The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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I interviewed my father, Lee Heng at his home in Philadelphia. He had well-combed hair, golden rimmed glasses, and pigmented skin showing off the years of hardship he had endured. This scene is a memory of a time after he immigrated from Cambodia and was living in Virginia with relatives. Him and his friends were at KFC and didn’t know English well. They could only look enviously as everyone else ate their chicken. They thought it was a luxury that they wouldn’t be able to afford. An old lady was able to help them order but it caused huge laughter.

A small group of men were huddled in the corner of a restaurant whispering. They were wearing shabby clothes, squatting, and looking back and forth suspiciously. Kids would walk by while pointing at them before being pulled away by their parents. Occasionally, one of the men would have drool leaking from the corner of his mouth as he longingly gazed towards the crowd of people in the front.

Smack! One of his comrades hit him on the head, scolding him. That fellow was being too embarrassing! Could he not make us look like country bumpkins? Even if we are, we still have our own dignity to maintain! They were gathered together for a very important mission. Currently, they were intensely debating over the execution of this operation. They had to get this item no matter what!

As the men exaggeratedly moved their hands with mouths open and spit flying everywhere, an old lady suddenly walked over to them. She had overheard their conversation and understood their objective. Feeling like a veteran facing new recruits, her lips arced upwards as she looked complacently at them. With a sagely demeanor, she downplayed the difficulty of their plight as they looked at her in worship. “Tsk, tsk, you don’t even know how to do this?”, she asked. “Just leave it to me!” she exclaimed as she walked off into the crowd. “Yes, ma’am!”, the men replied as they gave her a salute.

The old lady was like a valiant hero of a hundred battles as she marched towards the target. With the patience of a predator, she finally got past all the people in her way. As she approached, the target smiled at her and gave the same words said to everyone else, “Welcome to KFC, may I take your order?” The old lady looked in their direction with a smirk. The men hid in the corner watching and could almost imagine that scene of them finally getting their objective. The old lady spoke the target’s language, and began by asking for something. Just when the target was expecting to hear her say what she wanted, everyone was dumbfounded.

The old lady had a proud smile as she stood straight, putting her left hand under her right armpit, her right hand touching her left as she continuously moved her elbow up and down. Still smug, she put her arms down and waited for the target to deliver the goods. Chest trembling, hand held to his mouth, the target tried very hard to hold back his laughter. Finally, no one could hold it in and the room was filled with uproarious laughter!

The men were speechless. “Lady, we just wanted some chicken wings alright? Judging from your smug look and sagely demeanor, we all thought you would know how to order properly! You didn’t even know how to say chicken wings in English, would it kill you to not be so confident?! Damn!”

Secret Mission

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I interviewed my father, Lee Heng at his home in Philadelphia. He had well-combed hair, golden rimmed glasses, and pigmented skin showing off the years of hardship he had endured. This scene is a memory of a time after he immigrated from Cambodia and was living in Virginia with relatives. Him and his friends were at KFC and didn’t know English well. They could only look enviously as everyone else ate their chicken. They thought it was a luxury that they wouldn’t be able to afford. An old lady was able to help them order but it caused huge laughter.

Decade: 1970s
Rating:
Recorded by Venglee Heng on March 12, 2020
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