plain china: best undergraduate writing

Volume One : Issue One

In the End There Is a Line of Wailing Lunch Ladies


by Tae Hwan Song

Untitled by Tatiana Oudine

10th grade and I
was an electron-of-a-
child; could not sit
still. I once found a dead mouse
in the locker room at school.
It was grey and purple; damp
tufts of hair. Its eyes were black
and hard, its little paws stretched out in
salutation. It was a scrawny one, the runt
maybe, skin tight to frame.
It was very much dead.
And I, unable to sit still,
scooped it up with someone else’s
gym sock. It felt like
bruised fruit.

I placed the small body in a shoe
box—flimsy-cardboard-coffin—as
my head steamed with
ideas. Ideas. He

(my memory makes him a
he; I don’t recall actually checking)

died a plain death; may have simply run
out of cheese. But,

Little Friend, though life is
through with you, I am
not.

Into the cafeteria—world of plastic
trays, the smell of salty lunch
meats, waxy cartons of milk—
2% please. I am filled with purpose
like sunlight, I am spilling
out of myself into my position in line.
The lunch ladies look lovely
for once, their hairnets catch
the schools of fish swimming on their heads
exceptionally well today. Their moles,
today, make constellations. The oldest one
has whiskers. I grin at them, shoebox
held tight. They smile back, rows of teeth
like fences. I reach

over the barrier, the glass or plastic,
the germ-wall, deposit my small
friend into the large
basin of beef and vegetable soup,
and then run away
because I have to.

The screams of the lunch ladies chase
after me all the way to heaven
where my small friend navigates
the holes of a giant block of Swiss
like a play-scape, if
he was a good mouse.

About the Author


Tae Hwan Song

University of Connecticut

Tae Hwan “Ricky” Song is a junior at the University of Connecticut, majoring in English. When he’s not writing, he’s “busy saving the world from the evil forces of the Decepticons.”