Author: RGrun PM
A story in which I tried to take 'show don't tell' to its extreme. I can't decide if I succeeded or not.Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 1,348 - Published: 12-29-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3087225
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
By Richard Grunert
Completed December 26, 2012
Subdued neon shone through the rime as the sign was battered by the frigid northwestern gale. It was dark, ten minutes before closing time at the Golden Palace. In the empty parking lot a lone figure paced back and forth, eyes locked at his feet. When a strong gust came he would stop, hunker down into his thick coat and stare into the light emanating through the windows, his hand playing with the hammer of the revolver in his pocket: click, click.
Inside, the manager and his daughter had begun their closing rituals. She walked from table to table, picking up discarded napkins and dropped silverware while her father worked in the kitchen, preparing a late dinner for the two of them. The rice sizzled as he tossed it into the air, catching it with skill back in the wok. As he reached up to find the salt the ringing of the door's bell sounded; he stuck his head out into the lobby.
The girl returned with a smile and pulled a menu out from under the register. The large man stared silently at her, his face half covered by his imposing collar as the snow dripped from his long hair onto the carpet.
'Table for one sir?' Her voice was cheerful and sweet, she didn't seem at all to mind having to serve someone so close to closing. The man's eyes traced her figure up and down, as if he were looking straight through her. After an uneasy moment, he nodded and she led him to a seat near the back, placing the menu and an empty cup on the table. His gaze followed her as she retreated back to the register and behind the counter while inside his coat his hands were shaking as if he were still out in the cold. The clatter of something falling followed by an cry jolted him back to his senses, and the girl vanished into the kitchen. He turned away, scanning the rest of the room for anyone else he might have not noticed. It was empty, he was alone.
Soon Lee returned and filled his cup with tea, the smile still lighting her face.
'Sir, my father says that he's already turned off most of the equipment, but he would be willing to let you share in the dinner he was preparing for the two of us at a discounted price. He's making some pork fried rice, and I can guarantee it's some of the best in town. Would you be interested?'
He nodded again.
'Excellent sir! I'll tell him to put a little more onto the fire.'
He looked down at his reflection in the amber liquid. With a hand he swirled it round and round the cup, letting the hot steam wet his eyes, dry from the cold. He sat there, thinking. Soon the owner and his daughter returned carrying three plates piled high with brown rice. The elderly man put down the plates and slid into the booth across from the stranger, who looked up and examined the deep-set lines in the other's face. The girl sat down next to her father.
'Is it alright if we eat with you?' the man asked in a thick Asian accent. 'It gets so lonely around here at night, and we don't tend to see many customers after 10:30.'
The other man continued to stare, and his eyes darted back to the girl. After a moment, he shook his head in assent, one hand still in his pocket. The old man laughed.
'Good! I don't often get to know my customers. My name is Kim Gil-Park, and this is my daughter Lee. What's your name?'
He kept his eyes down inside the tea, and waited before answering.
Kim smiled, he dug his fork into the steaming pile of rice.
'So tell me, Dennis, what brings you into my restaurant at such late an hour?' He chuckled. 'Miss dinner?'
His question was answered with a piercing stare. The two men made eye contact, but the smile never faded from Kim's face. Soon Dennis relented, finally digging his own fork into the food and unbuttoning the top of his coat so he could eat.
'You could say that.' He sighed nervously. 'Tell me though, your name sounds Korean, why do you own a Chinese place?'
The proprietor's eyes lit up. 'Oh, how very perceptive of you, sir! The honest truth is that most Americans can't tell the different between us, and we figured that a since a greater number would recognize Chinese food than Korean, and that would therefore be more profitable. You see, we're not really trying to deceive anyone, it's just good economics.'
'This is the first good meal I've had in a while you know. Ever since I lost my job.' He turned to look through the window, out at the howling snow. 'Ever since then, it's been... hard.'
'Lost your job? Really? Layoffs?'
'Not exactly.' Dennis' face darkened. Kim tried to change the subject.
'Well, in any case, I'm sorry. I hope life hasn't been too hard since then.' Dennis chuckled at first, which slowly morphed into a strange, dismissive laugh.
'You have no idea.'
Kim raised an eyebrow. 'Try me.'
Dennis looked down at his food, chewing steadily. He could still feel the weight of the gun in his pocket against his thigh, torturing him. Looking up again, he locked his gaze with Kim's, speaking slowly.
'My girlfriend is pregnant too. I haven't told her about getting fired yet. I don't know how she'll react, and she thinks I'm at work right now.' Lee put a hand over her mouth, a look of genuine concern crossing her face.
'Oh my, that must be just awful!'
Dennis laughed again. 'I can't pay for the car, for food, for her. I don't know how the hell I'm going to pay for the baby when it comes. Earlier I spent the last of my cash on something that I was hoping would fix all our problems, at least for a little while; but now I'm not so sure.'
'Oh really?' Kim leaned in closer. 'Something like what?'
Dennis stopped chewing and looked long and hard into Kim's eyes. Both men were silent, and Lee looked at them both with a touch of bewilderment. Finishing her dinner, she stood up and kissed her father on his cheek. Taking her plate, she walked off to the kitchen to finish the cleaning. After nearly a minute of agonizing silence, Dennis spoke once more.
'It's not really that important. I don't think it's really going to work anyway.' He signed sadly. Kim's smile returned and he leaned back, laughing.
'I'm sure you'll find a way to make it through, you look like a tough, honest boy. I'm sure you'll be able to find some place soon. Say, did you enjoy the dinner? Tell you what, it's on the house, sounds like you've got enough to worry about already.'
Dennis smiled too.
Nothing further was said, and soon Kim finished his dinner and stood up, reaching a hand across the table and taking Dennis', shaking it warmly. 'I hate to leave such an interesting person as you, but I really must get back into the kitchen to help my daughter with the dishes, you wouldn't believe the mess some customers can leave behind.' Dennis chuckled once more and continued to eat.
'Thanks, I'm almost finished.'
As the elder man disappeared into the back of the restaurant Dennis' eyes returned once more to the register, but soon turned back to the image of his own face in the unfinished tea. He put both hands to his head, sweating.
When Lee returned form the kitchen a few minutes later, she screamed. Her father rushed out to her side. Dennis was gone, on the unfinished pile of rice lay a loaded chrome revolver, and next to it was a hastily scrawled message on a napkin.