A Second Bowl of Jook

(c) Eden Politte

Befriend your future father-in-law, Choong says. She drives off to slurp noodles with childhood friends.

Jason’s body feels porous, his neurons balkanized. Splurge on first class and still this jet lag. But he’ll come to Guangzhou annually for Choong. Lack of money has kept her away from home for years. He has given her this. He always will.

Breakfast, Mr. Tan announces. Jason shuffles through air dense as gelatin. Mr. Tan ladles out the rice porridge called jook.

The taste is wondrous, as if to reassure Jason everything will be fine. He eats the steaming gruel and sweats in his gym shorts, his legs sticking to the vinyl of Mr. Tan’s rickety kitchen chair.


Mr. Tan switches on a fan. Hot, he says. On the floor a small gray lizard sniffs a blot of porridge by Jason’s foot.

Jason lashes out and flattens the creature.

No! Mr. Tan shouts. They’re good. They eat mosquitoes.

Jason moves his foot. The lizard’s insides have burst its skin.

I’m so sorry—I wasn’t—we don’t have them in New York.

Yes, Mr. Tan says, yes. He carries the dead lizard away.

I’ll always take care of Choong, Jason says. I love your daughter very much.

But Mr. Tan stands at the trash with his back turned. Jason, not knowing what else to do, asks for a second bowl of jook.