WordWorks Fall 2019

Page 18

Blind Luck Wiley Ho

Blind fortune tellers are the best,” Mother said, with certainty in her eyes. “They have other ways to see your soul.” “He had a fifty-fifty chance, Ma.” “He saved your life, didn’t he?” “But, Ma, he got it wrong!” My mother folded her arms across her chest, “it’s unfilial to correct your elders.” This was her trump card. Any time she was losing an argument to one of us kids, she invoked Confucius’s dictum of filial piety—unquestioning respect for one’s elders—and stopped us dead in our tracks. It was a dirty trick, but I let it go. It was old news anyway. I’d known for a long time about the blind fortune teller in Judong, my birthplace in Taiwan. Though my family had emigrated to Canada in 1979, like homing pigeons, we kept flying back. Each time we made the long flight over the Pacific I wondered if this would be the summer I would track him down. My siblings thought I was weirdly obsessed, so I shrugged, “I’m looking for the blind guy who sees the future. Get it? It’s funny.” And then I laughed all by myself. My parents disapproved of my quest. Mother thought I should respect fate rather than question it, “Just be grateful you’re here now.” Father, a man of reason, was embarrassed by talk of destiny, “You can’t dissect nonsense.” I let them interpret my silence as filial piety. I didn’t know how to explain the clench in my heart anyway. The summer I was eighteen I decided to be systematic about my search for the blind soothsayer. I was going to look through the streets and alleys of Judong one by one to find him. On a steamy July morning, I set out from the old family home that my grandfather had built. With reinforced cement walls two feet thick, the five-storey house survived earthquake after earthquake. Its single concession to mortality—after the big shake of 1999—was a thin crack down one living-room wall. The grey monolith was left to my father. After my father it would go to my brother. Ah-gong’s will had been explicit: male heirs only. I appraised my birthplace with adult eyes. It hadn’t changed much since I’d moved away as a child, still too young to read. Everything looked the same, just smaller, the same dusty roads separating blocks of stocky buildings with signs on them I couldn’t understand, the same hazy hills in the distance. Though Judong’s just fifty kilometres south of Taipei, it’s without the capital’s shiny skyscrapers, fancy restaurants or international tourists—or even consistent sidewalks. I had to weave my way down the main road, vying for patches of pavement with other pedestrians, scooters and trucks parked haphazardly along Tung Nin (Peaceful East) Road.

16 fall 2019 bcwriters.ca

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