, packed into sacks of that were supposed to be carrying Tea, with hidden Hashish and instead supplied me. A letter that she had given to me, provided me my first few days of residence and food, and you know my story after the time I started working, which was when I met you.

The gang who had smuggled me into Holland, now wants me to work with them. In two months, I have repulsed their attempts with a failing strength. My passport is fake, and they have announced that they will turn me in if I don't cooperate. Life holds no pleasure for me besides you. But you are too precious to be risked, and my friend, I say goodbye, wishing you well.

Let your optimism keep you afloat in tempests of all kind. My ship was designed to sink, and so it must. Remember me sometimes, and remember me well.

Love
Xialong

Seong carried this letter to the Police Station. When I came out he shook hands with me. He sounded as corrosive as always, but he made me a sign to follow him, and took me into a pub, and bought some whiskey for me. I gulped my bitterness while he asked to me in all seriousness. "Son, did you, or did you not, kill her?"

"What? Of course, No!" I was flabbergasted. "How can you ask me that question? You have seen her letter."

He lowered his voice, as he touched my hand, and said in a whisper, "Soon after you were arrested, I got a phone call from the Police Station, asking me if you were at work that day. I said you were. Then I was asked to appear at the police station the next day."

He drank his vodka glass neat, and continued, "When I went there the next day, the cops had found the revolver used for the killing, and there were no fingerprints in on the revolver. Since you were found on the spot, they had arrested you on suspicion first. There was no alibi for you, for you had left my shop precisely twenty minutes before the gunshot, and it usually takes only ten minutes to get to her house. They told me that they found your fingerprints at various places in her house, and everything pointed to the fact that you had killed her.

"I told them that you had left my shop in temper, and that the reason for your anger was my complaining and cursing about Xialong's absence. Somehow it did not make sense to me that you will kill her after the tantrum you threw at the shop that day. The cops argued that maybe you over-dramatized things as it was a premeditated murder. All in all, I figured that you would be implicated for her murder.

"I had noticed how you both exchanged glances at work. Since I suspected you to be too much in love with Xialong to kill her, I sat down and concocted that suicide note and its story myself. I took care to post it from a post-box close to her house. It took a day for the post to arrive, and here you are, out in two days."

"Mother of hen!! If it wasn't a suicide, who killed her?"

He hushed me, and asked me to watch what I said. I understood.

For a few months, I was as morose as a car, dumped into a used car showroom, parked in a corner, unused and unclean. My attempts to find what really happened were as unsuccessful as Dr. Watson's guesses, and there wasn't a Sherlock Holmes around to deduce what happened and who did it. Then one day you arrived, or Seong, like a shrewd salesman, led you to me, and within a few hours, I was fueled and full throttle again. Xialong, like a dent in a wrecked car, remained embedded in my being somewhere. So what do you say to the story of my past? My first cut, uncut.

Vivek Sharma is a poet, an engineer, a scientist and a writer. He is published in both refereed literary and science journals, and his poetry was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He contributes articles to Divya Himachal (Hindi newspaper in India) and online to himachal.us, desicritics.org and blogcritics.org.
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Short Story: First Cut, Uncut

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Author: Vivek Sharma

 

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#1
Amrita
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April 4, 2007
01:25 PM

Hey Vivek - this was good. I think some of the descriptions were a little self-conscious but I like the ideas here. Nice.

#2
Vivek
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April 6, 2007
12:49 PM

Afterword or Epilogue (induced by comments on sulekha.com)

(I love comments. That is what I blog for. Please let me know whatever you feel about anything I write).

I have been trying to write a novel based on multiple stories I have heard about my grandfather. They are like Hiroshi's story. Full of unnecessary details, and diversions, unclear about what happened when and how, who is right and who is not. In fact, I have thought so much about the novel and yet I can never put my finger on the real story itself. So I wanted to write a short story to practice a narrative like that. Yet I chose to use metaphors and puns, rather than simple conversations, to make it a more interesting exercise for myself. In the novel, each conversation allows the narrative to shift, each time you encounter the same story, depending upon who speaks then and if you like him or not the story changes. It has a dynamic form and force. It has a darkness and lots of unsaid, makes it hard to swallow what was said in passing.It is like a dance troupe, whose every performance is different because they change the sequence of dances and dancers.

How many stereotypes are based on nationalities? Indo Pak sentiments are well known, as are Chinese Japenese Korean Taiwanese towards each other. World war II had its consequences. A person who seems to hate us might save us. What story is concocted by whom? Is Seong lying or is Hiroshi lying or are they both telling the truth? What is "the first cut, uncut" mean at the end? What is the message, if there is one, or should there be one? Why are there so many metaphors, puns, similes, hard words, Amsterdam, nails, mangoes, mist, bullet in the story?

I wrote first two paragraphs first, and worried about how to proceed. In one version, Hiroshi is a serial killer, in another Seong kills for pleasure, in the third, I knew both Hiroshi and Xialong as a tourist eating at the restaurant, and before the murder, both tell me their versions of story (When I visited Amsterdam, I met a Chinese girl and Taiwanese guy who were a couple, and had interesting, but not intersecting opinions about each other that they divulged to me). I wrote few paragraphs on these three lines, and discarded them. I thought of making this into a mystery series and for many hours left it at the question," If it was not a suicide, who did it?" I am too busy to write prequels, sequels and expanded narratives. More so as I am concentrating on finishing a thesis, a collection or two of poems and a novel at the same time. It is an experiment with narrative that shifts each time you shift it, and what could I do better than present it as such. So I wrote the last paragraph, went back and read the plot several times, cleared some sentences, added some here and there and made it into a story where depending upon how many times you have read it, and who you are, makes it into a different tale for you.

My stories are typically simplified, poems are chosen to be less and less abstract in their final versions. But things should be made only simple, not simpler, said Einstein. We must, once in a while, read something for its complexity. People who read Rushdie or Kant or relativity or Marquez or mythology or scriptures or anything (or everything) interpret it, as well as they can understand it, relate to it. I love some of that kind of literature, so I was being indulgent here. More spices, more colors, more decoration may or may not appeal to people when they eat something; and I guess this meal was designed not to taste the best in the very first bite.

What do I think of my story? In end analysis, I believe a story is a good story if masses can read it and relate to it, and so I prefer and choose to write good, readable stories. Yet, for my own sake, and for sake of some who can appreciate some stuff like this (after all Ulysses is best book of last century) I will indulge in such extravaganza every now and then. The experiments shall continue. Saga of a Crumpled piece of paper, written year back (a poem) created multiple interpretations and I loved that.

I wanted to write about sex, but without writing pornography. I wanted to spring in a surprise death, but not let it sound like a murder mystery. I wanted to comment on nationalities and their prejudices, without making that main theme of the story. I wanted to have Amsterdam's addiction, canals, mist and darkness somewhere. So I threw them into the frying pan and started stirring. Added spices, vegetables and colors to my taste.

The next story (under revision now) is simple and funny, (I believe so), and was written five or six years back, and will not pose any problems to any reader. I am amazed at comments about this one being unlike my other writings. I had some weird, wacko and obstruse pieces earlier, and one only needs to dig through matter to see how random and chaotic my thoughts can get. I have no style yet - I am just experimenting and perfecting my ability to write poetry and prose. There are problems with this story, and I'll work on removing them when I write the next one. There are streaks of good literature here and I'll try to retain them. All in all, I'll love to get as much feedback as comes to your mind, for that is what I blog for.

(I will go back and read the story again. Who knows what I will find now?)

#3
Mister
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July 7, 2007
12:33 AM

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