The Sitting Problem (Flash Fiction)

Flash Fiction #116

“I have always thought they have the best marriage and best relationship.” Pammy says.

“Me too. Well, blame the pandemic. I mean when they had two stores, each working in his or her own store, they had a model marriage. But you know they can’t keep two stores. It’s impossible these days. The business volume is dropping so steeply since the pandemic…” Pammy’s friend Lulan says.

“You are right. I haven’t thought about that. How stupid of me. I mean the two of them have been running just one store, cooped up together, for more than a year now. They must be getting so tired of each other.” Armei says.

“Well, for the dinner party this weekend, the two of them cannot sit together. Let’s work hard to split them up so that they would not have the opportunity to quarrel with each other.” Pammy says.

When the weekend comes, the said couple arrive for the party, not in their best humor. The wife, Ahyin, is silent while the husband, Dong, tries hard to subdue his anger. Pammy immediately gestures to Armei and Lulan, who help to separate the husband and wife into two different end of the table. And the three women work hard to steer the topic away whenever somebody asks, “how’s your store” or “how’s the business?”

And they have been quite successful. For the entire dinner party, the couple hardly have a chance to say a word to each other and the general cheerfulness is never disrupted. When the dinner is about to be over, Pammy talks about the salsa she bought from Trader Joe’s that’s the best she has ever tasted. Everybody is curious and wants to taste it, but the little old salsa jar is empty. So Pammy grabs a new one, but can’t open it. Pammy’s husband offers to help and he opens it instantly. Pammy says, “you have such strong hands.”

Dong hears this and says from the other end of the table, “Pammy, you really knows how to appreciate people who help you. That’s more than I can say for some people.”

Dong’s wife Ahyin is sitting right next to Pammy. She instantly retorts, “yes, when the help is needed, it will be appreciated; but when the help is not needed, it is a nuisance.”

Dong says in frustration, “I can never understand you or women in general.”

Dong’s wife Ahyin says, “well, let me tell you the story and everybody here be the judge. This afternoon, I was in the store dealing with a client who’s a little temperamental. I could handle him. He was not too bad–you know some people don’t have a polite manner. Also the man was angry about something else. It was not really directed at me. Just when I was perfectly handling this case, Dong suddenly budged in and tried to defend me. It was totally unnecessary.”

Dong says, “I can’t believe you tell the story like this. I mean if it were not for me, I mean if I were not there, I don’t know what he would have done. I’ve never met anybody who is as ungrateful as you are. OK, one day I am going to disappear, leaving you to handle the store yourself.”

Ahyin says, “I can’t believe you say that. Every time you lose an argument, you threaten to disappear.”

Dong says, “I am not losing. I only realize that arguing with an irrational person is futile.”

And the fact that the two sit very much apart only makes the two speak louder. And their fury is somehow increased by the sound volume and the distance. For a moment, they each asks their audience to pick a side, but nobody wants to get involved.

“Pammy, what do you think? Tell me. I am sure you agree with me.” Ahyin pokes Pammy on the arm and Pammy cringes. And she suddenly comes up with an idea and she speaks loudly,

“Well, who wants some ice cream? Let’s try my new invention–green tea ice cream. I bought vanilla ice cream, melted it, and blended it with green tea powder and my own secret flavor mix. Then I froze it again. I mean refreezing creates the best texture. It’s delicious.”

16 thoughts on “The Sitting Problem (Flash Fiction)

  1. This story reminded me of something called “weaponised incompetence” which I learnt about in sociology a few years ago. I think that’s what Dong’s wife was somewhat referring to.

    Liked by 1 person

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