The young black man strode up to a checkout counter in the local Target discount retailer. There were twenty checkout counter aisles but only four were open and all the lines were long and progressing slowly. He had arrived at the checkout line empty-handed but he quickly grabbed a soda and some chips from the impulse-item racks. He stood behind the tall slender young Asian-American woman.
The young man studied the woman’s shapely bare legs, her short cut-off stylishly-tattered jeans, her bare pale midriff, her clingy lace-trimmed tank-top, and her avant-garde bob hair style.
He slowly shook his head and licked his lips.
Then, the couple ahead of the woman excused themselves and backed their full cart out to move to another line. The young man and the young woman stood side-by-side to let them pass. The man stared at her face and smiled and nodded. Her face was round and freckled and she had full slightly parted lips and a crooked tooth. She had the edgy good-looks of a model. The woman smiled faintly and nodded almost imperceptibly.
The man said quickly, “I have developed a superstition: I never change lines in a market no matter how slow it is. I’ll move and then get behind some woman paying with food stamps while they go over all the items that she can’t buy with food stamps.”
The woman joined in, saying “I get the people buying a Lottery ticket who scratch their ticket as the clerk makes change, win a dollar, and then buy another ticket.”
The young man nods and adds, “Or the woman who doesn’t know how much money is on her credit card so the clerk has to subtract one item at a time and then try to ring it up.”
The woman pursed a smile and started to turn back around to the checkout line ahead.
The young man said quickly, “I’m Louis Prince Alexander Tucker,” and leaned forward expectantly.
The woman gave in and softly said, “You’re all that? Hi, I’m Lucky.”
Louis splayed his right hand upon his chest and joked, “They always are when they meet me.”
Lucky grimaced faintly and started to turn around again. Louis said quickly, “You hear that all the time, don’t you?”
Lucky muttered, “Yes, apparently a very funny American joke. My name means ‘lucky’ in Chinese so I just go by ‘Lucky’.”
Louis asked, “Are you from China?”
Lucky hesitated and then finally said softly, “I’m from China. Visiting.”
Louis would not let her turn her back to him and he said, “You speak real good English. You don’t look like the Chinese I see in pictures.”
Lucky said ironically, “I eat better.”
Louise said, “I’m sorry. I meant it as a compliment. Really. You could be a model! I’ll bet you get that all the time, too.”
Lucky thought for a moment and then she finally said, “My father is Chinese, my mother is American.”
Then Lucky did turn her back to Louis. Louis sought further reasons to talk and he noticed at last that Lucky was purchasing only a single striped onion the size of a grapefruit.
Louis asked, “Are you on The Onion Diet?”
Lucky half-turned around amused and replied, “No. It’s for my soup. Is there such thing as an ‘Onion Diet’?”
Louis nodded toward the magazines and tabloids rack and said, “I’m sure there is. Look there. Remember her? She got really fat and now she’s got an article revealing her super secret diet.”
Lucky said, “Yes, I see. And look: Justin Bieber has a new tattoo.”
Just then the checkout line advanced. The woman ahead of Lucky and Louis who appeared to be buying school supplies for the entire district had paid and was departing at last.
Lucky then paid for her onion and glanced back at Louis and said with polite humor, “Nice waiting with you,” and she turned and headed for the exit.
Louis dropped his soda and chips in front of the checker and winked, saying, “I’ve changed my mind,” and, as he jogged following Lucky, the clerk shook her head and said to the disapproving customer next in line, “I don’t think so.”
In the parking lot Louis caught up to Lucky and said lamely, “Hey, we’re going the same way.”
Lucky glanced at him and said, “Didn’t you forget your soda and chips?”
Louis said quickly, “Naw, I’ve changed my mind. I feel like pizza. Hey, do you want to have some pizza? My treat? The place is right over there.”
Lucky smiled and said, teasing, “Naw, I’m making soup for dinner.”
Louis asked, “So, you do you live nearby this Target, or as they say: Tar-zjay Boo-tique?”
Louis knew he would soon be out of tricks and he reluctantly prepared to peel-off to head back toward his car.
Lucky suddenly said, “Would you like to have some soup with us for dinner?”
Louis hopped back alongside Lucky and asked, “You said ‘us’? Boyfriend?”
Lucky replied, “Roommate.”
Lucky’s apartment was a few blocks walking distance from the shopping center. The two of them walked quietly along and Louis from the corner of his eye studied Lucky’s long elegant movements.
Lucky’s apartment complex was called The Serenity and there were many college students and young adults coming and going. The place was decent with lots of cultivated greenery but it didn’t look very expensive to Louis.
Lucky finally said, “This is our apartment, number 88,” and then she added for some reason, “In Chinese tradition ‘88’ means ‘double fortune’.”
So Louis was surprised when he followed Lucky into apartment number 88 and he scanned the heavy rich red drapes that concealed all of the windows, the Elmwood Mandarin cabinets, the Rosewood sideboards, the jade carvings, the Rosewood living room set, the hand-painted gold leaf floor screen, the black lacquer mother of pearl mirrors, the flower and bird motif chairs and tables, the hand-painted blue and white porcelain lamps, and the hand-painted porcelain fishbowl planters.
Louise hissed, “Ho-ly Shhhhit. This is like the Queen’s Chambers. I like it!”
Lucky said casually, “My roommate did the décor.”
Lucky went into the kitchen and set the onion upon the counter.
Louis, following her, noticed the previous meal still left strewn upon the dining table. The suggestion of sloppiness seemed out of place in the ‘Queen’s Chambers’.
Lucky said, “I’m going to change. Just make yourself comfortable.”
Louis watched her walk away and as she walked away she kicked her sandals off and let them land near a chair. She pulled her tank-top off and Louis saw her drop it on the floor as she entered her bedroom. She didn’t close the door. Louis was tempted but he decided to sit down on one of the flower and bird motif chairs.
Lucky reemerged in a clingy silk robe, bare legged and bare foot. Louis pulled off his shoes.
Lucky went into the kitchen and Louis arose and followed her. He watched her prepare the vegetable assortment that included bok choy, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, garlic, onion, ginger, and some spices and sesame oil and soup stock.
Louis said, “Looks really good.”
Lucky explained, “We’re vegetarians here. In China, if it moves they’ll eat it.”
Louis was surprised to hear her criticism and he asked Lucky, “What work do you do in China?”
Lucky replied tersely, “I’m a student.”
Louis then asked, “What about here?”
Lucky replied, “I model part-time.”
Louis cried out, “I knew it!”
Lucky then asked Louis, “So what do you do?”
Louis gestured and replied, “I’m what you call an entrepreneur.”
Lucky smiled and said, “Oh. I see.”
Louis elaborated in the face of Lucky’s subtle dismissal and said, “I’m a middle man you might say. I find opportunities and I hook up investors.”
Lucky said, “Oh. Investors. Sounds… intriguing.”
Louis looked Lucky up and down and smiled and said, “It can be. Believe me.”
Louis then wanted Lucky to elaborate and asked, “What were you studying in China?”
Lucky chopped vegetables and dropped them in the big pot and stirred them and finally answered, “Political Science.”
Louis said, “Really? I thought they only had one politic in China: Communism.”
Lucky said, “It’s different today. They’ve yoked Communism to the Capitalist engine. It’s something we don’t really understand yet except that it is very powerful. And dangerous. China is flexing its new muscles like a bullied weakling who is now on steroids. China wants its destiny back.”
Louis said, “Yeah, I hear about their military stuff. But, hey, I just figure that to stop China we’d just bomb Wal-Mart,” and Louis laughed.
Lucky smiled and said, “Funny, true once but not for very much longer. The problem for the awakening Chinese people will not be foreigners. It will be their arbitrary, repressive government,” and she looked into the roiling soup and she said, “But I don’t expect you to understand.”
Louis Prince Alexander Tucker said loudly, “Shee-it, Ex-cyoooz me?”
Lucky realized the irony in her statement and laughed, touching Louis’ arm and she said, “I’m sorry. Of course.”
Just then the apartment door clicked and opened quickly and there entered a taut Chinese man with immaculate hair and perfectly tailored clothes. The man immediately tensed and stared sharply at Louis.
Lucky turned and said, “Louis, this is Wei Xian, my… roommate. Wei, this is Louise, a friend.”
Wei Xian scoffed rudely and asked Lucky, “Can I speak with you right now?”
Lucky turned and rolled her eyes at Louis as she walked past and said to Wei, “Yes. What is it?”
Wei and Lucky had an intense exchange of whispers in Chinese and Wei repeatedly gestured toward Louis who was embarrassed.
Lucky at last dismissed Wei’s argument with a slash of her hand and she came back to the kitchen and said to Louis in passing, “Wei is overly protective. My father pays him to worry. It drives me crazy. He’s upset now that I even walked to the market alone.”
Wei huffed away toward the hallway but he stopped and knelt to pick up Lucky’s sandals and then he went to her bedroom and was picking clothes off of the floor, muttering in exasperation.
Lucky called to Wei and said sweetly, “Wei, dinner will be ready shortly.”
Louis heard what he was sure was a curse from Wei in the back room.
Louis offered to clear the dining table of the remains of the previous meal. Lucky shrugged but Wei soon appeared and took over clearing the table and he gestured for Louis to sit down in the living room on an ornate sofa chair. Louis acquiesced and sat watching the fastidious mannerisms of Wei and yet observing that Wei gave off an aura of danger. Then Louis looked up on the wall at a portrait of a dignified and powerful looking Chinese man and his American wife who was beautiful and looked shrewd and intelligent.
Louis called out politely, “Is this your mother and father?”
Lucky called back from the kitchen, “Yes. That portrait was Wei’s idea to keep me in line,” and Wei could be heard muttering.
Lucky said, “My mother was an opera singer,” then she announced, “Dinner is served.”
Louis arose from the sofa to see Wei gesturing at Lucky to sit down at the dinner table. Wei took the responsibility of bringing the food and serving.
Wei sat across from Louis and glared rudely, looking away only when Lucky asked him a question. Louis was certain that Wei had on eye-liner.
Louise looked at Lucky and said, “This is great soup. Very hearty.”
Lucky thanked him.
After a few minutes of silent consumption Louis asked, “Lucky, so how long have you been here in America?”
Wei said some rapid admonishments to Lucky which Louis could see made her angry. Lucky then turned to Louis and said, “I’ve been here about a year.”
Wei muttered a few words to Lucky and then he glared back at Louis.
Now Louis was getting irritated and so he asked Lucky, “Are you here because of your modeling career?”
Lucky laughed softly and replied, “No. My modeling is just part-time to keep from going crazy with boredom,” and she looked pointedly at Wei.
Wei shocked Louis by suddenly saying, in English, “Need bigger boobs.”
Louis laughed. Then he said to Lucky, “Hey, I think you are perfect!”
Wei made a humming sound.
Louis asked Lucky, “Is he growling at me?”
Lucky said, “Wei is paid to worry. You have to know the whole story…”
Wei barked something at Lucky. Lucky challenged him and then waved away his objection.
Lucky began, “My father is a very rich man. He is very important to the Communist leadership. When I was in school my three friends, Tao, Feng, Song and I had a blog site documenting the inequities of the Communist leadership.”
Wei slapped his head three times in protest.
Lucky continued, “It doesn’t matter how big the crime, those with money will not suffer the consequences. Those without money, however, will be shot even for the smallest crime. This is what China is like.”
Lucky stopped and Louis could see that she was about to cry.
Wei held his forehead and shook his head.
Lucky’s lips trembled but she continued, saying, “The government didn’t like our blog. They arrested Tao, Feng, and Song and accused them of trafficking drugs. My father had influence enough to send me to America with Wei before I could be arrested.”
Wei pointed his finger at Louis and said something and then he drew his finger across his throat in a clear threat.
Louis protested, “Whoa, bro’. What did I do? I like Lucky.”
Lucky sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand and she said, “I found out today that Tao, Feng, and Song have been shot. The pictures of their execution are on the internet.”
Wei arose from the table and said two words to Lucky. He put his soup bowl in the kitchen sink and went away into the hallway.
Lucky then said, “I need to party. Let’s go into the living room.”
Lucky arose and gestured toward the long couch. She went to one of the big porcelain fish bowl planters and unearthed a bag of marijuana. Lucky handed the bag to Louis along with some cigarette papers and said, “Roll three of the biggest joints you ever rolled. We’re going to smoke one each for Tao, Feng, and Song.”
Louis quietly crafted the joints, rolling them as big as he could manage, glancing over at Lucky who sat beside him lost in sadness.
Lucky suddenly said, “Wei is just afraid that they will come after me here in America.”
Louis ignited the first big joint. It looked like a smoldering drumstick. He held it out to Lucky. She took it and drew on it. Tears were coming down from both of her eyes and she said softly, “For Tao, poor sweet Tao.”
After Tao was honored Lucky picked up the second joint and lit it and said, “Feng, my sister warrior.”
Louis could feel the emotion now and he reached for Lucky’s hand sincerely. Lucky clasped his hand.
The living room was filling with smoke. It was a sweet and powerful harvest that Lucky had provided.
Louis took the third joint and lit it, saying “For Song, right?” and then he turned it around and carefully put his lips around the lighted end and leaned toward Lucky’s face. She parted her lips and Louis blew long and hard and the smoke went into Lucky’s mouth like a coiling white serpent.
As Louis blew he saw Lucky reach down and untie her silk robe. Her now bared porcelain skin seemed to glow. Louis set the joint down. As he kissed Lucky gently on the cheek and nose and lips he reached into his pocket and took out a tiny cell phone. He dropped it discretely into her robe pocket. Louis then reached into the open robe and gently molded that porcelain flesh. Their lips fell together hard. Their tongues coiled upon each other like red dragons.
Louis pulled back for a moment and said with intoxicated humor, “I like Song the best.”
Lucky laughed and then arose from the couch holding Louis’ hand and she took him into her bedroom. Lucky closed the door. She undressed Louis, kissing his black skin as it was revealed. They reclined upon her big Elmwood bed with the strewn silk pillows.
Louis insinuated himself into Lucky, holding Lucky tightly. He moved in and out of her slowly, deeper and deeper. Lucky rolled her head from side to side with her eyes closed and hissed and moaned softly. Louis watched her face. He was not used to a girl who was so quiet in bed. He stepped up his game with ever more inspired passages. Lucky groaned. Then she began to moan loudly. Suddenly she was crying in wonderment, “Oh. Oh!” and she cast her arms around Louis’ neck and looked into his eyes with ecstatic alarm, crying into his ear, “Oh! Oh! Oh!”
Suddenly Louis felt as if an iron bar had been clamped against his throat and he was yanked upward and held upright. He next felt a searing pain against his genitals. He could not move.
Wei had Louis in an arm lock and he held a razor-sharp knife against Louis’ genitals. The sweat on Louis’ torso was already stinging as it flowed into the nascent wound that Wei was slicing into the base of his penis.
Louis tried to scream but he couldn’t. Lucky screamed, “Wei! Stop! What are you doing?!”
Wei growled something at Lucky and then the knife was removed from Louis’ genitals long enough for Wei to toss an object to Lucky, who sat there naked and disheveled and panting and frightened.
It was a small pistol. A pistol made of plastic that was short with a small block rather than a barrel.
Wei growled into Louis ear in English so that Lucky could hear also, “An assassin’s gun! A built-in silencer. I found it in your clothes! Speak before I kill you!”
Wei released the grip on Louis throat just enough so Louis could croak, “Wait! I’m not a fucking assassin! I swear! I buy drugs in Mexico! I need that gun for protection. It’s plastic so I can get through customs! I swear! Lucky! I swear!”
Lucky pulled her legs together and covered her breasts and said, “Wei! Don’t hurt him! It’s my fault! Let him go!”
Wei dragged Louis naked to the front door of the apartment and said, “You live. You are now Mister Lucky. I keep the gun. I don’t see you ever again. Lucky does not see you ever again,” and he threw Louis into the hallway still naked and terrified.
Louis ran down the hallway. Fortunately it was the small hours of the morning and nobody was about. Louis ran down the street back toward the shopping center and his car. To be black man running naked in the middle of the night was almost as terrifying a proposition as having his balls cut off.
Louis got to his car but he had no keys. He kicked the backseat door window repeatedly with his heal until a hole crumbled open. Louis reached in and unlocked the door and he dove into the back seat. He grabbed his duffel bag and pulled on his stinking gym clothes.
Louis sat there panting for several minutes until he calmed down. Then he took a cell phone out of his duffel bag and tapped in a number. He held the phone to his ear.
Louis said, “It’s me. I couldn’t get her alone. The bodyguard never left her side. Yeah. There is no way to do this cleanly. I suggest you let her go. Alright. Alright. I know. I am aware of our deal: You keep the other half. Yeah, right: Better fucking luck next time.”
Louis hung up. He then immediately dialed another number and held the phone to his ear. He waited and waited. Finally he said quickly, “Lucky, it’s me, Louis. Don’t hang up. Yes, I put that phone in your robe pocket. I can explain later. I really like you. No, don’t be mad at Wei. He cares about you. No, Shee-it, I’m not afraid. Lucky, there is something we need to talk about. No, Wei isn’t crazy. Look, I want to help you, too. I want to be there for you. Please. We can arrange a meeting somewhere sometime. Just think about it OK? Please. I’ll call again soon. Yeah. Me, too. Good-night.”
Louis then sat back in the darkness and said aloud to the roof of the car, “Well, Lucky, you sure rubbed off on me.”
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