ISSUE 5 · FALL 2010








        ABOUT US

Copyright © 2010

Kristine Ong Muslim


How Conrad Came Back

Two knocks on the door. My father let him in.

Conrad wanted to talk about his trip,

but his tongue kept on sliding out of his mouth.

I told him to push it back. Hard. He did.

And the tongue was hinged back in.

He said there was too much to eat out there.

Thanks to Mrs. Kelly’s surgical skills, he looked too human

and how the girls swooned and sometimes followed him home.

My mother insisted he get some rest.

His skin flaps were starting to slough off.

I quickly wiped away the blood, and I discovered that his flesh

was like sugared sun. I remembered what Grampa said: We were

all yellow inside. That wrong shade of yellow—the color of the gods.

I smiled at the memory. “We’ll fix that later,” I said to Conrad.

He nodded. His chest gaped open at the motion of his head.

I saw something ticking inside. It was not his heart.

How Conrad Got His Revenge

Before he went out the door on his way to school,

I asked one more time: “Do you have the camera?”

My little brother nodded, grinned. I patted his tuft of hair

slowly so as not to disturb the glued flaps of skin underneath.

Yesterday, he arrived home with his right hand dangling from

its socket. I found him crying on top of the stairs.

He did not imagine that it could be that painful

when his makeshift human part was injured.

His classmates had bullied him. I knew. He insisted that

it was an accident. Pain had its prerogative; it gathered strength

in waves—one after the other—until he could not take it anymore

and finally confessed. I sewed the arm back into place.

Then I gave him the family’s camera, ordered him

to take a snapshot of whoever did this to him. “Just one shot

will do,” I reassured him. And that was enough to comfort him.

Tonight, I would develop the picture,

scissor the damned bully nice and slow.

How Conrad Fell in Love

Over family dinner, we tried to talk him out of it.

“Stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” my father said.

Conrad was about to say something.

I squeezed his hand to make him stop. It crackled.

“Don’t worry,” I whispered over a mouthful

of grass, earth, and dark river water. A family recipe.

“I’ll weld the broken bones later. Just don’t make

father angry.” The feral cat-dog was whimpering

under the table. Mother shooed it away.

“Conrad, honey,” mother cooed. “Love is only for humans.

You are somewhere up there in the food chain.

And that girl’s hair has clogged our drain pipe.”

Conrad bowed his head, and I knew that he would think about her

tonight, how she had clawed at him when he lifted off his face

and how she had called him a “monster, monster, ugly beast.”

I would drag that girl into the kitchen tonight, keep her alive

for a while, make her understand what monster love was all about.