the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Fictional Characters of New York — #23


The following flash fiction was inspired by the people of New York, and the street photography that captures the diversity and excitement of the city. The story, names, and situations are all 100% fictional.   Photo and story by Neil Kramer.

I proposed to Molly today. We’re a good match. We both went to Yale and wrote well-received debut novels. When our  engagement is announced tomorrow, I have no doubt there will be column in the Observer touting us as the next young literary powerhouse couple.

I also respect Molly’s parents.  My Chinese parents have a lot in common with Molly’s  Jewish heritage.   Both families believe in education and high achievement.  Molly and I will create some smart children with our combined Chinese-Jewish DNA.    But it’s too soon to talk about children just yet.  We’ve both heavily committed to our careers, and Molly isn’t sure how long she can keep teaching creative writing at NYU.

I hope Jailyn doesn’t take it hard. I owe so much to her. She was my muse. There would be no novel titled “Main Street, Flushing,” without her.  The character of Evelyn WAS Jailyn.

From the moment I moved into Molly’s Upper East Side condo, I knew the space was too stuffy and quiet for my temperament.  Whenever I hit a blank page in the story, I took the 7 train down to Flushing, and let the culture of my youth bombard my senses — the red ribbons and exotic fruits, the old men playing mahjong and the young women with their cheap pastel umbrellas shielding their eyes from the hot sun.

On the side street, right off the way from the market and herbal store, was a small massage studio.  It was only $15 a hour for a decent massage.  A perfectly legit place.   No hanky panky.   And that’s how I met Jailyn.

I took her for dinner at Liang’s Noodle King. She loved niu rou mian, a beef noodle soup known as a Taiwanese comfort food noodles, and she slurped it up with abandon. She wasn’t refined; she came from Taipei in 2010 with only a high school education, but her spirit was as old as that of the Empress Xuanzong.

She became my muse. We would fuck all night in her tiny apartment, every chance I could, and her lips would taste sweet and salty. When she would fall asleep, spent, I would quietly go to her kitchen table and write for the rest of the night, my creativity endless.

I wrote about Evelyn, a young orphan girl who moved from Taiwan to start a new life in Flushing, Queens.  After the novel was finished, it reached #7 on Amazon’s best-selling fiction of 2013.

Jailyn was proud of my success, and wanted to attend one of my public book readings — the big one at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square — but all my Yale and Manhattan friends were coming that day, and I didn’t think she would feel comfortable.  I was trying to protect her.

She will always be my muse. I will forever remember my time with her, and the way she felt in my arms. But now I’m ready for my literary life with Molly.   My second novel will come out in October, about a young Chinese-American politician and his struggle to become mayor.

I hope that Jailyn understands why it is important for my career that I marry Molly.   I explained it all in the letter I sent to her in the mail.   I’m sure she will. She’s strong. Like all Chinese women.


  1. Shannon akaMonty

    I do love your short stories!! However (and this is NOT in any way a criticism or even a suggestion, just stating a personal opinion which I should probably keep to myself anyway), I really like the short, punchy, caption-like stories on the earlier pictures. They seem to really capture the essence of what you want us to feel and see in the photo.
    Either way, I’ll keep reading them. Carry on, good sir.

  2. Jules

    Protect her my ass! He would be embarrassed to be seen with her around all his uppity friends. I don’t like him.

    • Kizz

      Funny, I read the narrator as a her.

  3. Ms. Moon

    I love these, Neil. I think they are very lovely and I admire the work you put into them. Brevity is the most difficult thing there is, I believe, in writing. You are nailing it.
    Complete characters and motivation and sense of place, all in such a few words.

  4. Kir

    I always say “I love the stories”, the ones behind the ones up front. The impressions that are so much more than the first ones.

    This story, of muses and people wrong for us in the daylight but not in the dark is sad, hurtful, unfortunate for all involved. I think I’ve been this woman and then on other occasions been that man. I felt so many emotions reading it and that’s the point isn’t it?

    and isn’t it sad that we can’t always hang onto to (and hang out with) our dear muses, our bliss, as if we spoil the goodness of it if we take too much. (I wonder if he’ll see her even after marriage if his words dry up)

    very nice write Neil.

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