Down on his luck, a lonely Hong Kong doorman sees his colleague’s optimism as the ultimate insult.

Wah Ye Gau had had a bad week, a bad couple of years in fact, but he hadn’t expected it to end this way. He didn’t know why he did what he did. Perhaps his name compelled him to. After all, Gau meant dog in Cantonese. His parents, superstitious watercress farmers, had worshipped green skinned, four-faced gods. Afraid these celestials would steal their only son, they named Gau after an animal, believing this would fool those gods into assuming their child a village mongrel, and thus ignore him.

Gau’s colleague and neighbour Fu was now in triage. Seated on a blue plastic chair – part of a three-seater waiting room bench – in Wong Tai Sin Hospital, the anxiety Gau’s face could not express egressed through his maniacal scratching at a piece of scotch tape that sealed a crack in the seat. His dull, droopy eyes and thin, straight lips would not divulge the contents of his mind or heart. He took out his mobile phone and dialed 999. Being arrested would mean losing his job, but at least a jail cell might keep him safe from the loan sharks. Gau tasted iron as his tongue ran over a particle lodged between his incisors. He stopped scratching the tape and started picking at his teeth with the long nail on his little finger instead.

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Rowan Lodge

A painter recovers her lost talent at an allegedly haunted cottage in rural Kent and learns a little too late, the meaning of eternal love.

Daisy Taylor spent most days in her painting studio on the top floor of a Mayfair townhouse where she lived with her husband Felix Reginald Taylor.

Felix owned a small gallery with an impressive collection of post-war Japanese abstracts. His gallery was just three-blocks away from the townhouse, so this evening, same as almost every other evening, Felix walked home after work. As he approached the townhouse, Daisy could hear him singing through the street-facing window.

“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy, all for the love of you –” Unlike his baritone speaking voice, Felix’s singing voice was high-pitched and clear, like a prepubescent altar boy’s. Though they’d been married for a decade and two years, Daisy was still unsettled by how incongruous that delicate crooning sounded coming from a man as bearish and portly as Felix.

She wiped her paint-smudged fingers on a rag, walked down the stairs, opened the door and gave him a perfunctory hug.

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A story about the difference between being Chinese and Ethnic Chinese.

At the China Tang restaurant in Hong Kong’s central business district, Tong Hwee Peng and Stephanie Kuok sat at an elegantly set table inside one of the private dining rooms. Hwee Peng had flown in from Singapore yesterday afternoon. She was the first to arrive, and had ordered a bottle of Moët & Chandon Brut Rosé, their favourite. Stephie had landed on a flight from Kuala Lumpur a few hours ago. With her suitcase in tow, she showed up 15 minutes after Hwee Peng. She hugged her friend, proclaimed she was “starving,” and with her chopsticks, started picking away at the steamed peanuts in the condiment dish near the edge of the marble Lazy Susan.

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Lunch Break

A summer afternoon in the life of a Hongkonger.

Photo by David Clarke on Unsplash

It was time for Kenny’s lunch break. His bony buttocks, which had been parked in a cheap IKEA swivel chair since 8:35am, felt numb. His eyes ached, and when he closed them, he could still see the bright light of his computer screen emanating from the back of his eyelids. The photo of his wife and two young children, thumbtacked to a corkboard in front of him, was lopsided, so he straightened it. He dislodged himself from his cubicle and made his way out of the building.

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Three vignettes about distance and togetherness.

Thomas Parts with Jane

Jane likes Thomas better when he’s away. She’ll pout and tell him not to go, but once he’s gone, she breathes easier. There is pleasure in the solitude. Sometimes she drinks half a bottle of wine, and smokes cigarettes in their tiny studio apartment while listening to Björk. She might lip synch in front of the mirror, imagining she’s been abandoned by her lover, though she has not; she just enjoys the melodrama in her head.

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Liberty Exchange

Riding on a ferry in Hong Kong of the future, a once promiscuous expatriate has to decide between the old way of freedom with consequences, or the new way of obedience, peace and prosperity.

The ferry engine rumbled to life just as Lori Blanchard was about to start perusing a new client case file. She saw a middle-aged man walking from the bar up the aisle towards her. He had dark blonde hair, and looked like he might have been handsome when he was younger.

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Global Warming

An encounter between an out of work Greek and a Jordanian academic presents different perspectives on the European migrant crisis.

The drivers in Athens were on strike, so there were no taxis at Eleftherios Venizelos airport that afternoon. Tariq would have to take the Metro to Syntagma Square. Because he had never been to Athens before, he didn’t know which platform he ought to wait at for the train.

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The Art of Seduction

An aging lush teaches her wallflower friend a thing or two about how to pick up men.

Annette gulped two tequilas. She felt a little wobbly, but who wouldn’t in twenty dollar, six-inch platform pumps from Walmart. She beckoned the ponytailed bartender and ordered another two shots. When he came round with the drinks, she leaned forward, pushing her breasts together to see if her freckled cleavage might get her a reaction from the young man.

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