Christine H. Chen


When we moved in, Ah Ma told Ba to remove the shrine outside. It was a statuette of the Virgin Mary inside a dome, pink-cheeked, clad in azure blue, arms outstretched, gazing down to wilted roses in tiny white vases. Ah Ba pulled, dragged, pushed. The base wouldn’t budge. Ah Ma came out with hammers, but we children stood in front of the helpless Mary. Sacrilege, my older brother said. You and your gwei-lo education! Ah Ma wagged her hammers at us, this is nonsense, you hear me? Ah Ba went to Home Depot, came back with rhododendron bushes he planted around Mary. Inside, we laid steamy sweet buns and roasted pork in our ancestral altar, we held burning incense and bowed to sculpted names of our ancestors. Ah Ma and Ba poured rice wine on the floor. Ah Ma prayed for protection for our first home, for us the family here, and for the one left behind in China. Ma planted tomatoes, squashes, and green beans in the yard, away from the blooming rhododendrons where Mary stayed hidden, stoic under rain, in scorching heat, or wrapped in snow as time wore on. Ma grew old and arthritic, the vegetable gardens yellowed and drooped to the ground. The year Ah Ba died, a snowstorm blew a broken tree into our yard, missed my older brother’s head by a few feet as he was rushing to the garage. Mary deflected the blow. She lay on the snow, feet broken off from the cement base, her dome shattered in two pieces. Ah Ma picked her up, carried her to the kitchen sink, let warm water shower the snow away. She swept a soap-sudded sponge over Mary’s face over and over.


Christine H. Chen was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Madagascar before settling in Boston where she worked as a research chemist. Her fiction has been published in CRAFT Literary, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, Atticus Review, Pithead Chapel, and other journals and anthologies. Her work was selected for inclusion in Wigleaf Top 50 in 2023 and has received Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, Best Small Fiction, and Pushcart nominations. She is a recipient of the 2022 Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship, and the co-translator from French of the novel My Lemon Tree (Spuyten Duyvil, 2023). Read more at


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