After greeting the Jade Dragon, I turned and gave a quick hug to the next aunt in line, Aunt June, the Snow Dragon. At 5'3", she was the tallest in the group. She was also the whitest. She was draped in a red and gold silk dress. I remembered that she recently had a cold. So naturally, I asked, "Aunty June, how are you feeling?"
She smiled,"I'm fine now. Thank you."
"Well, you look very good tonight", I said,"I'm so glad you could make it. Your dress makes you look like a blossoming flower" Well, it doesn't hurt to butter her up. She laughed and gave a small bow. I knew less about Snow Dragon than I did about Jade Dragon. But what I do know is that the first time someone told me her story, I got the chills.
Snow Dragon's mother was from an important Chinese family in Shanghai. When the Japanese invaded, the family pressured Snow Dragon's mother into a liaison with a Japanese officer. It was an opportunity to strengthen the family's position within the new administration. The result of this liaison was Snow Dragon, and the family used their new connection to acquire their competitors' resources. And when the tides of war changed and the Japanese retreated, the family's fortunes were reversed. Snow Dragon's father was killed in the fighting; Snow Dragon's mother committed suicide.
In the years after the war, the family struggled to regain their influence. Snow Dragon's grandmother arranged for her daughters and granddaughters to marry into money and influence. It was planned that when Snow Dragon reached 14, she was to marry a rich, gov't administrator, an old widower, who was over 60 years old. When Snow Dragon was 13, she decided to escape her fate. She set her sights on the Son of the Chairman of the local Communist Party. He had been to America and he seemed to treat her nice enough. The Son was, however, arranged to marry Snow Dragon's elder cousin.
During the New Year festival, she sneaked into his bedroom and proceeded to have relations with drunk Son, who was ten years her senior. At dawn, she took a few things from the room and went straight to see her grandmother. There, she spun a tale of how she was lured into the room of the Chairman's Son and how he forced himself upon her. She proceeded to show his jacket and his now stained sheets as proof of how he compromised her virtue. Armed with the evidence, the grandmother summoned the Chairman and demanded justice (compensation). To settle the affair and save face, Snow Dragon was to marry Son, the elder cousin to take Snow Dragon's place and marry the old widower.
By the time she was 20, Snow Dragon had 3 children,2 died during epidemics and only the youngest, a son, survived. When the Chairman died, Snow Dragon convinced Son to leave China. It wasn't easy trying to convince Son, but years of late night hushed conversations revealed that Son was impressed with America. They made arrangements for a ship to take them to America. They landed in Seattle.
I'm not exactly sure about the details of their life in Seattle, but I've been told that Snow Dragon and Son started off working menial jobs. They were able to save enough to rent a stall selling Chinese food, cooking out of their apt kitchen. Eventually, they opened their own restaurant and had more children. But it was in real estate that they made a fortune. The Boeing layoffs of the 1970s and the recession of the 1980s each presented them with a unique opportunity to buy foreclosed homes and renting them out. Eventually, when Seattle hit the tech boon of the 1990s and Microsoft ascended the stock market, people flocked to Seattle, looking for homes. And Snow Dragon and Son had quite a few choice properties for sale.
Whereas Jade Dragon had an army, Snow Dragon had the finances. To have acquired such a fortune required an astute intellect and ambition. I was told the story of how Snow Dragon eliminated a competitor in the early days of the restaurant. Another restaurant owner decided to expand and open an Italian restaurant across from Snow Dragon's restaurant. During their first meeting at the local business association, the Italian made great show of his wealth and his expansion plans to the other members. He bragged about how great quality food was going to be available to the area, and he joked that it would be much better than the dogs Snow Dragon served at her restaurant.
Though she laughed outwardly, Snow Dragon was livid and prepared for war, biding her time. The perfect opportunity came a month later. The president of the local business association was impressed by the Italian, as the Italian was considered a big fish for expanding. Everyone else in the association were small business owners. The president was so impressed that he decided to host his upcoming daughter's wedding reception at the Italian's restaurant. Snow Dragon saw her chance.
The morning of the wedding, Snow Dragon went over to the Italian's restaurant to drop off her wedding present. She carried a large gift bag filled with tissue paper and two boxes. The big box was gift wrapped and tagged. A much smaller box had no identifying tags. She asked the hostess where the gifts were being kept in the restaurant, and the hostess pointed out a table all ready piled with some gifts in a corded off area.
Snow Dragon walked up to the table, took her gift bag and placed it on the table. She took out the boxes. She set the big gift box in the front, and the smaller box behind it, hiding it from view. Then she gently opened the top of the smaller box slightly. She also took a small cookie from her purse, crumbled it, and spread it behind the big gift box. Then she turned, smiled at the hostess and thanked her. Snow Dragon told the hostess how much she looked forward to the reception in two hours.
She drove out to a public phone and called the restaurant inspection service and told them about a problem that needed immediate attention. Then she called the president's home, knowing the service staff would be at home. She told the staff about the big problem at the Italian's restaurant and the president needed to respond urgently. When she got to the wedding, she scanned for the president and saw he seemed to be upset. She walked up to him and offered her congratulations to the president and his wife. She asked them if everything was all right, and offered her services if there was anything she could do to help them. The president thanked her and told her that everything was fine. His wife offered a strained smile.
Snow Dragon took the wife aside, and prodded her gently about what was going on. The wife, exasperated, said that there was a problem with the Italian's restaurant. Snow Dragon told the wife that if it was a matter of more space for more people, then Snow Dragon would be happy to open up her restaurant and take up the extra people. This surprised the wife, as Snow Dragon's place was closed on Sundays. Then the wife excused herself to go talk to her husband. Hearing Snow Dragon's offer, the president told Snow Dragon that he appreciated her offer, but he didn't want her to go through so much trouble, especially since he had to feed these guest as well.
Snow Dragon told the president that feeding the guests would not be too big of an inconvenience, as she could call Son and he could start cooking for the guests. The food would be ready by the time the wedding was over. But being that it was so late, Snow Dragon told the president that the food would be Chinese, of course, and she hoped the guests would be fine with that. The president was grateful, shook Snow Dragon's hand and thanked her; he went inside the church. He announced to his guests that the reception was now going to take place at Snow Dragon's place, across the street from the Italian's. There were a few murmurs in audience, but the president offered the excuse that Snow Dragon's was opening especially for the guests today and it would accommodate everyone.
Snow Dragon told the wife she was going to help Son get the food ready and used the phone to call Son, letting him know of the developments. When she arrived home, she saw there was a small crowd outside the Italian's restaurant; some people were agitated. She smiled to herself, went inside, and waited for the guests. The reception went well, considering the last minute venue change. But overall, the guests had wine, dined, and danced once the DJ arrived. Snow Dragon kept her place open until ten that night, when everyone started leaving. When the bill came up, the president was surprised that the bill was smaller than what he hand in mind. Snow Dragon told the president it was a special wedding discount for the president. That night, Snow Dragon won an ally in the president and his wife.
Though she lost some money that night by being so generous to the president, she gained something much more. She gained the gratitude and support of the president. In a few years, the president would become a councilman, and Snow Dragon and Son would be counted among those the future council man would favor. In addition, she had struck the Italian with a crippling blow. And how did she manage it?
Simple. Snow Dragon had acquired an effective weapon the morning of the wedding. The weapon was kept in the small gift box. This was the same gift box that she left slightly opened. She knew that it would only be a matter of time before the weapon did damage. She expounded that damage by calling the restaurant inspector and the president's staff. The distraught president at the wedding and agitated people she saw outside the Italian's restaurant served to confirm her plan's success. Of course that was to be expected with this weapon. And just what was this weapon?
It was a perfectly legal weapon, though, it wasn't classified as a weapon. In fact, it was manufactured for something else entirely. It's pretty common in certain stores. Some parents and children alike have bought scores of these numerous times. But when Snow Dragon bought and used them in her plan, they became a terrifying weapon. What else would you call white mice, bred and sold in pet stores to feed snakes? And who wouldn't be terrified and panic to find mice in a restaurant? God knows if they've gotten into the food you're eating, or what diseases they were carrying. And it didn't matter that they were small or white; their very presence in a place of eating was not welcomed and was very wrong and revolting.
The demise of the Italian would continue at the speed of gossip. No one wanted to eat at the rat restaurant. Within a few months, the Italian was forced to shut down from a lack of revenue. The expansion (and his insult) had cost him a lot. In fact, his first restaurant struggled, plagued with a loss of customers when word spread of why he had to shut down his second restaurant. Eventually, he was forced to file for bankruptcy during the down turn of Seattle economy in the early 1980s. Snow Dragon had struck him a fatal blow, and he never even knew. Such was the skill and power of this dragon.
The lesson I've learned from this story was to never underestimate Snow Dragon. Never make her an enemy. And here she was, this powerful woman, standing in the foyer, scanning me as I was assessing her. I couldn't really read her intentions, but for now, I hope she came in peace.