The Frangipani Hotel: Fiction

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Book: Read The Frangipani Hotel: Fiction for Free Online
Authors: Violet Kupersmith
Tags: Fantasy
because I’m drunk—and I
am
drunk—but that, that’s beside the point, and the point is that I could use a guy like you. I know I’m rushing this—I fly home to the States on Saturday morning—but I’m coming back to Hanoi in six weeks, and then things will start moving fast. We need people like you: sharp, hardworking. People with your language skills. People who know the way this city works. To be advisers and go-betweens, to do PR. I know it’s kind of unusual, to be doing things this way, but I think it’s a sign that I met you by chance. You’re young, you’re clever, you can do whatever you want to!”
    I don’t have the energy to be surprised by anything anymore. Even the American’s spontaneous job offering. “That’s very nice of you,” I say flatly.
    “I’m not saying it to be nice, I’m saying it because it’s true. Do you want to end up like him?” He inclines his head toward Mr. Henry, who has a dribble of spit hanging from the corner of his mouth. That’s when I start to have dangerous thoughts.
I could do it
, I think.
I could leave. What’s keeping me here?
    Slowly, I hold out my hand to him across the table. He reaches out his own and shakes mine, and when I pull away there is a business card pressed against my palm.
    “You hold on to that. Phi, you’ve got my word, I’ll be back in six weeks’ time, and then we’re gonna be running half of this city.”
    He pours us both refills and we clink our glasses and drink. He looks thoughtful for a moment, then strangely shy. Then he says, “There’s one thing in the meantime that I could use your help with.” Ah. I’ve been waiting for the catch. “The thing that he—is he your dad?”
    I shake my head. “No. Uncle.”
    “The thing that your uncle was talking about before—the beautiful girls of your country. I thought it would be a shame to pass up the chance, since I’m here, in”—he pauses and runs his fingers through his hair—“in Asia. Just for one night. I’ve been on the road so much lately, and it can get lonely—”
    “I think I know what you mean,” I break in, so I don’t have to hear any more. “I can give you the name of a place in Ba Đình—”
    “Wait, hear me out. I don’t mean … I don’t want a whore. I’m not looking to sleep with anybody …” The American is offended now. “I just want to take a young, beautiful girl out to dinner, out dancing. I want to put my hand around her waist, to talk to her, to laugh with her. Nothing more. Is that so wrong of me?”
    I shrug.
    “Look,” he says, smiling again, “to show you that my intentions are nothing less than honorable, I’m gonna take you with me.” He laughs. “You can be my chaperone. How about tomorrow night? You arrange everything with the girl, and let her know I mean well, that I’m not a creep or anything. We’ll all go to dinner at eight. Sound good?”
    I’ve already made too many strange deals today, and I hesitate before this one.
    “Okay,” I say eventually.
    “Great!” He stands up and points at Mr. Henry. “Now let’s get this big boy home.”
    I stand, too, and am alarmed by the way the world wobbles when I do. The American drops an enormous pile of bills on the table without counting them, and we hoist my uncle between us and stagger off down the alleyway. It’s mostly the American who’s supporting Mr. Henry’s weight—I’m struggling enough trying to keep myself upright. Thankfully, the streets are practically deserted by now, and the only person who witnesses our walk home is an old man burning a paper spirit-offering in the gutter.

    T HE A MERICAN AND I deposit Mr. Henry in the first-floor bedroom. On our way up the stairs I turn to him and say, “It feels funny, working together like this, but I guess I should start getting used to it, huh?”
    “What?” he says. I realize that I have been speaking in Vietnamese.
    I tell him good night in English and leave him at the second-floor landing,

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