"Death by Chinese: Only After the General Tsao's Chicken Has Welded Your Arteries Shut and, Spiraling to the Ground, You're Stabbed in an Artery by a Pair of Chopsticks"
The background to this story is so simple that I'm actually going to try to keep it that way.
But give a girl credit for good intentions.
Truth is, it's late, which means the tv screen is only broadcasting windchill temperatures for towns up by the Canadian border, so I need to go to bed or at least head upstairs and read because that'll mean my body will be a few feet further away from the boxes of Thin Mints, Thanks-a-Lotses, Carmel Delites, and Peanut Butter Patties that keep trying to leap into my mouth.
Here's what you need to know:
1) My six-year-old, Paco (his W-2 reads "Wee Niblet"), loves China and all things Chinese, especially that saucy minx, Madame Mao. Okay, also gongs and dragons. And maybe not so much Madame Mao. Like they even learn about her in kindergarten. With the size of today's classes and all the irrelevant No Child Left Behind standardized testing, they're lucky if they manage to get as far as Mussolini in their "Famous Mercurial World Leaders" unit by the end of the school year. Madame Mao has to wait for first grade. And for reincarnation. 'Cause she's dead. Pretty much, she'd be lucky to go to first grade, at this point.
2) Paco has a best friend, Tappy. Tappy is a real person although the pseudonym I've just made up for him here makes him sound like a pet woodpecker. But, really, Tappy exists. He, too, goes to kindergarten and actively knows nothing about Madame Mao.
3) Last week, I took Paco and Tappy (and all their many imaginary friends, including Paco's pal Surrpy) to see a noon-time concert in the cafeteria at my college. While the boys did make french fries dance on the table while we were there, the formal performance was, in fact, given by a troupe of Chinese musicians who play traditional instruments. At the start of the program, Surrpy rushed the stage. It got kind of ugly when the Hell's Angels security guards beat him down.
Gawd. He's only a toddler, and he's invisible.
Biker security is hardcore.
This is the Chinese group, playing at a different college the week before:
In a total random sidenote--and wasn't I doing so well with keeping things simple?--a little bit after the performance, the entire group of female musicians went into the bathroom to change out of their show clothes and into jeans and hoodies before they were treated to hamburgers in the cafeteria. As it turns out, I had to pee. When I opened the bathroom door and waded into all eight of them half-naked, it was incredibly unnerving to see all their heads swivel and have them call out, loudly and in unison, "HIIIIIIIII!" Fearing a group hug, I wanly gestured a sort of "howdeedoo-you-scare-me" and ducked into the nearest stall, where I contemplated the advantages and disadvantages of joining The People's Party upon my exit. Advantage: I could take off my shirt in public. Disadvantage: I'd be taking off my shirt in public. Bigger disadvantage: I'd be surrounded their pert "HIIIII"s which would emphasize the saggingness of my "howdeedoo"s.
Refocusing now on the main event:
Just at the concert's end, the college's hail-fellow-well-met history instructor, seeing me there with two kids still young enough to be dazzled that they were drinking pop, came over to our table to make nice and ask how the boys had liked the performance. Naturally, the lads sat and stared at him, frozen and mute, Sprite bottles locked to their lips.
As I do, I piped up. "Oh, they really enjoyed it. Both of these little guys really love China. Paco here even has announced he's going to live there when he grows up."
Continuing the nice, History Instructor asked of Tappy, "And how about you? Do you want to live there, also?"
Feeling the fizz of bubbles up his nose, Tappy did a strange grin/grimace as he responded, "I do, but only if they don't kill me."
Even I couldn't think of a quick load of crap to throw at my colleague to push us past that one. All I could come up with was, "Uh? What? You mean you want to live there before you die, Tappy?"
With a tiny burp, Tappy--whose family are devoted members of the Assemblies of God, as it turns out--carried on, "No, I mean that in China they point a rifle at your chest and ask you in a mean voice, 'DO YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST?' So they'd probably kill me. I think I'm just going to live in California."
And again with the awkward beat of bewildered silence.
Plus another, during which I resisted noting that while he has a point about human rights abuse, we could also--IF HE WEREN'T SIX--discuss the statistical likelihood of dying at the wrong end of a gun in the U.S., particularly in California. We'll let Madame Mao give that lecture next year, in first grade.
What to say to my stunned-looking fellow brain enlightener who, incidentally, has spent a career specializing in Chinese history, politics, and culture?
Gurgling, I managed to jerk my head towards Tappy and choke out an inane, "I think maybe it's the first time he's had Sprite."
Without another word, History Instructor fled to the haven of his office.
Not able to flee, exactly, what with being in charge of all kindergarteners Saved and Unsaved, I took the next best option and informed the boys that I had to go to the bathroom and they'd have to wait just outside.
In the bathroom, as you well know, I was faced with a brigade of Chinese who did, indeed, point their weapons directly at me.
Praise Jeebus, but it's a miracle I made it out alive.
Here are a couple minutes of the music ensemble playing that day in the cafeteria. Keep your eyes peeled for rifles and Surrpy.