Max and the Roach (short fiction)

“What do you suggest?” Max asked, looking up from the menu.

The waiter, in a dirty apron, responded in a thick Asian accent, “Special is good today. Sushi boat.”

“I’ll have that,” Max handed the menu back and turned to sister, who had already ordered. “This is my favorite lunch spot, sis. I eat here every week.”

Sarah ran a distasteful sneaker over the greasy floor and frowned, “Sure is filthy.”

“Yeah – but the food is great. This place has been in this very spot for seventy years.”

“It looks it, too,” his sister said, pointing to the adjoining table. A large roach was crawling from under a leftover bowl of rice. It stood still for a moment, antenna waving wildly, then turned back to the rice.

“That’s gross,” said Max, his face reddening in embarrassment. “I’m sorry. I’ve never seen that before. I’ll tell the waiter and get the manager.” He raised his hand to signal attention.

“Wait,” said Sarah, “Look at what it’s doing!”

Max lowered his hand and peered at the table. The roach was pulling out only the brown rice and was seemingly laying them out in a pattern.

“Oh my GOD,” whispered Sarah, “It’s spelling something.” They watched, horrified and fascinated at the same time as the words became clear.

Sarah looked at Max, then the roach, and read the rice words, “MY NAME WAS JIMMY CHIN.”

“Dammit Jimmy!” the waiter yelled and approached the roach, scattering the rice-spelled sentence with a wave of his hand. Both Max and Sarah jumped at the sound and watched as the waiter scooped up the roach one-handed and stuffed it in his apron.

Max searched for his voice and found only a piece of it, “Y-you know that roach?”

The waiter nodded as he placed the sushi boat in front of Max, “Is Jimmy Chin, my great-great grandfather. Very bad karma. He have long time to go before man again.”

Shocked, Max could only look at the waiter. Sarah asked quietly, “How long ago did he die?”

“He die in 1958.”

“er, What,” asked Sarah, “was he before he was a roach then?”

The waiter smiled, showing his jagged, yellow teeth. He rubbed his belly and pointed at Max’s boat, “Before, he was sushi.”

Sarah gasped, “You didn’t eat him did you?”

“No,” said the waiter matter-of-factly.

“Lucky sushi,” Max muttered under his breath, looking at those teeth.

“He did,” the waiter pointed at Max

(c) Ron Sparks

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