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Charles J.

Lee

KUNG-FU
for
DHARMI

CHARLES J. LEE

First published by Charles J. Lee, December 2009


All rights reserved.
Copyright © Charles J. Lee 2009

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Charles J. Lee

‘Kung-fu’ means ‘Skill’ or ‘Ability’.

It applies to all life experiences.

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Charles J. Lee

CHAPTER THREE

Street Child

Somewhere in the Land of Fruits and Nuts...


A man ambled down a street, taking in the sights and sounds. He
looked as though he would like to stop and smell the roses, but this was a
mid-sized city. The only plants visible were the green shoots of weeds
popping up from cracks in the pavement.
This man had huge, bulging eyes, but they shrank and disappeared
when he was engaged in one of his many jolly laughs. His shaven head was
as shiny as a mirror, but his fleshy face appeared as content as a bowl of
pudding. The man seemed to have yellow skin, or perhaps it was just the
sun at work.
Several children ran down the street towards the man. They seemed
to be quite careless, for several ran into him at the same time.
“Oof! Mister!”’
“Ow!”
“Hey, kids...” the man said good naturedly. Then his face changed.
In an instant, the slow-moving man slapped one massive hand against
his pants pocket and shot out another hand. Most of the children continued
running down the street, but the man caught the slowest child easily. The
man had not even moved his feet.

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“Boy, did you just attempt to take something from me?” The man
demanded.
“I didn’t take anything,” the boy replied.
“Of course you didn’t. Because I stopped you. But you tried.”
“I didn’t try to take anything,” the boy repeated.
“Don’t lie!” The man warned. But he looked into the eyes of this child,
and found only surprise in them. He let go of the boy.
Although the man watched the boy to see if the boy would attempt to
run, the boy stood his ground.
“I correct myself,” the man nodded. “You are part of a gang. And
you’re not the one who goes for the wallet. Am I right?”
“What wallet? We’re playing a game.”
“A game where you take things from people’s pockets?”
The boy did not answer, but the perplexed look on his face told all. He
didn’t know what his friends were doing.
“What about your friends?” The man asked. “Where are they hiding?”
“I don’t know.” The boy replied.
The man folded his arms and stood with legs apart, towering over the
boy and blocking his way. “You don’t know where your friends are?”
The boy shook his head.
“Do you know where they live?”
“No.”
“You don’t know anything about them?”
“I just met them.”
The man looked intently into the eyes of the boy.
“So why did you run with these kids?”
“They asked me to run with them. A race,” the boy explained.
“And that included running into me?” The man asked.

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The boy nodded. “They said it was part of the race. Like a game of tag.
Or run and tag, somebody said.”
“Don’t you think it is strange to run and tag people you don’t know?”
“Oh, we have done this many times.”
“And the people you run into?” The shaven man was beginning to
understand.
“Most of them shout at us. Sometimes they join our race. But we’re
faster. They don’t catch us ever... oh, you’re the first one.”
“So you keep playing this game with your friends? Where do you
normally meet?”
The boy pointed to a junction far away. “I met them there.”
“Will they be there tomorrow?”
The boy shrugged. “I don’t know. I hope so.”
“Oh? That’s how you normally meet up?”
“I only met them today. We played this tag game all day.”
The man scratched his head thoughtfully. His head was quite big, but
it didn’t take too much to fill his head. So he stood there and was thoughtful
– or mindful - for a while.
Finally the man spoke.
“I should stop calling you Boy. What is your name, young man?”
“Boy.”
“Boi?” The man asked.
The boy nodded. “I’m not Yang Mann. I’m a boy.”
The man scratched his head again.
Erboy? Now what kind of name is that?
“I’m a boy, Dummy.”
“Are you calling me Dummy?” The man asked without raising his voice
or changing his tone.
“I’m not,” the boy answered. “I’m Dummy.”

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The man hooded his eyes ever so slightly.


“Are you playing with me?”
“I can play with you, if you want,” the boy smiled. “Do you want to tag
someone?”
“No, I’m not talking about playing like that. I’m asking you for your
name.”
“Boy.”
“Now you’re telling me that your name is Boy?”
“Or Dummy.”
The boy’s words sounded ridiculous to the man. “I mean, what do
most grown-ups normally call you?” The man asked again.
“They usually call me Boy. Like you did.”
“Then what about people who know you. People whom you live with.
Your parents. What do they call you?”
“My parents? They call me Dummy.”
“They call you Dummy?”
“Or Boy, like everybody else. But they have other boys. So they
usually call me Dummy.”
“Are you saying that you are a boy called Dummy?” The man asked at
last.
“I am a boy called Dummy.”
The man looked carefully at the boy’s face, which seemed to reflect a
multiracial background.
Perhaps this boy is using an ethnic name, the man reflected. That
must be the reason why he has such a strange name.
“So how do you spell Dummy?”
“I don’t really know.”

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Charles J. Lee

The man could not resist a shudder. Our schools are getting worse and
worse nowadays, he thought to himself. This boy was already six, seven
years old.
“Can you read?”
“I don’t know.” The boy replied.
“What do you mean?”
“I know how to read each letter. I don’t know how to read letters when
they are together, though.”
“So is your name really Dummy?”
“It is Dummy,” came the reply. “Or Boy.”
The man closed his eyes for an instant. There was a voice calling
inside him.
No, no! Don’t dwell on the past! The man told himself.
But his internal voice was insistent. Not even the most basic education?
You can’t let parents like that get away!
The man finally made up his mind. “Boy,” he addressed the child. “Can
I speak to your parents?”
At this, the boy’s face seemed to crumple.
“What’s wrong?” The man squatted down so that he was on the same
level as the boy. “What happened to your parents?”
“They’ve... they’ve... been taken away.”
“Taken away?” The man thought as quickly as he could. Now what did
that mean?
“There were all those loud sounds. And those bright and spinning
lights. And then the Mofos took them away.”
“So you mean to say they were abducted by UFOs?” The man asked.
“Ab-duct?”
“Kidnap,” the man explained.
“Kidnapped. Yes.”

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Charles J. Lee

The man could feel his heart skip a beat. This boy really did not seem
to be making up a story. Radio and TV stations were always talking about
alien threats to The Real World. Was this an account of an alien invasion?
“So did the U-F-Os fly into the sky?” The man asked, suppressing his
excitement.
“No. There were no U-F-Os. There were only MO-FOs.”
“Mofos?”
“That’s what father said. He called them Mofos.”
“Uh...” the man scratched his head. “I haven’t heard of Mofos.”
“Father said Mofo is short for mother...”
“Oh, I get it,” the man said hastily. “All right. So the Mofos took your
parents. I take it that the Mofos were human beings?”
“I’m not sure if they were people. They hide their faces in helmets.
Like outer space aliens. They also had weapons. Like outer space aliens in
the movies. Only they rode Ottos and Karls, instead of flying saucers.”
The man was still trying to make sense of what the boy was saying.
“Did your father ever tell you what kind of people Mofos are?”
The boy shook his head. “He said a Mofo wears a uniform. And has a
metal thing called a... ugh... a batch. Father also said I must never to talk to
them. And always to run and hide when I see them. Because they would
take me away to some bad place and lock me up.”
The man stood up and touched his chin.
Ah, it makes sense. This boy’s parents must be people who snuck
across the border without permission.
“Have your parents been taken away because they were illegal
aliens?” The man asked.
“No,” the boy answered. “My parents are not aliens. They are people
like me and you.”
“I mean, did the Mofos call them illegal aliens?”

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“The Mofos never called them aliens. I think the Mofos are the aliens,
actually.”
“Urm...” the man thought to himself. This was rather complicated. The
man was convinced this was an immigration issue. But how could he help
the boy resolve it?
“Do you have any relatives around?”
“Relatives?”
“Any aunts, uncles, grandpas, grandmas living around here?” The man
asked. He was mentally preparing to hear the answer No, since he believed
this boy’s parents came from over the border.
“I don’t have any relatives.”
“You mentioned some other children. Is there a family?”
“Oh yes. I have brothers and sisters.”
“Where are they now?” The man asked.
“They have all been taken away. By the Mofos.”
“They didn’t take you away,” noted the man.
“Because I remembered what my parents said. So when I heard the
sounds and saw the lights, I ran into the woods and hid under some bushes.
They didn’t see me. But when I came back out, everybody was gone.”
It seemed obvious to the man that the boy’s family had been arrested
for sneaking across the border. The man would have to find some way of
identifying this boy, and putting him in touch with somebody who knew his
family.
“What are your parents called?”
“Father and Mother,” the boy answered promptly.
“Don’t they have names?”
“Father and Mother,” the boy replied.
“All right. Do you know what your family name is?” The man asked.

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“Family name?” The boy thought for a moment. “Oh, right! Our
neighbors know. They call us Erfoster Family. Or De Foster Family.”
The man thought for a long time. “So your name is probably Dummy
de Foster, am I right?”
“If you say so,” the boy replied. “Grown-ups always know. That’s what
Father always said. He always said he knew everything.”
“Well... grown-ups don’t always know everything,” the man said with a
sigh. “I wish...”
“Father always said to me, ‘Dummy, you don’t know anything. Listen
to me.’” the boy replied.
There was another silence as the man looked down.
No, that is a past life, the man told himself. Don’t dwell on your
mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
“I’ll help you find other members of your family,” the man said at last.
“Come with me.”
“And your name, Mister?” the boy asked.
“My name comes from a different language,” the man answered. “You
would probably find it hard to pronounce. You can just call me Ace.”
“Ace? Dummy’s coming with you then,” the boy said.
The man didn’t move. He had been very puzzled all along about the
boy’s name. It did not seem possible that this boy was called D-u-m-m-y.
No loving parent would call his child that!
Perhaps there is something much deeper…
“Boy, most parents give children meaningful names. Do you know any
reason why they call you Dummy?”
“They say I deserve the name because I keep asking questions,” the
boy replied.
Ace scratched his shaved head. The spirit of inquiry is good, he
recalled a religious leader telling him. It is always good to ask questions.

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Charles J. Lee

Why should a boy be called a dummy for asking questions?


“Wait a moment, boy,” the man said as he sought out a tree. He sat
down under it with his legs crossed.
“Ace, what are you doing?” The boy asked.
Another question! Ace thought to himself. This boy is really interested
in learning!
“I am going to reflect on my spiritual training,” Ace told the boy. “I am
trying to understand the reason behind your name.”
Meditation was still a new thing to Ace, and he took a while to
completely calm his heart and mind. The boy squatted patiently beside him
and watched, eyes open wide. He did not try to interrupt Ace.
After half an hour, Ace had a revelation.
It had to be. A name has to have a meaning.
Having led a life without meaning, the man had only recently
discovered Meaning and Purpose. He decided that it was fate, it was karma,
that brought this boy to him. Of course! It was a sign that he was finally on
the right path!
Dummy’s name really came from the root word Dharma!
And of course, now that made sense. Dharma sounded like a name for
a girl. So his parents had made a small change. They named him Dharmi!
Ace opened his eyes and told Dharmi: “I have figured out how your
name is really spelt. D-h-a-r-m-i. It roughly means ‘the right path’. Your
parents felt you deserve to be called Dharmi because you keep asking
questions and asking questions will put you on the right path. All right?”
Dharmi nodded eagerly. “Now I know both the meaning of my name,
and also how to spell my name!”
“And now, Dharmi de Foster, let’s find your parents!” Ace announced.
*

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Charles J. Lee

After asking many people, Ace finally took Dharmi to the Department
of Child Support Services.
“Dharmi here has lost his parents,” Ace said cautiously. “Can you help
us trace his closest relatives?”
“Family name,” the clerk said without looking up.
“de Foster.”
“Many people carry the family name of Foster,” the clerk looked up
with tired eyes.
“Exactly,” the man replied. “Surely someone will recognize this boy.”
“But if there are so many potential relatives, how do you expect me to
help him?”
Ace had not wanted Dharmi to say where he lived at first, because Ace
was concerned that Dharmi might be arrested as an alien. So it went back
and forth for a while between Ace and the clerk. Finally Ace relented and let
Dharmi describe the place he had been living with his family.
“Let me see…” the clerk pored over the records. “No, no Fosters living
there. Not at that address, not along the entire street.”
“Perhaps the family is unregistered…” Ace conceded.
“No, no. This boy isn’t a Foster. He’s a foster child.”
“A foster child?”
“There was a couple living there, running a foster home of sorts. They
are not his real parents. This boy – this Dummy...”
“Dharmi,” Ace replied, pronouncing the name carefully to emphasize
the H and the R sounds.
“This Dhar-mee,” the clerk said in a patronizing tone, “is listed in the
paperwork as an abandoned child. We have records of the payments made
to the foster parents. And they certainly did not register him as Dummy. Do
you want to know what name the foster parents gave him?”
“Sure,” Ace replied.

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Charles J. Lee

“They called him Benton.”


“Benton?” Dharmi’s eyes opened wide. “It must be a mistake! They
have never called me Benton before!”
“It’s in the files,” the clerk tapped a large, battered manila folder. “We
have all the children’s photographs, and only Benton’s photo looks like this
boy. Furthermore...” the clerk flipped through some pages. “Ah, here are his
foster parents.”
Dharmi found himself looking at two faded instant photographs. These
were clearly younger versions of his foster parents.
“I... but my father and mother have never called me Benton before!
They always called me Dummy!” Dharmi was shaking. Ace gently put his
arms around Dharmi in a reassuring fashion.
“Well, you were an abandoned child. These are your foster parents,”
the clerk said ruthlessly. “They were getting paid to take care of you. That’s
all. And if they really called you Dummy, it seems you were not very
important to them.”
“Getting paid...” Dharmi looked down at his feet. Suddenly the world
seemed very different.
But it seemed to make sense a little, because these two – father and
mother, actually foster father and foster mother – they never seemed to like
him. They only seemed to put up with him...
The floor was starting to appear distorted. Faraway. And the patterns
on the carpet were starting to move...
Ace gently tightened his grip on Dharmi’s arms to prevent Dharmi
from collapsing.
Dharmi blinked. A tear fell from one eye. Then another tear fell. Then
more tears.
“Ace. I... my...” Dharmi stopped.

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Ace opened his mouth, but found it hard to say anything. More tears
fell from Dharmi’s eyes.
“Why do I have no real parents? Why was I abandoned? Did I do…”
Finally Ace spoke.
“Whatever has happened, was fated to happen,” Ace murmured gently.
“You were abandoned and your present parents, your foster parents, took
you in…”
“No... no...!” Dharmi was crying. “They’re not real! Not real parents!”
The mention of ‘not real’ inspired a better response from Ace.
“This world isn’t real. It is transitory,” Ace told Dharmi. “We are born
in this world, and suffering is part of the human experience. But we triumph
over suffering with love and compassion...”
Ace was actually reciting things he had read in some religious texts,
but he recited with sincere fervor. So although Dharmi didn’t understand all
of Ace’s words, they sounded oddly comforting. Dharmi’s sobs died down.
On his part, Ace did not like learning that the boy’s foster parents
called him Dummy. Ace greatly preferred calling the boy Dharmi. It would
also have fitted Ace’s beliefs. But Ace knew he could never impose a name
on someone else.
“Do you want me to call you Benton instead?” Ace asked.
The boy shook his head emphatically. “They never called me Benton!
They never called me Benton!”
The clerk weighed in with a sarcastic grin. “Dhar-mee is a very nice
sounding name. I am confident that this boy’s peers will enjoy calling him
Dhar-mee. In contrast, a pretentious name like Benton is sure to get this
boy beaten up in school.”
The responses from the boy and the clerk brought a smile to Ace’s face.
Perhaps it was indeed karma, it was indeed fate, that brought Ace and this
unwanted foster boy-street child together!

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This must be my second chance, Ace thought to himself. I should not


miss this opportunity to do the right thing!
And so Ace turned to the boy and opened his arms. “Boy, if you don’t
want the name Benton, will you let me call you Dharmi instead? As I’ve told
you, it comes from the term Dharma and is a very meaningful name.”
“I’ll be Dharmi from now on,” the boy responded immediately. “It
totally makes sense.”
“And since your parents – foster parents – since you can’t find them,”
Ace said. “How about staying with me until they show up?”
“I want a real father!” Dharmi insisted childishly.
“Of course,” Ace said hastily. “I’m not suggesting that you call me
Father. But until you find your real father, I can act like a father to you. I
can protect you and teach you and things like that. You can call me Ace. I’ll
be your sifu, sensei, master or teacher.”
“Teacher Ace!” Dharmi said immediately. He threw himself into Ace’s
arms and the two hugged each other.
“How nice. An ultramodern family. Monk and son, old monk and young
monk,” the clerk muttered cynically.
“Clerk,” Ace said with authority. “Dharmi here says he was brought up
with other foster children. Maybe I can take care of them too, as a family
unit. Do you know where the rest are?”
“Nope.”
“Can we trace the other children?” Ace asked.
The clerk shook his head.
Dharmi pulled at Ace’s sleeve. “Never mind. The other boys liked to hit
me and say bad things to me. I don’t miss them that much anyway. I want
to find my real family.”
Ace wrapped his arms around Dharmi comfortingly.
“Is there any reason why you can’t trace the entire family?”

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The clerk sighed. “This story comes from my colleague...”


Dharmi and Ace listened intently.
“Two days ago, my colleague was here after-hours. Late into the
night...”
“Wait a moment, that sounds made-up,” Ace interrupted.
The clerk glared at Ace. “Do you think I’m telling you a lie?”
“That’s not how bureaucrats work. You people always go home on
time,” Ace pointed out.
“Ergh!” The clerk swore. He looked thoroughly nonplussed, while Ace
smiled at the clerk’s discomfort.
“All right, you’ve got me,” the clerk said after a minute. “But I wasn’t
lying to you.”
“Oh yes, of course,” Ace beamed. It was impossible to tell if he was
being sarcastic.
“I’m serious!” The clerk glared at Ace. “But you’re right. My colleague
was here to use the computer. He probably didn’t want his wife to know he
was surfing porn.”
“What’s Serfinpon?” Dharmi looked up with red eyes.
“Never mind,” Ace said hastily. “It’s just a condition of the mind. You
know, something virtual.”
“Ace, what’s virtual?”
“Illusionary.”
“What’s illus...”
“Never mind. That man was just here daydreaming, all right?”
“But Ace, didn’t he say it was late into the night...”
Ace could only smile helplessly at Dharmi’s inquisitive mind. “Go on,
please,” he told the clerk.
“Late into the night,” the clerk continued, “the ventilation window up
there suddenly popped out.”

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And the clerk pointed to a little ventilation window at the far end of the
office, nestled right at a corner.
“My colleague did not even have time to react before a man slipped in
through the window.”
“A man?” Ace stared at the window. “How can a man fit through...”
“Not a man like you, that’s for sure,” the clerk sniped. “But a black-
clad man slipped through the window in an instant. He somersaulted and
landed noiselessly on that desk over there...”
“This has got to be fiction,” Ace said with authority. “Anyone landing
on that desk...”
“It was a Fibster.”
“Oh...” The clerk’s words seemed to have a chilling effect on Ace.
“Another ten or more Fibsters came through the window in the next
few seconds. The Fibsters swiftly ran along the top of the wall that partitions
our desks and soon arrived at my department here. None of them made any
sound, and they totally ignored my colleague, who was in any case so
frightened that he had turned into stone. The Fibsters rummaged through
our desks.”
The clerk swept his arm around to indicate the desks belonging to his
department.
“They were extremely quick. They found what they were looking for -
almost all information about Dhar-mee’s foster family - and removed them.
Then they departed as quickly as they had come, slipping through the
ventilation window. If this file hadn’t been misfiled, I’m sure the Fibsters
would have taken it too.”
“Fibsters?” Dharmi asked when the clerk had finished.
“Fibsters comes from FIB, the Freeranging Investigative Branch. They
are dangerous ninjas who are not afraid to do the sneakiest things,” the

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clerk said in a low voice. “Looks like your dear foster parents have offended
the Fibsters!”
“Have your foster parents done anything that isn’t good?” Ace asked
Dharmi.
“Isn’t good?” Dharmi thought aloud. “I don’t know.”
“What about something that they could have gotten in trouble for?”
Dharmi again answered in the negative. It occurred to Ace that
perhaps Dharmi’s foster parents decided not to involve him in any illegal
schemes, because Dharmi kept asking questions.
“What about... anything out of the ordinary at all?”
Suddenly Dharmi raised an open palm. “I know! I know!”
“Yes?”
“They do some naughty things!”
“Erm…” Ace was not sure if he wanted to inquire more deeply. But
Dharmi continued:
“They send my brothers – I mean, foster brothers and sisters – to give
people lumps of coal!”
“Lumps of coal?” Ace’s eyes nearly popped out. “You mean during
Christmas? Like the story about bad children getting lumps of coal in socks
for Christmas?”
“Yes! That’s it!” Dharmi cried out. “Except they give bad people lumps
of coal even when it isn’t Christmas!”
“That’s strange,” Ace said darkly.
“Well, I’ve asked my brothers – I mean, fellow foster brothers and
sisters. They say they delivered ‘the coke’ to some fierce and nasty men
living in ugly and run down houses.”
“Maybe they delivered soft drinks?” Ace asked.

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“No, it was real coke. Coal. I saw them myself,” Dharmi replied. “When
one of my brothers, foster brothers, he pulled a piece out of the sock he was
carrying. My fingers got all black touching that thing.”
Ace and the clerk looked at each other, but neither was able to think of
any reason why Dharmi’s foster parents would want their foster children to
deliver coal in socks.
“Perhaps they were just playing pranks on people they didn’t like,” the
clerk said finally.
“Using children like that! Disgusting!” Ace said. “The fierce men could
have hurt the kids!”
“Well, that’s just my guess,” the clerk shrugged.
“Then why did the Fibsters swipe the files? Were they hired by the
nasty men to make the family disappear?” Ace asked.
Another long silence followed.
“Fibsters obey the Commander of Chiefs. They don’t work at the
behest of ordinary people,” the clerk said at last.
“Mister,” Dharmi tugged at the clerk’s sleeve. “Will I ever see my
foster family again?”
The clerk looked at Dharmi with a serious expression.
“The Fibsters are ruthless ninjas skilled in enhanced interrogation
techniques. If your foster parents offended the Fibsters, you won’t ever see
them again.”
Overwhelmed by all this, Dharmi sat down on the floor. Forgetting his
earlier decision to accept Ace as a surrogate father, tears began welling
across Dharmi’s eyes.
“Now, now, they’re just foster parents and siblings. They aren’t real,”
the clerk said dismissively.
“They are real! They’re not make-believe!” Dharmi exclaimed.

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Ace spoke comfortingly: “Dharmi, you have real parents. And possibly
real brothers and sisters too. They are, er, um, usually better than foster
parents and foster siblings.”
Finally Dharmi quieted down. “They’ve never been nice to me
anyway,” Dharmi tried to put his unhappiness aside. “They never liked me.”
“There we go,” the clerk said in a tone that suggested he was getting
tired of this case. “They were bad people. You’re not.”
“But I have no one now!”
“That’s not true. You have real parents,” Ace repeated. “You just don’t
know who or where they are.”
“Uh… Ace?”
“I’m here for you.”
“Will you help me… help me find my real parents?”
“As I’ve promised: yes!”
*
Having decided that fate, or karma, brought Dharmi into his life, Ace
decided it was time to settle down. The two walked for a long time into the
countryside, until they found themselves in a place where orange trees
extended as far as the eye could see.
“Rent is too high elsewhere in this Land of Fruits and Nuts. We’ll settle
down here,” Ace decided.
As the weather was good, Ace and Dharmi started off by camping
under a tree. Ace spent several days scouting before finally picking a site for
a house. He bought nails, cement and waterproofing sealants, then sourced
most of the building materials from nearby dumps. Ace even carted in some
sand to make concrete. With some help from Dharmi, eventually he built a
house out of recycled or natural materials.
And so the two settled in Oranges Country, living a simple life like the
other residents. When the oranges were ripe, Ace and Dharmi picked the

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oranges and sold them at the nearby Farmers’ Market. They also made jams
to sell. They did not earn much gold, but they did not need much either.
Because they planted their own vegetables, they did not need to buy much
food. They bought all their clothes from second-hand shops. Ace built most
of their furniture out of recycled orange crates.
Although orange-picking, jam-making and gardening was tedious and
exhausting at times, there was plenty of spare time between harvests. So
Ace taught Dharmi the basic kung-fu of reading and writing and arithmetic.
He bought minor luxuries like a generator, a used television and a old radio,
then sent for his book collection which had been stored somewhere else.
Life was peaceful and filled with contentment. Compared with his
previous life as a foster child in a big, raucous family where no one really
cared for each other, Dharmi felt he was in paradise.

Next: Hai’s School

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