Monday, February 07, 2005

The Case of the Lost Balance

Young Chan sat listening to the honorable grasshopper chirping in some unseen corner of his office. His desk was clear, and his fingers were busy tapping on the smooth luan. No telling when something would happen; but, he would be ready.

Just then, the beautiful Madame Wu burst through the door. "Young Chan, come quick! Grandfather has lost his balance!" Young Chan leapt to his feet, bowing to Madam Wu, but she had already left. Madame Wu had not paid his bill for the last case; but, her beauty was unsurpassed, so he set out to follow her.

He walked quickly to catch up with Madame Wu, who, in addition to being lovely, was fleet of foot. He asked himself, "What did she mean, 'lost his balance'? Why did she summon me, when a doctor could discover the malady?" Then, he remembered his Uncle's saying, "Good detective never ask 'what' and 'why' until after he's seen."

When he arrived at the house, Madame Wu motioned him into her Grandfather's parlor. There sat the Grandfather, shaking his head, which he held with his hands, muttering to himself. To the side, stood Master Ji, his arms folded, his fu manchu trimmed to an edge, his face dark and impassive.

"Grandfather cried to me that he lost his balance," said Madame Wu. "So, I summoned Master Ji -- he has helped many people find their balance again for a modest fee. But, so far, Grandfather will not listen to him, and Master Ji can do nothing for him."

At this, Grandfather looked up and shook his head again. "No, No," he said. "Lose balance. No more zhong guo cha." Then, he hung his head in his hands again.

Master Ji moved slowly toward Grandfather and Young Chan, and said, "Old man need tai chi -- restore balance."

Young Chan said, "Honorable Grandfather, please stand on one leg." Grandfather immediately stood up on one leg, extending his arms and folding up his other leg, as if he were a crane. Young Chan turned to Master Ji and asked, "Why do you say he lost his balance?"

Master Ji shook his head. "Confucius has said, 'A wise man question himself, a fool others.' Young detective too green -- need to steep to become wise."

Then, the Master began moving around the parlor. "See. Too much clutter. Room out of balance -- bad qi flow. Make Grandfather out of balance. He need Feng Shui. Make too much wind, make not enough water." Grandfather looked slightly embarrassed.

Young Chan looked around the parlor, and it was, in fact, cluttered, though generally ordered. Grandfather had apparently collected many things over the years and parted with little. Then, Young Chan heard a little voice saying: Investigation best way to find answer. Just then, he made for the door, saying, "No, that is not the problem. I'll explain later."

Soon Young Chan returned with an unusual instrument that looked like a dust mop with a flat, round, metal bottom. Grandfather and Madame Wu looked surprised and curious; Master Ji frowned. Young Chan began sweeping just above the collected items in the parlor. Occasionally, the odd thing would emit a beep, and Young Chan would look closely. Finally, after several beeps, the young detective set down the instrument and lifted, from between two Ming vases, a small set of scales.

Grandfather clapped his hands, bowed to Young Chan, and took the scales. Then, he quickly measured tea leaves on the scale, placed them in he pot, poured in water that was already boiling on the small, pot-belly stove, and drew down cups for his guests.

"You see, Madame Wu," said Young Chan. "Grandfather did not need tai chi, he needed chai tea. And," he said, turning an accusing look at Master Ji, "This man is an imposter!"


Acknowledgements to Aphorisms of Charlie Chan.

5 Comments:

Blogger Gone Away said...

Very good, most amusing. Amazing what you are able to do with a metal detector and a few links (didn't read 'em all; sorry).

2/07/2005 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

Warped. My kind of story.

2/07/2005 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Ned said...

A delightful story.
I must confess that I have always had bad Feng Shui as well as a poor sense of balance ( I refer you to my Ice Escapades). A friend once told me that her acupunturist discovered wind in her chi, and although she cut down on starchy legumes, we didn't invite her to lunch again after that. I don't know what is in my chi, but I fear it might require an exterminator to remove it.

2/07/2005 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Remainderman said...

Many thanks to honorable visitors.

2/07/2005 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Bad detective learn little. Stubborn pride says read story twice before seeking all-too-often obvious answer to mystery from sage commentors. Most-confident shame sits quiet and waits it turn to crow. Shame too cocky; detective desires to cook, but fears toughened meat ruin good looks. Seeks only solace in near-by beer garden.

2/08/2005 02:40:00 AM  

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