A smart and level-headed recent college graduate, Sasha thinks he has a good grip on life—until everything goes haywire. His ideal family is shattered when his mom leaves and his dad re-marries. Even more unsettling, Sasha is forced to question his own identity when he starts receiving mysterious messages from a Russian agent claiming to be his biological father.
Determined to make his own way, Sasha boldly starts his own business as his enigmatic new father-figure mentors him in the ways of capitalism, personal finance, and starting a new business based on an innovative idea.
Follow Sasha on his spiritual journey to his own path among friends who are from different faiths. This fast-moving tale spins an unfolding mystery while offering practical tools for life and businesses.
|Publisher:||Morgan James Publishing|
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About the Author
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Entrepreneurial Poet's Solo Journey Begins
Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
— James Madison
Sasha scratched his left leg in the back, just above the ankle. He was waiting for the Putney Station bus off of South Fulham Road in London. He could take the train, but as an American tourist, he preferred to watch the brightly clad schoolchildren crossing the road together, or observe the Chinese and African maids coming home from work. Sometimes — well, one time — he'd had a fairly nice conversation with one of the Chinese maids. She was a younger woman around 30 and wearing a red plaid skirt. She was still six years or so older than he was but, he had hoped, young enough to banter with him in Mandarin. He was right, and they'd chatted and laughed lightly all the way to Brixton, where she got off to cook and clean for her own family.
* * *
A year and a half ago, a holiday in London at 23 had sounded just right to him as he accepted the Longhorn Poetry Fellowship from the University of Texas at Austin along with his BS diploma in business. "The Entrepreneurial Poet" was a name he sometimes called himself. He enjoyed thinking of himself in the third person. His mother had had a habit of doing this during his childhood. She would say as if reading from a book, "Her son had bright brown eyes but this did not prevent him from falling down a lot." As he went out the door to the graduation ceremony, she had said, "He stands ready to be created."
"Ana was the Uyghur word for mother," he thought to himself. He called her name in his heart. "Ana ... where are you? Have you left me alone?" Sasha was 25 now, and the events of the intervening 18 months had made the postponed London trip more desirable than ever ... even necessary.
* * *
The double-decker bus pulled up and Sasha pulled down tightly on his gray wool toboggan hat. No need to attract attention. He was average height and could pass for a college student from the States. He was from the States. He was an American. It had been 13 years since he stood with his parents in the crowded Austin courtroom and solemnly pledged his allegiance to the United States of America. His mother, Nur Ye, had held his left hand. His father, Yusup Sabir, had kept him near. He was like most Uyghur sons, a protected child. Before ethnic cleansing by the Han Chinese, the Uyghur people had lived in the rocky regions of China bordering Kyrgyzstan. Once he started school in Austin, Sasha had quickly learned to simply refer to himself as "Chinese." Loved, pampered, pushed to academic excellence at all times, he had never questioned his parents' love. Not really. His mother had sometimes whispered in his ear as she looked at his father, "You are his castle he is building to live in."
When you face certain and horrible death and you miraculously escape to a wide, green field full of flowers, you do not question anything. Your family is still alive, and a future lies ahead of you. That is enough. Later, he realized, he was their future. That is what his mother meant when she whispered in his ear.
The bus meandered along Fulham Road up toward the Kensington District. He watched the line of jewelry stores, chemists, and, every five blocks, a KFC or Starbucks: ah, home.
His father had been glad to see him leave for London, glad to release him to the world. This man, who had pulled him, a little boy, with him out of the Xinjiang region where his part-Chinese, part-Turkish, part-Arabic tribe was being massacred by the Han Chinese, this man he called "Chichi," meaning "Daddy," he realized now, had been anxiously awaiting the day when they could say goodbye.
The events that led to his father pushing him out of the nest were so upsetting to Sasha that he never talked about them. No one else knew except for the three of them — his mother, his father, and him — the reasons why they were no longer a family.
The day after graduation, he had gone skiing — water skiing — a new sport he'd discovered when a girl asked him out. He didn't tell them that a girl, Julia, had asked him out. He just said, "... some friends from my accounting class." That day, he met Julia on campus, and she drove them to Lake Travis, about a half-hour away, where they joined six others. Julia spotted her friend's boat, and they jumped aboard. When Sasha's turn came, he slipped on the skis in the tepid green water, adjusted his vest, grabbed the rope handles, and waved his hand for them to take off, and they went flying. Flying was a joy, like poetry.
When he woke in the hospital, he had a crease in his skull from where the boat and it had collided. Not his friend's boat, another boat nearby that caught him in a wide arc.
"Your hair will cover the scar," his mother said as her fingers caressed his face. Her fingers were so small, yet he'd seen them throw a knife 20 feet and kill a duck in midair. Her fingers traveled over his head as if she could magically bring back the thick black hair that had once covered it.
* * *
The bus suddenly jolted to a stop and snapped Sasha out of his painful memories.
He scanned the busy streets for his maid "friend." The domestic workers did not usually board until 3:30, and it was just now 3:00, the hour of sunset in wintry England. In one hour, the streetlamps would be on. The question that was never far from his mind, reasserting itself over and over, was, "Where is my mother now?"
Sasha leaned back against the bus seat and let his mind wander back again to the days after his accident.
* * *
Nur Ye and Yusup had taken him home. Soup — they gave him soup and dumplings. His father rubbed his toes. They stroked his bald, bandaged head and told him stories from the mountains about caves and kings. A week passed. His mother put the gray cap on his head "to keep the bandages safe," she said. She alone changed them. He wore the hat. He slept in the hat. After eight weeks, he took the hat off to dress his own wounds. He was a grown man, after all. He could do it himself.
Then something fantastical happened. On his once off-white skull grew a forest of tiny reddish orange swirls. Was it a disease? He gasped at his reflection. A parasite? A reaction to the medicine? He reached up and touched it, just as he did now unconsciously in his bus seat. One ruddy ringlet bounced happily out from under his cap before he pushed it back.
It wasn't long before Yusup spied the red curls. "Red-haired Uyghur boy! Chinese redhead!" His father, who saw that he was just another boy and not a son from his loins after all, raged through their apartment shouting in the language he knew the neighbors did not know. Sasha bowed his head like a child. He felt guilty for ruining the castle his father had spent so many years building. Tears streamed down his face, "Chichi ... Chichi...." But Yusup would not, could not contain his fury and loss.
"Chichi, Chichi," he cried again and again outside of his parents' bedroom door, but they were fighting and did not hear him. Then, he was afraid for his mother. He heard crashing sounds and cries. His father would beat her. This was the common way in China. He pushed open the door, but she stood unharmed, tying a scarf over her head.
His father, at the far end of the room yelled at him, "Go!"
"No." His mother's voice sounded slightly different. He realized that she was speaking in English and no longer had an accent. "I am going." She walked out with nothing. She never came back.
They stood in the apartment together, he and Yusup, for a few minutes after she left, and then Sasha ran out the door to find her and bring her back. He ran down one street and then another, his chest heaving for air in the muggy spring night. She had not taken the car; surely, she was walking. He ran. He ran for one hour and then two. Eventually, he just ran aimlessly. He ran all night, calling out her name, up and down little streets with the names of hardwood trees: Maple, Birch, Aspen, Oak, Pecan. How could someone disappear into thin air? He ran past grocery stores and insurance agencies. He ran past car washes and Vietnamese restaurants, the word "Mother" falling out of his mouth between breaths.
Finally, at dawn, Sasha stopped at a Shell station and bought some water. He leaned against the wall behind the station and then crumpled to the ground as his head suddenly seemed to split open with a throbbing pain. He waited, halfway reclined, to see if blood came out of his nose. It didn't. He checked his stitches. Still holding. He waited for an hour, hoping that he would be able to walk home, his legs sprawled out onto the asphalt helplessly.
That is how the police found him. They asked him his name and radioed in that they had found the missing man. He vaguely registered that Yusup had reported him missing and injured. The officers helped Sasha up to the front door, and Yusup took him in and laid him on his narrow boy's bed. For five days, he slept and woke, only to sleep again. In his dreams, he was chasing a white owl far ahead in the sky. Then he would be in a barn with the owl, but the barn had so many windows and doors, there was no way to keep an owl inside. Sometimes, mountain lions and bears roared outside the barn, just like the wild animals he had heard as a child in China, and Sasha would be afraid and wake up.
Yusup came and went with soup and tea and cookies. He had the face of a suddenly wifeless, childless man: sunken and pressed into something unspeakable. He could not stop loving Sasha, he could not forgive Nur. How could she steal his castle from him — he, a simple man who had never beat her like the other husbands beat their wives? He had brought her to the United States, her and her son. Sasha could almost hear Yusup beating his chest in the wail of grief as he moved quietly about the apartment.
After five days, Sasha sat up and then stood up. He stretched his arms above his head. Here he was, and he would have to face what fate had brought him. He felt the power of youth ripple through his forearms and his mind went immediately to Yusup. "I must take care of him. He is still my father," he thought, and he cleaned the kitchen and made dinner in a kind of funeral ritual. The ceremony of their family life was past. This was a new ceremony, one of mourning and one of new beginnings. Sasha made dumplings and spicy eggs, Yusup's favorite dishes. He had the meal ready when he heard the key in the lock and the thin figure came in.
Yusup only paused for a moment and then bowed slightly and went to wash his hands.
In the weeks and months that followed, his father was not unkind to him. They ate together at table every night. They talked sometimes of his father's work in a municipal lab testing water. He was not able to practice as a dentist, his profession in China, in the United States. Sometimes, over dinner, Sasha read him a headline. Theirs was the talk of the voiceless.
Yusup's eyes were small and black. He could see many things about a person, he often said, from their teeth. Sasha and Nur used to laugh when he described, in a mockserious tone, the man who chewed grass blades and straw like a cow or the woman who ground her teeth to nubs because her sister had a bigger house. In the year since his mother left them, Yusup's face had grown sallow and his eyes, blank. Sasha cooked for him and took him walking by the lake. When Sasha told him that he was going to London, his father looked down and cried, "You are still my son." He bowed to his father and held his shrinking frame in his long arms. He wondered if Yusup would die of a broken heart .
On the way to the airport, Yusup began to speak to him in a quiet voice, "When you come back, you will have a brother. I marry Yu Hong Yi tomorrow. She is. ... It is a boy."
So, his father would not die. He wasn't as weak and sad as he had seemed. Sasha was not really still his son. Nothing was as it seemed. He swallowed several times, then decided, as children often do, to say out loud what is embarrassing. "I'm not going to let you throw me away, Chichi. I don't care what you do, you can't just throw me away."
Yusup steered the car over to the side of the road and stopped. His hands began to shake, and he took them off of the steering wheel and put them on top of Sasha's head. He smiled, and Sasha could see the perfect rows of shiny teeth he had carefully cultivated to gain new dental business in China. "Sasha, I love you. You ... you are in my heart, but I need to have a baby. Please understand."
Sasha nodded, obedient and pacified. "OK," he said.
"I'm not throwing you away. I have two sons now." Yusup held up two fingers as if he were talking to a little boy.
"OK, Chichi." Sasha shrugged. He was defeated. There was no way he could keep his family from disintegrating like soap suds in his hands. "OK." They drove on to the airport, and he got out of the car screaming inside. He grabbed his bags, waved, and walked away. It was the kind of walk away that it takes a lifetime to make; Sasha moved with a tall, lanky grace away from the man in the car and into the airport terminal.
* * *
Now, here he was, riding the bus through London while inside he was still walking away, waving goodbye.
The London bus stopped and Sasha jumped up, pushing all thoughts of his recent past out of his mind. He got off the bus near St. James Park . He tried to clear his head and simply enjoy the evening. He was now in the heart of London, walking in near darkness. A horse stood on the other side of a fence in a little stable; he couldn't see it, but he could hear it snorting and moving against the walls of its stall as he passed. Vast hills stretched away as he entered the great gardens of the city. An old man walked by, a mother met her young daughter on the path and they turned toward home in the twilight, talking of school. He pulled out his pad and wrote:
Bastard is an English word woven from bard and bested. Long gowns, kingly staffs of state, still the crowning heads are boys, begotten by strange men. Unnamed chancellor, stallion on the foggy Eve. 'Tis the lark, No, 'tis the nightingale Lovers' game, lovers' gnome. Little boy, go home.
There was no one, which suited Sasha, and he walked, gray hat pulled low, across all the bridges of London that night. London whispers in the wee hours after the pubs close. Barely a tree cracks or an owl screeches. Too soon, before daylight, the people flow out of their houses again, onto the buses and trains.
At dawn, Sasha was back at St. James Park and caught the same bus back up Fulham Road toward his rented room in the attic of an old London boarding house. An ageless bus driver sat at the helm. White curls and a belly hinted at a nature softer than the one he projected. He was round and spoke quite sternly to boarding passengers about tokens and moving back from the front of the bus and talking on their cell phones. Sasha sat on the front seat near the driver. There was a fresh newspaper on the seat, and he opened it. A white paper fluttered out from its folds onto the rubber floor mat. Lifting the paper, he put it back in its hiding place without opening it. He was, after all, a careful, red-haired Chinese boy.
The driver had rosy cheeks and might have been called jolly if he had not had such a no-nonsense way about him. He warned the drunken sailor and his swaying friend — sporting a keffiyeh, the traditional Saudi headdress — to keep it down. They saluted and put their tokens in. This was high drama, Sasha had learned, for the English. Certainly, it was far more interesting than the automatic trains and flirtatious woman's voice announcing stations in the London Underground: Knightsbridge, Green Park, Piccadilly Circus.
He thought as he traveled down Fulham Road to his stop at Putney Bridge that the white folded paper he'd found would be an invoice, perhaps, or a legal deposition, an inventory or a banker's résumé. It was none of these things.
When he opened it, leaning against the dormer window in his room, he read, "Sasha." Disturbed, he put the letter down. It was a letter, after all. He closed the curtains and locked his door. Someone was following him. What else could it be? Breathlessly crouching on the bed and gazing to see if there was a shadow in the hallway, he continued reading.
Everything I am going to tell you in this letter is the truth. I do not usually tell the truth about my past. In fact, the only other time in my memory I have done so was when I knew Nur in 1991. "Nur" is your mother's name ... I think. It is the name she told me. We met in Athens. We were both working for our governments — she for China, and I was an operative for the USSR. You might say, in your American way, that we had the same beat but different bosses. Our love story is too precious for me to put down here and now. Yes, I loved her. She said she loved me. We were even married, although that was so dangerous and tricky, and we had to part so soon afterwards that sometimes I can't believe it happened. They took her away to another location. I didn't know she was married to your father or that you had been born for some time — not until you were seven or eight.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "American Fathers"
Copyright © 2018 RON SCHUTZ.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Entrepreneurial Poet's Solo Journey Begins 1
Chapter 2 Red-Headed Stepchild Makes a Plan 10
Chapter 3 Remember That Words Are Water 28
Chapter 4 Wealth Is a Spiritual Thing 39
Chapter 5 Create a Collaborative Culture at Work 55
Chapter 6 Your Ideas Are Valuable 71
Chapter 7 Here's a New Way of Being Citizens 91
Chapter 8 Profit Picture® Illuminates 110
Chapter 9 You Can't Legislate Morality 137
Chapter 10 Everything Is a Gift 155
About the Authors 172