Saturday, March 28, 2015

Yu, Me and the General Tso's Chicken.

I have to admit, I had been itching for a bowl of General Tso's chicken all day. Thankfully, I was off work and ready to tickle my insides with something spicy. There's only once place that could satisfy my craving...

Mung Fu's Exotic Eatery (and Tax Preparation).

As I pulled into the dimly lit parking lot in front of Mung's, my headlights pierced the smoky windows of the restaurant. I could make out a few customers swirling through the interior lobby, but it didn't look busy. It was no problem, though; I called my order in before leaving the office. Swiftly, with the speed of a tiger shark and the hunger of a starving crocodile, I slipped out of my vehicle and through the front door.


That entrance door bell was probably the only thing I didn't like about Mung Fu's. Everything else was absolutely divine. I approached the front counter and spoke to the ever-present Yu Jie. The funny thing about Yu was that I could never tell if she was flirting with me or not. Not once had I ever worked up the nerve to ask for her number. Perhaps my luck was about to change.

"Yu, how are things?"

"Very nice. It's a warm evening. Santa Ana's are strong today."

"Indeed, don't start any fires you can't put out!"

(Doh... you idiot, why did you just say that? Stupid, stupid!)

"Oh, don't you worry. I have absolute control. You had the General Tso's?"

"Sure did. Been craving it all day."

Yu stepped away from the register and vanished into the kitchen. A few seconds later, she emerged from the always mysterious back room with my order. YES!

"That'll be $10.76."

I fumbled through my wallet for my debit card and passed it over to Yu. She looked at me with those eternally wet almond eyes. We locked our gazes onto each other for a moment. I could feel her thumb touch mine.

"Enter your PIN number."

"Oh yes.. sorry. I'm such a goof."

(Goof? Who says goof anymore? It's 2015!)

As I watched Yu fiddle with the register and prepare my receipt, I knew tonight was the night. I was finally going to ask for her phone number.

"Here you go. Hope dinner is good."

"Ugh... say Yu... I have a question."

"Don't worry -- we have the best reviews in the city. I promise you, that's chicken."

"Oh yes, I know. I love your food as much as my mother's cooking. I just wanted to ask you a question..."

She stared at me blankly for a moment, much like a jaguar watching its prey from the cover of night. Calm, collected, silent... her lips ever so apart, waiting to say "No."

"Yu... maybe we could grab dinner sometime? Could I have your phone number?"

"That's two questions... which one do you want me to answer?"

(Oh no... I fumbled already. So stupid!)

"Sorry, could I have your phone number?"

"You already have my phone number. You called in the order, remember?"

"I mean... could I have your number? I would like to take you out sometime."

Yu stepped back from the counter once again, but never took her eyes off of me. I felt like a TPS report being run through a copier for the millionth time.

"I see. You want MY number. Tell me... why should I give you my phone number? The right answer gets you the number."

Great... she had a riddle for me. My brain suddenly slammed against my throat, searching for a decent answer. I looked behind me at my car... nope, my Toyota Camry wasn't the right answer. Darting my eyes to the left, I saw myself in a hanging mirror. Ahhh... my pudgy belly wasn't the answer, either. Then, as if an angel swooped in wearing a cloak of invisibility, I heard a voice in my right ear.

"Tell her you like watercolor painting."

Yu's eyes lit up with the fire of an exploding gasoline tanker.

"Papa... get out of here!"

And there was Mung himself, slapping me on the back. He had a devilish grin that split his face like a canyon.

"My boy, you've got courage. Did you know Yu could murder you with one finger in five different ways? It's true -- I taught her myself!"

"Go away Papa! Don't you have some soup to stir?"

Mung slinked back to the kitchen, still grinning like a hyena. My eyes shifted back to Yu, who was obviously embarrassed.

"I'm s-s-sorry Yu. I didn't mean to upset you. Just forget it..."

Before I could finish, she reached over the counter and grabbed my tie. Yanking me forwards like a slot machine arm, I stumbled and nearly ate the counter top.

"I still expect an answer. Right answer gets my number. Wrong answer gets you nothing but disgrace."

Closing my eyes, I went blank for a moment. Space and time seemed to fall away into nothingness. Then, it hit me...

"You shouldn't give me your number. I'm crazy for even asking. Yu... you've got better things to do than go on a date with me."

A single, fluttering butterfly escaped from my mouth. I gulped in defeat.

"Yes... I have better things to do. Practice my violin, go jogging, watch old reruns of 'Get Smart'. But... I was looking for something humble to spill out of your mouth, and it did."

Yu released my tie, to which I promptly stopped holding my breath and rocked backwards. She hurriedly scribbled on my receipt, then placed it carefully in my right palm.

"Don't lose it. You only get one chance at this. Call me tomorrow before 9 PM. No later."

Glancing down, I could make out a series of ten digits. Ten... glorious... digits.

"Close your mouth. It's not polite."

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror once again. My jaw needed a set of suspenders. Turning to look at Yu, she was already gone. It didn't matter, though. My bravery had paid off. Not only was I walking out of Mung Fu's with some kick-ass General Tso's chicken, but I also had the ten most valuable numbers on Planet Earth. Reaching for the front door to leave, that blasted bell sounded again.


"Hey, you..."

Yu peeked her head out of the kitchen, just enough for me to see her face and one hand grasping the frame of the doorway. It looked like she was about to say something, but bit her lip instead. Batting her eyes at me, she paused for a moment...

Then she just winked at me and retreated into that magical gallery of Mung Fu's Exotic Eatery...

(and Tax Preparation).

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