Tuesday, 14 May 2013

How I Met Your Mother by Evan Pheiffer

Read by Keon Woong Lee

I think I winked when I first saw her, though I could be wrong. Perhaps I burped. I remember drinking a black cherry soda; the moment she emerged from the around the corner I nearly choked on the carbonation. She was the most delightful thing I’d ever seen.

It was early summer and I’d just failed my exams. Father didn’t want me running around the capital in my usual drunken stupor, so he sent me to America to conduct ‘research’ in the ‘field’. It was 1990 and the Party was still zealously keeping tabs on any Tiananmen scum who’d fled to the West. I was to track them down, befriend them, infiltrate their networks and find out what kind of support they were getting from those bastards in Washington. Since many of them were now teaching in provincial universities, I’d be stuck in the cornfields all summer. But that was before I’d seen her...

One weekend was the 88th annual State Fair; my driver came by to fetch me around noon.

It was only mid-June but hotter than a witch’s pussy. I was fairly hungover from the night before, but my father insisted. Dad had considerable pull in Beijing so even if I refused, my bodyguard would see to it I attended. My assignment? Track down Wu Liao, a dissident writer then teaching chemistry at the State University who’d be hosting a booth on Sichuan cuisine. Or folklore. The fuck if I know. I’d have to spend my entire Sunday commending that bastard’s spicy noodles; we stopped to get a 6-pack on the way.

The Americans were very confident that summer. Their famous little Cold War was finally winding down and every gas-station attendant seemed to think he was John Wayne. Meanwhile the Russians were bending over for every Polish grandma with a wooden paddle – while the students in my own country, many of them former classmates – thought they’d bring the Motherland to its knees. I’m no professor but I’ll be damned if I see a couple jerk-off armchair revolutionaries who got an ‘A’ in Human Geography give China to the Yanks on a silver fucking platter. Or at least that’s the chatter I’d hear at home that year. I was too busy trying to screw the local missionary’s daughter to pay such conversation any mind.

We turned off the highway and made for the giant cow. In the middle of a cornfield, they’d erected a 75-foot pink and brown bovine, an ode to the prosperity of the day. You had to pass through its legs – and under its udders – to enter the fairgrounds. I couldn’t quite feel the magic but trotted along nonetheless. I sent my driver after Wu and went straight for the cotton candy.

My father had fought in the Korean War and said the only thing the Yanks fed them in captivity was cotton candy and un-carbonated cream soda. “They wanted to starve and poison us, demoralize the revolutionary vanguard sore by sorer tooth.” Whatever the case, I had to try it for myself. I approached the burly merchant and gave him a thumb’s up. “Two servings, please.” He grunted and gave me a fistful of fluff. I bit into the pink world of emptiness and hated every moment.

A few booths down was the farting necromancer. For a nation full of religious cracks, Americans loved a good witch: someone they could laugh at before taking to the scaffold. Not that I disagree. We also had our boogeymen back home; occasionally I’d inform on a friend or two if they tried to touch my lady. Different strokes for different blokes. The farting witch read my palm and began to moan: “He mustn’t! He mustn’t! He must!” I gave her a fiver and continued down the line.

My driver was soon back and bearing news. Our man Wu was around the corner, entertaining a bevy of chicken farmers. We smoked a Newport and headed over. In order to fit in I’d had a custom track suit made: Starter brand from head to toe. I’d consulted my father on local sports teams and he said to go with the best local high school’s colors: that’s where all the bigwigs will have played ball back in the day. So there I was, decked in salmon and turquoise, ready to go. Who could have possibly known that love was around the corner.

Wu was a squat little man, not much of a counter-revolutionary force if you ask me. That said, he had one hell of a big mouth: who knew what these chicken farmers might learn about the Fatherland if he got into their heads. I bought a corndog and approached his stand. “I hear Sichuan has nothing on this county’s cuisine – why don’t you give us a free sample to confirm!” He smiled and handed me a toothpick full of peppercorns. I sneered and lifted them to my mouth. Sure, they had a kick… I motioned my driver to hand me another soda pop. The rest is still a blur.

Before I could comment upon Wu’s peppers, an angel emerged and slapped me in the face. Figuratively, of course: I’d have set my bodyguard on her had she dared. But hootenanny was she gorgeous; Penelope herself. I tossed my toothpick and removed my baseball cap. “A pleasure, ma’am, to make your acquaintance: would you like to scramble-dance?” I’d read it in a book before – figured my odds were 50/50. She exploded in laughter, a deep, delicious, purple laughter. Then it all went fuzzy.

Wu and my assignment, the driver and bodyguard, my failed exams and furious father, Tiananmen and the People’s Republic, they faded without a trace. All that was left was Lucie, the cowgirl come to save me. My black cherry soda splattered on the ground. I looked down then up – around and back at Lucie. The big blue sky was bursting and I thought to myself: I think I’ll stay with Lucie.

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