The Bones of Miracles


Ancient Chinese secret... - Editor

by Nik Korpon

With the barrel of a gun trained on him, Mr. Chan blinked once and stifled a yawn. The man in the Reagan mask cursed and jabbed the muzzle into his cheek, pulled it back and gave him another fair view of the gun that threatened to paint the bamboo wallpaper of his store a vibrant shade of grey matter. Mr. Chan wasn’t nervous, though, and it gave his eye the look of a target, concentric circles of iris and undilated pupil. Cartoon noises seeped from the apartment above them. He wondered if his daughter was still watching Looney Tunes. He swallowed a laugh, an image of himself with a finger stuck in the barrel of the gun and Reagan with wisps of smoke curling like errant hairs—his own private Daffy Duck cartoon—lodged in his head. In the back room that served as both a storage space and the Chan family kitchen sat four large simmering pots.

The summer breeze blew through the holes in the burlap curtains hanging in the windows. Reagan startled, checked behind him, pushed the muzzle of his gun further into Mr. Chan’s wrinkled cheek. Hung from the ceiling by braided thread, thirty-odd sets of wind chimes knocked against each other, a hollow soulful noise like a wooden xylophone. The tone echoed off the cracked tile floor the color of dried bone and a tsunami of funereal sound waves filled the room.

Although the rest of the neighborhood was round-eyed, it was his wind chimes that gave Mr. Chan his reputation. The carving was so exquisite that a man from the Visionary Art Museum approached him once, offering a place in the self-taught artist exhibition. He later declined, citing the store’s long hours and the lack of anyone else to run the business. But it was more their tone than the artistry, the way they turned a person to a lump of gooseflesh, froze their blood into pellets, that made the chimes renowned.

Lured by the hope of establishing a comfortable life, the Chans settled in Baltimore. The city wasn’t big enough to support its own Chinatown, though, and after a brief stint as a cook, he managed to piece together a life for him and his wife by hocking stalks of lucky bamboo and chopsticks emblazoned with the Buddha’s image. Endless months crept past, filled with white rice dinners and powdered grape drink more lilac than purple. He re-dressed the pots of bamboo, promised virility and wealth and prosperity. The customers, though, seeing a shop filled with the magic bamboo yet run by an anemic man and a barren woman wearing a dress patched with newspaper, chose to stick with the more reliable cigarettes and Boh Boy scratch-off tickets. Three times during a single spring, Mr. Chan gave his wife their bowl of rice and went hungry after a robber had made off with the cash drawer.

 

‘Open the register,’ Reagan said. He cocked the gun again to show that he wasn’t going to take any crap and checked his pocket-watch. Mr. Chan counted the bills individually, squared off each pile. The wind chimes sounded their tone and Reagan cringed, tried to cover his ears, muttering to shut those fucking things up. A brief sizzle in the back room when a pot boiled over. Eyebrows furrowed, Mr. Chan glanced over his shoulder to see why the simmering noise was louder and bit back a smile. Wedged between the lid and the pot was a swollen thumb.

‘I said hurry up!’ A dull crash and Reagan spun around, swinging his gun wildly as if he was aiming at particles of dust.





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