cheap razor blades.

I wrote a short story entitled "Cheap Razor Blades" which was published in  "Strike the Wok:  An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Canadian Fiction 

Here's an excerpt - enjoy!

I woke up at 1 pm again, sprawled on the thin foam mattress I’d called “temporary” for about six weeks now.  The house is dead silent.  Dad had gone to work, of course, hours earlier; Mom had gone to painting or dancing classes or to yum cha with her friends.  Or whatever.  So I’m stuck at home.  My parent’s home.  Alone.  No plan.  No life.  No woman.  No car. 

I plod downstairs, only to be greeted by a grey, watery light, marginally reflected on the off-white, personality-free dry wall.  The greyness seemed to just hang there, accentuating the meaninglessness of existence with a mournful groan, as if someone had just died.  Shit.  That’s southern Ontario in the wintertime.  You know, if I’d woken up three hours earlier, I’d at least be treated to a sliver of sunlight.  It’s a weird Canadian winter anomaly; it’s often sunny at dawn until just before noon, and then it clouds over… almost the exact opposite of San Francisco.  And almost the exact opposite of Good.

But I usually wake up past noon, so I burn.  Or freeze, as it were.  I’d read a number of United Nations reports on global warming a while back, claiming that Toronto would be the place to grow avocados and pineapples in the winter come the new millenium.  And looking at the clouds, the dirt-layered suburban snowdrifts outside, the un-shoveled sidewalks and driveways… lordy, they couldn’t ’ve gotten it more wrong.

At the bottom of the stairs, I look around that the same scene that has greeted me for much of my youth… that is, when I actually belonged here.  My house is a nice one, I suppose – a modest brick box in northeastern Toronto, birthed by a large construction company mother in the late eighties, when most land up here was used for farmland, golf courses, and people with names like Burnett, McGill, and McGrath.  Pretty clean and well kept, despite twelve-odd years of boisterous family living… well, as boisterous as Asian families can get.  Classic Chinese Canadian décor:  Mom’s Chinese watercolour creations living side by side with modern art prints, statues of the Buddha next to Leon’s furniture done in tasteful, slightly-out-of-date cream tones.  The kitchen was also filled with a weird mix of western and Chinese accoutrements – cans of tuna and Campbell’s red-label soups stacked neatly beside large packages of sows ears or pigs collars… all sorts of quasi-medicinal dried Chinese goodies my mom boils up into nutritious soups that stave off colds, scurvy, and errant silver bullets.

There were times long ago when my folks needed to travel all the way to downtown Toronto to buy that sort of stuff.  We were living in London at the time, one of three Chinese families embedded in a neighbourhood of wispy WASP’s.  We’d take these bi-monthly two-hour drives into Toronto’s teeming Chinatown to pick up anything and everything – canned this, chopped that, hung and dripping whatever, freshly scaled and beheaded albatross or aboleth or something or other.  And after a dim sum session with the relatives, we’d just go home and store this stuff in cupboards and freezers like survivalists, only without the fatigues and neo-Aryan hate literature.

The two-odd hours of traveling I remember quite well… aside from getting dizzy reading comics in the car, or squeezing my baby sister’s fat cheeks, or listening to my mom babble about how boring London was and why we should all move to Toronto – the trips were mostly filled with music.  The Olds we owned had this tape deck, and my dad, Commander-in-Chief of our music choices, would always play his oldies.  But he didn’t play the “cool” oldies that are so fashionable in Hollywood Baby Boomer nostalgia blockbusters these days.  Just really, really square ones.  Cheesy Johnny Horton historical sagas, old Bee Gees pre-disco ballads, jangly sixties beach guitar tunes, and (of course) various selections from The King (“maow wong” = The Cat King) himself.

It was freaking hellish.  It’s all been irrevocably cauterized into my memory and garnished with a strange, sickly nostalgia.

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