​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Stories 08


                                                         1. Purple Figures                      by Bi Shumin (Sentimental, ♥♥♥)
                                                         2. If the Chieftain were a Woman      by Bi Shumin (Essay, ♥♥♥)
                                                         3. Atonement                                 by Zhu Yifan (Imaginative, ♥♥)
                                                         4. What Are the Chinese Like, Really?            by Sa Su (Essay, ♥)
                                                         5. Conscience Submitted by Qiao Xianfeng  (Sentimental, ♥♥♥)


1. Purple Figures (紫色人形)
Bi Shumin (毕淑敏)

      I was at a hospital in the countryside working as a laboratory technician at the time. One day I went to the stockroom to get a new tarp.
      The old lady in charge of the place turned every nook and cranny upside down. Then she told me, "No one's used the kind of tarp you want in years. It's out of stock."
      As I was walking out, disappointed, I happened to notice a piece of tarp in a pile of old junk. It was folded into a neat square and I could see its pea green color on the side that was sticking up.
      I was pleasantly surprised. "This piece of tarp will do just fine," I said. "Let me have it."
      Without skipping a beat, the old lady said, "Can't do that."
      "Has someone else already ordered it?" I asked.
      She seemed to be lost in her memories. "No," she said, somewhat absent-mindedly, "that's not it.... I didn't think you'd go through that pile.... When I brushed it that time, it was so hard to get clean...."
      "It doesn't matter if someone's used it," I interrupted. "I'm just going to use it to cover my workbench, after all. It'll be OK as long as it doesn't have any holes in in it."
      "Don't be in such a hurry, miss," she said. "Listen while I tell you the whole story of this tarp, and if you still want to cover your desk with it, I'll give it to you ––
      "Back then I was about the same age as you are now. I worked in the ward as a nurse, and everyone said I had a good attitude and good skills.
      "One day two severely burned patients came in, a man and a woman that I later learned were lovers, newlyweds to be precise. They'd been good friends for many years, and had been through some really hard times, and had finally made it to their wedding day. Who could've known that some evil bastard would light a fire under the eaves of their house on their wedding night. The flames were fierce and burned the two of them like charcoal.
      "I was assigned to be their nurse. Their two beds were in the same room, the man on one side and the woman on the other. Their bodies were pitch black with a lot of fluid oozing out, like their blood had been turned to water by the flames. The doctors couldn't do anything except strip their clothes off and smear on a thick coat of sesame oil, which was the best treatment we had for burns at the time.
      "But they continued to leak fluids. The sheets would be soaked through in just a few minutes after being changed. Moving their charred bodies to change the sheets was so painful for them. The doctors had no choice but to cover them with a tarp. I wiped up the purplish secretions from the tarp continuously, trying as best I could to keep the undersides of their bodies dry.
      "The other nurses said it was my bad luck, having to care for patients like those two. They said, 'Working hard and getting tired isn't really a big deal, but their groans in the night, like screams coming out of a chimney, that must be terrifying!'
      "I told them, 'I've already gotten used to seeing their purplish black bodies, and besides, they never moan.'
      "The other nurses were surprised. 'With such serious injuries,' they said, 'if they don't moan, it must be because their vocal chords are burned.'
      "I answered them back angrily. 'Their vocal cords seem to have been kissed by God. They didn't get hurt in the fire at all.'
      "The others refused to believe that. 'If they don't moan,' they asked, 'how do you know their voices weren't injured?'
      "I said, 'Because they sing! Late at night, when everything's quiet, they sing songs to each other that we can't understand.'
      "Late one night, the man's body exuded a particularly large amount of fluid, so much that he was about to float, so I gave him a new tarp. Yeah, it was the one you just found. Even though I was really gentle, he gave out with a low moan. He stopped groaning again after I finished changing the tarp. The woman sighed and asked, 'Has he fainted?'
      "I said he had.
      "The women also moaned a little and said, 'Our necks are as stiff as cement pipes. I can't turn my head, so I can't see whether he's asleep or awake even though our beds are so close. We never moan because each of us is afraid it might make the other feel bad. Now he's groaned, and that means we're going to die. I'd be so grateful to you, and not make any other requests, if you could just carry me over to his bed. I want to be with him.'
      "The woman's voice was really very nice, like a flute being played in heaven.
      "I told her no. 'The beds are so narrow, how could two people lay down in one?'
      "She smiled and said, 'We're all burned up. We don't take up much space.'
      So I picked the purple woman up gently. She was light as a cinder...."

      Then the old lady said, "So that's my story. Do you want to have a look at this piece of tarp?"
      I unfolded it very carefully, as if I were admiring a huge commemorative stamp. Because of its age, the sections stuck together a little, but I spread the whole thing out.
      Right in the middle of that clean, pea-green piece of tarp, the light purple images of two people were nestled tightly together.

传世经典微型小说108篇 / 108 World-Wide Classic Mini-Stories, page 215
武汉长江文艺出版社; 高田宏, 方莹, 孙琳 主任编辑 Gao Tianhong, Fang Ying, Sun Lin, Eds.
Also available at
http://tieba.baidu.com/p/168891387
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2. If the Chieftain were a Woman (假如酋长是女性)

Bi Shumin (毕淑敏)

      Suppose two tribes in ancient times are having an intense dispute over a well. They’ve come to the point where they’ve taken up arms and are on the verge of battle. What would happen?
      Suppose further that the tribal chiefs are male, full of noble aspirations and daring. Blood would certainly be spilled. Young men would gather at their sides, shouting war cries. They’d surge forward, itching for a fight, and the fight would indeed begin within a second or two. Rivers of blood would flow in the glint of daggers and swords….
      On the basis of their strong physiques, men believe most strongly in a world where the implements of war must come to the fore. They believe even more strongly that all truth comes from the barrel of a gun, and they advocate a fight to settle all the problems in the world.
      But what if the chieftain is female? How would things develop then?
      The matriarch might at first shut her eyes in fright at the prospect of the upcoming tragedy. Her sex are the breeders and nurturers. When lives are about to be slaughtered, she feels as though a pair of sharp scissors has made a fretwork of her soul, the pain of an awl piercing her bones.
      [She would ask,] "Is there any other way, a way to avoid the killing? Isn't this just about a well? Do we have to exchange blood for the liquid flowing in it?
      "Let's not make trading blood for water the first step. We'll get around the problem by digging another well." The matriarch yields weakly. "Human blood isn't water. Let's trade our labor for peace."
      The people grudgingly accede and dig several holes in the ground. Except for the original well, though, the new holes remain dry.
      The people start complaining. Their discontent ignites like a wildfire. "This woman made us show weakness, and made us do hard work, and it was all for nothing."
      The matriarch acutely senses the mood underlying the unrest, but pays no attention to the people's resentment and continues to direct them. "Let's go out and look around. We'll explore every place in every precipitous mountain on foot. Our eyes will look in every hidden ravine, and our fingers will touch every bit of wet earth to see if we can find a spring to rival the old well. Let’s do everything we can and go down to the last minute before we break the peace."
      There aren’t any. There are no new sources of water there. The people wail to High Heaven when they return home unsuccessful after undergoing so many hardships.
      They’ve reached the point where they have no choice but to fight.
      Even at this imminently perilous juncture, the matriarch still hesitates. She searches her conscience – Has she had done her utmost to avoid war? Yes, she has. With tears in her eyes, she tells herself that the heart can gradually harden in the midst of tears.
      The matriarch counts on her fingers. In the war that is about to start, how many wives will lose their husbands, and how many young mothers will lose their sons? How many children will lose their fathers, and how many families will cease to exist? She must do everything possible to reduce the number who will sacrifice their lives.... Trembling in misery, the woman chief raises her hand high to announce the order for war – but then she lowers it slowly. She does this three times.
      She gathers stretchers for the injured, organizes rescuers, decides where the battle will be fought and sends doctors there. She does everything she can to minimize casualties, as she has done everything she could to preserve the peace…. After she has finished all the preparations, the matriarch in great torment blows the horn for the final battle.

***

      Her tribe has won. Her people sing and dance around the well they've won with their flowing blood. But many people are shedding tears amid the revelry, and the tears congeal to form ice crystals. Their loved ones are gone to a faraway place, gone forever.
      The matriarch watches the crowd as thoughts that she cannot get rid of spin in her breast. Is there really only enough water for one well under this land? Is well water really more precious than life? How will the people of the other tribe live, how will they survive now that they’ve lost their source of water?
      The woman chief isn’t smiling after the victory.
      This is the difference between a male and a female chieftain. It is a difference that’s been handed down directly from ancient times, a long-standing difference that has lasted into the present day.
      I heard this story told by a black woman at the fourth United Nations World Conference on Women. She repeatedly stressed one sentence: Learn to see the world through women's eyes.

[Fannyi wonders why this essay was chosen for inclusion in an anthology of "humorous writings" from “Comedy World Magazine”. Perhaps the selection committee was all male.]

2013中国年度幽默作品,《喜剧世界》杂志社选片,丁斯主编
2013 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 226
Translated from
this site, also available here and (繁体字) here (繁体字).
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3. Atonement (赎罪)

Zhu Yifan (朱毅帆)

      I've been raised by this guy for as long as I remember. He's not my parent or brother or any other kind of relative. All he says is that he's my guardian.
      It's 3024. I'm six years old and he's 36, still very young. I've just started school, and he escorts me to and from class every day. Whenever he sees me, he sighs.
      It's 3028 and I'm 10 years old. I was sitting in the back seat of his car one day, and he seemed to have something on his mind. "What's the matter?" I asked.
      "Nothing," he said, but I distinctly heard a slight sigh.
      In 3032, I'm 14 and he's 44. One day I ask him: "Uncle, how did I get to be part of your family?"
      "I adopted you."
      "Are you sorry you adopted me?"
      "No."
      "So why do you always sigh whenever you see me?"
      "It's nothing. You're hearing things!"
      It's 3033, and I'm 15 and he's 45. A teacher took us to visit the "Life Sciences and Technology Museum."
      "This is a human embryo," the teacher said. "You can create a person using gene replication and memories. Creation using a memory matrix is called a 'clone'. But a lot of progress has been made since the last century."
      Curious, I asked "So it can replicate another me?"
      "Yes, it can."
      That evening I told him about all the things I'd seen and heard during the day at the museum, including the things about human embryos. He didn't say anything, though, except a few ambiguous grunts.
      In 3036, when I'm 18, I get admitted to the "Life Research University." He's very happy. That day, he takes me to humanity's last green garden, the last place where humanity has plants. I remember he was 48 years old, his hair white from back to front. It'd come on fast. Eighteen years gone in a flash – I've grown up, and he's gotten old.
      "All this vegetation was replicated from preserved plant genes," he said. "Your future research will be in this direction."
      In 3040, I graduate from college. I'm 22. I haven't seen him in four years, and he's much older now. Wrinkles have climbed around the corners of his eyes, relentlessly devouring his youth. He looks very old.
      "No one can live past 60," he says, "so I guess I'm about to die." That's rather painful to hear, but I can't cry. The nuclear war 400 years ago turned most of the world's hydrogen ions into helium ions, so all the tear ducts, sweat glands and any parts of the human body that waste water have degenerated. Humanity's world has become the Realm of No Tears.
      "No, you'll keep on living, you and me, no doubt about it."
      "No, that's impossible. It's the law and you can't change it. No one in the world can change it."
      It's 3041 and I have a good job at the Institute of Life. Now I know that humanity's only weapons against nature are life technology and genetic modification. Using ancient plant specimens and replicated genes, humans have been able to bring wheat back from extinction and make it a staple of humanity. Wretched humanity only has a few kinds of foods, because most of the biota went extinct in the nuclear war 400 years ago.
      It's 3047. He's 59 and I'm 29. We've finally been able to resurrect a few more types of ancient life. Now, all humans have to rely on is life technology. The depletion of natural resources has left us dependent on solar energy. The chemical plants have closed – no raw materials.
      "Humankind conquered nature," he says, "defeated and transformed it. But in the end, humankind has finally been defeated by nature as we transformed it." His life is coming to an end.
      On the day before his 60th birthday, he disappears without a trace. He's left nothing behind.
      On his birthday, a man dressed in a GLO uniform comes looking for me. GLO is one of the world's largest life research organizations.
      "It's your duty to take care of those who have taken care of you," he says. "And 'his' genes will be replicated. 'He' will live once more, but 'his' memories will be erased. You have to accept this. Come to our facility to claim the reduplicated 'him' in three months. This is required by law: Two groups of humanity have been formed, 30 years of age apart. They are replicated from each other's genes and each raises the other to age 22. On the day they turn 60 they must die, in order to maintain population levels."
      "So this is what GLO does," I say.
      "Yes, it's the only way to make sure human beings can survive. In the first 100 years after the nuclear war 400 years ago, the number of humans decreased sharply to 100,000. This is the best way to insure that humankind survives, to insure that the population does not decrease further. Nuclear contamination has made it so that almost no one can have children. At the same time, we must conserve food and other resources, so the only way is to do everything possible to hold the population in check while maintaining demographic equilibrium."
      Three months later, I pick the young "him" from GLO. "He" is only three months old and is asleep in my arms.
      The strange thing is, every time I see "him", I have to sigh.
      At age 15, "he" comes home one day and tells me "he" went to the "Life Science and Technology Museum."
      I know someday "he" will know the truth, all of it.
      "He" is particularly interested in life technology. In college, "he" also chooses life technology with a specialty in genes.
      The years flash by. One day I find it's 3077, and I'm 59 years old.
      "Maybe it'll take many years for humanity to recover," I say. "I hope mankind can keep going, generation after generation, and return the world to the condition it was in several thousand years ago."
      "Well, that will require the efforts of many generations."
      "And that's exactly why there's you and there's me," I said.
      Two people from GLO come into my room the day before my 60th birthday.
      "OK, your 60th birthday is coming up. Let's go," they say.
      I know what's waiting for me. I don't resist, don't even speak. I just go with them.
      In the GLO lab on my 60th birthday, I enter an airtight container. My mind goes blank as I feel the air leaving. It's almost impossible to breathe. But I know I'll be back, no doubt about it.
      This is the 400th spring after the nuclear war. Does "he" see flowers blooming yet?

小小说名作、佳作阅读与欣赏 Famous Mini-Story Masterpieces to Read and Appreciate
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_6ceb4af10101f1qd.html, Story #17
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4. What Are the Chinese Like, Really? (中国人究竟是什么样的)

by Sa Su (萨苏)

      [This essay shows that factual accuracy, clear thinking and good writing skills are not prerequisites to getting something published in China – Fannyi]
      What kind of people are the Chinese, actually? I've been one for more than thirty years, but I still can't give you a clear answer to that question.
      It's because there are too many Chinese people, and too many different kinds. How could anyone explain them in a sentence or two?
      A few days ago I went to the Social Sciences Publishing House and one of the editors, Yang Xiaofang, gave me a copy of the book "Modern China in Traditional Tales". Inside are two essays that aren't really related to one another, but the topics do have some association.
      The first one is about Wang Yunwu.
      Wang was the well-educated and very talented general manager of the Commercial Press. He played a major role throughout his life but is noted primarily for helping the Nationalist Government with its Gold Yuan policy [which led to hyperinflation], and thereby ending up a failure. It's really ironic that he was a major player all his life but ended up eating crow, and especially a piece of crow big enough to choke his reputation for a generation.
      Actually he was a very smart fellow. When I was in college I heard his name often enough to remember it well, and not just because of the Gold Yuan affair. It was because I, Sa Su, majored in Library Science, where we had to learn "Wang Yunwu's
Four-Corner Search System". He [allegedly] devised it himself, a professional accomplishment comparable to America's Dewey Decimal System.
      The interesting thing is that Dewey also had to eat a bit of crow when he was a candidate for president, of all things.* He appeared to be doing well going into the election, and that night when he went to bed he told his wife, "Tomorrow you'll be sleeping with the President of the United States."
      The next morning when the election [results] were published, it turned out that Truman's fortunes had turned around.
      "Now what," his wife asked. "Am I going to the White House or is Truman coming here?"
      A college professor told us this story in passing. I don't know if it's true.
      Maybe specialists in Library Science aren't suitable for politics.
      Wang Yunwu was one of those people who was always in the limelight wherever he went. In 1929 or 30 he went to the United States on a fact-finding tour. [As befitting a person] as talented and famous as Wang, he was greeted there by his good friend
Mei Yiqi, who was the Supervisor of Exchange Students at the time and later became the Dean of Tsinghua University.
      One day, they were somewhere near an airfield and happened to notice [a sign] offering airplane rides to view the scenery. At the time, though, aircraft didn't perform well and accidents were common. Therefore, if you were interested, the Americans would let you ride only if you signed a contract saying that you were doing it of your own accord; and that, if you fell to your death, you got what you deserved and would not implicate the Americans.
      The group discussed the matter rather loudly for a time. Wang was not afraid, though. That is, what kind of person was he? Awesomely unafraid, with a stubborn desire to fly. This airplane could carry two passengers, so Wang asked the group, "Which of you will go up with me for a look around?"
      The Americans in the group all said in English, "No, Mr. Wang," they wouldn't "do that," but they would notify his family.
      Wang was disappointed. Right away he asked – "Yuehan, are you willing to go on this ride with me?"
      Yuehan was one of Mr. Mei's other names. He was smiling, and when he heard what Wang said, he nodded his head.
      Wang was pleased and signed the contract on the spot, but then he had a flash of sympathy. He turned to Mr. Mei and said, "Yuehan, I've ridden on an airplane before, and I'm not afraid, but do you want to think it over?"
      Mr. Mei kept right on smiling and shook his head. Then he nodded.
      So the two of them got in the plane.
      That time, they made it back safely.
      Mr. Mei later wrote in his memoirs that he really hadn't wanted to get in the plane. It was just that, if nobody had accompanied his guest, he would really have lost a lot of face, so he'd plucked up his courage. It felt like he was taking a turn through the Gates of Hell.

                                                          Author's Comment – An Australian national said he couldn't understand why his Chinese                                                            neighbor, during the SARS epidemic, was still willing to welcome friends and relatives from                                                              China. "If it was me," he said, "there's no way I'd let them into my home, no matter who they                                                          were.
                                                          What he said was very scientific, and that's why he couldn't understand.
                                                          And in view of Mr. Mei's feelings about riding in the airplane, I know why he couldn't                                                                   understand: The truth is, it's because he's not Chinese.
                                                          The other [book given to me by the Social Sciences Publishing House editor] really didn't                                                            have anything to do with Mr. Mei [or Wang Yunwu]. It was a eulogy for [the famous author] Mr.  Wang Zengqi called, "And He Was Also a Gentleman". It mentioned that writing essays about his hometown, Gaoyou, was Wang Zengqi's greatest joy. It quoted from "A Tale of Big Nur", a true story [he wrote] in the form of a novel about the toils of a [woman] porter and the exquisite handicraft of a tinsmith; about how the tinsmith Eleventh Son and the porter Lucky Cloud became close; about how Lucky Cloud was defiled by Bank Manager Liu, but Eleventh Son and Lucky Cloud became closer anyway; about how Bank Manager Liu beat the young tinsmith Eleventh Son within an inch of his life, but couldn't force him to say uncle; and about how the other tinsmiths put their furnaces on the line and filed suit, and finally got rid of Bank Manager Liu.
      Wang Zhengqi wrote in a short passage that at that moment Lucky Cloud, in order to resuscitate Eleventh Son, fed him a local folk remedy, salty urine soup.
      The passage went like this –
      "Lucky Cloud carried the bowl of salty urine soup in both hands. 'Eleventh Son,' she whispered in his ear, 'Eleventh Son, drink this.'
      "Eleventh Son barely heard her voice. He opened his eyes, and Lucky Cloud poured the salty urine soup down his throat.
      "For some reason, she drank a mouthful of it herself."
      "She drank a mouthful herself." It's said that Wang Zhengqi shed a tear when he wrote that.
      And how could I not as well, when I read it.
      I forgot to mention, the aforementioned story about Mr. Mei is [from the essay by Gao Xi] called "
At Bottom, He's Chinese".
      Fini
      Postscript: The times are different now, and almost all of us, young and old, have done things, either actively or passively, which are not necessarily so virtuous. Nevertheless, I've always felt that, in our hearts, we Chinese are like Mr. Mei, and Lucky Cloud, and Eleventh Son.
      These things are inborn, and we probably couldn't change them even if we wanted to.
*[In fact, the Dewey Decimal System was promulgated by
Melvil Dewey in 1876; the presidential candidate was Thomas E. Dewey, who was born in 1902. They were apparently not related. The gentleman in the photograph is Mei Yiqi, although neither the author nor the editors of this essay deemed it necessary to identify him. – Fannyi]

2012中国年度幽默作品,《喜剧世界》杂志社选片,丁斯主编
2012 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 230
Translated Version at
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_476745f60100bmqd.html
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5. Conscience (良心)

Manuscript Submitted by Qiao Xianfeng (来稿者:乔现锋)

      “Hurry, Boss, look over there! Zhang Shan’s hand got smashed in the machine!"
      Boss Wang had just returned from the shop floor and hadn’t yet sat his butt down when a worker ran pell-mell into the work shack to tell him about it.
      “No way! You think I don’t know how good Zhang Shan is on the capstan? You’re making that up, aren’t you? He could run that machine with his eyes closed and never have a problem!” Boss Wang didn’t believe a word of it, but he still had some doubt as he ran out around a few piles of construction materials and came to the front of the capstan. It had just been “whoosh-whooshing” but now seemed mute. Several workers were fussing around Zhang Shan, helping him wrap his hand with a bandana. He told a guy standing beside him to hurry and call the emergency number 120, and anxiously asked Zhang Shan: “What the heck happened? How’d you get your hand mashed up like that? Hold on, we’ll get you to the hospital right away.” While they were waiting for the ambulance, Boss Wang learned that Zhang Shan had stopped paying attention only for a moment when his hand got caught in the steel rope being wound up on the capstan at high speed. Luckily the kid beside him pulled the switch quicker than you could blink an eye, or else his whole arm would’ve been finished…. Boss Wang directed some workers to lift Zhang Shan into the ambulance. Try as he might, he couldn’t figure it out; how could an old pro like Zhang Shan have made such a big mistake?
      A huge question mark dragged images of Zhang Shan from the shop floor like a virtual hook, and put them down in front of Boss Wang….
      No matter who he saw on the shop floor, Zhang Shan always presented an air of amiability. Especially in front of Boss Wang, he was as bashful as a child who has done something wrong and, except for a little “tee-hee” giggle, he never uttered a sound. Sometimes Boss Wang would pull some Jingju cigarettes out of his pocket and hand them out, one to each worker. At these times the others would predictably take one and say “thanks, boss”, or something polite like that. Only Zhang Shan would act overwhelmed at the Boss’s generosity. After “tee-heeing” and nodding his head, he would stick the cigarette behind his ear with careful solemnity and go back to being busy with his machine.
If there was nothing going on, Zhang Shan would put his head down and wipe the capstan clean with an old rag. He wasn’t in the habit of kidding around with the other guys, but the guys were used to his habits and would usually leave him alone. Boss Wang would gossip with the workers on occasion, and he had heard that Zhang Shan would never lightly accept a cigarette anyone offered to him (except the Boss), and he didn’t usually offer a cigarette to anyone, either. He himself only smoked San Huas, cheap at three Yuan (≈48¢) a pack.
      Zhang Shan had problems with his legs, but even a broken machete is good for cutting veggies, as the saying goes. He could operate the capstan just sitting there without moving, a very suitable arrangement – this was the “ordained position” that Boss Wang, who had interviewed numberless people, had decided in his heart to give him about ten seconds after Zhang Shan had come through the work shed door to his desk on the day he came to the shop floor looking for a job. And Zhang Shan hadn’t let Boss Wang down. Right from his first day on the job, this “brick wall” had operated the capstan like he had it in the palm of his hand, at just the right speed, and perfectly steady. Zhang Shan was even-tempered, too. Sometimes the younger guys, as rude as though they’d just come off the farm, would resent his slowness and try to hurry him up. He’d laugh it off and run the machine the way he thought he should, in strict compliance with safety regulations, like he was deaf to their comments. That’s why everyone agreed he was such a skilled operator. Him running the capstan wasn’t much different than opening a lockbox – completely safe!
      Was this time an exception?
      Three days after it happened, while Boss Wang was still in the middle of a painstaking effort to set up stricter safety procedures, someone gently opened the door and came strolling in. Boss Wang stared closely and then did a double take: because the person coming in was none other than the one who had just had outpatient surgery and whose hand was still wrapped in gauze and hanging in a sling – Zhang Shan.
      “Hey, Zhang…. You…. You can’t have gotten over this injury so quickly, can you? You’re not in the hospital recovering, so how’d you get out so quickly?” He blurted out the questions.
      “No…. Boss…. My hand’s no big deal.” Zhang Shan got red in the face and stammered: “Even old as I am, I ain’t never spent a day in no hospital…. I ain’t goin’ to be able to do nothin’ for a spell, so I thought I’d go home to mend. It’s all my fault, I really screwed things up for you this time….”
      Boss Wang knew these country types could be pig-headed. Once they’d made their minds, wild horses wouldn’t get them to change. Seeing the way Zhang Shan was, Boss Wang didn’t say anything more. He paused a moment, then with a swish wrote a note and handed it to Zhang Shan. Zhang Shan stared at it blankly. The corners of his mouth seemed to move a little, but in the end he didn’t say anything, just took the paper and left….
      Half a year passed.
      One day Boss Wang was on the shop floor when a worker unexpectedly handed him a registered letter with a money order. He didn’t have a clue what it could be. He opened it and read:
      “… It’s Zhang Shan. Remember me? My injury is completely healed now. I lost two fingers, but that doesn’t much keep me from doing things. I thought about it a lot and decided to tell you the truth about the accident that day. Otherwise I’ll feel like I got a big rock sitting on my heart all the time….
      “I got a phone call from my son two days before the accident. He’s always been a good boy, and really good at school, and last year he even graduated from college. But I was away from home for a lot of years and didn’t take care of him while he was growing up. I didn’t do right by him. He found a job that lasted six months, then finally he was about to start work for a pretty good company. For some reason he needed some money quick, I don’t know why…. I just got this one son. I thought if I could help him out until he’s making some money, it’d be like I was doing my duty as a father….
      “At the time I thought of a lot of ways to do it. But I couldn't get enough money quick enough. I was just about to give up when I thought of this clumsy little plan. I thought that once the emergency was over I’d pay you back, and I’d have a couple of months off,
which was O.K., too, but when all was said and done, I would’ve done my duty…. Later, well, you already know what happened later….
      “After I brought home that bit of money, my son used it to get a little respect when he started work. He’s got a pretty good income now. Now that I know my son’s future is set, I feel like it was all worth it. If it wasn’t for the medical expenses you paid back then, I don’t know what I would’ve done…. A man’s got to have a conscience. I saved up the money my son gave me out of his salary, and borrowed a little from relatives. All together I got enough to cover your 8,000 bucks (≈$1,200). I’m sending it to you today. Please don’t turn it down….”
       Holding the letter and the money order, Boss Wang couldn’t put his arm down for a long time….


原载《精短小说》2010年第7期 Originally Published in Elegant Short Fiction, 2010 #7
重庆魏传中荐 Recommended by Wei Zhuanzhong of Chongqing.
摘自:《微型小说选刊》 Source: Selected Mini-Stories
Translated from
here, also available from 九九藏书网 at http://www.99lib.net/article/7432.htm




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