Story Yellers

The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - Si­mon Han

We empty our voices into glass jars, and they fill with a deep­er­sound­ing ver­sion of our­selves. One day, the three of us won’t need such in­stru­ments, but for now, we each carry a jar around our necks. They clink against our other neck­laces of bike chains and house keys as we stomp up and down the con­crete slabs of apart­ment build­ing #34. We aim our jars to­ward closed doors, yell, “This old man fre­quents pros­ti­tutes! Here lives a fox spirit! May your child be born with hem­or­rhoids! Here lives a horse-fart spirit!” One whip of a bike chain over a New Year’s door ban­ner, and the words spring comes bird sings flower fra­grant spi­ral to the ground. We smear dirt over the gold cal­lig­ra­phy, kick the torn, red pa­per against the door. Fam­i­lies in­side try to sleep in. Rel­a­tives who haven’t yet left Tian­jin for their far­away homes linger in bed. Lo­cals splay out on so­fas, makeshift cots, chairs. The air warm from last night’s steamed dumplings, soot from fire­works col­lect­ing on the win­dow ledge: what a pretty scene. We crush it with our voices. Six days after the Lu­nar New Year, we yell ex­tra loud, ex­tra deep for the Amer­i­can. His shut-in grand­fa­ther, the only other per­son in their apart­ment, tells him from be­hind the door, “Ig­nore those boys, hands over ears.” So we chan­nel the re­serves of not only our fa­thers but our grand­fa­thers and rat­tle the glass jars with our cries. “Where’s your mother, Amer­i­can?”—to the beat of the metal door knocker—“where’s your mother? It’s us, your fu­ture fa­thers!” It’s enough for the screen be­hind the door to whine open. A sprin­kling of dust shakes off the door­knob. We out­run his grand­fa­ther’s curses, easy—the shut-in won’t go be­yond the front stoop. In the chilly court­yard, stand­ing over the tubes of used fire­crack­ers, we yell to­ward the Amer­i­can’s sev­enth floor bal­cony, “Your mother wants us! She’ll take us! Take us!” We can’t see the Amer­i­can, but we know he is watch­ing. The same way ev­ery Thurs­day night at nine p.m., he watches his mother turn down el­i­gi­ble suit­ors on Exit with My Love, China’s most pop­u­lar dat­ing show. As long as she keeps turn­ing down our men, she’ll come back on the fol­low­ing week’s show, and the Amer­i­can will re­main in apart­ment build­ing #34 with his shut-in grand­fa­ther, wait­ing for his mother to take him home.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.