1. A Hen in 1978 (1978年的一只母鸡)
Chen Zhenlin (陈振林)
I was preparing for the college entrance examination in 1978.
I had a good academic background and worked hard, so I was considered a good student in my teachers’ eyes. My poor physical condition, however, made my homeroom teacher Mr. Liu worry. It seemed like a gust of wind could blow me away. If I got too anxious about preparing for the exam, my body might not take it.
Mr. Liu told my father and mother, "You’ll have to supplement the child’s nutrition. He can’t do without a bowl of white rice at every meal." Given the situation at the time, one bowl of rice in an entire day would have been living the Life of Riley, so it was rather senseless to talk about “supplementing nutrition”.
So Mom got sixteen hens to raise. She’d heard someone say that, if you had a chicken, you had "a bank in a chicken’s butt." Chickens laying eggs would be a steady source of wealth. However, where were the layers going to find food in a time when even people didn’t have enough to eat?
There was food at our production team’s threshing ground.
The team's threshing ground was the area where our team threshed grain and left it to dry in the sun. On sunny days there was always millet or wheat laid out to dry there. We lived close by, just across a river about ten meters wide.
The people working on the threshing ground all went home after they spread the grain out to dry. While they were gone, Mom would stand in our doorway and call “gu-lu, gu-lu”, and as soon as she did, sixteen hens would come running. Another shout of "ho hee" at the top of her lungs and the sixteen hens would fly across the stream to the threshing ground like sixteen little airplanes. They ate like they were afraid there wouldn’t be anything left if they didn’t get their fill right away. After enough time to chain smoke a pack of cigarettes, Mom would cry out, "gu-u-u lu-u-u", and the sixteen hens would once again fly like little airplanes back across the stream.
We found sixteen eggs in Mom's henhouse every day, not one less. She’d set up her "chicken butt bank" to good effect. We sold the eggs for money, or traded them for cooking oil and salt, and from time to time we bought some fish or meat to improve our lives. And my body got stronger because I was able eat several bowls of rice at every meal. Mom was all smiles.
A few days before the college entrance examination, Team Leader Uncle Huan was at our door when I came home from school. He said that Mom's chickens were stealing the team’s publicly-owned grain from the threshing ground. Mom heard him out, then retorted, "You know for sure that the chickens in the threshing area are my family's chickens? Would our chickens be able to fly over such a wide river?" That made Uncle Huan leave in a huff.
Mom saw an opportunity the next morning and once again sent the chickens flying to the threshing ground to eat. She sorted and counted them out loud after they came flying back, and there were only fifteen. The pea-flower-colored hen was missing.
She counted them even more loudly that afternoon and there were still only fifteen, with that same hen missing. Mom went over to the threshing ground looking for Uncle Huan. She didn’t find him, but she did find the hen. Someone had clobbered it with a brick and killed it, and then pulled out its crop. They’d broken open the crop and it was full of millet. Mom yelled at the workers, "Who’s the heartless one that killed my family’s chicken...?"
No one on the threshing ground dared answer her. They were afraid she'd take her anger at the chicken's death out on them. She chewed them out some more and then came home carrying the dead chicken.
Naturally we had it for dinner that evening. Mom let it simmer over low heat to make a soup. When she put a bowl down in front of me she said, "You're going to take the college entrance examination and need your strength." Her face was filled with laughter, with no sign of pain at the loss of a chicken.
The next morning, though, she went back to the threshing ground and lit into the workers again, berating the heartless fellow who'd killed our family's hen. She was wearing that huge pair of Dad's cloth shoes and seemed to be walking hurriedly. She yelled some more, and naturally, once again, no one dared to answer her.
She circled around the threshing ground wearing those oversized cloth shoes, and then she came home. Those big cloth shoes were full of millet. She repeated the process that afternoon, again admonishing the chicken killer while walking around in those huge cloth shoes.
After a few days, the millet she'd collected in those shoes actually filled our family's rice storage vat. Mom said, after this we won't have to worry about our family's young test-taker not having enough white rice.
Sure enough, after drinking super fresh chicken soup and eating ultra-white rice, my college entrance exam went smoothly and I was admitted to a key university in the provincial capital. The day before I was to leave home to go register, Mom told me to go to every family in the production team and thank them on her behalf. "You should know," she said, "that the white rice you ate before the test was the team's food."
"But aren't they the ones who killed our pea-flower-colored hen?" I asked.
Mother just giggled like a little kid.
2016 中国年度小小说第一页, Chinese Mini-Fiction 2016, Page 80
Translated from 新浪 at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4984eb6b0102x5ft.html, second story
2. Math for "Economics" (“经济学”数学)
Liu Lang (刘浪)
As I was circling around the job fair that day, I realized it was really going to be difficult for a recent graduate from accounting school like me to find a job. First, you need experience, and second, you have to be bonded, and I couldn’t meet either requirement.
While I was feeling depressed, I happened to pass by a construction site. A now-hiring announcement was posted on the outside of the wall surrounding the site. One of the openings was for an accounts manager, no preconditions required. I was ecstatic. It was really manna from Heaven. With no competitors in sight, the job was certainly mine.
When he heard there was an applicant for the account manager’s position, the site boss personally came out to greet me. I handed him a pile of relevant documents, and when he opened them one by one to take a look, he got a satisfied expression on his face. Afterwards he chatted with me for a while and I answered all his questions decently. I demonstrated that I was well trained and had deep knowledge, so he could see that I was going to be successful in my career.
Just as I was feeling confident, the boss asked an unexpected question: "Are you are sensitive to numbers?" It was a pretty silly question – if I weren’t sensitive to numbers, how could I be an accountant? He saw my disdain and said: "I’ll ask you a question. If you answer correctly, I’ll hire you. If you answer wrong, you’re gone.
"For a migrant worker,” he continued, “is there a difference between ten yuan a day and three hundred yuan a month?"
I was startled. What could be the difference? But I’d long heard that some companies play games when they hire, so to avoid being taken for a fool, I had to pay attention and couldn’t answer lightly.
I thought for a moment, then laughed to myself. There’s one month with twenty-eight days, while the rest have either thirty or thirty-one, so of course there’s a difference. I was feeling smug as I said, "That depends. How many days are in the month are you figuring on?”
The boss gave me a look. "A thirty-day month, of course," he said.
So I thought it over again. Finally I replied: "There’s no difference."
The boss shook his head. "Another bookworm,” he said. “You can go now.”
I got mad. "Well, please advise me,” I asked him indignantly, “what exactly is the difference?"
"At ten yuan a day,” he replied, “when the job’s done he doesn’t get ten yuan for the remaining days of the month; he doesn’t get ten yuan for days work is stopped waiting for materials; he doesn’t get ten yuan for rainy days when we can’t work; if there’s a sudden power outage, no ten yuan. At three hundred yuan a month, it doesn’t matter whether he worked or not, you have to give him three hundred yuan even if he only worked twenty-two days. That’s the difference.”
Finally he looked at me and said, "It’s called 'math for economics'. Didn’t you study that?"
I sat there stupidly....
Translated from 浪不起来 Surf's Not Up, story 31.
Also available at 数模爱好者, http://hnumath.cn/bbs/read.php?tid=269&ordertype=asc
And 壹读 https://read01.com/Rdg5RO.html (繁体字)
3. Old Street, Old Wang (老街老王)
Liu Congjin (刘从进)
It was deep into autumn, deep enough to where you couldn't fathom it. I was back in the hometown I'd been away from for so long, a township on the coast called Yan County.
The old street was like a kiln without the bricks. As I sat there quietly, some clacking things swayed lightly at the end of the kiln.
The end of autumn was once again welcoming the change of seasons. Rains often come without warning at this time, but the people are used to the way the storms visit them in this season.
Time always stands on both sides. It's like a clock weathering normal things into disrepair as the years go by. I walked along the cold street in the cold rain and the cold air. Old homes were strewn at random on both sides. From inside came the banging of cups and pans, the sounds of old people coughing and children laughing.... a warm sort of atmosphere, the kind of flavor that comes from the smoke and fire of the human realm.
"Swish, swish, click, click", the sounds of mahjong tiles flew out of the old homes on both sides from time to time. How familiar it was, this sound of mahjong being played! Back in the day I often played mahjong on this street, too, and got "single hangers" and "three cakes" and "self-winners".
At that moment, the sound of the tiles was just like the call of an old lover. Like glowing embers in a charcoal burner, it drilled into my being and made me warm.
I stopped for a moment, stunned, beside an old house covered by rattan. Wasn't this the place I'd often visited back then? It stood in the middle section of the old street. You sidled in through a small door, made your way up a narrow wooden stairway that twisted back like a paperclip, and came to a tiny wooden room on the second floor. I'd often played mahjong there, and the "clomp, clomp" of my footsteps on the stairway echoed in my ears. I looked up and the drizzle was floating above the old house. The old place sat there with its storied history, as sturdy as an ancient windmill.
I remembered the scene back then. I remembered that crotchety Old Wang I'd played mahjong with. When he sat in the position following me, he always said I never fed him any good tiles, so that someone else always got the best hands; but when he sat in the position ahead of me, he said I fed good tiles to the next person after me and let them "build the bridge", causing him to lose.
Old Wang was well into his eighties and was a real low-life, greedy for every petty advantage. Except for playing mahjong, I didn't have anything to do with him. He was always grumbling and nagging, which made me despise him, almost to the point of hatred.
Suddenly I heard a cough. It was Old Wang's cough! There was no mistake, it was too familiar. A strange transformation came over me, as if a gust of spring breeze had found a home in my body. Old Wang was really an endearing fellow, a lovable eccentric. My disgust for him vanished like a puff of smoke. At that moment, oh, how I wanted to see him! I wanted to hug him right then!! I thought of one time we'd met on the street. He'd greeted me warmly, so lovingly. This world had become more vivid and lively because of Old Wang!
I finished walking the long street, taking my emotions with me. Standing at the far end was like standing at the crossroads of life, and I was at a loss. It was still raining, a drizzle, actually, misty and cool, but it struck me like a needle. I looked up but couldn't see where it was coming from. I raised my hand and wiped my eyes. They were warm and moist, with just tiny drops of moisture.
I hesitated for a while and decided not go to my friend's house. Instead I went back the way I'd come, back to the old street.
4. Cloudy to Clear (阴转晴)
It’s an old community, the place where Literary Zhang lives. Now that I think about it, I figure it must be a product of the planned economy. It lacks a property manager and nobody takes care of it.
To prove the point, today is Sunday and this morning Literary was at home reviewing his lessons for the professional exam at work. With nothing else to do, his wife decided to wash clothes. What the heck, might as well. But then she discovered that the faucet was broken. No matter what she did, water just wouldn’t come out. Unable to do the laundry for the time being, the angry woman looked at her husband like she was about to blow up.
As a man, one has to read facial expressions at home. One must distinguish their order of seriousness, especially when it’s about to rain. Thus Literary knew there was nothing for it; he had no choice but to put down his textbook and begin a detailed study of the faucet. After studying a long time, though, he still hadn’t learned the ABCs of it. To the contrary, he had elicited an even greater look of dissatisfaction on his wife’s face.
With no other choice, he’d have to do what everyone else does – "draw a dipper with a gourd as a model”, as they say. He’d just go out to a store, buy a faucet, bring it back and replace the old one.
He wasted tremendous effort doing just that. He spent the entire morning fiddling around with the replacement, but no matter what he did, he couldn’t get it right. Not only did it look funny; it leaked all over the place. So he’d wasted a whole morning on this creeping crud, time he could have spent studying for his promotional exam. He was completely frustrated and completely demoralized.
His wife ridiculed him. “Such a simple thing like this and you can’t do it. “Tell me, can you do anything useful at all?” As he watched, her expression was getting darker and uglier.
Damn and double damn, this was really a pain in the butt. He wasn’t cut out for this. So, all right, he’d go out and find someone to replace it for him.
When the repairman got there, as easy as five minus two is three on an abacus, the guy replaced the old one in less than five minutes.
Problem solved. And when he looked at his wife again, he saw that, sometime or other, her expression had gone from cloudy to clear.
5. A Vertically Integrated Business (一条龙服务)
Horizon Visitor (涯客)
The company's recent track record did not engender optimism. Manager Wang burned incense and kowtowed to show respect to God of Wealth.
Industry insiders recommended an expert "feng shui master". The master concurrently pointed out problems and recommended design changes: Place a glass aquarium by the lobby doorway and in it put artificial mountains and trees, a pavilion on a terrace, duckweed and water plants, and a waterwheel powered by an electric motor; then keep ten small "white wavy striped" goldfish (ah, to have gold) totaling less than half a pound. It’s called “flowers added on gold (brocade)” and corresponds to the old adage “fish (a surplus) every year”*.
The cost was extravagant, more than ten thousand yuan. It was presentable in a week. Customers, guests and staff came to look at it, and every one of them offered praise piled on acclaim. Manager Wang enjoyed looking at it and felt joy in his heart. It seemed probable that "having fish" had brought a vigorous vitality to the business.
One day the feng shui master and designer suddenly showed up at the company again. Director Big Forest received him and Manager Wang came out to welcome him. The master looked the goldfish aquarium over closely for quite some time. Then he took a step closer and exclaimed in wonder – “You need to add eight red goldfish to the ‘white wavy stripers’, for a total of eighteen fish. Since eighteen is a homophone for ‘will produce’, this will signify that your business is about to get red hot.”
Manager Wang was in awe when he heard that. The master immediately took out a business card and handed it to him. It said “XXX Goldfish Shop, large-sized and incomparably bright red, all precious and rare species, correspond to the auspicious sayings ‘red hot’ and ‘surplus every year’”.
That very afternoon, Manager Wang arranged to have Big Forest go there and purchase red goldfish. As he neared the fish shop, Big Forest saw the feng shui master by a side door. He was putting up a banner that read “Marvelous Fortune Teller”. There was a fortune teller’s stall under the banner, and four or five idlers sat around gossiping in loud voices. Big Forest was startled and thought, “Isn’t it amazing, running into him here?”
When Big Forest got to the main entrance of the shop, he decided to go around to where the feng shui master was and seek his advice. Before he could, though, someone came up and greeted him cordially. They were tied up doing business with someone who had an appointment. He should first settle on his purchase of fish, then in a short while he could go into the back room to make his payment.
He was a middle-aged fellow with a youthful appearance, the spitting image of the feng shui master. Big Forest was stunned once more. "Could it be that the feng shui master is a phony? Is he really just a fish salesman? You bastard, is this just a vertically integrated business?"
He left after an hour or so, his business finished. Once he was outside he looked around again. The idlers were still chatting, some sitting and some standing. Only the feng shui master was missing.
*[The words “fish” and “surplus” are homophones in Chinese, and a wish for prosperity is often depicted by paintings of koi. See this story – Fannyi]
Translated from here, also available here (Author 019, Story 2)
6. Moving Next Week (下周要入住新办公室)
Self Traveler (自游)
It’s been more than seven months since the March 11, 2011 earthquake in East Japan, but its traces can still be seen in many places. Although many companies’ buildings are still standing, the interior décor was ruined from the shaking and a few walls have some cracks.
Actually, safety considerations have been basically everything these seven months. People have been continuing to work without their offices. At first they worked from home, but later they roamed all around like guerrillas to avoid the nuclear radiation. It’s a good thing the internet is so well developed these days. As long as they could access the net, they had a mighty host at their disposal, so there wasn’t anything to stand in their way.
Once our company cleared out our office interiors, everyone could temporarily move back into the offices that hadn’t suffered too much damage. Thus we’ve passed the last seven months working to the accompaniment of construction noise. Fortunately there were three large laboratories that weren’t damaged much. They could be used well enough that we could make do.
Even in such a difficult environment, everyone was able to create one miracle after another. In fact, for three consecutive quarters, our performance broke historical records. This was a rare thing in a time when the economy was sluggish. With our good performance, the company's stock rose, so I was able to make some money on the few shares I’d been allotted.
I was worried about a repeat of the 2008 “Lehman Shock”, when the financial services company filed for bankruptcy, so my idea was to take a little profit while I could. I sold the shares I had, but threw away my three-thousand-plus option shares that were about to expire. I made a fairly good profit of nine thousand U.S. dollars.
I was feeling a little complacent. I didn’t expect that, when other companies’ stock was losing value, my company’s stock would keep rising non-stop. It eventually reached over one U.S. dollar per share, so the three thousand option shares I’d let lapse would have been worth three thousand dollars! I surely did feel some regret. Seems like the human heart is never satisfied. I guess I can console myself with the thought that I won’t have to pay so much tax.
This week I’ve been busy packing, getting all our lab equipment and office supplies boxed up. This weekend a moving company will help us move to our new office.
Given of the lessons of this year's earthquake, the company made the painful decision to hire a well-known contractor to do the construction. They say the new place is able to withstand a major earthquake of level eight or above. Seven months of "homelessness" can finally come to an end. But I’ll be traveling on business next week, so I won’t be able to enjoy the new office until the week after next.
One of my colleagues is leaving for good, though, after more than twenty years with the company. Last week we gave him a farewell party. Because he had some paid leave built up, he actually hasn’t been to work for two months.
I never knew the guy was such a cool dude. He went on a world tour by himself, starting in Malaysia, then the United Arab Emirates, Britain, France and Spain. He took a lot of photos that made some of the girls in the company get the travel bug. They started clamoring for a trip to Europe to have some fun.
We asked this fellow what he planned to do next, and he said he was going to retire to Thailand and never work again. He’s probably about fifty years old, and to actually retire and not work at that age is a real luxury. He must have a pretty good retirement fund.
7. His Motto (座右铭)
Zhao Yanbiao (赵晏彪)
Richie Li liked this quote from an American scientist the best: "It doesn't matter if scientists fail ninety-nine times. As long they succeed once, they might win a Nobel Prize."* Counting on his fingers, he'd written seventy love letters to Jade Beauty Liu in the year-plus that he'd been pursuing her, but she'd not as yet said how she felt about him.
Jade Beauty's looks were average, but she came from a good family. Her mother was a department head at the Academy of Forestry and Animal Husbandry, and her father was a deputy minister.
Richie grew up by the sea, in a fishing village. He had a good brain and he studied diligently. He had three aspirations after college: first, to test into graduate school; second, to stay in Beijing; and third, to find a girlfriend who would be helpful to him.
He had already achieved the first of these. He was a graduate student and would soon get his degree, so now was the time to complete his second aspiration. He knew that his second wish was intimately related to the third; that is, if he didn’t get his third wish, the second was a pipe dream. This is why he was pursuing Jade Beauty.
His classmate Dragon Feng was also after Jade Beauty. He was born into the family of a high-ranking cadre, and further, he was from Beijing. A big spender with an active mind, he was a master at getting people in the class to like him. Jade Beauty kept both of them at a distance.
On the evening before they were to get their degrees, Jade Beauty asked a few students over to her home for a party. Dragon and Richie were among those invited. Everyone ate, drank and made merry that evening, and the conversation was filled with laughter. Dragon seemed quite knowledgeable and spoke eloquently. Richie helped the family’s nanny clean up the dishes, take out the trash and mop the floor. He was kept busy right up until it was almost time to leave, when Jade Beauty called him over to sing a farewell song with everyone.
Jade Beauty received her ninety-ninth letter from Richie after this party. She’s already made her decision at that point, but she was waiting to see if Richie would write her a one-hundredth letter.
Sure enough, his one-hundredth letter arrived three days later. "While I’ve failed ninety-nine times, I hope this one-hundredth letter can move your heart."
So Richie achieved his dream of staying in Beijing. The scientist’s witticism about failing ninety-nine times was something they talked about every year on their wedding anniversary.
Fifteen years later, Richie had been continuously following the "ninety-nine failures and one success" principle. He’d had clear sailing all along the way, and had always advanced, one step at a time for several years, no matter what failures or setbacks he encountered. He was forty-one that year, and with his father-in-law’s unfailing support, he’d been promoted to Deputy Director of the Forestry and Animal Husbandry Department.
After three more years, the position of full Director fell unbiased from Heaven into Richie’s lap. Most people said it was because of his father-in-law, but some argued to the contrary. They said that he was that class of person and his promotion was a result of his own accomplishments.
Richie attained a success rate of almost ninety percent. Since he was always so successful, his every step was unshaking, and always a stride forward.
Then came the May First Labor Day holiday of 2015. It was also Richie’s and Jade Beauty’s eighteenth wedding anniversary. That night, Richie held a banquet for his wife at private club. "Our family’s always been so frugal,” she said. “How come you’re doing something like this all of a sudden?"
Richie didn’t say anything. He just looked at his wife with a complex expression on his face. He called his son over and said, "Dad’s leaving on a business trip tomorrow. Listen to your mother while I’m gone. Don’t always be arguing with her."
Jade Beauty felt her husband was acting a little strange, but didn’t think too much of it.
After the banquet ended, Richie's secretary came over to Jade Beauty. "The Director asked me to give you this letter,” he told her. “He said he won’t be going home."
*[This may be a paraphrase of a quote from Charles F. Kettering: "An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he's in." – Fannyi]
8. Bathing (洗澡)
He Liwei (何立伟)
When Old Heh was on his way home from work, he was taking steps even heavier than the briefcase he carried next to his ribs. He was walking through a dense crowd and the exhausted city faces swayed in front of his eyes. He thought, when other people get a gander of my face, it probably looks just as pitiful. He felt the full weight of his life at the thought, and it was boring.
The crowd got to a red light and everyone's feet stopped; the light turned green and everyone's feet rushed ahead. Bottom line, whether they were tired or bored, this is how they walked and stopped, stopped and walked. It's something city people have to face every day, and "have to", he thought, makes people feel oh so helpless.
He turned the corner at an intersection and walked onto a secluded street. His goal was to put the tremendous clamor and disorderly press of bodies behind him. As he passed by an old-style courtyard whose front gate was covered in ivy, he heard someone playing a piano.
They played quite well, very sweet-sounding, soft and clear. The music made him think of a primal wilderness in the springtime, a green forest in the mountains with clear, clean streams and birds mildly chirping. He stopped, feeling the breath and the exuberant poetry of nature's and life's beauty.
Every day after that, when Old Heh got off work, he always passed through this quiet street. Every day he stopped and stood before the gate of that old style, ivy-wrapped courtyard. He held his breath in rapt attention and let the sound of the piano flow like water through the dusty wasteland of his heart.
One day his wife happened to pass that way at the same time. From a distance she saw Old Heh standing there, expressionless, and called loudly to him. "Oh ho, no wonder you've been getting home so late after work every day. You've been standing in front of this darn place wiling away your time – You'd best get on home for me right now! You can't get out of dinner tonight!"
On the way home, Old Heh's wife asked him, "What the heck were you doing standing in front of that darn place, huh?"
He thought it over and answered, "Taking a bath."
Her eyes got wide. "What are you saying, huh?" she demanded. "Bathing? Is there a bathhouse in that darn place, huh?"
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_6153f2f80102xa1j.html, fourth story
9. A Flash of Light (亮光一闪)
Horizon Visitor (涯客)
They were carrying their yearnings, him and her, and their hearts were full of hope, when they came from the countryside to the city.
They moved into an eighth-floor walk-up with a kitchen and bath outside the room. They called it a "tiny few square meters." They saw that the sky in the city was the same shade of blue as in the country, and the moonlight was just as bright and clean.... and they wanted to melt into that city.
Time would tell.
They labored, they struggled; they struggled and labored…. and it went like that to the Nth power.
They often thought: they didn’t know several of the big, twisty characters they saw written on walls back in the village, but in the city they’d bought a large condo; they were in the bottom of their class in school back in the village, but in the city they’d bought a condo with three bedrooms, a living room and a family room; and Big Forest’s real estate business was getting going....
And they contemplated: they would be taking care of the previous generation, two sets of parents who were aging rapidly; they would be taking care of the next generation, their young son and little daughter who were already off milk powder and eating regular food; when the kids went to school they’d have educational issues added to daily living costs; they had the expenses of reciprocal obligations owed to relatives and friends in the neighborhood; and they wanted to purchase a "cottage"....
People always talk about things by making comparisons. Coming and going they measure "overall human viability indicators" – with a bunch of things mixed in together.
The couple began to get irritable and anxious, and gradually started bickering constantly, which occasionally developed into a big fight. One time he rushed to the balcony in the soft glow of the sunset, and she followed him, not wanting to appear weak by giving in. A sudden flash of light – a kitchen knife!
The kitchen counter extended out to the balcony, and there was a set of shiny utensils on it. At that time they reflected the sunset’s glow “as red as blood”.
The two of them stopped suddenly, startled. Their anger faded and dissipated.
"I hope we can calm down," they comforted each other, “really!”
http://blog.tianya.cn/blog-3471548-2.shtml, third story (after essays)
10. To Each Her Own (各有千秋)
Horizon Visitor (涯客)
Ice was with a group of girls who were doing their makeup, but she was reading.
Rare Jade was putting on lipstick. She turned to Ice and said, “Wow, Bookworm, get yourself prettied up and marry a successful man, even a phoenix going through his second childhood. Your youth won’t last forever!"
Ice closed the book with her left hand while she straightened her glasses with her right. "Forget it, OK. The competition’s too intense to get into a rut, waiting for that kind of job. I’m better off improving myself through study!”
Rare Jade didn’t see it that way and laughed at Ice for being foolish. "You’re going to have to defeat a whole army of women right now. How are you going to fake being young? You should save your energy and hedge your youth against your future a little more realistically, don’t you know? Going for that job right now is really a serious matter….”
Ice opened the book again and didn’t even turn to look at Rare Jade. "Yeah, right. How about you stay on your sunny side of the street and I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”
"What sunny side?” Rare Jade was astonished. “Last month yours truly found herself a forty-year-old phoenix. Turned out he was a classmate of my mom’s in high school.”
"Oh, is that what happened?" Ice pushed for more information.
"Yes. My mom ended up being adamantly opposed and gave me an ultimatum," Rare Jade explained further.
"Adults make the effort to think things through. That’s absolutely correct!" Ice said righteously.
"God, believe it or not, he was my mom’s first love...." Rare Jade blurted out, not being able to accept it.
The whole group went “ah” at once. They opened their eyes wide and stopped doing their makeup.
Rare Jade was a bit flustered. She stood up and slowly walked away.
Ice followed after her. "Let’s go home."
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9. A Flash of Light
10. To Each Her Own
4. Cloudy to Clear
5. Vertically Integrated
6. Moving Next Week
7. His Motto
Mini-Stories: Gravitas (Page 5)
1. A Hen in 1978
2. Math for "Economics"
3. Old Street, Old Wang
Chinese Stories in English