Jan 21, 2011

Brother Lao: A Flash Story

The following is a flash story (1,000 words or less) I wrote for Kunlun Journal.  The story was required to take place in Imperial China and the premise is provided below.

Enjoy!

Premise

Write a story in which the main character is mistaken for someone else by a stranger. The main character decides to play along with this false assumption. Explore the main character's motivation for continuing the ruse, and any other emotional responses that character might have by taking on another identity. 1,000 words or less.

Flash Story

Brother Lao

“Brother Lao!  Brother Lao!  It’s so good to see you!  I can’t believe we’ve bumped into each other like this!  It is a good day today, yes it is, a good day!”

Wei Lun flinched as fingers accompanied the raspy voice by touching the bottom of his elbow and he whirled around, a hand resting on the sword beneath his robes.

“Oh, Brother Lao, please don’t hurt me!  Please don’t hurt your old comrade, Lo Teng!  Please don’t strike me!”

Wei Lun looked down to find a beggar in torn clothes, covered in dirt and grime, kneeling in the city street before him, touching his forehead against the ground repeatedly.

“Please forgive my startling you!  Please, please, please!” the beggar stammered.

Wei Lun knelt down and removed his hand from the sword, placing it instead of the lowly man’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry, but you’ve mistaken me for…”

“Brother Lao!  I know it’s you!  We served together in the northern campaigns fifteen years ago!  I know it’s you.  I never forget a face!”  The beggar looked up with tears in his eyes.  “It’s so good to see you again!”

Wei Lun observed the thin body frame and gaunt face with sunken cheeks and closed his own eyes.

“Lo Teng,” he said after a moment, struggling to remember the beggar’s name.  “You appear famished.  Come join me for a meal.”

The beggar tilted his head to one side and smiled, revealing gums with only a few teeth in residence.

Several minutes later the two were seated at a table in a nearby tavern.  Other customers glanced over their shoulders at Wei Lun’s companion, but he paid them no mind as he stared intently, watching the beggar gorge himself.

“Eat up, my friend,” he said.  “It’s on me.”

The beggar glanced up, morsels falling from his mouth as he protested.

“Brother Lao, I couldn’t possibly…”

“Speak no more of it,” Wei Lun said and there was silence as the beggar continued to eat, smacking his lips as he did.

After some time, the beggar let out a loud belch and wiped his mouth on a raggedy sleeve. 

“Brother Lao.  How have you been all these years?  Fifteen years is a long time.  You must have married surely by now and children no doubt?”

Wei Lun felt an invisible punch to his stomach and eyed the beggar, the poor creature that had mistaken him for someone he was not.  He thought of his departed love, his vow to never re-marry and the life they might have had together before finally deciding to become a part of the beggar’s illusion.

“My family is well, thank you, Lo Teng,” Wei Lun said, a faint smile forming across his mouth.  “My wife is the most beautiful woman I know and our four children are all one could ask for.  We have a wonderful home by the lake and my children enjoy swimming every day after their lessons.”

“I’m sure they will eventually learn the military skills of their father,” the beggar said, chuckling.

“But of course.  No one will ever push them around.”

“The brothers will protect the sisters, I’m sure.”

“We actually had sons.  Four of them.”

“Fortune has smiled upon you, Brother Lao!  It almost all sounds too good to be true.”

“Yes, it does.”

After their meal was finished the two men went back out into the city street and the beggar wrapped his arms around Wei Lun.

“Thank you, Brother Lao.  You’ve been most kind and I won’t forget it.  Next time it will be my treat.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Wei Lun replied, smiling as he returned the beggar’s embrace.  “Goodbye then, old friend.”

As Wei Lun departed, the beggar sat down on the ground and leaned his back against the nearby wall.  He smiled before closing his eyes and dozing off to sleep.  In a few hours he would grow hungry again and have to search for another Brother Lao.