Hey everyone, I really appreciate that you follow my blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed its content so far! Recently, I diverged into writing speculative fiction, so I’ve set up another blog where I’ll publish scifi/fantasy related posts. The first post is up and ready for your reading pleasure! Check it out, be sure to follow my new scifi/fantasy blog, and let’s keep having fun! =D
A year later, this all still holds true… Miss ya, Grandma.
My grandmother, Flor Chinchilla, died yesterday. She immigrated from Costa Rica decades ago with my dad who was then about 5 years old. She was a small woman who barely learned English and could never operate a laptop or cellphone, barely a DVD player. She lived in a small house in Los Angeles that is floor-to-ceiling full of old dolls and pictures of my dad and my sister and me, tending lemon trees and caring for five little dogs. The stories that woman had to tell… The history she lived through… An African proverb says that when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground. It is the same with an old woman from Costa Rica, and the stories told and not told have left this world with her. I didn’t know her as well as I wanted, didn’t spend as much time with her as I should…
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I end my writing sessions with word sprints – ten minutes of no-hesitation writing based on a random prompt. Recently, the prompt was, “A dentist is stabbed while he waits in line at the movies.” Without any particular forethought, here’s what came out – a short short story (only slightly edited) – a fictional musing, if you will, on the recent hunting of Cecil the Lion by Dr. Walter Palmer. What’s your reaction to this musing? Let me know in the comments.
About 800 words. © 2015 Christopher Chinchilla. All rights reserved.
He shouldn’t have gone out tonight. He knew that now as he stood in line for the movie. Someone would recognize him. Someone traveling along the line, going to meet friends, get some popcorn, see a different movie, or head home after their movie got out. He resisted the gnawing temptation to look up and down the line. The less his face moved the better. Otherwise, he’d attract attention, someone wondering why this guy was looking around so much, someone studying his face for clues, and then realizing his face was the clue.
He shook his head.
It was a lion. A damn lion, 13 years old. Probably had a year left in it anyway, and that only if it received constant attention from specialized veterinarians bottle-feeding it whatever vitamin soup decrepit old lions would need to sustain frail bones and weakening organs. Who the hell cares that he snuck the lion out of its zoo enclosure in the middle of Africa so he could hunt it for sport?
Apparently, everybody cared.
He’d been hiding for three months now. Because of the threats. Social media wasn’t blowing up the way it had at first, though. He hadn’t seen his name on the news sites for a while. But here and there, something would catch his ear. Some random comment on the news about him going into hiding. Some snatch of a curse on the radio from a caller, or some radio talk show host referring back to it—“This-or-that politician thinks he can—” whatever, something like “—target the poor. Who does he think he is? A lion-hunting dentist?” Some comment like that.
He knew he shouldn’t have come out tonight. But he hadn’t been out in months. Theaters were crowded, especially on nights new movies released, but if he wore the right clothes—an old jacket that his wife said made him look bulky, a pair of clunky prescription glasses he’d worn once and then replaced with a sleeker pair, stuff like that—and kept his face down, nobody’d recognize him.
The buttery smell of popcorn waltzed along the line. A group of pre-teenage kids yapped about god-knows-what and did some funky new dance for laughs. He thumbed the glossy ticket in his pocket and wished the ticket guy would just let his line into the theater, so he could sit, quietly, in the dark.
What was that?
A flash, something, something meant for him. Someone had seen him.
He looked up and down the line. Several people walked along the sidewalk, nobody glancing at him. Flashes from keychains and cellphones flickered among the moving people. Maybe nothing. Maybe nothing. Just being paranoid…
He felt the blade sink sleekly into the side of his stomach in a sort of fascinated way. Before he registered it as the attack that it was, he thought first that it must be a very thin blade, sharpened on both sides, and it didn’t feel too bad…he was sort of numb to it. Maybe it was because it had slid into fat—he’d put on a few pounds since he went into hiding. This isn’t so bad, that’s all he thought at first.
And then bright blue eyes met his, eyes that insisted on their own youth and their own righteousness, or maybe it was the high voice of the young man the blue eyes belonged to that insisted on righteousness, who said to him through clenched teeth that he should die the way the lion had, unarmed and unawares.
Justice is a funny thing. The knife twisted a little inside the wound. He thought justice was a human concept, something that belonged to humans, something that applied to humans, and only to them. What conscious understanding of justice did this or that animal species have, except for humans? And not armed? The lion had hunting instincts; it had teeth and claws; it had a powerfully muscular body meant for chasing down and ripping apart other living beings, including small, weak, frail humans. Sure, he’d used a riflescope. In fact, he’d felt a great deal of certainty that no harm would come to him. He shot the lion and hollered in his success.
The young man hollered in his success, and a small crowd gathered around his victim as the victim slid against the wall to the ground, blood pouring out of him, his thumb still absently rubbing the glossy ticket in his pocket.
He looked up at the animal with the bright blue eyes whooping above him. What chance had this animal given his victim? Unarmed. Unawares. And he stabbed stealthily, knowing no harm would come to him.
Will he mount my head on a wall? I don’t know. He’s gone, ran away. Has someone called an ambulance? Oh, are they letting us into the theater now? Someone tell the attendant my ticket’s in my pocket…
Note: To be perfectly clear, I do not advocate violence against humans who hunt for sport.
So, what’s your reaction to this musing? Let me know in a comment. And please share this story with others. Thanks for reading!
I’m four classes away from my bachelor’s degree in creative writing, and one of my last classes is a 400-level Interdisciplinary Studies course called “Diversity.” For the last four weeks, I’ve dealt with textbook essays, and fellow students, that assert the ubiquitous existence of racism, sexism, and so forth in America, especially as displayed, as if it were innate to their nature, by—you guessed it—white heterosexual males. Racism and sexism exist, of course, but they are not ubiquitous traits, and they are certainly not innate. Yet, despite textbook and student claims agreeing with that, the subtext is clear: “privileged” white heterosexual males and females are racist, sexist, and uncompassionate “oppressors” to everyone else. I have done, and will continue to do, my best to reasonably argue against these broad strokes and call out the textbook authors and some of my fellow students as the racists they are, who support white guilt and all that other nonsense. (I can do this because I’m Costa Rican. Right? Oh, wait, never mind…I guess it actually makes me a “white-washed traitor.” #whatevs.) Recently, though, I felt cornered. The guidelines for our third short paper were as follows:
Trace some of the major contributions of an ethnic or “minority” group to U.S. culture, for example, to music, the arts, dance, or theater. There are many other possibilities! Develop your composition based on an area of interest to you in the arts.
I decided to rebel, a little. I considered kowtowing and completing the assignment as required, but I couldn’t. My mind doesn’t work under compulsion. But I want a decent grade. So I did what I could to be true to my convictions yet fulfill—in some way—the requirements of the assignment. Below is the introduction and conclusion only to my essay (the middle stuff isn’t too relevant to this discussion, but you can read the essay in its entirety here if you want). What do you think? Will I get an A, B, or C on this paper? What grade would you give me if you were the professor? Here we go!
[Intro.] It is inappropriate to require students to focus on artistic achievements based primarily on racial or ethnic considerations. Were I inclined to meet the requirement, further, I would find it difficult. My area of interest is literature, and as I scan my bookshelf, I see that most of the authors whose works I have read and enjoyed are American white males. However, because they are American white males and do not constitute a minority, I cannot mention their excellent contributions to literature. Since my bookshelf contains few writers of other ethnic or racial origins, and since the assignment guidelines encourage me to focus on an area of art that is of interest to me, I will discuss the contributions of the non-white writers and works with which I am familiar; however, I am not familiar with a large enough corpus of any particular race’s or ethnicity’s writers to trace contributions of one group (nor is it necessary for me, or anyone, to be in order to “appreciate diversity”). Therefore, I will briefly discuss a single contribution from three groups with which I am familiar: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony; and Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed.
[I go one to discuss each author’s work and analyze it as a positive contribution to US culture, though I spanked Silko’s work a little because it promotes, rather than condemns, cultural divisiveness…but that’s another topic.]
[Conclusion.] Artistic “contributions” should not be judged based on their creators’ races or ethnicities, nor should colleges require students to “trace some of the major contributions of an ethnic or ‘minority’ group to U.S. culture.” Such assignments necessarily instill two subtle assertions: race and ethnicity are important distinctions (which reinforces racism); and majorities should not receive attention (which reinforces antagonism). However, we should recognize the skill and grace of authors who consider questions of race and ethnicity in ways that encourage us to break down these barriers, rather than reinforce them in pseudo-intellectual exercises.
That’s it. I considered adding *drops mic* after the last line, but figured that might not be academically appropriate. So, honestly, what do you think of my response to the essay guidelines? Should we focus on art because of the race of the person who created it, or because of the artist’s skill? What grade would you give me? Thanks for reading!
Update, 8/14/15: The professor, Dr. Underwood, gave the paper 100% credit, saying, “A superb essay that takes Diversity paper assignments to task. Excellent critical acumen and fascinating examples. A joy to read!” I smiled, took a deep breath, and thought, Good. Maybe there is hope for college curricula. =)
About 750 words.
© 2015 Christopher Chinchilla. All rights reserved.
“Newspapers” first published in the East Jasmine Review, September 2014
On a street corner in Hawaii, a little Costa Rican boy sold newspapers for ten cents. Seven in the morning, his arms heavy with headlines he couldn’t read, he watched the bustle as people shuffled along the sidewalks and across the streets and nobody looked down. Some bought papers, but most did not.
A man in a gray three-piece suit with a cocked hat, a short haircut, and a tipped smile walked up to the boy. “Good morning, son!” the man said. The boy stared at the man blankly, then lifted his arms so that the top of the stack of flat clean newspapers looked into the man’s freshly shaven face.
“Ha!” said the man, leaning forward and scrutinizing the headlines, “Weather’s balmy and the governor’s back!” He stood upright and dug in his suit pants pocket. The boy heard coins jingle. The man brought up a clean dime. “I’ll take a paper!”
The boy held up the stack even higher, stiffening his elbows, leaning back at his small waist and dipping his chin to his bare, puffed out chest, gazing up from under his sweating brow at the man with the dime.
The man tossed the dime in the bucket at the boy’s feet. It hit the bottom and another coin with a clink. The man grabbed the topmost paper from the stack the boy held, stuck it under his arm, and strolled away down the sidewalk, whistling.
The boy turned and watched the man go. After a moment, the boy faced front again, chin down, the wind licking his sweating brow, with a lighter load of newspapers on his arms—and no one bought the papers.
The boy turned.
It was the man with the hat, back again, the sun shining over his shoulder and the newspaper still tucked under his arm. “Have you sold a lot of newspapers today?”
The boy stared, then shook his head. His eyes drifted down to the all but empty coin bucket next to his feet, and then to the string-tied bundle of newspapers on the other side.
“You get your share based on how many newspapers you sell?” the man asked. The boy nodded. The papers rustled. People walked by.
“Ever sold them all?”
The boy shook his head.
The man pulled from his pocket a shining silver coin and held it between two fingers. “I’ll take another newspaper!” he said brightly. “And I’ll give you this quarter for it.”
The boy looked up at the coin gleaming in the sunlight.
“But this time,” the man said, “you’ve got to raise a paper above your head—” the man raised his own newspaper high over his head “—and you’ve got to shout,” and he heaved in a great breath and proclaimed into the bustling crowd around him:
“‘EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL A-BOOUT IT!’”
The boy jerked back, his eyes wide. The man looked down at the boy, smiling. “You do that once and you’ve got a quarter for that paper.”
The boy with the newspapers looked at the man and the quarter. People shuffled behind the man. The sun caught the quarter.
The boy sucked a great puff of air into his chest and shouted,
It ended in a squeak. He opened his eyes without knowing he’d shut them. The man still stood there, newspaper under his arm, with his hat and his quarter. His thin smile sat gently on his lips.
The boy breathed in again but it caught sharply in his chest. His brown eyes glistened and his face flushed red. He breathed out, lips trembling, arms shaking, his shoulders slumping with the weight of the newspapers—and finally looked at the man. Heads were bouncing behind him. The hand with the quarter in its fingertips disappeared into the pocket. The man’s smile remained.
The man breathed in heartily, lifting his face to the blue sky. Then he looked back at the boy and said, “Gotta go! Weather’s balmy!” He smiled. “And the governor’s back! People’ll want to hear about this!”
The boy watched the man strolling away down the sidewalk again and heard him whistling. Then the boy turned back to the bustle of people on his corner, his cheeks warm and wet. Beads of sweat dotted his brow—the papers were getting heavy again. He looked at the shuffling heads and the balmy sky . . .
“Extra,” said the boy.
Thanks for reading. What’d you think? Leave a comment below!
About 600 words.
© 2015 Christopher Chinchilla. All rights reserved.
“If you can guess what’s in my pocket, O King,” the girl said, “you can have it.” She grinned. “Well, King, do you dare?”
The King knelt swiftly to meet her eyes. “I can have your head in a swipe if it pleases me,” he said. At his side the Queen kept deathly silent, his threat speaking for both of their majesties. The earthy scent of the girl’s blonde and disheveled hair—the scent of combat—infused truth into her next words.
“You know the battlefield I’ve traversed; you know on what river of risk and strategy I’ve sailed to reach you. And you know,” she whispered, pushing her face into his space, tickling his nose with the vanilla scent of her breath, “what befalls you if I’m taken.”
He slipped his gaze behind the little imp to survey the dark war beyond… Beneath the thundering sky men and horses lie slain; a fortress stood seized on the outskirts; the enemy advanced on all sides across the patchy land. Distant warriors watched for the fate of their girl before the rival King. He could see no escape.
The King looked at the imp. She smiled. “I am a wolf and clothed as a sheep, King,” she warned. “I advance on you with and without—with strategy and without mercy. And I’ll have this war, alive or dead.” She laughed. “What is in my pocket, King?”
He breathed heavily and filled her face with a harrumph. Her face held its glare, devious and daring. He rose to his full height, his eyes yet on hers, but his mind wandered… The war did not go well. He knew it as inescapably as he knew every corner of his throne. And here stood this imp of an enemy before him, enjoying his fall, mocking his threat, caring naught but for the riddle in her pocket.
“What worry should I give to what’s in your pocket?” he demanded.
“What’s in my pocket is what I’m going to do next. What I’m going to do next will be your doom. If you can guess it, I will choose another path and spare you a bit longer…maybe in time for you to save yourself and your ailing army.” The girl’s eyes gleamed. The Queen clenched the King’s arm. The night grew late.
The King gritted his teeth and his cheeks burned. “Am I to have a hint?” he bellowed.
“Look at the whole field,” she said, winking.
His eyes returned to the battle. Another fortress fell. The front lines were now broken. His most agile knight lie dead. His clergy had been captured. What hope in Heaven remained?
Her gentle voice drifted up to him on the dismal air. “I shall unleash it soon, King.”
Trembling, shaking, he looked at her pocket.
“King?” she sang sweetly to his shivering eyes. “King, can you guess?”
He sputtered his guess madly. “You will—!” he trembled, “You will—!” he cried, “You will—kill my Queen!”
“YES!” In a flash the imp somersaulted to his right, brandishing a sleek silver dagger from her pocket, and sliced his dark Queen down dead.
“You said you would not!” he cried.
“IT IS WAR!” she shouted, laughed wildly, then said softly, “Pawn takes Queen. I am Queen now. Check and mate, Daddy.” She kissed her father’s nose, jumped from the board and the battle on her mother’s kitchen table, and skirted off to bed, giggling gloriously.
Thanks for reading. What’d you think? Leave a comment below!