by Stephanie Dray
She wants me to steal the salt.
Just this afternoon, I let her grab a fistful of mustard packets from McDonald's.
That should have been enough for her. But now I'm on a date in a fancy
restaurant, and she won't shut up about the salt.
My date's name is Chang. He is a doctor; I'm a medical researcher. We met at a
He has boyish dimples. If Peter Pan were Chinese, he'd look like my date.
"Am I boring you, Adrienne?" he asks.
"No, I'm just distracted," I say.
I knew it would come up, but it's something you wait until dessert to mention.
We've only had bread and butter. But I gulp down my wine, and murmur, "My
DSA won't behave."
"Your what?" He clearly thinks he misheard.
I feign nonchalance. "My DSA . . . my Displaced Spiritual Ancestor."
Cue the tension. It's like I've told him I have the clap. He quietly sips his water,
probably praying that his pager will go off.
"Chinese call our spirits Gui," he finally says. He's trying to be gracious.
"Well, mine is Italian and she wants me to steal the salt. Actually, now she's more
interested in the pepper-mill."
"Was she a kleptomaniac? Is that how she ended up . . . you know, in Limbo?" He
gives me a lopsided smile.
I like that Chang says Limbo instead of Purgatory, and I like his lopsided smile. It
gives me hope this date isn't going to end in disaster. "No. It's just -- Big Ma
lived through the Depression. She thinks that if the economy collapses, we'll
survive by selling stolen condiments on the black market."
Chang laughs. This is a good sign. "Big Ma?"