Ah-Po, Chapter One

Ah-Po woke to the sound of his neighbor’s rooster crowing, the only alarm clock he ever used. He rolled off the frameless mattress, stretched, and stepped into his blue plastic house slippers. He walked out onto to the balcony of his third floor bedroom and selected a half-full can of warm Taiwan beer from among the beverage cans crowding the plastic table that sat just outside the sliding door. Aiming carefully, he launched it at the crowing rooster’s cage. It hit with a crash, and a spray of amber liquid soaked the wood frame of the cage. The rooster stopped his crowing for a few minutes.

Ah-Po lit a Mild Seven and took a long drag, surveying the empty lot between his family’s building and the small, rundown house owned by the grizzled old farmer, Old Liu. As Ah-Po was stubbing out his cigarette, Old Liu emerged from the low door of his house, shuffled down the path to his outhouse, and saw Ah-Po on the balcony. Dropping his blue cotton pajama bottoms, Old Liu turned his skinny flanks toward Ah-Po and bent over, flashing his browneye at Ah-Po, and slapped his buttocks for good measure. Then the old man straightened, turned, and waved his stubby brown pecker at Ah-Po, smiling with a mouthful of ruined brown teeth. Ah-Po shouted “Go and take your shit, you old pervert, and shut that fucking rooster up before I poison him!”

Ah-Po and Old Liu played poker once a week on Friday nights with two of their friends, Ah-Hsiang and Eagle. Old Liu was twenty years older than Ah-Po, but Ah-Po felt a close bond with him. Old Liu was wily, always cheating at cards, often with great success. Old Liu usually won five or ten NT thousand dollars each Friday night, which he used to finance one profitable small-business venture after another. Lately, he’d bought a betel nut stand on a busy street corner, installing one of his young nieces in the booth. The girl was short and skinny with a small ass, but had been blessed with large breasts for such a small girl. Uniformed in her white lingerie and pink, woven coverlet, she attracted a great deal of business for Old Liu. He paid her thirty thousand a month on top of the few hundred or so a day she skimmed from him, and pocketed another thirty thousand a month himself in profits.

Ah-Po didn’t have much interest in the girl—she was the niece of a friend, for one thing. When he wanted sex, he preferred to pick up a girl at a pub, or run down to Lin Sen North Road on Saturday and buy a girl for forty minutes.

The phone, sitting on the floor next to Ah-Po’s mattress, rang urgently and he walked over and picked it up. It was Young Black, calling to cajole him into taking someone’s place at the all-night mahjhong game the dark-skinned man ran out of his living room. About six or seven in the morning, one of the players would get too sleepy, too drunk or too broke, and would beg off and go home. Most of the players wanted to go until 10 or noon, and Ah-Po was a frequent substitute player. He found the drunk, exhausted players easy to take money from, and for that reason liked getting a call from Young Black.

“Ah-Po, fuck-your-mother. What the fuck are you doing?”

“Just about to drop something that looks a lot like your face into the toilet.”

“Ah fuck. You make me laugh. Get your ugly face over here and take Donkey’s place. He’s had it.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll be there in a half hour. Any beer left?”

“No, pick some up.”

“Yeah.” Ah-Po hung up, lit another cigarette, and went into the bathroom to drop a Young Black or two into the toilet.

Ah-Po, Chapter One

Steven Quinn

Joined August 2008

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A short story set in the 1990s in Taiwan. The characters in the story are uneducated but streetwise, and the language they use reflects the environment in which they exist.

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