>To borrow Kat’s word, my novel is still steeping. In the meantime I’ve been working on a new story, tentatively called “Nanking Mansion.” Here is a little taste from page 3:
When Fengqi’s wife died, leaving a vast hole in his heart he knew he would never fill, there weren’t many options for the household. He could juggle his job with the cooking and cleaning, barely—the three-level condo, his wife’s impetuous choice, the last apartment she inspected after viewing dozens of candidates when they decided the time had arrived to become homeowners, was expansive but spare and easy to maintain, with minimal furniture, since the condo was so much larger than the two-bedroom flat they’d been renting in Cleveland Park, blond-wood floors, sky-lights, and pastel walls (a soft green in the living room, pale yellow in the boys’ bedroom, blue in the master suite)—but someone had to take care of his sons. Simon had just started kindergarten, Wesley wasn’t yet old enough for the D.C. Chinatown Community Center’s pre-school, and both—especially since the accident, and the jolt of being told, by a neighbor, no less, while Fengqi was still at the hospital dealing with his own sudden grief, that their mother would not be coming home—needed considerable supervision and attention. Fengqi had tried everything: a babysitter, employed from the stratified bulletin board in the cafeteria at work, who demanded cab fare from Georgetown and back on top of her lofty hourly fee because she felt unsafe in the Zhangs’ not-quite-gentrified buffer-zone neighborhood; old Mrs. Wong from the retirement home at 4th and H, who had trouble remembering the boys’ names and chain-smoked Camel cigarettes, one afternoon falling asleep on the couch and waking, miraculously, to a smoldering cushion; an acquaintance’s teenage daughter, hired despite the multiple tattoos and facial piercings, until she arrived at the condo one morning noticeably stoned. He even asked the beanpole sculptor to watch the boys for a while, although Simon was afraid of the man because, the boy said, he looked like a snake standing up on his tail, until Fengqi walked into the man’s studio one day to find Wesley—tiny, three-year-old Wesley—attacking a mound of clay with a knife in one hand and what looked to Fengqi like a screwdriver in the other.
In desperation, Fengqi called his mother-in-law.