By Elina Kumra.

“During the drive, Dad’s silence is a perfect void. He never wanted company—not a tune for the drive, not ketchup for fries, nor water with meals. ” 

The linkage by Samira Khadivizand.

I grappled with Dad once, straining to plant a kiss on his cheek.

On our living room carpet, my chubby hands clawed at his torso. Lips puckered, I lunged, my face flushing—a head throbbing, a body solidifying with effort. My shirt, drenched from the struggle, came off.

It was my sole memory of full exertion—barefoot against the wood, we shoved, twisted, heaved. At times, atop him, our bellies pressed like conjoined twins, spent and gasping, his kiss still elusive.

I recalled Sun Wu Kong, the Monkey King, trapped under a mountain for centuries, learning patience. This was my mountain, I thought, my forehead futile against his palm. A mi tuo fo.

The bouts continued. Mom watched occasionally, breathless with laughter. “This again?!” She’d settle in with a persimmon from our tree. “Baba! Let him kiss you!”

Now, Dad drives me to the jarring pink house among drab conformity. Forced daffodils and narcissuses line the walk, out of place against the droning urban monotony. No symmetry here, just the relentless din of machinery and the pink house’s jarring entryway.

During the drive, Dad’s silence is a perfect void. He never wanted company—not a tune for the drive, not ketchup for fries, nor water with meals. Once, I asked about his dry eating habits, the spices clinging to his throat. Watching him, I’d get thirsty enough for us both.

He maneuvers the car in a trance, the tedium pierced only by the turn signal’s rhythm. We pass through a palette of grays, beneath silver skies, and by a tawny river slicing sharply through town, a constant reminder of its toxic touch. Its banks are littered with debris, yet some worship its waters—like the rowers tearing into it, hands raw and bleeding, but made men by its challenge. Dad, too, admires the river and its laborers, pointing out a boat—Princeton’s—his sole comment until we reach the usual Stop & Shop parking lot.

Exiting the car, he reclines and sleeps instantly, gripping his glasses over his chest like a child’s teddy. This is when I see his face most clearly, unguarded and serene.

The pink house inside is stark white—a blinding, sterile space. I sink into a cushioned couch for the usual session: I ramble, the therapist offers non-questions, merely sounds of encouragement, until the noise machines’ hum is all I hear.

Exiting, I encounter my father in the white bathroom. Face to face, we stand in a cramped silence. He’s my age now, vibrant, in love, expecting a son who’ll mirror him. He’s lean, shaggy-haired, the very image of 1989’s charm.

It’s June Fourth, early morning. He’s abandoning his banner, weaving through chaos as Tiananmen Square convulses under assault. Amidst indiscriminate gunfire, he moves, caught in the pandemonium. Stay, you fool. In America, you’ll yearn for this moment. In the bathroom, I watch him witness the smoke, the debris, then settle on a bench in solitude, emptiness gnawing at him like a gunshot. There, he envisions the pink house, entering without scorn.

Back in the sunlight, Dad still sleeps in the car. I tap the window. “Baba? Baba? The door?”

He awakes, corrects his seat, and unlocks it for me.

“Was it okay?” he asks, an unexpected inquiry.

He points to the pink house, his gaze fixed on his glasses. Once, in our scuffle, his glasses had flown off. He had retreated then, to ponder their state.

“Yeah,” I assure him, and his mood lifts visibly. He starts the car.

I observe him as we drive, wanting to broach so many subjects—the night’s flares, the dazibao, our past, but he begins to speak. On Buffett, on markets, on the ease of Princeton over Tsinghua. On the river.

As he speaks, I glance at his cheek—the one I longed to kiss, now rough and weathered.

When he speaks, there’s an alien spark in his eyes. So, I relent, letting the words fill the space between us.

The Blood Pudding – June 26, 2024

Elina Kumra is a high school student from San Jose, California. Summit Tahoma High School. As a young writer, she enjoys poetry, creative and innovative fiction. Her poems and fiction have been published on Up North Lit , Writers Digest, StreetLit, Coffin Bell, Polyphony Lit and an Honorable Mention with the Peauxdunque Review.

Artwork: Samira Khadivizand is an Iranian Australian visual artist, based in Melbourne. Her focus is on portraying cultural, social and emotional roots where she blends her own feelings and personal experiences to relay the message to the viewer. You can find her work here.