The Foreigner

Read The Foreigner for Free Online

Book: Read The Foreigner for Free Online
Authors: Francie Lin
Tiny, Princess,
Cannibal George
    He winced suddenly, touching a hand to his stitches, and opened the door. "I guess you should come in."
    He did not turn on any lights. The room remained cold and colorless in the rain-light from the window. There was not much to see, in any case. His apartment had a temporary feel: a cot along one wall, a sink in the corner, a broken accordion door dividing the toilet from the rest of the room. A carton of Long Life cigarettes stood on end beneath the window, which looked out onto a concrete wall. Old magazines and newspapers lay in piles on the floor; a messy thatch of chewed betel nut stained the kitchenette counter.
    My knee throbbed. I was waiting for Little P to offer me a chair or something, but he went immediately to the sink and took off his bandage, hissing a little as he picked it away from the wound.
    "Doctors here," he said with disgust, "are total meats." He chucked the bandage on the floor, looked closely in the mirror, probing his stitches carefully with a finger. "You know how bad that’s going to heal? Like fucking Frankenstein."
    "What happened?" I asked.
    "Aaanh…" He waved an arm, dismissive. "Couple of guys get a little unhappy, maybe they got a few friends… You know how it goes."
    "Friends with switchblades," I said.
    "Sure. We all went to a double matinee."
    "Are you okay?" I hobbled over and laid a hand on his shoulder.
    He shuddered and jerked away, his revulsion like a reflex.
    "You want something to drink?" he asked after a moment. "There’s nothing in the house, but the 7-Eleven’s on the corner." He tossed a couple of crumpled bills on the counter. "Anything you want." He pushed past me to the kitchenette and began rummaging through a drawer.
    One of the bills fluttered to the ground. As I bent over, something else, half-hidden by the slew of papers and junk, caught my eye. A length of what appeared to be hair, human hair, was caught on the edge of the linoleum. I pushed aside the newspapers and touched it. Small clots of dried blood clung to the ends.
    "A pack of Marlboros too, if they have them," Little P was saying.
    "What?" I straightened up.
    "Cigarettes. I’m almost out of smokes. If you’re going downstairs." He was speaking with difficulty through the distraction of pain, it seemed, for his lips were white, and his face had a dull veneer of sweat. He found a bottle at the back of the drawer and shook out a couple of pills, holding his head under the tap to wash them down.
    "Are you
you’re okay?"
    "Look, you want something or not?" he snapped. He wiped his mouth on his shoulder and indicated the money.
    "Not thirsty."
    "Fine," he said, and pocketed the bills again, though taking the money back seemed to piss him off. He was not used to offering anyone anything, I saw, and even less accustomed to having his offers refused. He found a cigarette in his pocket, leaned against the kitchenette counter. A silence fell.
    "So you came just to tell me," he said.
    "No, I came to see how—"
    His cell phone rang. He answered; a short muttered conversation in Chinese followed, punctuated by some curses, some seeming threats. I could pick out only a few broken words:
bring, tomorrow, evening, late, tomorrow, no no no no
. He spoke fluidly, impatiently, switching from Chinese to Hokkien without effort. A tiny jealousy warmed my blood. If Little P had been present in the hospital, perhaps he would have understood the bits of Chinese that dropped from my mother’s lips as she traveled further and further away from me.
    "I came to see you," I said, when he had hung up. He put out his smoke and began moving urgently around the apartment, gathering his knife, a bag, some clothes. "It’s been almost ten years. Little P?"
    No response. He riffled through some papers. His pain was lifting, apparently; his thoughts were elsewhere.
    "Little P?"
    "Listen. Emerson." He paused, motioned at his cigarettes. I passed the pack to him. "Sufficient unto the day,

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