Internet Cafe Part 1

   After an uneventful dinner Shizi is relieved as he walks towards his bedroom. He knits his eyebrows together, I need to think of an excuse so I can go to the internet cafe.  He has his chance when his father calls him to come to the living room.  

    Shizi’s father, Fan Zhang is a building supply salesman and travels frequently on business trips. He is strict with Shizi because he wants him to have a better life. Go to a good University and find a reliable job. If  Fan Zhang doesn’t make his monthly quota of sales the company cuts his salary and threatens on a regular basis to have him replaced. He worries about providing for his family and has anger issues because of the stress he is under at work. 

   “Ji, I got a call from the school.”

   Shizi’s first reaction is to panic; he did have a confrontation with his math teacher on Monday. He nervously runs his fingers through his ink black hair, “Dad..I can…”

   “Son, it is impolite to interrupt how many times have I told you.” Shizi’s father is holding in his anger because of the phone call from the school.

   “Sorry Dad.”

   “As I was saying I got a call from the school on my way back from the airport.The principal, Mr. Hong told me you have been selected as the representative to the Math Competition in Catang City.. He also complimented you on your dedication to community service and as a class leader. “

   Shizi forgot the Principal called him into his stuffy office to discuss some Math Competition. Dad looks excited I hope the Mr. Hong didn’t tell him I refused to go and recommended Ming Wei.

   He detects a slight smile on his father’s usually frozen in anger face and decides to reconsider and represent the school. Although it sounds terminally boring...I could. Maybe there is a cash prize. Tomorrow I will tell the old fart Mr. Hong that I will go to Catang City. I have never been there.

    “Why didn’t you tell me that you are ranked first in your class?”

   “They posted on Monday and you were in Shanghai.”

   “Keep up the good work.” 

     “Dad, I have a report due tomorrow. Can I go to the library?”

   “Be home at 9:30, not a minute later. Take the trash out when you leave.”

   “Yes Dad.”

    Shizi runs into his bedroom and grabs his backpack then goes to the kitchen to get the trash. He impulsively hugs his petite mother who is doing the dishes. She laughs, “Ji! What are you doing?”

   “I’m just happy.”

    He takes the garbage  and as he walks through the living room he smiles at his father, “Thanks Dad.”

   Fan Zhang looks up from the newspaper in his hands and nods. He stares at his handsome son’s dazzling smile. I can’t remember the last time the kid had a genuine smile when he looked at me. He has grown into a very handsome and smart young man. He chuckles thinking, Ji looks  just like his stunning mother… the school goddess back in the day. Ji has her beautiful Peach Blossom eyes, fair skin and red lips. The only thing the boy inherited from me is my height.  

   Shizi jumps down the stairs three at a time and is humming a song as he leaves the apartment building. He is itching to get on the computer at the internet cafe and start the search for Song Sara. 

He walks through the parking lot and tosses the garbage into the dumpster. Once he is on the sidewalk he jogs down the street. He stops at the convenience store on the corner for a soda and notices there are no thugs hanging around.

   Shizi enters the store and gets a bottle of Coke then walks to the counter. The teenager behind the counter is jumping up and down in excitement. Dong Heng has been waiting to tell one of his buddies what happened an hour ago. He was getting thoroughly depressed because no one he knew came into the store.

Dong Heng spits saliva as he exclaims, “Ji bro..you aren’t going to believe what happened…Ugly Fu’s gang got run out of here by some badass looking men. . Bro! You should have seen these guys.. two black Limited Edition Mercedes SUVs pulled up in front and the men that got out looked like…fuck…like they were out of a goddamn movie. Seriously fuckin scary looking fuckers…not one shorter than 190cm and each one built like Mt. Tai.”

      Shizi opens the Coke while he is listening and the awestruck teenager continues the story.

“ I was watching at the window, Ugly Fu and the whole gang were bowing and I swear their fucking legs were shaking. Bro! Next thing you know Ugly Fu and his gang pick up all the beer bottles and shit on the sidewalk. When they finished they scurried away like a bunch of cockroaches when the lights came on..So unbelievably cool!”

   Shizi grabs a bag of spicy pork rinds and puts 15 yuan on the counter.He rips opens the bag and puts one in his mouth. After he swallows he says, “Did you hear who sent them?”

  “No. I didn’t want to be too conspicuous so I stayed inside. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but Big Fu and the rest of those morons looked scared as shit.”

  “These pork rinds are stale. I’m heading to the internet cafe… I gotta go.”

  “…”

  Shizi thinks it can’t be a coincidence…Mr. Li sent them to get rid of the scum…he is serious about buying the apartment building. But shouldn’t he wait until he makes the purchase? I need to find Song Sara.

   He tosses the empty snack bag and bottle into the trash then stretches his long legs and runs to the internet cafe.

   Once he is inside the cafe he walks to the counter. A pretty girl with short purple hair is chewing gum. She  quickly spits the gum out into the trash when she sees him approaching. Gazing at him her eyes are sparkling,“Shizi, I’ve missed you.” She pouts, “ Did you find another cafe?”

   “I have been busy.” He looks around, “Is Skinny Pei here?”

  “No. He went to the barbeque stall down the street to eat. Should be back soon.”

He looks at her with puppy dog eyes, “Ahh…he usually gives me a discount. I guess I’ll come back.”

   She doesn’t hesitate, “I can do it! I’m the Assistant Manager now. Is 30% discount good?”

   He smiles, “Wow! Congratulations.” Shizi reluctanly admits, “Skinny Pei only gives me 15% discount.”

Mimi wrinkles her nose, hope he doesn’t yell at me..Uncle Pei is so cheap only 15%? “It’s fine. I already rang it in and don’t know how to void a transaction.”

    Shizi hands her the money, “Thanks then. Two hours.” 

    When he touches her hand Assistant Manager Mimi’s heart flutters, OMG… Shizi is so damn handsome. “Go to Number 15 it is brand new.”

    Shizi finds the computer and sits down. He cracks his knuckles and begins typing. First…umm… I should hack into the cameras in the hospital. Mr. Li said she was there for a check up around eleven.

    After ten minutes he accesses the hospital’s security cameras and smiles. Okay, seventh floor. He said she was on the seventh floor. 

    A friend spots him and sneaks up then taps him on the shoulder. Fan Ji is startled and turns around, “What the hell! Asshole!”

    Shorty leans over and stares at the computer, “What are you doing?”

   “Fuck off. Don’t disturb me, I’m working.”

  “Whatever man. I thought you could join us for a game.”

  “Not tonight. This is important.”

    After Shorty leaves he brings up the footage but the screen is black. Huh? He types in a series of numbers and stares at the still black screen with a perplexed expression. Nothing. He tries another method and has the same result. Someone erased the footage? He decides to check another floor and there are people walking out of the elevator… down the hallway… checking in at the front desk. He taps a pen on a pad he has next to the computer .This is what the seventh floor should look like…some activity anyway.

   He mutters to himself, ”Okay…shit of course…the lobby.”

   His fingers fly across the keyboard and  he kicks back in the chair, “Another fucking black screen!” Who is this woman anyway!” Mr. Li is obviously a very powerful man and unable to find this chick. Considering his resources it should have been a slam dunk. Someone equally or more powerful is preventing him. 

   After an hour of searching for a way to locate Song Sara, he is beginning to see why no one can find the woman. She is like a goddamn ghost!

  Mimi has been watching him while leaning on the counter. I think Shizi’s ‘I’m so serious face’ is even cuter than when he smiles and his Peach Blossom eyes bend into a crescent shape. Mimi secretly takes a picture of him on her brand new iPhone. When she looks at the quality of the picture she thinks..so worth eating instant noodles every day to pay for it. She hugs her phone to her chest. 

  Skinny Pei walks in and sees Shizi on his brand new computer. He is a fat..very fat man, his plaid shirt barely covers his belly and the buttons look like they will burst open at any given moment. He is wheezing as he stomps over to the counter. He growls, “Mimi! Stinky brat! I told you Computer 15 is for my personal use. If Auntie didn’t insist you work here I would fire you!”

   “Little Uncle, I’m sorry but the other computers that were available were crappy. You don’t want one of our best customers to go somewhere else do you? He is so handsome and popular, he looks like an Immortal that has come down to the mortal world! Shizi attracts a lot of business.” She points to a group of  teenage girls that keep staring at him. “His friends come here too to play games. Look on the right side. If he went somewhere else we would lose business.”

   “Yeah I guess you are right.” He burps and Mimi covers her nose, “Gross!” Skinny Pei burps again and looks at Shizi. “The kid is really something. He could be a fucking Idol if he wanted. That’s why I give him a discount. But, little girl, don’t you dare let any other one of these brats use number 15 after he leaves. He burps again, “You got it?”

   Mimi is holding her nose as she responds, “Yes, Uncle Pei.”

He lights a cigar and the smoke chokes Mimi, “Keke…Keke..”.Honestly! She waves her hand in front of her pretty face as she steps back, “Little Uncle, you really should stop smoking and eat better you are only thirty! How are you ever going to find a girlfriend!” The prime of your life and you look and smell like a crusty old man!

He blows out a smoke ring and laughs, “With my money of course!”

Mimi shakes her head as she wipes off the barbeque sauce on his shirt with a wet cloth that she was using to clean the counter. Muttering in a very low voice as she walks to greet a customer, “Uncle Pei I love you… but you are sadly delusional… you own one shitty internet cafe that Grandpa gave you the money to open.”

Skinny Pei burps again, “What was that?”

Mimi hurries towards the customer, “Nothing…nothing.”

 

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