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Thirteen Moon Cakes by Felix Kent


I read a story on the Internet of a man who was paralyzed after he ate twelve moon cakes, so I went out and bought thirteen. There were reasons, which I won’t go into now, why it seemed like a good idea. The moon cakes cost me seventeen dollars. I got them at the Chinese bakery around the corner. I don’t know if it’s a good Chinese bakery or not. I have a friend who knows which are the good Chinese bakeries, but the one she says is the best always has a long line stretched out the sidewalk in front of it. I’ve never asked her about the one around the corner from me. I’m too scared she’ll tell me it’s terrible, out of the question.
     I was self-conscious ordering the moon cakes. I don’t speak Chinese, and the phrase “moon cake” seems so poetic, almost presumptuous to use. But if I had pointed I might have pointed at the wrong thing. Or the man behind the counter might have misread the direction of my finger.
     I worried that the man behind the counter would also have read the story on the Internet about the man who ate twelve moon cakes and was paralyzed and would look at me suspiciously. He didn’t, though.
     It was noisy in the Chinese bakery. Also it was a hot day, which made it seem noisier. I had to shout when I asked for the moon cakes. I felt like a fool.
     “Large or small?” the man asked. I didn’t know; the story I had read didn’t say. It left out all kinds of important details. Like the man’s height and weight and what else was in his stomach. I wished they had included those things.
     “Large,” I said. After all, I could always stop eating when paralysis set in.
     The bakery is around the corner from my house, but it was hot and it seemed farther. As I walked home I wondered what it would be like to be paralyzed. My feet hurt, because I had been standing at work all day. The bag seemed bulky. I could see spots of grease coming through the white paper. I clutched it.
     I let myself into my hot and dirty apartment. I got myself some tap water. I didn’t like the cup that I was using to drink the tap water, but it was the only clean cup. Tap water didn’t seem like the right thing to drink with the moon cakes. I wished I had milk.
     I sat there for a while, drinking my tap water and deciding whether or not to go out again to get milk. Sometimes I thought I would, and sometimes I thought I wouldn’t, and sometimes I thought I would put off the whole moon-cake-eating project to the next day. In the end I went out and got milk. When I got back I was even hotter and I didn’t want to eat pastries or anything for that matter so I watched a bunch of re-runs and went to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night hungry. I lay there until I fell back asleep.
     The next day I didn’t want to eat the moon cakes. They looked gross and stale inside the box. The whole idea seemed dumb. But I had put too much effort into it at that point. So I poured myself a glass of milk and started eating.
     The first moon cake was pretty good. But the second one made my skin crawl. I couldn’t finish it. I put the rest of the moon cakes in the trash can.
     I sprained my ankle the next week; also I eventually drank the rest of the milk.
     
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Felix Kent‘s writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.  She lives in Northern California.