Letters

31/1/2001

“Cartago Delende Est
Queen Dido and all that.
Aeneas was the surviving captain of Troy. He came to Carthage almost ruined by the Sea and the anger of Gods. Carthage and its nearby shores, bristling with its shadows. Aeneas, and his mother Venus, wooed Dido. And then he left, had to found Rome. She killed herself after he had set sail. Good story.”

“Just so are the posters, paintings, & pictures of our kitchen table. I like sitting here. Drinking coffee in the morning, reading a book, what a bad hobby ~ it makes me lazy and only let’s me find out. Frederick Douglas described learning to read as a curse; “it woke me to my condition”, or something like that. ~ anywho …”

 

10/11/2000

“Ich hoffe Du bekommst wenigstens einen der Briefe und zeigst so viel Charakter und meldest Dich mal bei mir. Ich sage auch niemanden etwas. Wie gesagt, ich habe jetzt meine eigene Wohnung, ich wuerde mich unendlich freuen, wenn Du Dich mal melden wuerdest.

Hier is meine Adresse …”

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Boss Sung’s Wife

I was introduced to Boss Sung through a woman named Chen. She was a short, fat woman with bright red hair, a lot of make up and a huge pearl necklace. One day, while we were drinking tea at the Hong Kong teahouse that was so popular with the ballers at the time, she told me about this big boss who she wanted me to meet. She had introduced me to several ballers, including the Tibetan Don, but Boss Sung was the richest.

Boss Sung was from Guangyuan, a city in northern Sichuan, where he owned every damn thing. He owned blocks. He owned the city’s only mountain, everything on it, and the amusement park next to it. When I met him, he was busy acquiring all of the crematoriums he could get his hands on. I remember standing in the dirt fields next to one of them with him when he looked at me and smiled and said, With these, I will always have cash. By cash he meant spending cash. He often told me that he had millions of dollars stowed away somewhere and every now and then he would flash a slip from some American bank. It didn’t matter if I believed him or not, everyone else around him did.

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The Imam Who Sang

There once was an Imam who spread the word of God by walking from place to place and singing scripture to anyone whom he might meet.

His voice was a blessing discovered on the steps of his grandfather’s home one afternoon when he was seven years old. Both his father and grandfather made music and they would go to the steps in the evenings after dinner and sing to each other lines of poetry that they had read in the Holy Book, or that they had heard from someone else or that came to them in their dreams. Sometimes they improvised and told stories from their lives or the lives of others and sometimes they would put the events of the day into song and sing them aloud for the whole family to clap along with.

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Festus Cripps

Festus Cripps biked slowly up the damp street toward the cannery, a cold wet wind threw his jacket open and the bike squeaked with each resigned pump. Mountains rose up around him and the sky was dark with thunderheads. He wheezed his way to the top of a small rise and went to glide down the rest of the way, tightening his grip on the shotgun across the handlebars of the bike.

When he reached the bottom and caught sight of the docks, Festus howled an unintelligible portent of doom and raised himself up on his rickety old bike. He had teeth missing, his red hair stood out like flames from beneath his mesh trucker’s hat and his nose was a shrunken hook. Every bulge and curve of his face was covered with deep wrinkles and his skin was bone white with liver spots visible through a long, frizzy red beard that sunk into his mouth. He coasted into the cannery parking lot with a rictus grin and eyes wild with glee.

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The Day the River Turned Neon

The seconds ticked away and everything changed, the grass bent into new shapes and a cloud moved across the sky waving its arms at them. But he knew that it was times like these that stood still, frozen forever and even if he remembered it differently years from now (a vision of him rocking, ancient in the sun, passed through his mind) this moment was forever where the djinn dwelt.

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