Fall 2008

Table of Contents - Vol. IV, No. 3


Poetry    Translations    Fiction    Essays   

Adam McGavin


No Soy Sauce, Chopstick Please

I eat at a fledgling little Vietnamese restaurant and the
chipper little lady behind the counter, with
two shelves of half-a-hundred teeth always asks me exactly
two questions every visit. “You want soy sauce?” and
“You want chop stick?” It always has and always
will be ‘no’ to the prior, but the latter
always took a few more ticks of thought. She’d stand
behind the chest-high counter as firmly as the golden lion on the wall
while she refereed her two young daughters. Her unassumptive wait
for me to answer after weeks of coupled ‘nos’
delighted me. She didn’t even bat a ‘lash when I gave up my constant
refusal and said ‘yes’ to the second of the two questions.
She just grabbed the wooden sticks in their scripted red sleeve, and chased them in
the same brown bag with a pair of staples.

I’ve seen others use chopsticks with much more elegance than me, but
that doesn’t bother my machismo the least. My snuggly packed vegetable chow mein
was my first patient. It stubbornly fell to the plate, still rigidly rimmed in
the shape of the clear-topped container.
I skipped the three step instructions on the sleeve that lacked any words
of any language and began callusing the skin between my thumb and index finger.
After the third or fourth scoop I mastered—as much as any
American can – how to shovel half-fist size clumps of noodles and veggies.
I misfire now and again, with a lonely two noodle bite, but I’ve flattered
myself at my semi-mastery. I’m somewhere between nihilist and elitist
and my micro-victory over tradition earns me a side smile a few times a week.


© Adam McGavin



Poetry    Translations    Fiction    Essays   

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