Volume > Issue > An Amazing Turn

An Amazing Turn

A SHORT STORY

By Alex Kudera | January-February 2023
Alex Kudera’s award-winning debut, Fight for Your Long Day (Atticus Books, 2010), and second novel, Auggie’s Revenge (Beating Windward Press, 2016), both concern the darkly comic plight of the urban American pay-per-course academic. His published short stories include “A Thanksgiving,” “An Old Friend Called,” and “My Father’s Great Recession.” For many years, Kudera taught college writing and literature; he currently supports English language learners in inner-city high schools.

He’d met her online. They were 700 miles apart, so it would start long distance. It surprised him that it started at all. She caught him by surprise one evening when she called his office phone. She already knew he was a pay-per-course nobody, and maybe he’d told her that he shared an office with six others. He couldn’t remember. He was alone, he picked up, and he told her he’d call her back in a few minutes from his cellphone. From then on, they spoke by phone.

She wanted to fly in and meet. At the airport, he was disappointed by how she looked in person. But by that stage in his life, he didn’t think he could do better; besides, at the time, whatever this was could have been only for a weekend. Sex still seemed important, and he enjoyed taking her to restaurants. Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Malaysian, and so on. They ate a couple meals a day at restaurants and food trucks as he showed her the city sights.

The first restaurant was fashionable and affordable — a Malaysian place that did extremely well. It stood by the Arch in Chinatown. At the table, a two-seater, after they ordered, she looked at him and suddenly exclaimed, “What are you going to do for me?”

It was weird. It spoke to what was in her head, but it was out of the blue — and out in the open. They hardly knew each other at that point. What was he dealing with? It made him nervous. A little scared.

The dishes arrived, and the food took the edge off. They dug in. Malaysian rice and noodles. Shrimp, egg, spices. A pot of hot tea that they poured into the little white porcelain cups for which Chinatowns are famous.

From there, he showed her the city — several college campuses, museums, and shopping areas. They did the tour. They were no longer young.

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