Fiction / December 2017 (Issue 38: Writing Hong Kong)

The Guilt in Coiled Comfort

by Joe N. Brown

When the earth gave way and buried our garden, it left a nest of snakes entwined in our football net. Their lips pink and wide and eyes filled of fading amber—my brother and I imagined they wrestled themselves to death. If we had not nailed down that rusty frame, it would have made a raft and not a grave. We stood there for some time waiting for the dark scales to shimmer—one last writhe and struggle—until our mother's shadow appeared between us. She said the landslip was Hong Kong shedding her skin. Like a lychee. To get to that sweet centre. I suppose in her maudlin moment she had, perhaps, willingly forgotten at the centre of a lychee is a cold dense seed that we do not throw to the soil but pile upon polystyrene dishes to incinerate. Out of courtesy and respect my brother and I kept quiet until she left. We spent the rest of the day playing snakes in the grass the landslip did not kill.


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