The Long Con by Audrey Bauman

The Long Con

Mulan disguised herself as a soldier for ten years to save her father. I disguise myself in the back of a bus in Thailand by sitting still and saying nothing. My classmates talk to the ranger in Thai and wave our student IDs so I can enter a national park for free, even though I’m American and by law should pay. In Taipei, I tell the people who ask me for directions bu hao yisi, wo ye bu zhidao — sorry, I also don’t know how to get there — and maybe my accent gives me away, but they’ve never let on. I stole sixteen New Taiwanese Dollars by accident because I forgot to scan my bus card at Jiufen. On the return trip, the bus driver asked qu nali, and I said Taibei, trying to raise my vowels and lower my tones like a local. The ballad never says how Mulan did it. I imagine she stared at the reflection in her shield and examined the angle of her nose, the softness of her jaw. Perhaps she wondered what those lines revealed. Perhaps her silence became another part of her armor. I imagine she had to train herself daily to play the long con — feign confidence, wear a new face. Every successful encounter like another victory on the battlefield, where she could pick up her sword and fall in line, no need to convince anyone of her place in history.


The Long Con


Audrey Bauman is an MFA student at Northern Michigan University and a fiction reader for Passages North. She writes about family, identity, and all things spooky. She has been published in Paper Darts and her tweets can be found @haylin42.


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Art (cropped) Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art Public Domain