Here is the Battle at Kruger that I mentioned over Christmas. It is worth watching once.

Also, here is an example I did for a creative writing exercises in my 12th grade lit class. I asked students to imitate Joyce’s style (from his Portrait of an Artist…) as closely as possible in a brief autobiographical piece of their own. Students had fun with it, as did I (although it was slightly grim at points). Parts of it are only loosely connected to fact, but most of the experiences are not ones that I remember directly to any significant degree anyway. Kevin, I don’t plan to try imitating Joyce for any of our project. Style and content are never fully separable.

Mr. Hake
Literature Class
January 7, 2009

Portrait of Your Teacher as a Young Child

In a yellow photograph, a staircase with metal railings rose up past a fat little finger that pointed at the wall and an earnest little voice that asked, “What dat? What dat? What dat?” His father’s arm held him up, and he leaned forward as far as he could over his father’s arm. His father smiled and called him Little Fella. His mother answered him each time. She loved his question each time that he asked it.

The big black and white doggy had puppies that were in a box. He couldn’t touch them, but they were fat and pushed their faces into their mommy. They wiggled until they slept.

Amma(1) was old but moved quickly. She hung up his cloths on the balcony, and he closed the door behind her to make her laugh.

He had a rice hat like daddy’s hat and he sat on daddy’s big motorcycle with his hat. It could go when you pulled down on this part, but he had a basket to sit in behind daddy.

The Marshalls had many children like him and his brother, but most of them were girls. They all played together while the daddies and mommies talked. It was fun to hide between the palm trunks behind the house and to pretend that Debbie was sick. One day they tricked their parents and brought Debbie home by hiding her in the car on the floor behind mommy and daddy’s seats. When they got home, his father spanked them and got on the phone. He said:

–Jesse and Kevin have been spanked, and we will bring Debbie home right away.

Debbie got spanked too. We talked about it and decided that it was worth the spanks. But she never came home with us by herself again.

* * *

At night in bed there were be-hu(2) crawling across the ceiling to catch the bugs that flew near the lamp. They liked to stay in the corners by the wall where the paint was stained yellow-brown until a moth or mosquito landed on the white circle of light cast up by the lamp. Then they moved out slowly like tigers to get close enough for a quick jump. How did they jump across a ceiling without falling? Their toes were wide and rough, but they must never be able to let go with all of their feet at the same time or they would have to fall down.

His daddy came in and shut out the small lamp.

His daddy’s bare feet lifted softly off the polished terrazzo(3) floor as he walked beside the metal railing toward his room. After his parent’s door closed, he whispered quietly:


There was no answer from the darkness overhead. He must be asleep already. How could he fall asleep before the light had even been shut off?

Jesse felt his toes gingerly for a minute before slipping out from under his mosquito net to turn on the lamp. Mother explained that it was a fungus that left the ends of his toes dangling so precariously, but that didn’t make much sense. Fungus was like a mushroom or mold. It should have been visible. But this fungus didn’t leave a trace. It eat away under his toe knuckles leaving deep cracks. But the cracks were not raw or painful. The skin inside these cracks looked healthy and normal. Even more strange was the fact that no bone was visible. He tried to look at his little toe from the side and visualize whether or not the crack extended more than halfway through the toe. It looked close to halfway at least. It looked like nothing but a little flap of skin was holding the end of his toe on at all. He wished that it would bleed or expose a bone so that it would feel more like his toe and less like a plastic toe that didn’t belong to him. Oh well, that was just what fungus did to toes he guessed. Shutting off the light, he lay back on his mat and gazed out of the sliding glass doors and the bars that enclosed their bedroom’s narrow balcony. He watched for when the be-hu would move to their fallback positions on the glass outside.


1. This is the name that I remember calling her. It means grandma in Taiwanese. My father tells me that I actually called her Liao Tia Tia, which just means Mrs. Liao.
2. This is a gecko, and the Chinese name means wall tiger. It can be either plural or singular depending on context. It is strange that a Mandarin Chinese name was used for such a common local creature.
3. Terrazzo is a faux-marble material made of marble or stone chips embedded in a cement binder, then highly polished. It was ubiquitous as flooring in Kaohsiung.

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