Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Monologue Mania Day # 728 The Bean Cutter's Story parts 1-3 (revised) in honor of Chinese New Year by Janet S. Tiger Feb. 9, 2016

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Monologue Mania Day # 728 The Bean Cutter's Story parts 1-3 (revised) in honor of Chinese New Year by Janet S. Tiger Feb. 9, 2016

    Happy New Year!  This was first posted as 3 monologues on Days# 386, 387, 388

                         The Bean Cutter's Story

                                                    parts 1-3 (revised)
                                             in honor of Chinese New Year  
                                   ©Janet S. Tiger all rights reserved 2016

            (An older Chinese man enters.  He is smiling, nodding to the crowd)

Oh, thank you, thank you, this is so nice!  Like to see all my friends so happy.  When they tell me I am getting this award, they say I need to make speech.  I don't know about making speeches, even after so many years in this country, my English is still like suit jacket that does not fit right.

So they tell me I can tell story why I am so happy all the time.  That would be nice, I like to tell that story.  It is the story of my happy.

Good time to take drink of wine, so if story is too long, nobody will mind.....

This is story about me when I was a boy. 

My father had restaurants in China before the war.  He loved the business very much.  He always say to me, restaurant business is hard, need to have 

Zǒng shì hǎo de

I think it translates  to....always good.  Food must be always good.  Same.  Not better one day, good the next.  Always good.  So when people come, they can depend on the food.

Kung pao always same hot, crunchy noodle same crunch in mouth.

If one time different..... people not come back.  I have many restaurants here in this country.  Same thing.

People love to eat out, he would say, but they do not want different, they want same.

So from when I was little, I work in restaurant.  Sweeping first job.  I hate sweeping, dust get in face.  Father tell me that we need to be clean, people do not want bugs in food.  See one bug, same as a million.  So I sweep.

No child labor law.  Too young for school.  I was four, maybe five, and I got a promotion.....to be assistant to bean cutter, Lee, nickname Zhuang, because he have big bump on head.  Zhuang mean bump, so people laugh at him.  Family left him after he fell from tree, never right.  My father hired him to do things at the restaurant, never let me laugh at him.

The first job in a restaurant which is not sweeping or cleaning, the first food job with a knife.....that is the bean cutter.  My father tell me that every single piece of food is important in every restaurant.  And the bean is most.  Why the bean?  I ask.

He say, beans are very cheap, but good beans add bulk to food, good flavor, take spices well.  More beans, less meat needed. More money in pocket.

Money very important to my father.

He take me out back to the alley where Zhuang was cutting, tell me to watch Lee cut the bean tips off.  No one likes the tip, especially if it is black.  And my father always bought the beans with the black tips, cheaper.  But still taste good without the tip.  But you have to take off the tip.  Some people break off tip.  Not my father.  Too much waste.

I learn to use knife.  And the tips go into a bowl that was my mother's before she die.  Now it is chipped, but my father is very superstitious.  He save everything from my mother, who died when I was a little boy.

So I sit with Lee, and he cuts off the tips so no more rotten end, just green.  He cuts so the tips fall into my mother's bowl.  It is puzzling to me.  Why not let the tips fall and have the dogs eat them?

Lee laughs and says, 'wait, you see'

And so I watch, and after he finish almost all the beans I see, over on the other side of the alley, a woman and her daughter.  They are both very skinny, watching Lee cut the beans.  When he finishes they run over and take the tips and put them in a basket which is old.  But they are happy to get our throwaway beans.

I watch.  The girl is not much older than me, but she is little.  They look sad.  The next day, I get to cut some beans.  I make a decision.  I cut the tips, but leave some green .  Lee does not seem to notice.  So I cut some more, with more green.  

Now it is a game.  I cut the bean, and leave more green.

The beans are finished, and the mother and daughter come and take the tips from the bowl.  Suddenly, they grab the last of the bean remnants and race off.

I feel a darkness behind me, and my father is yelling, ' what are you doing, stupid boy! you are throwing away my money!'  And my father picks up one of the leftover bean tips, inspects the length of the green ....and he hits me.  Hard.  Very hard.

But I do not care.  I am happy, because I have helped someone.  And I know what I am going to do with my life.

I can see that moment as if it was yesterday, and I am still happy.....

            (He takes a drink of wine.)

Now when you are thinking, 'how can this man be happy when his father hits him?'  I was not happy about that!  I hated my father.  But I knew I could not do anything to anger him again....for awhile.  He was very strict after that, every day he come, check the beans.  So I am careful, cut beans so there is no green.  I am sad to see  lady and her daughter take away only the black tips.  But I wait, I learn patience from this.  Very good gift to learn!

And I watch, and see there are other places where the food drops, the rice falls, and when I sweep, I put rice in a pile and save it for them, along with scraps from the floor, and sometimes off  cutting table.  And I wait, because when there is holiday, like New Year, very busy, father cannot pay attention to every bean that I cut, and I start to cut more green for my friends.  I do not talk to them.  They are beggars, and it is not good to talk.  But we communicate with our eyes, and my cut beans.

The New Year has special meaning for Chinese people.  Just before New Year,  nice pictures of Kitchen God and wife are given farewell dinner.   Sweet rice, cake, candied fruit.  His lips sealed with honey, molasses, or sugar candy, in  hope that he will say only sweet things when he visit  "Jade Emperor"  to tell if family was good in year past.  Then the Kitchen God and wife  pictures removed and burned, along with spirit-money and other things to use on  journey.

I make decision.  I figure out how to get food that is burned......before it is burned.   I find substitute, because I know my friends need food more than Kitchen God and wife pictures.  Paper does not eat, already very thin.

When I cut beans, I give them sweets, wish them sweet new year.  I think my father busy, but .....he is there, and he is angry!  He comes out with a piece of wood.....shouting at me!

           (He waves the stick, yelling)

Stupid boy!  You make bad luck for family!  And what is this......

           (He picks up and inspects something closely)

Did you cut these beans?

I was so afraid I just nod head.

          (He nods, shaking in his shoes)

My father lift stick to hit me.....

          (He raises his hand to strike)

And then.......

          (He stops, looks)

Lady come and stand in front of me.  Father cannot hit her, no matter how mad.  (Imitates woman)  Do not hit him, he only a boy!  You are a bully!  Stop!

          (He puts his hands down)

My father look at her like now he want to kill her, but she is not scared of him.  She yell right back....You have good son, help us with food when we are starving!  I will not let you hurt him.

         (He takes the stick )

She take stick and.....         

          (He breaks it over his knee)

She do this......

My father is stunned.  He stand there with mouth open, then he get madder, turns to me..

You steal from me - you disrespect gods!

 And you lady......

           (He turns)

You stealing from me, too!

(As woman)  I am not stealing, your son give us food.  We may be....beggars, but we are not thieves.  And your son make good luck for you with kitchen god, it is blessing to help poor!

And then my father say, if you not thief, you work for food, like everyone else.  Come inside, lots to do.....have to clean for New Year!

         (He turns to watch his father exit)

Father give them both jobs, (laughs)  first job sweeping.   That night, I say to father that I do not understand.  Please explain.  He say to me, there are two kinds of men......many kinds of two kinds of men.  One kind, one man has chance to be success, it take work and risk and he does the work, take risk and is success.  Other man does not work or risk, is not success, complain for rest of life.  Which man you want to be?

I said -'success'.  He say - 'good.'

Two kind of men.  One man is good, help other people.  Other man turns back, never help.  Which man do you want to be?

The man who help.  But father, why do you turn back?  He was very surprised.  'I not turn back!  I help people all the time!  Look at Lee, who give Lee job?  Everyone else laugh at him.  Do I need to have him work here, pay him?  No, could get other man, stronger, smarter.  But I see that this man is hurt, need help, so I help.  This woman, with her child, she need help, I give her job, too.  And daughter.  What can they do?  They are so skinny.  But maybe, they have talent at something.  Who knows.?  It will look good when Kitchen God talks with Jade Emperor.'

Now I am very confused, what is right way?  Is my father telling me good advice?

Then he explain....tell me.... to help other people, first you have to help yourself.  No money for you, no money to help poor.   Simple.  Same as with food. Always good.  Always same.   Not hard.            

         (He lifts his drink)

Now time for drink two, then finish story.......

                    (He takes a drink, waves at crowd)

Good story is like good meal.  Smells good from start, lots different flavors, pretty waitress to smile at, many courses, wine and time to enjoy, not in rush.

So my father give  Ban Zheng a job in the kitchen, and her daughter Wu was the new sweeper.  It turn out that the mother was amazing cook.  Because they had been poor for so many years, since even before father die, she could turn any food into tasty dish.  The bean tips, all black, she add soy and a little spice , taste like like fancy food.

My father was impressed, and it was not easy to impress him.  She become head cook right away, restaurant do very well.  She add amazing beggars chicken, cooked in mud and leaves, it taste better than duck sometimes.  Cheaper, too, but can charge the same because it taste so good.  Father very happy......father love her, marry her, she become my mother number two.  She is  good mother, since cannot remember real mother, she become mother  number one.

          (He takes out a handkerchief, wipes eyes) 

So now I have sister, not as good as brother, but better than nothing.  Wu very nice to everyone, everyone like her.  War comes, hard to find food, Wu and I take truck and even though government want all food for war, Wu have many friends everywhere who love her, sell her food.

Mother take all food, no matter how old, or dried out.....make it taste good, like magician with food.

War years very hard.  And we can see time coming after war will be even harder.  Wu not skinny anymore, she pretty girl, and I start to look at her.....not like sister.  I see she feel the same way and I ask her to marry me.  She say no, I say why not, we not really brother, sister.  She say she want to go to America, have restaurant there.  Wu nice, but sometimes very bossy, will not change mind.  So if I want to go to America, she marry me.  So..... love make me come to America.

And after we come, we try to get mother, father to come.  Not easy, people who own restaurants now enemy of Mao Tse Dung personally.

So we wait, we work hard, open first restaurant.  Then we need much money to get parents out of China.  What to do?  Decision is horrible.  If we close restaurant, parents maybe come, maybe not, even  if they cannot come, we have to start over.  But if we keep restaurant, maybe parents never come....(hard to say)....maybe die.  Another decision, but not hard to make......

No choice really.....we have to sell restaurant.

Man come to buy, he look at me, say, 'was your father Chen T'eh, with famous restaurant that serve delicious  Beggar Chicken?'  I say, 'yes' and he say, 'I remember your father, you look like him.  I used to eat there every time I come to your city!  Delicious!'

I say, 'my mother make that, and my wife know how, would you like to eat some now?'  And he very excited, Wu make him beggar chicken and he very, very happy.  Say first time in America he eat good food.  'Why sell restaurant?'  he ask.  

I tell him what is happening to father, he look at me and say he.....not gonna buy restaurant.

          (Remembers, wipes forehead) 

Not good, not good at all.  He only person really interested, only person with money to buy!  Wu is about to cry, so am I, but I ask, why?  He say...... he is going to loan me money - to help father.  I can pay it back by helping him..... open second restaurant.  We be partners.  Now I cry.  Wu cry, man cry.  I ask why he do this.  Say when he little boy......he had his father tell him.....there are two kinds of men......

          (Takes deep breath, gets a hold of himself)

And so, we become partner, and friend, and I find out he part of Chinese Society that help people when they come to America.  And I join.  Take risk to come here, take risk to open restaurant.  But all for good.  Always good.  Same good.  And so I am....same happy.  So, what is dessert?

Everyone happy at sweet dessert, everyone happy long story finish!  

         (He lifts award, waves it)

I thank everyone for nice award!

           (He starts to walks off, stops, looks back)

But my real reward........ is the same happy......

         (He smiles, exits. Not the end of happy!)
This is the Year of the Monkey - for more info https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year
Note: A few words about 'free' -  all these monologues are protected under copyright law and are free to read, free to perform and video as long as no money is charged. Once you charge admission or a donation, or include my work in an anthology, you need to contact me for royalty info.

Janet S. Tiger    858-736-6315
Member Dramatists Guild since 1983
Swedenborg Hall 2006-8

1 comment:

Jennifer Silva Redmond said...

Fabulous story. You're a genius!