Hopes

Shu Yan Chan

(Click here for the original Chiense version)

All the coloured balls were released after the signal. They were gaining kinetic energy, bouncing off each other inside the tube.. When they reached the bottom end, because they were already full of kinetic energy, they moved upward following the curved surface of the container, until their kinetic energy was all lost, then they fell slowly again. The stirrer started when all the coloured balls had entered the container. The container also started its self-rotation; the balls were being stirred up and down, their order could no longer be maintained- they had reached the state of random chaos.
No one could predict the outcome, but one thing was sure that this event had drawn at least a hundred thousands people's attention - through various communication methods. Some were watching the event directly, some were watching or listening to the event through the televisions and radios via microwave and radio wave transmission. At that moment - the air was full filled with hope, expectation and hankering
In room 5, 17th floor of the Expectation flat, Felix Weston was alone, like thousands of other people, he was full of hankering at that time. Although he was sitting on a comfortable sofa, his waist was bent towards the front, his body was full of tension. His hands were holding a stack of tickets. His black bordered nails were pinching the tickets, making a very shallow gully on the ticket surface; his vest was wet through with sweat, producing a transparent effect - it seemed possible to look through his translucent vest to observe the throbbing of his anxious heart. His head appeared as if it were turned to stone by the Gorgon, his beard had stopped growing, the only organism which was still functioning, was his eyes - his eyes were stretching forward to their maximum, as if they were trying to escape from the head's cage, in order to watch the event on the television a little bit clearer.
Felix felt that the event had already pushed his blood pressure to the upper limit, the dizzy feeling had replaced the dryness in his throat. His heart muscles were becoming feeble. He had been waiting too long! The moving balls had an infinite amount of time to spend relative to the stationary Felix. It seemed that the stirring of the balls could go on forever! Felix could now hear the movement of his own heart - the decisive moment was coming! Success or fail!
At last, the stirrer started to stir in the opposite direction. The 'lucky' ball had been selected, and rolled down to the plastic tube already waiting there. The emcee then announced, 'This first number of today National Lottery is - Twenty Seven!'
This immediately activated the stone-dead Felix, leafing through his lottery tickets for the number '27'. While Felix still had no sign of number '27', the emcee had read out the second, third and the fourth lottery numbers. 'Eureka!' shouted Felix, 'I found it! I've found number ''3''(the fourth lottery number)!' Even though, he could only find the next announced fifth and sixth lottery numbers on different tickets.
After the emcee had announced the last bonus number, Felix was not reconciled to it at all. He murmured to himself, 'No, no! It couldn't be! There must be a lottery ticket hidden somewhere with all the six numbers marked on it! It's just hidden somewhere...' Meanwhile his mouth was murmuring about the numbers, his fingers were flicking through all the tickets like someone counting cash notes; his eyes were vibrating left and right, scanning for the numbers; hot sweat continued to excrete... until the emcee's announcement transmitted from the television to Felix's ears 'No one has won today's Nation Lottery first prize. No one has won the second prize either...'
The fully tightened tension in Felix's body was released suddenly. He collapsed on the sofa, his pulse was back to the normal - indeed, was much slower and weaker than the normal rhythm. The sweat had evaporated, leaving a soul in a cold, void and empty body.

* * *

The bright moon was shining in the sky as normal, accompanied by millions of street lights, light bulbs and fluorescent lamps which marked the human activities at night. The artificial lights were scattered by fine dust in the air, producing a light yellow 'sky glow'. Behind the sky glow, faint and bright stars were both twinkling, telling people about the legends behind them.
Felix was now staring at the sky through the window, feeling gloomy. The nights wind blew passed him, which just added more desolation and sorrow to him. On occasion, there were some cars passing through the road built next to his high-rise flat. He looked down form his window at 17th floor, and he could hear the noise from the car engines changing form loud to soft and from high pitch to low pitch as the car passed by.
'This is the Doppler Effect which causes the change in the pitch of the engine noise...' Felix heard someone whispering next to his ear, and, wasn't that the voice of Louise? He was overjoyed and turned his back as quick as he could, but all he could see, was just a cold, vacant bedroom. There was a double bed placed in the middle of the room, but beside that, was only the window blind swinging back and forth in resonance to the wind next to the window. The voice of Louise was only an illusion.
Felix stepped to the side of his bed and put his hand on the bed linen. He swept his hand slowly over the place where Louise used to sleep, although he hoped that he could still feel the heat left by Louise, the nervous cells on his finger tips kept reminding him that he was touching a cold, lifeless bed sheet. Felix sighed, and then laid on his bed. The smell which had accompanied him for years, the smell of his sweetheart Louise, had gone, and was replaced by the strong smell of lemon detergent. Felix closed his eyes, and his memory took him back to the past, reminded him of the happiness, and the agony.

The birthday - the day which Felix could never forget. Felix and Louise had already been living together for about three or four years. Felix slowly opened his hand to Louise, and conspicuously, there was a brand new key for an automobile! Although shocked, Louise shouted in delight, 'Is it real? Felix!' Yes, this was the birthday present Felix prepared for Louise. 'That's wonderful!' whispered Louise, then she had already rushed herself into Felix's embrace. Felix hugged his lover, they listened to the romantic music from the CD player and started to dance. Felix could not stop yelling inside his mind, 'The arrangement is too perfect! This is going to be the most unforgettable birthday for Louise...' At that moment, the melodious-music mesmerised Louise. She looked up, gave her lips to Felix and was waiting. Felix heart throbbed, then the lovers kissed sweetly.
When the lovers' lips finally departed slightly, Louise asked vaguely, 'Where did you get all the money from?' Felix did not even give a second thought, and replied straight away, 'This was the money I gained by buying shares.'
HopesThat was only one sentence, and this sentence was enough to change everything!
Although they were still in the most intimate position, their interchanging of their thoughts, their emotions and their souls had stopped. Louise put her hand on Felix bosom, stared at him and asked, 'Why didn't I know that you were buying and selling shares?'
'Oh, I just started it last month.' Felix answered, 'My friend taught me that. Look, I have already earned a car! Louise, I have a plan...', he wanted to revive the mellifluous feeling, so he stretched his arm to try to embrace Louise, but he faced resistance from Louise.
She straightened her hand harder, trying to keep a distance between herself and Felix, and said, 'Felix, haven't I told you that those chief players in the stock market were withdrawing their capitals? And the remaining speculators were just seeking the chance. The market is in a state of Irrational Exuberance and it could collapse in every second!'
'But the market is going well!' Felix defended himself, 'The number of transaction keeps increasing everyday, the index also...'
Meanwhile, Louise had got free of Felix, and shouted to him, 'That's enough! Those who are still transacting, are all speculators! Look, although the interest rate of our saving in the bank account is not that high, it is still a safe investment... I don't want to risk our money...'
Although Felix always respected Louise's knowledge, he also had a stubbornness in his character; the most important thing was, the key held in his hand was bought by the money he had gained in the stock market, which was a much more effective piece of evidence than any word! Even though, Felix did not really want the atmosphere of this long planned romantic birthday to be destroyed by an argument, he promised Louise amiably, 'Okay, okay! I will sell all the shares tomorrow. Then,' he shook the key and the key ring in his hand, 'This car will belong to us, forever, and never mind how the stock market collapses!'
Louise also did not want her birthday to end up in a quarrel, and with a second though, Felix also had his point that if he stopped his speculation tomorrow, he could never lose the car! She then gave a charming smile to him, asked, 'Really?' When Felix saw that he could finally turn Louise back to her earlier mood, he immediately rushed to her and embraced her tightly, answered, 'Yes, yes! Sure...' What he was thinking, was that if the prices of his shares continued to grow at the same rate as the past month, he 'surely' would have earned enough to marry Louise.
Unfortunately, Felix's hope did not bubble enough to reap before it was broken, as the result of the collapse of the stock market.
When Felix had been notified by his broking agent, the only thing he could do, was hold his knees and sit on his bed. His mind was full of vexation and anxiety. He heard that Louise was back home from work, he heard her closing the front door, he heard her stepped in the house relaxed and was crooning a happy tone...
Louise walked pass the bedroom, but had not noticed the abnormal of Felix. She just waved the food she bought in the supermarket to him, 'Look, Felix! Tonight I will cook your favourite cod!' She then walked into the kitchen. Felix raised his head, looking at the view of Louise's back while she was busy in preparing the dinner. The more relaxed did Louise felt, the more guilty Felix found himself. How could he tell the bad news to her? Regretful, vexation, shameful, sorrow, there were too many sad emotion in his mind...
He heard that Louise said to him calmly, 'Felix, you see? If you haven't listen to my advice and sold all your shares out, all our saving would have been lost...' She finally realised the unusually behaviour of Felix, 'Felix! Are you listening to what I say?' She walked to the bedroom.
Louise only gave Felix a glimpse, and then she knew what had happened.
Louise held one hand on the door to support her body, the other hand was pressing on her bosom to ease her intense breathing, her eyes were looking at Felix unbelievably; apart from panic-stricken, vexation and angry, she also had a feeling of being betrayed!
The couple remained quiet for a few minutes looking at each other, then Louise asked softly, 'How much is left in our saving account?' Felix spread his hands out, implying nothing was left. Louise could no longer tolerate that, she stepped towards Felix, grasped his collar, scolded, 'Why didn't you listen to what I had said? Why didn't you sell all the shares? Why...'
The poor Felix did not have the courage to look straight at Louise, he just tried to defence himself weakly, 'I - I know, Louise! I don't want this to happen. The stock prices kept rising till today, the index even broke a new record yesterday! I did really think that I had gained enough, I was really going to sell them all tomorrow, and we could get married... Who knew...
Louise pushed Felix away, took some steps backward, and shook her hands. 'No, no! Just stop that please! There is no use in lying, it won't help the situation at all...' she stopped Felix, and pressed her hands on her head, gripped firmly, and tried to subdue herself by calling her own name, 'Louise Loman! Louise Loman! Oh Louise Loman! I have to keep myself calm! Calm...' She looked her head up and saw that Felix was in a state of utter stupefaction, she knew that their fate was on her hands to decide. She asked Felix, 'Have you just lost all our savings, are we in debt now?'
Felix came to a pause, since his mind was not concentrated on Louise, then he replied, 'No, no... we are not in debt. May be I could borrow some money to...' Suddenly, Louise jumped up, and said resolutely, 'Ok! Be determined! Felix, don't bother to borrow money, we can't risk any more to continue to play the game. The money we have lost, well, could be saved back eventually, but no more speculation! Tomorrow nine o'clock, the first thing you have to do, is to go down to the bank and see the bank manager...' Louise had not finished her briefing, but she stopped because she was startled by Felix.
Felix also jumped up, gripped Louise shoulder and started shaking her body, 'Yes, yes! The money we've lost could be earned back! Doesn't the adage say something about the "wheel of fortune"? I don't believe in "fate" in the past, but now I am! We are in the bottom of the wheel of fortune now, aren't we? We could only go up, we could not go any worse! Now! As the wheel is going to go up, some lucky things should happen... therefore, I'll definitely win if I gamble on something!'
Louise was completely shocked by Felix's reaction and his logic, but Felix was still shouting, 'Money! What I need now is some principals to gamble on. Yes, I've still got a car... I can sell it... Louise, you know I have a friend whose tips on horse racing and football match are very accurate, and, they also give out an extra bonus in this issue of National Lottery...'
Louise was looking at Felix, whom was busy in searching through newspaper for advertisements of vehicle selling agents, her heart felt heavier and heavier, and also, she felt more and more ridiculous. Finally, her heart could not handle that any more, and it broke. The pressure exerted on her troubled thought was vanished simultaneously as her heart broke, she could now smile. She laughed, tears burst out and drawn a few lines on her cosmetic face, 'I am such an idiot! How could I still be bothered to plan for you?' She turned around, walked to the main door and continued, 'I am leaving now. Tomorrow, when you are at work, I will come back and pack up all my stuff... May be there are still chances for us to meet again in the future? But definitely not in the near future...' Felix immediately put his newspaper down, asked 'What?' and ran towards Felix, 'Why? Why you are leaving me?'
Louise turned to face Felix, and said to him, 'Felix, you have changed!' She stared on the puzzled face, 'Yes, I mind you losing all our saving on the stock market; but what I really mean, was that you had said to me, you had promised to me that you would stop your speculation! You should have stopped it one month ago. It was your promise!' New tears burst our again, and Louise cried 'Where is my Felix? My Felix was diligent, truthful and generous! You, you are now the kind of men which had been remoulded by the speculative gambling stock market to such a...' Louise did not continue, perhaps she lost for words, or she was not hard-hearted enough to use such words to describe Felix... At last her tears had dried out, she said 'Our savings account is empty now. Therefore, we owe each other nothing... When my boyfriend becomes untrustworthy, I have no more reason to live with him , have I?'
Felix pleaded guiltlessly, 'You shouldn't say that, look, I am going to win the National Lottery, I am going to win our savings back! We are already in the bottom of the "wheel of fortune"... but soon we will have enough money to get marry...' Louise heard the word 'marry', and recalled the passion in the past, her heart had soften a bit. She walked to the table, picked a pen up and wrote on the paper. Felix said nothing, he just stood beside Louise, watching her to demonstrate the calculation of the probability of varies permutation and combination of the Nation Lottery results on the paper. Louise had successfully shown that he did not have a chance to win, but he did not ponder the maths at all. Louise looked up, and she could tell from Felix's face that her explanation was just a wasted effort. She walked to the main door, said softly, 'I am going now,' then she walked out the house, which she had been living for three and a half years with her boyfriend. Felix followed her to the public hall outside the house, an elevator had just reached the floor, and Louise stepped in. She was grazing at Felix who stayed outside the elevator when she pressed the button to close the elevator's door.
The elevator's door closed slowly. Louise knew that her life had reached a new stage. She did not have the confident, but she had the courage to face it without the companion of Felix - there was a new hope for her!
Felix watched Louise's eyes slowly disappear behind the elevator's door. But he really could not feel it - he could not sense and imagine that this would be the last time he saw Louise in his life. In fact, he did not need to go to work on the next day, and he could stay in his house and intercept Louise when she came back to pack up. Might be Louise would then give him one more chance, but he was too busy in selling his car to buy Nation Lottery that he could not be bothered. When the elevator had carried Louise away, Felix walked back to his house lonely. He saw the cod in the kitchen which was bought by Louise, he just casually put it in the microwave oven for re-heat. When he was eating the unseasoned cod in the kitchen, he did not really care the low quality of it, and he was regarding that was just a 'temporary' separation between him and Louise. From his point of view, the 'temporary' separation just pushed him to the very bottom of the 'wheel of fortune', therefore he must go up the wheel soon! His mind was full filled with hope, and hope, and hope.

Now - he had lost everything! Horse racing, football scores, National Lottery, and the results of all sort of gambling were just proving that Felix had not reached the very bottom of the 'wheel of fortune' yet.
He was lying on his bed, and whenever he closed his eyes, the image of Louise's eyes appeared, the eyes which were staring at Felix when the elevator's door was closing. At that most frustrating moment, Felix suddenly understood Louise's expression of her eyes: there was no love underneath it, there were just compassionate and pity in her eyes, as if she already knew that Felix would become such an underdog today! After he realised that, he could no longer control himself. He jumped up, howled and run out of his house, leaving the window blinds in the room slowly swung. 'Clank', 'clank', 'clank', it was the rhythm of the soft wind, the music of the nature.

* * *

It was a quiet and peaceful night. The radio in the corner shop was broadcasting classical music, the only salesclerk stayed in the shop at 3:00 am, was counting the goods when Felix rushed in. Felix was unkempt and had not dressed properly, when he saw the salesclerk, he shouted to the salesclerk, 'Give me a drink! A drink! I need some alcohol!' The salesclerk saw him and replied, 'What's happened? Have you won the National Lottery, sir? Do you need an expensive whisky to celebrate it?' This was because the dejected Felix was still holding the stack of useless National Lottery tickets.
Felix drawn out five pound from his pocket and threw it on the reception desk and said vulgarly, 'I only have five pound. How expensive a drink can I buy?' The salesclerk shivered, quickly sold a bottle of cheap beer to Felix, and then continued his counting quietly. Felix was so eager that he had immediately drank half a bottle of beer and then tottered out of the corner shop. The salesclerk was holding some goods in his hands while he watched the drunk Felix leaving, but he was thinking about something else. 'If I continue to do this part time job, in two years time, I should have saved enough to buy a second hand automobile to travel...' when he thought about that, he got excited, his heart throbbed fast and sweats also excreted from his hands. He rubbed his hands a few times to get rid of the sweat, then continued to concentrate on his counting work again.

Felix was fooling around the streets with one hand holding a stack of National Lottery tickets and the other holding an empty beer bottle. Accidentally, he walked to the rubbish collection centre, where all sort of sewage, paperwork, waste metal, etc. were collected. The stinking smell made the drunk Felix sick, so he threw the empty bottle to the wall to express his anger.
'Clink', the empty bottle smashed into pieces and flew to all direction when it hit the wall of the rubbish collection centre. At that time, a stack of rubbish in front of the wall trembled! Felix tried to focus his drunk eyes, then he saw that the stack of 'rubbish' was indeed a beggar wearing ragged clothing! The clothing was not enough to give warm to the beggar. The beggar's dishevelled hair and his legs uncovered by his cloth were so dirty that they were shining, dark enough to reflect the dim street light.
Felix was look at the beggar while lots of emotions crowded into his heart. He fell down to sit on the ground, and started to introspect... 'My new car had gone, the money which we saved for four years had lost, and Louise, my girlfriend whom have been living together for over three years has deserted me! All the efforts in the past had gone! What else do I have now?' Felix asked himself. At that time, a person walked pass the rubbish collection centre. It was in the dead of night, so the pedestrian walked along side the wall, but when he saw the beggar, he covered his face with his hands and then walked a three metre semicircle around to pass the beggar. Surprisingly, when he walked past the dead drunk Felix, he walked an even larger semicircle to bypass Felix - it was a five metre semicircle! Felix looked at the beggar, but could not help to stop taking pity on himself, 'What is the different between me and the beggar? I have nothing now! There is nothing means to my life anymore!' There was nothing meant to him anymore! Felix jumped up and howled again. The National Lottery tickets held in his hand were now all over the place. He ran along the middle of the (vehicle) road and then disappeared. The pedestrian was scared by Felix, and did not have the courage to continue his walk, so he turned back and walked along the route where he first came. Everyone had gone, but only the beggar was still sitting next to the wall silently.
Suddenly, there was a loud vehicle braking noise from a road not far away and was followed by the final howl from Felix and a large 'bang'. The beggar, Uncle Lear, had heard the terrible noise from Felix, but was unconcerned about that at all - all these had no real meaning to him. He slowly closed his eye and backed to his dream again. Even the noise of the ambulance arrived later did not wake Uncle Lear up...
When the morning sun shined on Uncle Lear, he already had had a long wonderful dream. In his dream, he had paid off all his debts, and he no longer needed to work for his debts, he could do whatever job he liked, and do whatever thing he wanted - there were no more restriction placed on him! This was the freedom which he had dreamed of for decades, and this freedom was his extravagant hope, his only desire in his life!
Uncle Lear had made the same dream for so many time that he would not be disheartened when the sun woke him out. Even in daytime, there were so few people would walk pass the rubbish collection centre, so he still sat on there quietly. For him, there was not much different between day and night, sun shine or not at that time.
The scenario was completely different when the Sun started to set on the West. A group of children run towards the rubbish collection centre and surrounded Uncle Lear. The children called him 'Uncle Lear' cordially. They played their game around him and did not mind his dirty body. Uncle Lear was now full of vigorousness, watching the children playing hide-and-seek, chase, (example), etc. He was also busy in saying hello to the children, 'Harriet, Tina, Paddy,' etc. He was full filled with joy when he saw the children.
Cora walked aside Uncle Lear and shook his hand, asked 'Uncle Lear, what game are you going to teach us today?' Uncle Lear saw that Nathan had just picked up a lottery ticket from the floor, so he waved Nathan towards him and asked the children casually, 'Have you lot all finished your schoolwork?' Tina and Cora were so eager to answer that they did not even wait until Uncle Lear finished his question, 'Yes, yes! Of course we have. You said that you won't play with us if we haven't finished our schoolwork, didn't you?' Meanwhile, Nathan had given the ticket to Uncle Lear.
All the children were amazed! Their eyes were all opened to its maximum, staring at Uncle Lear's dirty old hands which were folding the ticket. A minute later, a small but delicate paper crane was completed. Uncle Lear gave the paper crane to Nathan, and this excited the others. Some children wanted Nathan to give the paper crane to them, and some picked up the rest of the tickets on the ground and gave them to Uncle Lear. 'I want a paper crane too! I want one too!' they all asked and Uncle Lear was so overjoyed that he promised every children. In less than a quarter of an hour, dragonfly, swan, chicken, fish, parrot, aeroplane, boat, etc. all types of paper origami were produced, and the children were all enjoying themselves in the world of paper origami.
Tina saw that Nathan was holding a heart shaped paper origami, so she asked Nathan, 'Nathan, would you give this heart shaped origami to me please? I really love this heart...' Nathan immediately replied, 'Yes, yes, of course!', he paused for a second, passed the origami to Tina, then he imitated the tone of the adult, 'You can feel assured, Tina. I will be working hard to get a good qualification, I will earn a lots of money, I won't let you down...' Tina tittered, but she was not convinced and argued 'How come you know that I am not the one who become somebody in the future?'...
Uncle Lear was smiling, he was watching the naive children playing happily, he was looking at the National Lottery tickets which originally belonged to Felix Weston were now shaped to crane, swan, aeroplane, etc., and were hovering in the air; what he had seen, were the hopes, one followed by another one.

(All rights reserved) May, 1997 Back to Creative Writing