Author Archives: iwong2014irene

The Boots

Gun shots were heard, then came the banging on the doors of our village. There was screaming and shouting everywhere. It had started. My country had chosen to be divided on such a lovely warm, sunny spring day. Nature was ready to explode, green buds slowly creeping out of their branches, flowers popping up in the fields, the sunlight lasting a little longer each evening. Such a day would be good for fishing, cycling or playing football. Yesterday, people from both sides worked together, respecting each other’s religion and ethnic background. Children played together and went to the same schools, meals were shared, the same football team supported, but today we have created hatred for many generations to come.

Mother quickly pushed me under the coffee table in the living room. It was narrow, hardly big enough to hide a nine year old boy. The table was covered with an embroidered cloth which mother had spent many evenings stitching near the fire while I read out loud from the ‘The Jungle Book’. Father would correct my English and made me pronounce the words correctly.

Outside our house, there was chaos. I could only hear the clock ticking in the living room. The fear inside me was the same as sitting in an exam room with sweaty hands and that feeling of nausea. I peeped through the drapes of the table cloth; the piano stood proudly near the window. Many children from the village had been taught by my mother.The wooden floor looked huge from where I was hiding. The floor boards were never level and liked to squeak.

Finally, the unavoidable happened, the banging was on our door. It was so loud that it made me jump. Father quickly moved towards the door. His finger was on his lips and he told me to stay hidden. The door was pushed open, the sun crept into our living room, tiny dust particles were floating in the sunlight. Heavy boots tramped in, the kind that soldiers wore. The well polished boots were so shiny,  they almost gave me away through reflection. The smell of shoe polish was so strong that it made me sick. Marks of mud were on the floor, carried in by those boots. ‘Mum will have to mop it up after they leave’, I thought. There was a particular boot that caught my eye. I recognised the ‘Arsenal’ socks that pulled up above the knee. A leaf was stuck under the boot. ‘He supports the same team as I do. Surely he will not hurt us’, I thought.

The floorboard squeaked when he walked past. He walked back and stood in front of my table. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my mouth. It was beating so loud that I was sure he could hear it. I told myself to play a tune in my head, that would relax me. It always worked, when I had stage fright performing at a concert, but even Papageno’s song could not control my shivering at that very moment.

Discussions were going on. Father tried to bribe them with his pocket watch. There was lots of pushing and shouting. Mother was crying. Father’s glasses were flung to the floor and the man with the Arsenal socks stepped on it. The glasses shattered into many fine pieces and the frames were dented. Father was now as blind as a bat. There was too much noise. I covered my ears and carried on with Papageno .

Suddenly there was a shot. The ringing stayed in my ears. Father dropped to the floor. The dust particles exploded in the air. I couldn’t feel the impact of father’s fall or mother’s hysterical screams. Only the ringing sound was in my ears. Father’s eyes were staring straight at me. Blood was oozing out of his head, it spilled into the cracks of the wooden floor. It spread to the coffee table and reached my shoes. That was when my body went weak and everything turned dark.

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in General


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Ling squeezed her stomach muscles tightly and stopped breathing. The grumbling sound in her stomach was relentless. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten properly. Her share of food went to her son.

Ling pulled out the plastic bag that she had tucked in the drainpipe. The bag was filled with lily bulbs. She checked that no one was looking. She placed the bulbs into the mortar, pounded them and added a few drops of water from a rusty food can. She fought to control the shaking of her ice-cold hand as she poured the liquid into a plastic bottle. She washed her hands so much that they turned white and wrinkly. Ling felt nauseous. Was it the wind in her empty stomach or the toxin that made her sick? She threw up.

Ling walked into the house holding the last of the crispy spinach that she had cut from her garden. She would have to wait for spring to reseed them. As for the winter, she would have to find other ways to get food. At the living room’s dining table, her son was doing his homework. Ling walked to him and took a peek at his work.

‘ When are we eating? My tummy is hurting.’ A little sharp face, all crunched up, looking at his mother.

‘ Very soon, I’m going to cook now. So how was school today?’ Ling stroked her son’s head.

‘ I have an excellent on my Maths paper and I might move up a class.’ The little boy beamed,  looking up at his mother.

‘That’s very good, your father will be very pleased. Now tidy up and lay the table. Your father is coming home soon. Don’t forget to lay matching chopsticks because different lengths means bad luck.’

Her mother-in-law had been nodding off to sleep and was now breathing heavily. Her blood pressure must have been high again, Ling thought. Time for her medication.

In the kitchen Ling poured the last remaining rice out of the sack into the pot and started washing it in the sink, stirring gently with one hand while biting her other fingernails. Her thoughts were with the last sack of rice that was hidden under the bed. It wouldn’t last them this winter.

Ling threw some logs into the stove and started the fire. The oven was glowing. The oil in the wok was heating up; she poured the spinach into the wok. The crackling sound of heated oil touching wet vegetables was so loud that it sounded like fire crackers thrown into a tin. She placed the spinach onto two plates of different sizes. To the larger plate she added a sprinkle of soy sauce, the smaller plate was without salt. Ling took the plastic bottle out of her pocket and poured the toxic liquid over the the smaller plate of spinach.

The smell of food woke everyone up, even the old lady. Faces lit up. She placed the larger plate in the middle of the table and the smaller plate in front of her mother-in-law’s usual seat. Ling’s son cleared his books and helped lay the table with chopsticks and bowls. Ling was helping the frail woman out of the cane chair when she heard her husband walking into the home, a big smile on his face. In his hand, he was holding up eight fishes. The whole family beamed with excitement as if they had won the lottery. They were admiring the fishes. Ling didn’t want to know where he got them from. The fish could feed them for many meals. Ling followed her husband into the kitchen to help him clean the fishes. They were discussing how to preserve them for the winter, perhaps by salting and drying them.

If her plan worked, the three of them would have a better chance of surviving this winter and nobody would ever know. Walking out of the kitchen, she saw her son picking the last vegetable off the small plate. Ling yelled. The rice pot smashed on the floor.

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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Fiction, General, Homework


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