“Don’t look at my breasts, my face is up here,” Amy almost says out loud to the teen ogling her from three bus seats away. Then she thinks it over and decides she actually wants the junior pervert to obsess over her breasts, because maybe then he won’t recognize her. Amy is certain there is a reward out on her, but she doesn’t know that it started at $5,000 when she made her escape some two hours ago, and it’s climbing a thousand every hour. The young deviant has finally shifted his preoccupation to the big picture that is Amy Li Yahuan, and nothing is adding up.
It’s almost Christmas, yet she’s dressed up for Oktoberfest with an authentic Bavarian dirndl, a crown of plastic flowers, and her hair fixed up in braids. Amy looks like the Chinese-American version of the 80’s mascot for a certain cocoa. Amy goes through the purse that she stole from the makeup girl right before she escaped; she has to bribe the little creep before the other passengers recognize…too late.
How can she help it? Probably half of the people here wake up to her looking back at them during breakfast, and the other half have seen her on billboards and TV. Amy bites her lip in anger, because she worked so hard to get out of Bruno’s clutches and she is so close to getting her fix she can almost taste it. Maybe she can get her fill before her former captor finds out that she went south instead of home to Sacramento. As the 54 crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and slows because of the traffic, Amy wonders if she should just get off here and end it all with a leap from the span. Would death be preferable to being trapped on The Farm again?
After getting off the bus at
Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage. Yet one of the worst aspects of The Farm for Amy was not the gangsters or former gangsters watching over her every move except for when she went to the bathroom. Nor was it her never being allowed to go outside the two main buildings of that establishment. She got used to the guns brandished at her and the hyper-sensitive alarms going off all the time, but she couldn’t abide the miserable forced diet. She wasn’t allowed any meat or junk food…not even a French fry.
Here in this Jack In The Box near 11th Avenue, she fights the Pavlovian response to salivate and the urge to give the cashier an earful, when she has to explain to him that yes, she wants an Ultimate Cheeseburger, but no, she doesn't want the cheese. He finally gets it when she says, "no dairy" in Spanish. Amy vows that she will eat no more dairy ever, even if it means her bones turn to powder before she’s forty.
As she sits down with her tray, nothing can ruin this moment...not even the bus that goes past the window with her picture and the other seven women that have been held captive just as long as she has. Amy pulls back the paper and savors the aroma. No, nothing can ruin this moment...though the sight of a hardened Latino male outside, covered in gang tattoos does not help.
Actually, this moment is ruined in the worst way, as she recognizes that most of his ink is the same as Bruno's. How did they find her so fast? There's no time to even take a bite, as she decides to strike before they can locate her. There is nothing in the stolen purse to defend herself with, not even a nail file. Just as the gangster reaches for the door, Amy sprints from behind an exiting customer, and pushes both the patron and the door into the tough.
She won't go back to The Farm no matter what, even if that means being run over by
“Can I help…” are the last words the lamp salesman gets in before everything goes off like an errant spark at a fireworks factory. Amy greets the first gangster through the door with a torchiere that she has braced into the carpet like medieval lance man would with a spear. His eyes don’t make the adjustment from bright sunshine to the darker store and his momentum gives him a chest full of glass and iron. The man crumbles like a crash test dummy and he flops to the entrance floor.
His partner enters, leaps around his fallen friend and surprises Amy. She scampers around the corner and he trips over a few lamps before he can grab her. The tough stumbles to his feet with rage, as he seems to have lost track of her. He covers two-thirds of the store, before he is blinded by two track lights pointed at his face. A heart-shaped resin lamp hits the side of his knee and he falls down on all fours.
He is flattened by a tasteful walnut table lamp that is on sale for $79.95 until January 2nd, and Amy takes his wallet and his gun. She gives the astonished lamp salesman $200 from the billfold and she slips out the back of the store before he realizes that the money won’t even begin to cover the damage.
Harold knows this isn’t some kind of dream, because they never last three whole days long. Of course he keeps waiting for someone to wake him up, as beautiful women like her simply don’t fall from the sky. Actually, Harold really doesn’t know the first thing about her, other than she showed up at his brother’s restaurant in a dirndl, and that she loves hamburgers. As a matter of fact, the only thing she loves more than burgers is the man that brings her those patties and some fries.
“Emme” is what she asked him to call her and he didn’t ask any questions…because Harold has spent his whole life catering to pretty women. Emme is different though, because unlike the girls before her, she doesn’t make Harold jump through hoops, and she doesn’t make financial demands. All that she wants is burgers, fries, and making love with the shades pulled down. Come to think of it, Emme doesn’t want to go out…at all. Harold even offered to take her to the House of Prime Rib, figuring that if she likes beef…yet, she turned that down.
There’s something so familiar about Emme, as if he has known her somehow for the last couple of years. A light bulb goes off over Harold’s head and then it smacks him hard. She must be an escaped convict, it’s the only way this all makes sense. There’s the doorbell and that’s odd, Lloyd with the order of burgers from his brother’s restaurant isn’t due for another hour. As Harold opens the door, he wonders how lightning got into the hallway.
The first thing he notices is the funny taste, and the second thing he notices is that he can’t move his arms. The third, and most important thing he notices, is the angry gang bangers standing in his kitchen.
“I said, ‘where’s Amy?’”
The one in the middle punches Harold in the face and he says, “I’m not playing, homes.”
Harold realizes that funny taste is his own blood, and he also figures that “Amy” is “Emme.” Harold gets a rabbit punch to the left ear that leaves him wondering how much longer he can keep up this ruse of chivalry.
“We’re done, kill him, Gordo” the middle one says the fat banger on the left.
“Naw, listen Bruno, she’s here, man!” avers Gordo. “The bum that we found wearing her dress, he says he got out of the trash can from this house!”
The walk-in cupboard opens up, as it turns out Amy was hiding behind two Costco packs of paper towels. Unlike the gang bangers, she has her gun already out.
“Amy, thank God! Where were you?” Bruno whines almost like a jilted freshman.
“I’m not going back to The Farm, Bruno!” Amy seethes. “Chloe can attach the couplings from all the machinery and go milk herself!”
Bruno reaches behind his back and Amy cocks her gun’s hammer. Bruno holds his hands up and says, “Hold on, I don’t have a gun. I just want to show you something.”
He reaches back again and this time he brings out a rolled-up paper. Bruno unfurls a poster of Amy and seven other women. They are all dressed as Bavarian milk maids, and they are Caucasian, Black, Filipino and Japanese.“See?” mewls Bruno, “I had them Photoshop you into the center.”
Amy lowers her gun as she looks at the poster, then she raises it again and says, “I am not going back until Chloe leaves!”
The gangsters are aghast that Harold talked, much less to Bruno.
“Because a fortune teller told Bruno’s wife, Chloe, that eight is the Chinese lucky number that leads to prosperity. That and that stupid ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ song”.
“Yeah, well, she was right about that being a lucky number, there have to be eight of you. Come back to The Farm, Amy, and I’ll double your pay.”
“I’m tired of home shopping networks. What’s the difference if I never get to go out and spend the money?”
Bruno poorly tries to sound firm when he mumbles, “You have to come back, baby. All of your cows miss you and they’re not producing. Hell, even when they do, the milk is sour.”
“Please, Bruno. She doesn’t want to be cooped up in the boonies. Please…find another woman, and just let her go.”
Bruno raises his hand to Harold, but Amy rebuffs that with a wave of her pistol.
“I don’t think you understand, ese, I’m one of the biggest producers of organic milk in all of
Gordo and his friend look down at Harold, like they are the IRS and he owes them money.
“If you divorce Chloe, I’ll leave with you right now,” Amy says faintly.
“I can’t afford to give her half,” replies Bruno with a half-pout.
Amy puts her gun on the table and cuts the rope off Harold’s right hand. She walks up to Bruno, deftly caresses him and responds, “You’ll work a way around that, I’m sure.”
Bruno puts his arm around Amy and they leave. Gordo and his sidekick follow, but not without glaring at Harold for the last time. As he unties himself, Harold is unsure if he has dodged a bullet, among other things and weapons. The only thing that he sure about is that when Tennyson said, “’Tis better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all,” was that the poet certainly never had a woman like Amy.