Borderlands

by Christine Waresak

“And if the boy dies? Who will be blamed?” Yu Ming says when Li Wei asks him.

The men are talking on the porch of their dying business venture, Lucky Jade Dragon—herbal medicine, general store, and Chinese labor contractor all in one. It is the eighth lunar month in the Year of Ding-You, or, according to the American calendar on the wall inside, September 1897. The bare eastern Oregon hills stretch endless around them. It is a landscape so desolate and vast that it still holds the power to thrill the herbal doctor Yu Ming after ten years. All afternoon, sunlight has baked the dry dirt, sage bushes, and stunted pines, and their lemony scent mingles with the sweet tobacco smoke from Yu Ming’s cigar. A cloudless sunset ambers the sky.

“At least take a look at Patterson’s boy,” Li Wei says. “Then you can decide.”

“I’ve never treated a barbarian. Or a child,” Yu Ming answers. He does not confess that he has wondered about it—if their pulses would be unreadable, if the herbs would work the same. Today he wondered about it, when Mrs. Tindle and her little ginger-haired girl were in the general store that Li Wei runs from Lucky Jade Dragon. The doctor heard the girl before he saw her, the phlegm rattling in her lungs, her breathless cough. While her mother bought coffee, the girl drifted to Yu Ming’s clinic counter, watching him unpack a new shipment of herbs.

He keeps ordering herbs from China, as if having the supplies will somehow make more patients materialize, as if his treatments are as alluring as the possibility of discovering gold nuggets in a stream. In the packing crate is e zhu. He holds the shriveled roots to his nose, inhaling the spicy scent that smells like its flowers, those feathery pink blossoms that rise from beneath a banyan tree in his childhood village.

The girl coughed and the doctor’s own lungs ached in sympathy. He scooped a peanut candy from a dish on his counter—not medicine, but something—and squatted to her height, and offered it to her from the palm of his gloved hand. She stared at the candy for a second before spinning and scurrying away to hide her face in her mother’s skirt.

“How different can it be to treat them?” Li Wei asks Yu Ming, and then adds, “Patterson said he’ll pay whatever the fee.”

And then there is that.

“It’s your fault we’re out of money,” Yu Ming says.

“Don’t start on that again.” Li Wei shrugs off his suit jacket. “It was a mishap.” Li Wei wears a three-piece suit every day, even in this heat. His hair is cut short and parted to the side. He’s the only man in Chinatown without a queue—that proof of subjugation to the Qing dynasty; to cut it is a crime of treason in China and punishable by death. He’s also the only one with an advanced education. He has studied the Chinese classics, but he prefers the novels of Charles Dickens. He speaks fluent English and writes it in perfect Spencerian hand. The Chinese call him an Oriental barbarian. The Americans call him Leroy.

Yu Ming wears what he wears every day, his threadbare blue changshan shirt and wide-legged pants, brought with him from China. The doctor’s waist-long queue is coiled under his skull cap. A white cotton glove on his right hand protects the sensitivity of his fingertips, his instruments for pulse diagnosis.

The men speak in the rural Cantonese dialect of the Guangdong province, where they both come from, although they didn’t know each other in China. In China, they never would have met. Li Wei would be running his father’s shipping business in Xinhui. Yu Ming would not be a doctor, but a farmer in the Xinning County village, where his family has lived for a thousand years.

“Ha!” the doctor says. “Losing the store’s supply money to a robber would be a mishap. Losing it to a card game and a whore is not a mishap.”

“She wasn’t a whore. You should have seen her. Very pretty.” Li Wei cannot suppress his smile.

Yu Ming groans. They’re running low on flour, sugar, ginger, rice, and soy sauce, the staples Li Wei was to pick up in Portland. But does it even matter? More Americans buy from the general store now than Chinese, and fewer and fewer patients visit Yu Ming every day. How long did he imagine they could sustain this business? Men half a world away from their wives and families. Men for whom America is only a means to an end, not an end itself. And now, those means have vanished. The gold mines played out. The railroads laid. “Go home,” his Chinatown neighbors say when they leave. Come home, his father pleads in his letters. We went to the Golden Mountain together and were supposed to return together. It is time, past time… Yu Ming’s wife does not send him letters and never has. He’s not sure why, but in some ways—he is ashamed to admit this to himself—her silence is a relief.

Yu Ming and Li Wei set up shop together in 1888, in a vacant trading post along an abandoned wagon trail, and named their business Lucky Jade Dragon. The square building’s roughly cut blocks are the same dried mushroom color as the hills they are hewn from, as the hills that surround them, and flecked with tiny, mysterious seashells, although the nearest ocean is hundreds of miles away.

If the doctor is honest with himself, he knows partnering with Li Wei was as fortunate as claiming this stone structure, the only one in Chinatown. Li Wei has made the money that has kept them going this long, even if it slips through his fingers like water. The general store brings in some money, but most comes from a contracting business Li Wei runs for Chinese labor, which is how he knows Calum Patterson, the sick boy’s father. Patterson has been hiring Chinese workers from Li Wei for years.

The doctor leaves the question of treating the boy unanswered and goes inside, pausing at the front door. They reinforced the wood with steel after the first time barbarians rode into Chinatown, late on a Saturday night, shooting at their homes and stores. The steel is pocked with holes from the second and third times they came. Yu Ming must keep this in mind. This, and the robberies in the gold fields, the torching of Chinatowns, the beatings in bars, the cutting off of queues. Murders of Chinese miners that go unprosecuted. It is one thing to sell Americans tobacco and candles and coffee. It is another to take responsibility for an American child’s life.

The general store inventory lines the back walls of the main room, and in the front-right corner is Yu Ming’s clinic—his herb room, almost a closet, with shelves of supplies; a counter for weighing and grinding ingredients; two chairs. He’s ordered the shelves carefully. The tin boxes he inherited from old Doctor Lee are on the bottom shelf. On the next shelf, used cigar boxes, relabeled with red rice paper, are stacked four high. On the top shelf, he keeps round tins and small sacks. In these assorted containers are his treasures. Pomegranate bark and chrysanthemum buds, qiang huo and du huo, abalone shells, san leng, and cardamom seeds. Myrrh, gypsum, fang feng, licorice root. The spine of a honey locust fruit. A rattlesnake in a jar of rice wine. Dried chicken gizzards, rhinoceros horn, and the excrement of a nightingale. And hundreds more herbs, minerals, and animal parts—each individually chosen and most imported from China. It’s taken all his money and almost a decade to collect these ingredients, and it will take him a lifetime to fully understand their healing properties and in what combinations and amounts, at what point to administer them in the course of an illness.

The pulse diagnosis has come easier to him, a skill he picked up like he was born to it, a remnant of a former life. When Yu Ming puts his fingertips to a man’s pulses, the room falls away and he is transported to a new country, where he senses rather than sees its landscape and weather. From the rate and the quality of the six pulses—slippery, tight, sinking, floating like a cork in water, choppy like a knife scraping bamboo, and dozens more—he learns of imbalances in the body of hot, cold, wind, wetness, dryness. He can tell where qi flows like a river, stagnates like a pond, or is depleted like a dying stream. He understands the conditions of the man’s organs and their relationships to other organs, like people in a village. Through feeling the pulses, he can tell the state of a man’s emotions and how they are contributing to his illness.

He’s treated cuts and bruises, influenza, spotted fever, pneumonia, earaches, headaches, liver disease, heart disease, blood disease, yellowjacket sting, rattlesnake bite, frostbite. The list is as long as the number of patients. Some heal quickly. Others take months of treatment. There are those he cannot cure, and he is upfront with them about this.

He goes to the back of the general store, where he’s made a shrine. It resembles an ornate puppet stage and is decorated with red silk curtains, yellow paper flowers, and peacock feathers. In the center is a miniature throne for the god that all the men pray to. They call him Old General Zhou because he protects them from the barbarians. Apples, incense sticks, and divination tools—jiaobei blocks and a canister of numbered Kau Cim sticks—make a crescent around the throne.

He pours a glass of rice wine and sets it on the shrine for the General. He lights incense, asks if he should treat the American boy, and shakes the canister of sticks until one falls out. He throws the blocks, two halves of a full moon, to see if the stick is valid. It is. He looks up the stick’s number in a book from the abandoned temple. The number takes him to a page with a poem. He’s blind in his left eye, and in his right eye his vision is disappearing at the edges, shrinking like a puddle in sunlight, but he can still read, and he bends his face to the page. The answer to his question is within the poem, if only he can understand it. He recites the words to himself in a whisper over and over. It is the clearest answer he has ever gotten.

Son of a bitch, he mutters.

***

The house is three stories tall, freshly painted white, with a porch wrapping around the entire first floor. In a field behind it, brown cattle graze on bunchgrass. Closer is a bunk house, a neat vegetable garden, and a chicken coop. Calum Patterson meets Yu Ming and Li Wei outside. The doctor has seen Patterson before in the store, talking with Li Wei, arranging to hire ranch help. A large nose juts from the man’s face; his bushy hair and mustache are the color of unpolished copper. He smells of sweat and dust and livestock. Li Wei has warned Yu Ming that Patterson speaks American, but with an accent that makes it hard to understand him; he’s from Scotland.

Patterson nods a greeting, the creases in his broad forehead folding like fabric. As Yu Ming and Li Wei follow the rancher through the front door and into the hall, up a staircase, and down another hall, Yu Ming turns his head to glance into the rooms. Furnishings slide by: a blue sofa, a straight-backed wooden chair, a painting of a horse, a potted fern. Yu Ming has a feeling, not just of physical movement, but as if he is passing through time—and with each step he is further away from the person he was when he arrived.

At first, all the doctor can see of the boy is a thatch of clove-colored hair on a linen pillow. A young woman with the same color hair wipes the boy’s face with a wet cloth. When she sees Yu Ming, she shakes her head no. She shifts her gaze to her husband, and Yu Ming can see the fear in her light eyes, the way they plead.

“My boy, he hurt his arm a couple weeks back,” Patterson tells Yu Ming. “Doc Barns says the only way to save him is to cut it off. I cannot allow. I seen what happens. My brother had that done to his leg when he was a boy. It killed him.”

Yu Ming understands about half of what Patterson says, the words familiar, yet just out of reach of comprehension. He looks at Li Wei, who gives him an almost imperceptible nod.

Patterson continues, “My Chinese ranch hands say you’re good with blood disease. Leroy here says he’s seen you cure worse, and I trust him. If you can help, if we can avoid the cutting, I’d be grateful.”

The boy turns his head. His cheeks are flushed; his shiny, unfocused eyes are green, like a cat’s. The boy’s right arm rests above the quilt, swollen and wrapped with a bandage. Yu Ming guesses he’s around twelve, the age of his own son, Sie-shao. The photograph Yu Ming keeps by his bed shows Sie-shao as a chubby-faced toddler with thick dark hair and serious eyes. He’s never met his son because Yu Ming left China while his wife, Jia Yan, was pregnant. He and Jia Yan met on the day of their wedding, both sixteen years old. The next year he left with his father for America.

The doctor puts his fingertips to the boy’s uninjured left wrist, the fluttering pulse vivid through his thin, adolescent skin. He closes his eyes, and he is there, in the country that is this boy’s body, the pulses speaking to him in a language in which he is fluent.

“Don’t touch him!” Mrs. Patterson’s voice is both a whisper and a shout.

Calum Patterson puts his hands on his wife’s shoulders. “Kenna, he won’t hurt him,” he says to her. To Yu Ming he says, “Aye, Mr. Ming. Please continue.”

Yu Ming can feel the woman’s seething gaze, but curiosity and the habit of his profession propel him. It is extraordinary, the doctor thinks, how much the boy’s pulses resemble a Chinese man’s. The pattern of the pulses is familiar, but the boy’s pulses are very fast, even accounting for his youth. The heat inside him needs to be dispelled. The toxin neutralized. The poison drawn out. Amputation would make no difference, anyway. The sickness is deep in his blood.

The boy is worse off than Yu Ming imagined. He compiles the treatment in his head, weighs the chances he has of saving the boy’s life. If the herbs will work as he expects them to, if the boy responds the way a Chinese man would.

Li Wei stands near the door, worrying the rim of the felt hat he holds in his hand, his sharp eyes reading Yu Ming’s face. Yu Ming speaks to him in Guangdong dialect: “They wait until he’s almost dead and then they come to me.”

To Patterson and his wife, Yu Ming speaks in heavily accented English. “I will treat your son. But I stay here, with him,” he says. “If I go, he dies.”

***

The doctor concocts the medicine in Mrs. Patterson’s kitchen, where sunlight flickers across the flour-dusted counter and a sweet, yeasty scent lingers in the air. He has brought the herbs he suspected he would need based on the symptoms his partner had described. Li Wei is gone now. He’s left him here alone with the Americans to go back to the store. Yu Ming does not dwell on this fact. He focuses every bit of his attention and his own qi on curing the boy. This concentration, his intention to help him heal, is as important as the right combination of herbs.

He sets up his scale and unwraps the newly arrived e zhu root, honeysuckle flower, mistletoe stem, peony root, and twenty more herbs. He boils them at her wood-burning stove until the water turns leather-brown and pungent steam fogs the room. Mrs. Patterson stands in a corner, watching him. He makes medicine tea and an ointment. Two children peek into the kitchen, girls at least five years younger than the boy. Their hair is copper-colored like their father’s, but shiny, new. When he smiles at them, their bright heads vanish.

In the bedroom, Yu Ming gives the boy—he’s named Jackson—the medicinal tea, and Jackson gags on it. The doctor shows him how to pinch his nose and drink it quickly, in a big gulp. He unwraps the bandage. The wound is hot and puffy. He cleans the inflamed cut, paints the ointment over it with a calligraphy brush, and wraps the arm with a clean bandage.

Jackson is suddenly asleep.

“He has been doped,” Mrs. Patterson says to her husband, loudly, unconcerned that Yu Ming can hear. “We have no idea what this Chinaman has given him. You didn’t see it. A rat’s nest to drink.”

After a few hours, Yu Ming unwraps the bandages. Boils have formed at the cut. He drains them, cleans the wound, applies ointment, and wraps the arm in a clean bandage. He feels Jackson’s pulses. Night blackens the window.

Calum Patterson tells Yu Ming he can sleep in an extra bedroom, but the doctor insists on staying up. He rests on the sofa in the living room, fully clothed. Every few hours he slips into Jackson’s room and checks his pulses. In his mind, he recalibrates the herbal formula. In between, he worries what will happen to him if the boy does not respond. Prison? Deportation?

In the quiet of his sleepless night, words from his father’s last letter swirl in Yu Ming’s mind like a leaf in a whirlpool, now surfacing, now submerging. Yu Ming’s memory is precise and unfailing. He can recall his father’s letter verbatim. It is time, past time, for you to come home. We went to the Golden Mountain together and were supposed to return together, but you said you wanted to stay to make more money. Where is that money? I know your first years were hard, but it’s unbelievable that you have not sent one penny home. All I have gotten from you is disappointment. You are warm in America, drinking whiskey and eating meat, while we are starving and cold. When you receive this message, come home. If not, send money. If not either, write a letter to your wife. We are being laughed at by others. This must end.

Yu Ming is twenty-nine and his father is an ocean apart, yet coldness seeps into his belly now just as it did when he was a boy hiding from him in the taro leaves behind their house. Yes, he did say that bit about staying in America to make money. Of course, that was the only acceptable reason to stay. The only way his father would leave without him. As soon as his father left, Yu Ming quit the mines and went to the closest, largest Chinatown, where he knew there would be a doctor. He couldn’t have been more fortunate than to find Doctor Lee, who was in his seventies and looking for an apprentice. Thieving quacks—that’s what his father thinks of doctors. And it is true that some are. But not all. Not Doctor Lee. Not him. How his father would scoff at the glove Yu Ming wears. How he would rage at the money Yu Ming spends on herbs and medical books.

Yu Ming has meant to write letters to his father and mother, his
wife, his son. He reads every letter they send him, and each time
thinks, now I will write back. Yet he doesn’t. He knows in his head
that his place is in China, with his family, but when he thinks of leaving
the world he’s created at Lucky Jade Dragon, he feels his qi drain
from his limbs as surely as if he had a bleeding wound.

***

The next morning, the doctor eats breakfast with the ranch hands.
Mrs. Patterson serves them eggs, toast, and coffee. After, he boils a
new herbal tea and they go to Jackson’s bedroom.

Mrs. Patterson puts her lips to her son’s forehead. “Still hot,” she
says. “Is it working?”

Calum Patterson fills the doorway. “How is he?”

“He doesn’t seem worse,” Mrs. Patterson says. She brushes Jackson’s
hair from his forehead and he wakes.

“He getting better. Little by little,” Yu Ming says. He holds the tea
for Jackson to drink. Jackson turns his face at the awful smell of it.

“Go on,” Patterson says to the boy, and Jackson drinks it.

***

Yu Ming continues the cycle of giving Jackson medicinal tea, treating the cut with the salve and draining the fluid. In between her chores, Mrs. Patterson bathes her son’s face with a cool cloth and holds his hand. Yu Ming takes his meals in the kitchen with the ranch hands. Mutton stew for lunch. Venison and potatoes for dinner. At night, he dozes on the sofa in the living room.

On the third morning, Mrs. Patterson puts her hand to her son’s face. “Mr. Ming. He is much cooler!” A sob rises from her chest and shakes her shoulders. Yu Ming smiles. That afternoon, he takes a walk by the stream south of the house. He rests against a tree and falls asleep. When he opens his eyes, he finds the little Patterson girls are skipping around him, giggling.

On the fourth morning, Jackson wakes with clear eyes, cool cheeks, and steady, strong pulses. Yu Ming sits with the boy all morning. Rain taps on the window. Jackson chatters at the doctor, a torrent of mostly indecipherable sounds, his voice cracking with youth. He gestures, telling the story of how he hurt his arm. He opens the drawer to his nightstand and pulls out a stone. “But I got this fossil,” he says. “A dinosaur bone. I’m pretty sure of it.”

Yu Ming holds the lustrous stone in the palm of his left hand. He’s unfamiliar with the words “fossil” and “dinosaur” but he understands “bone,” the striated ivory look of it. He runs his thumb along a silky hollow. “Dragon tooth,” he says. So, they have dragons in Oregon, too. Yu Ming has read that crushed into a powder and boiled, dragon tooth is good for calming the restlessness of the heart spirit, but he has not secured that ingredient for his collection yet. Would American dragon tooth work as well as Chinese?

“Museums will pay lots of money for fossil specimens,” Jackson says, his peculiar jade eyes widening. “This one could be a million years old. Scientists are digging out near Summit Springs. They’re finding rhinoceroses as big as a house, and an animal that was a combination of a bear and a dog, and horses with three toes. They say this whole desert used to be a jungle, hot and humid, like in Africa. My father read that in the newspaper.”

Yu Ming understands some of this. Hot, humid. Like his village. Digging for bones. Like digging for gold.

Jackson takes back the dragon tooth. “I’m going to be an explorer when I grow up.”

“Explorer?” Yu Ming tries to say it.

“Someone who goes to faraway places and discovers things,” Jackson says.

The boy has no idea how close he was to dying, the doctor thinks. His eager voice, his fidgeting body, the flare of his health returning—these flood Yu Ming with joy. “You keep drinking medicine, even
when I go. You understand? Then you maybe grow up and be explorer.”

Yu Ming brews a new herbal tea for Jackson and pours it into clean quart beer jugs. He tells Mrs. Patterson to warm a cup three times a day for Jackson to drink. He shows her how to clean and dress the wound. “Thank you,” she says.

The doctor hears the dogs barking at Li Wei’s buggy outside. He tells her he’ll come back in three days to check on Jackson and bring him new medicine.

Calum Patterson wraps a meaty arm around Yu Ming’s shoulder and squeezes, writes him a large check.

***

It is dinnertime when Yu Ming and Li Wei return to Lucky Jade Dragon. It is a Saturday night, and it seems that all the men remaining in Chinatown are crowded into the smoke-filled front room. They stand, talking in groups of two or three. They read Chinese newspapers. They sit at the table, passing the bowls of rice, steamed fish, and cabbage that Toy, the cook, replenishes. The doctor squeezes a chair in and sits. A cup of warm wine appears in front of him. A bowl. The scent of the rice and fish and cabbage works on him like a warm bath, relaxing the tension in his muscles that he didn’t realize he’d had. Pieces of conversation float around him—“There will be a democratic revolution in China…” “Yeah, he left town owing me money, too…” “I’m going to San Francisco, where there’s work and women…” “My father is on his deathbed. I need to go home…” The wine and food heat his belly. Exhaustion unravels him.

Later, Li Wei plays the erhu, and the men grow quiet listening to the bow sliding across the silk strings, the plaintive notes of “Running River,” a song they all know from their childhood, and they feel comforted and homesick at the same time. The doctor and a few others go to the bunks next to the kitchen, bunks that Li Wei used to rent to newcomers, when there were newcomers. They warm opium pills over oil lamps and recline to inhale the vapor through bamboo pipes. As the opium fog swirls in his head and erhu music fills his ears, Yu Ming’s mind travels to his mother’s kitchen, to her hands chopping vegetables at the counter—an image that is replaced by the water buffalos he rode as a child in the muddy river, which is then replaced by the blinking of autumn fireflies in the rice paddies. He imagines the long journey back across the mountains, forest, and ocean. He could do it now, before his eyesight worsens. Now that he has the check from Patterson. He breathes the opium air. He never imagined this would be his life: America, living inside this building that is like a cave, and as he dozes, he thinks of his skeleton beneath his flesh. He is like a fossil or a piece of gold, surrounded by the mountain rocks. It was not in Guangdong that he was born, but here, in this Oregon desert, and he has been here for a million years.

One week later, Mrs. Tindle comes to Lucky Jade Dragon with her daughter to see Yu Ming. The girl has a chest cold that won’t go away. Kenna Patterson told her about the doctoring he did on Jackson. Can the China doctor help her daughter? The next week, it’s a cowboy with a paralyzed leg and a woman with a fluttering heart. The week after, a Paiute woman that Yu Ming first mistakes for Chinese comes with an ankle swollen like a melon. Then a dark-skinned blacksmith with a stomachache that won’t go away. They each sit across from him, their wrists upturned on a white satin pillow as Yu Ming listens to the murmur of their blood. He tells them their symptoms before they have a chance to tell him. Beneath their skin, they are all alike and they are all unique. He brews medicine in the kitchen while they wait and pours it into clean beer jugs for them to take home. The Americans start calling him Doc Ming.

Li Wei tells the doctor they will change their business strategy. He says he doesn’t know why he didn’t think of it before. He cashes Patterson’s check, stocks the general store, and has advertisements printed with golden-haired American women dressed in silk, fur coats, and satin high-heeled shoes. Lucky Jade Company, the posters read. Medicinal Herbs, Groceries, Chinese Goods, and General Merchandise.

***

Darkness comes early. Snow whitens the hills and skirts the sagebrush. Yu Ming trades his quilted Chinese coat for a fur-lined buckskin jacket Li Wei won in a card game. He wraps it around his shoulders, the dusky smell of leather filling his nose, and stands outside in the night. Coyotes wail and bark in the distance. The snow glimmers in the cold starlight, and it reminds him of sparkling sun on the ocean he sailed across to get here. The Americans call this place a desert, a word he’s learned can also mean to abandon, to forsake. He wishes he could write to his family using this word and tell them, simply, I am in the desert, and that it would somehow explain to both them and him why he has not yet returned.

***

A bartender from the town saloon falls ill with influenza, and then the customers, and then their wives and children. Yu Ming brews up gallons of medicine, ladling it out to the thirty-some Chinese men remaining in Chinatown. They do not sicken. Within days, Lucky Jade swells with townspeople wanting the medicinal tea. Yu Ming uses the profits to order books on treating women and children, books on optometry, more herbs. He reads late into the night, the oil lamp close to the page.

***

In spring, wildflowers ignite the desert in cinnabar and gold. The gigantic cranes return, as they do every year. To Yu Ming they are dragon-like, with scarlet foreheads, snakelike necks, and wingspans as large as a man. Their silhouettes fill the sky and their trilling calls crowd the air. Yu Ming’s English improves and he chats with his American patients, even jokes with them. He shares pots of oolong tea. To the children, he offers candy. Some are wary, but few can resist the sweets for long.

He receives a letter from his elder cousin. It is high time now for an absent son to exert himself. Yesterday a compatriot came back from the same place you stay. I asked him about you. I was extremely pleased when he told me that you were in an extraordinarily well-off condition. At the same time, I am puzzled why you have sent home neither money nor letters. Your home is in a desperate condition that is beyond description. Your family cries from cold and hunger.

Yu Ming leaves offerings at the altar in the general store but does not shake the fortune sticks. He does not ask Old General Zhou if he should return to China. He has a feeling that the cycle has shifted, like sun moving across a valley, and he is out of the shadow. He asks Li Wei to order him an American suit from a newspaper advertisement. He stops shaving his forehead, lets the hair grow out, and combs it to the side. He cuts off his queue.

***

Acknowledgements: This fictional story is inspired by the real lives and artifacts of the Chinese immigrants Ing “Doc” Hay and Lung “Leon” On who settled in John Day, Oregon, in the late 1800s. The letters in my story are edited from translated letters in Chia-lin Chen’s Portland State University thesis, “A gold dream in the Blue Mountains: A study of the Chinese immigrants in the John Day area, Oregon, 1870–1910” (1972).