The Story of “The Chinaman”
Written by Donovan L. Green,
October 4, 2011
No one would ever expect to wake up and find an ancient looking little China man standing at their backdoor, but that is exactly what happened to me yesterday morning. It was around 7 am on that brisk October Autumn morning when I awoke to the sound of Cartwright, my rooster, crowing. It was time to get up and get the day started. So I rolled out of bed, threw on my sweats and still have asleep barreled out the backdoor nearly leveling him. My first instinct to someone standing on the back porch unexpectedly was to run get a gun, just normal country life I guess. As I turned the little Chinaman spoke in that broken, Mr. Miagi, kind of English,
“no need gun”, he said calmly.
Americans have given China and the Chinese people a bad reputation these days. We demand more, more, more, cheaper, cheaper, cheaper, then we criticize them for using cheap materials, poor work environment and low wages, and cutting cost. We are persnickety bunch of middle class kings here the land of opportunity. I wonder if we’ll ever grow up like the Chinese have. China has been around for a long time and has greatness in their history to show for it. so maybe ancient Chinese man on my back porch isn’t here to show me how to get more cheaper by cutting corners and nearly killing myself in the process, but then exactly why is there a China man standing on my back porch?
I look at him blankly not sure what to say. My mind races back and forth from reminding him trespassers are shot on sight to making a lame American karate joke. Then he tells me what I need,
“you need brains” he said with a slight smirk on his face.
Probably something all Chinese think about Americans, but in my neck of the woods, true or not, thems fight’n words. But at this point he didn’t seem to be a threat and I was thinking of going back inside, closing the door, and going back to bed. Then I heard Cartwright remind me of why I was heading out the door a daybreak in the first place. I had to get past the little ancient China man to go tend to my chickens.
“What can I do for you little China Man”, I asked.
He mumbled something about Zone-Goo or something or other and replied, “not what you can do for me, what I do for you”.
My face must have lit up with those words and he seemed momentarily caught off guard. Man I got a to-do list of things longer than he is tall and a volunteer to help is better than angles coming from heaven blowing their trumpets, well, almost. From my bestes memory I started down my list of things to do. I call it my Big Everything List. The little China man uncharacteristically rolled his eyes and turned his head upward and twirled his finger around like some ungrateful teenager as if to say, “yeh, yeh, so what”.
“You asked”, I acknowledged.
“You think little ancient China man travel around world to help with chores?”
“Chores?” I belted out, “those are some serious projects on that list.”
“No problem for little girl” he replied.
I decided to throw the big one at his snide attitude towards my hard working endeavors, how dare this little man barely capable to carry his weight against gravity act like I’m wasting his time with girls play.
“all right then”, I said with attitude, “what I really need is a lot crap to heavy for a single person to move moved from one side of the property to the other and I need to do it without anyone seeing what I’m doing.”
“Impossible”, he replied without hesitation.
“well so much for little old ancient China Man’s reputation then” I said.
“show me what” he says.
“show you what, what?” I questioned.
“what heavy crap and where you want it”.
Maybe he’s gonna have a change of heart and show me the magic answer to my dilemma after all I thought. So I took him around and showed him all the piles and stacks of stuff and walked him to the hobbit house location to show him the where. Then I remembered the chickens again so we headed for the barn to tend to the chickens. While at the barn he noticed that I had a project going.
“What’s mess about?” he asked curiously.
So I explained the chickens and the chicken house to him and what I was doing. Maybe I could get his help with that too.
“Work on this”, he said.
“Work on the chicken house?” I asked.
“Yes, chicken house” he said.
“But why?” I asked.
“Good chicken house make chickens happy”, he said with a look that said everyone knows that.
“I stared at him blankly not sure what to say.
“Happy chickens make happy chicken farmer, secret to happiness”, he said as he began to shuffle around.
I went back up to the house and made some coffee and scrambled some eggs for breakfast. The hours past and every now and then I would hear noise coming from the barn area and wonder if the little China man was really doing anything worth while or just making himself feel better by being busy. The way I saw it, as long as he didn’t tear everything down to start over and then disappear on me he couldn’t hurt things too badly. Eventually in early afternoon I made myself a glass of Fishing “D” Ranch Summer Break Lemonade that I’m so proud of and sat out on the back porch and watched. I was feeling a little bad about leaving him to work by himself. I wasn’t going to pay him anything. we hadn’t agreed to anything. The little guy was really slow and I couldn’t really tell if he had done anything at all. I was just about to go down to tell him to stop because I had nothing to offer him then I saw that he was moving around some of the stuff I was planning to use on my hobbit house project. What in the world is he doing I wondered. He saw me coming.
“You like?” he asked.
I looked around and couldn’t really see in any progress for all of his effort. I knew he had been working hard, I had heard him and been watching, but when I looked around it just seemed as though nothing had been done except for maybe a few things moved around a little.
“Sure, but what are you doing now?” I asked. “This stuff isn’t part of the chicken house this is for the other project”.
“Hobbit house, yes I remember”, he said. “You see ‘p’ in shell trick”, he asked me sternly.
First thing that came into my head was maybe there was some ancient Chinese proverb of wisdom about a man peeing in a seashell but the seashell not overflowing because he was so slow the evaporation rate was faster than he could pee.
“Nope, I don’t think so”, I replied confidently.
He started to explain that a magician has three walnut shell halves and pea.
“Yes of course, everyone knows the ‘p’ in the shell trick. You put the pea under one of the shells and shuffle them all around while someone tries to watch which shell the pea is under.”
“Everyone sees pea. Everyone sees shell. But no one notices where the p go.” He explains.
“Yeah I know, isn’t that something? What does that have to do with me?” I asked impatiently.
“Moving all this with no one seeing, impossible; moving all this with no one noticing, simple”, he exclaimed.
I guess I’m just a slow, dumb, country short bus boy because I just wasn’t appreciating the little China Man’s words of wisdom at this point. I was feeling a bit down and discouraged. A big everything list of things to do, more important things to do, and responsibilities that I was failing to meet and I’m wasting my time standing in the back yard talking to China man that isn’t making any sense and at this point I don’t even know if he’s really there or not.
I apologize to him and tell him he can scoot on back down the road from wherever he came from and that I would take it from here. Then the little China man pointed to stack of telephone poles and said, “is pea!” then he pointed at pile of rocks and repeated, “IS PEA”, a little louder this time. Then he pointed at the brickpile, and exclaimed with even more emphasis, “IS PEA!” then he thumped my forehead with his pointer finger and said in a serious low tone separating each word with a slight break of silence, “use your pea”. I think he just called me a pea brain. “Good day”, he said politely as he turned and walked away.
I spent the rest of the afternoon working on the chicken house thinking about how happy the chickens will be with it when I am finished. Chickens seem to smile by coming cautiously close, tilting their head slightly and giving a light little tap with their beak and they make a little low “ohhh” sound from their throat. I decided to go ahead and begin gather hobbit house materials over behind the shop with the rest of the materials since the Chinaman had started all this. Just kind of clean up the yard a little bit and have everything in one place where I could see what I had. I also used my pickup truck to drag three more rolls of chain link fence from the woods. By the end of the day the Fishing “D” Ranch was upside down, moved around, turned, and tossed. I had driven all over the property getting stuff for the chicken’s new run and winterize their house and gathering up things and putting it off behind the shop or down on the other side of the row of junk just wet of the shop. It was easy to see and obvious that I had worked hard all day. I was worn out from working and from thinking. But when I looked around I couldn’t really tell that I had done anything at all and there was certainly no evidence that a little ancient Chinaman had ever been there.