What We Do

by Laura Jean McKay

The last hours of May. The air is sticky, no moon, and we’ve been at that bar with the generator. Outside, because of the power outages, there are people in the motorbike-lit streets.

We catch a tuk-tuk. Our voices throw over the dim parade – kings have been there, Charles De Gaulle has been there, the Khmer Rouge have been there… but a plastic crack like a giant toy gun interrupts us: the sound one motorbike makes when it hits another.

Then there’s one man writhing like agony over the road. And there’s the other man he hit, face down. The slow dimming strobe of his bike lights, his blue jeans, and his oiled black hair. He’s oddly tall and handsome like that.

He’s dead.

People run along the quay. Their flip-flops echo in a strange silence where there are no screams, no sirens but our quiet argument: What do we do? What do we do? We’ve been at that bar with the generator. We’ve been to the temples and the killing fields and the bars and the pool. What do we do?

We hang over the back of the moving tuk-tuk like kids on a bus and watch the divide. We watch the asphalt slide. Soften.


Laura Jean McKay is a writer, performer and a playwright published in Best Australian Stories, Sleepers and the Big Issue, and featured on ABC Radio National. Her plays have been produced by Forty Forty Home and The Emerging Writers’ Festival. Her 2009 Asialink residency to Cambodia led to her current work on a novella and short story collection. She is also a performer.

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  1. #1 by marc nash on July 1, 2011 - 8:15 am

    This is excellent. Packs a real emotional wallop through its very pared down simplicity, the way heavy things are casually dropped in like the Khmer Rouge & the killing fields

  2. #2 by flightlessness on July 16, 2011 - 7:04 am

    Thanks Marc. Maybe you just summed up how I feel when I visit Cambodia: an emotional wallop in every simple moment … Glad it works!

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