Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » August 2014 » “Choice” by Narween Otto

“Choice” by Narween Otto

Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuanacocainespeed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)

This week, join Narween Otto for a night out in LA.

Narween OttoChoice
by Narween Otto

“No one else ever needs to know about this.”

You pass the small glass vial back to Lucy. Thumping techno and karaoke wailings are audible through eggplant-colored bathroom walls. As your sinuses burn, cocaine wraps itself around you like a straightjacket. A surge of energy pushes against the tautness, creating a pleasing thrumming. There is a bizarre jangle of bells, as if the sleigh of the White Witch of Narnia is approaching; incredulous, you realize that in one of the dozen rooms lining the narrow hallway someone is playing a tambourine.

“You mean about this place?” She wipes at a spot of powder at the edge of her nose.


Raucous female voices sound in the background.

“Sure, honey. Isn’t that the rule of bachelorette weekends anyway?”

“I dunno. I’ve never been to a bachelorette weekend.”

Lucy reapplies red lipstick that contrasts perfectly with her glossy mane of black hair. “You know what? Me neither.”

“I can’t believe Greg dragged us here.” You shake out your own long dark locks, scalp tingling.

Lucy shrugs. “He paid four hundred and fifty dollars each.”


“The owner’s a client. Greg decorated her house.”

You glance around the bathroom pointedly, from the plastic trash can to the mildew growing between cracked beige ceramic tiles.

“Guess they didn’t get around to renovating this place.”

Lucy laughs. “It includes alcohol . . .”

“But we don’t drink.” You line up a short fat rail on the back of a compact. Fuck doing bumps.

“. . . and Korean food.”

“You’re joking.” Chopping vigorously at the mirror channels your irritation.

“We each choose a host boy, plus tip the mamasan.”

You inhale through the short-cut straw, enjoying the racing tightness in your chest along with the ballooning sense of omnipotence.

“Why would Greg think it’s fun for us to chat with vacant young men who look like K-pop stars?”

“Greg’s having a midlife crisis. The boys are really for him.”

You hadn’t planned on doing drugs tonight, but you’ve never been a very good drinker—Asian genes. It’s been years since your last indulgence, and yet here you are, in a bathroom, hoovering up cocaine, trying to get the body buzz just right. Unfortunately, this is LA, and you are tonight’s designated driver. Fortunately, your motor skills are excellent while high. It’s drunk people who drive like shit.

“I’m going to need a lot more drugs if we have to go back in that dingy room.”

“Sure.” Lucy does a dainty bump off the back of her hand.

You shake your head. “Men would never sit around on nasty green velour sofas if they were paying five hundred dollars each. It’s so ugly here.”

“It reminds me of a middle school party in someone’s basement, except with a disco ball.”

You roll your eyes. “I never even went to school parties. I was in clubs with drag queens taking ecstasy.”

You both laugh.

“I think we should do some K.” Lucy reaches into her purse.

“Are you sure? The one time I did ketamine it felt really body-heavy.”

“You probably did too much. You only need a tiny bit. With coke it’s like ecstasy lite.”

Now you’re interested. “Really?”

“Uh-huh. The high lasts about thirty minutes.”

“Hmmm.” You know Lucy’s Chinese brain is meticulous in all things. “Ok.”

“Yay!” She gives you a hug. “I think you’ll like it.”

She places a pinch of powder onto the back of her hand and extends it toward you.

“Thanks, darling. Here goes.” Holding her wrist, you sniff sharply. You watch Lucy repeat the action, taking pleasure in the shared ritual.

It hits your body like a truck made of honey. Everything turns viscous, undulating. You open your mouth to speak, but no sounds come out. You close your eyes, overcome by the delicious, gooey warmth pulsing through your body. The K takes the edge off the cocaine, and everything is softer, more vibrant.

When you look in the mirror your face is smiling like the Chesire Cat.

Lucy’s eyes glow. “Like?”

“Uh-huh.” The cool cement wall presses against your back and palms in a particularly pleasing way.

“See why I call it Meow Mix?”

“Uh-huh.” You nod and purr, smiling from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes.


“Sure.” You peel yourself from the wall.

In the hall, a mamasan called Jason is waiting to escort you back to the host boys. In a pantomime of gallantry he offers you each an arm. Lucy leans into you, and you both dissolve into laughter.


NARWEEN OTTO is Australian and Vietnamese and was a feature film producer in Los Angeles before she relocated to New York City in 2004. She teaches yoga and pilates and writes suspense fiction.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com, and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.


About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry StahlLydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).

Posted: Aug 21, 2014

Category: Original Fiction, Thursdaze | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,