That’s Fate (Flash Fiction #99)

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

“Where are you going? You are going to the tournament, right? How much I wish I can stop such an event. No participation. Just observe. You promised.” Maylan says to her husband Jay Lai.

“Of course. The tournament is half way through already. How can I participate now?” Jay says with a subdued annoyance.

“Take Wangwang with you. There’s a little park right next to Ho’s house. You can take Wangwang for a walk.” Maylan says and hands the dog leash to Jay. Wangwang barks, “Wang! Wang!” and is very excited about the outing. Most of their friends don’t have dogs and the ones who have dogs prefer small ones, but Wangwang is a Labrador Retriever and it is a mid-sized dog they bought at a New York City dog show, when the couple was in a more relaxed financial situation.

“Wait, also take this bag of frozen dumpling with you. We made it last night. Ho’s wife told me that it’s a potluck night and everybody brings some food. Just tell Ho’s wife to pan fry it. She knows what to do.”

Jay gets in the car and Wangwang follows him to sit on the back seat. The canine’s 300 million olfactory receptors instinctively detect the presence of dumpling, but Jay tells Wangwang, “it is frozen, buddy.” Wangwang really loves dumplings and Jay often throws a dumpling at Wangwang, despite Maylan’s protests, and Wangwang can catch the dumpling in mid air without fail.

This local tournament is an annual event. It is held one weekend at one person’s house, and the next weekend at another person’s house. This week it was at Ho’s house. However Jay Lai is not in it. There’s a $100 entrance fee, and his wife Maylan refused to pay, on the ground that they have a mortgage to pay off and a kid to send to college. Poker, black jack, mahjong, real casino or online casino are all off limit to Jay from now on. On one hand, he understands his wife’s domestic constriction; on the other hand, he loves a game, a bet, or an action. Not being in the midst of it is a torture. Still, he promised he would not participate in the game and he has kept his promise.

However unbeknown to his wife, he has been making wagers on the ongoing games every weekend. He initiated it and other onlookers have enthusiastically responded. So far he has some success with his wagers and he’s very happy about it.

“Maybe I have a talent in judging other people’s game than playing games myself. What do you think, Wangwang?” He says to his buddy and is instantly reciprocated with enthusiastic consent, “Wang! Wang!” Wangwang barks. Jay looks at Wangwang in the rear view mirror and says, “You always agree with me. If only Maylan is as agreeable as you are… I will reward you with dumplings later tonight.”

At Ho’s house, the 3rd round of the tournament with three tables and 12 participants has already started. The children love the dog and take it to the park while Jay observes the game. He’s getting very ambitious with his wager this time. If he loses, most of his pocket money for a year will be gone. He knows how important his pocket money is to him–Maylan is calculating every penny. He imagines that he will have to beg Maylan for more pocket money if he is to lose tonight, but the image is too distressing to him. “Perish the thought. Perish the thought.” He says to himself.

Two hours later, it becomes more and more obvious that Jay is going to lose. He has been too ambitious and he bets on somebody who is young and unproven, whose performance is uncharacteristically bad that night. Other spectators around him are holding their little plates, eating, talking, walking around, going back to the kitchen to grab more food, but Jay doesn’t feel like doing anything. He’s very depressed.

He is standing behind the hapless player he bet on, trying to murder him with his stare while the hostess comes to stand right next to him.

“Jay, these dumplings taste so good. Haven’t you had some? I didn’t see you eating anything tonight.” She holds the plate to him, trying to force him to take one dumpling.

Jay just stands there, shaking his head. He is too depressed to even speak. He tries to refuse the dumplings before him, but he’s too absent-minded to do it properly. Just at that moment, there are two sharp bark, “Wang! Wang!” Wangwang is already back and the dog is staring at him from the other side of the table.

The mahjong table is usually smaller and lower than a regular dining table. Also the dog is probably hungry and nobody has been feeding him. Or probably the dog is waiting for a dumpling thrown over from Jay and getting impatient. Nobody knows what the dog has been thinking. Anyway, suddenly out of nowhere, the dog jumps up, lands on the mahjong table. Then from the mahjong table, Wangwang jumps up towards the dumpling on the plate that Jay is about to eat. Women screams, mahjong tiles fly, the hostess throws away the plate, and Jay finds himself rolling on the floor with Wangwang on top of him. The dog never fails–he has a dumpling in his mouth.

The game is declared invalid as people scramble to pick up the scattered mahjong tiles, while Jay helps the hostess to clean up the floor. Jay apologizes profusely while pretends to scold Wangwang, who is subsequently labeled as a troublemaker and banned from the game room.

“You are such a good dog. You rescued my pocket money. You will have as many dumplings as you like from now on.” When Jay is driving home, he can’t help praising his canine buddy.

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