Wei & Young Wei
Robert J. BAUMANN
up and saw me coming. His watery eyes blinked. He suspected
trouble. Anyone can walk toward a fruit stand with empty
hands and not look suspicious.
I was not walking with empty hands.
to wait on Mother Fang. She was still in the process
of choosing some melons. Clearly she had no skill as
a shopper or she would know what Grandfather knew. The
melons were Monkey melons. They would make the people
who tasted them spit them out.
out two names. If he called them to help him because
he was busy, then he would be a good merchant, hoping
to make sure a customer was served. I knew he did not
call them because he was busy with Mother Fang.
man who came to the front of the stand was slightly
taller than Lung. He had dirty skin that was coated
with sweat. The muscles on his chest told me he lived
a life of hard and heavy labor. All that work must have
made him angry. His face did not smile. His anger showed
in the red color of a scar that was on his forehead.
It ran across his forehead and ended down near his right
eye. He should have been happy. Whatever had marked
up his face so badly might have taken out his eye.
If the first
helper looked ugly and menacing, the other one was even
like a monster. He was big and fat. He looked like he
was big enough to fight an elephant and win. He had
a cold, dull stare. He clearly did not like trouble
makers. He wanted me to know this with the angry grunt
he let out.
he said, reaching his hand out toward me. Mother Fang
turned to watch our exchange of words. She was interested
in all this. Why was I carrying a melon? Fang Li, her
angel of a daughter, was behind her mother.
I dare not
look at the daughter for fear her mother would know
the truth and kill me with her bare hands. I had to
think about doing what was expected of me.
was paid for by my Grandfather. He gave it to me to
return to you. It is not good."
The man grabbed
the melon out of my hands. He inspected it and then
nodding his head accordingly. "This is a monkey melon,"
exactly what my Grandfather said. Since you know it
is a bad melon,
please give me our money back."
is not ours," he said, tossing the melon back to me.
"We don't sell bad fruit."
told me he bought this one from your stand."
Where is your Grandfather? I might remember him if I
saw him, but I know I haven't seen you before. You think
that I am going to give you one of my fresh melons for
this monkey melon? Hah. Think again."
"Xu, my son,
is there some problem?" Lung had turned ever so slightly
away from Mother Fang. Mother Fang had yet to pay for
her melons, but both old people had heard every word
of our exchange.
wants to make us take his monkey melon and exchange
is exactly what I want. However, if you try to give
me another monkey melon, I'd prefer you returned the
money to me that my Grandfather gave to you."
Lung, looking at Mother Fang, "Do you know how many
boys play this little trick on us? They think we are
so stupid just because we come from another town. Ha
ha. Well, boy, it was a nice try. Take your melon and
go eat it. Your little trick will not work today."
was looking directly at me. Her face was a mask. She
was expressionless. Here I was, the boy who broke wind
in her face, and now I was trying to cheat an honest
merchant. Here I was, the violent little boy who broke
Chen's jaw. Would some low life like me not stoop so
low as to cheat a seller of fruit out of a melon? I
knew exactly what she was thinking.
It was all so clear to me. I looked back at Lung.
"I am not
the cheat here. You are. This melon was sold to my Grandfather
and is no good. I will not leave here until you do the
payment or exchange this for a good melon... if you
insulting young puppy! Look at all that you see! All
these melons are top quality! Not one melon is a monkey
melon! Be gone, or my sons will teach you the value
of having proper respect."
The son called
Xu had moved out from behind the stand and now stood
right in front of me, stomach to stomach. If we had
to fight, I would not give him too much advantage. I
moved around him quickly and addressed the father.
insulted me, sir. I have been honest in my speech. You
have taken advantage of someone who has my deepest respect.
How do you think I can go back to him with the bad melon
you sold to him?"
Madam.", said Lung. "Young man, let us go into the back
of our stand and discuss this like gentlemen." Lung
was smiling. He wanted to kill me, of course, but not
in front of a customer who had yet to pay for her melon.
"I will do
no such thing. I want money or a fresh melon."
even a moment's hesitation I felt the hands of the other
son reach behind me. He grabbed my arms causing me to
drop the melon to the ground.
open and the smell was strong and terrible. I was then,
with my hands being firmly held behind me at the mercy
of Xu. Xu was standing and waiting for his brother to
spin me around. The first punch landed right in the
middle of my stomach. I felt the air go right out of
my body. Ah, such pain, such humiliation. I did not
think they would be so foolish as to do this in front
of a customer. It was my mistake. Xu lifted my head.
I could see out of the corner of my eye that Fang Li
had grabbed her mother's arm in fright. She had cried
out when Xu hit me. Ah, the pain of my humiliation was
even greater. I would be beaten badly. I would return
without even the monkey melon. I would lose face with
Grandfather forever. All would happen in front of Fang
Li to witness. It could not be worse. Xu flexed his
knuckles, readying for another blow. How Mother Fang
must be enjoying the punishment of the rude ruffian
she knew was in front of her. I was the cheat. I know
she thought that. I could not struggle against the other
son, his grip was too tight.
son. Let the boy go. If he wants to fight, let him fight
Xu fairly. If he wants to leave, let him leave." The
wily old bastard waited for Xu to get his first punch
in before making the offer. I was out of breath and
could hardly fight back, but if Lung thought I was going
to leave, he would soon learn that Zhang Wei was more
of a match for him than he thought!
TO BE CONTINUED