Ah Toy stood for several minutes at the entrance to his tent. His companions were going about the business of settling for the evening.
“This has been a momentous day” he thought to himself.
He looked beyond the encampment to where the thinning line of trees were silhouetted against the evening sky. He watched green grey turn to black in the leaves and trunks, then black against washed out grey white as the moon rose in it’s third quarter. He’d seen this scene maybe forty times from here, being observant of the lunar cycle somewhat as mariners were, but certainly not the non Chinese miners on the field.
“Ah” he said to himself,” This hasn’t gone the way I had expected.” In fact nothing had. No gold, no house, no woman, no respect, simply nothing.
Like hundreds, in fact thousands of his countrymen he had been lured by the prospect of a better life, or at least the chance of one. He smiled to himself as he recalled his skepticism at the tales he had been told in his village of the big gold mountain. He had visualised this many many times while deciding to stay or go.
“Go my son, take this chance and our money to bring our ancestors blessing on our family. Go with our prayers, you will bring us great honour” his father had said in front of his brothers and sisters after an earlier than usual evening meal.
That was five years ago now, and his memory recalled selectively the sadness of departure with the hope of the future. It was not an especially excessive meal in the shack called home in the delta. The day’s work had been shortened to allow him to say his farewells before starting the walk in daylight to the head village further down the river. He could still feel the worn notes in his hand which his father had handed him. His hands instinctively flexed while thinking. It was all of the family savings, and borrowings from other village members. Being the eldest he had some right to an inheritance. Gaining more than his share earlier than all the the others, in fact their shares too, was a burden he accepted he could carry. This was not for fame, more for fortune, the good fortune of his family.
The breeze from the treeline caught a chill from the shadowed creek. It reminded him of the wafting breezes crossing the river delta as he walked through the paddies in the falling evening so long ago. The lights of the head village guided his path as he threaded his way across his neighbours bunded rice enclosures, filled with water waiting for nature to sprout the rice. As he looked behind the roof of his family home merged into the surrounding houses and soon it was just a distant blob on the horizon. He knew where he was going, and on reaching he knew his way down the lane ways. They smelt of the wood burning for cooking fires and evening meals. The river embankment was crowded with the village fishing fleet, preparations being made for the night’s fishing. He feared the sea, the width of the delta here was sea enough for him. And here he was to make a sea change.