Last Meal

I carefully heated the soup over the ancient hot plate, fearful that the painfully backward technology would set the room on fire. My friend lay on his bed, respiring noisily. Every now and again he would hack up a ball of phlegm, aiming for the wastebasket next to his cot. Usually he missed.

I heated up two of the helpings of soup. Hao Shue would occasionally stab at the air with a brief anecdote about or joke told him by the man who had come to see him as a son; the corners of his mouth drew back into a slight smile.

I spooned the soup into Hao Shue’s mouth, for he was too weak to sit up or even move his arms. As he tasted and swallowed it, I saw the light return to his face, if only briefly. Exhausted, he lay down again and, laboriously, insisted I eat.

I only had to have one spoonful to come to agree with him. I have never tasted a soup so wonderful, nor will I ever again.

I told this to Hao Shue. He whispered something, thanking me for sharing in this quest with him, and smiled for the last time.

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