3. Free Meat Pies
4. Release Day

5. Old-Time Flavor Remembered
6. Don't Give Me a Hard Time

Percolator 06
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 each story; translated from the webpages cited below.

1. Second Uncle’s Jacket
2. Wolf Valley

​​         Chinese Stories in English   

1. Second Uncle’s Jacket (二爷给我件破棉袄)
Flying Bird [Jiao Hui*] (飞鸟 [焦辉])

      I thought it over. Better to go to Second Uncle’s place to borrow some.
      Second Uncle was a cook at the town’s primary school, and he was pretty flush with cash. I’d left my tracks on the doorsteps of all the friends and relatives I’d contacted since my dad came down with liver disease, and in particular, I’d left my footprints on the elm-wood step at Second Uncle’s place three times.
      Second Uncle didn’t have a lot of free time and couldn’t usually tear himself away from his duties during the farmer’s busy season. His father took care of most of the work on the family’s farm, but when school was out and Second Uncle came home, he’d fry up a few dishes and talk his father into raising a glass. With a pound of baked sweet potatoes, they could drink until their eyes were foggy and they had difficulty walking. At least that’s what they did before my dad got sick.
      Second Uncle’s home was on the eastern edge of the village, while mine was in the northwest corner. I could walk on main streets to get to his place, or I could detour around several hot spots in the village by taking a path through the fields behind the houses. I’d walk along the bank of Nameless Creek and through a small, sparsely wooded area until I could see the gables of his house. After my dad had been sick for six months, I began to like going that way to avoid the crowds.
      I set out at dusk along the path through the fields. If I couldn't find more money, the IV bottle in front of my dad’s bed would be empty. Second Uncle would be home from school that day and I couldn’t let this opportunity slip by.
      His family was eating when I got there, two big pots of food: an aromatic dish of mung bean noodles with bok choy, and a sweet-smelling radish stew with pork. "Splendor’s here! Come eat with us." Second Uncle’s round face was ruddy and his forehead glistened. He looked at me with his gentle eyes as he gestured with his chopsticks for me to take a seat.
      “Splendor’s here!” Second Auntie, a skinny woman with big eyes, said with enthusiasm. "Your uncle was talking about you just now. It’s so late, you’ve eaten, I imagine."
      I took a sip of water and nodded before answering, "Yeah, I have."
      Second Uncle asked, "Your dad…?"
      Second Auntie got up and grabbed a handful of fried peanuts for me. "Have some peanuts, Splendor."
      Second Uncle swallowed a few mouthfuls of rice and cleared his throat before speaking "Splendor…."
      “Have some brown sugar tea,” Second Auntie said, busily pouring me a cup.
      "I heard liver disease is contagious," my cousin whispered. I didn't dare touch the tea pot in front of me.
      Second Auntie said, "If you’re just visiting, Splendor, and not on some errand, you should get along home. It’s getting dark." I’d just been thinking about leaving, too. I couldn’t say anything about borrowing money.
      Second Uncle brought an old cotton jacket out from the inner room. "It’d getting cold,” he said. “Put this on.
      “Yes, yes,” Second Auntie said attentively as she looked over the jacket. "Put it on."
      The jacket was so faded I almost couldn’t tell what color it was. It was patched on the elbows and several places on the front. The cuffs were shiny with grease and brown cotton wadding shown through several places on the hem. I sucked up and took it. A stale smell wafted over me.
      I left their home holding that old jacket in both hands. My tears were already falling on it when I heard Second Auntie say behind me, "Three times is enough. He’s already come and borrowed money three times, and we let him save face every time. Besides, the prospects for that disease aren’t good. Hrumph."
      Second Uncle whispered, "Not so loud."
      I walked along the bank of the creek, my tears still flowing. I was resentful and felt terrible. Feeling terrible had been my normal state since my dad got sick, so it wasn’t the worst thing. I resented – it wasn’t that Second Uncle wouldn’t loan me more money. It was their money. It’d be generous to loan it to someone and normal not to. Besides, I’d already gone to them for loans three times, a total of 2,341 yuan. That wasn’t a small amount for people in our village.
      But the resentment – this time it was mainly that raggedy jacket. It was so old and worn that, if you tried to give it to a beggar, they might not even take it. I flung the thing into the creek. It looked like a big black bird on the surface of the water, then flapped its wings and sank. It would flow south with that lazy stream, then east into the eddies where the creek meets the Huai River.
      I passed by Second Uncle’s fields. The greenhouse made of white plastic sheeting was bathed in bright moonlight. I looked around and everything was still. I ran over and tore the plastic sheeting to shreds with my hands and feet. The melancholy in my heart passed through several cooler stages and the feeling of resentment faded a lot.
      When we buried my father, Second Uncle cried woefully.
      He pulled me aside and said, "Four hundred yuan should’ve been good for a stay in the hospital. How could you be so busy that you missed it?" I didn't understand what he was saying.
      When he saw I had nothing to say, he continued, “I didn't have any cash on hand a few days ago. I had to go around to several teachers at the school to borrow four hundred yuan. I put it in the inner pocket of that ragged jacket for you that night. I also had sprouts in my greenhouse that I hoped to sell to get more money for you, but I didn’t figure on the plastic sheets getting shredded. The sprouts all died from the cold. Sheesh."
      I knelt down in front of him, too choked up to say anything.... This happened decades ago, but I remember it as clear as yesterday.
*[ The author’s given name, Hui (辉]), means “Splendor” in English – Fannyi]

Text at p. 103; Translated from 河南飞鸟的博客 at
2. Wolf Valley (狼谷)

Chen Lijiao (陈力娇)

      Little Peartree Garden was called the “Seventh Detachment”. The group of settlers living there differed from the other Pioneer Groups.* The first thing they did after they arrived was to enclose the place by digging a large, two-meter deep trench along the periphery of their encampment and piling the soil inward to form a three-meter high wall (including the depth of the trench). The wall had only one gate, which was guarded every day, and turrets at all four corners. It was difficult for any Chinese to enter.
      One who was able to get in was a young man called Two-Bread Wang. He drove a horse cart for the settlers. Anyone who wanted to go out to buy things, or anyone inside the wall who just wanted to window shop in the county seat, would get him to take them. Eventually he gained the trust of the settlers.
      Two-Bread was by nature honest, diligent and hardworking. He could suffer any kind of hardship without complaint. These laudable characteristics were appreciated early on by Hideko Yoshida, one of the settlers. They often chatted about things while they worked together. He’d answer any question she asked, but wouldn’t speak of things she didn’t ask about.
      One day Hideko wanted to go to town to buy thread to embroider a piece of Japanese folk art, "Men and Women in Love Wearing Kimonos". In fact, what she really wanted to depict was her and Two-Bread. They got to Wolf Valley, more than three miles from the village, where a blue-gray wolf sitting in the middle of the road wouldn’t let them pass. The wolf was a crafty creature who seemed to be smiling but wasn’t. It didn’t come toward them, just sat there blocking the way.
      Hideko was so terrified that she turned away and leaned her back against Two-Bread. He told her not to look away or the wolf would think she was prey. Numb with fear, she asked him, “What should we do? We’d better run.”
      Two-Bread corrected her again. “Don’t let it see that you want to run. In a wolf pack, backing up means you’re about to attack.”
      Hideko started to cry, and the wolf licked its lips as it watched her. “If we can’t do anything else,” she said, “let’s climb a tree. The wolf can't get us there.”
      “No, climbing a tree would be the same as cutting off our way out of this. Wolves are good at waiting.”
      Hideko was at her wit’s end. She sat frozen in the cart.
      Then Two-Bread got out of the cart and bent down, pretending to pick up a rock. In his experience, seeing a human do this would scare a wolf away. But this wolf had more experience than he did. Instead of running, it took a large step forward and tilted its head to look at Two-Bread.
      Two-Bread could tell what it was going to do. It was about to head all out for Hideko, who was still in the cart.
      There was a cracked pot on the cart that Hideko's mother had tasked Two-Bread to take to town to have soldered. He told Hideko to hit the pot with the horse whip, the more noise the better. Hideko did as he asked. She struck the pot as if her life depended on it.
      The pot rang like a temple bell and reminded the wolf of the sound of an iron trap. The noise irritated it. It bared its sharp white teeth, but stubbornly stayed where it was and didn’t run.
      Two-Bread was scared, too, at the time. The wolf had become more daring after a half hour of indecision, mainly because Hideko was huddled up on the cart and shivering so hard the whole cart shook. Then there was the horse. It hoisted up the cart’s front shaft and whinnied in horror. Two-Bread took in the situation and right away shouted at the top of his lungs. He wasn’t calling for help – he was roaring like a lion. Hideko didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as his roaring grew louder and louder. They say wolves are afraid of roaring and won’t be rash enough to attack unless they’re supremely confident.
      But using all that energy didn’t solve the problem. The wolf didn’t attack, but it didn’t let them go, either. They were right back where they’d started. Two-Bread felt that people aren’t a match for wolves, so all he could do was pull out his last trick. He told Hideko, “I’ll rush the wolf, and you whip the horse for all you’re worth. It’ll take you to safety.”
      “What about you?” she asked.
      “I have a plan.”
      Two-Bread didn’t in fact have a plan at all. He was only going to risk himself to save Hideko's life.
      When Hideko agreed, Two-Bread picked up a pine torch from the cart. He took out a match, lit the torch and held it in front of him as he rushed toward the wolf. At the same time, Hideko’s whip cracked beside the horse’s ear. The horse whinnied in fright, kicked up its hooves and shot forward.
      The horse was scared out of its mind. It galloped desperately towards the county seat.
      The wolf started to flee but turned its head for a moment after it had run ten meters. It saw that the torch wasn’t very strong, so it sat down again and stared single-mindedly at Two-Bread. He figured it was having a good laugh at his expense.
      He raised his eyes to glance at the cart. It had already gone a huge distance and Hideko would get to the town soon. She looked as small as a paper-cut figure in a window and her image was blending in with the town.
      Two-Bread took off his shirt and put it on the torch, which was about to go out. The shirt caught fire instantly. Two-Bread pounced toward the wolf, holding the torch high. He thought he could use the burning shirt to blind the wolf.
      The wolf finally backed off, more warily this time. It had concluded that this young man was not afraid to die.
      After this encounter, the wolf never blocked Two-Bread’s way again. It never failed to attack when anyone else came along, though. This section of the road was tranquil, as though the wolf had fallen asleep, only when Two-Bread passed by.
      Japanese puppet troops swept the area the following year. They’d decided to take control of the wolf-infested place because they suspected partisans were hiding there. In fact, the Anti-Japanese Alliance really did have a secret camp in the depths of the forest.
      The devils were looking for a Chinese guide and thought of Two-Bread. They forced him to lead the way for them. He thought he could use this opportunity to lead the devils into Wolf Valley where they’d be wiped out.
      Wolves watched them intently while they were in the forest. If Two-Bread hadn’t been with them, they would’ve rushed the devils, but since he was there, they decided to forego the easy meal. Two-Bread could tell what the wolves were thinking. He grumbled incessantly about it, because once they were through Wolf Valley, finding the partisans’ camp would be easy.
      Just as Two-Bread was getting anxious about it, he heard a horse whinny. A cart was rushing down the road into Wolf Valley. In the cart was woman wearing a red shirt with a whip in her hand. When she rushed up alongside the troops, Two-Bread jumped onto the cart. The horse continued to run wildly and the cart had disappeared before the Japanese puppet troops could gather their wits.
      Once Two-Bread was gone, the wolves’ former idea disappeared from their minds. Under orders howled by the Wolf King, Wolf Valley began to seethe....
*[The “Pioneer Groups” consisted of poor Japanese farming families sent to north-east China in the 1930s and 40s to consolidate the Japanese occupation. See
here – Fannyi]

Text at p. 105; Translated from 陈力娇的博客 at
3. Free Meat Pies (免费的馅饼)

Tang Lichun (汤礼春)

      Who says, "There’s no such thing as a free lunch?" And who says, "There’s no manna from Heaven?" Such claims are terribly out of date.
      I encountered that sort of thing a few days ago. I passed by a construction site for a new building that morning and saw a long line in front of the sales office, fully one or two hundred people. I was marveling that the real estate market could really be so hot when one fellow pulled another aside and I heard him say, "Hurry up and get in line for free meat pies!" That amazed me even more. I looked closely and saw before my eyes a large billboard next to the sales department. It proclaimed in large characters, “Unanticipated Glad Tidings for You! Free Lunch Available Here!”
      I hurried over for a better look. An announcement below the large characters clearly stated: “As a thank-you to members of the general public who’ve come to look at and buy our units, our company will provide three hundred meat pies as free lunches at noon today. Limit two pies per person. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve a mind to enjoy these delicious, free meat pies, please line up in front of the sales office to get a numbered ticket (to be issued promptly at 11:30) and then proceed to the Free Lunches for the World Meat Pie Shop to the rear of the sales office to receive your pies.”
      With no strings attached, who wouldn't be motivated by such a good deal? I glanced at my watch and, while it was still an hour before 11:30, I got in line right away so as not to miss the opportunity. It's boring to count the minutes waiting in line, but fortunately those meat pies were calling to me, so I didn’t feel too bad.
      Finally it was 11:30. The real estate people were as good as their word and, as soon as the time arrived, the "numbered tickets" were issued immediately. I got mine within a few moments. I was really excited when I had the "numbered ticket" in my hand.
      When I finally took a bite of a "meat pie", I thought enthusiastically, "You don't say! There really is such a thing as a free lunch! And a bloke like me was able to luck into one!" Maybe it was just because the meat pies really tasted pretty good, but for the next few days, whenever I ran into someone I knew, I reveled in raising the subject of "free pies".
      Early this morning I went for another walk in our community garden. I was looking for an acquaintance to talk to and happened upon Mrs. Huang, who lives opposite from me. I hadn't seen her for a couple of days.
      She was undoubtedly headed off to be a shill for some real estate people. She’d once proudly told me that a real estate agent had her pretend to buyers that she was the owner of some property. She could easily make fifty yuan in one day! She wanted to get me into it, too, but I told her ungratefully, "Be a shill for fifty yuan? I wouldn't do such a cheapo thing!" Once I said that, she got so angry her face stiffened up like a piece of plywood. She ignored me after that. Later I regretted speaking so bluntly.
      Since then I’d wanted to give Mrs. Huang a smile, and today was the right time. I was about to say something to her but she lashed out at me first. "Didn't you say I was cheap for being a real estate agent’s shill? You’re cheaper than me! Yesterday I saw a TV commercial and weren’t you right there in the crowd pretending to be in line to buy a condo? Later I asked around and found out you guys didn’t even get fifty yuan. They gave you two meat pies and then showed you the door.  Two meat pies are only worth ten yuan!"
      I was floored, but I figured it out after a while, and a bit of self-deprecating humor came to mind. It seems there really is no such thing as a free lunch. For a couple of meat pies, I became an unintentional shill!

Text at p. 108; Translated from 半岛网 at this page.
4. Release Day (出狱的日子)

Wang Mingxin (王明新)

      Today’s the day he gets out of jail, and two women have come to pick him up. The woman in her fifties is his mother; the other is in her thirties and holding a one-year-old child in her arms. He hugged his mother first, then walked over to the thirtyish woman and knelt on one knee before her. His voice filled with emotion, he said, “If you’ll take me, I’ll use the second half of my life to make up for the harm I’ve done to you.”
      If it weren't for the accident that time, he and this woman wouldn't know each other. She’d been pregnant when they became acquainted.
      About six months after she gave birth, the child caught a cold and she took it to the hospital to see a doctor. She ran into the older woman on the third-floor stairway. The older woman held several test sheets in her hand and was rushing up the stairs. One of the test sheets slipped out of her hand and floated down on the stairs.
      The younger woman stooped to pick it up and inadvertently glanced at it. The words "mammary gland cancer" surprised her, and she chased after the older woman right away. The older woman had entered an outpatient clinic and a doctor was telling her, “Now’s the best time to do the surgery. Of course, chemotherapy will still be needed after the operation. If you’re not willing to do it, there’s nothing we can do.”
      “Is there a cheaper way?” the woman asked.
      “How could there be a cheap way with this disease?” the doctor replied politely. “Is life more important, or is money more important? If you don't do the surgery now, one day the cancer cells will spread and then it'll be too late. You have to think clearly.”
      But, uh...” the woman stammered.
      The younger woman didn’t wait to hear any more. She rushed over to the older woman and said, "Sister, it’s important to take care of that illness. If money’s a problem, I’ll give it back to you."
      The older woman was speechless for a moment. She looked the younger woman over and then said, "Sister, I know we’ve done you so much harm. That little bit of money we gave you can’t make up for it. Your child is still young, and you’ll have plenty of places to spend your money in the future. I absolutely can't take your money. I'll think of another way.” With that, she hurried away.
      The younger woman couldn’t stop worrying and went to visit the older woman a few days later. She asked all around and finally found out where she lived. It was a low, one-story bungalow. When the older woman saw who’d come to visit her, she took the child from the younger woman’s arms and the two sat down to chat about everyday things.
      The older woman said she’d sold her house and was renting the bungalow. Her man had loved to drink and died of liver cancer. She’d been pregnant with their son when her man died. She went out early in the mornings to her job sweeping streets as a maintenance worker, then made dumplings in a restaurant in the afternoons and evenings. It was hard, but she’d supported her son through college and until he got a job. Who could’ve guessed she’d be able to do such a great thing?
      They chatted away until both women were crying.
      The younger woman went to the hospital the next day to pay the fees for the older woman. The older woman had her operation and the younger woman went to the hospital every day to visit her. Later, after the older woman was discharged from the hospital, the younger woman went to her home to take care of her and cook for her. She also accompanied the older woman to the hospital for chemotherapy.
      The older woman was worried about her son, who was serving time in prison. She wanted to write to him but had difficulty writing so soon after the operation, so the younger woman acted as her ghostwriter. When her son wrote back, the older woman showed the letter to her young friend. Reading between the lines, the younger woman saw that the fellow was a dutiful son and a good man. The older woman hadn't told her son about her operation, but every time he wrote, he asked his mother not to wear herself out writing to him and to watch the traffic when she was sweeping the streets. He expected to get an early release for good behavior one day, and when he got out, he wouldn’t let her work so hard. More than once, he asked his mother to visit the woman he’d hurt. Once he was released from prison, he said, he’d do whatever he could to help that woman.
      His letters came one after another, and the younger woman got to understand him better and better. On one occasion, after she’d ghostwritten another letter, she felt compelled to write him a separate letter to tell him who she was. The man wrote back right away to thank her for everything she’d been doing for his mother, and to say he’d repay her two-fold after he was released from prison. It turned out that the older woman had gone to the prison to visit her son and had told him everything.
      After that, he and the younger woman began corresponding with one another – a letter every three days, then every two days, then as often as one per day.
      The day of the son’s release from prison has finally come.
      The younger woman has mixed feelings as she looks at the man kneeling before her. He’s the man who, a year and a half before, had worked a second consecutive shift at night at his company. Because he’d been fatigued while driving home, he’d hit and killed her husband.
      The younger woman helps the man up, and the two hug tightly.

Text at p. 109; Translated from 王明新的博客 at
5. Old-Time Flavor Remembered (记忆中的老味道)

Liu Zhengquan (刘正权)

      “Taste that old-time flavor!” Tranquil Huang raised her spoon and motioned for Valor Ding to eat the cold rice cake on his plate. “It’s delicious! I could sell a minimum of five hundred bowls a day!”
      Obviously, rice cake is served on a plate, so why did she say “bowls”? This puzzled Valor, but Tranquil really hadn't thought about it....          Maybe old people said it that way. Otherwise, why would the billboard at the entrance to the village dare to brag about it that way so vociferously? You can’t go home again, but here they were.
      The village was called Don’t Worry Village.
      People said that most of the construction here used old materials. Tranquil believed it. She felt like she’d stepped back in time when she came here, and it surprised her.
      Being only in her early thirties, it wasn’t fitting for Tranquil to harbor feelings of nostalgia.
      But her relationship with her mother, well, it was old indeed. It was like a rag that had been used too long in the kitchen, with dirt hidden in every wrinkle and grime buried in every dark vein. No matter how strong a detergent you used, you could only get rid of the stain – the bacteria continued to breed surreptitiously. Their life-force was tenacious.
      As tenacious as Tranquil's longing for her father's love.
      But now she was face to face with an insufferable man.
      An insufferable man may have his good points. In her mother’s eyes, though, her father was just insufferable.
      At the very least, this guy gave Tranquil a feeling of familiarity.
      Valor didn't think of himself as being too insufferable. The hand that feeds, controls – those are words of wisdom passed down through the ages by our ancestors. Are those words wrong?
      Tranquil was the one who was wrong. She saw a man's behavior towards a gourmet dish as submission to food that had been handed to him in contempt.
      The cold rice cake lay on the plate in the shape of a half-moon, like a beautiful woman stepping out of the bath, her cold flesh and bones keeping cool without sweat. Under the rice cake was a thin layer of brown sugar water, its sweetness fresh and not cloying in the least. Valor pursed his lips as he held the spoon in his mouth. One could imagine the taste buds on the tip of his tongue opening up little by little.
      “It’s not too cloying, is it?” Tranquil shook her head. “Anything can get cloying.”
      Valor looked up at Tranquil. “Some things can’t!” he said seriously as he gently brushed the spoon over the tip of his tongue.
      “Please explain!” Tranquil stuck out her chin and listened respectfully.
      “Ha, ha!” Tranquil laughed so hard tears came to her eyes. “You must not be married!”
      “My son, he knows when to say, ‘I’m just here to buy soy sauce’* and mind his own business!” Valor gently scooped up brown sugar water from the bottom of the plate with a spoon and drizzled it on the hole in the rice cake where he’d just dug out a bite.
      “So, you’ve given up on your family?”
      “Yeah, but not my son!”
      “That’s rather interesting!” Tranquil abruptly felt that this bowl of cold rice cake was worth it. The fellow in front of her must have a story to tell.
      It was a tragic story, though.
      Valor's son really did know all about buying soy sauce, but a problem came along with the sauce.
      Valor's wife was stir-frying something one day when she ran out of soy sauce. Their son volunteered to go get some. The store clerk gave him a package of instant noodles as change, but no one noticed.
      The child tore open the package of noodles when he got home and found a small paper envelope inside. He was a curious sort, so he held the envelope up to the light and looked it over. He couldn't see what was inside but thought it was some kind of goodie, so he put in his
mouth and bit down. Pop! Whatever was in the envelope suddenly burst and got into his eyes. His face burned for a moment and he yelled, covering his eyes....
      After getting slammed like that, the child never again said anything about getting soy sauce. More than that, one of his eyes was ruined.
      Something else was ruined at the same time – Valor’s wife. She blamed herself endlessly and eventually had a nervous breakdown. She entered a mental hospital in another province.
      Tranquil remembered that this city, the one they were in, had a well-known mental hospital.
      “If I could, I’d take my son to see her every week!” Valor smiled and stopped talking. He began working very hard at the rice cake on his plate. Tranquil clearly saw a tear drip from his eye, or maybe it was sweat.
      No matter how many tears flowed, there weren’t enough to form a stream.
      “It’s completely OK to visit her without taking the child. A one-eyed child plus a neurotic mother, the shadow in the child’s heart would get twice as large.”
      “To heck with the shadow’s area. As long as you have family, you’re complete!” Valor shook his head. “You don’t understand the emotional life of a broken family. It’s like this bowl of rice cakes compared to the kind of rice cakes you can buy at the market, the ones with chemical additives. It looks opaque, but the texture has the old-time flavor.”
      “You mean a family needs an old-time flavor, too?” Tranquil asked.
      “You got it. I really hope the child's mother gets out of the hospital soonest.” Valor licked the plate clean of the last bit of brown sugar and said dreamily, “Because then we can go home.” The way his wife was, he was afraid they wouldn't get to go home for the rest of his life!
      After Valor left, some people who knew him well told Tranquil that they saw his wife once every week. Valor would bring her in for rice cakes. She was mad, but in a literate sort of way. She didn’t hit people or chew them out. It was just that she never got to see her child. Whenever she saw six-year-olds she’d cry out and pounce on them.
      Six-year-olds, that’s just the age when they learn to mind their own business – to just be there to buy soy sauce.
      Tears abruptly came to Tranquil’s eyes. She’d gone out to get soy sauce at the age of six, but when she got home, the man she’d called “daddy” was no longer home.
      Her mother had taken advantage of Tranquil’s absence to sweep him out the door.
      The reason couldn’t have been simpler. Haughty mothers don't like fathers who want no more out of life than a wife to work for them, a son to carry on their name and a warm bed to sleep in.
      That day was the third anniversary of Tranquil’s father’s death. When he was alive he’d especially liked to eat rice cakes in a bowl. That was her earliest memory of him. Her mother was extremely disdainful of that habit of his. She said it was reminiscent of poor, low-class people.
      Is it bad to be reminiscent of poor, low-class people? The old-time flavors linger over them!
      Fathers, they should be the oldest of old-time flavors in their families’ memories.

​*[‘Just here to buy soy sauce’ (打酱油) is an idiom meaning 'mind one's own business' – Fannyi]

Text at p. 118; Translated from 点点文摘 at

6. Don't Give Me a Hard Time (你别给我惹事)
Zang Anmin (臧安民)

      Village Chief Grassy Niu was knee deep in a rice paddy planting seedlings when the Women’s Director came looking for him.
      He raised his head when he heard her shouting and said, slowly and distinctly, "You let your dog run loose! I’ve told you about that time and time again. Don’t you understand plain language?"
      "Something bad’s happened, Chief! You've got a big problem. The town government called and they want you to go there right away!"
      "Can't you see I’m busy? You go for me! Oh, all right, do you know what the problem is?"
      "Young Li’s the one who called. He said it was about poverty alleviation. A problem’s come up with the name on our village’s quota!"
      The Chief heard her but didn’t say anything. He crawled out of the rice paddy, shook the mud off the bottom of his feet and lit a pipeful of Old Dry tobacco. Then he rushed out of the field, hopped on his electric motor scooter and took off.
      In the Town Mayor’s office, looking at his big muddy footprints on the floor, Grassy wrung his hands and waited to see what the Mayor had in store for him.
      Mayor Wei looked over Grassy’s size 10 feet but couldn’t conceal his happiness. He raised his voice and said, "You did good, Grassy Niu."
      Grassy immediately raised his head and puffed up his chest. He raised his hand and said, "May I speak, Mr. Mayor? It was my duty."
      "Some people are reporting that your village's Precise Poverty Alleviation quota is not in accord with reason. Is this also true of my leadership as Mayor?" Mayor Wei’s tone of voice suddenly turned serious when he said that.
      Surprisingly, the Mayor’s words were still echoing in the room when Grassy immediately shouted, "May I speak, Mr. Mayor? I report to the organization as a member of the Communist Party. There is absolutely no deficiency in my village's Precise Poverty Alleviation quota!"
      Mayor Wei smiled slightly at that, but his tone of voice did not get even the least bit friendlier. "You say there was no deficiency. So why has a person involved in the matter come and reported to me that your evaluation was unfair?"
      Grassy reacted immediately and loudly. "The selectee for poverty alleviation in our village was chosen by all the villagers in an open vote. There was absolutely no trace of any mistake whatsoever. I want to confront whoever reported the contrary face to face!"
      "Okay, Chief Niu. We’re going to meet in person today for a face-to-face dog and pony show. Anything you have to say, you can tell him to his face. I’ll see then, what will you say when the truth is staring you in the face?" With a wave of his hand, he told his secretary to invite the complainant in.
      A very thin, very dark-skinned old man pushed open the door and came in. Grassy went pale as soon as he saw him. "What are you doing here? How can it be you?"
      Mayor Wei’s voice got loud. "Please remain silent, Chief Niu. Let this old gentleman say his piece."
      "It’s like this," the thin dark man said slowly. "The quota for poverty alleviation in our village is only one family, and this here Chief, he didn’t seek truth from facts. He made light of it and assigned poverty alleviation indicators based on his personal judgment. This obviously violates the Precise Poverty Alleviation principles of the Party’s Central Committee and the State Council, and that’s why I oppose Village Chief Niu’s decision."
      Grassy’s face turned black and blue while the man was speaking. He stuck his finger in the old fellow’s face and said, "Didn't I tell you not to cause trouble for me?"
      Mayor Wei's face turned green and then red. He stuck his finger in Grassy’s face and said, "Please show this man respect. This is the township government, not your tiny bailiwick! Let him finish speaking. And don't you cause me any trouble, either!"
      Given Mayor Wei’s order, Grassy said helplessly: "Okay, say your piece! We’ll let the Mayor evaluate it for us!"
      The thin, dark-skinned old man also spoke with confidence. "And so I will. May I speak, Mr. Mayor? Village Chief Niu used the authority of his office to give our village’s sole precisely targeted poverty alleviation slot to Honored Virtue Niu, a person who doesn’t need it, thus depriving One Strength Ma, a person who really does need it, of the slot. I believe Village Chief Niu acted unfairly, so I’m asking Mayor Wei to uphold justice and give the slot to One Strength Ma."
      Even before the old man had finished speaking, Mayor Wei's brow furrowed so deeply it looked like a freshly plowed field. He listened patiently, and then grasped the old man's hand tightly and said, "You’re one of the good ones, One Strength Ma! We must stand up and fight when we’re faced with unhealthy trends. I, Mayor Wei, will act as your champion today to implement and realize the Communist Party Central Committee’s Precision Poverty Alleviation program." This said, he turned to glance at Grassy as he continued, "I just want certain cadres to take note: an official who isn’t a champion of the people might as well go home and sell sweet potatoes!"
      The thin, dark-skinned old man gently brushed the mayor’s hand aside. "Thank you, Mayor Wei.” He said, “but I need to tell you that I’m not One Strength Ma. I’m Honored Virtue Niu."
      "What the….?" Mayor Wei was confused.
      "It’s like this, Mr. Mayor,” Grassy interjected. “The one before you is Honored Virtue Niu. The precision poverty alleviation slot was given to him because his family's had some hard times. Who knew he’d insist on giving it to One Strength Ma. I couldn’t talk him into accepting, so he came running here to town to lay this hassle on the Mayor." Then he gave the thin, dark-skinned old man a stern glance.
      Mayor Wei turned to look at the old man. "So why are you doing this?" he asked.
      "No reason, except I'm a demobilized veteran!" After he said that, the old man’s feet snapped together and he saluted in proper military style.

Text at p. 121; Translated from 无名网站 at


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