Chinese Stories in English
5. Can't Get a Light
6. More Gusto
7. Deadly Lunches
8. The Bag's Empty
9. How'd We All Fail?
10. Mothers' Day Gift
1. Vigilant Mindset
2. Reason for Bonus
3. Li Kui's Cheating
1. A Vigilant Mindset (防范心理)
Liu Lang (刘浪)
Sunday I went into the city to see a former classmate, and on the way home after dinner I ran into a traffic jam. By the time I got back to town, the last bus to my factory had already left. What could I do? It was seven or eight miles to the factory, and that town didn’t have any taxis, so all I could do was get a motorcycle.*
But the thought of taking a motorcycle made me apprehensive. I’d just heard about an employee of a nearby factory who was going home late recently and had taken a motorcycle. On the way he’d been robbed by the driver and a gang of his buddies who were lying in wait by the side of the road. They’d taken all his money and stabbed him to boot.
But the idea of not taking a motorcycle, and walking home on that dark and secluded byway, was just as scary. I thought it over and decided to be brave for once. I didn’t believe my luck would be that terrible. So I picked a guy with a local accent from the motorcyclists waiting around, negotiated the price, and away we went.
The bike shot forward, lightning fast, and all I could hear was the wind in my ears. After a few twists and turns, I noticed that we weren't on exactly the right road, so I shouted, "Hey, Mister, we're going the wrong way. Why'd you come this way?" I yelled a few times before the guy said coldly, "We're going the right way. This's a shortcut. It's quicker."
My heart was pounding, "ge-deng". If anything happened in this desolate place, I'd be up the creek without a paddle. Of all things, just then the guy got a phone call. I couldn't understand what he was saying in the local language, but I did get the last two words clearly: "Hurry! Hurry!" What did that mean? I started to panic.
After we'd gone a ways farther, my phone also rang. It was a friend from work who wanted to set a time to play cards. An idea struck me. I put on a thick southern accent and made a bluff. "I won't be long, Boss. Get the car and pick me up by the road. I'm taking a shortcut. Be there in a few minutes." Then I hung up my phone.
The bike somehow seemed to be slowing down. We stopped with a "clunk" in the middle of some fields. My whole body was quivering as I quickly took stock of the valuables I had with me – a phone worth more than a thousand yuan, over three hundred yuan in cash – that was it. If this was robbery, it wouldn't be worth it to put up a fight. Chalk it up to bad luck. I'd just ask them to leave me my ID card.
The guy said his bike had a problem. He squatted down and made a show of checking something. I was covered with sweat as I looked around, afraid that gangsters with knives would be jumping out of the weeds.
Just then I noticed that the bike didn't have a license plate. The guy was wearing a helmet with the visor down so there was no way I could see his face. I cursed my stupidity for not being more vigilant. How could I have picked this guy to drive me!
He dawdled around for a while, then stood up and said, "Seems like the engine's got a little problem. I'll push it to try and start it." He pushed it forward a few steps and, surprise of all surprises, it started. He drove it about ten meters, then came back to me and said, "Ha, ha, I've travelled all around this country and I know how to be careful. You got someone up ahead waiting for me? You think you're gunna rip me off? No way!" With a roar, the motorcycle flew off back the way we'd come....
*[To make extra money, men who own motorcycles wait around bus stops to give people rides to their final destinations. They’re generally rather expensive by local standards – Fannyi]
Translated from 浪不起来. Also available from Story China at
2. The Reason for the Bonus (这个奖有原因)
Liu Guangrong (刘广荣)
Chief Zhang was the boss the year I was hired on at the company. His father-in-law was a typical farmer, plowing and planting his fields and raising chickens and pigs, and he provided our year-end bonuses that year.* We each got two parcels of rice, six rashers of pork belly, and eight free-range chickens, plus things like peanuts and Chinese yams. Ha ha, those kinds of annual bonuses were environmentally green, absolutely!
It wasn’t long before Chief Zhang was replaced as leader by Chief Tang. His wife worked in a supermarket selling instant noodles with chili sauce. Chief Tang never put on airs. He was very concerned about his employees’ welfare and made the rounds every few days to chat it up with everyone. Several hundred people in the unit often went to his wife’s supermarket to buy instant noodles with chili sauce. We even got instant noodles with chili sauce for that year's Spring Festival bonus.
Chief Niu became the boss at our company a few years later. Suffering from the effects of the financial crisis, the company wasn’t able to carry on its usual business. Most of the time we’d work one day and then have several days off. Everyone was panicky and afraid that Chief Niu would start “frying squid”, that is, giving people the sack. The company paid high wages, so no one wanted to lose their job there. We didn’t dare think about a year-end bonus.
Early in the morning on December 23rd of the lunar calendar, a paper notice was posted on the company’s door. People crowded around talking about and analyzing it. I squeezed into the crowd for a look and read:
“To our colleagues, thank you for the contributions you’ve made to our company. We are facing difficulties at the moment. For this year's annual bonus, everyone will receive four pairs of shoes. We hope everyone will understand....”
We didn’t learn until later that Chief Niu’s girlfriend had just opened a new shoe store.
Chief Niu was transferred last year and Chief Hu came on board. As Spring Festival drew near, everyone was engrossed in speculations about what our annual bonus would turn out to be. Young Chen spoke first and said that we’d get a red envelope filled with cash, since business had been good this year.
Miss Ying, who is always up on the latest news, followed with her own comment. Since Chief Hu was into physical fitness, she thought, the bonus would be either treadmills or dumbbells....
Old Wang broke our collective disappointment by announcing in a clear voice, "I think this year's bonuses will be small cars!"
We were more than a little surprised. "Why?"
“I’m sure you all remember,” he said with confidence, “when Chief Tang's wife was selling instant noodles with chili sauce, our annual bonus was instant noodles with chili sauce. Chief Niu’s girlfriend sold shoes, and shoes became our bonus. I asked around and found out that Chief Hu’s wife sells small cars, so what else could our bonus be?”
"Cars are so expensive! You’re dreaming!" The heavens were shaking with the sound of everybody talking at once. It almost blew out the office windows.
Just then Chief Hu came strolling into the office. He patted Old Wang on the shoulder and said with a laugh, "You guessed it! Our bonuses this year are indeed small cars! Toy cars!"
We stared blankly at each other, too stunned to say anything.
Chief Hu smiled. "I know you all have wives and children,” he continued. “Your kids will be so happy when you come home for the Spring Festival with the little cars.”
Turns out Chief Hu's wife is a sales rep for a toy factory that specializes in "small cars".
*[Annual bonuses are standard in Chinese companies. Fannyi’s mother-in-law, an 87-year-old lady who was widowed over twenty years ago, still gets bonuses from her husband’s employer. She recently received four cases of Tibetan Barley Beer which her sons and son-in-law enjoyed tremendously – Fannyi]
Translated from 分节阅读1, also available at 超级云的博客
under the name 终年奖, http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_6035326a01017rl8.html, first story
3. Li Kui's Cheating (李逵作弊)
Gui Jianxiong (桂剑雄)
[Fannyi's note: The characters in this story are fictional members of the Liangshan Heroes outlaw gang in the classic novel 'Water Margin'.]
When Song Jiang saw that Li Kui, Lu Zhishen, the Yuan brothers and the others were unlettered, he asked the Military Adviser, Wu Yong, to set up a literacy class to educate them. Li Kui and some others had always been opposed to the idea, but since their brother Song Jiang wanted them to, they thought it best to go with a stiff upper lip to literacy class every day.
It should be noted that Wu the Pedant, who had formerly been a school teacher, had rather good teaching skills. A lot of the Liangshan Heroes had taken off the illiterate's cap in one swoop by studying with him. Lu Zhishen, for example, who once killed Zhen Guanxi with one blow and had not even recognized his own name written on a wanted poster while he was on the lam, had learned to compose a eulogy by hard study in a literacy class before he passed away.* Li Kui, the Yuan brothers and that group, however, wouldn't even begin to study.
After the literacy class had been going for a period of time, Song Jiang told Wu Yong to issue paper to give them a test. He said he would personally act as proctor for the test. Wu Yong couldn't rightly disobey and therefore agreed without reservation. Li Kui and the others panicked when they found out. In desperation, some went and pestered the Military Advisor to get the test content. Others went to Shi Qian or Yan Qing and asked them to steal the test papers and write the answers....
Because they had answers written out in advance, during the test the students all had their heads buried in their test papers and were busy copying their answers. Song Jiang, not knowing the reason, was quite happy to see that none of them was looking around, so he relaxed his vigilance a bit while he was proctoring the exam.
When almost all the test papers had been turned in, a concerned Song Jiang walked over to Li Kui to see how he was doing. Unexpectedly, just as he was approaching Li Kui, he noticed a scrap of paper filled with the test answers at the man's foot.
He pointed at the paper unhappily. He asked Li Kui, "How could you have done such a thing?"
Li Kui quickly defended himself, "I'm telling you, Bro', this paper isn't mine!"
"Not yours?" Song Jiang shot back. "Then how come it's at your feet? As my brother, you understand: full well. If you dare do something, you've got to dare to take responsibility! If you admit right now that this note is yours, I'll consider not punishing you; if you don't, don't complain when I treat you bad!"
"Don't do me wrong, Bro'! This paper really isn't mine!" Li Kui was acting grieved to get himself excused, while at the same time he hurried to take out another scrap on which the answers were written. "See, Bro'," he said, "this here is mine!"
Seeing how charmingly naive Li Kui looked, Song Jiang, who had been so stern, couldn't help but laugh.
*[Author's footnote: Because of the discrepancy between the earlier and later descriptions of the Flowery Monk Lu Zhishen's illiteracy, many sharp-eyed readers believe Water Margin's author, Shi Nai'an, wrote a character incorrectly. The questioning and arguing continue to this day.]
The Best of Chinese Humorous Writings, 2015, Guan Heyue, Anthologist, p. 286
Translated from version at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4b03fbe70102vgwe.html
4. Teasing (逗乐儿)
Horizon Visitor (涯客)
I’d just gotten off work and was at the street corner by the front entrance when I bumped heads with my colleague Big Forest and his wife. She'd just come home from visiting her parents.
"Hey, Big Forest, who’s this?" I looked at his wife.
"She’s my wife. You can call her 'Sister', Little Wang," he answered with a laugh.
"No, really?" I looked her over thoroughly, then said happily: "She doesn't look like the sister I saw you with last time. What, did you trade her in?"
"Yeah, ha ha.... That's a lot of hooey!" Big Forest also looked at his wife. He had a twinkle in his eye.
"Even if I loaned him the balls, would he dare do that? Heh, heh." His wife laughed casually, but then continued, "I'm away from Big Forest for a few days and he goes and has himself some experiences. I'll settle the score with him before long!"
"Torture him.... Make him kneel on a washboard!" I agreed right away.
"Kneeling on a washboard, that'd sure take some effort!" he responded.
"And kick him out of bed at night!" I continued, not letting the subject drop.
"I like sleeping on the floor, anyway!" Big Forest made a joke.
"That.... That's the way it’s going to be!" his wife said jokingly. "You'll see how I straighten things up when we get home!"
"Ha, ha, ha...." The three of us were laughing.
We went our separate ways on that note, with the laughter lingering in the air. But I looked back quickly – just in time to see Big Forest's wife twisting his arm behind his back....
5. Can't Get a Light (找不到火)
Sun Daorong (孙道荣)
Suppose a man pats and prods all over his own body, and turns all his pockets inside out. Or maybe he dumps out all the contents of drawers and boxes at home or the office. He's sweating with nervous anxiety and has a dull look in his eyes, like he's in a trance. What is he looking for?
He's looking for a light!
Only one thing in the world makes a smoker more miserable than not having cigarettes with him – having cigarettes but no light. Without cigarettes, he can temporarily give up his oral addiction. It's much more unbearable to have a full pack of cigarettes in his pocket and coolly pull one out, contentedly dangle it in his mouth, but then suddenly discover that a way to light it is nowhere to be found. It's like a thirsty person facing a vast sea of salt water. It makes him feel so frightened, anxious and helpless.
Often, the longer he goes without finding a light, the greater the urge for a cigarette becomes. Having smoke come out of his throat suddenly becomes a matter of utmost urgency. He goes out of his wits, and at such a time a source of fire can definitely save a life. However, pockets, purses, drawers and tables, all the usual places, fail to produce a lighter. This moment, when there's no trace of a light, is really a life-threatening situation.
"Look! Keep looking!"
But if he still can't find a light, what can he do?
There are always multiple solutions to any difficulty, especially for people who smoke and are inundated by their addiction but can't find a lighter. Such people bring their intelligence and ingenuity into play to find a variety of alternatives for lighting their smokes.
The first thing he thinks of, which is also the easiest solution if he's at home, is to turn on the gas stove and use it to get a light. Almost every smoker, at some time when he was unable to find a lighter, has had the experience of igniting a gas stove to use the flame. It's a simple and effective method, but it also carries a small risk of accident. Should the smoker be too hasty or the fire roar too high when he draws near to the stove with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, his eyes are often assailed by the leaping flame, even to the point where his eyebrows are seared, leaving an unforgettable mark. However, at least now he can ride to Heaven on a cloud, so why should a tiny little accident bother him?
If he's in a place where there's no gas stove, or the gas stove itself needs to be lit by an open flame, what then? There are ways here as well. Many people have lit their cigarettes with an electric appliance. One man got out an electric soldering iron. After the tip turned red, it was a simple matter to touch his cigarette to it.
Another fellow plugged up the air intake of a hair dryer. He let it buzz away for a while and, soon, a burning smell came out of the blower end. He forced a napkin inside and it caught fire.
These aren't the most dangerous methods for getting a light. One old addict couldn't find a lighter when his addiction flared up, but he didn’t have a gas stove, soldering iron or even a hair dryer at home. In desperation, the old addict risked his life. He took two live wires from an electric socket to get a light. The wires sparkled bright enough to hurt the eyes, but unfortunately, the sparks were short-lived and his cigarette didn't get lit. The circuit shorted and the power went out, so he had to suffer through a long night in the darkness.
The most technological method for getting a light that I've heard of is this: An internet user with a serious addiction had been looking all around for a light, without success. While facing the computer screen with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, racking his brains, he finally came up with a brilliant scheme for getting a light. He opened the computer mainframe, removed the cooling fan, and lit his cigarette on the CPU after it got smoking hot. If he uses this scientific spirit in his research, I figure he'll go even farther than Bill Gates.
Of course, there are also romantic ways to get a light. Once a friend of mine was staying in a farmhouse in the countryside. Late one night, he couldn't sleep and wanted a cigarette, but found that his lighter was gone. He didn't have the gall to wake up the owner, so what could he do? He groped around the mattress, then slapped his head, "Got it!" He pulled a wisp of cotton from the mattress, found himself a small stick, wrapped the cotton around the stick and then rubbed it back and forth on the bed board. He rubbed and rubbed and rubbed. All things come to he who waits, and before his hands started to bleed from the rubbing, smoke finally came from the cotton. It was on fire!
As you can imagine, when my friend was able to get a light by rubbing a stick in the pitch-black countryside night, and take a deep, unhurried drag on his cigarette, that feeling, it was such happiness, such satisfaction, such a sense of accomplishment.
Once, when I drove home in the middle of the night and parked in the underground garage, I saw my neighbor rushing down wearing pajamas. When he opened his car door and started the car, I thought he was going out on some emergency. But after the car had been running for some time but not moving, I watched him sitting in the driver's seat as he pulled out the cigarette lighter and lit a cigarette. Turns out he'd come down to get a light from his car. I got out of my car right away and gave him my lighter.
I saw a really hot post on the Internet. It was about the dilemma of smoking but not having a light. There were a lot of comments in thread from people talking about their own similar experiences, as well as their own ways of getting a light. One comment suggested that if you can't light the cigarette, why not take the opportunity to simply quit smoking? As a matter of fact, I think that's a very good suggestion. What do you think?
The Best of Chinese Humorous Writings, 2015, Guan Heyue, Anthologist, p. 111
Translated from version at http://xsrb.xsnet.cn/epaper/html/2015-04/21/content_8_5.htm
6. More Gusto (较劲儿)
Horizon Visitor (涯客)
Second Cow brushed back the hair that had fallen across his brow, plucked up his black, western-style suit and wiped his lips with half of a paper napkin. He stood up, waived his arm and, damn ---- let out a puff of breath.
"Hey, those roasts at the Purple Splendor Resort, have any of you guys tried them?" He looked around at everybody one by one, skipping no one.
"Have you heard about their crystal roast duck?" He lifted his right arm and waived it with a whoosh, then stopped it abruptly in mid-air and continued to hype the restaurant as though it were a crane in a flock of chickens.
"It's a super-translucent slab of crystalized meat with 98% pure alcohol underneath it. After it's roasted, that duck's the color of bee's wax and oh, so crispy, with a particularly authentic local flavor, right as rain! – Has everyone heard of it, or not?" He was flamboyant, and what expressive eyes!
"Hold it!" Iron Egg had been drooling and when he shouted the spittle sprayed. "I heard that yesterday a woman ran naked down Beijing University Street...."
"Ah, really? Don't embellish!" Second Cow paused.
"It's called 'streaking'. You understand? She took off all her clothes and strutted all over the place. Tut, tut. Well, I heard about it! Ha, ha...." Iron Egg deliberately went into an exaggerated swagger.
"That can't be!" Second Cow fought back stubbornly. A look of resentment crossed his face.
"Yeah, I thought so, too!" Iron eggs nodded vigorously. He looked fully victorious as he responded to Second Cow.
Second Cow was embarrassed.
Iron Egg laughed out loud.
http://blog.tianya.cn/post-3185941-27700039-1.shtml, first story
7. Deadly Lunches (要命的午餐)
Four Dimensional Sheets [Compiler/Translator] (四维俱张 [编译])
Three construction workers were working on the top of a twenty-story building. One was Irish, one Mexican, and the other was a blonde, blue-eyed Italian. They'd each brought insulated lunch boxes from home and, at noon, they took them out of their satchels and proceeded to eat lunch.
The Irishman opened his lunch box, took a look and said with a frown, "Next lunch, if my wife gives me salted beef and cabbage again, I'm going to jump off the twentieth floor."
The Mexican opened his lunch box and saw it contained Mexican pancakes. He frowned and said, "Next lunch, if I have more Mexican pancakes, I'll jump from the twentieth story, too!"
The blonde Italian looked unhappy when he opened his lunch box. He said, "If my next lunch is another sausage sandwich, I'll jump from the twentieth floor, too."
The next day at lunchtime, the Irishman opened his lunch box, saw salted beef and cabbage again, threw the lunch box down and jumped from the twentieth story without uttering a sound; the Mexican opened his lunch box, saw Mexican pancakes inside and, without saying a word, also threw down his lunch box and jumped from the twentieth floor; finally the Italian opened his own lunch box, heaved a heavy sigh when he saw the sausage sandwich inside, and like the other two, jumped from the twentieth floor.
The construction company held a memorial service for the three men. Their wives attended the service.
The Irish wife wiped her tears as she said, "It's all my fault! If I'd known that my husband hated salted beef with cabbage so much, I definitely would've given him something else for lunch."
The Mexican's wife wailed, "If I'd known my husband was tired of Mexican pancakes, I definitely would've given him something else to eat for a change."
When she saw that everyone's eyes were focused on her, the Italian's wife shook her hand rapidly and said, "This had nothing to do with me. My husband always made his own lunch."
The Best of Chinese Humorous Writings, 2015, Guan Heyue, Anthologist, p. 327
Translated from version at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_62db798b0102wdde.html
8. The Bag's Empty (面袋空了)
Horizon Visitor (涯客)
Me and my husband were bickering and he proceeded to fix himself a "late night snack". He banged around making a big pot of something with a huge chunk of raw garlic in it. He was quite proud of himself.
I escalated my attack with an ultimatum: "You eat that raw garlic and get bad breath, you’ll be sleeping on the floor tonight!"
"I like sleeping on the floor,” he retaliated. “It’s cooler!".
I was tempted to take the bowl and straighten him out a bit, but I looked and saw there was only a half bowl of noodles left, and a few cabbage leaves floating on top of the soup. I shouted: "You might as well go ahead and finish it off!"
My husband burped as he tossed off an answer. "If I wanted to eat my fill, I’d have to have another big bowl!"
Our son had been watching TV. Now he came over and kicked the bag. "Well, Pop, you’ll have to go shopping tomorrow. Your bag of noodles is empty!"
My husband, who was slurping his soup, almost gagged....
[Your translator took poetic license with this one, but couldn’t improve it much.]
9. How'd We All Fail? (我们都是怎么失败的)
Chang'an Smoke Wave (烟波人长安)
Valentine's Day is in February. The great thing about it for me, since I’ve been single for twenty years, is that I can rest at ease as a casual bystander. I’ve seen a lot of people hooking up and breaking up over the years. There’s those who stick together like glue or like one’s a coat of paint on the other, like mountains or deserts couldn’t keep them apart. But in the end there’s those who can’t get it together, too.
But those aren’t the ones I want to talk about today. Today I’m going to talk about some guys who, because of their IQs or for IQ-related reasons, have never been successful with girls. These are the ones whose stories are tragic beyond comparison (and that everybody can’t wait to hear about).
Number one was an upperclassman when I was in college. Word was that he had in his possession the contact info for beautiful women of all ages and from all departments, but I don’t know how he got it. One year at Christmas, he sent the same message to all the young beauties in his address book that he most admired: “Merry Christmas! Can I ask you out to eat?” At that time the most popular messaging program was China Mobile’s Fetion service, through which you could send a bulk text message to several dozens of people without spending a penny.
He was very proud of himself for casting a net so broadly to catch a fish. With so many girls, one’s bound to accept, right? But the problem was, there were two girls he liked who lived in the same dorm and were good friends. That was something he didn’t find out until later. Later….
Later a bunch of us single guys went out for a midnight snack one night. He stayed in the dorm alone that night. Of course, I’d felt all along that this guy was a cocky X, being able to get his hands on the contact info for so many girls. I figured he must have spent a lot of time and effort on it. With so much energy, I imagined he could've been one of the elite undergraduates.
The second is someone a girl told me about. A guy from another school had been after her for some time. He didn’t make any special moves, just called her on the phone from time to time.
•“Our school shows free movies every week, come and watch.”
•“You know the capital museum, right? You don’t need a ticket to get in, so let’s go!”
•“Our cafeteria’s been remodeled recently. It’s quite inexpensive. Come over and eat with me….”
Later the girl got a new phone, and a new number along with it, but didn’t tell this guy. She laughs about it when she tells the story now. You might think it was because the fellow was too cheap, but that wasn’t it. Money didn’t matter. What mattered was whether he could move her heart, right?
There was another guy, he wanted to make a good impression on a girl. He got her phone number through some other channel and launched an offensive. But he didn’t call her to arrange a date to eat out or see a move, or even to chat with her. He just sent her a text every morning and evening –
•Morning: “Good morning, are you up yet? Did you sleep well?”
•Night: “Have you gone to bed yet? Don’t stay up too late. Good night.”
And the annoying thing was, from beginning to end the girl didn’t know who he was. He never said. What do you all think was the result of this kind of thing? There wasn’t any result, of course.
And this other guy from when I was in high school, back when I was quite unsophisticated. Long story short, there was a couple who weren’t unsophisticated, who really thought well of each other. One day they agreed to go off campus to eat. The wind started to blow when they were on the way back, and it was early winter so it was chilly. The girl wanted to be held and, pretending to be talking to herself, she said, "Boy, it’s cold...." The young man beside her nodded his head, wrapped his coat tightly around himself, and said, "Yeah, it sure is.”
This story is such a classic that I’ve remembered it all this time. But until last year, I still had some doubts. If you want to be hugged, why not just say so directly? Why take such a roundabout path to achieve your goal? I asked a friend that question and the friend said – “No wonder you’re still single.”
My sophomore year in high school, one of my friends chose one evening to confess his feelings to a girl. He took some candles, each about five centimeters in diameter, set them out on the playground in the shape of a heart and lit them. He intended to have a group of his buddies help him by calling the girl over, whereupon he would plead for her love out loud.
But my friend had obviously overestimated the social skills of his buddies. After the candles were lit, they found that they couldn’t get ahold of the girl. The candles burned and burned until the hot drippings ruined the turf on the playground.
By the time the girl came sauntering along, she found security guards all over the field. The good boy who’d planned to confess his love was ordered to remove all the melted wax from the field, and he worked hard at it until midnight. Was the girl moved, you ask? She was. Did she accept the boy’s love? Ha, ha, no.
Of course, to be fair, there’s nothing wrong with liking a girl, and still less wrong with pursuing her. In fact, I think it’s a good thing to pursue her boldly and tell her you like her. Waiting for the girl to pursue you isn’t impermissible, either, as long as you have six-pack abs or a lot of money.
Huh? You ask me how I get girls? Don’t be funny, I’m still single. If I knew how to get girls, would I tell you? And would I still be single?
The Best of Chinese Humorous Writings, 2015, Guan Heyue, Anthologist, p. 249
Translated from version titled 追妹子的时候 at http://www.ledu365.com/a/xiaoyuan/49519.html
10. Mothers' Day Gift (母亲节的礼物)
Liu Lang (刘浪)
You could say that Auntie Wang is the best exemplar of traditional womanly virtues in our company. Everyone recognizes that. Her husband died young, and to keep from upsetting their child, she didn’t remarry. She went to great pains to raise the boy to adulthood on her own.
She's a maintenance worker at our company, dirty, tiring work. Then, when she gets off work, she does hourly jobs for some residential communities in the area. She never has a day off.
Last year her son finally got admitted to a university in Beijing after spending two years prepping for the entrance exam. That really made her happy. We all said that Auntie Wang had at last got a break.
One day she was busy working in front of the building when a deliveryman on a motorcycle brought her a large cardboard box. He had her sign for it. I happened to see as I was passing by and asked, "Who's the package from, Auntie Wang?"
She also felt it was strange to be getting a delivery, especially such a big, long box. And it was the first time that anything had ever been delivered to her. She looked at the card attached to the box and discovered that it had been sent to her from Beijing by her son.
When they heard Auntie Wang's son had sent her a package from Beijing, everyone gathered round to witness this unusual event. Someone asked, "Can we see what goodies your son sent you, Auntie Wang?" She laughed, too. "That boy didn't even give me a phone call. He just sends me this out of the blue."
One of our female colleagues had a sudden realization. "Tomorrow's Mothers' Day. It's got to be a Mothers' Day present from your son. That's why he didn't tell you. He wanted it to be a surprise!"
I was intrigued by the idea. "That's the crazy thing these days," I said. "Kids today all celebrate the Western holidays and forget the traditional Chinese festivals. But I'd like to see what your son has bought for you, OK?"
When she heard everyone saying the same thing, Auntie Wang began to blush. "He should send me a gift. I raised him for twenty years, and gave him a present every birthday. Twenty years, twenty gifts. And not long ago, I borrowed money to buy him a computer, too!"
She opened the box. Inside was a tightly wrapped plastic bag. She pulled on it a couple of times, but before she got it open she said: "Heck with it. I won't open it now. I'll just tell you all what was in it tomorrow!"
But no one would agree to that. Someone said they wanted to see if the gift had some hidden meaning. Someone else said they wanted to see what kind of taste college students have these days. While they were talking, someone handed Auntie Wang a pair of scissors.
She didn't have a choice. She took the scissors and carefully cut the seal from the mouth of the bag. She gave it a little twist with her hand, ever so gently. What could the gift be?
She opened it with a jerk, and a strong odor of mildew wafted out. Everyone stepped back involuntarily, but we all saw the gift clearly. Turned out to be a pile of dirty laundry....
Translated from 浪不起来 Surf's Not Up, story 34.
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Merry-Go-Round Stories (Page 6)