Voyage of the Confucius Priest (Flash Historical Fiction)

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The Voyage

An hour after dark, when the seven young men, no older than 19-years of age (including the young Confucius, temple priest, Yang, whom was broad at the shoulders, narrow eyes, perhaps five-foot eight inches all, one-hundred and forty-pounds, short dark hair, deep dark colored eyes, flat at the stomach, and short neck, rounded chin, straight nose, his skin more bronze than fair to pale) squatting down, each carrying a light blanket, Yang with a lit lantern in addition. (It was Saturday night. They just said their prayers in the temple, heard the foot-steps of the night watchman go by, and watched him from the temple window climb up the ladder, as he checked the rooftops of the houses, then they didn’t see him anymore, thus, the other six poured themselves some rice wine, drank it down hurriedly, to settle their nerves, Yang, pulled out a coin from his pocket, the wooden floor below his feet made a cracking sound as he moved them, interrupted the other six young men, “Three minutes,” a voice said, “and the guard will take his ten-minute break,” a break he was allowed to use for eating, “we’ll go then,” continued the voice.

As a result, all seven were compelled to wait, as they silently, disclaimed China’s ownership of them, then up some stairs they went, to a trap door that led out onto the roof of the temple, climbed along its edge, descended beyond the fortress walls, squatting against the wall and with no sound save the steady movement of feet, they made their way to the Yangtze River. There inside the boat called a ‘Junk’, they sailed, and ten hours later-suddenly-the first appearance since the seven had vanished, the captain of the boat, threw water on the stinking seven, to clean them, several buckets of cold November water. The owner of the boat just looked at them, like he had never seen them before, it was more than that, and it was like he never wanted to remember them once they were gone.

They had no money to speak of (especially for passage), and so payment would be, to allow the owner to sell them into slavery.

From the belly of the Junk below, the men themselves could not hear or listen to what was happening on the upper level, the only other level of the vessel, hence, everything remained unchanged within the bowels of the Junk, dirtier than a fox’s hole, and as dark, though not as demanding and punishing as their previous lives would have seen. The cheap imitation of freedom, bagged up in the jackets of the appointed men in charge of the providence, the fortress, the temple, life could be no worse as a slave.

Squatting on the ship’s floor, beneath the galley above (this was 1869, Yang now 19-years old, an odd year, all the young men had been defeated and forgotten, what would be the difference-so they felt-to belong to the lowest bidder in Argentina, Buenos Aires (by way of Ushuaia), where the next ship would take them, merely a like candidate for freedom someday, which was all that they hoped for, a chance, outside of a dotting country of dictators, away from fences they could not go behind, and bridges they could not cross, and flanks they were forbidden to go near, they were just fading leaves on tress-to be incriminated at any time by the wealthy, empowered, given warnings: with no head to their pleas and cries.)

There they were, just squatting (thinking about their servitude to be, the voyage, what they had gone through, the escape itself came back to their minds, the bequeath of freedom, Yang gave to them, handed down to them, something they’d all forget in a moment time for a long, very long time, but for some it would resurface), not doing nothing, not a thing but thinking, nobody bothering them, until the ship stopped, and they boarded the second ship, and then, there they were near a month at sea, and another benediction: whereupon they were awoken from their sleep, from the straw thick floor, used as their living quarters, where they ate, and drank out of water buckets, had one blanket each, and had one lantern between them, it was Sunday morning-and all their dreaming and all their thinking faded.

To the Bequeathed

(Remember while on the Ship, and about to disembark)

Before the night watchmen had finished with his evening meal, Yang and his followers, comrades were gone, yet quick as they left that morning, so affected the whole temple site, as well as the nearby village, most knew by mid-afternoon, all knew by sundown-every inlet and penniless village, the region knew the young priest, the king-priest to be, disappeared, was out of sight.

The officials had only to wait (so they thought), and he’d return, hence, to bide until that delivery moment, so they claimed. He had been running away mainly because of being unveiled as a heretic, that what he preached was not the true side of religion that his building was full of sacrilegious figures, and therefore he feared for his life.

It was asked among his followers, “What did he see, as he stood gazing so many nights out his temple windows…?”

It was said he saw the future, the near future, that a vision appeared to him, of soldiers coming breaking down the temple, the idols, ripping down the tapestry, he saw a new China on the rise, and he knew he would have to escape, lest he be tortured and killed (so he re-dreamed as he sat on the floor of the vessel, dreamed on his trip down the Yangtze River, toward Shanghai, to board another ship, that would take them out of China, into the waters of the Pacific).

Looking out that temple window, he heard a voice; it even seemed to smile as it wept: “Do not put your trust into man, but let him trust you, he is inconsistent, as the waves you will be on soon, a fugitive of God, he remains, this is the course of most men, the cling to wealth, squeeze out the life sap of the seeker-be him poet, priest, or philosopher-the sap of the soul, like a juicy plant, and they leave it rot once its life substance is gone.

“The good rulers do not war against nor punish his country men, as if they were the common enemy, who punishes for lack of opportunity: he, the bad ruler is responsible and thus, sets the trap for his people.”

(So many things he thought in those hours and days at sea.) It was in those days in China, he saw tourists flock into its country from India and Europe, Buddhist Monks arrived in great numbers, and had its share of Missionaries preaching Zoroastrianism, Christianity, yet, Yang remained as an Confucian. And along with his followers, Li, Ming, Ho, and the others, gazed out the windows of the temple, gazed at the Great White Star (Venus), and in the evenings, under candle light, read the books of Confucius.

And he wrote on the temple wall before he left, “How many times must China die and reborn before she finds order and peace, for now all she offers is chaos and balances herself with dictatorships.”

Counting the Cost

Argentina and the Farm

(In 1870, Yang was sold the Peñaloza Family, Buenos Aires, whereupon he inherited their name, and was given a first name, according to Latin American soundings, now called Manuel Peñaloza–the year being 1870. Because of trouble and strife, and the Peñaloza family, being in politics, and the son being killed for his beliefs, the head of the household of the Peñaloza family, being superstitious, and feeling Manuel gave them bad luck, he was set free, in 1888: thereafter marrying Nieves, in 1889)

The two folks, Yang (now Manuel Peñaloza) and his wife Nieves, could hardly support themselves, working on a farm outside of the city, likely not getting much more than their board and lodging, the family that was trying to live on the farm were also poor folks, thus, a childless couple, one of middle age, two of misfortune, drawn together as if by some mutual last resort, here they lived in a one room cabin, more like a kind of shed, clinging onto life, on a farm with a straggling one-hundred acres of corn, incredible to say the least, with its heart-breaking labor, this he come to acknowledge this life would not reward his sweat he was giving, but merely eat away at his flesh, a man who at one time was called the young king-priest, of the temple, a hero to his followers who for so long, walked in solitary and alone, yet he still shed a magnificent giant shadow.

But here they lived nonetheless, for near two years, splitting firewood, hoeing the hard and tilted ground, planting the corn resting on Sunday afternoons, in his clean but faded trousers; and to that they gave thanks for the strong heart they were give by God. This was the time he learned about Christianity, having checked the doctrine out, read the gospels, memorized the ten-commandments, he had learned during his bondage, the Spanish language, perhaps better than the average college bound Argentinean. And consequently, watched the people preach the word of God, and then violate them, then he was gone, it was 1891.

Killing Man’s Meat

(Manuel’s wife, gave birth to a male child in 1891, naming him Fidel) (The boy growing several inches shorter than his father, and growing a thin goatee at a young age. He took up carpentry, and in 1915, they all moved to Lima, Peru whereupon he married Juana, in 1919 (whom he met in Huancayo, Peru, where he bought lands and would stay for a lengthily period before moving back to Lima).

And so it was, Manuel and his wife, took their grown boy, Fidel, in the year, 1915, to Lima, Peru, had said a prayer for them the night before, and told Nieves: this was the last journey, now being, sixty-five years of age, for each journey was unto itself a battle.

“What,” his wife said, once in Lima, he had mumbled something to himself,

“It took me sixty-five years to get to where I might find freedom, I still have my Confucius roots, and now Christianity, it will be Christmas soon, we walked a long way, time to stop and find a job,” but what he didn’t say and wanted to say, perhaps was: I really know nothing but how to preach, although he had done several other things along his life’s journey, he’d ended up doing no trade, and there wasn’t any money except just what he needed to feed his family, to save ones meat from rotting, he went after ideals, and found words, and only a single coin in his pocket at the end of it, but he fed the family. When he was young he thought different, his aim was different, but not long after the voyage that all changed, now in Lima, a long journey he had learned only what was right and wrong, what was sin, the very things he knew before he left China, the very things he taught his son, the very things he went over and over and over, how man kills his own meat.

(In 1921, Augusto Peñaloza was born to Fidel, and in 1923, had a daughter, Christina. Fidel died in 1971. In 1957, Augusto’s wife, Maria, gave birth to Minerva and Rosa (Maria died in 2001); in 1959; Minerva, giving birth to Ximena, in 1993, and in 2007, the family found out, they were partly ChineseJ)

Notes: Taken from actual events. Names and dates are as close to the truth as the author can fix; some parts historical fiction; written from notes taken over a conversation between author and Augusto Peñaloza, 10-4-2008, at the café ‘Mia Mamma,’ in El Tambo, Huancayo, Peru. Copyright©2008, by Dennis L. Siluk

The Voyage, and Proceeding History, written, 10-4-2008; The Escape, The Vision, the Interlude, written 10-6-2008; Farming, Farming II, and Christ, Killing Man’s Meet, written, the morning of October 8, 2008.

write by santos flores

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