Friday, 9 January 2015


They rode up on the elevator to the 5th floor, hands entwined.

At the door to 5 D they took a deep breath in unison, then Pearl pressed the doorbell. There was a scrambling on the other side of the door, and an eager shout: “It's Mama Pearl and Papa Simon.” then the door was flung open by a wide grin, with sparkling owl eyes perched on top, and ears like handles sticking out on either side...Isaiah.

“Isaiah,” Simon pulled him forward and hugged him tight, to which treatment Isaiah objected with an outaraged yelp; struggling strenuously to rid himself of the unmanly embrace. Then a pink canon-ball exploded out of no-where, and Thali's arms were around his waist, then Pearl's too; and somehow the four of them were a messy bouquet of limbs, some eager, some gesticulating wildly for freedom.

“Alright family!” Simon cried, “How about we take Mrs Markovish out for lunch?” and he smiled over Isaiah's scruffy head at the Lady in question. “Would you like to go out, Madam?”

Mrs Markovish smiled “That would be just lovely! I haven't been out in ages!”

“Excellent, Madam! Where would you like to have lunch?”

“MacDonald's!” cried Thali, jumping up and down with excitement.

Mrs Markovitsh shuddered. “Goodness, no! Thali my dear, come help me put my coat on. Since Papa Simon has left it up to me to decide, we are going to the Jade Dragon. Chinese food for you today!”

The entrance to the Jade Dragon was suitably festooned with winged saurians of the appropriate shade, and inside painted Chinese ladies with long silk sleeves paraded parasols across red lacquer walls.

They were welcomed by a slim girl in turquoise silk, with slanted eyes, and a quick saucy grin that did not seem to go with the imperturbable oriental cast of her features.

“Welcome to the Jade Dragon!” the girl caught sight of Mrs Markovish and screamed “Granny!” She unceremoniously shoved Simon aside and hurled herself at the frail Mrs Markovish in a rugby-style tackle.

Mrs Markovitsh was swept up into a wild jig, while the girl screamed: “Venerable Father, Revered Uncle, come quick! It is Granny come to visit!”

From some back room two forms issued. One, a tall lugubrious looking Indian man with a long geometrically-cut black beard; and the other a small rotund Chinese-featured man with a jolly dimpled smile.

“GRANNY!” They both cried, and flinging dignity to the winds, rushed to join the scrum.

Pearl, Simon, Isaiah, and Thali stood goggle eyed as Mrs Markovish was kissed, hugged, lifted up, shook around and tossed from one set of eager arms to another. After a while they calmed down, and with many exclamations and declarations of affection they carried Mrs Markovish to the center table and sat her down on an opulent throne-like chair carved with odd trees and serpentine dragons.

They gestured a perfunctory invitation to sit-down to the family, and crowded around Mrs Markovish again.
“What brings you here Granny? Why did you stay away so long?”

“Goodness!” cried Mrs Markovitsh fanning herself with a scarlet silk-covered menu, “Oh my! Food, I came for the food, of course! And also...I wanted my friends to meet my friends: Children, Pearl, Simon...I want you to meet Mr. Ling, Mr. Karachi, and Charmaine; Dragons, these are Thali, Isaiah and Pearl Chabalala and Mr Simon Thambisa.”

Simon stepped forward and extended his hand to the nearest “dragon”, “Mr Karachi, I'm Simon Thambisa...”

The tall Indian laughed, white teeth slashing a devilish grin through the square beard. “I am Han Ling. Please to meet you, Mr Thambisa.”

“And I...” the round little Chinese man stepped forward, “I am Achmed Karachi.

Simon stared. “Very pleased to meet you both...Very. But also very confused.”

“Sit, please, let us bring you more menus and some drinks, we will explain!” said Mr. Karachi.

“Yes! We have been remiss! Charmaine, cokes for the children, and a bottle of our best French wine, please!” said Mr. Ling, “And extra glasses for me and for your Uncle.”

“Yes, Father,” said Charmain, and bounced off with her saucy grin.

Mr Karachi and Mr Ling joined their guests at the table.

“You are all switched around,” said Thali, “Were you switched in Hospital?”

Mr Karachi laughed, jiggling his belly, and slapping the table.
“No young lady, not at hospital. You might say Fate switched us round to play a practical joke on our grandfather.”

“Nasty old bugger!” sighed Mr. Ling, with a fond smile.

“Our father, Han Ling, came to South Africa from Taiwan, and he fell in love with our mother, Miss Aziza Karachi, only daughter of Mr Achmed Karachi; late of Karachi, Pakistan. A terrible thing. Terrible. Mr. Karachi was enraged. He swore he would kill, reject this beloved daughter if she did not turn her back on this most inappropriate love. Were there not many suitable Indian Moslem men eager to marry the lovely daughter, and only child of the very rich and venerable Mr. Karachi?”

“Were there?” asked Thalie.

“Oh yes,” interjected Mr Ling, “She was very beautiful, and very headstrong. Also she wanted no-one, so they were all quite madly in love with her.”

“BUT!” said Mr. Karachi, “Aziza had made up her mind, and she was as strong willed as her father. Also the fact that it was love forbidden, both by her Father and the law of the land made it completely irresistible...”

“So Mother went to her Father with an irrecusable proposal,” said Mr Ling, “and to the Courts of Law with an irrefutable argument. She told her father she would name her eldest son after him, and have him raised as a Muslim; and she told the Court that since Mr Han Ling was a foreign citizen, the Law forbidding intermarriage of races did not apply. She won both arguments.”

“Yes...” sighed Mr Karachi, “She was quite a woman, was Mother! So Grandfather Karachi eagerly awaited the birth of her first son...”

Just then Charmaine came to the table carrying a tray with cokes, an impressively dusty bottle of wine and glasses for all.

As she moved around the table pouring, her father resumed his story:
“I was first born. At first Grandfather was overjoyed. He was sure my skin would darken to a suitable shade, and that my odd scrunched-up eyes were only natural new-born ugliness, but as time wore on and my looks did not improve, he was most put out.”

“Can you imagine!” cried Mr Ling with glee, “When I was born two years later, the very image of perfection in his sight, and called HAN LING?”

“I bet he was disappointed,” observed Isaiah, “Very.”

“Yes, indeed. But he got over it. Besides it was too late. He already loved Mr Karachi the Younger, and was innordinately proud of his cleverness.”said Mr. Ling, with a evil grin.

“Why! God taught him a lesson, didn´t he?” asked Thali. “Love the children life sends you, no matter how ugly...”

“EXACTLY! God sure has a sense of humour,” grinned Isaiah, "he sent YOU to me, didn't he?" Thali howled in protest, and Pearl and Simon looked at each other, and at the children God had sent them, and smiled.



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