Friday, January 2, 2015

Tofu (part 1)

Sometimes I want to share my stories, but who wants to read raw stories? You want them polished and refined. I tried, but got too excited. Instead, here is the first part of the story. If you like it, perhaps the other parts will follow. If not, perhaps I will keep it to myself.

Tofu - part 1

Everyone knows that good tofu must rest quietly in cool water before it is ready. Depending on the type of tofu, it may or may not be dried or pressed to get rid of the excess water.

The Strong Cooks had not yet deemed me ready to become tofu ready for eating. I could hear the Real Cooks talking about the latest batch and if I turned around to peer through the bamboo slats of my box, I could see them too. I used do that a lot, until I learnt only bad tofu did that. Bad tofu has to be cut up and thrown to the animals, because the only the best can be served to the Emperor and his court. I don’t want to be bad tofu.

So I lie here still and quiet in the dim light, in the best position on the Stack - right at the top, where I am constantly washed by the cleanest water that trickles through the bamboo slat roof of my box. This prevents me from going bad. I hated being lower in the Stack. The water was always dirty by the time it reached me.

The Stack sways violently with the new tofu’s attempts to escape his box. His grunts can be heard through the rushing water.

He was added near the bottom of the Stack not long ago. He wriggles and screams and threatens to topple the whole Stack down, particularly while he is trying to break open his box. The tofu who have been here longer growl at him, because if the whole Stack falls, nearly everyone in the Stack will be sent underwater before the cooks say we are ready. I stay quiet. The others talk sometimes, but I dare not. Those who talk are bad tofu and I want to be good. I want to rest underwater sooner.

  “Orders,” I hear a voice say. I know all the people who come and go. I don’t know his name. They never mention names down here, but before I decided to be good, I named them. This man is Tenor. He acts as a messenger to the Strong Cooks in our hall who look after the Stacks. He never talks to the Real Cooks. “Orders from His Imperial Majesty.”

This happens every so often and I try not to listen. I prefer to pay attention to the music of the water. Good tofus do not worry about what will happen to them or those around them. Good tofus lie still and just accept what happens to them. Their purpose is to be so good that the Emperor wants them or orders them to become permanently better by immersion in water.

There is a grunt.

  “His Imperial Majesty orders boxes 14 and 15 to be drowned,” Fat Cook barks. He really means they are to be submerged until they become good. “Boxes 11 and 9 are to be questioned,” meaning they will be pressed to become a firmer type of tofu, “and boxes 1, 2 and 3 are to be dried out.”

I feel almost happy for the occupants of numbers 14 and 15. They will find peace when they are submerged, although judging by their wailing and struggling, they do not agree. I would like to find peace and be permanently good too, but they never call on me for submersion. I wonder what it would be like to sleep forever in the cool water.

The Stack trembles and wobbles as boxes are moved. There are twin screams, followed by splashes, gurgles and then silence. They never go quietly. Why can’t they ever go to sleep quietly? Don’t they know they are becoming good tofu? They should be thankful.

My box is pulled off the Stack and carried away, probably by Hairy Cook and Skinny Cook. They are the usual box carriers. I am in Box 1 and am being taken to dry off. This happens to all tofu every now and then to prevent them from bursting out of their skins – at least that is what I believe. Perhaps this time, they will deem me ready to either be put underwater to seal in the freshness or cooked. Tofu is made to be eaten after all.

Gnawing jaws grip my stomach in the case I am pronounced a bad tofu. I don’t want to be cut up. Please tell me I’ve been a good tofu.

Closing my eyes, I feel wind on my skin and it makes me shiver. I had gotten used to the constant cool water that felt warm, but for some reason my skin feels swollen. The Emperor must be very clever to know when we are ready for what stage of preparation when neither he nor the cooks ever look in our boxes at us.

Time for a tofu moves very slowly. The journey in my box could have been a journey to the far horizon and I drift off dreaming of distant memories that are irrelevant to my life as a tofu now. Still those memories are nice to look at, even if they have become so broken up that all I catch are glimpses of scenery.

And now that I have put down this first part of the story, I feel ashamed that I should give you such a poor story. When I read this, I am transported. I hope that it does the same for you.