Essay

The view from here

Stories from Western Sydney

Pure Land, Maryam Azam

MY UNCLE’S COMPACT Suzuki Mehran rolls out of the narrow laneways of Muslim Town. My uncle is driving and my father is sitting in the front passenger seat. In the back my mother sits in the middle, and my younger brother and I sit on either side of her.

The night is hot and speckled with lights from cars and shops. Through the rolled-down window I concentrate on the sounds of Lahore – the constant car honking like bickering siblings, the put put put of three-wheeled rickshaws, and men on the streets shouting that the mangoes are too expensive. I see all of them wearing the same wheat-coloured shalwar kameez like a uniform: cotton shirts to the knees over baggy pants.

In the middle of a row of dusty, ramshackle shops a three-storey department store sticks out like a woman in jeans in the old parts of the city. I nudge my brother and point at its yellow sign that reads ‘Decent’, and we both snicker.

‘Who names a store “decent”?’ I say for the third time since I’ve been in Lahore, though I was beginning to think it was a decent name for a store.

We pass a popular sweets shop, Butt Sweets, which teems with people buying boxes of gulab jamunladdoo and barfi to take home and have with chai. Others wait around huge vats of hot oil with sizzling orange jalebis being tended to by sweating, lean men, their kameezes spotted with oil stains.

At an intersection, a mother with a swaddled baby approaches my uncle’s window asking for money. The bundle in her arms looks like a pile of dirty laundry. The baby, thin and dark-skinned, is asleep, its head lolling on its mother’s elbow. My uncle waves her off and she makes a face at him and moves to the next car.

‘How can the baby sleep with all the noise?’ I was used to my baby cousin back in Australia asleep in his bouncer, waking with a cry if I whispered too loudly.

‘The mothers give their babies drugs so they stay asleep,’ says my mother, patting my knee. I stare intently at the baby, trying to see the drugs coursing through its veins.

The traffic light turns green and the mother hurries to stand next to it, watching the traffic stream past with kohl-lined eyes.

We drive past a group of barbers clipping away with large scissors that have turned orange with rust. Their clients sit on directors’ chairs on the grassy median strip of the road. Not far from them a circle of labourers, whose clothes are several degrees grubbier than everyone else’s, sit cross-legged, laughing and joking together. I crane my neck to look back at one whose face droops past his jaw on the left side, as if it has melted. The sagging skin repulses me. The man talks and gestures dramatically and his friend slaps him on the back.

We pick up some ice-cream at a roadside juice stall. The pista kulfi is creamy and grainy with bits of pistachio. A scruffy boy with no legs lies on his stomach on a skateboard and uses his hands to wheel himself from customer to customer, begging for money. No one gives him any and my father also shakes his head at him from the passenger seat window of my uncle’s car, until a worker at the stall comes around and shoos the boy away, saying ‘dafa ho’, ‘get lost’. I watch the boy wheel himself over the uneven dirt to another stall a few metres away. He looks like a daddy-long-legs.

I tug on my father’s striped kameez. ‘Why didn’t you give him any money, Baba?’

‘He’s not collecting the money for himself, bache,’ he says, taking my hand.

My father tells me that beggar masters intentionally maim children, knowing that the sight of them pulls on the heartstrings of naive tourists who can’t help but open their wallets for them.

My uncle pulls over outside the Bata shoe store. My father wants to buy some Pakistani sandals, which I call ‘cockroach shoes’ because they look like cockroaches. My brother and I lick our ice-cream in the car while my parents and uncle go inside.

We hang out of our windows ogling at the people walking past. A man holding a stick with plush toys tied along the length of it approaches us. He pokes the stick through my window, waving the toys in my face.

Nahi chayeh,’ I say in my Aussie accent and shake my head.

The man pulls the stick away then thrusts his other arm through the window and says, ‘Guriyeh, paisa dedo’, ‘dolly dear, give me money’. The hand before me looks like a brown tennis ball of flesh with three little gumballs where fingers should be. I scream and then my brother starts screaming as we scramble to the other side of the car and press ourselves against the windows like the kids in Jurassic Park.

 

I STAND WITH my mother, brother and father in a queue in the hot, crowded NADRA office in Lahore. It reminds me of the Commonwealth Bank branch in Roselands.

‘Why did we come here again?’ I ask my mother, stamping the Pakistan National Identity Card application with my thumb. Last week, we packed up our house in Hurstville and moved to Pakistan.

‘Because no one rips hijabs off here.’

My friend Zainab’s older sister Hawa had her hijab yanked back by a white man in a plaid shirt at Arncliffe station two days ago.

‘If it ever becomes too unsafe for you or your brother to live in Sydney, or you can’t get a job, you have here, you have the Pure Land.’

I know my mother is thinking of my cousin, Mohammed, who applied for an internship at a Sydney law firm. They knocked back his application. He changed his name from Mohammed to Michael and submitted the application again. The next day they called him in for an interview.

I reflect on this discrimination while I sit the exams at The City School Gulberg campus. It is 45 degrees outside and a fan pushes the hot air around the room. Ayahs walk along the aisles offering glasses of unfiltered water to students. I shake my head politely, my tongue so dry it’s sore. I can only drink bottled water. Across the aisle is a dark-skinned Punjabi girl with the thickest braid I have ever seen. The maroon sash on her white shalwar kameez is falling off her shoulder. After the exam I smile at her and she asks, ‘Are you Muslim?’

I raise my eyebrows and point at my headscarf.

‘You don’t have to wear that here,’ she says, and I realise she is really saying, ‘This is not a backward country.’

One afternoon, I come home from school to find my mother crying on the couch, a glass of anar ka juice in her hand. She had just come back from an interview for a teacher-training position.

‘The director said I would have to take my scarf off if I want the job,’ she says.

 

Maryam Azam is a member of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement, and a high school teacher in Kellyville. She completed a Bachelor of Arts (Deans Scholars) from Western Sydney University and graduated with Honours in Creative Writing in 2014. She also holds a diploma in the Islamic sciences. Maryam was the recipient of a 2015 WestWords Emerging Writers’ Fellowship. Her debut poetry collection, The Hijab Files, will be published by Giramondo in 2018.

 

 

A type of Tongan mat, Winnie Dunn

MY NANA’S FIRST house was 3 Caramar Street. It was her fiftieth birthday present from her nine children. The whole family watched as Nana touched the front door with her melon palms and whispered, ‘Fe’ofa’aki.

Fee-opha-ah-kee means ‘to love one another’. When I was born, Nana named me after her house so that I would always have a home. The house is in my middle names: Akata Siulolovao Fe’ofa’aki. Nana thought that the more names you had the more important you were.

3 Caramar Street sat just off the corner of Woodstock Avenue, which is the main road of Mount Druitt, in the suburb of Dharruk. Nana’s house had a maroon roof and cream fibro walls that make it look like a big pimple. On the front lawn there were two towering palm trees, like giant soldiers, and behind the trees was a high tiled wall with wrought-iron gates. When I first saw the two-storey structure I had thought it was a castle right in the middle of Mount Druitt. Later my aunty told me a bunch of Italians built it in the early ’60s and then some druggos had it in the ’90s.

Before Nana died she had made 3 Caramar as Tongan as she could. She started with the front garden. Barefoot in op-shop button-downs and with her afro tied in a wavy bun, Nana planted medicine along the tiled wall. Green aloe vera shaped like lizards: open to heal cuts, grazes, boils and styes. Yellow-white nonu fruit shaped like grubs: juice to heal infected gums and calm indigestion. Green Siale Tonga leaves shaped like backs of beetles: crush on the body to rid of evil spirits. Tongans like naming things after Tonga. Mixed in with these natural remedies were white-purple daises and red roses. They were introduced to Nana by her first husband, Brian. He was English.

One Sunday, when I was seven, I helped Nana take out the weeds in her apothecary. The sun was warm and there was a cool breeze. She tried to teach me all the names of the plants but when I couldn’t do it we sang songs together instead. First it was a Tongan hymn Nana wrote herself, ‘Fakafeta’i ki a Sihova, he’oku lelei ia’ (‘Bless Jehovah and His children’). But after a while we started singing Elvis Presley, ‘Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go, you have made my life complete and I love you so.’ Elvis was Nana’s teen crush.

 

ONE SATURDAY NANA was painting on a ngatu, which is a type of Tongan mat. The light-brown canvas was spread all over the front lawn and spilled onto the sidewalk. It was a hot day and I didn’t get how Nana could sit outside in tracksuit pants and wooly socks. She called me over to sit next to her and I silently watched Nana paint triangles and circles with thick black ink that smelled like petrol. When I asked her what she was doing Nana told me that she was painting a diamond called kalou kupesi, which represented breadfruitNana put the paintbrush between my fingers, held my fist in place, and dragged my hand over the bark of the ngatu to make connecting lines. It was the first triangle I ever drew.

We painted like that into the early evening until my hand got tired and Nana took over again. I watched one of the neighbours across the street take out her bins. It was a skippy bogan named Sharon. She walked out in her matching Tweety Bird pyjama set with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. The bins rumbled as she dragged them behind her toward the curb. Her store-dyed red hair was tangled and her blonde eyebrows were digging into her eyelids. She reminded me of Ronald McDonald. After Sharon positioned the bins she just stood there on the curb staring at Nana and me like she was watching 60 Minutes. Sharon’s gaze made my palms sweaty and I hid behind Nana, clutching her back. Nana saw Sharon and waved hello.

Sharon banged on her bins like a clawing feral cat, shrieking, ‘You’re not gonna fucking say sorry for your shit out on public property like that?’

Nana put her paintbrush down, shoved her fist in the air, and yelled, ‘Tapuni ho mu’a kosi tae kutu, which meant, ‘Shut up, you shitty nit.’

‘Speak English you savage!’

I hugged Nana tightly around her melani waist while Sharon turned and stomped back into her house.

I never painted the ngatu with Nana again.

 

Winnie Dunn is a Tongan-Australian writer from Mt Druitt. She is a manager and editor at Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement and a Bachelor of Arts graduate from Western Sydney University. Winnie’s work has been published in The Lifted BrowSydney Review of Books and The Big Black Thing. She has presented at Sydney Festival, Sydney Writers’ Festival, Wollongong Writers’ Festival and Stella Girls Write Up.

 

The Bruce, Jason Gray

THE BRUCE SAT on his arse and washed hardened bird shit from his Camry in the Umina Beach carpark. I watched him work, legs spread, from the driver’s seat of my Falcon XF station wagon. I’d known The Bruce in high school but we’d lost touch when he’d been kicked out of my group of friends for making too many sad jokes, and being too geeky. We hooked up again in Gosford, after being rejected by hotties at the local nightclub – found each other sitting near the straw dispenser at the bar.

‘Jason, mate!’ said The Bruce. ‘Come here, mate, please! The poo won’t go! It won’t.’

I rose on rickety caramel knees and aging sandals. I wiped the beads of sweat that painted my brow with my wrist and sidled towards him.

‘Mate, quick – ouchie! Help me up, please, mate!’

I grabbed The Bruce’s dark-brown wrists and lurched backwards, pulling his stocky frame up. Suddenly he let out a squeal as two random men tore him from my grip – one whitie who resembled Larry Bird and the other, an older guy, maybe fifty, with facial skin like dried banana cake. Dry Banana Cake Face hooked The Bruce’s flabby biceps from beneath his armpits.

‘Let me go – you brutes!’ said The Bruce, gnashing his teeth. Dry Banana Cake Face spun The Bruce around and smashed his belly with his fist. The Bruce clutched his food belly and winced from the impact, glasses clinking on loose gravel.

‘Hey – leave him!’ I finally yelled as the two men kicked into The Bruce’s chest.

‘Ohhhh…’ he cried, saliva dribbling from his lips.

‘Yeah, nice one, old cunt – you just killed our dezzy,’ said Larry Bird. ‘Dezzy’ is how we say ‘designated driver’ because we’re lazy Aussies. Then turning to me he said, ‘Oi, Caramel Sundae Bitch, ya drive?’

 

I STEERED THE Falcon station wagon with caution over Toukley Bridge into Gorokan. The Bruce sobbed and moaned as the streetlamps and the moon lit the charcoal and chalk sky.

‘This is it,’ said Dry Banana Cake Face, pointing to a brand-new, grey-brick townhouse, with tarpaulin and piles of bricks from half-finished renovations, halfway up Dudley Street. ‘Park there, Hagrid old son.’

‘I know what this is, I know!’ said The Bruce. ‘This – this is a drug den! Help! Jason, do something! Crash the car into that telegraph pole! Don’t kill me and you but though.’

‘Shut up,’ said Dry Banana Cake Face. ‘This is the house my dead parents bought me.’

Inside the townhouse, I sat squashed between Larry Bird and Dry Banana Cake Face on a beige leather chaise lounge. The Bruce wheezed as bare heels pushed his face and convex belly further into the dusty, off-white forest of shag carpet. Larry Bird and Dry Banana Cake Face cut cocaine and the tops of purple and red Zooper Doopers, laid out on the coffee table in front of an LCD television.

Dry Banana Cake Face flung The Bruce’s polo shirt over his head, snorted pleasure-powder from The Bruce’s belly-button-hole, wrenched up my underwear in a wedgie.

‘Aw, shit, that’s perf,’ he said, picking my nostrils.

‘Why did you kick me while I was down?’ screeched The Bruce. ‘Why don’t we play nice together?’

‘Dude, we broke the chocolate Easter egg cunt,’ said Dry Banana Cake Face, grabbing a purple Zooper Dooper and shoving it between his teeth like a cigar.

The Bruce stood on his thongs with wonky grace and stared at Dry Banana Cake Face, cheeks, nose and mouth contorted. I engaged my chest and neck to yell but Larry Bird covered my unopened mouth with a massive ice-cold hand.

Suddenly The Bruce dove at Dry Banana Cake Face as though he were a motorised wombat. He grabbed Dry Banana Cake Face’s large, flat ears like a rugby trophy, wrenched backwards, pulling Dry Banana Cake Face off the couch, his Zooper Dooper cigar flying to the ground.

‘Ho-ho!’ I said, cheering on The Bruce, my laugh muffled underneath Larry Bird’s hand.

The Bruce landed on the carpet tailbone-first, his head just missing the edge of the coffee table. Dry Banana Cake Face landed nose-first onto the coffee table, the top end of a red Zooper Dooper entering his left eye.

Straightaway, Larry Bird released me and piss-bolted out of the lounge room. The wire screen door clattered against the jamb.

 

I SAT NEXT to The Bruce in the gutter on Dudley St, as the wail of the ambulance and police arrived and left.

‘My dad never even gave me Zooper Doopers,’ said The Bruce .

 

Jason Gray is a Mauritian-Australian writer from Western Sydney who became (data-)terrified before and during the events drawn upon for the writing of this story, but is JUST FINE NOW, and will never write about you, kk? I mean, everyone else might... But FFS just bloody leave my friends and family alone, wypipo! ‘Get Out is a documentary’ – Jordan Peele

 

Cô Trang's housewarming party, Shirley Le

CÔ TRANG AND her husband, Chú Triều, had put their redundancy payouts from their seventeen years at Australia Post into building a red-brick McMansion in Berala. It was the Australian dream on roids. All the other houses on the street – fibro, white, square – looked like forgotten Lego pieces tossed from a toy mat. Mum and I walked along the footpath where dandelions scratched at my ankles. A pair of battered Converse hung from the power line by the laces, swaying against the cloying heat. It felt like a storm might crack the sky apart by five o’clock. The McMansion looked like something out of Neighbours, but you knew it was Vietnamese from the pungent smell of nem nướng (ground pork smothered in fish sauce and garlic) streaming from the windows and the mountain of shoes that lay on the welcome mat. Once we were inside, I made a beeline for the lounge room.

There were three white gummy bracelets and a thick black silicon band bearing the words ‘No Pain, No Gain’ wrapped around Teresa’s wrist. The rest of her outfit had the same watered-down emo vibe: black cargo pants and a camo-print crop top with spaghetti straps that showed off her hipbones and clavicles. I sat next to her on the suede sofa. A thin film of plastic covered the whole thing and I was scared to move around because every time I did, it sounded like a fart. Everything had that new-car smell that made me feel nauseous. Teresa looked as shrink-wrapped as the sofa, with acne-scarred skin pulled tight over her cheekbones and jawline.

‘Even the fuckin’ TV is wearing a condom.’ Teresa pushed her jagged fringe out of her eyes to get a closer look at the red velvet obscuring the widescreen Panasonic.

‘Where did you get your lenses from? Your eyes look like gemstones,’ I said to her.

‘Thanks babe.’ She inched closer, her French-fry fingers still holding her fringe back. Her breath smelled like stale Wrigley mint chewies. ‘I ordered them off Pinkyparadise.com. Bought like ten of ’em. That was a week’s worth of my Priceline shift money gone in one go. Oops!’ Then she let go of her fringe, scooped all of her hair in a fist and pushed it over her right shoulder. The bones in her left shoulder and chest jutted out from her skin in parallel lines. There was also a fine layer of hair growing all over her arms. Her black hair and amethyst eyes reminded me of Homura Akemi, a character from a Japanese anime series called Puella Magi. Last Wednesday night, after binge-watching the first ten episodes, I looked up each character’s profile on Wikipedia. It was four in the morning. The only sound outside my house was of the train galloping out of Yagoona Station. I squinted into my laptop and murmured at the screen, ‘“Homura is known for being unnaturally good at everything she does, including academics and sports. This makes her instantly popular, even though she is cold and demeaning towards others.” Whatever, booorriinnggg.’ I jabbed the escape button until the screen went black.

 

RA ĂN, RA ăn!

Time to eat. There were good acoustics in a spacious house like Cô Trang’s. Four oldie females, Cô Trang, Cô Tuyết, Cô Hằng and my mum, were calling us into the backyard. Teresa and I walked to the kitchen area where all the women were cutting up thịt heo quay – roast pig. All the oldie males, five of them – Chú Triều, Chú Hùng, Chú Lông, Chú Tạng and Chú Khánh – were sitting on plastic chairs in the backyard, smoking and drinking VB under a fountain in the shape of a naked woman. Teresa and I were each handed a tray of food to bring out to the main table where the men were sitting. Teresa carried bò nướng lá lốt – beef wrapped in betel leaf – and I carried the thịt heo. The salty smell of the beef and the five-spice powder smell of the pork made me impatient. Teresa and I were allowed to eat when the adult females started eating and the adult females ate once their husbands started eating. I yearned for the feeling of that crispy pork skin cracking against my teeth. Mum never let me eat the fatty bits of skin but today I was going to sit next to Teresa and there was no way my mum was going to tell me off for eating in front of her. Last week, Cô Hằng came over to our place and saw me scoff down two bowls of rice after school. She praised me and suggested that I come to Cô Trang’s party so that Teresa would be encouraged to eat more.

Teresa and I walked barefoot down the tiled stairs and reached the men under the fountain. I glanced over at Teresa and found her balancing the tray on one hand. The other was covering her nose as if she was carrying a tray of dog shit.

Chaaaaa, cái gì đây? Ngon quá ha,’ Chú Hùng smacked his lips, either at the trays of meat or at us, I wasn’t sure. His eyes were bloodshot and his skin was the colour of sliced beetroot. ‘Teresa and Shirley hả? You plus you, divide by two make the perfect girl!’ He slapped his thigh and his laughter lead the chorus of donkey hee-haws from the other four Chús at the table.

The top of my cheeks, right under my eyes, started to heat up. I plonked down the tray of food as fast as I could. I wanted to tell this guy he had a face like a scrotum but he worked on the same shift as my mum. How would she face her friends for raising a hỗn daughter? I was already fat, could I afford to also be rude? I turned around to scuttle into the house. Teresa was standing behind me with the tray of bò nướng lá lốt still balancing on one hand. Her back was straight and her lips were tightly closed. Her other hand was clenched in a fist beside her hip, which she suddenly pounded against the bottom of the tray. The fifty pieces of bò nướng flung into the sky and rained down on the Chús’s heads like shrapnel.

 

Shirley Le is a member of the Sweatshop Writers Collective and has a degree in Media from Macquarie University. She has worked in radio, producing youth shows for SBS Vietnamese Radio, and has curated events for TEDxYouth. She won first prize in the ZineWest 2014 Writing Competition and has been published in SBS OnlineThe Big Black Thing and The Lifted Brow. She is the recipient of the 2017 WestWords CAL Fellowship and has performed her writing at the Digital Writers Festival, Wollongong Writers’ Festival and Sydney Writers Festival.

 

 

Van damn, Stephen Pham

‘I LOOK KOREAN to you?’ Van asks, squinting up at the deck of Marlboro Ice Blasts I’m holding out. I shrug and move to drop the deck into my bag. Van doesn’t have the cherubic cheeks, poreless skin, and laser-cut eyes of a Korean. Instead, he’s got a vaguely reptilian look, with jutting cheekbones, acne scars and broad lips. He’s sitting cross-legged on the floorboards of Tuyet’s living room, knees to his bare chest, arms wrapped around his knees.

When I first met Van, he was just some guy who climbed in through Tuyet’s back window after midnight to smoke ice. Tuyet and I were on her porch getting stoned. She was showing me the pic she’d just snapped of dawn breaking over Endeavour Park – peach bleeding upwards into blue-grey, silhouettes of light poles and netball hoops scattered in the foreground – when the flyscreen door burst open with a cough. Van stumbled out. The stench of cat piss caught up with him after he turned to me. His eyes were small and dark and piercing. ‘Do you want to watch a movie?’ he asked in a central Viet accent. Now he’s Tuyet’s brother-in-law and I can’t tell if he likes me or just tolerates me.

In the living room, Van’s hand shoots out at me, silver band on a bony ring finger reflecting the hellish red light from the shrine behind me as he says, ‘Pass us.’ I give Van a cigarette and he lights it up. Smoke drifts out the open window behind him.

Tuyet and I were supposed to go drink in the city tonight. Two hours ago, I rocked up to her place and messaged her telling her I was outside. Her reply came almost instantly. Today 7:06 pm: Hey stephen sorry!! I got distracted by hot Lankans on TV. U should chill in here while I get ready??

Now I’m inside her house sitting with Van, who may or may not be on the shard, watching Unsafe Sex in the City, which is about a bunch of young English people who go to a sexual health clinic. I can’t tell what’s going on because the volume’s all the way down. Instead I hear the house’s pipes rasping and water slapping the shower tiles occasionally. A vein on my temple throbs as I think about how awkward this Van sitch is, and how Tuyet’s dragging it out by taking her sweet-ass time in the bathroom, and how we’re gonna be late.

It’s half past nine and all the bottle-os will be closed by the time we get to the city. We’ll have to catch up on drinking at Mr B’s. I hate Mr B’s. It’s a combination bar and Thai restaurant across from World Square. It stinks like Beer Lao and fish sauce, plus there are the lard-ass, buzz-cut azn-bro MCs who bellow the first lines of verses like, ‘I! Got a fetish for fuckin’ you with your skirt on!’ out of time with the music, and the crowd’s full of two-out-of-ten Asians with no facial structure and smiles like grimaces, as if they’ve got invisible braces on. Then Tuyet and I will have to spend more money catching a cab to the Star, paying the thirty-five-dollar cover for OPM, buying more drinks and paying for caps. Knowing all the money I’m about to waste, when people from high school are nuking my Facebook feed with pics of their first, even second, houses makes me want to get wasted.

 

VAN POPS THE menthol ball in the cigarette butt and turns the volume up on the TV. The young man on the screen, a patient on Unsafe Sex, looks like the strongest peasant in the village. His name is Terrence. He’s sitting in a plastic chair at the doctor’s office, the camera cropped close around his thick frame. He turns his hands on his lap while he talks, revealing broad nails chewed to the quick. Each hair on his head is cut the same length and he has a slightly gawking expression. Terrence says, ‘I fink I wonna take the next step wiv her, do ya know wot I mean…’

Van narrows his eyes in the dissipating smoke and says, ‘Looks like my mate from Eagle Vale.’

If I reply, Van will think we’re real friends, then he’ll get comfortable, then he’ll open up to me, then he’ll tell me about the ways the world fucked him over and how I’ve got to learn from him, and he’ll say something like, ‘Trust the only person who will never turn their back on you – yourself,’ and I’ll be uncomfortable the entire time because I never considered him my friend but will be too scared to say it. So I don’t reply.

On the screen, Terrence is chewing his nails and nodding. He closes his eyes, nods again, then gives a thumbs-up to the camera. In the next shot his fingers, pink under his crooked white nails, dig into mounds of silky pale flesh, a reddish ridge between them. There’s blue medical paper around the edge of the frame, and in the centre of the cat’s eye of coarse brown skin is his anus, a shiny rim of purple-pink. It puckers.

‘Shit!’ I shout.

Van leaps up, standing with fists out at his sides. A blue phoenix tattoo is etched on his chest, head curved like a trigger screaming up at his throat, wings spread across his shoulders, feathers like scales. Tuyet walks in, hair in a towel, chinky eyes bouncing between me, Van, and the asshole on the screen.

 

Stephen Pham is a Vietnamese-Australian writer from Cabramatta. He is an original member of Sweatshop, and his work has been published in Sydney Review of BooksOverlandThe Lifted Brow and Seizure. He has also performed for Sydney Festival, Sydney Writers’ Festival and Emerging Writers’ Festival. In 2017, Stephen was selected for the Writing NSW Early Career Writer Grant to begin work on his collection of experimental non-fiction, Vietnamatta.

 

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