1. Moved (感动)
No one else was to blame for this. Teacher Zheng had himself to blame.
People who stick their noses into other people’s business will come to a bad end. There’s no doubt about it.
As an ordinary person, you’ve got to take it in stride when you run into problems. You can’t just up and bother the government. If your home heating isn’t hot or your drain’s clogged or the garbage can’t be picked up on time in your community, or if people open unauthorized restaurants or hair shops or foot-washing shops or karaokes on the first floor of residential buildings on your street, things like that are all just minor problems, not worth looking for some department of the government to resolve. If the government lets such things continue over a long period and doesn’t take care of them, it must surely have its reasons. What do the common people know?
Teacher Zheng was a timid person by nature, and he was known for it in his residential community. He usually nodded and bowed slightly to everyone he saw and was even deferential to three-year-old children. If someone's cat climbed into his kitchen to steal some food, he wouldn’t dare yell at it, but would wait until it’d finished eating and stretched and licked its muzzle and swaggered out again before gently closing his door and windows. Stirring up trouble was what Teacher Zheng feared most, so he never disagreed with his neighbors.
He’d been retired for over two years after teaching primary school students his whole life. He was the educated person in this community. Anyone who had a problem, big or small, would inevitably go to him for his considered opinion, help and guidance. Truth is, all the residents living in the community were quite timid. They were afraid of provoking trouble whatever they said or did.
As time went by, more and more of his neighbors sought out Teacher Zheng, hoping he could help resolve some difficulty. For example, dozens of families indicated to him that their homes had no heat. The radiator stats were as cool in the winter as they were in the summer. Dozens more indicated that cracks had inexplicably appeared in the walls of their homes, big enough to put their fingers in, even though the building was only four or five years old. Still more complained that the environment in the community was so unsanitary that they were afraid to open their windows. Others said the community was unsafe and they didn't dare go out at night, or even that they'd been robbed in broad daylight and simply couldn't carry anything in their hands, even worthless things like radishes and cabbages.
Teacher Zheng listened patiently as they poured out their woes and urged them to look at the big picture. They shouldn't complain to the Street Committees or higher departments. The government had to handle too many things and couldn't address them all. The public interest includes much more than just our neighborhood, but they had to believe the government wouldn't ignore them.
Teacher Zheng not only advised them in these matters, he also took it on himself to go to the municipal utility's Heating Department, the Neighborhood Committees Council, the Sanitation Department, etc. They responded to him warmly and said clearly that this matter was out of their jurisdiction. They very patiently told him to wait, there was nothing to worry about! Teacher Zheng conveyed the relevant authorities' written comments and suggestions to the residents truthfully, hoping they would wait a bit longer. They'd been waiting for so many years, anyway, a few more shouldn't bother them.
Last month, Teacher Zheng learned from the newspaper that the city would convene a Congress of People's Representatives. He was very excited. He's interested in politics and has devotedly followed the special reports in the media whenever the annual "RepCon" was in session. He was grateful to the bottom of his heart to the government for doing so many things for the people. He often wrote down the elegant speeches of the mayor and delegates in notebooks and read them over and over again. Teacher Zheng had always wanted to represent the people to thank the people's delegates, but was afraid to waste their valuable time. Besides, he really didn't know any of them.
This year Teacher Zheng decided to visit one of the delegates. He thought about it day and night for several days beforehand. Which one should he see? He didn't know any of them, but it didn't matter. He could just go to the hotel where the delegates were staying and he was sure to see one of them. He wanted to express his admiration face to face to one of the delegates he had revered for so long, and through those delegates reflect the relevant views of the residents of his residential community to the government departments.
Once this idea germinated, Teacher Zheng found it difficult to sleep at night. He wrote down the things he wanted to say on a piece of paper, changed it and edited it and read it over and over.
The Congress finally opened to the anxious expectations of Teacher Zheng. He located the delegates' hotel the next day. He purposely wore a new set of clothes and neatly combed what little hair remained on his noggin. This was the first time in his life he'd ever entered such a luxurious hotel (said to be a five-star) and his heart went thump-thump, whether from excitement or nervousness he didn't know. He felt like he was one of the delegates himself.
The guard at the door, maybe hotel security or maybe on the staff of the Congress, but anyway wearing a beautiful uniform, waylaid him with a loud shout. Teacher Zheng's knees buckled and he almost knelt down on the floor. He came to his senses and explained why he was there to the young man in the uniform. The guard called some other people over and they steered him into an office in the hotel. He thanked them politely and asked them not to hold his arms, since he'd recovered his strength.
In the office, a group of people in uniforms surrounded him. First they patted down his entire body, and then they even took his shoes off. He didn't understand what they were looking for. He momentarily couldn't think of anything except how red-faced he was that his toes were sticking out of his socks. He felt too ashamed. If he'd known beforehand that they were going to take off his shoes, he certainly wouldn't have come here wearing this pair of holey socks.
Next was a series of questions asked in deep, gruff voices. He answered various questions such as his name, sex, age, ethnicity, workplace, current address and reasons for coming to the hotel. He also showed them all the documents he'd brought with him, including his work permit, proof of retirement, teaching certificate, household registry, identity card and marriage certificate.
Finally they put Teacher Zheng in a police car and took him to some other place. There, again in gruff voices, they asked him the same questions several more times.
He finally got home the next day. It was only after he'd signed the notes of the police interrogation, was fingerprinted and written a letter of assurance that he was allowed to leave.
Teacher Zheng understands clearly. He knows he can only blame himself and no one else. You just can't go see the people's representatives casually because their safety has to be guaranteed. They shoulder the entire city's heavy trust and don't just represent him alone. He believes that all those people wearing uniforms acted correctly and performed their duties to the letter. He was very moved by and admiring of their spirit, and is mulling over the idea of having an embroidered flag made to present to all of them – including the people's representatives and the police officers. But he's worried he wouldn't be able to get the flag to them because, whether they're government or hotel staff, he can't just stroll in through the hotel's front door.
2. Golden Mouth (金嘴)
I was in Beijing on a business trip. I had nothing to do in the evening, so I went to the college to see my old classmate, Big Head Jiao.
“Big Head” is obviously a nickname. It indicates that the size of his head is different from other folks.
He and I had upper and lower bunk beds in the dorm when we were in college. He was the "rambling chatter" in our section and could speak eloquently. Once a conversation got started, it all fell back on him. He could take over the whole room and speak for three or four hours without stopping to take a sip of water. He was a real "golden mouth".
He stayed at the school to teach after graduation. I heard he got excellent results from his lectures, becoming quite respected and lecturing all around the country. His job title was evaluated earlier than others and he’d already become a well-known professor. Students often mentioned him when they got together. They'd say he was born te aching material and has "further developed his congenital abilities".
Big Head’s wife was also in our section at school. If we’d given her a nickname based on the quality of her brain, nothing would have been more appropriate than “Little Head”. No one called her that, though.
We hadn’t seen each other since graduation over twenty years previously. I’d been looking for a chance to hear his "rambling chatter" about all things far and wide, ancient and modern. It was a real joy hearing him speak when we were in school.
Big Head answered when I knocked on the door. "Please," he said, and showed me into the living room. He’d obviously aged a bit. His head had "brightened up" because the full head of thick hair he’d had when young had disappeared.
"Is your wife here?" I wanted to see his other half.
"No," he replied.
"How’s it going? The years have been good to you, right?" I asked.
"Just fine." Big Head’s tone and expression were quite reserved.
"I hear you’ve gotten famous giving lectures. You fly all over the world." I joked, "It must be driving you crazy, right?"
"Thanks for the compliment." Big Head had never previously been so modest.
"I hear you’re making a mint from teaching. Your appearance fees are almost as high as a star singer. Is that true?" I hoped this would start him talking.
"Myths, myths." He shrank back again.
"Do any of our classmates keep in touch with you?" I wanted to change the subject.
"Not many." He only offered two words.
I took a drink of water from the glass he handed to me and looked around his living room. I commented on the furnishings and decorations. Big Head kept smiling and occasionally muttered "uh huh".
After a long silence he finally uttered a complete sentence. "And how are you doing?"
So I had to give him a detailed account of my work, studies and life after graduation. He nodded his head but hardly seemed to be listening, obviously not much interested.
I expressed my views on topics that men with nothing better to do are interested in talking about, things like domestic and international politics, the economy, culture, military affairs, diplomacy and what not, trying to arouse his interest. Remember that this was Big Head’s strength. When these topics were raised back in college, no one else was ever able to get a word in edgewise.
Big Head listened attentively but showed no interest in exploring these topics with me. He just kept nodding and saying "uh huh" or "oh, oh".
I was quite disappointed and regretted that I’d come such a long way to see him.
"How come you aren’t talking. Don’t let me sit here like an idiot chatting with myself. I wanted to hear some pearls of wisdom from the great teacher, you know?" I felt rather ill at ease.
"Voice problems," he said, pointing to his throat.
"Really? Have you seen a doctor? What did they say?" I was worried about him.
"It’s nothing." His tone of voice was calm.
I rambled on, recommending a variety of health care methods and treatment programs for him.
"No need." He waved his hand.
I sat there uselessly for a while longer, then said goodbye.
On the way back to my hotel, I kept thinking there was something odd about his illness. Is he suffering from a terminal disease? In my memory he was a raconteur with a "golden mouth". Unless it was something unspeakable, even the police couldn’t shut off his mouth.
Back in the hotel, my heart was still troubled. I thought about Big Head's illness and couldn't close my eyes the whole night. The next day, I dialed Big Head's wife's cell phone. First I said a few words to comfort her, and then I expressed my concerns.
She laughed for a moment, and then she angrily told me that Big Head's disease was brought on purely by money. It was a strange case of money madness.
According to her, when Big Head began earning a not inconsiderable amount of money from his lectures, he became more and more aware that there was a high gold content in what he said. Now, unless you paid him, he was reluctant to open his mouth, even to the point where normal communication between husband and wife was rare.
She got more and more excited as she talked into the phone, and gave some extreme examples to show how far Big Head had fallen into the money trap. She said one time, when after great effort she'd finally got a chance to chat with him, he'd stuck his hand out and demanded that she compensate him for it. She got mad and slapped his face. He didn't realize that he wasn't teaching a class until he calmed down.
Then last winter, a fire broke out in their kitchen. He ran outside without a sound while she was lying in bed taking a nap. If a neighbor hadn't noticed the smoke in time and shouted "fire", she'd have been burned to death.
"This Big Head, he's simply worthless and I've left him." Over the phone, "Little Head's" voice sounded like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders....
I held on to the phone like a dummy and said "um, uh, er". I couldn't think of anything good to say.
3. Philosophy (哲学)
"Only fools and idiots study philosophy, because philosophy makes people smart. An intelligent man is inherently smart and doesn’t need to study it. The fool has to study it because he wants to get smart.
“All right, I’m retiring tomorrow, so today I’m teaching you my last philosophy class.”
I don’t know if it was excitement or relief, or sadness or nostalgia. Anyway, when he said that, the professor’s voice trembled a bit. He took out a handkerchief (or maybe a sock) and wiped his eyes – more accurately, he took off his glasses with one hand, and with the other he put a handkerchief or sock-like thing up to where his eyes were and wiped.
We neither knew nor cared what the professor’s family and given names were. We students usually called him Teacher Du, but that certainly wasn’t his name. He spent a long time lecturing on the "anti-Düring" or "anti-Du Lin theory", so everyone took it for granted that his family name was Du, and maybe his given name was Lin.
Besides, his family name wasn’t important. From a philosophical point of view, after all, the value of professors clearly doesn’t depend on whether their family name is Zhao or Qian or Sun or Li. It’s enough just to call them Professor, so calling him Teacher Du was actually too verbose.
To tell the truth, we called him teacher or professor only because our study of philosophy wasn’t incisive. Anyone not as stupid and naïve as we were would have just shouted "hey!" no matter who it was. That’s highly generalized, extremely abstract, and suitable for addressing anyone.
When he was young, Professor Du was a buffalo baby, a little kid tasked with looking after a water buffalo. It was the Communist Party and the government that extracted him from the bovine world and sent him to the temple of philosophy.
He was seventeen before he first heard about the notion of philosophy. As he later recalled it, the first time he sat in on a philosophy class, he completely despaired. One mere sentence, "the world is material", brought out the tendency of his personality to split. Day and night, his eyes stayed open as he listed each of the things he considered material on a thick stack of paper: the land is material, houses are material, muck-forks, dog urine, ponds, poplars, stables, chopsticks, tables, heated beds, eyeballs.... he understood clearly that all these things are material, but for the life of him he couldn’t get that air is material. He was confused about anything the physical eye can’t see. If he couldn’t finish the list of all the myriads of weird things he knew of, he felt the statement "the world is material" wasn’t reliable. He lost over thirty pounds trying to prove this sentence.
Later, when his teacher said "A white horse is not a horse", referring to the “White Horse Dialog,” four of the students went mad, each to a different degree. Teacher Du was one of them. He’d only herded water buffalo, but a horse can be considered a related animal and he’d seen lots of them. How could a white horse not be a horse? The teacher tried to give him individual tutoring, but he warned the man to keep his venerable mouth shut. “Unless you’re going to say that white horses are horses, too, you might as well just kill me.”
Professor Du and the three others who shared his view took a year off from school. They entered a mental hospital where they continued to ponder the matter. Professor Du truly had an innate intelligence and a year later he had a great awakening. Since then he’s been enamored with philosophy. The other three students were completely messed up and went from taking a year off to dropping out. They returned home to be farmers, while Teacher Du started afresh in the classroom. He completed his studies and stayed on at school to teach.
Teacher Du lectures at a fairly high level, that is, students generally indicate that they don’t understand what he says. Also, no one wants to listen to marginally relevant lectures this year. They just want to learn skills for making a living, like cooking, accounting and currency counting, so philosophy classes are a hard sell. If no students have registered for a class beforehand, the teacher ends up lecturing to desks and chairs. Any students who did register will beat an early retreat and escape unless security has been told to bar the classroom door. Even if the doors are barred, a lot of students will risk their lives by jumping out of windows, so a not inconsiderable number of students have been injured or disabled this year.
Students who do stay in the classroom don’t listen to the lecture. The teacher goes on and on at the podium while the people below him are busy making noise. The entire classroom turns into a farmer's market. Only a small minority of students behave well – whether they look at comic books or shut their eyes and fall into a deep sleep, they never affect the teacher’s lectures.
Professor Du racked his brains over the question of enticing students into the philosophy classroom. He tried every skill he had to attract their attention and constantly improved his teaching methods. Sometimes he brought a gong to class and struck it at irregular times, or spoke like a rapper to the accompaniment of a small drum. He used all his vacation and holidays for an entire year setting the principles of philosophy to music, and sang the songs to his students. He sang folk songs bel canto. He sang East Beijing drum operas, Hebei clapper operas, Henan zither operas and Shandong pipe operas.... He even bellowed out Shaanxi clapper operas. Many times, to emphasize some important proposition, he’d yelp like a dog or wear masks of a variety of ghosts.
I don’t know whether some problem appeared in philosophy, or if people’s heads these days have been trodden down, but Professor Du risked all his honor and dignity, and even his life, in order to have successors in the institution of philosophy. The results were never evident, though. Almost everyone is unmoved by philosophy.
It’s better, now. Professor Du has retired. Philosophy made his life both full and empty. His inner riches and his haggard outward appearance stand united in opposition.
And he’s got a dog. In the evening – that is, when "Minerva the Owl" takes flight – he and his dog can always be seen out for a walk together. The dog is hideous. It has scabies over its entire body and one leg is lame. It doesn’t listen when its master calls and scurries all around the place. Professor Du holds on to the leash tied around its neck for dear life, calling its name nonstop and cursing it.
Professor Du has a particularly twisted sense of humor. He’s named the dog "Philosophy".
4. The Report (汇报)
When the new mayor returned to the office from a study tour of the districts and counties in his prefecture, he heard a succession of work reports from the various commissions, offices and bureaus in the prefectural government. This kept the heads of those departments seriously busy.
The Mayor had been transferred to this prefecture from another area. The leaders of the various commissions, offices and bureaus knew almost nothing about him and hadn’t yet got a feel for his temperament and disposition. They knew still less about the details and antecedents of his career. For these reasons they were all particularly cautious in handling this matter.
They each sought detailed information from their fellows who had already given their work reports. They were trying to become familiar with the Mayor's leadership style as soon as possible, as well as his interests and hobbies, to better tailor their work reports and leave His Honor the Mayor with a good impression after their first meeting.
Secretary Fu of the Bureau of Culture was scheduled to report to the mayor next to last. The last was Old Jia from the Bureau for the Protection of Relics – Secretary Jia. The Health Bureau and the Education Bureau were just before him and had already made their reports. People said they’d been praised by the mayor, which made Secretary Fu feel a trace of unhappiness.
Old Fu was an old-timer and had been a bureau secretary longer than any of the others. He considered this report more significant than the others did. His many years as a career official had made him deeply aware of the importance of job reports. The initial report was especially crucial when reporting to a new leader. He’d personally mobilized his personnel and coordinated their work in preparing the textual materials, and he had written the outline for the report himself. One by one, he’d deliberated over and verified all kinds of figures, achievements, problems, difficulties and ideas for future work, then deliberated again. He’d spent three consecutive evenings on this before he felt the report was satisfactory.
The report was scheduled for Tuesday morning. Secretary Fu arrived at the prefecture government building early that morning, primed to get going. He was dressed properly and his hair was combed meticulously. He was supremely confident that the report would be a success.
At eight o'clock, Secretary Fu and the other four in his party were ushered into the mayor's office by the mayor's secretary. Director Hu introduced the leadership of the Bureau of Culture to the mayor one by one.
The mayor frowned and reluctantly shook hands with Secretary Fu. Dissatisfied, he asked. "You’re the ‘fu’, the assistant secretary? Why didn’t the secretary of your bureau come?"
"I am the Secretary. My name is ‘Fu’,” Old Fu explained respectfully.
"Principal secretary, assistant secretary, whatever. ‘Fu’ means ‘assistant’, so this is all messed up,” the mayor muttered, frowning.
"All right, start your report,” the mayor ordered coldly. “Time is valuable. Be concise and don’t ramble. I won’t listen to any bull."
"Yes, yes, very good." Old Fu was momentarily nervous. He said to himself, “Where does this punk get off with such behavior? His face is all smiles but he's cold as ice.”
Pretending to be calm, Secretary Fu casually started his report. The mayor impatiently skimmed through the documents he presented without once looking directly at Old Fu.
Old Fu was a bit unsettled but he didn’t dare stop. All he could do was keep a stiff upper lip and continue.
The mayor finally raised his head. "Okay, okay, that’s enough.” He waved his hand to cut off Old Fu’s report.
"What have you been taking? The quality of your report is deficient. The Bureau of Culture doesn’t have any culture. Even your accounts haven’t been cleared. The figures aren’t accurate. Your listed accomplishments don’t ring true. You haven’t grasped the problems. Your thinking is muddled, and it’s not clear where you're going. It’s one big mess…. "
The mayor spat out this venom right in Secretary Fu’s face, then unleashed a stream of abuse at the other leaders of the Bureau of Culture. From beginning to end they were never able to figure out exactly what the errors in the report were, or what had made the new mayor so angry.
Secretary Fu’s face flushed. He was sweating profusely and his blood pressure shot up. His head was spinning, his legs had gone soft, his throat was dry and his hands and feet were clammy. It took all his strength to keep standing straight and smiling. It was every bit as awkward as a situation comedy.
“Fuck!” An idea flashed in Old Fu’s mind. “I was tricked by those other secretaries who gave their reports first. They said the new mayor had an agreeable attitude and was approachable. Shit! He’s a petty dictator.”
Secretary Fu was an absolute wreck when he returned to his Bureau from the mayor's office. He and his assistant leaders went back over the materials in their report and the process of presenting it. They looked for problems, but found nothing. They agreed unanimously that someone must have filed a complaint about the Bureau of Culture with the new mayor, saying evil things about them. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been dressed down so viciously. They vowed to investigate people one by one and never stop until they found who it was.
The mayor couldn’t get over his anger even after Old Fu and the others left his office. He shouted at his secretary, "You saw that creature Old Fu? You saw what he looks like? He looks exactly like the bastard that seduced my wife that year. It tees me off that I didn’t kick his butt!”
5. A Plea for Mercy (求情)
“Let him go, Comrade Policemen. He’s still young. Yes, he did hit me, but I can’t entirely blame him. I was in the wrong, too. Look, I can raise my arm now, and I can even move my right leg. My four broken ribs are almost healed.
“The vision in my left eye isn’t as fuzzy as it used to be. The injury to my eye was all my fault and can’t be blamed on the young guy. There wouldn’t have been any problem if I hadn’t ducked when he smashed the brick on me. It would’ve hit me between my forehead and the bridge my nose and wouldn’t’ve been anything. My bones are hard there. The brick hit my eye only because I moved my head, and you can’t blame that on him.
“Comrade Policemen, as old as I am, I’ve never told lies in my whole life. I swear to heaven, you’re wrong. He didn’t beat me every day. There was only a little physical contact every now and then. You can go ask the neighbors on my street if you don’t believe me.
“I’m not lying, Comrade Policemen. I'm really okay. I haven’t been abused or beaten. I don’t usually eat much, you can’t believe the gossip. Sometimes I might only eat one meal in two or three days, but it’s because I want to lose weight, not because he wants to starve me to death. Look at this body, no problem at all. Sure I’m a little thin, but that’s healthy. How can you say that he gave me a serious beating? You didn’t see it, did you? I don’t need to use a crutch. And there’s no problem whatsoever with my internal organs. Look at what the doctor wrote for proof.
“Comrade Policemen, he hit me because I started it. I first raised my hand against him twenty years ago. He was only 5 years old and was being a bad boy. He took a fruit knife and stabbed the neighbor's little girl in the thigh. I kicked him, right in front of God and everybody. I regret it now, whenever I think about it. I shouldn’t’ve kicked him, and especially not in front of others. It did such harm to his young mind!
“Comrade Policemen, absolutely do not lock him up. He’s only twenty-five, just a child. Think how much he can still do for his country! Hey, blame it all on me. If I hadn’t shouted for help, how would you guys have ever found out? Oh, maybe you guys don’t know yet. He’s my son! If you put him in jail, my relatives and friends and neighbors will kill me with their laughter. How could I face them? And how could I ever face his poor departed mother? I beg you, all of you, let me take my son home. He really is a good boy. He just doesn’t have much sense.
“Comrade Policemen, are you asking me about his mother? His mother was my wife, my old lady. She died five years ago, when my son had just turned twenty. He didn’t hit his mother very often, I can swear to that. She died suddenly, because she was doing something and wasn’t careful. She was standing on the balcony hanging clothes out to dry and her heel slipped. My son was joking around with her and gave her a little nudge. She fell off the balcony and died.”
6. Taking a Photo (照相)
“Ladies and gentlemen, please relax and smile. You’re too serious. Come on, everybody look at me. That’s right, like this, with your mouth stretched slightly toward the corners. No, not like you, the fifth gentleman from the left in the back row. Your mouth is stretched too big, a little like a lion roaring. Good, good. No, I didn’t mean you. Hey, how come you’ve all stopped smiling?
“Ok, don’t be nervous. We’ll try again. Look at me. It’s like this. No problem, smiling won’t split your lips. It won’t harm you. Oh, man, how come you all look like you’ve lost your wallet? You're all frowns. Think good thoughts, like, your son’s gone abroad to study, or your daughter’s married a rich guy, or your husband got a promotion, or your wife struck it rich, or a big meat pie just fell out of the sky.... Look how happy I am. Good. Now smile. You’ve got to smile. Your whole face should beam!”
“Hey, what’s going on? What are you crying for? You, what are those tears you’re shedding, hunh? It’s infectious. This is really terrible. Okay, my God, don’t you all start sobbing. What? Your husband got laid off? Your son dropped out of school? Your wife ran off with someone? What? Your daughter got hit by a car? And you, the loud one. Oh, you’ve got cancer? … Oh, my God, don’t say any more. I can’t stand it.
“Come on, everybody, things’ll certainly be better tomorrow. Let’s forget all our troubles. Dark clouds can’t hide the sun forever. The river keeps flowing even if the mountain stands still. Flowers will be blooming in the next village. If winter’s here, can spring be far behind? Come on and wipe away your tears, everybody, and show us those bright smiles. Come on, watch me. All together now, smile! Ha, ha, ha! Are you all mutes? You can’t even learn to smile? You look like you’re wailing at a funeral. Can’t you look a little bit like you enjoy seeing old friends at a class reunion?
“Smile, already! If you don’t smile, I’ll tickle each one of you. And if you still don’t laugh, I’ll tickle the soles of your feet. In the whole world under the sun, I don’t believe there’s anyone who can’t smile. Okay, you first. The lady in the middle of the first row. You’ll look ten years younger when you smile. Smile and take ten years off. Come on, when you walk down the street, you’ll have I-don’t-know-how-many young fellows following you. What? Don’t mumble. What are you muttering? Oh, sorry, I didn’t know you’re an old maid.
“I beg you, all of you, lighten up and give me a smile, all right? Just to show me some respect, okay? I’ll kowtow to you. If you still don’t smile, if you don’t, let’s do this. I almost forgot. I get stupider when I’m anxious. I do have something I can do. Everybody please say this along with me, ‘Cheese!’ Okay, come on, ‘Cheese!’ No, no, not ‘choose’, 'cheese', like in 'Swiss cheese!' One more time. 'Swiss – cheese!' No, that’s still not right. It’s not ‘swap choose’. God, I don’t know if the problem is my accent or your ears!
“Forget it. If you won’t laugh, you won’t laugh. Don’t blame me if the picture comes out looking like everyone’s dead. All right, everyone look up here at me.” Click.
“Fuck! What a screw-up. Really lousy luck. I forgot to take off the lens cover. Crap! Everyone stay where you are!”
"Ha, ha, ha...." The crowd finally broke out laughing.
7. Eyewitnesses (目击)
According to eyewitness Mr. Wang (a middle-aged man) he witnessed the entire robbery in the "Common Man’s Mall”.
He said it was eight o'clock in the morning on the eighth day of August, the eighth month (three 8’s supposedly making it a lucky day). He was on his way to work when his attention was drawn by the sound of firecrackers. He stopped his bicycle and stayed to watch the opening ceremony of the "Common Man’s Mall”.
The area wasn’t very large but there was a lot going on. Red lanterns were hung in the doorway of the mall and flower baskets lined both sides of the entry. The owner and his staff stood in a neat line welcoming the first batch of customers into the store with smiling faces.
Suddenly seven or eight men rushed out of a small white van parked in front of the mall. They kicked over the flower baskets and went inside. All he could hear was the bang-bong sound of things being smashed. Then he heard cries of “I’m being beaten” and “Help me!” After that the men swarmed out of the store with sticks in their hands and carrying what looked like cartons and cartons of cigarettes tied in bundles.
Mr. Wang said, “I thought, ‘What rotten luck! The place has just opened and gets robbed.’ So I called the police crime-reporting line. That’s what happened.”
According to eyewitness Ms. Li (an elderly woman) she also saw the entire robbery at the "Common Man’s Mall”, including the beating of the store clerk.
She said it was probably at 11:00 on August eighth. She was about to make lunch but found that she’d run out of soy sauce at home, so she hurried out to the recently opened "Common Man’s Mall” to buy some.
Suddenly, just as she was about to pay, she heard a female clerk shout, "How could you forget the bill?!" She turned to look and saw three or four men all rush up to the girl at once. They punched her and kicked her while she was down on the floor rolling around. A colleague rushed to pull them away but was also beaten fiercely by the brawny men with sticks that they pulled out from their waists. One after the other they beat him until blood flowed from his head. The criminals then took some loot from the store and swaggered out the door. They got into a small sedan and took off.
The old lady said, “I was so scared my knees were shaking. I even dropped the bottle of soy sauce on the floor and it broke.” That’s what she saw.
According to eyewitness Zhang (a grade school student), he saw the entire robbery and beating at the "Common Man’s Mall”. He was willing to swear to his teacher that everything he said was true.
He said he’d gotten out of school and was on his way home shortly after 5:00 pm on August 8. As he was passing by the “Common Man’s Mall”, he decided to get an ice cream and hang out in the new place. He walked around the store for a long time, maybe twenty minutes or more, because he didn’t feel like going home and listening to his mother nag him about his homework.
All of a sudden five or six people burst in. There were men, and women, too, but mostly men and fewer women. First they took turns in front of the shelves looking at the goods. They picked stuff up and pinched it and felt it and smelled it, and finally they each put stuff in a lot of bags and headed outside. The lady at the cashier’s counter wanted them to pay, but a guy who looked like a big grizzly took out an electric stick and knocked the lady down. The other ones had sticks, too, and they bunched up around the lady and kept hitting her. Then they stalked off.
“No, they also took a man with them, probably the store owner.” The student said he really wanted to be like Zorro and run over and kill all those bad guys with his sword, but he was afraid he couldn’t beat the whole bunch, so he had to slip out and call the police.
The next day’s evening paper reported that, on the previous day, the newly opened "Common Man’s Mall” had adopted a violent attitude to resist the law on three occasions during legal administrative inspections by the Tobacco Monopoly Bureau, the Trade and Industry Bureau and the Inland Revenue Department, respectively. The relevant departments have thus revoked the business license of this shop, which was only open one day, and detained the owner and other perpetrators involved.
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