By New Frank
Fu gui stood too still, waiting for her to pass; he forgot the female radar sense women possess when their husband’s behavior seems misplaced. Fu gui continues to stand in the kitchen, not moving. Barbara hesitates and blinks her eyes at his awkward posture. His wife, Barbara, spoke, “What are you up to, Mr. Fu gui?” Her eyes squinted as if she could see his mind. He shook his head, “Nothing. I am fine.” She temporarily abandoned her witch-hunt and left him standing in the kitchen. Through her breathing, she speaks low, “Men… strange creature.”
Fu gui motions his hands for his little daughter, Meili, to come closer. Meili gives her father, Fu gui, the picture. He stares at the image and closes his eyes to reminisce about what he was seeing; his concentration stolen. As he hears the footsteps of his wife, Barbara, approaching, he slides the photo into his back pants pocket. Meili speaks in a loud voice, “Is that a picture of mommy in your back pocket?”
Barbara overhears the earnestness in her tone. She jumps into the conversation, “What Picture?” He shrugs his shoulders and walks away. “Stop right there, both of you!” said Barbara. “Meili!” “Yes, mommy.” “You’re guilty by association; bring mommy that picture.” Barbara laughs, grins, and believes this is just another game.
She knows her husband is playful. Being intrigued, Barbara smiles and says, “What’s the name of this game?” Fu gui wasn’t wearing his unusually game smile expression; he reaches in his back pocket and hands her the picture. With a strong serious look, he stands straight and talks in a low voice, “This game is called telling the truth.” Barbara’s face scowls, her smile is wiped away; she takes the picture and looks at the image, then returns in kind, a disappointed look at Fu gui. Barbara holds the picture in one hand. “Meili, go to your room.” “Mommy!..why?” said Meili.
Barbara points her finger, “Now!… Go!…” Meili protested but scampers up the stairs to her room. Barbara looks at the image again and recognizes the hard truth over the excitement of this photo. A stunning image of a woman standing next to her husband and seven other men. On the back of the photo, it reads (“The Lucky 8” with Love.) She looks again and sees her husband in military uniform.
Welcome to New Frank Short Stories Mr. Fu gui, now back in Guangzhou China, finds himself in a conundrum. His wife, Barbara, and daughter, Meili, discovers a past life that he must explain to his family. Will they be able to handle the truth, or is this his final round?
Thirty minutes earlier…
Years later, Fu gui was back from New York for the first time. He had everything in life he wanted. Fu gui, being a simple man, was easy to please. Building his house on the land his grandfather loved. Fu gui stood on the front porch drinking a cup of black tea. He sees vast fields of green lands, beautiful flowers, birds and bees buzz and fly throughout.
His grandfather’s advice rang in his ears, “All this land need is love.” He gave the old-field love, and now it would be home.
The prizes money he won in New York went a long way in China, especially with the conversion rate from Dollar to Yuan. He missed boxing in the ring, but he loved his family more. A small hand touches his knee. Meili, his daughter, clinging to his leg as he stands on the porch. A loud noise in the kitchen, followed by a cluster of obscenities. Fu gui looks over and smiles. Barbara is trying to cook a Chinese breakfast. She did her best, but she is a terrible cook. “What’s on the menu, young lady?” Fu gui said, pretending he doesn’t know. “Baozi!” she said, fumbling with a bamboo steamer. “What do you think?” said Barbara holding up the Baozi. Fu gui drops his shoulders in response, then gives her a thumbs up. In China, Baozi foods are steam white buns with a choice of mixed meat, vegetables, or sweet bean paste fillings.
They finished breakfast; Barbara retired to the studio; her profession is a children’s book illustrator for a large publishing company back in USA of New York. Fu gui stayed behind and started hand washing the dishes. He retires to the backyard; midway he changed his mind and headed to the front porch. It was another blue day, when lightning strikes across the sky, Fu gui is startled and grips the armrest; he looks over at his grandfather’s old wooden stick beside his chair. He hears his grandfather’s words in his mind again. “Having a dream and following your dreams is waiting for lightning to strike on a clear blue day. People will call you crazy for looking up at the blue sky, but one day… lightning will come, you must keep your eyes open to see it.”
He takes another sip of his black tea; Meili walks into the sunlight, dancing across her face with an old picture in her hand. He reacts quickly; he tries to collect the photo from Meili, but she takes off running and laughing. Fu gui was not laughing; he followed and chased her. He spoke inside his mind, how… you found this picture, I had hidden it so well.” He spoke out, “Meili… stop! It is important; where did you get that picture?” She drops her head and speaks in a quiet voice, “The backyard.” “Where!” said Fu gui. She speaks again louder, “The backyard, it was laying there on your chair.” Fu gui rubs his forehead and blames himself emotionally for not putting it away last night. His loud words cut to a whisper. Barbara walks out of studio into the kitchen area where Fu gui is standing in an awkward pose.
Back to the present: A stunning image of a woman standing next to her husband and seven other men. On the back of the photo, it reads (“The Lucky 8” with Love.) She looks again and sees her husband in military uniform. Barbara’s voice raised used fighting words, “You were in the Army?” “No. Not Army, a special unit in China,” he stated in a soft calm voice. He walks out of the kitchen. “Listen, you were not supposed to see that picture,” Fu gui speaks faster. “I hid it well and today is the thirteenth, and I felt sad, but I had to see it again; then I left it outside, I mean in the backyard, and Meili found it.” Barbara gives him a crazy look. “What!… What are you talking about, the thirteenth, of what!” Barbara stands up, “Who did I Marry?” “You didn’t tell me about this part of your life.” Barbara keeps talking fast with emotions, and Fu gui interjects with aggression, “Uh.. sit down.” She folds her arms, “No!” Fu gui raises his voice again in a different tone she never heard before, “Sit down!…and stay quiet!” She does with caution. Meili hears the yelling, and come downstairs with tears in her eyes, and sits with her mother on the sofa.
Fu gui continues. “Just…wait here!” Fu gui demands. He walks out of the back door, comes back in with a hunting Knife in his right hand, and grips the handle tight. Barbara clutches Meili close to her chest; she speaks with a frightened voice, “Fu gui, you’re scaring me… scaring us.” She added, “Baby, tell me what’s wrong, talk to me.” Her loving words has no effect; he continues to walks toward them, knife in hand, and he speaks in a monotone voice, “We all have secrets,… sometimes when you lock the door and throw away the key… someone’s always…. seems to find it.”
Fu gui brushes past them on the sofa. Barbara closes her eyes; she believes her life is in danger. He returns to the kitchen area, pulls the dining table to the right, gets down on one of his knees, and slams the hunting knife into the floor. He twists and turns the knife clockwise, a small square door opens; he lifts out a metal box… Fu gui stood there holding the metal box and locks eyes with Barbara. She stands up and speaks, “Is this the end of us?”
Fu gui pauses, then did a fancy knife spin and slides it in his side pocket. “I’m not going to hurt you, but you need to sit down and shut up, can you do that?” “Yes… I’m a little turn-on by this different look, but yes, I’m all ears, tell me, what is going on?” Barbara inquired and waited anxiously for him to speak. Fu gui takes off his shirt and rubs his left shoulder hard, and a tattoo image of seven eights emerges on top of his skin. “Let me tell you a story.” He opens the metal box, a blue light twinkles from inside. Barbara’s eyes grow big of what she sees. She drops the picture in shock; it floats down onto the floor.”
Fu gui begins to tell the story while dancing music plays in the background. It is now February 13th 1980, and younger Fu gui stands in London Pairs in front of a place name Patty’s Pub. He takes off his hat and tucks it under his arm, and walks inside the pub.
Numerous unsuspecting young officers from all walks of life push through the front door, joining loose women and friends at community gatherings. Sunrises will come knocking soon at the heart of each soldier, the dancing will stop, and the team will venture to another mission. Soldiers with shore leave raids the local pubs to liberate their pinup emotions just in case tonight was their last celebration. The sound of the evening tunes of American soul singer plays the song (Running out of Lies) on the old Jukebox. In this small pub, there are too many soldiers and not enough beer in the pub. The men raise their glasses high and toasted with laughter and half-salutes—the overflow of the alcohol submarine into the cracks of the wooden floor.
The handwritten farewell letter protruded from Fu gui jacket pocket. The tall slim waitress, dancing with her hips, moves seductively on the dance floor. She approached Fu gui and locked eyes with a welcome smile. She recognized the importance of these letters. She dare not think any farther she did not want the realization of Fu gui not making it back after his mission. She waltzed and touched his side, pushing the farewell letter back into his pocket with a sleight of hand. Fu gui is never the wiser.
Patty, the waitress, always takes care of the soldiers in her pub. Fu gui held her hand, twisted her, lend her back, and slowly lifted her with his strong arms. Fu gui stood square, bowed his head. “Thank you for the dance,” said Fu gui and started walking away. Patty grabbed him by the shoulder, turned Fu gui back into her face again, and inserted a kiss on his cheek. “When your mission is over, you should come back for a drink,” she said. Fu gui nodded, “You can count on it… Patty.”
As night fell, sunrise came knocking early that morning, and the young soldiers sat in the back of the trucks, the blue sky extending over the open land. The road lined with endless Greenfields, and they saw the mountains in the distance. Eight trucks moved in a straight line. Fu gui sat in the last truck, closest to the rear gate; looking out from the side, they called it a window seat.
Fu gui was an Asian man From Guangzhou China, among seven officers from different cultures around the world, Fu gui was an officer also, and despite the different civil rights of the era, the men learned to respect each other and together as a team, they have survived 27 missions without a scratch. How is this possible, their peers would wonder?
Fu gui sang, and they clapped together in the back of the truck. Whether the angels showed them favor, or they had someone praying. The military gave them the unofficial name “The Lucky Eight.” This is their last mission, and all the eight soldiers could go home and be with their families. If today, the 28th mission would prove unsuccessful, Fu gui knew he would die among friends and without any regrets, except never asking Patty on a date. It is now Valentine’s Day on February,14th and the men don’t celebrate romantic love, but love that most people will never experience. They will lay down their lives for each other; one cause, one fight, one chance for all eight to come home.
War! The cry of battle and thunderous bangs, moving machines, ears numb. The sound of peace resonated, leaving some soldiers pausing in the middle of the trenches, looking dejected and wondering how am I still alive? “Keep Moving!” said Officer Fu gui, hitting a soldier on his back to snap him into reality. Hot metallic fragments sailed through the air, leaves fell from the trees above, and mud hung from the faces of a Lucky Eight so far unwounded on the battlefield. Others are not so fortunate, men falling all around. In the thick fog, you hear soldiers ask the physician to ease their agony.
Muddy footprints going over rugged terrain, one of the lucky eight steps on a land mine. The other seven had no choice but to move forward, and the enemy was approaching too fast. Fu gui stopped and made a circle. “Listen! I have to go back and make sure Anthony is alive,” Fu gui looked at them and added, “You are the lucky six now…, give this to Patty and keep this blue stone safe.” He hands one of the men named Mark his farewell letter and the blue stone from inside his coat. They all embrace Fu gui for his bravery, and Mark speaks, “It’s been an honor!” the other five salutes. “Meet you at Patty’s Pub,” said Fu gui. “You better be there, Fu gui! And bring Anthony too,” said Mark.
They face-off and run in opposite directions. Fu gui doubles back to Anthony’s position, where he was surrounded by enemy forces, laying on the outer edges of a fox hole. Fu gui’s heart pounds so fast that he could turn and run because his friend, Anthony, looked dead from a distance. One enemy soldier sees Anthony’s body and rears back to stick him with a knife attached to the end of his gun. Fu gui closes his eyes tightly There is nothing he could do, he dare not watch and buried his face in the tall grass and whispers, “Please God…no!”
The soldier is distracted, and a white Dove that lands on Anthony’s chest misplaces his thought. The soldier changes his mind and rolls Anthony’s body with his foot into the deep foxhole. Fu gui had to be sure; he was still alive, he waited till early morning, and Fu gui covered himself in mud and crawled on his belly under the enemy’s nose. He made it, jumped inside the foxhole and found Anthony laying there, feeling for his pulse rhythm on his neck, waited and nothing; put his ear to his mouth, and waited again, nothing; he was too late to save Anthony.
He put his head on his leg, tears streamed down, and his brother, who had been on 27 missions, was gone. Fu gui smiled and said, “One last song” Fu gui looked up to the sky, clapped his hands, and started singing a well-known song his grandfather taught him. The enemy heard Fu gui singing, and five men approach like tigers looking for a fresh kill. Guns pointed downward at Fu gui, he showed no fear, and Fu gui kept on singing with passion eyelids closed, tears flowing down and covering his face. Fu gui was finally going home to see this place they call Heaven; he was ready, and prepared for death.
The leader of the five men orders the killing. Fu gui kept singing… “Shoot!” he said. One of the men opened fire, but his gun jammed. The leader orders the other men to shoot Fu gui again and again, and they tried, nothing happens. The leader of the five men stepped out in front and said, “Shhhh…” Fu gui stopped singing, the man continues speaking, “You have protection from above, you are a lucky man; this is my favorite song…for this reason, you shall live.”
He turns to his four men and says, “Leave! These people are not our enemy, please continue singing.” His men walked away in bewilderment. Fu gui sang louder, a torrential downpour of rain began, Fu gui raises his hands to give thanks and praise to be alive, the mud dislodges from his face and hands, and Anthony coughs his eyes opened. Fu gui is mesmerized but smiles with tears of joy, but there was another problem the foxhole was filling up with rainwater.
Anthony was alive but too weak to climb out of the three-meter high pit on his strength! Fu gui rips off his shirt…and made a sling around his waist, pulling him inch by inch to the top. The stress of the weight made Fu gui muscles to expands on his arms, back and chest. The stress is too much, the shirt ripped, Anthony tumbles back into the muddy pit, face down, and he’s unconscious again. A snake slithers and falls into the pit, and is swimming around Anthony. Fu gui takes off his pants and jumps back into the muddy pit. The snake plunges underwater, Fu gui jumps, and he feels the snake beneath his legs.
The water is rising higher; the rain is coming down harder. He ties the pants leg around Anthony’s waist. He pulls with all his strength to save Anthony. He was exhausted, and his body wanted to give up. He remembers his grandfather’s wise words as a boy. “You will meet enemies stronger than you in your life… you will want to lay down because your flesh has been pounded. Courage doesn’t come to the one that quits. Only the one that decides to stand back up.”
Standing on the edge of the foxhole covered in mud, in his underwear he flexes his muscle, he yells holding Anthony halfway out of the pit, he refuses to let go. The message from his grandfather gave him strength, and Fu gui speaks at the top of his voice, “You hear me, I’m still here… you couldn’t kill me! You can’t shoot me; it’s not his time, you can’t have him, death! I got someone on my side, bigger, that have conquered you. You hear me… Death! Anthony will survive you; come on, Anthony, let’s go home… wake up!… Wake up!..” Anthony snaps his eyes open, his hands slams into the muddy sidewalls of the pit. Now, together they climb out of the pit.
They both lay on their back the rain has lessened. “I thought my luck has run out,” said Anthony, Fu gui smiles. “I got you, Muddy buddy,” replied Fu gui wiping the mud from his eyes, they both laugh. Anthony’s laughing slows; he pulls and slides his knife from his pants, Fu gui eyes squint, the laughing stops. “Your luck is talking to you?” Anthony nods yes. Abruptly the snake lunges from the pit with fangs out, aiming for Fu gui. Anthony throws his knife to Fu gui, he catches and slices the snake in half, greenish fluids from the snake body spatters on Anthony’s face.
Fu gui did a fancy knife spin and hands it back to Anthony. “Keep the knife,” Anthony said, wiping the snake residue from his face. “Let’s go home,” said Anthony. “That easy for you to say, I am in my underwear,” replied Fu gui. They put their arms on each other, to stabilize their tired bodies. “Hey, you got the red stone,” Anthony reaches in his pocket; he pulls out a glowing red stone. “Where is the blue one?” Anthony asked. “I gave it to the team; it’s safe,” Fu gui said. “How do we get back?” asked Anthony. “I asked the team to leave a jeep just two clicks up this road,” said Fu gui. They both disappear into the day.
Back at Patty’s Pub, from a distance, they see red and blue lights flashing, police vehicles and military vans parked outside. They stumble through the door; Military Personnel and yellow tape cover the inside of the pub, his men stand disoriented with bruises on their faces. The men are happy to see Anthony walking and alive, being courted off to seek additional medical attention.
Fu gui has a confused look in his eyes, and he demanded answers, “Where’s Patty?” Mark gives him a look… “She beat us up.” Fu gui balls Mark shirt in a fist, “Where is the blue stone?” Mark shook his head, “Sorry, man, she took the blue stone and beat up the men; she was picked up by helicopter an hour ago, Fu gui, I hate to ask, you didn’t know anything about this?” “He shakes his head. “ No.” said Fu gui… Mark continues… “Well, she is either dirty, or something has gone very wrong with the trust in our unit.”
A Police walks into the pub, speaking loudly, “I am detective Bleach of the Robbery Division with London Affairs.” He flashes a silver-plated badge. He added, “Where’s this Lucky 8?” Fu gui steps forward and speaks on his team behalf, “We’re the Lucky 8…but listen, Mr. Bleach, Patty didn’t do this… I know her…there must be a good reason.” Detective Bleach answers in a sarcastic tone, “Mr. Fu gui, I guess it’s case close… we can all go home early tonight. Except for your team… which, as of now, is officially a suspect in this investigation.”
He continues… “Now… what kind of stone are we looking for?” “Commander Wallace is dressed in uniform steps between them. “Don’t answer that, am their lawyer,” Wallace added, “Excuse me, Bleach man, as of now, all questions go through me.” Detective Bleach turns to Wallace and speaks, “Ok, Lawyer Man, you tell me about the stone.”
Wallace fires back quickly, “I can tell you this… it’s blue and unique… the rest is classified.” Bleach fires back. “I have good reason to put you all in handcuffs. Bleach and Wallace stands in a face-to-face position. “Try it!” said Wallace, and he steps even closer to Bleach and continues speaking. “Well… until you get some evidence, or you arrest them, you take that badge, out of my face…or shall we takes this to the next level…officer.” The Lucky 8 in support of Wallace eases behind him, in a hostile pose. Detective Bleach is outnumbered and backs away. “Yes… we are finished here…for now.” said Bleach, and he vacates the premises.
“Wallace speaks, “Listen…each of you, that was a bluff. I ‘m a different kind of lawyer, I used to be a bodyguard, but that is another story.” Wallace pauses takes a breath and continues speaking. “I cannot keep them off your back forever. I know this guy… he won’t give up; someone has to answer for this…” He added, “I don’t want to explain to the courts how a waitress beat up six trained men, took the blue stone from your possession and flies off into the sunset. He points at Fu gui and Anthony, you were not here to witness this fantastic story. On hindsight, it sounds fiction unless you six gave Patty the stone, she and walks out of here, and you bang up each other faces as a cover, I have been doing this for a while; and my instinct tells me that someone is lying in this group.”
They all look at each other. “Listen… don’t speak… come up with a better story by tomorrow; we meet up again at 16:00 in the evening. That’s it, gentlemen,” Wallace grabs his suitcase and walks toward the front door, he turns back around, “My recommendation is… find Patty, find the stone, or you may find yourselves in prison…tomorrow… 16:00 my office, be there!”
Fu gui speaks, “I don’t believe this is happening; she wouldn’t!” Fu gui storms outside and looks into the sky, and whisper the words, “Patty, why…where are you…” he turns around, walks back into the pub, and we fade to black…
“Wait…!” “Don’t fade to black,” asked Barbara, his wife… “What else happened?” She demanded. Fu gui answers, “Ok, let’s start dinner and then I will start part three.” Meili, his daughter, jumps into the conversation, “Daddy, can I say the line?” Fu gui drops his shoulder and surrenders a smile. “Yes, Meili, you can say the line. Meili opens her mouth and speaks in a child’s voice. “And we fade to Black…!”
Message from New Frank
As in the story, life will always have surprises; when you find out about someone’s history, try not to judge too harshly. Do more listening than speaking, and let them explain, remember no one is perfect.
Thank you for reading or listening to New Frank Short Stories. The Last Round 2 Fu gui and the Lucky 8. Look for the next series: Fu gui’s- The search for Patty and the Lost Blue Stone.
For comments or questions: firstname.lastname@example.org