Pearl of the Orient – Chinese New Year, 1976

3 Jan

100 words of Autobiographical Fiction for Friday Fictioneers. Is that even a genre? In political circles it is so I’ll run with it while I can. Comments will sort it. Photo prompt kindly provided by Lora Mitchell. Cat herding rules and attempts to control the Tom Foolerizers at the back of the bus patiently provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Other stories for this photo can be found here.

No warnings necessary unless you don’t live in the real world.

In retrospect my feelings that night are best summed up by the words of Hamlet to Horatio. (Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5.) “And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

The memories are still as clear and vivid as the fireworks over Victoria Peak.


After forty-seven days submerged we surface at night and maneuver for two hours, then anchor in a roadstead near a crowded harbor. Liberty call is passed and I muster topside.

The saffron sky is alive with fireworks exploding above a brilliant neon cityscape, the air  fragrant with seaweed and saltwater.

We clamber down a Jacob’s ladder on the curved hull and board a small junk. A bent woman with averted eyes hands out business cards as we wend our way toward shore.

By starbursts I read:

Pink Lotus Club 2

An auspicious omen.

78 Responses to “Pearl of the Orient – Chinese New Year, 1976”

  1. tedstrutz January 3, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    Excellent Autobiographical Fiction, Doug. I could smell the seawater and feel the curve of the hull in the ladder. Taxi driver making a living handing out promises… I knew it was Hong Kong when I saw Victoria Peak with the fireworks exploding above.

    p.s. I thought that card would have been a little more wrinkled, after surviving in your wallet these many years.

    • tedstrutz January 3, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

      p.p.s. this avatar captures the real you… (for any Fictioneers wondering)

      • dmmacilroy January 3, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

        Dear Ted,

        Thanks for your comments. Have you visited Hong Kong many times? I’ve only been there twice but have to place it on the top tier of most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.

        Would the skyline at night give you migraines?

        What new avatar? 🙂



      • tedstrutz January 4, 2013 at 1:20 am #

        Well, not this avatar, that’s for sure. He does not look like this old geezer, folks.

  2. rgayer55 January 3, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    Enjoyed it, Doug. Once again, you put me right there smelling the salt water and waiting for the next flash so I could read the card.

    • dmmacilroy January 3, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

      Dear Russell,

      Thanks for dropping by. Hope you don’t get seasick. Not much of a story but a nice memory.



  3. Jan Brown January 3, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    Great story! Even if you hadn’t told us it was a vivid memory, that would have been evident by the intense imagery and descriptive sense memories. Loved the business card depicted at the conclusion!

    • dmmacilroy January 3, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

      Hi Jan,

      Thank you for visiting and commenting. Looking forward to reading yours.



  4. rochellewisoff January 3, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    Dear Doug,
    I could easily go through this piece line by line and point out each thing I love about it; the vivid imagery 😉 , the powerful verbs, etc etc. You transported me to Hong Kong, sight, sound and scent. Applause!
    zài jiàn

    • dmmacilroy January 3, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

      Dear Rochelle,

      Stop it!

      Thanks for visiting, commenting and teaching me a little Chinese.



  5. sustainabilitea January 3, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

    Doug, this was quite simply a beautiful piece of writing all the way through, whether autobiographical or not. It was a joy to read.


    • dmmacilroy January 3, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

      Dear Janet,

      You are very kind to say so and I appreciate it very much. (Joy? That gives me joy.)

      Mahalo and Aloha,


      • sustainabilitea January 3, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

        Not kind, just truthful. But I’m glad it gave you joy as reading the lyrical prose gave me joy.


  6. bridgesareforburning January 3, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    Hi Doug,
    I have a prurient interest in what happened in the next 100 words! I had to look up roadstead. I’ve learned quite a bit from reading your flashes. This one is beautifully written, but I’ve come to expect that from you. Having it be autobiographical makes it even better. Ron

    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:11 am #

      Dear Ron,

      I had my ashes hauled, went round the world a few times and stumbled back the the sub two days later. As Hunter S. Thompson used to say, “Got pictures? I deny it!”

      Thanks for dropping by, buddy. i appreciate the read and the comments.



  7. Joyce January 3, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

    Very good descriptive images just like a real sailor describing his escapades. Is it fiction or a past memory? 🙂 My brother was in the Navy. He could relate to this as he has told me about his navy stint in the service.

    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      Dear Joyce,

      The real deal. only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Thanks for stopping in to read and comment.



      • Joyce January 4, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

        Your welcome. And Happy New Year to you too. Hope it is a safe, healthy, prosperous one.

  8. kz January 4, 2013 at 12:23 am #

    your descriptions are lovely! felt like i was there..seeing and feeling..

    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:12 am #

      Dear KZ,

      Thank you so much for your kind comment.



  9. TheOthers1 January 4, 2013 at 12:56 am #

    You do lovely work. Helping me ‘see’ a scene I didn’t live. I envy your ability

    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:21 am #

      Dear CC,

      Thanks for saying so. Sometimes I wish there were more words allotted to us, for there was so much more to that night. A feast for the senses. Ah, well, perhaps it’s all better left to the imagination.



  10. Author of Christian Comfort & Conversation January 4, 2013 at 1:03 am #

    Well done. You took me back to my Navy training days. The smell of saltwater, was freedom from the aliens on earth. Who would not dare follow me. ….smiling.

    Great read. I enjoyed.


    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:23 am #

      Dear Shenine,

      I am glad my story evoked memories of earlier days. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  11. valeriedavies January 4, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    I hate to disappoint you Doug, but I think services to the Fleet meant what a certain Jenny did.
    Born in 1917 on a sampan in Causeway Bay she began ‘servicing the fleet’ in 1928, finally ending in 1997. In her long obituary in the Daily Telegraph(UK) she and her girls ‘washed and ironed,cleaned ships, chipped rust and painted, attended as bouy jumpers, and dressed in their best waited on guests at cocktail parties.
    ‘Captains and first lieutenants would find fresh flowers in their cabins and newspapers delivered daily. She refused payment, instead earning her keep by selling soft drinks to ships companies and scavenging scrap and gash on board…’
    She was a Hong Kong legend… I lived there for four years…and recognised it straight away from your delicious little anecdote… would love to hear more…

    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:06 am #

      Dear Valerie,

      I’m sure Jenny and her crew of girls did indeed write a page of their own in Hong Kong’s long and storied history, I can assure you that while the name ‘Pink Lotus Club’ is fictitious, the business card and mission statement were very real and so, too, were the services to the fleet provided at he establishment in question.

      Autobiographical Fiction was the genre because I was there that night (and a few other nights as well) and….well, trust me, I wasn’t disappointed then so your comment cannot disappoint me now. As you know from your time there, Hong Kong is a huge and multi-faceted city. I have the feeling that we each experienced it from vastly different perspectives.

      Thank you for your wonderful and richly detailed comments and for adding to my store of lore from The Pearl of the Orient.



      • valeriedavies January 4, 2013 at 8:18 am #

        Aha, so I got it wrong did I? Well I’m so glad I did, because you must have had a lot of fun!!!

        ( and I don’t know how you managed to stay sane in a submarine. I should have gone stark raving mad. I’ve always thought submariners were the bravest of men)
        Yours Valerie

      • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:25 am #

        Dear Valerie,

        The secret of the Silent Service is that they only let the crazy ones in. (And that would include me.)



  12. waitingforaname January 4, 2013 at 3:21 am #

    Present tense works perfectly to give this piece a sense of urgency and motion under the cover of water and night.

    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Dear Lisa,

      Thank you. It seemed to work well during the writing of it, too.

      I appreciate you taking the time to notice that and comment on it.



  13. train-whistle January 4, 2013 at 4:21 am #

    my Dad was a Navy man. I could hear him telling this story. Thanks for bringing his memory to the surface for me.

    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:29 am #

      Dear TW,

      Now that comment makes me happy. Evoking a memory from the past? Special stuff and happy to help. Thanks for dropping in and commenting.



  14. www. nouveauold January 4, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    Permission to come aboard, captain!

  15. Perry Block (@PerryBlock) January 4, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    Accidentally clicked that last comment before finishing and I don’t see a delete anywhere. This is a richly evocative piece in just a few words and the re-creation of the card counterpointed with the fireworks and the bent woman conveys it all.

    Now, permission to come aboard please!

    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:34 am #

      Dear Perry,

      Permission granted. Thank you for those fine comments, good sir. The card was fun. Amazing what you can do on the interweb.



  16. David Stewart January 4, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    The description really puts the reader there with you. The business card is a great touch too.

    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:34 am #

      Dear David,

      Thank you, Sir. The pleasure was all mine.



  17. muZer January 4, 2013 at 7:50 am #

    What an imagery you’ve created with words. I almost felt the saffron sky and the fragrance in the air. Great take on the pic.

    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:38 am #

      Dear MuZer,

      Thanks for your kind comments. i appreciate you taking the time to stop and mention the details.



  18. claireful January 4, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    You really are good at placing the reader at the heart of the thing. *Applause*

    • dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:36 am #

      Dear Claire,

      Simply said, so I’ll return the favor. Thank you for saying so.



  19. dmmacilroy January 4, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Dear Tom,

    I’m going to do my best to keep you saying the same thing next week. Feel free to wax effusive in my comment section. i was only teasing in yours. Thanks for reading and taking the time to touch bases with me. I appreciate it very much.



    • Tom Poet January 4, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

      Feel free to mess with me. I changed the title of my story to make it easier to understand where it takes place. Of course my five hundred word explanation in my comment box helps as well. It’s good to know there is no limit on explaining.

  20. unspywriter January 4, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    This is rather timeless, since sailors in port are rather timeless as well. Excellent imagery, and “service to the fleet” indeed! 🙂

    Here’s mine:

    • dmmacilroy January 5, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      Dear Maggie,

      They are often clueless, too. It is their drive and determination to paint the town red that makes ‘sailors in port’ legendary and timeless.

      Loved your story.



  21. 40again January 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    Dear Doug
    Loved your ‘saffron sky’.
    The air ‘fragrant with seaweed and saltwater’ reminds me of The Gower, close to home.
    Beautifully descriptiive piece, I really enjoyed reading it.
    Thank you

    • dmmacilroy January 7, 2013 at 3:23 am #

      Dear Dee,

      Thanks for teaching me about The Gower. And for reading and commenting. i appreciate it.



  22. Sandra January 4, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    Some great descriptions and phraseology here, taking the reader right to the scene. Enjoyed it greatly, and never doubted what the services to the fleet would be. 🙂 I think you either love Hong Kong or you hate it – for me it was the latter, but most people I know were totally enchanted by it. Still, even I might have revised my opinion after 47 days submerged. Happy memories.

    • dmmacilroy January 5, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

      Dear Sandra,

      One of the things that has stayed with me down through the years was the memory of (among other things) the wording of the card. Simple, direct, and yet so much left to the imagination. Upon reflection, that card was probably my first experience reading flash fiction.

      Hong Kong was also dirty, strange and totally oblivious of me, but in the end, i became one of those that loved her, perhaps because my time there was so fleeting. No time to worry about the downside of the city as we were too immersed in it anyway.

      Lovely to hear from you.



  23. elmowrites January 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    You were quite right, Doug – our stories are nothing alike. Except, they both invite two interpretations at the end, only one of which makes the piece erotica!
    Your descriptions are vivid and expertly crafted. I read it again and still couldn’t find anything to criticise!

    • dmmacilroy January 5, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

      Dear Jen,

      Nothing to criticize? That comment alone sets off fireworks for me. Thank you for reading.

      I am looking forward to reading yours tonight as it sounds very interesting.



  24. EmmaMc January 4, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    I always go straight to the fiction and then go back to read the forward. It’s nice not to be influenced when reading something new. Yet I could tell this was autobiographical. The descriptions are so vivid, I could hear the crowds and smell the water. It completely transported me to that time and place. My best friend’s brother spends a lot of time submerged so this reminded me of him. As always, a wonderful story.

    • dmmacilroy January 5, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

      Dear Emma,

      I like your plan of attack for reading the stories and may apply it tonight as I finish the rest of the stories. Thanks for that and thank you for such nice comments.



  25. erinleary January 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Living in a port city, I am well familiar with the idea of shore leave. My mother warned me away from sailors. Clearly, this port was a memorable one!

    • dmmacilroy January 5, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

      Dear Erin,

      Sometimes a sailor is just what the moment calls for, but by and large, I’d have to agree with your mother. We were young, dumb and full of…
      Ah, well, you get the point.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  26. rich January 5, 2013 at 2:20 am #

    if i’m missing – you’ll know where to find me! well done. interesting how the moment should be noisy but the language has a “hushed” feel to it.

    • dmmacilroy January 5, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

      Dear Rich,

      I had to cut and slash through several versions and the sounds of the fireworks over the harbor became a casualty of war. I’m glad some of the stillness survived. Thanks for reading, my friend.



      • rich January 6, 2013 at 1:30 am #

        for me, the important parts were the indoor fireworks. yeah, i’m not as honorable as others. or you.

  27. billgncs January 5, 2013 at 3:05 am #

    Doug — that was magical, in description and feeling. Thanks for sharing it.

    • dmmacilroy January 5, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

      Dear Bill,

      Certainly was a moment. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  28. writeondude January 5, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Autobiographical, huh? Sounds like an interesting life. When’s the full autobiography coming out? Well done.

    • dmmacilroy January 5, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

      Dear Pete,

      I’d have to cherry pick to get enough material for a chapter. Flash fiction lends itself to that. Thanks for your comments. (Who won that game you were watching when you wrote your story?



  29. H.L. Pauff January 5, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    Very vivid. I’m willing to bet you can close your eyes any time and transport yourself back to that moment

    • dmmacilroy January 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

      Dear H.L.,

      That’s a bet you’d win every time. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  30. Anne Orchard January 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    I also thought the present tense worked very well for this, even though you had already told us it was in the past. I will stop now because everything I want to say has been said already. Well done.

    • dmmacilroy January 5, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

      Dear Anne,

      Thanks for commenting so kindly about my story. The scene came back to me as I saw the prompt and wrote itself down before I had a chance to say otherwise.

      I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the stories tonight.



  31. mari wells January 7, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    Beautiful imagery.

    • dmmacilroy January 7, 2013 at 3:18 am #

      Dear Mari,

      Thank you.



  32. The Bumble Files January 7, 2013 at 5:09 am #

    Dear Doug,
    This was an exquisite piece, perfectly executed. I was mesmerized. You are quite the craftsman. It was a pleasure to read.

    • dmmacilroy January 7, 2013 at 8:14 am #

      Dearest Amy,

      You honor me. Comments like yours keep my striving to do well. I cannot thank you enough for sharing them with me.



      • The Bumble Files January 7, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

        It’s a pleasure. And, I meant every word.

  33. Parul January 8, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    Autobiographical? You have an interesting life sir! 🙂
    If I got down to writing mine, it would be getting in a bus and getting off a bus… 5 days a week, 4 weeks a months, 12 months a year. lol

    • dmmacilroy January 8, 2013 at 5:33 am #

      Dearest Parul,

      Ah, but, you see, I have been to India, and that is what you forgot to add to your story. Two simple words that change everything….In India.

      Your writing is good, Parul, and who knows? Perhaps you are going to write a more interesting life for yourself. Far stranger things have happened. This is your time, your century. People are hungry to know about your country, it’s ancient and modern beauty, it’s many cultures all living together, the sights and sounds, the vastness, the amazing panoply of life on your doorstep. Oh, how I envy you your time and your perspective. Be that voice, be Parul in her time and tell your story. See what happens to your life.

      With Aloha,


  34. KC January 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    I liked this a lot. I’m a Navy brat, granddaughter of a Captain and daughter of…umm…well, when he got his twenty it was Aviation Storekeeper 1st Class, but he spent 16 yrs. as a cook, on ships. (Did I get that right? Ship is the overwater one, and a Sub is a Boat? Or is it the other way around?) I believe he must have had a lot of the same fun you had, only he -does- have pictures. Well, ink, anyway. 😉

    He has quite a few tats, ranging in size from the big sailing ship on his chest to the two actual sized meatstamps he designed himself.(I’ll refrain from telling you their location. ;p) My favorites are the two he calls his “red and green running lights”…two beautiful oriental women, one on each calf, one in a red dress, and of course the other in green. Just wanted to let you know that it was an awesome story, and I’m honored to have been allowed in to share it.

    Mahalo, sir, and I hope to go on more adventures “with” you.


    • dmmacilroy January 10, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

      Dear KC,

      You are right about ships and boats and are also a member by birth of a community that has a long and storied tradition of defending the nation down through the years. You family sounds intriguing and it is my bet that you have a gold mine of stories there.

      I’m happy to have you along for the ride on mine.



  35. KC January 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    Heyla, Captain! Wanted to let you know how much I loved your story, for several reasons (other than the fact that it’s awesome and well-done and visually striking and so on and so forth that others have already said better. ;p) so here goes, for the second time. (Wrote a looong one on my phone, but silly WP lost it, so I get to do it again! Yay for second chances!)

    I’m a Navy brat for several generations, granddaughter of a Ships Captain, daughter of…well, at the time he got his 20, it was Aviation Storekeeper First Class, but he spent 16 years of it as a cook, on various ships. (Don’t tell anyone, but I think my Mom may have been rebelling a bit…;p)

    I think maybe you and my dad may have had some of the same fun, difference is, he -does- have pics…well, ink at least. He is quite well-decorated (If not of the Scrambled Eggs and Ribboned kind) and as a kid I used to ask him to tell me about them over and over.

    There are…I think 7-ish, ranging in size from the full chestpiece four-master to the two actual-size meatstamps he designed himself (I’ll decline to tell you where he put those, except to say you can’t see them unless he’s in swimtrunks. ;p), but my two favorites have always been the ones he calls his “Red and Green Running Lights”. Two lovely Oriental “ladies”, one on each calf, one in a beautiful slit-sided red dress, the other of course in green.

    So as you can see, your story and the various comments brought back the childlike wonder of seeing The Pretty Ladies, and wondering why Daddy had them on his legs. Yup. That’s it. <.< No prurience here, nossir. *giggles*

    So mahalo yourself, sir, and I hope to go on many more adventures "with" you!


    PS: "Jacobs Ladder"…*shudders* I know what those are. Never went on one, but saw one. An almost-more-than-friend of mine was a squid on a nuke-sub, and he took me on a "family tour" while it was in dock. It pretty much became my definition of the word "awesome" in it's most basic meaning…full of awe! Soooo big! In the movies they look so tiny, out in the huge ocean, like the little plastic toys in a game of Battleship. But to stand on the deck, looking over the side…it's breathtaking. And then to go inside…and down, and down, and down, and down…knowing that there's about as much of it -under- the water as there is on top, and you're now under all that water as well…yeah. Not claustrophobic, but…wow.

    And then there's the deadly forest, in its belly. I was…breathless, literally, looking down those seemingly endless racks and racks and racks of metal death-dealers, one of which could take a bite out of the coast the size of Jacksonville (where we were) and never even notice…and here were hundreds, if not more. Not sure how I felt vis-a-vis politics or war or any of that…I just know that those things frightened me more than anything in my life so far, and still figure in my 80's inspired, Reagan-esque nightmares.

    • dmmacilroy January 10, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

      Dear KC,

      One of the best comment I’ve ever fielded. Rivals most of the stories, too. Thank you for sharing. I’m glad you’ve been inside a submarine. I started my story trying to describe the unique smell and ended up editing it out as it took up too much space and still could not convey the particular odor that submarine interiors have.

      Thanks so much for reading and writing such brilliant and spot on comments.



      • KC January 12, 2013 at 4:59 am #

        Thank you! I appreciate that! I was afraid you wouldn’t like it because it was so long and rambly, not to mention the double-post. Silly WP. 😉

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