News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Ch03 Taking out the Laundry (2004-01-04)

Marriage was worrying.

“Honey… Honey…”

I'd been chanting this like an idiot in my living room. Trying to get my mouth around the word and overcome a decade of mocking it. It made me think of 1950’s TV, canoodling corn-fed fatsos in flyover suburbia, or a post-modern milquetoast pleading with his self-actuated better half.

On the other hand, they say that if you repeat something long enough, you'll believe it. In that spirit I tried: As a child I did childish things but as an adult I did adult stuff, leaving the juvenile crap of childhood behind. But in my present mood this just exploded like a blank cartridge on the pyre of rationalizations I’d come up with for marriage, scattering the ashes of second-guessing, the air swirling with premonitions of regret.

Not that my marriage was even bad. So what was my problem? I was so confused.

‘Honey’ and ‘please’ and nagging (that nemesis for those with chronically low self-esteem) seemed to go together like two fingers and a thumb into a glove for a dismembered freak. 'Honey' was the first step to special-pleading with the wife and begging permission for sticky backyard barbeques, apologizing for crumbs on the sofa, whimpering about taking lunch down into the den and backpedaling on the pursuit of weird hobbies involving glue or guns or S&M or normal guy fetishes like bar-hopping or Sunday afternoon football with the guys or S&M without them.

And yet, as my energy flagged and I began to calm down, it dawned on me that I didn’t have a problem with ‘honey’ and what it represented: mom & pop retro values. When I stopped to think about it, I couldn’t come up with anything genuinely wrong with them. It was just that they were from the wrong generation, i.e. the previous one, and thus intrinsically uncool. And I was getting a bit long in the tooth to be worrying about what was cool and what was not.

I sucked my teeth. My final and lasting reservation with ‘honey’ was that it sounded like whining. If I started whining, real problems, maybe even leading to divorce, were in the mail. And, strange as it might sound, Bunny didn’t want me hopping off the pedestal I’d been awarded for being a foreigner.

For that matter I’d never met a local girl who did want equality. In theory, maybe. But in practice they hated it. I experimented, treating women like men, being respectful. They found it off-putting at best and alarming, asexual, and insulting at worst. Treating them ladies and being blandly nice, snuggling up, being available, returning calls, and paying for their meals didn’t work either. They got bored and restless, started looking for greener pastures, didn’t return my phone calls, gave me the slip in the end. Chicks wanted a challenge, a pillar of strength, someone to look up to. In a word: daddy.

All’s fair in love and war, or so they say. But the women I knew took it whole hog. Fairness and equality were for chumps, fat chicks and wallflowers. And I came to realize that you were lucky under the circumstances if these girls left you if they despised you. Things could be worse. For if they stayed, they got in the driver’s seat and rode you ragged. Worst of all, they nagged. And that led to serial cringing. And that led to panic attacks. And that led to lots more of what caused the problem in the first place: ‘Oh honey?’

However, if I couldn't enunciate ‘honey’ sincerely and without hesitation, Bunny would be unhappy. I had a problem.

Maybe I'd get used to it after a while. Yeah. I would. Right? But then I thought: 'honey' rhymes with 'mommy'. Was that an accident…?




Then something moved outside on the veranda. I couldn’t see it clearly because I’d put up Venetian blinds after replacing the original safety glass with transparent window panes. Local safety glass isn't designed to keep burglars out or keep suicides in (not as unreasonable as it might sound), but to keep snoops at bay. Translucent glass lets light in but keeps prying eyes out, thus retaining the best aspect of the wall, China's most popular architectural form.

There it was again. Movement! I got up and went over to sneak a peek through the blades of the blind.

I looked through the edge of the blind, but the angle wasn’t wide enough to get a decent view. I stood up and stretched lazily, wondering who it might be. You might think that going outside would be the easiest way to settle this, but if it was tourists, they might tell other tourists and even more of them would show up.

We did indeed have tourists up here on the rooftop and your humble narrator was the bashful attraction. It was a merry game. Because of the high density population, most of the city dwelled in virtual fish-bowls. Neighbors were used to spying, gossiping, and ankle-biting. They poked fun at your naïve foreigner interest in chi-gong and then rushed off to the fortune teller for his prognostications per winning lottery numbers. They mocked your respect for farmers’ almanacs. Five minutes later, trying to figure out why you didn’t act sufficiently Chinese, they asked you for your zodiac sign.

And in a knowing way they asked you how many kids you had. I’d overheard a neighbor offering solace to a weeping friend. “There, there. It’s not so bad having a daughter. Getting your tubes tied now is a public service. The one-child policy is critical with the population getting out of hand.” But did he really mean it? No son meant another Chinese family tree good for nothing but firewood. Before this, everyone had an eye on you. Now, with the dreaded daughter, the ultimate albatross around the family’s neck, it was both eyes. Every trip beyond the city limits was suspect. The neighborhood committee would show up, withered faces in blue Mickey Mao suits, narrow eyes and cunning grins, delivering a warning snorting wheeze: “Not going to a county fair to buy a second wife, we hope.” Laughter. “If we catch you, we’ll have to confiscate your apartment.”

It all seemed so unfair. Until I remembered that in Atlantic Canada, shooting a rabbit out of season allowed the Canadian neighborhood committee to confiscate your apartment too.

Foreigners arrived in Gore-Tex and Oakley Blades. Confusingly, they didn’t wear rich brands from their own countries. Instead their jeans had more holes and fit even worse than a farmer’s. They wore their baseball caps backwards to keep the sun off their necks because a tan was for your face. And why did they want the dark skin of poor people anyway? And their hands were either lost in their pockets or gesticulating like snakes. And yet they were so rich that they kept saying ‘Have!’ all the time. (When a foreigner said ‘Yo, yo, yo!’ the locals thought he was bragging ‘Have, have, have!’ in Chinese.) No doubt about it. We were weird buzzards: worth watching and keeping an eye on.

But instead of getting our fifteen minutes in the limelight, it was more like fifteen years and running. We provoked gasps, gossip, conspiracy theories, and brought the locals together through state-approved xenophobia. In short, without enough foreigners to go around in a country of 1.3 billion, we got gaped at a lot.

So I kept the blind down during evening hours and weekends. Otherwise kids and parents formed an audience outside the window. It was sort of like being a tropical fish behind glass. Frank was a Neon Tetra, me a Kissing Gourami, and Mike a Siamese Fighting Fish.

The tourists, on the other hand, were on the outside looking in, bereft and waiflike, exiled from the fun and clambering like illegal aliens to get in on the First World action. They reminded me of the folks who collect like strays to watch the daily filming of NBC's The Today Show, wagging their hands and miming the words ‘HI MOM!!’ through the glass at the camera.

These innocents were no more of a bother than pigeons cooing on the roof. But there were also pests: the prying Party busybodies with carte blanche to walk into our home plus the aforementioned geriatric street committee snoops. These stoic grandmas and greybeards were a cabbage-smelling retro-dressed Chinese edition of the Taliban street enforcers, snipping hippy-hair and threatening to call the summary-beating cops if you gave them any lip.

As with all enforcement, rackets (the constabulary version of moonlighting) developed on the side. Fortunately I was worthless to them, my income too small and my public image negligible. I had no connections. I read Engrish books but kept my mouth shut. I wasn't interesting. A real dog could do tricks; running dogs were passé. Monkeys masturbated and ate bananas without peeling them; foreigners fornicated behind closed doors and ate unappetizing counter-traditional glop like tomato-festooned pizza. And wasn't cheese favored by the Tibetan high-mountain barbarians?

I could daydream about this all day. Or, I could chuck my excuses overboard and just open the damn door. When I did, all motion outside ceased. Two sets of eyes were peering at me. I peered back. It was so unexpected I couldn't help but think for a second that I had done something wrong coming out on to my own veranda. I felt like yet another flasher caught red-handed in a Chengdu McDonalds.

These two were a fiftiesh couple from downstairs, second or third floor maybe. The wife was in dyed golden curls and leopard-skin tights. She and her husband were frozen, like deer in headlights. The husband was in the ubiquitous raiment of middle aged men during the after-hours: a white cotton undershirt, tennis shorts and flip-flops.

I smiled in neighborly fashion: “Hey folks. Howdy-do. What's up this fine morning? Laundry again?”

Hubby began to move again. He gasped shallow puffs and began growing a smile you might confuse with an expression of pain. A myriad lineaments in his face took up the slack and went taut as his signature expression came into being. He looked like he was going to speak but then he mistook my silence for reproach. He panicked and looked at his toes and started snorfling. He didn’t stop. He just kept going. On and on and on.

“Oh man!” I complained and stamped my feet, having seen these time-wasting freak-outs in the elderly generation before. Perhaps he’d suffered psychic damage during the Cultural Revolution: too many dunce-caps; too many airplane sessions. Damaged goods were everywhere.

It might be ten minutes before he’d recover. I watched sullenly as his wife clambered in behind him, her human shield.

I rolled my eyes as a psychic self-defense measure. I was trying to blame him. But unless you’re really callous, it’s hard not to blame yourself. I knew that I was only half of the equation. And I had inadvertently pushed the button. But who or what installed the button and why? And I’d learned the hard way that pressuring people in these situations made things worse. Patience was called for. Patience was something I rarely had.

I shrugged, trying to accept my incompetence. But a shrug is also body language for Get Stuffed!

I wanted to say something. To break the ice. But you didn't just speak to people. Not in this place. Not after all the social upheaval they'd been through the past fifty years. It was Us vs. Them. And they had a conspiracy theory for everything.

I smiled at my nonsense. Or was it nonsense?

The phone rang, rescuing me. I went back inside the pad and reached over to the top of our television and picked up the receiver. A young man barked, "Hello?"

"Hi. Who are you looking for?"

"Who are you?"

I repeated slowly, “Who - are - you - looking - for?"


"For god's sake! Who are you looking for? Who do you want to speak to?"

"Hallo!!!" It was an announcement now.

"Who are you? If you tell me who you are, I will tell you who I am, okay?"

Home telephone service was still a novelty.

The young man said, "I'm Chengdu!"

"Oh for gods sake! You're not a city. What is your name?"

"Hello?” in a drag-queen tone. And then imperiously “Who are you?"

"Nobody's home!"

I heard a click on the other end as I was putting the phone down. It was probably one of the wife's business connections. Bunny would chide me for being impatient with her business associates but somebody had to get the wheel of phone etiquette in motion. Plus, if you looked on the bright side, the caller probably figured 'nobody' meant nobody important was home. In other words, Bunny was not there. In other words, he had the information he wanted. In other words, having achieved his goal, he was unlikely to understand my impatience with him. Foreigners were impenetrable.

I went back outside and sat down in one of our new plastic lawn chairs to wait out the couple.

I looked up at the clothes swinging in the breeze from the steel poles hung over a section of my veranda which served as a commons for the building's occupants. From the ends of the poles hung plants, forming a hanging garden, one of the main attractions for me and my wife. We loved that the place was full of flowers, vines, succulents, and cacti. We’d bought and installed several miniature trees in chicken wire wrapping.

There were also herbs in abundance: cilantro, basil, chili peppers, even ginger. Most of them were planted by huggy-bears with green thumbs. They showed up usually on weekends, armed with a small radio blasting music or news. They often wore shorts that emphasized the local ratio of torso (long) to legs (short). After watering, weeding, debugging, trimming or harvesting their plants, not to mention fertilizing their soil with the last few days worth of crushed eggshells, they'd roll up their undershirts, recline in their favorite sun-bleached wicker chair, sunning their bellies and reading a stitch of newspaper while sipping lukewarm tea out of recycled jam-jars.

Some folks, like the couple from downstairs, used the steel poles to sun-dry their clothes. On weekends the rooftop and our veranda in particular was crowded with garments flapping in the prevailing breeze.

"Kills the germs," one fellow said, picking his teeth with a toothpick and placing it back in his shirt pocket. Another, wearing the corporal remains of breakfast on his undershirt, piped up with "The sun's X-rays are nature's natural disinfectant." I retorted with the high fecal count of the city air and that it wasn't X-rays but Gamma rays he was thinking of. But the belief in sun-drying clothes was too firm for either facts or humor. Everybody was doing it, so it must be right. Besides, what did a freaky foreigner know?

My choice of a rooftop pad, notorious for being scorching in summer, suggested I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the karaoke marquee. Plus, I was married and didn’t appear to be a man of the cloth. All of this suggested I was safe, benign, maybe even cute & cuddly. Outside of soul-snatchers and skirt-chasers, foreigners rarely acquire a mastery of the local language beyond that of young children (though this is a positive failing: Chinese love kids). So, people in the building would speak their minds freely, right beside me, confident I wouldn’t understand a word of Chinese.

One day I’d come out on the rooftop and somebody I recognized from the building smiled, harked a thumb in the direction of Yours Truly and asked his pal, “Doesn't he know how hot rooftops get come June?” I was curious what they would say so I walked over and mimed my greeting to them. I didn’t want them to know I spoke Chinese. They tipped their backs in slight bows and politely said, “Ni hao. Ni hao. Xiansheng, ni hao.”

Then, just as politely, the first one continued talking to his friend. “The air-conditioning bills! Holy Mao! See these big noses that they have?” He pointed at me with his index finger: “See that sucker growing out of his face, it's like a meat mushroom or a fat sausage or something. Now that's got to be a heavy drain on the blood supply to the brain.” His pal nodded and grunted in agreement. They chattered some more, lost interest in me, and waved merrily as they moved on.

People were friendly. Old acquaintances offered a sip of tea. New acquaintances patted me to see if I was real.

But sometimes it all gets a bit much. You get a little freaked out by the constant attention, the unpredictable protocol, the new sets of double-standards. Mild culture shock. I start to nag and my wife tells me I take stuff too seriously.

In her halting, but steadily improving, English she'd recently told me: “You a doggone stick in the mud.”

"Am not. I'm a stickler for principles." I was being facetious. But 'stickler' was a new word for her. She changed the subject, as she often does when an unfamiliar word threatens to derail her side of the conversation.

You a doggone stick in the mud was playing through my head until I reminded myself that I didn't have to care about any of this. I was a free agent in my own life damn it! This microcosmic clash of civilizations wasn't my fault. I began my personal counter-xenophobia mantra. We're all on autopilot; vessels filled with culture; blank slates overwritten with the graffiti of previous generations.

A few iterations and I breathed easier. I remembered to practice breathing from the diaphragm. At the same time, I rolled up my shirt, exposing my abdomen to radiate heat into the morning breeze. Everyone did it here. (Removing the whole shirt was taking the nudity thing too far and going feral.) I was learning to relax and let my hair down in the approved manner. If Michael could do it, I had no excuse. I was learning to let it all hang out with the indigenous set. I was getting down with the brothers. The Chinese brothers.

A noise caught my attention and I looked up and saw that the husband was finally beginning to unwind, as if emerging from a dream. Like many of us in this dusty town, on waking up, his first action was to screw a finger into his nose. This was a good sign. He rooted around, looking for obstructions. Finding one, he extracted it, examined it, and then released it into the breeze, pleased with the accomplishment.

It came sailing in my direction.

I jumped out of my chair hissing, "What the...?" Out of harm's way, I shook my head and frowned. "Disgusting, man…"

The wife became self-conscious. But the husband himself was placid and self-absorbed, unaware that any change had taken place. He wasn’t prepared to second guess himself. He heard nothing.

Bored now, he looked up, searching for something to hold his attention. He found a target: my crotch. Knock-off pornos had convinced the locals that palefaces are hung like mules, the African diaspora hung like horses. I said firmly, "Hey! Hey! Eyes up front. Front and center."

This frightened him. His eyes got big and round, like a foreigner’s. Fear prompted his physiology to release all ballast: he farted. Then he began blinking. He went for at least a minute, as if the circuitry in his brainpan was loose and the lights were on at home now, but flickering and on the verge of winking out.

I looked down, sucking in my stomach so I could see better down below. No willy peeking out. Maybe it was the pricy under-shorts I was wearing that caught his attention. The bloomers he’d hung out to sun-dry were cheaper. They were vent-less and like swimming trunks you could pee right through them if you wanted.

Maybe it was the bottom of my belly that he’d been looking at. It was my boldest feature. Big bellies took a lot of food (beer was my secret) and implied a big wallet. That in turn implied that I could pay for big pussy (not an attractive metaphor in English perhaps). Maybe he took me for a sexual athlete, a postcolonial conquistador of indigenous hanky-panky.

I could guess all day. Why not just ask the man? Then again, why bother?

I looked over at them again, and at his wife in particular. She was aiming a hurt puppy-dog look at me. But a sympathy trick is just an aggressive defense tactic. The husband's blinking had slowed down. He was as ready as he’d every be so I said, "Good morning!" I was as self-effacing as I could be: "Um…Look, eh, I don't want to be too much of a bother, right? But," and pointing to their laundry, "Would you mind perhaps putting your undies over there a little."

We took turns patiently taking in the majesty of the husband's drawers flapping in the wind. Pretty big bloomers for a small punter. Maybe he wanted to make a point with me. Maybe he was another one of the married-with-children swing-hitters that military service seemed to mass-manufacture. Maybe his BVD's were a sort of prurient prayer-flag, epistles in the wind, and he hoped for a romp with Yours Truly, plump representative of the alleged global leader of free love: the good ole' USA.

I suddenly heard a shout of, “WHAAAT? SAY AGAIN? What's that?”

I was so startled that I cringed and whimpered, “Christ Almighty!”

I looked at him wondering if he thought I was deaf to reason. Or was he trying to cross the language barrier by force? Nah. Underneath the camouflage of glasses and BVD's was a clod-flipper used to shouting across hill and dale to his neighboring clod-floppers. Like I was a country-mile away, he hallooed again, "WHAAAT?"

I put my hand up, “Enough shouting already dude. I can hear you. Loud and clear.”

He grinned and came over to shake my hand saying, “Sorry, if I was a bit loud. I’m getting a bit deaf in my right ear.”

Remembering the nose-clearing episode, I fibbed clumsily, “Ah… I just washed.” And put my hands behind my back. “Sorry. But, eh, how’re you doing this morning?”

“Good, good. Weather’s fine today. Yes very fine.” I was no longer an inscrutable occidental. I was just another shyster neighbor. Another atom of need and greed. A regular Zhou.

“Sure is,” I said, looking into the orange murk. I scratched an itchy eyebrow and then pointed with my finger at his underpants, “Eh, so mister, um, how about the clothes? Can you move them maybe? I don’t mean to trouble you too much. Just that they get in the way of our view. We’ve, me and the wifey that is, sort of have a weakness for plants you see. Green plants on an orange background,” and I framed the scene with a square made by connecting my thumbs and index fingers, “looks rather delightful. Quite nice you see.”

He looked at me and scratched his head for a moment. He snorted and his mouth made chewing motions for a few seconds until he achieved synchronicity and croaked, "What? What's wrong with my underwear? Don't you like the colors?" He chortled, as natural as a fish in formaldehyde.

I blinked, realizing he suspected the truth lay somewhere else. His wife frowned figuring she also was onto a plot of some kind. They were wondering what this was really all about.

"Oh, oh… The colors? Marvelous. My favorite. Yes, indeedy.” I frowned awkwardly, “Just not my favorite location that's all. I was thinking perhaps, umm, if they were over to the left just a little bit, our view out our front window wouldn't be blocked."

“Front window? Who cares about the view? It's the weekend. You're a rich foreigner. You can go sightseeing in the mountains.”

“Not my speed, see? Weekend trips with my wife's family and relations into the mountains aren’t all that inspiring. Communing with nature? Not exactly what they’ve got in mind.” They slurped on recycled tea, chain-smoked cigarettes without inhaling, gnawed on leathery pemmican snacks, wiped the remains of sugary dried fruit on their slacks, and alternated from gay shrieks to livid murderous glances while trying to cheat each other at mahjong. They rooted out roadside weeds telling me they were ancient medicine. They gambled on everything from when a bug would fly from a leaf to what model of truck would next come speeding hell-for-leather around the bend. And when the relations with money wanted to inspire envy, they gathered splashing buckets of spring water and broke out the detergent and wiped down their cars by hand, the soapy suds coasting brightly back into the crystalline waters of the brook.

I started to ramble, "What I mean is, every weekend our front yard becomes a gypsy circus. Folks dry their clothes, get the barbeque fired up, fly kites, and all sorts of stuff up here. When they go, they leave behind a landfill's worth of rusty hangers, plastic snaps, fish bones, ash, cigarette butts, wrappers, you name it. When the wind really gets going, stuff gets blown into our plants and some of the crud gets blown right through our open windows and into our living room.”

I just wanted to get this off my chest. Maybe he'd tell other people in the building anyway. I summed up with, “This is a public area, I understand that, but I’d really appreciate it if you could move your undies a tad over to the left."

He stared. He nodded in concentration. And then just as I thought he was going to speak, he began to blink again. That same piece of defective wiring was buggered up again. But then it stopped and he had all the appearance of meditating. He nodded and punctuated coming to a final decision with another fart, in that innocent manner whereby many local men clock their meditations.

I was confused. It must be my fault this weird psychic crap kept breaking out around me. That lunatic Michael. This bozo. There were others. I must be bringing this on myself somehow.

I was always causing myself unnecessary trouble, or so my wife claimed. She knew how to handle these situations properly. I was all thumbs. And my body-language was disconcerting. Locals didn't even believe in body language. Shucking and jiving was primitive stuff for a people with five thousand years of culture.

I didn't know what to make of it. I felt badly like a scallywag beachfront property owner shooing the proletariat off the beach. Maybe I was just imagining things?

The door opened behind me. It was my better half, “So what's going on, Charles?”

“Just chatting up the neighbors from downstairs. It's like talking to statuary.”


“Yeah, statues. I come out here and they start acting crazy all of a sudden. What's so scary about me anyway? I must have done something wrong. But what?”

“Yeah.” She was smiling. Triumphantly.

“Yeah, what?”

“Yeah, you do something wrong. You always do something wrong. That's why you need me.”

“Can you explain to me what I did wrong?”

“No. No explaining. No time.”

“You mean no patience.”

“What's difference?”

“Well, I mean…”

“Quiet! I take care of these two bozos. Get in the house, Charlie, where it's safe.” She snickered, walked up and patted my bum.

That's my can-do wife. A win-win problem solver and happy helper. Happiest of all getting a rise out of feeling your pain and making you feel small while taking care of your business and running your life.

I wasn't about to be humiliated, least of all in public. “I ain't going nowhere.”

“This a Chinese situation.” Which explained why she was speaking to me in English. She wanted to pull a fast one and needed the cover of an inscrutable language. “You don't need to see this. Complicated.” She meant it wasn't convenient if I saw how she worked her magic and jotted down the strings and trap doors.

“With all due respect, my nearest and dearest, up yours!” I gave her a peck on the cheek but she caught my hand going for her ass. She turned back to smile at me and winked.

Striding forward aggressively she spoke in Mandarin to Hubby: “Eh, good morning! Yeah. So what's up with the laundry flapping here in front of our windows? We pay good money for this view.”

Hubby was taken aback but his wife came out from behind him. She said, “Ah, Miss Chang. Hey, ah…”

“It's not Miss Chang. It's Mrs. Chang. This stinky bag of skin and bones is my husband.” Having boldly declared me a scumbag, she took the initiative away from the duo and nipped in the bud the temptation to shame her association with a furriner.

After all, only a few years ago, flirting with a foreigner could get you incarcerated: two years in the slammer.

The husband smiled, wishing to keep things on a harmonious keel. He said, “We wish you prosperity and happiness on your marriage. He's a fine young man. He has the stomach and jug-ears of the happy Buddha. Auspicious signs.” The wife jumped in impatiently, “Yeah. Happy whatever. But you know, ah, that is, ah, public property. No offense, but we always hang our laundry here.”

My wife moved in closer and said in a confiding tone: “Hey, you know, just between you and me, my husband, he's a foreigner.”

Stating the obvious isn't insulting in Chinese. They listened with rapt attention, “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” She raised her eyebrows. “He's like, crazy go nuts, you know? Like maybe he'll throw himself off the building, leaving his ghost to haunt the place. Or maybe he'll soak himself in gasoline and scorch himself and make headline news. An international incident. Bad for reputation and property values.”

“Yeah...” They admitted reluctantly.

“It's a full-time job managing a foreigner. They can't be left alone. Outsiders just don't make sense. They're like…um…children. No self-control. All this me-generation stuff. No sense of family or social responsibility. Only 200 years of history. No culture. That's why he's here. To learn. To study the great masters.”

“Really?” They were impressed. Better, they were flattered.

“But it takes time. Patience. I study the virtue of perseverance.”

The duo soaked this up, looking at each other and reflecting. The husband spoke for both of them when he said with a slight reverential bow, “We admire your devotion.”

My wife rumbled onward with implacable illogic: “So, wadda ya say you move the laundry. Or he might do something we'll all regret.”

They got moving. And they weren't even pissed. She'd scammed them and made them love her for it in the bargain. My wife came back to me and allowed a satisfied smile to form on her lips.

She whispered, “You owe me one. Today, you make lunch, okay?” She got happy thinking about it and giggled, “I want green Thai curry chicken and Guangxi Eggplant with Fish Sauce!”

I gave a slight reverential bow and mocked, “We admire your devotion.”

I watched the duo until they finished and we waved our goodbyes. Hubby was positively gleaming.

I came back inside and found my wife on the couch. I asked in English, “Why did you tell them that pack of lies? Surely you could have reasoned with them?”

She raised her nose, “Reason is too slow. Not efficient. Lies work faster?”

I made a pious face.

But she wasn't convinced. “Well they do. So then you should lie more. All the time if you can. Ai ya, I love you Charlie. You're my plum. But you so dumb sometimes you don't know to come out into the rain.”

I laughed, “You have to learn what English phrases mean, not just commit them haphazardly to memory”

She parried with good humor. “Eh, got no time for English lessons today. I got to go see my mother. She got the heartburn.”


She frowned in thought. “No, um, how you say? Indigestion. My mom is married, remember? That crazy guy, he's called my dad.” She was goofing.

“Oh. Right.”

“You think you smart sometimes Charlie, but you think too much. Not such a good idea.”


“I got to go. Be a good boy while mommy's away.” She gave me a peck on the lips, leaving behind a sticky layer of bubble-gum flavored lip gloss, and scampered out the door.

Copyright Biff Cappuccino

No comments:

Post a Comment