The “March Madness” ran its course into the first week of April. At the end, two basketball powerhouses would meet: one drawing last blood from the other to raise the championship trophy. The nation, however, remained dazzled by a new Cinderella, the team from a small catholic college outside Boston. She danced exquisitely until the semi-final, when her clock struck midnight. But, it was their octogenarian nun, perched on a wheel-chair at the courtside, rooting enthusiastically for her boys, that would melt the soul of a politically fragmented nation.
Bill Walton, a firebrand senator, understood “How sports find a way to bind an entire nation!”
China waits in doorways. In the seaports, in the cities of the hinterland, and in the rural villages dotting the tapestry of hills and swales, the indigenous endlessly gossip, gaze, and gape, amused by the panoply of the world that spins about them. So was it in the beginning, so will it be at the end. Who am I to make such accusations? I am a gentrified crook, an elusive con artist, an entrepreneur in the opium and the hard liquor trade. Looking for a proper, refined young man to accompany your chaste daughter to some function? I am not him. I am Ivan Stone.
British by birth, Chinese by breeding, my grandfather, with his family, undertook their exodus to the Orient arriving on the heels of the Opium Wars. Before the ink on the Treaty of Nanking had even dried, my extended family holed up in Shanghai, which with the treaty, became arguably the busiest port in Asia. Of German stock and heritage, Kurt Stone was the patriarch of the family, who had impoverished scores on the European continent in accruing his fortune. He then set his sights on England, buying a small estate an hour by coach northwest of London. Everyone who knew Kurt the least bit intimately was cognizant of the lies that were his stock and trade. But the old man did manage to assemble the Fallon Holding Company, a shipping concern that traded in tea from India. Furthermore the ships of the holding company conveyed everything from dress goods to manufacturing implements in the bowels of the hulls of their ships bound for seaports that stitched the world together: Lagos, Cape Town, Bombay, Hong Kong and others that sailors had sullied on their shore leave. Among the shipments were guns and other outlawed weapons of war. Continue reading “The Fallon Holding Company”
When Anne saw the remarkable stranger walking a dog in the park on an otherwise ordinary summer evening, she sensed that fate had arranged for this man to cross her path. Her mind could only hold one thought: This is the most handsome man I have ever seen.
“Hello,” the handsome man said through a smile so white his teeth pulled light from the air around his mouth.
Anne could hardly believe he had spoken to her, had said the word “hello” through lips so full and perfectly shaped for kissing.
“Hello,” she replied through her own lips, which were suddenly dry.
“I’m Paul,” the handsome stranger said, his voice a mix of honey and cello. “I just moved in down the street.”
“I’m Anne,” she said, grasping handsome Paul’s offered right hand, his big, soft hand that buried hers. His left hand, dangling from a thick wrist, well-muscled arm, and square shoulder, held the dog’s leash. That lovely hand, Anne noticed, held no wedding ring.
“This is Bowser,” handsome Paul said, nodding a square jaw darkened with thick evening whiskers toward the dog standing beside his sandaled feet.
Anne tore her eyes from Paul’s handsomeness to look at the dog for the first time. Bowser was mid-sized, about two feet tall, the color of charcoal, so dusky he looked like he would darken the palms of anyone who touched him. Continue reading “Handsome stranger”
The night wrapped its arms around Beijing. As they sat on the patio of the Pearl Street Market Restaurant dining on grilled lamb and gently fried rice, the stars swam in the firmament above them, coalescing in the seas of constellations. The three of them, Jack Willoughby, Jerry Heard, and Dr. Abel sat quietly, musing on all that had transpired since their days at the Intercontinental Clinic. Perhaps a decade had passed since they walked the hallways together; more likely it was fifteen years. Now, only Dr. Abel remained, the others going their separate ways, John to another clinic in Beijing, Jerry to a practice back in the States. Dr. Abel held on at Intercontinental by his fingertips doing all he could to bolster his rolls of patients. As a psychologist who’d attained a doctorate from a prestigious school in the States, Dr. Abel was a rare commodity in Beijing, rare as a cab driver in the city who didn’t smoke. More than once, John and Jerry discussed their colleague’s predicament. To them, the problem was Abel himself. Continue reading “I am air and fire”