With Hex You Get Eggroll by Richard Dickson

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SUMMARY: Submission for the April Flash Fiction Contest (1,156 words)

"Forbidden City, take-out or delivery?"

"Um, I was told to ask if your eggrolls are fresh?"

There was a pause on the other end of the line. "Yes. Very fresh," came the cautious reply.

The sound of breaking glass interrupted. "Ah, good. Then we'll, uh, we'll be needing take-out."

"Address please?"

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Thirty minutes later a beat-up green Metro screeched to a stop in the driveway, the stylized pagoda logo of Forbidden City Chinese Restaurant emblazoned on both doors. The driver, a young Chinese man in a t-shirt that matched the green of the car, opened the door and hurriedly gathered an armful of brown paper bags. Kicking the door shut behind him as he ran to the porch, the young man carefully balanced the bags. Muttering under his breath at the awkward load, he somehow managed to ring the doorbell with his elbow.

"Who is it?" came a weary, hesitant voice from inside.

"Delivery from Forbidden City," he answered.

The door flew open, revealing chaos within. Anything remotely breakable had been, pieces strewn about the living room, some even stuck deep in the leather sofa. Deep gouges marred the sofa as well, and one corner smoldered, black and dampened from the empty pitcher of water on the floor next to it. Books littered the floor as well, their pages torn out and blanketing the carpet like a literary snow bank. The young man nodded and whispered. "Chao you ling."

"I what?"

Behind the door cowered a balding, middle-aged man, his receding hair line revealing a forehead damp with sweat. Dark circles under his eyes hinted that sleep had been a fleeting thing for some time now.

"Noisy ghost," the young man said, setting his bags on a nearby table. "Poltergeist, as you'd probably call it." He extended a hand. "Tony Kui."

The older man shook hands tentatively. "Raymond," he said, his eyes nervously sizing up Tony. "You're here to take care of this?"

"Absolutely," Tony said as he knelt down and began to remove small food cartons from his bags. "My family's been doing this since we came over to work on the railroad back in 1865. We're quite good at this." He unwrapped a pair of chopsticks. "You Catholic?"

Raymond nodded. Tony took a twist tie and fashioned the chopsticks into a crude crucifix, which he handed to Raymond.

"Will this help?" Raymond asked.

"Honestly?" Tony grinned. "No. I just wanted to lighten things up a bit."

"Oh."

Tony stood and placed a firm hand on Raymond's shoulder. "Don't worry. From what I've seen, you've got a real simple haunting. A quick ritual should get him right out of here."

Tony went back to his preparations, opening a package and squeezing out a wide circle around them.

"Why are you spreading duck sauce on the floor?" Raymond asked.

"It's not duck sauce," Tony replied, "it's blessed oil. Should keep your friend from bothering us as long as we stay inside the circle."

"And I suppose that's not sweet and sour chicken and pork fried rice either."

With a groan, a tall bookshelf on the other side of the room slowly toppled over, scattering torn pages into the air.

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