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The Man Called Changsai (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
This is my LM fiction entry, but with the missing bits put back that I took out to get the word count to 500.

The boy Aron whistled softly to himself as he threaded between the bamboo cocktail tables in the half-light of the bar. The man he sought was the man who paid him to run errands, a strange Englishman who called himself by the Thai name Angaraka. Aron saw him at a back table with a girl. Their heads were bent close together and the girl was laughing.

Aron approached with hands together and bowed, just touching the tips of his fingers to his forehead.

'Hello Angaraka. I bring news you want to hear.'

'Hello Aron. Is this business news?'

Aron nodded, looked at the girl, and back at the Englishman.

'Goodbye Rajini,' said the Englishman. 'We will meet later.' The girl stood, bowed slightly, smiled at Aron, and walked away.

'Now Aron. What news do you bring?'

'I have found the one you seek. He is the man called Changsai. He say for you to come now, see him, and talk business.'

'I do not know the name, Changsai, and so I could not have been seeking him. Why should I see him, and not others?'

'I know you have been seeking a man you heard of elsewhere, a man who can make you rich. The man called Changsai is the man you want to see, the man you heard of elsewhere. He can make you rich. He knows the way.'

'If the way of Changsai is the way to riches, then you should follow his way and become rich.'

Aron stood quiet for a moment and studied the tall Englishman with blond hair and a Thai name. No emotion showed on Aron's face.

'One day I will follow his way, but now I am too young and too small. When I am older, taller, stronger, Changsai will show me the fields with the flowers that make many men stupid and a few men rich. He will show me how he turns flowers into gold.'

Angaraka stood, counted some change from his pocket, and dropped it on the table. He looked down at the boy, little more than half his own height of six feet.

'That sounds like magic, turning flowers into gold,' he said. 'Is Changsai a man of magic?'

'He is a man of power,' said the boy. 'You have a little money and you want much money. Changsai can help you. Come with me to Changsai.'

They met in a loft over a warehouse near Bangkok harbour. Changsai was a head shorter and ten years older than his guest, with grey hair, mustasch, and goatee that gave him, in the eyes of most Westerners, the appearance of an Oriental wise man. That appearance was carefully cultivated, as was the soft tone of his voice and his deliberate, delicate, precise pronunciation of English.

He rose from a small stool, bowed slightly to Angaraka, motioned the Englishman to an armchair, and sat again. On a tripod beside his stool was a brazier with burning charcoal that glowed red in the dim light of the room.

The Englishman pointed to the brazier. 'Isn't it too warm for even a small fire?'

Changsai smiled. 'Even a small fire can have many uses. Thank you for coming to see me.'

'I came because of Aron,' said Angaraka. 'He's run my errands for a couple of months. I have learned that I can trust him. But I've never heard of you.'

'Yes you have,' said Changsai. 'First in Vietnam, and later in Cambodia you were foolish enough to ask people for a, ah, connection. Asking that of the wrong people can get you killed, even if you make the connection, or perhaps especially if you make the connection. They told you of a man called Oudóm, a man with product to sell. You came to Bangkok to find him. Now you have.'

'So that is what Aron meant when he said he had found the man I've been looking for. You are the one the Khmer call Oudóm, First Man?'

'In England I would be called Adam,' said Changsai. 'In every country I have a name. Many of those names are unpleasant, but I do not mind. There are times when profit can be made from appearing to be unpleasant.' He turned to the boy. 'Aron, tell Feng to give you a bottle of whiskey and two glasses. Please be certain the glasses are washed properly.'

Aron bowed slightly, and whistled softly to himself as he walked through to the kitchen.

Changsai turned back to Angaraka. 'You've been asking the same question around Bangkok, about how to make a connection to buy merchandise that you can sell at a profit. That can be even more dangerous here. Word was brought to me, and I decided to watch you while I found out something about you. I am the one who sent Aron to run errands for you. His presence near you has protected you. You are fortunate that I am interested in the money you keep in your hotel room that you want to invest. My proposal is that you invest your money with me.'

'How do you know I have money to invest?'

'I know many things. I know you have over 30 thousand pounds, reported on the street to be embezzeled currency, good English banknotes. I have product to sell. For your 30 thousand pounds I can supply you with product worth over a million on the street in London.'

Aron returned with a whiskey bottle and two glasses.

'Thank you, Aron. Pour my guest some whiskey. Are the glasses washed?'

'I did that myself.'

'A toast to our partnership.' Changsai lifted his glass in a salute and drained it off at once. The Englishman did the same.

'Now let us get down to business,' said Changsai.

'I will listen to what you have to say,' said the Englishman, 'but I'm not ready to decide anything tonight.'

'Oh, Mr. Sinclair, you've already decided. You settled the issue when you came here with Aron. All we have to do now is settle the details.'

'Why do you call me Sinclair?' said the Englishman who called himself Angaraka.

'Because that is your name. I have friends in Saigon, and I have friends in Pnom Penh, and I have one friend in particular among the Khmer who followed you to the airport at Sihanoukville and watched you leave on an Air America plane that made a fast touch and go just to pick you up. Later I was informed the plane landed very briefly at an airstrip in the bush in Samut Prakan. You made your way to Bangkok from there.'

'What, who, who, are you?' said the Englishman, slurring his words a bit.

'I am a simple trader, Mr. Sinclair,' said Changsai. 'A merchant with goods to sell. I am the man your government sent you here to find, with those 30 thousand pounds of supposedly stolen money. Unfortunately for you, your search has succeeded.'

The Englishman began to slump. The hand holding the glass slid off the arm of the chair.

'One day soon, Mr. Sinclair, your American friends will be forced to leave Saigon. Already I have established new contacts, new networks, recruited new people so that when the Saigon connection is broken, my business can continue as usual.'

Changsai leaned forward, watching. 'Are you listening, Mr. Sinclair? Quickly, Aron.'

Aron jumped forward and caught the glass just as it dropped from the Englishman's hand.

'Thank you Aron. Be careful with that glass.

The Englishman stirred slightly. 'The boy. Trust. I trusted him.'

'Of course you did, Mr. Sinclair. You are the third foreign policeman who has trusted Aron, and you will be the third to die because of it.'

'Why is he. What,' said the Englishman.

'I'll explain,' said Changsai. 'An American criminal hiding in Bangkok raped and strangled his mother. A Thai policeman shot and killed his father. Aron hates all foreigners. He hates all policemen. You are a foreigner and a policeman.'

'So. So young. A devil.' said the Englishman.

'No, not a devil,' said Changsai, 'for now just a devil's apprentice. But we shall see what the future holds. I think you should close your eyes and sleep now.'

The Englishman made an effort to straighten himself in the chair, but failed. Aron went behind the chair and pushed the Englishman, not hard, but just enough to make him fall onto the floor. Then he knelt beside the man and began to empty the man's pockets. He found a billfold and an i.d. case, along with some currency and a hotel room key. He removed the man's wristwatch, and carried everything to Changsai.

All this time the Englishman had been making feeble efforts to speak or to move.

Aron returned to the man, reached under his coat, and pulled out a small-framed nine-millimetre pistol. This he also handed to Cahngsai.

Changsai handed the watch, key, and currency back to Aron. The pistol he lay on the floor beside him. He began to sort through the cards in the i.d.case and examining them one by one and dropping them onto the burning charcoal. He emptied the wallet in the same way, burning travelers' cheques and other papers he found.

He turned to the boy. 'Now, Aron, run your errands. See your friend in Khaosan. Show him the alley behind Mr. Sinclair's hotel and tell him to come here to pick up a parcel for delivery. Then bring me Mr. Sinclair's backpack.'

Aron whistled softly to himself as he led the policeman along the alleyway.

'Just there.' He pointed.

The policeman shined his light on the body.

Aron stood quiet for a moment and studied the policeman. No emotion showed on Aron's face.

'Who found him?' said the policeman.

'A man called Changsai. He is gone now.'
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The Backward OX

WF Veterans
After half a day pfaffing about with loose ends, I thought I was then facing the grim reality of having to actually write some more of my novel.

But I found this. Saved, I breathed to myself.

I thought I knew a feller named garza, who said he couldn’t write fiction. I was mistaken, must have been mixing him up with someone else.

It's a great story. The opening sentence got me in, as intended.

However, having read firstly the second paragraph, and next, the entire story, the wheels fell off.

I once wrote a short piece where one of the characters had an idiosyncrasy, mentioned a few times throughout the piece. So I recognised the similarity. Still, Aron’s whistling doesn’t work for me, on two levels. First, at the beginning, with the obsequious manner he portrays towards the Englishman. That manner, and whistling, don’t go together. And then, at the end, when his background is revealed by his employer. I find it hard to believe any young kid whose parents suffered in that way would be going through life imitating The Happy Whistler. If Aron were much older, I could believe it as an act, but a young person isn’t capable of this type of deception.

The man he sought was the man who paid him to run errands,
This might be only me, but I prefer not to see words repeated in close proximity.

Aron approached with hands together and bowed, just touching the tips of his fingers to his forehead.
Before I got past the comma I was seeing hands that were deformed in some way - shaped like two bow and arrow bows. It was only a tiny hiccup, but readers don’t enjoy stopping to figure stuff out. Maybe a full stop after ‘together’ and ‘He bowed, etc;’ would be a way around it.

Changsai was a head shorter and ten years older than his guest ///
He rose from a small stool, bowed slightly to Angaraka, motioned the Englishman to an armchair, and sat again.

I don’t like this. People being taller or shorter than someone else can only occur when there’s a common denominator, like standing. When one’s standing and one’s sitting, the comparison cannot be made.

you were foolish enough to ask people for a, ah, connection.
Try enunciating ‘ask people for a, ah, connection.’ See how stilted it makes you sound? In my book, good writing represents speech as it is spoken. I’d be writing either ‘ask people for...a connection.’ or ‘ask people for a...connection’.

All this time the Englishman had been making feeble efforts to speak or to move.
I’d cut this entirely. He doesn’t succeed, and it does nothing for the story.

The pistol he lay on the floor beside him.
‘beside him’ is unnecassary.

He began to sort through the cards in the i.d.case and examining them one by one and dropping them onto the burning charcoal.
Replace the first ‘and’ with a comma.

I found two spelling mistakes. The first one was the word you use for top lip facial hair. I assume you’ve attempted the American spelling. The other word was ‘embezzled’.

I’d keep going with fiction, if I were you. It’s only work at first.
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My Will

Senior Member
I really enjoyed reading this story. The first part was particularly gripping. I love the quote " the flowers that make many men stupid and a few men rich"

The Backward OX

WF Veterans
The name of that province where the plane landed - Samut Prakan - triggered a long-forgotten memory. As it happens, I had it all wrong - it took four tries with Google to get it right - but it put me in mind of a Javanese phrase. And finally, after a gap of around 50 years, I’ve just found out what it means.

In my errant youth I met a lovely Javanese lady one night as she left a railway station. When I say met, I mean we picked each other up. She was perhaps in her early thirties and I was, I dunno, maybe ten years younger. It was just one of those things. We had a torrid few minutes in the back seat of the successor to my father’s Rover saloon, and that was that.

I remember with great clarity one particular part of our encounter, and I remember the name of the Javanese restaurant where she told me she worked. It was the Selamat Makan. I have just this minute learnt that means bon appétit.

So thank you for that, garza. Now, if only I could get the mods to look the other way, I could post a story about it, right here on WF.


Senior Member
Ox - Javanese ladies are some of the most gifted in the world. I just hope the encounter was not in the back seat of yet another Rover saloon. I have two friends here who have late '40s Rovers, and I try to picture myself as a young man...

I am digesting all your comments about the story. Thank you for taking that much time. Perhaps you can solve one problem for me. Why did the boy lead a policeman to the body? I know why I wrote it that way - I wanted full-circle closure - but what motive can I provide?


Senior Member
My Will - I can't take credit for that line. I heard it one night in a bar when two men were discussing a local landowner who had property in the hills. One mentioned that the man raised flowers, and the other man asked 'what kind of flowers?' The first man answered with the line I used in the story.

The Backward OX

WF Veterans
garza - Two of us here agree on this: a motive cannot be uncovered amongst the already written words.

It’d be like me writing, I went to the refrigerator, and then asking you why I went to the refrigerator. You might say, because you were hungry, and I might say, no, Riley the cat pushed his toy mouse under the door and wanted me to retrieve it.

So, if you want a motive, you may need to come up with one first, and then do a re-write accordingly.

If you already know all this and just want suggestions, I suppose it could be something like giving the second policeman an unspoken warning.

Or maybe it’s even deeper; maybe Aron knows it’s irrational to hate ALL policemen, maybe he wants closure himself, maybe he wants this second policeman to be suspicious. Christ, I’m not a psychologist; half the time I dunno why I do stuff, what hope do I have of figuring out other people?\\:D/


Senior Member
Ox - 'Maybe he wants closure himself.' That's good. I'll rework from that idea.

I've never blogged, though I did chuck it all one night after too much beer and pizza when I was at university. That's what the word 'blog' reminds me of. But I'm thinking I will put a rewrite in a blog because I want to keep dealing with this piece until I get it in better shape. The long version posted here is the original. What I entered in the LM challenge was what was left after two-thirds of the words had been taken out to meet the 500 word limit. That kind of limit forces you to lose everything that is not vital.

The second whistle I'll lose. But how to avoid the idea of a happy whistler, and not a sad one? I know a kid who came here as a refugee from the Salvadoran Civil War when he was three years old. He claims not to remember those first three years, but I believe the sights and sounds are buried there somewhere. He often whistles to himself, a nearly tuneless sort of dirge. That's what I was thinking of with Aron. Soft, mournful.

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