Wolf Eyes


I am fix broken cash register when gunman come inside.

I don’t know he has gun first, because gun inside pants, under jacket, and I don’t see. He look at menu, at appetizer section, thinking which is better, fried dumplings or eggrolls. He just stand there read menu, like normal person, but I know something wrong. I don’t like his eyes. In China, we can say we know man is good or bad from eyes. If man has Wolf Eyes, he is bad. Always true. Never wrong. I am very good at looking people’s eyes. This man has Wolf Eyes.

I wait behind counter, still try fix cash register, pretend be busy. I always have bad customer at nights, always drunk, sometimes drug, always want free food, or want some other bad thing, but I get used, I know how take care these bad men. But never get Wolf Eyes Man come inside. All three years in America, I never see Wolf Eyes Men here. This American’s face different from Chinese face, maybe even some Chinese who no look close don’t notice, but I always look close, I can see. I try open cash register again. Still not work. Very long time I don’t see a Wolf Eyes Man, since I was little girl, when grandma took me in crowded train station, only station in my whole town, to teach me how to see Wolf Eyes. We sit all day, look hundreds people, until she find one at last. She show me in secret, make me look until I almost cry, I so scared his Wolf Eyes.

Cash register just can’t be fix. I sit on stool with one bad leg. I need new stool, because will break very soon, but I can’t find cheap one. Back home, everything so cheap. Here, even I charge $6 for five fried dumplings, I still can’t have money for new stool.

Wolf Eyes Man still look at menu. He is big, big shoulders and big hands, he can barely fit in takeout shop. I hold still. Maybe Wolf Eyes Man just come to buy some food, some crab puffs or chicken chow mein, maybe will do evil things later. Even Wolf Eyes People have to eat. I don’t look his Wolf Eyes. I think maybe if he don’t see my eyes know his Wolf Eyes, he just order food and go away, like all other customer.

I shiver and feel like winter in my hometown. North China is very cold in winter, cold like Russia, nobody thinks so, but true. So cold wind can freeze your bones, so cold make your fingers blue. I always tell mother and grandma when I’m little, I hate cold China, I leave and go to America, where always have sun and warm. Two ladies laugh me, tell me I must be rich to go to America. I say I make rich after I go to America, but they don’t listen, just laughing me.

But I do go to America, after university. I get best grades in all class, even some scholarship for final year. My mother so proud. She happy she can say to all mothers in my hometown, her daughter go to big, important university in Beijing. She think all boys in my hometown will want marry me for sure now. But I don’t really want marry. I still want to go to America and make rich. So I go. That three years ago.

I find out, very hard make rich here in America, not speaking English good, not having American university degree. I work waitress two years in restaurant, then work this takeout Chinese food shop, run whole shop for boss day and night. My name manager now, bigger than waitress, but still not make big money. Nobody want buy my Chinese food. Too many other Chinese takeaway place. But I always think, I have time. I very young. I keep think that until last year, when grandma died. Now, time seem very short.

Grandma’s voice come to my head now, from long time ago, from crowded old train station in North China town. Look there. You see man under big clock? I still remember. He maybe same age my father, dark skin like farmer, like far away from warm South, not very tall. He stand in shadow of big train station clock, away from other people, try clean his glasses, breathe on glass, rub on shirt. This important. Grandma’s voice very quiet. Look his eyes. He still clean glasses, still look down at shirt. I can’t see face. I wait. Grandma hold my hand so tight. Train blows horn. Man look up, check which train. I see. I see his eyes. You see his eyes? Grandma asks. I keep look, look so long, can’t stop look, can’t look away. Those are Wolf Eyes. Those are Wolf Eyes.

Suddenly, Wolf Eyes Man finish check menu, come closer, stand at register. So tall his head almost touch ceiling. He make big shadow over me, like big train station clock shadow.

“You want takeout?” I ask, pretend to fix register more, not look him. I learn, you pretend you no afraid of them, the bad customer leave you alone, just order food and go.

Wolf Eyes Man doesn’t say any word. I can’t keep pretend be busy. Finally, I look him slowly.

He is very still. Face has no life. Like dead face. Only his Wolf Eyes move. He so big. No way escape.

Takeout telephone ring, loud noise fill tiny room. “You hold on one minute, okay?” I say, reach for phone.

“Don’t answer it.” Wolf Eyes Man voice very low.

I look him. “I have answer phone. My boss get really angry, I get trouble. I take your order, just one minute.”

Wolf Eyes Man reach around counter and put big hand on phone. So big I can’t see phone. He pick phone up, put down again. Ringing stop. “I said, don’t answer it.”

I little angry. “Now I get trouble my boss.” I say. “I supposed answer phone every time.”

Wolf Eyes Man no say any word. Slowly, he reach behind his back, take gun from pants. He point at me. I never see real gun before. I never know so big and heavy. Wolf Eyes man put gun my head, right spot next my eye.  So hard and cold in my skin. I start shake. I forget phone. I am afraid.

“Ok. You take anything. No problem. Take anything.” I try say, try make my accent clear, so he understand my words.

Wolf Eyes Man still no say any word. I try not cry. I reach for cash register, try open drawer, but it stuck. “It stuck.” I say, sound funny, like little girl. “I can’t open.” I cry and try again, pull on drawer so hard my fingers make turn white. CHING! Drawer pop open, spill coins everywhere. I scream, and Wolf Eyes Man press gun hard my head, make head hurt. “I sorry, I sorry,” I say. I take bills. I count them, put on counter. “Only eighty dollar,” I whisper, try apologise. “Nobody come tonight. Nobody come tonight.”

Wolf Eyes Man make smile very slow. He not take gun away my head. I so afraid I can’t move. I want run but not feel legs. “I sorry not much money. All money here, no any money in back. I sorry.” I move money close his hand. “Please, take. Take.” I feel face hot, wet. I think maybe I cry.

Wolf Eyes Man no even look money. Big hand move slow, grab all bills, grab like garbage, put in pocket, not even look. No take gun away my head. He lean close me. I smell his breath, some kind old cigarette. I don’t understand.

“What you want? No more money. I sorry. No more money. What you want?”

Wolf Eyes Man slowly move gun away my head. I take small breath, try not move. I think he believe me no more money, let me go. Gun move very slow, then stop, still point me, point middle my chest, right spot my heart.

I look Wolf Eyes Man face again. Then I understand. He no come for take money. He come for take something else. I see big finger start move on trigger. Big, thick finger, with dirty nail and rough skin. I see everything so slow, but can’t move. He look me very hard, Wolf Eyes stare my eyes, deep all way to old train station in north China town. He know I know what is his Wolf Eyes, why they make him do.

“Please no …” I try say, but no sound in my mouth.

Big bang shake me. So loud and strong. I hit wall behind me, push so hard. My eyes wide, look his Wolf Eyes. Those are Wolf Eyes. Grandma says to me. I keep look, look so long, can’t stop look, can’t look away. Those are Wolf Eyes. Then I fall. I feel spinning, bouncing all over like dumplings boiling in water.

Finally, I open eyes. I am lay on side, on floor behind cash register, trap between broken stool and extra box dry rice noodles. So much blood, all around me. All floor is red, like big red lake. I think impossible one little Chinese person have so much blood. So much blood, make float cash register desk and broken stool and my body, like boats in big, red ocean. I use spatula for row boat, favorite spatula in kitchen. If this North China, big, red ocean change to big, red ice, so hard you skate on top.

I hear glass door swing open, sound of wind hit cars, bells banging glass door, swing shut. Quiet. Wolf Eyes Man gone.

It very late. Only ten minutes until close. I think probably nobody will come, nobody will want Chinese food so late night on Tuesday. Nobody will come, nobody will see me laying on side behind cash register, making big, red ocean.

I try close my eyes, but I can’t move any part body. Sometimes I think about how I will die, everybody think about how he will die, is normal. When I think, I always think I will think about China, about my grandma, when she teach me how to make dumplings for Chinese New Year, about soft dumpling skin, about how smells raw ginger and fresh spring onions she chop and mix together with meat. This my favourite memory. This before I ever know about things like Wolf Eyes Man and America.

But I don’t think about that now. All I think about is stupid broken stool next my arm, about how much new stool cost, about how even I can sell so much Chinese food and still not have enough money to buy good one. I want to think something else, think some other important thing for my very last thought, but I only think of broken stool.

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Peng Shepherd

About N/A N/A

Peng Shepherd’s fiction has appeared in Litro, .Cent Magazine, and Liar’s League, among others. She is an MFA Stein Fellow in Creative Writing at New York University, where she also teaches as an adjunct instructor. She is a fiction reader for Narrative Magazine and Washington Square Review, and is finishing her first novel.

Peng Shepherd’s fiction has appeared in Litro, .Cent Magazine, and Liar’s League, among others. She is an MFA Stein Fellow in Creative Writing at New York University, where she also teaches as an adjunct instructor. She is a fiction reader for Narrative Magazine and Washington Square Review, and is finishing her first novel.


  1. J Pak says:

    A great triumph to put your reader so deeply into a story in just a few, short paragraphs. You have a brilliant literary future ahead of you…like Mom, like daughter, both with beautiful eyes!

  2. Dolores Martinez says:

    Wonderful story, The details of what she was thinking and going through, made me feel I was there. Especially when he had the gun to her head. Very good story. Can’t wait to read more of you writing. Congratulation!

  3. pam says:

    Bravo, so very well written, I just wanted to keep reading,and reading…kept you on the edge of your seat…like I was right there with you…very descriptive…You are very blessed, please…continue!

  4. Nahrwold says:

    It’s Saturday morning and I’m trying to eat a muffin, but it’s not possible to stop reading this intense story about vwhen very good meets very evil. Good Stuff, Peng Shepherd!

  5. caseyf says:

    This is a well-written thriller. The rise of action is steep and the author certainly maintains her voice throughout–something that many writers cannot do. The anticipation of the climax is extreme because Peng Shepherd knows how to hold the reader in the grips of drama. Nice job (this is coming from a writing professor).

  6. Donna Kempf says:

    Start reading and you have to finish. Such insight with detail and description. Well done! The young lady in the story had the intuition and knew not to trust from childhood teachings about “Wolf Eyes”. She was right,…she knew.
    Excellent. I loved it!

  7. julie pascente says:

    Amazing writing Peng. you are truly gifted, just like your Mother. I am soooo proud of you! Congratulations and keep me posted on all your future endeavors.

  8. maryann ortiz lieb says:

    Peng ~ Can’t wait for the novel, Wolf Eyes Man. I want to read more, her life growing up all the smells and sounds, her dreams and her mother. I want more.

  9. Most Rev. Nicholas A. LaMonica, OSM says:

    Peng Shepherd gives us a wonderful story. The rapid pace of this story comes from terse, active sentences, yet these sentences manage to communicate to the reader the sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings of the main character in fine detail. Solid topic sentences form a good foundation for each paragraph and the transition between paragraphs is quite good. This is a well-written and most entertaining story. Good job, Peng.

  10. Cheryl Force says:

    Wow….what a story…leaves a person breathless having escaped the moment…but wondering what happens next. I’ve been changed by what I’ve read… now I will be very watchful for “wolf eyes”. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of your first success! I am sure there will be many more. Congarats!

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