Sunday, May 14, 2017

Short Story: Mr. Wang

Penny is a nineteen years old single mother, with a three years old son. She got married when she was seventeen, she thought it was love, he on the other hand was quick to start screwing around with another as soon as she got pregnant.

Penny never knew her father, she was brought up by her mother along. At the age of ten Penny’s mother passed away. She bounced from one foster home to the next, until she was fifteen, with a help of her high school science teacher Mr. Edison, she got a job working as a checkout girl in a seven eleven convenient store. Mr. Edison was a good teacher, but the level of care he gave her, raise suspicion from his wife, thinking he is screwing around with a fifteen years old girl. When it comes between choosing between Penny and his marriage, without question, Mr. Edison choose his wife and two sons. A year later, she met Andrew. Andrew is like no other man he met, he is charming and got a bad boy attitude, he is four years older than Penny, working as a mechanic apprentice. So, right after year ten, Penny left high school and moved in with Andrew. Jack got a massive crush on Penny in school, he is in one of her class. Jack’s dad is a wealthy businessman, Jack on the other hand is a bit of a dork, if this is one of those snobby private school, been the richest kid in the school will make Jack the most popular kid in school, but this is a state school and having rich parents means nothing here. I mean Jack is still popular, he is the nicest kid in school and like in most state school the nice kids and the smart kids are the most popular, but been a shy nice kid don’t necessary mean getting the girls, not unless she got such a big crush on you, she is starting trying to get your friend to tell you to ask her out and even then, if you are way too much of a shy nerd that can’t speak to girl, it won’t help.

Less than a year after Penny and Andrew moved in together, Penny got pregnant, for a girl that moved around from foster home to foster home, Andrew is her family. But, as for Andrew, he just wants to party. Andrew must have been fired from three apprenticeship, already, because he is simply too lazy. A few months after Penny is pregnant, well…her tommy that is increasing in size, so she is losing her figure and Andrew was quick enough to start hooking up with another girl. Just like Jack, Andrew is a rich kid, but unlike Jack, Andrew is a spoil rich kid and his parents enable him, to do anything. When Andrew lost interest in Penny and cast her aside, Andrew’s parents just once again enable it, their theory is that Penny is just some gold digger trying to get their claws into the family fortune. Despite the modern law is in favour of the mother, in situation like this, as a seventeen years old girl, Penny, is still too unfamiliar with all of these, none of her friends seem to be much of her help either. Penny’s grandparents are no help either. Penny’s grandfather is a preacher and not the nice gentle type of preacher, he is the Christian fanatic type, the type you expect to lead his platoon of church followers to go on protests saying “God hate fags!!!” And considering the bible’s view on baster child and women who got premarital sex, it is not so surprising that they want nothing to do with Penny who is a baster child herself.

While all of her friends, are off, going to university, starting a great new life and finding themselves boyfriends that are both nice and cool, Penny is juggling two jobs to support herself and her son. Penny live with her best friend from high school, but the party life style of a nineteen years old first year university student, is not for a three years old child. And after repeating to tell her friend to chill, with the party in their apartment and bring boys home, with beers and whatever and her friend promising she won’t do it again and went out to do it anyway. Penny finally had no choice but to move out to find a small apartment for her and her son. It is a hard life for Penny right now, a nineteen years old single mother, with hardly any experience and no qualification, having to work a two full time jobs, just to be able to afford to pay rent and keep things afloat, with not a single cent of saving in her bank account and at this horrible economy, expendable working class labour like her, are most likely to be sacked and ended up living on the streets. Just like that two years passed, Penny is now twenty-one years old and after spending three years working as a factory fruit package line, she was being informed, the company is downsizing due to not been able to compete with the foreign market, after the government tax increase and got no choice but to start making laid off. The manager knowing about Penny’s situation, try to keep Penny from been laid off for as long as possible, but, eventually, he still got no choice, but to fire her.

Penny tried her best to find another job, but it isn’t easy, after she got laid off from her job in the diner, after it shut down, she has not been able to find a replacement job. Now, after losing both of her jobs, Penny only got at most three weeks of saving left, she need to seriously consider putting her son up for adoption. It isn’t an easy decision for her, she know what life is like growing up in foster home herself.

One week before, Penny’s last week of rent is up, a new neighbour moved in next door. He looked young and masculine and he is extremely cool and confident, he look around twenty-seven or twenty-eight.

“Hi, you must be my neighbour. I am Zhengnan. Zhengnan Wang” The new neighbour said

“Hi, Penny Lance.” Penny replied.

“And this must be your boy. How old are you son?” Zhengnan kneel in front of the boy and asked

“I am six” Penny’s replied

“Six and what is your name?” Zhengnan smiled friendly and said

“Sam” Penny’s son replied

“Sam. What a lovely name.” Zhengnan smiled, there is a sense of warmth to his smile.

“Well, it is nice to meet you guys.” Zhengnan stood up and said to Penny and then walked into his apartment.

After returning home, Penny sighed, she still got much to do, at home it is box after box of packed stuff, she is desperately trying to find a friend, which she can crash with, until she finds a new job. A few of her friends suggest the army for Penny, but if Penny join the army, who will take care of Sam? His dead beak dad? As if he would give a dame.

Without a choice, Penny plan to try stay in this apartment for as long as possible, until the owner can legally be allowed to kicked her out of the apartment, but strange enough. The owner never come. Penny hope to beg for more time, to be able to afford to pay the rent, but to her surprise she was been informed, her rent has been paid in full till the end of the year.

Zhengnan who lived next door, is from Taiwan, he is an airline pilot and travel back and forward, flying commercial passenger jumble jets between Taiwan and Australia. He spent roughly around two to four days in Australia per week, depending on his flight schedule.

Zhengnan would always make small talk with Penny and Sam, in the hallway, always starting with the question of “how are things going for you, right now?” At first Penny would always say everything is fine, but after a while, Zhengnan would laugh. “Girl, you are eating nothing just so your son, can afford to have a bit of lunch that is, well…plan noodle with packed of tomato source, which you probably stole from the supermarket, that don’t look good to me. Not to mention, quick question, do your home even have electricity?”

“Well…no” So Penny finally admit to herself losing both jobs and can’t get a new job.

“Well, a growing body of a little boy need food. Come on, why don’t I buy you a big hamburger!” Zhengnan said to Sam

“Yeah!!!” Sam quickly yelled before Penny can said no

“Girl, if not for yourself than at least for your son. Otherwise, I swear to god, I would call child service and that is no empty threat. I will do it.” Zhengnan said to Penny

With no choice, Penny went with Sam and Zhengnan, to the closest fast food restaurant. The next day Zhengnan knocked on their front door, with five plastic bag of grocery. “All for the kid, don’t make me call child service.” Zhengnan said. It is as if, Zhengnan can threaten Penny to do anything, he wants, by threatening to call child service to take Sam away and he is taking full advantage of it.

“Umm…we don’t have electricity in our home.” Penny said, trying to use this as a last defence line against, Zhengnan’s persistence of trying to get her to accept the grocery.

“I paid for it this morning. It is not a gift, it is a loan, I expect you to pay me back with interest, once you get a job.” Zhengnan said and then he went into his apartment.

One very odd thing about Zhengnan that Penny found is that his friends are all very old, he never seen even one of his friends who is in his twenties, instead, he hangs around with a bunch of old people in their forties, fifties and sixties. Despite he does not look a day over twenty eight, Zhengnan seem way too mature for somebody who is in his twenties. 

In a few more weeks, one of Zhengnan’s friends, a dentist, knocked on Penny’s front door and the next thing Penny know, she is working part time as a receptionist in her dentist’s office.

Since Penny got the job working as a receptionist, Zhengnan stayed in the apartment lesser, sometime, he would show up only once per week or twice a week. But whenever he does show up, what he cares the most, is always what is going on with Sam.

“I think he likes you.” A few of Penny’s friend said

But, before Penny even got a chance to consider the possibility, Zhengnan told Penny he is gay.

Thinking he is gay, Penny and Zhengnan started to hang out more, when he is in Australia. Zhengnan would never hesitate to buy Penny and Sam with new cloth and insist for them to keep it. A few months later, Zhengnan asked Penny about the possibility of her going back to school.

“I didn’t even finish high school.” Penny said

“So? Finish high school in night school and then university.” Zhengnan said

“I can’t afford it. I need to work and I need to take care of my son.” Penny said

“How much do you think you need?” Zhengnan asked

“What?” Penny said

Zhengnan without even giving a second thought took out his check book

“No, no, no, no, no, no, I can’t take your money, no, no, no, no, no, no.” Penny said

“This money is not a gift, it is a loan. I borrow you the money now and you pay me back later.” Zhengnan said

“Oh no, no, no, I mean what if I can’t afford to pay you back and…” Penny’s sentence was cut off

“Do, you want me to call child service to take your son away? If no, take the dame money.” Zhengnan used the child service threat again.

So, Penny used the money to finished high school in night school, the old couple down stairs, baby sit Sam, while Penny is away at school, they are very nice couple in their sixties and once again friends with Zhengnan. Penny never understand, why Zhengnan is always getting along so well with old people and is always hanging around a bunch of old people. But either way, Penny finished high school at night school and went to university. Zhengnan is still here at least once or twice a week and every time he come the first thing he asked is what is situation with Sam and Penny. By her third and final year in university, Penny, had started working as a fashion designer, as her degree was a bachelor in fashion design, her smoking hot figure, also land her a job working as a part time model for the fashion firm she works for.

Two weeks before graduating from university, Penny returned home with her son. She got a big check, planning to return all the money Zhengnan loan them over the years, after Penny’s first clothing line, just made it onto the shelf of the women wear section of the local department store, for all these years, not even once, did Zhengnan ever asked them to pay back the money he borrowed them. Zhengnan had asked to meet them for dinner that day. But as Penny walked to their apartment door, she realized Zhengnan’s frond door was opened and he was laying there unconscious.

Penny quickly called an ambulance. Within the hospital, Penny and Sam waited outside, for the doctor’s result, but later the doctor came out and informed Penny and Sam that he is dead.

“Well, he is an old man that has been struggling with that heart condition for years.” The doctor said

“An old man? He doesn’t look a day over the age of thirty?” Penny said

“It is genetic, human body have a limitation of cell division rate, for an average human each cell can only divide 80 times.  Our body divide cell to repair damage and allow our body to reach maturity. As we use a higher percentage of our ability of cell division, our body’s speed of cell division to repair damage, slow down, thus, result in aging. Some people, their cell can divide a lot more times than the average human, this is also one of the reason why you sometime hear those stories of ageless women on TV. Higher than average cell division rate is most common amount Asian that is why some people says Asians never age. Mr. Wang is actually over fifty-six years old.” The doctor said.  

Penny didn’t say anything. It would totally explain why Zhengnan got so much money and is always hanging out with old people and is so mature. For all this time Zhengnan is a friendly and wealthy old man living next door to them, trying help them out. Penny felt like crying. 

“Do you know what family he got?” the doctor asked

“No, I don’t know, but let me try help find them.” Penny said

Penny called an elderly friend of Zhengnan, the dentists that she worked for. The dentists contacted his daughter, back in Taiwan.

Penny walked into Zhengnan’s apartment. There was not a lot of furniture in there. A television, a desk with some papers and an air mattress bed, in the bin there are empty takeaway containers. The desk got a few draws. Penny opened one of the draw, there was a photo and within it there was two people Zhengnan and her mother, was together. The photo was taken almost thirty years ago, Zhengnan looked around five or six years younger in this photo, he had his arm around Penny’s mother waist, while she rests upon her shoulder. Surprised Penny, searched Zhengnan’s phone book, Zhengnan is old school, he still kept all of his contact number is a paper phonebook and tried to dial every number she could find, but every respond told her to ask Zhengnan’s daughter when she come a week later.

A week later, Zhengnan’s daughter Lingshuan arrived to the country, she is four years younger than Penny.

“My father has been looking for you for over ten years. He was working as a pilot flying commercial flight when he met your mother. But her father, didn’t allow her to be with somebody who is not white. Your mother was originally planning to elope with him, back to Taiwan to get married. But my father said no, is there is anything that was more important for him, then love, it is family. No matter how inappropriate is her parent’s reason, he doesn’t believe anybody should choose love over their parents who raised them, so he broke it off. He had no idea she is pregnant by that time. By the time, he found out about it, your mother is already dead and you were living in foster homes. He flew only the Taiwan and Australia line, just so he can find you and even after he can no longer be a pilot, due to his heart condition, he still come here, as often as he could.” Lingshuan said.