Lego Mansion

We laid the plan carefully, decided on a gray Lego baseplate as the floor, imagined where it should be tiled or what kind of wood, maple or bamboo or cherry or oak like we saw on the pages of House magazines, then where the main bedroom for Ah Ma and Ba with walk-in closets and its own bathroom should be, we bought pieces of beige bathrooms online from our busboy and waitressing pay checks, we added segments to the walls, each white brick snapped together, rising from the ground, we fought over how many floors we should assemble, we agreed we should each have our own room, Ma and Ba were getting so sick of us bickering about who got to have the upper bunk, whose turn it was to hoist the laundry bag on Saturdays, so we put in a miniature washing machine we bought on Craigslist, we built and rebuilt our dream mansion of plastic facade with silver roofs, palm trees swaying on sidewalks, even filled Ma’s closet with a miniature fur coat, a garage for Ba to play carpenter, we built and rebuilt every time we found a new piece, a new idea, a new fashion, replaced small windows with tall, tinted glass, unbricked a portion of the walls, crafted a new backyard with a firepit, we built and rebuilt for every new dream we dreamed for Ah Ma and Ah Ba while they scraped leftovers and blunted their fingers and burned their eyebrows at their Lucky Lunch takeout truck to cook and serve $10 Three-option Kung Pao Chicken, Garlic Eggplant, with Chow Mein or Fried Rice to lines of black-suited and white-collared businessmen, we built and rebuilt until the day their truck collided with a bigger truck, burst on fire, we grew up then and stopped playing with dreams.

Christine H. Chen was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Madagascar before settling in Boston, where she worked as a research chemist. Her fiction work has been published in The Pinch, CRAFT Literary, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, Gordon Square Review, Pidgeonholes, The Citron Review, and other journals. She is a grateful recipient of a 2022 Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship and the co-translator from French of Samantha Barendson’s hybrid novel My Lemon Tree, forthcoming in 2023 by Spuyten Duyvil. Her publications can be found at