Just in case any of you tune in regularly to see my daily pictures of Malibu mornings, I've been on vacation--so nothing has been posted. Sorry. Didn't take my laptop with me either, even though I thought about it... I'm not dogged blogger it seems.
A psychologist friend of mine once told me that he had come to believe that all interpersonal relationships are triangular; that is, that one-to-one relationships, like that between friends, lovers, spouses, siblings, etc., will inevitably consist of dialogue of their observations about a third person or thing ("the kids," "the boss," "my mother," "my best friend Shirley," "the vacation plans," etc.). As I have come to observe people and the conversations they have, I can see where my psychologist friend is coming from. Rarely do we engage in a true one-on-one exchange. When we do, it's usually in the aftermath of a conflict.
Today's entry is one of the younger inhabitants observing a couple of conversations between her elders. It tells her something as it also tells all of the Seconds something. The reporter does not record the ensuing discussion. I'm sure it was lively and I am sure it became partisan. I know what I would think at this point. Hopefully you want to know more, because if you do, you're in luck. Stay tuned.
Entry into the Island Annals
U.S. Time: Saturday, July 28, 2012
Island Time: Dragon, Month 6, Day 10, Xingqi 6
Note from the Guardian of History, Prophecy, and Lore: A meeting of the Security Council was called this evening. Of the junior council, Wen and Nu were present. Later that evening a secret meeting of the Second Princesses was convened to take reports on all observations of and relating to my assertion that Dr. Wong is the Island’s awaited Prince.
Following is Wen’s report captured:
WEN: A meeting of the Security Council was called to review my mother’s report as treasurer, to approve a few major energy purchases, and to hear Dr. Wong’s second report on his research, as was requested of him. His field work so far has taken him to the domains of Fire, Wood, Metal, and Earth. There was a lot of discussion about the depth and nature of the topsoil in what he called the central breadbasket region. He seemed extremely puzzled why we even have as much topsoil as we do, that it was not normal for a tropical island to be like this. In fact, he said he would like to rename the Island “Anomalous Island” since so many things run counter to his presumptions about what one would expect here.
He said he had done extensive groundwater collection and analysis and was pleased to report that saline incursion was not as large an issue as his sponsor, the Earth Dragon Institute, had imagined. In fact, he said they will probably be unhappy with his report. He said he would have more to report on these overall findings in his final report. He had several things to say about chemical composition but I will leave that to Auntie Ting Ting’s minutes if any of you are curious.
Dr. Wong wore his coat and tie to the council meeting this time. I thought he looked quite handsome in his business attire, and with his hair combed quite neatly rather than his usual messy hair after taking off his field hat when coming into class sessions. I think he had just freshly shaved too.
For some reason, my mother seemed kind of cold and a little upset, like the way she gets with me when she has one of her headaches. She seemed to glare at Auntie Lee the entire time Dr. Wong was at the meeting—he had brought her along even though she had not been invited. I wonder if mother and Lee had an argument recently. Ling, have you seen or heard any conflict between your mother and mine? [Ling indicated that she had not.] Interesting. Here is an example of the sort of exchange they had:
“Lee. What is that?” mother said pointing to Lee’s thermos.
“Just some tea. After he talks a long time he gets hoarse.”
“There is a perfectly good and fresh pot here. Either of the girls can pour it for him.”
“That is your fancy party tea. I can smell it from here. Very nice, but it can be irritating. He just needs something that wets and soothes his throat. Everyday stuff. He told me he prefers my tea for that purpose.”
“Why are you even here? We’re not talking about any issues related to your domain.”
“He asked me to come in case I need to translate something into English from you all. You know his Chinese is terrible.”
“I would not use the word ‘terrible.’ Unpracticed perhaps. But, my English skills are excellent.”
“I didn’t say they weren’t. He is my responsibility. You didn’t ask me to come, but HE did.” She handed him the thermos cap filled with tea.
“You. Drink.” Lee delivered it like a gruff command.
“Thank you Lee,” said Dr. Wong. “What hell are you two talking about? Some goddamned point of Roberts Rules? The way you keep throwing the word “cha” around it almost sounds you’re talking about tea. . .”
“Clete, you just finish what you need to say as soon as possible so we can be off. We are just talking about small housekeeping matters.”
[switch to Mandarin]
[Lee to Feng] “I heard you’re approving a fuel purchase. That does involve me.”
“Yes, but you don’t need to be here for that,” said mother. “You never have been before. You just put in the requisition and we approve as a matter of course. Are you changing the requisition?”
“No changes, but I’m here anyway if you want to ask any questions while I’m here.”
[switch to English]
“Excuse me, can I continue?” asked Dr. Wong. “That’s all for my report on my research. I thought you might like to hear how the girls are doing in our tutoring sessions?”
“Thank you Dr. Wong,” said mother, “but we have a full agenda, madam chair?”
“That is right,” said Mu. “We will be happy to hear that report at our next meeting.”
“I would like to say,” said Feng, “that I am most pleased with Wen’s progress. I have been looking at her written work quite closely. Her essays are much more structured and coherent. Frankly, I am amazed at the difference with just one week’s instruction.”
“The girls are all bright. I’m just reminding them of what they know and encouraging them to bring what they already know out. I’m glad to hear you think my efforts are worthwhile.”
“They are MORE than worthwhile. I assure you. I appreciate it.”
WEN: Let me interject at this point that mother DOES seems quite pleased with his work with me. She is not a smiling person. But she always seems to find one when the Professor is present.
“In that case, we will go,” said Lee as she got to her feet and then offered her hand to Dr. Wong.
[switch to Mandarin]
“Why do you treat him like a child? I find it disgusting! I’m sure he can get up on his own.”
“I get criticized in the past for being disagreeable. Now I am getting criticized for being helpful? Please make up your mind.”
“Would you two STOP it!” said Qi. “You’re both giving me a headache.”
[switch to English]
“Thanks Lee. My knees do get stiff and sore sitting like that. Well ladies, it’s been a pleasure as always.”
[switch to Mandarin]
“See,” said Lee. “He worked hard on his feet all day. He’s tired. But he got dressed up for you. He’s learning to be a better guest, thanks to me.”
“Gotta get a move on,” said Dr. Wong, “I promised Lee here I’d help move some sorghum for the livestock feed before it gets dark. It’s on the way back.”
“What? You’re having him do your manual labor in his dress clothes? What kind of hypocrisy is this? All this false concern for his knees! What kind of a slave driver are you?” my mother practically yelled.
“I cannot stop him when he is intent on being helpful! And why do YOU make him sit on the floor? And how dare you talk to me about him on forced labor.”
“What’s going on?” asked Dr. Wong.
“Shut up and let’s go,” said Lee. “None of your business. Just mine!”
“Like you said, Professor,” Mu broke in, “a minor misunderstanding on procedure. You are dismissed and we look forward to your next report. Thank you.”
WEN: Lee did not stay for the discussion on fuel purchases. Nu and I did happen to overhear the following conversation between our mothers as we straightened the Meeting Hall following the meeting. Nu, please correct anything you think I heard wrong.
“What was that about?” asked Mu.
“Lee can be very exasperating,” said mother.
“I’M not exasperated. If she wants to come to a council meeting that’s fine. All are invited.”
“She’s become quite clingy to him don’t you think?”
“What if she has? They still get along like a cat and a dog if you haven’t noticed. But they have moved to a kind of equilibrium. Clashy, but still something of a truce. In fact, I think it’s rather cute that he has started to act like Lee’s henpecked husband. The two of them sort of remind me of my own parents. Especially toward the end.”
“If you want to know what I think? I think she’s attracted to him. I think her stances of aggressiveness are her attempts to try to push him away.”
“And what of it? Lee’s entitled to her feelings. He’s not going to be with us much longer. It seems healthy enough to me—her keeping her distance and all. You know what will happen. He will just turn into a nice memory that she will hold and talk about until she dies. I am kind of curious how her assessment of him will shift after time.”
“It just irks me the way she treats him.”
“You were very nice to him tonight. But I have heard you were not so nice to him when you were negotiating his teaching contract. Are we compensating him by the way? Somebody asked me.”
“I …, I … No, we did not specify compensation. I will prepare a roasted duck for him on completion of his duties.”
“That’s your favorite meal too, isn’t it?”
“What if it is?”
“Would it help you for me to say that I think you’re right? About Lee being fond of him but not willing to admit it to herself. But Lee is working it through just fine. Do you think he is developing feelings for her?”
“NO. Well, maybe no. He seems indifferent, but he seems to be getting uncomfortably familiar with her.”
“Uncomfortable for who? We DID assign her to him, so they ARE going to get familiar with one another. Are YOU jealous of their working relationship by any chance?”
“Why that’s preposterous. No. I could never be. We NEVER told her she had to make his breakfasts and dinners and make daily reports to her.”
“We didn’t tell her she couldn’t. Let me remind you it was YOUR idea to make Lee his liaison.”
“It was strategic. She has the nastiest, pushiest personality of all of us.”
“Second to you, of course.”
Mother smirked. “I will let that pass. She was supposed to function as a repulsion to native contact. I did NOT expect him to have a complementary pushy personality. THAT was an error.”
“We can always reassign. No Third Branches. I think that’s certain.”
“Oh, DEFINITELY not Thirds. Did you hear about Lum?”
“You’re getting off the track dear. But yes. Who didn’t? Lian cannot be objective with him now either. I thought maybe Na, but did you know she is wearing one of his shirts on an everyday basis? It’s dark crimson denim. She says she likes it because it is like the color of dried blood and . . . and . . . and it doesn’t show stains.”
“Almost everyone I can think of is a worse choice at this point. I don’t want to make a change and have it look like we made a mistake.”
“You mean, like YOU made a mistake.”
A huff of hot air from mother. “Do you think I’m personalizing this too much?”
“A bit. You’ve become somewhat unpracticed at being empathetic. You need to work on that. Seven-Seven is coming up and you’re going to hurt someone.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“I was going suggest that I be his replacement contact, but I know you have problems with that. Just making sure . . . you’re only concerned on Lee’s behalf then? Looking out for her best interests?”
“That sounds right. I think so. Actually, the ISLAND’S best interest. Maybe I should have a talk with Dr. Wong about Lee. Just so he knows who he is dealing with.”
“Warning him against her? MY you ARE jealous.”
“MU! It’s NOT like that at all!”
“I don’t recommend it. Leave it alone. You’re only going to stir things up for them and possibly you. But you are free to do what you think best. Nobody questions your judgment but even you can have a blind spot. Be careful if you do.”
“If it were anyone else, it would not make me so alert. But it is Lee we’re talking about. And when she finally chooses to do something, well . . . I mean she can be brash and impetuous and she is known to act without thinking things through.”
WEN: Auntie Mu nodded and then looked over at Nu and myself as we were doing our work. We both pretended not to be listening.
“Have you girls been listening to us?”
“No Auntie,” I lied.
“These jars have big ears,” she said grasping my earlobes, and then Nu’s after me. “Empty jars my dears. We need empty jars.”
WEN: We bowed to our mothers, but their intrigues seemed to be like girlish gossip compared our business, and I am complying with her order a bit late and emptying the jar, right here in front of you.
[Reporter's note: There were other reports not notable enough to mention. The Seconds took a secret ballot on my assertion. I was still the only yea, but there were now three abstentions.]
© Copyright 2012, Vincent G. Way, all rights reserved.