This story is a sequel to yesterday’s post: The Argument (Click Here)
“Something is wrong, don’t you think?” Mrs. Fang says to Mr. Fang towards the end of the dinner, and Mr. Fang agreed. Something is definitely wrong about their son Jay.
It’s Mrs. Fang’s 50th birthday, but that’s just an excuse for the dinner party, which is rather a success if you just consider the food and not the behavior of the participants. Mr. Fang cooked his pineapple beef, which can melt in your mouth, and his curry soup, which has so many layers of flavors that your tongue will remember it long afterwards.
Their son Jay has been turning out well, better than his parents had expected. After college, he stayed at home for two years to work on his writing craft, which caused considerable alarm in the household. Is he going to be idle for the rest of his life? The parents worried sick. However it all turns out fine now. He’s dating Kwang, the daughter of Mr. Lam, who’s a seafood importer and exporter. Mrs. Fang insists that it’s her idea to bring the two together initially. Kwang was applying to graduate school in the New York area and Mrs. Fang suggested that Jay showed Kwang around campuses.
That was almost one year ago. Since then, Kwang had started her master program in NYU, and Jay moved out of the family home and settled down in Harrison, a town still in New Jersey, but very close to Manhattan. He had published a sci-fi fantasy novel with a cannibal character that bears uncanny resemblance to one of their relatives, but that’s a youthful oversight that Mr. and Mrs. Fang are ready to forgive. He had two plays staged in Off Broadway theaters, for which the Fang family got beautifully printed free tickets. However Mr. and Mrs. Fang couldn’t go. It’s too far away from Philadelphia to New York and their Thai Palace restaurant can’t function without them.
Mr. and Mrs. Fang invited Jay and Kwang for the birthday party, in addition to two couples, who are the family friends for years. Since Mr. and Mrs. Fang never cook at home, the dinner is cooked at Thai Palace and delivered to their residence just half a mile away. It’s a Monday and the restaurant is closed to the public.
Jay arrives, not only with Kwang, but also Kwang’s mother Mrs. Lam. Mr. and Mrs. Fang are pleasantly surprised that Mrs. Lam is in New York, rather than California. Mr. Lam has been in California, working hard on his geoduck farm in the coastal area. It’s a surprise boom for his business that geoduck clam becomes so popular in Asia and the demand has just skyrocketed, especially after a famous psychic talks about the fertility effects of this strangely shaped creature on TV.
Mrs. Fang arranged to have Kwang sitting between her mother and Jay, but soon Jay switched seat with Kwang. He says apologetically that the mother and the daughter are having a little spat. When Mrs. Fang talks to Kwang, she replies in a way too aloof and indifferent. Half way through the meal, Kwang starts to texting incessantly on her cell phone and calls her mother “a cruel witch.”
Something is going on, but Mrs. and Mrs. Fang don’t know what’s going on. They wait for explanations, but to no avail. When Mrs. Fang goes to the kitchen to fetch an extra spoon, she meets Kwang who comes out of the half-bathroom with tears in her eyes. Mrs. Lam comes over too. The mother and daughter immediately start to quarrel, the result of which is that the daughter refuses to go back to the table. She’d rather go to sit in the living room to watch TV.
Mrs. Fang hints to her son to go to the living room, but Jay pretends that he has no idea what she’s hinting at. Finally, when the dinner is over, both Jay and Mrs. Lam move to the living room.
Here Mrs. Fang starts to clean up and her friend Lulu helps her.
“What do you think, Lulu. Don’t you think Jay and Kwang will make a good couple?” Mrs. Fang says, “but today Kwang is upset with her mother. Otherwise, I would try to say something. Give them a little push.”
Mrs. Fang is not Lulu’s real sister, but Lulu calls her sister anyway. “Sister, I hope you are not mistaken, but I have to tell you that Jay and Mrs. Lam were holding hands under the table. I saw them.”
Mr. Fang is carrying the dishes to the kitchen sink and hears it just as clearly as Mrs. Fang. Mr. Fang calls Jay to the kitchen and asks directly. His methods has always been straightforward and his tool is always sharp knife, for vegetables or for human emotion. At first Jay tries to equivocate, but when pressed harder, he becomes unusually candid that Mr. Lam is not treating Mrs. Lam well, and he wants to step in. Kwang is quarreling with her mother about her boyfriend Kai, whom Mrs. Lam doesn’t approve.
“You are going to stop this relationship right away.” Mr. Fang orders, but Jay refuses to listen. When Mr. Fang presses on, Jay tells him that all his achievements, the publication of the book and the running of the two plays are all funded by Mrs. Lam. Even the condo in Harrison is bought by Mrs. Lam.
“You, you, you…” Mr. Fang’s hands shake and his vision blurs. He fainted.