5. Awaiting Improvement
6. A More Laudable Spirit
1. "Second Auntie" Grows Up
2. Lost Silver
3. Sneaking a Peek
4. Honor Near the End
Selections from Authornet (page 1)
Stories printed in 2016 China Annual Flash Fiction 2016《中国年度卫星小说 – 作家网选片》
Plus a couple of fillers. Translated from the web pages cited below.
Chinese Stories in English
1. "Second Auntie" Grows Up (“二奶”成长史)
Wu Zhiqiang (吴志强)
She was an unmarried mother. Her boyfriend lost his life in a car accident a few years ago. Now her daughter was seriously ill and she needed two hundred thousand yuan for an operation. She was just an ordinary employee in her company, earning somewhat over three thousand yuan a month. How could she raise the astronomical fee for the operation all at once?
He was a married man, the boss of her company. He was willing to help her out by paying for the surgery, and she could pay him back at any time without interest.
The problem was, he liked her and she didn't like him. He treated her well, but she couldn't find any feelings for him in her heart. She didn’t want to spend her life as someone's underground lover and have people call her "second wife" behind her back, but she couldn’t find any other reason why he’d loan someone two hundred thousand yuan interest free. What’s more, she might not be able to repay the loan in her entire life. She didn’t want to spend a lifetime in this world carrying a burden of debt on her back.
"Let’s do this. You can come to visit me one evening at a time, two thousand yuan for each evening. How about that?"
When she said that, his eyes widened and lights flared like firecrackers. He stared at her so hard she couldn’t look back. The woman lowered her head and mumbled, "What's the difference? You only want wholesale, but I'll only sell at retail. That’s all there is to it"
The man didn’t like that at all, but who said he had to like it? They signed a private contract in accordance with the woman's suggestion. The woman took the man’s check for two hundred thousand yuan without qualms after the contract was signed.
Her daughter's operation went smoothly and the girl was soon discharged from the hospital, restored to her former lively and lovely self. When he woman saw how healthy and alive her daughter was, she had no regrets. The man stayed overnight at her place two nights out of three, and she made him feel comfortable as a guest. The man was quite satisfied and lolled around in the woman's bed every day, unwilling to leave. Every night he spent with the woman, he became more obsessed with her. He gradually began to feel that he wouldn’t be able to leave her.
"Marry me. I can divorce my wife."
He knelt on the bed and pleaded with her. She looked at him with compassion but resolutely shook her head "no".
The woman hung a wall calendar at the head of the bed and, in his presence, she ticked the day off whenever the man visited. He knew he would lose her after one hundred nights. As the date grew nearer, he started to burn with anxiety.
The woman counted the minutes and seconds of every day. She would be completely free once the hundred days were done. But when she was about to spend her last night with her boss, another nightmare reared its ugly head. With neither rhyme nor reason, her daughter was abducted. The hysterical kidnapper wanted to squeeze her for two hundred thousand yuan in cash. She couldn't call the police or he'd kill the girl immediately.
The phone call struck the woman like a thunderbolt. She was stupefied. At the time all she could think of doing was getting her hands on two hundred thousand yuan to rescue her daughter no matter what. She felt she'd have no reason to go on living if her daughter were killed.
She had no choice but to go to her boss early the next morning.
The man didn't show how pleased he was when the woman came to him with her head bowed. He immediately ordered an assistant to bring him two hundred thousand yuan in cash and generously handed it to the woman. She was less sure of herself than when she'd accepted the check the first time. "How can I repay you?" she asked haltingly.
The man didn't beat around the bush and said without hesitation, "Just do it like you said last time."
The woman felt that a thorn had just been pulled from her side, and then someone had stuck it painfully back in. But she couldn’t cry out.
She deposited the money in the place designated by the kidnappers, then walked apprehensively home. When she got to the door, she found that her daughter had gotten home safely. The mother and daughter hugged each other and wept disconsolately.
The next day she sent her daughter to stay with her mother in the countryside. After that, almost every day brought a visit from the man.
Even without her daughter at home, she didn’t feel that her life was lonely, because the man was always around. Gradually she got used to him being there. On occasion the man didn’t come to visit, and then she felt empty. "Does this mean I’ve fallen in love with him?" she often asked herself, and vehemently denied it. "Impossible. He's getting to be almost my dad’s age, and he’s bald. I’m just a little over twenty and pretty as a flower." She tried not to think about him, but he oscillated before her eyes day and night.
Before she knew it, the time was up on her second contract with the man. Then her mother’s village flooded and the homes of her mother and big brother were washed away. Big Brother wanted to rebuild and asked to borrow tens of thousands of yuan from her. At first she wanted to tell him she was in straights herself and couldn’t afford it, but then she remembered how close they’d been for decades and couldn’t bear to turn him down. Her savings had all been spent long ago, and she again thought of the man.
She went to him to borrow the money. He’d always been so generous. When she asked him for the money, she bowed her head even more deeply than before. This time, she didn't mention a contract, but just left him with this sentence: “Come over whenever you want.” And so she became his mistress. As the boss’s mistress, she didn’t need to go to work anymore. She stayed at home waiting for her lover.
Now that she was an actual mistress, the man no longer came over so often. He never hesitated when she needed money, though. Basically, she didn’t lack for spending money, but this woman with enough money felt her life getting more and more empty. That’s when she thought of her daughter, so she talked with the man about bringing the girl back from the countryside. He said, “Whatever,” and then hung up in a rush.
Time passed easily with her daughter around, but before long the girl started school. With her daughter at school, she began to feel that her days would be harder to get by from then on. That’d when the idea of pushing her boss to divorce his wife sprouted.
So she spoke to him. She told him, in a tone of voice suggesting that she was being charitable, "After trying things out for so many years, I've decided to marry you."
Unexpectedly, as soon as she mentioned it, the man turned her down. She'd never been rejected before and reacted like a wounded tiger. She screamed and shouted, "Don't forget that my daughter was kidnapped on your orders just a few years ago."
The man was so shocked he couldn’t speak for a long time. He sat behind his desk with his mouth open, stunned, until he started to go numb. He couldn't imagine how the woman knew about that, and since she did, why she hadn't reported it at the time. Just as he opened his mouth to ask her, the woman swished her hair and stormed out. Watching her delicate figure go out the door, beads of sweat started to form on his forehead and trickle down, drip, drip....
Print version at page 56. Translated from 作家网 at
2. Lost Silver (丢银)
Zheng Wuwen (郑武文)
This occurred during the reign of the Zhengde emperor of the Ming Dynasty [1505-1521]. One evening Panther Li, a vice captain of Yidu County, rushed to the county yamen, the combined administration offices and Administrator’s residence. His head was covered with sweat. He’d come to report on the armed force that had been sent to suppress outlaws.
The person who came out of the yamen, however, was the Administrator’s concubine, Red Blush. She said, “Our entire county had suffered a plague of locusts. Our Lord has been away inspecting the disaster since you left. He hasn't returned yet. How is Captain Li’s battle going?"
Captain Li sighed deeply, knowing that it would be useless to say anything. He sat right down in front of the yamen like he was paralyzed.
Just at that moment, a crowd of bailiffs came to the yamen. They were carrying a corpse and were out of breath. They put the corpse down at the bottom of the stairs and yelled for the coroner to perform an autopsy.
The headless male corpse that the bailiffs were carrying was Captain Tiger Zhang.
The Coroner said, “Captain Zhang’s martial arts were renowned throughout the world. No one for hundreds of miles around could stand against him. But now someone has cut off his head with one stroke. He made no resistance whatsoever. Obviously the killer is a warrior of unfathomable skill!”
Panther Li broke out in a cold sweat. "Could there really be a warrior of such skill among the bandits? Then I and the others are powerless to suppress them. All we can do is again request that the Prefectural Magistrate assist us by sending soldiers to surround and annihilate them."
The Coroner sighed. "Of course there is another possibility. That is, someone caught Captain Zhang off guard and cut his head off...."
Everyone was talking at once when the travel-worn County Administrator, Heh Qiyuan, arrived with two attendants. When he took in the scene before him, he could not hold back his tears. He turned to Panther Li and said, “Yidu County is close on a mountain range to the west and suffers bandit raids year after year. They steal from the people and plunder merchants. Our superiors in the Prefecture repeatedly blamed our County for being too weak to handle the situation, so they dispatched you and Tiger Zhang to help us destroy the thugs.
“Our County also had a lot of faith and hope in the two of you. You were entrusted with heavy responsibilities, but I didn't expect that Captain Zhang would sacrifice his life for the people the first time out against the bandits. Tell me, how can I explain this to our superiors in the Prefecture? Right. Panther Li, first tell me about the situation."
Panther Li said, "We took our leave from our superior early this morning, and it was still early when we arrived at the foot of Mount Fang. We wanted to catch the bandit chieftain, Pockmark Wang, by surprise. But the mountain was high, the forest was dense and the terrain was arduous, so a firm attack was bound to suffer huge losses. We couldn’t help it.
“Also, the bandits seem to have obtained our secret communications. Their preparations were quite rigorous. We hesitated and Captain Zhang received a secret report. Then he went alone to the top of a hill on our flank. It was almost noon and he still hadn’t returned, so we arranged for some yamen bailiffs to go to the front to look for him. They discovered that Captain Zhang had fallen and lay in a pool of blood, his head separated from his body. No one had the heart to continue the fight, so we had to come back here temporarily to make a new plan."
Administrator Heh was irate. "These bandits are absolutely disgusting!” he said. “Our county hates the fact that we can't immediately raze their nest to the ground. It's unfortunate that there are urgent matters which require our attention first. Yidu County suffered a plague of locusts and is on the brink of losing the harvest. People are starving everywhere. We are indebted to the court for providing funds for disaster relief. The money will arrive tomorrow. We expect that Captain Li will manage the entire relief fund and distribute it gradually. As to the bandit suppression matter, we will reconsider it in time."
The next day, the disaster relief funds sent from the court by the Emperor himself arrived in Yidu County with troops led by Yuan Cheng of the Imperial Guards. County Administrator Heh personally led the county officials in kowtowing their thanks for the Emperor's munificence, and he appointed Panther Li to fully manage the entire relief fund and distribute the payments. He also hosted a banquet for Yuan Cheng and made a report to him on the county’s misfortunes.
Yuan Cheng said: “Because the court has made other arrangements, I cannot stay here long. However, I can leave the thousand crack troops I brought with me here for the time being. Administrator Heh will have complete authority over them. Take care of the bandit suppression matter first. They also have two cannons with them, which could definitely come in handy.” Administrator Heh clasped his hands together and bowed deeply. He was moved to tears of gratitude to Yuan Cheng.
Yuan Cheng headed back to the capitol on the third day. Administrator Heh hurried to wrap up affairs in the county, then led his bailiffs and the troops in a majestic procession to Mount Fang. The first thing they did upon arrival at the foot of the mountain was set up the cannons and fire off several booming shots. The gate to the mountain collapsed suddenly and the troops rushed up the hill….
They found the place empty. Where was Pockmark Wang? They could see no trace of him. But since Administrator Heh had come to the mountains and had elite troops to assist him, he wanted to strike while the iron was hot. He did away with some bandits, and at the end of the day it was naturally a big victory. They all returned to the County Yamen in a majestic procession to prepare to seek a reward from the court.
When they arrived, however, they found the entire town in complete disorder. Panther Li, who had been left behind to take care of things, wailed interminably as he rushed up to Administrator Heh. “My Lord, something's gone terribly wrong. When you left to suppress the bandits, Pockmark Wang had already got the news. He led a thousand ruffians on fast horses and made right off with the silver coins for disaster relief! There was nothing I could do. I beg My Lord to spare me!”
Administrator Heh sighed deeply. “The disaster relief funds were issued by the court. I want to spare you, but I'm afraid I won't be able to. For everyone else to live, I'll have to execute you, even if I shed tears while doing it. Come on, tie up Panther Li first, and wait for me to present a memorial to the Ming court asking to execute him after autumn!"
The County Administrator returned to his residence. He closed the door and warmed up a pot of old wine. His concubine Red Blush, affecting embarrassment, came out of her chamber and sat on the Administrator's lap. He drank and sang, and then he couldn't keep from laughing.... But while the sound of his laughter was still echoing in the room, his old steward ran in in a panic.
Administrator Heh scowled. “You really don’t understand the rules! Who told you to come in here?”
The old housekeeper fell to his knees and stammered, “Master, something's gone terribly wrong. The thousand soldiers from the court have surrounded the yamen!"
As he was speaking, there was a loud pounding on the door. Administrator Heh sighed and said to Red Blush, "It seems we were too happy too soon. We forgot about those thousand elite troops. Fortunately, your Lord here has things all sewn up. Forgive them if they can't see it.” And so he remained calm as he opened the door. But then he saw Imperial Guard Yuan Cheng and the Magistrate of Qingzhou Prefecture standing in front him.
Administrator Heh hurriedly bowed down to his two superiors. “Didn't you return to Beijing, Lord Yuan?" he asked quietly. "Why have you come back?”
The Magistrate snapped, “Heh Qiyuan! You know your crime!”
The County Administrator said, “This worthless officer was ordered to be annihilate the bandits. This resulted in Panther Li’s loss of the silver coins intended as disaster relief. There are joint responsibilities that can't be avoided, but I hope My Lord Magistrate will take careful note!”
"Ha, ha," Yuan Cheng laughed. "Who do you think this is, Heh Qiyuan?" The soldiers behind him pushed someone forward. When he saw the pockmarked face, Heh Qiyuan started trembling. He quickly knelt down like he was picking garlic and kowtowed. "Spare me, my Lords. I know I deserve to die.”
The Prefectural Magistrate said: “In the past few years, Yidu County has suffered greatly from banditry. I just thought you were weak in handling this situation and gave you my capable assistant. Never in a million years would I have thought that you were conspiring with the bandits. When I think of Tiger Zhang, such a complete warrior – if it wasn't someone he was kowtowing to in a ritual salutation, who else could have cut off his head with one stroke?"
Yuan Cheng also said: "On behalf of the Magistrate of Qingzhou Prefecture, I brought you the silver coins for disaster relief. I pretended to return to Beijing to lull you into complacency. In reality, I was hiding in the county seat. I took Pockmark Wang prisoner and made you the biggest criminal failure in the whole world!"
Afterwards, Yuan Cheng took Heh Qiyuan to Beijing under guard. He also searched the yamen's courtyard and found the silver coins for disaster relief. His Honor the Prefectural Magistrate personally supervised the distribution of the money to the disaster victims.
Print version at page 172. Translated from 就爱故事网 at
3. Sneaking a Peek (偷窥)
Xing Qingjie (邢庆杰)
For the last few days, Young Imagine had watched the clock waiting for it to get dark. It was
because every day after dinner, Imagine would do something that he enjoyed doing tremendously – watch Luster Wang bathing.
Imagine discovered Luster’s habit of bathing in the evening by accident. His employee dorm is quite close to the female residences. One evening as he passed by in front of Luster’s quarters, he heard the “swoosh, swoosh” sound of water from inside. Luster is one of the first-rank babes in their company, and he was at that stage where a young man has become very interested in women but has no way to deepen his understanding. Therefore, he very much wanted to see what Luster looked like naked.
First he tried to peek in through the crack in the door, but the door closed too tightly and he couldn’t see a thing. Next he jumped around like a monkey toward the back of the building, where he thought he could do a little song and dance through the rear window. The rear window was a big piece of glass, but Luster had stuck some newspapers on it. Imagine pulled his ears and rubbed his cheeks in anxiety, but all he could see was the outline of a giant panda printed on the other side of the newspaper.
Later he finally came up with a solution. He waited until Luster went to the washroom in the front courtyard to do her laundry. He used the opportunity to slip quietly into her quarters and cut a bean-sized hole through the newspaper on the back window glass.
The next day, Imagine saw Luster flitting around the office like a joyous angel, as usual. He knew she hadn’t discovered the hole and his courage started to grow. That evening he sneaked like a thief around to Luster’s back window and peeped through the bean-sized hole.
That one look stunned him! Luster was in there bathing without a stitch on. He was looking at her from the side and could see, vividly, her white skin as pure as jade and her delicately undulating contours. The scene immediately brought about strange changes in the twenty-year-old’s body.
After that, watching Luster bathe became a lesson that Imagine had to study. He really didn’t think about it, he just wanted to watch. Sometimes he thought he’d watch just one more time and then stop, but in the end he didn’t have the willpower to resist such a beautiful temptation. He felt himself slipping into an abyss of sin, and he wasn’t able to control it. On the one hand, he felt the stimulation brought by Luster’s youthful body, but on the other he also suffered the pain caused by sinful guilt. He was highly conflicted.
Finally he made up his mind. He’d watch her one more time, then never again. He was at Luster’s window when he made this decision, and once he did, he resolutely pulled his eyes away. He was feeling proud of his courage when he felt someone tapping on his right shoulder, not hard but not lightly, either. He glanced back and saw it was Young Song, who worked in another section. He said “Hey” twice, awkwardly. Young Song also said “Hey” twice but otherwise said nothing. They both left.
After dinner the next day, Imagine decided to take a walk to pass the time before going to bed. He walked around aimlessly until, what in God's name? He'd almost got back to the rear of Luster's residence. He cursed himself, "A greedy dog can't stay away from the meat counter."
He was about to leave when he saw someone else standing under Luster's window. He thought, "Damn, who took my spot," but he just walked over quietly and tapped the guy's shoulder, not lightly and but not hard, either. The guy started trembling and turned his head. It was Young Song. He looked at Imagine and said “Hey” twice, awkwardly. Imagine forced a laugh “Heh, heh.” They both left.
Imagine went to the rear of Luster's quarters after dinner on the third day. He wanted to see if Song would come again. He was suddenly shocked and angry when he looked at the area by the window. Three or four people were standing there, jockeying for position. The most active one was Song.
Imagine shouted, "Someone's coming!" The crowd went off in a whoosh.
An unspeakable pain pressed down on Imagine's heart at that moment. It included anger, remorse, jealousy and helplessness. What made him feel the worst was that Luster was completely in the dark about what had happened. She still flitted around the office in front of everyone all day long, like a joyous angel, just as she always had. She had no inkling that people were looking at her differently. Her beautiful nudity had been seen, and she didn't have a clue. Imagine felt sorry for her.
Imagine was determined to patch that hole and put a stop to the matter. One Sunday morning when Luster went to the washroom to do her laundry, he quietly sneaked back into her room. He took out the chemical glue he'd brought with him, unscrewed the lid, applied some to the hole, and then took a fingernail-sized scrap of paper from his pocket and stuck it on.
When he finished, he took a step back and looked it over carefully. Satisfied, he put the glue back in his pocket and started to turn and slip away. As soon as he turned, he almost peed in his pants from horror. Luster was standing in the doorway looking at him quietly. He looked back at the window like a thief with a guilty conscience, momentarily not knowing what to say.
"Get out," Luster said softly.
Imagine spent a restless Sunday. When he got to work the next, he was floored by the news that Luster had taken sleeping pills to commit suicide the previous evening.
Imagine was a changed man when he came to. From then on, he often carried a tube of glue in his pocket and would glue paper over window glass that he came across. After all the windows in the entire office building were covered, he was sent to a mental hospital.
Luster had taken the drug to kill herself, but she was rescued. After that she transferred out of the office to somewhere far away. No one knows where.
Print version at page 119. Translated from 百度阅读 at
https://yd.baidu.com/view/f7ab0e90ee06eff9aff80711?cn=24-1,25-1, under the name 窥视
4. Honor Near the End (临终的荣耀)
Tong Heshui (潼河水)
Straight Zhang had been sighing a lot recently, and deeply. “Everyone says that raising children to see you through old age is just crap.”
"You’re old but you don’t die, and you love to BS.” Auntie Wang said with a smile. “Be careful your daughter-in-law doesn’t hear you or she’ll tear you a new one."
Straight’s back seemed to be getting much more bent, and his breath was coming closer and closer to the ground. As he worked hard to lift his head, the autumn wind blew his sparse white hair around. He looked at the reeds flowering in the ditch and told Auntie Wang, “She bit me once, you know, that daughter-in-law. She’s always throwing stuff down and pounding her fist on the table. She says I’m worse than a dog. ‘If you take care of a dog it’ll at least wag its tail for you,’ she says, ‘and what do I get for taking care of you? You should’ve died a long time ago,’ she says.”
Auntie Wang sympathized with him. “Every family has someone who’s hard to take. They’re all really busy, though, working out in the fields or inside the house. That’s tough enough on them. Where’re they going to get the time to tend to you?”
Straight rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. He looked like he was really hurt. “They say you can’t take sand in your eyes. But what irritates me is that waste-of-space son of mine. He pours salt on my wounds.”
Aunt Wang, with her right hand on her hip, said, “When a son gets married he forgets his mom. They’re all useless bastards. If they speak to you at all, they’re either kneeling down by your bed begging for something or making you go through hell.”
Straight’s health had been going downhill since his wife died. He had no one to complain to about what was on his mind. Sometimes he talked to his neighbors in the village, but they all made jokes at his expense. “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public.” “You’re an old monk and don’t know what’s good.”
His son was always grumbling, too. “What’re you good for? You worked your butt off for decades and don’t even have a peg to hang your hat on.” This small, three-room tile house had been thrown together with a thousand yuan loan his daughter-in-law, Strawberry, got from her Mom’s family. Straight was leaning against the base of the south wall like a stick and didn’t say a word. He tried to say something several times, but didn’t know how to explain himself. What good would explaining do, anyway? If even his son was laughing at his expense, what could he say?
It was unusually dry and cold in Raven Ridge that winter. The wind sliced down from the northwest like a murderous blade. Straight had a cold for a couple of days; he was dizzy, his head felt swollen and didn’t want to eat anything. His son was concerned and asked if he wanted to buy a box of cold medicine. Straight waived him off and said, “Save the money. I’ll get over it in a few days.”
His daughter-in-law joined in. "Suppose you don’t get over it, then what? If you die in the middle of winter, where’ll we get the money for your funeral?”
His son got angry. “How can you say that? You don’t have parents?”
Strawberry felt she was well within her rights. “I have parents, and every hair on their bodies is tougher than him.”
The two of them, his son and Strawberry, went on and on like that. They sounded like the howling wind outside.
Straight only had the one son. He’d pampered the boy from the time he was little, and never spanked him even once. He wanted to now. It wasn’t that he was afraid to hit his son, but he was afraid the two of them might gang up on him. There were precedents for sons beating their elders in their town, East-West Village.
Straight walked out of the house and looked up at the clouds in the sky, some white and some dark. They looked like galloping steeds or tumbling waves. They were more like he’d been in his youth. Now he can't run at all, except run toward the finish line. He’d run himself into being a left-over person.
His wife had said, "Old Zhang, you're our Heaven. If you die suddenly, it’d be like the sky falling.” His wife had been too anxious, trying to catch that little chicken. Suddenly she got stirred up and took a tumble, and he couldn't save her. She died too early to see her Heaven so depressed. Their son was still young at the time. Looking at him, the boy was trying to hold back the tears from his huge heartbreak, and he laughed.
His grandson came running over. “Grandpa, go back in and get dinner for us.” Straight patted the child’s head. “You’re hungry, aren’t you, my boy? I’ll go in and make dinner."
The house smelled of smoke, but there was no quarreling. The young couple sat on either side of the small dinette table, not speaking. Straight scoured the pot and washed the rice, then squatted down and put the rice on the stove to cook. The straws in the stove seemed to be competing with one another to be first into the fire, without the least trace of fear. The fire burned yellow and then red before finally turning black. People are the same as straw – in the end they're both ashes. Whether they burn red or purple, in the end they're still ashes.
The pot gurgled and the steam jerked the lid up and down. Straight lifted the lid and a wave of heat surged out. He ducked instinctively. Heh, heh, when had he become such a scaredy-cat? He ladled up the remaining liquid from the pot and put some sugar in it. His grandson loved to drink the "rice soup".
While they were eating, his son said, for the first time since he'd gotten married, "Pa, I think you should live by yourself. Being together like this is making us all uncomfortable. That one plot of land, I planted it for you. The harvest will be enough grain to feed you."
He'd wanted to have a few mouthfuls of rice, but Straight put down his chopsticks and bowl and stared intently at his son. "After the split," the younger man continued, "there'll be fewer conflicts. Do you want to keep making trouble until Strawberry and I get a divorce?"
Straight's Adam's apple bobbed up and down like a tank was rolling over his neck. After a few minutes he said, still calm and collected, "You're my son. If you're happy, it brings honor to me. What old person wouldn't wish his son and grandson well. Old people are disagreeable, and splitting up to avoid bumps down the road is a good idea. As long as you're happy, it's good. I don't want a penny of your money. When I die, don't spend a penny of your money on me."
His son's face turned from green to white as he listened. He kept his head down and didn't say a word. His daughter-in-law said, "I got things all arranged with our team leader. He'll let you live in the smokehouse by the threshing ground."
Since it was all arranged, what could Straight say? If he did say anything, what good would it do?
On the second day after the separation, someone saw Straight take the bus from the edge of the village to the county seat. No one knew what he was doing.
In the days that followed, Straight often took fried cakes or breadsticks with white or brown sugar and other things to eat to his son's house, and his grandson often came to the smokehouse to play. His grandson got what he wanted to eat and drink every time, and went home with his pockets full of colorful candies. It made his son and daughter-in-law suspicious, wondering where the old man got the money. They figured he must have been socking money away in a private stash for decades, and never let his son spend any of it. Now that they'd split the family he was enjoying himself. He was too selfish and was pretending to be generous to curry favor.
When you hit seventy-nine or eighty-four, if the devil won't take you, you can go on your own. Straight was bedridden in his eighty-fourth year. The north wind had been blowing inexorably. Straight had never taken any medicine his whole life – he often said he trusted Heaven more than people – but this time he had both a cough and a fever, and the spirits were telling him that his days were numbered.
He told his son, "My voice is weak, but I can still hear clearly. Son, I don't have anything from this life to leave you as a legacy, except too many regrets. I'll give you something to take to the County Armed Services Bureau when I'm dead. They'll make the arrangements."
"What is it," his son asked, and Straight pointed to a canvas bag on the wall. His son opened the bag and found a package wrapped tightly in red cloth. He unwrapped it layer by layer. Inside were two Certificates of Merit from the Army. "What good are these, Pa?"
"Oh, they're useful, Son, more useful than anything. I took them to the Armed Services Bureau back then. The Armed Services Bureau had an agreement with the Civil Affairs Commission, so from then on, I got sixty yuan a month. I've kept this strictly secret for many years. No one has ever known that I'm a man with two second-class merit awards. The eighteen soldiers in front of me all sacrificed their lives. The enemy had torn up all the planks on Iron Lock Bridge. I was the nineteenth in the charge. We were putting down planks as we advanced. There was a bunch of the enemy at the head of the bridge and they laid down a hell of a barrage. The eighteen comrades in front of me died. They were the heroes.
His son examined the certificates once again. "Pa, you were a hero in the Shanghai-Wujiang Campaign."
Straight closed his eyes. In the end, the tears he had held back for so long time wouldn't come.
His son dropped to his knees and sobbed.
Print version at page 281. Translated from 盛京文学网 at
5. Awaiting Improvement (素质有待提高)
Rainy Wang (王雨)
The higher-up's "Civil City" Evaluation Committee arrived in town. As the saying goes "The art of poetry is outside poems", meaning you've got to get outside the forest to see the trees, so they banqueted and feasted and spent the first two and a half days of their three-day trip on an unrestrained drunk. The last half day they got down to serious and careful work. The head of the delegation proclaimed, "This one, we'll give you 98.782 points."
There was a lavish banquet that evening. When he'd eaten and drunk his fill, the chair of the committee made a beeline for the "blue-bloods." For some reason – maybe he'd drunk too much or maybe his mistress had dumped a load on his mind that day – he didn't hit it off with them and they ended up chewing him out.
He blew his stack and, as a result, the city's Civil City score came out at 89.002 points. The committee chair's final comment was: "The overall set-up as a Civil City is acceptable, but the quality of the citizenry needs to be further improved!"
http://bbs.tianya.cn/post-shortmessage-60605-1.shtml, story 1
6. A More Laudable Spirit
Rainy Wang (王雨)
Township Mayor Zhao and Vice-Mayor Li both wanted to be promoted. Mayor Zhao was the head of the township, the “Big Boss”; Vice-Mayor Li was its tail, “Old Second-Rate”. Mayor Zhao sent fifty thousand yuan to the County Magistrate with a wave of his hand; Vice-Mayor Li scrimped and scratched to borrow thirty thousand to send to him. Both of them wanted to get into the county government as head of the Department of Health.
Although Vice-Mayor Li had anted twenty thousand less, the County Magistrate gave him the job.
Mayor Zhao was dissatisfied. He mumbled behind the Commissioner’s back, “My ‘ability’ wasn’t less than his. Why wasn’t it me?”
A little bird told the Commissioner what the Mayor had said and he asked someone to convey a message. “Tell him that relying solely on ‘ability’ doesn’t cut it. We also look to one’s spirit – Vice-Mayor Li's spirit was more commendable because he was willing to sacrifice!
http://bbs.tianya.cn/post-shortmessage-60605-1.shtml, story 2
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