Lumpy, by Phong Nguyen

for Nam

“If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.”

Dearest Father,

Last year I stowed away on a mining vessel to this desert, the same sand planet in the outer rim where you and your smuggler buddies used to hide out. The war-cries of the indigenous pealing over the dunes as the suns declined aren’t frightening to me at all anymore. The roughneck bars have become an oasis from the twin heat of the suns—the source of all life, and its greatest antagonists. I carry my bowcaster everywhere, cradling it like a delicate instrument, same as you did. Though I’m more patient to use it than you were.

You always ran headlong into blaster fire, trailing behind your pink, hairless human, trusting in a force larger than statistics.

When you get this letter, you will have returned from another voyage in your new life as ambassador to the Syndicate (congratulations). Mom will have already read it (hi, Mom), because she’s either concerned or paranoid, depending on how highly you estimate the risk of a Wookiee out on his own in the wide galaxy. This will be the first Life Day I spend without a visit from you, but it feels like you’re in step with me as I walk the same wastelands you walked when you were my age. 

The difference is this: I’m a creature without a sense of mission. There was never a need. (“Don’t worry,” you’re thinking, “you will always be taken care of. You need not want for anything in this life.”) A fraction of me is bursting with a puppy’s need to make you proud, but the rest of me hates that fraction.

At home I was followed everywhere by minders, soldiers on temporary leave whose main interest was protecting your reputation more than my life. I’d razz them with stories about your smuggling days, before you lucked into the role of Wookiee Savior, and they’d turn their scornful eyes on me like I wasn’t worth the blaster round it would take to end me. Then another Life Day would arrive, and there you’d be, filling out the doorway with your fuzzy silhouette, and for another Life Day I would believe for a moment all the stories they tell of your greatness. 

For the rest of the year, I made do with your pose-able action figure, or the Vid screen stories, or the great statue in the Mattichek rotunda.

But I’ll never return to Kashyyyk now, because I can’t stand to see my father, the war hero, following around his alpha-human—some guy with a sad patch of hair on his crown who can’t fight his own battles, who can’t even fix his own ship without the help of a Wookiee—a “sidekick” who could tear the limbs from his vest like a paper doll—and still has the gall to call himself Solo. Fucking Solo.

How can I make you understand? If the greatest warrior and statesman from Kashyyyk is a kept Wookiee, that means that all Wookiees are kept.

On Life Day last year, shortly after you left that night (you couldn’t even stay until the morning), when Itchy was passed out under the simulator, not even bothering to hide his big, ugly Wookiee erection, and Mom was weeping into her gray apron in the glow of the vid screen, I found myself surrounded by the detritus of your charity—toys, games, and gadgets. I was already a little sick from the Bantha roast, but then the holographic animator shouted to life. There was a glitch in the central programming, and Itchy’s simulator appeared in our midst, in three-dimensional space, and the animator replayed the simulator’s use-history from that whole Life Day—for the 24 hours you spent glued into its virtual console. And this is what it showed: humans hairless and naked and frail; humans twittering like birds and dancing like frightened prey; humans tiny-headed, puckered, smiling toothily, with vacant, seductive eyes. 

Grrawrrr. Graru grarrr!

Mom didn’t move, didn’t speak, pretended her eyes and ears had stopped working rather than to hear a bad word spoken about you. But I was not so paralyzed. I ran out of the base, following you all the way to the launch site near Palsaang, where the corpse-flowers sprout or droop larger than the bodies they resemble. The ramp of the Falcon was down, since you knew you were docked in safe territory, in your homeland, and I sneaked onto the ship only to find you fiddling like an engineer, repairing panels in the cockpit, in the co-pilot’s seat; and once again I was whelmed with a swell of pity for you, and therefore, for all of us.

But here is the thing: the comlink was on, Solo was no where around, and you spoke to your old Rebel buddy through the transmission in clear, cold, Human tongue.

I never cared much for the stories Wookiees love to tell of your heroics during the war, but now that I’ve heard you speak the human’s insipid, precious, meandering, insectoid speech, I think you are a great hero after all. You speak their language, you understand every word, but you choose to roar at them with a Wookiee voice.

So have a Happy Life Day, enjoy your journeys back and forth across a mostly empty galaxy, take what pleasure you can in humans, and in the meantime, show them what it means to be a Wookiee. You never needed my blessing, but now you have it.

You should roar, Father.



Phong Nguyen is the winner of the "Lot of old comic books 1966-1978" auction on Ebay, recipient of the "discarded packaging from when children have just torn open presents" award, and a finalist for the "should have studied medicine" prize, the "insufficient frontal lobe for literary criticism" distinction, and the "good enough hygiene for academia" honor. Currently, he froths at the public for money.

[ed. note: over the next two weeks, we’ll be catching up with characters from beloved Christmas movies, learning how their lives have turned out after the cameras stopped rolling. We’ve invited some of our favorite writers to share these stories]