Fiction by Tai Dong Huai

      Every April 1st, my middle school has “Backwards Day.”  Our eighth period
classes become our first period classes.  The cafeteria starts you off with dessert,
and you finish with Yankee pot roast.  Some of the teachers actually wear their
clothes backwards, and Mr. Rosales, our principal, gives his annual address in
the auditorium starting with the last sentence first.  More amazing are the digital
clocks which are everywhere throughout the building.  According to them we
arrive at 3:30
P.M. and get out at 9:10 A.M., six hours and twenty minutes
younger than when we arrived.  Needless to say, the next day everything is back
to normal.  
      But what if it wasn’t.  What if the clocks continued to tick off the future.  
Suppose at the end of the school year we’d actually forgotten what we’d
previously learned.  This might go on for years.  Teachers would return to college
and we’d return to childhood.  Our parents would grow less wealthy and more
insecure.  Eventually, we’d lose the power to speak, the ability to walk.  I’d
return to the womb of a Chinese mother who would first abandon me, then
ponder her situation, then agree to lie down with the man who is my father.
      And before that, perhaps, she would be working in a factory making
American sneakers.  Then in school, studying mathematics and living with her
family.  She would be young and beautiful and see her life stretched out in front
of her like a lake on which possibilities float like lit paper lanterns on a warm
summer night.          


Tai Dong Huai was born in Taizhou, China.  “Backwards” is from her collection
in progress,
I Come From Where I’ve Never Been.  Other selections have
appeared, or are scheduled, in
Smokelong Quarterly, elimae, Pindeldyboz,
Thieves Jargon, Wigleaf, Word Riot, The Rose & Thorn, and other terrific

On “Backwards”:   
Last fall I was watching a friend’s eleven-year old at their home.  Gillian
had just gotten a game she could play on her Nintendo Wii, the object of
which was to guide a puppet-like character through a cartoonish village.  
The game was played in “real” time; if it was 6:00
P.M. in reality, the sun
would be setting in this virtual world as well.  More interesting was the fact
that with a few clicks, the time on-screen could be manipulated.  We
punched in February 14 and celebrated Valentine’s Day, then entered April
12 and participated in an Easter egg hunt.  When Gillian asked me if I was
interested in going backwards and seeing last July 4th’s fireworks, I had
my story.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of
Contemporary Literature

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 4, Number 1
(Spring 2009)

Copyright © 2009
by Leah Browning, Editor.

All future rights to
material published
in the
Apple Valley
are retained by
the individual authors
and artists.