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Tea and Bamboo

Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but has lived in Pittsburgh for over twenty years. Her two latest books are from opposite ends of the poetry spectrum: "Elemental Haiku," containing haiku for each element of the periodic table, and "The Sign of the Dragon," an Elgin-Award-winning epic fantasy with Chinese elements. She tweets at @MarySoonLee and reports that her antiquated website (marysoonlee.com) has finally been updated.

My father has become panda, my mother elephant. They are altogether out of place in my living room, for all my mother tries to look at ease, gripping a tea bowl in her trunk. It's their third visit since they were uploaded.
"Would you care for mung bean cake or more bamboo?" I ask, still too angry to be anything but polite.
"Bamboo would be lovely," my father growls.
We chat about the weather (warm) and the stock market (volatile) as if we were strangers, and I want to deny that it's really them embodied in animals, but the satisfaction in my father's eyes, the apology in my mother's are unmistakable.
Hong Kong is perpetually flooded, half the world hungry, but my parents have outdone themselves, not merely uploading themselves when their own bodies grew decrepit, but ostentatiously selecting endangered species.
After an awkward half an hour, they get up to leave. My father bows his head to me, and my anger wobbles or shifts--
I want to hug him, to bury my face in his fur, to tell him I'm glad he came over--
I want to ask my mother's advice about work, to tell her about my girlfriend--
The moment of weakness passes. Keeping my distance, I dip my head fractionally and open the door.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, May 26th, 2022

Author Comments

Sometimes I persuade myself into writing a story by saying I need only write a drabble, a short-short exactly 100 words long. And sometimes those attempts overshoot the target. "Tea and Bamboo," at just over 200 words, is the most recent in my growing collection of failed drabbles. Also, I have been very fond of pandas ever since I saw Chi Chi the giant panda at the London Zoo when I was a little child.

- Mary Soon Lee
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