Bill Meilen
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CHANGO JADE

 

Later, when the crowd had dispersed, and the great house was silent again, Loy found his father sitting alone on the broad rock ledge that overhung the carp pool, looking into the dull water. He watched his father from the black shadow of the summerhouse for a long time before plucking up the courage to reveal himself by speaking. Away a wind-chime tinkled. “Father,” he said softly.

At first Lee did not seem to hear, then he slowly turned his head to regard his son. In the light of the garden lanterns, Loy saw his father had been crying, and averted his eyes, feeling an invader of his father’s cherished privacy. He heard his father clear his throat as though having difficulty in speaking, and then:

“Do not ask me any stupid Gwailo questions tonight, my son,” said Lee, and his voice was from somewhere far away. “This is no time for talking. I want to be alone to think. You will choose your wife in the morning. Now go to your bed.” Deliberately, Lee turned his back on his son, forbidding any further attempt at contact.

Loy did not move. The garden, the house, the very clothing in which he was dressed seemed strange to him still. He reminded himself of his resolution to hang on to his well-developed Canadian self with a very firm grip. It was easy to lose. He stepped forward towards his father.

“In Canada, you know,” he said tentatively, “a young man gets to know girls under his own steam, Father.” He swallowed and waited.

His father rose to his feet then, and stared at Loy, face like a thundercloud, and all hint of tears were fled from his eyes. They burned in his head with anger at Loy’s lack of filial piety in speaking when told to go. Loy grew uncomfortable under his lantern-lit scrutiny.

“Am I your father, who gave you life in this world?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Then tomorrow, it will be my will that is enacted, not yours! You have no say in this. Wipe those stupid Gwailo ideas out of your head boy! This is China, not Chinatown! Here, there are rules governing rules governing rules, and we will not be the kind of family to break away from a way of life that we all hold dear and precious. Remember?

‘A peaceful society is dependent upon submission to authority’. I repeat, in case it did not get into your thick head the first time - this is not Canada, or America, but China! A China unchanged for thousands of years. My son is not going to be the one to change it. If there are to be any changes, politicians will make them. Do you understand?!”

“Yes, Father, but I’m too young to marry. Why should I marry some woman I have not seen?”

Lee seemed to swell as he tried to contain his anger. At last he spoke in a strained voice. “You will marry a woman chosen for you for one reason only. Because I want a grandson before I have to go. You will be married tomorrow, and you will then have three days to prove your manhood by giving me a grandson to continue the line of Chang! You are young, yes, but potent. This cannot be avoided. It may be many years before we return to China.” He

 

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