Chinese Stories in English
Midis Page Nine
1. Seating Arrangements
2. My Henan Neighbor
3. My Cousin
4. It's a Women's World
1. Seating Arrangements (上座)
Jiang Xianping (蒋先平)
Little Zhang, one of my co-workers at the company, arranged a party at a local restaurant. His son was one month old that day, and Little Zhang invited everyone to celebrate his Full Month Day.
When we got off work in the evening, we all went as a group to a private room in the restaurant. After we were seated, Little Zhang said that the bosses would not be able to come because they were having a meeting. He insisted that I take the seat of honor at the table, the one facing the door.
When my uncle was alive, he often said that we people in the Northeast lack manners because our area is one that the Sage Confucius never visited. But my co-workers and I work together, and there are certain basic courtesies that we follow.
Everyone insisted strongly that I take the seat of honor, and after I had politely declined for a while, I was able to sit there with a clear conscience. I'm the chairman of our union and was the only person there with any technical training. Since the bosses weren't there, I should be the one to take that seat.
Before we'd picked up our chopsticks, though, the door buzzer sounded and Old Li, the Assistant Bureau Chief, came in.
After their meeting had ended, the Bureau Chief and the Assistant Chief for Routine Matters had stayed behind for another smaller meeting. It seemed that the two of them would not be able to attend this party. Old Li was looking at me as he said this, and started walking in my direction.
I understood immediately and stood right up. Without another word, Assistant Bureau Chief Li plopped his butt down in the seat of honor.
The party got into full swing and we were enjoying the drinks. Before much time had passed, each of us had two glasses of baijiu under his belt.
Then Old Ma, the Assistant Chief for Routine Matters and the second in command at our office, came into the room. "How much have you drunk?" he said in a loud voice. You couldn't wait a bit for me!" Little Liu, a secretary who had just started work at our company, got an extra chair from beside the door and invited Assistant Chief Ma to sit down. Without even looking at it, he fixed his eyes on Old Li and said, "I'll catch up with whatever you guys have already had, and then we'll do one for one and see who can put away the most on this day."
Old Li, who'd had a little too much already, suddenly wised up. He stood and offered the seat of honor to Old Ma.
Old Ma glanced at the now empty chair and blinked his eyes, but he wouldn't sit in it no matter what we said. Instead, he had Little Liu move the chair he'd just brought in up beside the seat of honor, and he sat down there.
So everyone continued drinking, and the seat of honor remained vacant.
A half hour later, the attendant came in and told us there was a guest outside the door.
"The Bureau Chief must have come. Hurry, show him right in." As we said that, Old Ma looked at the seat of honor, which had remained vacant all this time, and smiled happily. Then everyone understood why that seat had remained empty. We all said to ourselves that older cheese is the sharpest.
The door opened and a man dressed as a peasant came in. We were all stunned. Little Zhang stood up and introduced the fellow, "This is my older brother. He's from the country."
We all said, "If he's part of your family, he's part of ours, too, so sit down and have a drink." Little Liu said, "I'll find you a chair." But Little Zhang's brother, with a straightforward and honest smile, said, "Don't bother, this empty chair here will be OK for me." With that, he plopped his butt down in the vacant seat of honor and began to eat with relish.
Translated from this site, also available at http://www.xzbu.com/5/view-4572891.htm
2. My Henan Neighbor (我的河南邻居)
Yuan Jun (元军)
Here in Beijing, I have a neighbor whose official residence is in Henan Province. He's about 30 years old, tall and slim, with a pointy head shaped like a cornbread cone. He has bushy hair and eyebrows, and his fat eyelids and skinny nose look like they don't belong on the same face. His black lips against his whitish skin are painful to look at. But he married a voluptuous, light-skinned woman, which makes people sigh and say that life isn't fair.
He opened a bicycle repair stall next door to where I work, and he squats there all day long doing is thing. People rarely chat with him because of his thick country accent, but his eyes light up if ever anyone mentions his son. He really loves the boy. He's vowed to cultivate the youngster's talents so he can make something of himself rather than following in his father's footsteps.
He was too busy with his business to concentrate on helping the child with his schoolwork, and at the end of the first semester of first grade in Beijing, the boy was sent back to the family home in Henan to attend a school there. A short while ago, though, his grandfather abruptly sent the boy back to Beijing. They tried to get him back into the same school, even though he'd missed a bit, but the school rejected him again. The only thing left was to wait until September to repeat first grade. My neighbor was afraid the boy would forget what little he'd learned while they were waiting, so he made time to review the boy's lessons with him. But no matter what he did, they seemed to disagree about everything. You could say that this is when the life and death contest of wills between father and son got started.
In math, the answers are definite and there's nothing to argue about, so teacher and student were relatively restrained; in Chinese, because the pinyin spellings and pronunciations are iron-clad, it required no effort for Mandarin to overcome the Henan accent; but when they came to English, the domineering father with book in hand asked his son, "How do you say 'tiger' in English?"
"Tiger," the boy said timidly.
"Louder! Foreign vehicle?"
"If you mean 'bicycle,' it's bike!"
"And what about 'orange'?"
"Can you say the last half of the word loud and clear for me? How do you say 'table'?"
"A desk or a dinner table?"
"Where do you come up with such nonsense? Whatever 'table' you've learned, that's the one I mean!"
"I've learned two words, one is desk and the other is dinner table."
As before, my neighbor only heard the first half of each word. He was ashamed, which made him mad. "You said them all wrong. Listen carefully! 'Tiger' is tai-yi-ge. 'Foreign vehicle' is bai-yi-ke. 'Orange' is ao-yun-ji. For 'table', I learned dai-si-ke."
The son listened with disdain apparent on his face.
"Don't be obstinate. I'm your father and I'm not talking nonsense. I've studied all these before. You get the first half of the word right, but you swallow the second half and there's no sound." My neighbor got right to the heart of his son's "mistake."
"My teacher doesn't say them like that." Stubbornness showed on the boy's face.
Never one to accept defeat, my neighbor refused to give in. He abruptly put on his sternest face to play the part of father. "You pigheaded little boy! Who's the father, you or me? Squat down! You hear me? I'm telling you to squat down!"
Feeling wronged, the son did as he was told. His father, who had been squatting there all along, gave him a couple of loud swats on the back of his head.
"Say them like I did! If you cut off the ends of the words again, you think you'll be eating dinner? No way!"
Between sobs, the son recited resignedly, "Tiger, tai-yi-ge; bike, bai-yi-ke; orange, ao-yun-ji; desk, dai-si-ke...."
My Henan neighbor finally smiled in satisfaction as he squatted there beside his son. While I'd been listening, I'd felt it was rather ridiculous and comical, and finally I couldn't keep still.
"Hey, brother, I'm from Anhui. Let me recite the English letters for you the way they were taught in my home town. ai, bee, she, dee, ee, eh-fu, jee. What do you think? Does that sound awkward, or what? I'm just like you. The English teachers back then were all at that level. They could teach other people's kids wrong [and not worry about it], but we shouldn't do wrong by our own kids. Your son said the words very well. This chirping that the foreigners use, we really can't coach it."
My neighbor knitted his brow. "To tell you the truth, I'm really worried. Competition is so intense in society, and I don't want my boy to lose at the starting line. If he can just do well at his studies, I'm ready to go through Hell and work 'til I drop [to help him]. It's just that I don't have the ability to coach him! I want to be a good father to him, but I'm so ashamed!"
Love like my neighbor's for his son may be as rough as a pair of calloused hands, but it's very moving. Besides, as long as you're going in the right direction, and doing whatever you can to meet your responsibilities, why worry about it being hopeless?
China Annual Short Fiction, 2011, p. 118 – Guilin: Li River Publishers, December 2011
Translated from the version at http://www.hao1111.cn/a/qnbl/7064.html
3. My Cousin (堂哥)
Chen Yonglin (陈永林)
Cousin was about to turn thirty, but no woman had as yet been willing to move in with him. Second Auntie, his mother, had been so worried about this that she couldn't get any sleep. He was her only son, and if she let the line end with him, how would she be able to face the spirits in the next world? She'd tried to hire matchmakers but they'd all turned her down flat. She wondered if it was because they thought her family was too poor.
One matchmaker said she wasn't worried that young girlies would think the family was too poor. "It's because your son is a fool."
Auntie got an ugly expression on her face. "Who says my son's a fool?" The matchmaker told her that that was what all the "girlies" were saying.
Cousin is a bit foolish. Like, last year when he led a pig weighing over two hundred pounds to town to sell. He sold it for five hundred Yuan, tucked the money in his clothes and started home. When he passed by the bus depot he saw a man who looked utterly miserable, sitting on the concrete, shivering.
"What's wrong?" Cousin asked him.
"Oh, God," the man said. "I lost my wallet. I don't even have the money to get home."
"How much do you need?" Cousin asked him.
"At least four hundred Yuan," the man said. "I'm from Guangzhou and came here on business. Can you loan me some? I'll send you money to repay you as soon as I get back to Guangzhou."
Cousin pulled out four hundred Yuan and gave it to the guy without saying a word, then told the man his address. The man thanked him profusely and walked off.
After more than a month, the postman still had not stepped up to Cousin's door. Auntie yelled at Cousin for a whole day. Cousin said maybe the guy was a little short of cash, or maybe he'd lost the address he'd given him. Auntie got so mad she was trembling.
"You blockhead, why can't you use your brains?"
Cousin said that he'd be more careful in the future, but Auntie kept after him. "That pig, I busted my butt a whole year raising it, just to get scammed...."
Eventually one of the matchmakers couldn't resist Auntie's tearful entreaties and worked hard to find a woman for Cousin. On the day they agreed to the marriage, Cousin took a thousand Yuan and went to town with the girl to buy clothes. When they got to the entrance to County Hospital, Cousin saw a young woman crying her eyes out.
"What is it?" he asked her.
"My dad has a serious illness and needs an operation," the young woman said, choking back her tears, "but I can't come up with the money."
"How much does it cost?" Cousin asked.
"The doctor says he won't do the operation for less than a thousand Yuan," she replied.
Cousin fished the thousand Yuan out of his pocket, and the woman fell ker-plop to her knees in front of him. Cousin got flustered and quickly helped her to her feet. "C'mon, hurry, go save your dad."
The young woman went off toward the hospital, and Cousin noticed that the girl he'd come with had disappeared. He looked all around but couldn't find her and returned home crestfallen. When Auntie heard him explain what had happened, her legs gave out and she slumped to the floor, weeping.
The next morning, Auntie went to County Hospital with Cousin. They asked around and learned that the woman's father had died and she'd gone home. Auntie asked the doctor where she lived but he didn't know. With more than thirty villages in the county, there was no way to find her.
Needless to say, Cousin's marriage to that girl was called off.
Auntie stayed at home a whole day after that, crying and cussing a blue streak. Cousin couldn't stay there, so he went off to Guangzhou to look for work. He walked around the city until his feet were covered with callouses, but still couldn't find anything. Eventually he heard a fellow from our area say that the Milky Way Toy Factory was looking for porters, so he went there. When he met the Factory Director he thought the man looked familiar. "I seem to have seen you somewhere," he said.
The Director said, "I've seen you, too." The man thought hard to remember, then slapped his forehead and said, "I've got it! I still owe you four hundred Yuan. Now you're here and I can finally pay you back. You must have thought I skipped out on the debt, but, really, I didn't. I wanted to send you the money as soon as I got back to Guangzhou, but I couldn't find the paper you'd given me with your address on it."
And so Cousin became a foreman with a monthly salary of one thousand Yuan.
Two months later Cousin sent Auntie a letter along with fifteen hundred Yuan. "Even a fool can be blessed," she exclaimed happily.
Afterwards the factory prospered and hired a bunch of female employees. One day Cousin saw a familiar face when he got to work, and the young woman also did a double-take when she saw Cousin. They each recognized the other in a flash and exclaimed in surprise, "It's you!"
"I still owe you a thousand Yuan," the girl said.
At New Year's, Cousin brought the girl home with him.
They got married on the sixth day of the New Year. Auntie couldn't help saying to herself, "Heaven has eyes, and it let my foolish son find such a good woman. Even fools can be blessed." Her eyes filled with tears as she spoke.
Translated from here, also available at http://www.huran.net/Article/2007/200705/894.html
4. It's a Women's World (世界是女人的)
Yi Zhongtian (易中天)
[Fannyi can't say why this piece was published in a comedy magazine and reprinted in a collection of humorous stories.]
It seems that 2012 is destined to be one tangled year. Although the doomsday prediction may not be reliable, it's an indisputable fact that issues are piling up around the globe: war, pollution, nuclear leaks, the energy crisis, etc., etc., more than one can count.
Who did this? In all likelihood, it was men.
Human males are unruly creatures, and they're also possessive. In The Origin of Family, Private Property and the State, Engels spoke of how destructive "male jealousy" is for "social animals". But in the animal kingdom, males are only jealous during the "mating season", and further, it's the females who have the right to choose a mate. There is thus a "balance of power". Animals "living together in groups" eventually evolved into "human society."
Human society was harmonious during the early period because the women were in charge. It was characterized by "management" rather than "control." Women leaders were faced with a true "familial populace," namely, her brothers, children and grandchildren. The only "dominancy" was "selection based on merit" in the choice of a sexual partner. But this was for the continuation of the race, and the losers would not be exterminated. In any event, the selection was mutual and free, and there was no rape and no prostitution.
It couldn't be called a "feminist society" because women weren't asking for political rights. There were no political rights at the time, only making arrangements and putting things in order. I propose calling this the "motherly love society." Motherly love is a kind of conscience and makes it easy to do [as the sages bid us], to "treat our parents as well as other's parents as elders should be treated; and treat our children as well as other's children as youngsters should be treated." A mother, she has the greatest spirit of sacrifice and dedication. It's not in women's nature to treat children as the enemy or take food from their mouths.
On the other hand, though, the development of productive forces relied on men. Woman didn't have the physical strength and had also to bear the children, so they could only stay home and watch over the household while they let the men go out to do the arduous work.
Be that as it may, men took advantage of this social division of labor to invent the monsters called "political rights" and grasp them firmly in their own hands. Management thereby became control, possession became ownership, making arrangements changed to giving directions, and putting things in order became slavery. The society of motherly love became the "society of male rights".
What's the difference between the motherly love society and the society of male rights? Motherly love is directed toward reliance on the "heart" or "love." The benchmark of male rights is ownership, relying on "rights", namely "political rights". Ownership has no boundaries and political rights inevitably lead to power struggles. But the thing is, it relies at the start on armed force and is "extortion"; later it relies on scheming and is a "racket". But no matter what, greed is behind it all. Look at the financial crisis, at Wall Street in the United States, and you'll know.
Even modern democratic systems and parliamentary politics are like that. A democratic republic is of course the "least bad system" nowadays. But the invention of such a system is not because of "high moral character." On the contrary, it's because we've found that cut-throat struggles, with knives and swords flashing, require too high an investment for too low a return. Since no one can completely devour the others, peaceful coexistence is better, with free competition and each side taking a turn at governing. If you don't win this time, there's always next time, so why insist on a life-or-death struggle?
However, overly ambitious men will want to "devour the whole world" whenever they can. It's better for one's own wife to be a martyr while the other guy's wife is an adulteress. You say some people don't think that? Ha ha, they're the ones who don't dare! Why does the Game of Thrones never fade to black? There's something addictive in fantasies. In fact, in social animals, many males have this instinct. To go from monopolizing to sharing is to go from barbarism to civilization. But there's still a very long way to go.
In short, as long as it's a "society of male rights", it will be downright hypocritical, unconscionable greed with no brakes. The only solution is to return to what nature intended, back to the "motherly love society", where men do the work and women run the households. Don't make the mistake of thinking that women are fragile. In fact, women are the most able to run things. [Remember the legendary female warriors,] Dowager She who took command, and Mu Guiying who led the expedition. When the rise and fall of nations rests on the shoulders of women, what more needs be said?
Moreover, these days economic development and wealth creation no longer rely primarily on physical strength, but on intelligence. To be a manager it is necessary to have both an IQ and an EQ [emotional intelligence quotient]. Isn't it a perfect match, each bringing out the best in the other, when we have women making decisions based on intuition and men based on logic? What's more, being number one might be attractive, but it's also a hassle, so why cling to power? And even more, women actually feel sorry for men. If you turn power over to them, they certainly won't maltreat you. So why not do it?
Ha, ha, yes, it's better when women run things!
Therefore, I suggest that men, in times like today, make use of a great man's words, and say to women: The world is ours, and it's yours, too. But in the final analysis it's yours. We place our hopes in you.
2012 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 227
Translated Version from http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_476e068a0102e04y.html
5. A Planet Favored by Heaven (得天独厚的星球)
Zheng Yunqin (郑允钦)
[There are two stories with this same name, both by the same author and both published on the same website. Your translator does not understand the significance of these facts any more than he understands the significance of the stories themselves, and has added "Story # 1" or "2" to the titles for convenience in indexing. – Fannyi]
There was this group of small beings. They took great pleasure in talking about the environment in which they lived.
"The universe is composed of 28 planets with sharp, clear-cut shapes," the astronomer Mr. M said. "These planets are divided into two rows, an upper and a lower.... This planet of ours in blessed with abundant natural gifts and is the only place suitable for our existence!"
"That’s absolutely correct!" B, the explorer, chimed in. "I’ve examined all the planets and found that nary a one is comparable to ours. They’re too hard, lack organic matter...."
"And," geologist D continued the thought, "Because of our growth and reproduction, our planet is increasingly becoming softer and more moist, more suitable as a place for us to live...."
Chemist C said: "The most amazing thing is that all of the inorganic matter on our planet can be converted into organic matter for our use and enjoyment...."
X, who was a prophet, made an optimistic prediction: "We will be able to continue reproducing on this planet for at least several thousands of years...."
At that moment the group of small beings began to grow and reproduce.
Before much time had passed, however, they felt their planet suddenly begin to shake violently. Then a loud noise resounded, "bang", and their world was destroyed!
It turns out that the “planet” on which these small beings depended for their existence was nothing but a tooth. Because of their rapid reproduction, the tooth had become corrupt and infected, so the doctor pulled it out.
I lay angrily in my mother's bosom. She hugged me tightly, sobbing, and her tears dripped down onto my neck. I just lay there angrily.
"Wouldn't it have been good if you'd never given birth to me, mother?" I asked, feeling resentful.
She didn't answer. Her face was extremely pale.
I angrily stuck out my right hand and tried to tear the shirt off my chest.
"For my sake, son...." she said with a sob, holding down my hand.
I started to cry, "Ge, ge...."
The loquat tree swayed in the cold wind outside the window, and raindrops plopped down on my heart. Mother's face was so pale. I hung onto her neck in misery. It was skinny as a stick of firewood.
"Let me die, mother...." I said through my tears as I held tightly to her neck.
"No, my child, I can't do that...." Her tears were dripping on my face.
The lamplight shone dimly on her hair. Her hair was a tangle of silken threads, white as frost.
A lonely calm, lonely calm, no one in the world but my mother and I, not the slightest sound but the sobs of the wind and the rain.
"It's over, mother, it's over. I'm giving my heart back to you! I'm giving it back! You shouldn't have given it to me when you gave birth! It's useless in this world!" Then, in resentment and sorrow, I tried with both hands to tear off my shirt.
"Oh, my child!".... Mother burst into tears. She pressed down tightly on my hands as I struggled with all my might.
The loquat tree swayed in the cold wind outside the window, and raindrops plopped down on my heart. The lamplight shone dimly on my mother's hair. Her hair was a tangle of silken threads, white as frost, and her tears flowed in waves. I hugged her thin neck. I was sobbing, too.
One tear dropped from my mother's eye into mine. It mixed with my tears, and gradually they flowed as one stream.
I traced the flow back up and into the orbs of my mother's eyes. From there I went down to the bottom of her heart.
And there, I saw her heart had withered.
"You've dried up your own heart for my sake, Mother. But this heart you gave me has only suffered the curses of others and has never been blessed with their good wishes. This can only add to my sadness and cannot increase my joy. So now I'll take out my heart and give it back to you, Mother, and be done with it!"
I cried as I said that, and fell to my knees beside my mother's heart. I undid the front of my shirt, sliced open the skin of my chest with my fingernails, reached inside the cavity and dug out my heart. I placed it, dripping with blood, alongside my mother's heart. Her heart and mine melded into one, and the hot blood seethed.
I closed up my chest right away, buttoned my shirt and rushed to leave my mother's heart. I went back to her lap the same way I'd come, through the orbs of her eyes.
She didn't know.
I wiped away my tears and said to her, "Mother, I'm not discouraged any more. I'm willing to be a 'human' now."
She smiled, her heart filled with infinite joy, and her eyes revealed infinite hope.
There was only a lamp, only a lamp standing on top of the wall. He knew what I'd done in my mother's heart and could not bear to see that smile, and gradually grew dim....
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, Stories #4 and #10
6. The Cat’s Debt Repaid (猫的报恩)
by Warm Fish (暖鱼)
I’m one of the legendary Lucky Cats, a tabby wildcat with golden eyes.
In the spring, in March, I slept lazily until I woke up naturally. If I had nothing else to do, I’d go to the riverside and catch a mouse to play with. When the midday sun warmed me like a hypnotic hand, I’d fall into a beautiful sleep under a tree covered with cherry blossoms.
What’s pestering me? “Meow….” I don’t want to open my eyes, I want to sleep. Leave me alone…. I hate it when someone disturbs my sleep. I’ll scratch, I’ll scratch. Meow, this cat will not open his eyes. You take me for a sick cat! When I do open my eyes the sunlight stabs them for an instant. Meow, I can’t see a thing, no, wait, I seem to see an angel, a brilliant smile, bringing with it the warmth of the sun.
That was the first time I saw her, She Who is Like an Angel.
After that, she’d come every day in the afternoon to be with me, bringing her angelic smile with her, of course. I slowly came to realize that she couldn’t speak. What a shame. I’d often wonder what her voice would be like if she could speak.
I started waking up earlier and earlier every day, and didn’t want to go to the river to play with mice. Auntie from the next street over laughed at me. She said I was so melancholy, it was like I was falling in love. When she wasn’t around I’d think of her; when I was lying on her breast, I’d wish that time could stop right there.
Then the rainy season came and cut off the warm sunshine. I didn’t see her for a few days and got a little worried, so I decided to go to the bookstore where she worked. I ran to the intersection and saw her in the bookstore handing a book to a customer. For the moment I stopped worrying. All of a sudden a young girl wearing stylish clothes grabbed the book from her hand. She turned to look and the young girl slapped her face.
So out of control, she dared to hit my angel. I was completely flustered with anger and ran out from the street corner.
Meow…. It hurts so much, like my whole body is broken, it hurts. Who’s rocking me, don’t they know I’m in pain! I struggle to open my eyes. That teary-eyed person in front of me, is it her? It can’t be, the one in my memory is always smiling like an angel. But the teary-eyed person in front of me, her eyes, her nose, her mouth, they’re all the same as hers. It feels so terrible to see her cry. Don’t cry, OK?
“Little Tabby….” Who’s that?
“Little Tabby, do remember the Legend of the Tabbies? When the Tabby with the Golden Eyes dies for love, still having a wish unfulfilled, the Clan of the Tabbies will help it to come true.” Die for love? My love isn’t the same as hers.
“Little Tabby, what’s your wish?” Wish? I want to hear her voice.
The pain, why is she rocking me in the rain? Doesn’t she know you can catch a fever from the rain?
“Cough, cough…. Sister…. I’ll take you to the hospital…. OK?” Whose voice is that? Is it hers?
That voice…. Oh, it sounds awful…. Meow….
Translated from here, also available at http://www.ywxyh.com/html/176jbbb/79.html
7. The Gluttonous Wife (馋嘴媳妇)
Lu Haijuan (卢海娟)
They say that the 1960s was an extremely poor period, with people living in abject poverty. In our rural area there was a man named Zhang Sheng. He was an old bachelor who traded a sack of corn for a wife. She wasn't bad looking, and Zhang thought she was a treasure. When he went to work in the fields, she stayed home doing laundry and cooking.
It wasn't more than a few days after [they got married] that she reported to him their old hen had come down with some kind of sickness and died. It would've been a shame to throw it away, so she'd made a stew out of it.
Not having a hen to lay eggs was an annoyance, but a chicken dying isn't big deal, after all, so the couple enjoyed their chicken dinner.
A few days later, Zhang's wife said their old mother duck had come down with some kind of sickness and died. It would've been a shame to throw it away, so she'd made a stew out of it.
Not having a mother duck to lay eggs was an annoyance, but a duck dying isn't big deal, after all, so the couple enjoyed their duck dinner.
The chicken was gone and the duck was gone, but fortunately they still had an old sow that'd just given birth to eight tiny piglets. It was the wife's job to take care of the pigs.
But it wasn't too many days later when Zhang's wife met him as he was coming back from the fields, her face covered with tears of sorrow. One of the piglets had gotten lost, she said, and she'd looked all over but hadn't found it.
A little piglet could be sold for a lot of money once it grew up, so Zhang was distressed. He went to the neighbors, and to the nearby fields and empty lots, but he couldn't find it even though he looked as hard as he could.
That day Zhang's wife made had made big Manchurian dumplings and rice for dinner. She couldn't eat, though, probably because she was so upset about losing the piglet. She took a few mouthfuls without much interest, but then pushed the bowl away.
Zhang moped around for several days, sighing, but eventually he forgot about the lost piglet. Then one day his wife again met him with a face full of tears when he came home from the fields. Another piglet was missing!
Zhang felt such anger that he had a mind to give his wife a good tongue-lashing. When he thought about the odd things that had been happening, though, he decided it was more important to find out the whys and wherefores.
After two or three days, Zhang felt there was again a risk that a piglet would get "lost". He left home early in the morning to go work in the fields, just as he always did, but when he was halfway there he turned around and headed for home again. He snuck up and squatted behind the garden wall, and carefully observed what his wife was doing.
He did this the next day as well, and saw nothing but his wife doing routine housework. She treated the old sow and the piglets quite well, not only giving them a continuous supply of food, but also squatting beside them to scratch their itches. She hummed and purred at some of them, making them extremely comfortable.
It was on the third day, when Zhang was feeling ashamed of himself for misunderstanding his wife and sneaking around behind the wall, that he noticed his wife had lit the fire and started cooking early. She was making big Manchurian dumplings and rice, and was burning a big piece of firewood. At her side were two piles of yellow clay that she had collected from the roadway beside the village. She put them in a wash pan with water and worked them into a thin mud. Then she went to feed the pigs.
At the gentle, intimate sound of her call, the pigs rushed out in force and crowded up to the feeding trough to scarf up the food. Zhang's wife slapped at one of the piglets running up to the trough and pushed away the others trying to get at the food. The picturesque scene of a farm woman feeding the pigs brought a smile to Zhang's face.
All of a sudden his wife picked the piglet up by its hind legs and swung it down on a boulder by the side of the trough. There was a "crack" sound and the piglet stopped breathing. The other piglets kept on happily scarfing up the food. Not one of them noticed that their brother had departed for piggy heaven.
Zhang's wife put the dead piglet down in front of the wash pan. Then, like she was painting a wall, she took the yellow clay mixture and spread it onto the piglet until the little body was covered in a thick layer of mud, and then she threw it in the oven. The fire was burning brightly by then, and Zhang could see that his wife's face was covered by a broad, expectant smile.
When she was finished preparing the piglet, Zhang's wife washed her hands and brushed the pots so as not to leave any traces. She completed all these actions in only a few minutes. It was apparent that she was experienced in such matters.
Zhang was well aware of that. He rushed into the house in a towering rage and began to slap his wife hard. While he beat her, he cursed this gluttonous woman for destroying the family.
At first she argued with him, but seeing there was no way to deny what she'd done, she began to whimper. The hen, the mother duck, the two previous piglets, all had been done in by her own hand. Zhang settled all these old scores and the new one together and gave his wife a fierce lesson for them all.
At that moment a savory aroma assailed his nostrils. Zhang jerked the piglet out of the oven. The yellow clay had dried out and hardened by then, and a crack had opened. He lifted it into the air and threw it down on the floor to shatter the clay. The piglet's hair had stick in the clay, leaving a white, tender, aromatic, fresh-from-the-oven roast suckling pig. Zhang felt a brief moment of loss, but then couldn't resist such a delicacy. He tore off a piece, stuck it in his mouth and chewed.
The fragrant and tender pork intoxicated him. While he was eating he said to himself: "No wonder these little things get 'lost' so easily. This is really delicious!"
His wife, still whimpering, picked up the thought: "(Sniff — sniff —) It's even better dipped in garlic sauce."
2013 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 106
Translated from this version, also available at http://www.5aigushi.com/youmo/9516.html
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