Yen made a face. "It's a bad idea!"
Chen waved off his friend's concern with a grand sweeping gesture of his hand. "Nonsense. I have it under control. You'll see. Just show me where it is."
Yen sighed. You big ox, he thought. You'll get us in trouble. You *always* get us in trouble. Yen and Chen have been friends since they were very little. The two could not be more different. Yen was thin and frail; quiet and unassuming. Chen was broad and strong; loud and intrusive. Yet the two bonded from the beginning, and have gotten in and out of trouble often. Yen's trouble was that his curiosity got the best of him. Chen's problem was the pursuit of money. His crazy schemes usually involved gambling. This time, it was different.
"There it is. On the shelf."
Chen followed Yen's finger. Peeking thru the stairway, across the hallway and thru the doorway into study of Yen's father, he saw the shelf. His eyes traveled from left to right ... then he saw it. The butterfly. It was made of porcelain that was shaped and painted by Yen's great-grandfather. It was a beautiful full scale replica of an Atlas butterfly, with its distinctive brownish-red wing pattern.
"Go get it. I will watch for your father."
Yen shook his head. "This is a bad idea. We shouldn't take it. It is a valuable family heirloom."
"C'mon," chided Chen, "it will be gone for only a little while; No one will know that it is gone."
Yen slowly went down the steps. He kept turning his head to make sure the coast was clear. He tip-toed across the floor and into the hallway. His small, sleek body moved cat-like across the floor. He slowed to a stop at the doorway. Listening carefully, he peered around the doorway to make sure the room was empty. He quickly went to the shelf and grabbed the butterfly. He held the butterfly with both hands, and he became lost in thought as he gazed at the porcelain model ...
"... Put it down, Yen."
Yen froze. He looked back at his father. "I wasn't going to break it. I just wanted to look at it."
Shen smiled at his son. "Just put it back", he said gently.
Yen replaced the butterfly on the shelf. "Is it true that grandfather gave it you when you ... became of age?"
Shen chuckled. "I think you mean, come of age. Yes, when he felt I matured into a man, he gave the butterfly to me, as his father gave to him."
"When will I get it?"
Shen sat down and stared at his son. "You will get it the moment I believe you are ready. The symbol of the butterfly refers to a rite of passage. Like when the caterpillar changes to the butterfly."
"What does that mean? What change?"
"Like when an angry man learns to use his head and not his fists."
Yen cast his eyes towards the ground. He knew his father was talking about Chen. Shen did not like his son hanging around Chen because the boy has gotten into too many fights. Yen reassured his father that Chen was basically a good person, but with a quick temper.
"Chen protects me from the bullies at school. He's very good at that", defended Yen.
It was Shen's turn to cast his eyes towards the floor. "Maybe if you learned to use your fists more, you would not need Chen to protect you."
Yen's head jerked up with surprise. "What do you mean? I can't fight! I am not as big as Chen ..."
Shen stood and began pacing. "I am not asking you to be a bully, nor am I asking you to be a fighter like Chen. I am asking to stand up for yourself."
Yen sighed. He and his father had this talk before. Shen continued to pace.
"I am referring to balance. A man is not made of only positive or negative energies. He needs a balance of both. It's the Buddhist doctrine. Truthfulness and falsehood. Man and Woman. Good and Bad. Ying and Yang. Hard and Soft. Become too hard, and you will be too aggressive, inflexible, uncompromising, and unyielding. Become too soft, and you will always be indecisive, yielding, and surrendering. Only when the two balance out will you become a man."
Yen stared in silence for a moment. "How will I know when it finally happens?"
Shen put his arm on his son's shoulder. "You will know when the time comes ..."
Yen awoke from his reverie. He put the butterfly into the wooden box he borrowed from his room. After checking the hallway, he walked quickly towards the door.
"Quickly! Let's go Chen!"
"And, where are YOU two going?"
Yen and Chen stopped. They both turned slowly to see Yen's mother, who had just stepped into the hallway from the kitchen. Yen took a quick breath.
"Oh, we'll be outside for a while. We'll be back before dinner."
"Don't be late", Yen's mother warned as the two left hurriedly with the box hidden between the two.
"Give me the box," said Chen. "I will take care of it."
"You'd better!" said a worried Yen. "If anything happens to it, my dad will kill me."
Chen took the box. "No worries. I have it all figured out. I'll show the butterfly to kids after they pay their money, then we return it to your house. No one will ever know it was taken. Remember, everything fifty-fifty!"
"This is crazy. I should never have said yes", lamented Yen.
"Well, it's too late now because here they come."
Several youths slowly approached them. They were all about the same age, save one. He was only few years older than the others, but he was much bigger than all of them.
"Oh no. Chen, look ... it's Hoan-Yen."
Hoan-Yen was the school bully. He was a little bigger in height than the others, and much bigger in girth. He had a reputation of having a quick temper, and a much quicker punch. Hoan-Yen's appearance was bad news. Hoan-Yen and Chen have had many confrontations in the past. If Chen was a big guy with a big heart and not much common sense, Hoan-Yen was just big, angry, and stupid. Chen laughed in Hoan-Yen's face when he asked Chen to join his gang. Chen told Hoan-Yen that he didn't need a big oaf like him to get by. Hoan-Yen responded to that rebuff by decking Chen with a punch on the chin. Chen responded by getting up and breaking Hoan-Yen's nose with his fist. Not surprisingly, the two became enemies thereafter.
"Maybe he's a paying customer like the others," whispered Chen.
When all the youths gathered, one of them said "Okay! Where is it? Where is this great butterfly that we are all supposed to be impressed with?"
Chen smiled broadly. "Right here", he said as he patted the box. "Who wants to see it? Pay up!"
As the youths paid (all except Hoan-Yen), they were heard muttering "this better be worth it" and the like. After the fee was paid, Chen opened the box with a flourish. There were several oohs and aahs as they examined the fine piece of art.
"See?" exclaimed Chen. "What a beauty! Didn't I tell you?"
At that moment, Hoan-Yen made his way to the front of the group. He quickly took the box away from Chen.
"Hey! Give that back!"
Hoan-Yen held the box at arm's length. "So, this is the pretty toy you've been talking about."
Suddenly, Yen lunged for the butterfly. "Give it here! It's mine!!"
Hoan-Yen towered over him. He held the butterfly high over Yen. "Figures ... a prissy little toy for a prissy little boy. Why should I give it to you? This belongs to your mommy?"
"It's my father's! Give it back!"
Hoan-Yen laughed. "It is pretty. I think I will keep it! Who knows? Maybe I can sell it for a lot of money!"
Yen became desperate. "Look, just give it back, okay? I'll give you money. Just don't break it okay?"
Hoan-Yen chuckled. "You'll give me money? What a wimp! What's the matter? Little boy need his daddy to get his blanky?"
Yen thought quickly. "If you don't give it back to me, I will tell your father!"
Hoan-Yen smiled and shrugged. "Go ahead. If you can wake him up. He's always drinking, so good luck!"
Yen ran out of ideas. He was not sure what to do next.
Hoan-Yen saw Yen's desperation and shook his head. "You're a sad little boy. "
Chen stepped forward, right up to Hoan-Yen. Chen peered at his slightly taller opponent thru narrowed eye lids. "Give it to him."
Hoan-Yen returned the stare as he held the box above his head. "I was hoping you'd say that." Hoan-Yen smiled mischievously. "You want this?" he threatened. "Catch!"
Hoan-Yen flung the box straight in the air. Yen screamed as he watched the box sail thru the air. He lunged for the box, but it fell beyond his reach, hitting the ground hard. Hoan-Yen lowered the hand that threw the box, cocked his arm back and hit Chen right on the chin. Caught by surprise, Chen's head snapped back as he fell backwards onto the ground. Chen lay still for a moment, stunned by the surprise attack. Yen grabbed hold of the box. He quickly opened it. The butterfly did not survive the impact, and it was split into two.
"You jerk!" he screamed. "You broke it!"
Hoan-Yen shrugged. "You shouldn't bring your toys outside of the house."
"And, you should finish what you started!"
And, with that warning, Chen, who was still lying on the ground, quickly rolled into the back of Hoan-Yen's legs, knocking him over. The two began to wrestle mightily, with Yen cheering Chen on. Suddenly, Hoan-Yen was able to hook the crook of his arm around Chen's neck. Hoan-Yen rolled on top, maintaining his choke hold on Chen. Chen drove an elbow into Hoan-Yen's side. Hoan-Yen let out a loud moan, but maintained his hold. He then was able to grab one of Chen's arms with his other hand, and pinned it behind Chen. Hoan-Yen was now in a dominant half-nelson position. He released his choke hold on Chen, grabbed his hair, and drove Chen's forehead into the ground. There was a dull, sickening crunching sound when Chen's face struck. Hoan-Yen picked up Chen's head and looked. There was a blood coming out of Chen's nose, and it was bent into an odd shape." Hoan-Yen smiled wryly.
"Now we're even, punk."
Suddenly, Hoan-Yen was struck in the back of the head. It was not powerful enough to hurt him badly, but it did hurt.
"Get off him!"
Hoan-Yen released Chen, spun around, and found Yen cocking back for another blow. Hoan-Yen grabbed a hold of Yen's fist and jerked him forward.
"You've got to be kidding!"
With a quick lunge, Hoan-Yen grabbed hold of Yen's shirt, and flung him downward, body slamming him into the ground. Before Yen could move, Hoan-Yen kicked him in the midsection. As Yen screamed, Hoan-Yen laughed.
"I am so sick of you. You think you are so much better than me. You think you are so smart."
Hoan-Yen kicked and Yen's midsection again. "I don't like you. I don't like your family. You think you are special. You are nothing. You are a small little gnat that needs to be swatted. You are a prissy little boy that needs a bodyguard to protect him. You can't even stand up for yourself."
Just then, Hoan-Yen heard something behind him. Chen got his second wind, and tackled Hoan-Yen before he could react. The two started to wrestle again, but Chen was weak and exhausted from losing blood. Hoan-Yen easily pinned Chen flat on his back. Hoan-Yen started to punch Chen in the head. Chen, no longer able to defend himself, absorbed the punishment. Suddenly, Hoan-Yen felt a sharp blow in the back of his head. Yen had taken the box that contained the now shattered butterfly, and struck him with hit. Hoan-Yen screamed.
"You little bastard!"
With a strong backhand, he struck Yen in the face, which knocked Yen backward and onto the ground. Yen lay crumpled onto the ground, with the box just lying a foot away. Hoan-Yen rubbed the spot where Yen struck him. A large welt started to develop. He approached Yen and stood over him menacingly.
"It's your bedtime, little boy."
Yen suddenly grabbed the box lying next to him. With both hands holding the box, he spun and got onto his knees, then drove the box into Hoan-Yen's groin. Hoan-Yen let out a loud groan and doubled over. With Hoan-Yen now on the ground, Yen continued to hit him with the box with both hands. After several blows, one of the boys witnessing the fight pulled Yen off.
"Yen!! Stop it! It's over!"
Yen was spun into the ground. He stopped and looked at Hoan-Yen. Hoan-Yen laid still for a long moment, then started to move. However, he made no more aggressive movements towards him.
The fight was over.
Yen then got up to check on Chen. Chen was already getting up slowly. Yen tore a small section of his shirt, and held it against Chen's nose.
"Wow. What happened?" Chen asked.
Yen responded by pointing to Hoan-Yen.
"Whoa! You really kicked the snot out of him!"
Yen helped Chen off the ground.
As the two made their way back home, Chen said, "Yen! Your butterfly! Your father ... oh, man! Now, you are really going to get it!"
Yen pinned the box next to his side. "Don't worry. I think I already did."
Chen looked at his friend quizzically. "What?"
Yen smiled. "It's a Zen thing. I'll explain later."