Skip to content
Words Without Borders is an inaugural Whiting Literary Magazine Prize winner!
from the August 2018 issue

A Gambling World

A couple bets on success in the casino industry in Koh Choon Eiow and Mok Sio Chong’s play.

 

 

Read by Ma Wal-in and Koh Choon Eiow in Mandarin and Cantonese.

CHORUS     His name is Ken. He’s from Muar, Johor State, Malaysia, Southeast Asia. He came to work in Macau a year ago.

                     He came to Macau a year ago, to work as a casino fixer.

                     Ferry tickets, hired cars, hotel reservations, route planning, keeping clients company.

                     On call twenty-four hours a day.

                     Always by your side, keeping you happy...

 

CHORUS      Ken’s girlfriend is Sara, Macau born and bred.

                      She’s studying hotel management.

                      Became a casino promoter in her first year of college.

                      One of those girls you see at customs and the ferry terminal, with the good-fortune cars.

                      Bet, call, hit, double, split.

                      Time for a commercial break. Here is Ken and Sara’s Macau love story.

 

Ken and Sara at their separate jobs, speaking to each other across the stage.

 

SARA            Hey, Ken, Malaysia has casinos, too. Why aren’t you working at Genting?

KEN              Genting is boring, and if I were there, I wouldn’t have met you.

SARA            Silly.

 

SARA          Hey, Ken, Singapore has casinos, too. Didn’t you say everyone from southern Malaysia ends up working in Singapore?

KEN            Singapore is boring, and if I were there, I wouldn’t have met you.

SARA          Silly.

 

CHORUS     Their words are full of joy-nuggets.

                     Joy-nuggets?

                     Small, concrete pieces of happiness. Murakami said:

                    “A person with no dreams is no different from a piece of salted fish.”

                    No, that was Stephen Chow.

                    Oh.

                    Without these joy-nuggets, life would be a barren desert.

 

KEN             Look.

SARA           Wow, a Rolex! Gorgeous!

KEN             I’ve just paid off my student loans, so I bought this to celebrate. Am I swell?

SARA          So swell you’re fit to burst! What about me?

KEN            Next, I’m saving for a round-the-world trip.

SARA         That’s my dream too. I don’t want to be stuck in Macau, I want to go everywhere.

KEN            Good. We’ll go together, when I’ve earned enough.

SARA          We’ll ride a hot-air balloon round the world!

KEN             Yes! When we have money, we’ll ride anything we want!

SARA          Then I want a horse-drawn carriage!

KEN             All right, I’ll get you one of those Cinderella coaches!

SARA          So cool! I’ll die of happiness.

KEN            This world is our pleasure palace.

 

CHORUS     Ken and Sara are in an oasis.

                     In order to find the joy-nuggets of life, we need a certain amount of something like self-restraint.

                     Self-restraint?

                     Murakami again.

                     Like if I hand you a glass of water, it’s nothing special. But if you’ve been jogging and you’re dying of thirst, then I hand you one—

                     Wow, this is amazing!

                     I understand. You have to give up in order to gain. It’s only valuable if there’s a price.

                     I understand. You have to put up with suffering today for happiness tomorrow.

                     I understand, self-restraint, or in a word—

                     Endurance.

 

Customers try to get Ken’s attention.

 

CHORUS    Ken! Kenny! Hey, Ken boy . . .

KEN            OK, OK. A coffee, beef noodles? I’ll get that for you, Miss!

                    OK, OK, LV, Gucci? All yours. 

                    OK, OK, I’ll deal with it, you keep playing. I hope you win!

                    OK, OK, the hotel’s booked, everything’s arranged. Don’t worry, it won’t be a northern girl, I’ll get you a Korean. Gwiyomi!

                    OK, OK, it’s that time of month? No problem, no problem, I’ll go get you one. Back in a minute.

 

SARA          Why aren’t you answering my calls?

KEN             I’m busy. 

SARA          You don’t care. 

KEN             Not true.

SARA           I saw on the news that a woman . . . she jumped . . . from the old Hotel Grande.

KEN             Oh.

SARA           The building’s been closed a long time. How did she get in?

KEN             She had two legs, she walked.

SARA           You don’t find it strange?

KEN             You think they hauled her up there, then she jumped?

SARA           The building’s boarded up. How did she get to the roof?

KEN             What’s your point?

SARA           I heard that people used to jump from there all the time.

KEN             You think it’s haunted?

SARA          Aren’t you frightened?

KEN             People die every day. They jump off buildings, drown themselves, hang themselves, take pills, slit their wrists. One more death or one less makes no difference to the world. Earlier today, a customer lost everything, howled and wailed and wanted to die. Luckily the security guards got him outside quickly. Just a little fuss, then it was like nothing had happened. Everyone went on gambling. (pause) I tell you, people at these casinos only think of winning. It’s only when they wake up that they realize they can’t afford to lose. You need money to be here. When the money’s gone, you get thrown out like trash. Garbage. Lucky I don’t gamble. (pause) Was she from Macau?

SARA           No.

KEN             Malaysian, like me?

SARA          Taiwanese. Didn’t leave a note.

KEN            Oh.

 

Silence.

 

SARA            Ken, Macau’s so small, and though we’re together, this feels like a long-distance relationship. Don’t you think?

KEN               It’s like that for everyone.

SARA             I want to go to your place tonight.

KEN               No way, the landlady doesn’t like me bringing people home. Didn’t you have another promoting job?

SARA             Yes, I shouldn’t have signed with two companies, it’s too much! Holding up all those signs, smiling constantly. My classmate works at the racecourse. Only works three nights a week, and there’s air conditioning. So much better.

KEN                But sweetheart, she earns much less than you.

SARA              That’s true.

 

Silence.

 

SARA            Macau is so fucking boring.

KEN              I know, I know. Didn’t we say, just a few more years, till we’ve saved enough. Macau has so much money. We should earn while we’re young. Anyway you haven’t even graduated yet.

SARA            When I finish school, I’ll go full-time, and then I’ll never leave.

KEN              So quit your job.

SARA            I can’t, everyone wants this job, there’s a long line of people waiting for me to go.

KEN              Then let’s have some fun before you go full-time.

SARA.           Where?

KEN               If we have money, we can go anywhere.

SARA            I don’t want to go to Malaysia.

KEN              Malaysia’s fucking boring too.

SARA            I want to go to Europe.

KEN              Great, Europe is bankrupt now, they have even less money than we do. We’ll go live there when we’ve earned enough.

SARA            I want to go to Poland, the city of music.

KEN              Darling, the city of music is Venice.

SARA            When we have money, Poland will be the city of music if I say it is.

KEN              OK, we’ll live in Poland.

SARA            Amazing. I’ll study music . . .

KEN               I’ll learn to paint . . .

SARA             We’ll get married …

KEN               We’ll live together . . .

SARA             We’ll have a little baby . . .

KEN               It will be just the two of us . . .

SARA            We’ll be so happy . . .

KEN              We’ll be so happy . . .

 

© Koh Choon Eiow and Mok Sio. By arrangement with the authors. Translation © 2018 by Jeremy Tiang. All rights reserved.

Read more from the August 2018 issue
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.