Calculate Life

by Tiffany Hsieh

Ma says she went to see a Mr. Calculate Life, a very good one. He calculates people’s lives based on the number of strokes in each of the characters in their names. Those numbers are then calculated with the numbers in the date and time of their births in both ancient and modern Chinese calendars. Ma says this Mr. Calculate Life, a very detailed one, also calculated my numbers with the numbers he calculated for Ma and Ba. According to his final calculations, I’m likely to marry late and have a hard life. Ma says that means I’m unlikely to marry before my late twenties and unlikely to marry rich. It means I’m likely to go out working and come home cooking and cleaning. Ma says some people change their names to change the calculations in their life but that Mr. Calculate Life says I have a good name for a girl born on the same day as the emperor of Japan.

Author's Note

I wrote this piece during a time when I was exploring literal translations from Mandarin to English. It also brought back a childhood memory of my mom half-embarrassed yet half-believing after coming home from her one and only visit (as far as I know) with a Mr. Calculate Life.

Tiffany Hsieh was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada at the age of fourteen with her parents. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Salamander, The Shanghai Literary Review, Atticus Review, Poet Lore, Sonora Review, The Apple Valley Review, and other publications. She lives in southern Ontario with her husband and their dog.

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