The Fish Restaurant

"Yong--! Come out and have a few drinks with us!"


The fish had just been put in the pot when Yong Laosan heard the call from the lobby. He looked down at the fish in the pot, then up at the calendar on the wall.


It had been some days since he last saw Wang Ermei come to play in the restaurant.


She didn’t play actually, but instead helped out a little in the kitchen. He would have been readily available to go out when the diners invited him to drink with them, if Wang Er-mei were here helping him look after the fish for a while. Now he had to deal with both all alone.


He felt a little annoyed.


Considering that the fish could still remain in good condition being left in the pot for just a few minutes, he immediately rushed out to greet the diners. Originally, drinking with diners was not a rule here. But he Yong Lao-san himself loves wine, and as the diners coming to his restaurant are mostly his regular guests, it’s important for him to show hospitality by drinking with them. Therefore, it has gradually become a custom in this fish restaurant.


Lifting the curtain and looking towards the lobby, he saw a few bare-chested men sitting at the third table by the window, drinking and chattering, their voices really loud. The one sitting closest to the window was a potato-like figure, dark-skinned, short and thin. He wore a thin navy blue shirt, underneath which was a sagging white undershirt. He was facing the person on his left who was pouring the wine in his cup, and who was tall and big, contrasting sharply with the "potato". The big guy had a round head, short thick neck and broad shoulders, wearing a green T-shirt, presenting a large sweat-soaked pattern on its back. The one to his other side had a monkey face, with high cheekbones, large and bulging eyes and thin lips, also wearing a white undershirt. He was licking the wine in his cup. The last person had a square face, was mid height, and dressed in a cotton tunic with cuffs rolled up to the upper arm, showing a clear and humourous line of demarcation - this was regarded as the signature tattoo of the truck driver whose forearms were, exposed to sunlight for most of the day. These men are long-running drivers who pass by this region frequently, and were all regular guests of Yong Laosan.


The moment these guys saw Yong Laosan, they waved their hands joyfully, hurriedly taking out a wine cup and filling it.


"Welcome! The fish will be served in a minute!" Yong Laosan greeted them with a big smile, and reached out his hand to take the cup of wine handed to him.


"Yong, look at your business now... Good for you!" The big man's face was flushed as he chuckled. He grabbed his cheeks in one hand and the cup in the other, as if he was about to clink the cup, but yet as if he wasn't.


"Hahaha it’s no big deal. Thank you guys for the long-term support. I'll take a shot first." He proposed a toast and then drank it all in one go. The others followed.


As soon as they put down their cups, they yelled to pour Yong Laosan another drink. At this point the big man said again, "How come I haven't seen that girl today? isn't she always helping in the kitchen?"


Yong Laosan hadn't had a chance to respond before another person piped out, "Yong, are you interested in her? Your wife won’t be happy...hahaha!" The speaker was the "monkey face". He chuckled, squeezing his eyes to look at Yong Laosan, while tilting his face to the others on the table."Bullshit! We are just neighbours. The girl likes to learn some cooking, and I just teach her some rough skills." He quickly explained.


"Yong, take care and don’t be fooled. You know what, I noticed a new fish restaurant opened down the street two days ago, the owner of which quite resembles that girl ah..." "Mr.Potato" suddenly interjected into the conversation with a weird smile and a tone that made Yong Laosan a little uncomfortable.


Yong Laosan froze for a moment, and as if remembering something, he loudly replied: "Oops let’s finish the drink, and I still have to go back to the kitchen!" Then everyone took their shots. Yong Laosan had not yet set the cup down before his entire body inclined toward the kitchen side. As soon as the cup fell on the table, he seemed to flee into that kitchen.


The drunkenness came upon him. Yong Llaosan looked at the pan of charred fish, feeling a little dizzy.