The Argument

Prehistocial man P and H are roasting several big sweet potatoes on a camp fire. Soon it is done. The aroma is irresistible; the skin is charcoaled and broken here and there with tasty sweet texture exposed. It’s a bet. P would circle the tribal ground twice while H is supposed to eat the biggest and hottest sweet potato. Whoever finishes first wins the bet, which is used to settle certain dispute between the two.

This tradition is handed down to their offspring, and offspring of offspring. Nowadays the arbitration for disputes is given to various courts which dispense justice with more sophistication and more attention to the appearance of fairness. However the enthusiasm for bet and argument among people lingers. It’s manifested in Pan and Ho, immigrants from Southeast Asia who live in New York City. They are good friends, but whenever they meet, they can’t help argue with each other. For example, they meet at a dinner party and promptly start to argue. Each completed argument can be followed by one shot of alcohol and two bites of food by the person who has supplied the argument.

They first argue about the snow storm this year, each trying to lay claim to the biggest historical snow pile he had to deal with. After exhausting this topic, they veer towards the pandemic. First they try to compete for the position of the most careful person. However being careful is not lending energy and sparks to the conversation. So they change the direction–vie for the top spot of daredevil who’s not afraid of being infected. Before long, other people at the table start to criticize them for their reckless behavior, not being aware of the fact that they are in a verbal competition filled with false and boastful claims.

Finally their competition inevitably goes into the realm of ancestral battle.

Pan: “My grandfather once found the biggest woolly mammoth ivory in the permafrost of Siberia.”

Ho: “My grandfather found the biggest ginseng in Siberia.”

Pan: “My grandfather raised a Sumatran tiger at home.”

Ho: “My grandfather owned the biggest ruby from Burmar.”

Pan: “He can’t own that ruby since it belongs to the former Burmese king and it’s decorating a crown somewhere in Britain.”

Ho: “Well, your grandfather can’t possibly find the woolly mammoth ivory since it’s impossible to navigate the permafrost.”

Pan takes out flashlight from the side table and turns it on. The host prepared their essentials for a big snow storm and they are piled underneath a side table. At the darkened corner of the table, the light from the flashlight looks brilliant.

Pan:”Look, if you can climb up this brilliant column, I will believe you.”

Ho: “You want to kill me, don’t you? If I climb up and you turn the switch off, I will plunge to my death.”

“You two drink too much. And stop wasting my battery.” The hostess shouts at them from the other end of the table.

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