The Iraq War Was Appropriate

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Novel Excerpt 4

I realize there is a very important component of P. Wallach Hedge's story that I haven't included in the excerpts: his training. (After all, readers who have read the prior excerpts only are probably wondering just exactly where did Hedge get his skills?)

I've chosen an excerpt that, I believe, remedies that deficiency. Enjoy.



Wally looked morosely up at the grizzled face of Mai-Pei through reddened tear-stained eyes. "I can't do it!", he wailed helplessly, refusing to look at the board in front of him. The stubborn board, that would not break, streaked with the blood of the young Hedge boy's wounded right hand. Birds could be heard in the distance, mocking him with their warbles. It was already late afternoon; the glow of the Macau casinos was beginning to be visible just on the horizon.

Mai-Pei's eyes narrowed imperceptibly, as he awkwardly (and a bit reluctantly) addressed his student by the English version of the name he'd selected for him that fateful, foggy day two months ago when Tamika had presumptously, but astutely, brought the boy over on the boat and left him in the care of the elder legend warrior-priest, the last of his kind. "Oh, but you can, Clay-faced Orphan of Liberty. And you will. It is only a question of when, and how. It is foreseen, and written. Written on your face, in your bloodlines. I can see it."

"You can? How?", Wally sniffed.

"Because I have the mishubi."

"Mee-shoe-mee?"

"Mishubi. You will learn it too, one day." Mai-Pei idly picked up a birch twig and stripped it.

Wally was plagued with doubt. "How can you be so sure?"

"Because that is why you are here, Clay-faced Orphan of Liberty. You would not have been brought to me if it was not your fate to learn the mishubi."

And that is how it was, for the coming months and years. At the beginning of every summer, and one weekend a month during the school year, Wally would rise at 4:30 A.M. from the futon he shared with Tamika in Kowloon, make his way across the ferry, hop on the boat (eventually, hovercraft) to Macau, dine on noodles for breakfast on board, and then find Mai-Pei for his intense training in the mysterious ways of mishubi.

Or, more precisely, Mai-Pei would find him. As with their very first meeting, Wally's instructions were never more specific than the ones Tamika had relayed to him that first, arduous summer: "Go to the front of the old Portugese cathedral, stand next to the old cannon, look out upon the water, clear your mind of all thoughts besides silt in a riverbed, then imagine your arms are pelicans. Before the next bell sounds, Mai-Pei shall be there."

And so he was - every time.

But all that was unimaginably far off to 12-year-old Wally Hedge as he listened to Mai-Pei begin to recount the secret history of mishubi, his mind equal parts empty vessel thirsting for knowledge, and seething cauldron burning with a desire for revenge, revenge for what had been done to his parents not one year earlier.

As Mai-Pei demonstrated the mishubi state of mind, presently Wally burst out: "Will it help me kill my enemies?"

Mai-Pei snapped the birch twig in two, each part somehow bursting into flames as he did, at which point, with one smooth motion of both arms, he briskly flung the two flaming rods past Wally's head. They made a whizzing sound as they whipped past his eardrums and settled in the red dust behind him.

"The first thing you must understand about mishubi", Mai-Pei began slowly with deep breaths, "is that, while it gives great power, legend says it was created by The Dancing Yellow Trickster. In result it can be used for either good or evil, and the Trickster's Joke says that those who are with the mishubi will not always be able to tell one from the other."

Wally smiled and sat in the lotus position, dead center of the old abandoned cathedral that was their training ground. "Tell me more, Mai-Pei...."

Far off in the distance, the steady noise of the casino Pai Gow games abated for just a moment, and then continued.

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