Midis Page Five

5. Venetian Artist's Masks
6. The Writer Who Loved Her
7. Chinese Style

8. The Perfect Spot
9. Boss Answers Questions
10. He Loves Car Names
11. Woody Takes a Test

1. My Granny, the "Star"
2. Tofu Bits
3. Eating Rice Noodles
4. Seven Washes Required

​​         Chinese Stories in English   

1. My Granny, the "Star" (“明星”外祖母)
Liu Zhenyun (刘震云)

      When my maternal grandmother was young, she was a "star" in an area several miles around where we lived. (I grew up living in the countryside.) She was a bit like Maggie Cheung is nowadays. But Maggie Cheung is nothing more than an actress in the movies, and my granny was a contract farm laborer.
      She stood out from all the others in that area. She was a little over a meter and a half (5') tall, but, as she told me in her later years, she could harvest a mile-long strip of grain from one end to the other without having to straighten up even once.
      At the time, since granny was a "star", all the landlords around us held her in high regard. I heard that they were always happy to sign a contract with her. Whatever landlord's home she went to, they would always make sure that the male children knew her name. When I was little, I noticed that granny had a bunch of godsons and they were all landlords. Wherever she went there was someone calling her "mum". So, finally, when the
struggle against landlords started, she didn't agree with it. She said that landlords were particularly good. How can they be bad if their sons call me "mum" when they see me?
      During the "Great Cultural Revolution", when they put on the revolutionary opera "
The White Haired Girl", she asked where those events had happened. At the time I didn't know either, and said it might have been Hebei Province. She said if the landlords in Hebei were bad, that didn't prove that the landlords Henan were bad.
      In 1992, two Germans came to granny's home to have a look around, and I came with them. They had a conversation with her that they felt was especially good.
      One of the two was exceptionally tall and could speak Chinese. The other was quite short and could not.
      Granny asked the tall one, "Where do you live?"
      "I live in northern Germany," he said.
      Then she asked the short one, "And how about you?"
      "I live in the south of Germany."
      Granny asked: "Well, how did you come to know each other?"
      The Germans seemed rather disconcerted at this. Yes, how did we come to know each other? I feel this is one of the fundamental problems in the world.
      They thought it over for a long time before the tall one said, humorously, "A market."
      Granny understood. Ah, they met at a market.
      She asked, "Did you have a 'Great Cultural Revolution' in Germany?" The Germans were disconcerted once again.
      "Did you?"
      "No, we didn't."
      Granny was immediately anxious. "Chairman Mao said to make a 'Great Cultural Revolution', so why didn't you do it?" The tall one thought it over for a while, but then gave a very satisfactory answer. He said the Germans are stupid, that most of them don't know any Chinese, and so they didn't understand what Chairman Mao had said.
      Then Granny asked, "Well, how many shares of land are you allotted per person in Germany?"
      Although the tall one could speak Chinese, he wasn't very precise about the details. He got "shares" confused with the word "mu" [about a fifteenth of an acre]. He said, "Eight shares." When granny heard that, she snorted and stood up from her chair. Leaning on her cane, she walked all around the fellow and said, "Such a big man, I don't think you could get enough to eat [from such a small plot]."
      The guy knew he had enough food and realized his mistake. "Granny, I was wrong," he corrected himself. "It's eight mu."
      Granny got anxious again. She turned around on her crutches and said, "Well, your wife must have to work her fingers to the bone."

2011 中国年度小小说,桂林:漓江出版社,2011.12
China Annual Short Fiction, 2011, p. 17 – Guilin: Li River Publishers, December 2011
Translated from the version at
http://www.niubb.net/yuedu/2012/0808/5076.html
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2. Tofu Bits (渣豆腐)

Unattributed

      My hometown is in the Yimeng Mountain region of Fei County [in Shandong Province]. A common side dish prevalent here, called "tofu bits" (or "bean foam" in farming communities in the eastern part of the county), is a unique local specialty. Even the sound of its name drips with local flavor. In the past, though, far from being unique, it was a bit of home cooking commonly seen on our tables.
      When I was a child, the country was mired in a period when material goods were relatively scarce. People in the agricultural areas here basically ate tofu bits at every meal. They only saw meat or fish at fancy New Year festivities. That's why I have such deep and special feelings about tofu bits.
      The ingredients for making tofu bits are entirely commonplace. There's cabbage, celery leaves, lettuce, radish stems, mustard sprouts, yam and potato seedlings, kidney beans, beans, elm seeds, acacia flowers and all kinds of wild herbs. Even cotton seeds are OK. You might say that, in general, tofu bits can be made from almost anything edible. In those difficult times, it was an outright gift of nature that nourished the rural areas with crystalline brilliance through what were otherwise dismal days.
      After picking and cleaning the cabbage and other veggies, wash them well and put them in a basket. Bring water to a boil in a wok. Pour in the veggies and scald them for a few seconds, then remove with a strainer and put them in cold water until they're cool enough not to burn you. You can then take them out and roll them into tight balls to squeeze out the water. Put the balls on a chopping board and mince with a paring knife. Pour the minced veggies into the wok and add chilled sweet mountain spring water. Sprinkle on a layer of golden soybean flour and add salt blocks to taste (in those days we didn't have granulated salt in the countryside). Heat to a boil. Remove the lid from the wok and stir the veggies and the flour until evenly mixed. Put the lid back on and simmer for five or six minutes, and this simple and easy mixture will have become a delicacy.
      When a platter full of piping hot tofu bits was brought to the table, an enticing aroma would fill the air. We'd sit down, dish some onto a pancake and roll it up with some chilies and pickled veggies. We'd clutch it in our hands and bite off all we could chew. We'd chew and chew, and that sweet, sweet taste was so satisfying that we couldn't help wanting another as soon as we finished one. We'd eat until we'd rub our bulging bellies and our foreheads would be covered by a layer of fine, sparkling beads of sweat, and our hearts, which hadn't been able to find a home because of hunger or fatigue, would sink docilely back into our guts. With our hunger "staved off" by the tofu bits, our poor home would fill with songs and laughter, and our day would seem to be wrapped in a layer of sweet candy.
      Tofu bits, which had gradually faded from the lives of the local people, are now quietly returning to their tables. This crude, fibrous foodstuff is generally categorized as a pure and natural green food. It is conducive to health when consumed regularly, and that's the main reason tofu bits are coming back.
            "Tofu bits, taste so sweet,
            "Tofu bits, oh so neat,
            "Stew up some for a meal,
            "Satisfyin', that's for real...."
      Whenever I think of this folk ditty, images from back then of us gorging ourselves, wolfing down tofu bits, float through my mind, the aroma of tofu bits makes my stomach giddy, and my spirit is consoled and satisfied.

咚咚呛的博客 Thumping Choke's Blog
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_c27a7d070101avew.html, story #4
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3. Eating Rice Noodles (吃粉)

Huang Huanzhi (黄焕支)

      When I was young, getting to go out to eat rice noodles was something I really enjoyed. The feeling was no less than a soccer fan watching a World Cup match or a basketball fan watching an NBA game.
      There was a grain shop at the end of Jila Street and a noodle house in the middle, both run by a state-owned food and beverage company. My father would go buy rice first thing when got he paid – we wouldn't starve if we had rice. The first time he went to buy rice, we three brothers didn't know what the big deal was, but after going along with him only once, from then on we just had to go with him every time. It was because, after getting the rice, Father would go to the noodle house and trade raw rice for some rice noodles to eat. Out of long habit, when he got to the noodle house, he would pick up the small scoop that was kept on the counter and, opening the bag of rice, use it to measure out two cups of rice, which he would then pour into a big jar off to one side. Then, handing over just a tiny bit of money, he would get four tickets to exchange for bowls of rice noodle soup. The four of us would sit at a square table waiting for the noodles to be served. We got very excited when the bowls were put on the table at last, and reached out for them. Father would holler, "Don't rush, don't rush." – But there was no way we could mind him, we'd grab the bowls and eat. Truth is, they were just plain rice noodles flavored with soy sauce, but I still thought they were tasty. I'd down the whole bowl, soup and all. A few times my older brother was off somewhere playing by himself and didn't go with us. While we were eating we'd trash him for wanting to play all the time, and laugh at him for missing the food. Even today I can't forget the "flavor" of those rice noodles.

鸡啦街纪事 – 黄焕支著,大众文艺出版社 2008年6月第1版, 13页
Notes on Jila Street by Huang Huanzhi, Popular Culture & Arts Publishing House, 6/2008, p. 13
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4. Seven Washes Required (一定要洗七遍)

Wang Jing (王静)

      A professor was lecturing in class about "Articles of the WTO", and the students were all drowsy. To wake them up, the professor resorted to his stock-in-trade; he told them a story.
      A Chinese student attending school in Japan, like other international students, had an after-school job washing dishes in a Japanese restaurant to earn money for tuition. Japan's restaurant industry has an unwritten rule that a restaurant's dishes must be washed at least seven times. Because dish washers are paid by the number of dishes washed, this student would get tired out even though he wasn't making much money.
      And so one day he made up his mind that, from then on, he would wash each dish two fewer times. Sure enough, his efficiency on the job showed a marked increase. His boss thought highly of him and his paychecks naturally also increased rapidly.
      Some Japanese students were also washing dishes there to earn money for tuition. They asked our student what techniques he used to be able to wash so many dishes. He told them, with complete candor, "Look, what difference does it make if you wash the dishes five times instead of seven? Washing two less times, is all." The Japanese students all said "yes, yes," but gradually started avoiding him.
      The Japanese make two presumptions about people: one, that you're innocent of any wrongdoing; and two, that you're honest. The restaurant owner therefore only spot-checked occasionally to see whether the dishes had been washed clean.
      During one check, the boss used a special litmus paper and found that the dishes were not clean enough.      When questioned about it, our student had a plausible explanation: "Doesn't washing five times keep the dishes just as clean as seven times?"
      "You're a dishonest person," the boss replied coolly. "Please leave."
      The student's anger grew as he walked out onto the street. He shook his fist at the Japanese restaurant and shouted, "Down with Japanese imperialism!"
      Despite the slogan, our student still had to make a living. He went to another restaurant in the area in response to a help-wanted ad. The boss looked him up and down and said, "You're that Chinese student who only washes the dishes five times, aren't you? I'm sorry, we're not hiring!" Another restaurant, and then another…. He repeatedly ran into a wall.
      Not only that, before long his landlord asked him to move out. The reason was that his "reputation" was having an adverse impact on the jobs of other residents (most of whom were also international students).
      The school he attended also sent someone specifically to talk to him. They hoped he could change to another school, because he was influencing the school's recruitment of new students....
      In desperation, our student packed up and moved to another city to get a fresh start. With bitter hatred, he warned other Chinese students planning on coming to school in Japan: "If you wash dishes in Japan, make sure you wash them seven times!"
      "And that's how the WTO's rules are!" the professor yelled at us reprovingly. We straightened up right away, all thought of sleeping gone.

小小说名作、佳作阅读与欣赏 Famous Mini-Story Masterpieces to Read and Appreciate
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_6ceb4af10101f1qd.html, Story #18
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5. Venetian Artist Tells about Her Masks

Roberta Carraro

      My name is Roberta Carraro, I am a Venetian artist, and I have recently had the great pleasure to create a cat mask for Mr Yaodong Chen [and others] as a customized gift from an Italian friend of theirs.
      The creation of this mask made me think of the unique, close relationship between China and Venice dating back to Marco Polo’s times (second half of the 13th century), and to my surprise I found out that Liuzhou used to be the ancient gateway to Cathay and the end of the Silk Road along which Marco Polo travelled on his way to see the Great Khan. What an amazing coincidence!!! It is well-known that Marco Polo was very fond of Chinese customs and culture, and in his Description of the World he expressed his deep admiration for China’s thriving prosperity and advanced civilization and aroused a keen interest in the Middle Kingdom among Europeans. He said that a very sophisticated economic system had given birth to breakthrough inventions and exceptional technologies, and since then China’s influence has remained alive in Europe and Italy throughout the centuries. Even nowadays Venice has a special, enchanting Oriental atmosphere which can remind us of Chinese cities like Suzhou, visited by Marco Polo in 1276.
      Venice is certainly a city of magic with its maze of narrow streets, hundreds of bridges and dozens of canals linking its magnificent palaces and churches, and this magic was my original source of inspiration.
      When I was a little child, I was really fond of creating any kind of objects by using a wide range of materials, and later on at primary and middle schools drawing was my favourite subject and my works were enthusiasticallypraised by my teachers. For this reason, I was encouraged to pursue art studies to develop my full potential and enrolled in the Venice Academy of Fine Arts where I learned different painting techniques. Through the five-year course I grew well aware of my artistic skills and understood what career was right for me.
      After leaving the Academy I had the chance to work in a number of artists’ studios, and in 1996 I started working in an atelier where typical Venetian papier mâché masks (also called paper mache masks) were designed, handmade and decorated in different colours and styles. There I discovered a new world and a new passion. By mere coincidence, the first documents concerning the use of masks in Venice go back to the 13th century, namely Marco Polo’s times. In those days mask-makers belonged to the fringe of painters and were helped in their task by sign-painters who drew faces on plaster in a wide range of shapes and paid extreme attention to details.
      Now I am a Venetian mask artist on my own, and I must say that living in

Venice has been a constant stimulus to my creativity and vision. I pour all my

energy and passion into my work, always striving for excellence in everything

I do, opening up new horizons and facing new challenges.  Each mask I create

is the only one of its kind, and on my website www.maskerelle.it I try my best

to communicate my passion and describe the top quality of materials and the

traditional techniques I use.                                                                                                             [Photos by Anna Garusi]

                                                                                                              

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6. The Writer Who Loved Her Back Then (当年,那个爱她的大作家)

Ye Qingcheng (叶倾城)

      They all said she was crazy. She was an old woman who lived in an out-of-the-way village in England, passing the days in loneliness. The neighbors had heard she used to support herself by teaching dance, or something like that, but she was too old now, so old that no one could imagine her dancing.  But she insisted that she had been an opera star, and had been famous for a time, back in the day.
      The hardest thing to believe was, she claimed that a celebrated author had asked for her hand in marriage. A busybody asked her, if that was so, how come she’d spent her life alone. A shadow fell across her face, and she started to mutter something, but I stopped her.
      When the word got around, almost no one believed her. An author renowned throughout the world and an old lady in the countryside, how could anything ever have happened between them?
      She died a few years later, and a few years after that the author’s diary got published. It let the world know about the first and only love of his life.
      At the time he was still a lowly public servant and had just started creative writing. If he happened to earn a small fee for a manuscript and was feeling extravagant, he would go to the theater to take in a performance. From a faraway corner in the back row he would watch the female lead come quickly out on stage, wearing a white angel’s suit and a sweet smile, and it sent his spirit soaring.
      Later he gradually made a name for himself and the theater owner gave him a contract to write a script. She, the one he loved, would be the leading lady. He poured his whole lifetime of love into that script, and it was this play that made her an overnight sensation. She was thankful to him, sending him tickets for every performance, and the two became close friends. Eventually he got up the courage to ask her to get married, but she never replied. Thereafter the two never mentioned it, as though it hadn’t happened at all.
      He wrote in his biography: “When the heavy curtain went up again, 10 days later, he was still 45 years old. But he was already an old man, and getting older, and that’s the way it would be.” And the girl of his dreams, after several years, was this old country lady.
      The ridiculousness and embarrassments of life lay in these kinds of ups and downs. The vicissitudes of fate are just like waves. Can you always ask yourself anew, before every decision, whether you can really afford such a costly demand on your time?

Translated from here. Also available here.
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7. Doing Things Chinese Style (中国式办事)
Wan Junhua (万俊华)
Mirror One

      Someone stole a manhole cover from the middle of the street. All the vehicles driving there had to make a detour around the hole. People complained to the authorities several times but they never saw a new cover. Then some do-gooder took an old sofa and put it over the hole. It was somewhat effective as a warning.
      One day the people noticed that a new cover had finally replaced the old one. It seems there had been an accident there the previous evening. One person died and two were injured.
Mirror Two
      A pedestrian walkway was put between the two lanes of a newly constructed road, and landscaped with multi-colored floral displays. Everyone walking along it would relax and enjoy the peaceful scenery. However, halfway along the walkway, long rows of planter boxes closed off by concrete were added, so whenever people walked there, they had to take a detour into the street to get around. The local citizenry had complained to the authorities about this many times, and requested removal of any planters that influenced strolling as soon as possible. For a long time, though, the planter boxes persisted in blocking the middle of the pedestrian walkway.
      Then all of a sudden, overnight, those planter boxes were removed and the walkway was back to its original appearance. It turned out that a pedestrian had been hit and killed there that very evening when he detoured into the street.

Mirror Three

      Blind paths are installed down the middle of sidewalks to make it

easier for blind people walking. [In a place where] a highway crossed a

bridge with a sidewalk on both sides of the bridge, people noticed that

both the blind path and the sidewalk [curved around back toward the 

river at the end of the bridge] and continued on under the bridge [so

people could get to the other side of the highway without interrupting             [Photo by Fannyi. The yellow tiles are 

traffic].                                                                                                                              the blind path.]
      [Sighted] pedestrians knew to turn under the bridge, but as for blind people [who might continue walking straight toward the river], wasn't that just a road to death? People complained to the authorities many times, but the blind path stubbornly remained the way it was.
      One day the people discovered that, all of a sudden, a bunch of government workers had appeared on the sidewalk. They were breaking up the blind path tiles one by one and replacing them all with ordinary tiles. Everyone knew that an elderly blind person who had been walking there the previous day had fallen into the river and drowned.

《闪小说月刊》创刊名家专栏征稿
Flash Fiction Monthly, Premier Issue, Distinguished Authors' Manuscripts
Translated from
here. Also published here under the name 路况实录 (fourth story)
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8. The Perfect Spot (美好的位置)

Ma Yawei (马亚伟)

      Students once gave me a bouquet of fresh flowers: lilies, carnations, and several others I don’t know the names of. These flowers, some were in full bloom and some were buds. They were lithe and slender, and all the colors of the rainbow; very beautiful.
      I put them in clean water to keep them fresh and placed them in a corner of the living room. They did brighten the room, but who would have thought that when my daughter came in after school she’d exclaim, “What’s that smell? It’s really strong and tickles my nose!” She sneezed twice just after she spoke. I’d only noticed how the flowers looked and had gotten used to the smell, so I hadn’t felt there was anything wrong. When my daughter mentioned it I leaned closer to the flowers and sniffed. Yes, indeed, the aroma was too strong. I don’t know which of the flowers it was, but it was a sweet scent, and a sugary taste irritated my throat as soon as it went in my nose, a quite unpleasant smell. I had to move the flowers into the den. When my husband went in there he immediately yelled for me to come in and, pinching his nose and pointing to the bouquet: “Throw them out right now! Flowers should have a light aroma, but yours have a heavy stink!” Those flowers, the smell really was too much.
      I hadn’t expected that such a beautiful bouquet would be so unwelcome. Tender and gorgeous flowers, I felt they were like a beautiful girl who’d been abused and banished to limbo. It was heart breaking. I had to move them out into the hallway where there was a large, well aired space. When I opened the window the flowers greeted the breeze with a little dance. The hall had never been decorated and was still gray and dusty, and the flowers looked absolutely lovely against that background. The strange thing was, the aroma that had been too strong before seemed lighter and more appropriate in such a relatively large, open space.
      These flowers, before long they’d become a scenic point in our building. People really liked them. A five-year-old girl who lived upstairs said to her mom, in her baby’s voice: “Mama, they smell so nice!” She had her eyes closed as she said it, pleasurably intoxicated by the aroma of the flowers. And an old lady who lived on the fifth floor often changed the flowers’ water. It went like that for a week, and the bouquet was still as fresh and full as before. It turned out that the buds came into bloom one after the other in turn. All the residents of our building knew we had these flowers blooming in the hallway, and they liked it very much.
      I thought: The same bouquet in a different location, with such a marked difference in the way people see it. How about people? Aren’t they the same? I couldn’t help thinking of one of my students, an artistic genius. He came home after finishing studies in Beijing, thinking to develop his talents in a small town, but he hit brick wall after brick wall and never achieved his ambition. He got out of here as fast as he could and went to the provincial capital. Before long he’d broken out of his slump and had some success.
      Sometimes we criticize people who don’t make it. We say they only blame everyone else, that they don’t look for reasons within themselves and only look for objective causes. Actually, a lot of the time, objective circumstances have a very big role to play.
      The Author Bao’erji Yuanye wrote in an essay: “Sometimes beautiful things don’t have beautiful qualities. They’re actually quite ordinary and just happen to be in a beautiful place.” The good location completes them, which shows how important positioning is. To put it another way, some things with beautiful qualities might never be recognized, if they haven’t been placed in a beautiful location. Like that bouquet in the living room, or my student in this little town.
      When your surrounding circumstances become fetters and handcuffs, you might as well take off, change your surroundings. Maybe you’ll find the perfect location for a bright new vista on your life.

《感悟》 Realizations Magazine
http://yueyanxin.i.sohu.com/blog/view/201941349.htm
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9. A (老板答记者问)

Peng Pei (彭佩)

•Reporter: Do you know why your employees call you “boss”?
Boss: Because I give them wages.
Reporter: No, because you always boss them around with a scowl on your face.
•Reporter: Why do you always like it when your employees put in extra hours?
Boss: For the same reason employees clamor for pay raises.
•Reporter: You say your company is a fairly united, fairly cohesive unit. Can you cite a comparatively typical example?
Boss: Almost every day we put in extra hours as a unit. All personnel must participate. I don’t know whether this example is typical enough.
•Reporter: It’s said your employees have to live in the office to put in the extra time to get their jobs done. What’s your opinion about this?
Boss: This shows completely the boundless love our employees have for the company. They see the company as their home.
•Reporter: Some say you’re a person who habitually makes empty promises. When your company was just getting started, you promised to go public within five years. Now, after more than twenty years, you can’t say you’ve delivered on your promise. Do you have anything you’d like to say on this point?
Boss: I’m a man of his word, and a man who gets results. I don’t know who would have the ulterior motives to slander me. I can take full responsibly for telling you, in the fourth year after the company was founded, we moved from a small town to the city. Isn’t that "going to the public"?
•Reporter: May I ask, in terms of area, what is the largest group activity organized by your company?
Boss: Our company-wide staff meetings.
•Reporter: Everyone says you’ve never been very reliable about paying wages. Not only is the amount unreliable, and always too low rather than too high; the time is unreliable, too, and always late rather than early. May I ask why that is?
Boss: It's because our company’s “corporate situation” is rather special. Most of the staff are "henpecked" male employees. In order to protect their vital interests, I don’t let the amount or pay time of their wages be laid bare naked to the discerning eyes of their dependents. Lest the total sum suffer the tragic fate of confiscation, I go ahead and sacrifice my reputation by using the tactics of obfuscation, which allows the employees to retain some small shreds of their entirely valuable banknotes.
•Reporter: From what I’ve learned, you have a unique ability to prophesy the future.
Boss: Where did you hear that?
•Reporter: From employees of your company who jumped ship to go to other companies.
Boss: What’d they say?
•Reporter: They said that when they submitted their letters of resignation, you made a prediction: that they shouldn’t expect to get higher incomes or lighter workloads by jumping to another company. They now tell me that what you said was right. What I’d like to know is, how could you make such an accurate prediction?
Boss: All crows are equally black. Any fool knows that. They were the only ones who didn’t.
•Reporter: You once made a solemn commitment to the whole company that you would make the company relatively influential. May I ask, have you done it?
Boss: We’re on CCTV's "Investigative Reports". You tell me, is that influential?
•Reporter: It looks like your company’s really hot. Can you tell me what great feat you did to get on CCTV?
Boss: We really are on fire. Last year there was a big enough blaze to burn up one of our subsidiaries, and also get us burned on CCTV as well.

2013中国年度幽默作品,《喜剧世界》杂志社选片,丁斯主编
2013 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 168
Translated from this
site. Also available at http://qk.laicar.com/Home/Content/2381254
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10. He Loves Memorizing Car Names (最爱记车名)

Unattributed

      One day Gao Wu took his son Little Jun for a walk around their community. A stretch limousine drove by, and Little Jun asked his father what kind of car it was. Gao Wu didn’t know. Old Wang, who drove a garbage truck in the community, happened to be passing by and heard what the father and son were saying. He stopped and said with a smile, “That’s a Lincoln. It has the English written on it.”
      “Mr. Wang,” Little Jun asked in surprise, “do you understand English?” Old Wang shook his head. “No way,” he said, “but I do recognize pretty much all the English words on cars.”
      When Gao Wu heard this he felt that Old Wang was mostly just bragging. How could a garbage truck driver know such things? But Little Jun was excited and told Old Wang: “That’s great, Mr. Wang! Today teacher gave us a writing assignment, an English composition on the subject of automobiles, but I can’t spell a lot of the English car names. Can you teach me?”
      Old Wang got red in the face. “No way I can be a teacher,” he said. “But if you just want to know the names of cars, I do know a few.”
      Gao Wu thought that was even more unlikely. Foreign car names are long and hard to remember. He was a student at an established university and even he didn’t know them all, so how could Old Wang, the garbage truck driver? He pulled on his son to leave and was surprised when his son took the old man seriously. Little Jun pulled out paper and pen and began asking Old Wang questions. Gao Wu took another look at Old Wang. He wasn’t hesitant; he took up his pen and “swish, swish, swish” wrote for some time. Gao Wu was curious and craned his neck to look. Good Lord! It really was genuine English, ten-plus words in a long row, all top-level luxury car brands. Old Wang just kept on writing, never even having to stop to make a correction.
      Gao Wu was dumbstruck. “Old Wang,” he blurted, “you’re really something.” Old Wang said modestly, “Ahh, all I can do is write a few car names.” “That makes it even harder,” Gao Wu hastened to add. “You must be one of those car fanatics!”
      Lao Wang laughed at that. “Not at all. That’s just how the Road Company trained us. They wanted us to memorize the names of these cars so when he saw them on the street, we’d be especially careful. You absolutely don’t want to hit those luxury cars. If I hit one of those guys, I could sell my soul and still not have enough to pay for it. So tell me, was there any way I could avoid memorizing every letter of those names?”

故事会, 2012, 9 月, 上半月, 第91页
Stories Magazine, September 2012, 1st Semimonthly Issue, p. 91
Also available at
https://www.douban.com/note/328474519/
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11. Woody Takes a Test (阿木考试)

Wu Laoer (武老二)

      Woody was a rather slow fellow. He had spent four years in grade school, and all four were in the first grade. The reason was that, by nature, he was not cut out to be a student.
      When he was about to turn 40, Woody decided to take the driver license test. But here he suffered for his lack of education, because the questions on the legal knowledge portion of the test were asked and answered in writing on a computer. He couldn’t even read the questions generated on the screen, let alone answer them. Thus he took the test three times without passing.
      The only thing Woody could do was to have a friend of a friend, on the sly, ask the proctor for the written test to help him out.
      The proctor told Woody all he had to do when he sat for the test was push the mouse around like he was answering the questions. He absolutely must not actually click on any of the answers. The proctor would take care of it from the back of the room. Woody listened and nodded his head as though he understood, but in fact he didn’t.
      Soon the day for the test came around. The proctor who had agreed to help him winked at Woody when he entered the room. Woody naturally understood that. He took a number and found his assigned seat. After a bit the other candidates entered the room, one after another, and sat upright in front of their computers.
      Before the test began the proctor told everyone, “Today’s written test is computerized. If any of your computers freeze up during the question and answer process, please raise your hand and let me know.”
      When he finished speaking the proctor went to the computer control booth at the back of the examination room. The control booth was separated from the exam room by a clear glass window. When Woody turned his head, he saw the proctor smiling at him through the glass and felt even more confident. He sat straight up in front of the computer, eyes on the screen, pushing the mouse around with his hand. It was completely silent in the exam hall. One could barely hear the “click, click” of the other candidates using their mice to answer questions.
      All of a sudden Woody stood up, alarmed. He raised his hand straight up over his head and shouted, “Proctor!”
      The other candidates were startled by Woody’s shout. All eyes were fixed on him.
      The proctor hurried over from the control booth. “Yes,” he asked, “do you have a problem, Candidate?”
      “There’s something wrong with this computer,” Woody said. “I didn’t move the mouse at all, and it started answering questions all by itself.”

故事会, 2012, 9 月, 下半月, 第94页
Stories Magazine, September 2012, 2nd Semimonthly Issue, p. 94
Also at
http://tieba.baidu.com/p/2821288593




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