Friday, 30 September 2011

let them eat fruitcake: the white door

Taking a hint from William Faulkner's change of point of view, we were to write a companion piece to the characters we've written about so far, but we need to have it from another character's point of view.


“Hello? Anyone there?” I tried to shout, but my own voice sounded so strange and foreign that it startled me. “Hello?”

“Marigold Tuxedo Wigglebottom,” a booming voice said. “Welcome.”

“Oh, hello, but what do you mean?” I asked. I walked to the source of the voice, my paws almost gliding on the soft, cool surface. It was so bright yet I didn’t feel the need to slant my eyes.

“That is your name, is it not? Marigold Tuxedo Wigglebottom,” the voice repeated. “Or ‘Tux’ for short.”

“Yes. But where is this? Who are you?” I asked again.

“I am the one that breathes life into all living things,” it finally answered.

Then it was all clear to me. “I’m dead, aren’t I?” I asked, half rhetorically. “How did it happen?”

Images came flooding in. Every time Craig came home crying and hugging me all night, murmuring his usual strange gibberish, we would most likely move out soon after. And this time had been no different. I was sitting in front of our new apartment building, waiting for Craig to come home. My Elizabethan collar had been taken off and I felt energetic and ready to conquer all. Then I suddenly saw a squirrel darting pass me, and so without hesitation, I ran after it, across the small lawn, and into the busy street. “It was quick and painless,” the voice said.

“What about Craig? Will he be okay?”

The voice replied, “I know your bond with him was very strong, but Craig is no longer of your concern.”

“What should I do?” I asked. Then a door opened, leading to a field, green and grassy, with a big, tall tree in the center of it. I saw all sorts of animals there: cats, dogs, birds, squirrels, some are running around and playing, some are resting under the shades of the tree. I felt funny because I wasn’t afraid of the big dogs nor had the urge to chase the squirrels. “What is that?”

“This is the waiting place for companion animals,” answered the voice.

“Should I go in?” I asked. I lifted my chin and let the gentle breeze caress my fur. I smelt catnip!

“You have two options,” the voice said. “You could go in and wait for Craig, or, like some other companion animals, you could request to return.”

I saw a dog stopped playing and started running to a different direction. Then I saw a human appeared. The dog ran to the human and toppled the man over, giving him ample licks and slobbers. The man laughed and hugged the dog. Then they walked together and disappeared.

“How long do I have to wait?”

“I can’t tell you that either.”

“How can I go back to the land of the living? Can I return as a cat?”

“Your old body has been destroyed beyond repair. You had only used thirteen months and sixteen days of the age initially given to you, so yes, you can return as a cat, but a different fur color, different body shape and size,” the voice replied. “And you have to decide now.”

I sat there for a while, at the entrance of the field. Another gentle breeze caressed my face, leaving the sweet scent of catnip. Craig… or Catnip? I asked myself.


Catnip or Craig? “What if he doesn’t recognize me? Will he remember me?”

“Time is running out.”

Craig or Catnip? “Will I remember him? What if he doesn’t want me back?”

“I can’t answer your questions. You have to decide.”

I closed my eyes for a while, before finally saying, “Craig.”

“Very well,” the voice boomed. With that, the door was shut and the floor under me swung open and I floated down, way, way down into the dark. Then I felt myself going through another exit, into a cold and dark surrounding. I couldn’t see anything and was terrified, but a strangely familiar caress rubbed my face and body, urging me to come closer to the warmth, and I let my ancient instincts lead me to my new mother’s teat and drink her milk until sleep embraced me.


I had been thinking of writing something from Roger's POV, but it's probably going to be a dead giveaway for another plot I've been thinking about. In addition, many of my classmates really want Tux to go back, so this is it. Then again, I don't think this is one of my best writings, so it might not end up in the story after all.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

william faulkner's go down, moses

For Ms. Rosemary Graham's class, we were to read William Faulkner's Go Down, Moses. It was (finally) over and she asked us to explain why the novel ends with Delta Autumn and Go Down, Moses, and why Faulkner insisted that it should be a novel and not a collection of short stories.

Here's my thought.


To me, finishing this novel is like losing a chatty good friend: it’s relieving once you get to the end, but you’ll still miss your good friend. There is a noticeable transition of the tone and style of writing as we get to the end of Go Down, Moses.

What starts as a harsh, raw, cowboy adventure-like story, changes to deep and spiritual (in both the stereotypical African-American world as evident in Pantaloon in Black and the stereotypical Native American world in The Old People), and finally concludes in a mature, poignant, polished, sweet, and dare I say, feminine fashion.

Delta Autumn serves as the much-needed closure of the relationship among McCaslin (represented by Isaac), Edmonds (represented by Carothers), and Beauchamp (represented by the unnamed woman who bears the child of Roth Edmonds) as well as a warning (that seems to go unheeded) of overhunting and deforestation. Go Down, Moses explores the demise of Samuel Worsham Beauchamp and captures the sadness, almost like a curse, of the Beauchamps. It begins in a funny, rather comical way with Tennie Beauchamp and “Tomey’s Turl” (Was), then it becomes grim, though still somewhat sweet, with Lucas and Mollie Beauchamp (The Fire and the Hearth), finally it ends with Samuel’s death (Go Down, Moses). This sadness even transpires to Rider and Mannie (Pantaloon in Black), two people unrelated to the Beauchamps except for the fact that they live in Lucas’s cabin.

Nevertheless, no matter how much the tones change, there is always the familiarity in the sentences (the last sentence of the first chapter and the last sentence of the last chapter sound suspiciously the same). Indeed, it is the last two chapters that will make me forever miss Go Down, Moses. Then again, I can always reread it to remember the passion – and confusion – of William Faulkner.


I had to say that it was quite a challenge to read Faulkner because the campus book store was out of it so I had to purchase the Kindle version of it, and I couldn't make notes or read it on the bus or on the train (I don't have Kindle, so I download it to my laptop).

Thursday, 22 September 2011

let them eat fruitcake: magpies

Again, from Ms. Rosemary Graham's class. This time we were to write two paragraphs dealing with the movements of time, borrowing techniques from William Faulkner's The Bear (from Go Down, Moses). One paragraph covers minutes and another covers years (or vice versa). I noticed that Faulkner likes to have a certain object (a silver cup, a cabin, a house, or even an eye) to effectively move the time around as he pleases.

On the bus from school to the BART station, I was chatting with Daniel, my senior in Fiction Writing, that I think the way Faulkner did it was he placed an object around or among people, and that object stays put (in terms of placement - it stays where it is, or characteristics - it remains a silver cup in a burlap sack) while the people around or inside it change (grow up, get married, die, etc.). So the object serves as sort of nostalgic platform, if you will.

Anyway, this is the story.


I remember the first time I saw it. Roger had brought the thing to our junior high prom night. We were dateless, naturally, but Roger insisted that it wasn’t against our own accord. We were too exclusive, that’s how he put it. As for me, I was having a problem that millions of other teenagers faced: my looks. A beauty magazine that I read years later diagnosed my symptoms as a light case of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. “Here, hold this,” Roger said in the boy’s bathroom. “What’s that?” I asked, staring daftly at a transparent tube filled with some sort of sparkly, gold substance. “This is called glitter and that’s the universal short-cut to utter fabulousness,” he snapped his fingers. “Here, let me put some on you,” and so he did. Despite my frantic protest and giggling, he skillfully applied the sparkly thing on my cheekbones and under my eyes. When I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, I almost cried. I’d never felt prettier. I turned back to look at him with a stupid grin and he said, “Wait till the spotlight hits us, then things are going to get seriously sparkly,” and I laughed, despite the tears that were welling up my eyes and choking my throat.

That was almost fifteen years ago and I still kept the gold MAC glitter, though it was almost empty now. From time to time, whenever my inferiority complex caved in, I’d open that tiny bottle of wonders and carefully applied the content onto my face, imitating Roger’s skilled fingers that night eons ago, then I’d feel as pretty as any Disney princess. For several years, Tux had been that glitter and I would turn to her during my times of sadness and self-loathing that mostly spawned from my failures and rejections by men. But then I lost her. So there I was, gently applying the last precious gold powder onto my puffy and swollen under eyes, and like another powder, white, duller, and deadly, it began to work its charm. Then as I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw the edges of my lips starting to lift themselves up.


It's amazing that I can actually learn something from a writer like Faulkner (he's a great writer, I have to give him that, but he also can be too experimental for my taste).

Friday, 16 September 2011

let them eat fruitcake: white and black

This is another story from yesterday's assignment in Ms. Graham's class. We were to write a piece about a character coming home to the place he/she has shared with a recently deceased person. We were required to explore the connection of the characters with the objects and the space and the relationship of the two characters.


I couldn’t tell how many times the song had been playing. I had put it on auto repeat and I’d lost count ever since the first cycle was done. Whenever I felt I’d cried my last tears or used my energy to excrete them, the song started again and my tears and strength to cry would replenish. I was sitting at the edge of my bed, pressing down my soles and toes against the old carpet that came with the apartment, staring at the little cushion in front of me.

She was just there, I thought. I took my right hand from on top of my left kneecap and let the palm absentmindedly sweep over the blanket, then the sheets. She was just here. I placed my right hand on my left chest, as if doing so would numb down the pain that was pulsing inches beneath the surface.

“You’re not thinking of moving out again, are you?” Roger had asked when I was on the phone with him a few hours ago right after the accident. I was hysterical, so he took my ominous silence as a reply to his question. “Honey, don’t. You always do this every time something bad happens,” he responded.

“I can’t, Rodge. I’ll see her everywhere. I’ll see her lounging on that chair in the balcony or on my computer, I’ll think of trying not to kick her in bed while we’re sleeping and then I’ll realize that she’s no longer there,” I said in a burst of strength that allowed me to finish the sentence without a gulp of air, “And I’ll see that damned street every time I come home.”

Roger quickly snapped, “You’ll see her everywhere, and every time. You can move to West Virginia and still see the same road. You can move to Alaska and still see the same road. You can move to Nigeria and still see the same road. Everything everywhere will remind you of her, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but you’ll have to learn to live with it, to face it and to not run away again.”

The ceremony was swift. Tux’s broken body was wrapped in her blanket in a cardboard box and they were rolled into the incinerator. In a few minutes, all that was left of her was the ashes and the pink collar with the jingly bell. I had been holding the collar and the bell in my left hand ever since the veterinarian handed it to me while ensuring me that Tux’s death had been quick. How would you know? You weren’t there. I glared at him and he avoided my eyes. Then Roger came with a little box, “A jewelry box, with the Goddess Bast carving on it,” he said and gave it to the vet who then placed Tux’s cremated remains inside. I didn’t utter a word on the ride home, not even when Roger cursed the driver who did the hit-and-run. And when we arrived, I didn’t even say goodbye to him. I just carried the wooden box and the collar, up the stairs to my room, locked the door behind me and turned off my phone.

I had been sitting here for such a long time, in the same position, in the same hunched posture, staring at the blue pillow in the middle of the room that was traced with strands of white and black fur. Finally, after not being able to bear the sight of it any longer, I closed my eyes and let my body fall back against the mattress, with my head landing on my right hand and I heard the collar bell jingling on my left. Then I began to wail as Bernadette Peters started singing that Sondheim piece yet again.


I felt bad about killing Tux, but somebody had to die. At least for the assignment. However, there is a chance that I might not include this in my final paper for the class.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

let them eat fruitcake: the pandora box

This is the second assignment for Ms. Graham's class. This time, we were to write how someone hides something in three paragraphs, going to one point to another point while revealing something about the character's relationship to the place, the hidden thing, and to those whose detection the character wishes to evade.

The assignment has to start with this: He/she knew exactly where he/she intended to go, even in the darkness. This is taken from Faulkner's Fire and the Hearth story in Go Down, Moses.

Again, I write about Roger and Craig, the characters from the first assignment. I'm planning to use these two characters throughout the entire semester for this class and expand them for my final exam project.


Roger knew where he intended to go, even in the darkness. His friends, his parents, even random strangers from the internet who stumbled upon his blog entry had tried to persuade him to relinquish and just bury the whole thing. “This has gotta stop. Remember the Ds and Fs we got from Mr. Donaldson?” I asked. “That bitch-bastard from hell,” Roger replied with such hatred in his eyes. I had been vaguely unaware of our high school chemistry teacher’s homophobia, but Roger remembered it so well when Mr. Donaldson made the whole class laugh by pointing at our limp wrists as if they were some hideous defects resulted from interbreeding. “Or your sequined bra you wore to our school costume party?” I said, switching to a more humorous memory, and he chuckled. “Your mom has never found the exam results or the bra. You’re good at hiding things. When you think of it, it’s just the same,” I suggested. Roger just nodded and closed his eyes.

It was pitch-black, yet he could see his way down the basement of his mind. He needed not fumble nor feel his way around, he simply closed his eyes and he was there; behind the drawers of dry wit, shelves of cynicism, and cabinets of cattiness, was the little box where he kept his fears and failures. Now he only had to open the box once again to put in another moment of his ever-growing collection of shortcomings. It had been three weeks since his boyfriend of ten years decided to leave him to marry his high-school sweetheart. “What is it about reproducing that makes men want to have heterosexual relationship?” Roger had asked in our frantic impromptu binge-night on the evening he broke up. We had burnt his ex’s photos and pawned whatever jewelry he had left and used the money so Roger could get that new Proenza Schouler bag, but the intangible – the memory and the trauma – still haunted him.

Nevertheless I realized no matter how hard Roger had tried hiding it, no matter how good he escaped the temptation of opening up the same conversation about his ex, dragging us closest to him to a state of boredom out of repetition of constantly urging the same thing to him (“Dust it off and move on”), with him constantly saying the same thing to us (“But I love him”) it could never be as easy as storing an unwanted Christmas present from a sweet but clueless relative far back in the basement. It wasn’t as easy as saying out of sight, out of mind, because it would always be in his mind, no matter how far back and deep it was pushed, it would always still be there, lingering, patiently waiting for the right time to surface and crack him apart time and again.


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

let them eat fruitcake: the new apartment

This is an assignment for Ms. Rosemary Graham's class: Craft of Fiction (English 261).

The task was to write, in three paragraphs, at least three characters moving around at least three rooms. So here it is, the first piece of writing at SMC.


“Girl, when you said you needed my help to redecorate your new apartment, I thought we were going to move some furniture around, not to plaster and paint the wall,” Roger said as he ever so daintily walked around the studio portion of my place that consisted of my bed and the kitchen. Even Tux, my black-and-white tabby with the Elizabethan collar around her neck trotted less delicately straight onto the pillow in the center of the main room, and she just got spayed. “Now how are you gonna cook when there’s no exhaust blower? You want your whole nook to smell like soy sauce?” he asked, his well-manicured fingers lightly touching and tracing the dints and nicks in the four walls that surrounded the main room. I just giggled gingerly and said, “I’ll buy a fan. Just wait till you see the bathroom,” I pointed at a door near the kitchen and with that, he closed his eyes and took an audible deep breath.

“Uh-uh, Craig, Honey, I am not going to set foot inside your… bathroom,” I glanced at Roger at just the right time to see him feigning a gag. Or so I thought. “I’ve cleaned it. It needs a bit more of an elbow grease to really get the mold off the tiles, but we can do it, right?” I retorted and before he could say anything, I grabbed his wrist and yanked it so we were crammed inside the tiny room, our knees brushing the tip of the bathtub and my right arm resting on the sink. We heard a meow and saw Tux standing in the doorway, curious with all the commotion; or probably telling us to shut up. She looked at us, then tilted her head upwards and wiggled her whiskers, smelling the air. As she merrily walked across the main room, Roger followed her out of the bathroom and I followed them.

“She’s right,” he said. I asked him who was right. “Your cat. This is the best place in the apartment, maybe even in the neighborhood.” We were on the balcony, on the top floor, where the skyline of the business district was visible, where synthetic features such as concrete and glass stood in front of the horizon. Tux was sitting on the rattan chair that came along with the studio, looking at the view Roger and I were looking at, savoring the breeze that had brought her, and us, there. “Well, if you want my help, I’m free this Friday and Saturday, but I might need a facial afterwards,” Roger gave in. “My treat. Full spa,” I said, smiling broadly as I looked at Tux and scratched her furry head. Despite the noise from down under and all around, I could hear her purr, and if a cat could settle in in this place, so could I.


Monday, 12 September 2011

so far, so far...

I am so sorry for my absence (not that anyone cares). I've been so caught up in adapting my life to school and dance and everything else that even my Pinkcoinbelt has not been updated for quite a long time - I promise to update it today!

I'm entering the third week now and I've met some interesting characters (the professors and students). Some problems that I'm encountering include reading a soaring amount of books (I finished Jane Austen's Persuasion in twelve hours), challenging assignments (I just wrapped up creating a map of area in the first four stories of William Faulkner's Go Down, Moses). Yet the biggest problem that hinders me is the necessity of having active participation in class, ie discussions.

I blame my Asian upbringing (how comfortable!). I always get the jitters when I'm addressing people in the class, no matter how big or small the audience is. I mean, everybody seems to have his/her own unbent opinion on something, and sometimes I don't even have anything remotely intelligent to add to the forum. I always try not to say something that will make me sound like a complete idiot, asshole, or both.

Still, I'm enjoying the classes and as much as I love doing the homework during weekends, I'm going to take this by the day.

Whenever class ends on Thursday, there's a prize for my perseverance that awaits: the class at FatChanceBellyDance studio!

So there you have it: the maps and images that I drew that I think corresponds to the first four stories of Faulkner's in his Go Down, Moses: Was, Fire and the Hearth, Pantaloon in Black, and The Old People.

I was trying to make it look like the map in Lords of the Rings or the Warriors series... I guess it doesn't look like that, huh?