By on December 8, 2013

Several months ago, when he assumed the editorial responsibility for the The Truth About Cars, Jack Baruth made a the readers several promises. Among those promises was a commitment that this web site’s home page would be “100% work safe.” Anyone, he said, should be able to visit this website any time and not have their career put in danger. NSFW material could still be published, he promised, but it would always come with a warning and be kept behind a link.

This week, I found out first-hand that he meant what he said. Ladies and gentlemen, the following story begins with certain language that, if taken out of context by someone in your place of employment, might get some of you into trouble. Click the following Sunday Story link at your own peril.

I look forward to reading your thoughts on this work in the comment section. – TMK

Pho

The girl snapped her eyes shut and reflexively turned her face away from the stream of cock sauce an instant before it struck. Time dilated and James watched in slow motion as gooey mixture impacted the gentle curve of her cheek and then sprayed in every direction. The blast painted the side of her face, spattered up into her hair and dribbled down onto the front of her obviously expensive dress. The girl’s mother shrieked, her sister giggled and her father, an enormous stern-looking man, silently studied the boy who had just sullied his daughter. The man‘s expression showed nothing but James knew he was being judged. His entire unhappy life flashed before his eyes, replayed in its entirety from his ignoble beginning and culminating in the night’s events. From there, the future stretched without cheer or hope towards an oppressive black horizon.

They weren’t the kind of people who usually ate at the Pho-King. The Vietnamese noodle shop was one of those places that attracted business with a large neon sign that read “You’ll love our Pho-King soup!” and its usual customers were broke college kids and working class families on tight budgets. This family seemed above such silliness but, for whatever reason, on this night they had chosen the fluorescent lights and plastic place mats of the Pho-King over the many better restaurants in town. The other customers could only watch and wonder why.

The matriarch was a stunning Asian beauty who spoke in the gentle tones of exotically accented English. Impossibly petite, with flawless make up, impeccable clothes and expensive jewelry, she had the look of a trophy wife. The father was a broad shouldered Caucasian with salt-and-pepper hair who, despite his age, was impressively fit with massive biceps – “guns” the Frat guys would call them thought James. The man’s clothes were nowhere near as expensive as his wife’s but his attention to the fine details of his appearance, the Rolex watch on his wrist and the high powered European sedan that had quickly attracted James’ attention when it first rolled into the parking lot told the world he was a man of real means.

The couple’s two daughters were as different from one another as the two parents. The older girl, the one James had just hosed down with hot pepper sauce, favored her mother and was a small Asian American beauty with soft brown eyes, clear olive skin and long auburn hair that fell in long, naturally curly ringlets down to the middle of her back. The other girl, around sixteen years old and just as pretty as her mom and sister, favored her father. She was already a head taller than the other two women and had the hard, muscular look of an athlete. Telephone in hand, she giggled happily at her sister’s misfortune as she filmed the scene. “This is Pho-king hilarious!” she snorted.

Time reasserted itself and James, in a panic, seized a napkin and swiped at the girl’s face, carefully trying to sweep the mixture of red peppers and vinegar away from her eyes. Thank God she had quick reflexes he thought as he cursed his own carelessness. She could have really been hurt, he realized. Why on Earth had he decided the bottle needed to be shaken up before he added the pepper sauce to her plate? He had been trying to impress her, he knew, and a wave of shame swept over him.

He knew her, of course, her name was Sachi. They went to the same college and they often found themselves together in the classes. They had been paired countless times for group projects and made a good team. James was smart, maybe a little too nerdy according to some girls, but he was a popular choice for joint assignments as he usually did the lion’s share of the work. But Sachi wasn’t a free rider, he knew. Perhaps she wasn’t as cerebral as James liked to think he was, but she did her fair share and, he had to acknowledge, her contributions always made their projects better.

They had, over time, gained a mutual respect for one another’s abilities and an odd “Beauty and the Beast” sort of friendship had taken root. Not long after that, James found that his heart began beat faster whenever she was near. He wanted to be with her, but there were always papers to write, tests to study for and, of course, his own difficult work schedule in the way. He just didn’t have the time, at least that’s what he told himself, but the truth was that he had learned early in life that pretty girls like Sachi didn’t date nerds like him. To ask her out was to court rejection and so, he had taken a different course.

He had done his best to seem casual as he passed her the 50% off coupon and invited her to come and visit him at work. He never really thought she would actually follow through and when the girl arrived that very night with her whole family in tow, James had nearly lost his mind. That she had come at all meant something important, he knew, but exactly what he could not fathom. The uncertainty made him nervous and the added stress of facing her mother, father and sister had driven him towards panic. He had felt sick to his stomach when they had come in, but he did his best to rise to the occasion. Things had been going well until…

The father spoke sharply and his tone had the hint of a real threat to it. “Yuri, put that damn camera away. If this ends up on the internet you’ll be off-line and at home for a month.”

The girl filmed for a moment more, gave a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes before putting the phone away. The mother, meanwhile, dug through her purse and pulled out a small bag of wet wipes. Gently pushing the boy’s hands away from her daughter, she cleaned the girl’s face and then tried to blot away at the stain on the dress before it could set. The daughter objected and there was a brief exchange in a foreign language. A moment later, they both stood and headed towards the rest room, the mother still fussing over the girl like a hen over a baby chick.

James stammered an apology but no one seemed be listening. He turned his attention to the mess on the table and had almost finished cleaning when the manager arrived. “Looks like you’ll be paying for this family’s dinner tonight.” He said ominously. James nodded without looking up, it was better that way. A day’s lost wages would be a burden, he knew, but it was fair. He’d probably get asked to pay for Sachi’s dry cleaning, too. Damn, would there ever be a time when money wasn’t an issue?

After cleaning up the mess, James took a 15 minute break and exited the kitchen via the back door. He needed to decompress and the parking lot was the only real option. He liked cars and for some reason being around them always made him feel calmer. Behind the wheel of his Mustang the world made sense. He wasn’t the world’s greatest driver, he knew, but when he was in the driver‘s seat, he could go anywhere his heart desired. He looked at his car and wished he could slip into it now and slink away but he had a meal to pay for and he needed the hours. Escape was impossible but, at the very least, Sachi and her family would be gone when he got back. Of course, he would still have to face her at school on Monday. He shivered at the thought.

The curvaceous shape of the expensive sedan on the far side of the parking lot caught the boy’s eye and, awestruck, James wandered towards it without thinking. Sleek and powerful, the car hunkered in its space like a predator waiting to pounce. It was beautiful, thought James, more art than machine. He stopped at a respectful distance as he admired the car’s lines in the in the unnatural brightness of the streetlights. He would never own anything like it, he realized suddenly. Even after he had graduated, a teacher’s salary would never pay for something like this. He hadn’t guessed that Sachi’s parents had this kind of wealth and, feeling suddenly foolish, he hung his head.

For a big man, Sachi’s father was surprisingly stealthy and James was startled by the man’s sudden presence at his side. The two men stood together silently, both eyeing the grand car while they each searched for the words that would bridge the gap between them. As the silence stretched out, James reached down deep and found the courage to speak. “Nice car.” he squeaked.

The man smiled and looked at the youth. “Thanks.” he answered. “When I was young, I couldn’t have imagined that one day I might own something like that.” He gestured towards the car with his chin. “Sometimes, life takes you places you never thought you could go. You just have to keep getting back up every time you fall down.”

James had been expecting a rebuke and was surprised at the man’s gentle tone. He searched for something else to say but Sachi’s father continued, “Your boss wouldn’t let us pay our bill.” he said seriously. “Is he really going to make you pay for our dinner out of your own pocket?”

James nodded. “Yes.” he answered. “But it’s OK. I ruined your dinner, and Sachi’s dress and, well,” his voice broke, “everything.”

“The entire bill came to about $50.” said the man. “There were times in my life when that much money was a day or two of hard work. That’s a high price to pay for what was obviously an accident.” The big man fished out his wallet, withdrew a $100 bill and offered it to the boy.

James gaped at the money, too afraid to take it. The older man responded to the boy’s silence by stuffing it into the pocket of the younger man’s apron. “My daughter says good things about you.” he continued. “That you’re smart, funny and that you want to be a high school teacher when you graduate from college.”

James was dumbfounded. Sachi talked about him? To her parents? It was too much to believe.

“Looks to me like you’re earnest and hard working too.” the man added. “Those are qualities that I find a many young men lack these days.” Sachi’s father paused and, for the second time that night, James felt he was being judged.

The expression on Sachi’s father’s face softened ever so slightly. “You know,” he said at last, “lots of boys call our house asking to speak to our daughters but Sachi has good sense when it comes to people and most of them don’t get very far. Tonight, when she insisted that we spend our family Friday here, I knew it was important.” He shook his head. “Not my kind of food to be honest, but a father has an obligation to help their children get what they want in life.”

Before James had time to think about what the words might have meant the door to the restaurant opened and the three women came out in a group, Sachi’s mom still fussing over her eldest daughter while the younger girl tittered and laughed at her big sister’s distress. Sachi saw the two men standing together and broke from the others as her mother and sister went to the car. She approached the men furtively, sidling up to her father and taking him by the hand. “Daddy,” she asked in the sly little voice she used when she wanted something. “You’re not hassling James, are you?”

“Well,” replied her father with the hint of humor in his voice, “he did assault my daughter, did he not?”

“It was just a silly accident.” she argued playfully. She looked at James, her face radiant and the boy suddenly flushed deep red in response. Was it possible to see someone blush under the streetlights?

“We were just talking about cars.” replied the big man as he shot the boy a wink.

“You’re always talking about cars, daddy.” she teased. Her tone brightened suddenly, “Did I tell you that James promised me a ride in his Mustang?”

A ride? Had he really promised her a ride? The boy’s mind raced but he was finding it difficult to think. Something was happening but he wasn’t quite sure what.

The big man hugged his daughter with one arm and put his other hand on James’ shoulder. “That’s great.” he answered. “I’m looking forward to talking with him some more when he comes to pick you up. It’ll be nice to have someone around who appreciates fast cars for a change.”

The big man guided the two kids together, placed his daughter’s hand in the boy’s and muttered something about starting the car as he turned to go. But the words were lost to the night. Sachi’s touch was electric and for the second time that night James’ entire life flashed before his eyes. Only this time, when the vision had ended, cheer and hope and begun to bloom and, out on the distant horizon, the sun was rising.

o-SRIRACHA-facebook

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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22 Comments on “Sunday Stories: “A Father’s Obligation” by Thomas Kreutzer...”


  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    This totally sounds like my local Pho joint, which is an old Taco Tico with only the menu boards changed. I don’t know where the attractive Asian ladies in my town hide normally, but they’re always chock-a-block inside. Really, really good food, and cock sauce on every table.

    Owner drives a silver ML320, about 10 years old, that’s always out back.

  • avatar

    My father is COLOR BLIND. When he was my age he was a chauffeur but he kept getting into accidents with those old Lincolns – due to not being able to see the traffic lights – so they suspended his license for a while. He later went into real estate, did very well and is now retired.

    Not only am I his genetic superior (in that I beat the color blindness gene), but I’m a far better driver.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    James was lucky. My college girlfriend would never let me spray cock sauce on her face.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    My first wife was and still is, and exotic Asian beauty, and we’re still friends. A few more have passed through my life since our parting, but Pho soup is something I never got a desire for as I don’t eat anything with ears.

    Nicely crafted story, Thomas. Thanks for the Sunday treat.

    • 0 avatar

      Not even corn?

      • 0 avatar
        3Deuce27

        COL!*

        Ears of Corn presented a dillema when ears of Corn petitioned me for an exemption. After much soul searching and critical deliberation, exemptions were granted as follows. White Corn could be consumed directly or unprocessed. Yellow corn could only be consumed as Yellow Corn Tortillas in Tortilla soup. A soup, like Pho, apparently, when done right, for the Gods.

        *COL! Chuckling Out Loud.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Thank you, Thomas, I enjoyed the read.

  • avatar
    honda_magna85

    I had a crush on this same girl in high school. Finally, i got my drivers license and was able to pick her up to go out.

    After a long time of negotiating, i finally met her at her house. She seemed nervous, and said she wasn’t sure if i should be there. I calmed her down, but she wouldn’t leave until her parents got home and gave the nod of approval. We sat our front for a half hour or so, then the folks came home. There were a few quick and pointed exchanges in Chinese, she told me she couldn’t go out, and slammed the door.

    That was the closest i ever got to a date with her…

    In retrospect, i had absolutely no business chasing after a girl from one of the most affulent neighborhoods in town with my 16 year old brain and a rusty 1989 toyota pickup…

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      If this story is true , you’re lucky they declined you as they were shallow and beneath you .

      -Nate

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve had similar experiences, Nate. It’s one of the hazards of dating across cultures. I secretly lived with a Japanese girl for three years knowing that her parents would never let us marry. When we broke up it was heart rending but I felt like it was either me or her family and I broke up with her so she could have her family.

        The woman I married has no such issues. When her parents found out we were dating they told her, “It’s your life, live it.” A couple of years ago she was complaining about me to parents and her dad told her, “You’re lucky you got a guy like him. He honors his promises, has acheived every goal he said he would and has given you a comfortable life. As problematic as you are, a Japanese man would have divorced yo by now.” True story – and one of the reasons why the in-laws are welcome at my house anytime.

        I still feel bad about the other girl, she was a nice young lady and we were a good match, but I won’t live my life looking backwards.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          Understood and agreed .

          I was the same but never dated Asian Ladies .

          I married out of race/culture so my Son is bi racial , he’s the apple of my eye .

          My Sweet Lady now is also from a different beginning but that’s of no matter to anyone but us and we don’t really care .

          Those who do care are the losers in life .

          Before settling down and getting married , my Son like I , dated everyone and anyone who interested him so when the right one came along , he knew and grabbed her .

          -Nate

  • avatar

    Nice seeing a positive story with a happy ending for a change :). Can’t take all those depressing ones, with life having enough sorrows without adding to them :).

    David

  • avatar

    A bowl of Pho is always good & fulfilling during cold winter. BTW, there is a Pho shop a few blocks away from my office called “Pho Kim”.

  • avatar

    Mostly becuase it is well written, and a little becuase I miss her, it reminds me of courting my wife when she worked at her Aunt’s Mexican restaurant in Nebraska.

    Of course I was the broke one, and if anyone spilled hot sauce it was me.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Thanks Thomas. A nice end to a week of Mustang stories, and proof you weren’t just wasting time surveying us. I’ve always called it “Rooster Sauce” but I’m about to change that. Is the whole plant vs. town thing over now, or is production of the most popular sriracha still in jeopardy?

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    Nice story, fun to read. But the bulk of it is just too damn positive. Stuff like this rarely happens in real life.

  • avatar
    Atum

    Speaking of EICs, when will Bertel come back for a guest post? Sure there were a lot more interesting posts, such as Doug DeMuro ones, but I miss some things about him.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Thank you Thomas .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    I learned a valuable lesson a long time ago. If you’re planning to eat out at a restaurant that serves anything covered in thick sauce- make sure that whatever you wear is dark-colored and machine-washable. And advise your guests to do the same.

    Sirracha and white polyester, or chocolate and yellow silk, DON’T MIX. Ask me how I know :( . Fortunately neither mishap was my fault and I’m still friends with both ladies to this day .


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