• Jake Gidney

They Who Spoke the Wisdom Away

*An Imitation of Cannery Row by John Steinbeck*


Over the sea, up mountains, and within this small, poor town lived the Chinaman’s father. He sat on his hill listening to the four winds against the grass, birds’ wings flapping, animals singing their mating calls, and the innocent screams of his small child. The Chinaman’s father would never leave his lonesome post except for his community.

No one questioned the Chinaman’s father’s decision to sit on his hill all day as they knew him for the man he was: friendly, bright, calm, and flexible. He would turn to others for advice as they turned to him. No matter the answer, he would always thank the person who gave it to him with the best gift he could offer: gratitude.

Everyone who spoke to the Chinaman’s father would come out of the conversation with greater purpose. This purpose gave them satisfaction and strengthened benevolence, love, hope, and altruism. After a discussion, one of philosophy in particular, the people would all say in a Mandarin dialect, “I would love to be a part of that man’s family,” yet they all unknowingly were.

His kid, the Chinaman, would come to his father’s mountain every day. During the long hours of the morning, the Chinaman would sit with his father while he was schooled on math, science, language, art, and culture. In the afternoon, the Chinaman would run around playing with the other children while his father reminisced about his late wife, searching for solace in the fields and horizon beyond. In the evening, the Chinaman would again sit with his father who recited slyly altered fables of his people’s lonely wanderings. The Chinaman’s father would be this story’s center of philosophy, wisdom, and art if the events about to be described did not occur.

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Before death comes a state of depression where the mind knows there is no way to combat what is inevitable. This formerly contented town now felt its demise as did all the other destitute towns. The bamboo turned brown, food and trade vanished, the ravens circled, and the people grew weary. One might have thought this was the end, and no Christley figure would appear as their savior. Once such a lively town, you would never expect tragedy to show its long black shadow. Like Atlas, people felt condemned to lift their heavy burden for eternity.

Everyone deserted that town searching for what was considered happiness, but finding only disgust. The Chinaman and his father felt like the world felt: alone. Sailing across the sea, they landed at an edge, a wasteland, a fury, where the Great Tidepool’s lives clash for survival. The angel in Manifest Destiny stopped to rest here and met hospitality, but soon died via a stab in her back. The canneries of this town caught the prey that swam and played and ate and slept and saw their families one more time before being taken and iced and packed and canned by workers who called them “just fish.”


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