Good Night, Good Morning: A Story by Laura Lam

Standing in front of the hawker’s stand, I turn my coat collar up and then search for the ten-dollar coin in my pocket. Without another word, the hawker fills the brown tiny paper bag with two stinking bean curds, one with thick chili sauce, the other with the sweet one, as usual. The bean curd is part of my life, or I should say, I am part of the hawker’s life – from Youde to the Fat Tung, from two dollars to five dollars each, I buy the bean curd from him every night on my way to work.

“Good night,” I said to him, the first words I’ve ever spoken to him all these years, and perhaps, the last words as well.

The dripping sausages paint my footsteps on this wet and fishy-smelling street leading to the building. Ha, still no thief follows my “footsteps”.

“Hey, pray to your papa before you go the work,” same old words, my wife used to say, “remember to take this safety yellow paper with you, I got it from Wong Tai Sin yesterday…”

Every time I just put the “magic yellow paper” under the mat in front of the door when I left home. Of course, my wife did not know that. She never understood me – every one wants to lead a peaceful life but please, don’t count me in. I had never told her my ambition was to be a policeman, and now, I have no more chance to tell her.

Though my shaking hand is covered with the sauces, I try to feel that triangular yellow paper, which has been tied onto my neck since the day she left. Yes, still here.

When I get into the building, it is 12:00 am, half an hour earlier than my duty should begin. The last guard has already packed his luxuries collected all these years – the blanket, the folded bed, the old blue magazines, and, the latest horse racing tips collection. I just can’t understand why people nowadays throw things out so easily. See? My radio, which I got from the 15th floor a few years ago, can still work if you press the battery tighter.

“Bee-bu-bu-bu-” 12:30am, the one entering the password of the front door must be the girl living on the 18th floor, I am sure. Wearing her mini-skirt, makeup like a monkey’s ass. She used to be a nice and charming girl. I still remember the days when she was in school uniform, she walked by early at 6am every day, with her pony tail swaying. “Good morning, Wong Pak”.

“Good night,” she said, with her mini-skirt swaying as she entered the lift.

“Good night.”

Finished unpacking my stuff and eating my bean curd. My body gets warmer again. At 2 am, I put up the “On Patrol” sign, for the last time.

“Ei…err…”

“Is it you, my friend?

No one answers. After the establishment of the Owner’s Corporation, my only friends – the rats and the cats were all killed, leaving me to patrol all alone. The sound is just what generated when I open the smoke door. But I know, behind this door, there will be some sort of excitement – from Flat F on this 5th floor.

“Hey, you S.O.B., back to Mainland to find your second wife!”

“Boom-Boom!” The sound of a thrown chair?

Eavesdropping becomes my only entertainment while patrolling the building.

“I just want my only wife back, not any second ones” I whispered in front of their door, “good luck and good night!”

Just imagine if I had got the stories of this building written and published, the loyalties received could have probably made me rich! Rather than now, the salary cannot even buy my food. And the pension? Not enough for me to buy a coffin! Oh yeah, a thousand million dollars is in front of me now: Bingo! It’s The Sun, with accurate horseracing tips. Tomorrow, if…if I still have tomorrow..

I went back to my counter with The yesterday’s Sun, after passing along every corridor of this building. Nothing happens, as usual. 3am, I switch on my radio, yes, that radio.

“Good morning my dear, welcome to listen to RTHK 2, I’m your Ocean Chan…”

“Good morning.”

“Unlike the past, today I’m going to broadcast you the latest songs, by Aaron, Leon…”

“Not Teresa Teng or Adam Cheng? The Wynners would also be fine!”

“This is our world. We are the Youth. Nothing That We Care About. Ha Ha Ha Ha…”

“Good night!” Don’t have to switch the on/off button, I loosen the battery cover.

“Youth, Youth, Youth, Youth….” I count the number of wrinkles on my forehead, with my fingers feeling them one by one. The train tracks, just train tracks, the tracks which my train once rode on when I arrived in Hong Kong from the Mainland, are now pressed on my forehead. The days…

“Good morning, Wong Pak, have your breakfast?” asked one old maid.

“Good morning, Wong Pak, why not listen to the radio? Out of order again?” asked the other.

“When you have time, Wong Pak, we can go out and practise kung-fu together!”

“5am, immediately I know. They are the “Fitness Club” members of our building. Every morning before the cock crows, they go to the neighboring park to practise “Kung-fu”.

“One day. One day…”

“It’s a bit colder in this early morning, and, a bit darker. I put on the woolen sweater which my wife knit for me. The new and young security guard will be coming in his full uniform, as recommended by the Owners’ Corporation.

“Soon I will leave this tiny dizzy room. I put some drops of White Flower Oil on my forehead. Not long, I can breathe the fresh air again; not long, I can go to practise Kung-fu with those guys.

“Good morning,” the uniformed one finally comes, with a loaf of Life Bread in a Park’n Shop plastic bag.

“Immediately he glances through this tiny guard counter, seemingly searching for something, with his two fingers pinching his nose. It’s the mixed smell of the stinking bean curd and the White Flower Oil, I know. Looking into his eyes, I see them sparkling with the light of energy and hope, I see myself: I once stood in his position, in my brand new white shirt and shorts, and with that eye-catching ring shining on the third finger.

“Good morning.”

~Laura Lam (Hong Kong)

Return to Scenes: Poems and Stories of Everyday Life (Asian Voices)

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