Detailed Synopsis (Spoiler alert)

Detailed Synopsis (Spoiler alert)

“The Leap Second Story” At the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, Australia, a female scientist, Beckett, gives a very strange press conference. She emphasizes the fact that “the earth changes speed and position constantly,” and on account of this “on December 26, 2004, the earth’s mass was drawn towards its core via tectonic subduction and the planet got…smaller. Because the planet got smaller, it started to spin faster, three microseconds faster than before.” The massively destructive tsunami in the Indian Ocean region was a result of this seemingly small geological shift. Beckett runs through a list of small, instantaneous things that would have occurred simultaneously, within in the same “leap second.” Throughout her press conference, she makes reference to a man with whom she had shared a glance earlier that morning, who she says is “the handsomest man I think I’ve ever seen,” and at the end of her speech she steps off the stage, finds this man, and kisses him.

“The Swimming Child Story” In Malaysia, two people, siblings called “Runner” and “Swimmer,” are inside a house that has been carried out to the ocean. They chat about their precarious circumstances as they try to determine which personal objects to discard from the house in order to prevent it from sinking further into the sea.

“The Saint Story” Ma’mar, an architect and structural engineer, has been sent by the Vatican to the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health in Velankanni, Tamil Nadu, India, to determine the credibility of a supposed miracle: the tsunami destroyed nearly everything in the area except for the basilica; this is being attributed to a Marian statue venerated by local Christians. Father Amal is resentful that a Muslim has been sent to investigate this case. He becomes very upset when Ma’mar determines that, instead, there is a scientific explanation for the basilica having been spared from the natural disaster. They have an argument about their differences in religion and worldview, but eventually arrive at a grudging respect and shake hands before Ma’mar leaves the basilica.

“The Radio Story” In Toronto, an outspoken, white, middle-aged radio DJ, Rick, has written a joke-song about the Indian Ocean tsunami and the supposed indifference of Western people to this tragedy. His radio station does not want him to perform this song on the air, and a corporate manager, Sanjay, has come in to explain their decision. However, Rick talks Sanjay into letting him air the song, and they lock the studio door while Rick and his young producer, Chili, perform the song. It’s far more offensive than expected, with ugly racial stereotypes of Asian people. Sanjay is dismayed. When he unlocks the studio door, men enter and forcibly remove Rick.

“The Orphan Boy Story” At Bandaranaike International Airport, Sri Lanka, an older Chinese man sits with a young girl who has lost all her immediate family in the tsunami. The “Hard-Boiled Man” rescued the “Kid,” pulling her out of the water, and has helped her to contact a relative to come get her. As they wait for the relative’s plane to arrive, he tells her that he also lost his own parents as a child. A boy from his school bullied him for being an orphan, but he grew taller and larger than this bully, and one day punched him hard in the nose, which put an end to the bullying behaviour. When the girl’s uncle arrives, he and the “Hard-Boiled Man” instantly recognize one another—it is the bully from his childhood. The girl hugs the “Hard-Boiled Man,” then leaves with her uncle.

“The Water Story” A white man, “Mr. Crumb,” and a Thai woman, evidently a prostitute, “Jasmine,” lie together naked and sweaty, post-coital, in a hotel room bed in Khao Lak, Thailand. Jasmine mentions that “our friend connected us because I have certain skills. Certain talents that you were. . . in need of.” Crumb opens up to her, confiding about the romantic and sexual details of a past, long-term relationship that he had with a woman—his wife? Has she died in the tsunami? “This place swallowed her,” he tells Jasmine. He asks her to run him a bath. He exhales, smiles, and submerges himself. He reflexively tries to emerge, but Jasmine holds him underwater: their “arrangement.” After Crumb has drowned, Jasmine takes her payment, and is about to leave when she reconsiders, replaces the payment in an envelope, and exits the hotel room.

“The Falling Story” Somewhere deep underground, a man, Kintaro Kobayashi, plummets down a hole, continuously falling without ever reaching the bottom. As he falls, he sees another person, Makoto Aoki, also falling, with whom he converses. Kintaro asks if he is dead, but Makoto answers, “You are falling down a hole. When you die, you wake up on the subway,” and tells him that he has been falling for four and a half years. They discuss their lives and circumstances as they continue to plummet.

“The Millimetre Story” In Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2009, an FBI special agent, Nguyen comes to the home of Lenore, an Asian-American woman. Visibly uncomfortable, she tries to tell him that she is too busy to talk right now. He questions her about an event in her past, and gradually makes it known to her that he is aware of a serious crime that she committed—transporting, or abducting, a child (possibly orphaned after the 2004 tsunami) from Thailand to the United States under the name and identity documents of her own deceased child. She has raised this child as her own, a kind of replacement as it were. Lenore at first denies this, then insists that she was just trying to “help” during a chaotic, dangerous time. She pleads with him, but he ultimately places her in handcuffs.

“The Vermin Story” In Ko Phi Island, Thailand, at the present time, Diego Garcia sits on a beach and stares out at the ocean, when he is approached by another man, “Mr. Vermin,” who instantly begins talking to him. Diego at first claims that he is just sightseeing, but then confesses that the people who died in the tsunami died because of him. He had been working at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, and he had released a bulletin prior to the earthquake that caused the Indian Ocean tsunami, stating there was no real threat of a tsunami. Vermin is apparently already aware of this, and shows Diego that he is carrying a pistol. He tells Diego that he has “until the storm comes” to live. They talk about their lives as day turns to night. Finally, the storm arrives—a massive, torrential storm—and Vermin presses the gun to Diego’s head. Diego collapses into Vermin’s arms and weeps. Vermin drops the gun and cradle’s Diego’s head. They cry and their tears join the tide, which carries them away, out to sea.

carried away on the crest of a wave

By David Yee
March 19–April 19
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
Winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, carried away on the crest of a wave weaves together nine evocative stories about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the deadliest in recorded history. The finely drawn characters illustrate the interconnectedness of our experiences, revealing the resonance of this natural disaster around the world and showing a pathway to hope.
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Posted on 18th Dec 2019