McSweeney’s Internet Tendency contributor Jesse Eisenberg’s funny new collection, Bream Gives Me Hiccups, contains several pieces that appeared on our electronic pages. To celebrate its release, we’re re-running the first installment of the column from which the book got its name. Bream Gives Me Hiccups is available to purchase at your nearest independent bookseller.
[Originally published May 24, 2012.]
Last night, Mom took me to Sushi Nozawa, near Matt’s house. Except she didn’t let Matt come with us and I had to leave in the middle of my favorite show because Mom said we would be late for our reservation and that I didn’t know who she had to blow on to get the reservation.
At the front of Sushi Nozawa is a mean woman. When I asked Mom why the woman is so angry, Mom said it’s because she’s Japanese and that it’s cultural. The woman at school who serves lunch is also mean but she is not Japanese. Maybe it’s just serving food that makes people angry.
Sushi Nozawa does not have any menus, which Mom said made it fancy. The Sushi chef is very serious and he stands behind a counter and serves the people whatever he wants. He is also mean.
The first thing they brought us was a rolled up wet washcloth, which I unrolled and put on my lap because Mom always said that the first thing I have to do in a nice restaurant is put the napkin in my lap. But this napkin was hot and wet and made me feel like I peed my pants. Mom got angry and asked me if I was stupid.
The mean woman then brought a little bowl of mashed up red fish bodies in a brown sauce and said that it was tuna fish, which I guess was a lie because it didn’t taste like tuna and made me want to puke right there at the table. But Mom said that I have to eat it because Sushi Nozawa was “famous for their tuna.” At school, there is a kid named Billy who everyone secretly calls Billy the Bully and who puts toothpaste on the teacher’s chair before she comes into the classroom. He is also famous.
Mom said they have egg so I asked for two eggs, but when the mean woman brought them, they didn’t look like eggs; they looked like dirty sponges and I spit it out on the table in front of Mom, who slammed her hands on the table and made the plates rattle and so I got scared and spit out more sponge on Mom’s hands and Mom yelled at me in a weird whispery voice, saying that the only reason she took me to the restaurant is so that Dad would pay for it. Then I started crying and little bits of the gross egg came out of my nose with snot and Mom started laughing in a nice way and gave me a hug and told me to be more quiet.
The mean woman brought me and Mom little plates of more gross fish bodies on rice. I asked Mom to take off the fish part so I could eat the rice. Mom said, “Great, more for me,” and ate my fish. I like rice because Mom said it’s like Japanese bread but it has no crusts, which is good for me because I don’t eat crusts anyway. I also like it when Mom says “Great, more for me” because it seems like that is her happiest expression.
When the woman brought the bill, Mom smiled at her and said thank you, which was a lie, because Mom hates when people bring her the bill. When Mom and Dad were married, Mom would always pretend like she was going to pay and when Dad took the bill, which he always did, she said more lies like, “Are you sure? Okay, wow, thanks honey.” Now that Dad doesn’t eat with us anymore, maybe I should pretend to take the bill from Mom and say a lie like, “Oh really? Okay, thanks Mom” but I don’t because lies are for adults who are sad in their lives.
The mean woman took the bill back without saying thank you. I guess she is not sad. But she is definitely angry.
I understand why the people who work here are so angry. I guess it’s like working at a gas station, but instead of cars, they have to fill up people. And people eat slowly and talk about their stupid lives at the table and make each other laugh but when the people who serve the food come by, they stop laughing and talking and become quiet like they don’t want to let anyone else know about their great jokes. And if the people who bring the food talk about their lives, they’re not allowed to talk about how bad it is, only how good it is, like, “I’m doing great, how are you?” And if they say something truthful like, "I’m doing terrible, I’m a waiter here,” they will probably get fired and then they will be even worse. So it’s probably always a good idea to talk about things happily. But sometimes that’s impossible. That’s why I’m giving Sushi Nozawa 16 out of 2000 stars.