"The Year of Good Fortune" by Kurt Kamin

Categories: ISSUE 02: Billie

The Year of Good Fortune
I looked down at the crumpled red piece of paper. Fu, or "good luck," was emblazoned upon it in garish gold foil. It must have finally fallen off of the van, one of those ubiquitous grey beasts seen in every city, town, and village across China. During the Spring Festival, more commonly known as Chinese New Year, everybody with a vehicle attaches these to assure themselves another year of accident-free driving. God knows they need the extra help. I picked up the broom and began to sweep the scrap into the dustpan. "Hey there, hold up a second." Shushu, or "Uncle," had apparently been watching me in what I thought was helping clean up the courtyard. He walked over slowly, languidly, as was his way. He had never been anything but, and took life easily, and treated me well. He was smiling that big bright smile that contorted the honest lines of his face, contrasting with his shock of black hair which made him look positively crazed. I smiled back without even really intending to. His smile was infectious like that.

At first I assumed he'd just insist he sweep himself, as the family never asked for my help doing menial tasks around the courtyard, but he made no motion to take the broom from me. "What have you got there?" he said, still smiling at some joke as of yet unknown to me. "Me? Have? Uh…" I thought for a minute as the dialect registered. "A broom?" Shushu laughed faintly and pointed to what I was sweeping up. "Oh, that. Well, it fell off the van and won't stick anymore, so I was just sweeping it up." Apparently he had known everything I had to say, as he nodded sagely. He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Hmm, what is the name of that man, in the West? He died a long time ago, very famous." My confusion was so obvious I didn't even attempt to mask it. "I'm afraid I don't really know, Shushu; you're leaving quite a bit to the imagination. Could you be more specific?" After looking at me briefly, he emphatically hung his arms out horizontally and let his head drop. I had to stifle my laughter, the effect being quite comical. Shushu suddenly looked up, inspired.

"Jidu! Right? Jidu!" He slowly, finally, let his arms drop back to his sides. Not wanting to go into the specifics speaking a dialect I was not the master of, I simply nodded assent. "Yes, that would be right, Shushu. Jesus. What about him?" "Would you sweep up a picture of Jidu in America?" I fell into thought for a moment and shook my head. Shushu responded with a smile and a slight, satisfied nod as he turned and sauntered off. I looked down at the crumpled red piece of paper. Fu, or "good luck," was emblazoned upon it in garish gold foil. I picked it up and folded it into neat, careful squares. Then I walked over and gingerly placed it in the trash can.

--Story by Kurt Kamin
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--Background photo by Sarah Edwards
--Foreground photo by Jayme Joyce