By Vylar Kaftan
Read by John Chu
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Originally appeared in Asimov’s (2012)
All stories by Vylar Kaftan
All stories read by John Chu
Rated 15 and up for language and adult situations
by Vylar Kaftan
I knew Wing’s idea was stupid. But we were all so goddamn sick of quarantine that it sounded great anyway.
“Chinese New Year on Halloween night, huh?” I asked him. We sat on his broken futon and some folding chairs, passing a bottle of Captain Jack among the eight of us. Someone leaned on a car horn outside our apartment. When they didn’t stop, my buddy Matt leaned out the window and swore at them in Mandarin. Matt was loud–even a flu mask didn’t muffle his bellowing. I swear, even though every restaurant in San Francisco Chinatown had been closed since February, tourists still cruised the streets. Even a pandemic couldn’t stop them completely.
“Dude. Someone will shoot us,” said the guy from 4B, who I think was named Jimmy Li. We all lived in the same nasty building on Grant Street above a dim sum place owned by our slumlord. I knew Matt, who’d invited me, and my little brother Jian of course. Wing lived here in 3A. I’d just met the Chao twins who had different haircuts, and then Jimmy and some dude Xiang. At twenty-three, I was pretty sure I was the oldest guy here.
“That’s the point,” said Wing heavily, as if he’d explained this a hundred times when he actually hadn’t. “We’ll be in costume. First off, all the riots will be in the Mission, so that’s where the cops will be. Second, no one’s going to shoot a New Year’s lion. Dude. It’s Chinatown. All the old cops here are superstitious. Can you imagine how much bad luck it would bring? Even if some cop got itchy on the trigger, he’ll think about it long enough for us to run away.”
“No one’s shooting anyone,” said Matt. “For God’s sake, this isn’t Montana.” He pushed his mask aside, swigged the Jack, and passed it to Jian. I snagged the bottle out of his hands. No freaking way would I let my little brother drink from that bottle. Who knew where the other guys had been? They might pull off their masks and drink, but damned if I let my little brother do it. Jian glared at me, but didn’t fight back.
I passed the bottle to Wing. “They might shoot if things get out of hand,” I said. “It’s Halloween. Everyone’s twitchy. But you’re right, I heard a bunch of people are gonna swarm the Mission. That’s where the cops will go.”
Wing took another swig. He wasn’t wearing a mask; that was only Matt and Jian and me. Wing went to the kitchen and reappeared with a stack of well-used disposable cups and washed straws. He swiped an unopened bottle of Jose Cuervo off a shelf and handed it to me.
I thanked him and poured myself way too much tequila. I knew I wasn’t supposed to peel the mask off, even for a minute, but it’d been a bad week. My parents were getting evicted and Jian’s antivirals were out of stock everywhere. Pissed me off–HIV drugs did crap against the flu, but people were desperate and they got prescriptions from quacks. So my little brother might develop full-blown AIDS thanks to those selfish jackholes. (Continue Reading…)