Work Header

The Journey West

Work Text:

Listen, and I will tell you how Monkey comes to America.

After a long journey across salt ocean, huddled in a tiny compartment with no fresh water or food, Monkey lands near fragrant sandalwood hills and golden mountains. He has been lured by promises of wealth and freedom, of a rich land covered with wheat; rockets' red glare and snow-topped Pikes Peak and Mississippi blue (though the river rolls brown with mud like the snaking Yellow River); land of the free and home of the brave. You know the songs and the pledge, you know the words writ on crumpling documents, laying out the law of the land.

Monkey is a thief, they say, Monkey steals imperial peaches and frightens the Queen Mother's attendants, so they put him to work harvesting sugar cane, they give him a pick and tell him to lay tracks for the dragons of iron and steel. They tell Monkey "no women" because women mean soft curves and children and roots, women mean hundreds of monkeys running 'round free. Monkey does not multiply, not as much as he could, but Monkey does not die and leave. They forget Monkey was born of stone, not womb, they forget Monkey creates new monkeys from handfuls of fur, chewed up and spat out.

They welcome Monkey back when Pearl Harbor falls under a rain of steel, give him signs saying "Not a Jap," but Monkey is also Son Goku, also saru, also born under a rising sun. They turn him away again when Jade Emperor falls to the little red book. He is already so few, so small, hidden away in splinters of city, tucked away like he tucks his iron rod behind his ear.

Listen, now, granddaughter, this is where you come in the tale.

In 1971, Monkey arrives once more in the golden state, this time in tiny cramped seats and pressure-filled ears. Not from her old homeland, no, not this time. Monkey has stopped by island nations and peninsular cities, Mandarin and Cantonese and Taiwanese on her tongue. Monkey seeks wealth still, but now wealth of knowledge spread out on blackboards and notebooks, in theses and equations.

You know the end of this tale already, granddaughter, and you will tell it better than I.

This is how Monkey comes to America: he comes with the stories we pass on from mother to daughter, from friend to friend, over telophone wire and ink and paper, over bits and bytes and pixels on screen.

This is how Monkey comes to America: on the tongues of you and I.