1. Tacit Understanding (心领神会)
Xu Guojiang (许国江)
A certain town is famous for its architecture. Its construction and installation companies are spread all over the country. Mayor Wang, shortly after taking office, decided to go on an inspection tour of the companies with offices in other areas.
He picked a company with an office in Xi'an. He and his secretary had just gotten off the plane there when General Manager Liu of that company drove up to the arrivals gate in a small car to meet them.
Mr. Liu and his entourage surrounded Wang Zhen as they walked into the Grand Palace Hotel. They’d arranged a banquet for the Mayor’s refreshment after his journey.
After dinner, Mr. Liu was about to escort Mayor Wang to the sauna. The Mayor said, “I didn’t expect such a big temperature difference between East and West China, Mr. Liu. At home I was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, but here I’ve got on a long-sleeve shirt and I’m still a little cold.”
Mr. Liu immediately understood. “You’re wearing too little,” he said right away. “You don’t want to get chilled and come down with a cold. Let’s go.” He took Mayor Wang to a clothing store and bought him a Pierre Cardin suit, complete with a Goldenlion tie and a pair of Senda shoes as accessories.
The Mayor smiled once he was completely outfitted. He said, “Mr. Liu, is this…?”
Mr. Liu said, “At home I do whatever Your Honor and the other leaders want, but here in Xi’an, everything’s done the way I arrange it.” He laughed out loud when he said that.
Translated from here, also available from 闪小说阅读网 at
2. Old Ma (老麻)
Zhao Mingning (赵明宁)
Old Ma was from the Zhang River Bridge area of Yuan City. He was a little fellow with a small head and big eyes, thin lips and an unusually large nose. He worked at the County Irrigation Station in Yuan City when he was young. Later he moved to Shijiazhuang.
The Irrigation Station was located on the outskirts of town, far away from the county seat. It had two rows of brick and tile buildings. The station offices were in the front row and family residences in the back row, with a wide basketball court between them. Old Ma and the statistician Elegance Tang were single at the time and lived in the farthest east and farthest west ends, respectively, of the front row of offices.
As for her appearance, Elegance Tang was not a beautiful woman, but she was fair-skinned and easy to look at. As the saying goes, a white cover can conceal a ton of ugly, and she was considered fairly good-looking over all. People said she'd gotten involved with Young Yuan of the Yuan City Finance Department and went into town to see him every once in a while.
Old Ma also took a liking to her, but she wouldn't give him a second look.
When he heard that Elegance was about to get married, Old Ma got a bit anxious. He'd often pester her after dinner, saying he was just dropping by to be neighborly. Once he even bought a red scarf and insisted on stuffing it in her hands that night. She tossed it back at him and angrily shooed him out, then slammed the door shut.
He couldn't just watch while the white swan beside him flew away!
One night after dark, Old Ma saw his chance. During the short time while Elegance had left her apartment to go to the outhouse, he slipped in and hid under her bed. He thought, “The girl’s timid. She doesn't have a plan and is afraid of extravagant gossip. First I’ll cook the rice and then we’ll see.”
Elegance hurried back from the toilet and closed the door behind her because she was afraid Old Ma would come and harass her. She locked the door from the inside. She ate dinner, read for a while, then undressed and got into bed. That's when Old Ma crawled out from under the bed.
Elegance cried out in surprise when she saw someone standing before her. She was scared witless. Old Ma took in the situation and put his arms around her. Elegance melted from fear and could do nothing to stop his groping. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. Old Ma let loose of Elegance and told her, "If you say anything about this, your life will be ruined." Then he pushed open the rear window and fled.
Elegance opened the door in panic. It was Director Wang, who lived in the residence area in the back row. He hadn’t been able to get to sleep after dinner and had gone out for a walk around the basketball court. He’d heard Elegance screaming and had run over to see what was going on.
Elegance looked like a frightened bird. She wasn’t wearing proper clothing and had covered herself with a sheet. She pointed at the rear window and stammered, "Quick, go after him! He’s a criminal."
Director Wang was former military and had exceptional physical skills. He shot out the window like an arrow and after a few steps saw a dark shadow ahead of him. "Where you gonna run!" he shouted. At his shout, the shadow ducked into the home of the irrigation station’s Station Master Mah.
Station Master Mah was reading a book when someone burst into his home. He jumped up in freight, and when he saw who it was he said: "Old Ma, jeez, man, you scared me to death!"
Old Ma said, "Help me, Master Mah. Director Wang has a thing going with Elegance, and he caught me with her and wants to beat me." The Station Master listened to his story and helped Old Ma hide under the bed.
Director Wang followed Old Ma to Station Master Mah’s door. He explained the situation and added, "If you don't believe me, go ask Elegance."
Station Master Mah took a turn around his yard, thinking. Then he stepped inside and pursed his lips. Director Wang didn’t have to be told what he meant. He entered the room and pried Old Ma out from under the bed.
The news was all over Yuan City the next day. Old Ma was fired from public service and didn’t have the nerve to stay in town, so he moved to Shijiazhuang. Elegance kept seeing Young Yuan. Whenever anyone mentioned the matter to the young man, he’d hrumph and storm away in a huff.
More about Old Ma. He got a job as a day laborer at a construction site in Shijiazhuang. Although he wasn’t much to look at, he was able to get in tight with the construction company’s boss because of his gift of gab. He was always in contact with public figures and later contracted to run his own construction firm. Eventually he gained some repute as a real estate agent.
Old Ma would often greet the leaders of Yuan City and County when they came to the capital on business. He spread a lot of money around his hometown, to the point of extravagance.
The local government leaders urged him to return home to invest in a certain project, but he just smiled. He didn’t say no, but he didn’t say yes, either. Then someone gave the leaders the idea of having Elegance take on the job of persuading him. As it happens, she was working for the China Merchants Bureau.
Elegance wouldn’t agree no matter what they said. When they pressed her, she cried and said, “Don't open up that old wound.”
Many eminent public figures tried to persuade Old Ma and he began to feel that he had no choice. He told them to have Mah Weicheng come to pay him a visit.
Mah Weicheng, that is, Station Master Mah back then, was now the Deputy Director of the County Irrigation Station.
Mah Weicheng scratched his head and thought he’d better go to Shijiazhuang to see Old Ma. Old Ma received him in his magnificent office and invited him to have some tea and chat for a while. Before Mah left, Old Ma gave him a piece of Hetian jade of not inconsiderable value.
The project Lao Ma invested in in Yuan City finally had its ribbon-cutting ceremony. Old Ma didn’t put in an appearance.
People familiar with the situation say that Old Ma is still a bachelor.
小说月刊，2017年第二期, Translated from 91读网 at
www.91du.net/filedownload/139527, story no. 1 (after two prefaces).
3. A Big Mess (狼籍)
Tian Hongbo (田洪波)
This was the third time the burglar had frequented their home. It was like an autumn breeze sweeping away fallen leaves. The only things left in the huge, hundred-plus square meter residence were a refrigerator, a washing machine, beds and clothes.
He was amazed at the burglar’s ability, and at the same time admired his courage. You know, such large capacity movement of goods can’t be accomplished in two or three hours, I’m afraid. The guy was obviously cool about it, and used a car besides, without worrying that any of the three people in the family might come home suddenly. He was definitely good at his profession, as well as familiar with the pattern of their work hours and time off.
It seems that everyone has his own approach to life.
"It's really a pain. We’ll have to buy everything all over again….” His wife had made a big fuss and now looked depressed.
"Whatever you want." He shocked even himself by saying that. But he knew what he'd said was true.
He had a sudden realization. The loss of those things wouldn’t be much on an inconvenience in their lives. He wondered why the family didn’t even know when they’d accumulated all those things, and why he’d never thought of taking it on himself to throw them all away.
Translated from here, also available at 99藏书网, http://www.99lib.net/article/5435.htm
4. Being Cocky for a While (牛叉一回)
Horizon Visitor (涯客)
That morning we got invitations to a birthday dinner party for a colleague's son. At 5:30 in the afternoon we were waiting at our company's door for a special car from the Grand Hyatt Hotel to pick us up. Everyone was ready to go, curious to see what the party would be like.
A large bus from the Great Victory Nursery School drove up and squealed to a stop. A young woman got off and looked around with a free and easy manner – black hair touching her eyebrows, a handsome, small round face with a shallow dimple, and shining black eyes revealed an attractive energy. She was wearing a grass-green vest over a brown skirt, pleasant looking and alluring.
She walked unhurriedly toward us, smiled briefly, and gestured for us to get on the bus. Everyone laughed heartily. A nursery bus to take us to the Grand Hyatt had to be a joke, right? Was there some mistake? We weren't little kids!
Everyone hesitated until Young Liu from Administration rushed out of the office building and told everyone to get on the bus. There was no mistake! He explained that the bus driver was a friend of our colleague’s and, since he happened to pass by here anyway, it was convenient for him to pick us up. The damn driver whistled for us to get moving, too.
So we all laughed and got on the bus. We drove like crazy along main streets and back alleys and through intersections. Unexpectedly, cars big and small seemed to yield for us. Traffic was backed up at one place but, when the drivers saw a school bus loaded with "teachers", they slowed down and moved politely to the side to let us pass. Even a police car let us go ahead. The whole bus was laughing tumultuously. Being treated with such courtesy – not bad!
As soon as the bus pulled to a stop at the entrance to the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Big Forest shouted loud and clear, “Little Mao, when you get home, tell your parents there's a PTA meeting tomorrow. Don't forget!”
"Hello, Great Victory teachers!" It was a fellow greeting us as we got off the bus, a bit distracted. He was all together very slick.
But even more ridiculous – next two waitresses wearing green face powder walked up and said, "Welcome to the teachers!" Right then Big Forest nudged me and said, "This way, please, Teacher Li." Everyone was laughing joyously.
Today we received a chicken feather and took it as a message sent by feathered arrow from our General. We were thoroughly impressive! To our surprise, we'd all become "teachers." What do you say? Were we cocky or what?
From 漄愙的博客 at http://blog.tianya.cn/post-3185941-28875834-1.shtml
5. Four-Pound Liu (刘四斤)
An Liang (安谅)
Four-Pound Liu, that is, Deputy Director Liu. Four-Pound wasn’t what his family called him, it was a nickname given to him by the public. The name was right as rain, though. Many people witnessed him heroically put away four pounds of the Chinese firewater called baijiu at one sitting, and it left them sighing in admiration.
I’ve also had the pleasure of drinking at the same table as Four-Pound. I saw him lift a glass goblet in his both hands, one that was filled to overflowing with baijiu. An experienced drinker could tell at a glance that it held at least eight ounces. His movements were coordinated and compact: he put the cup to his lips, opened his mouth wide, lifted his hands, tilted his head back and poured the whole cup directly poured into his mouth. His throat trembled slightly and all the booze in the cup was gone, just like that. He held the cup upside-down above his head and not a drop of booze came out.
He drank five cups that way, one after another. His face didn’t get red or go ashen, and he still enunciated his words clearly. I was afraid he might have harmed himself by drinking like that and I told him to drink a glass of water right away, but he refused. He picked up a chicken leg from the table and started to gnaw on it. I didn't see him going to the toilet for a long time – where was he putting all that booze?
The story goes that Four-Pound’s father used to work in a winery. When he was a child, he used to tail along with his father to play in the winery while his father worked. The old man would give him a few mouthfuls of booze from time to time. Over time, his booze-tolerating enzymes were stimulated to grow and strengthen. No one ever heard this story straight from the horse’s mouth, though, and no one was so rash as to ask him about it.
Four-Pound not only had a reputation inside our circle, it was fairly widespread outside as well. It’s said that a shady character from Macao once came around looking for someone to invite Four-Pound to set up a Dragon's Gate Squad. Four-Pound resolutely refused. He said he wasn’t an underworld type. He was a government official, so how could he cause trouble like that. He drank, but only on public business.
That was right as rain, too. When the leaders called, he’d come running almost every time. He’d drink however much they wanted him to. He’d drink enough to make anyone else’s head spin, enough to make anyone else heave their guts out, and he’d do it without his face changing color, and be calm and unhurried about it.
One time our unit had an activity with the local military garrison. It wasn’t his turn, but when we arrived at the banquet hall, our boss thought of him and specifically called him over. After three rounds of baijiu, the competitive juices of the two sides began to heat up. Our boss pushed Four-Pound to the front to compete, alone, against two of the soldiers. Whatever the two of them drank, he drank the same amount in one gulp. Ten minutes into the glorious competition, the two soldiers who’d just been so reluctant to admit defeat couldn’t stop begging for mercy. They stepped down gracefully and conceded the place of honor. The boss praised Four-Pound later on. “You drank those blessed soldiers under the table. They were considered lions in that garrison.”
Another time, some big wheels came to our unit on an inspection tour. They themselves suggested having drinks at lunch, and they wanted to drink some more in the afternoon. Several of them were from northeast China. It so happened that our unit had a number of projects waiting their approval, so our boss didn’t dare slight them. He hastily asked our people to make all the necessary arrangements, and also had Four-Pound accompany them on their entire tour.
The visitors were a boisterous bunch. They couldn’t pick up their chopsticks without first making a toast with a full cup of baijiu.
Another deputy director in Four-Pound’s section, Deputy Director Li, was usually rather wooden and didn’t touch a drop of the stuff. In addition, he hadn’t eaten anything. He didn’t say a word during the entire banquet, just sat there blushing and smiling stupidly. He didn’t even say anything related to approval of the Unit’s projects.
Four-Pound, on the other hand, was skillful and at ease. He was as poised as a general giving the opposing army tit for tat or building dykes to hold a river back. However many toasts they proposed, he emptied his glass right along with them. And not only that, he proposed toast after toast himself.
After a number of rounds, several of the northeasterners raised the white flag. When Four-Pound raised his glass to them again, they shook their heads desperately and said, “No, more! No more! If we drink any more we’ll never make it back to the office.”
“Not going it back to the office won’t do,” the boss said angrily. “We’re waiting for them to approve our projects!”
Right away Four-Pound said, “After you guys have approved our projects, come on back and we’ll drink some more!" The visiting wheels all said “Good” with one voice and gave Four-Pound the thumbs-up.
Four-Pound was sky high and his creds in the unit skyrocketed as well.
Obviously Four-Pound hasn't been so active for the past couple of years. The eight-point austerity regulations are iron-clad and official banquets are now inclined toward the path of righteousness. Four-Pound's usefulness has clearly declined.
Right at that moment, there was a vacancy in the unit because the director was transferred. Four-Pound had been a deputy director for five years and he'd worked hard, even if he hadn't made much of a contribution recently, so he should have been on top of the list for promotion. One of his competitors was Deputy Director Li, the fellow who wouldn't fart even if you kicked him three times. He was steadfast and capable, but he naturally didn't have as much influence in the unit as Four-Pound.
Officialdom is changeable, and there are many nights and long dreams, so Four-Pound was afraid of missing out on this opportunity. He wanted to find a leader to whom he could pour out his thoughts and aspirations. But there's not so many dinner parties now as there were before, when it was easy to brush shoulders with the leaders and borrow a little courage from alcohol. He could go see a leader at the office, but that's too formal a setting to talk about your feelings.
Once he ran into a leader when he went to the toilet. He politely and humbly said to the man, "May I invite you out for dinner and drinks?" The leader turned to him with a severe look on his face. "Drinks? When do we go out drinking anymore?"
"No, not with public money. It's my personal invitation, an invitation to you." Four-Pound was tongue-tied.
"Personal invitations won't do, either," the leader answered bluntly. "It's untoward for a subordinate to ask a superior to dinner." Seeing Four-Pound's frustration, he added, "Another time. When I get a chance I'll ask you out for drinks. I know you're quite the drinker." Then he left.
Four-Pound stood there dumbly for a long time, unable to calm down. Another time? Will there be another time like this? He was really depressed.
One evening the leader invited several colleagues to his home for drinks, and Four-Pound went as well. He drank aggressively. By the time only half the food had been served, he himself had already drunk more than four pounds. His speech was slurred, his face was red, his eyelids drooped and he forgot his place. He ended up passing out and was in the hospital on sick leave for a week.
That week the leaders rushed through the master plan for the office they'd been working on. Four-Pound had no way to attend to it. It was Deputy Director Li who'd worked overtime to get it out.
A month later, the new director was chosen. It was not Four-Pound. It was Deputy Director Li.
小说月刊，2017年第二期, Translated from 91读网 at:
www.91du.net/filedownload/139527, story no. 3 (after two prefaces), also available here.
6. Miraculous Eye Drops (神奇的眼药水)
Huang Keting (黄克庭)
Up in the morning, wash your face, look in the mirror....
Mr. Jin, a school teacher, suddenly noticed that half of his left eye was severely congested with blood. Red blood spots covered almost half the eye. He got quite upset.
He looked closely and it seemed the more he looked the more frightened he became. What could be happening?
He didn't feel any pain at first, but as he gently rubbed his eye while looking in the mirror, it slowly began to hurt a bit, so he rushed off to the hospital.
"How many days has it been red?" Dr. Ma asked.
"I just noticed it this morning."
"What did you eat last night?"
"Nothing special, just the usual stuff. I had rice for dinner with some simple side dishes, cabbage, tofu, tomatoes, beef...."
Dr. Ma asked the teacher to sit down in front of an instrument for examining eyes and carefully performed some simple tests. "There’s no blockage,” he said. “You’ll be OK with some medicine and some eye drops."
The medicine was ¥58.98. Not bad.
When he got home, Mr. Jin took the medicine just as the doctor has prescribed.
The first thing he did when he got up the next morning was look in the mirror to see if there’d been any change.
He hadn’t felt any urgency when he didn't look, but when he did, he jumped back in fright!
He found that, not only had there been no improvement in the congestion in his left eye, now a large blood spot had appeared in the right eye as well! Compared with the day before, his condition had worsened!
The teacher rushed back to the hospital to see Dr. Ma. He said with some anger, "Yesterday I asked you to check the problem with my eye. How come my condition has gotten worse?"
"Did you use the eye drops in both eyes?” Dr. Ma asked.
"Why would I? I didn’t have a problem in my right eye!"
"I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you yesterday that the drops I prescribed needed to be used in both eyes together...."
"The left eye had a problem but the right one didn’t, so why should I use the eye drops in both eyes?"
"The eye drops I prescribed are for maintenance! If you use them in the left eye your symptoms can be controlled. But if you don’t use them in the right eye, your condition will of course worsen...."
“Why’d you just give me maintenance medicine and not something to make me better?”
"Medicine to cure you? For that.... you need.... resources!"
"What do you mean?"
“You need to pay more!”
"Money, I have! As long as my eyes get cured, I don't care about the money!"
"Well then, yesterday … you ... why didn’t you ... leave me a red envelope?"
"...." A cat seemed to have got the teacher’s tongue. He knew quite well that Dr. Ma was not a "fuel-efficient lamp" that could be used without spending much. He got excited and blushed, but couldn't find the right words to reply to the doctor. His eyes got round and he just stared.
Dr. Ma didn’t look him in the eye. "Not giving me a red envelope,” he continued, “told me that you’re either short of money, or that you have money but are reluctant to spend it! That’s why I could only prescribe some inexpensive ... maintenance medicine!"
Mr. Jin wanted to give the guy a piece of his mind and then storm out of the room! Then he thought about it. Dr. Ma was known as the "Number One Ophthalmologist" in the area. He only wanted to "make a little money", and it wasn’t worth it to be hostile. As long as the doctor could cure his eye problem as soon as possible, he could put up with spending the extra bucks. He’d consider it "money well spent".
So he took a stack of hundred-yuan bills from his man purse. He estimated it was more than 3,000 yuan, but he didn’t bother to count it. He stuffed it into Dr. Ma's pants pocket and said, "Yesterday I forgot to bring a red envelope with me. I’m embarrassed. Please see your way clear to excuse me!"
Dr. Ma didn’t worry about being polite. He remained calm, as though he hadn’t received a red envelope at all.
"I can give you a prescription that will produce results within ten minutes. If it doesn’t, I’ll refund three times the price. However, the cost of this medicine is rather high...."
"Fifty thousand yuan for a sample pack. A regular order is a hundred sixty-six thousand!"
“Can I swipe my medical insurance card?”
"No, you can’t use your medical insurance. You can use any credit or ATM card on the UnionPay system."
"Then let’s go with the sample pack first." The teacher took a UnionPay card from his man purse and handed it to Dr. Ma.
He entered his password, pressed the confirm button and the POS machine immediately printed out a receipt. He looked at it and asked the doctor, "How is it that this money gets remitted to your personal account?"
"This Special Magical Medicine was invented by yours truly! If you’re having buyer’s remorse, I can give you a refund right away!"
"No, I’ve got no regrets, none!"
Dr. Ma took a thumb-sized bottle of medicine from a drawer and handed it to the teacher. "You’ll see the effects in ten minutes,” he said. “Go ahead and try it."
"This is a small bottle. Fifty thousand yuan?"
Mr. Jin thought about it. If it didn’t work, he could get a refund of three times the price, that is, a hundred and fifty thousand yuan. He started having conflicting feelings. He hoped the medicine would be effective, but then again, he hoped it would fail.
Dr. Ma administered the drops in both eyes for Mr. Jin. Afterwards he asked the teacher to look up and keep his eyes closed for ten minutes....
The wait was boring. There were only the two of them in the office.
"Mr. Jin, are you from the Grand View Garden Middle School?" the doctor asked.
"I’ve heard there’s a teacher in your school who has no conscience at all...."
“What makes you say that?”
"One of the parents, a guy named Truthseeker Yu, came to see me last week. He told me he’d sent in five thousand yuan and the next day his child was assigned a better seat in class. But he’d only been happy for two weeks when the child was transferred back to a lesser seat!
“Another parent, High Voltage Chen, told me when he was here for a visit that his child was given a “Three Goods” award only after he’s sent twenty thousand yuan to the child’s lead teacher...."
As he listened to all of this, the teacher’s face turned from yellow to red, then from red to white, and finally to green....
The ten minutes was finally over.
Dr. Ma Dafu handed Mr. Jin a mirror. The teacher took a hard look and found that both of his eyes were completely normal. He couldn’t help but exclaim in admiration, "A miracle! It’s really a miracle!"
A week later, Mr. Jin returned to the hospital and complained to Dr. Ma. "I used the medicine you prescribed in my eyes and the residual effects are quite serious. I can't see people clearly at all. All the students look alike!"
Dr. Ma used an eye chart to test the teacher’s vision. "You could qualify to be a pilot!"
He also checked Mr. Jin’s ability to distinguish colors. The results were completely normal.
"My vision and color discrimination are indeed better than before.... But when I enter the classroom, why can’t I tell Tom from Dick or Harry? They all look the same...."
"It’s a special thing about this miraculous medicine. It was patented by me! I got it from examinations of the tears of thousands of parents of students. Using this medicine ensures that eyesight and color discrimination will be better than normal. And being a teacher, not being able to tell Tom from Dick or Harry when you’re in class won’t make much of a difference! Do you want to know which student sent you a red envelope, and which one sent the expensive booze? Or which one should be given exceptional treatment and which one given special lessons?"
Mr. Jin had nothing to say to that. He left the hospital in silence.
Ten years later, he was awarded a title as one of the “Top Ten Most Excellent Teachers in the Country”.
小说月刊，2017年第二期. Translated from 91读网 at:
www.91du.net/filedownload/139527, story no. 4; also available here.
7. Flower Face (花脸)
Feng Jicai (冯骥才)
At the beginning of every year, young maidens made a show of wearing velvet flowers and red robes, and wiped their mouths in thick lumps of rouge; other boys were interested in firecrackers, but not me. My interest was focused on wearing flower faces, a kind of mask made of papier-maché. Faces of well-known and completely awesome personages from the stage were painted on the masks using colored powders mixed with glue. A rubber strip was attached to the back and when you slipped the mask over your head, you were as dignified as a valiant general.
The flower faces were mashed down to fit the face, and two holes were dug out for the eyes so you could see from inside. The nose and mouth weren't ventilated, though, so it was stuffy wearing it and stank of glue and paper pulp. When you talked, your voice sounded low and thick, giving you the grandiose aura of a great general. It was quite impressive.
One year, towards the end of the year, my uncle took me to the holiday goods market in front of the Queen of Heaven Palace to buy a flower face. People are quite spirited around the Chinese New Year, and it took a lot of energy to squeeze in and struggle through the crowd. To my happy surprise, we ended up discovering a special one among the dozens of colorful flower faces hanging on a crossbar.
It was huge, and really unique! The whole face was red, with a pair of inky black eyebrows. The corners of the eyes arched upwards, giving it a heroically imposing look. A green turban stuck up from the top of the head and a scarf hung down from the bottom of the face. It had a long beard made from a horse’s tail.
This one was different from the flower faces with impulsively stupid grimaces. It didn’t look vicious, but it bore an intense expression of cold inviolability or aggression. Looking at it made me want to shrink my neck down between my shoulders, and I knew if I put it on, I’d scare other people into shrinking back, too. You know I didn't dare point at it. I just stuck my chin out in its direction and said, “I want that big red face!”
The little hunchback who was selling the flower faces lifted up a pole and used it to get down the one I wanted. She gave it to me with a smile that showed her yellow teeth and said, ''By golly, the young master has a good eye. He wants to be Master Guan, Lord Guan Yu from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms! But Master Guan has to carry his Green Dragon Crescent Blade! I'll pick out the most dynamic one for you!"
Next she pulled out the prettiest sword from a bundle of weapons stuck in the ground and gave it to me. It had a big, red lacquer hilt, and the golden surface of the blade was inlayed with several brightly shining reflective pieces. There was a small jade-green dragon inscribed in the middle and a red tassel.
Such a sword! Such a flower face! I never expected to score two treasures at once. All I could do was laugh for joy – I couldn't say a word.
My uncle paid the vendor. In the pedicab on the way home, I put the flower mask on and stood against uncle’s big cotton robe with the sword in my hand. I attracted many people’s attention, especially children my age. They cast their eyes on me in envy, which made me extremely happy.
Uncle told me some stories about Lord Guan. He’d broken through five passes and beheaded six generals. He defeated Hua Xiong in less time than it would take for his heated wine to cool off. My uncle said, half seriously, “You’re quite the hero!” It was like he was speaking of my own glorious deeds. When he told me that the Green Dragon Crescent Blade weighed eighty pounds, I felt straightaway that my strength was unlimited. Uncle also taught me to use the stylized accent of Beijing Opera to introduce myself, like this:
"I am Guan … Guan Yu. I go by the name Long Cloud."
When we got home, everyone came to see me and they all said I looked great. My mother seemed to be happier than I was. Even my father, who always had a severe look on his face, smiled and called me "Little Lord Guan." I pushed everyone aside and ran to the dressing mirror. I looked at my reflection – astride my horse with sword outstretched – What “Little” Lord Guan? I was the Great Lord Guan!
I wore the painted face like that all the way through New Year's Eve. I didn’t take it off no matter what anyone said, and even wore it to bed. After I went to sleep, my mother gently took it off and laid it on my pillow. The first thing I did as soon as I woke up the next morning was put it right back on, to restore my original appearance as “Lord Guan”.
We had guests coming over all day long on New Year’s Day, and my mother kept calling me out to let the guests see my Master Guan. I’d grab that big sword and walk majestically into the living room with my shoulders swaying, calling out in a gruff voice:
"I am Guan … Guan Yu. I go by the name Long Cloud."
8. Cover Up (掩护)
Rainy Wang (王雨)
The Director was very corrupt. When the word got out, he decided to commit suicide as a cover up so his superior could stay out of trouble. But thankfulness can cool as fast as a cup of tea, and his superior had a change of heart. "This, this thing, survivor’s benefits, it’s a little difficult to do…."
This added pain to the grief felt by the Director’s family, so they sought out the superior’s superior and presented a diary to him. “We didn't want to bring this out after he’s gone, but someone’s been burning his bridges….”
The superior's superior was alarmed and broke out in a cold sweat. He waived his hand and exclaimed, "Say no more! I’ll take over for you!" He called the Director’s superior on the carpet and spewed a torrent of abuse like dog spit on him right then and there. "What do you think you’re doing? Do you want to pull me into this? If not, shouldn’t you be covering me?!"
The Director’s superior held his breath until his face turned the color of pig's liver. Later he was magnanimous toward the deceased Director’s dependents, and as meek as a little white bunny.
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6. Miraculous Eye Drops
7. Flower Face
8. Cover Up
1. Tacit Understanding
2. Old Ma
3. A Big Mess
4. Being Cocky for a While
5. Four-Pound Liu
Merry-Go-Round Stories (Page 10)
Chinese Stories in English