From Fresh Fish Cutter to Loving Father

Chop. Chop. Splat.

The sound of meat and fish being cut and passed back and forth fills the room for 10 hours of his day. The beckoning of customers, poking holes through this blanket of sounds, asking for two pounds of fish or three of pork. “Can I have that fish? And can you clean the scales and cut it into four?”

Splat. Scrape. Scrape

As he removes the scales from the fish they stick to his gloves, coating his hands with parts of the fish no one wants. The smell of the fish gets stronger but he doesn’t see to notice. Once the fish is scaled he takes his knife and slits the bottom of it. He reaches into the newly created hole and pulls out everything he can.

Squish. Splat.

The fish’s guts fall onto the table and he pushes them aside and takes his knife again. He raises it over the fish and with a quick and strong force that booms across the room he divides the fish into fourths.

Chop. Chop. Chop.

He grabs a plastic bag from behind him and turns it inside out, putting both his hands inside. He uses the bag to engulf the fish he just cut, and ties it up, puts it on the scale, and prints the tag. Giving the bag to the customer, another immediately one pops up from behind and asks for two oxtails. He cleans the table and gets the saw ready to cut the tail.

Zing. Zing.

The piercing sound of a saw cutting through frozen meat buzzes throughout the room and the process repeats.

This is an ordinary day for Ronald Chung, a resident of Sunset park who works at a supermarket. His job is to cut and clean the fresh fish and meat people ask for. His work place is cluttered with sounds of chopping knives, saws, discarded parts and a lot of blood. He works for ten hours of the day, not coming home until late at night.

His family consists of his loving wife and two kids. Everyday after school his wife comes to the supermarket with their kids to drop them off. Since she has to go back to work at Maimonides Medical Center as a translator, she leaves the kids with Ronald. They usually end up in the back room of the store doing their homework until their father is done with his shift. Every now and then someone comes out of that back room, and without fail he checks to see if it’s one of his kids. When it is one of them, he calls for them and they answer back. A smile wipes across his face and then they walk back into the back room.

“I wish I got to spend more quality time with them,” he said. “The only real time I get to spend with them is when I we walk home to our apartment; and by that time they’re tired and ready to go to bed. I just want to give them what my father used to give to me when I was little: a smile. They come out of that room when they get bored, and I hate to leave them like that. So I tell them we’re leaving soon and smile.”

Ronald came to America when he was young , with his father after his mother passed away. He was only five and he had no idea what America was. He doesn’t remember much from China, but his most pungent memory is from when he was sitting next to his dad in the plane as a child, asking when his mother would get on. It wasn’t until later that he learned what happened.

He spent his childhood living in his uncles house with his father. His father came home late from work every night and those were the times he’d look forward to. He was raised by his aunt but felt the most love from his father. “I loved that man very much,” he said as he explained the fun he had with is father, running around the back yard and getting late night ice cream. “That’s what I want with my kids, but right now I have to work for them.”

At the end of his shift he hangs his gloves and apron, wishes his hands, and calls for his kids. They come running out with their bags and they leave. Ronald smiles once more as he watches his kids clumsily jump at him.