I was amazed by Mom's tone in this letter, the approval it seemed to carry.

Then I graduated from college. Both mom and dad wanted me to find a job near home quickly. So I moved back in with my parents. Second auntie had by now been living in my room for more than three years. I slept out in the living room. It was very inconvenient. I had to roll up all my blankets and pillows every morning and put them away. I was in fact trying to look for work away from home so I could move away from the cramped apartment. But I did not do well in terms of job-hunting and soon my mother began to drop hints that it looked like I would have to sleep in the living room for a long time.

But what bothered me most was that every time Beautiful Cloud's ex-husband stayed over night, I had to listen to their sex noises. My parents were never this indiscreet about their business in the bedroom. But when Beautiful Cloud and her ex-husband did their business, I believe the whole apartment building could hear them. These incidents always so filled me with mixed feelings of shame and desire that I couldn't fall asleep until I saw light coming through the windows.

One day, Big Male and ex-husband ended this situation.

 

It was after dinner. My father and I were sitting in the living room fighting over two channels. My mother was slaving away in the kitchen, as usual. Beautiful Cloud was working on the first page of her novel--the true story of her true self--the same page she'd been working on ever since she'd been dumped by ex-husband. Big Male, who had come to call, was taking a short nap in Beautiful Cloud's bedroom, resting up to go back to his police school.

The instant she heard the knocking, Beautiful Cloud jumped up and rushed to the door. It was ex-husband -- smelling like a bar -- and he was all ready to go at it with second auntie.

"Beautiful Cloud, you look so lovely," he said, slurring his words through a sleepy smile.

"Bridge, listen, Bridge, our son is here," Beautiful Cloud said. "You haven't seen him for a long time."

"Son? Ha, ha, ha! I have sons all over the island."

"But, it's Big Male. You haven't seen him for a long time."

"The son-of-a-bitch. The last I saw him, he wouldn't call me father. My other sons call me father. Oh, my Beautiful Cloud . . . " Ex-husband's voice trailed away as he let himself lean against her.

"Bridge, oh don't behave like a swine . . ." She began to cry. "I arranged for you, father and son, to meet ..." She sat on the couch, and soon, ex-husband fell on her.

 

My father and I decided it was best to retreat to the kitchen, leaving the field to second auntie and ex-husband.

"Bridge, I want you to sober up and meet our son," we heard Beautiful Cloud plead.

Amid this confusion, Big Male pushed into the living room.

 

In an instant, he had lifted half-conscious ex-husband off the couch by his shirt front. "Hey, you swine," he roared, "you don't deserve to be called 'father.' I no longer have a father, do you hear?"

From the kitchen, we could see ex-husband struggle to free himself. He was big, but Big Male was larger. And besides, Big Male had learned certain skills at police school -- skills against which ex-husband's struggles were no match. Soon he was almost sober.

"Let go, you son-of-a-bitch," he yelled.

"I am not a son of a bitch," Big Male said coldly. And then he clenched his fist, swung his arm, and gave ex-husband a hard whack on the jaw. "And you, you swine," -- another whack -- this time, on the nose) "you'd better leave my mother alone!" he said, administering a final blow to the jaw to settle the matter. "Leave her alone, or I'll burn your house."

 

Having said all he had to say, Big Male dumped his father on the floor and retreated once again to the bedroom.

It was all over in less than a minute. Before we even knew how to react, ex-husband had crawled to the door. He left without another word.

Big Male changed the whole situation for his mother. From that day, she broke with ex-husband, ceased writing her one page novel and started dressing neatly again (not elaborately, as she once had). Soon she walked out of our little apartment and moved in with grandparents so she could be near her second son. She even got herself a job as a cook in a pizza shop.

Everybody in my mother's big family is very proud of Big Male's heroic deed. Aside from my continuing unemployment, it is the only thing they talk about whenever they get together.

"Now Beautiful Cloud can finally hold her head straight when she goes out. She no longer has to feel the loss of face," I hear them say. And I know my mother agrees.

"Yes, " she reminds me now whenever we quarrel, "Beautiful Cloud was born to have an easy life. " And then, for emphasis, "She has a worthy son."

 
     


 

 "Beautiful Cloud" © 1993, 1995 by Shu-Huei Anne Chiang Henrickson
 
     
 

Original Graphic Images © 1995 by Jim Davis-Rosenthal and Canéla A. Jaramillo 
 

 

 

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