Money, alongside mahjong, goats and smoking had always been a key factor in Mr. Wu’s continuing search for happiness. Mr. Wu could tell you right down to the last cent what his exact net worth was at any given time. Not that he had a great deal of complicated investments or an intricate portfolio of stocks and bonds; rather he had money or he didn’t. There were times during the year when he felt like a millionaire with notes falling out of his pockets like a drunken sailor. But most of the time he had to look under his bed or down the side of the bamboo chair for long forgotten change or he would scurry to the local store with his empty bottles of rice wine to redeem their small cash value. When his tobacco crop was cut and stacked and ready for collection by the processing plant Mr Wu felt his potential wealth and acted accordingly. He would stand drinks for his friends at the Venerable Turtle wine shop and wear his hat at a jaunty angle. He would offer financial advice to anyone who would take it and sometimes even buy (or more likely appropriate) a bunch of flowers for the long suffering Rosa.
When all else failed and every avenue of credit had been exhausted Mr Wu was left with only one other possible way of meeting the ante for the pending mahjong game. His goats. Every conceivable plan of action would have to be considered before he would wrestle with his conscience to sell one of his over indulged flock. When he had to sell one of his goats Mr Wu would cry for a week and insist upon progress reports from the new owner and should the outcome of the game be in his favour then he would buy back the beast and make elaborate and sincere promises to it that it would never be traded again.
People would comment as he rode around DragonflyMountain on his ancient bicycle that Mr Wu was not himself. He would not be calling out to all who passed or offering pearls of wisdom to those who knew much better; instead, he would have a troubled mien and those who knew him best would sense that a game was afoot and the sale of a goat would be his entry price. Some of Mr Wu’s ancestors had been padfoots and highwaymen who relieved the passing gentry of their silks and purses. Mr Wu considered this quite acceptable behaviour except that he was rather stout and none too good on his pins and anyway everybody knew him on DragonflyMountain.
This time though he wouldn’t have to resort to such unpleasantness, indeed not. His goats were safe for the foreseeable future because recently things had been going a lot more in his favour than usual. This made Mr Wu happy, though more than a little concerned at the same time. Good fortune was an infrequent visitor to the red rusty house he called home and except for the love of the stout restauranteur he seldom had the opportunity to celebrate his good fortune. As he rode along in the descending darkness Mr Wu came to the conclusion that he must be on a roll. Like most of the folk on Dragonfly Mountain Mr Wu was very superstitious and he just accepted that the local Gods and his ancestors had conspired to enrich his life and reward him for his years of fiscal dearth with a surfeit of good fortune. Such opportunities were not to be sneezed at. So, with a new found sense of purpose Mr Wu adjusted his shoulders, sucked on his one remaining tooth and adopted a confident pose as he pedalled in the direction of the Nine Dragons.