The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Flowing Water, Falling Flowers by X.H. Collins

This selection, chosen by guest curator and Sundress intern Stephi Cham, is from Flowing Water, Falling Flowers by X.H. Collins, released by MWC Press in 2020. 

Excerpt from Chapter 9: Three Rivers, 1910

            On the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most important holidays and second only to the Chinese New Year, the three families gathered in Three Rivers to celebrate. Old Wang and Tiger came from Cloud Gate after finishing farm work. Master Han rented a showboat so everyone could be on the water, under the brightest full moon of the year, and enjoy the good food, wine, scenery, and each other’s company.

            The cook and his helpers worked all day to prepare the feast: moon cakes, roasted duck, pumpkin soup, steamed marbled pork belly with taro, and the must-have delicacy of the occasion, fresh river hairy crab steamed with thinly sliced ginger, garlic, and scallion. Old Wang brought wine made from osmanthus flowers. Everything was packed into baskets and brought on board.

            The wind was calm. The water was smooth like glass. The full moon hung low in the sky, white as silver, its shadows of Chang’e and the Jade Rabbit dark as spilled ink, as if reachable if they kept rowing the boat just a little further. The osmanthus trees were in full bloom throughout the city and their pleasant fragrance permeated the air. Other showboats and tour boats crowded the river and laughter and lively conversations floated around them.

X.H. Collins (she/her) was born in Hechuan, Sichuan Province, China, and grew up in Kangding on the East Tibet Plateau. She has a Ph.D in nutrition and is a retired biology professor. When she’s not teaching or writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, dancing (ballroom and Latin), and cooking. She is the author of the novel Flowing Water, Falling Flowers (MWC Press, Rock Island, IL, 2020). She lives in Iowa with her husband, son, and dog.

Stephi Cham is a freelance editor and author. She received her BM in Music Therapy and Minor in Psychology from Southern Methodist University and is pursuing her MA in Publishing at Rosemont College, where she is the Fiction Editor of Rathalla Review. She wrote the Great Asian-Americans series, published in 2018 by Capstone Press, and her writing has been featured in Strange Horizons.


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