Lucia wondered how long the rain had been pouring and, with some urgency, edged off the bed and slipped her rain jacket over her duster. The throbbing rain dangled a curtain of mist outside her open window – the skies heft with the twining bodies of clouds. Outside it was already light.  She worried about the rice fields that could have turned waterlogged and, by now, caking with mud. She floated barefoot across the narrow partitions of the bamboo walls, and the gaps of the hallway, the slat floor squeaking as she whisked by.

Her nephew, Jimwell, who’d arrived at Madarag the day before for a visit, lay quietly asleep in the next room. A mobile phone vibrated next to him but Lucia did not want to wake him. She wanted to ask him last night why he came but there were other things to worry about. Her farm wasn’t making much and she feared he would ask for something she might not be able to afford or give. That was something she’d ache about like some flame being stoked in her gut. She paused when she reached the house’s small receiving area, only to see her son gone. His sleeping mat was already folded on top of a wooden bench. The radio beside it droned with static. She looked out of the window and found Arvin, sunburned skin glistening with rain, crouching by the pond fields, drilling holes between the canal walls of the paddies to drain water out of them. He no longer looked like a boy of nineteen but a man with his muscles straining around his neck, his shoulders rounded and chiselled. Valleys and wide flat-lands glinted behind him; the trees that stood on the edges of the rice fields were draped in rain water.

‘Are the rice plants flooded?’ Lucia called out when she reached the ladder of the house whose elevated foundations, abetted by sturdy culms of bamboo, sank into squares of concrete. Her feet landed on the soil, soft and wet – the crunching of her bones drowned out by the squawks of hens and roosters and the squeals of pigs penned behind the sty. The roosters and fowls and the dog and her puppies scrambled to circle her, their heads aloft and alert for an early meal. She felt the cold air circling pockets of mist toward her skin; the weight of humidity that blanketed them the night before had simmered out.

‘I got up as soon as the rain started,’ her son called back, pressing his fingers against the mud that surrounded the young, short stalks of rice. The soles of his feet and the corner of his ankles were buried in the swirl of muck.

‘I’ll cook for you some breakfast. Come and eat when you’re done.’ She wasn’t sure if he’d heard her. She got busy with the drenched firewood by the small stove on a concrete cubicle they had placed a few steps away from their stilted house. She stacked the firewood on top of each other and lit it with a match that she thumbed out of the side pocket of her dress.

She noticed her nephew yawning by the ladder when she turned to chase the hens and the chicks that occupied the table as well as the benches below the elevated house. Thick bellies of smoke from the firewood looped and wrung about them the odour of wet muddied boots and rotten leather.

‘Ah, you are awake. How was your sleep?’ She wondered if this time she should ask why he came but fought the urge to do so. He’d probably tell her in no time.

‘My sleep was good, Iyay. Where’s Arvin?’

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

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Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Because writing is fun.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My latest book is Age of Blight, a collection of short stories that mostly talk about humanity’s toxic impact to the natural world and how unfair it is to nonhuman animals that we are taking them down with us as we destroy this planet. Some stories in the book also attempt to straddle both supernatural horror and psychological horror—two genres I love.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

A body of writing that evolves form-wise and theme-wise (and treatments thereof) so that in book after book, I’ll be able to see a semblance of progress. Stories that delve into ethical issues and use POVs in order to subtly distinguish between right and wrong. Ecological themes. In poetry: not terribly postmodernist-style detached in tone, not overtly emo, either. Personas with universal empathy. Conjuring a dreamlike feel always appeals to me.

Who are your favorite authors?

Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Thomas Harris, Ira Levin, Herbert Lieberman, Stephen King, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Shirley Jackson, Terry Bisson, Brendan Connell, Rhys Hughes, Patricia Russo, Bruce Boston, Dan Chaon, Matt Bell, Brian Evenson, plus many contemporary writers, mostly poets. Recent fiction addictions include those authored by Damien Angelica Walters and Nalo Hopkinson.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

My planned first novel, which I aim to finish by the end of this year. It is challenging because if it sucked then I will have a hard time selling my next one.

andrea“Asians have far too long been the consumer of books from the West and I speak from a country where many kids know the stories of the West better than their own canon, much less the younger writers,” says Andrea Pasion-Flores in this exclusive interview with Kitaab. “I am sure this is not just true for the Philippines but for many Asian countries.”

Andrea is the first literary agent from the Philippines, working from the Philippines. Recently, she joined Jacaranda Literary Agency as an agent. Jacaranda is one of Asia’s most well-known literary agencies with offices in Singapore, India, Kenya and the Philippines.

Based in Manila, Philippines, Andrea is a copyright lawyer and she teaches English at the University of the Philippines as a member of the faculty of the Department of English and Comparative Literature.  She is also the author of a bestselling book, Have Baby Will Date, published by Summit Media. Her forthcoming collection of stories For Love and Kisses will be published by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House in January 2014.