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Totally Losing Face

and Other Stories






by




Hillel Groovatti








Copyright 2018 Hillel Groovatti


Published by Hillel Groovatti at Smashwords



Credits

Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Work of Fiction

This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Credits

• Author Picture: Deborah Hayner

• Book Illustrations: Cyrus Hunter

• Cover Design: AVDesign

• Cover Picture: Daryl “Matz” Manialak

• Editors: Emma Kaufmann and Carmody


ISBN: 9780463526170


Amphibian Ark

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each book will be donated to Amphibian Ark who hope to ensure the global survival of amphibians: www.amphibianark.org.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Hsiao-mei’s New Lover

Flying Rebar

The Celebrated Chef of Guangdong Province

Will the Thrill

Totally Losing Face

An Open Window

Chris Versus the Succulent Pear

A Little Yes

The English Virgin

Lessons from the Big Leagues

Pinching Zits

The Fart Lover

Taichung Kung Fu

Mastering the Squat Shitter

Gareth’s Dilemma

The Fecal Anomaly

Anticipation Builds

Preschooler Hitting the Gutter

Old Port Mac

GoMo BoMo

About the Author

Acknowledgements

I’d like to acknowledge a number of people for contributing to the creation of this book and for supporting and helping me along the way. First, I’d like to thank Cyrus Hunter for finding enough inspiration to artfully create exceptional illustrations for the book. A big thanks to Emma, Ani, Carmody, and Deborah for contributing their creative juices. Also, one day on vacation I popped into a tattoo parlor in Boracay, the Philippines, and convinced one of the artists, Daryl “Matz” Manialak, to help me create the cover picture. Many thanks to him and if you’re ever in Boracay needing some ink, drop on by and tell him I sent you. And finally I’d like to thank the following people for supporting me throughout the creative process: M&P, Yo, Rip, MikeCZ, Haz, Carmody, and Chigger.

Quotes


“Sex is interesting, but it's not totally important. I mean it's not even as important (physically) as excretion. A man can go seventy years without a piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement.”

Charles Bukowski


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain


“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”

Kurt Vonnegut


Dedication

To LPF, with love

Hsiao-mei’s New Lover



I needed some, just enough to get me by. I sifted through my numbers and nobody was available. Finally, I decided to call my old standby, Hsiao-mei. She was like a soldier, always ready to follow orders. All I had to do was call and arrange a place to meet. She was very good looking, but a head case. I couldn’t stand being with her for very long, but she’s always been there for me in times of need.

We arranged to meet at a fast-food restaurant near the main train station in downtown Taipei. I parked my motorcycle downstairs as a light cleansing rain began to fall. The locals call it mao-mao yu. I creatively translate that to mean “peach fuzz rain:” there’s just enough to notice, but not enough to cause alarm.

I spotted her upstairs sitting alone by a big glass window overlooking downtown. I was hoping she’d be there for me and was very glad she was. I sat down and said the usual chitchat, but she wasn’t on tonight. Something was eating at her. She sipped her tea and looked out the big glass window onto the street below watching the hordes of people walk by. She sat motionless; didn’t say a word. I sat across from her and turned away from the window. I glanced around the restaurant and watched all the customers suck down their greasy food and cackle like a gaggle of geese.

The silence between us was becoming annoying. She eventually loosened up and began to speak while writing invisible Chinese characters on the table with her finger.

“I have a new lover,” she calmly explained. For some unknown reason, she refused to state his nationality other than proudly mentioning that he was a foreigner, as am I.

“He’s not my boyfriend because he knows my past,” she clarified. She always claimed to be a bad girl, but never elaborated. I just thought she wanted to be spanked!

“He knows what love is,” she continued. “You may think you know what love is, but you don’t. Having sex is easy. Animals have sex, but he makes love. He’s willing to do anything I want to please me. Wherever I want it, he gives it to me. We once did it on a bus full of people heading to the airport.”

She took a long, slow, satisfying sip of her tea and shared a laugh with herself as she gazed intently out the window. “I think he is God,” she matter-of-factly revealed. “I do not know you well enough to feel comfortable, but he makes me very comfortable. I wear special clothes when I know I’ll be with him. I want to surprise him and make him feel as good as he makes me feel. Sometimes I’ll ride with him to work, and I’ll pleasure him right there in his car.”

She gently placed her fist on the table and gritted her teeth. “I cannot see him everyday,” she pouted. “He has a girlfriend who is very beautiful. She is much more beautiful than me. He must see her, so I can only see him sometimes,” she sighed deeply. “He is going to Thailand for New Years with her. I can only see him nine more times before he leaves, and then I cannot see him for two whole weeks,” she said as if they would be apart for years.

She turned and looked at me like I was a cancerous tumor. “He is my master. I will marry another man, but I will always have sex with my lover, always! I will have his children, but lie to my husband and say that the children are my husband’s. I will always love him. I will never find anyone better than him!”

Realizing that my chances of getting into her pants were somewhere short of impossible, I told her that I was going to go home. She said nothing in response. She simply put both hands lightly around her paper cup and blew slowly. She seemed to be praying. That is how I last left her.



###

Flying Rebar



Two gray-haired, retired couples from New York waited outside in a long line at the Vincent Willem van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Friends for many years, the two couples were vacationing together this summer.

“Har, this line is just not moving, and it’s almost 3:00 p.m.,” said Harold’s wife, Bestelle, impatiently. “The museum closes at five.”

“Well, gang, what do you want to do?” asked Harold, confirming the time on his watch and then looking curiously at the other three adults.

“We could try that other museum over there,” said Walter, pointing to an avant-garde museum nearby. “There’s no line and we can come back bright and early tomorrow morn to give our respects to old Vincent van.”

“That one,” said Harold, pointing at the avant-garde museum across the street. “Looks pretty artsy-fartsy, maybe that’s why there’s no line. What do you think Stell, Edie?”

The two ladies looked at each other and agreed, “Fine with us.”

The four tourists nonchalantly walked over to the avant-garde museum, strolled in without a wait, paid the entrance fee and proceeded upstairs to the first exhibit.

“Now that’s more like it,” said Walter. “No waiting, no lines. Just in and out. They run a smooth operation here.”

“Speaking of operations, did I ever tell you about my hernia operation?” asked Harold.

“Oh, Har! Please,” begged his wife, Bestelle.

“Yes, you have Harold, numerous times, in all its glorious detail,” said Walter’s wife, Edie.

“Well, a good story is always worth repeating,” said Harold.

“Honey, spare us,” said Bestelle.

“All right,” said Harold frowning at his wife.

The foursome entered the first display room of metallic objects: Thrashed wrought iron gates, swinging I-beams, twirling stainless steel spheres. One display consisted of a welded metal box with a hulking amount of steel placed on top of it to make the entire work of art look like a gigantic metal tree.

“Hey, I could do that,” said Walter, referring to the display.

“I think any farm-hand could do that,” said Harold, equally unimpressed.

“Honey, have an open mind, this is art,” said Bestelle.

“My mind is open, but you’d have to pay more to have that piece of junk removed than you would to purchase the metal to build it,” groaned Harold.

As they meandered past the numerous metallic objects, they walked by a display with an artist verbally directing a metal lifting device. Work in progress: Flying Rebar, a sign read. The artist stepped around an array of creatively arranged piles of rebar and yelled at a confused worker commandeering the metal lifting device. A large welded mass of metal was swinging from the lifting machine, as the artist helped push the swinging mass of rebar and simultaneously pondered the best position for his work of art. “Move it over here, no there,” the artist ordered. The worker moved the lifting device back and forth as he grunted and dripped sweat all over the ground. The artist held a chain with a hook in one hand and tried to visualize where the work of art should hang from the ceiling to give it the most desired effect. “It must assume a flying motion, hence the name—Flying Rebar,” he confidently told the worker.

“It won’t hold from the ceiling,” said the worker.

“We’ll make it hold!” yelled the artist.

“Hey, that display kind of reminds me of the time I was working construction on the Lower East Side,” said Walter as the foursome continued walking.

“Was that the time your thermos fell from the fiftieth floor?” asked Edie.

“Yeah, it was. Damn near hit a taxicab,” said Walter.

“You’re lucky it didn’t kill someone,” said Harold.

“I’m lucky the coffee Stell put inside the thermos didn’t kill me,” he said with a chuckle.

“I heard that,” said Bestelle.

They walked into the next room which had various forms of modern products artistically arranged: Soap bars swimming, milk cartons exploding, tea pots percolating above cups and saucers designed to look like baby birds in a nest begging for food. Blenders a-blending. Toasters a-toasting. Toilets a-flushing.

They walked past another display entitled Trash IT. The work of art consisted of numerous mangled computer products mashed together.

“This looks like someone put their trash into a trash compactor and is now trying to pass it off as art,” said Harold, pointing to the display.

“Shhh, Honey, the artist may be around here,” said Bestelle.

“Don’t shush me,” said Harold. “If the so-called artist were here right now I’d tell it to his face what I think of his art. Nothing wrong with that is there Walt?”

“No, if you’re an artist your art should stand up to criticism. But I think the guy who designed that trash display probably got run out of town a long time ago,” joked Walter.

“Well, his art is giving me the runs, I’ll tell you that,” joked Harold.

The two wives just shook their heads.

They walked into the next room, which had various erotic pictures on display: Nudes, dildos, dicks oozing life, dripping wet pussies. Cock sucking. Muff diving. Ball licking. Titty tonguing. Spent men. Satisfied women.

“Oh my!” said Edie.

“Well, they can do what they want behind closed doors, but do they have to sell it to everyone?” said Bestelle.

“Sell it? They’re trying to cram it down our throats! And would you look at them, not a one is wearing a prophylactic. Shocking, simply shocking,” said Walter with a grin.

“I’d say, and how about a little romance first?” added Harold, snickering for effect while the two wives waved the men off.

The group quickly exited the porn area, then slowly wandered through a few more display rooms, soaking up the art. Between two of the sections, they noticed a small dark theatre with rows of seats and two projector screens hanging above a stage nestled in front of the seats.

“Hey gang, let’s go in this mini theater and rest our weary bones. All this porn, oops, I mean art is getting me all hot and bothered,” said Harold.

“Good idea, I need to adjust my pacemaker,” joked Walter.

They entered the theatre, eased into the comfortable seats and began watching the presentation projected on the two screens. On one screen was a movie about an avant-garde artist and on the other was a continuous display of the artist’s works. “Life is art, you just have to find your way to express it,” said the artist on the left screen.

The two couples sank into the soft seats and intently watched the program, along with a few other attendees.

About five minutes passed, then a man carrying a dirty green backpack and dressed in a worn out World War II army trench coat loudly descended into the theatre. He was thin, with long, graying brown hair tied into a ponytail. He jumped onto the stage with authority, while the projectors continued to display images above him. The grungy-looking man, who did not resemble the avant-garde artist on screen in the slightest, put his crusty old backpack in a free corner below one of the hanging screens and removed his filthy trench coat. He took out an old checkered tablecloth from his backpack and shook it; dust flew everywhere. The tablecloth sailed in the air several times in slow motion as the dust seemed to collect on the projector beams and float in suspended animation. He gently laid the red and white cloth on the dark stage.

He leisurely removed his grimy old boots, shook the dirt out of them and placed one at one corner of the tablecloth and the other on the diagonal corner. Abruptly, he jumped up in the air several times and began loosening up and stretching.

“This oughta be good,” whispered Harold loudly.

“Shhh,” said Bestelle, elbowing him. “He’s performing!”

“Don’t shush me! I hope he takes a bath on stage. He smells like one of Walter’s movements,” joked Harold.

“He smells like yesterday’s lasagna-induced one,” replied Walter.

“Honestly, you two. He’s performing! Shhh,” said Edie.

After the man loosened his neck, cracked his fingers, jogged in place and windmilled his arms, he finally looked like he was ready to perform. He took an old fedora hat out of his backpack and placed it in the corner at the right of the stage. He carefully knelt down and placed a large white piece of paper on the brim of the hat. Immediately afterwards, he jumped on top of the tablecloth at the center of the stage and quickly raised his hands in the air, hoping for thunderous applause. None was forthcoming.

Undeterred, the performer pulled out a paper bag from his backpack, walked to the front of the stage and shook the item open. He walked backwards to the black wall behind him as if balancing on a tightrope; bent down as easy as you please, and then stood the paper bag up against the wall as he excitedly eyed the audience. Abruptly, he jumped to the center of the stage and raised his arms in the air and smiled, again looking for applause. Again, none was given.

Still undeterred, he stood on the tablecloth and began to make big kung-fu-ish movements while he whistled. He appeared to be limbering up.

He struck an awkward pose and suddenly dropped his trousers to his ankles and quickly raised his arms proudly in the air. Perplexed, he studied the audience, as if anticipating oodles of appreciation. Again, none was given.

Feigning sorrow, he proceeded to remove his shirt and kick off his trousers. He reached down and dropped his holey, filthy underwear to his ankles. They floated down and rested atop his dingy yellow socks. Standing naked on stage, he confidently raised his arms in the air, self-assured that this grand display would obtain some sort of reaction from the audience. One person slowly clapped while a woman giggled.

“Oh dear,” said Edie, as she put her hands over her mouth.

“I guess they don’t believe in circumcision here,” Walter whispered to Harold.

“Or clean underwear,” Harold fired back.

The performer spit onto his hands and rubbed them together. Once his hands were sufficiently lubricated, he began to masturbate. His dick grew and stiffened in no time at all. The performer made long stroking movements on his elongated schlong and thrust his upper body back and forth as he slowly turned in circles. After a few rotations, he stopped turning and pointed his cocked member towards the audience. Following a momentary pause, he kicked his grubby underwear into the air, then carefully turned to align himself with the paper-covered hat resting quietly in one corner and made a few Sumo-esque feet stomps on the floor for added effect.

Stroking his stiff unit rapidly, he properly aligned his feet with the hat in the corner of the stage and grunted loudly. The audience watched in amazement as a stream of semen spurted out of his dick, flew across the stage, and made a crinkling sound as most of his essence hit the paper target lying on top of the hat. The performer turned to the audience in all his glory and raised his arms in the air and smiled profusely. A few people in the audience responded with applause.

The performer, whose penile shaft was still throbbing, grubby socks still hanging at his ankles, stretched out his arms and proceeded to dance what looked like an Irish jig all over the stage. Afterwards, he joyfully pranced backwards towards the wall behind him and painstakingly crouched down, until his ass was directly over the small paper bag standing conveniently open against the back wall.

“Oh no,” whispered Edie.

The performer placed his hands together in a praying fashion, grunted again and then launched a loud juicy fart followed by a long stringy piece of shit. It landed in the bag with a thud. He swiped his greasy asshole with a single stroke from one hand and capped it off by wiping the excess caking his mitt in a long artistically flowing pattern on the back wall behind the two hanging projector screens.

“Without art, we are doomed to die a meager existence,” proclaimed the artist featured on one of the screens above.

The performer returned to the tablecloth, put his arms down by his sides and bowed graciously and deeply to the audience.

A few people heavy-handedly clapped while looking around perplexed at the other members of the audience. One excessively pierced college student stood up and cheered with gusto. “Encore, encore,” he yelled. The performer placed his hands over his heart and politely declined the offer.

As the sparse applause died down, the performer quickly ventured to the back wall and reached for his hat. He crumpled up the soiled paper resting on its brim and wiped off his fedora on the back wall. He leapt to the front of the stage and held his hat upside down, hoping for tips from the audience.

The two New York couples stood up and quickly filed out without tipping the performer.

“The least they could have done was warn us beforehand,” shrieked Edie.

“My word!” complained Bestelle. “I don’t have to leave New York to see that!”

“I think I need a cigarette,” said Walter.

“Well. I thought there was something more he could have done with it, like maybe add some strobe lights and music,” added Harold.

“I agree, it seemed a bit raw,” said Walter. “Maybe he could have used glittering toilet paper and a real crapper, instead of that old bag.”

“And how about some lubricant?” said Harold. “My God, you’re going to rub yourself raw using saliva!”

“Oh, you two are incorrigible,” said Edie.

“Well, I’ve seen enough!” said Bestelle. “Let’s call it a day for the art scene and see what else there is to Amsterdam.”

“I don’t think you can top that,” said Edie.

As they walked to the entrance, Walter sarcastically thanked a guard who was standing stiffly at the exit. “Hell of a show, gent,” said Harold.

“Glad you enjoyed it,” he said, smiling.

“Say, how many performances does that shitter and masturbator do a day?” asked Harold.

“Come again?” asked the guard in good English.

“There’s a guy shitting and masturbating in your little theatre. Isn’t he with the museum?” asked Walter.

“Shitting and masturbating?” repeated the guard. “I don’t quite understand.”

“We just saw some guy jack-off into a hat and excrete into a bag onstage in your theatre,” exclaimed Walter. “Don’t tell me he’s not part of the exhibition.”

Edie and Bestelle held their purses in one arm and put their hands on their chests in shock. “Don’t tell me he’s not part of the show,” Edie said sternly. The guard looked perplexed.

The foursome guided the guard to the mini theatre where the performance had just taken place. They looked around the empty room, but could not find any traces of the performer. All his props had completely vanished as well. “He was just here,” they all agreed.

“If you go to that back wall you’ll definitely see and smell his signature,” said Harold.

The guard turned on the lights and walked down to the back wall to investigate. He could smell something rotten, but the wall was black, so he couldn’t clearly make out the performer’s signature. The guard turned around and shrugged his shoulders.

“Can’t see it?” asked Walter. “Well, I’d wash that wall if I were you.”

“And be on the lookout for a renegade jack-off, shit-in per-former,” said Harold.

The stunned group walked out of the museum. They took a deep breath outside, looked at each other and began to chuckle.

“Don’t blame me,” said Walter. “I only suggested going to the museum. We all entered at our own risk.”

“Well it’s good to know that performers like that have a stage to perform on, and we were privileged enough to see possibly his one and only performance,” said Harold.

“Oh honey,” said Bestelle.

“Let’s eat, I’m starved,” said Walter.

“How can you eat after watching something like that?” said Edie. “I’m sickened, simply sickened!”

“How can you not thinking about eating after a thing like that?” said Walter.

“Walt, what do you make of that whole performance? What was he trying to say?” asked Harold.

“Maybe that life should be enjoyed, before everything turns to crap,” said Walter.

“Yes, I think you’re right!” said Harold. “Masturbating represented the beginning of life, while shitting represented the end of life. So once you’re born you need to make the most of life and enjoy it, hence the dancing in between the self-gratification and the defecation. And the more gratifying your life is, the bigger the signature you will leave when you die.”

“Yes, yes!” said Walter. “It truly was a marvelous performance! I wonder if he’ll be preforming again or maybe he’s just a one-shit wonder!”

“You two! You really should be committed,” said Edie.

“Men! You just can’t take them anywhere,” said Bestelle.

Just then, a massive mound of rebar came flying out of the second story window of the avant-garde museum and landed directly on the foursome, crushing them instantly beneath a huge pile of welded metal.

The artist, the same one who had been manning the metal moving machine at the museum’s work-in-progress display, stuck his head out of the second story window to view the results below. “Oh my God,” he screamed. “Oh my God! Don’t touch it! Don’t move a thing! It’s a masterpiece! I’ll be right down. Don’t touch it!”

Across the street, in full view of the entire event stood the shitting-and-masturbating performance artist, smoking a cigarette. “Ha! Well, that pretty much settles it, rebar really can’t fly,” he said to himself and then turned and walked away.



###

The Celebrated Chef of Guangdong Province



When I first moved to Shenzhen, China, in 1999 to work for a U.S. computer accessory company, I remember hearing a story about a foreign couple that ventured into a local pet store. The husband intended to purchase a puppy for his loving wife. They spent an hour in the store looking over the puppies, playing with them, and cuddling them. The puppies were all so cute; it was very difficult to decide. Finally, they chose a small black and white half-breed with a lot of pep.

The owner of the store sat the happy couple down in an adjoining restaurant and offered to feed them while he readied the puppy. They ate a very satisfying meal and an hour later waited anxiously for their puppy. Surprised, the owner told them that he had already given it to them. Horrified, the couple abruptly realized that the pet store was not a pet store after all, but a restaurant specializing in dog meat. To make matters worse, they had just been served and eaten the puppy they had painstakingly selected!

To westerners living in China, it seems that there is little the Chinese will not eat. Indeed, I was once on a business trip in Kunming and was politely asked by a factory owner to attend his daughter’s wedding. It was an honor I could not refuse.

At the wedding, I found myself seated at a small, cramped table along with nine other people in a huge ballroom filled with guests. Along with eleven other courses, we were served a strange sausage-shaped meat with a hole in the middle. The meat was extremely tender and tasty. I had three huge helpings of the satisfying dish. I liked it so much; I asked the waiter what type of meat I was eating.

“Coin meat,” he calmly replied in Mandarin.

When this particular meat was sliced it looked a bit like an ancient Chinese coin, which also had a hole in the middle of it: Hence the name “coin meat.”

“Yes, but what type of meat is it?” I asked in Mandarin.

“Donkey dick,” he joyfully replied.

My eyes almost popped out of my head when I realized that I had just eaten three heaped helpings of donkey dick!

“Very tasty?” he asked.

Hen hao,” I said, which means “very good,” trying to contain my shock. My stomach actually churned a bit. I couldn’t believe that I had just been served and eaten donkey dick! At a wedding! But the meat was actually very edible. And the Chinese believe that eating the penis of any animal is supposed to make men more potent. I can’t say that the donkey dick made me any more powerful in the sack than usual, but it sure was scrumptious.

While I was living in China, I always tried to eat most of the food served to me, but there were some things I just wouldn’t knowingly eat, like insects, tiger penis, bear claw and chicken butt. Street vendors all over China actually serve chicken butt on a stick with a telltale hole in the center: it’s a delicacy.

One night back in Shenzhen, my Taiwanese coworker, Lizard Ma (He chose his English name because he likes lizards, go figure), decided to take me to an interesting restaurant to try a new dish that was sweeping the city. Lizard wouldn’t tell me what the dish was because he wanted to surprise me. He was excited to be treating me to something new and famous. I was skeptical, but accompanied him just the same. If I didn’t like what he ordered, I could always order something else.

Outside the restaurant, the traffic was gruesome and the air was so thick with pollution that I felt I needed a respirator just to inhale. The smog trapped in the stench and relentless heat of the booming metropolis like a blanket. And the reflection of the bright city lights glowed high in the sky, displaying a crimson sooty haze for all to see. As usual, there were a lot of vehicles out and about, as well as huge throngs of people. The sheer volume of humanity scuttling about on that busy autumn Friday night made me queasy. I just tried to put it out of my mind, as I had grown accustomed to doing.

We walked down a long alley, past a deformed beggar bowing repeatedly for small change, past a young girl singing for tips and playing an out-of-tune guitar horrifically, past a hairdressing shop specializing in blow jobs and past two street urchins relentlessly trying to get us to enter a restaurant and a karaoke bar respectively. After making our way through the riff-raff, we eventually entered an old, brightly lit traditional restaurant that was jam-packed with people. Chinese landscape pictures hung from grease-stained walls and a massive framed menu hung above a large hole in the wall, which exposed an active kitchen practically glowing from numerous flaming woks in action.

All the tables were taken, so we stood over a young family that seemed to be finished with their meal and were just biding their time. Lizard and I spoke loudly to each other, trying to make it uncomfortable for the family to just sit and chat at their table while hungry customers were waiting. The family got the hint and quickly left. As soon as we sat down, a busboy instantly appeared and cleaned the table. I looked up at the menu hanging on the wall and tried to decipher it, based on the limited amount of characters that I knew.

“What are we going to have?” I asked Lizard.

“You will see,” he said, smiling cleverly.

A waiter rapidly appeared with a pot of hot tea and asked us impatiently for our order. Lizard motioned to the waiter to come closer to him so Lizard could whisper our order without me overhearing. But the restaurant was so noisy that the waiter could not make out the order, so Lizard had to speak loudly; consequently, I overheard a bit of what Lizard was trying to conceal.

“What?” I said, quickly grabbing Lizard’s shoulder and turning him towards me. It sounded like he was ordering “girl soup.” I could only imagine what that was.

“Don’t worry, it’s a delicacy,” he said.

“What is it?” I asked.

“You will see,” he said, excited that I was concerned.

The waiter chimed in and said that the restaurant had stopped serving that special dish. Lizard was very disappointed, but ordered black dog instead. The Chinese believe that black dog is the tastiest of all dogs, followed by yellow dog, and then by multicolored dogs. The worst tasting dog, according to the Chinese, is white dog. I was curious, having never tried dog before, so I decided to give it a shot. When in Rome or “ru xiang sui su,” as the Chinese say. After the waiter left, Lizard and I chatted in Mandarin.

Lizard had been living in Shenzhen for two years now. His wife and two kids were living with him as well. He moved them over from Tainan, Taiwan, and was thoroughly enjoying the excitement of living in Shenzhen. There were so many Taiwanese living in Shenzhen that they actually had their own Taiwan-style school strictly for the children of Taiwan workers. He said that the school’s enrollment was well over two thousand students.

Four local men were sitting at a table practically inches away. They were drinking Tsingtao beer and were red faced, rowdy and feeling good. The guy nearest to me turned around, his face was so bright red from drinking alcohol that it looked sunburnt. He said to me in Mandarin, “You speak Chinese very good.”

“Not as good as you,” I replied in Mandarin and smiled, knowing that you can never accept a compliment in China.

“No, no,” he said. “Your Chinese is very good. Where you from?”

“My mother,” I said giving him the old joke.

“Ha, ha, me too! Do you speak Cantonese?” he asked in Mandarin.

“No, not yet,” I replied.

“Me neither, I’m from Beijing.”

“No wonder your Mandarin is so good,” I said, knowing the Chinese think that people from Beijing speak Mandarin the best.

“No, no,” he said, smiling from ear-to-ear. “I toast you, okay?” he said, holding up his glass.

Hao, hao,” I said, meaning “good good,” as he poured me a small glass of pi jiu or beer.

I slammed numerous shots of pi jiu down my throat as Lizard and I traded toasts with the gentlemen at the other table. We all chatted for a while and toasted each other over and over again, saying the traditional toast: gan bei (or literally “dry cup”).

After Lizard and I were feeling no pain, the man seated at the adjacent table came and sat down with Lizard and me. He introduced himself as Lao Liu and then told us the story about why Mr. Sheng, the owner of the establishment, did not serve his special dish at the restaurant any more. The gist of the story I have translated below.


۞۞۞


The childless couple, Mr. and Mrs. Sheng, had been trying to have a male child for years, to no avail. One day Mrs. Sheng came home and told her husband that she had some very important news to tell him.

“Old love, please tell me that you are pregnant!” Mr. Sheng said anxiously. “You will make me very happy! Please tell me it’s a boy,” he said as he sat down for dinner, bracing himself for the good news.

In a country where every couple is granted only one child, the male child is more highly prized, because only the male child can carry on the family name. This never really made any sense to me. Since there are really only a handful of last names in all of China, who really cares if you’re a Lin, Ma, Chin, or Lee? They’re all related, one-way or another. Secondly, since most of the Chinese couples only want a male child, you would think that somewhere down the line daughters would become very prized possessions that would warrant a fairly large dowry from the hordes of unmarried males. Unfortunately, the male child, through centuries of tradition, is the big face gainer. Even the government is in on it. In order to drastically reduce the country’s enormous population, the government turns a blind eye to the massive number of abortions, primarily of female fetuses, that routinely take place.

However, Mrs. Sheng was not pregnant. Instead, she revealed quite sternly to her husband that she had lost all the couple’s savings by making a bad investing.

When Mr. Sheng heard the news that his wife had lost all their money, he exploded! Mr. Sheng blamed Mrs. Sheng for everything he could think of.

“We were saving that money for our child and to open up a new restaurant. Now what will we do?” he cried. “Stupid woman! If you could only get pregnant with a male child, maybe our luck would change, but now, there’s no use getting pregnant, because we can’t afford a child now. I knew I should never have married you!”

“It was your cousin’s investment idea,” she retorted in tears. She’d only invested because she thought she could trust her husband’s cousin.

Ta ma da,” he screamed, which is a colloquialism that means, “fuck his mother.” “Had you stolen the investment money, then I might have had a little respect for you, but now, I, I can’t even look at you!”

After the heated argument, Mrs. Sheng felt so ashamed that she didn’t speak to her husband for a week, and he followed suit. Finally, her parents came over and tried to smooth things out. Mr. Sheng was reluctant to talk to his wife, but had no qualms yelling at his in-laws and telling them what a stupid daughter they had raised. His father-in-law became very incensed over the disrespectful way Mr. Sheng was speaking to all of them. The argument almost came to blows. Just before it did, the in-laws left and Mrs. Sheng retired to her bedroom, completely distraught.

As the weeks past, Mr. Sheng and Ms. Sheng slowly began speaking to one another again, but only in a perfunctory manner. Mr. Sheng started staying out later and later at night and coming home drunk. He tried to restrain himself from having sex with his wife, but some nights when he couldn’t resist the urge, he would mount her from behind and use his forearm to bury her head into the pillow so that he wouldn’t have to see her disagreeable face and be reminded of the money that she had squandered away.

Mr. Sheng needed to recoup his losses fast, so he pondered numerous ways of making money. One inebriated night, he talked to his crazy cousin, Bo-wan, who worked as a janitor at a big hospital and frequently thought up wild moneymaking schemes. This time Bo-wan came up with an ingenious new moneymaking idea “guaranteed” to make them both rich.

“With so many couples in China wanting boys,” said Bo-wan, “the abortion rate is over the top and all of those abortions are female fetuses. The hospital that I work at is overflowing with female fetuses and who do you think has to dispose of them? Me! So I have a fantastic idea! Why don’t you try to prepare a female fetus dish? It would be a huge success!”

“Interesting,” replied Mr. Sheng.

Bo-wan added that he could sneak all the recently aborted female fetuses out of the hospital, and instead of disposing of them; he could have them delivered right to Mr. Sheng’s restaurant. Of course, Bo-wan would want a cut of the profits and would have to offer his boss a few renmingbi as hush money.

“This just might be one of your best ideas yet,” Mr. Sheng exclaimed. “Don’t tell anyone about this idea. Anyone!” he said and quickly rushed home to devise an appropriate dish. Bo-wan came over the following day with a few fresh fetuses, still covered in bits and bobs from their plight.

After a process of trial and error, Mr. Sheng concocted the right combination of seasoning and the right dish: Hot pot, which is essentially a big bowl of spicy hot vegetable and meat soup. To make the new dish, Mr. Sheng would shave the fine hair off the fetus, wash it in soap and water, boil it to kill off any bacteria, marinate it overnight in a special sauce in the fridge and then serve her up in a super spicy hot broth with a nice array of vegetables. The soup had to be extremely spicy to cover up the rank odor that emanated naturally from the fetuses. He called his creation xiao nu la tang, which meant “spicy little girl soup.”

Once Mr. Sheng had secured enough female fetuses and was satisfied with the preparation of the dish, he began offering it to his most faithful customers. The first few people who were given the opportunity to try the new dish were initially tentative, especially after they found out what was in it, but a few diehards gave it a shot and raved about the tender meat and the delectable brain.

“Especially delicious was the meat on the cheeks and buttock of the fetus,” they all proclaimed. Customers dug into the fetus with their chopsticks as it floated around in the thick scarlet soupy broth and ate the meat, the innards, and the vegetables; drank the soup; and chased it all down with a bowl of steamed white rice.

Word spread that eating fetuses was good for your health. Lines soon formed around the building with customers eager to try this new specialty. Mr. Sheng worked overtime to fill all the orders and had to hire a few new chefs and install more tables in the restaurant to meet increased demand. Bo-wan meanwhile, rapidly made deals with every hospital and abortion clinic in town, as well as with those in the nearby vicinity.

Sure enough, copycats sprang up and began offering the exact same dish, all claiming to be the first, the originator. But what the competitors’ customers didn’t know was that Mr. Sheng and Bo-wan had cornered the market on fetuses in Shenzhen and the competitors were actually using cleverly disguised animal fetuses in their soups instead. Once customers at other restaurants learned that they were not eating human fetuses, they fled to Mr. Sheng’s. Faced with fewer customers, the competition fought back and began importing female fetuses from all over the vast country, but could not match Mr. Sheng’s low price for the locally made commodity. And Mr. Sheng was such a great chef, that he could even make female fetuses taste fantastic.

Mrs. Sheng wasn’t too keen on the new dish, but she was a dutiful wife and tried to please her husband. After earning a lot of money in his new venture, Mr. Sheng decided to celebrate and cheer up his wife who had seemed down as of late. One night at home he prepared a special new dish for her: Xiao nan la tang, which meant “spicy little male soup.”

Upon hearing the name of the new dish, Mrs. Sheng looked at her husband curiously. “You have a male fetus, not a female?”

“Yes indeed,” he proudly proclaimed. “This new dish is going to make us super rich. Old love, you look pale. What is wrong with you? Are you sick?”

“Oh, it’s nothing, just a woman’s problem,” she said; as she slowly sat down to eat.

“This new dish will make you strong again,” he exclaimed.

Mr. Sheng brought out a huge bowl of piping hot spicy red soup with a male fetus floating inside. The Shengs served themselves a bowl of white rice and began eating the hearty meal. Mr. Sheng dug into the floating fetus with his chopsticks and encouraged Ms. Sheng to taste the cheeks and buttocks of the unborn child. In his own way, he was trying to reconcile the past by starting anew. By offering his wife the best bits of the meal, he was showing her an inkling of respect.



“Good, yes,” he asked his silent wife.

“Very tasty, my husband,” she said, chewing slowly.

“Now try one of the cheeks, but dip it in sauce first,” he said, pointing to a small dish of sauce that he had prepared, made primarily of soy sauce, garlic, hot sauce, lemon juice and vinegar. She tore off part of a cheek, dipped it in the sauce and gingerly pushed it into her pouty little mouth.

Mr. Sheng pointed to the fetus’s penis with his chopsticks and offered it to his wife. She simply shook her head and politely encouraged her husband to take it, thinking that the fetal penis might give her husband some extra vim and vigor in the bedroom. A brief battle ensued over the fetal penis, with each person rapidly gesturing to one another with their chopsticks, trying to respectfully force the other person to consume the best part.

“You really outdid yourself, my husband,” she said, pushing her husband’s chopsticks towards the fetal penis. “This is exquisite. It will make you a fortune if you can only find enough women who are stupid enough to abort a male fetus.”

“We don’t have to find them because we are very lucky. Ha, ha! A new doctor has arrived in town, and I offered him a lot of money to give me male fetuses, because some of my very wealthy customers had specifically requested them. So the first one I offer to you, Old Love. I can probably charge my customers five times, maybe ten times what I charge them for the female dish. We will soon be ridiculously rich!”

“But why does this doctor abort male fetuses?” she asked, as Mr. Sheng adroitly broke off the little fetus’s uncircumcised penis and began dipping it in the sauce bowl.

“Well, that’s just it,” he said, still dipping. “Apart from the occasional distressed teenager or whore, there aren’t many women aborting male fetuses. So I told the new doctor to trick his patients into thinking that they are pregnant with a female fetus—not all of them, just the gullible ones—and then encourage those patients to abort their fetuses. The doctor makes his money both from the operation and from selling me the fetuses. He is very well connected. He just got married, just moved to town and recently opened his own clinic, so he needs all the help he can to get. It’s perfect! He makes money, we make money and nobody knows.”

Mrs. Sheng quickly reviewed the events of her busy day in her head. Once her husband had left their apartment that morning, she had secretly gone to visit Dr. Liang on Renming South Road to have an abortion. She had been to see him once before, and he had assured her that she was pregnant with yet another female child. Having been through the rigmarole over a female child with her pig-headed husband several times before, Mrs. Sheng knew that Mr. Sheng only wanted a male child, a female child simply would not do. Since the government only allowed one child, Mrs. Sheng knew what she had to do. This was her fourth abortion, she knew the routine. She did not want to tell her husband about the pregnancy, out of fear that he would call her stupid, complain about the cost of yet another abortion, or worse, want to cook it! So she borrowed the money from her cousin and unbeknownst to her husband, made an appointment with Dr. Liang.

She had carefully chosen Dr. Liang because he was new in town, had a nice clean new office, and she hoped and prayed that he had not been in business long enough to be in cahoots with her crafty husband.

When she checked in, Mrs. Sheng used her maiden name, so that the doctor would not have any inkling who she was. After all, she did not want anyone finding out what she had been up to. This was a very private matter. She chatted with the nurse before the operation and learned that hers was the only abortion being performed that day.

Concerned, Mrs. Sheng asked, “He has done this before, hasn’t he?”

“Oh yes,” the young nurse assured her.

Mrs. Sheng’s suspicions were aroused after the operation when she asked to see the fetus. The doctor became nervous and made excuses. Mrs. Sheng stood her ground and demanded to see the fetus. She waited until the nurse finally came out carrying a rather large female fetus.

“This fetus is ice cold,” complained Mrs. Sheng.

“Yes, yes, we put them on ice to preserve them. We always turn them over to scientists to inspect them for abnormalities after the abortion.”

“Well, why is it so big? I’ve only been pregnant for fifteen weeks at the most.”

“It’s about normal size for fifteen weeks,” the doctor assured her.

Mrs. Sheng ordered the nurse to put the fetus in a bag and hand it over to her. Afterwards, she was quickly shooed out of the office, even though she complained that she wasn’t feeling very well.

In the taxi ride home, she noticed that she was losing blood. She hurriedly made her way to a hospital and learned that she was permanently damaged from the abortion and could not conceive any more children. The doctor at the abortion clinic had botched the operation. To make matters worse, Mrs. Sheng had one of the doctors inspect her aborted fetus and was told that it was probably at least twenty weeks along.

Burdened with this incredibly terrible news, she made her way home, afraid to tell her husband that she would not be able to conceive any more children. With all her might, she struggled to appear as if the previous events had not happened. As she arrived home, her husband, unaware of her extreme agony, prepared the male fetal soup. She wanted to vomit when she saw it on the table, wanted to run and hide, but she could not let her husband know about her abortion. He would only blame her again for being a stupid woman who could not conceive the prized male child. She had to be strong and not let on.

Back at the Sheng’s dining room table, Mr. Sheng sucked the fetal penis into his mouth as his black cat sat expectantly in the corner. Mrs. Sheng summoned all of her strength to ask her husband the one question that was troubling her—a question that she really didn’t want answered. “You say that you now have a doctor giving you male fetuses?”

“Yes, it’s pure genius!” said Mr. Sheng slowly, munching the penis, anticipating the vitality it would surely bring to him.

“What is the doctor’s name?” Mrs. Sheng asked carefully, while clenching her fists tightly.

“Dr. Liang,” he said, stuffing his mouth full of rice.

“Dr. Liang what?”

“Dr. Liang Ho,” he said, licking a grain of rice from his lips.

“On Renming South Road?”

“Yes, that’s the one,” he said, accidentally spitting out a few grains of rice as he spoke. “Do you know him?”

The realization abruptly hit her like a sledgehammer; she had been misled by Dr. Liang. She had thought that she was aborting yet another female fetus, while in reality, it had actually been a male fetus, the very one that the couple had just thoroughly consumed.

Attacked by a vision of extreme clarity, Mrs. Sheng suddenly became enraged. She stood up and began yelling and screaming. She threw her chopsticks at her husband. She grabbed her head and started pulling out her hair. She spun around the room in circles, wailing at the top of her lungs.

Mr. Sheng thought his wife had suddenly become possessed by an evil spirit. “What are you doing?” he cried, standing up and trying to calm his wife down.

Mrs. Sheng continued screaming incessantly and spinning wildly. Eventually, she ran downstairs and out into the street, wailing in agony. The neighbors tried, but they could not console her.

Because Mr. Sheng had no inkling that his wife had had an abortion that day, he was completely shocked by her erratic behavior. “Women, they’re so emotional,” he muttered to himself as he sat back down and finished off the last of the soup. “I am going to become very rich with this dish!” he assured himself.

After finishing his meal, Mr. Sheng tossed bits of the soft fetal bones to his black cat, it devoured them in seconds.

Neighbors quickly began coming over to his apartment wondering what had happened to his wife. “She saw a ghost,” he replied simply to avoid conversation. In fact, he didn’t know what happened to his wife that night, but once he finally found out, he became deeply distraught.

Ms. Sheng eventually confided in some of her neighbors that evening. The news spread like wild fire. A mob quickly formed and completely demolished Dr. Liang’s office and ran him out of town. He was lucky to escape with his life.


۞۞۞


Back at the restaurant, Lao Liu who was extremely drunk by this time said, “And that is why Mr. Sheng does not serve xiao nu la tang anymore. But you should try the boiled rat fetus, it’s ‘ta ma da hao,’” which loosely translated means “it’s fucking good.”

“Maybe next time,” I said, as the waiter brought out our main course. A big plate of black dog starred me right in the face. I was so disgusted by Lao Liu’s story that I couldn’t muster the energy to try the dish.

“Come on,” said Lizard attacking the meal enthusiastically, “You must try the black dog, it’s unbelievably good!”

I apologized profusely and just nibbled on my white rice.



*For more information, search online for: “China fetus soup”.



###

Will the Thrill



His name was Will, but I called him “Will the Thrill” because he always had something exciting to say or do. He was a big, loud, brash American. The way Americans are supposed to be. He had two solid tree trunks for legs, above them was a huge barrel chest, and screwed onto a thick neck was a square chiseled face.

When Will said something you believed it without question. When he spoke people listened and then commented. He knew where he came from, where he was going, and what he stood for.

He grew up in Iowa and then moved to North Carolina where he studied briefly at Chapel Hill. He wanted to be an international businessman, but quit school after a few years, got bored of it.

He had to be a first-born child. You can’t help but imagine him giving orders all his life. And teaching? He said he taught English to kids for a year in Japan. I tried and tried to imagine him teaching children: “A is for apple! Get it. A. Apple. SAY IT! Drop and give me twenty you whimpering snot-nosed twerps!”

Before Japan, he was in the army. Says he saw a lot of bad things during his stint. He’s been all over the planet, except Antarctica, but that’s on the list. He’s done it all and seen it all.

He said resolutely that he only dates Asian women. Period. His last Asian girlfriend in the States was rude to his parents one night because she didn’t show up for dinner. Made excuses. “That’s bullshit,” said Will. He dumped her on principle, but his face would soften a little when he spoke of her.

Got his head straight after Japan and went back to school. Likes it. Was just traveling this time for the summer.

Although he’s only twenty-five years old, he seems twice as old as that. He’s lived life. And when asked about life he said, “The war didn’t get me, but I know I’m gonna die, early. Hell, I was just over in Thailand. I was fucking this whore and right in the middle, the rubber broke. I went, ‘Oh FUCK!’ I’m terrified to take an AIDS test. I probably got it right now.”



###

Totally Losing Face



It was Christmas Eve 1994 and I was on my own drinking away my misery in the Moxy, one of the few foreign hangouts in Taipei, Taiwan. The Moxy was an ancient two-storied bar complete with old rock posters, cobwebs and rats crawling on the rafters. I was sitting at the end of the downstairs’ bar, keeping to myself and enjoying a quiet beer or two, when suddenly she slinked her way into the dingy, music-throbbing, light-twinkling, smoke-billowing bar, like a lioness on the prowl. I thought about ducking for cover, but instead stood my ground and ordered another beer. Watching the mirror on the wall behind the bar, I saw her sniff me out, before moving in for the kill. I was hopelessly perched on a barstool, alone in a foreign country, and bracing myself for the inevitable agony that she was surely about to inflict. Putting my beer to my mouth, I stared straight ahead, until someone tapped me on the shoulder. The attack had begun. Slowly, I turned around on my barstool and faced her.

“Hi,” she said shyly, looking downwards, as if to apologize for her misgivings.

I wanted to act like one ferociously pissed off motherfucker, but civility prevailed. I said, “Hmmm,” without emotion. Then I turned back towards the bar, as if I hadn’t seen her. I was hoping she’d get the hint and LEAVE. But instead, she just waited, without saying a word. After a few minutes had passed, I finally spun around and said, “WHAT?”

“I want to say sorry for you,” she said in a high-pitched little girl’s voice. I hated that voice. I had heard that shrill whine many times before. She knew how to use it well to get what she wanted.

“Why,” I asked, through clenched teeth. I stared her straight in the eyes for the longest time. Her glassy orbs were so dark that you couldn’t see where her pupils began and ended; they just merged with her irises.


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