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Operation Marpole | Yuan Changming | Short Story

The house you bought in Marpole, the most affordable neighborhood in one of the richest urban areas in the country, stood for at least ninety.

A soldier story

Operation Marpole 

The house you bought in Marpole, the most affordable neighborhood in one of the richest urban areas in the country, stood for at least ninety, if not exactly one hundred, percent of your Canadian Dream, as it had cost not only all your fortune but your whole life’s effort up to then as a first generation immigrant from post-Mao China. 

  Your wife and two sons loved its high-end location, its fashionable style, its pragmatic layout and its good fengshui so much they dreamed about moving in right on the possession day. But after many arguments and promises, they eventually agreed to let you explore it as a mortgage helper for a few years first. 

  To maximize your rental income, you rented it out to seven individuals, a nice mixture of different ages, sexes and occupations, each seeming to be a good fit for the roomy house. For the next three years, everything went well until in mid-2013, you met a tall, handsome and respectable middle-aged gentleman with strong references and good records.

 His name was Sam, who you later knew had participated in the Iraq War. Affable as he appeared to be, you chatted with him every once in a while. To find more things in common, you mentioned that you also had a military background because you’d served in Mao’s Liberation Amy, though only for five months as a translator. In response, he grinned mysteriously, saying that you two could have met each other in a bayonet combat during the Korea war if you two had been born half a century earlier. Who knows? you replied like a battle buddy. 

  Before long, other tenants and neighbours started to complain that Sam was using your cemented driveway as an open garage. Day and night, he and his apprentice Andrei would make a lot of loud noises, repairing or rebuilding cars for strangers. After you reminded him of his agreement “not to use the premises for any business purposes,” he moved his working site to the street, which he said belonged to no private citizens but the city. 

 As he continued violating both the house rules and the official tenancy agreement, you eventually decided to give him a ten-day eviction notice to protect and keep other good tenants, but he showed no intention to move. It was then that you found yourself dragged into an undeclared war against each other.  

 During the first battle, Sam tried to kill every one he saw in the house with his soldierly hand signals. Seeing this tactic didn’t scare them away, he ordered his twenty-year-old assistant to do all kinds of nasty things to his housemates, throwing away their foods, pounding their doors randomly, playing loud music at midnight, sticking gums on their handles and cutting off their wifi access. From his childish misbehavior as well as his unwarranted fears about rats and hornets, you soon recognized Sam as a coward and thus encouraged other tenants to stand up and challenge him. 

 When the ten day notice expired, you kicked off the legal procedure to repossess the master bedroom rented to him. But as it turned out, Sam knew everything about how the system worked. Cool, calm and collected, he did nothing except warning you that you must wait for the arbitration order, and that even if the order were to be given to his disadvantage, he wouldn’t relocate himself, while you had no right to change the lock or touch any item of his personal belongings. On a following morning, Andrei phoned you about his intention to sue you because he had just got his right ankle terribly injured in your backyard. In the afternoon, he came over and gave you a large envelope full of photos showing that he had “hard evidence” and “at least one witness” readily available for the court. After doing a great deal of research and consulting two lawyers, you knew that you might not necessarily win the case while the process could be both costly and time-consuming. 

 In the meantime, the insurance company had completed their field investigation, but they informed you that the case was not to be covered since you had failed to “buy the right insurance package.” Cornered into a helpless situation, you had to muster up enough courage and continued to bluff by telling Andrei to go ahead with his lawsuit, alleging that your insurance company had “already taken over the matter on [your] behalf.” 

  While both you and Andrei refrained from taking any real action, Sam launched his second campaign. This time, he began by leaving water running from the tap for the whole night in the basement. When the nurse living there came back from her night shift at VGH and found her suite flooded, you had to relocate her and compensated her generously for all the frustration and inconvenience she had gone through. With one tenant gone, Sam tried to force other tenants out by applying bear spray in their shared washrooms that he would never use personally. Almost every other day, he would also leave the stove on overnight to cause panic about a probable fire in the kitchen. In response, you offered to pay 100 dollars to anyone who could catch him red-handedly or take photos good enough for the police. But Sam was too familiar with the police procedure. After the police came three times without being able to do anything, they refused to attend the scene in person, since you had neither “hard evidence” nor “valid witnesses” against anyone.

 As the situation was getting out of control, you finally posted a written notice on Sam’s door, telling him to move out of his unit by the end of the next month because you, as the landlord, intended to move in. In this stage, both you and Sam were careful with every step you took. While he avoided meeting you face to face, you went out of your way to have a third-party witness standing by and taking photos of whatever action you took. As you both were waiting for the arbitration, Andrei broke your fence first and then your back door, thus turning your real estate into a real “open house.” Meanwhile, you did as much homework as possible, securing all the supporting documents, from your doctors’ testimonial statements about your health condition to neighbours’ written complaints about Sam’s disturbances, for the arbitration, in a way more meticulous than you had done with your dissertation. But alas, during the telephone conference, the arbitrator was professionally sympathetic with the tenant and habitually showed impatience with your foreign accent. Though you had taken sedative drugs to overcome your palpitations resulting as much from your heart condition as from your nervousness, the arbitrating officer didn’t even give you a chance to present your case. In other words, as if to demonstrate his political correctness, the government arbitrator simply ignored your request to move in sooner than later; on the contrary, he ordered you to wait another three months before you could take back your own house. 

 Anything could happen during this long wait, and this fear became justified when Sam informed you that he was waiting for a “crucial test result” about his health condition. Once he had medical proof, he said that he would sue you at least for two million dollars, or the market value of your house. “What are you going to sue me for?” you asked, pretending to make light of the matter.

 “You see, your bathroom have molds, and I’ve begun to cough recently…” he explained. 

  “Let’s wait and get your test result first,” you replied, trying to sound as calm as usual. 

 “Absolutely, we’ll see about that!” 

To prevent the situation from going even worse, you set up a quasi “beauty-trap,” one of the thirty six ancient tactics against an enemy that was well known in your culture, that is, by renting a unit out to a young, pretty and sexy stewardess. This way, you hoped that Sam would behave better. At the same time, you made it clear to him and Andrei that you had dug out a lot of information about their backgrounds and actually had enough guts and resources to retaliate if you had ever chosen to. Also, you mentioned as if in passing that you knew the specific address of Andrei’s monstrous house, his bad relation with his old sick father, his family root in Europe, as well as Sam’s true identity as a “professional tenant,” a veteran with PTSD, a quite new immigrant from Texas, a skillful womanizer and a typical psychopath. From one of Sam’s former co-tenants, you learned that he was always passionate about fancy cars, had a young police officer-son in Calgary, and was evicted by his formal landlord after an ugly and prolonged battle. More important, you became aware of his hidden plan, which was to drive all other tenants out of your dream house first and then “occupy” and turn it into an Airbnb operation. His scheme or ultimate purpose was to take possession of the house as your compensation for his supposed “loss of good health.” Though you knew that he was asking for the moon, you did everything possible to prevent his evil American Dream from coming true. For instance, you paid a technician to retrieve all your accidentally deleted photos proving that there were no molds in his unit the day he moved in, making sure there was no evidence showing that he had ever made such complaints. If worst comes to the worst, you could just kill him or die together like a real Chinese soldier, you thought. But to hope for the best, you assured him that once he moved out, you would give him a phone number, so he could approach a club of fancy car owners headed by one of your formal students. 

 Fortunately, your tactics seemed to be working well as Sam stopped making new troubles, while Andrei appeared to have forgotten about his lawsuit against you. All they’ve been doing is just blackmail me, you suddenly realized. As Sam looked like a decent gentleman again in front of the stewardess, his behaviour became stable and normal, often talking, laughing good-humoredly, and flirting joyfully with the girl both in words and gestures. When only three weeks were left for him to move out, you asked him directly about his test result. 

“You’re lucky, man! The test result’s quite normal,” he replied with a big shrug and guilty smile. 

 “So, you won’t sue me for the molds, eh?”

 “Nah, not any time soon.”

 “In that case, what’re your plans then?”

 “Well, I’ll move out by the end of November according to the book.”

Thinking that he would not easily accept his defeat, you offered him some cash as an additional incentive for him to move out ahead of schedule.

 “Okiedokie, buddy, you’re the boss!” he replied impatiently, in a blatant parody of good faith. 
“I’ll give you the cash together with your security deposit once Andrei signs the release form.”

 “You bet, dude!”

 So, on the evening of November 14th, Andrei came over for the signature. As you handed over 750 dollars to him, you mentioned that his father’s house looked quite imposing, implying that if he misbehaved again, you would revenge at any cost. Though surprised to see the amount was not three thousand as he had suggested, he said nothing in the presence of someone who came to videotape the whole process at your request. 

The next day, Sam returned to the house from somewhere and moved his stuffs out without making any more trouble. Opening the door to your spacious master bedroom, you found as many as 36 holes of different sizes on your walls, more than half of your carpet ruined and almost the entire washroom damaged, but thank God, there were neither hidden cuts, nor cement in the tub or the pipe system as you had feared most. 


Yuan Changming grew up in a remote village, started to learn the English alphabet in Shanghai at age nineteen and published monoragpohs on translation before leaving China. With a Canadian PhD in English, Yuan edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include twelve Pushcart nominations & seventeen chapbooks (most recently Free Sonnets) besides appearances in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17) & BestNewPoemsOnline, among 2,019 others across 49 countries. A poetry judge for Canada's 2021 National Magazine Awards, Yuan began to write and publish fiction in 2022. Currently, His first novel Bamakoola: Paradise Regained is due out in 2024. 



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Pawners Paper: Operation Marpole | Yuan Changming | Short Story
Operation Marpole | Yuan Changming | Short Story
The house you bought in Marpole, the most affordable neighborhood in one of the richest urban areas in the country, stood for at least ninety.
Pawners Paper
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