Author Archives: Minna Hong

Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter four, part one

“Trixie, get your ass in here!”  Eddie bellowed at me from inside his office the minute I showed up for work the next morning.  He was looking particularly repulsive as he had bits of egg clinging to his once-white t-shirt.  I stepped into his office, and he slammed the door behind me, causing my hackles to raise several inches.  I didn’t like being enclosed in a small space with a man I didn’t trust, but he was the one paying my checks.  As long as he kept his greasy paws to himself, I would put up with his odious self.

“Yes, Eddie?”  I asked, keeping my voice this side of civil.

“Tell me all you know about Lydia,” he barked.  “And what’s this about you guys switching costumes?  You know that’s against the rules.”  He made it sound like we had embezzled a million dollars from the company or something heinous like that.

“Eddie, I told the cops everything I knew,” I said, not feeling the least bit guilty for lying to the son-of-a-bitch.  “Can I just get on with my job?”

“You don’t stop copping an attitude, and you won’t have a job any longer,” Eddie said, his tone terse.  I looked at him, wondering why he was so upset.  It wasn’t as if he even liked Lydia or anything like that.  I knew murder wasn’t good for business, but it didn’t have anything to do with him.  I took a second look at him as he was sweating profusely.  I wondered if he was hiding something, something that might be connected to Lydia’s killing.  “You and Lydia were close.  Tell me what you know.”

“I don’t know anything,” I repeated, my voice harsh.  He was creeping me out, and I wanted to get out of the office.

“She must have said something to you.  Was she the one who suggested that you changed costumes?  Or was that you?”  By now, Eddie’s face was bathed in sweat, and he was giving off a decidedly pungent smell.

“I don’t remember, Eddie,” I said softly, narrowing my eyes.  “Why is it so important to you?”

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter three, part four

I leaned against the wall, thinking about Shannon and Aaron.  They had been a couple ever since they met at the U ten years ago.  He had been a philosophy major; she, a fine arts major.  They were one of those couples who simply belonged together.  You could tell it when you looked at them and you envied them for it, but you didn’t get in their way.  I met them a year ago at a cabaret.  I had been performing—it was an Asian event, and I did a piece on the role of Asian women in American cinema.  I was in my element, mimicking all the stereotypes foisted upon Asian women by aging white males with geisha-girl fetishes.

Aaron and Shannon approached me after the performance.  While Shannon gushed about the intricacies of my work and the implications on the dialogue between the East and the West, not to mention the Diaspora of Asians born in America who have no place to call home, Aaron stood slightly to the side and just smiled.  He caught my eye immediately as he was an intriguing mixture of African American, Cherokee Indian and Mexican.  He was over six feet tall with a tight body and even tighter mind.  His dark brown eyes, slanted cheekbones and full lips made him look like a model—which he was.  As much as I tried to ignore him, I was instantly attracted to him.  I could tell by the look in his eyes that he felt the same.

Shannon blathered on, oblivious to the growing tension between Aaron and me.  Far from stepping back, Aaron subtly egged me on.  He would smile slowly, revealing even, white teeth, then dip his head in a nod.  He was leaning against a railing, his arms casually crossed in front of him.  He was wearing a leather jacket, despite the heat.  He would interject a trenchant comment now and then whenever Shannon took a second to breathe, which was once every five minutes or so.  She paid no attention to the side dialogue that Aaron and I were carrying out, continuing to dissect my performance.  I was surprised that she didn’t throw in her thoughts on oppression and slavery while she was at it, not to mention the Chinese prostitution trade when Chinese men were first allowed in the country. I pegged her as one of those liberal white women who were fraught with guilt.  Not my kind of person, but she was nice enough.

We became friends of sort.  I saw them once a month or so for the next half year.  Every time, Shannon would shoulder the bulk of the conversational burden while Aaron and I communicated without words.  We never openly flirted with each other as that would be disrespectful, not to mention breaking my moral code.  Instead, we relied on heavy eye contact to do our talking for us.  Any time my hand accidentally brushed against his, a tremor ran its way up my arm and jolted my brain.  I found myself invented ways of brushing against him whenever I could.

How did this sordid little story end?  With Aaron and me in bed, fucking each other’s brains out, of course.  I wish I could say it was just once, that we were both drunk, and that we both felt horribly guilty after, but nothing would be further from the truth.  A month after I met Rafe, I panicked because things were going too well.  Deep down, I believed that if my life was going smoothly, something catastrophic was bound to happen.  With Rafe, we were so simpatico; I went bonkers and fucked Aaron.  I put the moves on him; I initiated the whole thing—not to say he wasn’t willing—and it snowballed from there.  Aaron was fantastic in the sack, and I kept coming back for more.  We had a torrid affair for two weeks before Shannon caught us, at my place of all things.  I didn’t know—and still don’t to this day—how she found out about us, but it was an ugly scene.

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter three, part three

“Nice costume,” she said admiringly, looking me up and down.  “Where’s Rafe?”

“He’s coming,” I said, grinning to myself.  If she liked my getup, wait until she saw Rafe.  I yanked off my wig and fluffed out my hair.  I tossed the wig onto a coffee table, knowing my mother would pick it up later.  I slipped out of my shoes as well as was the custom in an Asian household.  I never understood the reason for wearing shoes in a house, but I did it when I visited an American friend’s place if she or he insisted.  In my home, however, they were asked to remove their shoes.  My house, my rules.

“Your father is worried sick about you,” my mother scolded, leading me into the living room.  Of course, the television was on, and she was looking for more news on Lydia’s murder.  “Bob, say hello to your daughter.”  Dad looked up from the television and silently gave me the once-over.

“You all right?”  He asked, not commenting on my costume.  When I nodded, he returned to the television.  He wasn’t much of a talker unless you got him drunk and talking about the Vietnam war, but he always managed to convey that he cared without saying it in actual words.

“Ramona, Howie, and Henry called,” my mother reported, sinking into the couch next to dad.  “They wanted to know that you were ok.  I told them to call later so they could talk to you themselves.”

I sighed, trying not to feel put upon.  I loved my siblings, but I always felt more like their mother than their sister.  My mom is great, but she’s short on practicality.  I was the one who made sure my siblings were clothed and fed on a daily basis.  They were probably rattled about this murder thing which meant that I would have to spend a great deal of time placating them—the last thing I wanted to do.  I was tempted to tell my mother that she could talk to them, damn it, but I knew that that wouldn’t go over well with her.  Family was family.  Just as Beezus always had to take care of Ramona, I was responsible for my younger siblings.  I usually didn’t resent it, but I did tonight.  I excused myself for a minute and went to the bathroom so I could unbind my breasts.  I heaved a relieved sigh before returning to the living room.

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter three, part two

The day after Ellen gave me the envelope, I returned to my apartment to find a single rose on the front step, and a window broken.  Being the smart gal that I was, I pulled out my cell and phoned the cops.  I waited for them outside my apartment building. By the time they got there, I was freaking out.  They found a picture of her, signed, along with lipstick prints all over my walls, my mirrors, my bedspread.  My underwear was strewn around the room and several panties were missing.  To top it off, she was taking a damn bath in my tub.  Her bag, which was stuffed with my panties, was resting on the floor by the bathtub.  Not only was she a nut, she was stupid as well.  The cops arrested her; her shrink came forward and said she wasn’t dangerous, just hallucinatory, and they locked her away somewhere.

“You didn’t think to call me then?”  Rafe shouted, steamed by this point.  “The psycho bitch breaks into your apartment, and you don’t tell me a thing?  What the hell is wrong with you?”

“She was apprehended without incident,” I snapped back, my own temper frayed.  I wasn’t used to answering to anyone, and in fact, had broken up with my last partner because he constantly questioned me about where I had been.  I wasn’t anybody’s property, and I didn’t like being scolded as if I were a small child.  “She was taken away and locked up.  That’s why I didn’t mention it to you then, and that’s why I didn’t want to tell you now.”

“How do you know she’s still locked up?”  Rafe asked.  “Maybe she was released.  If she was, maybe she decided the goddess had clay feet after all.  And what do you do when you’re disillusioned with a god?  You kill it.”

“I’ll find out,” I sighed, my body suddenly sagging.  It’s hard to believe that I was talking about someone wanting to kill me.  It’s such a ludicrous statement, that I had to resist the impulse to look around for the hidden camera.  Suddenly, the phone rang.  Rafe moved to get it, but I motioned him back.  Sometimes, I screened my calls when I wasn’t in the mood to answer.

“Beezus!  It’s your mother.  Pick up the phone; I know you’re there.”

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter three, part one

“What the fuck?”  Rafe jumped up from his chair and stared down at me.  “She was wearing your costume?”  He started pacing, keeping his eyes pinned to me.  “You sit there so calmly telling me about your coworker being murdered and don’t bother telling me until now that it could have been you?  What are you, out of your fucking mind?”  His voice had risen appreciably as he ranted.  I said nothing, knowing from experience that I had to let his machismo cool down a bit before attempting to have a rational dialogue.  I slipped on my inscrutable Asian face, folded my hands on top of the table and waited.

“Oh, no you don’t!”  Rafe growled, his face turning red.  “You’re not going to sit there and play Buddha babe with me, not now.  Talk!  Tell me how you could hold back such an important piece of information until now!  You could have been fucking killed!  Don’t you think I deserved to know that right away?”

“Rafe, please,” I sighed, my tone as even as I could make it.  “I realize that fact, believe me I do.  This reaction is the very reason I didn’t want to tell you.”

“Well excuse the fuck out of me if I’m a bit concerned that my girlfriend may be shot in the back while she’s dressed as an oversized mouse!  Why the hell would someone want to shoot you?  And did you tell the cops?”

“What?  Huh?”  Not an intelligent response, but I didn’t like it when Rafe yelled at me.  Come to think of it, I didn’t like it when anybody yelled at me.  “Why do you think someone tried to shoot me?  That’s crazy.  You watch too much Mystery! on PBS.”

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter two, part two

“Rather strange coincidence, isn’t it?”  Antoinette interjected, cutting her eyes to me.  “The day you two switch costumes, Lydia is murdered.”  Although she was purportedly speaking only to me, her voice carries clearly across the crowd.  I flushed, but didn’t answer.  I figured it was better to save my words for the police than to waste them trying to defend myself.

“What the hell is going on here,” Eddie asked, huffing and puffing.  “What is Trixie doing lying on the ground like that?  Get up, girl.  It’s bad for business.”  Even though I was only a few yards away, Eddie didn’t bother to look my way.  He nudged Lydia’s body with his toe, drawing gasps from the crowd.  “What are you drunk?  I swear to God, Trixie, if you’re playing some kind of trick on me.”

“Eddie, that’s Lydia, and she’s dead,” Antoinette said in hushed tones.  It’s unbelievable to me that Eddie didn’t see the bullet wounds, but he’s not the most observant guy in the world.  “That’s Bea.”  She pointed to me.  It took a minute for it to register with Eddie what Antoinette had said.  When it did, he turned to me, a look of dismay on his face.

“Didn’t I tell you girls not to switch costumes?  Didn’t I, huh?  What did Eddie tell you the first day of work?  No switching costumes.”  Uh oh.  When Eddie started talking about himself in the third person, it meant he was losing his temper.  Granted, it’s a short way to go, but still, I didn’t need the aggravation.  Besides, the man needed to get his priorities straight.  Lydia and me switching costumes was the least of his worries.

“Eddie, Lydia’s dead.”  My voice was fierce as I tried to stem the litany I knew was forthcoming.  “This isn’t the time to worry about costume switches.  Did someone call the police?”

“I did,” Tommy said, flashing his cell phone in his hand.  “They should be here any minute.”

“Police?”  Eddie bellowed, turning white.  “What do we need the police for?”  No one was this stupid—no one.  It seemed as if our Eddie was, though.  Disbelieving looks passed between the members of the crowd.  “Let’s let our security take care of it.  Most of them are cops moonlighting, anyway.”

“It’s not that easy,” I said impatiently, not wanting to deal with this moron.  I was distracted by what he had said, however.  Where was security?  I didn’t see any.  In the distance, there was the sound of sirens roaring.

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter two, part one

“God, did I tie one on last night,” Lydia groaned, holding her head in her hands.  “It was Brian’s birthday, and boy, did we celebrate.  He loved the painting I did for him.”  Lydia dabbled in painting and could be really good at it if she put more effort into it.

“Rafe’s birthday is next week.  Maybe I’ll get you to paint a picture of me as his present,” I replied.  I’d seen Lydia’s work, and I liked her style.

“Love to,” Lydia said, beaming at me.  We took our time getting ready.  We were both early, so there was no rush.  “I hate coming here.”

“I’m glad my two days are coming up,” I agreed.  The way it worked, we each worked five days on, then two days off, in rotation.  I was lucky to have Saturday and Sunday off this week, like normal people.  “This job is for the shits.”  I brushed my hair, though there really was no need considering I’d just have to cram the stupid head over it again.

“Hey, you want to trade costumes?”  Lydia asked, her eyes sparkling.  “I’m tired of being a damn duck.

“Groovy,” I said with enthusiasm.  We put on each other’s costume with alacrity, and I must admit it was a refreshing change not to have to be that damn mouse for a change.  “Quack, quack,” I said, my voice muffled.

“Squeak, squeak!”  Lydia said in return.  We both burst out laughing.  “Eddie’s gonna kill us,” Lydia said, her voice merry.

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter one, part two

“Hey, girls!”  Delia Booth bounced over, and I do mean bounced.  She wasn’t wearing a bra as usual, and her thirty-eight double-Ds were very happy to see us.  She’s the newest edition to our happy animal family, and she’s still perky after working at this shit-hole for two weeks.  She must either be lobotomized or strung out on Valium.  Her dark brown hair was perfectly in place as was her makeup, even though she had just finished the same shift as Lydia and me.  She smiled a thousand-watt smile while covertly studying herself in the mirror.

“What’s up, Delia?”  Lydia asked in a bored tone.  I continued to primp, not bothering to greet Miss Homecoming Queen 1996 of Salinas High, thank you very much.  It was the first thing she told me when I met her right before informing me that Salinas High was somewhere in the great land of California.  I told her that even in Minnesota, we had geography lessons.  That had sailed right over her head.

“Just wanted to see if you girls would like to grab a drink?”  Delia had her hand on her slim hip and an expectant look on her face.  “I know it’s a school night, but I thought it’d be fun to get to know each other.”  I detected a hint of loneliness underneath the good cheer, but I decided to ignore it and take her words at face-value.

“Sorry, I got a hot date tonight,” I said, grinning evilly at her.  “When I get Rafe for the night, there’s no going out for us.”

“You are bad, girl,” Lydia said admiringly, slapping palms with me.  “Though I’m the same when I ride the Brian express.  No stopping that ride.”  We smirked at each other, ignoring the bewildered look on Delia’s face.  Lydia and I were not exactly friends, but we had more in common than most of the regulars.  “Not me, Del.  I have dinner at Mother’s tonight.”  She grimaced, unable to hide her distaste.  She told me that one Christmas, her mother stood on the table and did the can-can in honor of the movie Moulin Rouge.  Of course, this was after three or four highballs or whatever the hell it was that she drank.  Mrs. Wilkerson was a functioning alcoholic by day, a raging alcoholic by night.  Lydia has accepted that her mother was going to die fairly soon at the ripe old age of fifty-three.  I didn’t see how she could accept the news with such equanimity, but I admired her for it.

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter one, part one

“Bea, get your ass out there,” Lydia (formerly Linda before she changed her name) Wilkerson barked at me, poking her head in the tiny dressing room.  “You know your shift started at eight.”  She’s a friend of sorts who has higher aspirations.  I didn’t feel very friendly towards her when she pulled her mother superior act on me, I’ll tell you that much.  Fortunately, she usually mellowed after a good dressing down, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to even tolerate her.

“In a minute,” I snapped, procrastinating the degradation of pulling on my giant Maisie Mouse head until the last possible moment.  The heads were basically football helmets with gigantic outer shells attached.  There was so much padding in one of those things, it felt like sticking your head in a basket of towels.  I looked in the mirror at the appalling taffeta skirt sticking straight out from my body.  It had red polka dots sprinkled over a white background and matched nicely with my red t-shirt.  I wore black tights and black patent-leather Mary Janes as a final insult to my dignity.  Yes, my character was patterned after the more-famous mouse who shall remain nameless for litigious reasons, and yes, I had a ‘mousefriend’.  His name was Marvin Mouse, and he looked just as ridiculous in his costume which matched mine except he didn’t have taffeta or polka dots.

“Now, Bea,” Lydia stared meaningfully first at me, then at her watch before pulling her own head back on.  She’s Daphne Duck, but liked to pretend she was the stage manager or something.  Most of the time, we got along just fine.  Once in a while, however, she really chapped my ass.

“It’s Trish,” I reminded her sharply.  For someone who insisted on being called Lydia instead of Linda, she certainly didn’t extend the same courtesy to me even though I hadn’t changed my name.

My mother named me Beatrice after the Beatrice Quimby in the Ramona series.  She loved those books so much, she committed each one to memory and would drive me and my younger sister—yes, named Ramona, but she calls herself Mona—crazy by quoting bits and pieces of the books to us in what she deemed appropriate situations.  My brother Howie—he goes by Owen now—used to plug his ears when mother got on one of her rolls while Henry—Hank, please—would carol at the top of his lungs, but Mona and I were never that daring.  A sunny-natured woman, my mother would explode in wrath if one of us kids dared to suggest that perhaps she could give it a rest.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter fifteen

“Tell us everything,” Lyle says eagerly as he leans forward to catch every detail.  It is three days after my ordeal, and Jimmy is in jail pending his bail hearing.  My mother, Lyle, and I are perched in Paris’s new hospital room as he’s been moved from the ICU to a regular room.  He is making tremendous progress, and can now speak in complete, full sentences.  This is the first opportunity we’ve all had to be together.  The Jensons have thoughtfully allowed us time alone and are in the cafeteria presumably converting some poor heathen soul.  I am elated that I have only the rope burns on my wrists to contend with, a few stitches in my forehead and a bruise from when Jimmy backhanded me—no hospital stay for me this time.  My back didn’t even bruise from all his prodding, so I consider myself in tip-top shape.

“What do you want to know?”  I ask coyly, laughing at the identical looks of dismay on their faces.

“Start with why,” Paris suggests, looking a hundred percent better already.  He can sit up for short periods of time and even eats solid food—if you call applesauce, mashed potatoes, Jell-O, and pudding solid food.

“Why is easiest,” I say.  “As you know, Jimmy wanted to run for mayor, and his platform was family values.  Good-old fashioned moral man, that’s our Jimmy.  Unfortunately for him, he had a harder time practicing than preaching.  He has been carrying on an affair with Ursula, on and off for over twenty years.”  I pause to drag out the tension.  The three of them have their eyes fixed on me, raptly following every word.  “That wasn’t a problem in and of itself since she would never divulge the affair for reasons of her own.”

“She liked being married,” Lyle breaks in, putting in his two-cents’ worth.  “And she liked that clandestine nature of their relationship.”  I resume the tale.

“So everything was going fine as long as they both knew where the affair stood.  The trouble started when Ursula dropped the bomb on Jimmy—whom she called Benny, by the way—that he was the father of illegitimate twins—Paris and Robin.”

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