Ida And Superstition (Flash Fiction #65)

Yip and Yik are two brothers who used to run a restaurant together on Old Post Road in Edison Township, New Jersey. However after their father died, the two brothers split. Their wives didn’t get along for years and everybody said it was inevitable that the two owners would go their separate ways. Yip is the older brother and he continued to run the restaurant while Yik received a payment to start somewhere anew.

The payment was inadequate, but Yip and his wife couldn’t afford to pay more. So an informal agreement was reached that a yearly sum would be paid by Yip to Yik for five years to make up for the shortfall. However, Yip only paid in full for the first year. For the second and third year, he paid half of what they had agreed upon. For the forth and fifth year, there’s no payment at all. Such a breach of contract, albeit an unofficial one, couldn’t bode well for their relationship, which had already been under stress.

That was fifteen years ago and the brothers haven’t spoken to each other since. The elder brother Yip and his wife ran a good business–their children grew up and their business was fine. However the younger Yik just couldn’t get his act together. At first his new business was fine, but then he became hot headed and wanted to expand to a second restaurant, which ended up a failure. He had to sell the first restaurant to somebody else in order to pay for his failed expansion. For a while, Yik was without a restaurant and without a job. It’s not surprising that his wife ran away.

It takes Yik many years to work his way back, to the point that he finally was able to think about opening a new takeout. He is not aiming for anything big–the pandemic has finally made him realize that running a takeout is the future of Asian food. A takeout is obviously pandemic proof since no indoor sitting is needed.

September 1st is the first day of his new restaurant and Yik is so excited. Ivy from the Ivy Training Center has been Yik’s friend and translator for years. Whenever Yik has problem with contract signing, rent negotiation, township inspection, he would ask Ivy for help since Yik’s English is quite limited. There’s an afternoon rain storm in the forecast, but nobody thinks it is serious–it’s only the remnant of Hurricane Ida.

At 5PM, the rain starts and it is nothing like an ordinary storm. It’s practically a deluge. The rain comes down so heavily and so quickly that the basement of the restaurant, where Yik keeps all his supplies, is soon flooded. Fortunately only a portion of their supplies have arrived so far. Yik, together with the three people he hired, is able to move the boxes to higher shelves to avoid a disaster.

When the rain finally stops and the water gradually recedes, Yik spends the whole night and the entire next day cleaning up. Ivy calls him to make inquiries and he almost cries.

“It’s a bad omen. First day of the business. Heaven must be angry with me. I am doomed.” He mumbles to Ivy. “How can I run a takeout if fate is against me? How can I do it?”

Yik is so distraught that Ivy asks him to come to stay with her and her husband at night, for fear that he is going mad and will do something crazy. Yik comes to stay for two days and then Ivy doesn’t see him again. On September 5th, Ivy comes to his restaurant, which is not far away from where the Korean grocery store is. Ivy is preparing for the worst. If Yik is still unstable emotionally, she will forcefully take him home with her. However, she is surprised to find that Yik becomes a different person.

“The business is so good. Look, I haven’t been able to sit down for my lunch yet and it’s almost four o’clock. So many people want takeout food. It is amazing.” Yik is brimming with smile.

“Just several days ago, you think heaven is doing something to punish you.” Ivy says.

“Noooooo.” Yik says with a deliberate drawl. “The flood is a good omen. It means that good business is coming in. It’s a good sign. I am going to pray to the water god from now on.”

41 thoughts on “Ida And Superstition (Flash Fiction #65)

    1. I have actually observed that those families that have set boundaries earlier–I mean financial, responsibility etc.–usually have better sibling relationships than other families. Two brothers can love each other very much, but if they have their finances still mix up together while each having his own family to take care, quarrels will come up sooner or later.

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      1. Yep, a recipe for disaster. My wife would get upset if we were in a group setting talking about business opportunities for couples and I would say no thanks to partnering with my wife. I could never risk ruining a good personal relationship with business conflicts!

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        1. You are so wise. I’ve seen so many mom-pop store owners in the immigrant community. I secretly confess to you (I will never say this to people in my community for fear of suffering backlashes) that I’ve never ever seen a great relationship between the mom and the pop. The best relationship is a resigned tolerance of the other’s presence in the vicinity.

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        1. I hope so too and wish that he has some good luck with it. He of course will attribute this superstitiously, probably some deities … I don’t understand business people. They can be so superstitious.

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        2. I think the most desperate people are superstitious because they need to believe they have some sort of control over things. Business can be unstable so I guess this helps them feel more secure.

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        3. I’ve seen plenty of desperation in businessmen around me. They are so stressed out and so insecure. They struggle for years trying to make some money. They would be so much happier if they were back home but they want to stay to make money. So sad.

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    1. LOL. Thank you. It is a true story although I changed the name and location and the nature of the business. I was trying to describe Yik’s superstition more in the beginning but didn’t get to it. Businessmen are very superstitious. Haha.

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        1. Yes, most of the businessmen in here believes in all kinds of omens, like avoiding number 4 etc. Met a woman? Haha. It will be hard not to meet a woman if one is having a normal life. LOL.

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    1. Hahaha. I am glad you mentioned “All’s well that ends well” since that is a play that I refuse to understand. I can’t understand that play but I know it actually happens among my friends. Still I refuse to accept it since it violates my sense of fairness and justice.
      Yes, you know superstitious people. They can say the most outrageous things and can connect two completely unrelated things as a cause-effect combination.

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    1. It is a true story, but I somehow feel that the flood has nothing to do with his business being good or bad. However you know superstitious people. They can come up with the most ridiculous reasons to believe certain associations.

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  1. Yes takeout-only restaurant is the trend and it’s smart for reducing operating costs. Although, nothing beats sitting down in a booth to eat. Also my husband is from Edison NJ πŸ™‚ But I have not had the chance to visit his hometown yet .

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    1. That’s so true. A lot of restaurants will go this route from now on in my opinion unless they can afford to build an outdoor sitting with a heating or air-conditioning kind of thing from above. Wish you and your husband a great visit. Edison is a wonderful place though it is not visually appealing–quite scattered sort of way.

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      1. Every restaurant with a patio felt more security when the pandemic hit. Although, I’m sure outdoor seating is more common out here in California than it is on the east coast.

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