Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say

“Swap” by Kevin Chang (Part 3)

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Also a terrifying and confusing journey

Both this and the play have panda on the menu

Last time, in “Swap” we traveled back in time to a non-specific time period of old China, where the Old Man, living in modern times, has a granddaughter, Jin-Mei, who is being forced to marry a Jiang-shi vampire. Interestingly, Jiang-shis are an actual element in East Asian folktales. Are mirrors that you can pass through as well? Probably, I can’t think of a way to look that up.

The Old Man went back to the present to find a way of getting Jin-Mei out of danger. Why didn’t he just bring her with him? No idea. We resume the action as Jin-Mei waits for something to happen.


Scene 3 – Jin-Mei, Lord Wang and the Old Man (continued)

Jin-Mei:   Well… since I have to wait for Mr. Panda to come back, I might as well play around with those inventions Grandpa brought back a few weeks ago.

Jin-Mei brings out a telephone from Old Man’ drawer.

Jin-Mei:   I wonder what this is for? I totally forgot what grandpa told me… (takes the receiver off the phone and starts swinging it) Maybe it’s for plowing the field.

She swings the receiver like a cowboy and then throws it to the ground. Soon she gets bored with it.

Jin-Mei:   Sigh… I wonder if there’s anything more… (goes to the drawer again and takes out a fashion magazine) Hmmm… this must be a record for the clothes in the future… (flips through the magazine in silence for a while) how odd… hmmm… she’s not even hiding her belly.. (starts feeling around her waist)

After a moment Panda appears from the mirror with a tape recorder. Jin-Mei doesn’t notice that he came back. Panda watches her having fun with the magazine for a while, then taps her on the shoulder.

Jin-Mei:   (screams and turn around) …Oh, it’s you…

Panda:   (stares at Jin-Mei for a moment) Sigh…

Jin-Mei:   Um… I was just killing my time haha… haha… ahem… (pauses) well Mr. Panda… Did Grandpa give you anything for me?

Panda hands her the tape recorder.

Jin-Mei:   Ooo… I wonder what this is? It’s hard like a stone… with a real interesting texture. What are these? (feels around the buttons) What a funny feeling… (starts swinging the earphones and pause) No, it can’t be… it’s too small to plow the field. Oh… Mr. Panda, do you know how this things works?

Panda:   Starts making movements and gestures of a hip-hop dance.

Jin-Mei: Oh Mr. Panda! I’ve never seen you being so energetic before! So… are you trying to tell me that… (suspicious) this thing can actually move like that?

Panda:   (snaps his finger) Sigh…

Jin-Mei:   Oh he snapped his finger! It must be it!

Panda:   Sigh…

Jin-Mei:   This must be a living thing!  (pauses)  (gazes at the tape recorder) I hope it doesn’t bite…

Panda:   Shakes his head. He finds his beach ball and starts playing with it again.

Jin-Mei accidentally opens the tape recorder and the tape inside falls off from the device.

Jin-Mei: Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Something just got born! Mr. Panda, Mr. Panda! Come here! I think it was pregnant! Oh… (panics) I’m sorry you poor little thing… What can I do… I don’t know… anything about the future.

Panda:   He stares at Jin-Mei for a moment, but starts playing with his beach ball again.

Jin-Mei:   (fixing her eyes on the mirror) Oh my gosh… Mr. Panda? …Mr. Panda…?

Panda:   He looks up at her, noticing that she was not looking at him as she was calling him.

Jin-Mei:   I feel like I’m dreaming…

She sees the reflection of a young man, Lon, in the mirror. Jin-Mei and Lon start mimicking each other’s movements across the mirror. Lon suddenly turns his back toward the mirror.

Jin-Mei:   Oh he turned his back! This is truly not my reflection… I wonder if it is the future human that my grandpa told me about… Oh my gosh! Grandpa did bring someone to this mirror. Grandpa had definitely told me that someone will come to look for the thing he lost… (starts pondering) OH! It’s the little stony creature! He must have come for that. But I can’t yet! I better hide it somewhere… Oh poor creature, please forgive me that you won’t be back to your master’s place in one piece as you were before… (hides the tape recorder in Old Man’s drawer)

Jin-Mei:   (looks at the mirror)  Oh my… he still has his back turned… Mr. Panda, do you think I should maybe try… pulling him in? Or will that be too scary?

Panda:   Gestures “Go for it.”

Jin-Mei stretches both of her arms through the mirror.

Jin-Mei:   OH MY GOSH! MY ARMS! MY ARMS! IT WENT THROUGH! (pulls Lon into the room through the mirror)

Lon turn his head towards Jin-Mei and screams. Then Jin-Mei screams because Lon screams. Panda then screams watching them both.


Jin-Mei:   Aiya aiya aiya… Please calm down mister… umm mister please. I um . I um… (starts rambling out in confusion)

Lon:   (being uneasy) Where am I, where am I!? (to Jin-Mei) Wait you! Ya da hot baby dat was… dat was in da mirror…

Jin-Mei: I have been waiting for you sir!

Lon:   Fo real!? Boo ya all folks! I got my game! (officially notices his situation) …ok may I ask you name miss?

Jin-Mei:   It’s Jin-Mei sir.

Lon:   I’m Lon, good to know ya. Wait, no wait, ok, um… ok, wait… (pause)  WHERE DA (beep) AM I?

Jin-Mei:   Sir, please calm down and listen to me. This may sound crazy and may seem awful for you but… you’re in… my world… I mean… you are from the other world I know and… and you are now in my world from your point of view and, and… ummm…

Lon:   (long pause) (looking confused) Excuse me… what did ya just say? Ya trippin’? Is dat ya 24/7 Ya ok miss?

Jin-Mei:   Oh my… people from there talk in a different way too I guess… I mean… I’m sorry I might make no sense to you, but I really can’t quite get what you are saying. Didn’t grandpa tell you anything?

Lon:    Grandpa… ya wit dat guy?

Jin-Mei:   Huh? What do you mean?

Lon:   Ah… my tape recorder! (notices Panda) Ya freakin’ beast! Where da (beep) did ya put my tape recorder! Answer me now! (grabs on to Panda)

Panda:   Gestures “How should I know?”

Jin-Mei:   Oh please don’t cause violence on him! Just by some small chance, are you talking about a square, dark-colored living thing? I recognized Mr. Panda bringing such a thing some time ago.

Lon:    That’s it! Where dat go!? Ya gotta help me out miss! Wait… (confused) did you just say… “living thing”?

Jin-Mei:    (pauses) Oh… actually a man named Lord Wang took it away some time ago.

Lon:    You know where dat fool lives?

Jin-Mei:   No sir… actually he’s not nearby until the next day… He’s out to see the Emperor.

Lon:   Aight, aight. I’ll wait for dat fool. Wait… (pause) (confused) “EMPEROR”!?

Jin-Mei:    Yes sir… Do emperors not exist in your place as well?

Lon:   Ok, miss. Stop playin’ wit me aight?

Jin-Mei:   You still don’t believe me? Sir, you just came through a mirror. Isn’t that strange enough already?

Lon:    YO I said…

Jin-Mei:   (cuts in) My grandpa… had found this mirror when he was young. He told me that… this mirror leads to another world through time. Ever since, he had been traveling to your place, back and forth until now and…

Lon:   (laughs)  Ya know wat? Dat’s the best excuse I’ve ever heard.

Jin-Mei:   (loud) But I’m telling the truth, sir!

Lon:   (pause) …Aight aight… chill yo. Yo… does dat mean… if I go through dat “time-traveling” mirror…

Jin-Mei:    Yes… yes, you will be back home sir.

Lon:    Cool cool. Dat’s all I need to know baby. Well you see… I think I better get back to my “own” time. Chao!

Jin-Mei:   Oh wait a moment sir!

Lon:   Now wat!?

Jin-Mei:   Please spend the night today. Aren’t you looking for the tap recrrr…

Lon:    Tape recorder?

Jin-Mei:   Yes… tape recorder. Lord Wang shall be visiting here tomorrow morning.

Lon:   Fo real? (ponders)  Well… I guess if dat’s da case… yo… um… Thanks miss.

Jin-Mei:    Well then! Things are settled now I guess! We shall go to bed early and join the early birds in the morning!

Jin-Mei prepares sheets of hays for the bed and stacks of straws bundled into a clump for the pillow.

Lon:   Um, Ya sleep like this often?

Jin-Mei:   Why yes. Suffering during your youth will nurture your future, Mr. Lon!

Lon:   You sound like my ma… I ain’t likin’ dat.

Black out.

Dim Lights on.

The sound of Lon and Panda’s snore echo in the space. Old Man enters.

Old Man:   (whispers) Psst! Psst!

Jin-Mei:    (whispers) Mmmmm… …

Old Man:    (whispers) Psst! PSST!

Jin-Mei:    (pause, whispers) Grandpa? Is that you?

Old Man:    (whispers) Shhh…

Jin-Mei:    (whispers) Where have you been all the time?

Old Man:    (whispers) I’m sorry my little girl… I took time preparing the future for you.

Jin-Mei:    (whispers)  Are you bringing me to the “wonderland”?

Old Man:    (whispers)  Yes… come… my precious girl. I shall cast you with the wonder of our “kick asssss” wonderland.

Jin-Mei:    (whispers) Grandpa… what does “kick… ass” mean?

Old Man:    (whispers) SHHHHH… …

Lights out. Scene ends.

Scene 4  –  Lon and Lord Wang

Scene: It is morning. In the same old room of Jin-Mei and Old Man. Birds are chirping. Lon and Panda awake from sleep.

Lon:    Ey beast… Morning.

Panda:   Waves hello to Lon… stares at Lon for a few seconds.

Lon:   Yo… Why you starin’ at me?

Panda:   Covers his mouth to prevent himself from bursting out laughing.

Lon:    Ey wat’s so funny bro?

Panda:   Points to the mirror.

Lon looks into the mirror. He notices that he’s wearing a woman’s wig and an old-looking Chinese dress. He also has a woman’s make up on.

Lon:   WHAT THE…

Panda:   Bursts out laughing.

Lon:   Who in the world… ey beast.

Panda:   Gestures “What?”

Lon:   Where did ya beauty go?

At that moment, the door slides open. Lord Wang enters.

Lord Wang:   Aiya! My little Jin-Mei! You look just splendid today!

Lon:   Yo wat kinda punk are ya?

Lord Wang:   (giggles) Oh Jin-Mei! You talk funny! Aww… this is just CUTE! (pulls his sword out and points it to Lon) Isn’t it funny Jin-Mei? Is this your new game? You know me don’t you? I, Lord Wang, the leader of the Jiang-shi family, don’t ever forget that I am also one of the Jiang-shis… The notorious vampire of the east. (shows his fang)

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) Oh yea… I mean yes… I recognize that sir.

Lord Wang:   (puts out his sword) Well you better start remembering my name, since you’ll need to be beside me for the rest of your life.

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) Um… what does that suppose to mean sir?

Lord Wang:    Well, isn’t it obvious to have an “engaged” couple call each other by their names? Instead of “sir”… or “honey”?

Lon:   WHAT THE… (in a “feminine” voice) … I mean, well I guess that’s how it works sir.

Lord Wang: I know how you don’t feel satisfied with this traditional marriage… although, we have no option after all. I am not stupid enough to let my beautiful head get beheaded for going against this ritual.

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) Lord Wang… Lord… Wang… Ah! Lord Wang!

Lord Wang:   Yes my dear?

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) I was looking for this thing I lost yesterday.

Lord Wang:   What may it be?

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) You know, it’s squarish and dark-colored… it’s almost like a square tablet with gimmicks in it…

Lord Wang:   Nope I never… (ponders) Ah… actually, I might still have it… (giggles) Do you want it back I assume?

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) YES! Ya da man… I mean yes! That is my precious… thing I got from my Grandpa.

Lord Wang:   Hmph! From that old geezer? Oh well… From now on, I’m your husband and there should be no question about that. If you want you “thing” back, you might as well… START CLEANING THE FLOOR! Now start immediately, chop chop.

Lon takes a mop and starts cleaning the floor.

Lord Wang:   Oh!? Ooo hoo hoo. You know something Jin-Mei?

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) Er… yes?

Lord Wang:   Unlike a lady… you seem a little fatter… or I should rather say more muscular… Ooo… and you smell nice today. Makes me want to suck your blood…

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) Excuse me!?

Lord Wang:   Oh… did I say something? It’s just a metaphor I’m using… (laughs and then approaches Lon)

Lon quickly dodges him.

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) Umm… I probably ate too much yesterday sir.

Lord Wang:   I see… now the panda seems pretty starved. Why don’t you start and go fix something for him to eat?

Panda:   Claps its hands.

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) Umm yes sir!

Lon exits the stage. In a moment, Lon returns with two sticks of bamboo.

Lord Wang:   Excuse me!? When a Chinese wife fixes something for their beloved ones to eat it should be something that satisfies him… or it.

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) Um, but I recognize this freakin’ beast… I mean this cute little creature as a “panda”…

Lord Wang:   Well, why don’t you try it out? You’ll see what I mean.

Lon hands Panda the bamboo sticks. Panda stares at them for a moment. Then it throws them onto the ground and takes on spit at it.

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) (in a smaller voice) Why you…

Lord Wang:   Jin-Mei…come here for a second.

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) I Urgh… I mean yes sir.

Lord Wang slaps Lon in the face.

Lord Wang:   Pandas don’t eat bamboos! They eat meat!

Lon shakes with anger that is about to explode… but tries calming himself.

Lord Wang:   Jin-Mei, are you mad at me? That is a very curious reaction from a wife… Well you always have been the exceptional type… but…

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) (in a small voice) You (beep)…

Lord Wang:   Did you just mock me? (puts his hand on the sheath of the sword)

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) Oh! It must have been from the wind sir!

Lord Wang:   Somehow you don’t seem like yourself today…

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) You must be dreaming sir! (keeping his distance) Umm… is there any chores left for me to work on sir?

Lord Wang:   Hmph… well, maybe you should start plowing your field.

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) Excuse me?

Lord Wang:   I said start plowing it! Outside! Do you even need me to follow you to the field?

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) No sir! I’ll be right on my business sir!

Lord Wang:   Hmmm… But since you just look sooooo delicious today… why not? (approaches Lon)

Lon:   (in a “feminine” voice) Umm… I’ll be out there right away sirrr! (runs out of the stage)

Lord Wang just stands there for a moment, smiles, then exits the stage.

Black Out. Scene ends.


So we get the pretty strong impression from this that not only are people from the past unaccustomed to modern technology, they are stupid as well, and assume all inventions involve plowing. And that small black rectangular objects are living even if they are completely inanimate. It would actually have potentially made sense for her to think that the tape recorder was alive if she pressed “play” by accident and heard the music it made, but she never did and still came to that conclusion…which sounds a lot like the author planning on putting that in and then forgetting.

Lon getting pulled into the mirror happened just now, explaining why the Panda tried luring him to the mirror with (probably impossible to stage) glowing footprints in Scene 2, which was deliberately done out of order. I don’t know why Jin-Mei knew she was supposed to grab this guy and pull him through the mirror, since no one ever explained the plan to her. And what an ineffective-seeming and needlessly cruel plan it is as well—stranding a stranger in the past, in drag, to get married to an evil vampire, who should have immediately noticed that he wasn’t a young girl. It’s like Norbit meets Hot Tub Time Machine, but with less-believable characters. And who’s house is this? Lord Wang keeps appearing and telling her to do chores, but then leaving. Is it the Old Man’s? But he only “visits” her. Where are her parents? Isn’t she like 15? Although if the Old Man is 100, how could his granddaughter only be a teenager…if these people are living at least a few hundred years ago didn’t everyone essentially have kids in their 20s? Is the flow of time different in the present than the past? Why does Wang keep switching between saying that they are engaged and that they are going to be “officially” engaged? Why would someone say that Pandas don’t eat bamboo? Why doesn’t Lon just go back through the mirror? Is he really staying in feudal China, dressed as a woman with a vampire threatening him, just because he wants his mix-tape back?

This play is rapidly starting to ask more questions than it answers.

Only one more edition before the thrilling conclusion! Coming soon, Scene 5 – Ping, Pong and the Girl & Scene 6 – The Jiang-shis.


Author: (Ryan) Michney

Dread Astronomer

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