by Kim Crow
This is the story of a scoundrel, a trickster monkey and an Internet dating service. It will take us from the highest of heavens to the depths of modern day suburbia. It is a story of capitalism, wayward monasticism and redemption. But most importantly, this is a story of father who never stopped loving his daughter.
Xiao Yi, or “Little Yi,” was so named not for his diminutive stature (for he was of average height). Nor was he called little due to his for a slight frame (for he had always had enough to eat). He wasn’t even known as Xiao Yi because his father was also called Yi and therefore known as “Great Yi” or “Yi the Elder” for Xiao Yi was the only member of his family in any generation to carry the name Yi. Rather, he acquired this moniker based on his reputation for being a man of little moral fiber.
Xiao Yi was feared by fathers, scorned by mothers and generally avoided by young men with even a vague sense of right and wrong. Shopkeepers would close their doors as Xiao Yi walked down the road. Holy men who crossed his path muttered prayers under their breath so that his soul might someday be redeemed. Mapmakers would give him free maps that illustrated the quickest way out of town.
Even the kindest grandmother in Xiao Yi’s village had an unkind word to say about this dastardly fellow. He had been called a cur, an asshole, a ne’er-do-well, and—believe me—he earned every single one of those insults.
Everyone in the village asked, “What has happened to make Xiao Yi such a nasty man? He steals. He drinks. He philanders. What mother could love such as son?”
“Not me,” proclaimed Yi’s mother. “I have tried everything, but this man is rotten to the bone. He has shamed our family and led his father to an early grave. He’s been intimate with the most unsavory ladies, and now he’s blighted the reputation of the purest and finest girl in our village.”
It was true. Ladies had always fallen for the way Xiao Yi could roll a cigarette without taking his eyes off them. They were mesmerized by his crooked smile and the way he so freely laughed at their jokes. One by one then two by two, all the girls had fallen into Xiao Yi’s bed with one very noticeable exception.
For years, Xiao Yi had had his sights on Soo-An, the most beautiful treasure he had ever seen. And for almost as many years, she had resisted his advances. This spring, during an unusually violent storm, Soo-An had taken shelter in Xiao Yi’s arms. And now it was obvious that Soo-An was expecting a child.
The town shook with fury at the very notion that Xiao Yi had taken away their fairest daughter. Soo-An’s now walked through the village with a heavy heart and eyes wet with tears. “Poor Soo-An,” said the villagers. “We did not protect you from the Evil Xiao Yi. How could we have failed you so?” But Soo-An took no comfort from their words.
When he heard news of the pregnancy, Yi began to think about the wayward life he had led for so many of his days. He loved Soo-An and it pained him to see her tears. And so, Xiao Yi, vowed to make things right. “Please,” he begged to anyone who would listen, “I just need to go to the city to earn money for the baby. I will make my fortune and bring it back for Soo-An.”
At first, the townspeople scoffed at his request. But soon they had gathered a small fortune knowing full well that a man like Xiao Yi could not be changed. They presented Xiao Yi with the money for they knew he would be sucked into the depths of the city, never to return.
Soo-An prayed every day in hopes that they were wrong.
The earth rumbled and quaked the day Monkey was born. Indeed, it was the shaking that brought Monkey to life.
For nearly 100 years, an egg had been cradled against the side of the great mountain that is perched above a most ancient forest. The egg was held fast in a nest of wood and wire and incubated by the heat of the fiery magma and sulfurous steam that poured from the mountain.
The mountain shook so violently that day that the egg pummeled down the side of the mountain. It cracked and shattered as it fell to the forest below, leaving fifty thousand eggshell gemstones in its wake. When the remnants of the egg finally came to rest on the forest floor, out popped a being nourished which was nourished by the elements for nearly a century. This was no ordinary egg, for it contained no bird or lizard. It held a young Monkey.
Monkey grew to be wise and clever. He learned many lessons in the forest where he made his home, but there was one question that pestered him. It plagued his dreams and became his greatest obsession: What would make him live forever?
One day Monkey asked Rabbit, “Rabbit, do your children make it so that you live forever?”
“No,” said Rabbit. “Part of me may live on through my children’s children, but my life on this earth is very brief.”
Monkey sniffed, for this was not the answer he was hoping to hear.
“I’m afraid my little ones only make me very tired,” Rabbit yawned as four or five little ones clambered up her back. “Perhaps you should ask the Sequoia. She is the tallest tree in the forest and everyone knows that she has lived a long time.”
And so, Monkey clambered out to the very center of the forest where the tallest Sequoia had stood for many thousands of years. Monkey sat in the hollow where a fire had burned.
“Sequoia, how is it that you can live forever?” asked Monkey.
“The creatures who call my branches home know that have stood here for many of their lifetimes. And though I am gnarled and burned and scarred, I will stand here for many more years to come. But someday I will die.”
Monkey harrumphed, for he was growing impatient with his quest.
“Do not be discouraged, Monkey,” said the aged tree. “There are many things on this earth that have lived longer than me. Why don’t you climb my branches to see if you can find someone else to ask?”
“Why yes, I think I will,” said Monkey as he began scaling the old tree’s textured bark and leaping upwards through her limbs. Finally, when Monkey was high above the canopy of the other trees in the forest, he squinted and scanned the horizon for something more ancient than old Sequoia.
Perched high on the mountain that first gave life to Monkey, he saw a great boulder. “Ah ha!” said Monkey. “Stone is more ancient than a tree. This great rock can tell me what will make me live forever!”
It took many days for Monkey to reach the place where. “Great Stone, do you know the secret of immortality?” said Monkey as he pressed his ear against the hard rock so that he might hear the answer.
“Oh Monkey. I do not have an answer for you. Some day a great flood will come. I will be washed away or carved to pieces. Even I cannot live forever.”
Monkey was growing impatient, “Stone. You have been around for a long time and have seen many living beings in the millions of years you have stood on this earth. Tell me who knows how I can live forever. I must speak to them!”
The Stone wondered how this impatient Monkey could endure an infinite lifetime. “The answer you are seeking must be answered by a most wise counselor. I once met a great Sage with a tremendous knowledge of the earth and heavens. If he does not have an answer to your question he will surely be able to prepare your mind so that you may find it yourself.”
“Who is this?” asked Monkey.
“But where do I find him?”
“He was headed towards the south-southwest, but I do not know where to find him. He is the wisest being I have encountered, and he can teach you many things. But it will take a long time.”
“How will I know that I have found this wise teacher?”
“He stands 20 feet tall. Shimmering white, he glows like a fire but emits no heat. His brows and beard are blue with age and his face is wrinkled like a smiling prune. He is called Subodhi.”
The stone called out, “Be patient. Having lived so many years, I can assure you that time is in no hurry.” But Monkey did not hear. He had already set off to find this wise prophet.
Xiao Yi did make a fortune in the city. He labored for many months but he soon fell back into his old ways and squandered his entire fortune. “Please forgive me, Soo-An,” prayed Yi as he used the last of his money to buy a one-way bus ticket back to their village.
Yi arrived home penniless, though not empty handed. With difficulty, Xiao Yi had smuggled an unlikely prize won during his latest bout of gambling. Thus, when Soo-An opened the door, she saw the Xiao Yi with his crooked smile and two baby bears in his arms.
Those familiar with the biodiversity of this region of China will note that acquiring one baby bear anywhere in the vicinity is about as likely as a monkey hatching from an egg. Managing to get two baby bears in this corner of the world is almost as difficult as keeping two cubs tucked into the lining of a woolen coat for the duration of a six-hour bus journey. Yi knew that winning the bears was only going to be the first stroke of good fortune.
The shock of seeing her lover returned along with the woolly cubs was too much for Soo-An to bear. She doubled over in with the pains of labor, and, after much difficulty, Soo-An gave birth to a baby girl. The baby was beautiful and healthy. Yi and Soo-An called her Mei Yu.
But Xiao Yi, Soo-An and their new baby were not destined to live happily ever after. Soo-An became feverish. She died just a few days later.
There were those who believed that she died of a broken heart. There were more still who believed that Yi returning empty handed had caused her to die of grief. And there were those who believed she died of septicemia. Xiao Yi did not have time to consider the reasons behind Soo-An’s death. Yi was afraid.
So, for the first time in his life, Xiao Yi offered a sincere prayer to the heavens. “I have let down everyone in this world and now the woman I love is dead and the child who I love more than life is motherless. I have three very hungry mouths to feed. I am scorned all throughout the village for bringing such misfortune to Soo-An. Help me, please.”
Yi’s second sincere prayer came many years later.
Xiao Yi’s life was so full that he had not even had time to offer thanks for the blessings he had been granted after his first prayer. Through most of the year, he spent long days working to offer a good life to the kind and gentle daughter and two fully-grown brown bears. Every night he returned to a home filled with laughter as Mei Yu sang songs and told secrets to her two lifelong friends. When the winters came and the bears began their hibernation, Yi stayed with Mei Yu, tending to the every whim of his bright-eyed little girl. Though isolated from the rest of the village, this unusual family of four could not imagine a more suitable way of life.
The time had come for Mei Yu to go to school. Yi held her hand as they walked down the road towards the schoolhouse. Along the way he overheard the gossip and whispers of the townsfolk. Yi held on tightly to Mei Yu’s hand as she skipped down the lane, waving at all the people they passed.
“Do you see? It’s Xiao Yi and his little girl.”
“My, she is just the spitting image of her mother.”
“Such a shame for a beautiful girl to be raised by such a despicable man.”
Yi knelt down when they arrived at the schoolhouse and kissed Mei Yu on the cheek. “My beautiful daughter,” he said. “I am very proud of you, and I know that you are excited to learn new things here at school. However, there may be people here that say unkind words to you because your father has not always been a very good man.”
“But you are good to me.”
“Mei Yu, you are the reason why I am good. Please do not let these unkind words hurt you because they are meant for me.”
Mei Yu replied, “If anyone is mean to me I will growl at them and show them my claws! Grrrr!”
Yi smiled and waved goodbye as he watched his little girl run towards the schoolroom door. As she turned and blew him one last kiss, Yi decided that is was not such a bad thing for a little girl to be raised by bears.
Later that day, Yi waited outside the schoolyard for Mei Yu. He watched as families greeted each other in the warm September sun. All the children poured out of the school and into the arms of their loved ones, but his beloved Mei Yu was nowhere to be seen. The school’s headmaster crossed toward him, “Sir, I will need to speak you in my office.” Yi felt his stomach drop.
In the headmaster’s office Yi was greeted by his smiling daughter and a very stern-faced man in a blue uniform.
“Daddy!” said Mei Yu, “This man says he is a Police Constable.”
“Yes, Mei Yu, I have met this man before.”
“Many, many times,” said the stone-faced Officer.
“Xiao Yi,” explained the Headmaster, “your daughter has brought to our attention some most unsettling information.”
“Oh?” asked Xiao Yi.
“She told her classmates that she lives with bears.”
“It’s true!” exclaimed Mei Yu.
“Ordinarily we would assume that a child her age was making up a story, but as you see, she has been quite insistent about the fact that she lives with two bears.”
“Nonsense,” said Yi.
“I thought so, too,” said the Police Constible, “but then I learned that you, Xiao Yi, are the girl’s father.”
“May I add that, Miss Mei Yu growled at the officer in a very menacing way,” quipped the Headmaster.
Based on the child’s behavior and your reputation, I have sent a team of officers to your home to investigate this girl’s claim.”
“No! You can’t do that!”
“It’s too late to protest now. My officers should be returning any moment now. And if there are bears in your home as your daughter claims, I will be forced to take you into custody for the reckless endangerment of a child.”
That night Xiao Yi made his second prayer from the cold concrete floor of his jail cell. “Please,” wept Yi, “I must find a way to be with my daughter again. I will do anything to be back with Mei Yu. Grant me wisdom. Mei Yu, forgive me.”
Xiao Yi awoke to find that he was no longer lying on the unforgiving concrete in the holding cell. Instead, Yi was on the mossy floor of an ancient mangrove. An old man, perhaps 20 feet tall, with a flowing blue beard and bushy blue brows stood akimbo before him. “Ah, Princess Sleepyhead finally wakes up!” said the old man.
“Who are you?”
“I am the answer to your prayers, dear sir.”
“No. God looks more like Serge Gainsbourg.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I am Subohdi.”
“But you heard my prayer?”
“Ah, yes. If I remember to listen carefully, the universe will usually help me to find exactly what I need. Right now, dear sir, I am in need of someone like you.”
“Yes you. You will be working for me. And as payment for your services rendered, I will help you get back to your darling Mei Yu.”
Yi, stunned, was silent. “Ah, sir. You drive a hard bargain. I will grant you two favors, then. I’ll help you set up a good home for the bears.
“You would do that?” asked Yi.
“Well, I certainly don’t want to see them going to some bile factory where they’ll be abused, mangled and made retarded. Those are two of the finest, best-behaved bears I’ve ever seen. We’ve got some time for that. There’s a whole lot of red tape when it comes to using animals as evidence and the officers are all fighting for the privilege to sell them on the black market.”
“What do I need to do so that you can help me?”
“Well, I am in need of a special kind of messenger.”
“I can deliver a message. Tell me where to go. Tell me what to say.”
“See. It’s more complicated than that. I am in need of a delivery person who can courier things to me through both time and space.”
Yi was unsure of what he had just heard. How could this task be possible?
“There you go, freaking out about this already. Let me tell you, it’s no cakewalk, but it can be done if you are willing to learn. Your impending reunion with your daughter will motivate you, Yi.”
“When do I begin my first lesson?”
“Ah, patience. I thought that was a skill you had that Monkey lacked. Sit down. Relax. Have a snack.”
“But I’m not hungry. I need to learn so I can be with Mei Yu.”
“Nonsense. What you need is a nice Hostess Twinkie. It’s the only food that can travel through time and space. Monkey said they could last through what the Christians like to call, ‘Armageddon.’ Eat up. Our lessons begin tomorrow and you’ll need your energy.”
Yi woke early the next morning, eager to begin his quest. “Subodhi,” asked Yi. “I am ready to begin.”
“Ah yes. Your first lesson is to understand why I have chosen you to be my courier. The simplest answer is that I need you to help me pay off Buddha so he will release Monkey.”
“Well, you’re about the same size and shape as Monkey. That means I don’t have to recalibrate my formulas for getting you to where I need you to go. Monkey used to travel for me because, although he was a monkey and not a man, he fit in to society a little better than a giant glowing monk.”
“But who is this Monkey? Why is Buddha holding him prisoner?” asked Yi.
“Monkey is my pupil. Though Monkey was smart and clever, I have taught him a great deal about the powers of his mind and spirit. He has learned many things from me, including the Art of Tao, 72 different polymorphic transformations, and time travel. After many hundreds of years under my tutelage, Monkey is a great warrior, and his powers have grown to match all but the mightiest and most enlightened Gods.
“Then why is Buddha holding him prisoner?”
“Alas, Monkey is proud and impatient. He’s also easily bored. One day, Monkey climbed up to heaven and learned of a Peach Blossom Banquet that was being held to honor the Queen Mother of Heaven on her birthday. When Monkey found out that he was not invited to the party, he became angry, and bribed the fairies so they would let him into the banquet hall.”
“What’s the big deal about crashing a party?”
“It wouldn’t have been a big deal at all, but monkey decided to eat the entire banquet of magical peaches by himself. When the Queen Mother heard that her party was ruined, she sent her army to kill Monkey. This might have worked, since I have yet to teach Monkey the secrets of immortality, but the magical peaches gave him strength. When Monkey was attacked he killed ten thousand heavenly guards.
Buddha was really pissed off when he heard of Monkey’s behavior. He’s kept Monkey trapped inside the clenched fist of one of his hands for the next 5,000 years.
Anyway, I was feeling a little guilty since I had not yet taught Monkey the secrets of eternal life and there is a small chance that Monkey won’t make it for the next 5000 years without that lesson. The secret of immortality is the carrot I dangled before Monkey so he would keep learning the primer lessons. It’s the very reason he spent 500 years roaming the forest to seek me out as his great teacher. Now that he’s almost ready for the answer to his lifelong question he’s stuck in the hand of Buddha. So, I asked the Buddha what I could do and sort of hinted at the fact that I may be coming into a bunch of money.
“And now you need me to travel into the future to get you that money,” said Yi.
“Precisely. They may call you Little Yi, but you have a big amount of smarts for a mere mortal.”
“How am I supposed to find this money?
“As you well know, I am a firm believer in mutually beneficial relationships. I taught Monkey all that he knows about time travel, and as a thank you, Monkey taught me everything he knows about speculating in the NASDAQ and New York Stock Exchange.”
“So I have to learn all of the lessons that you have taught to Monkey before I can go back to Mei Yu?”
“Don’t be foolish, Yi. You only have to learn everything there is to know about time travel and free market Capitalism.”
Yi was a quick study and soon was ready for his first journey in to the future.
“You have learned well, Yi. I am impressed, Big Guy. Now it is time to learn of your tasks in this trip to the future. I am sending you to a suburban community outside of San Francisco. The year will be 1985. You will arrive sometime in the fall. The most important thing to remember is to do follow every single direction to a tee. If you do not do this on your first mission, there will be no second and third mission and that means no reunion with Mei Yu.”
“Now, when you materialize on the other side, do not be confused. All of the houses in this community look exactly the same and they are painted in 5 different shades of beige. Look for the pinky beige house with the lucky red door.”
“I think I’m going to need to write this down.”
“Monkey has left a winning lotto ticket with numbers he selected based on some creative rearrangement of the time-space continuum on the dining room table. He also has left you five or six scratch-it lotto tickets so that it looks like you are stupid enough to play the lotto all the time.”
“How much is the prize?”
It is significant but it is nowhere near the amount of money I have promised to Buddha. Take your lotto tickets around the corner to a store called Wally World. Go to the cosmetics counter and ask for a girl named Po because she speaks real good Chinese. Tell her you are Monkey’s cousin and ask her to help you claim the lotto ticket. Then, solicit her help in opening up a series bank accounts that collect compound interest. Give Po 10% of the lottery money for her assistance. You may give her more if she tries to barter, but no more than 18% or we are ruined. Use some of the money to cover your living expenses and to subscribe to both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
“When am I supposed to come back here?”
“April, 1986. But don’t bother if you don’t manage to get in on the Microsoft IPO.”
“Oh, and if you have a chance, please bring me a poster of David Lee Roth, for he brings much happiness to my heart.”
Yi’s first journey to the future went according to plan. He was even pleased by the progress he had made in learning the English language. Before long even understood many of the jokes on TV programs like Cheers and The Cosby Show.
But as April neared, Yi grew sad, for he had now spent an entire year apart from his beloved Mei Yu and he missed her terribly. He became restless and started to look for advice in women’s glossy magazines.
When Yi finally returned to the mangrove, he presented his wise counselor with two gifts: a life-size cut out of David Lee Roth and a bottle of Coppertone Sunscreen. “Teacher, I read about this lotion Ladies Home Journal. This ointment will protect your fair skin from the harmful UV rays produced by the sun.
“Ah, thank you, Yi. This will serve me well. And now, are you prepared for your next journey? For tonight you’re going to party like it’s 1999.”
But before Yi could answer, he was back in suburbs, holding a laundry list of to do items.
Yi’s second journey occurred without incident. He withdrew his lotto winnings from the bank and sold off his entire portfolio of Microsoft. Then, just as instructed, Yi used all of the profits from the now sizable fortune from his lotto winnings to invest in a young company called Google.
He crossed more items off the list by dating an “animal loving hippy woman” that he met on Craigslist. When said he was kind, but she thought of him more like a brother, he listed her as the trustee of his Living Will and asked that she take the money to begin a non-profit sanctuary for bears.
“Now, you have to make this quick because the IRS is looking for you. I’m pretty sure the accountant you hired hasn’t been all that the capital gains taxes after we bailed on Microsoft.”
Yi began to think that Sebohdi was angry about not getting a Sony Discman and a copy of the Titanic Soundtrack as he had requested. He began to apologize for his forgetfulness.
“Do not worry about the Album. Take this note and worry about your bears.”
In the blink of an eye, Yi and his two brown bears were standing on the sidewalk in front of his beige tract house with the lucky red door.
The note’s instructions were simple: SELL IT ALL AND GIVE THE BEARS TO YOUR HIPPIE EX-GIRLFRIEND. IT IS OCTOBER 31, 2007 AND GOOGLE IS OVER $700 PER SHARE! ROFLMAO!
“Rolfmao? What does that even mean?” Yi asked his hippie ex-girlfriend as he dropped of the bears in their new home on 500 sprawling acres of Kentucky grassland.
But Xiao Yi never heard her reply. He was already floating through the ether to a place many miles away and many years ago. Yi was finally on his way home to greet the young girl he loved so much on her very first day of school.
© 2010 Kim Crow