The Chinaman’s Chance
Fiction. The Chinaman’s Chance
When the cashier at the hotel coffee shop in Rock Springs, Wyoming appeared at the cash register, the old Chinese man had already removed from his billfold a Hong Kong ten dollar note and a US twenty dollar bill. His wearing surgical gloves that made the process more difficult. The cashier was fascinated by the plastic Hong Kong note. The Chinese handed it to her. “It’s worth barely a single US dollar”, he said. “Please accept as my gift to you.”, handing it to her with both hands.
She gave him his change. On his way out, he stopped by the Men’s room. He carefully removed his surgical gloves, dropped them into the waste basket, washed his hands thoroughly, and put on a pair of winter gloves.
Glancing back, he could see the cashier proudly showing the plastic note to her co-workers, all bemused by the novelty of the gift. He departed into the sub-freezing cold. The skies were clear. Snow drifts fringed the parking lot.
Inside the car, the frosty interior of the windshield was still new to him. He had before
encountered such back home. He tried wiping the windshield with his forearm and gloved hand before allowing the defroster to finish the job.
A drive to the tourism office proved fruitless. His request for directions to the cemetery in
which the Chinese were buried was met with a cold stare. Tourists were welcome. But,
troublemakers were not. No massacre had taken place in the 1870s. The rumor that
Chinese immigrants–newly unemployed after completion of the Transcontinental
Railroad—had competed for mining jobs with locals had no basis in fact. No, the Chinese
had moved either to San Francisco or elsewhere, he was told.
On his own, he found the town cemetery. But, it offered no clues. Graves dating to the
1840s were to be found. (Many were of those passing through on the Oregon Trail.) But,
none contained Chinese.
The old Chinese was chagrined as he left town, thinking ahead to his return to his
hometown of Sah-In in Guangdong province, where he was a distinguished, though
generally regarded as an rascible, chemist. Meanwhile, he passed the hotel on his way to the I-80.
Slowing at an intersection, he could see an ambulance in the parking lot, its two EMTs
were loading a young lady onto a stretcher: the hostess he had encountered earlier. A
second ambulance almost ran him off the road and into a snowdrift as it squeezed past
him. A third ambulance could be heard in the distance, its siren growing louder by the
second. He was relieved that he had avoided a collision and was happy that he would be
in Salt Lake City in time for his flights to San Francisco and Shenzhen, followed by the long bus ride home.
Michael T. George
4 May 2017