A Flash Play by Steven Stark
SETTING: Dark, smoky bar. Typical atmosphere. A group of tables are scattered around the bar.
GORDO: This place. It’s crawling with Americans.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: So? We’re American.
GORDO: So it’s fucking Beijing. It’s Chinese.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: If you want to see Chinese, go outside. There’s lots out there.
GORDO: I mean the menu is even in English. Fish and chips. What kind of Chinese food is that?
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: It’s just a hotel bar menu.
GORDO: But shit. A bar menu in Beijing.
A slim pretty waitress wearing a white shirt and black pants, arrives smiling, a pencil behind her ear.
WAITRESS: May I take your order
GORDO: Pardon me, are you Chinese?
WAITRESS: No. Are you?
GORDO: Very funny.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Always good for a laugh.
WAITRESS: I’m from Singapore.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this? (Puts a hand on her shoulder and not so lightly at that. She laughs.
WAITRESS: Would you like something to drink?
GORDO: How about something local?
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Yeah, local. We’re working here a few weeks. Plumbing fixtures.
GORDO: Do you serve Mai Tais?
WAITRESS: I’m sure we do.
GORDO: Because it’s not on the menu.
WAITRESS: Not everything we serve is on the menu.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Something authentic.
WAITRESS: Two Mai Tais. With a twist?
GORDO: I thought you’d never ask. No twist.
She smiles and heads back to the bar.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: With a twist of what?
GORDO: Didn’t you notice? She didn’t even write it down.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: It’s two Mai Tais. Why write it down?
GORDO: Because if she were fuckin’ Chinese she’d have to write it down. We ordered in English.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: So?
GORDO: See over there? Those two? I’ll bet they’re hookers.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Based on what?
GORDO: Based on the fact they’re Chinese, that’s what.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: So?
GORDO: So, they’re the only ones here. Other than the bartender and the waitresses of course.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: It is their country.They live here.
GORDO: Look at how they’re dressed. And by themselves, with that makeup and alL.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: I don’t think --
Gordo Patterson has already stood up and walked over to their table.
GORDO: My friend and I were talking. We were wondering what you’re doing here. By yourselves.
FIRST GIRL: Same thing as you.
She lights a cigarette.
GORDO: You American?
FIRST GIRL: Uh. Yeah. What of it?
GORDO: I just thought ----
FIRST GIRL: I know what you thought
The second girl exhales smoke, hitting Gordo Patterson between the eyes. He blinks.
FIRST GIRL: It’s OK. You’re not the first.”
GORDO: Enjoying your trip?
FIRST GIRL: We live here. First time in China?
GORDO: Yeah. But I don’t speak Chinese.
FIRST GIRL: No worries. Just say ‘Knee-how’ all the time.
FIRST GIRL: That’s it -- just stress the ‘knee’ a bit more. And sound like you’re asking a question.
FIRST GIRL: That’s kind of it.
Gordo glances at the TV above the bar.
GORDO: Who’s playing?
FIRST GIRL: I don’t know. I don’t like soccer.
GORDO: Me neither.
FIRST GIRL: I think your friend needs you. He’s waving.
GORDO: He does that sometimes.
SECOND SMOKING GIRL: Well he’s doing it now..
GORDO: I guess I’ll see you later.
FIRST GIRL: If you come here again you will.
Gordo goes back to his table.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Sorry It’s just the drinks arrived.
GORDO: You thought they’d get cold?
The friend doesn’t answer. .
GORDO: They’re not Chinese. They’re American too.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Hmm -- good Mai Tais, don’t you think?”
GORDO: Everybody smokes here. It’s fuckin’ incredible. The place reeks.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: You could go outside.
GORDO: Where it’s cold and reeks even more. Like that old stretch on the Jersey turnpike.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Worse really.
Gordo stirs his drink with an index finger.
GORDO: They say it’s gonna be this way all week. Someone said they might even have to close the airport because of the smog.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Who said?
GORDO: Better not close it down when we have to get outta here. We’ll have had enough of this place.”
The waitress in white and black from Singapore comes back.
WAITRESS: Ready to order? Or another drink maybe?
A table in the corner with four or five huge guys and only one girl buried in the middle is swept with raucous laughter, not for the first time. They all look over.
GORDO: What part of Singapore are you from?
WAITRESS: The old part.
GORDO: Sounds nice. Different.
WAITRESS: Would you like to order?
GORDO: Hmm. I’ll have fish and chips. Some bread too, if you have any.
WAITRESS: And you?
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: How’s the pizza?
GORDO: Ever had a bad pizza?
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Not really.
WAITRESS: The pizza’s good here. Anything on it?
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: I like pepperoni.
WAITRESS: We haven’t got pepperoni. Ham OK?”
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Sure.
The waitress begins to head back to the bar.
She turns around.
WAITRESS: Knee how to you too.
She smiles and goes back to what she was doing.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Where’d you learn how to do that?
GORDO: Around. I pick up things.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Wish we could pick up those two.
GORDO: I don’t know if we could stand the smoke.
HIS OVERWEIGHT FRIEND: Think we’ll eventually meet some Chinese?
GORDO: You can meet all the fuckin’ Chinese you want back home in Chinatown. You ain’t gonna find ‘em here.
About Steven Stark: I'm the author of a few books of non-fiction and my fiction and poetry have recently been published (or will be) in 3 am, Litn'Image, Mudlark, McSweeney's, HOOT, Otoliths, Mobius, fleeting, and, among others, Clapboard House, where I won the short story prize.