Maggie’s expression melted into concern. “Is something wrong?”
What was I supposed to do? Tell her I’d been wondering for the past 30 hours whether I’m insane? Tell her that the revelation of a hot lunch date only confirmed that I’m not? And that the alternative to insanity is actually more disturbing? “No, I’m fine. How about Chinese food?”
I think she could tell I was lying. But she put on a happy front. “Ooh, I was hoping you’d say that.”
I grabbed my keys. “The usual?”
I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
When I was sixteen, I had a brief stint working at a Chinese restaurant in the mall – The General’s Chicken. (They billed themselves as the Kentucky Fried Chicken alternative, and their logo was of a Colonel Sanders look-alike with squinty eyes. Not very PC, but, hey, this was northern Illinois we’re talking about.) One day, the manager put me in a chicken costume and had me flap my wings as I stood just outside the food court. I only did it once, but it was for a six-hour shift on a Saturday, and now every time I go to a Chinese restaurant and smell the scents of scalding sesame oil and hosein sauce wafting through the air, I’m back in that bird suit, flapping my heavy wings, and smelling my own breath.
Tonight was no exception. Just outside the front door, I recalled the ridicule I’d been forced to withstand. And then someone hit me in side of my head. I fell to the ground, my ears ringing.
Through my star-filled gaze, I saw Eric Two looking down at me. “Let me guess,” he said. “Szechwan chicken.”
I held my ear and moved my jaw a few times. “Kung Pao,” I said.
“Let’s go around back. We don’t want anyone breaking up the fight.”
I didn’t have the first clue on how to fight somebody. He did. When I charged at him, he threw me against the dumpster. It hurt, but not as bad as I made it sound. “Ow, Jesus! My arm!”
“I think you broke it,” I said.
He took a step closer. “Told you I was good.” He was holding a knife.
I remained cowering against the dumpster like a hurt animal. I noticed a pair of chopsticks on the ground.
“Your girlfriend thinks I’m pretty good, too.”