Fiction — April 19, 2011 10:06 — 4 Comments

Seattle Freeze – Kawika Guillermo

Ha Lin’s fingers rubbed my back, like she was trying to charm me again into that transparent plastic ball. My fur stood on end—not willful, it’s not like that—and she rubbed my head with her slender middle finger. Her green beaded bracelet, too matchy-matchy alongside that emerald green dress, hung just in my eyesight. I leaped into her cupped hand and she lifted me to her. Her pointy white nose stuck out from her curly hair and pressed against mine. From her white-rimmed eye-glasses, I could see my reflection kissing her.

The irritating applause returned. Again and again, like an alarm clock on a five-second snooze button. Outside of Ha Lin’s palm, I could see two couches set at an obtuse angle, one of them orange with garish light-blue flowers. I recognized the set-up. It was of the last of Ha Lin’s recorded television programs that she watched every night as soon as she came home. There was a show for every routine around the house. First the cop drama, while napping. Then the cooking show as she revolved about her studio kitchen. Then the sitcoms, with snacks. Then the news while washing the dishes. Then finally the day-time talk-show, which she watched with a glass of wine. Her nightcap before floating off to bed. The mindless chatter of the blonde host with the wallpaper smile could prepare anyone for a night of sweet, silent dreams.

Now we were on that very set, the gaudy orange disaster. I imagined this must have been exciting for Ha Lin.

“What’s this cutie’s name?” said the blonde host. Like most of the audience she was middle-aged, a tad heavy-set, and smiled in unconscious bathos.

“Sammy,” Ha Lin said, her lips in a slight quiver.

I sniffed at the square orange pillow, wondering what material it was made out of. Touching my nose against the floral patterns…

“And how old is Sammy?”

“Sammy’s two years. Two years old. Yup.”

Twenty-percent cotton, I surmised. The rest, poly-something something. Not really worth chewing.

“And you found Sammy in an unexpected place,” the blonde woman read from a cue card. “Is that right?”  Ha Lin told that dopey story again, and the applause returned. She let me crawl up her fingers, just high enough so that I could see through the set’s orange-rimmed window, at the gray mist of downtown Seattle. Depressing.

Suddenly I was lifted into one half of my plastic sphere. Ha Lin set the other half above me, pushing the two halves together, locking me in the ball with a hard khk. I usually hated this thing, but for now the thick plastic drowned out the jumpy, repetitious clapping, and I was thankful for it. Ha Lin set me down onto a set of parallel rails made of smooth iron. I was in a row of other small plastic balls also placed on small rails. Inside each ball were other bodies like mine, types I had not seen since back in that organic food-pet store. What a burden they had been then! They crawled on my fur, crowded my hay and shat all in my water cup. But now I had not seen one in years. So long I had forgotten that I too was like those brown-furred others.

“Hey, hey,” I said to the one just next to me, with fur just darker than my own. His nose twitched just like mine, and his mouth moved just as mine. But we could not hear each other through our plastic balls, nor could we move from between the rails.

At the faint whistle of a party streamer, Ha Lin and the other tall ones waved their hands past our transparent spheres, directing us along the rails, perhaps to push us off in some kind of race, towards the end, where a block of cheese stood circled by hard nuts. The fatter one of us tossed himself down the rail. The broken sounds of screams and applause came through my plastic wall, but I could only keep staring at the darker-furred body next to me, whose ball had begun to slip uneasily down the rail. I pursued, cobbling the small rigs on my bubble. At once I passed the darker one and my feet stuck to the rigs. My body spun with an uncontrollable force as I and my ball tumbled out at the finish line. As my ball slammed into the orange couch, my legs were squashed by my body and the air wheezed out my lungs. The sight of the other ball, following just behind me with that darker-furred body racing towards me, electrified my body upright. Our bubbles bumped, pulled and ricocheted against each other like polarized magnets at play, until finally our balls stood balanced against each other. I flew into a crazed rage, scratching against the thick plastic walls, clawing at the rigs, screaming all the while. But nothing could get through that shiny surface. Not the sound. Not the smell. Only our desperate gazes as our balls tilted, then rolled us in opposite directions along that immaculately clean blue-starred carpet.

I was lifted off the floor. The top of my sphere came off, but the other furred body was well out of my purview. I could hear the applause again, clearly.

“He’s so competitive!” The blonde host said, clapping with her hands way back as if to give a hug. “Thank goodness he has that bubble to protect him!”

I felt Ha Lin’s fingers petting my fur. More claps. She put me back in my glass home, where I could watch the fatter brown-furred body hailed as the winner. His taller partner was given a piece of paper—a check, or at least a coupon. I rubbed the circulation back into my injured leg with my stomach. Ha Lin clapped, but wasn’t smiling anymore. I looked out the nearby window, at the gray sky, accompanied only by rain.


Kawika Guillermo is currently a graduate student at the University of Washington pursuing a Ph.D. in Literary Studies, and has been published previously in The Houston Literary Review, Danse Macabre, Phantom Seed and Hando No Kuzushi. Kawika has written stories about growing up in Las Vegas, stories about traveling throughout Asia, and flash fiction stories with social themes. Check out more at


  1. Rosenblatt says:

    Very tightly written. The racial undertones could have taken control of the fiction but never do. Hope to read more by Mr Guillermo!

  2. Steve says:

    Is there a point to this I’m missing?

  3. Kawika Guillermo says:

    Perhaps these might illuminate the possible issue at hand:

    “Seattle Freeze” News article:

    “Seattle Freeze” at urban dictionary:

  4. Johnny Debt says:

    It is always great to come to your sites as topics like Seattle Freeze — The Monarch Review is what keeps me interested and coming back to read more, thanks. Johnny Debt

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney