The Yis, Tan and Poo, moved to Canada a year ago. They landed in September as immigrants in the country coming like many other Chinese from Hong Kong. They were both in their late twenties. Tan was petite with long black hair falling over her shoulders framing the beautiful oval of her face. She had fine contoured lips and a small nose. Her eyes were two almonds that turned almost into lines when she laughed. Poo was of average height with a beginning of a pot-belly. He had the distinctive facial features of his race but as he used to say he was one of the few Chinese that had a deep receding hair line. Tan reassured Poo, each time he questioned his mirroring image, that it gave him a more intellectual look.
After spending a few weeks in Toronto, Poo found a job as a computer technician in Franktown and decided to move there. They were both big movie fans and seeing Franktown made them think about Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life", a movie that was at the core of the their image of small North American towns. They rented a tiny house and immediately took a subscription to the cable service, adding the optional 24-hours-a-day Movie Channel. Watching American movies gave them the opportunity to work on their command of the English language. A dictionary was always present during the movie viewing sessions. For their continuous improvement of their verbal skills and accent, the Yis decided to speak English at home too.
Being open and friendly, they were easily accepted by the warm-hearted inhabitants of Franktown. Both parties had something to receive and offer in this encounter of two different cultures. Their combined effort made the Yis integration in the new community very smooth.
After two months in Franktown, Tan found a job at the local bank branch. It wasn't a senior position but she got one step closer to the reality of the movie, as they used to joke.
Tan enjoyed talking to the shop clerks. It was a way of knowing what was happening in the town, as she told Poo each time, when he objected about the length of her shopping. The most chatty was Mary, the owner of the local utility shop. She was a nice old lady with a wrinkled face and a smile in her blue eyes. Each time Tan went into her shop she was offering help and advice in any matter that could be shared between new friends. It was through her that the Yis bought their first American car, a large '84 Buick. The previous owner, one of Mary's many ex-boy-friends from Kindergarten, as she used to say, had taken good care of the car but decided to move to Florida and buy a new one there. It was a great car and the Yis marveled at the size of it and the multitude of gadgetry that equipped it.
It was their second winter in Canada and memories of their home in Hong Kong began to fade away. They had new friends here and life was good. Both were appreciated in their jobs and Poo received a promotion. The new promotion came with an increase in salary that opened the door to almost infinite possibilities. They decided after long discussions to make their parents happy and have a baby. "Without children there is no family", Tan's mother use to tell her nine children. It was very important to find a house also, not to rent but to own. Tan's position at the bank made it easier to get a mortgage at a special discounted rate.
They looked in the local newspapers, but found only a few adverts and none was for the house of their dreams.
"Of course," said Poo, "this town has no business life going. There is nobody who comes here and there are only a few that leave."
"How are we going to buy a house here, then?" said Tan.
"I think, it might be a good idea to talk to Mary." said Poo. "If there is somebody who knows how to go about finding a house then she is definitely the one."
The next day Tan went to the utility shop and spoke to Mary about her problem.
"There is nothing to worry about, my dear," Mary said. " I am sure that we'll find something to please you and your nice husband."
Next morning Mary came to the bank and told Tan to drop by the shop after the bank closes. After Mary left, Tan called Poo immediately.
"What's the hurry?" he asked her, detecting the excitement in her voice.
"Mary was here and she wants me to go by the shop after work. I think she found something," Tan said. "I am so very pleased. I knew that she could help us."
Tan could barely wait for the closing hour and she was all dressed up and ready to go when the clock struck six. Two minutes later she was in the utility shop waiting for Mary to finish with her customers.
"Dear, I've found something that you'd like. It's the perfect house for you. It has three levels, with three bedrooms, a large kitchen and a back porch that gives onto a large backyard. It will be so lovely in the spring," Mary said. "It also has two bathrooms, a powder room and a workshop in the basement."
"Who is the seller? Somebody I know, maybe?" asked Tan.
"No, you don't know him. He's, I'm afraid, my best customer, Bob Reed. I went to high school with his wife, Janet. A beautiful blonde that turned the head of every boy in this town. Bob was a handsome man himself. During the last year of high school they fell in love and they got married at the end of the term."
"Did they have any children?"
"No dear. They weren't blessed with children, they had only each other to care for."
"Why do you say that he is your best customer?"
"Bob was the best carpenter this town ever had. He's been retired for 5 years now, but all that he does is work around the house. He loves his work so much."
"Why do they want to leave?"
"It's old age really, dear. Janet, Bob's wife, has arthritis and she can't stand cold winters anymore. They've talked for a few years now about moving to Florida but never did. Now her condition has worsened and she went south a month ago leaving him behind to take care of the house."
"When could we see the house, then?"
"Well, it's not so easy. Bob has turned into a grumpy man lately. I think it'll be better that you drive by the house, you know, to see how it looks from the outside. Then if you like what you see, I'll talk to him."
Tan took the address and went straight home to tell Poo. They both agreed that this is a funny way to sell a house. A seller who's afraid of buyers.
They took the car and drove to the address that Mary gave them. The house was a perfect copy of what they had in their minds. White, not too big nor too small, two stories high. It was almost too good to be true. They couldn't see much that evening but they were eager to come back for more.
Next morning, before going to work, Tan went to the utility shop to tell Mary to set up a meeting with Bob but she forgot that the shop opened later than the bank. So at ten o'clock she called Mary and told her how much they liked the house and that they would like to meet with Bob. They agreed to meet after work to discuss the best way to handle the matter.
At six o'clock sharp Tan was at the door of the utility shop. There were no more clients around so she went straight to the point.
"When are we going to visit the house?" asked Tan.
"Well, dear, I don't know yet. Bob didn't come by the shop today but he'll probably come in tomorrow. You know, even now knowing that he'll sell the house he's still working at it," Mary said. "He told me that he couldn't sell knowing that it is less than perfect."
"Is it not possible to call him and set up an appointment?" asked Tan.
"Dear, trust me I know how to deal with the people of this town. The best thing is if I'll give you a call when he comes in tomorrow and I'll introduce you to him."
Tan left a little disappointed. In Hong Kong business was done in a more efficient manner, the Yis both agreed. Here, there was nothing that they could do, just trust Mary.
In the afternoon, Mary called Tan and asked her if she could come to the shop.
"Sure," said Tan. She put down the phone and asked a colleague to replace her. Five minutes later she was in the shop. It was empty except for Mary smiling behind the counter.
"Where is he?" asked Tan.
"Shh, dear, he's in the back looking at some panels. He won't be long don't worry," Mary said.
A few moments later an old man appeared. He was tallish by Tan's standards, with white hair and a thick white mustache. Mary introduced them and after a short conversation Tan found Bob pleasant and genuine. She wondered why Mary told her that he was a grumpy old man. Bob invited Mary and Tan together with her husband for brunch at the house on Sunday at eleven. He left with a smile, after telling Tan that he was pleased to make her acquaintance.
Poo laughed when he heard the entire story.
"People here must be crazy! They wouldn't last a day in Hong Kong. Just imagine it, a buyer who has to be formally introduced to the seller. And the seller invites him over for lunch. This is wild, man!! Ha, Ha."
"It is not so crazy if you think how much work he must have put into that house. Maybe he wants to be sure that the new owners are going to take care of it like he would," Tan said. "It sounds perfectly reasonable to me," she added.
On Sunday morning, at eleven sharp the Yis were in front of Bob's house with a bottle of wine, a present for the host.
It was Mary who opened the door.
"Hello dear, just come right in. Bob is in the kitchen taking care of the food preparation. He's not only a great carpenter but also a wonderful cook."
"I am pleased to hear that. I could eat a horse," Poo said.
He received an elbow in the side from Tan. "Don't pay any attention to him, Mary. He's just showing off! He is trying to use his newly acquired American expressions."
"I know him, dear, Poo is always joking," said Mary. " Let me show you the house now."
Mary took them for a grand tour. They started upstairs with the bedrooms. The Yis liked the master bedroom, spacious with its own bathroom. Mary pointed out to them the orientation of the house which made the bedroom sunny throughout most of the day. A large ceiling fan was installed above the king-sized bed.
"Bob told me that you can keep all the furniture, if you want. They'll buy everything new, down in Florida," Mary said.
The bathroom tub had a Jacuzzi installed that brought smiles to both Yis faces. Another way of discovering new bodily pleasures, they thought. The other rooms upstairs were smaller but very tidy. One was a guest bedroom with a queen-size bed and the other one was a study with a bookshelf, filled with books.
The entire upper floor and the stairs leading to it were carpeted with a smooth, brown carpet.
"Janet is a very light sleeper, you know," Mary told them. "Look, the floor here doesn't even squeak. Bob took care of that."
"It is like that all over the house. The door hinges are perfectly oiled. It is an almost perfect house if such a thing exists," Mary said.
They went down the thick carpeted stairs and followed Mary into the basement. Down there was Bob's workshop. They saw boards, paint cans and tools. Bob was still working on something.
"He is really a perfectionist", Mary said, "Now, he's putting on the final touches."
"He started working on this additional powder room a couple of months ago. You know, at his age he doesn't like going upstairs every time," said Mary and smiled meaningfully. "Are you a handyman yourself, dear?" asked Mary looking at Poo.
The Yis had large smiles on their faces sharing a private thought.
"He is a handyman all right," thought Tan distorting in a pleasurable way the English expression. "Not at all," she said.
"That's not true," objected Poo. "I do stuff around the house and I am good at it. You'll see, I will keep this room as it is and it will be my workroom."
"I'd like to see that, honey," said Tan giggling.
They went upstairs and into the living room. The lazy boy was there as expected and a large three seats sofa, both in black smooth leather. Strategically placed was a large TV.
"Janet used to watch all the television shows, from the early soaps to the late talk shows. You know Letterman and Leno. She sat on the couch and watched while Bob was building and mending around the house. The lazy boy was bought by Janet when Bob retired. But have a look at it! It's almost new still, Bob never had the time to relax in it," said Mary.
They moved to the dinning room, containing a large oval table with six wooden chairs.
"Bob made the table and the chairs. It is possible to double its size and it will accommodate twelve people around it," said Mary.
A double door led to the patio and the back yard, both covered with snow.
"It's difficult to see it now, but when spring comes it's really beautiful here in the back, the lawn all green and trees blooming," said Mary. "Let's go and check on Bob now and you'll see the kitchen too," she continued.
They went back to the hallway and into a large spacious kitchen. It had bright windows and a central squared counter, large enough for a professional establishment. The table was set for them and Bob was adding the final touches.
"Bob, may I introduce Mr. Yi, Tan's husband", said Mary.
"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mister Bob", said Poo in an official manner.
"Pleasure is all mine, Mister Yi and you should call me Bob like everybody else.", said Bob.
"OK, Bob. And you should call me Poo then."
"Sorry, I can't shake hands but I am about to finish this brunch. You'll be pleased to hear that everything that we're about to eat was prepared by me this morning. Even the bread," said Bob.
"Wow, how did you do it?" asked Poo. "I never heard of anybody baking bread here."
"Well, just hold your horses. It wasn't like I woke up before sunrise to pound the dough or anything like that. No, sir. Janet, you know, my wife, she's in Florida now, got this machine for me. That's how I did it," said Bob.
"It is really impressive nevertheless," said Tan.
"Now, let's sit down, dear, and start enjoying Bob's oeuvre d'art!", said Mary.
The food was perfect. Mary was absolutely right when she said that Bob was an excellent cook. He was also a perfect host with a great sense of humor. He entertained them with stories, really funny stories. All of them were about he and his wife. He told them how they met, how he proposed at the end of a catastrophic picnic when they were caught by a torrential rain in the middle of nowhere. How she cried when she accepted or maybe it was just the rain pouring down on her cheeks. He was a great story teller and Tan wondered if Poo would care like that about her after forty years of marriage.
"You want to know something funny? She went to Florida a couple of months ago, she was scared of the cold, arthritis you know, and she calls me every evening around eight. To check on me, she says. She doesn't want me to be out of the house at that hour. She's afraid that something might happen to me, you know. ", said Bob with a wonder in his eyes. "Well, I guess I'll go to Florida myself in a couple of weeks," he continued.
That was the closest they came to the main reason of their visit, the house. Nothing else was said and they left after three agreeable hours with lots of questions in their minds.
The Yis got home just in time to answer their phone. It was Mary who told them that Bob was willing to sell them the house. He liked them both and he wanted to do it as soon as possible. The price was not negotiable she added and they should think well about it. Tan should come to the shop tomorrow afternoon at six, with the answer.
The price was reasonable, the Yis thought, it was just that they were surprised once more about this peculiar style of closing a transaction.
"You know how old people are," said Tan. "I think Bob can't bear to think of selling the house as if it were just another object."
"You must be right," said Poo. "He really is a nice old man."
The decision was taken without much thinking and both slept easily that night. Their dream house was close to become reality.
The next day, Tan talked to the bank manager. The loan was granted and she was congratulated on her decision. The manager knew Bob also.
Tan told Mary about their decision and that she had the loan from the bank. Mary was close to tears.
"Oh dear, I am so happy for you both," said Mary. "I imagine it was very hard to leave your family and move to another country. Now you'll have your own house and maybe soon you'll have children, a family of your own in this town. Oh dear."
"She doesn't know how right she is," thought Tan.
The next couple of weeks were a hectic time for the Yis. They met their landlord, told him about their decision to buy the house and they reached a common agreement on the breach of contract. They had only two more months to go.
They met again with Bob, who greeted them like old acquaintances. They signed the paperwork but their discussion moved again away from the object of sale.
Bob moved out of the house on a Saturday morning. He had packed only two suitcases that he dropped in the trunk of his car. The farewells were like between members of a family. Mary and the Yis saw tears in Bob's eyes when he had a last look at the house. He climbed into the car.
"Don't forget to say hello to Janet for me, dear," shouted Mary.
"I won't," said Bob putting his hand out of the window, driving away.
"Oh, he's such a nice man," said Mary, her voice trembling with emotion.
The Yis moved in the same day. A perfect day to start, according to Chinese beliefs. It took them a couple of weeks to get used to the house. The most difficult to adapt was Tan's waking up ritual. She felt lost for a few seconds each morning, not being able to connect the reality to the surrealist fabric of her dreams. After two weeks a passage was built and she felt at home.
The excitement of being in their first house in the New World brought to the surface new passions in the Yis. Lust possessed them as powerfully as their first unfulfilled encounters in the cinema theaters in Hong Kong. They made love in each room, passionately. They started with the living room, on the sofa and on the fat lazy boy, next was the kitchen on the large central board, like Jack and Jessica as Poo liked to say. They made love in both upstairs bedrooms, the library room and in the Jacuzzi. But the place that turned Tan on, the most, was the workshop in the basement. It was probably the manly quality of that room, the tools, wood and splinters that aroused her passions. Making love on the rough wooden surface of the workbench was her best sexual experience yet. Poo felt the same way, his body sensing the energy unbalance created by Tan's reaction to the room. Their bodies' equilibrium was established only with much energy being dissipated in their fusion.
The sexual games brought them much pleasure and as spring came, Tan announced to Poo that she was pregnant.
For the event they decided to change the library room into the baby's room. Poo proved to be less than the handyman he boasted to be, so they hired outside help to do the job. At the same time, Poo wanted to change the utility room in the basement into an office where he'd have a computer, printer and other things that were the mark of his trade. Work was done expertly and quickly and by April Poo had his office and the baby his room.
Poo installed the computer components spending more time in the basement than Tan liked. He even used the small powder room downstairs for his biological needs.
"Did you use the small bathroom downstairs?" asked Poo one day.
"Because there is a funny smell in there."
"It's probably the plumbing. Do you want to call a plumber?" asked Tan.
"I don't know, maybe it is just me. I'll buy one of these air fresheners to see how it works. Maybe it is because it was not used in a while," said Poo.
Poo hung a freshener, bought a spray that he used each time when he went to the toilet. The smell was subdued for a while but then it came back mixed with the freshener's odor making it even more disgusting for Poo.
"I'll call a plumber tomorrow. That bathroom smells worse now. I can even smell it in our bathroom here. It must be the pipes," Poo said.
"OK honey," said Tan sleepy, not really caring for Poo's basement bathroom foul odor.
The plumber came the next day. He went all over the house in his heavy boots and flushed all the toilets with rhythmic precision. He gave his verdict shaking his head.
"You have here a case of stuffed pipes, as I like to call it. It's nothing serious, I'll administer some antibiotics and it'll go away."
He poured a pack of blue powder in each toilet and took Poo's offer for a coffee.
"We have to wait for an hour or so, to let the chemical do its work," he informed Poo.
An hour later the toilets were flushed.
"You hear that sucking sound?" asked the toilet expert.
"That's one clear pipe, all right."
The plumber left, collecting his fee, but the bad odor remained.
"Maybe it will go in a few days. It must have impregnated the walls or something." Poo tried to reassure himself.
He sprayed, left the bathroom door open and joined Tan in front of the TV.
The following day the odor came out of the bathroom and hung in his office. Poo was upset. He didn't know much about plumbing himself and the expert said there was nothing wrong with the pipes. What else could be done? He decided that it might be better not to use the toilet entirely. He sealed off the door with tape and used the first floor's bathroom. He was young and he needed the exercise anyway.
A few weeks passed and Tan's belly started to curve. She didn't like the stairs so much anymore. Poo on the other hand was feeling in top shape. No more breath catching before relieving himself.
One day, Poo bought a CD ROM player for his computer, another useless gadget as Tan categorized it, that came with a bunch of CDs. For five days he spent his evenings and part of the night installing it, configuring it and when it finally worked he called Tan to share their first multimedia experience. She was less impressed than he was. She liked the Encyclopedia but found that it ignored too much of the Asian culture and history to be complete. Tan labeled the other CDs to be just games for children. The last one that she was willing to try was the "Classics of Literature CD". To her disappointment it had none of the great Chinese authors. Poo knew better than to try hard to convince Tan about this new technological miracle. Her curiosity would kick in sooner or later.
Tan went to bed while Poo played some more with his new toy. He looked up Shakespeare, Tolstoi and Cekhov. He discovered Poe next and liked the name, they could almost be cousins. Poe and Poo Yi. There were many entries for Poe, numerous short stories that could be accessed, printed or read on the screen of the computer. He chose the Black Cat. His eyes were getting tired but as he was caught in this story's dark web, he strained his eyes and carried on reading. Ten minutes had passed when he stood up abruptly and went to the box containing Bob's tools.
He chose a large hammer and a screwdriver. He went to the powder room door, took off the sealing tape, opened the door and turned on the light.
Tan woke up suddenly. Loud banging disrupted her sleep.
"Somebody is forcing his way in," she thought.
"Poo," she called. "Where are you?"
The banging continued. She called again and then decided to investigate. The noise was coming from the basement, maybe Poo was rearranging his office. She turned on the lights and slowly descended the stairs. She reached the door to the basement and called Poo's name again. The banging continued with the same rhythmic cadence. She went down into the basement and almost gagged because of the powerful odor. She understood why Poo was so eager to fix the toilet problem, but he could have waited until morning.
She went to look into the bathroom where Poo was demolishing the walls. She put out a cry and fainted. Poo stopped and went to her.
Silence suddenly took over the house, making any movement improbable at that late hour of the night. Just the cursor on the computer's screen blinked, pointing out the solution of the bad odor mystery.
This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith, and with
entire deliberation, to the task of concealing the body. I knew that I
could not remove it from the house, either by day or by night, without
the risk of being observed by the neighbors. Many projects entered
my mind. At one period I thought of cutting the corpse into minute
fragments, and destroying them by fire. At another, I resolved to
dig a grave for it in the floor of the cellar. Again, I deliberated
about casting it in the well in the yard --about packing it in a
box, as if merchandize, with the usual arrangements, and so getting
a porter to take it from the house. Finally I hit upon what I
considered a far better expedient than either of these. I determined
to wall it up in the cellar --as the monks of the middle ages are
recorded to have walled up their victims.
For comments, advice, whatever, you can reach me by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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