the karaoke room – another version
The karaoke room was like any other empty RSL Club auditorium except for the three pretty Chinese girls on stage and the microscopic fuzz emitting from the whitenoise screen behind them.
There was nobody else in the room. All of the eighty seats were empty. The room was stale.
We, the five of us boozed on in and took the circle seats, as far away from the stage as the walls allowed. Some of us were staggering about, others watchful. This is China afterall, not Brookvale.
The blonde guy jumped the karaoke button and organized the drinks, he found the dice and asked the girls to come on over. They bought food, some stale potato and salted fish. Watermelon. Shy portions. They handed around menus written in Cantonese.
Shy kids the girls, all dressed up for nightclub duty tonight with their worried glances at the one-way wall mirror over there by the bar. The barman, a slickhaired youth who’s smile never failed us kept their chitpads balanced. Great bookkeepers the Chinese, best never to owe them money. Nothing is forgiven.
Six-hour duty for the ladies, home by 4 am.
A long dark walk through blackened alleyways and deserted village squares, past the creeping police foot-patrols. They try for the safety of walking pairs, yet foul nature persists in the lawless hours. The town is dissected by a grid of six-lane highways, tollways that burn all night. They thunder and blare, they poison.
Shy kids the girls, and every week there is someone new, someone missing.
Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Elton John, Barry Manilow, the Bee Gees, The Beatles, Queen – A fool’s opera here, and no Neil Young. They wave us up to the stage; bring your drink, come and sing. They look into the hard spotlights and wave at us, us at the back of the room, throwing watermelon rinds at eacother.
The blonde guy, a useless Dutchman with faultless Hawaiian windsurfing credentials and the business brain of a Timor monkey wants to play dice games; Hooligan, or Twenty-six, or Cubilete. He is a big man, used to violence; his eyes are set close together and for drunken sport he lurches at your testicles. His grip is punishing and there is a pleasure he takes here that defies his professional manhood.
He is a fifty percent partner of manufacturing business in Chai Pin and trusts his Chinese colleague with all the cost-ledger keeping and cash receipts. He trusts his partner, they have been in business 2 years. Sailboards, every type of surfboard, paddle-boards, wave-skis – California takes them all. Men line the gates looking for work.
Scoresby the accountant gazes at him in wonder, legs crossed.
header pic zhang ziyu