Four Sparrows, Chapter 1, Final Scene

Jungdo witnessed how the barbarians mixed up dates. Instead of ordering time by the year, month, and day, they couldn’t make up their minds. Some ordered it by month, day, and year; the French ones wrote day, month, and then year. He didn’t mind the presence of whites, but their lack of standard dating and similar discrepancies added to his belief in their inferior culture. He frequented his own cultural institutions to avoid such confusion. This consisted of theaters and brothels.

After a productive week selling goods, he was earning enough to send remittances to his wife and son. Jungdo rewarded himself by going for a rest at a nearby brothel. A cold wind was blowing, but he loved the strong chi that came with it. Paper lanterns swayed at the brothel’s entrance and welcomed visitors. Madam Ah Toy noticed him, and she let him meander inside.

The thin walls were decorated with watercolor paintings from Jin Ping Mei to celebrate the sexual excess from this forbidden novel. Incense wafted around the brothel giving it a sheltered dimness. Men peered in to each nook until they found an available girl.

Ah Toy had gained notoriety among both the Chinese and the Americans as one of the most beautiful prostitutes. She was taller than most, standing out from other girls. She was moving away from selling herself to selling others instead. She managed the brothel, though she didn’t own it outright.

Jungdo liked his women with snow-white skin and dark brown eyes. Then he found Mei, a perfect match for his fantasies. She was sylphlike and petite. Her breasts were small white buds. Her hair floated in the night breeze as she sat on a silk pillow, exuding serenity. She wore a see-through shawl and nothing else. The moon illuminated the corner in which she sat. She glowed.

She stood and greeted him. “You’re father would like me too. Now you can have me.”

Ah Toy approached. Her voice was soft but forceful. “Welcome to the Silk Pillow. She’s untouched. You can be her first.”

“You don’t need to lie to me madam. She is perfect in her true form.” Jungdo paid Ah Toy, acquired Mei’s arm and led her to the bed, laying her down on a caramel-colored blanket.

Ah Toy shrugged and went to cajole the next man. Her long hair swung as she turned away.

Jungdo and Mei spoke, and with a few words he could tell she was also from Guangzhou. He liked the purity of that. He kissed her firmly everywhere on her body and then stopped to take off his clothes. With a joyful vigor, he had sex with her. Their bodies slapped together, Ah Toy could hear them beyond the confines of the cubby. Sex was fun for him. Intermittently he would pause to smell her skin before starting again. His hands pinched her pert breasts. She made noises when he asked for it but otherwise remained quiet. She tried to maintain an obedient look of gratitude until he finished. He thought to himself, yangde fangheng – masculine virtues flourish at present. He took a deep breath after he finished with her.

He left Mei on the bed, dressed himself, and thanked Ah Toy on his way out. The night was a thick blue and the strong breeze felt refreshing. Then Jungdo and Kan headed for the fight club to place some bets. Despite the intermingling of peoples at the fight clubs, they enjoyed themselves. It was a pleasure to see the barbarians hurt each other so brutally. Jungdo liked the owner Richard Barlow; he was a shrewd businessman but civil. If only more of them could behave that way he thought. It almost gave him hope. They disappeared amidst the throngs of men. Amateur fighters bloodied each other and drunken men tried to predict the winners.

Back at the Silk Pillow, Mei took some precious seconds to wrap the blanket around her, still warm. It was a way to soften the goose bumps returning to her arms and legs. She would have just a minute after Jungdo left to comb her hair for the next man. There really wasn’t time to wash.

The room was bare except for the bed, the washbowl, and a few shawls on the ground. She had a strict quota to fill. If she dawdled too long, she would go deeper in debt and may be beaten. It was hard enough when patrons got rough, but Ah Toy could be worse, and she couldn’t afford any more scars.


About Daniel Roddick

Daniel has a B.A. in American History with minors in both Ethnic Studies and Sociology. He also has an M.Ed. in College Administration and Counseling. Daniel has worked in the financial aid industry for over a decade. He has presented all over the country on financial aid issues related to equity, inclusion, and access to education. He is also a writer of poetry, fiction, and this blog, all of which touch on identity.
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