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The Chinaman was up to something devious...but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was. From beneath the sodden, filth-streaked awning of Cap'n Plenty's Fried Clams I raised my binoculars to search the inscrutable Asiatic's features for a clue, knowing as I did so it was a futile gesture. Easier to polish off a bowl of egg foo yong with a single chopstick than get a read on the likes of Jiang...

Now the rain was beating down steadily. Even so, the pungent smells of heavy machinery, fishing boats and sea cucumbers cut through the marina air, commingling unpleasantly and heavyhandedly symbolizing moral decrepitude and decay. The lonely cries of the gulls echoed off the pylons like moonbeams dancing on the water (aural ones), and I was filled with a sense of desolation. It was time to get out of this racket all right... But at the moment I had a job to finish.

Abruptly Jiang stubbed out his cigarette and started along the boardwalk, moving quickly, shoulders hunched, hands in pockets. Hurrying out from my perch, I turned up the collar of my overcoat, opened the tiny umbrella on my novelty hat and shadowed him down towards the docks. I was puzzled. What business could he have there?

With the agility of a cafeteria lady ladling chop suey onto a schoolchild's plate, Jiang suddenly scuttled down a ladder leading toward the water and hopped onto a motorboat concealed in the shadows of the docks. I watched him head out to a medium-sized fishing boat anchored a hundred yards or so harborwards. With the help of my binocs I could just barely make out three more Chinamen on the boat. Calculating rapidly, I determined this made four Chinamen in all. Well, well, well. Betcha they weren't going deep sea fishing. Or fly fishing. Or digging for clams or other shellfish.

My heart nearly skipped a beat as I watched the trio on the boat lower a number of octagonal boxes down to my friend Jiang. The same boxes I'd seen at Lulu's.

Five minutes later Jiang was re-tying the boat to its mooring. He used a Bolan knot, I noticed; typical Far Eastern wiles. As he climbed back up to the dock, eight-sided cargo cinched to his waist in a mesh bag, I strode forward, .44 cocked and drawn. Jiang looked at me, expressionless, then slowly raised his arms.

"The jig is up, Mr. Jiang. Hand over the commodities."

"Solly Chalie. No tikkee no shirtee." He lurched backwards, aiming to go over the side and make a swim for it. Simultaneously the gun barked and jumped in my hand. Time seemed to freeze for several moments. Finally, as if in slow motion Jiang looked down at the dark stain slowly spreading across his bamboo lifejacket. With a look of indifferent resignation, he crumpled to his knees and collapsed. Even in his dying moments he'd kept his poker face intact...

The bag of pelf had slid from Jiang's waist in the meantime, and one of the octagonal boxes had tumbled out and spilled open on the wet dock. I let out a low whistle. Inside there lay half a fortune cookie, a pineapple cube with a toothpick, some tea, a water chestnut slice, a lychee nut, seven peapods and three rectangular bamboo shoots. The boys weren't gonna believe it when they saw this.

Date Written: February 07, 2005
Author: Jon Matza
Average Vote: 4.16667

Comments:
02/14/2005 Ewan Snow (5):
02/14/2005 Will Disney: Nice craftsmanship, brother.
02/14/2005 qualcomm (4): one star deductible for ripping off your fellow monolithite
02/14/2005 anonymous: man who no rike fortune cookie have tomollow of hungly bird
02/14/2005 John Slocum: not so sure this is monolithic.
02/14/2005 TheBuyer (5): gung he fat choi, I like the aural moonbeams and novelty umbrella.
02/14/2005 Ewan Snow: both this and the last one are qc, i'd wager.
02/14/2005 qualcomm: you fucking liar. that makes me very suspicious of you. still, my money's on matza for this one, thebuyer for this morning's.
02/14/2005 John Slocum: After matza, snow is my second guess.
02/14/2005 Jon Matza (4): My guesses in order: 1) QC; 2) Matza; 3) Snow/Lewis collaboration.
02/14/2005 The Rid: Abstain.
02/14/2005 Mr. Pony (4):
02/15/2005 qualcomm: lerpa triumphant!
02/15/2005 John Slocum (3): 3.28. Well written, but a bit too long and some gags fell flat. Examples: synesthesia of graf 2 feels out of place; cafeteria lady gag doesn't quite work seems a bit clumsy, forced, like you wanted to include chop suey. Felt tone a bit inconsistent throughout. Mostly and enjoyable read, but about 3 stars worth.
02/15/2005 John Slocum: 'an' enjoyable read.
02/15/2005 qualcomm: "Calculating rapidly, I determined this made four Chinamen in all."
02/15/2005 qualcomm: even though "heavyhandedly symbolizing moral decrepitude and decay" is a well-written version of this gag, i submit that this may be a played out joke category here on acme.
02/15/2005 Ewan Snow: Yeah, I was thinking the same thing (and also as relates to the forced simile in the next sentence), but we have our public to think about, who may not yet feel it's played out. Which raises the question: are we writing for ourselves or the short-comic-fiction-reading public at large?
02/15/2005 TheBuyer: We're writing for them, we're rating for ourselves.
02/15/2005 qualcomm: obviously what's called for is a college-level correspondence course on the acme short, where students are taken through the important milestones, from the early form through the late decadent period.
02/15/2005 Phony Millions (4): A little more wink wink than usual for Matza (self awareness of own narrative in narrative). The italicized sentences pushed this up to a four for me.
02/15/2005 Jon Matza: Slocum: what you objected to re cafeteria lady gag--i.e., how ridiculously clumsy and forced the metaphor was--was meant to be the joke. Ladling chop suey is nothing like a guy scuttling down a ladder; the idea's that the narrator is subconsciously hell-bent on making a gratuitous chop suey reference. Therefore, I demand a public letter of apology.
02/15/2005 John Slocum: Dear Matza


I'm sorry,


signed,

John Slocum

02/15/2005 Jon Matza: Thank you Slocum. The burden of carrying around all that anger was making me physically ill (broken pelvis).
02/15/2005 The Rid: Matza, I like your style.
03/29/2014 Jon Matza: Ahead of its time.
04/4/2014 qualcomm: Strange that the narrator says nothing about the Pork Chop Express...