Excerpt from a work in progress
This was my moment: choke or breathe. Either the cubed potato would slip down my throat or clog up my air filter.
So far, my soul hadn’t bailed out on me. Thoughts continued to light up my brain while my fatalistic, internal drama queen ranted on about the end of days. It focused me in a weird, disturbing way. I no longer pined about losing time or sight of my goals.
I had one big assed delusional goal lurking in front of me. Staying alive! Staying alive! Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, staying alive! No other pathetic self-perpetuated malady could come close in comparison.
Either that potato would make it down my esophagus or EMT workers would be hauling off my corpse tonight on a stretcher and Jim would be cooking for one. He was the better cook anyway.
I don’t remember the point when I stopped stressing over the potato and my early demise. Did it happen downstairs in the kitchen or upstairs in the office? I have no recollection. One minute death obsessed, the next I was in front of the computer screen staring at white space.
Maybe it was a white light and my dead relatives would be arriving any minute to take me to heaven for some Chinese food.
That’s what my family did every Sunday night when I was kid, a Tung Hoy night out with the grandparents and immediate family, although my younger brother and I didn’t know the meaning of immediate. We were usually late.
I would enjoy hearing the dinner din again, especially the pre appetizer spat over what to order, as soon as the waiter handed out the food-stained menus.
I didn’t care what I got in the Chinese food lottery as long as it included a bowl of wonton soup. But that wouldn’t happen until my folks stopped arguing over the merits of ordering from A” or “B,” while the waiter stood with a fake smile, head slightly bowed, probably regretting his table assignment.
“Spareribs and egg rolls,” my father said, and then slammed the menu down on the table.
I chimed in with “I want fried lice.”
Back then, you could get away with saying crass ethnic shit if you were a kid. Political correctness didn’t exist. Even so, I got a death-ray stare from my mother across the table.
Meanwhile, my grandmother was flossing her teeth with a matchbook cover. She didn’t get a death-ray stare from my mother for committing a major social faux pas. Grandmothers could get away with old world habits. Hell, I have a picture of her on a horse-drawn carriage.
They didn’t have toothpicks back then. Just ice picks. Someone would have to be in a bad place to remove a piece of meat from their teeth with an ice pick, a perfect excuse for an unhappy wife or husband to get rid of a spouse.
“But officer, I was just trying to remove a hunk of chicken from my wife’s teeth when the ice pick slipped and impaled her brain.”
If my dead relatives happened to sneak down from heaven and observe a day in my unstructured world, they’d probably be disappointed and not stick around. Once back up in heaven, they’d share their experiences with the other dearly departed. “It’s okay,” they’d say. “We’re not missing anything.”