The following is an excerpt from my daily journal. The names have been changed to protect the egos of those involved.
Timmy’s last text message,
Howard wants to kill me,”
were the only words I could think of when I saw Howard enter the bar last night. For a balding Canadian in his mid-to-late forties you wouldn’t take Howard to be a violent man. However as I’m slowly learning, being a foreigner aboard changes people and Howard’s been in China for 11 years.
I was sitting across from Timmy who at the moment was completely oblivious to Howard’s presence. He was consumed with his drinks, jokes and smokes. Timmy didn’t want to fight with any blokes. I leaned over to Bob, a mild-mannered Minnesotan, and asked him if he’d accompany me on a peacekeeping mission. Bob shot me a puzzled look. I motioned to the bar where Howard was camped. Knowing the bizarre history between Timmy and Howard, Bob shrugged and said “Sure.”
Five minutes later I hear the familiar yelling of my favorite Irishman — Timmy — juxtaposed with the comical “Eh,” of Canadian Howard. Timmy was upset.
Howard took my phone!”
Bob and I looked-up at the two, then back to check-in. I imagined this is how Batman feels when he sees the “bat” signal in the sky. A knowing glance from Bob confirmed my feeling: We’re gentlemen. We have a duty to protect and keep the peace. The other people shifted uncomfortably in their awkward silence as the yelling rose.
The Chinese bartender came out from behind the bar. I approached him. “Please, give us a moment.” Sensing Bob and I were there for good, the bartender left us to our work.
It remains unclear how Howard got Timmy’s phone. Probably some Canadian slight of hand trick Howard learned in magician school…where every Canadian learns. The phone was in Howard’s hands which he was maniacally disassembling. Back-cover off, battery out, SIM-card taken. I managed to get a word in edgewise and Timmy retreated to one corner of the bar to strategize.
With Timmy removed from the equation, I asked for the phone. Howard handed it to me before tossing the battery to the floor. He looked surprised when I told him that wasn’t kind. He apologized and retrieved the battery.
With phone in hand I walked slowly to Timmy. No sudden moves. Hands in plain sight. Calm voice. Timmy was still fuming over the injustice of having his phone taken from him. Yet upon the mobile’s safe return the Irishman took the phone from my hands and said,
If he wants the phone he can have it.”
Timmy marched back to Howard to continue the pissing match. He put the phone into Howard’s hands and a few obscenities into his ears and returned to me at the front of the bar. Seconds later Howard — not to be out done by this gesture — rose from his barstool. With phone in hand he raised his fist and rocketed the device to the floor. The phone smashed into pieces.
Cue the record-scratch.
I knew at that moment that Timmy was right. Howard wanted to kill him and it was probably only a matter of time…
China Day 103 mjv
MICHAEL VENSKE is an expert mistake-maker whose faith and enthusiasm cause him to leap without looking. One such jump landed him in China where he’s currently teaching kindness, compassion, and the fine art of physical comedy.
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