3. The Rapist
Stories printed in Chinese Mini-Stories 2017
2017年中国年度微型小说, 作家网选编, 冰峰•陈亚美主编
Text at page cited after story; translated from the webpages cited below.
1. A Robber Meets a Scam Artist (抢劫的遇上碰瓷的)
Cheng Fenzhi (程奋只)
Old Wang was weaving back and forth as he drove down the road, continually looking for chance to commit a crime. He wanted to get himself some money. Old Zhang was also on the road, strolling along. He wanted to scam a mark by faking an accident.
Old Wang was looking for a place with few people and no cameras, where it would be easy to do what he wanted. Old Zhang happened to be thinking the same thing. Thus the two men encountered one another on an out-of-the-way stretch of road.
Old Wang stepped on the brakes, but before the car came to a complete stop, Old Zhang took the opportunity to rush over. He fell in front of the car and started screaming, “Ai-yo! Ai-yo!”
Old Wang got out and shouted at Old Zhang, "Get up right now! If you don't, I’ll take my knife to you."
Old Zhang held his leg and shouted at Old Wang, "Pay me damages! If you don't, I’ll report you."
Seeing the situation, Old Wang thought, “This is no good. I’ve run into a scammer.”
When Old Zhang saw what a monster Old Wang was, he also started having second thoughts. “This couldn’t be a robbery, could it?”
At this point people were starting to come over from some distance away. Old Wang squatted down and whispered in Old Zhang’s ear, "I know you’re not hurt, bro’, and I really don’t have any money anyway. If I did, would I be doing this?" After he said that, he opened his shirt to reveal a dagger stuck at his waist. "If you really want money, come in with me and make a score. Do you dare?"
Old Zhang thought, “I really have run into a robber. Don’t need to worry about being robbed, though, ‘cause I don’t have any money on me, anyway. Might as well agree to partner up with him and make myself a small fortune.”
At that thought, Old Zhang stood up and got into Old Wang’s car. Old Wang handed him a dagger and told him to follow his orders when the action started. Old Zhang nodded and promised he would.
It wasn’t long before the two men started chatting in the car. After they exchanged names, Old Zhang sighed. "Fate must have brought us together,” he said.
Old Wang echoed the thought. "Yeah. It’s like the old saying, ‘You don’t know each other until you’ve had a confrontation.’"
Old Zhang looked over Old Wang's car. "Nice ride,” he said with a laugh. “You must have some bucks, so why be a robber?"
Old Wang also laughed. "I stole this car!" Then he looked over Old Zhang and said, "I see you’re wearing brand-name clothes. How come you’re still scamming people?"
Old Zhang bowed his head. "I didn't buy these clothes myself,” he said. “I got them the last time I ran this scam. The guy said he didn't have any money with him, so I told him other things would do and he gave me his clothes."
While they were talking, Old Zhang also gave Old Wang the "Secrets of Scamming" – have a black heart, a thick skin and acting ability!
Old Wang nodded and talked about his own “three principles of robbery" – be steady, certain and ruthless!
"‘Steady’ means do the job like you know what you’re doing, and carefully observe your surroundings before you start. ‘Certain’ means choose your target well; the reason I picked you just now was because I saw you were wearing brand-name clothes. ‘Ruthless’ means, once you start, be decisive and quick; no wasted motion and no wallowing around...."
The words "wallowing around" were hardly out of his mouth when Old Wang suddenly felt something cold on his neck. It was a dagger.
Old Wang was confused and asked Old Zhang what he was doing.
"Committing a robbery,” Old Zhang said calmly: “Those three words you taught me are really useful. You can see I was both steady and certain. Now take out your wallet and cell phone and get out of the car, and be quick about it, or I’ll have a go at your third word."
Old Wang hastily took out his wallet and mobile phone, and obediently got out of the car. He didn’t dare call out for a cop. He looked on helplessly as he watched Old Zhang drive away.
Now Old Wang was penniless, walking down the road crying about how unlucky he was. Suddenly he saw a BMW not far away, coming. He thought, “The con man learned how to be a robber real quick. Why can’t the robber learn how to be a con man? Didn't Old Zhang tell me his three secrets? A black heart, a thick skin and acting ability.
With that thought, Old Wang steeled himself, leapt, fell down in front of the BMW, and started crying “Ai-yo! Ai-yo!”
Text at p. 9; translated from 笑了8 文章网 at
2. Running Rabbits (奔跑的野兔)
The wild rabbits in Beard Willow Forest had become a disaster. Large patches of meadowland had been dug up to the point that they no longer looked like meadows. The little buggers competing with the sheep for fodder was one thing, but they also dug holes all over the place, turning beautiful Beard Hollow Forest into a bomb shelter like those from the ‘50s and ‘60s of the last century. Each hole was connected, one to the other, and many beard willows had been killed from the digging. Where would he graze his sheep once all the willows were dead?
“Uda (fuck*) this place”, shepherd Politer Lu swore angrily. But swearing doesn’t solve any problems, so he was carrying a common mattock over his shoulder, and when he saw a rabbit's nest, he’d dig it up. He’d gotten himself all covered with sweat. Digging, digging, he laughed at what he was doing. “I’m tiring myself out!”
He’d thought it was fun when he started. He’d occasionally whack a rabbit, just for something different to do, and that wasn’t bad, either. But these wild rabbits propagated too fast. A few hundred in the spring, and in only a few short months, they’d now grown to several thousand. Sometimes they’d come out brazenly and run in circles around the forest, screeching away and making the little lambs jump from fright. Even in a big place like Beard Willow Forest, the grass would get all eaten up, and then what would the flock eat?
Yesterday Politer had whacked two of the rabbits, but he really didn’t want to eat them. He took out his cell phone to call Spit, a friend who’d grown up with him. He might as well let Spit take them to eat. This guy Spit had had to watch what he ate and what he wore for his whole life, so things were hard for him and his wife and kids. It was really a crime. However, he couldn’t get a signal on his phone. He climbed up a big dirt slope and barely got a call through, but the sound wasn’t clear. He was mad and muttered, “What a rotten phone.” Then he climbed up a willow tree and dialed Spit’s number again.
The more Politer thought about it after he hung up the phone, the angrier he got. “What kind of person is this guy?” he muttered. “I tell him I whacked two rabbits and he can come over and get them, and he says my pasture’s too far away. He wants me to deliver them to him! Asadal (my God), there’s no one else like that in the world! What about my flock while I’m taking them to you?”
But then he thought. “Yeah, it is a long way, and Spit doesn’t have a motorbike. It’d probably take him until after midnight to get here.” He sighed and started his own motorbike. He rode for more than an hour before he got to Spit’s.
“Have something to eat before you go,” Spit said.
“Can’t. The flock can’t go unattended after dark.”
“Lots of rabbits in Beard Willow Forest this year?”
“Weijiang (an interjection), it’s a disaster. Bunches of them running all around the forest. Trees have died from having their roots bitten through, and the grass was eaten clean away. Oh, man!” he continued, “I really don't know where I can go to graze my sheep after this.”
“So why don’t you just exterminate them?”
Politer rolled his eyes. “Easier said than done. There’s so many of them, you think I can just wipe them out?”
“Well then, I’ll go and help you. But….”
“All the rabbits we kill belong to me.”
“No problem, no one’s going to fight you for them. Any you don't want, I’ll feed to my shepherd dog.
“OK, we’re agreed.”
Spit and Politer went to Beard Willow Forest ready to use all means at their disposal – they spread poison, laid traps and set out nets. The first few days they brought in dozens of rabbits every time they went out. Politer helped Spit skin them, after which they hung them on willow tree branches to dry in the wind. Politer never knew what Spit was going to do with them. What use could so many dried rabbits be? It wasn’t many days before the branches in the forest were filled with them. Politer thought to himself that there were more dried rabbits than Spit and his family could eat in a year.
After a few days, Spit said he was going to town to find a buyer and sell the dried rabbits.
He came back with several entrepreneurs in tow. They looked the dried wild rabbits over and pulled off a few pieces to chew on. Politer sneaked a piece to chew on, too, and discovered it was really good. The buyers took them all at twelve yuan each. Politer felt a bit put out when he saw Spit counting a thick wad of bills.
Eventually Spit counted out five big ones and handed them to Politer. “Here’s your wages,” he said.
Politer didn’t take them. “Why didn’t I think of that?” he wondered.
“From now on I’ll give you ten yuan each for your wind-dried wild rabbits, regardless of size. I’ll take them and sell them.” Having said that, Spit put the money into Politer's hands and went off with the gang of entrepreneurs.
Politer beat himself about the head as he watched Spit walk away. Then he sighed and thought about it. “But, that’s OK, Spit did leave me a commission for wind-dried wild rabbits.” He made a rough calculation. Spit had taken more than a thousand rabbits in a little over a month, but there were at least a few hundred left in Beard Willow Forest. He nodded his head slightly. “So, figuring it this way, with this rabbit gig in addition to the sheep, I’ll have a pretty good income this year.” He looked at the forest and his future good life seemed to be coming towards him. He saw the new house that would be his future home.
Every day he thought about ways to catch wild rabbits, but the critters were becoming fewer and fewer. He started out getting five or six a day, then three or four, until eventually he couldn’t catch even one. He thought of the old saying, “guarding a stump to catch a hare”, meaning to waste one’s time, and didn’t like it. He needed to take a fresh approach. Each wind-dried rabbit was ten yuan, so this waiting around was costing him money.
The next day he took his rusty old digging hoe to a rabbit warren. The warren had ten rooms but they were all empty. He'd sweated a ton and had nothing to show for it. He kept digging until noon and finally dug up a nest of small rabbits. Four little ones were holed up together, but Politier didn’t see four bunnies – at that moment he saw four ten-yuan bills. He pulled out his pijiake (knife) and, one by one, bled and flayed them, then hung them on the branch of a beard willow tree.
Politer felt that this new method wasn’t bad. There was still income to be had every day. Looking at the faces of the money he’d made, he wanted to get rich as soon as possible. Only a dumb ass would want to be a sheepherder. Who wouldn't prefer to spend his days with his wife in his arms and hugging his children?
One morning he got up and noticed the shepherd's cabin seemed to be tilting. He wanted to go out and take a look but couldn’t get the door open no matter how hard he pushed. With no other choice, he had to climb out the skylight. He found that the entire cabin had sunk more than twenty centimeters into the ground, which was why the door wouldn’t open. He didn't know what had happened. How could such a good house sink into a pit?
Right while he was watching, dozens of rabbits tunneled out from under the cabin. They ran around following one another like they were in a queue. He saw how energetic they were and wondered how these dozens of rabbits could have slipped by him. When he went to jump off the roof, he felt that he couldn't get up the strength. Just then the cabin collapsed into the pit and he was crushed in the middle of it.
By the time a passing shepherd pulled him from the rubble, he’d already breathed his last breath.
*[Translations from the local language into Chinese were provided by the author – Fannyi]
Text at p. 11; translated from 原野文学 at
http://shiyanren.com/thread-152277-1-1.html, second story
3. The Rapist (强奸犯)
Gu Wenxian (顾文显)
"I’m not a rapist." Refined River Song stood rod-straight in front Winter Wu, and his disconsolate expression showed that he felt wronged.
"If it was me," Winter said, mocking him, "if I’d raped and killed, how could the government not give me an indeterminate sentence*? If I said you weren’t a rapist, I’d be more of a court than the court itself, wouldn’t I? Wake up, Old Song. Tuck your tail between your legs and admit defeat, but more than anything, be strong."
"I’m going to appeal, so why won’t you allocate some to me?"
"That’s better than anything. Go ahead and appeal."
"You’ve got to give me a share of land, set it off for me. I’m a citizen, what’ll I eat if I don’t have any land?"
"Land?" Winter, who was the Village Chief, stretched his body out in Refined’s direction. "I’ve already farted all my farts. The bits that are left over are no bigger than the palm of my hand, and I have no say over them. Hey, that land behind Big Willow Village, I’ll leave it all for you to plant on."
"I’m telling you, Chief Wu." Even though they’d been classmates, Refined didn’t call him that. "That thin sand dune, I’d have to work myself to death to get enough to eat."
"It’s thin, but it’s big." Winter gritted his teeth. "That big piece of bottomland in the back, too. I’ll leave it all for you."
"The water in that bottomland is poisonous. Even fish can’t live in it," Refined whimpered. "If it could be farmed, you’d have already opened it up, wouldn’t you?"
"You want it, or not?" Winter threw his cigarette butt on the floor and ground it out with his foot. "I’ve got other things to do."
Refined had no choice but to accept the thin plot, a mere few square meters of sandy, sloping land. He could bust his butt all year and not get much grain out of it. A family would have to spoon bits of sky or dig in the dirt with their bowls to get enough to eat. He was looking to turn fifty and wouldn’t be able to do enough to even feed himself.
“Who’s coming in second now?” Winter sneered and muttered to himself. This was what people call “the ups and downs of life”. When they were in high school, Mushroom Ding was one of the prettiest girls in their section. Winter choked up and drooled, but he didn’t dare approach her. Refined, the little punk, was bolder in his lust and actually won her. Later, though, Refined got put away, and Winter, who’d become a village official, thought of ways he could get a little bit for himself. How could anyone have known that the bitch would toss out that phrase, “not if you were the last man on earth”? She married some guy from a faraway province.
The punk kid who was Refined had just grown up to be a little bit slippery. Was that such a great evil?
After Refined got paroled, a refugee woman came from a flood-stricken area. She had one eye and was dragging a little girl along. Someone introduced them and the one-eyed woman nodded her agreement to marry him. Who knew that when Old Song opened his eyes the next morning, the woman would be gone without a trace.
Winter, who’d become the Party Secretary, frequently consoled Old Song. The more time people are together, the more sincere they are: "Don't take it seriously. That bear-like woman, she didn’t even want money for a bus, and you only missed out on money for the lodging. You got the best of the deal."
"I told her I wasn’t a rapist. She didn’t believe me."
"You have a craving to be a rapist." Winter knit his brow. "Why aren’t you saying anything? People will see it as an admission if you don’t answer. No one’s going to think you’re just a mute. Sheesh.” What he was thinking was, “Second-hand goods with one eye and you can’t keep her. You definitely bit off more than you could chew when you got Mushroom to marry you!”
Old Song passed his days alone with an empty larder and a cold oven. He was busy messing around with his sand dune. In his spare time, while others played mahjong, he worked on his appeal and was busier than ever.
A number of times, he had something on the tip of his tongue, but Winter got him to swallow it. “What are you pretending to do? Trying to cover up your crime by appealing? Ugly is ugly, and you think you can still get your dignity back? When you started down that road, nobody told you to have that girl pay with her life. They let you off easy – Like the old saying, they ‘Let the caged bird fly.’"
Refined had left the village in the early nineties to find work. He went to get a shampoo and, for some reason, had killed a young lady who was selling her body. To avoid punishment, he fled to a place a few hundred kilometers away, but he was caught and given an indeterminate sentence.
For a long time, Winter felt he’d lose his status if he even talked to Refined. He hinted to his confidents he’d be switching sections for shame of that guy named Song.
“Did you win your appeal?”
“No,” Refined answered, "not yet."
“When will you be rehabilitated?”
“When I am.”
Refined looked at his stretch of bottomland in a daze. Someone had revealed that Refined planned to earn some money by making the bottomland into a lake. He was going to entice outsiders to travel there and make himself some tourist money.
Who would lend him the cash to finance it, though? He was a rapist, and if he got anywhere near a woman, she’d run and hide.
Winter thought things were going pretty smooth. Once the court shot the guy down, he could just go have a good time. What would he have to worry him then?
After winter started, Refined brought in a bunch of people who took measurements all around the sand dune. They also surveyed and paced out the entire bottomland. The good news came in just before the Spring Festival – there was oil under Old Song’s sand dune and bottomland! Old Song got millions in compensation!
“That can’t be.” Winter couldn’t believe it. Old Song gave his dilapidated old house free of charge to a neighbor who’d once given him a bowl of dumplings. He moved to the county seat and bought a small building. His nasty old bottomland with its trickling of poison water became a worksite.
“There’s no justice in this world! That land was given to him by the village, and he sells it privately?” Winter sent a document over to open negotiations. The document came back like a spring breeze in the face. It said that Old Song contracted to run that land for thirty years, and he had a certificate issued by the government to prove it. The oil developer’s written approvals were all in order and the developer had paid the income tax. In other words, Old Song no longer had a dime’s worth of connections with the village.
Winter felt like he’d had four teeth pulled and cursed Heaven’s lack of foresight. He was still angry when he got some more news about that guy named Song. His conviction back then had been a miscarriage of justice and the real culprit had now been caught. News of Old Song’s rehabilitation was broadcast on television and was spreading through society like crazy.
Old Song came back to the village for a while in a luxury car whose name can’t be mentioned, and the young female driver was even prettier than Mushroom had been back then. Old Song gave every villager who came to see him two “Old Man Bills”, that is, souvenir money from early 1900s Korea. The villagers squeezed around him and had nothing to say but good things about him. Winter didn’t go. “People today aren’t equal to the ancients,” he said. “He gives them something worth a couple hundred yuan and they treat him like he’s their father. They should have more moral character.”
Winter got sick and was put on an intravenous drip. In the last few years he'd scrapped together less than a few tens of thousands of yuan in total. After what he'd thrown to his superiors as bribes, what he had left wasn't bad, but he was still on edge about the future. "That rapist, eating dragon's meat wouldn't be good enough for him – he'd still have to dip it in sesame oil. Who does he think he is, that one?"
What was really hard to take, Refined came to visit him in the hospital. "I'm a rapist and you can sue me. Last night I asked your precious daughter out for drinks and bedded her. Here's a videotape. Sue me, I'll admit guilt."
"Fuck! That brat!" he thought. "She's considered the most beautiful girl in the township, and she goes to bed with this old thing?" It was really a loss of face. Flames shot from his eyes as he looked at Old Song in his Western suit and leather shoes. "The thief's really learned how to dress, though."
"Your daughter asked me to tell you that she wants to marry me," Refined said. "We're going to do it whether you agree or not. I have the video."
He left after he finished saying that.
Winter phoned his daughter and read her the riot act. Then he told her that if she was going to marry him, she'd better do it quick, before that female driver wormed her way in.
Winter thought, "Mr. Song, no matter how cocky you get, you better not call me 'Dad'. Even if you're half a son, I won't go for you treating me like the older generation."
*[判无期, given an 'indeterminate sentence', is sometimes translated as “given a life sentence”. It means you remain imprisoned until the authorities decide you’ve been reformed – Fannyi]
Text at p. 14; translated from 童话故事天堂 at
4. The Buddha Fish (菩萨鱼)
Running Shadow (影子快跑)
One day Warrior Sun passed by a food market after work and saw a live, red and green striped Buddha fish. He felt it was so beautiful, he bought it without another thought. His son Little Enlighten saw the Buddha fish swimming in the aquarium when he came home from school and was ecstatic.
Unexpectedly, before the Buddha fish had spent a night in Warrior’s home, Warrior gave it away.
Warrior worked in the Education Bureau. Director Wang of that Bureau lived in the same community as Warrior, and his son Little Roc and Enlighten were classmates. After dinner, Director Wang came over for a visit and brought Roc with him. Before long the two children were playing together and Enlighten took Roc to see his Buddha fish. Roc liked it as soon as he set eyes on it. He became envious and whined for his father to buy him one.
Director Wang asked where Warrior had bought his fish. Warrior said a fisherman had brought it up accidently and he was afraid there wasn’t another to be had. Roc wouldn’t stop crying. Director Wang gave Warrior an embarrassed look and Warrior understood immediately. He asked his wife to bring a plastic bag, filled it with water, put the Buddha fish in and handed it to Roc.
When Enlighten saw his saw his Dad give the Buddha fish away, he started "wa-ing." Warrior had to send Enlighten off to his room. Director Wang and Roc left happily with the Buddha fish.
After they were gone, Warrior’s wife’s face darkened and she gnashed her teeth. “You’re really worthless!” Warrior didn’t say anything. He was low on the totem pole at the office and had been waiting for a promotion in the Department for a long time. How could he afford to offend Director Wang?
A few days later, Enlighten’s home room teacher called and said that Enlighten had gotten into a fight with Roc at school. Warrior brought his son home and asked him why he’d been fighting. Enlighten whimpered that "Roc said the only thing I’m good for is being an ass-kisser, just like you...."
Warrior’s face turned green when he heard that. He had Enlighten go to his room to do his homework and then he went out, slamming the door behind him. He walked disconsolately around the community.
He was thinking, not only about what happened with Enlighten, but also about something he’d heard at the office that day. It seems that Warrior and Director Wang’s wife had dated in college, nothing serious, and they’d parted as friends when they each decided they weren’t right for one another. Later, when she became Director Wang’s wife, Warrior thought nothing of it. Some gossipy co-worker had heard about it and spread it around the Department, adding spurious details. The rumor had it that Director Wang had stolen Warrior’s girlfriend, and now Warrior was following Director Wang around at his beck and call. For a man to take on such a position was transparent cowardice.
The more Warrior thought about it, the more steamed he got. Suddenly he had an idea and walked off toward the community’s gate....
He came home at dinner time and picked up the aquarium. He was about to walk out the door with it when his wife saw what he was doing and asked, "Where are you going?" Warrior said coldly, "We don’t have any fish anymore, so what’re we keeping the fish tank for?"
Warrior carried the tank to Director Wang’s home. The Director hadn’t bought an aquarium yet and was keeping the Buddha fish in a small washbasin. Warrior put the Buddha fish into the tank for him, installed the filter, and stuck two fake water plants on the bottom. The Buddha fish swam around more quickly after the change of environment. Roc stood by the tank and clapped his hands happily. Director Wang was quite satisfied and commended him. "You do think of everything. With this kind of thinking, you’ll definitely have good prospects at work!"
Entirely unexpectedly, a few days later Director Wang got wind of the rumor about his wife and Warrior. He questioned his wife about it when he got home, and she admitted that she and Warrior had dated. Director Wang immediately started treating Warrior coldly.
About half a year later, Director Wang was abruptly removed from his position. It turned out that somebody had anonymously provided the Commissioner of Discipline Inspection with materials showing he was corrupt and had been bribed. The Commissioner verified the materials and came knocking on Director Wang’s door. He ended up with a ten-year determinate prison sentence and had all his property confiscated.
Director Wang’s family decided to move out of the community. On moving day Director Wang’s wife came to see Warrior. “We can’t take this fish,” she said. “How about you taking it back? We’ll just be returning it to its original owner.” Warrior nodded and said OK. He moved the fish tank back to his place.
Enlighten was overjoyed to see the Buddha fish back home. While Warrior was cleaning the tank and changing the water for the fish, he removed the filter, opened it with a screwdriver and picked something the size of a fingernail out of it. Elegant looked over curiously and asked, "What’s that, Dad?" Warrior didn’t answer and threw the thing into the trash. His wife walked over and looked at it curiously. Suddenly her eyes grew wide – it was a pinhole video camera!
Text at p. 24; translated from 就爱故事王 at
5. Martyr’s Certificates That Arrived Late (迟到的烈士证书)
Ling Dingnian (凌鼎年)
Royal Bestowal Fan, a graduate of the History Department, is more interested in recent and contemporary history. He also claims to be a semi-collector. Why “semi”? As he explains it, he’s not a pure collector or enthusiast since he only collects artifacts he’s interested in. He doesn’t collect for investment purposes but only for the sake of research. Thus, he values things with writing on them more than other pieces.
He loves going to flea markets in his spare time. He goes to dredge through old books, accounting sheets, contracts, certificates and similar inexpensive things that other collectors wouldn’t look at twice. Over time, the flea market people have become familiar with his eccentric predilections. Therefore, whenever they have such things, they’ll hold them back to give him first pick.
One day while he was shopping in a flea market, he saw a vendor whose face he didn’t recognize. All the fellow had on display were books, credentials, diaries, “Cultural Revolution” tabloids and outdated documents, along with confessions of guilt, records of conviction, self-criticisms, letters exposing wrongdoing and other so-called "junk goods" that the typical collector wouldn’t even look at. But these really were the treasures that Royal searched for, so he was quite interested and went up to ask the vendor where they came from.
"My dad was a treasure collector,” the vendor said. “He’s dead now, so there’s no point in keeping the stuff around. I was going to burn them to send them off to the next world with him, but my wife said that the old man thought they were treasures, so maybe we can turn them into a few bucks. ‘Take them out and sell them,’ she told me."
Royal thought the man didn’t seem to be lying, so he made an offer. “If the price is right, I’ll take the lot. That is, I’ll buy the whole schmear at once.”
This was the kind of customer and the words that the vendor had been waiting and hoping for. “For ten thousand yuan,” he said, “you can have it all. No negotiating!"
Royal in fact didn’t negotiate. He coolly opened his bag, took out a wad of bills still in bank wrappers and said, "Here! Ten thousand yuan. I just got it out of the bank yesterday. Count it."
The vendor seemed to have met a kindred spirit. He laughed and said, "No need to count it. Anyone who’d want this stuff must be like my old dad, a good man! You’d never cheat me."
Royal hired a flatbed tricycle, the kind the locals call a “yellow croaker cart”, and paid ten yuan to have the two cardboard boxes delivered to his home.
He didn’t leave home for several days. He spent the time sorting these historical files that seemed to be no more than waste paper.
He leafed through to the very end and found a Kraft envelope at the bottom of one of the cardboard boxes. The words "unmailed Martyr’s Certificates" were written on it. What did that mean? Royal couldn’t wait to empty out the contents and, to his surprise, there were actually seven certificates intended for family members of revolutionary martyrs inside. Each was slightly larger than a current work permit. The words “Revolutionary Martyr's Family Certificate” showed prominently on the front side in light blue, with a picture of a Martyrs Monument in the middle.
The tip of the monument was a red star, inside of which were written the name of the martyr whose life had been sacrificed; his or her age, unit and job title; where the sacrifice had taken place and the place of burial; plus the name of the senior director of the unit’s political department. From the roughness and age of the paper, they didn’t seem fake and should be originals.
Unfortunately, the collector hadn’t noted when or where the items had been collected or through what channels they’d been obtained. Royal felt that was deeply regrettable, since it seems like cultural relics ought to be handed down in an orderly fashion and handled with particular care in the world of collectors.
Royal read the names of the seven martyrs: Rich Harvest Yao, Eight Pound Lou, Black Soil Hong, Second Baby Fang, Stone Head Wan, Big Tree Wang and Most Stubborn Yang. The only officer was Big Tree Wang, a squad leader – the other six were ordinary fighters. The oldest was 23 and the youngest, 19. The martyrs were from five provinces: Sichuan, Jiangxi, Hunan, Jiangsu, and Shandong. Five of them were sacrificed in the Battle of Triangle Hill and two at the Battle of Maryang-san. The earliest died in 1951, and the latest in 1952.
He made a special point of researching the names of those two Korean War battles. The battles had in fact occurred and the times matched, so it seemed that these Martyr’s Certificates weren’t fakes. Besides, there shouldn’t be anyone who’d fake a Martyr's Certificate. It would blaspheme the martyr and not make much money. They’d have to have water on the brain to do such a stupid thing.
Sixty years had passed in a flash since then. They’d all be over 80, if they’d lived. Their children, if they’d had any, would be entering their twilight years.
Royal thought of his own son, who’d gone to study in England. He’d said he couldn’t come back for the Spring Festival. Royal couldn’t reach the boy on his phone for three days during the holidays and his wife was as anxious as ants on a hot frying pan. It was like their son had disappeared. He compared their feelings to those of the martyrs’ parents, whose sons had given their lives for their country and would never return. Those families might not even know whether their sons were alive or dead. He could imagine their concern, their worry, but he couldn’t fathom it.
The idea of finding the martyrs came to him all of a sudden.
He said he would, and he set out to do it. He contacted the Civil Affairs Bureaus in those provinces. But they thought it was some kind of scam or treated him like he was insane. They didn’t believe a word he said.
[Fannyi suspects that the book's editors chose this story as their lead feature for political rather than literary reasons. We've moved it to the end of this post]
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4. The Buddha Fish
5. Martyr’s Certificates Late
1. Robber Meets Scammer
2. Running Rabbits
Chinese Stories in English