​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Merry-Go-Round Stories (Page 7)

5. For Appearances' Sake
6. You've Eaten, Right?

1. Tall Woman, Short Husband
2. “Unearthed Artifacts”

3. My "Sheldon" Friend
4. Discussing a Nutcase with Primary Ma

1. Tall Woman, Short Husband (高女人和矮丈夫)
Zhao Changchun (赵长春)

      We were introduced by a matchmaker. The height standard at the time was a minimum 5’7” and I was afraid she’d think I was too short, so I said I was 5’8”. The matchmaker told me, “She’s 5’8”, too, not short at all! You’ll meet in the park this afternoon. Go in the main gate and walk forward. There’s a bench under the third willow tree by the lotus pond. Remember, four o’clock.”
      I got there before 3:40. Hey, someone was already sitting on the bench. It was a woman, holding a copy of “Reader’s Digest”, a recent issue. It had to be her, but she was too early, which made me lose face; I’m a man, so it’s only right if I’m there earlier. Besides that, since I’m actually only 5’7”, I wanted to get there first and sit down so she couldn’t tell – first impressions are important, you know!
      So I just sat down. Neither one of us said anything. Thank the shyness of youth that let us maintain and assimilate restraint. I don’t remember which of us finally spoke first, but eventually we both stood up and laughed: she was almost 5’10” and had only said she was 5’8”; my 5’7” was a half-head shorter than her! At the time there was a full-length movie, “The Tall Woman and Short Husband". That's what this was.
      The third time we went out, we held hands! She made me swear that I’d love her well my whole I life! I shouted so loud that it made the stars blink, “My dearest, my dearest, I love you!”
      She punched my shoulder. “Who’s your dearest?”
      “That didn’t hurt. Not a bit....”
      Like anyone else, when we got married, it wouldn’t do for me not to have a private stash of cash. But it wasn’t easy to hide. Where could I keep it? The office? I was afraid thieves would visit. In with the trash? I was afraid it’d get taken away. In a book? I was afraid she’d take it out to read....
      After a few years of combat, I’ve got a good solution, and now I’ll share it with you, my friends. I put it in one of her pockets in the wardrobe. It’s quite secure! But you've got to have a strategy: In the summer, I hide it in a fur coat; in the winter, I put it in a skirt. She basically won’t ever find it, but if she does, heh, heh, there happens to be a little note waiting for her. “Surprise! A small reward for the mother of my child!”
      Really, this is a good method. If she does find it, it’ll turn out to be a pleasant surprise for her. A brilliant result! Try it yourself if you don’t believe me!
      Of course, this isn’t a battle of wits. It’s just a trifle in the life of a husband and wife. In the final analysis, it’s also a way for me to love my wife, by being determined not to make her angry. If she got mad, she wouldn’t cook for me or do my laundry, and wouldn’t talk to me for days. What’s the good of that?
      We had to write letters while we were going together, love letters, that is. After we got married I discovered that she had a small box. She wouldn’t let me look in it, so I’d have to sneak a peek. What would I see?
      One day I couldn’t help myself and opened the box using a special technique. It was while she wasn’t looking, of course. Good Lord, it was our letters, mostly my letters to her. – But there were a couple from a kid in her class, nauseating stuff. I thought about it and decided it would be best to put them back. She’s mine now, after all, so why go there. If you love your wife, you’ve got to be tolerant. You’re not a good husband if you haven’t got “tolerance”!
      It so happened that someone knocked on the door a few days ago. She put her bowl down and said, "A package for me! I bought you a book," and went to open the door.
      She was stunned when she opened the door. It turned out to be that kid from back then. "Oh my God,” she said in warm-hearted surprise. “My old classmate! Come on in!" She turned to me and shouted, "Dear, my classmate’s here!"
      I hurried to the door and invited him in, too. But against all expectations, the kid from back then didn’t accept the kindness. Collecting himself, he handed a package through the door and said, “Sorry to bother you. Please sign for this.” I signed while my wife blushed, and the guy fled down the stairs.
      My wife abruptly went back into the bedroom and came out holding that box. She looked through it and found those two letters. "Take a look! These are love letters that person wrote to me back then! Boo-hoo….”
      I hugged her right away and sat her down on the couch. Then I rolled the letters up, lit them like a cigarette and put them in the trash can. I gave her a "V" sign. "You’re great, dear. Thank you. If things were different, right now I’d be that guy….”
      She stopped crying. “Oh, kiss me.” At middle age, such a kiss. Even if I was reluctant to accept it, it was still intoxicating! Heh, heh.
      Love is mutual. I love my wife, and she loves me. We each have “wage cards” that we can use to withdraw our salaries from our unit’s bank account. We periodically go to the bank together to withdraw any money that hasn’t been spent, all of which we deposit into an account for our child, for the future. Why do we go together? Because only she knows the last three digits of my wage card password; and only I know the last three digits of hers. Heh, heh. Isn’t that something!
      She always goes up to the ATM in front of the bank before me. She takes out her card and has me back up a few steps. "No peeking!"
      Lots of times the people lined up behind us will laugh at me, and someone will shake their thumb at me and say, "Brother, your wife wears the pants in your family." I just smile while she enters the first three digits.
      “Look again.” She’ll turn back, "Your turn!"
      “Ha, ha,” we’ll laugh along with everyone else!
      But we both know, the last three digits I set for her wage card password are just the month and day of her birthday; and the last three digits she set for my wage card password are just the month and day of my birthday.
      Isn’t that interesting? Ah, life, it has to be thus. Things go smoothly only when there’s love and affection.
      I love you, my dearest! I’ll choose you as my wife again in the next life!

2015年中国幽默作品精选,关河悦选编,第237页
The Best of Chinese Humorous Writings, 2015, Guan Heyue, Anthologist, p. 237
Translated from version published under the name 老婆老婆我爱你 at
http://chchyilin.blog.sohu.com/305427434.html
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2. “Unearthed Artifacts” (“出土文物”)

Tian Hongbo (田洪波)

      The County Party Committee’s courtyard was almost full of people. They were holding their breaths waiting to get a look.
      Party Secretary Zhao, who had taken office recently, nodded his head at the Chief of Urban Construction. The Chief got the message and ordered the workers to start digging.
      Everything proceeded methodically. The workers were extremely careful and, eventually, when they’d dug to a depth of one meter, a decaying bow and arrows made from peach wood finally appeared. A worker cautiously lifted them out with both hands and presented them to specialists from the County Cultural Artifacts Bureau. The specialists used brushes to clean the dirt off the bow and arrows.
      They also dug up a copper mirror that was spotted with rust. The crowd became restless. Someone wondered what the artifacts were. Someone next to him said out of the side of his mouth, “Relics, fuck! Didn’t you notice that the guys digging the pit aren’t from the Cultural Artifacts Bureau?”
      Journalists were taking pictures constantly. The discussion in the crowd got louder when some tiles decorated with special symbols were dug up. Finally the Chief of Operations from the County Television Station couldn’t refrain from quietly asking Party Secretary Zhao, “What exactly are these things? How should we report this on the news tonight?”
      The Party Secretary’s face turned steely grey. “Report the truth! Didn’t you see them? They’re all “good news” announcements from our predecessor’s team…. The peach-wood bow and arrows and the copper mirror are a curse [i.e., saying that the town is shooting itself in the foot]; the symbols painted on the tiles are congratulations [for their being promoted out of here].”

http://groups.tianya.cn/post-164643-acdb389c25eb4fc8be0b54e07b9108ee-1.shtml
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3. My "Sheldon" Friend (我身边的“谢耳朵”)

Seasee Youl

      I’ve got a sidekick who’s a downright “Sheldon”. He’s tall and cool-looking with an IQ off the charts, but in social situations there’s not much difference between him and a kindergarten child.
      Our high school math teacher wrote a problem on the board in class. He said he guessed he’d forgotten the steps to solve it and would pick a student to come up and do it. First he called on a dunce who mumbled that he didn’t know how. The teacher asked him if he paid any attention at all in class.
      Next the teacher played it safe and called on “Sheldon” to come up and solve it. Who knew that he’d stand up with a fucking cocky look on his face and say, “It’s such a simple problem, teacher, and you don’t even know how to do it?”
      The teacher’s face abruptly turned green. “I certainly do,” he said. “I’m just checking to see if you all have been paying attention in class.”
      Unperturbed, “Sheldon” said, “Oh, really? Well then, can you do it on the blackboard and see if you get the same answer as me?” He waived his notebook in the air as he said it.
      That time the teacher was the sucker. “Sheldon” established his fame based on that one encounter, and the math teacher never again dared call on him to solve a problem.
      Later we were in a demonstration class, and the teacher was that same math teacher. He blabbed on and on, and since we’d drilled in advance, it matched up well with our understanding. The leaders who were watching the demonstration were also quite satisfied. The math teacher was in high spirits.
      To demonstrate that he was using the proper teaching methods, he started a “you write I answer” game. That’s where he calls on one student to write a problem on the board and another student to write the solution. We hadn’t known about this beforehand, so no one raised their hand to be called on. No one except “Sheldon”, that is, who raised his hand high. It was an awkward scene and the math teacher had to bite the bullet and call on “Sheldon” to write a problem.
      So “Sheldon” stepped up on the podium, all fucking cocky, and wrote a damn problem where no one could even recognize the math symbols in it. The lecture hall was as quiet as a regular class session.
      Math teacher: “Uh, this classmate…. You have to come up with a problem from the high school textbook....”
      “Sheldon”: “It does tie in with high school. It’s easy to solve with a knowledge of three-dimensional solid geometry....”
      Math teacher: “Uh, okay, who wants to give it a try?”
      The students all kept their hands under their desks like it was a communal jerk-off.
      “Sheldon”: “Can you explain it for them, teacher?”
      The math teacher’s brow was covered with cold sweat. “Uh, this problem, first we have to see what it’s about, what it…. Um….”
      This was when I heard one of the best fucking lines of my life – “Sheldon” slapped his forehead and said, “God, why do people stammer when they haven’t got a clue?”
      That said, he picked up a piece of chalk and proceeded to write all over half the blackboard. Everyone looked like they’d been blown to pieces by a landmine, including the leaders in the back.
      Later, when we got to college, this girl had a crush on him. She sent him a text message that said, “XX, I’m crazie for you, you fill my mind und my heart.”
      The result was, he wrote back: “Don’t send me any more harassing texts. When I see your misspellings – it’s really shameful.”
      Another girl asked him to dinner. “So, you’re studying computers. I’m always having problems with mine. Can you come over to my place and help me fix it?”
      He threw down his chopsticks angrily. “Miss, what you’re talking about is computer maintenance. You can get any old migrant worker to do that. Don’t insult my profession.”
      He went with his roommates to see an adult action film. Everyone was into it when one of them said, “This chick is fucking good. She’s sprayed so much sweat even the lens is covered with it.”
      "Sheldon" watched coldly, then popped up with, “That scene just now was cut and rearranged three times. And you guys claim to be studying computers.”
      That's the kind of person he is. He can't connect with regular people on anything, and his social circle is tiny. I thought when he got out into the real world he'd be really deficient at fitting in, but the reality is that he got appointed to a well-known company in Shanghai doing a job that pays thirty thou’ a month. He's got a full garage and an American woman has asked him to marry her.
      This is the bloody truth and it's an insult to us. When one's IQ reaches a certain level, one's EQ simply isn't important. When you make the claim that EQ and IQ are of equal importance, it only proves you're stupid!

2015年中国幽默作品精选,关河悦选编,第161页
The Best of Chinese Humorous Writings, 2015, Guan Heyue, Anthologist, p. 161
Translated from version at
http://caodan.org/1010-ask.html
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4. Discussing a Nutcase with Primary Ma (与马原论疯子)

Xia Yang (夏阳)

      It all started with a guy named Primary Ma.
      Primary writes fiction and scholarly articles, and sometimes he mixes in stuff for newspapers to make a few coins to buy booze. One day he had an essay published in the Evening News Supplement, which quoted a story:
      “A crazy fellow made his living by begging. People were crowded around watching him when one of the onlookers said, as a joke, ‘Bow down to me, Crazy, and I’ll give you one yuan.’
      “Without thinking, the crazy fellow answered, ‘If I bow twice, will you still give me one yuan?’"
      Ma Yuan wrote an omnibus tract addressing that quasi-mind-blowing bit of nonsense. He wrote about ancient rituals and Western philosophy from bygone days to modern times, cutting through theoretical hierarchy after hierarchy, and finally tracing it back to the Dao of Chinese philosophy and the essence of Zen Buddhism. In a word, it was a letter of praise that he wrote for the madman, a psalm of appreciation.
      A rich guy was quite unhappy when he read the essay and lambasted Primary indignantly. “Wouldn’t it be a complete non sequitur to say you smelled the saucy aroma of Maotai when you cut through cow dung? In the real world, how could a nutcase produce such quick-witted humor? It the madman were that deep, he wouldn’t be a madman, and it would be even less likely that he’d go about begging. Sending him to college to teach philosophy would be like using a cannon to kill a mosquito. But bullshit is always bullshit, even when it's fucking fragrant. It can never give off the scent of Maotai.”
      The rich guy didn't feel like he'd vented enough when he finished this tirade, so he set about sending an email to Primary reciting his misgivings. He had nothing better to do at the time and wrote voluminously. At the end he asked Primary a rhetorical question. “If you bestow such vigorous praise when you encounter a madman’s ravings, doesn’t that mean you’re crazy, too?”
      Primary replied quickly. “You tell me.”
      The rich guy was even unhappier. “Your better writes you more than a thousand words, and you respond with just one sentence – four characters counting the punctuation mark. You’re just an old hack, and what’s so special about that?”
      Primary’s aloofness really angered the rich guy. He decided to seek evidence in real life to prove that Primary was being absurd. He didn’t have anything better to do on an average day. He really was bored.
     The rich guy stuffed a wad of money in his pocket and drove off to find the beggar. He was taking this seriously.
      While he was stopped by a red light at an intersection, an old man dressed in rags was going from car to car asking for money. The rich guy rolled down his window and called warmly to the old fellow, "Bow down to me, Crazy, and I’ll give you one yuan."
      The old man looked blankly at the rich guy. After a moment he recovered himself, threw down his begging bowl and took to his heels. The rich guy smiled and said to himself, "What’ll’ya say to that, Comrade Primary Ma?"
      The rich guy parked his car at the entrance to a mall. He’d just gotten out when an old woman came up to him asking for money. The old woman leaned on a bamboo crutch in one hand and held an iron pan with a serrated edge like fangs in the other. Several coins jingled in the pan. The rich guy smiled and said, "Bow down to me, Crazy, and I’ll give you one yuan."
      Taken aback, the old woman turned and walked away, occasionally sneaking looks back at the rich guy. He smiled thinly and said to himself, "Well, Ma, great writer that you are, wha’d’ya say to that?"
      The rich guy saw a young girl singing for coins as he was passing by a subway tunnel. She sat cross-legged on the ground, playing a guitar and singing a sad song as she watched people come and go in front of her. At her feet was an open guitar case with banknotes and coins scattered in it. The rich man crouched down and said amiably, "Bow down to me, Crazy, and I’ll give you one yuan."
      The girl stopped playing and gave the rich guy a penetrating look. Then she resumed playing and singing. The rich guy feared she hadn’t heard him, so he repeated his offer. The girl ignored him and closed her eyes in disgust. The rich guy smiled thinly and said to himself, "Wha’d’ya say to that, Crazy Ma?"
      Besides the rich guy, another angry person was also among those who’d read Primary Ma’s “Psalm to a Crazy Man.” This one was another madman.
      This madman was jumping angry. "This academic has just made up a cock-and-bull story,” he yelled. “The world is so cold, and life is so fucked, how can there be such a merciful God?"
      Like the rich guy before him, this madman also sent an email to Primary when he finished his tirade. He also asked him, “You’re the nutcase yourself, right?”
      Once again, Primary responded quickly. “You tell me.”
      The madman became even more angry. He changed into tattered clothes, smeared some ashes on his face and went out carrying a broken bowl. His family was actually pretty well off, financially, and it was completely unnecessary for him to beg. He was also quite serious about this, though.
      He asked everyone he met, quite earnestly, "Bow down to me, and I’ll give you one yuan, okay?"
      A young woman turned pale when she heard what he said. She walked away quickly.
      A brawny man with a green dragon tattooed on his arm furled his brow and said, "You’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’, aren’t you? Get outta here.”
      A break-dancing millennial listened to him and said with a smirk, "You'd be better off bowing down to me, and I’ll give you one yuan.” This frightened the madman.
      While he was tirelessly asking passers-by to bow down to him, the madman periodically berated Primary Ma. “Horse’s ass…. Trouble-maker.… Crazy Ma!”
      Just like two shooting stars in the sky, no matter how far apart they are, as long as they’re headed towards each other, the day will come when they’ll converge. They were in a small city, and because they were doing the same thing, after three days the rich guy and the madman ran into each other in Citizen’s Square.
      The madman was sitting beside the fountain when they met. He was depressed. The broken bowl in his hand was empty. He heard the rich guy ask him, "Bow down to me, Crazy, and I’ll give you one yuan."
      The madman popped up and answered excitedly, "If I bow twice, will you still give me one yuan?"
      Neither the rich guy nor the madmen could hold back their elation. Each said to himself, “Oh, mother, so things like this do happen in the real world after all! Primary Ma, oh, Primary, you really are a great one!”
      The rich guy kept his happiness inside. He pulled out a hundred yuan-note and took the madman by the hand. "Crazy,” he said, “bow down to me a hundred times, and I’ll give you a hundred yuan."
      The madman thought about it but didn’t know how to answer. "If I bow to you a hundred times, you’ll give me a hundred yuan?"
      The rich guy readily agreed: "You give me a hundred more bows, and I’ll give you another hundred yuan." Quite satisfied with himself, he thought, “Primary Ma, this old guy isn’t as stupid as you made him out to be. But I’m just saving my strength. He’s bowing a hundred times, and I just asked a question.”
      The madman took the hundred yuan and bowed deeply to the rich guy, like a chicken pecking at grains of rice on the ground. He also strained his voice hollering out the numbers: "One, two, three, four...." He was so extraordinarily excited that light shone from his eyes and his voice resounded through the square like springtime thunder.
      Spectators crowded around until there was a sea of people watching. No one understood what was going on, and as they enjoyed the novelty they asked each other, “What’s with these guys?”
      "I don't know. You tell me!"
      "They’re both crazy!"

2016 中国年度小小说第一页, Chinese Mini-Fiction 2016, Page 63
任晓燕,秦俑,赵建宇 选编 Compiled by Ren Xiaoyan, Qin Yong, Zhao Jianyu
Translated from China Gate 文学城 at
this page
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5. For Appearances' Sake (捧场)

Liu Lang (刘浪)

      First thing when I got to work, I got a phone call from Director Wang of SLTR (the Office of Surplus Labor Transfer and Reemployment). It was nothing more than a repeat of what had been said the day before: Our town’s on-site job fair would be held in the town square that day at 9:30 a.m. All enterprises in the large-scale category must participate. Even those with no plans to hire would have to put in an appearance to make the job fair look successful.
      Right away I told Young Jia, our Chief of Human Resources, to prepare a hiring notice recruiting: administrative clerks, workshop managers, production workers, security guards and drivers. While he was writing it up, Young Jia asked me: “Do we need so many people, General Manager Liu?”
      “Not to speak of,” I said. “We’re just making a show of it. When people apply, all we have to do is ask them to fill out a form and tell them to go home and wait to hear from us.”
      Young Jia and I arrived at the job fair at half past nine on the dot. From a distance we’d seen the huge hot-air gateway and floating balloons that had changed the square beyond all recognition. A sea of people had already flooded the area even before the job fair officially started. Nearly a hundred tables were placed around the square, and they were covered with densely written recruitment notices.
      Colorful decorations adorned a temporary rostrum in the middle of the square. All the seats on it were occupied while bigwigs from the relevant departments made high-energy speeches with red faces. Video and still cameras from the television station and various publicity departments were stretched out in front of the stage, and flash bulbs were popping. After the speeches had been completed and colorful streamers soared into the air, the largest on-site job fair in this town's history got started.
      But in less than half an hour, I discovered that this day's job fair was a little strange. Let me first talk about the units that were there to recruit. Many of the recruiters had just flung job application forms down on their table and started chatting among themselves. Some actually picked up a newspaper to read. Their hearts just didn't seem to be in it.
      Moreover, the people who had come to the fair were chatting pointlessly in groups of three or five. Many of them were a bit on the old side. Even more of them seemed like they were taking a casual stroll through a park. They'd glance at the various companies' tables and then walk on by. Very few had actually come to look for a job. After two hours, only six or seven of the job application forms in front of me had been filled out.
      The recruiters from several units were really bored and were getting ready to close up shop. Workers from the town government came over right away to stop them. They said everyone should wait a little longer and then they could all do whatever they wanted.
      Half an hour later, there was a burst of activity in the middle of the square. It turned out to be the town's mayor, Mayor Niu, escorted by a large group of subordinates, walking toward the recruiting area. Two video cameras accompanied him, one in front and the other following. Mayor Niu was shaking hands with the corporate recruiters he was familiar with and graciously asking them about things. So all this waiting around had been waiting for the mayor. The mayor had waited for the bigwigs to leave and the recruiters to start to close up shop.
      When Young Jia and I were leaving, we heard a middle-aged man say to his companions, “So this is how it ends. They had fifty people come from each village just for appearances' sake. I thought they'd at least have a lunch for us...."

Translated from 浪不起来 Surf's Not Up, story 35.
No longer available online.
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6. You've Eaten, Right? (吃过了吧)

Tong Shumei (童树梅)

      Springtime Chen’s father was old, but he insisted on living alone in the country. He said he couldn’t leave the clear waters and green mountains of his hometown, and still less could he leave his longtime neighbors. But Springtime couldn’t stop worrying, and because of his nagging, the old man finally came into the city.
      Springtime had been very filial since he brought his father into the city. He recommended every form of entertainment he could, and if he had the time, he’d play chess, go for walks, drink tea and chat with his father. But recently he’d had something on his mind.
      Whenever his father met someone, whether in the elevator or out walking around the community, and even if they were total strangers, he would always ask with a smile: "Have you eaten?"* The other person would stare bewildered, or just remain expressionless and walk off with their nose in the air. Some would even give him a disgusted look as they turned away.
      Springtime felt rather embarrassed after this kind of thing had happened too many times. When no one was around, he told his father in a low voice, "Dad, don't greet people whether you know them or not. Our family likes to do that, but city people don’t...."
      His father remained cheerful. He seemed not to have noticed the cold shoulders. “Son,” he retorted, “how do you know people in the city don’t like it? Besides, even if they don’t, it’s not always wrong for me to take the initiative and greet them, is it? Don’t city people emphasize being polite? I'm just being polite, right?”
      Springtime smiled wryly at that. “My father’s old," he thought, "and a lifetime habit can’t be changed in a day. Take your time.”
      As day after day went by, Springtime discovered that, not only was he unable to change his father, the situation developed in an unexpected way....
      At dusk one day, Springtime went for a walk with his father as usual in the community garden. While they walked, a man came toward them. He looked serious, but not angry or conceited, and his brand-name suit fit him to a T. His manner suggested he would brook no nonsense. Springtime remembered that his father had once said hello to this guy. Of course, he'd reacted with a look of indifference, as though he hadn't heard the old man at all. Right at this moment, his father smiled at the man as if he were a relative and asked, "Brother, I suspect you've already had dinner, right?"
      To Springtime's surprise, the "brother in a suit" squeezed a broad smile out of his stern face and said, a bit unnaturally, "I have. And this – you've eaten as well, right?"
      Things developed even more bizarrely after this: more and more people responded to his father with a smile, and further, more and more people responded to his greeting with greetings of their own. Their smiles were also becoming more natural. But what surprised Springtime the most was the fat older woman.
      That woman and Springtime had gotten into it one time when Springtime was taking a walk. A puppy suddenly ran up, yipping, and pounced on him. Springtime instantly jumped back in fright, so his leg wasn't bitten, but his pants leg was ruined.
      Then the puppy's owner, namely the fat old woman, came over. Springtime wouldn't let her pay for the pants. He just said, "Keep the little thing on a leash." Believe it or not, this made the woman furious. She said: "How can a big man like you know what it's like to be a puppy? You're human, and it's just an animal, you know?”
      Springtime was struck dumb. There's no use trying to talk with someone like that. Since then, whenever he'd seen the old woman, Springtime acted like he didn't notice her, and she looked right through him as well.
      But every time his father saw the woman, he said hello to her. Unsurprisingly, she always sniffed and looked askance as she walked away.
      The situation changed one day, though. When his father once again smiled and asked her if she'd eaten, they were surprised when the woman answered, "Yes, I have, I have. And you, brother, you've eaten, too, right?"
      Springtime was speechless for hours.
      Not long after that, Springtime's father wanted to go back to their hometown. Springtime couldn’t talk him into staying because it was the planting season for melons and beans. His father said, “If you plant melons you get melons, if you plant beans you get beans, and if you don't care for the land, it won't give anything to you. It's that simple."
      After his father left, Springtime took his walks alone. An older fellow saw him and asked, "Where's your dad, young man?"
      Chen Chun stopped walking and told the fellow in detail how his father had decided to return to their hometown temporarily. The man nodded, then stuck a thumb in the air, smiled and said, “Your dad's a nice guy, and you’re OK, too. You treat him really well. We all noticed."
      Many thoughts ran through Springtime's mind for a time after he heard that. He continued walking forward and saw the "brother in a suit" walking across the way, still some distance from him. The big man asked him kindly, “Hello, where's your dad?"
      Springtime answered quickly, "Hello, hello! He's gone back to the countryside."
      Springtime felt comfortable as soon as the words were out. So saying hello to strangers wasn't awkward after all. And when one day he saw the fat old woman leading her puppy, he found himself able to talk easily to her as well. He just blurted it out: “Hello, taking the dog for a walk?”
      The woman laughed and said, "Yeah, hello! By the way, where's your dad? Haven't seen him for a long time. Where's he off to? I really miss him."
      Still later, Springtime discovered that people in the community no longer wore stiff faces when they came across one another as they once had. Instead, they hung out the smiles and tried to greet each other.
      His father was right. If you plant melons you get melons, and if you plant beans you get beans.
*["Have you eaten?" is a traditional greeting in China, but sophisticated city people seldom use it these days – Fannyi.]

2016 China Annual Flash Fiction – Selections from Authornet, page 259
2016中国年度卫星小说 – 作家网选片,Translated from 中国古诗词,
http://wap.exam58.com/yuedu/33407.html, (where the author's name is misprinted as 童树海)





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