Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Eleven 


A Mixture of Revulsion and Pity

July 1999, Hong Kong


It was a great visit so saying goodbye at the airport was difficult. Thomas was sad to leave. It was there at the Winnipeg airport that Josh gave him a journal, making me promise him he would write down his dreams. When you made a promise to your identical twin brother it was airtight, so he gave Josh his word he would write down all his dreams in that little book. Josh also gave him a winged sun disk to put around his neck "as protection from the negative." It had an orange sun and there was a phoenix behind it. Thomas thought it was cool so he put it on right there in the airport foyer, but only after he smudged it with sage, ignoring the security who didn't act because they must have known what smudging was.

Back in Hong Kong, he returned to business as usual and made an effort to re-engage in his quotidian life, but he found it all different. He tried to fit into his old Hong Kong mold, but the shape of him had changed, like a wooden tennis racquet left out in the rain, irrevocably warped that affected his groundstrokes no matter how much he improved his footwork. He was simply hitting the ball differently. He tried his best to ignore it, and to forget about the Pahana and the Hopi Prophecies and what I had been exposed to because there was no room for the Red Man's heart in Hong Kong, a place that never slept with an energy that could take a man to extremes. He wanted to love it but it didn't work. Then things began to really change after an unpleasant dental experience.

When Thomas went to his yearly appointment there was a new dental assistant, who was nervous and tentative. This young Philippina woman took her dental hygiene very seriously. After looking into my mouth and poking around, she said: "You should always remember to brush your tongue." With the dentist in the other room, she took the teeth-cleaning rotating device and rolled it on the surface of his tongue, the sharp head mowing down his taste buds like long grass on a putting green. He curled his tongue in defense but she held her ground, cutting down his sense of taste.

But the worst moment happened when the dental assistant fitted an upper and lower mold for his teeth. The gooey glue-like ooze molded to the contours of his teeth snuggly but she left it on too long so that when she tried to remove it, it wouldn't budge from his teeth. She adjusted her grip to pull at a better angle but this only served to pass more time, causing the sticky goo to stick to his teeth even more. He sat helpless, hearing the dentist speaking to another patient as his assistant pretended to act cool, beginnign to feel short of breath from a sudden burst of claustrophobia. When she used both hands with as much force as she could muster, Thomas was convinced a tooth was going to be pulled out with the mold, fully aware of the two teeth that had had root canals in the past that were fragile at best. He was about to grunt to get the attention of the dentist when she employed a slanted yanking technique. By pulling at an angle, she dug the metal molding plate into the top of his gums just above the teeth causing his gums to bleed. Then she gave a serious yank that strained the very root of all his teeth. The apparatus did come off but not without loosening the foundation of his teeth both on the top and the bottom. Thomas was pretty stoical about it at the time, but the longer he tongued the rows of his teeth the more he knew she had loosened almost all his teeth. And the more he thought about it, the more he questioned being overseas and subject to this type of unprofessional treatment. It made him restless, so he pined for a break from work.

It gave him cause to think life overseas wasn't as rosy as he may have thought. Every time he ran his tongue over his teeth and gums, it was a reminder of the Philippina shaving off his taste buds. When he realized he couldn't taste food as sharply as he had before, all of it angered him. And it was this anger that grew stronger over time. The changes were small at first: a cancellation of a haircut, the wearing of denims to work and then not wearing a tie. He started to spend his time reading about Red Indians instead of researching and writing the textbook he was working on. In this way he discovered there was something inside him curious about the story of the Pahana. He became restless to find out more, and was bugged by the lack of information he could find in this old colonial outpost. The passing of time soon bothered him because he feared he was letting an opportunity pass - an opportunity leading to his destiny. He began to worry that he was overlooking a sign from God that would in time prove fatal to the flourishment of his spirit. Something inside his head was screaming; he could sense its muted shrill. And it was this caused him to see things a bit differently.

A few weeks after the nightmare at the dentist's office, he bumped into John Chaffey on the way home after work. From Mother England, Our Man Chaffey as Thomas called him had to be one of the most abnormal normal people he had ever met. He tried so hard to be normal in such an unorthodox manner that he came across as eccentric. The irony was the fact he was profoundly normal. He clung to the norms of convention with such desperation that he was manic.

He met him on the ferry going to Lamma Island, where he lived. The ferries to Lamma Island were old remnants of the British colonial era so they were noisy affairs. Most expatriates bought a beer or two for the 40-minute ride to the island, so they were out on the deck where they spoke with the sound of the engine grinding on their eardrums. Since Lamma Island was due southeast of Hong Kong Island, they enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the mountains of Lantau Island to the west.

"Our Man Chaffey, how're ya doin' these days?"


"What's new?"

"Not much."

"How's work?" That was the question he wanted to hear because he went on about his work for twenty minutes. It was his false enthusiasm that caused Thomas to be mute. The grown-up boy in front of him epitomized a generation that champions benign passivity and ennui. Soft, flabby and weak in mind but strong in following rules, close-mindedness and neophobia, he was a perfected cynic and know-it-all that hated being alone, embraced stereotypes and lived in constant fear of anything unplanned. Having no discernable opinions of his own except the regurgitated thoughts of others, he feared truths that fell outside his own web of belief, thinking there was only one interpretation for any given thing. Often his profound lack of courage was mistaken for shyness, but this man-boy who tolerated his elders out of duty rather than with sincere interest, had sharpened the control apparatus in his mind to repress all urges stemming from curiosity. But most of all he thrived on speaking badly about others who didn't fit into his linear belief system, which made thinkers like Thomas hesitant to speak to him.

As his mind raced with this mixture of revulsion and pity, he wondered if it all came from his recent prairie experience or if it was because of his anger at his loss of taste buds and loosening of teeth.

When they arrived at the Lamma pier Chaffey invited him to the all-night full-moon party at the beach. Every month there was one but instead he went to the Spicy Indian Restaurant where there was a small bar at the back, a place where old chaps hung out away from the mayhem of jukeboxes and birthday parties.

"Mr. Robertson sir, Hoegaarten will it be then?" asked Manoj. Made him feel he was home. One can meet people from all corners of the globe as long as you know where to find the bars that have been serving adventurous servicemen since the Second Opium War. The "Spicy" was one of these bars. And case in point was Mr. James Viceroy, a crusty old bugger looking for respect. Viceroy was the breath of fresh air he needed for his jarred spirit.


Part One - Canada
1.      The Twin From the East Returns  
2.      The Sundancer  
3.      Waxing Gibbous 
4.      The Second Coming of the Messiah 
5.      The Sacred Twin Story 
6.      The Sign of the Pahana 
7.      Palongawhoya and Poqanghoya 
8.      Rainbow Thunderbird and Red Phoenix 
9.      The True White Brother 
10.    The Lost Louis Riel Notebooks 
Part Two - Hong Kong
11.    A Mixture of Revulsion and Pity 
12.    A Classroom of Scallywags 
13.    Illegitimati non Carborundum 
14.    The Distant Fire of Empyrean
Part Three - Burma
15.    The Monastery of Sacred Tablets 
16.    The Outpost of Tyranny 
17.    When the 12th Moon Comes 
18.    The Pigeon Left & the Crow Took His Place 
19.    Go North and Find Your People 
20.    Finding Orwell 
21.    Though the Monkey is in a Hurry, the Tree Branch is Not 
22.    The Castle at God's Toes 
23.    The General and Sergeant Betel Nut 
24.    The Tattooed Station Master 
25.    Reverend Crow's Life's Work 
26.    Yield Not to Adversity, But Press on More Bravely 
27.    A Bitter Cuppa Tea 
28.    The Thirteenth Tribe 
29.    When a Lamp is Lit You Must Expect Insects 
30.    John the Christian 
31.    A Guardian Angel Named Hanna 
32.    The Bar Car & Betel Nut 
33.    The Son of Light 
34.    Slipping the Karmic Knot
Part Four - Hong Kong
35.    The Tonsure Warning 
36.    The Phoenix Reborn 
37.    Touching the Empyrean 
38.    Joshua the Gatekeeper 
Part Five - Canada
39.    Lapsit Exillis 
40.    Thunderstones 
41.    The Time of Great Purification  


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