The Wok-A-Wok Dialogues
Joe Cappello

"Context"

Leonard brought Trish to the Wok-A-Wok because it was fast. You could order, eat and leave within 20 minutes. Lots of guys from the office took women they worked with to the Wok-A-Wok. It was acceptable and no one gossiped about it, even if its reputation as a place to hookup was common knowledge.

"You get rice or noodles and any two items," Leonard said.

"I know, Leonard, I've done the Wok-A-Wok experience."

"Oh. So I'm not the first." Trish paused as she reached for a tray.

"Not the first what?"

"To bring you...uh…here."

"Like I said, I been." Trish pointed to the Mongolian Beef.

Leonard picked a table near the center of the food court, next to a rectangular concrete planter filled with artificial soil and tall green plants with round fleshy tips at the end. A fountain stood in the center of the room splattering water onto a fake marble slab.

"I almost don't know what to say. I mean, I talk to you at work all the time," Leonard said.

"Why should this be any different?"

"I don't know. It's like we're different people here."

"We are," Trish said. "We're not at work." She twirled her noodles with her plastic fork and put the wad into her mouth.

"Well, that's what I mean. It's a different…what's the word…context. We got different context here."

The column of water from the fountain twisted a bit, and small drops splashed onto Trish's face. She brushed them off.

"I mean, it's not like a date or anything like that."

"Of course not, you're married." Trish smiled as she sucked in a hunk of beef.

"Right, so it's like I said, a different context."

"So, Leonard, are you going to elaborate on that?"

"On what..."

"That whole context thing. Sounds like you're dying to explain it."

"I don't know what you—"

"Let me help you out," she said. "Even though this isn't a date, it's actually something. And that something is the context you keep talking about. Right?"

"I guess so," Leonard said.

"And this context is the reason you brought me here. So, let's hear it."

Leonard could feel his face flush, but he managed a smile. A small child at the adjacent table started to cry. The mother picked it up and began speaking softly to it.

"No reason. We're colleagues, why can't we spend some time talking outside of work?"

Trish stabbed a piece of chicken.

"Okay, we're outside of work, which is what you wanted. I'm sure you have something on your mind so…talk."

Leonard spent the next few minutes talking about problems the company was having with shipping and how the boss seemed to be on a tear.

"He fired Gomez for making one mistake. What the hell was that all about?"

Then there was the upcoming Holiday Party and the rumor that no one wanted to go in protest to what the boss had done.

"Who wants to ho-ho-ho it up with a fuck like that?"

Trish listened, attentively sipping her diet cola through a straw, her dark eyes looking up at Leonard. He grew silent, shaking his head no doubt still thinking about the boss.

"So you asked me out to lunch to get away from work, which is what you spent the last few minutes talking about. That doesn't sound like the right…context.'" Trish said.

"Okay, you got me. Here's the deal. I've been married eight years and, well, sometimes I feel as though I'd like to talk to another woman. That's where you provide the, hate to keep saying it, context."

"And that's all," Trish said.

"Yeah, pretty much."

"Funny, this whole conversation reminded me of something I saw. I was down at the park, sitting on a bench. This old man was sitting across from me smoking a cigarette. A young girl, long blonde hair, tight black stretch pants and big boobs comes up to him and asks him for matches. He pulls out a book and gives it to her. She thanks him and leaves."

"What's that got to do with this?"

"The old man seemed to be enjoying the context, like all he wanted to do was be nice to the girl and help her out with a match. But then I noticed something interesting."

"Which was…" Leonard leaned in to her.

"As she turned to walk away, his eyes fixed on her ass like laser beams. I saw what he really wanted to do, which was grab her hair and pound her from behind." Trish looked across at the baby and smiled at it.

"Hold on here, I'm not thinking of doin'—"

"Oh yes you are," Trish said rolling the can of soda over her cheek. "You're hiding what you'd really like to do to me behind some bullshit small talk."

"Trish, this not what you think."

"No, it's what you're thinking. How many times have you fucked me in the last 20 minutes?"

Trish brought her napkin to her lips, her face slightly reddened. She held up her hand.

"Sorry, I shouldn't have—"

"Three times. Once from the back, once with your legs hooked over my shoulders and once in your mouth." He crammed a piece of orange chicken in his mouth. "Which was pretty tough considering it was full of beef and noodles."

There was a pause. You could hear the low murmur of the crowd in the rest of the food court. The baby made low, tinny sounds that only its mom could understand. Trish and Leonard regarded each other for a moment, her with her lips parted and her eyes wide open, him with his mouth full of food chewing like he forgot to swallow. Suddenly, they both broke out into laughter.

When Leonard caught his breath, he looked at Trish, his eyes still tearing.

"How's that for fucking context?"

Joe Cappello has worked in a manufacturing/office environment most of his career and has written short stories, plays and poetry about his experiences. He has recently published an eBook collection of his short stories entitled, "Bridge to an End: Short Stories about Today's Changing Workplace." He invites you to read excerpts from his book at www.wordsearchers.org. Other recent publications include, "40 Acres and a Mouse," the Oddville Press, January/February 2014, "Maryanne Taught Me to Dance," The Rusty Nail," June/July 2013, "Beautifully Tragic Richard," in "Black & White," Spring 2012, published by Red Ochre Press.