Wang's House of Bruhhd
You, yes, you, always ordering Chinese----'Chinks', you call it.
So convenient, with exotic piquant condiments, nothing like that childish blood-colored ketchup that passes for the accenting of your long-since vestigial yet abandoned taste buds.
And those quaint take-out containers with the tiny thin metal handles that make you think of oriental houses----you've got piles of menus for this ubiquitous affordable indulgence of your peckish cravings in that drawer where you put things of unknown value and usefulness.
'Take-Out', in oriental style lettering, followed by an equally stylized spelling of menu as 'MenYu*' on the one you seem to use the most, with that asterisk next to it, as though it were the actual name of some ancestor of the proprietor, Mr. Wang. You've never noticed it before, that logo, chopsticks, crossed, atop a skull-shaped rice bowl; the chilly air pouring through the partially closed glass entry doors brings you back to your own bones, down to which that chill has proverbially reached. Your gut's neural impulse, hunger, trumps your skull's three-pint occupant's reptilian basement-------'you gonna order, or what, fight the cold or flee, schmuck!' That internal memo came, this time, with derisive hissing, that part of you you've known since teenage, instinct's homeground, and it reminds you of that Sgt. Pepper album cover, all those heroic faces....'You can handle cool, remember?' it taunts. You conclude that Wang's logo is........very cool. Meanwhile, your stomach goes audible.
'MenYu', who came to this country, you imagine, with nothing but his dignity and his dreams, that last phrasing reminiscent of the sugar-coated eigth grade American history textbook file, the one in your brain-pan marked 'Coolie'.
You wonder, now that the file's open, 'cool' + 'e'-----who started that whole business, some ex-Buffalo Soldier rap pioneer?!
You do what you always do, since you're ten or so, you open that physical dictionary with the then high-tech thumb cut-out with the red 'C' on it: "n. Hindi, prob. < kali, name of a tribe or caste of Gujarat; 1. an unskilled native laborer esp. formerly in India or China, etc.; 2. a person doing heavy labor for little pay, etc."
'Etc.', doesn't that mean other things, and persons? You check it, obsessively.
"And others; and the like; and the rest; and so forth." the dictionary allows. 'The rest'......of these invisible ilk---that's what's implied, so casually along the lines of those missionaries who 'civilized' these 'others': "All's right with the world, God's in his Heaven, and they're down there." echoes inside your now resentful fifty-one year old graying head.
You close the dictionary you worship, or used to, then, and feel somehow embarrassed for being a part of those whose tongue and pens utter and write such things.
Your mind ironically seizes upon a face-saving tactic, endemic to those 'and so forth' inscrutable orientals and fixate deliberately on the seemingly less troubling paradox of good fast food.
'Take-out' food that keeps you coming back for more---after an hour or so, the standing Western joke goes---without the American capitualtion to self-destruction, the 'Drive-Thru', with its concomitant devolution of the word 't-h-r-o-u-g-h'.
Mr. Wang actually does have an ancestor by the name of Yu; he's a middle-aged man with stooped shoulders, unusually tall for his ethnicity, and always appears to be in mid-bow, eyes closed. And, no matter the weather, in or out of doors, he wears a kind of khaki-colored overcoat with a stiff-looking reddish thick collar.
Whenever you visit his small establishments---which is often, as gastronomically indicated before---he is there, his greeting less so, and more at a low moaning accompaniment in stereoscopic replay, always the same. And, not coming from any voicebox you're able to pinpoint, including his.
Your mind wanders as you survey the faded pictorial menu arrayed just above eye level, with neon-colored numbers, day-glo painted cut outs making your stomach's demands easier to satisfy. A cat purrs, your eyes noticing it, your distracted suggestible mind conjuring the 'urban kitty' joke your teenage son makes every time you're at the mall food court, whose multi-cultural offerings includde dead American rural cow, with fries.
When the purring stops you hear it again. He's there, in your left peripheral eyescape; you blink. A dog barks, a cat, maybe more than one, squeals. 'Cat fight' you think, or dog slash cat fight files open up, especially the one you know as the not-so-freaking funny anymore joke attributable to your wife's late father who served in Korea.
"They eat dogs over there, you know, and they have plenty of cows, too" she reminds you periodically, on his behalf, usually right before you announce your culinary destination. Thanks, babe.
You notice #4-----it reads: 'soy', then 'lentil', and 'green'.
"That right, #4?" you ask the sweaty order-taker.
"You wan rice?" he asks, irrelevantly.
"No, I mean, yes, but..........."
You blink more for emphasis than to moisten your still-confused eyes. He's there, somehow, you feel it.
"You fine what you wan?" It's Mr. Wang. The young man in the stained white cook's uniform is sweating, and Mr. Wang's in an overcoat, sort of---it's hard to tell what it's made of.
"Mr. Wang, um, hell..o......." your tongue's in reflex mode, but your eyes scan the coat he's wearing. He's not letting on that he's noticed your scan.
"Number 4, is that right?" you get back, get back to where you once belonged, Jo Jo, saved by the Beatles, again. How'd they know my name's Joe?, your corny fake question repeats in your more confused skull's occupant.
"You no likey?" Wang campily replies, now, scanning you, you think, and you're not wearing any thing as interesting as his almost skin-toned coat.
"Charlton Heston, get outta my head" you think you think; you blurt out 'Soylent Green!'
The clerk cuts the tension: "Jus one, numba fore?"
"Huh, yeah, no, I don't know............"; where's Wang, your thought train,derails--- it was moving way too fast.
Music, from nowhere, everywhere, pipes in.
"Coor-e-o" a voice from behind you. Wang, standing near a large boom box, the source of heretofore ambient Chinese twanging instrumentals. The rap beat pounds, Wang, now, doing some sort of oriental pantomime.
The cook slash cashier cuts in: 'Takey out?'
Before you can answer, Wang does. 'Ah, so, takey out!'
A cat-like shriek is heard, but, not by you.