Linger (a short story)


By James Y. Shih

For D.N.


He looked out his hotel window at the cold Hoboken day. On his way back to the hotel, he passed a lone duck wading in the pond. He wondered why the duck lingered in the cold north.

He met her in Manhattan earlier that day.


She had moved to New York from California years ago and was now working at a big firm downtown. They hadn’t spoken since she left. He was in town for business and it took an agonizingly long time before he reached out to her.

She recommended a dumpling restaurant in New York Chinatown. From the restaurant window, he saw her coming down the street wearing a long beige jacket and black boots. Behind him, he looked past the bathroom door and saw a square window. It was big enough for him to squeeze through and there was time to escape.

He was still attracted to her. That feeling hurt.


In his Hoboken hotel room, he could see clear across the Hudson back to their conversation. L’esprit d’escalier, the spirit of the staircase, the French say. All the things one should’ve said, but thought of too late.


Their conversation was polite.

“I’m glad to hear you’ve been doing well,” she said.

He was better. Before, just going to the supermarket where they shopped or passing by her parents’s house would send a dark blue fog over him and he’d feel overcast all day. Now, when he thought of her it was less intense. He withheld this.

“Thanks. You’ve been doing pretty good yourself,” he said.

She was doing well. She had gotten a bonus recently and had just moved in with her boyfriend. She was still unsure if she wanted to stay with the job and was nervous about how fast things were moving in her relationship.

“You’ll be fine,” he said.

She smiled. He was comforting her again.

It was true though. He knew that she could take care of herself and somewhere inside of him, the strings that bound him to her loosened. She was more confident, more sure of herself than he remembered. He was happy for her.

They hugged and promised to keep in touch.

He knew though that future meetings of this kind would be rare.


Inside his hotel room, the fading sunlight filtered through the window and fell on his bed.

He put on a pair of running shoes and threw on a puffy black North Face jacket.  He stepped out of the lobby into the cool late afternoon. Gray-white snow speckled the urban landscape. He ran towards the pond. Naked trees grew in number as he moved away from the hotel, their brown branches reaching to the sky.

As he approached, the lone duck was still wading in the water as if waiting for him. The duck turned his metallic green head towards him. He stopped and watched the duck return his stare.

The duck spun in the water and in a burst of motion, flapped his wings and took to the sky. The duck flew south and he followed his path, running on the ground.

Special thanks:

John Jeng, Thao Nguyen, and Nick Louie for their editorial support and suggestions.

DISTANCE  Short Film

Directed by James Z. Feng, Nick Louie, James Y. Shih


Our film has finally finished its yearlong festival run and we wanted to share it with you all. Click above to see the final edit.


Info about DISTANCE:

Behind the Scenes Trivia

Behind the Scenes Photos

CAAMfest Q&A (w/ Directors Nick Louie, James Y. Shih, and Actor Iris Hsu).

Asian Film Festival of Dallas Interview


Director Updates:

James Z. Feng is currently in Taipei, Taiwan directing commercial, music, and narrative videos. His latest project is a look behind the scenes of a commercial for Syoss, an international hair product brand, starring Taiwanese pop singer and actress Christine Fan: Syoss 范玮琪 Christine Fan 2013

Nick Louie is an active San Francisco Bay Area actor and filmmaker. He’s Cinematographer on the soon to be released feature length rock-climbing documentary, Brave New Wild directed by Oakley Anderson-Moore.

James Y. Shih is Co-Producer/2nd Assistant Director on the sci-fi film Advantageous: the feature directed/co-written by Jennifer Phang. He’s also currently submitting his latest short film narrative, City Walk, to festivals.


Directors’ Statement

Making this film was an exciting challenge for us and it’s incredibly rewarding for us to share this project with you.

Directors’ Backgrounds: Feng, Louie and Shih first met in the theatre department at UC San Diego where we studied acting and acted together in the first UCSD Asian American Theatre Festival, directed by Jennifer Chang. We are San Francisco Bay Area natives and after moving back to the Bay we’ve continued to work on films together.

We first made Distance as part of the Asian American Film Lab’s 2012, 72 Hour Shootout, where it won the Grand Prize, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing Awards. After the competition, further time was spent sharpening the sound and editing.

For the story, the three of us brainstormed ideas and shared some of our personal experiences. During our discussions, there were recurring themes of love, relationships, and being apart. We decided to put these aspects in the context of a relationship tested by distance.

When do you know someone is worth waiting for? How much choice do we have when it comes to our emotions? What is love? We sought to explore these questions in our film.

At the outset, we agreed that we wanted only a very small crew and cast and to focus on the storytelling. We were incredibly lucky to have Iris Hsu lend her voice and acting talent and for Jesse Chui to provide his beautiful score to this film.

The project gave the crew some incredible filmmaking moments, such as guerilla filmmaking in public locations and avoiding the authorities at the airport. Again, much appreciation and we look forward to sharing more new, engaging films with you in the future.

Thoughts - 0006 - Waking Up

He needs to wake up. He needs to understand that a girl will not solve all his problems. 

She’s not a block that will fill the gap in his life. 

No need to force that which does not fit.

He shouldn’t hate himself. He’s beautiful in his own flawed way.


Be true.

That’s the best thing he could ever do for himself.

Be alive.

He can be the person he’s always wanted to be, starting now.


Don’t rely on others to do that for you, you have to do that for yourself.



Sigur Rós - Ísjaki


You knew of me

And I knew of you

But we always knew this would end


You miss me

And I miss you

We’ve lost our legs from beneath us


Now lie down with me, 

All cold and blue

While our bones are shivering

Almost dead from the cold




You never say anything

You are an iceberg

You are covered with ice

You stay silent and hide yourself behind


The Iceberg


You turn me

And I turn you

Now covered in flames, 

We ignite like sulfur

It sparks off of me

It sparks off of you

It sparks off of us

Turning us to ash




You never say anything

You are an iceberg

You are covered with ice

You stay silent and hide yourself behind


The Iceberg 


[ Lyrics from: ]

[ Photo from: alehandramilk ]

Winter Waves (二/二)



Royal Mutt & Panda Bear – Chapter 8: Winter Waves (二/二)

Note: Text in brackets spoken in Japanese [日本語] 。



Morning fog surrounded them as they lay in bed on the surface of a lake. The sun was still hiding behind the clouds. Royal Mutt nuzzled his nose into her back. She smelled like a spring flower in the dead of December.


Awake, Mari was a beautiful dog with dark smooth fur. Asleep, she was an image of serenity.


Royal was admiring her sleeping form when an unseen force grabbed his legs and yanked him under the surface of the lake.




The freezing water cut into him. He opened his eyes and found himself deep underwater. Disoriented, he blew a few bubbles and followed them up.


In the distance, just above the water, he saw Mari’s reposed image refracted in the light. As he paddled closer, the vision spread out across the surface. When he finally reached the top, it was hard ice.


He pounded the image with his paws, the reverberation traveled infinitely in every direction.


“Mari, wake up!”


He could feel himself slip into…




In the Australian outback, Royal and Mari looked up into the night. The Milky Way was a river of stars across the dark sky. Mari propped her head against his arm.


Royal looked into that starlit expanse and a feeling swept over him: If there was a God…It was this moment. It was the two of them in a foreign land, deeply in love, looking at the universe revealing itself. A shooting star streaked across the sky.


That night they made love.


“Shhh, we can’t wake up the neighbors.”


Mari laughed. Royal thought she was so beautiful.


“[You can’t finish before me.]“ [1], she moaned into Royal’s ear.






Darkness enveloped Royal.


He couldn’t see his paws, his nose…nothing. He barked. Silence. “I think I drowned.”


With his left paw, he felt for his head. A vague pressure as if from an unsure solid shape, pushed against his invisible paw.


He fluttered his legs below and reached out into the abyss. He felt nothing. He resigned himself to the dark.


“If I’m dead, where’s God?”




In a small room in Kyoto, they were curled in bed with their backs to each other.


“[Do you even care about me?]" [2] Mari asked.


“[Of course, that’s obvious.]" [3] Royal replied.


“[I don’t feel it.]" [4]


Royal turned and arched over to hug her. She pushed his paws away.


“[Go back to California.]" [5] 


Royal felt a sharp pain in his chest. He breathed slowly.


“[Weren’t you going to see me off in Tokyo?]" [6]


“[Just go.]" [7]


Royal eased off the bed. Mari laid there, her back resolutely facing him. Royal shuffled his clothes together in the awkward silence. As he turned to grab his bags, he bumped over a desk lamp. The bulb shattered on the ground. Mari spun around. Royal stared at the broken pieces.


“I’m tired of this,” he growled.


Royal bolted out, letting the door slam behind him.




He didn’t see God anywhere, just the unending abyss. A sensation ran down his spine and he could feel the past rush up from under the floorboards of his mind.


The memories projected themselves onto the vast void. He wasn’t sure if it was in front of his eyes or just in his head.



He chases cars with his high school friends on the streets of his hometown.


He feels the cool paw of his first love squeeze slightly as they walk side-by-side.


He and Elle sit in her car overlooking Southern California.


When they first met in Tokyo, Mari explains to him in, accented English, about her name:  “Mari mean ‘long distance’[8] in the Chinese character. Mari, a different way of writing, mean ‘truth’[9]. My mother say to me there too many girls name ‘truth’.” She touches his paw and smiles.



Why were these fragments appearing now?


“In the end, maybe bits and pieces of memory are the only things important,” Royal thought to himself.


A light sparked in front of him.






“Hi Mari.”




“How’ve you been?” Royal asked.


“[Haven’t been sleeping well, but other than that I’m ok. You?]" [10]


Having been together so long, switching between English and Japanese had become second nature. Royal observed Mari. He loved how she had that confident elegance about her, even now in her pajamas.


“I’m good.“


“[Aren’t we talking to each other a bit too formally?]" [11]


Royal smiled. He got her sense of humor.


“[My apologies. Mari-san, when do you think it’d be a good time to visit?  I have vacation coming up.]" [12]


“I’ve been meaning to talk to you…I’ve been thinking a lot lately, about us.”


Royal’s feet clenched the carpet.


“I know, last trip…I’m sorry about that. I’ll make it up to you next time, I promise,” Royal said.


“It’s not just that…I’ve been seriously thinking about my life path.  I heard about this program in Taiwan,” her voice trailed.“ [I’m sorry Royal for being so selfish,]" [13] Mari said as her eyes got watery.


“Oh no,” Royal thought. He braced himself.




Before him floated Mari’s glowing figure as if Mari’s shadow had detached itself from her and instead of being an outline filled with darkness, it was filled with light. Mari’s Light Shadow hovered in front of him.


She drew close then stopped as if there was an invisible barrier between them.


There was a vibration in the dark ether.




Royal stared at the Light Shadow. With a glowing finger, it drew a circle of flame in the space between them.


Through the circle’s empty center it lunged its head and with its jaws of light, pulled Royal through.





Royal had his head in his paws. Mari was crying.


“I see,” Royal said.


“Don’t hate me,” Mari said.


“It’s not about you,” Royal replied flatly and looked away.


“[You hate me]," [14] she said plaintively.


“I’ll call you in a couple days, I have to think some things through,” Royal responded.


Royal hanged up before she could reply. Royal sat in his chair. He listened to it squeak as he leaned back and forth.


He stood up suddenly and flung his leg out kicking the chair as hard as he could. It smashed into the nearby wall then crashed onto the ground.




“Shit,” Royal thought.


Not wanting to face the angry Boe Badger, with quick steps Royal sped out the room.



Mari shot up. An intense pounding inside her head had woken her. She was on a bed in the middle of an ice lake that stretched out as far as she could see. A pure, clear wasteland. A faint vibration jolted her.


She peered over the edge of the bed.


Royal had stopped pounding and floated as if sleeping just under the surface of the ice.




She dug and clawed at the ice. It remained unscratched. She closed her eyes.


“[Fire, I need fire.]" [15]


She opened her eyes. On the bedside table was a lighter and a journal. She quickly leapt over, ripped out the pages, and lit them above Royal’s floating figure


The crackling of fire and ice filled the air.


Royal began to sink.


“[Wait! Just a bit more.]" [16]


She broke a hole in the center of the fire. The flames dissipated and she plunged her head deep into the water and snatched Royal up by the scruff of his neck.


Her thin frame struggled hard to hold him on the slippery ice.




Royal slung his arms onto the surface. Mari switched from her mouth to her paws and did her best to hold him in place.


“I’m sorry.”


As Royal said this, the outer edges of his head began to fade.


His fur were washing out into an icy transparency that trickled down to his body. It was as if he was being erased him from existence.


“Royal…you’re disappearing.”


He could feel himself dying. Royal stared into Mari’s amber eyes. He was never sure what was going on behind them.


As Royal faded, Mari’s arms began to fade as well.


Mari’s tears fell and froze on their paws.


“It’s ok,” Royal said softly, his eyes now faint dots in the icy water, “I’m just an idea.”


Datte, Royal ga inakute samishii yo." [17] Mari said between sobs.


Boku mo 。" [18] Royal replied.


Her paws clasped around Royal’s.


They nuzzled their noses, now nearly invisible.


She let go.


Royal Mutt sank back into the water.




After an hour of running, the cool, fresh smell of the forest greeted him.


He had to keep moving. He knew that if he stopped, the conversation with Mari would replay indefinitely in his head, deepening the black hole inside of him until it sucked him down forever.


It had been years since he visited this forest with Father Mutt. He remembered his dad, a proud dog with graying fur, lecturing him as they hiked:


"We’re a cross of various royal canines that commanded great respect in olden times. Thus your first name. Our last name, Mutt, is a badge of honor, not mediocrity. Pure bred, bah! That was a system created by the humans to keep us free-minded dogs down. The animal and human world run on parallel tracks, yet they always assume that they’re above us, when actually they’re just next to us. Remember this, even when humans, other animals, or any system tries to oppress you…you’re a royal Mutt, and you can conquer the world.”


Royal came upon the lake with the moon in full view, its reflection smiling up at him. The freezing water lapped at his legs, shocking him awake. On that day with Father Mutt, they had visited here.


“I’ve always wanted to swim across,” Father said as he stared at the lake with a sad smile. “But I needed time to train and I was so busy with responsibilities, I told myself I’d do it after I retire and now…,“ he rubbed his legs, ”…these these old varicose stumps won’t carry me across.” He looked to his son, “What about you?”


That day, even with Father beside him, Royal eyed the lake with trepidation. Its calm surface was a mask for unseen monsters in its depths.


“No, I can’t.”


Now, here in the wild by himself, this memory emboldened him. With its reflected moon, the lake drew him now like a siren. He dove into the water and began to swim across.






Back in the darkness he felt himself sink to the bottom, Mari now a distant dot of light above.


He felt the pressure increase and the water push into his ears and nose. Just when he thought his heart would implode there was a shift. The world flipped and he was now rising in the direction he was previously sinking. An invisible wind coursed through the darkness and filled his lungs with air.


The pressure lessened and he turned to see another surface with glaring lights.





He woke to the sound of the IV. Bright lights above blinded him. He felt incredibly cold and heavy.


“Hey Royal.”


Royal Mutt shifted his head to the left and saw Panda Bear’s rotund figure lounging in the couch next to him.


“What happened?” Royal said shakily.


Panda straightened up and leaned towards Royal.


“A hiker found you half frozen on the shore of a lake and called animal rescue. We all thought you were a goner. What the hell were you doing?”


Royal dodged the question. “My parents know?”


“They’re on their way.”


“My mom’s going to go crazy.”


“That’s how mothers show their love.”


Royal was wrapped under a mountain of blankets. Each time the IV dripped, he felt it hit his brain.


“You want to tell me what happened?” Panda inquired, his face full of concern. He placed his large paw on the side of the bed.


“Not now, woozy.”


Panda raised his arms and settled back into the couch. There was a commotion outside the door.


“I look for my son! Where is he?” a shrill voice rang from outside.


“Jesus, it’s my mom.”


“I’ll get her.”




Royal was back at the apartment. Hot tea steamed from a cup at the table. He sat, cocooned in blankets, staring at the social website. Mari was available. He was invisible. Mari recently posted an album from Taiwan. Royal’s mouse hovered over the thumbnail.




Royal closed the laptop.


He flipped open his favorite novel, the one named after a Beatles song, and read a page again and again, letting the words wash over him.


He put the book away and threw on a thick sweater. Grabbing his blankets, he ambled into the hallway. He carefully crawled underneath the “do not cross” sign and opened the door out onto the roof. The air blasted him. Below the city was shaking itself awake.


Wrapped in blankets, he sat waiting for the sunrise.


After a short while, the sun eased out of hiding and a beam of sunlight hit the rooftop and kissed his face. He smiled. This was the first time he had done this in years.  




完 [19]




Story & Ending Photo: James Y. Shih

Japanese (日本語) translations and romaji: John Jeng

Photography: Adrian Sangalang

Story Consultant: Nick Louie


Special thanks to Cin-yee Shih and the family for their support.



All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Really. Believe me.

[1] お先に済んでダメだわ./Osaki ni sunde dame dawa.

[2]私の事好き?/Watashi no koto suki?

[3]当たり前でしょう/Atari mae deshou.

[4]私を構ってないじゃん。/Watashi o kamatte nai jan.

[5] カリフォルニアに帰ってよ. /California ni kaetteyo.

[6] 東京で見送れるんじゃなかったか?/Tokyo de miokurerun ja nakkata ka?

[7] もう行ってよ。/Mou itte yo.

[8] 万里/long distance.

[9] 真理/truth.

[10]最近ちょっと寝不足だけど、大丈夫。ローヤルは?/Saikin chotto nebusoku dakedo, daijoubu. Royal wa?

[11] ね、そんなしゃべり方固くない?/Ne, sonna shaberikata katakunai?

[12] あ、すみません。万里さん、いつがご都合よろしいですか?有休はもうすぐだから。/Ah, sumimasen. Mari-san, itsu ga gotsugo yoroshii desuka? Yuukyuu wa mou sugu dakara. 

[13] ごめんね、ローヤル、我がままを言って。/Gomen ne, Royal, wagamama o itte

[14]事を嫌いよねWatashi no koto o kirai yone.

[15]火だ、火をつけないと. / Hida, hi o tsukenaito.

[16] 待って!もう少しだから。/Matte! Mou sukoshi dakara.

[17] だって、ローヤルがいなくて寂しいよ。/I’ll miss you Royal.

[18]僕も。 /Me too.

[19] Japanese: Kan/Mandarin: wan2/The End

Trailer for our short film “Distance” (距離).

Last screening at CAAMfest is tomorrow! Part of the ONE ON ONE shorts program:

Location - Sundance Kabuki Cinemas (1881 Post St., San Francisco)

Time: March 21st, 2013, 6:30 pm

ONE ON ONE shorts (90 min):

What do we mean to each other in any given moment? What matters most is what we take away, and what we leave behind. In these films, strangers, friends and loved ones have close encounters; some end well, others not so much. (source:

Contact me directly for discount tickets or go to:

Should be fun!

Distance 距離 (Behind the Scenes Trivia)

                   Nick, James F. and Iris discussing a scene.

You ever go on imdb and read the “Trivia” section for a film? I do, I love all the behind the scenes details and the little, silent adventures that took place. So I thought I’d make small list for our recent short film, “Distance”. Enjoy!


- Created for the 2012 72 Hour Film Shootout competition sponsored by the Asian American Film Lab ( Contestants have to write, shoot, and edit a 5 minute short film based on a theme announced at the start of the competition. The film then must be submitted within the next 72 hours.

- Nick Louie came up with the title “Distance”. The title was a big struggle to come up with after shooting.

- All wardrobe was provided by the actors themselves.
- All principal photography took place in San Francisco.
- Iris Hsu and James Shih first met at an English storytelling company in Taipei where they performed “Jack and the Beanstalk” for children. James Shih played Jack, she played most of the other characters (i.e. Jack’s Mom).
- Iris Hsu and James Z. Feng had never met before shooting.
- Not the first time James Feng, Nick Louie and James Shih have collaborated together, they’ve worked on other short films together: Campfire (directed by Louie), Wired Fences (directed by Shih), Louie and Feng on Within/Without (directed by Louie), Feng and Shih on Fight Life: The MMA Documentary and Gray Skies (both directed by Feng)This is the first time the three have shared a director’s title.
- Feng, Louie, and Shih met in the acting program at UC San Diego back in 2005-2006.
-Jesse Chui, the composer for this film, is a good friend of Feng’s. The song, “Asymmetries of Loss” was created under Jesse’s musical moniker Songs For Cinema in 2010.
- Winner of the 2012 Asian American Film Lab 72 hour shootout Grand Prize, Editing, and Cinematography Awards.
- The film is nearly all shot handheld.
- A poor man’s steady cam (a bar with weights and a camera attachment) was used to steady some of the shots, but was not used at the airport so as not to draw attention to ourselves.
Feng, Louie, and Shih brainstormed ideas and shared personal experiences based on the theme “This is only a test” right after the theme was announced on Friday, June 15th, 2012, 5p. Out of these discussions, Shih eventually came up with what the “test” would be, with Feng fleshing out the details and writing the Mandarin voiceover heard in the film. This voiceover was then corrected for grammar and vocabulary by actor Iris Hsu.

- The filename of the film was “Love Test” before Nick came up with the final title.
- The airport scene where James Feng. and Iris hug took many takes due to people and employees walking into the shot.
- When James Feng turns a corner pretending to go down a hall the opposite direction of Iris, he’s actually going into a wall.

We won the Grand Prize, Editing, and Cinematography Awards at the 2012 Asian American Film Lab 72 Hour Film Shootout! More info in next post. Credits below.

Film Title: Distance


Starring Iris Hsu and James Z. Feng

Directed and Produced by James Z. Feng, Nick Louie, and James Y. Shih

Written by James Z. Feng

Edited by James Z. Feng and Nick Louie

Subtitles by James Y. Shih

Directors of Cinematography Nick Louie, James Y. Shih

Music by Jesse Chui

 我們有得了2012 AAfilmlab.org七十二個小時最佳短片,剪接,攝影獎!下個文章會有比較多資料。

片名: 距離

演員: 許安琦, 馮錚




剪接師: 馮錚,雷餘勝




He was driving home in the rain when it hit him.

“This is ridiculous.”

They knew this would happen. The project meant he had to be away from her for many months, doing things that seemed like gibberish to everyone.

“He smashes things,” she would tell her friends.

And he did. Small things. Things so small, it’s hard to tell if they exist until they collide.

…sharing different heartbeats…

He pressed the button on his phone and let it record for a beat.

“This song came on and made me think of you.”

He recently discovered voice memos and he had something to say on this long ride home, under the pouring sky.

“Tomorrow will be half a year since we last met and I’m falling apart.”

He pauses as an oncoming car blinds him momentarily.

“I wish I could share this car ride with you, along with this dark sky.”

He turns down the volume of the song.

“I still feel you, 10,000 kilometers away.  Maybe your taking a nap right now and tracing my path home from another space.”

The rain beats down harder.

“I visit you when I dream.  You’ll tell me to wipe my nose and then we would sit in your room and watch the Milky Way rotate outside your window.”

He looked at the sky.

“When I wake, your still in everything I do.”

He passes by a coffee house with a few night owls perched at the counter.

“Every reminder of you – a song playing in a cafe, a scene in a film – cuts a small wound and slowly bleeds me to death. If you feel a fraction of the same pain, guilt shoots through me like lightning.”

He slows down as he crosses a puddle the size of a small ocean.

“Why are we doing this to ourselves?”

He glances at the papers in the passenger seat.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about that question and also another question we’ve been trying to answer on this project.“

He rubs his hands along the steering wheel.

“There are these two particles that have become linked somehow. Whatever we do to one, it affects the other, even across long distances. We shot one to a lab on the other side of the world, and when they spun it one way, we see the paired particle spin the other.”

The chill in the car bites him. He turns on the heater.

“If what we’re observing is true, even if we separate them by an entire universe, they’re still connected. These particles are bound by something unseen, something profound, something we’re only beginning to understand. It’s like crazy.”

The familiar old brick façade of the hotel comes into view.

“I know you nod off when I talk about work, but all these questions in my head are starting to blur together. I miss you terribly. See you soon.”

He taps his phone.

He ponders the rain and the view of the parking lot from his rental car.

He climbs the stairs to his empty room.