Sunday, December 23, 2012

Round Eye

This is my entry into the short story contest. We had a day to write a story nine hundred words or fewer that's based on the first paragraph. (So, they wrote the first paragraph, I wrote the rest.)

Round Eye

Growing up on a fishing boat docked in this small northwest coastal town brought stares from townspeople and jeers from classmates. She desperately wanted to escape but, with competitors driving down charter prices, she knew her dad would never be able to afford a replacement. As she sliced open the belly of yet another Salmon, her eyes widened and she dropped her knife...

She unrolled her sleeves and pressed them hard against her eyes to staunch the blood pouring from her eyelids. The cuffed ends of her white sleeves melted to red like snow under the urine stream of a kidney-trauma victim.

It had seemed as if she were out of her body, watching someone else doing the eyelid-cutting. That hadn’t happened to her since childhood, when she’d dream she was a hair stylist and wake up with a beautiful new coiffure, or a cattle rustler and wake up saddle sore with a handful of feral cows milling about in her walk-in closet.

She hopped into the life raft and rowed herself to the emergency dock of the closest hospital, some thousand meters downshore, where, half-conscious, she was taken in.

Voices floated about her.

“…a bloody travesty.”

“…love to find the back-alley quack who left her in this state.”

“…an indictment of our Orientalphobic culture in general”

“…admittedly, a textbook example of surgical excellence.”

It slowly became clear to Mina Kim, through the painful, bloody haze, that the doctors and nurses, though intolerant of the surgery itself, were in awe of its technical precision – the procedure had been performed to perfection.

As she lay convalescing, her sight as obscured as a cheap seat at a discussion on the history of Belorussian haiku, her mind wormed its way around, over, and through the question of “Why?” Why was it this Salmon who had pushed her over the edge? She hadn’t even gotten to Salome, that harlot who beheaded John the Baptist. And still to be done were the Samuels – there lay real terror – Beckett and Johnson and Davis, Jr. and Malone. She’d progressed through the Salmans without incident, even Rushdie, whom, years earlier, in a flight of Islamic fancy, she’d sworn to First Supreme Leader of Iran Ruhollah Khomeini to kill if she ever saw in person. But, no, it had been Salmon, desert-vagabond-turned-Palestinian-invader-cum-Israel-founding-father-cum-ancestor of Jesus, who seems to have refused to comply with God’s strong request that all conquering Israelis inbreed for at least 30 years by marrying the Palestinian Rahab the harlot, who catalyzed the self-cutting.

Sure, she was sick of quality-checking the anatomical authenticity of collectible figurines – who wouldn’t be? – but a lot of people were sick of their jobs, and surely it was in only a minority that this manifested itself through autoblepharoplasty.

She also hoped, with the hope of a small-town beauty who wanted more than to marry the high school football hero, that this would set her apart. In sharp (or, perhaps, smooth and curved) opposition to her peers, she now possessed the indulgent, luxurious almond-eyed beauty of the foreigner.

Ming-Ji Gal over in Mats Mats may be able to catch a baton in her teeth, thought Mina, but she has nothing that can compete with these ovoid orbs precariously placed on delicate cheekbones that balanced on her inverted sewing needle of a nose.

Yuki Fukimura up in Mukilteo might have the adorable, circular face of a child-drawn cartoon character, like pie you want to kiss, but her eyes were ever two knife-slits in the crust, sleek and intelligent and beautiful, but just so same-same.

Mina had long thought her only way out was by winning the Miss Raindrop Qualifiers. Surely the regional competition that lay after that would be filled with talent scouts. Her piccolo skills were the best they’d ever been, what with her solo in the senior recital nigh. She’d always been a charmer when it came to public speaking – people couldn’t resist the hint of a bawdy edge to her humor, especially when seasoned by the conspiratorial curve of her upper lip.

When her lids had fully healed, just a week before the MRQ, her friends, even her family, all agreed that she looked, at worst, different, and, at best, much more eye-popping than she had.

The night of the event, her fingers flew over the holes of the piccolo like indecisive bumblebees on amphetamines careening recklessly from one flower to another in a serendipitously stumbled-upon conservatory garden. The recuperation from the surgery had taken away her appetite, so her buttocks were dangerously slender. And her question was, “Can you be sexy and moral?”

She looked the judge in the eyes and asked, “What are you hoping I’ll say?”

She heard murmurs of approval and laughter from the audience. As she opened her eyes wide to expand upon her response, the stage lights assaulted her newly defenseless retinas like the Japanese Pearl Harbor. By the time her eyelids had covered the newly yawning chasm, her equilibrium had been irretrievably lost. She felt something hard hit, in quick succession, her elbow, shoulder, and head.

Right before she lost consciousness, she spied through barely parted lids the face of Yuku Fukimura, smiling like a Pillsbury Dough Girl. But the trauma was too much – as her new lids closed, she felt her chance for glory in at the Tri-state Regionals in Portland slipping away like the last bit of stage light.

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