• Tue
  • Jul 15, 2014
  • Updated: 1:17am

Sync or swim

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2011, 12:00am

The lift came to a juddering halt at the floor where the engineer, Grandad, Sam and Jenny all stood waiting.

'Siu-man!' Grandad called.

From inside the lift came Ethan's strained reply. 'Gung gung.'

As the door slowly opened, Grandad and Sam took a step forward then stopped in their tracks.

Inside, a weary Ethan was straining to support the dishevelled and exhausted figure of Wai-hung.

When Wai-hung had launched his attack, Ethan had cowered in terrified anticipation. But the blows never came. Instead, Wai-hung had slumped, sobbing, to the lift floor, defeated - not by Ethan's token resistance - but by a drug addict's withdrawal symptoms.

Helpless, Wai-hung had swiftly agreed to Ethan's deal: if Ethan kept quiet about his condition, and the reasons behind it, he would leave Ethan and his friends alone.

Both Sam and Grandad looked from Ethan to Wai-hung and back again. 'Are you ... OK?' Grandad asked hesitantly.

Ethan nodded and forced a smile. 'But Wai-hung's not feeling so good. I need to get him home.'

Although Ethan and Grandad were delighted that Mum was now sitting up in her hospital bed, chatting, it did also mean she could begin asking questions. 'I still don't understand how you can manage without my wages,' she wondered.

'I told you,' Grandad replied patiently, 'we've got my savings.'

'They won't last long - and what then?' she demanded.

Her visitors were still all too aware of the warning they had received when she was first rushed into intensive care after her heart attack. Then, the consultant had told them that, on no account, must she be put under any kind of stress.

Since that time, she had survived a blood clot that slipped unnoticed from her heart to her brain. And since that time, through evasion and outright lies, Ethan and Grandad had shielded her from the reality of her family's new circumstances.

The knowledge that Ethan was splitting his focus between school and the development of a website would have been enough to send her blood pressure soaring. But now they had to tell her something ...

'Well?' she prompted.

'Gung gung's going international,' Ethan found himself saying.

Grandad was almost as bemused as Ethan's mother. 'I am?'

Ethan felt he had no option but to plough on. 'He's going to export paper offerings to Chinese communities all around the world.'

'From a little shop in Sham Shui Po?' his mother asked, looking from one to the other.

'He's going to have a website. An online presence.'

Grandad smiled at the thought of this burgeoning empire. 'I am.'

Ethan's mother looked at her son sceptically.

'I'll show you the homepage next time,' Ethan assured her.

On the way to Grandad's business, the pair were still feeling guilty about their latest lie.

'I will design a home page for your site,' Ethan promised.

'It doesn't exist,' his grandad reminded him, 'whereas yours hopefully will. So just concentrate on making that profitable - and soon.'

'We'll have finished the code in the next couple of weeks, then it's just a matter of testing ...'

'Testing? You think that's all you have to do? What's the point of something that works perfectly and is never used?'

Arriving at the shop, they found Mr Wong, owner of the neighbouring business, replacing a broken window. As he and Grandad exchanged hushed words, a preoccupied Ethan patted the puppy Mr Wong had recently acquired.

'Grandad's right,' Ethan told Sam and Jenny when they got to the shop. 'What's the point of launching shamefacebook when no one knows about it?'

'OK, we finish the coding and then we ...' Jenny began.

'No, we have to do both now,' Ethan said, interrupting, 'before we run out of money.'

'You mean, like, advertise it as ... 'The place to come when it seems too late or too embarrassing, to say sorry?'' Sam proclaimed grandly.

Ethan shook his head. 'People don't want something pushed at them like that. They want to be intrigued. We need to put something out there that's sophisticated ...'

'... witty ...' Sam added, catching on.

Ethan nodded. '... and clever.'

Grandad had been sorting his stock, distractedly. 'You want to get attention?' he said, without looking up. 'You need a cute animal.'

Ethan and Sam turned to stare at him.

'What?' Sam asked.

'A cute little animal,' Grandad explained.

Ethan sighed. 'That sounds just a bit corny for what we're trying to do, gung gung,' he explained patiently.

'People love cute little animals,' Grandad continued.

'Mmm,' Jenny said, considering the concept.

Sam and Ethan looked at her, aghast. 'What do you mean, 'Mmm',' Sam demanded.

Jenny shrugged. 'Just saying ...'

'You don't mean you agree, do you?' Ethan asked her.

'You know, a nice little cat ... like our cat at home ... what's not to like?'

As Ethan and Sam clutched their heads, Grandad smiled to himself.

'No way,' said Ethan, definitively.

So over the next couple of weeks, in between intensive coding sessions, Ethan and Sam got busy with Sam's dad's DV camera.

First they shot Sam - in disguise - clutching a bunch of flowers and running towards the closed doors of a departing MTR train.

'I suppose that's sophisticated and not corny,' a smirking Jenny commented when she saw it.

The review of an unrecognisable Ethan pretending to chop down a tree, cut together with footage of a tree falling on the house of an irate 'neighbour', wasn't much better.

'I see ... this must be your 'witty' film,' Grandad said, rolling his eyes.

Grandad and Jenny looked up from Sam's laptop to the pair of filmmakers, standing abashed and awkward in Ethan's flat.

'Yeah, someone, tripping and falling face first into a muddy puddle works on so many different levels,' Jenny said with mock solemnity. 'So is this latest effort trending?'

Already knowing the answer, Sam reluctantly punched a few keys and looked at the screen. 'Nope,' he said quietly.

'What is?' Jenny asked.

'Well, nothing involving cats,' Ethan snapped, scanning the list.

'And ...?' she prompted.

'Yeah, what's that one at the top,' said Grandad, pointing.

'Something about ... puppies,' Sam said.

Jenny leaned forward and clicked on the link.

A cute puppy - remarkably like Mr Wong's young mutt - looked out balefully at them from the screen.

A message began to scroll slowly across the image. 'When sorry seems to be the hardest word ...'

'What's this?' Ethan and Sam demanded almost in unison.

To be continued next week

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