The Community Newspaper (Flash Fiction Continued)

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Flash Fiction #165

The is the 2nd half of the story. The first half is here.

“And look at another story of this ‘Life & Culture’ section.” I continue, “It praises love as something wonderful and everlasting as if love is supernatural. It is total nonsense. And the ending–surprise, surprise–is about how people don’t cherish love anymore nowadays and people would separate whenever they have an opportunity. That is so not true. Actually immigrants have the lowest divorce rate than any other demographic groups because their life is much harder and their economic situations are more precarious. And they do everything to survive, and yet this idiotic column is still scolding people.”

Little Jade cranes her head over to look at the author name, and says, “Oh, that’s Coco, whose husband just ran away with a lady he met in Atlantic City. I think her tone fits in with my boss’ world view very well.”

“And look at yet another story here.” I shake my head, “a whole page is dedicated to the story of Shing who is addicted to social media bragging. She loves luxury products more than her husband. Her husband, a businessman, committed suicide by jumping off a building.”

“This is not a new story. You don’t know this? It was all over social media last year. After Shing’s husband died, she inherited everything, but his relatives sued. The judge eventually gave all the property back to the husband’s grieving parents.Everybody on social media scolded the woman and she received death threat etc., telling her she is a poisonous woman. I don’t know how she can live a life after that. In a way she deserves it, I guess.” Little Jade says.

“And this deserves a whole page article? When a woman dies of suicide, she is bringing inconvenience and dishonor to her family; when a man dies of suicide, he is a martyr and a symbol of female persecution. What a double standard.” I tell Little Jade, “and remember a while ago an Asian woman killed her two kids and tried to commit suicide herself afterwards, but was arrested before she could kill herself? Remember that story? It happened around here, and I still remember the little space your newspaper gave to such a sad story. And it didn’t mention mental health problem at all. Actually I think all these people, men or women, suffer from mental health problems, but nobody believes mental health even exists. Your newspaper is like the Asian community here–an ostrich burying its head in the sand.”

“It is not my paper. I don’t have the editorial power. Don’t blame me.” Little Jade protests.

“I am sorry I’ve said that. I didn’t mean it. You have to understand my dismay at the paper. The whole ‘Life & Culture’ section is dedicated to singing superficial praise to a mother who never complained or even communicated to her son, or talking about love in a very unrealistic way, or blaming women for men’s health problems. Anyway, I am going to go complaining to your boss.”

Little Jade tries to dissuade me, but I am not going to listen to her.

The week after, I drive to the strip mall where IE has its small office. I pick Thursday afternoon since I think that’s when they have finished all the work of the weekly paper and will have some leisure to listen to me. I also think the employees and the bosses are all going to be there.

The four employees, all women, are sitting around a big desk, each facing a desktop computer. Little Jade is among them. I tell them my intention, and Little Jade goes to fetch her boss. Presently, Mrs. San emerges. At first she thinks I am going to place an advertisement on the paper and is very friendly. As soon as she learns of my intention, her friendliness disappears.

“You are not going to do such a thing. I have to tell you Mr. San is in a very fragile mental state right now. He doesn’t want to listen to anything that doesn’t fit his world view.” Mrs. San says.

“You can’t run a newspaper this way. He is too archaic…”

“Do you know how much we have suffered to build the International Express? For twenty years, we dedicated ourselves to this newspaper. The boredom is unthinkable. And can you imagine that me and my husband work here for six days a week at least, often in Sundays too? This dull office with bare walls and endless chores is like… like a prison with no escape and a hell with no exit? As small business owners, we can’t get away from each other. And we used to argue and curse each other, but recently I have finally been able to get my husband to calm down. Do you want to disturb this hard-earned peace? Yesterday, he flipped out just because I asked him why there were 35 extra miles on his van.”

Big Sis, one of the employees sitting next to Little Jade suddenly speaks up. She’s older than everybody else and consequently received a nick name: Big Sis.

“Oh, come on, Mrs. San. Do you really read the odometer every week? Do you expect that the odometer reading grows by the same mileage each week?” Big Sis says.

Mr. San drives to deliver the weekly newspaper to the Asian grocery stores around here. Some are as far away as the west side of Philadelphia.

“Of course I take notice of the mileage each week on the van. Suddenly the mileage on the van went up 35 miles. There must be an explanation.”

Big Sis says, “You suspected he had a mistress somewhere and made his detour to go see her during his delivery rounds. Of course he flipped out. You provoked him.”

“So… You see how easy it is to provoke him, right?” Mrs. San says, “and our employees only stay here for two 8-hour shifts each week, but I have to deal with him 24/7. He is going to drink and eat junk food and annoy me to no end. Do you know how he cursed me? You have no idea. You don’t know the bitterness of a relationship when it outlives its loving phase. It’s more bitter than the bitter melon. I was finally able to get Mr. San to channel his energy into the ‘Life & Culture’ section, where he could vent his frustration by selecting articles that praise unrealistic womanhood and bash real life women figures. It’s one of the few ways that can help him release the pressure and alleviate his hostility so that he will not implode.”

“Oh, I didn’t expect this. I mean his relationship with you really shapes his view about women in general. This is why he’s so negative. His dream women don’t really exist, and real women cause resentment in him.” I say to Mrs. San, “and you are able to handle him for so many years. I think I admire you, Mrs. San, for your ability to manage the unmanageable.”

“Yeah, you have no idea.” Mrs. San finally transforms her frown into a smile.

“Wait a second. You said you ‘channel his energy’? I see. You feed him these articles to let him select several among them, right? I see. I see. You probably even wrote the article about Shing, the ‘poisonous’ wife. You wrote it, but you didn’t write that long, and your husband expanded it to a whole page article, is that right? You enjoyed the article from your angle–a story of a woman torturing her husband– and your husband enjoyed the article from his angle of complaining and criticizing women. Oh, now I really see what this is about. This newspaper is a sadistic outlet for you and your husband who indulge in cruel fantasies about each other. You are so smart and so devious. I wonder how many women are like you out there, and how many couples are like you and your husband.” I am so amazed and dazed that I have to sit down on a spare chair next to Little Jade.

“Well, the number is certainly higher than what you can imagine.” Mrs. San says.

(The End)

14 thoughts on “The Community Newspaper (Flash Fiction Continued)

    1. Yes, I have often observed this when I talk with a couple who express their opinions as if they are talking between each other. Their world views are very much clouded by their own relationship.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Now that is a clever conclusion. Double standards rule the world and are prevalent in every family. Let’s hope the newspaper helps them let off steam and stay afloat in this crazy world. Great writing, Haoyan. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Terveen, for your encouragement. It is a crazy world and a crazy newspaper, although a very small one. A couple’s fight often extends toward the people and the world in the surrounding area. It is a kind of contagion.

      Liked by 1 person

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