STREET JUSTICE

By C. Fong Hsiung

 

2:45 a.m.

The mobile phone buzzes.

Jason grabs a pillow and covers his ears. The buzzing continues. With a groan he gropes the bedside table. “Shaun’s going to pay for this,” he thinks. Aloud he says, “This had better be good, Shaun.”

He hears a hysterical cackle. Shaun says in a high-pitched voice, “Jay, it’s your brother. Please come here quick.”

“What did Tony do this time?”

“Please Jay, just come over. Tony…uh… he’s been stabbed.”

Jason swears as he grabs his trousers and t-shirt. A few minutes later, tires screeching and thoughts racing as fast as his car, he wonders what his brother and Shaun have been up to. More than once, he’d asked Tony to move back with him and to dump that scumbag roommate of his. But there was no reasoning with Tony.

The problem with Tony, Jason muses, is that he flaunts big brother’s tough-guy reputation like an annoying invitation to the gangs in the hood. More than once, Jason has bailed Tony out of trouble. He sighs as he parks his car, swings his feet out on the asphalt—still soft from the day’s heat—and enters the brownstone low-rise.

Jason holds his nose as he rides the decrepit elevator. The smell of stale urine and unnamed other odors assault his nostrils. When the door groans open, he gasps and gulps a breath of air—not much better; his lungs are on fire.

He pounds his fist on one of the doors. The third thump lands on air as Shaun flings it wide and stands in front of him with disheveled hair, shirt torn at the right shoulder, and dried blood smeared on his chest.

Shaun blubbers, “Jay, it’s that shit-face, Rick, wait till I get my hands on him. He’s a dead man.”

Jason shoves past Shaun kicking aside a pile of dirty clothes on the floor as he heads straight for the couch. He cringes at the sight of his brother lying unmoving, face swollen and bloody. Bloods seeps through makeshift bandages—strips from a t-shirt—around Tony’s chest and stomach. Jason touches Tony’s neck. No pulse here…wait, there’s a faint beat. “Shaun, call 911 right now. Tony has to go to the hospital.”

“The cops will be all over us if we take him in,” Shaun whines.

Jason grabs Shawn’s shirt and growls, “He’s going to die if he doesn’t get treatment.”

“Uh…I…the cops will ask all kinds of questions”

“Do you think I care? My brother needs medical attention right now.”

Tony groans. Jason kneels down beside his brother and gazes into the pain-glazed eyes. “Tony, hang in there. Don’t try to talk. We’ll get you to the hospital.”

“I…I’m so sorry, Jay,” Tony whispers.

Jason squeezes Tony’s cold and clammy hands. “Shh…everything will be fine.”

Tony’s fingers tense up and then slacken. He expels a deep sigh like air escaping a punctured tire. Jason quells an anguished sob. “No, Tony, no. Please hang on.” He shakes the limp and lifeless hands. “Damn you, stay with me.”

“Jay, the ambulance is on the way,” Shaun says as he pockets his phone.

“Too late, Tony’s gone.”

“This can’t be happening. He can’t die,” Shaun whimpers and crumples into a chair. He wipes his eyes and nose with the back of his wrist.

Rage sears through Jason. “Who did you say did this to Tony?”

“That fuck-face, Rick, and his cronies. They were taunting us. Tony and I, we didn’t want anything to do with them, we were walking home from the bar. You know that Doberman Rick has? He let him loose on us. It went for Tony first, but Tony had a knife on him and he drove it into the dog. I swear if he didn’t do that then the dog would have killed him.”

Jason grits his teeth and tenses his jaws.

Shaun continues, “When Rick saw that Tony had killed his dog, he became crazy. Him and his buddies surrounded us. There were just two of us to six of them. At some point I blacked out because my head hit a rock. When I came to, I saw Rick wiping a knife on Tony’s clothes, and then he ran. Tony was just lying there moaning. There was no way he could walk home, so I got us a cab.”

“You didn’t think to ask the cab to take Tony to the hospital?”  Jason glowers as Shaun sinks lower in the chair.

“The hospital will call the cops and then they’ll be sniffing all over the place. Rick and his gang will kill us if we went to the cops.”

“Tony’s dead. Do you think I care what the cops or Rick and his buddies do? Rick’s going to pay for this.”

Terror shines in Shaun’s eyes. “What’re you going to do, Jay?”

Jason formulates a vague plan in his head—he has no desire to discuss it with Shaun. “I don’t know yet. Let’s just say that I’m going to have a chat with Rick. When the paramedics arrive, you deal with them.”

“Let me come with you and help you do whatever you’re going to do. I feel responsible for this.”

“Yeah, you should feel bad, but you’re in no shape to deal with anything tonight.”

“Be careful, Rick is a cunning son-of-a-bitch.”

“Don’t worry about me. You take care of yourself.”

***

Like an alley cat Jason makes his way to Rick’s apartment. His sneakers make no sound on the pavement when he passes a sleeping vagrant. He arrives at his destination faster than he anticipated. He fingers the weapon in his pant pocket as he studies the building—an old five-storey low-rise with balconies stacked one over the other. Intruders weren’t a major concern when it was built many moons ago. A light is glowing in Rick’s second-floor apartment.

Jason’s gaze sweeps all around him. A car slows down at a stop sign about a hundred yards behind him, and then moves on. He grabs a window sill, climbs up and propels his body toward Rick’s balcony. As he hangs at the bottom of the balcony, he hoists himself up and then wraps his legs around the metal railing. Once his feet land on concrete, he unsheathes his dagger. He creeps to the side of the door, peering and listening. Other than Rick who seems to be lying on the couch dozing in front of the TV, Jason doesn’t see anyone else. He tests the screen door. It slides open.

Weapon in one hand hidden behind his back, Jason skulks toward his sleeping prey. He draws a deep breath and then raises his dagger arm. Rick’s eyes open wide. His mouth gapes, “What the fuck…”

Jason throws a punch on Rick’s face and follows it with a knee to the stomach. He pins Rick down with his free hand and a knee and then brandishes the dagger. “Do you know what I’m going to do to you?” Jason growls.

Rick’s pupils dilate and he chokes, “Please don’t hurt me.”

“You should have thought of that when you killed my brother with a knife, and now I’m going to do the same to you,”

“I swear I didn’t mean to kill him.”

“Yeah, that’s what they all say.”

Rick yells, “Help—”

Jason punches him again and covers Rick’s mouth with his hand. “You should have stayed away from Tony like I asked you to, you slimy coward. You pick on others only when you’ve got your posse with you. Where are they now?”

Rick mumbles something incoherent. His face contorts and his eyes dart wildly. Jason raises the dagger positioning it for the perfect kill. He has been visualizing this moment ever since he said goodbye to his brother. Now he will exact his revenge. He hesitates. Despite his tough-guy reputation, he has never killed another human being.

Rick heaves and pushes with what seems like superhuman strength. Jason loses his balance—only for a moment—and then he drives the sharp blade down with full force. He feels the cold hard steel penetrate warm soft tissue. Bile surges up toward his throat. “What am I doing?” he thinks as nausea almost overpowers him. He stops pushing the weapon.

Rick struggles to free his hands as his legs thrash and jerk. Jason releases his grip on his victim and he tries to stand up. A muffled sound reverberates in the room. Jason turns his head around in dazed dread. The stench of smoke and gunpowder wafts up toward him.

Rick starts to laugh hysterically, but the laughter dies as quickly as it started. Jason’s confusion turns to horror and disbelief as his gaze travels down. He sees a smoking gun in Rick’s lifeless hands. From his own stomach, blood drips down to his dagger seeping into Rick’s shirt. Blending the blood of the victim and the victor—victory now a bitter pill stuck in Jason’s throat.

Death does not discriminate.

Why You Should Work on Your Own Terms: A Book Review

Work on Your Own Terms in Midlife & Beyond

A Book Written by Janine L. Moore

I was Wrong:

When I first came across the book, Work on Your Own Terms in Midlife & Beyond, I had already mapped out my exit strategy from the corporate world. In my mind, I didn’t need any more help to retool for my post-corporate life. The trouble was that I bought the book–it was an impulse buy–, and I couldn’t let a purchase go to waste. So I decided to read it.

I opened it on my tablet during my outbound flight to Portugal where a blissful week of sightseeing and socializing with friends awaited. From the first chapter, Janine Moore hooked me with her engaging style. The first quote I read, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin, drew me in. Then as I read more, I felt more and more connected to Ms. Moore. She spoke to me even though I thought I didn’t need to hear anymore. She made a lot of sense, so I listened.

Every night at the hotel that week in Portugal, exhausted from the day’s activities I’d read the book before going to bed. Ms. Moore advises the reader to read the entire book once, and then re-read one chapter each day, doing the exercises shown after each one. The idea is to rewire your brain by the end of thirty days when you finish reading the book. She wants you “to view the world through a different lens so you can create life on your own terms.”

The Book

Work On Your Own Terms in Midlife & Beyond: Change Your Mind, Change Your Life
Each chapter begins with one or more powerful quotes from the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dale Carnegie, the Dalai Lama, and others, and ends with some action steps where Ms. Moore also lists some suggested reading materials. She cleverly groups most of the chapters under six of our main fears: 1) Poverty, 2) Criticism, 3) Poor Health, 4) Loss of Love, 5) Old Age, and 6) Death. She addresses these fears and how to work with them.

Our fears cripple us if we let them. The author uses examples and quotes to help you tame them. For instance, the fear of poverty drives us to work hard and to amass more wealth than we need, thus cuffing us to our jobs longer than necessary. She uses the parable of the businessman and the fisherman to illustrate how one can chase monetary gains blindly in the name of financial freedom that will allow you to spend quality time with family and friends. However, all this while, that dream is already within the businessman’s reach except he doesn’t know it.

Death finds everyone without exception. The author quotes Norman Cousins, “The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside us while we live.” Food for thought. She also believes that the people who ponder their own mortality lead more fulfilling lives. She uses Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. as an example. He said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”

The Message

While I haven’t gone back to re-read the book as recommended by the author–time constraints being my excuse–I plan to do it as soon as I can. I believe in Ms. Moore’s message about working on your own terms. It doesn’t even have to begin at midlife; it can apply to anyone with the right mindset.

Why You Should Celebrate Your Life

FeiHsia2

This is a guest post written by Fei Chen. She writes thought-provoking pieces about life mainly for herself, and now I’m honoured to have her share some of her thoughts here.

Celebration of Life: I recently attended the funeral of our neighbor, 敬元哥 who lived to be 98 years old, or 102 years according to the lunar calendar. Instead of tears, his descendants greeted me with smiles. I was surprised, but pleased when one of his grandchildren explained that since her grandfather had passed on after 90, rather than mourn his death, our Indian Hakka community should celebrate his life.

In our conscious state we don’t spend enough time celebrating our lives. Instead we constantly plan, busily organize our calendars, and work like restless bees to acquire tangible assets. We do this to feed our physical needs, trying our best to achieve our set goals: this is what I call “a sequence of our life journey.” You see, our parents instilled in us these values of hard work and responsibility for ourselves. In turn I tell my children to follow the same mantra: go to university, earn degrees, find a good paying job, and settle down to a stable life just like the vast majority.

But we don’t have to follow the masses. I once watched a prominent actress on TV say, “What if a turtle has wings…” She made me put on my thinking cap, and I realized that humans have multidimensional brains. We think, react, and perform sequentially, but we can also step out of our comfort zone and think virtually and dream in the abstract.

Life is a Process:  I believe every one of us is born with a unique gift to prepare and equip us for our survival, challenges, and expectations.  Often we lose our faith when we battle opposing strong currents; then we are forced to take refuge to reassess our priorities.  Once we recognize and discover that sparkle and joy of life, however long it may take, we say, “OH WOW!!!”

Two Hakka Matriarchs Remembered: I immensely enjoyed reading C Fong Hsiung’s book Picture Bride recently. I appreciated the stories and the characters in the book that carried me back 35 years ago. In the scene where the Fong described Jillian’s grand-mother’s big 70th birthday bash, I couldn’t help but picture the author’s own grand-mother 亜球伯姆 and my grand-mother who were best friends while I was growing up in Tangra, Calcutta. 亜球伯姆 and my grand-mother were two matriarchs, close associates, and just like “two peas in a pod.”  When I was a teenager, I used to accompany these two old ladies during their Tuesday matinees at the cinemas. I’d overhear their conversations, and found their friendship and sisterhood truly remarkable.

Full Circle: As I stood in front of the lifeless body of 敬元哥 to pay my last respect, despite the smiling faces around me, emotionally I felt sad, and physically I felt empty and hollow. But then I wondered, “What if 敬元哥’s soul has crossed over, and my grand-mother and my dad greeted him on the other side?” Is there actually life after death?  What if there is a subconscious state where our souls fly to eternity when they depart from our physical bodies, and so on and on…

Suddenly Alone – A Short “Shorts”

Suddenly Alone

Contributed by Guest Writer: Diane Cormier

Writing Prompt:  I walk past this hole in the wall, every instinct telling me to keep going.

man-415634_640Tommy’s gone.

I hate when people say, “He may be gone but he’s in a better place.” How can being dead be better? We were so happy planning our life and getting our new house ready for the big family we planned to have. The police said I can now go back into our house as they have finished their investigations. I hesitate. My chest tightens—my breath squeezes out in tight spurts.

“Okay, calm down,” I think. “Nothing can hurt you.”

Something tugs my hand. I look down and see Digby, my beautiful German Shepherd, gazing up and pulling me towards the door. The poor dog probably thinks Tommy is waiting on the other side with doggie treats hidden behind his back. They enjoyed playing this game. They never got tired of it.

Tears come to my eyes. Oh, why did I go visit my sister? The trip achieved nothing–we are not any closer for it. Now the only person who I need and want in my life is gone. That fateful call has changed everything. Once again I am alone.

“Digby, settle down. Let me find the key.”

Wait, why is the door unlocked? Maybe the police forgot to lock up when they finished their investigation. I bend down to remove Digby’s leash, and he covers me with doggie kisses. As I wipe my face Digby takes off. I want to run after him but realize that he’s just looking for his best friend.

I stand up and reluctantly move towards the living room. It is too quiet, but nothing is out of place. The sun shines upon the usual spots, yet my heart beats a bit too fast as my eyes adjust to the brightness. Something doesn’t feel quite right. I walk past this hole in the wall, every instinct telling me to keep going. I hesitate—that hole wasn’t there before. Goose bumps travel up and down my arms. I have a really bad feeling about this, but I need to take a closer look.

Suddenly Digby blocks my way. He jumps up and nearly knocks me down. “It’s okay, boy. I just need to take a closer look.”

Why can I not move? Some unseen force holds me back. I shake off the feeling and move closer to the hole. Should I get a flashlight?

All of a sudden I feel someone behind me. I hold my breath and turn slowly. “Tommy! My story is about to get to an important part.”

Tommy grabs my waist and kisses me. “Did you kill me off in your story?”

“Well, you did make me mad this morning, so yes, I killed your character.”

He laughs and says, “I gotta get back to work.”

“Tommy, don’t forget to fix that hole in the wall”

 

Make Minor Adjustments in Your Life to Create a Major Impact

Waterfall

 

Start with a Vacation

Every time I return home from a vacation, I have an urge to make some adjustments—something small to change things up in my life. The down-time away from home allows me to think about what’s happening to me and around me.

A Change in My Routine

In 2010, my mother checked into the hospital for a surgery. What was supposed to be a one-week stay turned into a five-month nightmare. While I had been driving to work for many years, commuting 35 kilometres each way every day, I found myself driving even more. I detoured to the hospital almost daily and also drove there on the weekends. Then when I took my first trip to China around the time my mother finally went home, I spent two weeks almost worry-free. After lots of naval-gazing, I decided that when I returned home, I would stop driving to work. I began to ride the train instead, and I used the commute time to read, write or chat. I’ll bet these rides now provide more therapeutic relief than any psycho-analytic couch.

A Significant Step

During the past few years, I had been toying with the idea of winding down from the corporate world to spend more time doing what I love. After much soul searching and number crunching, and after another vacation late last year, I decided to drop one day from my full-time job in March. I’m now writing another book…make that two. I started writing the sequel to Picture Bride a few months ago, and I’m one quarter of the way into an e-book that I will give away on my website. I might even write a series of Kindle books…maybe I need another vacation to give me the impetus to take that on.

A Word of Advice if I May

Use your vacation time to relax and let your mind take you in any and every direction. When you let yourself go, you just never know where you’ll end up. I highly recommend bringing home one little tweak to your routine to spice things up a bit. You don’t need to shift gears as much as I did in my examples above. I’ve tried to adopt a minor change each time I came home from a holiday. Some lasted and some got lost in the sea of tasks that greeted me as soon as I stepped inside the office. Just add or subtract something that makes you feel good.

And Finally…

The key is to aim for those little adjustments; they might accumulate into a big and rewarding lifestyle shift.

Do You Question Your Mortality?

Do you question your mortality when someone close to you or known to you dies prematurely or falls seriously ill? At such times, the fragile nature of the balance between life and death stares you in the face, and I think it’s natural to feel vulnerable.

Three years ago, a childhood pal and school buddy lost her battle with cancer. My heart went out to the family for their premature loss of a mother, sister and aunt. The dialogues swirling in my head tested me. “How can this happen to someone who was full of life?” Then some introspection, “If this could happen to her, it could happen to me and to my loved ones too.” See how easily someone might spiral down into depression when they dwell on such dark thoughts?

How does one escape from these realities? Another jolt hit close to home almost two years ago. A good friend’s husband suffered his second stroke and is still completely paralyzed today. The ache in my heart cannot compare to the pain she endures daily nor the utter helplessness that her husband must feel every second of every hour in every day during these last two years.

My own mother was snatched back from the Grim Reaper in 2010 when she was in her early seventies. By any doctor’s yardstick, she should have died, but she survived multiple surgeries, infections, and debilitating blood clots that shriveled her toes. All happened within a few months. I draw my inspiration for hope from my mother.

But yet another blow struck. Recently a close friend’s husband suffered a major heart attack. He survived—that is the good news. Now I try to make some sense of this event—a freakish one that hit a perfectly healthy person in his prime—a one-percent chance, according to his cardiologist. Even as I tried to reach out to lend my support to my friend, I grasped at straw to bring some sanity to my own world.

A sense of urgency grips me. I want to live life to its fullest. I want my first novel, now in the publication process, to see the light of day. I want to write more books. I want…I want…I want to cram as much as I can into this bucket filled with my yearnings.

Write…live…love.