By Daisuke Shen

Short Story


One thing about Karen that you should know: she is a good person. Sure, she has her faults, like ordering catering for the office from Applebee’s. Even Steel wouldn’t eat it, and he usually eats everything.

“What were you trying to do, poison us, Karen?” Steel had asked. It was the Christmas party that always took place at least three months before Christmas. Don’t ask me why they did it that way, they just did, and we would all show up in October dressed in sweaters and lights. I think they kind of enjoyed the humiliation of it all.

Karen said no. She wasn’t trying to poison anybody. It was just that, as a kid, her family had never been able to go out to Applebee’s because they didn’t have the money, living all the way out in Marietta with no electricity most days and a sick mom, and that had been their treat: to go out and eat at Applebee’s. So it was the greatest gift that she could imagine giving someone: eating so many burgers and fries from Applebee’s that you could explode.

“Oh, Karen,” Steel had replied. He was crying now, as was the assistant and the assistant’s wife, Emily. “That’s beautiful.” Later on that night, he raised his glass to the air and we all screamed, “Thank you, Karen!” at the top of our lungs. Even Barry, drunk since 3 PM, had lifted the handle of vodka that he had brought with him and slammed it onto his desk so that it sloshed onto the keyboard.

I was the only one who didn’t scream. I kind of mouthed the words and drank the rest of the wine in my cup. Then I went to the bathroom and texted my friend Dana about how annoying it all was—Steel eating the soggy fries with newfound gusto, us screaming her name, the fact that we were being forced to attend a Christmas party in the middle of October. Dana quit working here last year.

isn’t that so embarrassing?

I like karen!!! She’s soooo sweet. What did u eat that she brought?

I shut my phone and peed for real. I listened to the voices outside of the bathroom mixing in with the hollow, cavernous sounds of my piss hitting the toilet bowl.




Daisuke Shen grew up in South Carolina with their grandmother and their dog Inu (which means dog in Japanese). Their work has been published in the Asian American Literary Review, drDOCTOR, Joyland Magazine, Proximity Mag, and Entropy Mag. You can follow them on Instagram @ginsengmasque or on Twitter @daisukejigoku.

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