by Tiffany Hsieh
She wakes up from her nap in the afternoon and wonders
if anything in the house has changed, if, for example,
the furnace has died. She looks at the things in the house
and is convinced that like some of the things she cleans up
on a weekly basis, for example, sesame seeds from bagels,
beard trimmings, and cat hair, dust should be left alone
to add depth. She hears in her head the Für Elise
garbage truck music she grew up hearing in Taichung,
and for a second or two, she is in a house that is not
surrounded by Ontario snow and it is not still January.
Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 15, Number 2
Copyright © 2020
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors
Tiffany Hsieh was born in Taiwan and moved to Canada
at the age of fourteen with her parents. Her work has been
published or is forthcoming in The Malahat Review, Poet
Lore, Room, Salamander, The Shanghai Literary Review,
Sonora Review, The /temz/ Review, and other publications.
She lives in southern Ontario.
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by Tiffany Hsieh
They say Ah-gong died young, when I was two years old.
They say he was a drunk who gambled his fortune away
and left his debts to his family. Our family. They say he was
ill-tempered and that his own children feared him. They say
Ba, the only son, feared him the most. They say for sure he
had held me in his arms, but the only photos I’ve seen of him
are black and white with just him. They say he had a heart
attack. They say he smoked cigars, too, and that’s why.
They say it’s just as well that I don’t remember a thing
about him. They say remember this: Ah-gong was a doctor
and he was handsome. They say back then that was something.
by Tiffany Hsieh
He came as a visa student two years before his ba ma did.
So that two years later, when his ba ma joined him, he thought
they looked fresh off the boat and they thought he looked
like a foreign kid. He was both excited and embarrassed
to be seen in public with his ba ma but took them to a large
supermarket chain anyway. He explained Cheerios to them
and showed them how milk bags worked with a milk bag
pitcher he then put in the shopping cart along with things like
ketchup, frozen fruit punch, and McCain fries. In the bulk
section, he scooped up a bag of jelly beans and ate one
to demonstrate how the bulk section worked. He ate a few
more jelly beans as he took his ba ma from aisle to aisle,
picking up things like Windex, paper towels, and Ziploc bags.
He was explaining a tuna sandwich to them in the canned
food section when a security guard approached him
and accused him of eating the jelly beans without first
paying for them by weight. He was offended and felt that
this would not have happened had the security guard
not been an immigrant or had his ba ma not looked so fresh
off the boat. His ba ma, on the other hand, felt very lose face
and that this would not have happened had their son not
looked or acted like a foreign kid. And because he was
sixteen, the security guard banned him, not his ba ma,
from entering the supermarket chain for two years. So that
two years later, when a Chinese supermarket opened in town
and his ba ma took him there, he thought they looked foreign
among other Chinese shoppers and they thought he looked
like a Chinese kid in a candy store, homesick for things
like shrimp snacks, instant noodles, and plum lollipops.
TWO YEARS LATER