SNAFU: Bentos, Electronics and Selective Memory by Joey To | A Short Story About Politics

Joey To kicks off our short list for the DALLAS LAWYERS CLUB with a short story about politics, or is it a political meta story? Either way, it’s a story about a writing competition published on a short story competition website. Wrap your head around it and read on. Still waters run deep…


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SNAFU: Bentos, Electronics and Selective Memory

A Short Story About Politics

by Joey To


RICKY, early-20s and of Chinese heritage, goes to his first Asian History lecture, being a mandatory arts elective in his degree. SORA, early-20s and Japanese, sits next to him. The two_

Backspace, backspace, backspace.

Jonathan leans back into his chair and looks around. The place is full; not surprising since it’s new and it’s lunchtime. A waitress places a sushi and tempura bento onto the table on his left. Looks good. Of course, he expects nothing less from a Japanese eatery that’s actually run by Japanese people. He hates it when Chinese people run sushi bars just as he hates it when white people try to cook Chinese on television. (And it’s not just because he’s Chinese.) Oh look, the latter is what’s on the flat-screen in the corner. He shakes his head, then glances at his watch: still some minutes before she arrives.

Jonathan stares at his laptop screen, fingers gently tapping the keys… Stuff it. Moving onto Act II.

At a family gathering, Ricky introduces Sora to his relatives, including his grandparents who lived through the war. They_

“Hey, Jonathan-kun.”

He looks up, eyes blank.

“Heeello,” says the young lady with long straight black hair waving her hand. “I see your film treatment is probably not coming along.”

Jonathan shakes himself out of his stupor. “Sorry, Yuki-chan… yeah, I’m stuck.”

Smiling, she sits as a middle-aged Chinese couple is lead to the table on Jonathan’s right. He hears them speaking Cantonese as the woman elbows her way pass Yuki. There’s something familiar about this rude woman.

“When’s it due?” asks Yuki as she shifts her chair towards the table.

“Three weeks,” answers Jonathan, shutting the screen and pushing the laptop aside.

“And it has to be auto-biographical?”

Jonathan nods. “Partly.”

“Then it shouldn’t be too hard, right?” says Yuki, picking up the menu.

Jonathan shrugs. “Well, it has to be dramatic too. It’s part of the competition.”

As Yuki scans the menu, Jonathan hears the couple on his right bitching (in Cantonese) about the tables being too close. The woman also glances at him, then Yuki, then back at him before facing her husband again. Jonathan rolls his eyes which Yuki notices. She raises an eyebrow. Jonathan simply smirks.

“So what’re you having?” asks Yuki.

“I’m definitely having sushi and tempura,” he says, nodding at the bento to his left.

Meanwhile, the television broadcasts the news: something about Chinese warships in the South China Sea and Japanese fighters being scrambled to intercept Chinese surveillance aircraft. Apparently, China thinks the South China Sea is all theirs just cos it’s got the word “China” in it.

“So much to choose from,” says Yuki, still reading the menu.

Jonathan smiles. “Take your time.”

The Chinese couple waffles on about the war. Jonathan scoffs, enjoying the entertainment. And the fact that they have Honda keys.

“I hate Japs, not admitting…”

“…only care about territory and money. Look at them now…”

Yuki knits her brow, picking up on their heated tone if nothing else. Jonathan is not a fight-starter but he doesn’t mind some fun…

“So, do Japanese textbooks talk about the war?” he asks, deliberately a little loud.

“Some do. Some don’t.”

That’s what he likes about Yuki-chan, a very matter-of-fact person. Besides, admitting the truth (or not) is one matter but it’s not this generation doing the shooting. Not yet anyway.

“Do you know how many Chinese died in the Sino-Japanese wars?”

“I’m not sure,” says Yuki. “Why?”

“Just wanna compare to the body-count caused by the Chinese commies. They probably did at least twenty times more damage than the Japanese, right?”

The Chinese woman glowers at Jonathan. He sneers. Definitely familiar. He flips his laptop screen open and looks up the film company running the competition.

No wonder: the cow is one of the judges.

“What is it?” asks Yuki.

“I’ll tell you later.”

“By the way, how’s the laptop? I bought you a Japanese brand cos I know that’s what you prefer.”

Jonathan just then realizes he hasn’t checked so he turns the thing over: MADE IN CHINA. Shit.

Oh well, at least he’s got more ideas brewing for an “interesting” treatment for at least one judge.


SNAFU: Bentos, Electronics and Selective Memory –
A Short Story About Politics, first featured on the DALLAS LAWYERS CLUB Short Story Contest

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