I received a call from a local friend last week and he asked me to stop by his place to check out a gift that he had for me. It was a warm afternoon and upon entering his bar, he grabbed my by the arm and hauled me to the back of the tavern that he runs. Propped up against the wall of the washroom was a graveyard marker, a headstone. It was obviously very old and appeared much abused. The stone’s age was not easy to determine but hundreds of years old did not seem out of the question.
Broken and deteriorated, it was crumbled at the edges and with dark watermarks marring a surface that showed hints of the beauty that had once shone on polished granite. The carvings on the stone were worn to nothing with vague scratching marks left like ripples on wind blown sand. But in the center of the piece there was a string of Chinese characters that were still legible. Running vertically about 25 inches long and 3 inches wide the script was definitely old Chinese and not Vietnamese. Odd for this area but not impossible. Hoi An had been a Chinese Trading port for hundreds of years until trends changed and the porcelain demand in Vietnam was channeled to new products and different locations.
Now my friend Steve wanted me to take this away and I asked him why. He said that his mother-in law wanted it gone because it was cursed and it brought evil spirits into the home. She would not let the baby be in the house at the same time as the stone and she would not enter, herself, until the stone was removed. He was quite distressed.
As a friend, I picked up its considerable weight and move it down the block to my book/store/home and installed it in the front hall. I am not the superstitious type but my figuring gave equal chances to a spirit being either friendly or malicious and I patted my newfound member of the household and welcomed its spirit to my home. I told it I would keep it warm and out of the weather and to make itself comfortable.
The next day I had the busiest day at the bookstore ever—four or five times the normal revenues and good vibes all around. The following day the same thing happened and I was starting to think that Steven’s bad luck piece was a good luck piece for me. No strange noises woke me during the night and there was no negative thoughts or feeling associated with the home at all. Business did taper off over the next days but by this time, I was not feeling well. Occasional bouts with stomach bugs happen all the time on the road and I found myself running to the bathroom the day after a wedding and dinner party (two events) the previous evening.
I have rules regarding food poisoning while I travel and the first is to use home cures for the easy stuff. So three bananas and a Coke for breakfast. Usually works. Not this time. The stomach pains were starting and a mild fever was trying to fight its way into my now-uncomfortable day. Rule #2: if food poisoning becomes bad enough to cause a fever, go to the doctor immediately. I called Dr. Josh but he was out of town. He texted back and prescribed two meds with dosage instructions and I asked my domestic to get the prescription filled at the local drug store. My exact words were to go buy these please and then you are finished for the day. Free day off. I never have any problems with Signh (pronounced Sin), so she wandered out the door and I thought nothing of it.
Two hours later, she finally made it back. She was holding a translation from one of her friends, tears dripping, and asking why I wanted to fire her and what she had done wrong. She had not purchased the drugs that I had asked for. By this time, I was not in the mood for hysterical women. Between runs to the bathroom, I explained that she was not fired. I asked her about the drugs and she brightened and went to fetch them one more time. Two hours later, she returned from the hospital with a signed note from the doctor stating that the prescription that I needed was only for extreme mental patients and an over-prescription at that, and the doctor had refused to fill the prescription. Bad to worse.
Not being in a patient mood, I dragged her out the front door and walked the 50 meters to the pharmacy. They filled the prescriptions in about five minutes and I scrambled home to my awaiting throne, humbled, irritated, amused, and exhausted. Four hours of crap for something that should have taken less than ten minutes. The harmony had definitely left my home. Translation problems are a bitch, but I had never had problems with her like this before. I sent her on her way and waited for the drugs to kick in and gradually my mind and my bowels relaxed. All appeared to be well.
All was not well. At 3 in the morning, the stomach pains woke me. The whole thing started all over again and I was texting the doc to find out what was wrong. He passed on some more recommendations for various drugs and for the next 48 hours, I powered water and rehydration drugs and continued my porcelain track meet.
Part 1 | Part 2