vegetable chaos – surreal shanghai

by ling’ling

have you been to the wet market on tongren lu. it’s right next to ‘the spot’ bar…next to all those hooker bars that cater to business tourists. fuck yeah i been there too. drink some 50 kuai qingdaos, hit on a countryside garlic hooker then get me some carrots and tomatoes. that’s how i roll.

you won’t believe what happened at the market today. i’m in there haggling over the price of tomatoes, trying to find a vendor who doesn’t hate me with double priced tomatoes like they were flown in from italy. i can’t describe how tiresome i find this exercise. i make a fairly obvious show of blanking one vendor and asking the one next to her how much her tomatoes cost. this is bad style and vendor number 2 lets me know it by doubling the previous vendor’s price.

i turn to walk away…i hear a chinese obscenity hurled from behind me. it’s a good one. the kind you don’t read about in the guide to chinese obscenities. the kind your friends would never teach you. i’m flattered and i turn around to drop some half-assed laowai bluster that i know will regret, but in turning i see that the obscenity was not directed at me.

the two lady vendors are squared off against each other exchanging evil eyes.

i don’t speak whatever dialect they’re throwing but even my non understanding ears can tell that these ladies know their profanity. their mouths would make a backed up squat toilet look like a surgeon’s operating table. i shiver a little and my skin crawls to hear their words.

suddenly things turn violent and tomatoes fly. onions and carrots careen around the market as the two ladies assault each other with vegetables. apparently one of the vendors in the back is cousin to the skinny lady because a green pepper comes flying in from afar and smacks the fat one in the back of the head. this provokes an old guy on the right and he sends a potato flying back.

vegetable chaos ensues. the horror, the horror. it was all innocent until the hard vegetables came out. one vendor sharpened up a carrot and stabbed another through the heart like a vegan vampire.

after that it was canned goods and all hell broke loose.

so many vendors fell that day… bludgeoned to death with raw potatoes, tomato asphyxiations, lethal corn-holing… i even saw one poor guy strangled with a leek. the mayhem…i never saw how it ended, i barely made it out with my own life, but it burns. the memory, it burns in my mind’s eye…god help us…