by Susan Young
In my mind I call my
father the Pollyfilla1 king,
watch with something akin to awe
as he begins the arduous process
of filling in the gaps, the long winded
cracks that travel down the walls of my house
like run on sentences.
From the sidelines I watch as he
trudges up and down the stairs, carrying
with nonchalance an industrial-sized bucket,
shiny spatula tucked into back pocket
for easy access.
Over and over again
with precision and grace
he fills and smooths and sands
as filling in all of the empty crevices
with the words he didn’t know how to say,
the lost syllables and consonants springing up
from the bucket, stubbornly announcing themselves
home, until there is only smoothness,
my fifty eight year old house a perfect sentence,
the veritable sheen of its walls
privy to this father of mine,
whose love keeps him moving
from room to room, brightly asking,
Do you think you’ll be painting the other room
upstairs sometime? I could start work on it now.
Then it’ll be ready for painting later.
Yes, I say, yes,
my face aglow.
1Pollyfilla: a brand name for a substance used to fill cracks in plaster walls
The Gold Mountain Coat
by Judy Fong-Bates
1 The small town that was my home was typical of many small towns in Ontario. It had one main street, one elementary school, one district high school, and five churches – Presbyterian, Anglican, United, Roman Catholic, and a Dutch Reform Church on the edge of town. 2 The main street of our small town had a dime store that sold everything from Evening in Paris perfume to stationery and hammers. It also had a clothing store, a jewellery shop, a hardware store, a drugstore, a barber shop, and a restaurant that served Canadian food. And, typical of all small towns, it also had a Chinese restaurant and a Chinese hand laundry.
3 My father operated the hand laundry and the other Chinese family managed the Chinese restaurant. I was the only Chinese child in the town. When my family first arrived, the restaurant was run by two brothers and their father, Sam Sing. The floors were covered with old-fashioned black and red lino tiles laid out in a diamond checkerboard pattern. There was a shiny speckled Formica counter with stools of circular seats upholstered in vinyl, and rimmed with a wide band of shiny chrome. There hung from the ceiling, a huge, four-blade fan, that in the summer hovered and whirred – a huge humming dragonfly.
4 The proprietor, Sam Sing, stood behind the counter of his restaurant. He was a tall, straight-backed, grim-looking man with deep wrinkles cross-hatching his face. Sam rarely smiled, but when he did he showed a set of gold teeth that matched his gold-rimmed glasses. He rarely spoke, but when he did his voice had the raspy quality of sandpapers rubbing together.
5 There was nothing ingratiating about Sam. He glared at his customers from behind his glasses. In his presence, I was always struck speechless. I was afraid to return his gaze. I felt diminished and insignificant.
6 When I first met Sam Sing, he was already in his seventies; he had a head of thick, almost totally black hair parted at the side. He seemed robust and alert, and for a man his age he moved with amazing agility. My parents told me that Sam owed his exceptionally good health to drinking medicinal turtle soup. According to local legend, whenever Sam felt unwell, he asked a couple of local teenage boys to catch him a turtle from the nearby creek. Then followed hours of simmering to produce a clear, brown, pungent, tonic soup.
Sam was proud of the fact that he had fathered two sons who would carry on his business and his family name. In contrast to Sam’s stern, imposing demeanour, his sons were round-faced, smoothskinned, and smiling. They reminded me of bookends; they looked almost identical, except that one was very fair-skinned, while the other was very dark.
8 The brothers, Ken and John, were kind to me. I remember visiting the...