Selected Stories

“The Restaurant of American Dishes” - Excerpt

StoryQuarterly, Vol. 40

Tram spent the morning in the damp mildewed recesses of the warehouse where he finally unearthed old Minh’s sign from the very bottom of the farthest, most difficult-to-reach crate. A green beard of mold had grown across the rough wooden board, and the crude hand-painted letters that spelled out “Minh’s Clean Food” were barely legible. Perfect, Tram thought, typical peasant-style, it should please the sensibilities of the new masters of the city and spare the restaurant for a while after he had gone.

A few days before he had built a frame around his hot-pink neon sign, swaddling the brittle tubing in cotton rags as carefully as he would dress a baby, and old Minh’s sign would form the lid of the coffin that would bury and disguise Tram’s one stroke of genius that he turned into a small Saigon fortune — the only authentic 50s style diner in all of South Viet Nam.

Now he stood out on the street, which was oddly deserted for midday, and he listened to the far-off sound of artillery to the north, knowing the “liberators” were within days if not hours of taking the city. His suitcases sitting in the middle of his emptied room weighed on his mind, and he clicked his tongue in impatience. Two boys hung upside down like monkeys from the balcony above, taking their time nailing the old sign in place.


Nominated for BNAV