A Fiction
by
Vani Venkatesan

Chapter 3     The Enigmatic Gardener

Excerpts:

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Amid the droning of the wind and the steady drip of the rain, Diego came in, the stalwart gardener with sharp eyes, curled hair and dark skin.
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``It was three years ago, when I was a bouncer, working in the Gentry Night Club in Santa Barbara, a well-paid job that I had worked for three years, rarely encountering serious trouble makers. I felt complacent about my situation, not preparing for the cruel reality of life.
``Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. One weekend evening, the sky was clear and serene, the sunset light flooding the streets, radiant with glory. I was in high spirit and jogged to my office as I did often; the scenes of the city never ceased to astound me. When I arrived at the corner of two cross streets, where a museum was located, I slowed and paused. I was not sure why I stopped. I might be sensing a portent of things to come or the beauty of the museum's environment, plentiful flowers and trees, drew me to it.


The Museum Garden

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When I walked across the lot, I was vaguely aware of a homeless man wrapped in a blanket curling under a tree at a corner, less like someone asleep than one who meditates.
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If he belonged to the gang, waiting there to join the others to corral me, I would be in great trouble. Now the stranger slowly rose to his feet, barring my way peremptorily.
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``I sensed great danger and began to panic, my heart palpitating. Sweat exuded from my forehead but I was hesitant to run.
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I stood still like a boulder in a mountain but with a digust look in my face. They suddenly stopped all motions, and at length Frazier hopped backward, pulling the van's back door open. Frazier laughed again with a stare of predatory excitement, a cold-blooded twisted face revealed in a sneer of contempt. While his behavior appalled me, what I saw in the van traumatized me."
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``I trembled, an icy chill passing through my whole body. But my brain was blank, not knowing what to do. I am going to die. Sadness descended on me.
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Help me, God! I prayed."
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Varshi heard all this in astonishment. She never knew Diego had such a dramatic life experience.
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``Frazier stood there with a most peculiar expression on his angry face. He suddenly snapped his fingers, and the tattooed giant stepped forward, walking toward the stranger.
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While the gangster was pulling his left fist back, the stranger charged forward like a ghost, as effortlessly as the wind, and raised his right hand. He stretched out his fingers, pressing against the giant's solid chest. The stranger shook his head, signaling the gangster to stop further attacks.
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Before the gangster's fist was half-way to its target, the stranger curled his fingers to form a fist and thrust forward for a couple of inches.
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`` The beach was scattered with rocks, large and small, often bombarded by amazing waves. When I got there, it was empty, looked like a deserted area, except for some seagulls flocking around and a few brown pelicans gliding above wave tops. However, the waves were exceptionally high, beating some high rocks, which generated great sounds, like the clashing of two armies in a battle.


The Desolute Beach

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The form bewildered my sight and mind. I was totally absorbed in his enigmatic style, pondering upon the significance of each stroke. It was not until the sun was almost set did he stop. Then he let out a cry, a great cry, less like the howling of Tarzan in a movie than the wolf howling in a snow mountain, long and full, filled with complex emotions, sounded wistful and helpless, that might be heard a mile away. Only very few people in the world, with great training in martial arts, can make such a howl.
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He retrieved from his bag a fat plastic bottle, inside which confined an orchid with a few bright purple petals and a couple of green leaves but without any root. He gazed at the flower and asked dejectedly, `Do you know Si Sau, a renowned artist specializing in drawing orchids?' I said, `No!' His face showed a little disappointment, with a gleam of recollection and a struggle to sort out his ideas. He uttered a few words, trying to explain something but the words seemed to be caught in his throat as he simply put the bottle back into his bag without another word."


An Orchid Flower

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She leaned back on her chair. The great music, which she was heartkening for, interwove with her own thought and the fall of rain upon the ground outside. The incessant interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed into great heights and depths foundered in a sea of turbulent sound before a new theme was formed amid the storm and the melodies became soft and sweet and delicate again. She was entirely absorbed in her own thought, and at length she stared at the door entrance without actually seeing anything. Her eyes came slowly back, at last, when she felt a man was sitting in the couch at the side. She was startled out of her deep thinking.
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``Why couldn't Jacobs find out the cheating method for such a long time?"
Varshi smiled. ``It`s because the man did not cheat!"
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``To explain, let me tell a true story happened two thousand years ago in China," she said, leaning back on her chair. ``It was a chaotic period, warlords fighting each other. A peasant named Lau had a loyal ever-win general named Hon, who helped him to defeat all the warlords to become a king. After he had become the emperor, Lau worried that Hon would be too powerful to control. So he decided to get rid of Hon, inviting him to his palace home to have dinner with some loyal officials and arranging several hundred trusted soldiers hiding inside. He would smash a bowl while dining and the hidden soldiers would rush out to seize the general.
Hon came with his guards, who had to stay outside the palace. When Hon entered the palace, he could not see any soldier but he sensed that the whole palace was filled with killing spirit.
``Lau knew well how fierce and dangerous his general was. He had fought hundreds of battles, not losing even one, and all his personal guards were supreme fighters. Lau had to make sure his hidden soldiers could overwhelm them, otherwise the predator would become the prey. So he asked, `My dear respectful general, how many brother guards had come with you?'


Hon's Guards, all superior fighters

Hon read the emperor's mind. If he lied, he would commit the crime of cheating the emperor, resulting in death penalty, and Lau could openly arrest and execute him later. If he told the true number, which only he knew, he was sure he would be arrested at the dinner and be excuted in secret. Either way, death was his destination. Fear chilled him but he hid his emotion and his maths skill saved him.
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That was the origin of the well-known Chinese Remainder Theorem and the dawn of modern modulo arithmetic."
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``The man had been performing perfect shuffles deftly in the game.
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`` He is most likely a professional athlete. To perform a perfect shuffle effortlessly, one needs super delicate finger movements," Varshi said, shuffling the deck.


Card Shuffling

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