NO New Nuclear Weapons... NO New Nuclear Targets... NO New Pretexts For Nuclear War... NO Nuclear Testing...
NO Star Wars... NO Weapons In Space...
NO All Types Of Weapons, War & War Culture...
We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?

Old Wei & Young Wei
Part - IX


I was wondering about the second melon I had to return. It seemed that I had passed Grandfather's test by getting his money back for the first melon. Why did I need to return a second one? Did Grandfather want to see if it was skill or luck? If I could return one melon it might be just luck, but two melons would prove to him that I was a man. I was thinking about all these things as I walked behind Grandfather. Since we had left the first fruitstand he had said nothing to me... as usual.

Ahead of us was the second melon. Gao was holding onto it for Grandfather. It was why he did not have it in his hands when he came to look for me.

Grandfather approach Gao and offered his thanks to him for holding the melon. He then curiously asked Gao to take me to Bin Su's fruit stand.

The second melon was bought there, I guessed. Why did Grandfather want Gao  to take me there. Gao was blind. It was more likely that I would be taking him to the place. Grandfather's only communication to me, as Gao started down the road back into the market, was "Go on, follow after, Gao. Return the melon and bring me my money back. Hurry up. It will be growing dark once the sun sets and I want to be heading home."

I caught up with Gao, who had not walked very far. I took the melon from him without protest. His hands being free, they found my arm. We walked the rest of the way with me as a guide for his footsteps.

"Why do you suppose Grandfather wanted you to go with me?", I asked Gao.

"He did not tell me. He just said to go and that when we were done we would all walk home together. He is watching my bags of food while he waits for us. Since you will have no food to carry, he offered to carry my things while you walk with me. I am curious, too. Why did Wei come all this way to buy and return two melons? He did no other shopping. Isn't that crazy?"

I agreed. I could understand none of this. If it was only to test me, then might it not also be a test of my character. Would Grandfather think I was weak if I said too much to Gao about my suspicions? Grandfather was a man who said so little...  what would he think of a chatterbox for a Grandson?

I decided to say as little to Gao about my thoughts as possible.

It was not long before we arrived at Bin Su's fruit stand. Bin Su had been in this market for many years. Everyone knew her. She was a good seller of fruit. She never lost a customer. Her prices were higher than others, but people rarely complained to her. Could she have really sold a monkey melon to Grandfather? I decided to check the melon again. I held it up to my nose and smelled the strong, pungent, rotting aroma from deep inside the melon.

It smelled terrible, but you wouldn't know it unless you held it right under your nose. It was a monkey melon sure enough, but the question I asked myself is if it came from Bin Su? Grandfather said it did, so it must have. Maybe Bin Su was sold some bad melons herself. Would she not know these were bad melons? I wondered about this as we approached her stand.

Gao spoke to me in a hushed whisper: "Look, Wei-chan, I still have to buy some fruit. Bin Su must have seen us walking together. If you make her angry she will not sell me any fruit, perhaps. Please let me buy my fruit from her first before you try to return that melon."

It seemed a reasonable request. I did not enjoy being called "Wei-chan" because I was not a baby any more, but I decided he was only teasing me. I brought Gao up to the stand. He asked me to let him feel the peaches. I took him to Bin's large tray of peaches.

"How do they look?", asked Gao. "What is their color?"

"Do you know what color they are supposed to be, Gao?"

"Of course. I have bought peaches before. I can buy better ones than you. You are blinded by all the colors you see. When I choose the peaches it is by their touch. My hands can feel their rich flavor. Ha ha. I am an expert at finding the best fruit. If Grandfather Wei was with me he would not have bought those monkey melons. Ha ha."

Gao was wrong of course. Grandfather deliberately bought the melons to test me, but I was not about to explain all that to Gao. Bin Su saw us and walked over. She greeted us together.

"What do you want today, Gao? Fresh peaches? These are the best in our province. They are sweeter than I was when I was this young, and I was once very sweet at this age."

Gao laughed with Bin. I found this amusing, too, but I had to stay a bit more serious since my work was still ahead of me. Bin could joke about her young age, of course, now that she was an old woman. Bin must have been at least 30 years old. Her youth was a long time ago. At least that is what I thought back in those days. I stood back to let Gao do his shopping.

Bin was helping him now and I was just in the way. I watch them chatter with each other. Bin was a good match for old Gao. They laughed with each other like lovers. If Gao had not been blind would Bin have married him? I felt something sad in all that as I watched them get along so well.

Gao chose his peaches and I watched as Bin put them in her scale. A funny thing happened next. She looked at me with a wink. She put her finger to her lips, motioning me to stay silent.

"Gao, you wanted only a few peaches? These weigh less than you think. Go pick out a few more so I can make some money. It is the end of the day.

I promise to give you my discount price. It is better to sell these cheaply than to see them go bad. I don't sell bad fruit to my customers, you know."

Bin Su had deliberately lied to Gao. His fruit weighed more than she said. She was not only going to give him more fruit, but she was going to charge him less for it. Ah, how heavy that melon felt in my hands then. I watched Bin Su sneak a few extra things into Gao's bag, too. She charged him next to nothing for his fruit and complained bitterly about how tough a customer Gao was. She was smiling as she complained.

"Ah, a customer like me is what you need to stay honest. If all of your people knew fruit like I do you could not charge them your high prices!" Gao was teasing with Bin Su.

"Hah. My customers could easily be like you. If they looked more at me than at the fruit they would be blinded by my beauty. I am the best pick in this store, and a bargain, too."

"I don't argue about that. You do treat me well, but only because you know you have to. I know fruit better than you do!"

They went back and forth like this as Bin Su packed Gao's fruit into a bag. She actually snuck even more into the bag. I felt my melon weighing in my hands like a stone. My heart told me this woman could never sell anyone a monkey melon, even if they begged for one.

Bin Su turned to me to ask if I needed any help. She saw me holding the melon in my hands. It was time to decide what to do.

"No, I am fine," I said. "I was just walking with Gao. I will help him to carry these packages home."

Bin Su handed me a peach and said: "Good boy. Eat this on the way home if you can find a free hand. That monkey melon you are holding looks rather heavy. You do know it is a monkey melon, don't you?"

"Oh, yes. I know. I know very well. Thank you." 

I knew I had made the right decision then and there. I put the melon down and took the peach from Bin Su, thanking her. Gao took my arm and I took his packages.

"What about the melon?", Bin Su asked as we walked away. "Save it for Gao when he comes back. ", I laughed. "We'll see if his memory is as good as his knowledge of fruit."

All along the way Gao spoke quite affectionately of Bin Su. He stopped at one point and told me he was glad I did not try to return the melon.

"Do you know that woman always puts extra fruit in my bag. She thinks she is fooling me each time, as if I never count how many things I take. Ha ha.

She has such a good heart. It would have been a shame to make her take back that melon."

I was silent all along the rest of the journey. I was right. Gao knew it.

Would Grandfather agree? Or would he think I cheated him by exchanging his melon for a peach?



For part 8
For part 7
For part 6
For part 5
For Part 4
For Part 3
For Part 2
For Part 1

E-mail to Robert J. Baumann: rbaumann@nyc.rr.com

This issue is dedicated to the legendary author and scientist Sir ARTHUR C. CLARKE for his 85th Birthday...


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