“I’ve never known that cape means a smaller peninsular. Cape Cod is where there used to be a large amount of cod fish.” Lulu says while staring at the google result.
“Look, I didn’t come here to talk about geography or food.” Brother Yi is a little impatient.
“And Henry David Thoreau wrote a book about it.” Lulu continues.
“Lulu, just tell me yes or no.”
“Brother Yi, you can be such a pest. I will go, but this will be the last time. I don’t enjoy riding in your shining car. It looks nice from outside, but you don’t turn on heat or air conditioning. You live like a true pioneer while I am a civilized human who needs modern comfort.”
“OK, I will turn on any useless utility your ladyship demands.” Brother Yi is in a good mood today.
Lulu has known Brother Yi and his wife Lia for years. The couple owns one takeout and one restaurant. Lulu knows how the couple operate. They would hire someone as the manager who can invest ten to twenty thousand dollars in the business upfront as a minority owner. Only after the investment, the person will be trusted. After that, he is in the position to negotiate a profit-sharing deal with Brother Yi, the majority owner. This manager can also work as a chef or a waiter or a cashier. Brother Yi even asked Lulu once if she wanted the job, but Lulu didn’t have the money to invest, and also Lulu is not interested in managing a restaurant. It’s much better to do her current job of a little tutoring and translation at Ivy Learning Center, for which she can have all the morning to herself and enjoy a lot of flexibility.
“Brother Yi, I wonder why you want to expand your business so much. You’ve already have two shops. Can’t you just relax? I mean you don’t spend your money on anything except throwing it away in casinos. What’s the point of making money at all?”
“This is a good chance at Cape Cod, right outside of Boston, which is the new Silicone Valley of the East Coast. New York and New Jersey are old and dying. Boston is the future. You know Brother Di? He used to own a restaurant and a takeout, but the restaurant is sold to somebody else to pay for his gambling debt. He died suddenly. He works too hard and breathes in a lot of the kitchen fumes. A takeout at Cape Cod. Can you believe it? What a place. During the summer, there are a lot of good business there. All middle class and rich people, flocking there for vacation.”
Lulu agrees to help Brother Yi and his wife Lia to do translation, negotiate the rent with the plaza owner, go over the restaurant transfer paperwork. Brother Yi and his wife know some English, but not so much to handle anything serious. Many years ago, Lulu helped them with their first rent negotiation. Ever since then, although Yi and Lia have found other people to help them, they would regularly come back to Lulu for advice.
From Edison, New Jersey, it’s a four-hour drive to Cape Cod. Lia is a silent woman. She’s very strong and opinionated, but she doesn’t speak much. Lulu likes to chat, but she can never get Lia to talk. The ride is uneventful, but Lulu has her audible books for entertainment. Lulu wondered about Yi and Lia. They are a traditional couple and their role in the marriage is so clearly defined that there’s no unwanted expectation, no unmet expectation, no fight necessary, no need for communication even. Once Yi traveled back to their hometown on an island in Southeast Asia, and stayed for half a year, while Lia lived in New Jersey to take care of the business. His absence is a trifle not worth mentioning to Lia. Theirs is a bond set in stone. It feels ossified, almost inhumanely so, but Lulu can’t deny it is strong. No storm will unsettle and no erosion can damage. Something lifeless, like a stone, can last forever.
By noon, they reach their destination. The previous owner’s son is waiting impatiently. He’s very young, a college senior, who’s going to be an accountant soon. He wants to sign the paper quickly and gets away from it all. The plaza manager is late since he’s handling some issues in another plaza in Boston, for which he’s also a manager. Finally, the manager arrives and the paper is signed. Then they tour the premise together and talk over the details. Lia is very meticulous to point out all the defects of the place, while the young college senior becomes increasingly agitated. He says he has to be somewhere else and he has no time for this. His cell phone beeps a little whenever he receives a message, probably from a girlfriend. Finally he says he has to leave and he agrees to pay $500 for the repair. Lia wants more and a negotiation ensues and settles soon afterwards.
Yi and Lia start to clean up the place immediately. Lia is a good worker and she brings her own tools and detergents. Lulu helps to hook up their water, electricity, and gas. People from the neighboring stores come in to see what’s going on, while tactfully talking about the garbage issues. Obviously the restaurant is throwing a lot more garbage than their share of the plaza fee, for which it’s Lulu’s job to talk and apologize and placate.
After getting a new bank account at the local bank, they drive around to find a place for their workers. There are many advertisement in the local newspaper. Lulu read them, call the number, and Yi drive them over. However each time they are told there’s no suitable place for them. One apartment complex is practically half empty since there are very few cars parking there, but they are told nothing is available. It’s still April, not summer yet.
“Don’t you know this is not a zip code for you, Brother Yi. Asians should only exist in our own mixed neighborhood. We shouldn’t exist in a snobby zip code like this. Ever watch ‘Beverly Hills 90210’? There’s no Asians.” Lulu lectures Brother Yi.
“Lulu, come on. Our own mixed neighborhood is saturated with takeout restaurants and the business is tough. Only in places like Cape Cod, we are likely to do better business. These rich people might be snobby, but I know they like takeout food. Haha. I know that and I like them for it, no matter how snobby they are.” Brother Yi says. “Wait a minute. Are you sure you look at the right direction? We need to find those places where Asians or other minorities live.”
“Where can I find those places? I don’t think they do advertisement on papers.” Lulu says.
By now, they have exhausted all the rice cakes and other snacks they’ve brought with them, but Brother Yi refuses to stop for meals without getting the lodging issue resolved first. He calls various friends to ask for lodging advice, and finally one friend knows a friend in Boston who has something for rent.
“Boston is one hour away. The everyday commute is too much.”
They come back to their takeout, crestfallen.
“Let’s look for an Asian restaurant and ask the people there where they live. What do you think?” Lia suggests.
“No. Restaurant people are our competitors. I don’t want to associate with them too closely. One day you are buddies, the next day they take over your business and run away with your waitress.” Brother Yi says.
“That’s an exaggeration, isn’t it?” Lulu says.
The two women insist that Yi consider their opinion, and Yi finally caves in. They drive on the main road and stops at a big restaurant with bamboo and straw decorations. It looks rather upscale and the owner must have spent a fortune on modeling and renovation. It is on the edge of a plaza, but it’s almost a stand alone building since it is quite big.
Since it’s April, there are not many customers. They sit down, pretending to be the customers. Lulu knows that Yi hates restaurant food. Although he’s in restaurant business, he never eats restaurant food. The waiters and waitresses are having their dinner due to the scarcity of the patrons. When the waiter comes, Yi insists that he doesn’t want any food on the menu, but instead he wants what the staff is having. The waiter goes to talk with the owner, who comes by. His name is Jay and he is not the owner, but the owner’s cousin who’s in charge today. Yi starts to talk with him and Jay says he has a house for rent, but nobody is renting it. It’s still early in the season. The two men instantly start to make a deal. Yi is to rent the house for two months with the off season price. From June to October, the rent doubles and Yi doesn’t want to lock himself up for such a high price.
A big steamy bowl of soup comes up with meats and bones and vegetable stewed without any seasoning, together with four bowls of rice–Brother Yi always wants two bowls of rice for himself.
“I am so happy today.” Brother Yi says. “Everything is accomplished.”
For other Lulu’s stories, please click the link below:
Superfluity: Lulu’s friend is laid off and artificial intelligence is her replacement.
Knowing Yourself And Others: Lulu thinks she knows her parents, until she realizes that she doesn’t.
An Afternoon With Champ: A martial arts champion falls in love with a girl from a prominent Tanasia family. The next thing he knows, he is sent to America to get a degree so that he can become more respectable in the eyes of his future in-laws.
Reverse Psychology Expert: Lulu meets a reverse psychology expert when she tries to fix her car.