In Six Languages (Flash Fiction #42)

The Yang family has been running a takeout restaurant in this northeastern New Jersey town for 17 years. They have a daughter Lisa who’s a 15-year-old and a son who’s 10. When Lisa was born, the Yang family couldn’t afford a babysitter. Lisa spent all day in the kitchen of the little takeout restaurant with her parents. When the son was born five years later, Mr. Yang managed to convince his mother to come to live with them to babysit the kids when the couple struggled in the restaurant from 11AM to 10PM every day. It’s a relief for Lisa that she could stay home instead of at the restaurant, but not for long. When Lisa started primary school, her parents found that the girl was handy in helping with translation and talking with restaurant patrons. Their own English is limited and whenever the patrons have some complicated questions, they were not able to answer. Lisa was a great help in such occasions.

So little Lisa came to the restaurant after school to do her homework and offer language help whenever needed. Soon her parents motivated her to work as the cashier to earn pocket money. Lisa is happy to have some cash to buy things, but she hates the noise and the fume of the place. Now as a 15-year-old, she’s more sulky than ever. Some patrons would tease her about her sulkiness, which makes her sulk even more.

This particular day, Mr. Yang sends one of his workers Chow to pick up certain grocery supplies–a local Asian church suddenly drops by to order 250 takeout of a specific recipe for their event the next day. Since Chow’s English is as limited as Mr. and Mrs. Yang, Lisa is asked to go with Chow.

Chow and Yang came from the same village in Southeast Asia and Chow is a relative of Mr. Yang and the same age as Mr. Yang–everybody in the village is related with each other. Lisa is supposed to call him Uncle Chow, but she never did. Lisa’s bad temper is well known and everybody is a little afraid of her.

“You are not driving in your lane. Actually you are wobbling and zigzagging.” Lisa says to Chow in Hokkien very impatiently. And Lisa is correct. Cars from the next lane beep them when they pass by.

Then suddenly, a police car with flashing lights comes after them and pulls them over.

The policeman comes to the window and asks for license and registration, which Chow dutifully hands over.

Then the policeman asks him if he knows he’s not staying in his lane. Chow couldn’t understand him and so he says “yes.”

Then the policeman asks if he has been drinking. Again Chow couldn’t understand and so he says, “yes.”

“Officer, please. He doesn’t understand you. I don’t think he’s been drinking.” Lisa raises her voice, but to no avail.

Chow is asked to step out. After a brief road side test of Chow, and a voluble plea and explanation from Lisa, the policeman finally lets them go, with a warning for Chow to stay in his lane.

“That’s not too bad. I thought I was going to get a ticket. What a nice escape.” Chow says happily in Hokkien to Lisa.

“Well, Mr. Optimist, please do not say ‘yes’ if you cannot understand the question. What if people ask you if you are a terrorist? Will you say yes too? People might shoot you dead.” Lisa says.

“Oh, Lisa, don’t worry. I won’t die. Once a psychic told me that I can live up to 80-year-old.” Chow grins at Lisa good natured-ly, but Lisa just shakes her head and rolls her eyes.

After a little pause, Chow suddenly says, “You know I can speak ‘yes’ in six different languages. I can say ‘yes’ in Vietnamese, Thai, Russian, Japanese…”

“Shut up. Shut up.” Lisa screams.

“You’ve got a temper there.” Chow says.

25 thoughts on “In Six Languages (Flash Fiction #42)

  1. Such a delightful post! πŸ˜„
    The ending was hilarious. So easy to visualise the sulky teenager rolling her eyes at the man. πŸ˜„ Lisa is a very typical teen. Loved this story sooo very much! 🀍🀍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your praise. You made my day by your beautiful comments. LOL. Yes, Lisa is so sulky and she is based on a real person in one of the Asian restaurants in the neighborhood. People will tease her. She, as a cashier, would say, “$20 for your takeout.” And the patron would say, “I guess smile is not included in the price.”

      Liked by 1 person

        1. LOL. Actually that is exactly what one patron said to her. I was there and I had to try hard not to laugh. She is very cute and very spunky, but she hates the restaurant with a passion. It is fun to interact with her.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Lol! This was wonderful. I wonder what good it’ll do to be able to say yes in six languages. He almost got himself into a fix with just one language.
    Your wit is remarkable. Soft and delightful. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are right. This is based on a true person and to this day I still don’t understand what he means by saying that he knows how to say “yes” in six different languages. Does this make him more knowledgeable? What is he trying to achieve?

      Liked by 1 person

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