Three Minute Fiction: JOYOUS TRANSACTION

NPR Contest Image

We’re supposed to do this with yarrow stalks, but “coins,” he says, “are more indicative of global currency flow.”

I stand to leave. Scraping my chair back. He shakes his head and swirls his coffee: “more modern,” he says.

I sit down again. Take a sip of mine.

Given the swirling streams of capital – well, I get it; as a modern soothsayer coins aren’t a bad idea.

But I’m not asking about money.

He pushes aside his Straits Times, revealing an I-Ching and three U.S. quarters. He slides his coins to me. I shake and fling. Coins flash, fall across the table six times in succession. He tabulates my score: Heads-heads-tails. (Twice) Heads-tails-tails. (Once) Heads-heads-tails. (Twice again) Heads-tails-tails….

He points at the coins and beckons. I slide them over. He shakes his head. “First: my fee.” I slide that over too. He nods and turns the book around for me to see:

58. Tui, The Joyous

Lakes resting one on the other:
The image of the Joyous.
Thus the superior man joins with his friends
For discussion and practice.

The moment of discovery! My muscles flinch involuntarily: “That’s all?” I say, my voice a squeak.

“You understand why you do this now?”

He’s so wise, that crumpled grey suit, those yellowing plastic frames. Enlightenment is bearing down on us: I feel it. I squish my palms together, and choose my reply very, very carefully. “For fun?”

“You don’t fully understand.”

“I don’t,” I say, pressing my palms harder. “Tell me! Please!”

He picks my coffee cup up and dumps it into his; brown liquid floods, soaking the paper: “that mindless moment of exchange,” he says, as it drips on my pants, and he gets up and leaves.

Feral City Geopolitics and Chronology

Indo-Pak Border dustplume

Port Lightning would have been an important pitstop along the Silk Road or an alternate sea route. During the immediate pre-history of Feral City, the Island would have been played a prominent role during the Iran-Iraq war and Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan. As the story progresses (1989-1999), the island would have been at least a refueling depot during the first gulf war. One possible partial model for Chiragh Pattan is Diego Garcia, an airbase and naval port owned by the United Kingdom, approximately 1000 miles south of Ceylon.

From looking at major island city states (Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Monaco etc), almost all are just off the coast of a conjunction between two or more big cities. In this vein, Port Lightning might be a few miles off the coast of Karachi – a major Pakistani city with approximately 12mm people.

Karachi

Arvind Adiga’s Between the Assassinations has its shortcomings, I think there’s something disingenuous about the way he portrays the subaltern – where’s the horror? – and he isn’t much of a prose poet, plus he’s mindlessly anti-BJP, but he does have a nicely articulated chronology of a made-up Indian resort town between 1987 and 1991 (i.e. between the assassinations of the Gandhis). Takeaways: foreign remittances, city corporations, and the proliferation of satellite television.

Here’s mine (very much a work in progress):

CHRONOLOGY

1989: Khomeini dies. Julian arrives in Port Lightning.
1990: Gulf War begins. (USS Vincennes might drop by – later when the city starts to erupt in violence I’d like to have a gunboat drop by like). Chapter 5 begins here. Julian is recalled from a school trip when the bombs begin falling.
1991: Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in India.
1992: End of British rule, beginning of self determination. Treaty ends, colony reverts to local rule.
1993: WTC bombing.
1994:
1995:
1996: Kabul captured by Taliban. US Special Forces probably begin interdiction.
1997:
1998: Iran masses 250,000 troops on Afghan border.
1999:

First Semester MFA Takeaways

  • Remove dust jackets from hardcover books before use;
  • Drafts should be completed and started over from the remembered remnants;
  • “Real writing” takes place over winter break;
  • Anxiety is normal and should be encouraged (i.e. the productive kind);
  • Workshop leaders will continue to confuse first-person narrators with their progenitors — even in graduate school;
  • Writing about one’s homeland is one’s birthright and opens the deepest, most intimate veins of narrative; (Where is my homeland?)
  • Proper literary criticism assumes an author anticipated and intended all undergraduate-level interpretations;
  • Plot problem? Have sex/a gunman enter a room/leave a room;
  • Write with AUTHORITY;
  • Telling is quicker than showing;
  • Columbia MFA work goes in the priority pile (what is the priority pile?);
  • One can assume that strangenesses that don’t quite cohere to a narrative are taken directly from an author’s life.

    More as I think of it….