As parents they could not have been more proud of their son. Going out there, making a name for himself as a landscaper, after enduring such unjust beginnings, was more than they ever could have expected of the boy – of the man.
Beth was overjoyed at the level of diligence that Kahn had shown in order to get himself to where he was; although she did have to concede, all of a sudden not having her beautiful baby boy at home with her all day was a pretty big transition. Dave was fine, he just did what he did; but as an almost 42-year-old woman, Beth felt lost. Raising that boy had been the biggest joy of her life and had given her life more meaning than it had ever held; now her fledgling was all grown up and ready to fly…
Beth was lonely, and it could only get worse when he did decide to fly away.
He had just flicked off the radio, that news report sending an icy shiver dancing under his skin, when the nose of a beaten up white Mazda ute, the other half of the K Walt fleet, came to an abrupt halt just half a metre from where Kahn was resting; sending the mower in the back of the Mazda catapulting into the headboard with a crash. Kevin bounded out in a fit of fury at the same time that Kahn was about to discipline the man for not securely restraining his load; at the sight of his offsider he thought better of it.
“Oi, K Walt!” Kevin shouted at his boss in a manner certainly not befitting of an employee.
“Yes, Kevin,” he answered calmly, “what’s your problem?”
“You’re my problem, mate,” the short man stared menacingly up at his boss.
“I beg your pardon..?” Kahn swivelled in the drivers’ seat to face him.
“You, ya bloody nip cunt,” he drawled, “you people have been fucking with our country for years -”
“Hey!” Kahn called out sharply, “You stop it right there, Kevin … Don’t say another word, do you hear me? Or I cannot be held responsible for what I might do.” Kahn stepped to the ground and fearlessly approached his aggressor.
“Yeah?” sneered Kevin, thrusting his face in Kahn’s, “And whadda you gonna do? Look at yourself, nip, you’re all fuckin’ talk, ain’t ya?”
“I talk when I have something to say, Kevin, something real … I don’t waste, or mash my words like you do, so no, to answer your question, I am not all talk – if anyone is though, it’s you.”
“Yeah? You’re all talk and you’re a fucking tight-arse, paying me fuckin’ minimum wage to break my fuckin’ back for ya – fuckin’ nip cunt, that’s what ya are.”
“Honestly?!” Kahn was incensed. “You ungrateful idiot … I gave you work when nobody else would, I tried to help you, Kevin … I try to help you, and this is how you thank me … With racist slurs..?”
“Fuckin’ breakin’ my back for a fuckin’ nip,” he muttered, almost inaudibly.
“Kevin,” this had gone far past the point of redemption, “look,” Kahn spoke through clenched teeth. “If you were out there, working as hard as you say you do, if you were truly ‘breaking your back’, as you say you are, then I’m sure I would reward you for it … But all I ever hear from my clients,” Kahn’s ire was on the rise, “the client base that I built up all by myself, through genuinely hard slog, is how slowly you work, how roughly you operate my mower, and how poorly a job you do of their lawns … Kevin, I am a fair man -”
“You a fuckin’ nip man is whatchu are -”
The first punch Kahn could ever recall throwing knocked the man to the ground. He didn’t rise again until after Kahn had climbed back into his ute and departed.
She knew something was the matter with her boy the moment she saw his face; he wore an expression she’d never before seen. It wasn’t so much a sombre look as it was one of defiance; her son was angry. Kahn took off his boots in the foyer, throwing his soiled shirt in the nearby washing basket and went into his room. Beth tentatively followed. She found him lying on his bed, teeth clenched, staring up at the ceiling.
“Bad day at the office, baby Kahn?” asked Mum.
Her son stifled a smirk but said nothing.
“You doing anything tonight?” she tried a different angle.
“What’s tonight?” he grumbled after a short silence.
“What does that mean?”
“That means, baby Kahn,” she said with a playful edge, “that maybe, you, should take some time off work, go out there, and enjoy yourself.”
“What does that mean,” he asked again, turning to look at his mum, his face lightening, “that I should get drunk and have meaningless relations with some chubby Kiwi floozy with an Asian fetish?”
“Well, yes … I suppose you can do that if you really want, Kahn,” Mum said thoughtfully, “I mean, if you think something like that will make you happy…”
“After today, Mum, the only thing that will make me happy, is not being Asian.”
“Oh,” this caught her off guard. “But what would become of the floozies with fetishes?” she remarked.
This time Kahn did grin, “Ha, you’re brilliant, Mum, but no … An Asian in New Zealand, even in the twenty-first century, even one with a Kiwi accent, doesn’t get a fair go around here.”
“Oh, but I thought you were doing so well..?”
“And I am, Mum, but it’s only because when they speak to me on the phone they think I’m a red blooded – a full blooded – Kiwi bloke.”
“No, come on, Kahn, you know that’s not true … Well, maybe it is a little, but it’s your reputation for being an honest, and darned hard worker that brings in your clients … Did something happen today?”
“Oh yeah, it was nothing, really, just a bit of a dispute with Kevin…”
“I did warn you about hiring him -”
“What, because he’s Polynesian? Shit Mum, you’re as bad as them.”
“No, Kahn,” Beth said sternly. “Not because he was a Polynesian at all – it was because of his history of breaking the law.”
“But that was why I wanted to give him a chance, Mum, because no one else would.”
“You’re too kind-hearted for your own good, baby, that’s your problem – so did you two have a falling out?”
“Yeah, turns out he’s a lazy, money-hungry, racist,” Kahn said quietly.
“Oh, well, baby Kahn, I think you already knew he was lazy and money hungry…”
“Yeah, and it turns out he’s just another racist Polynesian.”
“Yes, and that’s the worst thing – it’s one thing when Whites are racist towards minority groups such as Blacks or Asians, but it’s when those minority groups turn against each other, that’s when the real hurt begins.”
“Wow, Mum, profound words.”
“You get to be my age, baby, you see a few things.”
“Thanks for that.”
“That’s fine … Just make sure you clean yourself up before tea, alright?”
“I’m twenty-one years old, Mum, I reckon I can take care of myself.”
“’Never too old to learn a few things’, that what my Mum always used to say.”
“’Life is a classroom, keep your eyes and your ears open, there’s no limit to what you might learn’ – that’s what I say,” Kahn pushed himself up on the bed and smiled at his mother.
“Very good, that’s a very good motto to have – now get cleaned up, tea’s almost ready.”
Around the table that night, much as she tried not to, Beth couldn’t help noticing that her son had slipped back into his despondency. She thought it best to wait for him to bring up the issue, or to just leave it altogether. “So, aside from the obvious, how was your day today?” she asked.
“Pretty good, thank you … I was focusing on finishing that job in Redwood, while,” Kahn paused, “Kevin, mowed lawns just over the way in Burwood.”
“Oh, good, I’m glad you’re still enjoying it.”
“I don’t recall saying I’m enjoying it, Mum.”
“Oh, well Kevin must be loving the freedom,” and as if she’d clean forgotten what she just decided, “he must be very grateful for the opportunity to be working for a living…?”
Kahn remained silent for a few seconds as if pondering his response: “Mum, I reckon it’s time I moved out.”
Its getting dangerous down here. I don’t know how much longer I can stay here. They’re just so close all the time now. I can hear the monkeys chattering away night and day. They’re everywhere. I can hear them all around and even going through the house – through my house! To date, I’ve killed 6 of the slimy yellow bastards. Then I’ve been throwing them in the shit tank when no one’s around. Still, doubt if even that would smell as bad as their own country though.
Still keeping the pride, K.