Category: Fiction

The Kitchens of Canton, a novel. Ch. 11: Roma

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“I like the tunic.”

“I don’t ask if you like tunic. I don’t like. Take it off!”

“No.”

Wang tried to rip the tunic off Malmquist, but he broke free and ran out of the house.

“Wo qu zhui ta,” Giulia told her as she ran off after him.

He hid himself at a table in the back of the little restaurant down the street from the old eunuch’s domus.

“Cosa avrai?” asked a waitress.

He gestured apologetically.

“Vuoi una ragazza?” she said, pointing upstairs and jiggling her breasts. “Belle tette.”

Giulia found him. “Ho pensato che avrei trovato al ristorante.”

He stared silently in the distance. That earned him a hard slap on the face.

“Idiota! Perché sei scappato? Lei ti punirà. Può fare qualsiasi cosa per voi, tra cui ucciderti!”

He stood up. “Why did you do that!”

She dropped her head in her hand. He took her cheeks in his. “Giulia, I need this tunic. Without it I’m lost. You see the words on it? I can talk to people back home who can help me.”

The Kitchens of Canton, a novel. Ch. 10: New Gary, IN

广州厨房印章-01pinkA deafening crack and the lights went out. Malmquist collapsed on the patio floor. Ray and the other customers were gone. Streetlight illumination revealed the premises to be empty and dilapidated and shrouded in dust. Malmquist sat up to get his bearings. Outside chatter suggested it was still early evening. He got up to explore the restaurant, and what he saw cautioned him to stay inside until well after midnight. The city wrapped in silence but for incessant ambulance and fire-engine sirens, he emerged after jimmying open a window — the front and back entrances were padlocked shut — and headed down Lunt toward Sheridan Road on foot, for his bicycle was gone. He had barely crossed under the El track bridge when a man pulled up pointing an AK-47 at him through his car window. “You’re a fucking pedophile!” “What did you call me?” He walked up to the car, grabbed the rifle out of the man’s hands and stuck the gun barrel down his throat. “If you don’t want your car interior to be soiled with brain matter, you’re going to do exactly what I say. Park the car in the fire-hydrant spot there. Nice and easy.” Malmquist walked with the car as the man pulled into the space by the curb, the gun in his mouth. “Now, take off your clothes. And drop them behind you in the back seat. Start with your shoes and pants. Underwear too. Move your hands slowly or I shoot. Keep your T-shirt on.” Malmquist got in the back seat, with the gun barrel now at the man’s neck. With his other hand he rummaged through the man’s pants and found the pockets empty. “Give me your watch.” He folded up the clothes into a bundle next to him. “Now, take Touhy over to 94 and head south down 90/94. We’re going to Indiana. Gary. New Gary.”

The Kitchens of Canton, a novel. Ch. 9: Zigaago

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Ray put a condom on the dildo built into her bicycle seat and lifted her tunic as she eased it into her. “Keeps me supple,” she winked. Tattooed around her hips and groin was a scrolling text of Chinese characters.

“What does that mean?”

“It’s a poem by China’s national poet, Gu Sing: ‘Through jagged rocks I walk towards the seashore. I know all your languages. Speak! The sea laughs and proffers up birds that swim, fish that fly, sand that sings.'”

“That reminds me. Can we take a short detour over to the peninsula? I want to see the rocks,” said Malmquist.

“Sure, no problem.”

From Sheridan Road they passed through the Northwestern University campus. They got off their bikes on a sliver of land extending out into the lake. The shore was lined with giant rocks laid out as a breakwater. Some slabs were flat and occupied Chinese students, sunbathing by themselves or slave at hand. Most of the other rocks were jumbled and formed spaces and little caves.

“I used to play on these as a kid,” Malmquist said as he clambered over them. “They were all painted over and covered with graffiti, but it’s all gone now! No, wait. Here’s something I remember that’s still there, on the side of this rock. You can just make out the words. ‘Savor your sorrow like a fine red wine.’ It’s still there! Now I know we’re not in a simulacrum of the city. But why aren’t people painting on them anymore?”

They got back on their bikes and headed toward Chicago.

“Where are you taking me?”

“To start work,” said Ray. She looked at him slyly. “Now, would you tell me what’s really going on with you?”

The Kitchens of Canton, a novel. Ch. 8: Xinluoma

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Wang slapped him hard across the face. “How you lose your clothes?”

“Somebody stole it when I took a shower.”

“Nobody steal things here.”

“I’m telling you that’s what happened.”

She marched him naked back to the gift shop. He was able to find a tunic with the same Italian as the last one, “La festa della streghe in mutande.” She paid for it and he slipped it back on. It now read:

WITCHES UNDERWEAR PARTY

“Okay, good. In working order.”

“I take you to my house now. I hope you better at massage, after first day training. You show me your progress tonight.”

The Kitchens of Canton, a novel. Ch. 7: New Gary, IN

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“Mr. Malmquist, I’m Inspector Melynchuk. And this is Sergeant Fink. I believe you’re already familiar with Officers Carrot and Stick.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Nice to see you again,” said Carrot.

Stick gave the table a gentle bang with his fist and grinned at Malmquist.

“I can see you’ve been battered up a bit,” Melynchuk continued. “Sorry about all this. Apparently there have been misunderstandings.”

“You seem different, not like everyone else.”

“I’m everyone else?” said Fink.

“Don’t tell me you two are androids as well.”

“No. We’re here to put a more human face on things. Can you try to recall again where you were just before your first time in New Gary?”

The Kitchens of Canton, a novel. Ch. 6: Gwongzau

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Sender, message, signal, receiver: the standard model of communication. Or simply: sender, signal, receiver. There is usually a message, but it’s often hard to distinguish from the signal. Some messages are obvious — the time of day, the price of something. Or the words “I like you”: the message, fondness for someone, seems to be contained in the signal, the words. Or consider the glance of a person who likes you. The message is contained in the signal: the gaze, the eyes. The signal is so instantaneous it’s practically invisible, and what remains is the message. The message is the only thing we notice. Since the signal is so insignificant, we might be tempted to revise the model to: sender, message, receiver.

The problem is, without a signal, there is no communication; while on the other hand, a great deal of signaling — communicating — goes on without a message. The message is not necessarily crucial, or even important. Indeed, you can’t understand the nature of communication until you realize the message is not important. If the “message” could be defined as a specific packet of information, what we discover is that people withhold information more often than they give it. And they may wish to communicate this very fact. There may be signals to this effect: the empty message, the anti-message. There may be signals with no message. There may be contradictory messages. The message is redundant. It is just a distraction, an interpretation, something you think you understand. What stands in its place is more basic: mutual acknowledgment and reassurance.

The Kitchens of Canton, a novel. Ch. 5: Xinluoma

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“Tirare verso l’alto di più. Arricciare le dita. Più veloce. Non così in fretta. Più ritmicamente.”

“I’m trying.”

“Ritmicamente. Rapidamente.”

“My hand’s getting tired,” said Malmquist. “I can’t do this forever.”

“Buxing. Lidao yao junyun wenjian.”

Malmquist withdrew his hand and shook it. “Please, I have to stop for a minute. My hand is too tired. I’ve never done this before.”

“Nushi, ta buhui shuo hanyu,” the slave boy told the Chinese lady on the massage table.

“Ta butai wen. Ni gaosu ta yao wenxie.”

“Wo zhidao. Keshi ta ye buhui shuo yidaliyu.”

“Ni weishenme buhui shuo yidaliyu?” she yelled at Malmquist. “Ni bushi nuli ma?”

“I’m telling you I don’t understand.”

“Weishenme ta buhui shuo yidaliyu? Ta naozi shi bushi you wenti? Ta jingshen zhengchang ma?”

“Torna al lavoro!”

Malmquist beaked his hand and with a sigh reinserted four fingers into the woman’s vagina.