Chinese Stories in English
A Good Wife's Companionship
By Xu Yan
Iron Ox and Blue were husband and wife. They'd been married three years and, while they didn't have any children, they loved and respected each other and lived together in harmony. Recently, though, things had changed a bit. Iron Ox had gotten tight with some unsavory types and was turning into a con artist. He'd go wining and dining, whoring and gambling, all kinds of things. This made Blue impatient and short-tempered. She would do her best to try to persuade him to straighten up, but he's say, "Lay off! You just take good care of the house and don't worry about man stuff!" He didn't pay any attention to Blue's advice at all.
One evening Blue wasn't feeling very well, but Iron Ox threw his dinner dishes in the sink and made to go out. Blue grabbed him. "Don't go out tonight," she said. "Stay home and keep me company, OK?"
Iron Ox pushed her away. As he headed toward the door he muttered, "Get outta my way! What kind of man stays home to keep his wife company?"
Blue rushed to the door and blocked his way. "I'm not letting you go tonight."
Iron Ox stared at her. "I'm going out, and that's that!" he said, then shoved her out of the way.
Blue was so mad she raised her hand and slapped him. Iron Ox blew up and hit her with his fist, knocking her to the floor. "You bitch," he swore at her, "you dare hit your old man and you get knocked flat on your butt."
"You heartless beast," Blue sobbed. "If you dare go out that door, I'll die, and then you'll see."
Iron Ox wouldn't give an inch. "Good, go ahead and die! With you dead I'll have some peace and quiet!" He turned and left abruptly, slamming the door behind him.
Iron Ox ran straight to a gambling joint when he left the house. Maybe it was just good luck, but he won a wad of money that evening. His scoundrel buddies' faces turned green when they saw all that cash and they stuck to him like glue. They kept telling him, "You the man! You the man!" So naturally he played the role. Then the whole crew went off to the city for a good time, and eventually off to the capital. Pretty soon the money he'd won had all been spent, and everyone went their separate ways.
By then, Iron Ox didn't have a penny left on him. It was pitch black outside, and how was he going to get home? He got the bright idea to flag down a truck. He lied to the driver, said he'd been robbed and other good excuses, and eventually talked the guy into giving him a ride home. He jumped into the back of the truck and lay down on a soft pile of gunny sacks. He felt very comfortable and before long was off to dreamland.
Iron Ox was sound asleep when, "bam", he was thrown from the truck onto a grassy area beside the road, all drowsiness knocked out of him. He picked himself up, his eyes open wide, and got a shock. There's been an accident. The truck had smashed into a tree and the driver's-side door was all scrunched up. The driver's body was mangled and he wasn't breathing. Iron Ox thought to himself, "That was really a close call. It's a good thing I didn't sit in the cab, or I'd have been done for, too, wouldn't I? Talk about a 'cat with nine lives'!"
Iron Ox felt this was not a good place to stick around and he'd better get going. He hadn't gone more than a few steps, though, when he thought about how empty his pockets were. It would cost money to get something to eat, and a place to stay, and a ride. The truck driver certainly had some money on him, so why shouldn't he take advantage of the opportunity? Nobody would know, anyway, not even the dead guy! With that thought he turned right around. He pried open the door to the cab with some difficulty and searched, first, on the driver's body, then all around the inside. As he'd expected, he found a wallet stuffed with bills. He was so happy he started dancing around: "Ha ha! Iron Ox, you son of a gun, you're rich!"
Just then he heard a woman's voice suddenly speak to him from not far away. "Iron Ox! Aren't you afraid you'll go to jail for plundering his things? You're not afraid that heaven will strike you down?"
Iron Ox looked around in the direction the voice had come from, then stopped dead in his tracks. "What are you doing here, Blue?"
Her face was expressionless as she stared hard at Iron Ox. "I came looking for you," she said icily. "Like the saying goes, 'Married for a night, kindness for a lifetime.' We've had our ups and downs in our marriage. Maybe you can ditch me and walk away from it, but I can't just blink my eyes while I watch you jump into a living hell."
Iron Ox knew what he'd done was shameful, and he instinctively felt a little guilty and discouraged. But asking him to throw down that wallet in his hand, well, he really couldn't part with it, so he braced himself and said, "Look, Blue, there's a wad of money in this wallet, enough for us to live on for several years. If you don't trust me, let's split it up. I'll give you half right now."
But Blue wouldn't even look at the wallet. "I don't want a penny of your ill-gotten gains," she said precisely, "and you can't keep it, either. Take it to the police station right now, or I'll call the cops myself and have you arrested."
This made Iron Ox so angry that he wanted to run over and beat her half to death, but he knew his wife wasn't so easy to deal with. Once she made up her mind to something, she'd do it. He thought it over and decided that discretion was the better part of valor. "OK," he said," I'll do what you want. You go on home, and I'll go to the police station. When it's all taken care of I'll get a job for a few days, and earn enough to pay for my trip back home."
"All right, now you're talking," she said. "I'll go with you to the police station."
Iron Ox was bemused. He wouldn't be able to change her mind, so there was nothing he could do but, very unwillingly, set out for the police station under her "escort".
It was almost light by the time they got to the door of the police station. Blue pulled out a few bills she had with her and stuffed them into Iron Ox's pocket. "Here's money for your trip home. Now knock on the door and go on in. It's the right thing to do. And remember, go home when you've taken care of this." She opened her eyes wide and watched Iron Ox knock on the front door of the station, and didn't leave until an officer came out to let him inside.
Iron Ox spent a long time at the police station doing paperwork. After eating breakfast he got a ride to the bus station in a cop car. The officer bought a ticket for him and saw him onto the bus.
On the way home, Iron Ox somehow kept seeing Blue's silhouette floating before his eyes. He thought Blue was very considerate of him, even if she was unreasonable about some things. When she hurried out to help him even after he beat her, at that moment she obviously felt the need to show him a way out. He couldn't help but feel a pang of guilt at that thought. He just wanted to get home right away and apologize to her.
But when he got home, he was surprised to find the front door closed tightly. Inside it was deathly still and Blue was nowhere to be seen. He realized something wasn't right. His legs got weak and he sat down with his butt on the doorstep, paralyzed.
The neighbors heard the noise and came running over. They told Iron Ox that on the evening he had left home, Blue was filled with bitterness and had hung herself. By the time they found her it was too late. They couldn't find him, so they'd pooled their money to bury her.
Iron Ox only then realized how much she had loved him. Even after she died her spirit was still tied to her second-rate husband. He ran like crazy to her grave and knelt down with a "ker-plunk." "Blue," he wailed, "I abused you so much, I abused you so much…."
Thus Iron Ox came to see the error of his ways.
股市会精品系列, 奇异故事, 第142页, 2010年11月
Stories Magazine Premier Collection, Fantasy Stories, p. 147, November 2010
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