Tag Archives: Chinese Food

The Dreamers of Fortune Street

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com.

Is it me causing all the ruckuses?

Is it me blowing down all the brick walls?

I went to the Centrifugal Theatre downtown because I wanted to watch a movie that made me spin. Halfway through the picture, an old black and white, the usher came up to me in his red uniform and monkey hat. He pointed his flashlight right in my face and inquired if I was a doctor.

“What kind of doctor are you looking for?” I asked.

“A doctor that can deliver a box of popcorn to that young lady right over there.” He nodded with his head and smiled. “Isn’t she just dreamy?”

“Why do you need a doctor for…”

And then I realized I was mixing reality with what was happening up on the movie screen. The usher was really telling me to get my feet off the seat in front of me. The movie scene had a guy buying popcorn for his date. It was a centrifugal mixing of the thoughts in and out of my head. Then I looked around the theatre and I was the only one there. Then the projector started acting up and the film became all tangled and warbled. I got up and walked out. It had been a decent piece of cinny up to that point though.

The next thing I did was walk out into the night air of Fortune Street and that made me think of fortune cookies and then I became incredibly hungry for some good Chinese food. So, I walked and walked and walked along the dirty sidewalk of the big, big city until I came upon a place called the Alabaster Wok. I went inside and the host, a small man in a red uniform, seated me at a round table covered in a red tablecloth. Everything seemed to be red and golden. There was a Buddha shaped candle jar in the center of the table. The flame inside flicked like a fiery tongue being unfurled from the mouth of the Egyptian sun god Ra. It was mesmerizing to someone like me.

A waiter brought me a menu the size of a small book and I flipped through the sticky, plastic pages. There must have been a thousand items to choose from. I noticed a lot of misspelled words. I suddenly had to go to the bathroom and got up and went to find the restroom.

The entire restaurant was bathed in a dim, yellow light, and the same went for the bathroom. I stepped up to the urinal and started to make pee when suddenly, a man came bursting out of one of the stalls and he made a wicked Kung Fu stance and then started wildly chopping and kicking at the air. He did spins and jumps and flips while he jabbed at the space around him, and the whole time he was shrieking at the top of his lungs: “Hiiiiiiiii Yahhhh!” repeatedly.

I jumped back out of his way, and I was pressed up against a cold tiled wall when one of his feet came bolting toward me in a high kick and smashed into the area right next to my ear. “Don’t fuck with me, bro!” he hollered. Debris crumbled down to the floor. “My name is Hai Chin and I’m a badass Kung Fu master.”

I was shaking at this point, and my heart was pounding so hard I half expected it to burst right out of my chest cavity. “Jesus, man,” I said. “You scared the shit out of me!”

He took great pride in that and grinned wide. He slapped me on the shoulder. “Sorry about that. I was just practicing for an upcoming territorial gang rumble… But hey, I’ve got to get back to work. I’m the dishwasher.”

With that, he slammed his way out of the restroom chanting some crazy battle tune.

I braced myself at the sink and tried to regain my composure. After a few calming breaths, the door to the restroom burst open and Hai Chin was now soaring through the air, and he planted both feet into my back. The blow was intense and caused me to violently jerk forward and my face smashed right into the mirror and broke the glass. I fell to the floor with a thud and my hands went immediately to my face to assess the situation. When I pulled them away to look at them, there was blood.

Hai Chin was standing above me, hands on his hips and he had the biggest smile on his face. “Gotcha mo’ beans!” he said, and he laughed out loud.

I yelled at him. “Dude! What is your fucking problem? I’m really hurt here. Give me something to press against my face.”

“Huh? Like what?”

“Like a warm, wet towel!”

“Okay… Be right back!” And with that, he ran out of the restroom again, but quickly popped his head back in just to say, “Don’t forget to jiggle the handle!”

I got up and steadied myself against the sink. I looked into the busted mirror and the jagged reflection made me look like a cut up monster. It wasn’t long before Hai Chin returned with the warm wet towel. He handed it to me, and I put it to my face. “Thanks,” I said.

“You are welcome, sir. Welcome to the Alabaster Wok. Can I get you something to drink and perhaps an appetizer?”

I turned my aching face toward him. “We’re in the bathroom. Can I at least get back to my table before you take my order… And I thought you said you were the dishwasher.”

“I am the dishwasher… But on slow nights like this, waiter go home, and I take over for him. I’m what you say—multi-tasking. And the boss man cheap.”

“Right. I’m going to go sit down at my table now. I haven’t even had a chance to look at the whole menu yet.”

“It’s big, like my woman whopper… Ha ha!”

I just shook my head and brushed by him. I was hurting and very hungry and in no mood for his bullshit outlandish behavior.

When I returned to the table, there was a bag of frozen stir fry vegetables there with a note attached: Sorry for the brutal attack. You can use this to relieve any swelling. No charge. Hai Chin.

I looked up and saw him peeking at me from behind a red curtain on the other side of the restaurant. But I was hungry and so I gently pressed the bag of frozen vegetables against my now swelling face and looked over the menu once more. What was I thinking? I had made my mind up long ago, before I even got here. Orange chicken with a side of fried rice. Why don’t I ever just trust my own gut? Why do I always second guess myself? Sometimes I could just throw myself out of a window, or in front of a speeding train, or into a flock of doves.

And that’s when Hai Chin suddenly appeared behind me like a flash of lightning. He just seemingly popped up from some portal beneath the floor. “It’s because you lack confidence in yourself,” he told me. “You need to explore your spirit. You need training.”

My head whipped around. “How did you…”

“It no matter,” Hai Chin said, and he raised his little notepad and pencil. “Are you ready to order?”

“I’ll have the orange chicken with fried rice… And throw in a side of the crab Rangoon with some sweet and sour sauce.”

“Something to drink?”

“How about an oolong tea.”

“Yes, sir. Anything else for you?”

“No. That should do it.”

He bowed and scampered away. A moment later I heard him shouting my order to someone in the invisible back.

The food arrived quickly. The chicken was steaming, the rice was steaming, the tea was steaming. I moved the plastic broccoli aside for it was an unnecessary addition to the plate. The crab Rangoon called to me, and I took one of the starfish shaped treats and dipped it in the sweet and sour sauce. I took a bite. It was glorious Heaven upon glorious Heaven, oh my friends. It too, was hot. But sometimes a craving overtakes a burn.

I ate as much of my dinner as I could. There was still a mountain of food left. Hai Chin came to the table and bowed. “Everything fine then?”

“It was delicious. May I get a to-go box?”


Hai Chin went away and quickly returned with the box, check, and a fortune cookie. “You pay up front,” he said. “Thank you for dining at the Alabaster Wok… And I hope your face is better. You can keep the vegetables.” He bowed again and walked off.

I was too full to even eat the fortune cookie, so I put it in my pocket for later. I went to pay and was soon out on the gory gloryhole of neon Fortune Street again. The lights sparkled, the air was cool, a breeze cautiously touched the city. Other people moved by me like in a dream. I heard their voices, their laughter—as if it were coming from another realm. I felt like Ichiban Kasuga in Tokyo on New Year’s Eve. (Even though he was Japanese, not Chinese Yes, Karen. There is a difference). My stomach was stretched, my face still hurt. I walked toward home.

I decided to cut through the park and sat down on a bench to rest. I placed my bag with the leftovers beside me. The stars above managed to squeak a bit of their ancient light in through the treetops. The moon breathed through the veil of backlit moving clouds. I reached into my pocket and retrieved the fortune cookie. I unwrapped it and pulled out the small slip of paper inside. It read: You’ve got a big surprise coming to you, Wendy. A very big surprise.

“Who the hell is Wendy?” I thought aloud to myself.

And that’s when Hai Chin, the dishwasher and fill-in waiter from the Alabaster Wok, came dropping down from out of the trees above me like a runaway elevator heading toward the ground floor. He was suddenly right in front of me on the walkway, and he was furiously whipping around a set of nunchakus, and he cried out “Hiiiiiiiii Yahhhh!” The end of one of the sticks grazed the tip of my nose.

I leapt up and backpedaled away from him. “What the hell are you doing!?” I screamed. “Are you trying to kill me? I sort of thought we were friends.”

He suddenly stopped whipping the nunchakus about and tucked them neatly under his arm in one svelte move. “Friends?” he said.

“I mean, yeah you kicked my butt, but you were still kind enough to give me that sack of frozen stir fry vegetables.”

He bowed to me. “It was the honorable thing to do.”

There was moment of uncomfortable silence before I said, “That thing you were saying about my spirit and training… I think I need that. I need to get out of this damn city and away from all these idiotic fools and clear my head and cleanse my soul. Where shall I go?”

Hai Chin put a finger to his own chin and thought about it. “You will come with me to the great mystical mountain in the clouds and there I will teach you the ways of Kung Fu.”

“For real. You’re not fooling with me, are you?”

Hai Chin became dejected and sat down on the nearby bench. His usual Wisconsin bubbler-like personality drooped. “I only wish I could. But the truth is, I really am just a damn dishwasher. I’ve never been able to fulfill my dreams of being a Kung Fu master. I’m a fraud.”

I sat down beside him. “I know what you mean. I wanted to be a million other things than what I turned out to be. It sucks, but society presses it into us. Society strips of us our dreams in exchange for meaningless work. We’re all just loaded into the boxcar and shipped off to Doldrums City, merely pieces of a machine.”

He nodded his head in agreement. Then his face suddenly brightened. “What if we just say, ‘fuck it,’ and do it anyway. Let’s not let society tell us what to be and how to act. Let’s go be Kung Fu masters. Let’s go to—Bhutan, Nepal, or Tibet. Let’s find a new way to live. Let’s find our true selves… I’m sorry, what’s your name?”

“David. David Pearce Goliath.”

“Let’s just do it, David Pearce Goliath.”

We both paused and thought about it, and then I asked the ever deciding question, “Do you have money?”

“Money,” he repeated bitterly. “No.”

I shook my head. “Neither do I. You got to rob a bank to have a dream come true in this fucking world.” I looked up to the sky and some green comet or spaceship arched over us and across the banner of night. “Can you imagine what the world would be like if we could all just be what we really wanted to be?”

“But instead, we putter away at mostly pointless things. It will never change,” Hai Chin said. He started to get up. “I must get back to the restaurant. Boss man want me to clean kitchen.”

I looked up at him. “Why don’t you just say, ‘fuck it’ and come over to my apartment and we’ll have a few beers, maybe watch a documentary about monks.”

He nodded his head in excited agreement. “Right, right mo’ beans! Let’s do it. Let’s get what we can get while we can get it.”

I grabbed my sack of leftovers and stood up. We started walking to the other side of the park and across the wide avenue and to where my apartment was in a low-key high-rise called Vandenburg Arms. What arms are those? The arms that squeeze us tight and hold us against our will. The arms that keep us cold and make us tired and ready for another day as small brass gadgets in a big and ferocious world of dreaming saints and sinners.


The Amoopikans (Last part)

Sally and Mary Jane were huddled around a candle in the kitchen, whispering.

“I think you should call a doctor,” Sally said. “There’s obviously something very wrong with him.”

“Look, he’s got this mental thing, it’s not a big deal,” Mary Jane said, trying to deflate the issue of Jack’s state of mind.

“Not a big deal?” Sally protested. “I’m afraid he’s going to kill me for that Francisco remark.”

“He’s not going to kill you,” Mary Jane assured her, and she put her arms around Sally’s delicate frame and hugged her. “I won’t let him kill my best friend.”

“Thanks,” Sally said, and a few tears came out of her eyes.

“What’s wrong?”

Sally suddenly moved her hands to Mary Jane’s frightened face and kissed her on the mouth.

“What was that all about?” Mary Jane asked, a bit bewildered, a bit turned on, as she stepped back a bit.

“I’m sorry Mary Jane. No, I’m not. Look, this may be our last night on Earth, and I wanted to kiss you. I just did. Like I wanted to kiss Ollie. Oh my. You must find me crazy as well, but it’s almost as if I want to say goodbye.”

“It’s okay Sally. I think I understand… And I kind of liked it.”

“You did?”

“Yes, I did.”

Mary Jane moved closer to Sally, ran her fingers through her long, blonde hair, and passionately returned the kiss.

“Where’s my dinner!” Jack suddenly blurted out from the other side of the wall.

Mary Jane broke her embrace with Sally and stormed into the living room.

“All right Jack, I’ve been nice up to this point, but you really got to stop being a complete A-hole, okay?! Everyone is under a lot of strain and stress right now… Please don’t add to it.”

“I want a meat pie! Make me a meat pie! Make me a meat pie now damn it!” Jack screamed.

“I don’t have any bloody meat pies, so if you want a meat pie go down to your own place and make yourself a meat pie! And stop acting like a little schoolgirl!” Mary Jane scolded.

“I don’t have to do what you tell me! I have my rights! I have freedom of speech!” Jack crazily retorted.

Mary Jane moved toward the telephone and picked up the receiver.

“Do not call anyone!” Jack screamed.

“Damn it. The phone’s dead,” Mary Jane said, and she slammed the handset down on its cradle.

“What’s going on in here?” Sally asked as she threw herself into the couch.

“I want a meat pie and she won’t make me a meat pie!” Jack screamed.

“I’m trying to call the police, but the phone’s dead,” Mary Jane said with utter frustration.

Sally stood up and pointed her finger at Jack.

“Now listen here Jack, the party is over. You have to leave now, or you’ll be in big trouble! We’ll get the police.”

Jack lifted Copernicus’ head to his ear and was acting like Copernicus was whispering secrets to him.

“Uh huh, yes Copernicus, she is a bitch, I know,” Jack said in a mumbly wumbly childlike voice. “Uh huh, yes Copernicus, she is ugly. Uh huh, oh Copernicus that’s terrible, but I bet you’re right, she does look like a street walker.”

Sally angrily rushed at Jack and snatched the stone head from his hands.

“Hey!” Jack yelled. “Give me that back!”

“You either get the hell out of here or I’ll throw Copernicus right out that damn window, and you won’t be too far behind!” Sally screamed.

“Do not throw Copernicus out the window!” Jack commanded in a robotic voice.

“Then leave!”

Jack glanced over at Mary Jane with a sad and confused look on his face.

“Please leave,” she said sternly. “We’ll talk tomorrow. Maybe you’ll feel better then.”

“But there may not be a tomorrow,” Jack said, nearly beginning to weep. “We could all be nothing but cinders by the morning. That makes me a sad panda.”

Jack reluctantly got out of the chair and walked toward Sally who was now standing by the open front door of the apartment cradling Copernicus’ head in her hand. Jack snatched it from her and barked in her face like a dog as he walked out. Sally slammed the door behind him and then there was this terrible yelp and the sound of Jack crashing down the stairs.

“Oh my God!” Mary Jane yelled. “I think he fell down the stairs!”

Mary Jane grabbed a candle and went out into the hall.

“It’s too dark. Grab another candle, Sally!”

Sally came out into the hall with another candle and together they carefully went down the stairs, saying: “Jack, Jack, are you okay?”

There at the bottom was Jack. His body was cocked in all kinds of unnatural positions. It looked like his neck had snapped. They looked closer and there was blood, and they looked closer again, and there was the head of Copernicus cracked in half just like Jack.

Sally and Mary Jane just stared at each other in the glow of the candlelight.

“It’s my fault, you saw it,” Sally said, tears starting to roll down her face. “I slammed the door, and it must have hit him and knocked him right down the stairs.”

“It’s not your fault. It was dark. It was an accident.”

“Oh my God Mary Jane, I killed someone.”

“Come on, let’s go back upstairs and wait for Ollie, he’ll know what to do.”

Ollie Oxenfurd stuck his hands in his pockets as he walked down Castlebury Street, now dim, quiet, and desolate with some ash whirling around. All the shoppes and restaurants seemed to be shuttered and he worried his favorite Chinese joint, Bamboo King, would be as well.

He turned right at Bonberry Street and jiggled the handle. The door opened and he stepped inside. The bright lights were a burning contrast to the dead of the streets. A neatly groomed Asian man came out of the back wiping his hands on a towel. He pumped some hand sanitizer in them and rubbed.

“I’m so glad you’re open,” Ollie said. “Looks like everything else is shut down, and you’ve got power too.”

“We always open. Even when war come. Everyone else scared, not me. I got generator. I’m an animal. People still need to eat. So, what you like?”

“Pork and snow peas. Veggie Lo Mein. And… I’ll have the orange chicken.”

“No soup?”

“No soup.”

“What kind rice?”

“Fried rice… And throw in some crab rangoons too.”

“Okay, you wait. I go cook now. Won’t be long.”


Mary Jane sat with Sally on the couch, and they smoked some more grasspot to try and calm their nerves. Sally kept wiping tears from her puffy, blue eyes and saying: “I killed someone. I killed someone.”

Mary Jane didn’t know what to do. She tried the phone again. Still dead. “Where the hell is Ollie?” she wanted to know.

They heard fighter jets roaring overhead.

“I’m really scared Mary Jane. I mean, what if this is it? What if tonight is our last night on Earth, and I killed a guy.”

There was another explosion in the distance.

“Then, I guess it doesn’t really matter, does it,” Mary Jane answered.


Ollie nearly dumped all the delicious Chinese food when he tripped over Jack’s lifeless body at the bottom of the stairs.

“What the bloody hell?! Mary Jane! Sally! Get out here!”

The girls rushed into the hallway with their candles.

“What is this then?” Ollie asked from the bottom of the stairs.

“There was an accident. He fell,” Mary Jane answered.

“I’m coming up.”


The three of them sat at the kitchen table in Mary Jane’s groovy pad on the Isle of St. Manitou quietly slurping away at their Chinese food.

“We ought to call someone, we just can’t leave him there,” Ollie said, breaking the silence.

“The phone is dead.”

“Well then I’ll walk down to the police station and tell them,” Ollie said, stuffing a piece of delicious orange chicken in his mouth.

“No!” Sally blurted out. “No police.”

“What? Why? You said it was an accident.”

“It was no accident,” Sally said, and she began to cry again. “I slammed the door on him and that made him fall down the stairs.”

“I’ve been trying to tell her it wasn’t her fault, but she won’t listen to me,” Mary Jane said, slamming her fork down in frustration. She got up, walked into the other room, and lit up some more grasspot.

“Well, if you ask me, he had it coming to him. That bloke was a real A-hole.”

“Ollie! That’s a terrible thing to say, even if it is true.”

“Whatever. The only thing I know is we can’t leave him there. Why don’t we just move him into the street or something.”

“I won’t have anything to do with such a horrible thing,” Sally pouted, crossing her arms.

“Fine!” Ollie yelled, and he stood and threw his napkin down onto the table. “Mary Jane and I will do it.”


Ollie peered out onto Castlebury Street. It was eerily quiet and still; there was a strange-smelling soft breeze in the air.

“OK, are you ready?”

Mary Jane nodded and then they lifted him.

“Good gravy he’s heavy,” Ollie said, “must be all those damn meat pies.”

“Hush now. Let’s just get this over with,” Mary Jane scolded.

They got him out onto the sidewalk and had to set him down.

“Why don’t we just stuff him back in his shoppe?” Ollie suggested, breathing hard.

Mary Jane looked over her shoulder.

“That’s not a bad idea,” and she went to jiggle the handle of the gallery shoppe door. “It’s locked,” she said.

“Well, look in his pockets. I’m sure his keys are there.”

Mary Jane reluctantly rummaged through dead Jack’s pockets going “Eww” and “Gross” while she searched.

“Got them.”

She went to the door and unlocked it and they carried him into the gallery and laid him out on the floor.

“Well?” Mary Jane asked, wiping at her sweaty brow with her forearm.

“Well, what?” Ollie asked.

“Are we just going to leave him here on the floor?”

“Yes, we are. It’s too dark in here to be messing around. We can figure something out tomorrow. It’s getting late.”

“Wait, we forgot something,” Mary Jane said, and she went out the door and then came back in holding the two halves of the stone head of Nicolaus Copernicus. She set them down near Jack and they went out, locking the door behind them.


The air raid sirens began to wail before Mary Jane and Ollie could get back inside. There was thunder in the sky, but it was not natural.

The three of them sat quietly in the darkness — the only light being from the scattered candles, the orange glow of the grasspot in the pipe, and the sparkle of bombs bursting outside in the air above the Isle of St. Manitou. The sirens were still roaring. The Amoopikans were coming.

“Wait, what is that?” Ollie asked, suddenly perking up and shifting his head around.

“Stop it Ollie, you’re scaring me,” a tearful Sally said.

“No, I think there’s someone in the street. I thought I heard voices.”

“Please Ollie, just stop…”

And then there was a loud banging on the front door.

“Amoopikan Marines! Open up!”

Sally screamed and then the door was kicked in and men with guns in their hands and lights atop their helmets and waving the Amoopikan flag came storming in.

“Nobody move!” the Amoopikan captain yelled, and he motioned to his troops, “In! In! In! Take a look around, see if there are any more.”

A moment later, a young trooper came up to the captain and saluted.

“Sir, they’ve been smoking grasspot in here.”

“Whaaaaaat!” the captain screeched. “I thought I smelled something illegal.”

“I have the device right here sir,” and the young trooper handed the captain the glass pipe they had been using to smoke the grasspot.

The captain looked it over carefully; he sniffed at it. Then he looked at the three of them, Ollie, Sally, and Mary Jane, being restrained by other troopers, bodies shaking and faces looking scared to death.

“Well, well, well,” the captain said as he strolled around the place. “Looks like we got a bunch of grasspotheads here.”

“It’s just grasspot sir,” Ollie spoke up, “This is the future and it’s allowed everywhere here in our part of the world.”

“Well, it’s not allowed where I come from punk, and you know why?”

“Why sir?”

“Because it’s evil. It’s devil’s lettuce punk. It makes people go crazy in the head and want to kill other people.”

“That’s not true sir, it does nothing like that at all,” Ollie said.

“I don’t care for your ways in your part of the world, and that’s why we came here — to make our ways your ways because our ways are the right ways and if anyone tells me different, I’ll just blow their fucking head off.”

The captain turned and walked toward the door.

“Boys, you know what to do.”

And then Mary Jane Hankerbloom’s apartment on Castlebury Street in a quaint village on the Isle of St. Manitou was suddenly filled with a relentless barrage of gunfire directed straight at Mary Jane herself and her two friends, Sally and Ollie.

When the firing finally stopped, their bodies had been reduced to ragdolls askew and full of holes. Their eyes were open wide, for they were still in shock; their lifeless souls stared upward at the skylight, and the bones still rained down upon them.

“We’re done here,” a young Amoopikan soldier said, and he stomped on the grasspot pipe with his heavy boot and crushed it into the floor before walking out.