Heaven is High Excerpt

SHOPKEEPER WANG:  Is the fighting serious?

POLICEMAN (self-assured and businesslike):  Of course, that’s why there are all these hungry villagers.  They have come into the city to escape the fighting. … I have to tell you something.  I have orders to pick up supplies from you.

SHOPKEEPER WANG (staggered):  Supplies?

POLICEMAN:  Supplies–for forty men for two weeks.

SHOPKEEPER WANG (stunned):  We don’t have anything!  This is only a Teahouse, not a restaurant or a grocery shop!

POLICEMAN (sympathetically but firmly):  You have your excuses, I have my orders.

SHOPKEEPER WANG:  Officer, you have known us for years; can’t you help us out?  Explain to your chief, it’s impossible.  Here, get yourself something–

(He slips some cash into the Policeman’s pocket.  The Policeman takes it out and scans it.)

POLICEMAN:  Can’t promise anything, but I’ll see what I can do.  (Beat.)  I remember the noodles you used to serve in this place.

SHOPKEEPER WANG (smiles and smacks his lips):  Ah, so do I.

POLICEMAN:  Lots of customers were unhappy when you stopped serving them… two or three years ago, wasn’t it?  What happened?

SHOPKEEPER WANG:  Ai-yah!  Long story, ending also unhappy.

POLICEMAN:  Well, you started it—this is a tea house, why not just serve tea?

SHOPKEEPER WANG:  You know I am always trying to find ways to improve.  Then when I found this chef, it was wonderful.  I didn’t mind that he wanted to live in the back and have his wife and two daughters eat for free.

POLICEMAN:  I remember his wife; she used to help serve.

SHOPKEEPER WANG:  Yes and their daughters would play with my sons; they were all around the same age and they created a wonderful spirit around here.  Even with their noisy running around, the customers never complained.

POLICEMAN (knowingly):  Then something happened.

SHOPKEEPER WANG (somberly, at the memory):  Well, first the countryside became more dangerous and the wife’s parents came–with her three sisters!  I told them they could not stay here, but I just could not refuse to feed them.

POLICEMAN (impressed):  That was very generous.

SHOPKEEPER WANG (in a matter of fact manner):  Who can say?  Anyway, that’s what I did and we had to really struggle to keep the Teahouse going.  Then the father was picked up by one of the gangs “recruiting” for one of the warlords in the countryside.

POLICEMAN:  Ah! (Beat.)

SHOPKEEPER WANG (nods and sighs):  The chef’s wife was so upset; the chef finally went to the gang to offer himself in exchange for his father-in-law….  I told him that would be suicidal and not to go, but he felt he had no choice.

POLICEMAN (familiar with stories like this, he says grimly): And the gang sent BOTH him AND his father-in-law to join the warlord’s troops.

SHOPKEEPER WANG (nodding):  We never saw them again.  His wife left her daughters with her sisters and went into the countryside with her mother to look for them.  (Beat.)  We never saw them again either.

(Soldiers enter, Center Rear, noisily.)