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Kitchen God (Gung Hey Fat Choy)

by sabriel 

Posted: 05 January 2005
Word Count: 600
Summary: A short short that I wrote for a competition, but I read the entry date wrong and the comp's already ended!

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Kitchen god
(Gung Hey Fat Choy)

Yu stood with his arms upraised in the empty square, staring sightlessly at the lucent grey sky. Small flakes of snow spiralled down, melting into city grit on his face, but he hardly noticed. Nor did he notice the crowd gathering to stare at him. By his feet, in the red blossoms blooming against the snow sat a greasy paper bag, containing a lotus root cake like his mother had made each New Year for luck. The Kitchen god would be appeased by such an appropriate offering, Yu was certain. The New Year would be a good one for Yu. The gods could not be wrong.
It had started so promisingly, Yuís new employment. A man had offered Yu money to deliver a parcel. A lot of money. Yu had been lounging in the empty square, with some of the gang that his mother disapproved of. They werenít really a gang, all they did was call to passing girls, and beg fags off strangers. There were rumours that some of the gang did worse, but Yu had never partaken.
The man seemed normal enough, he and Yu exchanged a New Year greeting. Gung hey fat choy. They agreed a price, and the man told Yu where the parcel was to be delivered. It had taken barely more time than to walk home, and Yu had a fat pocket for a week after. The man was pleased with Yu, who was quiet and not likely to ask too many questions. They struck up a deal and Yuís new job began. Every week the man gave Yu a parcel. Every week Yu delivered it, always to the same address. Sometimes Yu wondered why the man couldnít deliver it himself, but the money kept him silent.
One week the man gave Yu another instruction. He was to go inside the house, deliver the parcel directly to the person it was for. No problem. The man nodded, and slipped Yu an extra wad of cash. Yu went to the house, which was in a lonely street that the wind seemed to sweep clean and the birds did not care to visit. The house was like the others around it, peeling paint and empty window eyes, but that didnít bother Yu. He was used to it.
What he didnít like was the singing.
From inside there came a sound, an undulating cackle like the burning of old books and the gurgle of water down long unused drains. It didnít sound human, but it didnít seem likely that it wasnít human either. Yu fingered the money in his pocket. It would soon dry up if he disobeyed the parcel-man. He shouldered the door open and went inside.
Yu had never seen a god before, so he didnít recognise him immediately. The Kitchen god sat, vast and unlovely, in a pool of congealing grease. The ruin of the parcel-manís offerings were littered around him, stinking and rotting. The parcel, heavy in Yuís hand, started to leak. He threw it at the Kitchen-god, who burbled with hunger and ripped it open. It contained a hand.
Yu ran fast. Yu ran and ran and ran.
Parcel-man was waiting in the square, in the snow. Yu didnít hesitate. He pulled a switchblade from his pocket, bought recently to impress his gang. He drove the blade into parcel-manís chest.
No more of parcel-manís offerings to Kitchen god. Yu raised his arms to the sky and let the grit-filled snow wash his face. He didnít notice the crowd gathering to stare at him.

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Comments by other Members

anisoara at 14:00 on 05 January 2005  Report this post
Ooh, this is cool! And I love your imagination.

I have a question: why does Yu have a lotus cake as an offering to the kitchen god at the start of the piece, if the kitchen god eats hands (and presumably other human flesh) and lives in that house that Yu's been delivering them to? It looks like he's making an offering to a god in the sky, although the god appears to be in that house.

Two other things niggled, but they're smaller. The first is I can't help but wonder why the parcel-man has asked Yu on the last occasion to take the parcel inside of the house. It may be worth working in a a little something, remark, etc, to show why this is the case.

And I am not sure about Yu stabbing the parcelman. I don't know if it's because I need a little more development - or to see some sort of linkages - or if it's because it doesn't seem to matter anyway. Or maybe he's trying to appease other gods? It certainly wouldn't appease the kitchen god to murder the source of his food.

I REALLY liked this, and I think you can sharpen it up even more and sunmit it for a bigger and better comp! (Well, I don't know what comp you were writing it for in the first place, but maybe I'm right, and it's all karma or something!)


sabriel at 14:06 on 05 January 2005  Report this post
Hi Ani,
Thanks for your comments, they're very helpful. I didn't really actually think it through, plotwise :0S it was more just sit down and write the thing (I wrote it in about half an hour to be honest) I guess the idea was with the use of the word "appropriate" in the first bit I was showing how Yu was trying to make things right in his mind about how gods operate, that they *should* want things like lotus root cake and not human body parts! It's supposed to be a horror story but also a sort of story about disillusionment as well, hard to do in 600 words. And please note, I used EXACTLY 600 words too (not that it matters, but how impressive would THAT have been for a 600 word competition?)
I'm going to expand it like you suggested, and take your comments into consideration in the expansion. I'll let you know how I get on.
Thanks again,


oh, I guess I meant to say as well that the beginning bit was supposed to be the ending bit as well, just foreshadowed.
does that make sense???

anisoara at 14:13 on 05 January 2005  Report this post
Ah, I meant to comment on that. I liked the way your beginning was also your ending. I was reading in Jerry Cleaver's book Sudden Fiction that
the ending is in the begnning
, which I think it really true. If you look to the beginning of the story, you can find the ending. (That is an excellent book, by the way.)

And I am impressed at your quick production of this piece and getting it to exactly 600 words. Yes, I think the judges would have been impressed! :-D

I don't think you need to expand a lot, but just fit in some support, like scaffolding!


Amos at 17:18 on 05 January 2005  Report this post
I loved the phrase 'cackle like the burning of old books'.

I felt like I was peeking into another culture, foreign and alien, which made the horror even creepier.

anisoara at 20:09 on 05 January 2005  Report this post
You know the 2005 Commonwealth Short Story Comp is for pieces of approximately 600 words (should tale 4'30" to read), and had a deadline 1 May 2005.

Bav Dav at 22:27 on 05 January 2005  Report this post
Good story, didn't know what was coming next. Some cracking phraseology too, "Small flakes of snow spiralled down, melting into city grit on his face", love that!

Some of it did sound a little childish "Yu ran fast. Yu ran and ran and ran." dunno if you did this on purpose?

Keep them coming.

Sue H at 08:32 on 07 January 2005  Report this post

I like this but think like the others it should be expanded - not too much though. It's short and snappy and that works! I think we need to know why Yu was told to enter the house with the last delivery. I'm not sure either about Yu stabbing the man. I can see that he would get a knife to fit in with the gang but he seems quite gentle to me and I don't know whether he would actually use it. I love "a lonely street that the wind seemed to sweep clean and the birds did not care to visit" - really nice!

Good stuff!

sabriel at 20:43 on 08 January 2005  Report this post
Thanks everyone for the feedback,
Bav, I did intend for it to seem a bit childlike, in keeping with the directness and simplicity of the story. I'll take another look at it, though.

Sue, I know what you mean about Yu stabbing parcel-man being out of character, but I wanted to convey how disturbed and horrified by the Kitchen-god he was, and the instructions for the initial comp that I was going to enter specified that the story be a bit mysterious (not a mystery, though)

Thanks again, and Ani, I've entered it for the Commonwealth ss comp on your advice, thanks!


old friend at 10:28 on 09 January 2005  Report this post

This shows a very creative mind and you have some lovely phrases as others have mentioned. How did you manage to hit exactly the 600 word mark? It's a strange theme that stretches the imagination and poses many more questions than it answers - which is a good thing!

I would only question your use of a few words... the second paragraph, the second mention of 'Yu' I would change to 'him'. Same paragraph, 'off' to 'from'. Can you change the word 'partaken'? For me this is too near to food. Penultimate paragraph... should kitchen god be hyphenated? You mention this twice, one with and one without.

However, a very nice read.


FX at 14:48 on 09 January 2005  Report this post

Horror is a genre I tend to steer clear of, so perhaps I'm not the best judge. However, I thought the story was strongly written and the character of Yu came across well for such a short piece. In a re-write, you might want to drop in a few more hints about his character though, like maybe if he sits in the centre of the gang or on the edge of the group etc; just a few small tasters like that can be worked in without too much of a break in the rhythm of the piece. Since it IS a very short piece Yu should be a well drawn as possible.

One pernickety point: you described the house as having "empty window eyes". That pulled me up short and caused me to wonder for a second what you were saying. I'd be inclined to hypenate "empty-window" for a smoother scan of the line.

Terry Edge at 17:43 on 09 January 2005  Report this post

This is a terrific piece of writing. The pacing and degree of detail is perfect for a short, shock-ending, story. It's an original idea, too and well disguised Ė well, at least it was from me: I didn't see the Kitchen God coming.

I am a little thick sometimes when it comes to short stories, so bear with me. Now, I assume Yu has gone mad by the end of the story, thus in the opening paragraph, he's praying to a mythological kitchen god, his broken mind wanting to forget the real one. And I take it that the 'red blossoms' around him are the blood the package man's blood he's spilled. OR Ö is that he was mad all along, killed a stranger for no reason, the bag has always just had a cake in it, and all that stuff about the real kitchen god is just his barmy illusions? Now, I've set it out like this, I realise I've probably ruined the subtlety of your story!

Some minor points:

The only clue you give us to where this story is located is the word 'fags' as in cigarettes, i.e. this makes it the UK and not, for instance, the USA. It may be that it would work better if you either give us a few more clues to confirm that it's in the UK, or take out this clue so that the place remains generic.

'Gung hey fat choy' should really be in italics, to show that it's something that was said between them, rather than a sentence in the narrative. But would they actually exchange the words 'kitchen god' (apparently your translation) as a greeting?

'The man was pleased with Yu, who was quiet and not likely to ask too many questions.' This is a slight change of point-of-view, from Yu's to his employer, i.e. because Yu would not ordinarily know this is what the man thought of him.

You don't really explain why Yu would be used to lonely streets that birds don't visit Ė if anything you give the impression earlier that's he quite gregarious: he hangs around with a gang in a busy square and has a mother.

Why did the man want Yu to deliver the parcel personally this time?

So, my main comment is that great though this story is in terms of shock and originality, I'm not sure you establish strongly enough a basis for us believing either of the two possible causes for the ending, i.e. that Yu is already mad or that he has the kind of character that would kill a man who was providing human body parts for a kitchen god.


P.S. What's this doing under Young Adult!


I should have said that I like to make my comments before reading everyone else's so I see now that you've already answered one or two of my points.

sabriel at 20:58 on 09 January 2005  Report this post
Hi Terry,
thanks so much for the thoughful analysis. You are perfectly correct with your first assumptions, he HAS gone mad, the "blossoms" ARE blood, but the ambiguity is really supposed to throw the reader off-balance like poor hapless Yu.
Gung hey fat choy is actually a Chinese New Year greeting meaning something like "prosperity be yours this new year" which I thought added to it, but I guess only if you're familiar with Chinese! (I'm not myself, but have a Chinese friend who said that to me, sparking some of the idea)
Yu was only used to that particular lonely street b/c he had delivered so many of the parcels.
and lastly, the parcel man's reasons for having Yu personally deliver, I really don't know! I didn't have an explanation for that! I wanted a story of 600 words, wrote a story of 600 words, and damn the minutiae! (only kidding, I know how important the details are, but I was feeling brash) I'll look at it and tinker a bit.
All excellent points.
Gung hey fat choy.

oh, as a ps, the word fags is sooooo great (I'm American and still getting used to these British colloqialisms) but it's supposed to be set in some random chinatown.


and as a pps, I'm working on a Young adult novel, but this piece is definitely NOT intended for children, it was just my most recent piece and I thought it would be interesting to see what people thought.

Harry at 12:32 on 11 January 2005  Report this post
Hi Sabriel,

Great short story. Very compact, with lots of lovely detail and I didn't see the end coming.

Only one point to add: I think the phrase you mean is 'Gong Xi Fa Cai'

Thanks for the read.

All the best


sabriel at 14:33 on 13 January 2005  Report this post
Hi Harry,
I have a Chinese friend who tells me that there are many ways to express a New Year's greeting, so I just went with one of the few he wrote down for me.

jewelsx at 00:16 on 21 February 2005  Report this post
I don't think there is very much more i can say on the technical side of things, you seem to have recieved a large amount of feedback already.

But i will say that i enjyed reading it and you should definetly thik about re-posting it into a different competition.

well done - a great read


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