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MINUTE


--by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming


Every meal with your family counts,
he said. You know we're all
renting this place--Earth. When
we leave new tenants take
us for granted. What kind of
rent are we paying, Dad? Life.
Who is the landlord? Life.

He kept pouring me tea, milk,
coffee, soup. The list is not finished.
He reflected that when he first realised
'life goes on', he was forty. Wasn't
that a bit late? I felt that rumbling
wheel of life many many books ago.

This is not a competition, he
said. You are so spoiled. I had no
time to philosophise: I worked,
or I starved.

It was hardly fair. I always think
some people's hours are longer. Time
for me to leave home again, not to
come back for months. I am scared
of the clock, he said. What? That
clock above the cupboard. Look,
the arms just never seem to stop.

The two of us looked, nervously,
at that clock that had so frightened
him. That longest minute in my
life. That shortest.

("Minute" was first published in Muse (Hong Kong, Issue 12, January 2008.)