Chinese Stories in English
4. Getting Engaged
5. Fluent Reader
2. Family Portrait
1. Lover (情人)
Hu Yan (胡炎)
The girl seemed to be red from top to bottom: red hair, red lips, a bright red shawl and vermilion high heels. As she walked along her butt bounced, her feet skipped and her hair swayed. She scored high on both the graceful and the flirtatious scales.
But this girl’s surname wasn’t Hong, meaning "Red"; it just had to be Huang, which means “Yellow.”. Her given name was odd, too: “Oriole", making her full name "Yellow Oriole", which easily brought the old saying to mind: "The mantis stalks the cicada, unaware that an oriole is stalking it from behind."
Almost all the people in the neighborhood knew her. When Oriole passed by, young men’s eyes would stick to her face or her behind like they’d been smeared with superglue, every single time. A glance from her eyes was strange, too – you couldn’t tell if it was admiration, resentment or disdain. But people who were more along in years reacted differently. Old men and old ladies alike, when they got a whiff of the thick powders she wore, would cry out, "Young Siren!"
There was indeed something scandalous about the "Young Siren" Yellow Oriole in the eyes of the old people in the neighborhood. What’s more, it was said she didn’t have a regular job. The places she worked were all some kind of "bar": Internet cafes, nightclubs, pubs.... Yellow Oriole was a good singer, and she danced well, too. She’d gone to an art school and was supposedly best in her class. Thus, her social circle was rather heterogeneous. The boys in whose arms people saw her changed every four or five days, a frequency as high as a galloping horse lantern.
"What a sight!" the old people would shake their heads and say under their breath.
They also blamed the hardships she’d suffered in her life. Her parents had died in a car accident many years before, and she’d had no one to cherish and discipline her. She’d flowed into the outside world early and, like a goldfish thrown into the gutter and stuck there – she could never make it to a river or lake no matter how much she flopped around. It’s all fate, isn't it?
Yellow Oriole seemed happy, though. A smile always rippled across her face, or seemed to, anyway, and the corners of her mouth turned up in a way that seemed just a tiny bit arrogant. When she walked along the road with a cell phone in her hand and earphones in her ear, she’d often hum a little tune in her sweet, melodious voice. Sometimes she’d walk in rhythm with the music in her earphones, with an attitude like no one else was around and the entire world was hers.
But destiny is always chock full of variables and can even change in unimaginable ways. One winter’s day a black sedan drove into the old street. A girl in a scarlet overcoat got out from the car, with an impressive-looking person hanging from the crook of her arm.
That’s right, the girl was Yellow Oriole, but what made people’s jaws drop even more was that impressive-looking person. The neighborhood people had often seen him on TV. He was a big leader, big enough that the neighborhood people could only look up at him in awe. For the life of them, they couldn't understand it. Why would such a great personage be hanging from the crook of the "Little Siren’s" arm?
While the rest of the neighborhood was focused on Yellow Oriole, Old Nine Heh, a tofu vendor, remained indifferent. An old man from the neighborhood felt that was strange. "You only have eyes for tofu?"
"What’s all the fuss,” Old Nine snorted. The guy’s a jerk!"
Old Nine jabbed his knife into the tofu. It seems that the big leader was a distant relative of his. A few years previously, when Old Nine's daughter graduated from college, he went to see the guy and, in a roundabout way, asked him to arrange a job for her. In the end, the guy didn't do it, but Old Nine's daughter had almost been defiled.
"He's an animal dressed up like a leader!" Old Nine pulled the knife out of the tofu and waved it around in the air.
"Well, so this is going to turn out bad for Yellow Oriole?" The old man said coldly.
"Nope!" Old Nine shook his head. "This is going to be Yellow Oriole's big break."
"Why do you say that?"
"You guys don't know it, but a night club singer called Little Swallow White was screwing this guy, which got her smooth sailing into a job as an announcer at the TV station. She went on to get a government job and now she's a Section Chief." He glanced meaningfully at the old man. "You guys for sure know what kind of trash that Yellow Oriole is, don't you? She and Little Swallow White are very much alike!"
At that, the old people in the neighborhood looked at each other in consternation. Heaven only knows what they were thinking, though, because no one said a word.
The Lunar New Year Festival was fast approaching. On New Year's Eve, some explosive news made its way around – charges had been filed against the big leader with the Communist Party's Discipline Committee. This was about the most shocking news ever in history for the old people in the neighborhood, because the big man was connected to a girl named Yellow Oriole, and so naturally it couldn't be kept separate from the old neighborhood where Yellow Oriole lived.
"Did you know?" Old Nine said, "It was Yellow Oriole who took that son of a gun down. Can't nobody figure her out."
All during the Festival, the story of how the "Little Siren" Yellow Oriole had sneaked candid photos of the big leader's private business, revealing his legendary corruption, was told around the old neighborhood. It was the fifteenth of lunar January before people in the neighborhood realized that they hadn't seen Yellow Oriole for several days. Rather unexpectedly, they couldn't help sweating about what had happened to her. This young thing, had the big leader dragged her into his mess?
She returned to the old neighborhood the next day, the sixteenth. She didn't go home, but instead went straight to Old Nine's tofu shop. A group of the neighborhood people were in the tofu shop talking about her at the time.
"Are you ... are you okay, Yellow Oriole?" Old Nine asked.
"Nothing to worry about, not a fart's worth!"
"You did such a big thing, girl. What were you thinking?"
"It was because of your daughter, Spring Dawn Heh!"
"What?" Old Nine was shocked.
"Didn't you know? Spring Dawn and I are besties. I promised a long time ago, if I ever got the chance, I'd take that guy down. He's worse than an animal!"
No one knew what to say. This girl, this "witch of all witches", the "Little Siren" no one had understood, actually had the guts of a gallant knight!
After a long time, a young man holding a cell phone broke the silence. "Yellow Oriole, the net's saying that you're an anti-corruption hero! But they're also saying...."
She grabbed the phone out of his hand. These words glared on the screen: "His lover was anti-corruption."
"Ptui!" Yellow Oriole spat on the floor." I'd never be an animal's lover. It's up to you whether you believe me or not!"
She turned and left. As always, her butt bounced, her feet skipped and her hair swayed. But now the old people in the neighborhood thought her bearing was quite beautiful, especially the waving red hair. No matter how they looked at it, it was like a flame leaping into the air.
Text at p. 44; translated from 刊参考网 at
http://www.fx361.com/page/2018/0111/2674090.shtml, third story, under the name 黄雀
2. Family Portrait (全家福)
Yang Wenli (杨文利)
Mister Jiang is a janitor at our newspaper. He isn’t tall, and has a long, narrow face with a prominent nose, deep-set eyes and thin lips. He looks like a typical fellow from Sichuan Province.
He starts work in the afternoons, and his first task is cleaning the offices. After quitting time, when almost everyone's gone, he cleans public areas like corridors, stairs, water boiler rooms and bathrooms. He's quite busy and has to work until late at night before he's finished. Once when I was on duty, I woke up in the middle of the night and, still half asleep, heard him banging around enthusiastically downstairs.
Since he has mornings off, one could reasonably assume that he sleeps in. He's in the habit of keeping busy though, so he doesn’t. There's a row of modest, one-story buildings behind the office which the Circulation Department uses for storage. The smallest of them, on the east end of the row, is divided into two rooms. The inner one is a tool room. The other one, furnished with a one-person, steel-tube bed and a dilapidated dining table with a broken bench beside it, is a dorm room for Mister Jiang.
Young Qin, a driver for the Circulation Department, hauls magazines from the printer to the newspaper office two or three times a week. Whenever his minivan heads in to the parking lot, Mister Jiang runs over in a rush and, without saying a word, rolls up his sleeves and unloads the magazines. When he's finished, he picks up a broom and sweeps out the van’s cargo compartment.
When he doesn’t have anything to do, he goes to the office to chat with Grandpa Zhou. When the shuttle bringing employees to work arrives at nine o'clock, he runs over to open the iron gate. Around ten o'clock, after the postman comes and Grandpa Zhou is leisurely flipping through that day’s newspaper, Mr. Jiang sits off to the side and sorts the mail with single-hearted devotion. At lunch time, he doesn't head back to his tiny room until Grandpa Zhou comes back from the cafeteria with his own food. Mr. Jiang eats simply, often just a piece of Manchurian-style steamed bread with pickled veggies. Grandpa Zhou repeatedly urges him to go to the cafeteria to eat, but he always refuses because he doesn’t want to spend the money. He says he’s been eating pickles since he was a kid and is so used to it, he'd go crazy if he went a few days without them. Besides, he's more content eating steamed bread than he'd be munching on sweet potatoes every day in his hometown.
For a time, he made himself scarce in the mornings. I saw him rushing back into the compound at noon on several occasions. Later I asked Grandpa Zhou and learned that he’d found a job at a nearby construction site carrying dry cement for the other workers. He got paid only five cents a bag. It was hard, dirty work and no one wanted to do it, but he didn't object to it and wanted the extra money. His son had just received a college admission notice and he had to pay the first semester’s tuition before school started.
In the twinkling of an eye, it was the end of the year. One day it was again my turn to be on duty. Someone knocked at the door, and when I looked I saw Mister Jiang. He kept rubbing his hands together and, in his Sichuan accent, mumbled, "I'm really embarrassed but, I want to ask you to help me." Before he'd quite finish talking, he started to giggle, "tee, hee".
My heart sank as I thought what difficulties he might be having. "Just tell me what it is," I said right away.
His expression brightened quickly when he heard that, and he started to tell me his problem in detail from the beginning. "I saw Young Xie doing a magazine cover in the photo studio this afternoon. It was clearly three photos, but he put them all together in a snap. Goes without saying, it was really lifelike."
For a moment I didn't know what to say. I was thinking, "So it was a composite picture, wasn't it? Why is he telling me this?"
When he saw the confused look on my face, he hurried to take three photos out from his pants pocket. "I want to ask you to go talk to Young Xie. Have him piece together a family portrait for me. You're the graphics editor. They all do what you say."
When it dawned on me what he wanted, I took the photos and promised to do it. After he thanked me, he sat down opposite me and started chatting about this thing and that. Little by little, I learned about his life. It turned out that his wife was from a neighboring village. When her son was eight years old, her man was working in a brick kiln factory and the mouth of the kiln suddenly collapsed. He died without ever waking up. Mr. Jiang was poor at the time, and was still single in his early thirties. Later, a go-between arranged for him to move in with her family as a live-in son-in-law. She was four years older than him and had contracted polio when she was a child.
"Time flies by so fast!" He couldn't help but sigh. "Back then our son was a half-grown kid who didn't know from nothing. Now in a blink of an eye he's become a college student."
I had the same feeling and said, "In another four years he'll graduate from college and your life will be better." He nodded, a happy and satisfied smile on his face.
After our chat, he glanced at the clock on the wall and realized that he should get to work. As I put away the photos, I finally had to ask, "I'm leaving right away to go home for the New Year. Why don't you go to a photo studio to take a family portrait?" I was thinking that, back in his home village, it wouldn't cost much money to have a photo taken.
I didn't expect his answer. "I'd like to, too. I mention it every year when I go home, but my son won't do it." He sighed and started to go out the door. He stopped in the doorway and stood still.
"My son, he's a good kid all around. It's just that he's terribly obstinate."
Text at p. 39; translated from 汉丰网 at
http://www.kaixian.tv/gd/2017/0714/226133.html, under the name 蒋师傅
3. An Old Dude and His Dog (老货和狗)
Gu Juxing (顾聚星)
Great People Heh, a disease control officer, took his big black dog with him no matter where he went. The dog often followed right behind his butt, swinging its head back and forth like it was watching out for an unexpected attack on its master.
Once Old Heh’s mother-in-law asked for some pheasant stewed in ginger, which was said to be a home remedy to cure bronchitis. He cared very much about his mother-in-law’s affairs, so, even though he was a disease control officer and knew full well that killing pheasants was illegal, he sucked it up and led Blackie into the woods outside the city.
He bagged two live pheasants and put each of them into a pheasant carrier. Before going home, he felt nature’s call, so he put the carriers down, walked forward a bit and squatted down. As soon as he did, Blackie went over to the two carriers, picked them up in its mouth and shook them. Old Heh pulled up his trousers and ran over, shouting, but before he got there, the carriers had been shaken open. The two pheasants escaped and flew off.
Old He angrily said to his dog, “They got away because of your greedy mouth. I’m going to beat you when we get home or my name isn’t Heh!”
All he could do was get on his motorcycle and head home with his stomach full of bile. His dog followed behind with its tail between its legs. He hadn’t gone far before he was stopped by a red car, from which several forestry agents emerged. They'd seen the pheasant carriers hanging from his handlebars and knew what he’d been doing, so they showed him their IDs and searched him. They found nothing.
The agents could do nothing but confiscate his pheasant carriers and lecture him. Then they got back in their car and left.
Old Heh turned his head and looked at Blackie. The dog raised its head proudly, panting with its tongue hanging out. Old Heh suddenly gave it a hug. “It’s lucky you were here today,” he said, “or I’d’ve been in deep doo-doo. Did you really know the forestry guys were coming?”
Old Heh treated Blackie like a dear relative from then on. When he had good things to eat, he was reluctant to eat them himself and fed them to the dog instead.
One evening while he was watching TV with the volume turned up loud, he didn’t hear someone outside knocking on his gate. The visitor was his classmate, Old Huang, who’d also brought a friend along. The two were standing outside the courtyard because Blackie had cut them off and, growling fiercely, wouldn’t let them in. Standing outside the gate, they finally decided to go see Old Zhang, another disease control officer, to help them with what they needed.
Later, Old Huang ran into Old Heh and said, “Your family’s big black dog is really fierce. I took a friend over to your place to get your help with something, but that dog wouldn’t let us in the courtyard.” Old Huang told Old Heh, “My friend bought five tons of beef and needed you to issue a quarantine inspection ticket. Issuing the ticket wouldn’t’ve been a waste of time – he’d’ve paid you twenty thousand yuan for your trouble. Since we couldn't get in your courtyard and my friend was in a hurry, we had to go to Officer Zhang, and he got the twenty thousand yuan.”
Then Old Huang added a comment. “What’re you keeping that dog for? Who’ll be willing to go to your place to get anything done from now on?”
Old Heh listened and, since he’d missed out on the convenience fee, he abruptly changed his mind about Blackie. He thought back to that time when it’d let the pheasants escape. “There was nothing strange about it, it was only a coincidence.” So he decided that Blackie was just a dog, and no way could it be as smart as a person, so he didn't want to see the animal anymore.
One day, Old Heh met a man selling mutton. “Want to buy a dog?” he asked
The vendor looked at the big black dog beside Old Heh and asked, "You want to sell this one?"
“Nice dog,” the vendor said. “I’ll take it.”
They agreed on a price of four hundred yuan and put Blackie into the vendor’s vehicle. It lay down and focused its eyes on Lao Heh through a gap in the vehicle’s railing.
But it wasn’t long before a major incident occurred at the Disease Control Center. Officer Zhang was put under investigation. It turned out that the five tons of beef that Old Huang’s friend had purchased was past its expiration date. When they were inspected by the recipients at their destination, it was discovered that Old Zhang had only issued an inspection ticket and hadn’t performed an examination of the goods. Old Huang’s friend eventually admitted that he’d paid Old Zhang a twenty-thousand-yuan convenience fee.
Old Heh broke into a cold sweat when that happened. He slapped his forehead and remembered that he’d sold Blackie. If that big black dog hadn’t stopped Old Huang at the gate, he’d have ended up where Old Zhang was today.
So Old Heh felt that Blackie had saved him one more time. He missed the dog so much his eyes glowed.
Once he went to the country on an inspection job. He came to some grassland and noticed a flock of sheep down a slope from the road. A big dog was running around the flock, and he recognized his Blackie instantly. He got out of his car right away and went down the slope.
The sheep herder appeared and Old Heh immediately recognized the mutton vendor. They started chatting animatedly, each happy to see the other.
The herder said he’d bought the dog to help with the sheep. It was quite smart. When it saw sheep running away from the flock, it would chase them down. Sometimes the sheep wouldn't follow the herder, but the big black dog would herd them into a circle on the meadow by itself.
Old Heh looked at Blackie and was disconsolate. He turned to the herder and said, "Let me buy the dog back and I’ll give you more than you paid."
The herder smiled. “The money’s not important,” he said. “I’ve developed feelings for the dog and can’t part with it."
Old Heh was disappointed to learn that it was impossible to get Blackie back. He went over to the dog to say goodbye to it.
Blackie squatted on the grass looking at Old Heh with its tongue hanging out. Then it swung its head and looked off into the distance. Old He trembled and said, “I’m sorry, Blackie.”
Blackie stood up and glanced at Old Heh. It circled around him, then went to chase after a sheep that had strayed from the flock.
Old Heh left with tears in his eyes. He did seem to have come to a realization, however, as to why Blackie had walked in a circle around him. From then on, he was very conscientious when inspecting meat products. When someone wanted to bribe him, he never accepted. He thought, “Even if I can't be with Blackie, I really can't leave the circle that he drew around me.”
Text at p. 41; translated from 808 故事网 at:
http://www.808gs.com/cqgs/816.html, edited version under the name 一条聪明的大黑狗
4. Getting Engaged (订婚)
Dai Xi (戴希)
They’d romanced online for a year! The young man was from Qingdao and handsome; the young woman was from Changde and pretty. Qingdao is on the coast, while Changde is surrounded by mountains and rivers. They’re both beautiful places.
The young fellow wanted to meet the girl – no, he wanted to marry her. Without telling her, he took a plane from Qingdao to Changsha, then, without stopping, took a train from Changsha to Changde.
He got crazy hungry on the train. He knew that Changde rice noodles were delicious, so when he arrived, he went into a busy noodle shop and ordered a bowl with braised beef. Ah, they tasted great. He was completely sated.
His cell phone rang just as he finished eating. He stepped outside to answer it so as not to disturb the other customers.
After taking the call, he caught an express ride and went straight to see his girlfriend. He was going to use an "ambush" strategy – he’d appear before her instantaneously and give her an unexpected shock. He’d purchased a diamond engagement ring on the sly, without revealing anything to her, and he planned to propose to her like a bolt from the blue and slip the ring right on her hand.
"I wonder, how will Fragrant Zhong react?" he thought happily as he sat in the car. He went to take the ring out of his pouch for another good look at it, but discovered that his pouch was gone, and with the ring with it. The diamond weighed three carats and he’d bought it for three hundred thousand yuan. His cash, bank cards, ID and some other things were in the pouch as well.
Right away, he told the driver to turn around and get back to the noodle shop. He thought that if he’d left the pouch in the shop there was some hope of finding it; if he’d lost it outside the shop, that would be problematic. He berated himself for being so careless. All he could do now was hope for some good luck.
Back at the noodle shop, he searched out the owner like there was no tomorrow. Without beating around the bush, he told the owner that he’d eaten in the shop and had lost his pouch.
"We do have a pouch here, but we need to verify whether it’s yours." The owner looked at him and continued, "The person who lost it has a responsibility to do that." The young man nodded in agreement.
So, the owner asked the young fellow’s name, the color and style of the pouch, and how many of what things were in it. The young man answered without hesitation. The owner turned the pouch over to him only after he finished the inquiry and was sure that the pouch was his.
"Look here, so important a thing, when you’re away from home you need to be careful all the time," the owner reminded the young fellow.
The young man was as happy as he was grateful and immediately took ten thousand yuan from his pouch to reward the owner.
The owner quickly waved it off. "My handsome young man,” he said seriously, “I can't accept a reward no matter what, because I’m not the one who found the pouch. One of my employees handed it to me. And it wasn’t my employee who found it, either. It was a girl who picked it up and turned it in. She wouldn’t leave her name and walked off like a gust of wind. She told us she’d picked it up by the planter box outside the shop. As the saying goes, ‘Don’t accept a reward that’s not deserved.’ Besides, Changde is a highly virtuous city, and why would anyone accept a reward for returning lost property that’s rightfully yours?"
"That’s...." The young fellow was speechless. But a thought crossed his mind and he asked mechanically, “Your business is booming. How many bowls of rice noodles do you sell in a day?”
"About five thousand!" the owner answered with a smile.
"Hey, not bad at all!" The young fellow gave him a thumbs up. “That means, every day customers pay forty thousand yuan for your noodles, right?” The owner nodded.
"The scenery in Changde is great, but the people are even better. Suppose I wanted to do a good deed in return for the kindness of the people here." The young man looked the owner up and down. "Say, for example, I invited the people of Changde to eat rice noodles in your shop for free tomorrow. In other words, I’d pay the full amount for a day’s worth of noodles, five thousand bowls. You wouldn’t turn me down, would you?"
"That...." Now the owner was speechless.
"You absolutely must not object. I really don’t lack for money. What I lack are opportunities to build up merit by doing good deeds!"
The owner saw he was sincere and had to agree.
When opportunity knocks, open the door. The young fellow took out a bank card and used it to make payment. After that he wrote a thank-you note and handed it to the owner.
Then he was silent. This had fallen on him like manna from Heaven. He could indeed still give his girlfriend a heavenly surprise.
But when he brought out the diamond ring unexpectedly and asked for her hand in marriage, she hesitated.
"We’re still young, Splendid,” she said softly. “It’s only been a year, and what’s the rush? Let’s wait a while, okay?"
He was disappointed and upset, but he didn’t want to force the issue, so he gritted his teeth and agreed. "This may be a long battle!” he thought. “It seems Fragrant still has doubts about me."
Who could’ve guessed? The next day, his girlfriend took him on a tour of Changde for most of the day, and her attitude did a complete one-eighty. “I’ve been thinking, Splendid,” she said, her face beaming with happiness, “and I’ve decided to marry you!”
"Marry me?" He suspected he must’ve heard wrong. "Really?"
She nodded firmly. "Yes, really!"
"What happened?" He was happy but confused.
She heaved a sigh. "I know your business in Qingdao is successful. You’re young and rich. But there’re tons of rich bad guys. I didn’t have a handle on what kind of person you are, but now I have my answer."
"Where did you find your answer so quick?" he asked with interest.
“From my WeChat friends.” She smiled, delighted he’d asked. “The story about you buying noodles for the people of Changde has gone viral in my WeChat circle. I intentionally took us by that noodle shop today and saw the thank-you note you wrote. It’s posted outside the shop. The place is on fire and bunches of people have liked you on WeChat. You, you’ve really got it!"
The young fellow laughed happily.
He looked at his girlfriend again and felt that the more he looked, the prettier she got.
Unable to control his emotions, the young man boldly took out the diamond ring. This time, she didn’t hesitate to give him her slender, lily-white hand….
Text on p. 50; translated from 人民网 at
5. Fluent Reader (朗读者)
Yuan Xingmei (袁省梅)
Mom called for Rice Grain to go to the market with her to sell vegetables, but she didn’t go. She was lying over her school workbook beside her bed and, without even raising her head, said she hadn’t finished her homework yet. At the mention of “homework”, her mom didn’t say anything more. They’d got her transferred from their hometown to the school in the city for the sake of her studies, hadn’t they?
As soon as her mother left, Rice threw down her pencil, pushed her book away and ran out to look for Auntie Joy, who lived upstairs.
Auntie Joy was in the courtyard doing her laundry at the moment. The brilliant red and green clothes soaking in the washbasin were like blooming flowers. Rice wanted to ask Auntie Joy to tell her a story. Auntie Joy had told her lots of them, like Grimm's fairy tales and Andersen's fairy tales, as well as Don Quixote and stories from “Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window”. Rice retold those stories to her classmates at school. She often thought, “If I couldn’t tell stories, why would Like Cedars play with me?”
When she’d transferred from her old home to the school in the city, everything was unfamiliar to her: the rooms her parents rented, the street, the school and the classroom, not to mention the students. But talking was even more unfamiliar and upsetting. As soon as she opened her mouth, the students would start laughing out loud, especially Limitless Zhang. That one would imitate Rice’s speech, with her peculiar accent, causing the other students to pound on their desks and knock on their benches like it was colossal joke. Rice was so embarrassed and angry that she lay across her desk, crying, Heaven only knows how many times. But then one day, and she couldn't say exactly when, people stopped laughing when she spoke. More than that, students were always crowding around her to listen to her tell a story. This, of course, was thanks to Auntie Joy.
When Rice called out “Auntie”, Auntie Joy looked up and asked, “Is it Sunday?” Rice said, “Yeah”.
“Is your homework done?”
“No. Tell me a story, Auntie, one of the best of the best stories in the world. I want a story to give to Like. It’s her birthday, today.”
Joy was silent for a moment, then smiled and said, “You’re really smart, Pretty Girl, giving your classmate the gift of a story. I dare say your gift will be the best of the best in the world.”
Rice was happy. If Auntie Joy said it was good, then it must be really good.
Joy shook the water from her hands and told Rice to wait while she went to get a book.
Rice sat by the cistern waiting for Auntie Joy, but her eyes, they periodically glanced at the front gate. She was worried that her mom would suddenly return home. Mom wouldn't let her talk to Joy. No one in the courtyard spoke to her. They all said she dressed too gaudily and her face was painted up like a goblin, and one look would tell you she wasn’t a decent girl. Rice didn’t agree. She liked Joy. Auntie Joy talked slowly and gently, like her art teacher, except the art teacher never looked at Rice. Besides, Auntie Joy liked to spend time with Rice, telling her stories. She did up Rice’s pigtails for her, too.
Auntie Joy came back with a book, "The Little Prince". She told Rice, “Here’s one to tell your classmate. I guarantee she’ll love it.”
Rice leaned against Joy to read "The Little Prince" along with her. Joy turned to page one and read aloud to Rice:
“Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing.....”*
They were only two pages into the book when Auntie Joy got a phone call. She had to go out and told Rice to keep reading on her own. "You're in the fifth grade now and will know all the words in it.
So Rice had to keep reading by herself:
"It took me a long time to learn where he came from. The little prince, who asked me so many questions, never seemed to hear the ones I asked him...."*
Rice read it really fast, and after reading it once, it was still early. She quickly washed her face and stood in front of the mirror trying hard to comb her hair over the left side of her face. She had a scar on her left cheek that she'd got when she was less than a year old. She'd been burned when a pot of oil on her grandmother's stove tipped over on her. The scarlet scar was all wrinkly like someone had inadvertently scrunched her skin. No matter how much she combed, though, her hair couldn't cover the scar. Rice pulled on her hair angrily and stuffed "The Little Prince" into her book bag. She locked the door and ran off to school with the bag on her back.
Like Cedars was there waiting for her at the entrance to the school. Rice muttered to herself, as she sat in Like's mother's car, I only read "The Little Prince" once. How will I be able to tell the story just a little while from now?"
She was rather worried.
But she was really smart, too. She wanted to read "The Little Prince" to Like fluently.
While some man was singing a song to Like, Rice quietly told her friend, "I'm going to read 'The Little Prince' to you out loud." Like told her mother, and her mother stared at the scar on Rice's left cheek, turned down the corners of her mouth and said, "Wait, a woman's going to dance, first."
When the woman finished her dance, Rice again told Like that she was going to read her "The Little Prince". "It's a very interesting story." But Like's mother told her not to be in a hurry, there were still other programs. Rice had no choice but to wait.
She waited until, finally, Like's mother's friends had finished their performances. Rice stood up with “The Little Prince” in her hands to read it for everyone. But Like’s mother and her friends also stood up. They were going to a karaoke bar to sing.
Rice watched as they filed out one by one. No one was there to listen to her reading. Her eyes filled with tears. Like Cedars asked her outside to play, but she didn't go. She stood beside the table, with cups and plates strewn all over it, and held up "The Little Prince". She began to read aloud, smoothly and without any rush, clearly enunciating every word:
"The second planet was inhabited by a conceited man...."*
*[Fannyi – The quotes are from the beginnings of Chapters One, Three and Eleven, respectively, in an English translation (here) by an unidentified translator.]
Text at p. 53; translated from 中工网 at
Long River (page 03)
Stories printed in Best Chinese Mini-Stories 2017
Text at page cited after story; translated from the webpages cited below.
3. An Old Dude and His Dog