The Old House (Flash Fiction #96)

Image by Đức Vũ from Pixabay

“Let’s go visit your grandpa’s house in the village. I really want to see how good a mathematician your grandpa was. ‘My grandpa built the house with mathematical precision, even better than those science used in building pyramids, even outshine what Da Vinci could do.’ That’s what you told me and I want to see it.” Pammy says to her husband Pan.

Pammy and her husband Pan have been living in New Jersey for 15 years and this is the first time they fly across the Pacific to visit Pan’s hometown. Prior to the trip, Pammy saved money for several years by turning down their winter heating to 56F (which is equivalent to 13 degree Celsius), turning up the summer air-condition to 83F (which is 28 degree Celsius), canceling the ESPN sports channel, infinitely delaying new phone purchase, exchanging gym membership for neighborhood jogging. Finally her economic measures pay off and the trip becomes a reality.

“Are you having doubts about my grandfather’s genius? Or are you just taking pleasure in arguing with me?” Pan groans. “Also my cousin Hoo’s family is living in the old house. You know he’s a little crazy in the head. He might mistake our visit for a ploy to fight for my grandpa’s inheritance.”

“It’s unfair that you haven’t got anything at all from your grandpa while your cousin got everything.” Pammy says.

“Sweetheart, I’ve been telling you repeatedly that the house and the land in the village is my cousin’s livelihood and he can’t sell it for money just to pay me half of the inheritance. In America, yes, since inheritance is interpreted by law. In other parts of the world, inheritance is interpreted by custom, which means whoever left the village, in this case my father and I, lose everything.” Pan says, a little annoyed.

“OK. I am not going there for the house or the land. I just want to check, with my iPhone compass, if the house was really built strictly pointing to the north like what you said. I had a google map here already printed out, but with no details. And I’m going to fill up the details.” Pammy says.

Pan didn’t want to go, but he couldn’t find any excuse to thwart Pammy’s argument. So to the old house they go.

After fifteen years, Pan feels that Pammy is more and more assertive while he is more and more mellow. Those who said, “frailty your name is woman,” are totally wrong. Pammy is as strong and as stubborn as a mule. Those who said women are submissive are totally mistaken. Pammy is not only an independent mule, she also wants to turn Pan into a slave mule to work for her various family projects. “Pan, Hagen-Daze ice cream is too expensive. We need to save money for our trip.” “Pan, we need to have pizza or pasta one day a week, just to be more Americanized.” “Pan, say hi to Sandi but don’t mention what I told you yesterday.” Pan feels an urge to rebel against Pammy’s increased self assurance, but doesn’t know how.

When they reach the old house, Hoo is there to welcome them, but Pan is promptly dragged away by his childhood friends to catch up with the news of everybody. Here Pammy refuses to go with Pan since she wants to inspect the house. Cousin Hoo and his wife Hua warmly and nervously accompany Pammy around.

“Wow, is this a map or something, Sister Pammy?” Cousin Hoo stares at the google map printout that Pammy holds in her hand. “So what did Brother Pan say about the house? Is this map accurate?”

“Brother Hoo, that’s what I am here to find out. Is the map an accurate reflection of the layout that’s supposed to be the best layout of the world? I mean in your grandpa’s days, he didn’t have any modern tools to help him. I am quite sure he couldn’t be as accurate as he wanted to be.” Pammy says.

Cousin Hoo and his wife Hua invite Pammy to have some refreshment, which is an iced fermented rice drink. It’s homemade and the alcohol content is not really low. In order to save money, Pammy hasn’t drunk any alcohol for several years. And this drink makes her quite tipsy.

She sits in the bamboo chair, almost dozing off, while Hoo and Hua talk with her on this and that, for which she struggles to keep the conversation going.

Hours later, dusk arrives and Pan comes back. Pammy wakes up and the two returns to their hotel, where Pammy realizes that the google map printout is gone. She must have lost it somewhere.

A month after Pammy and Pan come back to New Jersey, Pan receives a WhatsApp call from his relatives.

“Hoo has gone mad. Completely mad. Hua is a little mad too, but not so much as Hoo.” Pan’s relative says.

“What’s going on?” Pan asks.

“Can you ask Pammy? They keep on saying that Pammy told them it’s there but the map is not accurate.” Pan’s relative says.

Pammy says, “What do you mean? I didn’t tell them anything.”

“Hoo and Hua have been digging and digging for a month. They practically dismantled all the walls and dig huge holes in the yard. Hoo is completely mad now, and Hua is not too much better. They keep on saying that Pammy knows it’s there but the map is not accurate.” Pan’s relative says.

Pammy says, “Well, I said something about the google map and Pan’s grandfather. I mean how he could be sure that it is precise. I used the iPhone compass and it is at least one or two degrees off–it’s not a strict south-north lineup.” Pammy says.

Pan hits his own forehead and says, “Well, I guess Hoo mistakes everything. He thinks you are talking about some treasure my grandpa hid in the house somewhere. Let me talk to Hoo. I think I can get everything cleared up.”

7 thoughts on “The Old House (Flash Fiction #96)

    1. So true. I try to write a conversation with two different understanding, but it doesn’t come out as it should be. LOL. I tried. And I think your comment has illustrated my original intention. So insightful.

      Liked by 1 person

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