About three weeks ago, my dad was watering the plants when two men arrived in a car and started banging on my neighbours’ door. They shouted profanities and started screaming for my neighbour’s eldest son. They were so worked up they hadn’t noticed my dad, who by then was quite terrified. Then they saw him.
According to dad, it was like someone flipped a switch. All menace fled from their faces. They smiled and asked him politely if he knew my neighbour’s son. My dad said not really and added (lied, actually) that they weren’t around much.
They asked my dad to pass along a message.
“Just tell him his friends dropped by.”
They drove off, but returned a moment later. One of them got down, grabbed one of my neighbour’s potted plants and hurled it into their driveway where it shattered, sending shards of clay everywhere. Then they sped off. Nobody came out, but when I locked up somewhere past midnight, I heard someone cleaning up next door.
That they were loan sharks is no mystery. But until now, we’d reckoned we were the only ones who knew. We tried to be discreet and restricted our enquiries to “Is everything ok?” The answer was always yes, nothing to worry about, we’re fine thanks, before disappearing into the house.
On our side, we’ve been worried.
We worried about finding ourselves in a situation where we may not be able to avoid involvement. All sorts of scenarios come to mind:
Thugs storming the house.
A kidnap in progress.
An attempt on their lives.
Basically situations where you won’t know how you’re going to react until you’re in it. And you don’t ever wanna be in it.
We knew Junior was in beaucoup bad shit.
They knew we knew.
And no one else.
All that changed tonight.
This evening, many residents along our street returned to find flyers pasted on their doors and mailboxes. The notes were all in Chinese - which some can’t read - but the details were recognisable enough.
And most glaringly, a photocopy of an ID card.
Though enlarged and badly printed, the face is still recognizably my neighbour’s son.
There are angry exclamation marks and dollar signs all over the flyer.
My neighbour scurried all along our street, frantically ripping off the flyers.
But the damage is done. A lot have seen the flyer and very soon, everyone will know.
Now here’s the bit that scares me.
About a week ago, Junior decided to shave his head bald.
With the exception of the glasses he sometimes wears, he now looks a lot like me.