I overheard my mother and brother talking about getting some Chinese food. I went in to the living room; they were perusing the menu. 'Please can I have some hot and sour soup?' I asked. 'Do you have any money?' asked my mother. 'I have two pounds thirty pence.' 'It's not enough,' she said. 'If you want food you shall have to perform like an abused Thai Elephant,' said my brother, his face twisted, his smile malicious. 'Whatever do you mean?' 'I will buy you some food if you embarrass yourself by speaking Chinese on the phone.' 'I lack the Chinese for such a task.' 'You shall talk, or you shall starve,' he said, and he ran his finger along his neck.
He dialled and handed me the phone. My mother said, 'When you call she will say 'number 7?' – You won't even need to give the address. It's so funny.'
'Can I order a delivery?'
A long pause.
'Do you want the address?' I asked.
'So I want sweet and sour chicken. But no pineapple!'
It was time to speak Chinese. 'Meiyou Pineapple,' I said.
'Okay. No pineapple.'
'And lemon chicken, and beef with peppers. And rice.'
'Okay fifteen minutes.'
I took a breath and pretended I was in
'How much is it? Duoshao qian?' I was saying it perfectly.
'What language are you speaking?'
'It's called.... Chinese...'
'Say it again.'
'Duoshao qian?''Oh! Duoshao qian? Fourteen pounds.'
'Your Chinese is bad,' I told her, in Chinese.
'No, your Chinese is bad.'
'You're a bad egg,' I said. I'm allowed to insult Chinese people because I'm cute.
'I'm not a bad egg, you're a bad egg.'
'I'm not a bad egg, I'm a good egg.' This is the funniest thing you can say to a Chinese person and so hysterical that the phone call ended.
'I am pleased that you lost face', said my brother. 'You will eat tonight. But next time, ask her if she has a boyfriend.'