spork press . oeuvring
archive of printed pieces
archive of online stuff after 5.7.11
online stuff before 5.7.11 (poetry) (fiction)
nothing to see here
audio / podcast
submit to spork
FB   ///   TWIT

Strawberries by May-Lan Tan

The maid pushes a hot coin into my fist. She puts my clothes in her purse and carries my shoes up the stairs to the bleachers. I stand in the queue. It’s sticky-hot today, and the wind carries the smell of frying stinky-tofu from the hawker trolley outside the park entrance. My swimsuit has penguins on it, the elastic baggy from too much sun. The man waves me over and I step up to the window. He’s got a chin dimple with hair growing inside it that he will never be able to shave. I slide my coin under the glass and shove the turnstile.
     The changing room smells like red medicine. My feet go plick-plick against the tile. I run past the women with their poached egg boobs, and the swimming rules up high like the Ten Commandments. My teacher is waiting for me on the other side of the footbath and shower. He has yellow trunks and shiny shoulders. He’s David Sturdy, fresh from England, my mother tells her friends on the phone, as if he is strawberries.
     I want to climb down the ladder but he makes me jump in. He’s supposed to be really good at swimming, but it seems like he doesn’t even know how. All he ever does is walk up and down along the side. I paddle and kick with my face in the water, gulping down mouthfuls of chlorine and sinking lower and lower. I hate swimming. As I grab onto the side, choking and burning, I remember a dream I had where I knew how to fly right above the surface of the water, moving my arms and legs, and David Sturdy, watching from above, thought I was a perfect swimmer.

May-Lan Tan is the author of Things to Make and Break (CB Editions) and Girly (Future Tense Books, May, 2014)Her work has appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story, Areté, and The Reader. She lives in London.