Common Man's Small Talk (凡夫微言)

​1. Record of New Peach Blossom Utopia
2. It's Reasonable to Change Officials
3. Learning to Exercise
4. Sly Guy, A
5. Smart Guy Learns a Skill

​​         Chinese Stories in English   

An Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Flash Fiction Writers (In Process)
当代中国闪小说百家展(添加中) Page 4
Translated from
here, also available here

Jiang Yuqiao (蒋玉巧)

6. Heaven Sighs
7. I’ve Been Arrested
8. Another Kind of Opium
9. The Neighbor’s Ears
10. A Bosom Buddy

Potency of Zhongshan (蒋晓辉)

11. Windy Building
12. Wine for Poetry
13. Heh Jin and Gu Cheng
14. Frightening Woman, A
15. Watermelon and Big Bro

Author 013, Common Man's Small Talk (Wang Jiashun) [凡夫微言 (王家顺)]
1) Record of New Peach Blossom Utopia

      In recent days, on a certain mountain, a geology team was occupied with searching for mineral deposits. They followed lines on maps but didn't remember the distances they traveled.
      They happened upon Peach Blossom Forest. The trees were dried up and covered with vines, the weeds were yellow and withered, and dead leaves swirled in the wind. The team members thought it was peculiar and continued to press on, wanting to be done with the place. It had used up its water resources and returned to the mountain.
      There was a small entry to a cave which seemed to have light inside, and they went in wearing small packs. It was narrow at first, barely enough for one person to get through, but after a few dozen paces it opened up into a large chamber.
      Inside was as desolate as the forest, with a dried up pond and some broken-down residences. There was wasteland, polluted water and collapsed walls. Since communication with the outside world was bottlenecked, there were few cries of birds or animals.
      People paced about timidly inside. Both men and women dressed in clothing fit for beggars. Some had white hair, some were bald. They were drooling and seemed idiotically happy. When they saw the team, they looked suspicious. They asked where the team had come from and the team told them.
      The team was hungry and thirsty, so they got out some cookies and drinks.
      Word of the outsiders spread through the village and everyone came out to gather around and look at them. They said that in prior years they had exceeded the restrictions on having children, so they had led their families and others to this utopia to avoid punishment, and never left. They didn't know anything about the reforms, not to mention the opening up of the country.
      One by one the team told them everything they knew. The villagers seemed deaf, dumb and demented, but they all understood, and were astonished and sighed over the strangeness of it all. They delayed returning to their homes.
      The team stayed there several days before taking their leave. Some among them commented that it wasn't enough to follow the way of the Family Planning Commission. If in the beginning they had followed the leadership, their fate would have been different and they would everywhere be considered an ideal village. Every leader in every unit said it was that way.
      The leadership sent someone to follow the unit's route back to search out these people and see what they aspired to. He got lost, however, and was unable to find the way.
      The Chinese Academy of Engineering, academicians all, heard about the matter and sent an apprentice over to the unit to research the details. After more than a month, the results of his research showed clearly that: The people of Peach Blossom Utopia were deaf, dumb, insane or demented. If they weren't disabled they were sick. Thus it's likely that a factory upriver had discharged pollutants into the source of their water. In addition these people were cut off from the outside world, and therefore inbred, leading to a greater occurrence of hereditary disease.

2) It's Reasonable to Change Officials

      The manager of a country town had been in office one year when the upper-level leadership sent cadres to do a full-scale, year-end inspection of his work.
      First, the cadres convened a meeting of the village officials and staff to have them fill out a form. The village leaders made check-marks or X's on the form at the meeting to express their views about the Town Manager's morality, abilities, work ethic and sundry accomplishments during his time in office.
      Following that, the cadres conducted a public evaluation session to solicit the villagers' opinions. The villagers then jointly filed a petition expressing their ideas in forceful language. They requested in no uncertain terms that a new official be appointed immediately.
      In the petition they said, "In the one year plus that the Town Manager has been in office, the common people's blood has flown like a river. He has injured the prosperity of laboring people to create a record of personal achievement by covering the mountain slopes with pseudo construction projects."
      When the Town Manager learned about this, he was overcome with astonishment and his face turned ashen with anger and worry. He thought to himself, "In this job, you can't ignore what you were appointed to do, but you can't go against public opinion, either. If you're diligent and pragmatic, the records of achievement should speak for themselves. How is it that my public reputation has become so intolerable?" He uttered a silent curse, "Worthless commoners, thou art a wicked people."
      The Qualifications Committee, not daring to be a law unto itself, forwarded the report of the cadres' investigation to the upper level leadership as a truthful evaluation. The person in charge at the higher level, when he finished reading the report, felt also that the situation was extremely serious, but decided to postpone issuing his conclusions. He sent another group of investigators to go back to the countryside for an on-the-spot evaluation to verify each and every one of the Town Manager's faults in creating "pseudo construction projects", and the transgressions that had "injured the prosperity of laboring people". If the situation were found to be as alleged, he would strip the man of his position without delay.
      Who could have guessed? This time, when they entered the village, people avoided them. Villagers with fresh opinions did not come forward to speak with them.
      Finally, after they had repeatedly tried to persuade people to express their views, one villager whispered in their ears, "Please go back to your offices for now, gentlemen. We'll submit a written statement to you, as we did before." The evaluators were not happy about it, but there was nothing else they could do, so they returned to their offices.
      A few days later, the County Commissioner did indeed receive a letter from the people. He opened and read it, and this is what it said:
      "Your Honor the Commissioner, we commoners offer you our respect. We know only a little about the ways of officialdom.
      "During their first year in office, in order to protect their positions, officials take their work seriously; they initiate public works dear to the people and the benefits are apparent.
      "During the second year, they work steadily and surely to gain experience, and to build up their image and their record of personal achievements, the more the better.
      "During the third year they're all about power, money and business deals; they grant favors to gain support and to benefit their own families, and they rake in the money without restraint.
      "During the fourth year they're nearing the end of their term, so they clear the way to get promoted swiftly by using their connections and spreading bribes around.
      "In view of this, it is the people's desire for a change of personnel in the office of Town Manager. Here's a poem which evidences our feelings:
           "During the first year for a brand new official,
           "He won't take bribes and he won't miss the call;
           "So the villagers have found a clever way here,
           "It's best to change officials once every year."

3) Learning to Exercise

      A certain Hr. Hu, who lived alongside a public park, had heard something about the wonders of qigong and decided to learn it on his own.
      One day when it was getting warmer, Mr. Hu went to the park by himself. He dallied around among the trees until he saw someone exercising. He happily strolled around behind the fellow, studying his movements carefully. It was just as he had heard: The fellow looked imbecilic or drunk, more than words can describe. Mr. Hu thereupon stopped strolling around. Paying close attention to the exerciser, he imitated the man’s movements.
      He started to get the idea. His whole body was covered with sweat and he was huffing and puffing. Suddenly three people brushed past him and rushed up to the exerciser. One of them, who was wearing a white shirt, exclaimed angrily, "So this is where you are! We've been knocking ourselves out looking for you!"
      One of the others went up, grabbed the exerciser's hand and arm and started to walk away, pulling the exerciser. Mr. Hu was mystified and astonished. "What are you fellows doing?" he asked.
      "There are things you don't know," said the man in the white shirt. "This guy's illness flared up and he escaped. We've been looking for him for hours."
      Mr. Hu was even more mystified. He was about to inquire further into the specifics then he noticed the bright red characters printed on the left breast of the man's white shirt: Peaceful Realm Hospital.

4) A Sly Guy

      A fellow named Hu was a clerk in a certain office. Although he was over forty years of age, his enthusiasm for becoming an official had not yet waned. All day every day he yearned for, and expected, a promotion. Over time, his obsession with officialdom unavoidably became sort of like a demonic possession.
      One evening he was indoors making a sacrificial offering to the image of a god. He burned incense, kowtowed and prayed piously, "If the god will ensure that I obtain my long-held desire, and be in the good graces of my superiors, and receive an official's position or even a part-time position, I will sacrifice a human head. I will not go back on my word."
      Sure enough, within a few months his luck turned around. He obtained a position as an official. It was a minor post, but he was insanely happy.
      But in addition to his great happiness, he couldn't ignore the worry that came alive at the bottom of his heart. As the saying goes, "If you speak up and state your desires, you must eventually shut up and pay up." But where could he go to find a human head for a sacrifice? He thought about this problem long and hard. It was constantly on his mind.
      Eventually he drilled a round hole in the middle of his sacrificial altar. He concealed his body under the altar and stuck his head up through the hole in front of the god.
      Upon seeing this, the god was quite pleased. It did not yet know what a human head would taste like, and for once it would taste such an offering from the human world. Accordingly, it rolled up its sleeves and picked up its chopsticks, and made to pick up Chief Hu's head.
      How could anyone have expected this? The god was extraordinarily strong, and Chief Hu suffered unbearable pain, but he gritted his teeth and pulled his head back under the table.
      Seeing that its gourmet delicacy had disappeared in the blink of an eye, the god exploded in anger. It threw down its chopsticks and screamed:
           "An official for just a short while,
           "You're already a sly guy with guile.
           "If you can cheat a god in this manner,
           "What will you do to the people's larder?"

      [The title of this story in Chinese, 滑头, literally "slippery head", is a slangy term for a crafty person. The story is a rather contrived pun on that term. – Fannyi]

5) Smart Guy Learns a Skill

      People of old said, "When the student has learned it all, the teacher starves." In both ancient times and modern, people whose profession is teaching all take this lesson to heart.
      Smart Guy, from the City of Fengtian, was not yet twenty years old. He was honest but unsophisticated. He became an apprentice of Honored Fellow to learn the skills of a lathe operator.
      Smart Guy respected his master as he did his parents. He was modest and polite, industrious and devoted to learning, and served his master with utmost sincerity. In this way he had completed almost two years of his period of study.
      There was one skill that Honored Fellow had not yet taught. It was as simple as throwing a switch to turn on the power to the machine, but Honored Fellow always did it out of sight. Smart Guy thought about asking but didn't dare speak up. He was melancholy all day, depressed and cheerless.
      One day Smart Guy could wait no longer. Kneeling before his master, he requested earnestly and sincerely, "Your pupil has paid respect to you, benevolent teacher, for two years in this course. Even though he is not capable of knowing all the techniques, he still hopes you will summarize and transmit this one small skill, thereby giving solace to your ignorant pupil's desire to learn."
      Honored Fellow said sorrowfully, "This is a high-level and profound skill, and the science is abstruse. It can only be taught in the proper order, a bit at a time. It cannot be taught with undue haste."
      After ten days, Honored Fellow said to Smart Guy, "Today I will impart, and you will learn, the methodology for bringing electricity and turning on the lathe. You must follow along and do as I do, and you must not allow yourself to be distracted."
      In view of these instructions, Smart Guy walked behind his master to the well-mounted electric switch. There Honored Fellow drew a circle on the floor and added a cross in the middle of the circle. He ordered Smart Guy to bow and look down at the cross, and not to turn his eyes away from it. Honored Fellow stamped his left foot on the cross and, at the same time, pushed the switch open quickly with his right hand. The lights immediately became dazzling bright and the machine roared to life. Smart Guy was astonished and awe-struck, and the memory was etched wordlessly in his mind.
      The next day, at the urging of his master, Smart Guy reviewed what he had learned the day before and went to turn on the electricity and start the machine by himself. Following his master's methodology, he drew a circle with a cross in it on the floorboards and stomped on it with his left foot. He was flabbergasted when the lights didn't come on and the lathe didn't roar to life.
      He did this three times, and each time the result was the same. His master Honored Fellow took all of this in, then followed his methods of the previous day and succeeded.
      Smart Guy was dumbfounded. He thought he must be an absolute idiot.
      Thereafter, Smart Guy went to bed late and got up early, continuously concentrating on practicing his skills. He humbly sought the advice of his master and never considered leaving.
      Thence it was said:
          "Honor your teacher and study the skills.
          "Be quiet and stifle your anger.
          "You must labor this way for three full years,
          "For a skill is not easy to master."

Author 016*, Jiang Yuqiao (蒋玉巧)

*Stories by Author 014 (万俊华) are translated elsewhere on this site. There is no Author 015 in the Chinese text.

6) Heaven Sighs

      I’ve been in this freezing room by myself for more than a month.
      I’m cold, I’m starving and I’m lonely. I miss my family very much.
      I decide to visit them.
      I sneak back home in the dead of night, when everyone is still. The neighbors are mostly all asleep, and the lights are still on only in my house. I’m deeply pleased. Maybe my wife and kids are thinking of me right now.
      I step lightly as I walk into the house. To my surprise, my mother and big brother are there, too. Mother is sorrowfully wiping tears from her eyes. My brother is sitting on the sofa making an effort to stay quiet and not say a word. My wife’s eyes are red, too. She’s lost a lot of weight. I feel terrible!
      Just then Mother sobs, “Ming has been in that freezing room for more than a month.... Whenever I think of it, it’s like a knife cutting through my heart.”
      My wife sighs. "I don’t like the thought of it either, Mom, but there’s really nothing we can do!"
      Mother 's eyes flash. "Can’t we find a place for Ming before…?”
      Before she could finish, my big brother jumped up and growled at her, "You just don’t get it! It’ll cost 100,000 Yuan to bury him. And it’s dragging on so long, there’s the costs of food and lodging, and also lost wages during the delay. That’s tens of thousands more! And also the support payments for you and Ming’s wife and kids. It all adds up to at least 500,000! But they’ll only pay 200,000 compensation. No way that’s enough!”
      My wife bowed her head and didn’t speak.
      Mother sighed. "Ming was just a migrant worker. In his whole life he couldn’t’ve earned two hundred thousand! Besides...."
      Big Brother got so mad he didn’t even wait for Mother to finish. "You shouldn’t worry about that! We need at least 500,000 in damages. Otherwise...."
      Mother couldn’t help crying out, "My poor Ming! He works his fingers to the bone his whole life, then ends up going out like this...."
      I had to let out a long sigh. I was beginning to regret that I’d chosen to commit suicide on the job site.
      But the truth is, I was suffering from bone cancer.

7)I’ve Been Arrested

      A sharp knock on the door pulled my thoughts from the novel I was reading. I was extremely reluctant to open the door.
      Two stone-faced policemen stood in the doorway. “Are you Chen Yuan?” one of them asked in a surprisingly cold voice.
      My eyes opened wide as bronze bells. “Yeah,” I answered mechanically.
      The taller policeman waived a card in front of my eyes and said, “You’re under arrest!”
      “What’s your grounds for nabbing me? Hasn’t there been some mistake?”
      One of the policemen gave me a hard shove. “You’re the one we want! There’s no mistake!”
      I shouted wildly at the policemen on the way to the precinct. “I’m the writer, Chen Yuan! You must have made a mistake! Let me go right now or you’ll be sorry!”
      The two policemen weren’t afraid at all. “You’re the one we want, you arrogant writer!” they said fiercely. “Behave yourself!”
      Once we got to the police station, they took off my cuffs and began to interrogate me.
      “Chen Yuan, the writer. You....”
      “Cut the crap! Name?”
      “Chen Yuan.”
      “Professional writer.”
    “A complaint has been filed against you for whoring. Defending yourself by claiming to be a writer won’t cut it!”
      That alarmed me. I’d gotten drunk once and a friend had talked me into going to a whore house. It was just the one time. I’d forgotten whether I paid the girl.
      I hesitated a moment, then quickly denied it. “I never!”
      “The evidence is irrefutable. You still want to deny it?” The policeman abruptly threw a girl's confession down in front of me.
      I didn’t say anything more. I had to think of a way out of this.
      “You’re fined five thousand Yuan!”
      When my wife found out I’d been arrested for whoring, she’d hate me and refuse to pay the fine.
      I didn’t expect my father-in-law to come to the police station the next day to pay the fine and bail me out. I really felt guilty.
      I turned on my computer as soon as I got home. “Pow”, my wife slammed it shut, anger written all over her face. “Write, write, write about those handcuffs. What kind of junk you gonna write? You really think you got nabbed for going whoring?”
      That confused me. I looked at her, puzzled.
      “You couldn’t write about something else. No, you just had to write about the mayor taking bribes!”
      “I didn’t write about the mayor.”
      “You didn’t, huh? You tied him into it [by implication] in several issues of the paper over several months!”
      I’m sitting in front of the computer, staring into space. I really do seem to be handcuffed. My hands are too heavy to lift.

8)Another Kind of Opium

      Mom rushed up and grabbed my hand as soon as I entered the house. “Hurry, Cloud, come to Uncle’s place with me. Auntie’s worried sick.”
      My heart jumped into my throat. “What’s up with Uncle and Auntie?”
      “Oh! They’re OK. It’s your cousin….”
      On the way, Mom couldn’t stop talking. She said my cousin had come home a changed person one night. She was unkempt and her face was ghastly pale. Uncle and Auntie suspected she was on drugs. The facts have proven that their guess wasn’t wrong. Now she runs off somewhere every night, no doubt to buy a fix.
      When Uncle and Auntie saw me, their helpless eyes flashed a ray of hope. They wanted me to urge my cousin to pull herself together. They would handle the more important things.
      I asked where my cousin had gone. Auntie pointed toward a door, tears whooshing down her cheeks.
      To everyone’s surprise, when the tightly closed door squeaked open, my cousin grabbed me and pulled me into the room as fast as lightning. The door banged shut behind me.
      My cousin flew into my arms. "Cousin", she sobbed through her tears.
      As I hugged her, I admonished her sincerely. “Don’t worry, silly girl, we’re going to help you beat your drug addiction.”
      She pushed me away, her eyes wide open. “What drug addiction?”
      Just as I was wondering how to get my cousin to face facts, her phone rang. She glanced at the number and her eyes flashed a pleasant surprise. She hurriedly pressed the answer key.
      “Hi. What’s that? The one holding hands with you that day was your distant cousin...?”
      Her ghastly pale face suddenly livened up. She dropped the phone and flung her arms around my neck, jumping up and down.
      My heart went out to her. I was wondering when her “drug addiction” might flare up again.

9)The Neighbor’s Ears

      Zhao Strong’s mind was in a whirl. He was taking his anger out on the tea table, pulling it in one direction with all his might and then pushing it just as hard in the other. It went "squeak, squeak" as it was tossed about.
      Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Strong sat on the sofa, huffing and puffing in anger, and turned a deaf ear to the knocking.
      "Bang, bang", the knocking got louder and more urgent, and Strong blew his top. He jumped up, yanked opened the door and rudely demanded, "Wha’d’ya want?”
      The old lady who’d been knocking on the door saw Strong seething with anger. Embarrassed, she said: "I’m Grandma Zhang. I live next door. I thought.... I thought a thief was ransacking your home, so...."
      Strong's expression softened appreciably. He hurried to thank the woman and told her he was taking some time off work for R&R at home.
      The next day Strong got up late. He had just gone into the kitchen to get something to eat when, “bang, bang,” once again there was an urgent knock on the door. It was Grandma Zhang again. Her eyes darted back and forth and she tugged at the corner of her blouse while she softly explained.... Strong put on an air of cheerfulness. He made a point of telling her that he was on leave from work and would be home for several days.
      After he got up on the third day, he moved around his home on tiptoe for fear of making the least bit of noise. But the more carefully he tried to move, the clumsier he got. He carelessly tripped over a stool and, "bang, bang", the knocking on the door immediately started again.
      Strong was more irritated than before and ran off to a bar to drown his sorrows. There he bumped into his good friend Li Four, who lived in the same complex. He poured out his grievances to Li. “My next door neighbor Granny Zhang isn’t all there. She’s hassling me to the point where I can’t get any peace....”
      Li Four sighed softly. "You know, I really feel sorry for Granny Zhang. Her son and daughter-in-law have gone abroad, and she’s so lonely she’s always looking for someone to talk to. Otherwise...."
      Strong's heart skipped a beat. He seemed to see his mother, who was hundreds of miles away, with her ear glued up against her neighbor’s wall....

10)A Bosom Buddy

      Cloud hadn’t told him before she arrived in A City. She wanted to surprise him. He was a government official, and she was his Internet buddy.
      She sent him a text message when she arrived. “I’m in town at the train station, dear. Hurry down and pick me up.”
      “Ha.... You’re so naughty, Babe! Happy April Fool’s Day!”
      Cloud had forgotten it was April Fool’s Day. She laughed to herself. “This son-of-a-gun is really quick-witted. He thinks I’m teasing him.” She replied to his text, “I’m telling you the truth, dear. Hurry and pick me up.”
      “Stop fooling around, Babe. I’m busy.”
      “Who’s fooling around? I really am at the train station.” Cloud’s tone got more serious.
      After sending that text, Cloud stood there and waited, looking radiant.
      A long time later, her phone buzzed. “Babe, I’ve got a lot to do right now. I can’t get away.”
      Cloud wasn’t angry or irritated. “A man with an important job like him, it would be unusual if he wasn’t busy.” She hailed a cab and went straight to the A City government building.
      Standing at the government building's door, it seemed that dozens of rabbits were bumping into each other in her heart. She dialed his number on her phone with trembling fingers.
      "Br-ring, br-ring," a phone started ringing beside her. A middle-aged man dragging a garbage can spoke into the phone, “Hey, Babe....”
      Cloud’s cell phone slipped from her hand. She stood there a long time before muttering, “You... you... you don’t have a position in government?”
      The middle-aged man was dumbfounded but quickly recovered his cool. He held out the shovel in his hand and said, complacently, “Sure I do. I’m a maintenance worker.”
      “You.... Didn’t you say that the government can’t do without you, that you’re needed every day?”
      He pointed to the stinky garbage. “Could they do without me?”
      Cloud’s mouth dropped open but she couldn’t say a word. She stood there like she’d turned into a stump.

Author 017, Potency of Zhongshan (Jiang Xiaohui) [中山黑威 (蒋晓辉)]
1) Windy Building

      It was almost time for Spring Festival, and a lot of friends and classmates who spent the year away from home were returning for the holiday, so old friends that Dumbo hadn’t seen for a long time might drop by his home at any time for a visit.
      One night, after watching TV with his wife, Dumbo turned off the lights and went to bed. All was still in the house until, “ding-ling-ling”, suddenly the doorbell broke the silence. “Not another one of those scoundrels coming to wish you an early Happy New Year,” his wife said.
      Dumbo laughed as he got up to open the door. “I let you have those old biddies for friends,” he said, "and you won’t let me have any old scoundrels?” But what surprised Dumbo when he opened the door was, this visitor was Chen Jimin!
      Chen Jimin was one of Dumbo’s classmates in college.  He wrote beautifully and was considered the genius of the Chinese Language Department. When they were juniors, he’d used a lost property notice to conquer most of the beautiful girls in the women’s dorm.
      After Dumbo got married, Jimin had poked fun at his wife A-Ling. "Did your emotions get the best of you?” he said, which made A-Ling roar like an angry tigress. Since then Dumbo has been afraid to even mention his old classmate’s name!
      Dumbo lead Jimin into the living room, poured him some tea, and then hurried back into the bedroom. "It’s Chen Jimin.”
      "Ah! —— Let’s go entertain him." A-Ling got out of bed.
      ???After his wife get up, she and Dumbo went into the living room to keep his classmate company. Chen Jimin started to tell Dumbo the reason he’d come to see him. His son was ill. He’d spent more money than he could count, but no avail! Now the only thing that could be done was a bone marrow transplant, but they couldn’t find a donor with matching blood marrow!
      A-Ling stood up and told Dumbo, "Jimin smokes. Go downstairs and buy a pack of cigarettes!”
      When Dumbo returned from buying the cigarettes, Chen Jimin was standing at the door. When he saw Dumbo, he took his hand and said, "I'll be going now. My boy’s still in the hospital.”
      After seeing him out, Dumbo looked at A-Ling: "Well, I never! The child isn’t mine, so why did he come here looking for bone marrow?”
      A-Ling didn’t say anything. She went and closed the window. A cold wind was blowing in.

2) Wine for Poetry

      The falling leaves swirl in Zhuo Wenjun’s poem Following Custom in Springtime. She gave up material wealth for love, and to keep her spirits up, her husband Sima Xiangru told her, “I’ll [open a shop to] sell wine for you, and you write poems for me.” In those days, back in the Han Dynasty, people were really motivated by emotions. Why can’t we find such feelings in modern times? These days, their story would probably go like this.
      Wenjun, who seeks to live luxuriantly, finally meets her Prince Charming. A man of refined countenance appears before her eyes: He can sing the love song Half Moon, and he knows how to waltz.
      She immediately goes wild. She thinks they’re
Kiyoko and Kuroda, the Japanese Princess who gave up her Imperial title and the commoner she married.
      But, after all, they aren’t Kiyoko and Kuroda. Sima Xiangru is just a staff member of a small company, and all of Zhuo Wenjun’s savings are quickly spent. Now she’s reluctant to spend the money to buy even a bottle of moisturizing oil, let alone brand new, trendy adornments like those models display on their bodies. This often reminds her of
Mathilde Loisei of France a character in The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant who losses her jewelry.
      With no guarantees for material [well being], how can Wenjun write poetry? Once the two of them even lose it over a twenty-Yuan pair of slippers!
      The man knows clearly that not having anything to eat won’t do, so he leaves.
      But before he’s been away a year, he comes back. The outside the world was wonderful, but he couldn’t stop worrying about his poetry-writing wife.
      Wenjun says, "Let’s split up." Under his resentful eyes, they do the paperwork for a divorce.
      Sima becomes a new man after the divorce. He even opens a company selling educational materials in the rented apartment where they’d previously lived! Wenjun realizes that her man had been a failure because of her,
and surprisingly has ended up successful because she is no longer around!
      Sima has actually worked very hard to make his company a rousing success!
      He sends Wenjun roses again, and her face lights up with a smile.
      Wenjun sits alone and lonely on the balcony in the luxurious foreign-style garden house where she and Sima now live. She’s listening to a phone message from him. "Honey, I have to work late.”
      Ah, yes, can’t we sell wine and write poetry together?

13) Heh Jin and Gu Cheng

      Heh Jin's calligraphy was good, and Gu Cheng wrote well. They were the talented duo of the Chinese Department of Quadrangle University.
      A week after Heh Jin posted a found property notice on the door of the girls dormitory, Gu Cheng published his debut article in the evening paper – "First Awakening of Love".
      After word got out that Qin Yuanyuan of the English Department and Gu Cheng were dating, Heh Jin got into a fight with the owner of a small shop on campus. He received four demerits as punishment for striking the man.
      When they’d been out of school for almost 20 years, all their classmates came separately to a get together in Quadrangle City for their alma mater’s 80th anniversary celebration. As soon as Gu Cheng got back among his classmates with his face showing the vicissitudes of time, several of the women turned to ask him, "Brother Gu, you’re a journalist. What about your wife Princess Qin?”
      Gu Cheng laughed. "She’s accompanying the Mayor and might not make it here."
      All the banners hanging in the auditorium for the Anniversary Celebration ceremony were in Heh Jin’s calligraphy. He also gave a speech on behalf of the students of the University!
      Choosing Heh Jin to write the banners wasn’t odd, since his calligraphy had always been good. Besides, he was now a deputy mayor of Quadrangle City. The odd thing was that he had been willing to give a speech on behalf of the students. He had a stuttering problem, and people would laugh as soon as he opened his mouth; and once everyone started laughing he wouldn’t be able to speak coherently.
      He had not only spoken coherently, however, but rather eloquently.
      When the time came for the Anniversary Banquet, Heh Jin had not arrived. It would not be out of the ordinary for him to arrive late, since he’d taken over the Mayor’s job.  Then someone suggested that Gu Cheng give a welcoming address when the mayor arrived. He strenuously declined, and everyone jeered him.
      While they were jeering, Qin Yuanyuan suddenly came along. Some classmates shouted: "Sister, Gu Cheng told us you were accompanying the mayor and might not make it here."
      Her tears started flowing when she heard that. "Don’t wait for him.”
      Then she turned to face the puzzled Gu Cheng. "He’s been taken away,” she said. “You’ve got to help me."

14) A Frightening Woman

      As the car approached the entrance to a small village, a 20-plus-year-old woman stood in the middle of the road, her head tilted to one side. She was stroking her breast with her left hand and holding a rock up high with her right. I stopped the car some distance from her. She walked towards me.
      I opened the door carefully, thinking I’d get out and subdue her once I got the chance.
      But she went to the right side of the car. She stood leaning on the rear-view mirror, waving the rock in her right hand like she was going to smash the windshield.
      "Quick”, I said, “give her some money."
      My wife hurried to open her wallet and searched for a small bill in a stack of large ones. She was about to stick one out the door when the woman looked directly at the wallet. That was terrible! "Come on,” I said, “hurry up! Just give her something!”
      "I want a hundred! I want a hundred," the woman shouted.
      My wife was still dawdling. I really wanted to just grab the wallet and hand over some money.
      "Give her some," I yelled as I loosened up on the brake. If she was distracted when she took the money, I’d use the opportunity to get away.
      My wife took out a red 100-Yuan note and handed it to her, but the woman didn’t take it. She pointed to a
bottle of mineral water by my said, "The water. I want the water." My wife obediently handed it over.
      “Now’s our chance,” I thought to myself. “If my wife takes the opportunity to push open the door open right now, she’ll definitely be knocked over and we can get out of here.”
      As my wife was getting ready to hand her the money, the woman turned around and walked away.
      I stepped on the gas and the car took off.
      I took a look at the rearview mirror. The woman was sitting in the shade under a tree, drinking the mineral water.
      "I thought there was a gang of them,” my wife said, “but it was just her.”
      I cursed at her. "That’s what you say! You didn’t show her the money, you poured it out. You lifted the lid off everything we’ve got."
      She laughed. "It wasn’t like she didn’t ask for my money, you know."
      I got madder. "Did you know she didn’t want your money?”
      She looked at me askance. "I just wanted to see if she was really sick or not.”
      As I thought about what she was saying, the cold sweat I’d just suppressed started oozing out again.

15) Watermelon and Big Bro

      I hadn’t been to visit my parents for two years. We’d just bought a car, [though, and my wife] Azalea wanted to go there for a spin. [At first her sister] Second Treasure didn’t want to go. One, it was too far away from home, so we’d waste several thousand Yuan on the road for the round trip. And two, [their] mother would certainly want to go with us. She’d come to live with us when our son was born, five years ago already. How could the old lady not be missing her home?
      Azalea said, "Who says don’t take her? We’ll just drop her off at her place first, then go visit my mother-in-law."
      But her mother wanted to take [her son] Big Bro along, too!
      After Second Treasure had come to the coast to work, she’d also found Big Bro a job delivering purified water. As long as we were going back anyway, of course he’d want to ride along with us to go see his wife and their kids.
      "It’ll be even better if Big Bro comes along,” Azalea said. “We won’t have to go stay in that mountain lair of yours.”
      So Second Treasure [decided to] go with Azalea to visit relatives and friends and classmates. Seven days later, [when we were about to leave,] she called Big Bro on the phone. "Take Mom to the train station. We’ll be waiting for you there.”
      [Azalea and I drove Second Treasure to the train station.] When Big Bro arrived there on a bus with his mother, Second Treasure handed them train tickets. Azalea came over and explained, "Sis got us some watermelons. They’re going soft. We’ll have to let Big Bro [and Mom] go by train.
      Her mother and Big Bro both looked into the car. Several huge watermelons sat impressively on the back seat.

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