The Soup

By Bai Feng

The Soup


I spent three days writing a story, that I hated from the moment I finished. The story is about egg soups and seaweed soups.

I went to the writing center as usual. I picked someone with a silly name, Mark. He looks like a Mark. I mean, the name Mark describes him better than any word. I don't know if you feel the same, about names, as I feel: every name has an appearance and a characteristic. “Mark” is a tall dude with curly hair, talkative and aggressive; “Max” is a hairy boy or a girl with large boobs. “Vivian” is a bitch; “Natalie” is a self-contemptuous coward pretending to be a queen. Anyway, talkative Mark took three minutes to read my story and started commenting.

He asked me hundreds of questions but wouldn't let me answer: “Is your character male or female? How dose she look like? Why is she doing this?”

He was sputtering all over me: “Why is the soup so important?”

Finally, he concluded. “I don't get it.”



I have been eating California rolls for lunch everyday since I came to New York two years ago. The ones from the Japanese convenient store Panya on Stuyvesant St. are really delicious because they put white sesame over the rice roll. The ones from the Korean convenient store M2M next to my apartment are not that good because they use plain white rice. Anyway, M2M is closer and cheaper. In the past three days, I ate ten packs of California sushi from the M2M because I don't want walk far when I’m writing.

As I finished the last box of sushi, I finished my story and began to think of something hot to drink. Then I remembered the instant soups I brought from China. My mother bought me five egg soups and five seaweed soups. She threw the outer covers away and put the soups together in a LockLock plastic box. Without the outer cover, the two kinds of soups have the exactly same look, sliver vacuum bags with no label. In other words, thanks to her, the only way to tell a bag of soup’s flavor is to open it.


I boiled some water and washed one coffee cup that I bought from Ikea. Can I tell you a cold joke about a coffee cup? I heard it from my roommate, Chris. By the way, the name Chris is pale and crazy about cleanliness. You know, some people looks like their names and others don't. In fact, Chris is a masculine fat guy who throws stinky socks everywhere.

Anyway, here is the cold joke. One day a coffee cup and a glass are walking in the middle of a street. Suddenly there came a car from their back. The driver shouted: “Go away!”

“Boom!” Glass died.

“Why? Why didn't the coffee cup die?” Chris asked me.

I said: “How the fuck should I know?”

Chris lifted the coffee cup in hand and showed me its handle: “Because coffee cup has an ear. He heard the driver and ran away.”

“What a stupid story!”


Anyway, the water was ready. I opened a soup. It’s seaweed. Somehow, I didn't want to have seaweed soup so I opened another one.

“Shit!” It was still a seaweed soup. An instant soup looks very gross, especially a seaweed soup. Seaweed is squashed and dried into flakes with small shrimps. It is basically a yellow cube.

I was disappointed and got obsessed. I really didn't want to eat any seaweed soup today. Before I opened the third soup, I kind of prayed. I’m not a Christian or anything but when hoping for the good, I still pray.

With a sharp tearing sound, I got my third seaweed soup.

Are you kidding me? I got five bags of egg soups and five bags of seaweed soups. I opened three and they are all seaweed soups! For me, seaweed was as gross as my roommate’s curly pubic hair on our toilet seat now.

Unconsciously, I opened my fourth instant soup bag. Guess what? It was a fucking seaweed soup.


Now this got serious.

I have never been so obsessed with anything before. My apartment seems so big, almost with no edge. The walls and ceiling were expanding secretly and quietly. In front of me, there were four seaweed soups. They looked different from before. I mean, physically nothing changed but the air around them feels different.

I could hear my heart beating extremely fast and it beat in this way: so-up, so-up, so-up.

How likely would you pick the only crap out of six?

Usually, I would answer: “No way.” However, in my mind, now the possibility is 100%.

I put the rest of the soups on a table. There were six of them. I looked at them from head to toe and tried to find any difference. Then I gave up. Those motherfuckers were absolutely the same, same size, same weight. I carefully smelled each of them, once and again. Nothing. I smelled nothing.

After doing all these crazy shit, I closed my eyes.

I took a deep breath and picked one.

Holding my breath, I started to tear.



“Hah!hahahaha!  My roommate burst into laughter when I told him the soup story.

Then he said: “Why didn't you ask me to open one for you? In that case, it might be an egg soup. You know, sometimes people stuck in misfortune.”

I shrugged and said: “I don't know. I had a strong feeling that I have to open an egg soup by myself that day. I have never desire it that much. It has to be an egg soup.”

“Give me a break, Bai! You are such a loser. It’s just a s-o-u-p!”

“You don't understand. The soup is like a switch. Once you turned it on, you can never turn it off. If I picked the last seaweed soup instead of an egg soup, everything would change.”

Chris interrupted me: “Then what? Is it the end of the world?”

“No. It’s not like that.”

“Tell me then, hah. What change is it?”

“Have you ever read a short story by Haruki Murakami called the Second Bakery Attack?

“Nope. What is it about?”

“The main character and his friend tried to rob a bakery. However the bakery owner offered them a deal: If they can listen to his Wagner LP from beginning to the end, they could take breads as many as they wanted. They took the deal and quit the robbery. After the robbery, the main character and his friend broke up for no reason.

Time went by. One night, the main character, married already, woke up at 2 o’clock as well as his wife. They felt hungry like never before. They ate everything they had but were still hungry. The main character told his wife the failed bakery attack. His wife thought they had to do it again in the right way: rob a bakery together tonight. They couldn't find an opening bakery and robbed a MacDonald’s instead. They took thirty hamburgers and ate ten of them. Finally they were full.”

“That’s it?” Chris was bored. I could tell.

“That is it. My soup is like their bakery attack. It has to happen in the right way.”

“I don't get it.”

“Alright. I won’t explain any more. There are only two possibilities: You may get it right away or you may never get it.”

“That’s nonsense. You haven’t told me what happened to your fifth soup? ”

“I don't know. I didn't open it. It’s like a Schrodinger’s cat now.