September 9, 2005

Posted in General at 7:32 PM by Steven Chalker

 Halfway across the Qiongzhou Straits on the Shuangtai San. The lights of the Chinese Mainland had completely vanished but we couldn’t yet see Hainan Island.

It was time: Midnight on the Sea of Dreams.

Closer to 3am really.

I hadn’t figured on the bus from Guangzhou spending an hour stuck in traffic. Or the dinner stop at around 8pm. Or how long it would take to load the ferry.

So it wasn’t really midnight. Not in the precise 12:01 AM sense of the word.

But, in all of the ways that really mattered, it was close enough to midnight.

I left the bright lights, instant noodle soup smells, and Hong Kong cop flicks of the main cabin for the dark silence of the deck and I promised myself that one of these days I’d take the ferry during the daytime. But this time I had a different sort of promise to keep.

The envelope I threw overboard skipped twice before sinking.

Jack had been in the hospital for over a month when I heard that he was sick. It was a sidenote at the end of a long email from my mother which included, among other things, local politics, what they’d eaten for dinner recently and amusing stories of stupid things the cat had done. The important things that take center stage are so obvious and so important that she doesn’t realize no-one has told me about them.

I didn’t hear about his death for a few days. But that was because remote mountain monasteries on holy Buddhist mountains in Sichuan don’t have internet connections. Or indoor plumbing. Or central heating. However, as Jack was one of the first people I knew to have a dish he’d have been pleased to know the did have nearly 150 channels of satellite tv.

I don’t remember when I first met Jack Chalker. Probably because I wasn’t speaking yet and had only recently learned to focus on and even control those waving blobs which I would later discover to be my arms and legs.

I always knew he was an author but it wasn’t until after I’d gotten out of the Piers Anthony phase of every young fan’s life that I actually read a book he’d written.. He was Davy’s father. Eva’s husband. The guy with the neat tv. The hot tub. The swimming pool. That blue light thing that zzzaaaaped icky bugs.

For my bat-mitzvah when other friends of the family gave me money or clothing or jewelry or other things that young girls are supposed to like, Eva gave me books and Jack signed them. My first ‘real’ job was reading galley proofs for him. I think the books were “Horrors of the Dancing Gods” and “The Cybernetic Walrus”. Eva would know. I was paid with a chocolate cake from Ms.Desserts. There may have also been money involved but the cake was the important part. I would do that as occasional work until my studies at university interfered.

I’ve got one more envelope to deliver. From the deck of the Kowloon-Hong Kong Blue Star Ferry. In memory of one of the people who fostered my love for books. And whose hate for icky raw fish things meant going out for sushi with Eva and my Dad.

Eva here: Marian gave me permission to re-post this from her Yahoo Group, Marian In China. (P.S. to Marian: Not all icky raw fish. He adored oysters on the half shell.)

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