​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Mini-Stories: Gravitas (Page 3)

​1. Arranged in Advance
2. Changes
3. Corporate Culture
4. Habit

  9. Previous Incarnation, A
10. Reception Protocol
11. Things Get Done
12. Twenty Years

5. Hug, A
6. Leaders Always Win
7. List of Losses
8. Piece of Notepaper, A

1. Arranged in Advance (超前安排)
Cai Zhongfeng (蔡中锋)

      I’m the Office Manager in our Bureau. I personally arrange all events for the office, big or small. I’m busy all day and there’s never an end to it.
      When Bureau Chief Zhang took over our office, it was just before the Spring Festival that year. In accordance with our usual practice, I was making a list of all the high ranking officials in our area to whom we would have to send New Year’s gifts. "What do you think, Chief Zhang, is there anyone we need to add or delete?"
      Chief Zhang read the list closely several times before telling me, "We just need to add one person. I have no opinion about the others.”
      "As you wish,” I replied. “Who would you like to add?”
      "Well, then, just add Wang Tanwu," he said.
      I had some doubts. "Who’s he? How come I’ve never heard of him? He must not be one of the county's leaders, is he?"
      "He’s the City Jailor."
      I was even more puzzled. There was no reason for it. Why would we want to give the jailor a gift?
      Of course, I didn’t dare ask that question out loud.

      This year, Chief Zhang personally took me to Wang Tanwu's home with a very valuable gift for him.
      The Chief called me into his office shortly thereafter. "Today my baby boy will be recognized as Wang Tanwu’s adopted son. Make the arrangements for this evening."
      "This is an important matter,” I said. “I’ll definitely arrange a very ceremonious affair. Why not twenty or thirty tables at the Toronto Grand Hotel? It’s the best in the county.”
      "Just arrange one table,” he said. “That’ll be fine. And keep it absolutely secret. Except for you, only our two families will attend. No outsiders will be invited.”
      I arranged a private room for that evening in the Toronto Grand’s restaurant. I acted both as host for the “welcoming a new relative” ceremony, and also as a server. I provided everything both families desired.
      I noticed that the two families had long been as close as one….
      Six months later, someone informed on Chief Zhang and he was sent away.
      I went to the city jail a few days ago to visit him. When I saw him his face was glowing with health. He was sitting leisurely under a willow tree in the jail’s courtyard, completely at ease, playing Chinese chess with Wang Tanwu....
[The jailor’s given name, Tanwu 潭伍, is a homonym of 贪污, ‘corruption’ – Fannyi]

Translated from 分节阅读1.
Also available from 新浪博客 at
2. Changes (变)
Liu Lang (刘浪)

      I had a strange thought one day. I thought I’d give myself a makeover. So I did something that was a pretty big deal for me, but is actually a minor thing as far as regular people are concerned.
      I bought a bicycle, the kind that's commonly available in the market for a few hundred Yuan.
      I hadn’t ridden a bike in years. It felt kind of strange, and kind of familiar, but mostly pleasant.
      So I rode it back to my residential community. It was a little inconvenient for me to swipe my card to open the gate. Just as I was thinking of asking the security guard to give me a hand, I noticed that the fellow, who’d usually smiled at me before, had changed. He pretended that he didn’t see me and turned his head away.
      When I started giving my son a ride to school on the bike, he was really happy about it. He’d straddle the back seat and joyfully shout “Go! Go!” in English…. But after a few days he changed. He said to me, “Please, Dad, don’t take me to school tomorrow. My classmates all say that when you ride the bike, you don’t look so hot!”
      Then one day I accepted an invitation to a dinner party. After we’d eaten and drunk our fill, we were shaking hands and saying our goodbyes in front of the restaurant. As I pushed the bike out and was about to leave, everyone’s expression changed. No matter if it was guys I’d known for a long time or ones I’d just met, they looked at me in all kinds of ways. Finally one fellow didn’t restrain himself. He said, “What decade is it, and you’re still riding this toy?” In a flash I felt the scorch of vicious laughter pounding my back.
      Following that, the bank where I keep my accounts changed, too. Without warning they phoned me and called in my loan. I thought that was strange and asked, “That loan hasn’t come due yet, has it?” The caller hemmed and hawed around, and then asked me, “Has your business been going well lately? There’s no problem, is there?”
      I said “It’s going fine, what could be the problem?”
      Before putting down the phone, the caller shot back, “If there’s no problem, what’r’you riding a bike to work for?”
      Yesterday my mother-in-law who lives in the next town came over. She changed and got really nervous as soon as she saw me. She looked me up and down, then pulled by wife into the room and whispered mysteriously with her for a while. When she came back out she said, “You scared the heck out of me, child!”
      I didn’t know what was the matter. My wife just stood there roaring with laughter. “Silly fat guy, you got nothing better to do than change your lifestyle? Think you’re gonna lose weight or something? You’re a real pain in the neck. My mom heard you’d gone bankrupt so she came running over here to see….”
      I got my BMW out of our garage, where it’d been parked for over a month, and heaved a sigh as I looked at my enormous beer belly. Jeez, these days if you try to change, everyone else changes along with you. Why is it so hard just to lose a little weight?

Translated from Stories by 刘浪,Story #11
Also available from 小小说 at
3. Corporate Culture (企业文化)
Liu Lang (刘浪)

      Our company has a semi-new, mid-size bus. More than 30 individuals can squeeze into it. It’s mainly used to take the staff to and from work or on excursions, things like that.
      Whenever a bunch gets on to go somewhere, whether it’s early or late, the seat beside the driver is always left empty. That’s because it’s Superintendent Wang's seat, and no one dares forget their place.
      The Superintendent often waits until he’s seen the Manager drive off in his car. Only then does he stride vigorously toward the bus with his heavy briefcase pinched under his arm. He pulls open the door and steps aboard, then slams the door shut again, waves his hand and says, "Let’s go!"
      One day Young Liu, a college student whom the company had recently recruited, followed leisurely behind the crowd after work. It was his first day on the job. Waiting to get on the bus he noticed that the seat beside the driver wasn’t occupied, and after he got through the door he plopped his butt down on it. The other passengers didn’t utter a sound, but the driver, Old Li, a forthright fellow, whispered to him, "This is Superintendent Wang’s seat.”
      Young Liu objected strongly. "You have assigned seats on this kind of bus? This front seat is very dangerous, you know. Leaders nowadays all like to sit in the rear." Old Li wanted to say something more, but when he saw Superintendent Wang striding toward the bus as vigorously as ever, he kept his mouth shut.
      Superintendent Wang opened the door and froze when he saw Young Liu sitting there. Proving himself worthy of his position as a leader, though, he reacted quickly. "Oh, Young Liu, stay seated, stay seated."
      Young Liu stood halfway up. “Oh, no, Superintendent Wang, you sit here."
      The Superintendent smiled and said: "It’s all the same where we sit, isn’t it? I’ll go sit in the back.”
      As the Superintendent headed toward the rear, everyone on the bus rushed to give him their seat. He waved them off and found a place to sit down in the last row. Old Li turned his head and asked him, "Should we leave?"
    Looking a bit irritated, the Superintendent said, "If we’re all here and don’t leave, what would we be waiting for?"
      Young Liu sat in the front row by the driver for the next several days. Every time, Superintendent Wang saw him but walked back into the passenger compartment as though it were quite natural. There he sat and chatted with the staff about this and that and other everyday matters.
      A week later, Young Liu was fired. Everyone thought it was strange. He’d been doing a good job, so why’d they let him go? Someone asked Superintendent Wang, who was in charge of personnel, and he shook his head and said, "Oh, the young guy. He had knowledge and ability, but couldn’t accept our corporate culture. There was nothing for it." Everyone was mystified.
      The day Young Liu left, everybody took the bus home after work. They saw Superintendent Wang stride vigorously toward the bus, with his heavy briefcase pinched under his arm. He pulled open the door and stepped on, then slammed the door shut again. Looking every bit the leader, he waved his hand and said, "Let’s go!"
      Suddenly everyone realized....

Translated from Stories by 刘浪, story 27, no longer available online
4. Habit (习惯)
Liu Lang (刘浪)

      My classmate Zhao Cheng got embroiled in a case of economic conspiracy*. The public trial started today.
      Zhao was one of the classmates who got along best with people. After he graduated from college, it didn’t take him many years to go from being an ordinary office worker to being the vice-mayor of a township, then mayor, then head of an office in the county’s Communist Party Committee. He was rumored to be up for Deputy County Magistrate when he got into trouble.
      When the trials started, the prosecutor charged that Zhao had abused his position to amass more than 500,000 Yuan over several years. But in this conspiracy case with his former immediate superior the Honorable County Magistrate, another deputy magistrate and others, the amount totaled over one million yuan.
      Zhao kept his head down throughout the trial, a lifeless expression on his face, until the time came for the County Magistrate’s defense. Then his shriveled spirit was shaken awake. As the Magistrate’s impassioned self-exonerations surged forth, Zhao began to applaud fervently with his handcuffed hands. His movements were immediately berated by the judge, but during the Deputy Magistrate’s defense, Zhao’s old form resurfaced. Twice he blurted out: "Good! Well said!"
      The people watching the trial looked back and forth at each other. The courtroom was buzzing. “What’s going on with Zhao Cheng?” “Isn’t that contempt of court?” “Isn’t he just making himself look bad?”
      Fortunately, during the defense of two of the others in the conspiracy – the County Tax Bureau Chief and a Branch Manager of the Agricultural Bank of China – Zhao shriveled up again, remaining silent and motionless. Otherwise, I really would have been sweating it out for my old classmate.
      On the way out of the courtroom I asked Zhao’s wife, “Wasn’t Zhao’s behavior a bit atypical today, applauding and cheering at the wrong times?”
      “He couldn’t help it,” she answered with tears in her eyes. “It’s a habit he formed during his many years in officialdom. He does it whenever any of his bosses is speaking...."
[The term translated as ‘conspiracy’, 窝案, literally ‘nesting’, is a criminal case in which all or most of the defendants come from the same work unit – Fannyi]

Translated from Stories by 刘浪, story 27, no longer available online
5. A Hug (拥抱)
Liu Lang (刘浪)

      Night. A bedroom. A double bed.
      Suddenly he turns over and hugs her.
      His hand reaches out from the silk covers. He gently strokes her hair spread out like a dark cloud across the pillow.
      She wakes up. After a brief hesitation, she responds excitedly.
      He stops her and says, "It’s not that. I just want to embrace you."
      She’s touched and cries "oh".
      Her body slides over and she’s soon nestled in his arms. Her head moves back and forth a few times until she finally finds a comfortable position in the crook of his elbow.
      She’s not at all drowsy. "This feels good,” she says dreamily. “We haven’t hugged for years, except for those times."
      She strokes his face and murmurs: "When we were first married, we hugged each other to sleep every night. Then you started saying your arm hurt and you hardly ever hugged me, but we still slept close together. And then our son was born, and with him sleeping in the middle of the bed it was like there was a river separating us. Now he sleeps alone, but we don’t seem to be able to get back to the way we were. When we go to sleep, there’s always a big gap in the middle of the bed. It makes me hate that we bought such a big bed.”
      His eyes sparkle in the darkness. He asks, "Why is hugging so important to you women?"
      "You men don’t understand,” she says. “Where there’s hugs, there’s love.”
      He felt like a knife had been pulled gently through the pit of his stomach. It hurt a bit. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that, in a dream just now, when his girl Friday opened up her blouse in front of him and looked at him alluringly, he couldn’t resist rushing over to embrace her....

Translated from Stories by 刘浪, Story #11
Also available
here from Google Books
6. Leaders Always Win (领导总能得大奖)
Chili Pepper (辣子)

      As the end of the year drew near, the job of arranging the company’s annual meeting again fell on Old Ji’s shoulders. The Manager called him in to say, "You’ll continue to be responsible for the prize drawing segment, Old Ji. Follow the customary practice. Do you understand?"
      Old Ji nodded and said: "Yes, yes, I understand!”
      Every year the company invited the leaders of the township government to attend the annual meeting. They would take part in the in the prize drawing along with the company’s staff and workers, but Lao Ji would rig the drawing box. He’d affix double-sided tape inside the box at each of the four corners, and stick the tickets with the leader’s names written on them to the tape.
      But this time, Old Ji had a better idea. He’d been doing his job conscientiously for years and had always been extremely deferential to the leadership, so much so that the staff called him "dog leg” behind his back. Now he was about to retire and his daughter, who was still in college, had been nagging him for a computer. More than half his wages went to paying his home loan, so where would he get the money to buy a computer? So he gnashed his teeth and decided to let himself win the first prize! This year when it was done he’d retire, anyway, and never again have to see the leader’s faces.
      As the annual meeting began, the township leaders arrived right on schedule to eat, drink be entertained. Finally the time came to draw for the first prize. The Chairman of the Board smiled as he put his hand into the wooden box and pretended to mix the tickets around for a while. Then he drew out a ticket, smiled and said, "I wonder who the lucky first prize winner is this year. General Manager Zhang, you read this fortunate fellow’s name!" Then he handed the ticket to General Manager Zhang, who’d been standing beside him.
      When the General Manager unfolded the ticket, a trace of surprise swept across his face. "My, oh, my, am I reading this wrong? Wait a second, I have to warm this ticket up." Then he really did stick the ticket up his sleeve to get it warm.
      The whole room burst out laughing. General Manager Zhang quickly pulled his hand back out from his sleeve and said, "Maybe I’d better not warm it up. If the winner’s name gets rubbed off, Mayor Wu will chew me out, because…. Surprise! He’s the winner of this year's first prize! Mayor Wu, you have such great luck! I remember last year you won the second place prize, and now this year you win the first prize!"
      Then he unfolded the ticket and showed it to everyone to prove it was on the up and up. While the audience applauded, Mayor Wu took the prize from the Chairman: a notebook computer valued at over five thousand Yuan....
      Old Ji broke straight out in a cold sweat. He’d thought that after serving the leaders conscientiously for so many years, they’d “let him go” this one time. He never thought they’d end up standing in his way! General Manager Zhang’s switcheroo gimmick with the tickets was even better than the famous magician
Lu Chen’s. Old Ji didn’t dare look to see the trenchant expression in General Manager Zhang’s eyes. He could only sigh to himself, "Ah, my daughter, reality is far more extraordinary than fiction!"

Translated from 分节阅读
Also available from 中国论文网 at
7. List of Losses (损失清单)
Liu Lang (刘浪)

      On a moonless, windy night, some petty thieves vaulted over walls and leapt across roofs. They passed through halls and entered the interior rooms. Surprisingly, they were able to successfully clean out the company right under the eyes of the security guards. Staff coming to work early in the morning found that their offices had been tossed, so they called the police.
      News of the company’s burglary spread quickly through the industrial park. The relevant departments each sent people to offer condolences, and the general manager was busy all day receiving visitors. It wasn’t until he was getting off work late in the evening that he thought to ask the Finance Manager to make a detailed list of the stolen items for a report to his superiors.
      The Finance Manager handed in a list before long. Everything was written explicitly on one page:

      3 stolen mainframe computers         7,800 Yuan;
      1 multifunction printer                       1,600 Yuan;
      2 fax machines                                     1,200 Yuan;
      1 printer                                                1,500 Yuan;
      Finance Department stolen cash      1,400 Yuan;
      Total loss                                             13,500 Yuan.

      After the General Manager finished reading this list, the Finance Manager produced a second piece of paper. "Here’s another list of losses for you to look over.”
      The General Manager took it. This page was written as explicitly as the first:

      Red envelope gifts to Industrial Park Security Team who visited to express
condolences, 200 Yuan per person, four people,                                                             800 Yuan;
      Red envelopes for Vice Mayor In Charge of Industry Jiang and Manager Ye
of the Merchant Recruitment Office, who also came to offer condolences, 1,000
Yuan each, plus 400 Yuan for their driver,                                                                      2,400 Yuan;
      Red envelopes for Deputy Director Chen of the Bureau of Science and
Technology, who was in the next plant conducting an inspection and stopped
by to offer his condolences, which will also make our own inspection go more
smoothly this year, 2,000 Yuan, plus 500 Yuan each for the two fellows who
came with him and their driver,                                                                                       3,500 Yuan;
      Red envelopes for a party of four from the Tax Bureau, including 3,000
 Yuan for Chief Wang, who came in person, and 500 Yuan per person for
the others,                                                                                                                           4,500 Yuan;
      To Commander Wang of the District Police Precinct for coming to ascertain
the circumstances of the theft and recommending two electronic anti-theft
systems,                                                                                                                               8,000 Yuan;
      Banquet luncheon, two tables at 3,100 Yuan each,                                                6,200 Yuan;
      Plus four cartons of high-grade cigarettes,                                                              1,600 Yuan;
      Grand total                                                                                                                   27,000 Yuan.

      The General Manager looked over the list and complained, "Isn’t this equivalent to being ripped off twice?"
      “From a financial point of view,” the Finance Manager said, “you should say it’s equal to being ripped off three times."

Translated from Stories by 刘浪, story 20
Also available from 西安晚报
here, second story
8. A Piece of Notepaper (一张便笺纸)
Liu Lang (刘浪)

      This is a piece of notepaper. It has the following paragraphs written on it——
      1) December 22, 10 p.m. and December 24, 9 p.m., Bureau Chief Han received traffic tickets in the city at these times near the residential community where the city’s most important leaders reside. From this it can be conjectured that Chief Han is using the annual Leaders Job Rotation to actively pursue an official position.
      2) October 25, midnight and September 28, 2 a.m. (neither date was a weekend or holiday) Assistant Bureau Chief Liu received traffic citations in an adjacent city. This is an ambitious person who is known as a “strong woman”. Everyone says she’s intent on forgetting gender distinctions, but there are two possible ways to analyze these citations: 1, although this person is past middle age, she still has powerful sexual urges; or 2, since this person has maintained two residences for a long time, she’s been having emotional problems with her husband, who works in the adjacent city.
      3) Between September and the present, Assistant Bureau Chief Zhao has received a total of eleven traffic citations. Seven of them were not during work hours, and three of those were concentrated in a disorderly area around an art academy. From this it can be inferred that this drunken womanizer may be keeping a college coed as a mistress.
      Heh, heh. Who wrote this thing? The traffic police? Public Security? The Party Discipline Committee? Don’t make wild guesses, it was none of those. It was Assistant Bureau Chief Huang, who was number four in the chain of command in our office. He passed away not long ago because he continued to work for a long time in spite of illness. The constant overwork got to him and he died suddenly in the office from a cerebral hemorrhage. I found this piece of paper while I was cleaning up his office, along with a pile of print-outs of traffic citations from Trafficnet.
      Who am I? I’m not saying. But what I can tell you is, I thought this was something very interesting so I took it to Bureau Chief Han. Now I’m our Bureau’s Office Manager.

Translated from Stories by 刘浪, story 23, no longer available online
9. A Previous Incarnation (前世)
Liu Lang (刘浪)

      It was rather fortuitous, how they became acquainted, now that you mention it.
      He usually slept soundly, but he felt uneasy that night and all of a sudden he couldn’t get to sleep.
      So he got out of bed and, by a curious coincidence, walked over to the internet café across the way.
      All was quiet in the cafe. The attendant was lying in front of the counter, asleep.
      Then he happened to notice, in the darkness where the banks of computers were, a flash of fluorescent light from one computer. A girl with long flowing hair was exuberantly surfing the net, her fingers flitting across the keyboard.
      She was quite good looking, and the sound of her tapping the keys made a pleasant melody.
      In that moment, he was deeply drawn to her.
      He was an internet addict as well, of course. So they got acquainted, and eventually fell in love, and later got married.
      Shortly after the wedding, he noted that the situation was a total mess.
      He loved her, but she seemed to be more in love with surfing the net.
      Countless late nights, he’d wake up and see an empty space beside him. She’d be hiding out in the den, on line.
      That image, it was just like when he had first met her.
      He would often gaze at her from behind as she was online in the den, and sigh.
      The fighting, the interminable fighting, started then.
      One day she discovered that he had stopped the broadband in their home. She turned and was about to leave.
      He knew she wanted to go to an internet café. He blocked the door.
      “Let me by,” she said.
      He stared at her regretfully. “Will you die if you don’t go online?”
      There were tears in her eyes. She seemed to feel wronged. “You told me I could. You let me go online.”
      He got extremely mad and slapped her. “So I let you. I’m not letting you go online now!” She turned and stormed out onto the balcony, and fell through the air from the sixth floor of the building.
      He rushed crazily downstairs.
      He knelt down on the ground, crying, pulling out his hair. His crying shook the earth and the mountains.
      Before him the blood flowed in four directions, forming the shape of a net. In a puddle of blood lay a huge spider.

Translated from Stories by 刘浪, no longer available online
10. Reception Protocol (接待规格)
Liu Lang (刘浪)

      The company's largest customer came in at 10 o'clock in the morning. Our General Manager accompanied the group of three people on a tour around the company, and then drove them to a restaurant.
       Sometime after 11:00, a Specialist from the Tax Bureau also came into the company. Since the GM wasn’t available, it naturally fell to me, as the Office Manager, to go out and greet him. After we’d exchanged some conventional greetings, the Specialist mentioned that he’d just been assigned to this area, so he wanted to meet the GM. I understood implicitly that this was nothing more than a "meaningful meaning", that is, that he was looking for a free lunch or some other token of the company’s regard.
      So, I slipped out for a moment to call the GM to ask how thick with cash a red envelope would appropriately be. As soon as he heard who our visitor was, he said, "I’ll be there right away.”
      I told the Specialist, "The GM’s on his way. We can all have lunch together!” The Specialist didn’t decline, so we sat there chatting for a while.
      Two more cars arrived downstairs before long. I looked and saw it was the Precinct Commander for this district with a group of people. The Commander introduced the man in the center of the group: “This is Deputy Director Jia from the District Branch Office responsible for public security. We heard your company has suffered repeated thefts, so we came to have a look."
      As soon as I heard he was a deputy director, I knew I didn’t dare be the least bit neglectful. I hurried to lead him upstairs to a small conference room, turned on the air conditioning and came back downstairs to arrange for someone to serve him tea.
      The GM’s car pulled up after a while. "Where’s our guest?" He asked me. "In the small conference room," I said. He went on up without so much as a by-your-leave.
      At that time, when Public Security honored you with a visit, a meal was absolutely unavoidable. According to their status, the GM would certainly accompany the Deputy Director to eat. So I told the Specialist, who was flipping through a newspaper, bored to tears, "A Deputy Director from the Public Security Bureau has come for a visit. The GM needs to accompany him. Let’s do this – you and I’ll go out to eat.”
      The Specialist stood up and said, "Since your GM’s busy, that’s that. I’ll be going." I could see that he didn’t think I had sufficient status to be entertaining guests. I did my level best to persuade him to stay, but he still left.
      After a while, I saw it was already past noon. I was getting ready to call to the restaurant to reserve another private room when the GM escorted our guests from the Public Security Bureau to the door. This was something new, because they hadn’t eaten at the company. I asked him what was going on and he said, "The Deputy Director came all the way down to the countryside on public business, that’s good for him, but why is it our turn [to host him]? Say, where’s that Specialist from the Tax Bureau?"
      "Gone,” I said. “I couldn’t keep him here.”
      "What happened? Didn’t he understand that I was hurrying just to get back here?"
    When I told him what had happened, the GM got so angry his face turned livid. "Do you have his phone number?"
      I got out the Specialist’s business card right away. The GM grabbed a phone and called him. First he explained everything, and then he spoke with the Specialist very politely for a long time.
      After he put down the phone, the GM said: "We had a scare but no harm was done this time. Next time you need to note: It’s good to follow the protocols for greeting visitors, but be clear about which relationships can help you and which can hurt. No matter how important the Public Security Deputy Director might be, he doesn’t have anything to do with our business. And no matter how low ranking the Specialist might be, he’s like a gate guard for the Tax Bureau. Didn’t you notice that I left the people from our company’s most important customer sitting by themselves to rush back here and see him?”

Translated from Stories by 刘浪, story 24, no longer available online
11. The Way Things Get Done (项目是这样做成的)
Huang Jiansheng (黄建生)

      The Department Director asked his brother-in-law, Prosper, "The labor contractor named Luo who lives in your community, can he be counted on as a friend?”
      “He’s very reliable,” Prosper answered, “and he keeps his mouth shut. You got a project you want done, bro’?"
      "Yeah, a small one,” the Director said. You go shoot the breeze with him first.” Then the Director talked in general about what the project would be.
      Prosper, the Director’s man, told the contractor, "I heard that my brother-in-law has a project he wants done for his department. You can go check around. But absolutely do not say that I told you about it."
      The contractor said: "Yeah, OK. Many thanks." Prosper, the Director’s man, told the contractor generally what the project was.
      The contractor went to see the Director. "I heard you have a project at hand that you want done," he said.
      "Where did you get your information?” the Director asked. “And how did you get it faster than the speed of light?"
      The contractor laughed. “Don’t concern yourself with that,” he said. “I’d like to know the specifics of the project.”
      “Ha, ha!” The Director laughed, too. "Like they say, a straight talker gets right to the point. Since you’re here, I’ll clarify it for you.”
      The Director brought out a sketch of the project and gave it to the contractor. "Do your calculations conscientiously right here. Bottom line, how much money will it take to do this project?”
      The contractor immediately took out pen and paper and a calculator, and began figuring carefully. After some time he said, "I’ll give it to you straight. Five hundred thousand, ex-tax. If you want a paper invoice, add eight percent tax."
      "Can’t you do a little better than that?" The Director asked.
      “No, I can’t,” the contractor said with certainty. "If I went lower I wouldn’t make any money. But the total amount charged for the project, you’ll have the final say."
      "One million," the Director responded.
      The contractor nodded his head. “OK,” he agreed. "With tax the total will be 1,080,000.”
      The Chief told the Deputy Director for Construction Projects and the Office Manager, "I’ve heard there’s a labor contractor named Luo in the Old City Lanes community who does really good work. You two go talk to him and get this project of ours built. But remember, subject to the prerequisites for guaranteeing safety, we need to keep costs down and reduce the Department’s expenses somewhat.”
      The Deputy Director and the Office Manager located the contractor. The Deputy Director said, “Our unit has a construction project. Are you interested?"
      The contractor smiled. "You’re joking, sir,” he said. “When are we contractors ever not interested in a construction project?”
      The Office Manager brought out the blueprints and the Deputy Director told the contractor, "Take a close look and do your calculations conscientiously. Bottom line, how much money will it take to do this project?"
      The contractor immediately took pen and paper and a calculator and figured carefully. After a while he said, "A million and a half."
      “That’s too high,” the Deputy Director said. "Give us half off, 750,000. How about it?"
      The contractor shook his head. "No can do. At that price, we’d lose big."
      After some bargaining and a new round of calculations, they ended up agreeing on 1.08 million.
      The Deputy Director reported to the Director. "After detailed negotiations, we finally arrived at 1.08 million. What’re your views? Should we do it?"
      "Since he won’t come down any further, we’ll go for that amount. You guys sign the contract and have him get an early start on the job."
      The project was finished a while later. The Deputy Director and the Office Manager participated in the walk-through and the quality was up to standards. The 1.08 million project fund was quickly deposited in the contractor's account. In the end, 500,000 was taken out for the Director’s kickback; his man Prosper got a finder’s fee of 20,000; and the Deputy Director and the Office Manager were invited to two banquets hosted by the contractor.

Translated from 分节阅读13
Also available from 中国论文网 at
12. Twenty Years, Before and After (二十年前后)
Liu Lang (刘浪)

      Twenty years ago I was a student of Mr. Wang’s. I was the student he was most satisfied with.
      I passed the entrance exam and was admitted to college that year. Following precedents in our area, I decided to send Mr. Wang a silk banner as a gift to thank him for his generosity as a teacher.
      “I have several layers of silk banners hanging in my office. There’s really no place for any more. If you insist on giving me a gift, I suggest that you send something else.”
      I thought it over for a long time. Eventually I went to the best store in the county seat and bought him a very fashionable tie. After declining the gift several times, as required by custom, Mr. Wang said casually, “Thank you, but perhaps you didn’t know that a tie is usually sent as an accompaniment to the gift of a shirt.”
      Red faced, I went back to the best store in the county seat and bought a beautiful shirt for him. After again declining the gift politely, he sighed several times and said, “Such a pretty tie and shirt, but I don’t have the pants to go with them.”
      I stared blankly for some time, then gnashed my teeth and said, “Well, I’ll give you a pair of pants.”
      “Don’t do that,” he said, “I get that your heart’s in the right place. My waist size is thirty-eight. It’s easy for most people to get wrong.”
      In the end I gave him a new pair of pants, size thirty-eight. “Not bad,” he said, “not bad. Just the right size. You’re such a polite child!”

      Twenty years later, I’m Vice-Mayor Wang’s lawyer and his primary trial lawyer.
      When the time came for the leadership group to change positions, the relevant authorities started proceedings to investigate him on charges of accepting a large amount of bribes.
      Vice-Mayor Wang took my hand and said, disapprovingly. “Nowadays there are a lot of guys like me who’ve accepted millions of Yuan in bribes. You were my student, and at the right time you need to help me out. It’ll be OK if you can keep me from getting the death penalty.”
      I thought about the problem for a long time, and then started collecting materials from all over. After some mental suffering, I told the Vice-Mayor, “The evidence isn’t good for you. Things might not turn out the way you’d like.”
      He shook my hand and said tearfully, “Think of something. Aren’t you a great lawyer, a famous one? If you really can’t, I’ll be OK with a deferred death sentence (that can be rescinded for good behavior after two years).”
      Red faced, I made use of the personal connections I’d built up over the years. After some more mental anguish, I told the Vice-Mayor, “I’ve done everything I can. It might have been better if you hadn’t gone around soliciting brides.”
      He gripped my hand and said hysterically, “Don’t give up! Absolutely do not give up! You were my smartest student back then. How can you possibly not think of something now?”
      I stared blankly for some time, then gnashed my teeth and said, “Well, I’ll put some more effort into it.”
      “Thank you,” he said. “If they’re really going to put me to death, make sure it’s by lethal injection.”
      In the end Vice-Mayor Wang was sentenced to death by firing squad. As he was about to be executed, he said to me, “What happened? How can this be? How could a lawyer like you be so completely useless?”

Translated from Stories by 刘浪, Story #13
Also available from 小小说 at

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