China Man by Henry Tonn


by Henry F. Tonn


Jasmine tea and incense stir the senses in the Chinatown sector of Shanghai—yes, there is such a place—on a clear, fall evening with the many residents milling about, eating, snapping pictures of themselves, talking animatedly to each other, and our group has been instructed not to give money to beggars and aggressive hawkers, an admonition I have dutifully obeyed for three weeks, but now I spy a tiny figure in the swirling crowd, not a beggar, hunch-backed, in a rumpled blue shirt and baggy pants, a woman’s handbag curiously slung over his shoulder, face hideously burned, one eye closed, staring about in wonderment—what is he doing here?—and I work my way through the throng to his side, offer a rolled up American dollar bill—the average Chinese peasant lives on two dollars a day, I have learned—which he takes in a gnarled hand and slowly unrolls, stares at it with perplexity, then lifts his round head with its few remaining tufts of hair and peers at me through the slit of his left eye, placing his hands together in Buddhist prayer, in gratitude, and bows deeply, forever sealing a memory for me to share.

Henry F. Tonn is a semi-retired psychologist whose recent work has appeared in the Front Porch Journal, Weave Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, and

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