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The Fuel


If the oceans were divided into nations, I surely belonged in the Pacific. I whirled down towards the vortex of death until I went to the Pacific. The Atlantic with its colorful waters and the Indian with its treasures in sunken ships, had not swept me away. My soul reached out to the Pacific after a night of turmoil and savage thoughts of the brutal past that life almost left me. Life felt devoid of love and the thought of loneliness for my sentence of life had soured my heart. I needed an escape to release my angst, and Bali was the destination.


After a long ride from Ngurah Rai International Airport to the Lovina Hotel in Singaraja, a tall and slim fellow with almond eyes and tawny complexion greeted me in his beautiful brown batik sarong and a cream button-down shirt at the entrance of the resort. The three o'clock afternoon sun was glorious as the cool breeze caressed my sweaty forehead.


"A cup of welcome tea, miss," he said, offering me a ceramic cup of jasmine tea and led me to the lobby of the Lovina Resorts. The sweet taste of red ginger and brown sugar refreshed my palate, and I felt the nostalgia of paradise setting into my chest.


"Thank you," I said, as he took my bag and led me through the path towards the back of the garden, as we walked farther down after the swimming pool, passing the small temple shrine. Purple orchids and pink hibiscus lined the path towards the thatched roof bungalow with black gravel and the red earthen soil. The bungalow sat feet away in distance from the ocean, with a veranda at the front facing the shore.


"Here is your room, Miss. Breakfast is free at the main lounge until 11 am, and we have a restaurant near the lobby for lunch and dinner," he said, as I slipped ten thousand rupiah in bills into his hands and we shook hands for goodbyes.


He'll probably be the last person I will meet, I thought because I felt emptiness burrowing into my soul since I almost died.


"Terima kasih, miss," Fajar said, thanking me in Bahasa, the national language of Bali, Indonesia. "We give plenty of privacy for our guests here, but if you need help, please don't be afraid to ask."


"Metta, my name is Metta," I said, as Fajar left and as familiar as any man who entered my microcosm of life. I felt a tinge of pain from the yearning for healing and companionship, as I inhaled deep for air from the humidity.


Two four feet birds of paradise tropical plants were at the corners of the room, with teak windows and large paintings of Batik patterns on each four walls. A queen bed with four pillows arranged in taupe colors with a matching soft cotton blanket was in the middle of the room. The ivory marbled floor cooled my soles and my body.


The bottle of merlot at the kitchenette drew my attention. Whisky brown and Jack Daniels were in small ounces on the kitchen bar, but I opted for merlot and advised on its solace and comfort. I poured a small glass and walked to the back open aired shower with slippery wet rock floorings as I toured this bungalow. I slipped and fell on the ground and was out for a moment before I came out of the nauseating fall. The broken wine glass was underneath me and I cleaned it up before I walked out.


The slow death of loneliness crept in as I wondered outside to the veranda of my bungalow. On the shore further from the veranda in front of me, I heard a couple of fishermen speaking in Bahasa. I was somewhat fluent in Bahasa because of my Balinese mother who spoke to me in Indonesian since I was a child.


"Ada ikan apa tidak? Kenapa net-nya hilang?" said one man. I knew he was asking his companions if there were fishes, and if the net was gone.


I saw from the corner of my eyes to the left, a grey dolphin had flipped on its back onto the shores, singing its own canticle of the ocean paradise. I spotted my weekender inside my bungalow and scavenged for a pair of shorts, a sports bra, and a shirt, then quickly put those on and treaded barefoot towards the beach.


I paced on the sands barefoot, guided by the clouds moving as slowly as my two bare feet. Jogging towards another few yards to the northern part of the hotel, I reached the rock barriers of the resort. Pushing through the sweat, I tried to pick up my pace, but my right ankle was yanked underneath me as I slumped on the sand face first. The grip shook my being as I looked down and saw a hand reached out from a clump of seaweed below me. Closing my mouth with my hands, I heard a murmur of foreign words.


"Tolong saya," said the being inside the clump of seaweed, asking for help in Bahasa.


Another hand reached out from the large clumps of seaweeds, trembling and wet in agony. Reaching out to the shredded seaweed, I scraped the remains of the green leaves over its face, for which those hands belonged, and discovered the face of a man. His face grimaced with all his teeth that were fangs inside his mouth. His slanted eyes accented his skin dark as soil, except…his lower half, was that of a fish. His hair was dark locks of curls flowing down his body.


In front of me was a merman, the fantastical being that existed only in stories, yet, this was my reality. I gasped from the mesmerizing surprise that shook me. "Where did you…?" I tried to ask. Groaning a painful wail, the merman was in distress as I swept the seaweed away from his body or his fins. What being existed in this modern world?

The questions lingered as I saw part of his scales were ripped from the nets that caught him. The twisted netting must have caught his fins, as they were tangled in the sharp twists. Blood trickled down my wrist as I pulled the nets out of his fins and tried to untwist it.


"Scissors, I need scissors…" I said to myself. "This can't possibly be."


I finally unwound the netting and saw torn scales on his pelvic. Neither the blood nor the skepticism inside my mind stopped me from helping him. I felt the urgency of kindness as red blood as human's trickled with each scale being torn off from the netting as I picked it away. "We have to get to my bungalow," I said to him as if he understood me. I took off my shirt and used it to wrap him, pulling him behind me with the shirt tucked under both his arms as he gripped on the cotton. I pulled him out of the shores and away from view.


Reaching my bungalow not far from the shore, with no one in view, the beach was deserted as most north shore beaches often were during off-holidays season in September. The evening sunset greeted me as I hurried to open the door, pulled him inside, and closed the door to lock it.


I took him underneath the shower head and turned on the warm water just enough to warm him. He shivered with blue tinged lips as I fear for his life while the humidity caused me to sweat in drips.


"Cool down for me," I said. I took his right hand and placed it over his heart, or where I thought his heart might be, over his left chest. Pearls of sweat rolled down his forehead as water dripped down from the shower over his taut tawny skin to the sides of his stomach. My tears rolled down from his exasperation and from seeing his body torn apart with his scales ripped and his fins twisted and bloodied. I felt his heart drumming beats of fears and confusion.


"Don't worry," I told him. Underneath the tepid water showering down, his eyes softly closed.


I turned off the shower and dried him, cracked some acetaminophen pills I brought from home, and sprinkled them over his wounds. That and some vitamin C powder I placed over his scales could act as healers. I hope you are okay, I thought.


 "Dari mana kamu?"  I asked him where he was from.


"Samoedra," he answered, meaning the ocean.


"Nayan, nama saya," he said, as I nodded, acknowledging his name.


"Metta, my name is Metta," I replied.


"Terima kasih, Metta," said Nayan, thanking me in Bahasa. His tongue was the same shape as a human's; only his teeth were small fangs arrayed as if pearly horns in a row.

I continued to dry him off with the towel and let it soak some of the left-over blood, but the medicine had soaked it and stopped the blood from flowing. I pulled him over my shoulder and brought him to the sofa near the bed, placing the pillows underneath his neck and turned off the air conditioner.


"I'm sorry this happened," I said to him. Silently, I asked for forgiveness for the fishermen's netting that caught him, twisted his fins, and ripped off his scales. I felt sin percolating inside my gut, as if I, a human, had caused him pain.


His eyes were moist. "Not your fault, Metta," said Nayan, in Bahasa. He leaned back and closed his eyes again, this time into a deep sleep. As I went to my bed and closed my eyes, thinking that perhaps, tomorrow would come and this would all be a dream.


But it wasn't.


In the morning, Nayan awoke and laid still on the chair, neither in tears nor in anger. He stared at me, perhaps expecting some sort of words from my mouth.


"I am human," I said in Bahasa as I wiped my eyes from an awakening in the morning. I tapped on his stomach and reached down to palpate on the portion of his gut where his scaled fins began on the lower pelvic of his body. His eyes grew wide and I knew I had scared him with my touch. He swiped my hands from his body and said, "Saya putra duyung," telling me he was a merman prince.

I examined the rest of his fins down to his lower side and there was no more blood trickling down. The acetaminophen had acted as medicine for his body.


"I have a daughter," said Nayan in Bahasa. "Help me so she won't be caught by the fishermen." His eyes glistened, but I saw no tears, only sorrow written on his glowing skin. For whatever it's worth, I wanted to help him, as I knew he wasn't a con-artist dressed in a mermaid outfit and this reality may be far-fetched, but it was as real as grapefruits.


He reached behind my ears, and I felt a sharp pain. I shook out and stood up, as I realized that an extra layer of skin grew out of my skin and protruded behind my ears, all the way down to my ear lobes. I touched it and it felt soft and supple with tingles. I inhaled to breathe down to my gut, clearer than ever before.


"I know my daughter is waiting," said Nayan. I realized he must have swum near the snorkeling gardens with his daughter when the net caught him. "You can breathe now."


I didn't understand what he meant by breathe. I was already breathing. I looked to the dresser for a swimsuit and put it on in front of him as he stared at me in disbelief about this human undressing her form. At this moment, all sanity was gone, and I was left with the sense that I needed to act based on kindness, not skepticism.


"I will swim to where we were and look for her," I said to him, not caring if he understood.


I walked towards the northern part of the shore, and kept on walking past the rocky areas and dove into the water to where the sign that said snorkeling areas, no fishing allowed. I swam underneath the waters and held my breath enough to see the garden under the ocean, with the brittle starfishes, puckered puffer fishes and sea urchins down under the sea. The gobi swam by and a jellyfish swam over other invertebrate animals in the ocean expanse.


I looked behind the rocks and felt a rush of waters followed me from behind. Instinctively, I swam upward for some air, but realized my lungs had the capacity to inhale and exhale under water.          

You can breathe now…, I thought. I pulled myself out of the water to the surface, realizing that I was miles away from shore and I was breathing under water. It felt as love had swept me deep into the ocean with my lungs and chest whole and complete. I didn't fully understand everything at this point, but I knew something was guiding me. Perhaps it was divination?

I was on my own and here I was, in paradise, helping a merman who needed me. No part of the past in my life mattered. I was looking for Nayan's daughter to save her life from the fishermen who might murder her.


I went back down to the garden under the ocean, and saw farther into the darkness a glimmer of fins, as if a billion stars were captured inside a seashell. I followed the iridescent light, and it swam behind a rock. Swimming fast with whisps of my legs creating a current, I saw trailing long hair nearby, reddish tone but dark and long. Then I saw a face, with round brown eyes, showing its fangs at me, as it pushed towards me and tried to bite my neck.


I pushed away and, gesturing with my hands in front of me, begged her to stop. This little mermaid, with long red mahogany hair and brown eyes, with pearly fangs inside her mouth, was ready to bite me. She scratched my hands and arms with her long fingernails, and tried to pull me to her. Something inside my chest burst, and I said in Bahasa, "Your father begs for you to go home." I breathed and didn't gasp for air, instead I was breathing under water and the moment baffled me. There was no way in a million years humans would be able to breathe as mermaids would, but here I was, speaking to her and breathing in the deep ocean.


"Where is Nayan?" the little mermaid asked me.


"Go home!" I tried to tell her to leave the snorkeling area for fear more nets would catch her. "Nayan is safe. He is with me."


She looked into my eyes, and asked, "What is your name?"


"Metta," I answered, as I felt tears come out of my eyes with prickles in the back of my eye socket, but what came out was a whisp of dark liquid as the octopus poison in front of my face. Legends told that mermaids do not cry, and tears would come out as dark ink under the ocean waters.


In front of me, the little mermaid smiled as her hair lingered about her and her fins scattered the sunlight, producing a bright, iridescent glimmer about her being glowing in the darkness.

"Ena," she said. I nodded, then shooed her away with my hands flailing to tell her to leave as I closed my eyes. When I opened them, she had disappeared.


I swam up to the surface and towards the shore. I knew Ena understood that the shore was dangerous territory and her father would return. Fishermen were not to fish near the snorkeling areas because they would destroy the reefs; yet some irresponsible fishermen would try to do so, to catch exotics marine life and endangering the lives of the ocean.


When I came back to my room, Nayan was still in the chair and it was drenched with fluid, with the most foul scent. I realized he had urinated in the chair that he had slept in. He smiled at me, and apologized in Bahasa, "Maaf," he said. He looked to the floor and moved his tail fins up and down.


I took my towel from the bathroom to wipe the floor and saw the brown colored stain on my bath towels.


There was a knock on the door.


"Ma'am, breakfast is being served and almost out," said the voice that sounded like Fajar's.


"Oh, thank you, I will come there," I replied quickly, not wanting him to come in. I heard footsteps walking away and I turned to Nayan.


"Your daughter is safe. We will have breakfast, wait here," I told him. "Stay quiet."


I walked towards Nayan and caressed his cheeks. He softly smiled.


I stepped outside and locked the door behind me, and prayed no one from the cleaning crew would come as I placed the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door knob.


The main lobby boasted muffins for breakfast, with bread, coffee, teas, cheeses and marmalade. I took some bread, muffins and marmalade with some bags of chamomile teas.


"Ma'am, if you have company, you can ask him to join you," said Fajar, with a smile.


"Oh, I am here alone, Fajar. I intend to enjoy myself," I replied.


"Very well, miss," said Fajar. "Breakfast is the most important meal. You can take as much as you'd like." As he looked towards my loads of foods in my hands, as I walked away. Fajar must have thought I was a freeloader. At the same time, inside my heart were nerves from the thought of whether or not Nayan would eat these delights of a morning meal.


Back in my bungalow, I saw black liquid streaming down Nayan's cheeks. "Ena," he murmured. "I feel her sorrows."


I went to the kitchenette and heated up a cup of water and placed the chamomile in the cup. As I made the tea, I spread the marmalade on the bread and cut up small pieces of the muffin for Nayan. I took a plate and offered it to him.


Nayan looked at the muffin and didn't respond, then I took a small piece and ate one, as I smiled at him, and offered it to him again. "It's okay. Food," I told him.


He ate it and swallowed it, and he must have felt the sweetness as he closed his eyes and inhaled then breathed in.


"Sugar," I told him. "It's wicked."


I gave him the cup of tea. He shoved it back to me, spilling the chamomile. He pointed towards the door, and I understood that he wanted to go home.


I sat on my bed and tears came to my eyes as I have longed for companionship, yet here I was, not meeting a normal man in hope of true love, instead a merman. The desperation and loneliness crept up again as I sobbed. I stared at his chiseled face and high cheek bone with his pointed nose and deep set eyes. Nayan was as handsome as humans were, as he looked embarrassed with a scowl on his face, looking towards the ground.


"I'm sorry," I told him, partly out of shame wishing for his companionship and the other part out of the dangerous misfortune for Nayan of being fished out from the sea.


"What is this coming out of my eyes?" asked Nayan, wiping the black liquid off his face.


"You're crying. Those are tears," I answered. "I'm crying, too."


 "Why are there tears?" he asked.


"It's an emotion, from the heart," I replied in Bahasa. "I'm scared to be alone in this world."


His eyes empathized with me as he teared up with the black liquid streaming down, and said, "I am scared for my daughter. That she will be caught. She swims too close to the shores." He sobbed, and touched his own tears. "Mermans don't cry. I never knew this feeling."


The moment sparked a multitude of emotions inside of me, love, joy, surprise, and excitement, as I realized I was bonding with a merman in real life. This felt real. This merman was becoming my friend, the company I never knew I needed.


"Everyone cries," I told him. He nodded, and reached for me with open arms. I kneeled in front of him as he touched my hands.


"You are brave," Nayan said. "Stay alive. You are important."


I kissed his forehead.


"Stay here," I said as I walked out the door, locking Nayan inside. I walked towards the garden and looked for something to roll Nayan onto the shores, because I didn't want to drag him on sand. There was a wheelbarrow near the other side of the garden and it must be for the gardeners to place their plants, but I took it and rolled it towards my bungalow. I took it inside and placed Nayan's slim body upright. I covered him with the inner layer of sheets and told him, "Don't say a word."


I rolled him outside and towards the beach as I saw Fajar running behind me, waving at me.


"Ma'am, if you need help, I am here for you!" he yelled.


"Stay there, Fajar! Don't come close!" I shouted at him as Fajar stood still several feet away from me, and I added, "I just need some time alone, please."


"Understood, Ma'am," he said. He closed his palms together and bowed away.


I continued to roll Nayan out towards the northern part of the resort and finally near the snorkeling area, I picked his body over my shoulder and laid him on the waters. He sighed and exhaled. "Go home, my brother," I said to him.


He laid with his body and uncurled his tail fins and held my hand. "You are good," he said, as he swam further towards the sea, but as I thought he was swimming away, he took my arms and dove inside the waters. I reluctantly followed as his daring dive besieged me. I swam down into the waters with Nayan, through the snorkeling areas into a large open rock underneath the waves. He kept me close to him, holding my waist as he grabbed my arm and held me tight and we swam deeper into Samoedra.


The squids were swimming and glowing in the dark, and I knew we were in depth beyond what swimmers and snorkelers could handle. We were deep down into the ocean water as I couldn't see the ocean floor. I was afraid I might be attracting sharks. Nayan took me into his arms and we swam underneath the ocean water, him close to me, and holding my waist from behind.


In front of us were large open rocks and hills of sea anemones as they moved to the current, and behold in near distance was a cave. He took me into the cave as we swam through the anemones and out of the other side was a village of more rocks and caves. There in the present moment, were other mermans and mermaids, with Ena amongst them.


"You are not alone," whispered Nayan into my ears. He didn't let go of my arms as he held me close. "Keluarga," he uttered in Bahasa, which means family.


The merman closest to him chanted a melody whose noise travelled to me, and it felt forthcoming. "We are with you," said Nayan. "Even when you are up there."


Love had swept low under the ocean and took me into its arms, as I fell forward into the abyss of hope in the waters. My eyes cried as black liquid came out of them, and I gasped as the mermaid furthest from me uttered, "No more sadness."


The oldest mermaid swimming in her tail fins came towards me with her white long hair, as she reached out with her arms and smiled. I swam towards her and hugged her as she gave me a small starfish into my hands. I took it and placed it inside my swimsuit as I wanted to keep it with me when I swam to the top and on land. My beating heart felt warmth as I was immersed in liquid love in the depth of the ocean.


"Remember us," said Nayan as he touched my cheek, and pointed to the sky over the ocean. I nodded and swam out of the caves, and out of the mermaid village towards the snorkeling areas and was hoisted up by the waves onto the surface.


I swam back to shore and reached the sands. I searched for the small star fish rock that was in my swimsuit. I took it and kissed it, as I sat on the sands by myself and realized that my loneliness was a thought that was to be offset with the alternate optimism of this present moment. The memory of this fantasy that no one could take from me.


I cried on the beach because I found out I was a lover, a family builder, a sweet warrior, and an authentic being and holy not out of hubris, but out of revelations in these waters. I saved a merman and the act proved my quality and honor. I forgot that I much attended to my depressive thoughts that I forfeited the possibilities of miracles and surprise.


I was on the sand, feet and body halfway towards the waters in my shorts, my swimsuit and my tears. For the first time, I didn't wish for something to be different. I wanted to be alive, I wanted to be the person who saw a merman and helped him. I wanted to do more for the world. I wanted to save the ocean, the inhabitants, their ocean community. I came to Bali to escape my thoughts and to leave life behind, but found a different purpose. I sobbed over the waters and touched my face, and there was no black ink, just tears of gratitude.


I walked to my bungalow, and I was about to shower when I slipped on the ground, and bumped my head. I must have passed out for a long moment, as I woke up and felt a big bump over my forehead and I felt blood trickled down.


I heard another knock on the door, and I realized there were broken glass from a wineglass under me.


"Miss, this is Fajar, your taxi just arrived," he said, over the locked door.


"Taxi? What Taxi?" I ran to the mirror. I had on the same outfit as when I arrived, and I saw the opened glass of merlot on the kitchenette counter. I opened the door, and Fajar said, "Miss, you will miss your flight if you don't go now. The taxi driver requested you an hour ago. Hurry!"


I looked to my room and my luggage was still intact, and I felt like I had just arrived. But, now I have to go again? What happened?


"I just got here, Fajar," I said to him.


"No, Ma'am….you have been here for a week. You kept putting the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on your door and no one could enter your room. Perhaps you will be happier in the States where you lived before," said Fajar.


"What? A week…but it can't be," I said. "I was just here overnight."


"Ma'am, the flight! You must hurry!" said Fajar.


I glanced at the time; it was 8 am. I looked for my plane ticket, which said I had a 9 am flight from Ngurah Rai to Los Angeles Airport. I ran to the main lobby and got in the taxi, I saw from the corner of my eyes, Fajar had smiled. As he turned, I saw an extra layer of skin behind his earlobes. I tried to feel for my ears and they felt smooth and complete. I reached into my swimsuit that I had under my clothes and took out the small star fish rock, and uttered, "Thank you," as I ran out, got into the taxi and rode towards the airport.  


For the first time in a long time, I felt whole. I wanted to live forever and most of all, I felt brave.






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Fishing with St. Peter

My brown cotton robe soaked my weight down in the ocean with my shoulder paralyzed from the right side. The darkness sunk my spirit underneath the waves as I choked from the salty water. I struggled to breathe as the pain from my right shoulder caused me to lose all hope for life. The water splashed over me as I swallowed some into my mouth. The ocean moated my soul, although I escaped something worse, more sinister than crashing waves.


A small boat with a fisherman was ahead of me, floating over the waters. His flashlight beamed in my vision as my feet pushed against the waves. With every shoulder push forward towards the boat, I raised my left arm to signal to the boatman. 


The boat drifted smooth towards me as the boatman reached into the water, pushing my shoulder down and letting my bouyancy lift my body as he pulled me in.


Sloshing over the hull I grabbed onto the seat and laid down near his feet. His eyebrows furrowed with drops of the ocean dew from his temple over me.


"No more fish, but got a survivor." His cheeks drooped down, making his frown like a circle about his mouth. "What happened to you?"


"Bitten by a snake," I said, my lips trembling with my eyes in sobs of tears masked by the salty water. "My right side is gone."


"Too bad. Always need a right side," said the boatman.  


My dreary red eyes looked away to the waves, afraid of his stare and embarrassed by my vulnerability. 


"You're either dumb or brave. Don't know which," said the boatman in his white robe. "Did you have a boat? Whose snake?"


"The mafias. Bit me behind my right shoulder," I told him. "They stole my boat, so I jumped."


His brown eyes watered, as he pulled onto a tarpaulin bag near the back seat of the boat. He took a small canister and twisted the cap.


"Might help," he said, offering me the can.


"What is it," I asked.


"Solid cod oil," he said. "Rub it on your shoulder."


With my left side pushing onto the bottom of the center seat, I slid it closer to his feet. I took the can and scraped some oil and rubbed it over my right shoulder. It did nothing.


"Why did you jump?" He asked. 


"I didn't want to die in front of them," I said, still choking from the salty water. "Would you have picked up a dead body?"


He stroked his brown beard, and replied, "Nothing substitutes grace," as he searched for something else inside his tarpaulin bag. He took out a thermos, and opened it.


"Water, drink," he offered. 


I took the thermos and gulped down some fresh water, as I felt his eyes on my face. I wiped my mouth and asked him, "Why are you here at night?"


"I'm lost," he said. He turned his shoulders behind him and pulled a large fishing net and threw it in front of me.  "Haven't caught a fish, since dawn." 


"I'm almost a cripple," I said, as I took the edge of the fishing net and threw it over the water. "They got only half of my body and my mind."


The boatman took the rest of the fishing net and spread it across the water beside the boat. Waiting for a few moments, he hoped for a tug and a pull. Nothing.


"Did you want to die?" he asked me. I lowered my head as I felt a stabbing pain on my shoulder. With my left hand I squeezed my right shoulder and felt mucus over the bite near my nape. I looked on my left palm and red blood with some white fatty body oils smeared over it. "I did," I answered.


"Why did you ask for help?" he asked. 


"I don't know," I said. My chest bone cracked within, realizing my attempt was not destiny, but I would be alone on the shore. "I felt scared to leave."


"That answer has got the flu," he said. The net was limp and the waves calmed over the ocean. The mist cleared and the sky over us parted, showing the moon and the stars. "I wanted to drift away."


"Why did you save me?" I asked. 


"Choosing the way of the faithful. Prayed something would stop me," he said. The tug of the net from under his feet startled him. 

He pulled it in, and fishes were caught in between the nettings. 


"One more cast," I told him.


He took the fishes out of the netting and cast the net over the waters on the same side.


"This is the same spot where there were no fishes." In just a few moments, the netting slipped down into the water as the boatman pulled it into the boat. 


My right side felt prickles of needles as I tried to move it around on my shoulder. I rotated my right cuff and felt myself move. "I'm not paralyzed," I shouted. The cod oil might be magic.


"Snakes can die," he said. The netting was too heavy for him, and as he began to pull it harder, he stepped outside of the boat and walked over the ocean.


I gasped as I saw him walk over the water, pulling the netting into the boat as fishes flipped onto the seats filling the boat. There were hundreds of fish, what kind we didn't care, but he caught them.


"The way of the faithful servant never loses hope," he said, pulling the netting and eventually the last few knots of the mesh.


He took the netting into his boat and with a big grin, he said, "Let's get back to shore. I did somethin' good."


I stood up on the boat and watched him put the fishes into his buckets. I looked to the waters where the waves choked me several miles before.


The water was still, and I was alive.


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No Babies, No Cry

Disclosure: Humor written in this short story was meant to illustrate the sarcasm for the Anti-Asian sentiments, and not at all meant to harm or used as discrimination towards another. As an author of Asian descent, I wanted to show the ridiculous notions of Anti-Asian racism in the society.


~ Inspired by THE STAND, by Stephen King ~


Crevasse of dirt ran down the path to the right side of the road like a giant long Earthworm sleeping on land. Summer in Colorado was torrid after a blizzard winter, and driving by dry farm lands scorched me in this car with no air-conditioner. I felt the Pontiac swerved but my thoughts flashed of Julie's face with her clear plastic glasses. I could care less of the passage I ignored at home about her, because she made me cry.


This old Pontiac was red once, but now it streaked with bronze and copper marks from scraped paint. It was my soul deteriorating as an augury of life, and I wanted nothing more than a few Pabst for consolation earlier; but this mess got me guerilla driving. 


The steering wheel made me sick, and the leathery crap slipped out of my hands. Julie's face was on me again. I tried to hold it together, but just like trying to control Julie, it wasn't my time. Damn tree was too close along the path as the road ragged on the wheels and I hit that dead bark in the middle of nowhere. 

The crash was bad. I felt my neck popped forward out of my back and I knew I just about died. Nothing in my vision. There was dark and more dark, and the air felt light in my chest, lifting me up. I breathed in, and got shook out of my beard. It wasn't even a long one, and I even moisturized it. 


"Wake up! Get the hell out!" said a voice. 


I shook out and shook up, my eyes like a wild dog, searching for something I could focus on. The hand pulled my shoulders and dragged me out of the car. Whatever animal was dragging me, pulled the hell out of me like I was food.


"Stop! Get the hell off me!" I screamed, my legs kicking as my temples throbbed. The six pack of Pabst slowed me down and I gurgled out some and was about to vomit a pint or two.


"Stupid! You're stupid! Get up! or I'll kick ya!" said a man's voice. What kind of a man would help someone then kick him?!

He stopped dragging me and left me on this hot afternoon like a broiled shrimp on the ground, with my skin all pink and burned. Old white men cooked in his own flesh like seafood on a grill in times like these.


"Who the hell are you? Do you know who I am?!" I shouted and something liquid spat out of my mouth. My legs folded and I pushed up off the ground. "Mind your own damn business!"


"Lucky dog, you bastard! You thank me!" he said, his head cocked at me like a rooster in a hen. "Drank up and drove like you own shit!"


"That's my car, you asshole!" I told him. "Carl! Who the hell are you?"


He was short, with dark hair, his nose flat, like he was Chinese. A brown t-shirt and jeans with sneakers made him looked like a young college student. Maybe he was Chinese, maybe he wasn't, but I didn't care what he was. He looked double and my eyes watered.


"Paul!" the man said. "And you're stupid!"


"Paul?" I said. "You look like a Chang, or Van or something...."


"Why? Because I look Chinese?" he said. His arms beside him, and his face looked red and I saw sweat on his forehead. Might be because I was a heavy load and he pulled a fat man out of his car, or he was mad. "Just because I'm Asian, I'm supposed to have a China man's sounding name?"


I stayed silent, and looked into his eyes. "Nah...," I replied.


A soft peace was about me, as if I knew he was helping me somehow, but I wasn't supposed to know.


"We gotta go up a mile and talk!" said Paul. His right hand made a fetching gesture swaying and I felt like a small animal.


"What about?" I asked. I looked behind me, and the car was wrecked with the front bumper concaved in and some oil must have leaked with whisps of smoke exhausting out. There was a shadow of a body inside, but it couldn't be mine. I was outside, talking to Paul.


I looked to Paul, and didn't have nothing better to do and the dip of the crevasse looked like a cliff and I wanted to dive into it. 


"Don't even think about sleeping in that dirt," said Paul. "You're crazy if you do. Come with me!"


Paul was mean, and his tone was gritty like a chain smoker with a clear sound of voice.


"Where we going?" I asked. 


"Quit it! Just walk," Paul said.


I followed Paul, with his shorter legs, as I caught up. My husky six feet body could sit on Paul and squash him, but I wasn't about to get rude to a man who said he had something to say to me. I walked and stayed calm, but Paul wasn't double anymore and my chest wasn't full of puke either. Inhaling the hot air, I swayed a bit, and almost tripped, but I staggered my legs and kept my stance. Paul ignored me, and kept walking. 


In the distance was a small house with a porch and a rocking chair in front. The sign on the top of it said, "Highway to Hell," in wood and white lettering and the "Hell" part was hanging down. My eyes felt wet and I looked back to the Pontiac and it was still there, down the road, kissing the tree with branches that looked like the witch's fingers.


Paul kept walking and stepped on the porch and opened the door as it creaked and walked inside. A few steps behind him, I looked around and realized this was some kind of bizarre something, because I must have passed this road before and never saw some small shack for a resting point. I followed Paul and walked in, and saw a few tables and chairs with yellow gingham liners.


"Just got in, Paul," said the waitress. She looked like a waitress, with an apron and a flowery Summer Dress and her hair was in a bun. Her brunette hair made her blue eyes prominent, and while she was beautiful with a heart shaped face and high cheek bones, I knew she was of age. She walked from the kitchen from the back to a table, and what seemed like a small house, felt vast inside. I looked around the room, and it was like stepping into a prairie cottage, with chairs of wood with soft yellow plaid padding and a blue gingham love seat to the left of the room. A small fireplace over the chimney was in front of me, and next to the hallway was the kitchen leading to the the back of the house.


"Yogurt please, Bonnie," said Paul. "Pro-biotic treat for me."


"And you, Carl?" asked Bonnie.


"How'd you know my name?" I asked. Bonnie sure was pretty, and if I wasn't in my sixties, I'd marry her.


"Stop thinking smack, Carl. What are you having for your afternoon snack?" Bonnie asked. 


"What are we? In kindergarten?" I joked. "Are you serious?"


"Just,....," Bonnie said, as she exhaled and seemed upset. "Milk and chocolate chip cookies, then."


She walked on to the back of the house and must be for baking or some sort, because how else would chocolate chips be made? I sure never tried.


"Julie," Paul said. "She's your only daughter. Why aren't you behaving properly?"


Paul pulled up a seat and sat down, as he leaned back and I stared at him for a moment. Paul was a bastard I didn't want to talk to right now, because who was he to ask me these questions at a time like this? I wanted to die about thirty minutes ago, and Pabst was helping, and now this Chinese thing was in front of me, asking personal questions.


"I really don't want to talk to you," I said. I stood at the same spot, and my arms tensed and felt my veins pumping my heart and hands. The heat must got me overwhelmed because my eyes rolled back and I dropped like a dead fly.


Paul immediately got up off his seat and picked me up, and threw my arms around his shoulders and laid me on the couch.


I inhaled and closed my eyes. Breathing for five full minutes, as Paul must have pulled the chair next to the couch where I laid and sat there. He waited for me to flutter my eyes open.


"Here, Bonnie gave me a glass of water," said Paul, holding a small glass, half full.


"Thank you," I said. I felt my heart beating hard. 


"It's your coronary heart disease. You shouldn't be drinking this much," said Paul.


"Julie's getting married, and no Gypsy woman should be marrying another woman," I said. I cried, holding the bridge of my nose. "She's my baby girl, and now she's gonna marry some Gorger lesbian named Tristan."


"That's a nice, name, Carl," said Paul. "But, I don't look like a Tristan."


"You look like a Van," I told him. Paul sighed and looked at me with a hawk stare.


"Your daughter is a lesbian," said Paul. He smiled at me, and I looked at him with sharp eyes and moistened beard from the water dripping off my mouth. 


"She never told me. Now, she wants to elope with this woman,... or man. This thing," I said. My heavy chest heaved and my mouth frowned down and felt my heart dropped to my gut. "I wanted babies for her."


"Oooohhh, I see," said Paul. "Babies...."


I looked to Paul, and he smiled at me. He must felt smarter with probably all that computer knowledge all Chinese men knew and got chops for. 


"I know what you're thinking," said Paul. "That's Bill Gates."


"You're shitting me!" I said. 


"You asked, and you thought it," said Paul. He shuddered, and said, "Stop thinking racists things. Okay...let's start over."


"Julie never told me she was a lesbian," I said. "Gypsies don't do lesbians. We give birth to normal people, like everyone else."


"You have a beard, Carl," said Bonnie. "Not everyone has a beard."


"Bonnie,...it's okay," said Paul. Paul looked to Bonnie as she came out with some chocolate chip cookies and milk and placed it on the ground next to the couch where I laid. "That's good stuff. Bonnie is top stuff."


I looked at Bonnie with endearing eyes, but Bonnie rolled her eyes. 


"Divorced," I said. 


"Not interested!" Bonnie replied, and left to the kitchen.


"Carl! FOCUS!" said Paul. He took a cookie and handed it to me, and I accepted. The brown chocolate chip cookies was warm and soft and I must have slobbered because Paul handed me a napkin. I took it and wiped my whole mouth with it. Bonnie was talented and I kept chewing on the chocolate chip cookie. Paul smiled again and folded his arms. He breathed in and waited for me to finish my cookie. I gulped the last morsel down and wiped my hands with the napkins. 


"Thanks, needed that sweetness," I said. 


"Why aren't you smiling?" Paul asked. He smiled at me and I couldn't help but to return the kindness.


"She was my favorite," I told Paul. "She's the only daughter I'll ever have, and since her mother died five years ago, she's been driving up to Denver to meet some friends, or so she said. I didn't know she's been out with that Gorger lesbian."


"Tristan," said Paul.


"Yeah, that's his boy name. I don't even want to know his girl name," I told Paul. I closed my eyes, and breathed in.


"Tap your chest, three times with both your forefingers on your hands," said Paul. "Like this." Paul tapped his chest with his two fingers of both hands and I followed him.


"Breathe, Carl," said Paul. "Say "I'm good and I'm kind, and I sure love these cookies."


"I'm good, I'm kind, and I sure love these cookies," I repeated. I tapped some more, even more than three times. I liked this tapping shit.


"So you think she's crazy now?" asked Paul.


"Yeah, she's nuts! What the hell do they do? These lesbians! Where do they go? How the hell are they going to be good Gypsies and raise children?" I screamed out all the chest air and flummoxed anger. "I don't even know how to hug her anymore. Is she the same Julie?"


"I see," said Paul. "You think she's transformed into some outer space being who likes only women?"


"No," I said. "I'm a Catholic, and Catholics don't do that shit."


"Are you a practicing Catholic, Carl?" asked Paul.


"No, but I still am a Catholic," I said, defending myself, my core, and who was Paul to ask these questions?


"I've never met anyone who was a non-practicing Catholic," said Paul. 


"You're shitting me?!" I asked. What god-damned person has never heard of that before? I was baffled.


"I know....I'm an atheist," said Paul. "I don't practice any religion."


"You're going to hell, Paul!" I told him. What sort of cookie maker was this Chinese man about? He kept telling me what to do and told me to follow him to some shack and now he felt he was sane for telling me he was atheist? I had to ask him, "Do you think Julie should get married?" 


"You know what I do think?" said Paul. His eyes wide and looked intently at me. "You drank and drove into a tree, and you told me that you didn't want to live. I think you need therapy!"


I felt the sweetness inside my mouth, and shut my mouth for a moment. Paul was right, I drank and drove carelessly and I hated Julie for wanting to elope with Tristan, the woman who was a man, who was actually a woman. I reached down to the ground, and took another cookie.


"Are you a cookie maker?" I asked, just softening the hard water.


Paul shook his head, and took a cookie and ate one, and said, "I don't want you to be a coward, is all."


"I'm no coward," I said to Paul. I swallowed the whole cookie and felt almost full. 


Bonnie stepped out and saw me, and looked down to the ground, and nodded. She went back to the kitchen.


"Are you a good father, Carl?" asked Paul. "Tap your answer on your chest."


"I'm a good father," I said, tapping my chest three times, and repeating it.


"Are you a damn good father, Carl?" asked Paul. "Repeat it. Three times."


"I'm a damn good father," I said, tapping my chest, repeating the words three times. 


The room felt still and I closed my eyes and breathed in and basked in the quiet silence and solemnity. It felt peaceful, and for once, I was happy. I haven't felt this calm since Julie graduated college.


"Describe her dress to me," said Paul.


"It's got a thousand jewels, and a Sondra Celli knock-off. We got it dressed in Broomfield," I said. "The ruffles has rainbow colors, and the fabric is pink glitter with more beadings and jewels all over."


"Sounds girlie," said Paul. "All those jewels must cost much."


"We saved up for six months, and we're having it at Estes Park, in the small white church, but we're having a friend do it. We won't have a priest," I said. "I felt bad, because her Mom wanted her to be traditional, marrying a Romanichal and into the community. Not some Gorger boy and girl in one body and just having me as witness."


"If you don't do it, who will?" Paul asked.


"That's why I drank and wanted to die," I said. "I lost her, and now I'm gonna be alone. And she's a lesbian."


"Okay, let's go outside, we gotta go back to the car. I'm tired. You're crazy," said Paul.


"What?" I asked him. "We're not done talking."


"Yeah, we're done," said Paul.


I got up the couch and drank the milk. I lost the headache and the intoxication was gone, completely. I didn't know chocolate chip cookies were magical, but I was mistaken.


Paul opened the door, and stepped outside, as he stood for a minute on the porch, inhaling the now evening air. Summer nights was breezy tonight, and it felt smooth caressing my skin this evening. I stood next to him, and Paul began to walk before me. 


"You remember Arlene?" asked Paul. He looked above, and kissed his hand and waved at the stars.


"My ex-wife, Arlene?" I asked. My throat choked, because Arlene was a sore subject of a woman I once married too young, and had to let go out of heartache and addictions. She was my red, in my white suit.


"She never re-married," said Paul. "You never kept in touch with her, did ya?"


I walked beside Paul, pacing him, slowly together. "Nah, no need to. She was gonna be allright," I told Paul.


"She died a month ago. Breast cancer," said Paul. "She was at St. Joseph's in Denver for a year."


I gasped and stood still. Arlene never reached out to me and I never cared for her to. I knew she was going to be okay, because she was always a career woman, working, hard core business oriented and never backing down in an argument. She was the balsy type with black hair and angst for miles. Arlene was a kicker in the football team.


"She never told anyone, because she thought no one cared. Her parents passed before her, and she was alone," said Paul. "You know what her motto was?" 


"What?" I asked, confused of how this had to do with me and Julie.


"No babies, no cry," said Paul.


I felt tears rolled down my eyes, and my body shook from the triggering conscience of understanding how Arlene never had babies. She was alone, all this time. 


"She was a good woman, Carl," said Paul. "She was just different. Ambitious, but she was kind. She put up with you for a good six years, didn't she? She almost ended her own life one night."


I didn't reply. But, I knew she did love me. I didn't cheat, but I was addicted and she didn't care for it, so she left, and I found Mary, Julie's Mom. "I thought she'd be okay,"

I said to Paul. I sobbed and smelled my breath of alcohol.


"That's what you think, Carl," said Paul. "I wished you can love a person just as she was designed, but not all ends well. She was alone in the hospital, but I was with her. And we talked, and that's how I knew about you," said Paul.


"Who the hell are you, anyway?" I asked. We were a few steps away from the car, as the conversation drawn out to a mile or so. 


"You son of a bitch!" said Paul. He punched me and kicked my shins, and dragged me into the car, and screamed into my ears, "It's not always about you and your addictions, Carl! It's about loving them back! You piece of shit! You fight for your life, you bastard!" 


I fought for dear life, with my arms searching to fend him off, but Paul was a strong one with that tout Chinese Karate chop stuff physique. What kind of person would invite some man for cookies and milk, then attacked him near his car? I was about full cup anger and half cup of confusion, all drunk again.


My eyes opened as my head cocked back and my whole body shook as I suffocated from the air bag blown on my face. I was inside the car and I smelled smoke in whisps inside the car and I smelled fumes. My gut stuck in between the air bag and the steering wheel, I wiggled and couldn't move.


"Oh shit!" I kicked the driver's side door open, pushed down all of the air bag out of my face and crawled out. I crawled on the ground so fast, I didn't realize I was alone. I stood on the dirt and stepped back and almost fell into the crevasse of dirt. My foot got stuck and it turned out it was just a crack and it looked bigger than it seemed.

I took my foot out and stepped back on Earth, and pulled out my cell phone. Julie's number was my emergency contact and it rang a couple of times as she picked up the line.


"Hello, Dad?" said my daughter, Julie. She's my baby, no matter if she was lesbian or not. 


"Baby, I need a ride home," I said. "Got into an accident, but I'm okay. Where are you?"


"Dad, you're supposed to be at the rehearsal with me!" said Julie. "The wedding is tomorrow!"


"Why you want to get married so much anyway?" I asked, still irritated.


"I want to have a family, Dad. You'll be a grandpa someday. I want to have a family with Tristan. We wanted to adopt or something like that," said Julie. "Please, Daddy."


Tears ran down my cheeks and I sobbed, gasping for air, and thought of Arlene in the hospital and how she must have wanted to have a family with me, but never amounted to anything. I felt like a jackass, but hearing Julie, I was a happy jackass.


"I'll be there, honey," I told her. "I'm so happy you're getting married!"


"Oh, Daddy," said Julie. "If you only knew how much Tristan loves you. We want to do things right. We are crazy about you! You're my only Dad!"


"Pick me up, baby. I want to be at the rehearsal," I said. 


The tears felt warm and summer got hotter with my cheeks and beard moistened from something that felt familiar and smelled like chocolate chip. I looked around, and Paul wasn't around. While waiting for Julie, I ran a mile up the road, and there was no small house, and no shack and nothing but barren land, and further up, there was a farm. I was confused and hurting inside of the memories left behind of Arlene, my darling wife whom I never cared to help. I fell to my knees and my heart broke in half. 


"I'm so sorry, darling," I said to Arlene, but she wasn't there. I looked above me, and kissed my hand, and uttered, "Thank you, Paul."




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