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The House on the Hill

At the top of Seraya Hill stood a rambling old two-storey house. Tall shuttered windows lined the ground floor, like sleepy sentinels, while ornate embellishments draped themselves round the upper and lower edges of the outside wall, like icing on the circumference of a wedding cake. At the front, a commanding porch presided. Wide enough to accommodate a car, it stood on smooth round columns, truncated at the bottom with floral carvings. The tops of the columns also burst into bloom with Corinthian leaves and tendrils and crowning this glorious façade was a stone triangular pediment on to which was carved in elegant lettering that is rarely found these days, the name LSH Villa.


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A Thief

I am a thief. I’ve been a thief since about the age of three, that’s as far back as I can remember. Since I was old enough to steal, I guess. The first thing I remember stealing is a mango, from right under my amah’s nose. She had bought a bag of mangoes for herself and when she wasn’t looking, I grabbed one. That’s the kind of thief I’ve been mostly, a snatch thief. Although I moved on to house breaking and car breaking when I was a teenager, my specialty is grabbing and running. There’s nothing like the feel of the rush in my belly when I’m running as fast as my legs can carry me with something new in my hand. 


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Diamonds in the Sky: A Children's Story

It was a dark starry night. The sky was as black as tar and against the darkness the stars shone like diamonds. A little boy sat on the verandah of his house looking up into the sky. ‘How dark the sky is’, he thought to himself. ‘But how brightly the stars shine. They are beautiful.’ Then the boy noticed that the stars made shapes in the sky. He began tracing the stars with his fingers and he did that he saw that things were appearing. First he saw a kite flying, its tail curled in the wind. Then he saw a choo choo train, puffing clouds of smoke. Then he saw a fat juicy lemon. And then he saw a lovely rose. And finally he saw the face of a kind old lady. As he looked at her, he saw her smiling at him with a big, broad smile.


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Papaya Salad

A nine-year old girl in pyjamas squatted by the bare concrete wall at the back of her family’s home in a back alley soi of Bangkok. By her splayed feet were a large granite mortar and pestle, and in one hand a green, unripe peeled papaya. The taut drum of the fruit seemed to big for her small, child’s hand and she kept jiggling it to keep it balanced. In her other hand she held an aluminium fork. She started scraping the firm watery flesh of the green papaya with the tines of the fork, creating a furrow of lines, like a ploughed field. When she had scraped the entire surface of the papaya, she took a took and knife and gently sliced off the scraped bits, letting the shredded papaya fall into her mortar and pestle. In this way, she shredded the whole papaya and when she was done, turned her face upwards, mopped the sweat from her brow with a sleeve, a pile of green papaya tails collected at her feet, glistening with their own juice, like ribbons of pale, green jade.  


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The Wrong Man

At the bottom of a stairwell at block 301 Tao Payoh Street 4 one dark night, a young man sat huddled tightly in the darkest corner. Folding himself up like a Z-frame bed, Teck Guan tried to make himself disappear into the shadows. He crammed his knees under his chin, hunched his back and locked his arms around his shins. Given his scrawny, cat-like frame, this was not difficult. What was more difficult was trying not to shiver. Even in the balmy heat of tropical night, Teck Guan’s entire body quivered and shuddered. Cold beads of perspiration broke out on his brow and rolled down his face and back, soaking his paper thin nylon shirt and grey trousers, collecting in pools in his collarbones, his armpits, in between his toes, icy and still like the surface of a lake on a winter’s morning.


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