The Down from a Thousand Geese

My Great-, Great-, Great Uncle was half Chinese, half English. Chu Li was the son of a Portsmouth merchant and a warlord’s daughter. His parents were attacked by robbers on the high road and killed. Chu Li was still a very young man and went to live with his grandfather, the warloard. But not long after, he ran away from home because, he said in letters to those who knew him, there was more cruelty in his grandfather’s house than there was down on a thousand geese.

His grandfather sent out searchers and warned them that they would die if they did not find Chu Li and bring him back.

Meanwhile, Chu Li wore a disguise and sat on the bank of a great river, thinking about the beauty of the world and the pettiness of human beings. One day the warlord himself came to cross the river. While the group waited for the boat to ferry them over, the warlord asked the young man sitting on the bank if he would care to be one of his soldiers. The young man, who was in fact Chu Li, answered, after some thought: “If I declare my loyalty to you, what obligations will you have to me?”

The warlord waved his hand dismissively. “I will give you one thousandth of what I earn in a year, plus food and shelter and rice wine enough.

“But will you care for me like a grandson?” Chu Li asked.

The great man waved his hand, but did not leave. “I do not know how to treat a grandson so that he will not leave. I have lost my grandson and am looking for him. When I find him, he will not dare leave again.”

“Your lordship,” said Chu Li, “I do not think I would want to be the grandson of one so powerful, so impatient, so unwilling to learn.”

At that the warlord raised his sword and struck Chu Li on the shoulder with the flat of the blade, sending him rolling in the dust of the river bank.

When the boat crossed the river, a cable broke and horses and men were drowned. Only the warlord still struggled above the waves. Chu Li entered the muddy water, swam to him and held him by the beard like a goat. The water had washed away Chu Li’s disguise, and so his grandfather recognized him.

“I will throttle you like a goose when I have you in my hands again, you impudent excuse for a warrior!”

At which, the young man let him go.

“Why are you drowning me?” shrieked the warlord.

“I am not drowning you, old man,” said Chu Li. “I am only respectfully not interfering in my own coming punishment.”

At which the warlord hissed: “You will die by my hand,” and sank beneath the waves–heavier than the down from a thousand geese.

2 thoughts on “The Down from a Thousand Geese

  1. Hi Sterling! I really liked your short-story. I was hooked, then i was disappointed that it ended so soon! Great job! Are we going to see you in December?

    1. Hi, Claudia! I wrote the story “The Down from a Thousand Geese” while waiting for the food to come in a tiny Chinese restaurant, on a napkin, in San Francisco. That ‘s why it’s so short! Pretty much just enough to wipe your mouth with! Abrazos to the whole family.

Leave a Reply