The little Chinese restaurant with its silly rickshaw logo and its garish red neon sign was the only thing open this late. The food was bad, but it was cheap and plentiful. Nigel and I were hungry enough to peer over the edge of the Dumpster out back, so it would do, just this once. The owner was a pretentious little Brit who tried to grow a Fu-Manchu mustache. It didn’t help; he still looked like a pretentious little Brit. The waitstaff never stuck around very long, and I had the feeling they only hired on to mock him from a better vantage point. I couldn’t blame them.
Our waiter, Charlie, was a nice guy. He’d stuck around longer than most, close to a year. I think he felt it his civic duty to steer patrons clear of ptomaine.
“I’ll have the Lazy Chicken,” I said.
“That one was too lazy to cross the road. Got hit. Try Piss Pig instead.”
“Piss Pig? Sounds…appetizing.” The menu was always an adventure. The owner was too cheap to hire a real translator, or even to ask Charlie for help. He used a smartphone app and a Sharpie Marker, then sent Charlie down to make copies at the Kinko’s down the road.
“He was going for ‘spicy’ – tried for ‘pissed,’ you know, ‘angry.’ Somehow got ‘Urinal Pig.’ Piss Pig sounds nicer. More…appetizing. Alliterative, too. You want?” Charlie had a Masters in Asian Studies and spoke both Mandarin and Cantonese. Jobs for the overeducated were in scarce supply, these days, as both Nigel and I could attest.
“Sure. With fried lice, er, rice.”
Charlie snickered. “Good, good. Most westerners don’t appreciate the protein in lice. Throw in some fat juicy cockroaches for free.” I smiled thanks. He turned to Nigel. “I suggest Fat Man Ass.”
“Hell no,” said Nigel.
“It’s good.” Charlie was working hard to keep a straight face. You could tell he loved a good menu change. Another set of subtle ways to torture the boss.
“Okay, I’ll bite. What the heck is it?”
“Ribeye? In a Chinese restaurant?”
“Very popular with cowboys. He tried translating ‘thick steak for cowboys’ and got ‘Fat Man Ass.’ I don’t criticize the Boss man. You know he doesn’t like that. He got fat man ass from cowboy? I don’t judge.”
By now I could hardly contain my laughter. “Throw some crunchy worms in my Piss Pig, okay, Charlie?” Piss Pig, I knew, was machine translation for pork chow mein.
“Sure thing, Miss. Crispy rice noodles, coming up.” Charlie gave me a wink and trotted off to the kitchen.
“What’s the name of this place?” asked Nigel. The fancy, blinking neon sign must’ve cost a fortune. I could see its reflection in the window across the street: 幸运的内衣
“Xìngyùn de nèiyī,” I said.
“Refers to fancy cooking utensils,” said Charlie, coming back with our food. “What Boss man cook your food in.”
I shook my head and smirked at Nigel’s perplexed expression. “Lucky underwear,” I explained. “Charlie, you’d better hope ol’ cheapskate in there never hires a real translator.”
This short story was the end result of Saturday night’s #blogcrawl event, the brainchild of Cairn Rodrigues (
@CairnRodrigues on Twitter). See Blog Crawl for the explanation, and Lucky Underwear – Blog Crawl 1 for Cairn’s own take on her own prompt (I think she had an insider advantage, there).
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And in my next post, I tell you how to re-create “Ladies’ Night at the Boozy Bears Spa” – complete with recipes for everything you see below: