News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Ch12 Blackmail 1100wds (incomplete and very rough)

Well, after the stirring events that took place in the student lounge, something had to happen. Somebody had to give. The powers that be looked for a chink in the foreign armor, a flesh and blood weakness. They had to look no farther than Yours Truly.

You’re blackmailed to help the school throw out Frank.

I was outside, free from the black mood that had fallen on campus, away from the dispiriting ostracism of the Chinese students. Not that I could blame them. They were powerless by design. Mao, like Lenin and Stalin, despised the same intelligentsia that worshipped them. At a time like this, it was hard not to blame them.

News had spread quickly through gossip and the electronic grapevine. Everyone was out to protect number one now that the winds of culture war were blowing. We'd been welcomed insincerely by most of the campus, met with open arms and cardboard smiles.

Fair enough, we too were a cynical bunch: a shirker, a psycophant, and a fanatic. But as long as we were top dog, what did we care what the natives thought? But now the rules of the game had changed. We were vulnerable. We'd gone from being guests to being just foreigners again. We were expendable. Nobodies. Cogs that had got caught up in the gears of the machine. Pests. We were met with everything from hostile stares to indifference to timid glances. I felt sure there was sympathy and support for us in some corners, but it wasn't like Frank or I had done anything to earn it. We'd been riding on the good graces of our hosts and treated them like rent-a-wrecks. We were out of good graces and out of gas. Out of luck period.

I'd left the campus and gone back out on the street to lose myself in the happy hoi polloi. The sweating proletariat was independent, self-made, confident. They were weren't overeducated and over-civilized and dependent on the good word of a master to get ahead in the world. Thus they weren't weak and given to constant maneuvering in order to stay with the herd. They could be ignorant, they could be credulous, but they weren't wishy-washy and you knew where you stood with them. Their first instinct was to protect one another, not get out of the way when slings and arrows came and let someone else take the damage.

I know I sound angry. I was. Perhaps I still am. Okay, I'm pissed. We fucked up. And yet even then I half-knew we'd been playing with fire from day one. Riding high on your horse into a strange town is a dumb move at the best of times. Here it was just asking for it.

I'd run into the busy street to get away from it all. Now I was in denial. I was also in heaven, chomping on a tasty piece of General Kung's Exploding Chicken, the gelatinous gravy thick with peanut and caramelized sugar and a local condiment that freezes your gums like a dentist's injection, when I received a call on the cell from Professor Johnson, inviting me down to his office for a private talk. In China, it's taken for granted that pretty much all conversations are private. So what was a 'private talk' going to be about?

When I reached his office and knocked on his flimsy yellow panel door, he told me to come in. He was standing as I opened the door. He bowed a little and presented me with a gracious smile to put me at ease. On his best behavior as usual. I was so grateful for this gesture that if he'd kept looking me in the eye I would have wept on the spot.

He turned way from me though and began to pace, rubbing his hands in the dry air, the chafing reminding him of something better he could do with his hands to calm us both. He was silent as he went to his window overlooking the campus, and stared into one of the original student dorms, not yet torn down and replaced with something more modern. It retained the dirt floors, stools and wooden writing desks, and the hammocks for beds that were emblematic of the bad old days of the Cultural Revolution and beyond.

While he zoned out the window, I had nothing to do. Doing nothing took an effort and was fatiguing. With a feast of stir-fry and pilsner gurgling pleasantly in my belly, I had to rally hard against the temptation to call it a day and start snoozing right there and then in his office. Trying to do the responsible thing, I got up and walked over to his desk quietly, wearing the culturally appropriate expression of a serene simpleton when in the presence of authority. The good professor heard me and recalled his duties and turned around.

He said mildly, "Ahem" and then thought better of launching into his spiel and instead reached into his desk to finger a pack of cigarettes. He pulled out a Victory smoke and fired it up with a Chairman Mao flamethrower which, in his state of nerves, gushed out a good six-inch tongue of flame and threatened to put his pompadour ablaze. He was too self-involved to notice how close a call he'd had though and began inhaling rapidly, focusing on depressing his blood oxygen level.

I let the poor soul be, looked around and noticed the place was full of iconography of the Great Socialite. There was a larger-than-life poster on the wall behind his desk, the popular smiling knife portrait of Mao that was defaced during the Tiananmen protests. But there were other, smaller shots of the Great Poseur scattered about too. One was on his desk, another on the wall. The latter was a hanging portrait in black and white, the Yenan Mao, during his baggy pants and sandals free-love stage, somewhere around the time he got hitched to the infamous star-fucker, the white-boned demon as she's also known, Jiang Qing.

Hanging off his right wrist, his smoking hand, was a plastic pendant hanging off a fake gold chain. More Mao. A good luck charm in the working world, it doubled as a talisman against persecution on campuses.

Incomplete ---

You’re presented with the fact that your wife is a sex worker and feign ignorance. You blame China.

Copyright Biff Cappuccino

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive