Fox Spirit 6: First Day at the Office
The next morning the blaring alarm brought Sara out of sleep just when she would have been beginning to dream if she were still in California. She forced herself upright, pulled the opaque plastic curtain back from the window, and squinted at the burst of eastern light. Was the air clearer, or was she already becoming accustomed to the haze? She caught herself humming a tune as she dressed.
Silver Wing had advised her about proper office garb: “No bright colors! They are not respectful.” And about proper shoes: “The office has no restaurant in building. You will need to walk.” Sara made a quick breakfast of green tea from last night’s leaves still in the pot, plus a bean-curd bun and star fruit from the previous day’s market trip. She was ready in her gray dress and flat sensible shoes when a knock summoned her to the door.
Sara smiled with recognition at the thin young man waiting on her doorstep. “Trueheart Zhang. Hai pa tai mafan ni– I’m afraid it’s a nuisance.”
Trueheart’s smiling face under bristling black hair seemed all thick glasses and teeth. “Mei wenti – no problem. We’ll be colleagues in accounting for the company’s finances. I’m glad to be useful to you.” He ushered Sara into a small dusty black car parked next to Auntie Chen’s window, and drove off with a jerk as Sara struggled to find and fasten a seat belt.
She looked around carefully for landmarks as Trueheart drove out from the courtyard. “When we get to the office, will you write down directions for me to get back here, Trueheart? I’m not very sure about asking people on the street. I don’t even know my address.”
“Jiandan – very simple. You are living in graduate student housing, Courtyard 19, on property of Bei Hua University. The office of Rainbow Software is also in Bei Hua University building, number 38. It used to be classrooms, but now Bei Hua rents out.”
“Why does the university rent space to outsiders? Is the university getting smaller? Are there not enough students?”
“Bu shi. Bei Hua isn’t small. It’s our top university for technology, like your Stanford or MIT. China wants many more engineers, more doctors, more research, more technology. Many students want to come here.”
“Let me explain.” Trueheart waved to acknowledge Guard Fu in his kiosk and swung left into the market street. “During the Cultural Revolution, all Western thought was bad, all Western contacts were bad. But when Mao died, our new leader Deng Xiao Ping had new ideas: ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’, ‘Getting rich is glorious.’ Now factories, universities, everyone needs to make money from outside. There is no more always getting money from the government.”
A bicycle laden with a mother, two children and a bulging bag of groceries suddenly burst from a side alley in front of them. Sara clutched the dashboard as Trueheart swerved to avoid it, and then slipped the car into a side street while Sara was still gasping. He turned and grinned at Sara. “Bicycle riders think the road is theirs only.”
To Sara’s relief he turned his eyes back to the street as he resumed his explanation. “So, the computer science department needs to make money- but how to do it? Japan has been very lucky with computer games having big success in America. Maybe Chinese games also could be popular. A professor at Bei Hua knows Wang Jie Ri, Wang knows business, and together they start Rainbow Software.”
Trueheart pulled to the curb, stopped the engine, and opened the car door. “Here is the office, on the second floor. Please come up.”
Sara stared at the featureless concrete building and sat for a moment without moving. Two years earlier, when she had first worked for Jerry Wang as a contractor, the Los Angeles office of Rainbow Software had sparkled with new carpet and the latest computer equipment. Later, when she was eager to get away from her empty house and her neighbors’ gossip. Jerry Wang had offered her a way out and she had taken it gladly. She had not asked about the company’s origins or financing. What if it was all a sham?
She shook herself and got out of the car. Sham or not, Jerry Wang had paid for her escape to China. If it was not exactly what she expected, she would have to deal with it. She took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders and walked up the stairs.
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