Chinese Stories in English
Ah-P "Turns Thief"
by Deng Yingli
Some people say they'd rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle. Ah-P, on the other hand, hit on a bit of luck. He got to both sit in a BMW and laugh himself silly! Don't misunderstand; he didn't get rich overnight, but he did find a new job driving a BMW for a beautiful lady boss, Ah-Fang! Tell me, why wouldn't he be happy, getting a high salary for driving a good car as chauffeur for a beautiful woman? People who didn't know Ah-P well thought he was actually the big boss.
But Ah-P hadn't been laughing long before Ah-Fang began to give him problems. She'd seen the hit movie Life of Pi not long before and was going on about wanting to play with a tiger. After busting his head thinking about it, Ah-P called in some favors and took her to a circus for a "close encounter" with their tiger.
When it was over, Ah-Fang grumbled like a spoiled girl, "Why did you get a Siberian tiger? Wasn't Richard Parker some kind of Bengal tiger?"
Ah-P wiped the sweat from his brow. It was a good thing that that Siberian tiger smelled pretty bad, and wasn't the species she wanted, because otherwise she would've bought it to take home as a pet.
Things had just gotten cooled down when someone told Ah-Fang that it would be stimulating to "imitate a dog and steal a chicken". [That could mean to have a tryst, but Ah-Fang took it literally.] She got excited by the idea and wanted Ah-P to go with her to commit a theft.
Ah-P almost jumped out of his chair. "How could I do such a thing?" he thought. "I've been on the straight and narrow my whole life, so how could I go and break the law now?" But he didn't dare tell her that, because he might lose his cushy job if he didn't do what she wanted. He'd heard that the previous driver had been fired for being for being inflexible and boring.
So Ah-P had to agree. But when he thought about being a thief, he lost his appetite and started having trouble sleeping. Finally, one day, he thought of a way they could both be happy. He ran like the wind to where Ah-Fang was and began to give her a vivid demonstration. They would crawl along the ground for a while, and slip along a wall for a while…. This teased Ah-Fang into trembling like a branch laden with flowers. "Will it really be so exciting?" she asked skeptically. "Are we going to steal a chicken or a dog this time?"
Ah-P shook his head in disdain. "It's no big deal to steal a chicken. There's no skill in it at all. I'll pick you up at eleven o'clock, and we'll go into action!"
At eleven, Ah-P was driving the BMW, with Ah-Fang in it, heading toward the outskirts of town.
Ah-Fang figured the die was cast, but was starting to have second thoughts. "We didn't do much to get ready," she said to Ah-P.
Imitating the clever thieves he'd seen on TV, Ah-P snapped his fingers and said, "Humph", indicating that everything was indeed ready.
The car soon arrived at a small mountain village. Ah-P drove to the front of a small courtyard and stopped. He motioned Ah-Fang to tie on her kneepads, saying it was just in case.
Ah-Fang was so excited her palms were sweating. Ah-P lead the way and she followed behind.
Suddenly Ah-P was somehow able to open the gate into the courtyard with just a gentle push.
Right after that, Ah-Fang heard a dog barking. She saw Ah-P throw something small, and the dog laid down submissively on its forepaws and didn't move. With Ah-Fang clinging to Ah-P's shirttail, they felt their way along the foot of the wall until they came up to a row of cages!
Ah-P shined his flashlight into one of the cages and, suddenly, a shadow jumped directly at them, startling Ah-Fang half to death. She calmed herself and took a look. It turned out to be a monkey. The creature gave out a weird "zi-zi" screech as it relentlessly reached outward from the cage with its paw.
"You told me to get a Bengal tiger," Ah-P said proudly to Ah-Fang, "but we have the Monkey King, Sun Wukong, instead. How about that? Not bad, right? This is a real macaque, a government protected animal!"
Ah-Fang got even more excited when she heard what kind of monkey it was, but she said to Ah-P, "You seem to know a lot about this place!"
Ah-P seemed to get even prouder. "Of course," he said. "You don't know it, but I grew up…." He stopped abruptly before he finished the sentence, and whistled twice. Strange as it seems, the monkey unexpectedly swung its head straight up to look at Ah-P, its mouth opened wide. As if he were performing a magic trick, Ah-P pulled a banana out of his pocket and handed it to the monkey.
The monkey took the banana in one paw and started to gorge itself. And as soon as it finished, it sat there obediently, not moving.
Ah-Fang excitedly asked Ah-P what that was all about. He said: "Monkeys are intelligent. You're good to him, and naturally he's good to you. And also…."
In a positive tone of voice, Ah-P said: "And, since ancient times, even heroes have had a weakness for the charms of a beautiful woman. Beautiful woman that you are, the monkey likes you!" His words struck right at the bottom of Ah-Fang's heart. Ah-P saw she was pleased and told her, "I'll open the door and you catch it!"
When he opened the cage, Ah-Fang boldly reached inside. Unpredictably, the monkey gave a loud squeak, "zi". Someone shouted from inside the house, "Who's there?"
Ah-P whispered loudly, "This isn't good!" He grabbed the monkey in one hand and, pulling Ah-Fang with the other, hurried off toward the car.
Soon someone was in the courtyard hollering, "They stole a monkey!"
A dog started barking in the neighboring courtyard, and people started yelling. Within a few seconds, all the dogs in the entire village were howling back and forth at each other.
Ah-P quickly took in the situation as he started the BMW. He pushed the gas pedal to the floor and the car lurched forward. Some people chased behind it, but they were too late.
Ah-P was a skillful driver. He weaved left and zipped right, and soon got to the village entrance. It looked like they were going to get away when a big rail suddenly appeared, crossing the road in front of the car, one of the security measures taken by the village's Public Security. Ah-P had to slam the brakes. What else could he do?
Ah-Fang was sitting in the back seat, not knowing what to do. Ah-P flashed on an idea and shouted to her, "Sit tight!"
The BMW made "ka-ling" sound as he backed away from the roadblock and drove off toward the hill. The people behind them had caught up and were chasing the car, screaming.
Ah-Fang was shouting anxiously, "Come on, Ah-P, Come on!"
The BMW leapt forward like a rabbit. Ah-Fang could feel the wind rushing by her ears, and the people's shouts were fading away in the distance. But then, "boom", the car crashed into something.
Almost crying, Ah-P said: "Boss, I hit the school wall. We can't move."
But, believe it or not, Ah-Fang applauded happily and exclaimed: "Man, that was really exciting! Now I want to see how you get us out of this one, Ah-P!"
When Ah-P heard this, he thought, "Well, if the boss is happy, that's the best reward!" He plucked up his courage, pointed at his chest and said, "Just watch me, Boss!"
The crowd had caught up to them by then and was circling around the car. They'd been agitated into a mob and were shouting "Out of that car, or we'll smash it!"
Ah-P opened the door and got out. He cleared his voice and said, "Hey, folks, it's me, Ah-P!"
Someone shined a flashlight on him. Darned if it wasn't Ah-P!
You see, Ah-P was from this village, and one of the people in the crowd was his uncle. "What are you doing here so late?" the uncle asked, puzzled.
Ah-P quickly scratched his head and said: "It's like this, folks. When our boss heard that our village school was in shabby condition, she decided to donate some money to fix it up for the kids. But she's very busy, and only had the time to come and take a look late at night. It's not unusual at all. In the city, night life is just getting started now!"
Ah-Fang was taken aback. So Ah-P had actually brought her here to steal from his own people. But as she listened to his high-sounding rhetoric, she started to feel proud to be a "philanthropist". With a flourish, she opened the door and got out of the car.
Ah-P hastily introduced her to everyone as the boss.
To make things easier for Ah-P, Ah-Fang said she wanted to take a look at the school.
The villagers cheered when they heard that. Not caring that it was after midnight, they all crowded closer to Ah-Fang and offered to take her on a nighttime tour of school.
Ah-P's uncle slapped him on the back. "Hey, kid, you really don't know what you're doing, keeping such a good thing a secret. If we hadn't been chasing the thieves that stole our monkey, we wouldn't know anything about it!"
That really brought up an awkward subject. Just at that moment, the monkey's "zhi-zhi-zhi" squeal came from inside the BMW. Ah-P started to sweat.
The uncle shined his flashlight into the car. "Say, Ah-P, isn't this Old Monk, the one our family uses to put on monkey shows? How did it get into the BMW?"
Ah-P slapped his forehead as though he were blaming himself for something. "Oh, my memory must be going!" he said. "The boss told me to buy a monkey, so I thought I'd help the family out. I mean, you don't fertilize the other guy's field, you know. But since it was so late, and I didn't want to disturb you folks. I just put a thousand Yuan on your windowsill and took the monkey."
The uncle waved his hand: "Why so polite? The donation for the school is a big deal, and if she wants a monkey to play with, there's no need to leave money." Ah-Fang hadn't expected Ah- P to have this trick up his sleeve and couldn't help admiring him. "Life is hard for you guys," she said politely. "You can't turn down the money!" It became a legend in the village, the two of them going back and forth politely, one insisting that he take the money and the other refusing.
Later, the story of Ah-P getting a donation for the school seemed to sprout wings and spread throughout the entire village. It wasn't long before Ah-P got a phone call from the Party Secretary of the neighboring village. He wanted Ah-P to bring his boss to see their Senior Citizens Center, and mentioned that it would be OK to come late at night.
Of course, Ah-P had no right to speak for Ah-Fang, but he still said, in a self-important tone of voice, "I'll think about it, and give it full consideration, then get back to you!
故事会, 2013, 5 月, 下半月, 第84页
Stories Magazine, May 2013, 2nd Semimonthly Issue, p. 84
Republished in part at http://lrb.dayoo.com/html/2013-05/22/content_2255776.htm
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