Jacinthe and Agnes are reading quietly in their room when Jake appears at the doorway and says, “Weed. My room. Midnight.”
Midnight. Jacinthe shows.
Dwayne: “Where’s Agnes?”
“Like there’s a chance in hell of that.”
Jake, rolling a fatty: “Now that we’re all here, we’ll move to the first order of business. What is the next comic? Jacinthe?”
“Well, I favour The Story of the Earth, volume 1, ‘Attack of the Killer Asteroids’.”
Dwayne: “Oh. I would read that. You know, I never knew this, but I got it from your geology class. There was some time like, I don’t know, billions of years ago, when Jupiter and Saturn got into this,” he makes two different circular motions with his index fingers, “rhythm, where one was orbiting the sun exactly twice as fast as the other, so every time around their gravity was lined up and, you see what I’m saying, reinforcing instead of cancelling out, and suddenly, wow, all sorts of minor planets from the asteroid belt went yow everywhere and it’s like look out! Craters on the moon! And look out prehistoric life! And that’s where we came from.”
Jacinthe: “That is good weed. Pass that over.”
Jake: “Courtesy Gerry.”
Jacinthe: “Fuckin’ pimp. What, if we get stoned we’ll put together another hit comic?”
“That’s the plan. Any ideas so far?”
“What about BB & PL?”
Big Bad and Precious Little was the comic panel they did in the Moncton High School paper. Each cartoon featured the tiny Precious Little posing a problem and the tremendous Big Bad offering an inappropriate solution. They used to do the characters at drunks, back in The Bend. They start in now.
Jacinthe: “Oh, student tuitions are rising again!”
Jake: “I’ll sit on them with my ass.”
Jacinthe: "Ninjas are everywhere!"
Jake: "Break out the nukes!"
Jacinthe: “World population is growing and growing!”
Jake: “I’ll kick them in the nuts.”
They laugh and laugh.
Jacinthe: “Oh fuck, I miss that.”
Jake: “Good times.”
Dwayne: “I know what you should do. You should do a story about tai chi.”
Jake: “That’s true. The field of tai chi action comics has barely been scratched. I wonder why?”
Dwayne: “No, dude, it rules. Shayne and Shawn are tough but they’re great teachers. We’re doing Taekwondo, Shaolin White Crane and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Next week we get swords.”
Jacinthe: “Hm. Something has been going on. There’s a professor who’s been attacked by an assassin twice this year.”
Dwayne: “We’ll catch that slippery eel too.”
Jake: “Eh? Where’s this? UNB?”
Jacinthe: “Jake! Here! Get out of the house!”
Jake: “All right, all right. I’ll download some martial arts pictures and start working.”
Dwayne: “No need of that, man. I’ll model for you.” He gets up on the bed, strips off his shirt and strikes a classic kickboxing pose.
Jake (rubbing his face): “Oh, God.”
Night. Clouds scud across the full moon. Emily M. and crew are climbing the iron ladder to the roof of Convocation Hall. Each one has a flagpole attached to her back by a belt around the waist and another between the armpits and the bozoom. Each flagpole bears a white bedsheet, each bedsheet the logo of the F5. They’re going to set them up on the four corners of the roof with the fifth in the centre of the colonnade. Halfway up Emily M. turns back to Lou’Eaze and says, “Do you hear music?”
They get up on top and then it’s clear: someone is playing a Chinese fiddle. The bittersweet tune drifts across the roof. They walk over, flags rustling softly. Da Xi Shuai is seated on a crate, face to the moon, playing a haunting love song. The tune ends and Da Xi Shuai turns to the group.
“’The attainable world will shun you, so love the unattainable moon.’”
Emily M.: “Hell, bitch, F5 love you.”
Nellz Bellz: “Weren’t for you we would’ve Christmas graduated out of this one horse town.”
Ire-Ene: “Got that right.”
Lou’Eaze: “You’re our mo’fu’ role model.”
Henrietta: “We want you to win, hobo.”
They wrap their arms around the orphan.
Emily M.: “Come back to our crib. We’ll show you some appreciation.”
F5 plant the flags, take Xi by the sleeves and head for home. Emily M. pauses at the head of the ladder, looks you square in the eye, and goes:
Okay, I'm proposing an annual derby between Greenock Morton and Queen of the South. The prize: Morton Castle. It's near Dumfries, but it's named Morton. Given that Greenock Morton travel to Dumfries today for a league match against Queen of the South FC, now would be the perfect time to begin this tradition. Winner of today's game gets the castle for a year.
The last time Morton visited Palmerston Park the Doonhamers trounced them 4 - 1. That game, and a Friday night mugging by Partick Thistle, are the reasons why Morton's goal difference is in negative numbers.
How do the First Division clubs stack up according to length of current residency? 1 year: Hamilton, Livingston, Ayr. 2 years: Falkirk. 3 years: Raith Rovers. 4 years: Ross County. 5 years: Morton. 6 years: Partick. 7 years: Dundee. 10 years: Queen of the South. Hamilton, Falkirk and Dundee were relegated from the Premier League. The other seven came up from the Second Division. For staying in the First Division, Queen of the South are best, but their tenure could end this spring if they don't get some points together.
Last weekend while Morton and Ross County were watching Victoria Park float away, the other eight First Division clubs all played to a draw, allowing Hamilton and Livingston slip ahead of Morton thanks to the Ton's minus 5 goal difference mentioned above. Note to copy editors: leave out the hyphen when you mention a goal difference. Plus-5 makes no sense.
You can read an appreciation of Queen of the South's Palmerston Park at Pie and Mushy Peas.
This weekend they're playing the semifinals of the Scottish League Cup, aka Scottish Communities League Cup, the one financed by drug money. Both matches are at Hampden Park: Ayr versus Kilmarnock today, and Falkirk versus Celtic tomorrow. (Celtic play a lot of their games on Sunday, have you noticed?) Kilmarnock and Celtic are the overwhelming favourites, so an Ayr v Falkirk final would be of surpassing awesomeness. Celtic have won the League Cup 14 times; the other three clubs combine for a total of zero wins. Who eliminated Rangers? Falkirk, in the third round. The last time a club from outside the top level reached the final was ten years ago (Ayr). The last time a non-top-level club won the cup was 1995 (Raith). The last time two non-top-level clubs met in the final was ... never. [Kilmarnock 1, Ayr 0, after extra time.] [Celtic 3, Falkirk 1.]
Here's a Glasgow Herald piece on Falkirk's Farid El Agagui.
The Greenock Telegraph has erected a pay wall, so I'll be linking there much less often in future.
Last weekend was round four of the Scottish Junior Cup. Auchinleck Talbot advanced. Largs Thistle's match was rained out and will be played today. [And it will, despite the cold weather. Hamilton v Raith, however, is postponed.]
[Ugh. Queen of the South win the castle, 2 - 1. Morton goal by Campbell. Largs and Arniston played to a 1 - 1 tie and will meet again February 4th.]
“You’ve done it now,” says Professor Rhodenizer. “You’ve made me buy a gun.”
“Where’d you get one of those?” asks Korogi.
“I’m beginning to form an opinion about online commerce.”
“I’m fairly certain it’s illegal to purchase handguns through the mail,” says Wheeler.
“It’s not a handgun so much.”
Korogi: “The civilized thing about the martial arts is that if you don’t want to fight you can run away. You can’t run away from a machine gun.”
“Well, the firing pin is missing. I’m bidding on one of those now.”
“Take my advice and lose. By the way, I’ve got that jade I borrowed.”
“Keep it! I don’t want it!”
“I feel bad. How about if I trade you. I’ve got a first edition Mountain and the Valley, somewhat dog-eared.”
Wheeler: “Listen, about this attacker. I’ve spoken to Dumont in psychology. I think you should go up there and have a talk.”
“We think you’re in an abusive relationship.”
“You wouldn’t be the first one who got in too deep with a student.”
“Can you look me in the eye and tell me the two of you haven’t gotten horizontal?”
“What? No! I mean, Yes! I mean, No we haven’t! Well, in fact we have. But not like that! Ew!"
“Well, what’s your story then?”
Korogi sits back, lets out a deep breath, and looks from one to the other.
“Okay. This is what I think is going on.”
1649. Marsh Mountain Monastery. Monks in saffron and purple robes are seated around the periphery of the square meditation hall. Some chant, some employ an assortment of traditional instruments. At the centre of the hall the white-bearded Master kneels before a low bronze footstool. On the stool rests a jade tablet. The Master is listening. At his right hand are a square of paper and the paraphernalia of calligraphy.
A shot sounds distantly, followed by a flurry of musket-fire, then the deep boom of a cannon. The Master opens his eyes, takes up the brush, and writes boldly.
The cannonball bursts through the rafters, showering the room with debris. A group of young initiates rush into the hall.
“Qing army attacking! Three banners!”
Musketballs fragment the wooden shutters and traverse the hall. Monks fall on every side. In the centre of the crossfire the Master rises, deflects a musketball with the edge of a hand, another with a flick of the brush. He traps a third in the cup of his hands, spins and throws it skyward through the cannonball hole in the roof. He stops a fourth ball with a glare, just as it is about to perforate a young initiate. As he intensifies his gaze the ball begins to glow, then drip, then become a lead puddle on the floor. The child stands shaking, holding onto a small wooden cage.
The Master takes the young monk by the arm and says, “This is no longer a safe place. Marsh Mountain is finished, except in here” – touching the forehead. “Take this, and escape through the marshes.” He puts the jade in the child’s bag.
Soldiers crash through the broken shutters and an all-out battle ensues. Feet trample the message on the square of paper, which reads, “You are about to be attacked.”
That night, under a full moon, the young monk emerges from the cattails, takes a longing look back toward the monastery burning on the hill, then wades off through the marsh.
Rhodenizer: “So, who are the Qing?”
“The Manchus. They were just establishing their dynasty in those days."
“And what’s in the cage?”
“It has to do with the properties of the jade. The statements recorded in the stone are elicited using specific sounds. Did you read the book?”
“Well, look, I was preparing a paper at the time.”
“Okay, I understand. Legend holds that the earliest masters recorded to the sound of crickets chirping. The monks of Marsh Mountain trained their youngest members to breed and look after crickets as a way of allowing them to be in contact with the oldest teachings of the stone.”
“You have a cricket tattoo.”
“I’ll get to that later.”
“Okay. I’ll shut up for now.”
“Okay. So, the monastery gets burned and the surviving monks scatter across China, and various lineages begin.”
“Master/student. Some masters had only one student in a lifetime, some had several, and some founded schools.”
“Schools of what?”
“Martial arts and music mainly, both of which had been practiced at Marsh Mountain.”
“But only one master had the jade.”
“Right. And those ones only took one student in a lifetime. The student became the next master and, presumably, received the jade.”
“You’re not sure.”
“We don’t actually know the whereabouts of the jade after the burning of the monastery, but legend has it that it worked out this way.”
“How much of this is your own research?”
“A lot of it is Vati.”
“Your undergraduate adviser.”
Rhodenizer: “A parallel! Compare and contrast.”
“Oh. Well, he was a comparative literature professor when I was here. Swiss. Polyglot. Did dozens of translations, from one weird language to another, just for the hell of it. I was fascinated by him. I was almost the only Asian around so I held a certain fascination too.”
“Fuck. Why does everybody go straight to sex?”
“All right, all right.”
“After I graduated he did a lot of work on Chinese classics, and in the end did the definitive book on the Marsh Mountain sayings tradition.”
“So how did the, what’d’you’call’em, Jade Bearers do?”
“Well, in a peaceful world there should have been about two masters a century. But there was a lot going on, especially after about 1850. You’ve got the Opium Wars, when the British imposed their right to deal drugs in China; the Taiping Rebellion, when a lot of poor peasants tried to set up a paradise on earth, and failed; the Boxer Rebellion, when a bunch of the martial artists tried to take out the machine gun armed foreigners.”
Rhodenizer: “Ouch. That was meant for me.”
“The Sino-Japanese War, the fall of the Manchu dynasty, the Warlords Era, the Second Sino-Japanese War, the war between the Republic and the People’s Republic, the Cultural Revolution.”
“Long story short, the lineage got broken.”
“Probably. If I were writing the novel, the master would get killed, the jade stolen, and the student left to pick up the pieces.”
Professor Dumont shows up at the table.
Wheeler: “Okay. But why do you have a cricket tattoo?”
“I worked my way across the Pacific on a container ship. Sailors get tattoos.”
Dumont: “Why didn’t you just fly?”
“I wanted to piss off my parents.”
“Why did you want to piss off your parents?”
“We didn’t agree on who I should be.”
“Who did they want you to be?”
“Nothing awful. Just a Japanese teacher.”
“Oh, those terrible people.”
“Well, you don’t understand them.”
“To understand them you have to understand their parents.”
“Okay, go on.”
“Okay, well, my parents were both born in Manchuria in the 1930s. The Japanese empire had been staking out that part of China since the beginning of the century as a kind of new frontier for settlement. There was a perceived surplus of agricultural population in Japan, and so the call went out for settlers. My mother’s father and mother both went there as farmers, met and got married. My father’s mother was a nurse who went out with the army. She married my grandfather who had been born in Manchuria. Japan was at war with China from 1931 on, and everyone was expected to take part, so there was a lot of coming and going, guns in the house, bowing and scraping to army officers, and shit like that. When 1945 came my two grandfathers were away in Borneo or somewhere, the army withdrew, and the women and children had to make a run for it. This is the thing that made my parents who they are. They were eight and nine at the time.”
Dumont: “They hate war.”
“They hate war, they hate the world, they hate everything outside their house.”
“And you love the world.”
Surprised, Korogi bursts into tears.
Dumont: “Okay, everybody, time out.”
They all sit back.
Wheeler motions for another round.
The section starting "So, who are the Qing?" is way too expository, and kind of out of place, and really needs to be replaced by something more along the lines of an 800-page Michener novel.