“Eulogy (for Jerry Gafio Watts)” by Wally Swist

My first memory of you has to be

that of your hands combing through

the sale books on the cart in front

of the store one autumn afternoon


in 1975, your brown leather brief-

case, with a gold metal latch, your

ce que vous êtes connu par. That

was your first year in New Haven,


having just graduated from Harvard,

and you wearing the poor Ph.D.

student persona as well as you did

that Walt Frazier mustache; although


you never grew an Afro, your hair

was always well groomed, like that

of Malcolm or Stokley Carmichael.

Too poor to buy books, you read


standing up, and if you didn’t finish

you would come back the next day

and pick up where you had left off.

However outspoken you might have


been, you deflected praise for

the street people you would put up

in your small apartment on sub-

zero nights. Your heart always


matching the largesse of your good

Samaritan acts, including the time

I was broken into when I was living

over on the Hill, and you insisted on


accompanying me when I returned

to gather my things. When we

managed the bookstore on Saturday

nights, your students would sit on


the floor below the raised counter,

where you would hold court, lecture

them about American studies and

W.E.B. DuBois. Two decades later,


when we found ourselves both on

another college campus in Hartford,

you included me in the dedication

to your magnum opus, Amiri Baraka :


The Politics of the Black Intellectual,

where you honored our collegiality.

When I found out about your death

last November, on your birthday this


May, I comprehended the synchronicity

to be all about your thinking it was

about time that I should finally know.

How could we realize there might be


forty years ahead of us when we first

met, as you were perusing the titles on

that cart of books I had wheeled out

on the street, knowing as I do now that


I’ll never not stop perceiving your sharp

inflection when I recall hearing

you say, Brothah, how are you doin’,

Brothah, while being aware that we


actually were kinsman of the heart,

and how if we were informed that we

might have had four decades to read

and write we would have smiled and


thought ourselves fortunate, but how

those years have elapsed so quickly

that I would have wanted to share with

you how I believe we just might have


discovered something valuable about

our experience in how the evanescent

is a necessary component in

the divine creation of what is éternité.


“Angel Bestowed” by James Penha

Just as the circle of the sun had risen above the horizon of the Molucca Sea, Ramli waded to the beach with his anchor in his hands and dropped it on the sand next to that of his friend Suleiman who was negotiating with the fat monger for the night’s catch. The dealer was referred to by the fishermen as the fat monger to distinguish him from the bearded monger, the bald monger, and the skinny monger. None of the mongers had earned the appellation sweet or generous or fair. Suleiman pocketed a few Indonesian rupiah notes as the fat monger traded an empty basket for Suleiman’s, barely lined with small tuna. The monger turned to Ramli. “What do you have to sell this morning? I’m still wanting. Don’t offer them to any of the other mongers until you give me a chance.”

Ramli nodded, and the fat monger trotted down to the fisherman’s boat in the bay to size up the inventory. When Suleiman asked his friend what the monger would find, Ramli smiled, spread his arms wide and gave two thumbs up. “Again?” Suleiman asked. Ramli shrugged his shoulders and re-opened his hands as if to ask what else could he do: he just couldn’t help it.

When the monger returned, he ordered his two sons to deliver three empty baskets to Ramli’s boat and collect the three baskets full of tuna and bring them to their small trawler anchored in the bay. “Suleiman, you’re lucky I dealt with you first. Ramli’s tuna are as big as my boys. They would have been enough to satisfy my needs for the day,” said the monger. Suleiman was well aware of the danger and, indeed, had made sure to come to shore before the sun rose for this very reason. On each of three previous days, Ramli had also arrived with his outrigger loaded with the biggest and best-quality tuna. He had been sorely tempted to follow Ramli’s boat last night to see exactly what part of the sea was offering such bounty, but spying would have broken the honor code among the fisherman of this secluded corner of Bangkulu, an island remote even from the rest of the Banggai archipelago. He had been asking Ramli to share the secret, and he did again after the monger had left as the two old friends sat in the sand drinking coffee prepared by the old woman who had just opened her warung on the beach.

“It’s not where I fish, Suleiman. Really. I’ve just been lucky lately. Blessed, I’ll say.” He lit and took a long puff on his clove cigarette.

“You are not doing anything different?” Suleiman asked.

“Not . . . when I’m out on the boat. I fish the same way I have my whole life.”

Suleiman had known Ramli his whole life, forty-two years, long enough to recognize the pause. “But you are doing something different, aren’t you? to have such luck.”

Most of the fishermen remaining on the beach were busy finalizing deals with the mongers for their squid, snapper, grouper, and the odd swordfish or getting ready to leave, the mongers to the hotels and the restaurants of the big island of Sulewesi across the Molucca Sea, the fishermen to their beds. Nonetheless, Ramli looked around to make sure no one but his old friend was near enough to hear his words. “I have a bidadari,” he whispered.

“A bidadari? An angel?”

Ramli nodded.

“What do you mean,” Suleiman grew serious, “have?”

Ramli held up his hands. “Let’s move over there.” He pointed to the shady grove of coconut trees at the back of the beach. On their way, they passed the warung and asked the old woman to refresh their cups of coffee. By the time the two friends settled under the trees, the beach was empty except for children enjoying the surf as their mothers scraped mollusks from the rocks exposed by the low tide and scoured the coral for urchins and other delicacies. Ramli lit another cigarette. “I have a bidadari in my house. She brings me luck.”

Suleiman had to gather his words amidst his confusion. “Where . . . how . . . how long have you been keeping this  . . . her?”

“I found her in the sea almost three weeks ago,” Ramli said.

“But your luck—at least the luck that I have seen—with the tuna—you have only had for a few days.”

“Four nights now, yes. I will tell you the whole story.” Suleiman had given up smoking since he had what the doctor on the mainland of Sulewesi had called a mini-stroke, but he took a cigarette from Ramli’s pack, lit it with a match and leaned forward to listen.

“You recall the Saturday night almost three weeks ago when you didn’t go out?” Ramli asked.

“Yes,” said Suleiman, “that night my wife was so ill and told me I had to stay home with her and the kids.”

“That night, as I was floating in the tuna waters, I saw in the light of the moon some things bobbing near my boat. I laid down my rod and rowed closer to the objects. They weren’t things, I realized, but one connected thing that soon with the wash of the waves trapped itself in the outrigger. It looked like a human body. But although it was facedown and naked, it showed no sign of being attacked by sharks or of rotting in the sea. I brought my lantern closer and touched it with my right hand. It felt warm, warmer than the sea and comforting somehow. Of course, I wouldn’t use the gaff or net to bring it on board, so I set the anchor, took off my clothes, and slipped into the sea to untangle the body and roll it up into the boat. This turned out to be surprisingly easy because the body was so light—not waterlogged, not so heavy even as a living person, Suleiman. But it was a kind of person: a female, not breathing, but beautiful.” As Ramli shook his head, tears appeared in his eyes. “So beautiful. I brought the lantern close and gazed at the whole of her. Perfect. Every part of her, like a dream.

“I am ashamed to say this, but my dick got hard as a priest, Suleiman. It wasn’t intentional. I . . . I just couldn’t help it, and so I dressed and covered her with a tarp up to the neck. I didn’t cover her head because she did not seem dead. Her eyes were wide open and her mouth was neither rigid nor did a swollen tongue stick out of it. She seemed to smile, in fact, Suleiman. Smile. I sat there in the middle of the sea, rocking and staring at her face and realized that, of course, she must be a bidadari.

“You remember those tales we heard when we were children, Suleiman: angels trapped on earth because some human had stolen their gowns while they were bathing. This angel must have fallen to earth having lost whatever gave her power to return to heaven.

“I asked her to speak. I prayed for her to speak, but she remained silent. It must have been two or three o’clock before I decided to up-anchor and motor the boat to shore before any of our friends arrived at the beach. I carried her in the tarp to my bicycle and brought her home.”

“And she has been in your house since then?” Suleiman asked.

“Yes. The only female with whom I have shared my home since my Maslan passed away.”

“You,” Suleiman said, “have lived with this angel for almost three weeks?”


“But your luck didn’t change until four nights ago.”

“True, true.”

“Why,” Suleiman asked, “didn’t she thank you for saving her right away? Why wait more than a fortnight? How did you get her finally to bless you with this good luck with the tuna?”

“I never thought of asking her for anything, Suleiman. Not ever. I just felt blessed having her in my house. I dressed her in Maslan’s headscarf and one of her dresses and set her on the sofa in the parlor. It just felt so good having an angel by my side. I spent most of my days sitting next to her, admiring her. When I tired, I carried her to my bed, dressed her in Maslan’s nightgown, and we slept, side by side. After a few days, we grew comfortable with each other, and I would hold her. I’m telling you, Suleiman, never have I slept so soundly as when I have my arms around my angel.

“And then about a week ago, I awoke next to her in the early afternoon with a erection so big it hurt. Her nightgown was up around her neck and my hands rested on her breasts. Her perfect breasts. I looked into her eyes and saw that she was inviting me to go further. I moved my right hand between her legs. She wasn’t juicy like Maslan, but her flesh there was so smooth she didn’t have to be. I took off my underpants and slid my dick inside her.

“Suleiman, I have never felt anything so . . . so . . . heavenly. If I had ever harbored a doubt that she was a bidadari, the doubt evaporated as I came, I will admit, too quickly. But the next day, I held on, and we made love for more than a half-hour, Suleiman. Made love, Suleiman! Love. I want nothing but her love.”

“But she gave you all these tuna as a reward?”

“As a token of her love, Suleiman.”

Suleiman took another of Ramli’s cigarettes and lay back on the sand, puffing and thinking. When the cigarette was down to the filter, he flicked it far and leaped to his feet.

“You have to let me love her too, Ramli!”

Ramli quickly rose and faced his friend, nose to nose. “What? How can you love her? You haven’t even met her!”

“She’s an angel. I will love her . . . more, I think, than you cared for Jurni. You remember my aunt Jurni. I told you how she gave me a blowjob on my thirteenth birthday, and the next day, I brought you to her for the same present even though you wouldn’t turn thirteen for another month. You didn’t have to ask. We were friends.” Suleiman put his hands on Ramli’s shoulders. “We still are. And your friend needs some good luck too. The fish are few . . . at least for me. I have barely enough money to care for my family.”

“I can offer you money now that I am flush.”

Suleiman shook his head. “It’s not charity I want. Lend me your angel, Ramli.”

“But you are a married man.”

“My wife is a woman. I have never . . . would never be unfaithful. Never!” Suleiman pounded his hands on Ramli’s shoulders. “But communion with an angel, Ramli, is not adultery; it is a . . . a sacrament. Please, old friend, I need this. I need this.”

“Let me ask her.”

“She doesn’t speak.”

“Not as we do. But I can read her expressions, her mind. I will let you know her answer before we go out fishing tonight.”

The angel was waiting for Ramli just where he had left her on the sofa. The talk with Suleiman both depressed Ramli and excited him. He removed his work clothes and left them in a heap in the parlor, and without even bothering to take a shower to rid his body of salt and scales, he turned the angel over, lifted her sarong and took her from behind.

When he awoke from the long sleep that followed, he carried the angel to the bathroom and showered first her and then himself. He dressed her in Maslan’s most beautiful kebaya, the one she had worn to Suleiman’s wedding. They sat on the sofa, and Ramli asked the angel if she would bless his old friend as she had blessed him.

At sunset on the beach, Suleiman awaited his friend. Ramli approached him, nodding, and said the angel would accept him.

“Let’s go!” said a smiling Suleiman and headed for his bike.

“Now? Not now! we shall miss the ebb tide. Tomorrow after we—“

“Ramli, even if we take the boats out at midnight, we will catch more tuna than anyone else if we are blessed.”

Leaving their equipment in their outriggers under the watch of two beach boys to whom Ramli gave a 10,000 rupiah bill, the two bicycled back to Ramli’s house. When Suleiman saw the angel, he knelt before her and touched her hands, saying to his friend, “Oh, yes, she is a miracle.” Slowly, he began to undress her. Ramli said he would be smoking outside the house.

Thirty minutes later, Ramli heard the water running in the bathroom and was heartened that Suleiman was following his instructions to bathe the angel before he left her, again fully dressed, on the sofa. When Suleiman closed the door to the house, he sat next to Ramli on a big rock and embraced him. “Old friend,” he said, “How can I ever thank you for one of the best moments of my life?”

“Let’s catch some fish,” Ramli replied, and the two men biked back to the sea.

When Ramli beached his boat at sunrise, the fat monger approached him, explaining he wanted to see his catch of tuna first.

“Not today,” Ramli replied. “I have nothing. Not one tuna.”

“How can that be?”

“I got a late start.”

“Even so,” the monger wondered aloud. He hailed Suleiman, but he had no tuna to sell either. Shaking his head, the fat monger went about his business with other fishermen down the shore.

Suleiman walked over to Ramli. They sat on his boat and were silent for a while. Finally, Suleiman asked, “You are thinking she is unhappy with us.”

“I am. Or perhaps there is a limit to what an angel will provide to poor fishermen such as we are.”

“In tuna, maybe. But there is still much she can give.”

“What do you mean?”

“She can still give us the pleasure of her body,” said Suleiman, sliding the index finger of his right hand into his left fist.”

“Maybe in a few days some luck with the tuna will return . . . for you or for me.”

“Yes, sure,” said Suleiman, “so let’s go back to your place now and remind the angel how much we adore her.”

Unhappy and confused as he was, Ramli could not deny the desire growing in his heart and in his loins. “Let’s go.”

As they got off their bicycles at his house, Ramli told his friend to wait outside. “I need to look at her face and understand if she still loves me or hates me.”

“Us. Not just you, right?”

“Us. Yes, us.”

“Then let us go in together,” Suleiman urged his friend.

“Okay. Come on.”

They sat on the sofa on either side of the angel studying her visage. “She looks happy to see us,” Suleiman said hopefully.

“Yes, I think so.” Ramli removed the angel’s clothing. “She is not fighting me, that is for sure.”

“So then?”

“I shall take her in the bedroom.” Ramli raised the angel in his arms and started from the sofa. “Wait here, Suleiman.”

Suleiman stood. “But why should I wait? We can love her together!”

Ramli turned his back on his friend and headed for the bedroom. Suleiman followed. “Come on, Ramli. We can prove to her that that we don’t care about tuna. We care about her. Love her. Equally. Together.” Suleiman removed his pants and underwear. His erection flamed. “Hey, Ramli, how many times did we jerk each other off when we were kids? I’m no shyer now. Not with you!” He took the angel from Ramli and laid her on the bed. “And not with her.” Suleiman straddled the angel’s chest and put himself into her mouth. “Oh, my God, these lips are even tighter than those down below! Do you want her mouth, Ramli?”

Ramli, naked now himself, said nothing as he kneeled between the angel’s legs and entered her.

Suleiman swore, as they washed the angel in the bathroom, that all three of them had had an orgasm at exactly the same moment. “Oh, yes, she came with us. You felt it too, didn’t you?”

Ramli wasn’t sure, but he said yes.

The pattern was thus set for the next week: The two friends met at the beach every sunset. They fished until dawn with few if any tuna in their baskets for the fat monger to judge. They biked to Ramli’s house for an angelic ménage à trois. Suleiman went home to his wife and children and let Ramli sleep with the angel.

But at the end of those seven days, Ramli had exhausted the funds his good luck had earned him. “I don’t think,” he said to Suleiman as they bathed the angel, “she is going to grant us good luck any more.”

“Not with the tuna, no,” Suleiman concurred. “But how can you say we don’t have good luck when we are having the best sex of our lives?”

“I didn’t even come today,” Ramli said. “I’m too worried. How shall we feed ourselves? How shall you feed your family?”

Suleiman looked deeply into the angel’s eyes and turned to his friend. “You know the old saying, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ I think angels may work the same way.”


‘What if I mention to one of the other fisherman—one-eyed Restu, for instance, whose wife is little more to him than an irritant in his good eye. What if we told him he could make love to an angel . . . for 100,000 rupiah?”

“You would treat her that way?” Ramli was appalled.

“Our rules would be clear. Restu would have to honor the angel like the angel she is!” Suleiman was thinking out loud now. “Admit it, Ramli: She likes men. She likes sex. She is here to help us . . . help ourselves.”

“But what if Restu doesn’t respect her as we demand?”

“Then he shall never be with her again!”

“You mean he would want her again?”

“What man would not?”

“And we would allow it?”

“Of course. Although we might raise the price.”

“But what if word gets out?”

“How? Restu won’t tell anyone for fear his wife finds out and kills him!” Suleiman smiled.

“But you don’t want your wife to know about the angel, and yet you would tell Restu.”

Suleiman’s glibness ebbed. “Okay, I agree there is a small risk. Not for you, widower! But I am willing to take the risk. Men will only talk to other men about something like this. And if Restu spills the beans to the other fishermen . . . despite our pleas for him to keep quiet . . . well, the financial rewards will only increase for us!”

“I don’t like the idea of sharing her, Suleiman.”

Suleiman turned the angel toward his friend. “Does she look distressed? Even though she has heard our plans. We will not . . . we cannot keep secrets from this angel! But does she look unhappy?” Suleiman wrapped one arm around the angel and his other around Ramli. “This, old friend, is why she appeared to you. You are to share her blessings with mankind.”

Ramli was right to think that Restu might not keep the pleasures of an angel to himself. By the end of the next week, the old friends had given up fishing. Restu attended to the angel and to her many gentleman callers. Suleiman oversaw an appointment book and had to limit each fisherman to no more than three visits in a fortnight to make room for all of their clients. Prices were on a sliding scale upward to a maximum after ten visits of 1,000,000 rupiah, and there were days when Ramli and Suleiman would give up their own time with the angel in order to allow the high rollers to tryst.

Early one morning, hours before the day’s first client was due to arrive, a strenuous knocking roused Ramli who untangled himself from the angel in his bed. He switched on the ceiling light and opened the door of his house to find the fat monger in mid-knock. “Ah, Ramli, I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“Not at all,” Ramli lied. “What brings you here . . . to my house? I have nothing to sell.”

“That is not what I have heard.” The monger smirked. “I should like to meet the angel you sell.”

“Oh? No, sell is not the right word. Not the right word at all.”

“Fine. Sorry. I’m not in the market for her anyway. I just want to meet her. I have heard so much from the fishermen.”

“You’ll have to make an appointment with Suleiman. But he’s not here yet.”

“Ramli, I just want to meet her. For a few minutes only. Can’t you accommodate an old partner for just a bit.”

“Very well. Come in. Come in. Have a seat there on the sofa. I shall bring her in.”

Ramli went straight to the bedroom, dressed the angel in a modest housedress, and carried her to the sofa.

“Ah,” exclaimed the monger, “she is as heavenly as all the men say.” The monger made to lift her dress.

“No!” Ramli held back the monger’s hand. “You have met her. That is all for now.”

“May I not touch her?”

“You may touch her face. Gently.”

The monger stroked the angel’s cheeks, and kneeled on the floor to stroke her bare feet. “Lovely. Smooth as silk. Smoother even. Just lovely.” He lifted her right foot a bit. “This tattoo on the sole of her foot . . . lines in a circle. Do you know what it means?”

“Suleiman thinks it’s like a fingerprint for angels since they don’t have real fingerprints of course.”

“Yes, yes. That makes sense. Suleiman is no fool,” the monger said and smiled.

“Thank you for the compliment!” Suleiman stood in the parlor. “I think your sons are waiting for you in your trawler. And we have people waiting for us.”

The monger slapped his thighs and started to stand, but sat back on the sofa. “Speaking of my trawler and people waiting—“

“Yes. Yes. What?” Suleiman did not hide his eagerness to see the monger leave.

“You are providing a wonderful service for the men of your community.”

“Yes, yes. Thank you so much,” Suleiman snapped sarcastically.

“But there is no room for growth here. What if I made my trawler available to you and your . . . this miracle. We could make the rounds of the whole of this archipelago and even Sulewesi itself.”

Ramli looked incredulous. Suleiman wondered, “And why would you do this for us?”

“Well, for a percentage of the profits of course. After expenses, that is: the petrol and so forth.”

Suleiman retorted, “Monger, soon, if we want, we’ll be able to buy a fucking yacht and ply these islands with the kind of luxury our angel deserves. And you would have us stow this angel on your filthy trawler? Ridiculous.”

Swallowing his anger, the monger rose to leave. “Perhaps. Perhaps.” He stopped and turned toward Suleiman and Ramli. “Perhaps I shall return with another proposal.”

“Don’t bother,” said Suleiman, slamming the door behind the monger.

“Suleiman, you shouldn’t anger him. He can make trouble for us,” pleaded Ramli.


“He could tell the women of the village what we do here. He could start with your wife!”

“Ramli, my wife already knows what we do here. I told her myself to explain how I was able to buy her a new wardrobe and even a gold necklace from one of the merchant ships that visited.”

“But other wives are seeing their husbands spending not there, but here.”

“But neither are they screwing around any more with each other’s daughters or with the women who wash up on this shore from God knows where in search of men’s wallets. That must make their wives happy.” Suleiman paused. “I never liked that fat pig of a monger. He is a man with eyes only for money. I like him even less today . . . although . . .”

“Although what?” Ramli asked.

“His idea. It’s a good one. Not a trawler. And we don’t need a yacht, of course. A little cabin cruiser would suffice, wouldn’t take us long to save up—“

“No way! No way! No way!” Ramli screamed. “Enough! Is! Enough!” He fell on the angel and held her. “Leave us alone.”

“But we have our first guest coming soon.”

“Not today. Cancel today. Cancel tomorrow. We have earned enough already. Leave us alone, Suleiman. Just leave us alone.”

“I am sorry, Ramli. That monger got me so upset trying to elbow his way into our friendship. And he succeeded. But only for the moment. I apologize, Ramli. Forget the yacht, the cruiser. And forget the monger. I’ll cancel all today’s appointments. But I’ll look in on you two later. I love you both.” Suleiman opened the door and departed.

Ramli was still holding on to the angel when Suleiman returned with a lunch of rice, fish and vegetables his wife had prepared. Ramli agreed to eat and, over cigarettes and coffee, agreed to continue appointments on the following day. “But, Suleiman, there has to be a limit.”

“We cannot limit the desire of the fishermen here.”

“I am going to take her away.”

“What? Where?”

“Away. On my boat. In one month. That’s the limit.”

“That’s what she wants?”

“It is, Suleiman. She told me. She is tired. ‘Enough,’ she says.”

“Very well then. One month more.”

Every night from then on, Ramli reminded the angel before they slept in bed how many days remained before they would take the money they had made and start a new life on a new island. Or perhaps they would travel from island to island throughout Indonesia, not for commerce, but to see the world through each other’s eyes. “But now, my bidadari,” he said when the countdown reached ten days, “I need to close my eyes.”

Ramli’s eyes flew open long before dawn when he heard a pounding on his front door and a holler: “Open up! This is the police! Open the door!”

Ramli stumbled through the house and saw through the front window a uniformed police officer standing next to the fat monger carrying a lantern.

“I see you there, Bapak Ramli, “said the officer. “I have a warrant. You must open the door, or I shall break it in.”

As soon as Ramli switched on the ceiling light and unlatched the door, the officer and the monger burst into the house. “Not on the sofa,” the monger said to the officer. “It must be in his bed”

The police officer, shook his head and murmured, “Sick, sick,” as the monger disappeared into the bedroom and returned with the angel under his left arm. Ramli tried to free the angel, but the police officer intervened, pushing Ramli away, warning him not to obstruct justice and ordering him to sit on the sofa.

“I have been authorized by the police commissioner on the mainland to confiscate this doll,” the officer said to Ramli. “You can read the warrant . . . if you can read.” The officer threw a paper in Ramli’s lap. “Possession of sex paraphernalia is prohibited in Sulewesi province.”

“Doll? Sex paraffin? What are you talking about? This is a living bidadari!”

The police officer laughed and turned to the monger. “Hard to believe these people down here still believe in such crap.”

“But they treat her more like a whore than an angel, as I told you, Adi.” The monger waved the bottom of the angel’s foot in Ramli’s face. “You are such a fool! Angels need tattoos, you think? This is a manufacturer’s symbol—a logo it’s called—so a buyer knows the doll is authentic! You are an idiot, Ramli, but you did figure out the right way to use a sex toy. To fuck it . . . to invite the whole village to fuck it . . . for a price.”

Ramli cried, admitting that he was wrong to have used a bidadari that way.

“But you did use it that way,” the police officer said, “and I could arrest you and your partner for running a whore house. Give us any trouble and I will!” He turned to the monger and whispered, “And I’ll be a joke for the rest of my career. Let’s get this thing to your trawler, Hasan, and back to the mainland.”

As soon as the pair left with the angel, Ramli ran to Suleiman’s house screaming for his friend to wake up, that the monger had kidnapped the angel, that they had to run to the shore and save her. Suleiman quickly wrapped himself in a sarong, grabbed his sharpest fishing knife, and joined Ramli outside. They rode in tandem on one bike down to the beach, Ramli providing the details of the awful morning. At this hour, the only boats at anchor were Ramli’s and Suleiman’s old fishing outriggers and the monger’s trawler although his sons were preparing for its departure. Ramli could see in the pale light of dawn the monger and the police officer in the stern laughing and poking the naked angel with their fingers. He leaped off the bike, ran up the trawler’s gangplank, and grabbed the angel from the clutches of her assailants. The police officer punched Ramli in the face causing him to fall back and drop the angel on the deck just as Suleiman reached the stern waving his knife and screaming, “You will never have her, you fucking fat bastard.” The monger jumped overboard as the police officer gave way, and Suleiman fell upon the angel, puncturing and slicing in a frenzy until he lay atop a heap of broken metal hinges and silicone rags. The police officer stomped on the hand in which Suleiman held the knife and kicked the blade a meter toward the bow.

A soaking fat monger ran up the gangplank, yelling, “Arrest them, Adi, arrest them!”

“Oh, yes,” the officer said, “for killing a doll.” The police officer had the monger’s sons help him lift first Suleiman and then Ramli from the deck and throw them into the bay. Ramli, his nose aching and bleeding, crawled to Suleiman and dragged him to the shore, away from the propellers pushing the monger’s trawler back toward Sulewesi. Suleiman was breathing and moaning, but Ramli dare not move him farther. He rode the bike to Suleiman’s house and warned his wife that Suleiman had been seriously injured at the shore. She needed to arrange first-aid for her husband and, when the fishermen returned to the island at dawn, to get him to a hospital on the mainland. Ibu Suleiman ran to rouse her neighbors for help. Ramli, his face flattened and scabrous, walked unsteadily to his own empty home where he broke down and blubbered like a baby until exhaustion overcame his despair.

On the morning of the following day, Ramli packed a rucksack with his clothing, necessities, and his share of the funds earned with the angel and hauled it down to his boat. He would stop first in Sulewesi to have a doctor attend to his nose. He didn’t care how it looked, but wanted to make sure he had suffered nothing more serious than a broken bone or two.

He did not plan to visit Suleiman, nor accuse the fat monger and the police officer of brutality. He planned to avoid humanity. He would sail the waters of the strait between Sulewesi and the Banggai archipelago searching for the remains of his angel. Or perhaps he might come upon, since angels were angels after all, his own bidadari restored and beautiful and floating to him purposefully. If not, he was prepared to travel beyond these waters where another angel might want him and find him.


“Reincarnations” by Claire Simpson

1. American girl arrives in port city, China; 2004


I still remember stepping out, clutching

all we owned, inhaling salty air—

air streaked with smells ineffable. And their

eyes and ours brought from so far, now touching.

Windows to the soul. And manmade titans

scrape the sky, and vehicles of every

type you could imagine, packed conjointly

like us in our cab. And red flags, tridents

foreshadowing the mornings in the sun

in line, in uniform, and synchronized

with stiff salutes and voices lifted high

in praises of their country. All as one—

one sea of ebony that tried to shroud

our distinct heads of blonde hair and light brown.


2. American girl on life in Chinese city; 2013


I’ll tell the truth— sometimes I would forget

while riding in a tightly packed subway

that we were more than faces in the waves

despite how we tried to blend with the rest;

felt camouflaged— expression and our dress

now matching theirs. But we were wolves,

devouring their culture. Our own selves

becoming just like sheep to some success.

Their tones of black note musicality

spilled from our lips. We spoke another tongue

some time ago. But now we sing out hymns

unsung in that republic of the free,

that place where my heart used to run; but now

what once I thought was foreign is my home.


3. American? girl returns to the States; 2014-present


They welcomed me home, but didn’t know

my loss. I hadn’t brought back everything

while I was packing. No space enough for something

I’d grown to know so closely. And so

I study all my catalogued traditions

to pick and choose which custom is my own,

or rather, just survive. I’ll find the flow

and I’ll survive the waves. The conditions

demanding of me constant oscillation.

I see what is required for my projection—

I give appearance of full acclimation,

although my heart feels pulled in two directions.

“Where are you from?” the question that I fear;

“Where am I from?” I ask myself, unclear.


“Quality Assurance” by Nick Westfall

“Your call may be recorded for quality assurance.”

I had one question and if they cared about quality they’d play New Zealand music during my wait. I switched ears to allow my right one to throb itself back to normal.

“Thank you for holding, your call is very important to us.”


** This paragraph has been cut for better, more efficient storytelling. For information on the missing information please…**


“What is your record locator number?”

I scrambled around for the documents. “STU9560JBL”

“So that’s S as in Steve, T as in Tango, Q as in Queen. Nine. Five. Six. O as in Oscar. K as in Kite. C as in Cat. And L as in Lamb. Is that correct?”

“No. Not at all.”

“Okay please wait.”

No music this time, just waiting which makes me feel better because I know she’s listening to me breathe—

“Okay Mr. Chester, please hold.”

Jon Bon Jovi played over the speaker. My left ear throbbed.

“Mr. Chester,” a male voice this time, “Can I please have your record locator number…”

“It has letters and numbers.”

“Whenever you’re ready sir.”

“Before I attempt this, is it possible to send you a picture of it instead?”

“No sir. We’re on landlines.”

“Landlines… Okay, is it possible to have a guarantee that you won’t place me back on hold should something happen in the misinterpretation of my spelling…”

“I will be able to help you with that sir.”

“Do you have a particular set of responses?”

“Your call is very important to us. Do you have a record locator number with you… If not, say, I don’t know.”

“S as in Stan, T as in Tangerine, U as in unicorns–”
“Please hold and a representative will be right with you.”

Jon Bon Jovi finished his song, which led to Jimmy Buffet.

“How can I help you today Mister Chester?”

“A new playlist.”

“Excuse me?”

“I just have a question about baggage fees for my flight to New Zealand.”

“New Zealand… What a great place. Do you have a record locator number?”

I took a deep breath, “STU9560JBL”

“Great. So let me repeat that back to you. S as in Stan. T as in Tango. Q as in Queen–”

“NO!” I thought I might’ve been in the middle of some sort of stroke I didn’t know I was having.

“I’m sorry we’re having trouble sir, could you please repeat your record locator number?”

“S as in Satan. T as in Transexual. U as in Universe. Nine. Five. Six. Oh. J as in Jack off. B as in Bisexual. L as in Lost at sea.”

There was a pause. “Great, thank you mister Chester. Now is that an O as in Oscar after the six? Or is it an Oh as in zero?”


“Thank you. Okay so I see you have a question about baggage fees.”

“That. Is. Why. I. Called.”

“Great. Thank you for your call. All of our frequently asked questions can be found on our website and Facebook page–”

Speaking of quality, I wonder how we can look at Selfie Sticks in a positive way for humanity. Have all the previous generations of humans been waiting this whole time to find out we’re taking pictures of ourselves? Have they all lived in the hope that we’d understand more about the world and this life through Selfies?

Pictures used to be made for people who can’t remember, just like quality is only for people with an appetite for introspection and a life with the luxury of boredom. An unexamined life isn’t worth living for people like you and me, but what is quality if not as individual as the individual… Where are the holons to compare one holon’s quality over another… Where are the qualifying differences between productive and destructive phone conversations… When is anything worth the wait… It’s in moments like these where my liberal arts education takes over because phone calls like these give me time to think. To assess. To conjure up all the possibilities of what could be true. It takes work because my natural hardwired setting, my unconsciousness, is always pissed off at everything that reminds it that I am not the center of the universe. That my problems aren’t what determines the world’s priorities. I get the opportunity to look at the situation and assess. Maybe the guy on the other end is mentally handicapped and this is one of the highest paying jobs he could ever have. Maybe the guy’s wife just died and he’s having trouble telling his kids and even more trouble concentrating on work when all he thinks about is if the life insurance policy he had for his wife covers suicide. Maybe delusional hypotheticals give everyone a reminder that life is romantic, not empirical. Maybe we live in a culture that influences all the most decadent parts of ourselves… The destructive holons.

While I waited on the phone, I thought of all the terrible things that haven’t happened to me yet, and found my answers on their website.