Chinese Stories in English
1. Map of China, The by Gao Pengcheng (Sentimental, ♥♥♥)
2. Watermelon Pears by Wu Yan of Sucheng (Humor, ♥♥♥)
3. Putting on a Show by Xu Ning (Humor, ♥♥♥)
4. Local Dog Who Couldn't Find Home, The by Yan Lianke (Sentimental, ♥♥)
5. Sufferings of World Politicians, The by Wu Ming (Essay, ♥♥)
6. Withered Leaves by Dai Zhisheng (Sentimental, ♥♥♥♥)
1. The Map of China (中国地图)
by Gao Pengcheng (高鹏程)
When I went home to the countryside for New Year’s, I noticed that almost every member of my family had a map of China hanging in the central room of their homes. There was one in my uncle’s house, and grandma’s place had one, and my aunts on both sides of the family…. These maps – some hadn’t been hanging there very long, and others looked like they’d been there several years, but they all stood out plainly compared to the adobe walls that had been scorched and stained by several decades of cooking fires. They were just about the only bright things on the dark adobe walls.
Eventually I had to ask Third Uncle, who was standing beside a map in Grandma’s house, “Really, what’s going on here?” He didn’t say anything, just pointed so I could see for myself.
Wriggly lines had been penciled in on the map, stretching out in all directions from our tiny town of Flat Peak to the provinces of Shanxi, Zhejiang, and Xinjiang, to Shanghai and Guangdong…. Some of the lines were long and some short, but at the end of their journeys each of them encircled the names of places written in big or small characters.
Then I understood. The names connected on the map were all places where my cousins had gone to find work and make a living – my oldest cousin mining coal in Qinshui, Shanxi; a younger cousin who had married a man from Xinjing; another cousin at his wife’s family home in Zhaotong, Yunnan, and now the pair of them gone to West Dyke in Zhejiang to find work…. And I saw the place I’d gone to seek my fortune – Elephant Hill in Zhejiang. These impoverished relatives of mine didn’t know how to read or write more than a few characters, and spoke a coarse downhome dialect unsuitable for the expression of any exquisite emotions. They just used vine-like pencil lines on the map to maintain a connection with each of their relatives in a way that was both physical and conceptual.
When you think about it, the map of China can be a map of how our people’s feelings are distributed. Unfamiliar territories and place names keep becoming familiar because we have family there. Compare this to a “Population Map” or a “Map of Economic Activities”…. Maybe we should also have our own “Family Distribution Maps” like these! I think when these poor relatives of mine visit each other or have a get-together, they might just gather around in front of these maps. Pointing, they’ll say how near or how far this place or that is, and talk about how this son here or that daughter there is doing in such a far-away place. And when they talk about “this place and that place”, won’t they get the feeling that the ends of the earth are not really far away, to the point that it’s like having their family’s voices and faces right in the room with them?
Standing in front of the map my old and illiterate Third Uncle, my Third Uncle whose heart is full of love for the fatherland, he looks like a general in the process of directing his troops to march here or rush there, all around the country – No, actually he looks like an old worn out spider, caressing with his eyes the territory circumscribed by his net.
The darkest and heaviest circles are drawn around a few places in Guangdong – places where his youngest daughter passed through as an itinerant worker – she hasn’t been home in over three years because she hasn’t brought in any wages….
After a lively New Year’s party with lots of noisy fireworks, in this small, dark room after my boisterous friends and relatives had gone, what was that look on Third Uncle’s face as he stared at some place names on lower part of the map? In his mind he must be boarding the southbound train, going from place to place along the brief but seemingly endless line, into the flourishing world of the south that he has such limited information about, gazing upon the city where his daughter lives, seeing how hard she works, how exhausted she looks…. Or could she still have a smile on her face, happy and contented? And whenever he comes back from “visiting” her, what does he feel as he picks up his pencil and adds another heavy circle around a spot that was completely unknown, but has now become familiar to him? …
“Uncle, it’d be better to have her come home….”
“Ah….” Third Uncle seems to have been startled awake from a dream. He waives his hand with some effort and, seeming to make up his mind, says, “What are you talking about?”
I haven’t visited many other people, but I know my conclusions aren’t wrong. A while back I heard that in Xiji, Ningxia, an impoverished county with a population of 470,000, about 120,000 people leave every year to look for work. Later I heard that the people there have a new folk song:
In every home an old couple sits in a room,
And a big black dog is tied up by the door.
Of every ten families nine have empty rooms,
And a big map of China hangs on the wall.
文章选自2011年《散文》第10期，有删改 From Essays Magazine, No. 10, Abridged
2. Watermelon Pears (西瓜梨)
Wu Yan of Sucheng (舒城吴焱)
I published a paper in "Science Forum" magazine as early as five years ago, explaining in detail how it would be entirely possible through the use of modern science and technology to make a pear tree bear watermelon-sized pears. And further, the flavor would not differ from other pears.
At the time I was met with critical attacks from dozens of specialists and scholars who said I was a delusional and ignorant academic. "Wondrous Fantasies" Daily even published an anonymous article with the gall to attack me as a crazy charlatan. Because I've remained unattached during a scientific career exceeding half a century, they called me a person of bad moral character and called on all ladies not to believe my lies. They said I could talk the talk but not walk the walk, and that I would never accomplish anything….
I was incensed by these things and returned to my estate in my home town, two hundred kilometers from the capitol. Behind closed doors I experimented further with my prior accomplishments. Heaven helps those who help themselves and, after five years of working my fingers to the bone continuously day and night, I finally got one of my pear trees to bear twenty-five watermelon pears.
I picked one for closer analysis. It weighed about four kilograms, had excellent texture and contained a variety of minerals. The sugar, water and amino acid content was no different from other varieties of pears, and it had slightly higher amounts of some special trace elements such as vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus and iron.
So, once again I cautiously published a short paper in "Science Forum" magazine. The subject was the birth of the watermelon pear and I appended a photo. But "Wondrous Fantasies" Daily impatiently published an article calling me a faker. In all seriousness they pointed out that pictures of watermelon growing on trees can be produced with modern technology. They repeatedly accused me of such scientifically irresponsible ministrations.
It was best for me to remain silent about this. Fortunately a large number of expert scholars and novelty seekers came to my estate to investigate. They wrote many reports and consequently the attacks against me in newspapers and magazines decreased many-fold. But I paid too high a price for this. They ate up the better half my watermelon pears in free tastings. On top of that, my neighbors got together and sued me on the ground that their lives were adversely affected by my many visitors.
My neighbor on the left had had to seek the assistance of a private detective agency. He'd had to keep his beautiful young wife under twenty-four hour surveillance for fear that she would have an illicit affair with one of my guests.
My neighbor on the right had had to put up barbed-wire fencing in the front and rear of his estate. He also installed the world's most advanced satellite positioning alarm system.
Faced with neighbors who were growing more emotional day by day, all I could do was keep a stiff upper lip and apologize. I sacrificed six watermelon pears for this. The number of visitors to my home didn't get any smaller, though. I turned down their requests to taste the watermelon pears, but there was no way I could deny their other small requests, such as picking a leaf from the pear tree as a souvenir, or siphoning a small bottle of water from my well for research. The price I paid for this was a leafless tree and a waterless well. So every day I had to buy mineral water for drinking.
I had only six watermelon pears left, so I had to spend a ton of money on ads in major media outlets requesting no more visitors. I had to leave the door open for special guests, though. One day a terminally ill boy and several of his mates came on to my estate to play, and I picked two of the fruits so they could have a taste.
We also lost some watermelon pears when the president of the world's largest beverage company led a group to sign a contract with me to produce a beverage with this type fruit; and again when the director of the world's most renowned plant research institute negotiated with me to sell the rights to plant seedlings and cultivate them.
And then only one of my watermelon pears was left, the last one. It faced the weather alone on its bare branch, swaying in the breeze. And me – an old scholar at the end of his usefulness, with a lifetime of troubles filling his belly – I also stood sighing in the autumn breeze.
I'd happened to go out for a walk the day before and saw that my neighbors on the left and right had plastered ads on their walls for supposedly authentic watermelon pears and for the latest generation of watermelon pear seedlings. In fact, I'm the only one in the whole world who's planted a tree so far. I also heard that a research institute was recently built near my estate specifically to study the cultivation of cypress trees. Whenever this type of tree comes to an area, pear rust, that mortal enemy of pear trees, will emerge, along with other diseases as well.
So there I was in my garden, worrying about my pear trees, when the doorbell rang. I hadn't had a guest for several days. I could see clearly over the closed-circuit monitor that the visitor was a specialist in pear tree research who is highly regarded in academia, but who is also an old foe consistently hostile towards and biased against me. His coming personally to my humble abode suggested that I had prevailed in our debate.
I made an exception and allowed him to come in, and several graduate students with him. The old specialist carefully examined my watermelon pear, and photographed it, and grabbed up a fistful of soil from around the tree roots, and even scraped off a piece of bark. He didn't say a word from beginning to end, but I could see that he was still skeptical about me.
Several of his students asked for a taste of the watermelon pear. When I demurred, they went away with their noses in the air.
Not many days later I saw a report in "Wondrous Fantasies". The author's thesis regarding the watermelon pear he had studied was that only an excessive amount of heavy metals harmful to humans in the soil could have caused such short leaves and deformed fruit on the tree. Further, since the tree only yielded one pear of unknown flavor, it had no economic benefit to speak of. Pregnant women were warned absolutely not to eat the deformed fruit, or they might suffer the serious consequences of birth defects. Finally the article indirectly criticized me for carrying out such completely meaningless research. I was advised to spend more time and energy chasing women instead of doing such a foolish thing, and that a complaint would have to be filed against me at the appropriate time for activities that amounted to playing with fire.
I threw down the newspaper in anger and opened my electronic mailbox. I'd received several E-MAILS, all of which were letters of regret indicating that, for various reasons, it would no longer be possible to do business with me. I sighed, but looking out the window, I saw that a frigid autumn wind was sweeping by and that my last watermelon pear had fallen heavily to the ground and been smashed to pieces.
I got up, found an ax, and cut that tree down in three swings. I watched as a lot of sap oozed out from the roots. My vision was blurred by tears, but I could see very clearly that it was bright scarlet, like fresh blood.
April 4, 2000, in Wuwei County, Anhui
Translated from this site, also available here.
3. Putting on a Show (作秀)
Xu Ning (徐宁)
Me and this Jade Lute Heh had been getting along pretty good for over a year. She was never real warm, but not distant, either. You could say she was ambiguous, or reserved and indifferent. Bottom line is, I didn’t know what she thought about us, but I was tied to her. Someone had the idea that I should give her a little poke – find a woman to hang out with, eat meals with and stuff like that, to give her something to think about. Maybe that would force her to show her true feelings. Of course, this other woman would have to be younger and prettier than she was.
I thought of Lovely Liu from the Personnel Department. She was twenty-eight, a full generation younger than me. Her husband had died the previous year in a car accident and she hadn’t remarried. She was pretty, and tall, and had been a model when she was younger. While she was attractive, I’d never really thought about her before. Our situations were too different.
The longer I went without any other ideas, the less our differences bothered me, so I sought her out. She was a straightforward type who loved to talk and laugh. When I told her what I planned, she fixed those pretty eyes on me and said, “So, you're playing this dirty trick just to protect your own self, huh?”
"May Heaven strike me dead if that’s my idea," I said.
"OK,” she said, “I’ll help you. Putting on a show is right up my alley."
I gave Jade Lute a call. "I’m getting introduced to someone. I need you as a reference.”
There were precedents for this. She had previously introduced me to girlfriends of hers, maybe to test my loyalty.
We met in a restaurant as agreed. Lovely Liu is a first-rate actor. She sat close to me at the table, and when she wasn’t dishing out food for me, she was leaning lightly on my shoulder. Sure enough, this made Jade Lute so angry that her face turned green. Half way through the meal she said, "I have something I need to do. You two go ahead and finish eating." And just like that, she left. As I watched her walk off angrily, I thought my little trick was a tad too cruel
Lovely asked me, "How was my acting?"
I said, "A bit much."
She laughed. "That was the most fun I've had since my husband died.”
Jade Lute was anxious, as expected. She called me to talk about it. She said, "I checked with someone where you work. You two aren’t together, you were just putting on a show for me. How boring."
I knew I’d outsmarted myself. We were finished.
A few days later, I caught a bug suddenly and went in the hospital. Jade Lute came to see me the next day. I said, "I fooled you. I’m sorry."
"Don’t play those silly little games any more, OK," she said.
I asked her, "What are we going to do?"
"Get to know each other a little better,” she said.
Just at that moment, Lovely Liu unexpectedly came into the room carrying a boxed lunch. At first she looked startled when she saw Jade Lute was there as well, but then she said in an exaggerated tone of voice, "I brought you something to eat, Babe.”
"Another performance?" Jade Lute asked.
Lovely played dumb. "Life is a performance," she said, "and performing is life. I can't tell the difference, myself. Babe, here's some stewed carrots with mutton I made. Give it a try."
"I didn't ask you to do this. Why did you come? And why are you playing even more of a role than before?"
"I'm picking up the pieces," Lovely said.
"What pieces?" I asked.
"What someone else doesn't want," she said, "I do want."
Jade Lute's face changed. Her anger was gone.
"I told you, I never had that intention," I said.
Lovely said, "But I do."
I said, "You're too good for me."
"Don't you like me?" she asked.
"I never thought about it," I said.
She said, "Yes you did. When you came to me that day, I'm sure you'd decided that I was the only right one. And you expected that I would say yes, which means you understand that I trust you. Maybe you were just testing the waters, but if you won't admit it, then that's that. Truth is, I figured it out right away that day. So why are you pretending? Just be honest about it."
"This is too sudden," I said. "Let me think."
She came over and twisted my ear. "Easily come by, hard to let go. I'll just ask one thing, is that OK?"
I nodded. "Do I have a choice?"
"Come on," Lovely said "We can't stay here. Check out of the hospital."
I said, "And do what?"
She said, "Go get a marriage license. To keep me from changing my mind in the afternoon."
I said, "You're kidnapping a husband?"
She waived it off. "So call me a female bandito!"
I was hurting, but I was happy, too. Being with her and with no constraints, maybe I was a smooth talker and it's what I'd wanted all along.
We got married a month later. On the day of the wedding reception, Lovely and I were greeting guests at the doorway to the restaurant when Jade Lute came up.
She looked quite sincere as she congratulated us and stuck a red envelope containing cash as a wedding gift in my hand. Then she said: "You're both really good actors." Then she told Lovely, "I wouldn't have believed that a woman could be so straightforward."
Lovely is rather insensitive by nature. Before I knew it she came out with a classic quotation: "I performed when I was on the runway, but I've never play-acted about my feelings."
I asked Jade Lute to come inside as a guest at the reception, but she said no. She sighed and quietly left.
Watching her thin silhouette walking off into the sunset, I suddenly had a guilty conscience.
The Best of Chinese Humorous Writings, 2015, Guan Heyue, Anthologist, p. 225
Translated from version at http://www.92gushi.com/xxyk_2016_01/xxyk20160121.html
4. The Local Dog Who Couldn’t Find Its Home (一条找不到家的土著狗)
by Yan Lianke (阎连科)
Once I took a trip to the Great Wall at Badaling with the family. When we got to Sand River on the way back, we saw a dog running crazily the wrong way between the jammed up cars, looking for something. We were worried that it would meet up with the front wheels or the bumper of some sedan and end up getting hit. Eventually, after several attempts, we gained the dog’s trust with some food and water and brought it back to the compound with us.
It was a male with irregular black and white spots, forty centimeters tall, an indigenous Chinese breed. From its physical condition, weight and alertness around people, we could be sure it wasn’t a stray. Strays have a certain look in their eyes, a wariness but also a pleading for help. But the alertness in this one’s eyes would quickly disappear once he ate some cake or drank some water, leaving only an anxious restlessness. From this we could tell that it was a dog with a home and a family.
We put it in our courtyard. It was uneasy being in a strange place, but it didn’t have the worry and strain of facing the cars and death on the highway. It always wagged its tail when it saw anyone in our family, and it always came to lick our hands. When it saw people leading others of its kind for a walk in the compound, it would give out an “arf, arf” of friendliness and invitation.
Dogs have a super strong memory of their families. A few years ago the newspaper ran a story about a dog that had been taken in a car several hundred kilometers to Tangshan. That dog had run all the way back from Tangshan to its home in Beijing in twenty-some days. Knowing this, we surmised that the uneasiness and unfamiliarity that we saw every day in this spotted local dog’s eyes was from thinking about and missing its family.
I kept an eye on it and, sure enough, late every night this local spotted dog would leave our home after drinking half a dish of water and go out into the compound. From there I don’t know where went. It would come back at dawn, drained in spirit, and lie down in our courtyard, looking completely deflated, like it had lost something.
Then one morning, after a couple of weeks like that, I got up and went outside to discover it wasn’t lying there looking exhausted by its food dish under the tree. All through the morning and afternoon it still didn’t come back.
First thing every morning, whoever in the family got up first would open the gate and take a look to see if a local born and bred, spotted dog was laying under that ailanthus tree in the courtyard…. As the days and nights passed by, we gradually let our memories of the spotted dog fade away.
What made it like a theatrical production was this. One afternoon, just a few days more than a month afterward, I was in the courtyard picking beans when I suddenly heard a dog’s “arf, arf, arf” outside the gate. I looked up and saw that spotted dog standing upright with its forepaws on the gate, its eyes blazing like two torches in the cold. And coming up behind the dog was its master, a farmer from Daxing, 60-some years old and bald. Sweat covered his forehead and his back was bent over like a bow from carrying two huge watermelons in his arms.
“Hello – It must have been you who took care of our Spot, right?” the old guy asked me in a loud voice. He put his two watermelons down near the low gatepost.
The old guy had raised the dog from a pup until it was five or six years old. A couple of months ago, it got out the door and chased off after a wild dog in heat. He chased and chased it until he lost it. One morning a couple of weeks ago, he got up and opened the door and there it was, come back all of a sudden.
Today the old guy had gone to sell watermelons on this side of World Park. He was busy selling when he noticed the spotted dog running headlong for this compound. It ran to the compound entrance, then turned around and ran back to his melon truck. When it got back to the truck, it ran like crazy back to the compound. And it nipped on his pants leg several times, tugging him toward the compound entrance, and he couldn’t sell his melons in peace. But then he remembered that the dog had been lost for half a month. He thought maybe someone in this compound had taken care of it during that time, so he followed the dog to our home.
When the spotted dog and his master left our place, the evening sun was setting in the west, and there was a warm reddish light in our courtyard.
Translated from here, also available at http://www.ygyey.com/keji/xssxsxm-xsypssj.html
Recommended by Chen Yaodong
5. The "Sufferings" of World Politicians (世界政要的相亲“血泪”史)
Wu Ming (吴明)
[This article has been published on the internet by numerous sites, in various versions attributed to different authors. The above cited title and author are as published in Guan Heyue's book referenced below. – Fannyi]
Among the magnificent moments for a self-proclaimed successful man, none is better than "Getting the Babe".* In this regard, I’m afraid that former US President Bill Clinton, French President Hollande and former French President Sarkozy all have rich personal experience.
You shouldn’t think, however, that these eloquent and sophisticated dignitaries, whether they are currently in office or not, were born as "big personages". In their salad days, they were bashful boys as “prone to nervous clownishness at the sight of a girl” as anyone else, with no hint of the “domineering sort” they are now.
“No Afterwards” for Dubya and Nixon's Daughter
The English news service Reuters recently reported that November 11 is not just beloved by the Chinese people as Chinese Valentine's Day and a big shopping day. It is also celebrated as Veterans Day in the United States. This Veterans Day also saw the official release of former U.S. President George W. Bush’s 304-page biography of his father, George H. W. Bush, 41: A Portrait of My Father – the "41" refers to the elder Bush’s status as the forty-first U.S. president.
That day the father and son, both presidents, appeared in person together at the elder Bush’s library on the urban campus of the University of Texas in the United States to participate in the new book’s publication ceremony.
In his book, Dubya recalled with deep appreciation that the elder Bush not only supported him in his studies and career, but was also very much concerned about the major events of his personal life – On this point, it seems that parents the world over make the same demands on their children.
In 1968, when the elder Bush was still in the U. S. House of Representatives, he "mixed his public and private lives" by arranging a blind date for his 22-year-old son. The girl was none other than Tricia Nixon, the daughter of then-President of the United States Richard Nixon. She was the standard of perfection, fair-skinned, rich and beautiful. This was when Dubya, an impetuous guy from a ranch in Texas, took the first step of his life on the "road to the White House".
Unfortunately, his date with the "first daughter" didn’t go well, and was even somewhat embarrassing. In his book Dubya recalls: “During dinner, I reached for some butter, knocked over a glass, and watched in horror as the stain of red wine crept across the table. Then I fired up a cigarette, prompting a polite suggestion from Tricia that I not smoke.... After dinner, she wanted me to take her right back to the White House, and that was the end of the date.”
This was a "no afterwards" date, and Dubya went home crestfallen. But who knows, maybe this well-bred young lady had an influence on him. – His eventual wife, Laura, was born into a humble family in Texas. It seems that girls from one’s own area are better!
Schroeder Had Four Wives but "No Luck With Woman"?
For the so-called Brothers in Grief, there's always someone in the distance who'll tell you that "you're inhuman." For former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who is two years older than Dubya, it was his half-brother, Lothar Vosseler, who revealed an old grudge related to the sufferings of a blind date.
In December 2004, Vosseler published a book, The Chancellor, Unfortunately My Brother, and I." One chapter, "No Luck With Woman", described an incident when Schroeder was still a law student and Vosseler set him up with a girl.
Vosseler said in the book that he was already married at the time and wanted to introduce a dear friend of his wife's, a girl with a lot of charm, to his still unmarried older brother. However, "Schroeder talked up a storm for three solid hours at the dinner table." The friend later told Vosseler's wife, "If I ever see Schroeder again, I'll be sure to turn around and run away."
However, Vosseler 's book is not necessarily credible in its entirety, since he frankly admitted that he came out with it "to make some money." He was over sixty at the time and had been a highly paid professional in the IT sector, but had not been able to find a steady job since he was laid off in 1995. Thus his hands, skilled as they were at the computer keyboard, had been forced to repair sewers and heating pipes, and also carry people's luggage....
When his brother became the dignified chancellor of the entire country, it brought Vosseler short-term benefits. But after Schroeder's halo faded, the "pragmatic" Germans no longer cared whose brother he was. Vosseler had to earn his keep with his hands, so he became a baker. He grumbled publicly: "He (Schroeder) should not disregard his family. If he could help me find a job, or even just give me a bit of advice, I would be very happy".
But who can explain why he would say that Schroeder had no luck with woman? You should know that Schroeder eventually married four wives! Each time he only married the new wife after divorcing the previous one, of course. At 24 he married Eva, a girl from a neighboring village who was his childhood sweetheart; at 28 he married Anne, a female teacher; at 36, while he was running to be a federal representative, he "became engaged while biking" with a young girl Hiltrud Hampel; and at 52, he happened to meet Focus Magazine's blonde female reporter, Doris.
Since he changes wives every ten years, "till death do us part" isn't exactly to Schroeder's taste – he always prefers a young one.
*[A reference to the 1991 U. S. movie The Marrying Man, which was called 'Get Back the Beautiful Woman' 抱得美人归 in Chinese – Fannyi]
The Best of Chinese Humorous Writings, 2015, Guan Heyue, Anthologist, p. 245
Translated from http://history.people.com.cn/n/2014/1120/c372327-26062732.html, [edited]
6. Withered Leaves (一片枯叶)
Dai Zhisheng (戴智生)
Pipa Islet is a small township, and remote as well. Its scenery doesn’t change much from year to year.
A river flows along three sides of the township, and there’s a pavilion by the river where a group of retired seniors often gets together. What they talk about doesn’t change much, either.
Grandpa Tong goes there every day.
If there’re other people there, great, and if there aren’t, that’s okay, too. He’s always the first to arrive and the last to leave, rain or shine. He’s not much for words and just watches the men and women strolling along the river or in the street, or mayhap the ripples on the river, and listens to the magpies crowing from the parasol trees behind the pavilion.
When the topic of conversation turns to their children, though, Grandpa Tong does have something to contribute. The others respect what he says.
He’s from a long line of only sons, blacksmiths by profession. When it came to his own son, though, the carp turned into a dragon. He moved to the provincial capital and worked his way up through the ranks to become a high level cadre, bringing honor to his ancestors.
When he speaks of his son, everyone can see the boccaro teapot he holds in his hand. The old man never lets loose of it lightly because it’s a gift from his son and shows the son’s respect for his father. He always gets compliments when he shows it to someone, but he always responds: "It’s not so good! My boy’s moved so far away, and got promoted so high up in the sky that it isn’t easy for him to get home." His tone of voice is boastful but carries a hint of his true feelings as well.
His son really doesn’t get back much. Since he started his own family, you could count on one hand the number of times he’s come for a visit. Grandpa Tong raised the boy to manhood but now has a tough time seeing his grandson. There’s nothing he can do, though, except keep thinking about them.
When he gets the occasional phone call from his son, he’s happy for several days; and he’s ecstatic if he hears his grandson affectionately call him Grandpa over the phone. He has photos of his grandson that he shows to acquaintances when he sees them, and a bright smile erupts on his face when he hears their words of praise.
Grandpa Tong has been in a better mood the last couple of days. He tells everybody he meets: "My son's bringing my grandson to see me!
Old Zhang from the neighborhood asked him, "How old's your grandson?"
Grandpa Tong was quite proud. "He's about to reach the age of reason and they're bringing him here specifically to see me."
"You're a lucky man, old fellow!" Old Zhang told him. Grandpa Tong took a sip of tea and felt warmth in his heart.
His son arrived home with his wife and son that day. The neighbors on all sides gathered around the door. Grandpa Tong was on top of the world as he passed out candy and cigarettes to them, his face glowing.
The next day, Grandpa Tong still went to the pavilion early. Old Zhang asked, "How come you're not with your son talking to him?
"He's tired!" Grandpa Tong said with a laugh. Pretty soon he'd dozed off himself.
Grandpa Tong came to the pavilion early the following day as well. "You're not with your son?" Old Zhang asked when he saw him. He smiled. "His mates from school asked him out!"
Every day Grandpa Tong came to the pavilion early as usual. He also went home early, though. His spirits had returned to normal. Friends and classmates invited his son out every day, so he was never at home very long.
One day, though, Grandpa Tong was late getting to the pavilion. He had his grandson with him, and the boy had tears in his eyes. "Do you know where there's an Internet cafe?" he asked Old Zhang when he saw him.
Old Zhang thought. "There's a bunch of them in the county seat."
"So why doesn't this damn town have one?" Grandpa Tong asked angrily.
There was no trace of Grandpa Tong at the pavilion for a few days after that.
Then one day Grandpa Tong came to the pavilion alone. Old Zhang got there soon afterwards. "I heard Old Wang's son's going to open an Internet cafe!" he said.
Grandpa Tong looked melancholy and was silent for a while before he said, "Too late, they're gone!"
"Didn't you say he had twenty days' vacation?" Old Zhang asked.
Grandpa Tong seemed thoughtful, like he didn't want to talk. He looked at the river and the street, where people were still hurrying by, men and women out for a stroll. Fallen leaves floated along on the river's surface....
2015 Annual Chinese Mini-Stories p. 265; Modern Publishing; Editors Yang Xiaomin, Qin Yong
Translated from version at this page
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