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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

First cut, uncut. (A Short Story)

I felt like a car backing out of a driveway. I rather felt like a car that was parked in the garage of a stranger, had overstayed there and was making its escape. Her nails had clawed multi-laned freeways in my back, my teeth had plowed fresh pink wounds on her pale yellow Chinese flesh, and yet as I backed out like a car, my only though was to accelerate away. I felt like my ancestors, the notorious Japanese assaulters who had raided Mainland China and left as many corpses behind as their abacus counters could visualize.

Our escape from the Far East, from the tyranny of Japanese customs for me and from the Communist China for her had thrown us into the misty city of Amsterdam. We both had met just two months back, when she joined as waitress in the same Asian establishment that I worked for. Our Korean boss hated us both, her because his first wife who cheated on him was Chinese, and me because my grandfather's generation had bred more bastards in his country than his generation could in a lifetime. He was a bastard himself.

Xialong was a carrom-board breast; I, Hiroshi was a dwarf centerpiece in this city full of Redlight district display bodies. I am not certain what drew us together, maybe it was the sushi odor in her kisses that always made me hungry for her, maybe it was the soya sauce stains on my shirts that resonated with her memories of Nanjing. Our meeting or union was, as if, coming together of two exiles, two rejects, and of course, a limping horse and a blind mare can take the carriage only so far.

I pulled out, exhausted by the realization that I had ventured beyond the shutters that opened only for the privileged. "I wish to hold you so tight that you crumple like a paper," she said, while I made my retreat, as if on the percussion of my pounding heart.

"Seong Lee will kill me if I don't get there in six minutes," I said, waving my hand as I scurried away. Outside, the fog fell in thick plumes, while smoke from my lips dissipated like my thoughts about her.

Xialong wasn't expected till four. Right from the moment I got there, right from eight in the morning, I cursed the hackneyed slowness of the clock. I nibbled my finger flesh in joyous perplexity, from a spring of kissing blossoms, I had traveled to the monsoon shower of fleshy mangoes. Smiles flared on my lips, and in my eyes at every memory of my dark delights. "Hiroshi, don't work too hard today, for the evening may not arrive in peace," she had said in a cryptic sentence that made only half-sense to me. Her straight hair, lips that pursed every time she drifted into her fancies, the palms that were crisscrossed like canals on the map of Amsterdam, her voice that I had always thought of as funny and scratchy, all seemed as pleasant as was her nibble on my ear and breath was on my neck. Xialong did not come at four.

Xialong did not come at five, did not come at six, or seven or eight or nine or ten. My smiles scuttled away, Seong mouthed more curses than I could allow for my girlfriend. I figured that she would be introduced my girlfriend from that day, and I had responsibilities lined up for me. I was ready to break his jaws but for Hannah who cajoled my anger away. I wiped the dishes with all the temper, and cleaned the floor with more ease than I could use to sweep away my doubts regarding the absence of Xialong.

I reached her house at eleven. A bullet through her forehead was as fresh as my memory of her morning kisses. Cops came. I was arrested. Two days later a letter was found at Seong's restaurant. It read as follows:

Hiroshi,

Like a filament in a bulb, that appears brightest before like flickers and fades away, I wanted to kill myself, but only after tasting the glamor fruit of Eve's sin. My dearest friend, you supplied me with the joy that I wished to be mine before I bid goodbye to this dead world. I had deduced that my efforts to survive in Amsterdam were no different from my struggles in China. I was the undisclosed daughter of a family, who had a declared son, as their only allowed offspring.

I was a shadow being, who was declared dead at birth and raised like a parrot in a pigeon coop, a parrot who must act and behave as if it was a stuffed toy. I mean I did not exist for the world, and I lived with my family as a secret, safe as long as I wasn't found out. I had escaped in earnest, hitchhiked my way into Tibet and then Nepal, and was smuggled into Amsterdam with the contingent of Hashish by a Maoist woman, packed into sacks of that were supposed to be carrying Tea, with hidden Hashish and instead supplied me. A letter that she had given to me, provided me my first few days of residence and food, and you know my story after the time I started working, which was when I met you.

The gang who had smuggled me into Holland, now wants me to work with them. In two months, I have repulsed their attempts with a failing strength. My passport is fake, and they have announced that they will turn me in if I don't cooperate. Life holds no pleasure for me besides you. But you are too precious to be risked, and my friend, I say goodbye, wishing you well.

Let your optimism keep you afloat in tempests of all kind. My ship has designed to sink, and so it must. Remember me sometimes, and remember me well.

Love
Xialong

Seong carried this letter to the Police Station. When I came out he shook hands with me. He sounded as corrosive as always, but he made me a sign to follow him, and took me into a pub, and bought some whiskey for me. I gulped my bitterness while he asked to me in all seriousness. "Son, did you, or did you not, kill her?"

"What? Of course, No!" I was flabbergasted. "How can you ask me that question? You have seen her letter."

He lowered his voice, as he touched my hand, and said in a whisper, "Soon after you were arrested, I got a phone call from the Police Station, asking me if you were at work that day. I said you were. Then I was asked to appear at the police station the next day."

He drank his vodka glass neat, and continued, "When I went there the next day, the cops had found the revolver used for the killing, and there were no fingerprints in on the revolver. Since you were found on the spot, they had arrested you on suspicion first. There was no alibi for you, for you had left my shop precisely twenty minutes before the gunshot, and it usually takes only ten minutes to get to her house. They told me that they found your fingerprints at various places in her house, and everything pointed to the fact that you had killed her.

I told them that you had left my shop in temper, and that the reason for your anger was my complaining and cursing about Xialong's absence. Somehow it did not make sense to me that you will kill her after the tantrum you threw at the shop that day. The cops argued that maybe you over-dramatized things as it was a premeditated murder. All in all, I figured that you would be implicated for her murder. I had noticed how you both exchanged glances at work. Since I suspected you to be too much in love with Xialong to kill her, I sat down and concocted that suicide note and its story myself. I took care to post it from a post-box close to her house. It took a day for the post to arrive, and here you are, out in two days."

"Mother of hen!! If it wasn't a suicide, who killed her?"

He hushed me, and asked me to watch what I said. I understood.

For a few months, I was as morose as a car, dumped into a used car showroom, parked in a corner, unused and unclean. My attempts to find what really happened were as unsuccessful as Dr. Watson's guesses, and there wasn't a Sherlock Holmes around to deduce what happened and who did it. Then one day you arrived, or Seong, like a shrewd salesman, led you to me, and within a few hours, I was fueled and full throttle again. Xialong, like a dent in a wrecked car, remained embedded in my being somewhere. So what do you say to this story of my past? My first cut, uncut.



11 comments:

Vivek said...

from dud sea scrawls
Wed, 2007-04-04 16:19 —
Fizo
woah!

that was cool..
as IW ji says a class of its own!

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Wed, 2007-04-04 05:52 —
India Whining
Classy ViV

Intriguing.. so very intriguing.. Really liked it. Though don’t ask me who I think “did” it Whistling

You have gotten into different league altogether with your short stories.. Confession of murderer n this one.. both are in a class of their own.

Vivek said...

from sulekha.com

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Vivek Sharma comments: on Apr 4 2007 4:11PM
thanks cheti and swayamprava

I promise to write a comedy in simple language the next time. I wanted the story to be dark and delicious, but there is too much of metaphor there for easy reading. Its a prose poem, more or less, but that cannot be an excuse for writing something incomprehensible.

Thanks for the pointer!

cheti comments: on Apr 4 2007 1:51PM
Vivek ji ! Yours is not a easy brand of writing ! i have been reading this more than once ! I hope i am able to make a sensible comment at a later point !


swayamprava comments: on Apr 4 2007 1:39PM
Hi Vivek,
I will comment tomorrow as your story is too complicated and needs to be read at least two times.By commenting i bookmarked it.

Swayam


Vivek Sharma comments: on Apr 4 2007 12:56PM
I am surprised that none of the readers have chosen to comment so far.
What good is a story if it doesn't incite a comment or two?

I am fine with criticism, but silence kills a man.

Rads said...

Hey,

I like this story simply because it makes me curious to know why she was killed. But I do have couple of issues with this one, unlike your last work.

When I started reading the story, the first paragraph suggested to me that either this guy was under a compulsion to have sex with this woman, or this guy just raped somebody and now his conscience is making him feel that he is in this unknown territory. It did not make me feel that this guy was in love with her, even though you make it sound like they had wild sex. So, until you say 'what drew us together' in third paragraph, I didn't get that they liked each other. Maybe you framed the story this way on purpose. Maybe the guy is the murderer. If that is the case, it was a smart thing to do but if it isn't then the first paragraph doesnt serve much purpose for me and the story can begin differently. Hope you don't kill me for all this criticism...coz there's more.

I also have a slight problem with Seong's character. You esablished it well that he loathes both guy and girl for whatever reasons. He also curses a lot. So, even if he did sympathize with the guy while the guy was in captivity, I don't see Seong's character going out of the way and writing that letter, knowing that how risky it is. It would have been more believable if you had established it beforehand that Seong is a guy who likes to be tough on the outside but has a soft corner on the inside.

Probably I am the only person who sees these things as an issue. Lets see what others have to say.

By the way, you last story is still my favorite.

-Radhika

Vivek said...

More from sulekha.com

swarajya comments: on Apr 5 2007 11:12AM
A short story but very difficult to comprehend by an average reader.I keep myself away from detective novels after assessing my IQ.Even some movies make me puzzled.I get the complete story from close relatives after asking a number of silly questions.
A comment from me may be ,as good or as bad , like a person who has half read the story
A story of a person going for love and ending in prison not knowing why.



cheti comments: on Apr 5 2007 10:26AM
Vivek ji

Please do not dumb it down ! Let us struggle with it ! May be it will enrich us ! May be we will just go away in frustration. But i guess you should write for your own creative satisfaction first and then if that plays to the gallery, let it !

Do not dumb it down just because a few said they dont understand you ! I am sure a tonne of them are out there who understands this !



vandana1982 comments: on Apr 5 2007 4:04AM
Simplify it

Most of the things went over my head ................



swayamprava comments: on Apr 5 2007 1:53AM
Dear Vivek,

Here your story reveals itself


Then one day you arrived, or Seong, like a shrewd salesman, led you to me, and within a few hours, I was fueled and full throttle again. Xialong, like a dent in a wrecked car, remained embedded in my being somewhere.





If your hero is fueled and full throttled then he should forget the first cut and carry on with the second……But you have not revealed much about the second……needs a sequel…..I feel.

I hope i deciphered rightly.

Swayam




Nargis Natarajan comments: on Apr 5 2007 1:33AM
Hi Vivek.....actually I read this story yesterday but did not comment for two reasons. One because the process of commenting was a little too slow and secondly because your story itself was a little confusing. Actually, some others here too write confusing stories(like Requiem) but every time you read them you see a new perspective and finally you end up liking them immensely. The problem with this particular story is that the various similes and metaphors used here tend to distract the reader away from the main plot. They are very apt, no doubt and very amusing too but the characters in the story get totally lost in the maze of the language. It is something like hearing Siddhu's commentary. You pay so much attention to his vocabulary that you cannot understand the cricket part.....I hope you get my point. It was an excellent story and very well presented too (i've read your other blogs....they are not as complicated) and I hope in future you make your point ina simple way. The problem is even I tend to get carried away with this flowery stuff...in fact I end up using wrong words too (which you haven't) and that is why I can perfectly understand:-} I am giving you my detailed observation because this was a nice blog and could have appealed to many readers if put a little more simply. And also because you almost threatened the silent readers with your suicidal comment....


Brijesh Jones comments: on Apr 5 2007 12:28AM
Vivek,

Don't dumb down for the sake of readers. The metaphors (though one might argue, they were bit excessive) were all apt & unique. It took me 2 readings to understand that the lady mentioned in the 1st para (Her nails had clawed multi-laned freeways in my back ) and Xialong were 2 different entities.

The plot is brilliant with quite a number of red herrings. Really looking forward to your next offering.

Vivek said...

more from dud sea scrawls

help please

will some one explain to me whats going on here ???? IW / Fiz ?

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Thu, 2007-04-05 21:03 — Fizo
chets

ok will try to
its a love story woven into a murder mystery that strechtes across different nationalities, woman’s emancipation, oriental customs..what more do you want my good man?

Sticking out tongue

[and puh-leaze why are there so many smileys cluttering my page]

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Rads said...

I am back. I agree with Nargis. Over use of metaphors and similes makes the impact of sentences weaker.

I also feel Swayam might be right. If he is, you are brilliant.

Vivek said...

more from sulekha.com

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Rama Rao Garimella comments: on Apr 6 2007 6:25AM
A short story is all about communication skills. The writer communicates his original idea to his readers using all the communication skills at his command. If in the process he shows off, so be it. But in the final analysis the reader must get the message. If many bloggers complained that they ddn't understand your blog it means that you have not achievwed your end. You may be very adept at metaphors and similies and conjuring strange images but what good is it if the reader doesn't understand it. I wouldn't have commented on your story but you are a blogger with rank 122, a top ranking one at that. So I rate it as half a star. Dont mind my honest comment. U got a good power of expression but express yourself to be understood. Ramarao


denice _menace comments: on Apr 5 2007 10:42PM
at did u mean to say cut and uncut...i really liked the story and the setting..but couldn't make out what it was all about in the end? somehow there isn't much depth to this story..maybe it's beyond my hmm..understanding..:(

Vivek said...

AFTERWORD based on what I wrote in response to Sulekha.com comments....

Vivek Sharma comments: on Apr 6 2007 12:44PM
delete this comment - block this user Afterword or Epilogue

(I love comments. That is what I blog for. Please let me know whatever you feel about anything I write).

I have been trying to write a novel based on multiple stories I have heard about my grandfather. They are like Hiroshi's story. Full of unnecessary details, and diversions, unclear about what happened when and how, who is right and who is not. In fact, I have thought so much about the novel and yet I can never put my finger on the real story itself. So I wanted to write a short story to practice a narrative like that. Yet I chose to use metaphors and puns, rather than simple conversations, to make it a more interesting exercise for myself. In the novel, each conversation allows the narrative to shift, each time you encounter the same story, depending upon who speaks then and if you like him or not the story changes. It has a dynamic form and force. It has a darkness and lots of unsaid, makes it hard to swallow what was said in passing.It is like a dance troupe, whose every performance is different because they change the sequence of dances and dancers.

How many stereotypes are based on nationalities? Indo Pak sentiments are well known, as are Chinese Japenese Korean Taiwanese towards each other. World war II had its consequences. A person who seems to hate us might save us. What story is concocted by whom? Is Seong lying or is Hiroshi lying or are they both telling the truth? What is "the first cut, uncut" mean at the end? What is the message, if there is one, or should there be one? Why are there so many metaphors, puns, similes, hard words, Amsterdam, nails, mangoes, mist, bullet in the story?

I wrote first two paragraphs first, and worried about how to proceed. In one version, Hiroshi is a serial killer, in another Seong kills for pleasure, in the third, I knew both Hiroshi and Xialong as a tourist eating at the restaurant, and before the murder, both tell me their versions of story (When I visited Amsterdam, I met a Chinese girl and Taiwanese guy who were a couple, and had interesting, but not intersecting opinions about each other that they divulged to me). I wrote few paragraphs on these three lines, and discarded them. I thought of making this into a mystery series and for many hours left it at the question," If it was not a suicide, who did it?" I am too busy to write prequels, sequels and expanded narratives. More so as I am concentrating on finishing a thesis, a collection or two of poems and a novel at the same time. It is an experiment with narrative that shifts each time you shift it, and what could I do better than present it as such. So I wrote the last paragraph, went back and read the plot several times, cleared some sentences, added some here and there and made it into a story where depending upon how many times you have read it, and who you are, makes it into a different tale for you.

My stories are typically simplified, poems are chosen to be less and less abstract in their final versions. But things should be made only simple, not simpler, said Einstein. We must, once in a while, read something for its complexity. People who read Rushdie or Kant or relativity or Marquez or mythology or scriptures or anything (or everything) interpret it, as well as they can understand it, relate to it. I love some of that kind of literature, so I was being indulgent here. More spices, more colors, more decoration may or may not appeal to people when they eat something; and I guess this meal was designed not to taste the best in the very first bite.

What do I think of my story? In end analysis, I believe a story is a good story if masses can read it and relate to it, and so I prefer and choose to write good, readable stories. Yet, for my own sake, and for sake of some who can appreciate some stuff like this (after all Ulysses is best book of last century) I will indulge in such extravaganza every now and then. The experiments shall continue. Saga of a Crumpled piece of paper, written year back (a poem) created multiple interpretations and I loved that.

I wanted to write about sex, but without writing pornography. I wanted to spring in a surprise death, but not let it sound like a murder mystery. I wanted to comment on nationalities and their prejudices, without making that main theme of the story. I wanted to have Amsterdam's addiction, canals, mist and darkness somewhere. So I threw them into the frying pan and started stirring. Added spices, vegetables and colors to my taste.

The next story (under revision now) is simple and funny, (I believe so), and was written five or six years back, and will not pose any problems to any reader. I am amazed at comments about this one being unlike my other writings. I had some weird, wacko and obstruse pieces earlier, and one only needs to dig through matter to see how random and chaotic my thoughts can get. I have no style yet - I am just experimenting and perfecting my ability to write poetry and prose. There are problems with this story, and I'll work on removing them when I write the next one. There are streaks of good literature here and I'll try to retain them. All in all, I'll love to get as much feedback as comes to your mind, for that is what I blog for.

(I will go back and read the story again. Who knows what I will find now?)

Vivek said...

from dudseascrawls.com

For Chetz : with L.O.V.E

Seong Lee , the Korean Boss of Hiroshi, has a grudge against Chinese women.. (Reference : because his first wife who cheated on him was Chinese)..

So he tries to seek revenge by killing as many Chinese women as he possibly can. But he is intelligent enough , not to do the dirty deed himself.. So he engages the services of Hiroshi. Not that he directly tells him to do the murder(s), rather he creates the circumstances ( Reference : Then one day you arrived, or Seong, like a shrewd salesman, led you to me ) Seong, sets up things.. and Hiroshi unwittingly(or maybe forcibly) carries out the murders.

The story starts with Hiroshi describing, his second murder..
(Reference : Her nails had clawed multi-laned freeways in my back, my teeth had plowed fresh pink wounds on her pale yellow Chinese flesh, and yet as I backed out like a car, my only though was to accelerate away.)
Its quite easy to mistake those things (clawing, chewing) as love-bites.. But i think those are actually signs of physical struggle during the second murder.. If i understand the story correctly, this woman is NOT xialong..

Maybe the first murder (that of Xialong) is commited by Seong, and he sets up Hiroshi.. but he helps in his release.. and later on blackmails him into killing other Chinese commercial sex workers (to use politically correct term)

Summing up, this story is about a serial killer (or a team of 2 killers) specializing in killing Chinese women (CSW or otherwise)

Okay I am done with my take on this short story.. I could be totally off the track. But thats what makes this story fun for me, coz it has so many possibilities. Vivek would be the best person to reveal the mystery but I doubt if he would. Its better to keep it open ended.. Knife

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Fri, 2007-04-06 03:59 — kanurite
hmmm

Not that I doubt your writing ability… but this does not seem like your work.. dont ask me why.

* reply

Vivek said...

more from sulekha.com

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Vivek Sharma's response to comments:

Brijesh ji :) I agree, there are too many red herrings:) Please read the story again, and tell me if you really think there are two women?

Nargis: I guess we all wish to know how our tales are savored by they who gulp them down:) I suffer from the bleed of pen, can't stop writing, can I?

Vandana: I cannot explain my metaphors. There is no beauty in explanations.

Swayam: Like Brijesh, I like your interpretation as well:)

Denice: I agree, most of the story is on superficial level. Like the fluff talk of politicians:)

Rama Rao: I agree with you in soul and spirit. But as they say in Physics community, some things are interesting and understandable only after you have toiled and struggled with them. Everyone can cross a river on a streamer, swimming across is different fun altogether. Its a problem for people like me who cannot swim to appreciate the difference, though I do respect them who have taken pains to learn swimming.

Shantal Anil: Maybe you should read my review of Maila Anchal. I have enormous respect for people who chose to write in regional languages. My best wishes and regards to you.

Vivek: You must write better stories. What fun is there in penning something that requires an afterword which is as long as the story itself?




Shantalanil comments: on Apr 6 2007 1:12PM
delete this comment - block this user
Your story seemed very masculine to me. It may sound very strange, because it does so to me too. But your style and the shift of tempo suceeds in keeping the story interesting. But when the other guy says that he wrote the letter to protect the hero(?) the question that first came to mind was-the date of the letter would be a dead give away. How can you explain that? Since you have an exposure to international venues and people and since being global is the in thing, I think you can make a good novelist. I have just completed and submitted my first novel in my regional language(kannada) and it has been accepted for publication as a serial in one of the magazines. So, I know what it is to go through to write a novel .Keep at it, all the best.

Avnish Katoch said...

Good engaging the readers :-)