At the request of my editor Eric Choi, I'm posting an excerpt from my short story, "The Right to Eat Decent Food" from the anthology, The Dragon and the Stars. The two main characters, Mike and Steven, are roommates teaching English at a boarding school in China when the SARS epidemic hits. The school administrators quarantine everyone, which means Mike and Steven can't go out and are stuck eating nasty school food. In this excerpt, someone is about to take advantage of them in their distress. Enjoy!
Stomachs rumbling, we settled down in our two-bedroom apartment to discuss alternatives. Perhaps Mike could call up his girlfriend and have her throw food over the fence to us while we tossed her the money.
A loud knocking jolted us.
I answered the door to find a slender, teenage Chinese girl in a black student uniform, the name of the school in yellow block letters across her chest. She had a long, elegant nose, and her eyes were as bright and clear as an infant's.
I caught myself staring and turned to Mike. "Not my student."
Mike looked blank. "Not mine either."
The girl smiled. "My name is Rabbit. May I come in?"
Neither Mike nor I laughed. I already had students who had chosen Beaver, Tigger, and Harry Potter for their English names.
Mike nodded, so she stepped in, and I closed the door behind her.
She wouldn't sit, and her Chinese accent thickened when she spoke again. "Teachers, I heard you want, ah, decent food."
I don't know why I squirmed as though I had been caught with porn magazines. "It's no big deal."
"But, of course, you have, ah, the right to eat decent food," Rabbit said, her voice full of sympathy.
Mike's eyes widened. "You mean, you can do something about this?"
Rabbit's smile broadened. "Trust me?"