Flash Fiction #117
Jinmu and his wife Joa have been running the restaurant “The Royal Garden” for years, which has a huge display of bubbly fish tank in the front, four two-feet-tall statues of folklore deities carrying luck, money, health, and longevity standing in a glass case by the wall, and several three-feet-tall indoor plants placed randomly here and there.
“I hate the decoration here. It is not really Asian and it is definitely not American style. It feels…” Joa says.
“We do good business. It doesn’t matter what style we have for our decorations. If it works, don’t change it. That’s my philosophy. We are pretty good to have the volume we have. Other Asian restaurants in New Jersey are all going down. Well, thanks to everybody’s hard work. Cheers.” Jinmu says, looking at people around him.
It’s 2:30PM and the busy lunch hour is over. The owners and waiters are having their lunch together. Jinmu, waiters, the chef and the chef assistants are huddling at one table, while Joa and Arju, the waitress, sit at a smaller table. Joa is not eating anything since she’s on diet, only ingesting a bottle of protein shake from the wholesale store Costco whenever she feels hungry. She is processing a mountain of various green vegetables piled on the table in front of her: tearing apart, throwing away the wilted part, clipping the unwanted edges. Arju goes to the big table and put the food she wants on her plate. Coming back to sit at the smaller talbe, she and Joa talk about womanly stuff that men can only sympathize but cannot really comprehend.
“I hate dieting, you know. It just generates more wrinkles on my face. It is said collagen will help and I’m thinking of getting some.” Joa says.
“Oh, tell me about it. Recently my wrinkles just exploded. But I can’t afford collagen.” Arju says.
“Oh, give me a break. Of course you can. Is it because of your husband again? I mean from what you’ve told me, he is against cosmetics, against new clothes, against you working outside of your home. He’s such a tyrant.” Joa says.
“Tell me about it. I have to buy everything with the money I earn from the lunch service here. I can only do lunch from Monday to Friday. This way he won’t know. I wish I can do weekends since I can earn more money, but I bet he won’t agree. Just think about it. He doesn’t want me to go out to work but he also doesn’t give me money to buy clothes. He can be very stingy.” Arju says.
“Oh, I feel so lucky I have Jinmu. Not that I want to show him off. I mean the more I talk with you, the more I realize Jinmu’s worth.” Joa says.
“I heard my name. Are you talking about me over there?” Jinmu says, raising his voice and looking towards his wife.
“Yes, your wife says you are the best.” Arju replies.
Suddenly, the door of the restaurant is thrown open and Arju’s husband Moo comes in as if he’s in a hurry. He looks around as if looking for something. When he finally sees Arju, he rushes over,
“You are here. I finally find you. The school had a bomb scare and parents were contacted to go to pick up the kids, but you didn’t answer your cell phone.” Moo says, staring at his wife. He is very handsome but his anger adds an ugly scowl to his face, and his voice is almost like a snarl.
“Oh, it could be that the restaurant is so noisy that I didn’t hear it.” Arju runs to the little desk at the corner and pulls her handbag from one of the drawers. “Oh, look, several messages. Several missed calls.”
“They couldn’t find you. So they called me. I had to give up an important meeting. You know this is a busy time of the year for a financial analyst like me. I drove to the school, picked up the kids, and dropped them at the Ivy Training Center for their after school training. Ivy agrees to get them occupied for two hours before their training classes start. Then I called your friend Armei who at first refused to tell me where you were. Well, she eventually relented and told me you are a waitress here. I just can’t believe this. You told your friends but not me about your waitress job, didn’t you? And I am the last one to know where you are. ” Moo says. “Oh, I am so hungry right now.”
When Arju gets up, grabs a plate, and goes to the bigger table to get some food for Moo, Moo plops down on Moo’s chair and starts to eat Moo’s food. He eats very quickly. When Moo comes back with a plate of food, he finishes the new plate in several minutes too.
“Moo, please eats slowly.” Joa says and watches him with an interest.
Suddenly, Moo looks up at Joa and realizes that Joa is looking at him accusingly. This reminds him of Armei, who also sounds a little angry with him.
“Be nice to your wife, Moo. Buy her collagen and some new clothes. Also she can’t just stay home all the time. She needs to work…” Joa says.
Moo thinks to himself that he needs to get the record straight and let people know the story from his side.
(To Be Continued. The Second Half Is Here.)