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|The Brothers of Jang Hui|
My name's Dock. I live in Jang Hui. It's a strange town on a lake with some strange folk that call it home. For instance, there's Kai, the man with the bird, Zornai, the shoveler of turd and, of course, young Buzai the Third. Often I see Buzai when he passes by the dock.
"Hello, Buzai," I call out to him from my boat.
"Hello, old timer," he greets with a wave.
"Say, I hear you have a birthday coming up. I got you a nice two-headed present." My duties on the dock include ferrying travelers back-and-forth from the shore and when I get the chance, fishing.
"Oh, you know I love those!"
"Great. Pick it up at my house tomorrow afternoon." At the end of the day, I always bring my fish back to my pantry. Whatever I catch, my brother Xu usually sells at his shop in the center of town, except for what I set aside for myself. I made sure to set aside Buzai's present this way, knowing that Xu would jump at the opportunity to sell a two-headed fish in his shop. As customers say, you get more for your money that way.
The next day, a knock came on my front door. It was Buzai. "Hi, I'm here to pick up that two-headed fish you got me."
"Yep, it's right over here," I informed him, gesturing toward my store. However, the compartment was empty. "Oh drat! My brother Xu must've taken it." Every time I try to hide something from him, Xu always finds it. Such a bother!
Buzai raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me? Look, if you don't want to give me the fish, just say so. Don't get my hopes up and give me this nonsense!" With that, he stormed off.
"But that's not true. It was my brother Xu!" Buzai's family has never been understanding. It must run in the family. Xu was to blame, but now it was like I was framed.
I hurried off to my brother's shop. Sure enough, Xu had already sold the item. The buyer was Yuan, the richest man in the village and holder of many exotic tastes. Urgently, I knocked on his door, telling him what I had come to realize in hopes that he would sympathize.
He did not. "I paid for it fair and square. Buzai can starve for all I care. Now get out, so I can have my meal," he uttered with great zeal, then slammed the door.
I found myself unable to sleep that night, still thinking about Buzai's ruined birthday. Fortunately, I was not alone. My brother Bushi was awake as well. We're always up at the same time, even late at night.
"I have a solution to your problem," he informed me. I didn't even have to tell him what was going on. He just knew.
"Give Buzai another two-headed fish tomorrow."
"How am I going to come across another one by then?" Although more common with more pollution, they were still not as common as their single-headed brethren.
"Easy, just take two one-headed fish, chop one's head off and glue it on the other."
I was no longer sad, for the perfect plan I now had. Bushi's so wise. I don't know what I'd do without him. When Buzai walked past the dock the following morning, I called him over. "Buzai! I caught another one, happy birthday!" Granted, the glue was not yet dry, but it seemed all the same.
"Thanks." Eying it for a second, Buzai shrugged and took a bite. His eyes widened as he began something really loudly, but didn't open his jaw muscles again. With the fish still hanging in his mouth, he left my dock, shaking his fist. I took his speechless reaction to indicate delicious satisfaction. On Xu's theft I didn't dwell, for now all was well.
Ironic turn of events, considering how close Buzai's grandfather was to Xu when we were teenagers. Xu, Bushi and I used to make mischief wherever we went. Quite the trio, we stole the Painted Lady sculpture from town hall, wrecked our neighbor's new fishing boat and got into all sorts of other trouble. Our parents were proud to see my brothers in uniform. As they said, Xu was the strong one and Bushi was the smart one. I was the strange one, which is why I wasn't taken. We looked forward to seeing them again as they left for the Northern Water Tribe.
One day, however, I came upon my parents weeping. They said my brothers weren't coming back, but how silly of them. Xu and Bushi returned the very next day, and we picked up right where we left off. Others, however, came to look at us differently, as though they thought us strange. Mother would stand there, longingly watching the three of us play for hours. She had something on the tip of her tongue, but she never did. Always a sweet one, Mother never wanted to see others unhappy, even if she was herself. It was like that until shortly after the factory appeared and one night, she never woke up from her sleep. After losing his livelihood as a fisherman, my father soon followed, leaving only my brothers and I.
One day, I heard little Buzai's grampy was complaining that Xu was gone. So, I brought Xu with me over to see him. "Xu is not dead. I have him with me here, don't you see?" But Buzai the First grew very angry and yelled at us to leave. I thought that he'd be pleased. Indeed, Jang Hui is a strange town with some strange folk.
Well, it's getting late, that's all for now, but never fear, for tomorrow is another day, and I'm sure my brothers and I will have another adventure!
For the collective works of the author, go here.