Ships in the Night

In Charlie Chan is Dead 2: At Home in the World, edited by Jessica Hagedorn. Penguin, 2004.

Forty-two fresh, vibrant, dissonant voices in contemporary Asian American writing come together in this groundbreaking anthology. Edited by acclaimed novelist Jessica Hagedorn, this collection of short stories celebrates the rich spectrum of Asian American experience and identities. 

Mrs. Wong got up early and cut the guts out of fishes. Her garden was overgrown with vegetables—bok choy, yu choy, snap peas and chards. She dug her kitchen scraps right into the earth. Whenever Baby left the little house, she had to pass Mrs. Wong, squatting outside with her sleeves rolled up, doing something wet and violent to food. She scrubbed black earth off white radishes as fat as legs, cracked ribs of pork, scaled red snappers for luck, decapitated turtles for longevity. Sometimes when Baby went out to buy cigarettes for Cayenne, Mrs. Wong would wipe her forehead with a bloodstained knuckle and call out to her—You! You!—hoisting herself to her feet and parting the tendrils of the pea vines that climbed up the chain link. She had a gap-toothed smile that squeezed her eyes into crescents as she thrust things into Baby’s hands—a dusty bunch of mustard greens, the head of a cabbage. Guy told Baby she must always accept the gift and always say thank you. She could say, “Tao-che,” which meant, ‘I appreciate you many times.’