The Shirt – Ooi Kee Saik

Dr. Ooi Kee Saik was born in 1922 in Penang, Malaysia. He studied medicine at Hong Kong University but when the Japanese occupied Hong Kong during World War II he fled to the interior of China where he completed his medical studies. After the war, he went to Britain for postgraduate medical studies before returning to Singapore and Malaysia to practise medicine for many years. He has now retired to Melbourne, Australia, and occasionally, with family encouragement, he tries his hand at creative writing.

Noteworthy: This short story was 1988 Asiaweek Short Story Competition 3rd Prize (tie).

Opening lines:

“I am sitting on the edge of the cliff, my knees drawn up hard against my face. The wind is gentle but cool. I am glad I chose to wear a long-sleeved shirt, even if the sleeves are much too long for me.

Then I realize.”

Last lines:

“My decision is made. Love makes anything possible.”

Most cheesy line:

“I remember having done especially well that first year for he’d taught me Science and love.”

Most exciting line:

“You paedophile!”

The layman’s plot: Boy breaks up with Girl. Boy is marrying a girl his parents had chosen. Girl pleads him not to marry. Boy is obedient to traditional parents. Boy cannot marry Girl because they are of different races. Can Girl stop Boy from returning home to marry some girl? Will Boy realise in time who he really should be with? Will filial love or romantic love prevail?

Verdict: A quickie read with a frustrating twist while you’re waiting in the bank queue.

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