Bill Meilen
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CHANGO JADE

Choice

A balanced family is as a tree
Joyous and green of leaf
From the old dry twigs
To the fresh green shoots
It is all the same tree
With roots in a common earth.
Chang Suey-sun

SUN and his nephew Loy made their way up the pine-needled incline to a short broad valley clustered with monolithic stones carved with heraldic devices. Passing along a short avenue of weathered stone lions held by a line of stern-faced granite warriors, they found Lee standing at the cliff-backed family shrine, assembling offerings on the altar shelf of the granite omega. Joss sticks smouldered aromatically in the wall of the shrine, their smoke sandalwood and musk on the early air.

The two watched from a respectful distance as Lee paid respects to his ancestors, eventually turning towards them with a broad smile on his face. Behind him the tomb was a great omega of masoned granite, set into the hillside. It was a fit resting place for the bride of such a young dragon as Lee had been in his youth.

“I came early to speak to your mother,” Lee announced to Loy. “This is where we used to take our morning walks to do our harmony exercises. We chose this fine resting place between us, before you came into this world. We were very young and idealistic then There was no world outside China then, not for your Mother.” He wandered away from them and looked into the far vistas. “You see, the weather is so beautiful up here above most of the clouds. There is always the sun and the stars, unimpeded, the river waters singing. It is a pity to waste it by lying in bed.”

Passing Loy, he stopped in front of his brother. “Have you told the boy that he will be viewing three young women this afternoon?”

“Yes, Dad, he’s told me,” said Loy in English. “On the way up.”

His father’s urbane manner vanished in an instant. “Did I ask you? And don’t call me ‘Dad’.” He said curtly.

Loy blushed. “No, Father.”

Lee turned his attention back to Sun. “You told him?”

Sun bowed. “I told him.”

Lee beamed now. “By the end of the afternoon one of them will be his wife.” He smiled broadly, teeth gleaming.

Loy looked discomfited. “I apologise for speaking out of turn again, Father, but am I not to have any choice in the matter of the selection of my wife?” His stomach felt strangely hollow.

His father snorted, turning away.

 

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