We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?
Winter 2002: 8th issue - **2nd Anniversary**

Part: 7

Old Wei & Young Wei

by Robert J. BAUMANN


Lung looked 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.

Lung continued 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.

Lung called 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.

The first 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 worse.

He looked 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.

"10 yen," 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.

"This melon 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 sniffed it, nodding his head accordingly. "This is a monkey melon," he said.

"That is exactly what my Grandfather said. Since you know it is a bad melon, please give me our money back."

"This melon is not ours," he said, tossing the melon back to me. "We don't sell bad fruit."

"My Grandfather told me he bought this one from your stand."

"Your Grandfather? 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.

"This boy wants to make us take his monkey melon and exchange it."

"Yes. That 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."

"Oh," smiled 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."

Mother Fang 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 right thing.

Return the payment or exchange this for a good melon... if you have any."

"Why, 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.

"You have 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?"

"Excuse me, 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."

Without 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.

It split 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.

"Geng, my 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!



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