1. An Aspiring Actor (应聘演员)
Lin Huayu (林华玉)

      Zhao Sheng nested at home for a year. Finally he couldn't take his wife's muttering anymore, so he had to go out and look for a job.
      Before he left the house, Zhao hadn't realized how difficult it is to find a suitable job at the ripe old age of fifty. Office workers are all youngsters, and he couldn't wipe enough wrinkles off his face to be a salesman. Anything requiring physical strength was beyond him as well…. Anyway, after looking for a whole month, he still hadn't found anything that suited him.
      One day, as Zhao was strolling down the street, he found himself at the gate of a film studio. He saw a bunch of people chatting in small groups near the gate. There were both men and women, some old and some young, some ugly and some attractive. Zhao thought it was unusual and asked a man the same age as myself what they were doing.
      "Waiting for work, obviously," the man said. He also told Zhao that they all worked as extras in films.
      "Not a bad job", Zhao said to himself. "Get your face in the movies and earn some money, too." With that thought in mind, he lined up with the others and craned his neck looking around as he waited for work.
      Before long a man came out calling for actors. With a whoosh everyone rushed over and crowded around him to put themselves forward. Zhao went with them.
      The man announced, "This time the director only wants one extra, a male forty to fifty years old with some basic acting skills. Those who do not meet the requirements please step back!" The disqualified ones sighed and stepped back.
      One older fellow slapped himself on the chest and said, "I've got loads of acting experience. I've appeared in more than a dozen plays."
      "What parts have you played?" the casting agent asked.
      The fellow answered, "Dead bodies, people fleeing disasters, Kuomintang soldiers...."
      The casting agent shook his head. "Those roles are too mundane," he said. "Anyone could play them." The fellow stepped back.
      Next to step forward was a man wearing glasses who appeared rather refined in manner. "I've acted in three plays," he said, "and have also read several books on theater. I've done a lot of research on acting."
      The casting agent had him do an impromptu bit about a vendor selling vegetables in a market. The man thought about the role for a moment, then started to act animatedly. Before he'd finished, the casting agent gestured for him to stop and said it wasn't what he wanted.
      Another man stepped forward to offer his services. The casting agent turned him down, too, because his acting skills weren't up to snuff.
      Zhao Sheng walked up and the casting agent asked, "Have you acted before?" Zhao shook his head and said no, but he was very interested in acting. The casting director was too polite to rebuff him straight out, so he had Zhao improvise a bit about a cadre inspecting a factory and speaking to the workers. Zhao began to perform without even thinking about it and, surprisingly, when he finished, he won cheers from everyone standing there. They said his acting was absolutely realistic.
      The casting agent also gave Zhao an admiring look, and then suggested another situation for him to act out: a farce of a town mayor accepting a bribe. Zhao played it to a T, giving a penetrating portrayal of a corrupt official. The casting agent was quite happy and made his decision right then and there. He hired Zhao for the extra's part and told him to report in at the set that afternoon.
      The other extras were envious and asked Zhao where he had worked previously and how he had learned to act. Zhao blushed bright red but didn't say anything.
      He ran into an acquaintance, Old Man Yun, while he was walking home. "Well if it isn't District Chief Zhao," Yun said in greeting. "How's your morning going?" Zhao's face turned red, but he pretended not to hear and walked on by. The man turned to look at his receding figure and spat venomously. "Pah! A corrupt bastard who lost his job for taking bribes and playing around with women, and he's still putting on airs. What an ass!"

Translated from 分节阅读. Also published here (first story) under the title 做演员
2. The Girl Says She's Upset (美女说她很难过)

Yu Xidiao (豫西调)

[Here's a pun which makes no sense in English, but which may be of interest to people studying Chinese – Fannyi]
      The young girl called Lili was a newcomer to our bureau. She was not only pretty, but had an outgoing personality as well. She became friends with her co-workers in short order.
      One morning just after coming to work, Bureau Director Zhao turned on his computer and opened the messaging program
QQ, as was his habit. He noticed that the signature line on a message from Lili was "So Upset…." He called Section Chief Qian from the Finance Section into his office right away and asked what was going on with her.
      Chief Qian was very much in the dark. "I don't know," he said, "She's a lovely girl, always in good spirits. She's not too familiar with the job, yet, but I really can't criticize her."
      Director Zhao pointed for Chief Qian to look at his computer. "If you haven't criticized her, why does she sign her name 'So Upset'?"
      "Let me think, let me think. That's right. Yesterday, Chief Sun from the Inspectors Section came in to check on people's discipline in coming to work. Lili has a habit of putting on her makeup when she comes in. Could he have criticized her?"
      Section Chief Sun was summoned. When Director Zhao asked him what had happened, his face reddened instantly. "I'd only said one thing to Lili when my phone rang and I went out to answer it."
      Director Zhao looked him in the face and asked what he'd said. Chief Sun hesitated a moment and then said, "I told her, 'you're prettier, lovelier and more attractive than ever.' My usual joking around...."
      Looking at Chief Sun's shiny bald head, circled by just a wisp of hair, Director Zhao was a bit nauseous. This old guy, still acting sexy after all these years.
      "Young Li was still there when I went out," Chief Sun said. Then he added, "Could he have said something he shouldn't have?"
      Young Li wasn't actually young. He'd been working at the Bureau for almost twenty years but was still only a common clerk in the Inspectors Section. However, whomever he talked to and whatever he said, he never said anything offensive. So he was rather mystified when the Bureau Chief and two Section Chiefs interviewed him at the same time, taking turns asking questions.
      "She puts her makeup on when she gets to work. If you leaders turn a blind eye to it, why would I say anything?" The three leaders immediately looked at each other in dismay.
      "I'll tell you, though, Lili is engaged to be married to the son of the County Communist Party Secretary's cousin. Anyone who messes with her will have to bear the consequences."
      "Chief Qian, go and get Lili in here," Director Zhao said sharply.

      "How are you, Director, Chief Qian, Mr. Li." Lili greeted everyone when she came in the room.
      "Fine, fine, we're all fine. But why are you so upset?"
      "Upset? I'm not upset!" Lili was baffled.
      Once she understood why the Director had said she was upset, she burst out laughing. "Director, that was how I felt about taking the test for my driver's license. I've taken it several times and haven't passed
[This story is a pun on 难过, which can mean either "upset" or "hard to pass". ]

3. Oldsters Sneaking Food (偷吃的老人)

by Huang Ying, edited by Wu Geng (文 黄英/编辑 乌耕)

      Tears suddenly gushed from my eyes, followed by a sharp pain in my heart....
      I went to my parents' home for the foreign holiday. I was carrying a new set of clothes for my Dad to make him happy. He certainly didn't know that there's such a thing in this world as holiday called Father's Day.
      My sister-in-law Ersao came over from next door and started jabbering with my mom about my dad being an old man in his 80s: "Jeez, and now he's learned to steal food."
      Steal food? Nobody's filthy rich these days, but we all have enough to eat and drink, so why would he steal food? But after we heard Ersao's explanation, it really was true.
      Ersao said, after the meal was cooked and put in serving dishes but before anyone had filled their bowl, when no one was looking, the old man would pull a morsel from the dish with his chopsticks and wolf it down, even if it was scalding hot. When the dishes were put on the table, if the old man was the only one sitting there, he'd scramble to get a bite like he was fighting someone for it. But if the family was sitting there, the old man wouldn't move his chopsticks. If you didn't put food in his bowl, he wouldn't reach out with his chopsticks to get it. He was like the youngest daughter-in-law in the old days: just sitting there with the others at the table, looking pathetic, always the last one allowed to eat.
      I felt at a loss as Ersao was saying this, and very puzzled. She said that if strangers saw what was happening, they'd think that we younger people weren't letting the old man eat. But none of us had even mentioned eating to him at all, let alone limited what he could have. He didn't do this when he was younger, so why would he become like this as he got older?
      While Ersao was talking, I suddenly remembered my grandma.
      In those days, while my parents were in the fields, grandma stayed at home to watch the place and do whatever housework she could. As she aged, it got so that she couldn't move, but it also seemed like she got greedier as she got older. She was always sneaking food and going off alone to eat it. Obviously, my parents were more attentive to her needs than I can say. They made everything easy for her, and never treated her harshly at all, but I often heard them say that grandma was stealing food from home. At first I didn't believe it, but after I got married I brought grandma to live at my place for a month, and found that she did indeed have the habit of sneaking food.
      At mealtimes, no matter how many dishes you made, grandma would hardly reach out with her chopsticks to get anything. She'd eat a little bit only if you put it in her bowl for her, and insist strenuously that she didn't really want any. But when you'd take a step away from the table, she'd stay behind and sneak some food. After I learned she had this habit, I was always careful to tread lightly when I got home. Once when I came in the door I saw Grandma reaching up into the cupboard, stretching her back like a cat. I turned around and came back later.
      I did like my mom had said when we'd talked about it back then. She'd said not to scare Grandma, for fear that she might choke on something she'd stuffed in her mouth, or more to the point, of course, for fear that she'd be embarrassed at being caught.
      Later, after I'd moved to live in the city, I talked to colleagues and neighbors. They all said the oldsters in their families didn't have this problem. I suspected that the city people were too vain to admit to such shortcomings in their households.
      When Ersao brought it up, Mom said something that gave me a flash of insight. Old people feel they can no longer work or make money because of their age, she said, but they don't want to freeload off of the younger generation. They feel apologetic; they're also afraid the younger generation will hate them if they see them eating too much, and that's why they sneak food.
      Following Mom's line of thinking, I finally knew why elderly people in the city don't sneak food. They generally have a pension, and are comparatively self-assured, so they can eat without worrying about it. But when farmers get to the point they can't work, they feel like they're a drag on their children. They're afraid the children will turn against them in time, so they develop the food stealing habit.
      Dad was all smiles, like a little kid, while I was helping him try on his new clothes. I couldn't help thinking that my parents aren't too old to work, yet, so I guess they don't have the food stealing problem now. Whether they will when they get so old they can't move…. Tears suddenly gushed from my eyes, followed by a sharp pain in my heart....

意林杂志,2013年6月下,第55页,摘自幸福杂志, Yilin Magazine, June 2013, 2nd Semimonthly Issue, p. 55
Also Published at
4. The Price of Life (生命的价格)

by Zhang Xinxin (张欣欣)

The Core Point: Does Life have a Price? This is a Question That Can be Answered Using the Methodology of Economics

      People often say “life is priceless,” meaning that the value of life has no limit and cannot be calculated. This actually speaks to the value of life only in the abstract. In reality, people often set a price for their own lives.
      Let’s first talk about an example that can be seen in real life.
      Imagine a risky activity like bungee or high-altitude parachute jumping. The risk of death for someone who participates without specialized training is one in ten thousand, and the rules specify that a participant can win ten thousand Yuan; that is, the participant is willing to take a ten-thousand-to-one risk of death to win 10,000 Yuan. From this we can extrapolate that he might also be willing to take a thousand-to-one risk to win 100,000 Yuan; or a hundred-to-one risk for a million Yuan; a one-in-ten risk for ten million Yuan; or finally, even a one-to-one risk (100%) for 100 million Yuan. In the real world, of course, the relationship between the amount of money required and the risk of death will not be a straight-line progression, but there will certainly be a progressive relationship.
      Facing two choices, one a 10,000-to-1 risk of death to win 10,000 Yuan and the other a 1-to-1 (100%) risk of death to win 100 million Yuan, I believe the vast majority of people would choose the former. Bottom line, a life is more valuable than 100 million Yuan. But it’s not true to say no one would ever choose the latter. In particular, if the amount of money is raised to a billion Yuan, or two billion, or more, even more people might choose the latter. In the real world, there have been people who bought large amounts of insurance and then committed suicide, with the goal of leaving huge wealth for their descendants. And there are many examples of buying insurance and then injuring oneself in order to receive insurance compensation, and these self-inflicted injuries are equivalent to destroying a third or a half of one’s own life.
      In the above examples, even if the risk of death from participating in these types of risky behaviors is only one in ten thousand, some participants still might die. In this sense, we can say that the participants in these kinds of risky activities have already put a price on their lives. The price was ten thousand Yuan when the risk of death was ten thousand to one, and in the event they actually died (100% risk of death) the price was 100 million Yuan.
      We all set a price on our lives in this way in our daily lives. For example, suppose the risk of being hit by a car and killed is one in one million when crossing the street in a crosswalk, but zero when using a pedestrian overpass to cross. You may choose to use the crosswalk rather than the overpass because the overpass would require walking an extra 100 meters, costing 5 minutes extra time and effort. For you, this extra 5 minutes time and effort is equivalent to spending 10 Yuan. In other words, to save 10 Yuan (the cost of 5 minutes time and effort) you’re willing to use the crosswalk and take a one-in-a-million chance of death. Extrapolating from this, you may actually be willing to take a one percent risk of death to win 100,000 Yuan, or take a one-in-ten risk to win a million Yuan, or a one-to-one (100%) risk of death to win 10 million Yuan. Thus, in choosing to use the crosswalk rather than the overpass, you have actually set a price on your life: namely, 10 million Yuan.
      In the same manner, suppose the risk of death from riding a train is zero (assumed to be zero for ease of calculation), and the risk of death from taking an airplane is one in one million.
      For every person, when you encounter something life-threatening with a risk of death greater than zero, your choice is actually between life and death.
      Life is priceless in the abstract, but it does have a price in the real world because you cannot avoid making choices: whether to climb a mountain, whether to go swimming, whether to drive a car, whether to eat puffer fish (with the possibility of death by poisoning)…. You cannot but set a price on your life, and whether it’s high or low depends on you yourself.

(文化周末) 文章来源: 北京晨报2010-09-09 Beijing Morning Post (Culture Weekend)

5. The Upstairs Neighbor’s Speaker (楼上的音响声)

by Snowy North (北方学)

      Red had just moved into a new home. Every day, early in the morning, she could hear annoying music coming from upstairs. She was quite irritated about it.
      One morning Red was startled awake by the deafening noise. She went upstairs and knocked angrily on the neighbor’s door, and was surprised when an older man opened it. “As old as you are, and you still disco dance?” she asked. “Please, turn the volume down a bit.”
      The man’s face lit up with a smile, but he declined to make amends.
      Red went back home in a snit. Then, suddenly, she had an idea. She’d just buy a dance pad of her own and aggravate him by blasting the music. She went into action as soon as she made up her mind. Early every morning, as soon as the man upstairs started dancing, she set the volume on her dance pad as loud as possible and started dancing for all she was worth.
      Nothing happened for the first three days, but on the morning of the fourth day, there as a knock on Red’s door. “Success!” she thought to herself happily, but when she opened the door, it was a young boy from downstairs. “Ma’am,” he said, “please turn the volume up a bit. I like to dance, too, but our speaker’s broken and we can’t get it fixed right now.”
      This really made Red mad, but she didn’t say anything right then. She went back in her room and turned the volume down as low as possible, then simply turned it off. “In your dreams,” she thought. “Where in the world can you get free music?” But then she had second thoughts. Maybe she’d been tricked. That inspired her to go back to the upstairs neighbor. She would use the same method to get the old man to turn down the volume.
      Red knocked until he opened his door. The ear-splitting music was so loud that she couldn’t hear the sound of her own voice, so she shouted, “Mister, please turn the volume up as high as you can.”
      The man still didn’t hear clearly, but he saw the urgency on Red’s face, so he went back inside and lowered the volume. Then he yelled to her, “What were you saying?”
      “I like to dance, too,” Red said with a false smile, “but my speaker’s broken. I thought I’d save a little money by just using your music. Please turn up the volume as high as it will go!”
      The man patted chest. “Sure,” he said magnanimously, “don’t worry about it.”
      When Red got home, the noise from upstairs was naturally louder than ever.

故事会, 2012, 9 月, 下半月, 第95页
Stories Magazine, September 2012, 2nd Semimonthly Issue, p. 95
Also at
6. Internet Love (网恋)

by Unfettered for Now (逍遥拉兹)

      There was a girl on the East Side, beautiful, wholesome, the only daughter in the family. She spent the spring holidays at home watching TV.
      There was a boy on the West Side, cute, robust, the only son in the family. He spent the spring holidays at home watching TV.
      A guy called Curiosity came from out of nowhere and crashed down beside them. He said, mysteriously, “I’ll take you to a wonderful place. You’ll like it for sure.” They didn’t say no, just stared at Curiosity in astonishment.  Under his direction, they started their computers and, coincidentally, got on the net at the same time.
      It’s a strange world, and in the great expanse of the internet you can find any strange thing you want. They got terribly excited. Then they caught the eye of a fellow called Temptation and tailed directly after him. He placed before them things that attracted them, some good and some not so good. It made them go in deeper and deeper.
      Next a guy called Fate came along, calling himself Red Girl. He brought the two of them together and introduced them, and they got to know each other. At this point the two were very happy, chatting with each other, playing games together. They felt like they didn’t want to be away from each other.
      A whole day passed quickly like that. Right up until their parents came home. Only then did they get off the net and turn off their computers.
      After that, they fell in love with the internet. They didn’t want to do their homework, and didn’t want to watch TV. It got to the point where they thought everything else boring; it was the only thing in their cup. Whenever their parents were out, they’d turn on their computers and secretly sign on the net.
      They didn’t know why the net was so much fun. And they didn’t know why it attracted them. And they really didn’t know that they’d already fallen into a dreamy first love.
      It turns out that, while their heads were turned by the fun they were having, that fellow called Internet Love snuck into and took up residence in their hearts. He dug into the deepest part of their souls, where he occasionally makes waves.

Translated from here. Also available at http://www.jj59.com/yuanchuang/037706.html
7. A Chronicle of the Lives of Four Mice (四鼠发展记)

By Wu Yan of Sucheng (舒城吴焱)

      Mama Mouse’s four sons had grown up and it was time for them to move out. The top priority was to expand the Mouse Clan’s territory in all four directions.
     The eldest, Rice Mouse, set up his home in the drain pipe of a high-class hotel in the big city. He lived like a king: Every day he got to eat exotic delicacies thrown away by consumers on government expense accounts.
      The second son, Fruit Mouse, built a happy, peaceful nest above the ceiling in a newlywed couple’s new home in the city. He lived a very contented life, too: Every day he could steal leftovers to eat, and fruit or cookies to nibble on.
      The third son, Barn Mouse, lived well in his own right, in a provincial-level grain warehouse: He passed his days in a place where he could eat, drink and go about his business without moving around, and not have to suffer from the blowing wind or the heat of the sun.
      The youngest, Field Mouse, dug a hole in a dike between rice paddies to make his home, but he was comfortable with it: He specialized in stealing melons and fruit and greens and vegetables to eat.
     After a year, the four brothers got together again when they all went home for a visit during the Autumn Festival. Each of them was very whiney and grouchy, which really surprised Mama Mouse. She pushed up the spectacles she wore for farsightedness and, looking over her sons, who were greatly changed, asked: “Do you remember when you would write to me, or call me on the phone, and tell me how well you were doing, and how you were so happy you didn’t even think about coming home?”
      The eldest, Rice Mouse, was the first to speak: “Ma, don’t just look at how fat I am now, or what a prosperous belly I have. The truth is I’m really sick. Last time at the hospital they diagnosed me with an adipose liver, gastric ulcers, coronary heart disease and a bunch of other ‘rich people’s diseases.’ The doctor told me I’m going to die if I don’t go on a diet!”
      The second son, Fruit Mouse, whose emaciated figure stood in stark contrast to his brother’s corpulence, gulped before opening his mouth. He wiped his nose and said miserably: “Give me a cigarette, Rice Mouse.” He lit it and took a deep drag, then said in a dispirited voice: “The landlords where I live, the young couple, they were in the clothing business and made over ten thousand a month, so every day they left fresh fruits and fine gourmet foods for me to try. Then the man had to go get hooked on drugs, and the woman went along with him. It wasn’t six months before they were cleaned out. They screwed me, too, got me hooked to where I couldn’t pull out. Now I need a fix every day and I’d really be better off dead. The family cat, a Persian – my drug buddy, he told me he had at most six months to live, and I only have thirty days!”
      The third son, Barn Mouse, shuddered as though he were freezing. Rice Mouse was puzzled and asked: “It’s only the Autumn Festival, Barn Mouse. The weather’s not that cold, and you’re not sick, so why are you shaking?”
      Barn Mouse turned grim as he told his brother: “You don’t know it, Rice Mouse, but I lay around in the warehouse every day, eating grain and not getting any exercise. And besides, the heat and humidity in the warehouse are computer-controlled and kept at the same level all the time. Now I can’t take the heat or the cold. If I’m away from there too long, there’s no way I can stay alive.”
      The three brothers turned their gaze to Field Mouse, but he just shook his head and said: “Don’t think I’m so healthy, my brothers. Truth is, I’m a mess. They use more and more fertilizer and insecticide every year on the farm, and there’s a factory nearby that spews out pollution, too, so I eat contaminated food every day. Too much heavy metal has collected in my body and the doctor says I’ve lost the ability to father children.”
      Mama Mouse burst into tears when she heard all this. “Oh, God, all four of my kids are useless! When will the Mouse Clan ever be able to fulfill its duty to go forth and multiply?”

Translated from here. Also available at http://www.enjoybar.com/content/72349.html
8. The Old Man Who Knows English Can't be Blocked (老头懂英文,谁都挡不住)

by Passing Guest (过客)

      Dusty is a mischievous kid. Since he was little he's just creeped around, killing time. One day when he was passing by an orchard, the fruit called out to him, and he decided to steal a few to see what they tasted like.
      He knew from careful observation on several previous occasions that an old man was taking care of the orchard. The old man had a dog. On that day he saw that when the old man called out "Ha-mu", the dog came running to his side. He felt that it wouldn't be difficult to deal with the old man and the dog.
      The next day, Dusty arrived at the edge of the orchard, where there was an old wooden shack. The old fellow was sitting in front of the shack getting some sun, but the dog, he saw, had ducked into a cowshed beside the shack.
      Dusty went over the fence quietly and jumped into the orchard. Just as he was about to pluck some fruit from a tree, he heard a loud noise nearby. He stopped cold, then heard the old guy yelling, "What are you doing, Dusty?" He scurried back over the fence as soon as he heard that.
      He didn't know how the old man knew his name. Was he such a delinquent that he'd become notorious, his name known far and wide?
      Two days later, the ripening fruit again called out to Dusty. He saw that both the old man and the dog were taking the sun in front of the shack. He jumped nimbly into orchard, but just as his feet hit the ground he heard a sudden noise behind him. Before he knew it, the dog called Ha-mu was flying at him like a devil. Then he heard the old man yelling, "Dusty, you bastard, quit screwing around!"
      Crestfallen, Dusty once again had to beat a hasty retreat.
      It seemed like the old man had discovered him as soon as he entered the orchard. But the man hadn't accused him of anything right then and there, even though he obviously knew that he was in the wrong. Dusty was quite moved by that. He decided to go make amends to the old guy.
      Dusty went to the shack two days later. He saw the old man sitting there with his eyes lightly closed, as though he were dozing. But he opened his eyes as soon as Dusty came up to him. Dusty noticed to his surprise that there were tears in the man's eyes. But what surprised him even more was, the old fellow was blind.
      "Hey, Gramps, you seem like you're hurting. Did something happen to make you unhappy?" Dusty asked.
      "I've lost my Dusty," the old man said. "He hasn't been home for two days and nights."
      Dusty? Aren't I right here, Dusty thought in surprise. Could the old guy be nuts? He scratched the back of his head and asked, deliberately, "And Dusty is…?"
      "That dog of mine," the old fellow said.
      Dusty didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He'd been worked up about this for so long, and it turned out that he and the dog had the same name.
      "But a few days ago, I clearly heard you call him 'Ha-mu'. As soon as you yelled 'Ha-mu', he came running to your side."
      "That's right," the old fellow said with a laugh. "I call him with the English word 'come' (which means 'come here')."

2012 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 118
Translated from text at
9. Old Zhang in the Hospital (老张住院)

by No Need to Add (何必加)

      It had been half a month since Old Zhang went into the hospital. His son and daughter had done their filial duty and got him a VIP room, a double.
      The doctors constantly wanted Lao Zhang to undergo tests so that they could make an accurate diagnosis of his condition. It required seven work days to get back the results for some of the tests. That's why the bill was so big, with the costs of the tests added to the cost of the room.
      One morning the head nurse came to administer tests to Old Zhang's roommate. Old Zhang gave a worried frown when he saw him, then told a true story:

      There was a hospital Chief of Staff whose TV set at home broke, so he took it to a repair shop to get it fixed. He told the shop clerk, "It doesn't do anything, no sound, no picture."
      "OK," the clerk said, "it looks like a problem with the insides, so you need to go to our Internal Section. May I ask, would you like to see an ordinary engineer or a high level engineer? The ordinary engineer costs 20 Yuan [≈$3.25] and the high-level one is 40. The high-level engineer is highly skilled and can solve all the complicated problems, and his bring-back rate is clearly lower than the ordinary engineer's. He's just more expensive, is all. Of course, it's up to you as the customer which one you want."
      The Chief thought it over. "My TV shouldn't be a tough case," he said, "so the ordinary engineer will do."
      "Great. Please pay the 20 Yuan repair fee now."
      "Why do I have to pay a fee before you've fixed it?"
      "Hospitals have a registration fee. Doesn't it have to be paid before you see a doctor?"
      The Chief had no answer for that, so he had to pay the 20 Yuan. Then he took his TV and carried it to the engineer's work station.
      The engineer asked what was going on with the TV. He then made out a bill for the Chief with three pre-service fees: a multi-use meter evaluation fee of 20 Yuan; an oscilloscope evaluation fee of 50 Yuan; and a sweep generator evaluation fee of 80 Yuan.
      So the Chief asked, "Why does the customer have to pay these evaluation fees. Aren't they just to make things easier for you engineers?"
      "That's right," the engineer answered smoothly. "We used to rely on the 'Look, Ask and Slice' method, and go by our experience. But nowadays the science is better developed, and we've got all the instruments. If we do the tests before making repairs we can discover problems that for the time being haven't yet become apparent. Of course, you can insist on no testing, but while we're doing the repairs, we might make errors in judgment and replace parts that are still good, causing unnecessary costs. Or we might not repair your appliance well, so you'll end up wasting a lot of time and maybe have to spend more money."
      The Chief didn't have a choice and paid the 150 Yuan for evaluation fees. After half an hour's evaluation, the engineer found a triode that had burned out. He replaced it with a new one and the repairs were finished.
      "We practice hierarchic administration in our shop," the engineer told the Chief afterward. "Please go to the pick-up counter to get your TV."
       The pick-up clerk prepared a repair services list and gave it to the Chief, asking him to pay the fees before taking the TV. Written on the list, the Chief saw: "As stipulated by the Parts Pricing Department, our shop practices itemized billing to insure that customers can utilize our services with complete understanding. Your repair costs on this occasion are as follows…."
      The Chief almost fainted when he saw the list: It had cost a total of 232 Yuan to repair the TV, just to replace a part worth less than ten Yuan.
      The Chief was mad and argued with the clerk.
      Incredibly, the clerk said: "Don't you understand? It was only because you paid 232 Yuan evaluation and equipment usage fees that we knew to replace the part worth less than ten Yuan! How dumb!"

      Old Zhang's roommate laughed loudly at the story.
      That afternoon the head nurse came into Old Zhang's room with a stack of test result reports. "You're really lucky," he said to Old Zhang. "Our Chief of Staff saw these test results and decided that there's nothing out of the ordinary about your case. He'll perform your operation himself tomorrow."
      Old Zhang gave a wink as he said, "That story I told, I saw it on the internet. It was fiction, not real…."

故事会, 2013, 5 月, 下半月, 第92页
Stories Magazine, May 2013, 2nd Semimonthly Issue, p. 92
Also published at

To get Chinese text by return email, send name of story to jimmahler1@yahoo.com

1. An Aspiring Actor
2. The Girl's Says She's Upset
3. Oldsters Sneaking Food

7. Chronical of Four Mice
8. Old Man Knows English
9. Old Zhang in Hospital

Midis Page One

4. The Price of Life
5 Upstairs Neighbor's Speaker
6. Internet Love

​​         Chinese Stories in English