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Yuk Lan mopped the floor like a bee attacking a bear. The red stain just wouldn’t come off. How could a bottle of hot chili sauce spread so much red on cream colored tiles? She puffed as she mopped once more.
On a chair beside her Persi the cat meowed. He was a dark shade of bluish gray, and his orange-bright eyes closed into slits. He was sleepy, and Yuk Lan reached out to scratch his head.
“Aren’t you with me here, Pers? Don’t fall asleep on me now.”
The wind chime near the door tinkled. She looked up to see Connie come in, carrying a small food jar.
“I’m sorry I’m late. Are you closed now?” The woman glanced at the mop in Yuk Lan’s hand and the red stain on the floor. “Hot sauce stain?”
‘Yes. It won’t come out.” Yuk Lan straightened and called into the kitchen. “Papa, Connie’s here.”
Her father came out of the kitchen, bowing repeatedly at Connie. “Once again, the cat ate the fish fillet. I put the plate on the counter a few minutes ago and now it’s gone. Sorry. “
No wonder Persi looked contented and sleepy.
Connie laughed. “That’s ok. Cats are cats. They like fish. Just give me any viand you have set aside in exchange for the fish.”
“I hope your mom like sweet and sour pork with the congee.” Papa said, as he took her container. “Be right back.”
“I’m giving up on this.” Yuk Lan put the mop aside. “How’s your mom?”
“Still weak, but recovering.” Connie shook her head, then bent down to rub Persi. “I have a favor, Lan, if you don’t mind. Can you bring my mom some beef noodles to my apartment at ten am? I’ll pay you in advance. Here,” she handed her payment to Yuk Lan. “I’m sorry to bother you for this but I got a morning shift tomorrow.”
“No problem, Connie.” Yuk Lan said. She genuinely liked Mrs. Wong because she had a lot of stories to tell. If the old woman did not break her leg during a fall last week, she would have been in the restaurant chatting with them everyday.
“Thank you, Mr. Chang,” Connie said as she received her food. “Please don’t forget tomorrow, Lan. Thank you so much. And.” Connie pointed to the stain. “Try using bleach with that. Worked for me.” She quickly waved goodbye and left.
At her father’s puzzled look, Yuk Lan explained. “Hot sauce stain wouldn’t come off. And Connie wants me to deliver beef noodles to Mrs. Wong tomorrow morning.”
“Oh.” Mr. Chang turned his attention to the cat and growled. “Sei mao.”
Persi stood up and managed to look ashamed. He made a feeble head bump towards Mr. Chang.
“Papa!” Yuk Lan exclaimed.
“Never mind the stain. Just use the bleach tomorrow. Wrap up and don’t forget to throw the garbage at the back. Then lock up.” Her father reminded Yuk Lan. “I’m going upstairs.”
A few minutes later, with Persi as her companion, Yuk Lan was outside taking out the garbage at the back of their restaurant. It was a cold night, and their section in Spadina St. seemed quiet and deserted.
Persi meowed, his tail waving wildly like a flag. Yuk Lan looked around, and saw two men standing in the alley, their backs against the wall. They were dressed in dark hoodies.
One of the men sauntered to her. “Hi girly.” He smelled of cigarette smoke.
“She’s just a chink.” His companion remarked, as he followed behind. “Go home China girl.”
Yuk Lan tamped down her anger. “I was born here.”
“Ah…a CBC. I like that.” The first man moved closer and touched her hair. “How about we get to know each other, girly?”
Yuk Lan tried to step back but the second man blocked her from behind. Her heart lurched as both men grabbed her arms. She needed a guard now, not a cat. Even a dog would be better.
“No…no,” She tried to break free from their hold.
Without warning, both men released her, backing away quickly. Fixated on something behind her, they broke into a run from the alley. She turned, her mouth dry with fear. A tall man stood behind her, dressed in strangely loose pants, a wide-sleeved shirt, and a bright red vest. He wore a square cap on his head and a murderous expression on his face. He glared at her, she blinked, and he was gone.
The strange man was gone.
She hurriedly scanned her surroundings. In the pale yellow street light she could see her cat curving his back in fear, his eyes bright. She scooped him up and ran back to the restaurant, shivering.