July Lit: Two Shorts by Jennifer J. Chow

July 9, 2015

Illustration by Jerry Ma

We bring you two pieces of flash fiction by Jennifer J. Chow for July lit. The pieces, which examine immigrant and family life, are short but quietly affecting.

-- Karissa Chen, Fiction & Poetry Editor


I entered the room as it started shaking. The rollaway bed slid across the heaving floor. A naked light bulb swung on its chain in a trapeze arc.

The motel owner braced himself in the doorway, chewing something. The trembling stopped, and he spat out his tobacco. “Welcome to your new country.” The wad landed on the threadbare, puce carpet. I kissed the ground near its chewed-up carcass.

“Thank you,” I said. Back home, dirt covered the floor. Beds were shared with other people and the occasional pig. Only the sun determined the lighting.


Hey, Beautiful

My favorite part of the evening arrived after consuming the elaborate Chinese New Year feast. Roast duck, shark fin soup, thousand-year-old egg. Per tradition, every family member was handed a thin gold strip of paper and a permanent marker. We stood around my parents’ rickety porch under the twinkling Christmas lights and reflected on the past year, scribbling down our future hopes. After we finished writing, we marched to the back of the yard, unbolted a door hidden by trumpet vine flowers, and snuck into the adjacent country club, heading toward the man-made lake.

My dad, the last to arrive, lugged a huge box filled with paper lanterns and a kerosene can. We dipped our papers into the fuel. My mother handed out the matches. We lit the golden strips and placed them in the containers on the count of three. The dazzling procession of sky lanterns floated upward, casting a brilliant glow on the water below.

We didn’t tell each other our wishes or even admit them to ourselves. My pen wrote down, “I hope to be beautiful,” and the sentence surprised me. I hadn’t thought about my looks since the sixth grade, when I hid my flat feet beneath long flowing skirts and begged for contacts and a set of Invisalign braces.   

I watched my lantern float away on the soft breeze, my words turning into ashes.

“Come on, beautiful,” I heard my dad whisper. I turned towards him, smiling in the darkness at his uncanny ability to read my mind. Then I saw him put his arm around my mother, who stood beside me. “Let’s go back.”



Jerry Ma is Art Director and one of the founders of Secret Identities and Shattered the graphic novels.  Jerry has also had his work shown at the MOCA, JANM and Smithsonian museums as well as worked on projects like Linsanity the Movie, Dan the Automator from The Gorillaz, and Lincoln Center. Jerry is now working on a creator owned comic graphic novel, Legend.You can check out his website here. 


Jennifer J. Chow

Jennifer J. Chow writes Asian-American fiction with a geriatric twist. Her Taiwanese-American debut novel, The 228 Legacy, won Honorable Mention in the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival and was a Finalist for the 2013 IndieFab/Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Award. She also writes the Winston Wong mysteries. The first in the series, Seniors Sleuth, won Runner-Up in the 2015 Beach Book Festival. On her website, www.jenniferjchow.com, she blogs about fortune cookie sayings and cultural food.