the kimono girl ~ china stories 2
A week or two later, after the obligatory body-scouring weekend trip to Hong Kong to purchase the usual array of pox enduring creams and trustworthy liquor the Australian shipwrights were invited to a party to celebrate the birth of a daughter.
Father being Alex, a mixture of Epping and Shenzen, the shed supervisor, and the mother being Bia Zhen Qxioa, parents commercial heavyweights in the town of Chai Pin.
Authorities, tax collectors, governors. Ex Officio Wardsmen. Jailers. Communists with a great love of capitalism. The big end of town. Scoundrels.
Scoresby included in the party here, seeing as how he’s in town doing the quarterly numbers and nosing around the boatshed as usual, practicing his Mandarin, fondling the company assets, folding down the heaped cash and drawing some longshot opinions on the Chinese partner’s silent interests. Such silky book-keeping.
The Chinese partner who himself smiles serenely as he steals, and laughs so comely as he burghoins a tax on every dollar that passes under his nose – and who gazes across the bargaining table with eyes all muddied up with an incipient and thronging trespass.
Mudeyed and voracious even at leisure this government placed half-share Chinese partner buys everyone in the restaurant plenty of cheap alcohol and he orders all the food. For this largesse his enslaved foremen clabber at him drunkenly with his pork and brandy glistening on their lips. The baby is passed around in gratitude, soiled now, and bawling hard.
The mother wrestles under the weight of a tableful of inebriate hands and her husband is too drunk to sit in a chair.
The Chinese partner laughs and laughs. He quakes with good humour.
The baby Shower is being held at a local restaurant, just around the corner from the main road, away down a darkened street and next door to a three-storied block with every window and door sealed up with stippled sheet steel.
Strongly guarded is this hellish kindergarten.
Soundwalled. This Palace of Grandfathers and other men’s children.
The restaurant reeks of fish paste and dried shrimp and women of all degrees of curiosity gaze out from the open kitchen door at the pale devils in their midst.
One daughter waits the tables, the most attractive, and she wears a soiled white silk Japanese kimono slit to her waist, and together with her high heels and crusted feet, her unshaved legs and darkened armpits she looks such a poor illumination of girlhood at only fifteen.
How the child slaves at the tables.
The Australians though decently defer to her youth, and the local men howl with pleasure as she wobbles from table to table with her foodloads. How they would fuck her senseless.
The banquet is immense.
A dozen boatbuilders watch as fourteen overloaded dishes are laid onto their able; the fragrant noodles are followed by pork belly then chili dusted prawns and sweet and sour fish and then stripped beef bathed in soy and wild honey, and next the duck and this is followed by the beans and boiled rice and then some broiled chicken and aged pig liver – An endless procession of plates coming from a kitchen almost mobile from the numbers of black roaches that lie quiet under the floor-boards, waiting for the dark.
Bottles branded ‘Martell Brandy’ that hold only lead distilled potato vodka coloured with vanilla are upended and poured out and refilled and drunk again and again, and then a colourless and oily local rice wine is jugged out and swigged with the gusto of the desert traveler and Scoresby retreats to a corner table with the wall at his back as drunkenness and abandon and violence excrete from sober goodwill and the Australians succumb to some kind of unstamped visa of occupation that disenables the entire room into a complete and wild disorder of national domination.
Everyone is drunk. Young Chinese men roam around the room with their bottles, demanding a fair sharing of the rotgut – they jam their bottle necks into the white faces demanding a toast.
The kimono girl has long gone, the kitchen door and serving hatchway have closed, food lies strewn everywhere on the tables and on the floor.
The thousands of roaches stir within the cracks and wells of the floors and walls.
Everyone moves outside and a bus carrying five East German tourists drives by the restaurant as the place empties. They are lost, twenty miles wrongway distant from their hotel and travelling deeper into the native illness of this dark place.
They blink, and watch as we fight and spoil and throw up in the poor dust of some alleyway place somewhere in darkwhere China.
A few cameras flash behind the bus windows, Scoresby gives the passing traffic a middle finger, and somebody over there screams.