Three young punks emerged from the elevator. One wore his hair in a tall spiky mohawk while the other two went with the cheaper option of dying their hair; one green, the other purple. All three flaunted body piercings and tattoos.
“Hey, pretty lady,” Mohawk said, addressing the young girl. “Is Uncle around?”
The girl’s smile disappeared. “Who are you?” she demanded.
Mohawk now noticed Brig sitting on the stairs, immediately forgetting Happy. “Fuck me! What do we have here? A missionary?” He looked at his friends to see if they shared his delight. They both laughed, and Purple added, “A fucking Mormon missionary.”
“Hi,” Mohawk said using the highest tone. In Cantonese, the word “Hi,” pronounced with a high tone, means “vagina,” or “pussy.” “Hi. How are you?” Mohawk repeated, his friends laughing uproariously. “What are you doing, sitting out here, speaking to our little sister?”
“We were just talking,” Brig answered.
“Oh, the missionary speaks Cantonese. I bet that makes it easier to get the little Hong Kong girls to take off their panties. Right?”
Brig shook his head in disgust, and saw that thankfully the little girl had disappeared. He tried to ignore the young men, hoping that they would lose interest in him, and returned to studying his characters. But this only antagonized Mohawk.
“What’s this?” Mohawk snatched the flashcards from Brig, turning the deck over in his hands. He laughed when he realized what they were and held them up for his friends to see.
“Let’s test him.” Mohawk held up the first card on the top of the deck. It was an easy one, the Chinese character for “center.”
Brig stared back at Mohawk disdainfully.
“You’re kind of stupid aren’t you? It’s ‘Jung’ you dumb bastard. The first character in the word China.” He flipped the card at Brig’s head. Mohawk showed the next card to his comrades.
The one with the green hair enthusiastically answered, “Street!”
“No shit, you idiot. I’m not testing you.” Purple laughed, mocking Green. Mohawk shuffled the deck and turned a card to Brig. It was the written form for pluralizing a noun, pronounced “Dick,” with a high, even tone. Brig didn’t move or respond. “You are really stupid. Do you know any of these?”
“Dick. As in you are a dick.” Brig answered.
Mohawk looked confused. He understood a little English, and he was uncomfortable with Brig thinking he had gained the upper hand. “In Chinese asshole. In Chinese!” Mohawk screamed. Brig looked away.
“I know you can speak Chinese. Tell me what you said!” Mohawk moved threateningly towards Brig, as did his friends. Brig tried to stand, but Mohawk pushed him back down.
“What the fuck did you say?” Mohawk had grabbed hold of Brig’s neck and was pushing his head into the cement stairs, while Green and Purple held Brig’s arms down. “Tell me what you said!” Mohawk repeated, forcing the flashcards into Brig’s mouth.
Brig closed his eyes and clenched his teeth. A piercing bright light streaked across the back of his eyelids and his ears rang as he absorbed a right-hand punch from Mohawk. Brig fought to remain conscious and prepared for the next blow, but suddenly his arms were free, and then his neck. His ears still rang, and the taste of blood filled his mouth.
Tentatively opening his eyes, he saw Buddha pinning Mohawk up against the wall with his left hand, while pummelling his face with his right. Brig was awestruck by Elder Wong’s strength and a surprised by the violence.
As Brig’s senses returned, he became aware that there were more men in the hall, yelling and punishing Mohawk’s friends. The little girl stood in the doorway, smiling, showing no fear. She looked over at Brig and waved. Brig smiled and waved back.
“If I hear you’ve even looked at a Mormon missionary the wrong way, I will find you and I will pull your intestines out, barbeque them, stuff them into a bun, and force feed you to your mum! Do you understand?”
“Yes! Yes!” the man yelled. “I’m sorry, Buddha. I didn’t know he was your friend.”
“Really?!” Buddha was incredulous. “He’s sitting in this building. Outside this door. Do you think we would let just anybody wander up here?”
The Buddha threw the man to the ground, signaling the other men to release Mohawk’s friends. “Get the fuck out of here!” the Buddha yelled and moved towards Brig. Mohawk stumbled towards the elevator, but Buddha grunted, “Uh-uh,” and shook his head from side to side. “You take the stairs. All the way down.”
The Buddha returned his attention to Brig. He held Brig’s face in his hands, approving of the swollen lip. “It’s an improvement.” He looked over at the three other men and the little girl. “Looks like my friend can take a punch.”