Zeke Chen was one of the wealthiest and most successful merchants in all the land.
After a most trying week, Zeke found himself ready for some relaxation. The servants at his compound bowed as he passed and he responded by nodding acknowledgement. He held tightly to the newspaper in his hand as he approached his first stop.
Zeke made the left into the house where First Mistress resided. As she sat on the sofa eating wild strawberries, she acknowledged him as he entered. He noticed a few wrinkles around her eyes and was astonished at how flabby her buttocks had become. First Mistress had seen forty summers, so this change in proportion was to be expected. She asked him if he wanted a foot massage. Zeke was too astonished at first to answer, but then realized she was offering to call in her main servant to administer it. He told her he wasn’t interested and declined. First Mistress offered him some of the leftover tofu she had been eating earlier. He declined this offer as well. When he was able to get her full attention, he pointed to his paper and showed her a review of the film, Raise the Red Lantern. He said that those who write about such things recommend it highly. She looked at the paper and scrunched her face. She said she wasn’t interested and suggested he check with one of the other mistresses. The first mistress acknowledged a preference for movies on a satellite network called Lifetime, which she said dealt with issues that she could understand in a manner that he could not. A flicker of sadness over this chasm was noticeable upon her face, but she quickly turned her attention away from him as a movie dealing with adulterous behavior and homicidal acts at a trailer park community in a land called South Dakota came onto her television screen. Zeke Chen turned away and agreed with her that he could not relate to this.
Zeke entered the house of the Second Mistress a little more optimistically. She had seen only thirty summers, so he assumed she should have at least a couple of quality seasons left. When she offered him a foot massage he was momentarily hopeful before she pointed to her main servant. He declined the offer as well as the subsequent offer of leftover tofu. He showed her the review and her eyes lit up for a moment, but she declined interest as well. Zeke realized that there had been a time when she would have taken her up on his offer, but apparently that time had passed. When he asked her what she was interested in, she told him about a fascination she had with something called FarmVille. He was intrigued at first, as Second Mistress had never before shown an interest in the outdoors before. But he was quickly disappointed when she pulled out from underneath her bed frame a laptop computer, which she showed to him. She pointed to her screen which read FarmVille in red and blue letters. Second Mistress expressed excitement over animated mystery eggs, big horned sheep, and something called an Ossabaw pig. She also expressed a great deal of excitement over a cartoon cow jumping off a diving board into a swimming pool. This only served to confuse Zeke Chen and he bid Second Mistress farewell.
Zeke was now disheartened as he entered the house of the Third Mistress. Having just seen twenty-one summers, he was unsure about the potential for any enthusiasm from her. When he saw her, she expressed no noticeable sadness that she had already eaten all the tofu and could offer him none. She didn’t even present to him her servant to give him a foot massage. When he asked about it, she said it was fine with her and should enquire with her main servant if that was what he wanted. He told her that he wasn’t interested in that anyway. He did explain to her in no uncertain terms that there was a movie called Raise the Red Lantern that was supposed be of high quality and that he would like her to see it with him. Third Mistress closed her eyes as if in pain. She explained to him how motion pictures were no longer relevant in today’s society. She pulled out a little case, in which contained something she called a Nintendo DS. She explained to him that it had two screens and how the best part about it was the feel of the touchscreen. The game she showed him consisted of a small man she called Mario who appeared to be driving a car in a competition with a type of dragon. Third Mistress stated she couldn’t leave her game tonight when she was just getting the hang of it. She asked him if he wanted to touch her game. He declined. Zeke Chen dimmed the light as he left her house.
Zeke was frustrated. He thought about what he should do to these women. Throw them down a well? The thought brought a smile to his face. Hang them in the tower? The second thought brought an even bigger smile to his face. But Zeke Chen knew that though he was the best merchant there was, he was ultimately not a violent man.
Zeke went to the house of the Fourth Mistress. His expectations were pretty low by now. The fact that his newest mistress had only seen eighteen summers also didn’t give much confidence that she would react favorably to his suggestion. When he came in the door, Fourth Mistress ran up to him and kissed him. This took him by surprise and made him blush. She ran back to the table and brought over some tofu, which she stuck in his mouth before he had a chance to protest. He had to admit it tasted good. She led him to a reclining chair, where she took his shoes off. Her main servant dutifully came over to rub his feet, but she sent her away and rubbed his feet herself! When she was done he felt relaxed and rejuvenated. He asked her if she was interested in television. She replied she was not. He asked her if she was interested in the computer. She replied that she was not. He asked her if she was interested in video games of any kind. She replied one more time that she was not. He then asked her if she wanted to go to a movie. She shouted excitedly and told him how much she loved movies. He got up and grabbed her hand and started for the door. He paused for a moment to get out the article that reviewed Raise the Red Lantern. She looked at it and smirked and pulled out an article of her own that reviewed a movie called Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. Zeke had never heard of this before and when Fourth Mistress explained what it was about, he realized it was not something he could ever be interested in. He tried to explain to her that the article she had just showed him indicated this was not a movie of high quality, but this didn’t seem to matter to her. He complained he had had a hard week and was really too tired for a movie now anyway. She looked momentarily disappointed, but seemed to lighten up when she put in the earbuds attached to her iPod Shuffle and started rocking her head to the music.
Zeke went out to the lake located behind the compound. He took off his shoes and waded a few feet out into the water. He pulled himself up on a rock before reaching into his pocket. He pulled out his grandfather’s knife and pulled it away from him. Before he could bring the knife back into his chest, he noticed a picture had fallen out of his pocket onto the rock next to him. It was a photograph of the former First Mistress who, like Zeke, would have been in her fiftieth summer if she hadn’t died five winters ago. Zeke Chen pressed the picture against his heart and wept throughout the night.
ALTERNATE LAST PARAGRAPH
BASED ON ZEKE CHEN’S LOSTLIKE SIDEWAYS REALITY
Zeke went out to the lake located behind the compound. He took off his shoes and waded a few feet out into the water. He pulled himself up on a rock before reaching into his pocket. Before he could pull anything out, all four of his mistresses jumped out from behind a tree and shouted birthday wishes to him as they ran out into the lake to him. As busy as the week had been, Zeke had forgotten all about the fiftieth anniversary of his birth. The mistresses brought him off the rock and they went to the neighborhood theater where they all enjoyed Raise the Red Lantern. After the movie was over they went back to the compound where they all went into his house. Zeke Chen got very little sleep that night.