​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Xu Duoyu

[Profanity alert. Read at your own risk — Fannyi]

     Follow along the adobe wall and turn left, and that's Granduncle's house; then turn right and there's a well.
     There are so many stories about this well.
     The stories have three main characters: Grandpa, who is alive; Granduncle, who's dead; and the well.
     Grandpa and Granduncle were brothers with the same father and mother. They immigrated here from Water Bamboo Flats over forty years ago.
     They feuded with each other all their lives. Whenever they met their four eyes got like four bright red assholes throwing turds in a fight. They'd curse their ma and curse their pa, and shout abuses right there on the street, "mother-fuck, mother-fuck". Sometimes they'd come to blows or even a knife fight.
     Now I'll talk about the well.
     When Grandpa and Granduncle split up the family belongings to set up housekeeping for themselves, everything got totally screwed up: six foreign ceramic bowls went three to each; three rooms in the house went one and a half to each; (later each of them built a separate casket at the funeral yard for their old man to grow worms in); and a big grindstone went half to each.... But the well was one thing they couldn't really divide.
     There was nothing else they could do. Grandpa, the younger of the two, had to give way and dig a new well behind the house to use. But this well ran into problems during a dry spell. First the water oozed out in bowlfuls, then later in globs the size of sake cups. Still later all that was left was a thin trickle hanging off the wall of the pit. Then it just came drop by drop, and finally it gave up the ghost, with not even one little drip....
     So carry water up from the river! Too far! After much deliberation, Grandpa decided it would be most efficient to "sneak" drinking water from Granduncle's well.
     "Anyway, thinking back on it," Grandpa told himself, "I'm the one who dug that well!"
     Granduncle didn't say hardly anything the first few times. It was a small well, though, with barely enough for one family to get by, and if another family sucked away at it, things might get kind of ugly. And if one family carried away bucketfuls, the other wouldn't have any to drink.
     Then one time Granduncle grabbed on to Grandpa when he was carrying an empty bucket.
     "Huang Cheng!" (Grandpa's last name is He, and his generational name is Guang, and when people say those two words together fast, it comes out "Huang".) "You better not take this water! If you do, what's my family going to drink? "
     "Huang You (He Guang You), you fucker! You've started believing your own lies! This well was dug by me, Huang Cheng!"
     "Yeah, that's right, you dog-fuck, but now the land where this well is belongs to my family! Back when we split up the assets, when we got Uncle to help us, right under that big maple tree, you got that half and I got this one. That dog-fuck Uncle did what his mom wanted and gave the good land to you. I got eaten alive and was too dumb to say anything about it! Like my mouth was glued shut with sweet chicken shit!"
     The one wouldn't give up his carrying pole, and the other insisted on taking it away. Boy oh boy, all they could do then was fight over it.
     Grandpa pounded Granduncle's ass with the pole, and Granduncle jammed a big rock into Grandpa's bucket (breaking it, of course). That was the prelude to their long-standing dispute over this well.
     After that, they both had to walk the walk every time he went to get water. They'd huff and puff and stare at each other, and when they were especially nasty they'd slap their asses. (My friends, you haven't often seen anyone slap their ass as a way to blow off someone, right? It's a common site in our neck of the woods, though. One time Shit-Mouth Liu 〈an old shrew〉slapped her own ass so hard trying to blow someone off that it swelled up; she had to eat several pounds of groundsel 〈a mildly poisonous herb〉before the swelling went down.)
     The worst thing is, that well of ours has never recovered from when it gave up the ghost during that year of drought.
     First off, during summer vacation the year I was in the fourth grade, the water was muddy for more than a month. Then there were two straight months of drought. The dead worms that piled up on the road looked like someone was making kimchi by spreading veggies out to dry in the sun; mounds of dead cobs in the corn fields could catch on fire at a touch; patches of dried-out ground pulling away from each other in the rice paddies looked just like turtles flipped on their backs and drying in the sun; and the bare stones left in the river were hot enough to raise blisters if you touched them. A trickle of water still flowed only in that well of Granduncle's.
     One day Grandpa had just scooped up a full bucket of water, and was about to tiptoe off around the corner of the house, when shovelfuls of sand poured down from the sky onto his neck and fell plop, plop into the water. Grandpa thought it was raining and turned his head up to have a look, just as another shovelful of sand was coming down. His eyes went black and he couldn't see a thing. Then he heard a cough – it was Granduncle up above him, digging.
     "Motherfucker! Didn't you see me down here?" Grandpa was rubbing his eyes while he yelled out a torrent of abuse.
     "Your mother's stinky pussy! Didn't you see me up here digging?" Granduncle shouted back indignantly.
     "Dog-fuck! Burying me in a pile of shit! Were you trying to kill me?"
     Grandpa put the bucket down and flew home to get a cleaver, then rushed back toward Granduncle.
     "Son of a bitch butter-ball (friend), damned if I won't kill you this time, you bastard! You've gone too fucking far!"
     Granduncle grabbed a wooden pole to ward off the attack while Grandpa swung the cleaver back and forth as hard as he could. Before his eyes that wooden pole was getting shorter and shorter and shorter. Granduncle saw he was losing so he picked up his feet and ran.
     Grandpa was right on his heels, chasing after him like he was trying to catch a rabbit. Granduncle's legs were longer than Grandpa's, and he could see he was getting farther and farther ahead.
     "Fuck your mother!"
     Grandpa threw the cleaver at Granduncle with all his might. "Woosh," it grazed his head, fell to the ground in front of him, and flipped over several times. Granduncle picked it up right away – now it was Grandpa's turn to run....

(Unfinished, to be continued)

     One Sunday, right when we were getting ready to eat lunch, Granduncle's wife rushed into our house, sobbing.
     "He was wo… wo… wobbling. He f-fell… from… from the ground… the pile… into the… into the well!"
     "Good aim! The old fool! He was drunk, wasn't he? Throw the dog-fuck bastard in!" Grandpa cursed up a blue streak, glad to hear of Granduncle's misfortune.
     "He's gunna… gunna… die!!"
     Grandpa stood up quickly from his bench and flew off toward the well. He found Granduncle lying on the stone lip of the well, his head bent to one side, blood gushing out just like water from the well. Without saying anything, Grandpa picked him up and started running, carrying him on his back. He kept muttering, "Don't die, Big Brother! Don't die, Big Brother! You're scaring me, Big Brother! Don't die…!"
     Grandpa was running as fast as he could, but the old man on his back was getting heavier and heavier. Suddenly he smothered a cry and gasped for air. I was following behind him and shouted that Granduncle was dead, there was no use going to the hospital. Grandpa dropped to his knees. "Oh, Big Brother…!"
     That's how Granduncle came to his "blessed" end on Grandpa's back. (Talk about finding a cushion to die on.)
     I learned about two firsts in my Grandpa's life that day: the first time he'd ever called Granduncle "Big Brother", and the first time he'd ever cried. And it was so sorrowful.
     The day of the funeral, Grandpa let me burn some paper money with him for Granduncle. Grandpa was quiet the whole time, just standing there with his head bowed, gently putting the burning paper into the fire pit. I thought of
Wen Yiduo's poem, Funeral Song:

     Now I lay you down to sleep,
     Now I lay you down to sleep.
     I'll let the herons close your eyes,
     And let joss money slowly fly.

     Suddenly a gust of wind blew in from over by the ridge, making the bare branches buzz. The wind grabbed the glowing embers of burning paper with what seemed like countless talons and spread them across the sky. The glowing ashes under our feet swirled crazily in eddy after eddy; then they, too, suddenly soared up into the clouds, twisting and turning, poking holes in the pale sun.
     "My God, look, Granduncle's come to pick up the money! Pick it up, get it!"
     To me he said, "Quick! Hurry up and bring a bucket of water! From that well! Big Bro' (colloquial) is thirsty. He wants a drink!"
     I quickly filled some buckets with water. Grandpa poured them on Granduncle's grave all at once, and his face covered with tears.
     The wind stopped. The ashes in the sky went away somewhere. Then the cries of mourning started, and spread, and tumbled from field to field.

Translated from
First part also at

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