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Once A Noted Writer of Avant-Garde Science Fiction, He Now Supports Himself Writing Restaurant Reviews For A Los Angeles Weekly, by Zak Smith
Joy Fong Golden Wok House (first draft)
The white towel. The shirt, without a collar, that buttons to an inflectionless period beneath the haiku of the smiling face. Who are these obsequious men? And what do their obsequies portend? Fine dining? A tank of carp? Lobsters? The blood-stain on the red centerpiece flower, the deeper vermillion of the tightly-patterned wall. A fine place to die, this Fong Golden Wok house. Slumped into a robust booth cushion, face against your own face in the mirror, goldenrod and cranes etched over your cancelled head.
I have known chinamen. They are not all wheedling and gormless. Fine duck, sir? Yes. Fine duck. The salty flesh dividing, delaminating from the boathull texture. Is this a beak? Spiced broccoli–I see no point in that. A game of football–Oilers and Rams colliding inside the greasy white overhanging box, numbered men saying nothing through a speckling of unused soundholes, the words labeling the schematic armored violence
it looks like…
Hubblerimmer will call…
An illegible Chinese notice taped to the box. Children coloring on the mats, circling zodiac animals. Cock, rat, ox. A sequined arm raises up, gold skirt, mimes a dance. Come back, her mother says, come back and sit down. Spiced broccoli–nestled seeds deep in the spongework of loamy green, varnished unevenly brown, all pointless, all pointless. Bring me dumplings. An ecstasy of steam in the parchment of my face. Dumplings are fine and right. Cut through the damp skin sac, a grey translucence, splitting open, tender fistful of unstrung meat. Its mother tells the one trying to eat a crayon, he was born in the year of the tiger. I’m the tiger? Yes, give me that, yes you’re a tiger. The word Prang hangs asymmetrical black on colored paper from the vampirical mouth like a torn tooth, a pennant and a stalagtite. The figures scuttle on the painted grass, looking after a ball. Carapaced, padded, banded, their sharpnesses rounded against impact, piling one on the next. White noodles lie untouched. A lobster looks at me, and I at him. Imagine spending your last days in a public swimming pool where everyone had a pair of claws. (Idea for story–prisons full. Swimming pools used as death row–Makes no sense.) These footballmen–are they not also lobsters? What are the transformations here? What is asked of men? To eat with sticks. To pour cupfuls of tea. To explain a restaurant. To write in a notebook. To be seventy five. To look insane.
Zak Smith is an artist who first came to prominence with his mammoth work Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow. Smith’s paintings and drawings are held in major public and private collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. We Did Porn— a book includng drawings and stories about his experiences working in the adult film industry— his third book and his first to include writing— was published by Tin House Books. He lives and works in Los Angeles.