Saturday, 9 May 2009

a touch test

Fill in the gaps with the correct phrase from below and ONLY THEN click on the “gap” box to check your answer.

a soft touch
not touch something with a bargepole
touch a raw nerve
touch bottom
touch somebody for something

It was on account of the orchard that Lan was not popular.
She had a small orange grove of some 50-60 miniature orange trees growing on her head where most people have hair. The trees blossomed and sprouted leaves and shed fruit in time with the seasons. A refined citrus scent hung about Lan most of the year. It made some people dizzy it was so pungent.
Growing up, Lan had no friends. Parents were suspicious of the girl who was half-human and half-tree. They didn't want their children contaminated by the heady orange perfume. They wouldn't let her join the local school and so Lan had to stay at home. Nobody would.

As she grew into her teens, people began to be more openly hostile to her. They would come up to her in gangs and pluck the unripe fruit from her head. It caused Lan great pain.
Some even muttered darkly of axes and herbicides. This was nothing Lan hadn't thought of and tried herself.
She and her mother, Hu-Tu, had tried chopping the trees down, but they grew back even more ferociously, as pruned trees will.
They had tried herbicides, but they just gave her scalp a rash and ruined the fruit.
Finally, they set fire to the little orchard on her head. Lan stood still while her mother fanned the flames with her apron. The intoxicating smell of burnt oranges and the popping sound of cracking wood filled the kitchen.
When the flames had died and Lan looked in the mirror at the withered black stumps where once had stood a lush green orchard, she felt she had and that nothing in life could be worse than this.
The trees grew back, thicker than ever.

One day, when Lan should have been beginning her adult life, Hu-Tu's clock stopped working. No-one in the village sold clocks and the nearest town was a long, long way away. What was she to do? If she didn't have a clock, how would she know when it was dawn or dusk?
As luck would have it, at that very moment, a travelling clock salesman arrived in the village. His name was Da-Xia. He rode a motorcycle and wore goggles and a leather pilot's cap.
He stopped in the village square and sniffed the air.
'Oranges,' he said to himself.
'Are you selling clocks or not?' asked a villager impatiently.
'Help yourself,' said Da-Xia shoving a bag into the villager's hands and all the while sniffing the air.
'Oo,!' exclaimed the villager. 'Maybe I can my taxi fare home, eh?'
Distracted and not really caring, Da-Xia shoved some coins into the villager's hand and mounted his motorcycle, determined to track down the wondrous orange smell.

Arriving at Lan's door, he knocked and was greeted by Hu-Tu.
Though uneducated, Hu-Tu was not unwise. She saw in his manner that something had moved the clockmaker immensely and that, as she rightly suspected, it was the glorious orange aroma of Lan's orchard.
Lan too was immediately enchanted by Da-Xia. An elopement was quickly arranged.
Da-Xia built Hu-Tu a special clock to replace her broken one. It had three number sixes but no one or two. This was so Hu-Tu could enjoy her favourite times of day more often while skipping those times to which she had no special attachment.

Quickly married, the clockmaker, with Lan sitting astride the motorbike behind him, then rode off into the sunset. They travelled for thousands of miles across rivers and mountains and plains. The crop on Lan's head was the most bountiful ever.
One day, they came to the edge of a forest and the clockmaker built them a log cabin.
They were very happy.
Only one thing bothered Lan: the clockmaker never took off his goggles and hat, not even when he was asleep.
'Will you remove your goggles and hat for me?' she asked one day.
Da-Xia threw his spanner on the table. 'This is all you want to know? This is all you care about?' he snapped. She had obviously. 'Superficial girl!'
And so saying he stormed out of the cabin, got on his bike and rode off down the lane.
That night he didn't come home and Lan was very worried, so worried that she decided to go looking for him.
Half a mile down the lane and with nothing more than the moonlight to help her, she found Da-Xia lying on his side, the motorbike beneath him with a crumpled front tyre.
'Da-Xia!' she cried out in the lonely forest.
But Da-Xia was cold to the touch. She nestled his head in her arms weeping fiercely. As she rocked his lifeless body back and forth his brown leather pilot cap came off.
Beneath the cap was not hair but silky rich green lemon grass, its powerful scent sour under the moon.

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Collocation of the Week by Dr Myers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.