"Oh, it's just a bargirl. He'll go back to Beautiful Cloud, you'll see. You always think Beautiful Cloud is so beautiful; why would he want to leave such a beautiful wife?"

"What do you mean by that? And you might leave me because I am not beautiful?"

"I don't mean any such thing. I mean it's just a worthless bargirl."

"And you too might pick up some relations with some worthless bargirl?"

"I'm not going to talk to you. You are impossible!"

"Talk to me. And you are going to have an affair someday, aren't you? Aren't you?"

I think I fell asleep just about the time my mother got frantic. In order to stay from the situation, the next day I went back to Taichung where I went to school.


During the last two years of college, I got most of my news about Beautiful Cloud from mom's letters. Beautiful Cloud didn't dress up and wear make-up any more, my mother told me. And on the days I went home to visit my parents, I could see that it was true. Second auntie never looked neat; she was always sloppy. Her hair looked like a squirrel's nest. She didn't leave the house. She was legally divorced from her husband and didn't get a cent. Her two sons were sent to my grandparents because Beautiful Cloud did not have the ability, either financially or physically, to raise them. She could have moved in with my grandparents, too, but she didn't want to. It was too face-losing. Her divorce had caused quite a scandal--the first divorce in the family. With so many people visiting my grandparents, it would have been face-losing both for her and for grandparents.


I had been thinking that now that Beautiful Cloud had nothing to do, she would help my mother with the house work. But no. Used to having a maid and a rich husband to provide for her, second auntie remained precious and fragile -- even though she was no longer beautiful. Maybe that's why mother got so bitter about life.

My mother has been a house-keeper for the apartment building for quite a long time. Janitorial work makes her nervous about any single speck in the house. If I were to draw a picture of my mother, I would draw a kneeling gray-haired woman, a bucket of water, a mop and a piece of cloth right next to her on the floor. That is my mother -- washing, scrubbing all the time.

But after taking on the responsibility of her sister's care, she had come to realize that some people just do not have to work. They are born to have an easy life -- like Beautiful Cloud. This realization changed her.


If I were my mother, I would have thrown Beautiful Cloud out of the house a long time ago. It is a lot of work to keep a guest who behaves as if your home is a hotel, a place where she expects to be served. It was especially difficult for my mother because now that Beautiful Cloud's ex-husband had re-married, Beautiful Cloud had become his most loved mistress. He came to our house whenever he regretted his new marriage.

Soon my mother came to dread these visits. Sometimes both of them -- Beautiful Cloud and her ex-husband -- would get drunk and then, together, they would sit and moan over their good old times. Sometimes ex-husband's drunkenness prevented his leaving and he stayed overnight. Then, the two of them would make a mess of the house. At these times, my mother would be particularly upset for she hated to come home to a "messy-dog house" that smelled like a brewery.

In the meantime, second auntie's first son had finished high school and was sent to the police school. I never liked this cousin of mine. First of all, he looked too much like his father: bushy, mean-looking eye-brows, big nostrils, thick lips -- and fat. Secondly, he was never a good student. He and his brother were more into fishing frogs and playing with worms than reading. I, on the other hand, was always a good student, and this was, at least, something my mother could brag about. However, after my cousin was sent to the police school, I have to say he changed quite a lot. He had become thin and strangely good-looking. He had also become quiet with a permanent look of melancholy.

Mom wrote to me once that Beautiful Cloud's son, Big Male, came to visit his mother quite often, and that he told Beautiful Cloud many times that he wished she could stop being bothered by his father. Perhaps Big Male didn't know that maybe his mother liked being bothered.




Forward to Henrickson, continued

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