Xu Guojiang (许国江)

11. Only One Seat
12. Wet Behind the Ears
13. Rabbits and Shotguns
14. Diploma

Stories by Cheng Siliang (程思良)
1. The Most Beautiful Woman (最美的女人)

      The theme posed for this session of a world-class painting competition was rather ingenious. It was "The Most Beautiful Woman." Giants of the art world and rising talents alike rushed forward to meet this challenging assignment.
      Two months later, all the contestants' works had been sent to the competition’s panel of judges. The judges examined each one with hypercritical eyes but were impressed time and again by paintings they rated as perfect. Some of the women in the paintings were elegant and refined and some were mannered and dainty; some had skin smooth as jade and some sweeping eyebrows; some smiled winsomely and some longingly…. No one could fail to be enchanted by them.
      But one painting stunned the judges. It had been painted by a famous artist from China who was fascinated by Buddhism. There was absolutely nothing on the canvas other than the title and the artist’s signature.
      After repeated discussions, the panel ended up awarding a special prize to the Chinese painter. The panel’s chair wrote an essay just for this painting and it was published in an internationally renowned magazine. The essay was entitled "The Most Beautiful Woman in the Artist’s Heart".

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2. An Honorific (称呼)

      Everyone was worried about meeting with the new Director. To be precise, they weren’t afraid to see him – they were concerned about what to call him. A director can't be addressed simply by his last name – one must use an honorific. And what if his last name just has to be "Fu”, a homophone for the word meaning “Assistant"?
      Can you just be silent when you meet with a director? That would be an open show of disrespect for the leadership and, hey, you’d have to deal with the consequences!
      Naturally they had to call him something, but the question was, what? "Director Assistant"? No! He’s obviously the top leader, so how could you call him an assistant? What kind of hidden meaning would you have in mind if you called him that?
      How about just calling him "Director"? That wouldn’t do, either! There were three assistant directors in the Department and, out of respect, everybody purposefully omitted the word "assistant" and called them Director Wang, Director Zhao and Director Zhang. If you called Director Fu just plain “Director”, what would that say about the difference in rank between him and them? What’s more, when the deputy director's surnames are all used but you omit the actual director’s surname, it would be like "decapitating" him. What would that mean?
      Office Manager Zheng should actually be considered the most stressed out about this. The others saw Director Fu only occasionally, but he met with him almost every day!
      He still remembered the first time. He said "Director Assistant" a couple of times, but the Director seemed not to hear and continued to turn the pages of his newspaper. He switched to just "Director" right away and the Director finally grunted, not softly but not loudly, either, and even then he didn’t quit reading the paper.
      Office Manager Zheng lost sleep for several nights over the question of how to address the Director. The two titles "Director Assistant" and just plain "Director" kept rolling around in his mind.
      One day he went to a banquet for a friend, the head of a small company. The sumptuous delicacies at the banquet didn’t leave a lasting impression on him, but the way the guests and waitresses addressed his friend was an instant revelation.
      The next day he went to report to the Director.
      "Boss." He said it softly, testing it.
      "Yes, what is it, Manager Zheng." Director Fu looked at him warmly.

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3. Looking for Unparalleled (寻找无双)

      I’m looking for someone. His name is Unparalleled. I’ve been looking for him for a long time! As for why I want to find him, I'm not too clear about it, I just feel like I should find him.
      I asked my good buddy from childhood, Three Zhang, “Do you know Unparalleled? I heard that when he was a kid, he often stole bird’s nests with you.” Three looked me up and down and shook his head.
      I asked my kindergarten teacher, “Do you know Unparalleled? I heard he was your pet. She looked at me, smiled and shook her head.
      I asked my old college classmate, “Do you know Unparalleled? I heard he was your most steadfast friend. The fellow gave me a doubtful look and shook his head.
      I asked my coworker, “Do you know Unparalleled? I heard he’s your best pal.” He looked at me strangely and shook his head.
      I asked my ex-girlfriend, “Do you know Unparalleled? I heard he’d dated you.” She looked at me tenderly and shook her head.
      I asked my wife, “Do you know Unparalleled? I heard you and he have an unusual relationship.” She wife stared at me fixedly and shook her head.
      ............
      My search for Unparalleled was making me distracted. One day I passed by an old house that looked familiar. I knocked on the door and opened it.
      "Unparalleled, you've come home?!" My mother looked at me in surprise.

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4. The Smile Test (微笑实验)

      I don't remember what book I saw it in: A smile is the best business card. I’ve always wanted to verify that it’s true.
      One day the mood struck me and I decided to try it out, so I went down to the street.
      The first person I ran into was a stranger, a middle-aged man. I smiled at him and he smiled at me. Then, in a flash, the smile stiffened on his face and he hurried past me. It seemed like he realized I wasn’t someone he knew.
      The second person I met was a middle-aged woman. When I smiled at her, she looked me up and down and rushed past. She looked back at me over her shoulder.
      The third person was a fashionable young lady. I smiled at her, and she glanced at me in disgust. After she passed me I vaguely heard her express her resentment: "Masher!"
      Fourth was a young man with dyed yellow hair. I smiled at him. He glared at me fiercely and balled up his fists. I dropped my smile in a hurry and discretely let him pass by.
      The fifth person I met was a little boy. I smiled at him. He looked at me alertly and beat it.
      I didn’t have the nerve to try it again. As I was headed home with my tail between my legs, I unexpectedly bumped into someone. It was a blind guy. I quickly smiled and said, "Sorry! Sorry!" He smiled and said, "Doesn't matter! Doesn't matter!"
      Too bad he couldn't see my smile. I sighed.

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5. The Last Shot (最后一枪)

      I couldn't get out of going along on the big kill. If you don't cooperate, you’ll be looking down the black hole of a gun barrel yourself.  I was quite clear about that.
      Flower Face went down! Blackhead went down! Yellowskin went down! .... It was my fault. If I hadn’t been leading the way, they might still be alive in some hiding place.
      In the nighttime darkness, those tragic souls ate away at my nerves.
      Only the last target was left – Gold Feather! I swore that, after I found him, I’d escape to some faraway place, a secluded place where I could confess my sins.
      I felt relieved the instant the high and mighty Gold Feather fell, like a load had been taken off my shoulders!
      Just as I was about to slip away, right then, the black hole of a gun barrel was pointed at me.

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Stories by Cai Zhongfeng (蔡中锋)
6. My Horse (我的马)

      Ryan and I have been working this same job for twenty years now.
      At six o'clock every morning, I ride Ryan to the newspaper office to collect 220 copies of the daily. Then we hurry off to Brookville.
      In all, 220 residents of Brookville have subscribed to the daily and I’m responsible for delivering the papers to their homes. Although the homes are spread out and the route is complicated, I can always get all the day’s papers delivered to each subscriber’s home on time before lunch.
      Five years ago, to improve efficiency, every paperboy was given a motorcycle to use exclusively for delivering papers. All fuel costs were paid by the newspaper. I insisted that I wouldn’t ride a motorcycle, though, and kept on riding Ryan to make my deliveries every day. I also guaranteed that every subscriber would get their paper on time every day before lunch, and as a result, I later became the only person in the city delivering papers by horse.
      Slowly, I got old, and so did Ryan.
      One day the newspaper’s managing editor came to see me personally. "Sorry, Marquez,” he said. “We now need every subscriber to get the day’s paper before ten o’clock every day. You can't do it, and you insist on not using a motorcycle, so you’re fired!"
      I was really bummed out when I heard that. "Ryan and I will starve to death without this job!"
      "Delivering newspapers is time-sensitive,” he said, “so you’re not suitable. When you aren’t delivering papers, you can do something else!"
      "If I squint,” I said, "I can see almost as well as anyone else. But it’s been ten years since my eyes went bad, and for those ten years I’ve depended entirely on Ryan to find the way for me. That’s the only reason I was able to get all 220 papers to the subscribers’ homes on time. If me and Ryan don't do this job together, what else can we do?"

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7. A Dog’s Power (人借狗势)

      “Lost Dog
      “Little Spot, a Pomeranian kept by my family, unfortunately got lost yesterday afternoon. The cute little fellow is just one year, three months and five days old today. He’s petite with a short back and has a soft, thick undercoat covered by wiry hairs. His tail is adorned with beautiful fur and always lies flat on his back.
      “Little Spot is alert, intelligent, lively and curious. He has a noble temperament and a proud walk. He’s active and healthy, truly a rare treasure, a feather in our cap and the center of our family. The three of us can't live without him. No one in our family has eaten or slept in the twenty-four hours and fifty minutes since his loss yesterday afternoon.
      “Below is a photo of Little Spot, our family’s lovable Pomeranian. If you see the cute little fellow, please contact us right away at 139-053-0×××. Twenty thousand yuan reward, and our family will never forget your kindness and virtue!
      “Lost along with Little Spot was my mother, aged sixty or so, perhaps wearing a gray dress. She stoops a bit and is rather dull-witted. She walks slow and doesn’t talk much. If you’ve seen her, please call and let us know.
      “x/x/2011, xx Zhang”

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8. Authority and Power (权力)

      Carl Rupt*, a prominent leader in a certain county, was shuangguied for accepting a large number of bribes in the appointment of cadres. That is, he was brought up on charges before the Party’s disciplinary court.
      At the prescribed location Chairman Zhang, head of the Municipal Commission for Discipline Inspection’s investigative team, gave him a stack of draft paper and a pen for him to voluntarily explain his problem within a prescribed time.
      On the first day, Rupt sat at the table and didn’t write a word.
      Chairman Zhang asked him: "Why aren’t you writing?"
      "I’m thinking about the problem."
      The next day Rupt was still sitting at the table but not writing anything.
      Chairman Zhang asked him again, "Why aren't you writing?"
      "I’m thinking about the problem."
      When the third day came, Rupt was still sitting at the table without writing a word.
      Once again, Chairmen Zhang asked, "Why are you still not writing?"
      "I’m thinking about the problem."
      "What’s so important that you’ve been thinking for three days but written a single word?" the Chairman asked.
      "It’s a planning problem for the cadres in our city and county."
      "You don't need to worry about that stuff! You’ve been temporarily suspended from your position and have no authority to intervene in the cadre arrangements for your county! You have still less reason to be concerned about the cadres in the city!”
      "That’s not true!” Rupt replied. “I have no power to send anyone up the ladder now, but I still have the power to bring a whole group of people down!"
      When word of his statement got around, a number of cadres in the city and county got very anxious. They started to move.
      A few days later Carl Rupt was released from shuanggui, still not having written a word. Before long, in a separate decision, he was given a sinecure in an organization directly under the city’s jurisdiction.
*[In Chinese this fellow’s name, Tan Wu (谭伍), is a near homophone for “corrupt”(贪污) – Fannyi]

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9. A Hard Lock to Open (难开的锁)

      There were three girls in Second Aunt’s family. They were all quite pretty.
      When I was a child, I went to my grandma’s place to see my relatives every year on the second of January by the lunar calendar. I was always able to see the youngest of the three sisters, the pretty one they called Timely.
      One afternoon Timely ran to my house in a panic. "Third Aunt, they locked me up in a room. They’re forcing me to marry Two-Dog Zhang. I opened the lock and escaped. Please hurry, think of a way to save me."
      Mother led Timely to a room in the rear courtyard.
      When Timely noticed that the door to the room was locked, she shouted, "Third Aunt, open the door, let me go!"
      "Your family’s so poor,” Mother said. “If you don’t marry Two-Dog, how can your older brother afford to marry Two-Dog's sister?"
      Mother didn’t open the door, and this time Timely wasn’t able to open the lock.
      Late that night, Timely was taken away by some guys Second Aunt sent. She was married off to Two-Dog Zhang.
      Two-Dog locked Timely in a room under strict supervision, but a little more than a month later, she got a chance to open the lock and ran. She was caught and brought back after a few days. This time she was not only locked up in the room, but was also put in shackles.
      Wearing her shackles, Timely gave Two-Dog three sons in three years.
      After giving birth to three sons, she was set free.
      She didn’t speak after being set free, and didn’t work, either. She sat dumbly by the door to her room all day without moving.
      Everyone said her heart had been locked up and no one could open it.
      But they were wrong. Before long Timely ran off with a man.
      She was brought back again two years later.
      This time, soon after being brought back, Timely hanged herself.
      Two-Dog gnashed his teeth in anger. He buried Timely hastily in a hollow in the knoll by their front door.
      No one noticed that he’d drawn a lock on Timely’s coffin.

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10. North Star (北极星)

      The grandfather and grandson got their baggage ready. They were going to cross a large desert.
      Under normal circumstances it would take ten days to cross this desert, so they prepared ten days of dry food and water for the two of them. Then they set off.
      They travelled by day and put up at night. The first few days went smoothly. What they hadn’t expected was that, on the fifth afternoon, when they should have reached the middle of the desert, a strong wind suddenly started to blow.
      The wind stopped on the morning of the sixth day. Their baggage and camels were gone. Many of the sand dunes had moved, and the trail left by previous travelers had disappeared. Fortunately they were both safe, and they hadn’t lost their dry food or water.
      They walked for another three days. On the evening of the third day, they’d returned to the place where they’d started.
      They were lost.
      There is no doubt whatsoever that, in the desert, getting lost means dying.
      Their dry food and water were running low, and they were still in the middle of the desert!
      That evening the two men lay helplessly on the sand. The desert was blazing hot during the day but bone-chilling cold at night, just like their moods.
      Grandpa looked desperately at the starry sky.
      Suddenly he saw Polaris and his heart jumped. "Can you see the North Star, boy?"
      "I see it," his grandson said.
      "Pick up the dry food and water and set out now,” the grandfather said. “But you’ll need to change to sleeping during the day and walking toward the North Star at night. That way you’re sure to make it out of the desert."
      "What about you, Grandpa? Won't you be going with me?"
      "Nope. I’ll go in the other direction at daybreak. That way there’s a better chance that one of us will get out alive!"
      So the grandson took the dry food and water and set out immediately.
      At dawn, the grandfather lay peacefully in the desert with his eyes closed.
      He didn’t set out because he’d given all the dry food and water to his grandson, and no matter which direction he went, he couldn’t get out of the desert alive.

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Stories by Xu Guojiang (许国江)

11. You Can Only Sit in One Seat (只能坐一张椅子)

      Young Enlightened took a bus to his grandma's home. He got on at the first stop so there weren’t many people and lots of seats were empty. After he tossed a one-yuan coin in the fare box, he scanned the interior, found a satisfactory seat and sat down.
      Several passengers got on at the next stop and a middle-aged man sat in the seat next to Enlightened. He glanced at the man and felt uncomfortable. Fortunately there were still lots of available seats, so he moved toward the back of the bus and found a new place.
      At the third stop, some people got on and others got off. Enlightened’s line of sight was blocked, but he saw there was still a seat closer to the front so he immediately ran to it and sat down. He looked at the street scene as it unfolded outside the window and felt quite contented.
      When the bus got to the next stop, Enlightened noticed that the seat he’d sat in first was empty. The middle-aged man had gotten off. He compared the two seats and decided that the first one was better than where he was now, so he moved. Just as he got there, though, two guys crowded in front of him and sat down. There were no more available seats, so he had to stand there with a frustrated look on his face.
      An old man who had gotten on the bus at the same time as Enlightened was sitting next to him. He’d clearly seen every time the young fellow had changed his seat. When he saw Enlightened lose his seat, he said: "I’m getting off soon, my young friend. Squeeze in here beside me."
      Enlightened looked at the old man but didn't say anything, and didn't sit down, either. At the next stop, the old man stood up and pulled Enlightened down into the seat. The boy’s eyes widened but when he saw the amiable look on the old man’s face, he said, “Thank you, sir!”
     The old man patted Enlightened’s shoulder and said with a smile, “Remember, my boy! No matter where you are, or when, you can only sit in one seat. Understand?”
      Young Enlightened was still chewing on those words as the old man got off the bus.

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12. Wet Behind the Ears (少不经事)

      When the Director came into the courtyard that morning, his secretary Young Xu came up and told him the building had been burglarized. The Director was shocked and hurried inside. Young Xu accompanied him as he looked around upstairs and downstairs.
      The Director's office hadn’t been spared, but the Director kept a stiff upper lip and squinted as he looked inside. He headed for his chair to sit down as soon as he entered the room. Young Xu stopped him abruptly and said, “Don't sit down, Director. Public Security said to protect the crime scene.”
      The Director looked at Young Xu wide-eyed. “What did you say?” he exclaimed in surprise.
      Young Xu, taken aback, quickly said, “I’ve reported the burglary. Public Security said someone will be right here.”
      The Director almost jumped straight up. He pointed at Young Xu and shouted, “Of all the nerve! Who told you to report it? What right did you have to do that?”
      Young Xu didn’t know what he’d done wrong. He was so stunned he couldn’t think how to respond.
      “You’re really wet behind the ears, Xu!” the Director continued. “We were burglarized four separate times last year and didn’t report it once. At the end of the year we kept our glorious ‘Advanced Unit’ title. We’ve only been broken into one time this year, but you had to go report it. Don’t mention the loss of honor to me personally, you’ve mucked up our Advanced Unit plaque. How can I explain this to our superiors?”
      It seems that County Funding had a hard and fast rule. If any unit was burglarized during the year, without exception the leader shouldn’t be considered an Advanced Individual; and without exception the unit wouldn’t be considered for selection as an Advanced Unit.
      Young Xu had been transferred into the Department less than a year previously. How could he have known about these stringent rules? When the Director told him, he was amazed and stood there like a block of wood, not knowing what to say.

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13. Rabbits and Shotguns (兔子和猎枪)

      When the Party Secretary retired from a lower-level unit, his wife complained that he’d been too traditional in his career, too bookish, and that he’d failed to make full use of his authority to accumulate more money for his children. She said, “There are lots of areas where the children need money. Now that you’re retired, you have no power, so you can’t earn any more.”
      “Don't keep on with your money, money, money,” the Secretary said. “Money’s not a good thing. Too many people flip out over money, don’t they? I never made much money, but I don’t need to tell you, even if I had, I wouldn’t give it to the kids so casually.”
      “Why not?”
      “It’s my view that young people should make their own way in the world. When you give them a lot of money, you make them too casual about it. You kill off their spirit to be aggressive and get ahead, and maybe they’ll make some wrong choices. Have you heard the story of rabbits and shotguns?”
      His wife was taken aback. “What does this have to do with rabbits and shotguns?”
      The secretary smiled. “If I don't tell you, of course you won't understand. It’s an analogy. It’s like this. If I give each of the children a rabbit, they’ll eat them and then they won’t have anything left. But if I give them each a shotgun and tell them to bag their own rabbits for dinner, they’ll have rabbits to eat for the rest of their lives.”
      His wife was lost in a fog. “The more you talk the more mysterious it gets. I don't understand.”
      “It’s an analogy. Look, what positions have I arranged for the children? Our oldest is the Director of N Bureau. You know how many people have their eye on that position?
      “And Little Phoenix, he never spent a day in college, but what position does he have now, what job? How many people his age could get that far?
      “And how long has our third son been out in the world? He’s down there as a township mayor with hopes of becoming a reserve in the fourth group.
      "Then there’s all the daughters-in-law and the son-in-law, and your precious foster daughter.... Look, what positions do they hold? Can these positions be compared to money?"
      The Secretary concluded, "These are the shotguns I gave them. Now that they each have one, is there any cause to worry that they won't have rabbits to eat in the future?" He looked at his wife and giggled.
      His wife suddenly got the picture. She gently poked the Secretary's forehead and said, "So you're the Secretary, after all. Far-reaching vision and first class!"

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14. Diploma (文凭)

      The unit was overstaffed. Even after temporary and contract workers had been let go, personnel still exceeded organizational requirements.
      At a staff meeting, the Director said that superfluous personnel would continue to be reduced. Considering the unit's staffing structure and cultural level, the reduction would focus on employees with no academic qualifications or diplomas. When he said that, his gaze swept from Zhou to Wu to Zheng to Wang and to others, and finally landed surprisingly on Old Ding.
      Old Ding was the unit's gate guard. A quick-witted and eccentric fellow, he'd guarded the gate for more than ten years and could be considered experienced and knowledgeable. He saw the Director looking at him and was quite upset. He thought to himself, "What are you staring at me for? Do you think your reduction is going to focus on me? Hrumph!"
      Old Ding immediately sought out the Director after the meeting. He held up a red book emblazoned with gold characters and asked him, "What do you think this is, Director?"
      The Director took a look and was astounded. "When did you go to college?" he asked. "Where'd you get that diploma?"
      Old Ding laughed. "How could you have forgotten, Director?" He counted on his fingers. "When you were an undergraduate in vocational studies five years ago, I knew this day was coming. So I followed your lead and signed up at a correspondence junior college right away. I got a diploma even before you graduated. When you went on for advanced studies in grad school last year, I wanted to go on for a four-year degree, too, but gave up because the expenses weren't reimbursed. As it is, I'm currently an undergraduate. I'll get an undergraduate diploma at the same time you get your master's degree.
      The Director was skeptical. He looked at Old Ding with a new eye, and for a while had nothing to say.

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15. Conscience (良心)

      The commune canteen couldn’t keep going and had closed its doors, and the production team couldn’t distribute food any longer. Nine out of ten families of commune members were going hungry.
      Little Three from the Zhao family was so hungry his skin was turning purple and his eyes were green. He lay on his bed, unable to move. It’s called the “green and purple sickness”.
      This sickness is said to be hard to cure, but it isn’t. You just need to cook some rice porridge or boil a few hawthorns. Let the patient eat his fill a few times and he’ll escape from the jaws of death.
      Little Three’s mother was crying. “Father, save your son!” she pleaded.
      The boy’s father didn’t say anything. He took a shovel and went to the small plot where his family had planted sweet potatoes.
      He knew full well that the sweet potatoes had been cleaned out of this plot long ago. Even if he turned it over and piled the dirt up to the sky, he’d not likely find even the eye of one sweet potato.
      Little Three’s father had lost all hope. He stood there looking around blankly.
      To his surprise, he suddenly noticed that there were a few sweet potato vines in the next plot over that were not yet completely dried out. He lay on the ridge beside a furrow, wanting to move but not having the strength, and concluded there were sweet potatoes below.
      That plot belonged to Old Four Li’s family, and they’d held the sweet potatoes back for emergency use. Could he dig them up? When he thought of his son Little Three lying half dead on his bed, he didn’t care about much else.
      He took off his shirt and used it to wrap up the sweet potatoes he’d dug out of the ground. He ran home furtively.
      At noon the next day, he heard an outburst of mournful cries. Old Four Li's youngest son had starved to death. His mother cursed as she cried: “Whoever ripped of our family’s sweet potatoes, you should die without sons….”
      It was like he’d been struck by lightning.
      The next morning, in a small grove of trees beside the village, the people found someone who’d died by hanging. It was Little Three’s father, Old Zhao.

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16. Silver Lining (祸中得福)

      In the afternoon on the fifth day of a long holiday, Young Wang had passed by the Director's office and saw the Director and his secretary, Little Wu, in each other’s arms. Young Wang hadn’t anticipated that the Director would see him, too.
      Little Wang had been terrified and he didn’t settle down after returning home. He'd been worried he’d lose his means of support over this.
      After the holiday, the Director sought out Young Wang for a talk. He asked the young man what he’d been doing on the afternoon of the fifth.
      “The fifth? I’ll do a self-criticism, Director,” Young Wang said, “even if I lose my job. On the afternoon of the fifth, the Department scheduled me to be on duty, but I spent the day on an outing with my daughter at Slender West Lake.”
      “Is that so?” the Director said. “Well, forget it. Just don’t make it a habit. Just concentrate more on your duties from now on.”
      Before long, Young Wang got a transfer and a promotion from worker to clerk in the Admin Section.

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17. Buying Face (买面子)

      “What’s that stuck in the door?” He took a look and it was an advertisement. “What? Face? Can face be bought and sold?” He was amazed.
      The face seller in that city was a specialty dealership called the NB Company. “Our faces come in four sizes, extra-large, large, medium and small. We are the exclusive dealer and sell a quality product at an attractive price. It is magically useful. Make your selection now.”
      He was interested and looked down at the customer feedback:
      “X, a thief, was arrested. He bought a small face and thereby avoided criminal punishment.
      “X, a private businessman selling counterfeit and shoddy products, should in all rights have had his license revoked and been fined tens of thousands of yuan. He bought a large face and thus has been carrying on business as usual.
      “X bought a medium face and made a fortune in less than half a year.
      “X was frustrated in his career as an official. A special-model face let him achieve meteoric success with a promotion up three grades.”
      He was excited. His daughter couldn't find a job, and wasn't that because he didn't have any face?
      He looked at the price list and was shocked half out of his wits. Money, where could he get that much money?
      He looked up with a jerk. His daughter had appeared in front of him. “Dad,” she said, “I won a prize!”
      He didn’t believe it. “It’s true, Dad!” she said. “Look, here’s the five thousand yuan.” He was happily surprised, and with his daughter’s consent, decided to use the money to buy a face.
      A variety of faces was displayed on NB Company's shelves, with the prices clearly marked. He picked a medium face, thought it was a good price and got set to pay. “What the…” When he opened his wallet the money had flown the coop. He shouted in surprise, “My money, where’s my money?”
      When his wife heard him shouting, she came over and nudged him. “Wake up! Wake up! What are you doing talking in your sleep in the middle of the day?”
      He woke up, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

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18. Childcare Worker (当了幼儿保育员)

      Several kindergartens in the city had issued public announcements to recruit childcare workers. The prerequisites were: "Male, age 20 to 29, height 5’9” or more, weight less than 175 pounds; tested in 100- meter sprint, weightlifting and martial arts (Sanshou or Taekwondo). Benefits: Same as kindergarten teacher, monthly salary not less than 3,000 yuan."
      I’d just been discharged from the army and hadn’t found a job yet, and the ad got me thinking. I felt that my hardware and software both met the requirements as stated in the ad. However, I also thought that such a magnificent specimen of a man becoming a child care worker would be a bit, uh, odd. Besides, I wasn’t married yet, and I wondered, would being a childcare worker affect my finding a wife?
      My mom saw me hesitating. “Silly boy!” she said. “It’s not easy to find a job this year! It’s a rare opportunity. Hurry down there and apply!”
      Because of her insistence, I registered at two kindergartens, The Institution and Develop Heroes.
      I stood out among the many applicants. My grades were excellent, and in addition, I was proficient in a variety of games and activities. To my surprise, in a short time I’d become the center of attention in the talent department.
      As was only right, I was at the top of the list when they announced the results of the recruitment drive, and both kindergartens offered me a job. Which would be best? The head of Develop Heroes Kindergarten was the first to come to my door while I was trying to decide. He agreed to pay me 3,500 yuan a month and wanted me to start right away.
      How could The Institution Kindergarten let me get away so easily? They agreed to a monthly salary of 4,000 yuan. While the two were competing, the city government made a decision. The leaders interested in this matter personally sought me out for a talk. They wanted me to go with The Institution.
      Of course, I had to accede to the leaders’ decision. I got my Certificate of Qualification today and will have my license within a day or two.




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15. Conscience
16. Silver Lining
17. Buying Face
18. Childcare Worker

     Cheng Siliang (程思良)

1. Most Beautiful Woman
2. An Honorific
3. Looking for Unparalleled
4. The Smile Test
5. The Last Shot

   Cai Zhongfeng (蔡中锋)

  6. My Horse
  7. A Dog’s Power
  8. Authority and Power
  9. A Hard Lock to Open
10. North Star

​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Flash Fiction Monthly, Premier Issue, Distinguished Authors' Manuscripts, Page 5
《闪小说月刊》创刊名家专栏征稿

Translated from 
here, also available here.