SORT BY JUST TELLING STORIES or YOU CAN SORT BY ALL
With all Apologies to Mr. Wong
(those unwritten contracts we enter, maybe hastily but happily with friends)
I grabbed and pulled at the sash metal slat emblazoned with a familiarly old 7UP advertisement that served as the handle to an almost antique rickety wooden screen backdoor. This backdoor served as the front door to Mr. Wong's Chinese Wonton n' Lawyering Shoppe. The paint on the door had peeled in so many spots one could easily see that it had been blue then green then maybe yellow at one time before; it was one of those old wooden screen doors that when pulled to be opened, bent a bit at the bottom just enough to make one stutter his step, just a stuttering moment no more.
Inside all was pretty much the same as the last time I'd seen it. When last we had been there to seek the advice of Mr. Wong oh so many years ago when we had first felt the need for some form of a contract to settle our unsettled things straight; set ourselves on a path towards a sound n' solid friendship... The Law offices of Mr. Wong's did double-duty as a kitchen for the Chinese Wonton part of his business; the part that put food on his table, so I guessed.
The walls of this office come kitchen were lined with shelves bearing row upon row of now long greasy law volumes, organized haphazardly, whole portions of them cover by things pinned willy nilly like a scatterbrain's corkboard. Arranged in a way so a scattered brain could look out loud at the very long list of things to do. Now, by no means and quite to the contrary Mr Wong was certainly no scatterbrain; these law book-lined walls with things corkboard like pinned upon them muffled the sizzling sounds of the frying of this and showed what to he'd cook for that next order of that. As book lined walls go, they certainly looked more interesting than the fake wall of books they sit our local politico down in front of for their Sunday morning TV news show interviews...
"You here to apologize?"
Mr. Wong asked (in his very old Chinese food cook total-broken english accent). This question surprised me as it was almost as if he'd not even noticed I'd walked into his kitchen; I had done so as quietly as one could through a rickety old screen backdoor. Not that I was trying to sneak in, but rather to show a little consideration or try to, as I had walked in fully expecting to ask the old man for yet another favour again... To open, review and rewrite our contract, once more.
"You owe me apology"
Puzzled me... But, for certain he had it part right. Afterall It was merely three maybe four weeks earlier that we were at the point of tearing the fourth draft of his silly little contract to shreds. Barely a month since I'd blamed the interpretation of this barely legible legal scribble for all the pains I'd been feeling in the pit of my stomach. A few short days since the thought that I'd been somewhat mistreated by this ill-legally advised contractually belly hurting agreement had began to subside. I owed Mr. Wong an apology? I don't think so, I thought out loud to myself. I'd simply come in to see if Mr Wong might polish up a clause or two; help define this contract's applications to the more recent days developments. You know revise it to suite the needs of this man that lives quietly, perhaps selfishly inside me. The man who has recently laid claim and set up shop in... my belly.
"You eat noodles"
He scooped a bowl's worth of greasy beef and flat noodles; two dolla extra beef as I liked it into a reusable tin foil take-out container; plunked that down on what counted for the only table in the corner of the kitchen. It could've look like law desk of sorts, if one squinted; swivel chair squeezed too tightly between it and the wall, an old stool for seating one's customers across from the swiveling chair. The last time I sat here, she stood beside me as Mr. Wong and I spoke the words on this contract right through. This time more alone, I grabbed a fork, and not really knowing why, as I wasn't quite hungry, started in on Mr Wong's noodles.
"You a stupid young man"
What? Here I'd come all the way across town, well actually, just 'round the corner but all the same I had got up and out of my apartment, made the effort to give this half lawyer and not half bad Chinese Food cook a little more business I couldn't afford but would promise to pay for a little bit later, just like before... And the noodles? They were certainly oh so delicious.
"You say sorry to Mr, Wong"
Pausing for a second, well actually not pausing but plunging my now growing hunger into another forkful of noodles. I couldn't help start to think about the first time we'd come by here to this law office; a little emotionally dishevelled, a bit ragged around these edges we'd been trying to connect together. Bemused at times, befuddled at others; suffering the bunglesomes that had befallen us as I figure we'd been trying to sort out and set quite a tightrope like common companionship set of objectives together. On that first visit, as we stutter stepped through the old painted but peeling screen door, I kind of felt we were grasping at straws. I recall the door bending a bit at the bottom and I got back to eating my noodles.
"You a happy man today"
And he was right, at this moment I was. Being well fed in the back of his kitchen... yes. I was happier than I had been before. I certainly didn't have everything that I'd wanted, many parts of our friendship not specifically covered in this contract; things perhaps not anticipated correctly nor considered thoroughly enough through to the passage of good, no make that great times. Those things that most contracts never can cover as there are thousands of different ways things can play themselves out over time (great times n' all); And you know, as for playing, well, we likely had many a ways left to play through all of these yet unknown things, n' all.
"You say sorry"
So, with a satisfied sigh, I finished my noodles then stood and quite officiously bowed in Mr. Wong's direction. I mumbled a heartfelt apology then reached into my pocket a fished through my wallet. I left a five and some change on the corner of what could only be described as the best law desk in the city. This five and some change counted for about half what a bowl of greasy beef noodles might have cost if I'd entered through the front doors that served of the entrance to the Wonton n' Chinese food part of Mr. Wong's business. On top of this poor payment I gave him a compliment, describing his wisdom as being on par with say, Confucius and told I'd be bring more business his way. As I turned to start leaving he stopped me... and said.
"Confucius good man make lousy noodles"
As I walked out the garage lane alleyway and back onto the road that separated her street from mine. I gave all of this and our contract, not a second, third nor even a fourth thought; but what was more likely the thousandth of thoughts I'd had giving it over these days, weeks and a month. Just a little desperation left in my thinking, I did realize, I was happy maybe even happier than before. And she too, I now recalled had been giving many an indication that she was too happier.
I let thoughts wander freely read through the original wording. Reading the now ancient only one paged, even with pictures document in my minds eye and concluded, yes, It was all there pretty much word for word and in plain black and white... Mr. Wong had prepared it as well as his noodles, not a clause had been left missing, nothing really much more could be added, taken out or re-worded. Oh for certain at least many ways left to get through as things yet to come; but with my belly now full of those greasy great noodles and a new beefy pep in my step. I was pretty confident, this well prepared, thorough quite precisely written in the back of a Wonton Restaurant contract... did indeed, have our continuing friendship well covered.
With all do respect Mr. Wong, indeed I am sorry, oh and thanks for that noodle.