Another late evening.
Big Xian yawned and stretched his arms.
All of a sudden, he jerked his head and frowned.
Big Xian prided himself on the cleanliness of his restaurant.
He did not have a lot in the world, but he had his dignity.
‘Where are you,’ he tutted, wagging his winger in mock irritation.
‘That… was not a rat,’ Big Xian whispered.
‘Yeah, he’s there.’
Big Xian gasped.
Who could possibly have sneaked into his restaurant like this? At this time?
All of a sudden, he became conscious of how cold it was.
Perhaps he had forgotten to lock up.
No, he always locked up.
Big Xian warily lifted a pan in order to defend himself. He had a bad feeling about this.
He sincerely hoped he would not have to use it. Indeed, the last time this gentle giant had had to call pest control, he had not managed to get so much as a single hour’s sleep that night.
And yet, rationally, he knew that you simply cannot run a kitchen with all these worthless vermin swarming around.
The door to the kitchen rattled.
There was only this flimsy panel of wood between him and his unknown aggressors.
‘We… are closed… closed?’ Big Xian whispered, his very breath dying in his mouth.
The door was opened.
Big Xian breathed a sigh of relief. One young man in his early twenties, the other two in their mid to late teenage years stood before him. The elder of the three had a chunky, greasy, pimply face, and an ascetic-looking head that, while primarily shaven, had a curious little remnant of sparsely nondescript fluff at the back; almost invisible until you caught him from the right perspective. His defiant smirk was a little disconcerting. The two teenagers, a boy and a girl, looked dull and largely uninterested.
‘How’s the business, old man?’ the monkish smirker sneered.
‘P… pretty good,’ muttered Big Xian, somewhat ill at ease.
‘Yeah. Thought so.’ The young man burst out laughing. The two teenagers managed a tentative ‘Ha… Ha…’
‘I… I need to finish soon,’ Big Xian said, mopping with brow in anxiety.
‘Hm! Sounds like a plan,’ was the cold and menacing reply. Big Xian sensed something sarcastic, indeed bitterly, bitterly, ironic in the petty and mean-spirited answer.
Big Xian was not at all confident, by now, that he was not indeed in danger; after all! He reached for some dumplings. ‘Here, have these, they are a little stale…’
The girl laughed. The other teenager remained impassive.
‘Well, that depends,’ the elder lad spat. ‘Are they vegetarian?’
Big Xian’s hands trembled as he placed the (really rather fresh) dumplings down again on the table.
‘I am sorry. We are out of vegetable baozi. Everyone is buying them these days.’
A despicable laugh.
‘Ha! Ha!’ the ugly scalp bobbed back and forth. ‘Tell me, Charlie, do you know why we are here?’
Big Xian, speechless, steadied himself against the wall.
His tormentor strode up, to within breathing distance.
He put one hand on Big Xian’s trembling shoulder, using this for leverage; with the other hand, he gripped the bow at the back of Big Xian’s apron, whispering here:
‘What is your position on the Tibetan issue?’
Big Xian closed his eyes, by now fearing for his life. Although he was tall, he was fearful of the pot and pans, and the cruel, heartless knives that were all within easy reach of this wicked youth.
The lad drew back.
In stony silence, his scarlet eyes pierced Big Xian with the ruthless barbarity of an age-long salt-ocean; ‘lacking the least of measures, without the very merest of betidings,’ as Poet Wu used to chant around the campfire in the days of Big Xian’s youth.
All of a sudden the lad stamped his foot.
How Big Xian jumped!
The lad burst into laughter.
Big Xian could contain himself no longer.
‘Why don’t you just go!’ he sobbed, trembling from head to foot; by now so soaked in sweat, he might as well have just come to his Trotskyite enemies (did Big Xian have enemies?!) fresh from dunking himself in the Yellow River.
‘Uh-uh-uh. You tell him, little boy!’ the bully smirked.
And so he did! The younger lad recited the following spiel, as though by rote. To the more uncharitable New Yorkers, his Southern drawl had already seemed a little out of place to some. But if such people had heard the pompous, intellectual jargon and sentimental claptrap he was about to spew out, this would only have heightened the comical effect; however subjective and ‘unscientific’ such a sentimental impression might have been!
‘Whereas, the sovereign Tibetan Nation of the Land of Snows has this long been unjustly subject unto the tyranny of the reactionary Bukharinist Bourgeois-Roaders, Deviant Deformed Worker’s Bureaucrats and Revisionist Neoliberal Plunders and Looters;
‘Whereas, the inviolable sovereignty of one single, whole, integral, undivided Tibetan soil and shadow has been denied the children of the Snow Lion, and brutally withheld without the merest shadow of cause, nor slightest pretence of an excuse:
‘Whereas, the brutal secular Peking regime is the perpetrator of wilful Cultural Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and indeed, has not stopped short even of perpetrating Crimes Against the Holy Dharma of the Blessed Boddhisattvas of the Shangri-La, the erstwhile and yet ever-blessed holy egalitarian Eden of Celestial Tibet…
‘It is incumbent upon the children of the Dharma and their holy comrades; we, the Tibetan Worker’s Liberation Party, holding up the sacred and all-highest spiritual truths of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, and rightly casting forth the blessed material consolation of Trotskyist Scientific Socialism and Marx-Engels-Trotsky-Mandelian-Zia-ist Holy Doctrine and Theoretical Praxis…
‘To avenge at all costs those who trample underfoot the holy seed of the Party of Buddha, and who demean and degrade and blaspheme against the scientific truths of Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Ernest Mandel, Zia-ul-Winterson-McMillan, Bennett H. Childers, Aum Tsukarida Nichiren Tomoko Hadarachi Omedeto Hadatakawariyama Yakitomo Omega-Ichi-Ban, Humphrey Hampton Hillard Bar-El Dharmaraja, and Hattie X Hoxha and all ye blessed, sacred infants of the promise…
‘And thence, insofar as it may be appropriate and scientifically expedient, to…’
Big Xian fell to his knees, holding his hands up, clasped tightly as though in prayerful intercession.
‘I am not a political person,’ he wept. ‘I am not a political person, I know nothing about politics, all of this, it is so far away to me, I am not a political person, I am not a political person, I swear to you, my friends, I know nothing, I am not a political person…’
The chief bully burst out laughing again. His sneering guffaws dinned upon Big Xian’s ears like the repetitive heavy blows of an ill-wielded wok.
‘Do you see? Now, do you see? ‘It is so far away to me.’ The bourgeois intellectualism of the enemies of us loyal and patriotic workers of the Coming Cosmic Motherland knows no bounds!
‘But let me tell you something, you pitiful reactionary stooge: what is ‘‘far away’’ to you is not something intellectual. Your callous liberal idiocy sees the Tibetan people as a lifeless pawn to be used in your manoeuvres. Your undialectical bourgeois mediocrity and timidity says ‘A is A,’ a slave is a slave; but not also ‘A is B,’ a slave is other than a slave…
‘The guardians of the future global proletarian revolution!’
Big Xian gazed up, tears streaming down his face.
‘I do not know Tibetans. I do not know them. I am not a political person, I know nothing about politics, I am not, not, not, no, I am not a political person…’
The thug kicked big Xian in the jaw. Big Xian screamed, as much in terror as in pain.
At least as much.
‘Who is your brother!’ the lad triumphantly declared.
Big Xian was in too much pain to answer.
‘Spit in his eye,’ the young hooligan told his comrades.
The boy slowly bent down and spat in Big Xian’s left eye.
The girl stood over him, smirked, and spat in the other one.
The chief thug roared with a truly demonic laughter, even louder than before.
‘Your brother is married to a certain woman. And who is she?’
Big Xian inwardly intoned what little he could remember of the Chinese Jewish liturgy. For at long last, he knew for certain that this was, indeed, his final hour.
Up the pan went.
A hideous pause.
All of a sudden, the girl stretched forth her arm.
‘This… it’s getting out of hand,’ she warned her comrade.
‘It is… You scared?’ the cold response.
‘Look, quit messing about, you idiot!’ she shrieked. ‘You said we were only coming here to give the guy a hard time.’
Cain Ingershill, for this was the hooligan’s name, glared at her in fury.
‘Punch her,’ he instructed Little Jip.
Little Jip frowned.
‘Punch her, Jephtha,’ he said, in a warning tone.
Little Jip was not prepared to punch his own sister, even at Cain’s say so.
‘Do… you… understand the meaning… of obedience…’ he hissed.
Little Jip spat.
‘You ain’t my leader, Cain. Y’know, this is some fuckin’ reeeaaalll stupid shit, Cain. Ain’t nothin’ in our books say nothin’ about hittin’ yer own sister!’
Cain groaned and strode towards Lisa.
‘You in? Or you out?’
Lisa took a step back.
Cain took two steps forward, almost within punching distance of Lisa.
‘Do you know, Lisa Gray,’ he panted, his knotty freckled fists all-a-quiver, ‘what the penalty is for splitters, in our party?’
Little Jip drawled indignantly: ‘Nah, nah, nah, now just you listen here Cain, my friend! We ain’t no goddamn splitters here, now, Comrade Cain! We just all think this is some damn stupid idea ah some kooky fucked-up bullshit you askin’ me to do! Hit my sister? Lisa Gray, see her, she’s family!’
Cain roared in fury. ‘You have no family! There is no family, and no nation, and no nothing, and the workers have no-one, not a single soul on earth, but the workers!’
The normally dull-as-a-didgeridoo Little Jip finally lost his temper, which was a rare enough occurrence; God knows! ‘Hey! Hey! That shit… that… that… well hey Cain! Hey, that shit ain’t true!’ Little Jip indignantly stammered.
‘True?!’ Cain Ingershill practically shrieked. ‘Who are you to say what is true or what isn’t? Truth is merely an instrument, our sovereign and unchallengeable means to the most highest and noble of ends; it is not an end in itself.’
‘Hey! Hey! Hey! What the fuck? This ain’t true!’ Little Jip persisted, indignantly stamping his feet. ‘It just ain’t true, Cain! Nah! Nah! Nah! This shit ain’t true, Comrade Cain! Truth is truth! I mean, I mean, I don’t even know nothin’, don’t even know nothin’ at all, about what, about all this here, all this here highfalutin’ bullshit Mr Ingershill is even talkin’ about!
‘But I’m callin’ bullshit! You are just sooooooo damn stupid, Cain Ingershill, that’s what you are! There ain’t nothin’ in the book about all this here goddarn sanctified crap about hittin’ your own sister! Nah, nah Cain, I ain’t standin’ for all this here, all y’all bullshit you and, you and your, these goddarn stupid comrades are talkin’ about here!’
Cain was unsure who to punch first, he was so furious with both twins. His flailing fists caught no-one, and he ended up falling to the ground and grazing his arm.
‘Ah! Shit!’ he screamed.
Big Xian, despite the pain in his jaw, instinctively reached for some kitchen towel to press against Cain’s bleeding arm. Having grabbed the paper, he suddenly paused and realised he didn’t know what to do with it.
What was the riskier option?
Do nothing, or try to appease Cain?
In the end, a certain fearful compassion, replete with tender trepidation (which Cain would no doubt have viewed with the most stomach-churning repugnance as ‘idle, rootless bourgeois sentimentality’); well, in the end, Big Xian handed the tissue over to Cain. Cain sat and sat.
Eventually, Cain staggered to his feet.
‘So, here’s the deal. You are either loyal to the Revolution. Or you suffer the inexorable and excruciatingly agonizing, predestined fate of all the splitters. The power of the dialectic is beyond all human intuition and knowledge. Human karma is not the actions of mere bourgeois human individuals, but it is of the mysterious and inscrutable emanations of the void.’
Cain sinisterly intoned the following words, as though falling into a trance, and as though intending to take half the suffering, bleeding, baleful-baling Kosmos down with him.
Grimly lullabying at first, the galesome spirits of demonic torment captured him, and every corner and inch of the room rattled with the clinking rattle of his martial prance.
Oh, oh, weaver’s shuttle
Steam arises, rises still
Oh, oh, mist of dawn,
Mist of dawn on freedom’s hill
Whence do you bring your joys?
When shall my suffering cease?
Oh, oh, spider’s web
Spider’s web, so MIIIGGGHHTY!
I! Spy! Upon the clouds
Mystic dragon WEEEEEEEPING
Oh! Daddy! Where my pouch!
Tearful kisses, pleading!
Hence! All my magic foes
Terror, artsome, FLEEEEETING
When can Mama make me whole?
Crimson river, CHEEEEEATSOME!
Oh, pleasant, river, run?
Gales and sky-blue eggshells!
Mak! Chaddi! Het-Dop-Dong!
Makes my belly tum-bum-bly!
Ach! Why I sing so long!
Milk-some measures PREEEEENING
Daddy make me mourn so long
Father, chop, HO!
Big Xian committed himself to his fate.
By now, even his inward prayer was silent.
Through blood-shut eyes, he dimly perceived the shadow sweeping above his head.
He barely felt the blow.