​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Velvet
Ye Mi

      Once upon a time there lived a peasant woman who was quite poor. From the time she was little until she was grown, her happiest memories weren’t the day she got married or the moment her son was born. Her happiest memories were the few meals when she’d eaten braised pork.
      This peasant woman really was dirt poor. She had only one thin, ragged blanket in her home to use the year around, with just a reed mat under it all year long. She did have a pair of clean and presentable cloth shoes which she wore during the New Year’s holidays and to visit friends, but she wore them bare-footed because she didn’t have any socks. Of course she had to make do without a toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers and such.
      This was China in 1967, not so long ago. One can’t forget it even if one wants to.
     The problem wasn’t the peasant woman’s poverty, though. It was another woman who muttered behind her back, "She don’t even buy a pair of socks. What, is she trying to be a barefoot Daoist immortal?”
      A little birdie told her what the woman had said. The peasant woman was a self-respecting and enterprising sort who had learned a lot in Literacy Class, things like: The Earth is an oval that rolls endlessly through the universe like a chicken’s egg; Chairman Mao is the Great Savior of the People; and, The Communist Party is determined to save China.
      There’s a whole lot of knowledge, however, that can’t be learned in the literacy classes, such as how people can get along with one other. She couldn’t laugh it off, but neither she could she have it out with the woman who’d been dissing her behind her back. The real problem was that she didn’t have the money to buy socks.
      She racked her brains and finally had an idea. It was still winter, after the lunar New Year’s. Her son, age eighteen, was a sophomore in high school and got good grades, so good that one of his classmates, a girl, had given him a pen. He’d be promoted to junior in a few days. She called her son over and said, “What can you do if you graduate from high school? Age eighteen, that’s when a person should help out the family by earning
work points. What’s-his-name got better grades than you, but he dropped out last year to earn work points for his family, and got himself engaged, too.”
      She stuffed the money for her son’s various school fees in her bosom and headed off to the farmers market with only one thought in mind. There was a shop in the market, the only one for miles around. Its official name was "xx Supply and Marketing Cooperative." People called it the “Supply Co-op”. Every sales clerk in the co-op had the same authority as a cadre.
      The woman picked up a pair of dark gray acrylic socks and looked them over carefully. She figured, if she bought the socks, all she’d have was a pair of socks like other people, just something to wear during the New Year’s festivities. So she put down the socks and started to stroll around in the co-op.
      After she’d strolled through the place, she sauntered back out to the market. It had gotten dark before she knew it. When she saw that the market had become deserted all of a sudden, she felt dazed. She heard gongs and drums beating in her head, louder and louder, more and more chaotic.... She thought she should get home to fix her husband something to eat; she thought about how she’d done her son wrong; she thought about how such a poor and stupid woman could give birth to such an intelligent and obedient son. Then this woman did something on impulse – she bought two pounds of pork.
      And this is how the tragedy happened: When she entered the village, she took a trip to the public latrine. She tied the meat to a wooden stick outside the toilet but, when she came out, the meat was gone.
      She was still around, though. After it happened, she carried a heavy load on her shoulders: she had to cry out against the injustice of losing those two pounds of meat. She didn’t go to work, didn’t cook, almost didn’t eat or drink anything. She stood at her door every day, continuously swearing in the filthiest language at whoever’d stolen her pork.
      The village women tried their best to talk her down. They told her that everyone believed she’d bought the meat, and that it might’ve been dragged off by a hungry dog. So she switched to cursing dogs. When you heard her, though, it sounded like she was still swearing at a person, but even more vilely than when she really had been cursing a person. This time none of the women tried to talk her out of it, because every indication made it clear that she was sick.
      Her son had better luck than she did. After he came back to the village to work on the farm, they made him the accountant for a production team. The classmate who’d given him a pen was the third daughter of the Brigade Secretary. She had a bad ticker and a touch of asthma, and was squinty-eyed, too, but he went ahead and married her. And so by his early twenties he’d become a Squad Leader for the team, managing over 40 families with over 200 people.
      I mentioned this in my story “
Sima's Strings”: After a while, a huge number of the people who’d been “sent down to the countryside” began to return home to their cities. Our family was among them, but Uncle Tang was in trouble with the law. His wife went home, dragging the kids with her....
      Uncle Tang had killed that poor peasant woman's son. People told it like this: The Squad Leader had an affair with Tang’s wife, and the offended husband executed the Squad Leader with a shotgun.
      Uncle Tang’s full name was Rainforest Tang. They said the shotgun had been left to him by his grandfather, an Overseas Chinese from Indonesia. Rainforest's wife was called Little Sister Yao. Her parents had five boys before her. When she finally came along they were happy but also resentful, and had simply named her Little Sister.
      She was still being called that when she turned forty. She felt wronged and acted rashly. She was also flippant and shameless. The expression on her round white face was always attentive because she was making sure she could laugh loudly when the occasion arose.
      She’d married late, so her daughter was only nine when she was thirty-nine. Her daughter liked to tie two blue butterfly knots in her little pigtails, and also insisted on two blue bows in her big pigtails. Little Sister liked blue, too, so she negotiated with her daughter; "Little girl! Butterfly knots are for grown-ups. I’ll tie a wide red ribbon in your hair, instead."
      Her daughter wouldn’t do it and instead shifted to her father, Rainforest Tang. He talked it over with his wife. "Be a good girl, Little Sister. The two of you can trade off – she’ll wear the blue butterfly knots, and you tie on the wide red ribbon."
      Little Sister wouldn’t go for it. Rainforest cajoled her for a long time. He talked until he was blue in the face, held out his palms, and then slapped her face hard twice. Her tears hadn’t yet dried before her parents came staggering over, supporting each other by the arm. They sat in the living room, wiping their tears and sniffling. “It wasn’t easy raising a daughter,” they complained. “Giving birth to her wasn’t easy, either. But we were never willing to hit her. Now you’re just the opposite. You close the door and slap her silly." Later her five brothers came over to defend her, too.
      When guests came over, Rainforest always introduced his wife and daughter like this: "This is my eldest daughter, and this is my younger daughter."
      Rainforest, Sima and my father were inveterate gamblers.
      The three of them were macho men in the gambling halls. Each had his special character: Sima was the wise one, my father was the benevolent one, and Rainforest was the warrior. Rainforest had a hot temper. Except for his wife, with whom he could do nothing, he wasn’t afraid of anyone. Sometimes he’d take his shotgun with him when he went gambling, so the lesser men in the place would give him plenty of room. They didn’t dare weasel out of any debts they owed him, and still less did they dare to try cheating him.
      Starting in 1969, when the "send down" movement began, the three of them agreed: they would get together on the afternoon of the first day of every lunar new year; go all out gambling the night away; and split up at 8:00 the next morning. Rainforest would brave the cold wind riding his bike for an hour and a half to enjoy a wild night of gambling and see his old friends.
      An hour and a half was the normal riding time, not counting the time he would stop to hunt along the way. We remember what he was like back then: carrying a shotgun on his back, his face flushed, eyes glowing, forehead sweating; with New Year's goods, including his impromptu hunting kills, tied on the back of his bike. We grinned at him when we saw him coming in the distance. Once he had a pocket full of gingko nuts and showed us how to bury them in the hot ashes of the stove, to roast them for eating. He told us in all seriousness that ginkgo nuts bursting in the heat sounded particularly like his farts. We threw the nuts down and climbed up on him, and hit him until he cried uncle.
      All things considered, he didn’t seem like a murderer at all.

***

      Little Sister Yao happened to be forty years old when she came “down to the countryside” with her husband. She wasn’t at all unhappy about it; she thought there’d be many ways to accommodate to it in the days ahead. Rainforest, for his part, was in a somber mood. It really was a poverty-stricken place, and poor places are always as quiet as death. He liked that sort of vacuous silence.
      He maintained his composure as he followed behind the escort, looking up and down at each local they encountered on the road with the same type of glower as he often used to check out his competitors in the gambling parlors. He found he was in a totally unfamiliar world.
      As she walked along with him, she chanced upon the poor woman's son.
      The poor woman was Li Née Yang, and her son was Eastern Li. Li Née Yang had been cursing crazily for many years, but as it happened, she was lucid the day Rainforest and his family came along. She didn’t know how long she could remain lucid, so she hurried to comb her hair, take a bath and put on her shoes, then sped off to jump in the river.
      Things livened up quickly at the place where she dove in. A bunch of people ran down to the river and stood there yelling, "She’s dead! She’s dead! What a waste!" The escort left Rainforest and his family behind and ran over to watch the excitement. He came back in a bit and told them, "The dead one is a Squad Leader’s mom. She went crazy when she lost two pounds of pork. I heard she came to today, combed her hair, took a bath, put on her shoes and jumped in the river. Why’d she bother taking a bath? It was a waste of effort, since she was going to jump in the river anyway. "
      So Rainforest Tang saw Eastern Li, and Eastern Li saw Rainforest Tang’s shotgun. He was stunned and got a dejected look in his eyes. For a moment he was thoroughly speechless. He’d never seen a real shotgun before. It looked quite different from the old Japanese “38” rifles that the local militia used for training. It was gorgeous and carried the unfamiliar air of the city’s abundance. It was a bit overbearing, and he didn’t know what to say about it.
      Eastern Li was dark-skinned and so thin that his pant legs and sleeves looked empty. He had no rear end, but his shoulders were wide, so his body was shaped like a T. He looked hard, cold and defensive. His expression wasn’t defensive, though. Seriousness showed in his narrowed eyes whenever he looked at something – conscientious about everything but questioning nothing. The corners of his eyes turned up slightly and the pupils shone like crystals. They reminded people of a tame, grass-eating animal. In addition, his facial appearance would often change abruptly depending on what was happening around him. This habit made him look like a child with hardly any thoughts of his own.
      That was the scene of Eastern’s first meeting with Rainforest and his family. To be honest, Rainforest didn’t think too much of this leader, but he knew he couldn’t let his feelings show. He could read people, which is why he always won and never hurt a good person.
      But Little Sister Yao did hurt people. She wrinkled her nose and said: "And that was a problem? My mom always said there was something wrong with them. Look, two pounds... two pounds... isn’t two hundred pounds."
      Her daughter asked, "Two pounds? How much is two pounds?"
      "Two pounds, it’s a pound more than one pound," Little Sister said.
      She burst out laughing. Two pounds, a pound more than one pound. This answer really struck her as funny when she thought of it. So, Rainforest had to put on a stiff face and tell her, "Little Sister, when someone’s hurting, don’t laugh out loud like that. They’ll hear you and it’ll make it worse. We’ve come down to the countryside to be re-educated by these people."
      What’re the best things to do in winter? Eat your fill, dress warmly, sit in the sun out of the wind, eat the sunflower seeds that Little Sister fries up, drink the Five Scents Biluochun tea you brought from Suzhou, and listen to your daughter sing the simplest children’s songs. Rainforest had almost gotten used to the huge comedown in his life, but he knew troubles were bound to interrupt his leisure.
      Eastern often took the long way around to pass by Rainforest’s door on his way to work. He didn’t say anything and didn’t look back, just let Rainforest see his stiff back. He was the Squad Leader, and Rainforest knew there was going to be some trouble. He’d have to reach some sort of understanding with this guy Eastern Li.
      On the day Eastern’s mother was being buried, Rainforest went to offer his condolences. He was carrying the shotgun and sat down by the table like a knight on a quest. The crowd stepped back noisily and left Eastern there like a fish stranded by the receding tide. He and Rainforest regarded each other across the void, with the shotgun between them. Both were nervous. Suddenly they happened to smile at each other at the same time. Even if the meaning behind each smile was different, the sudden awkwardness of the situation had brought about their first harmonious exchange.
      Rainforest’s day had been quite productive: Eastern’s clumsy but friendly smile, a wild rabbit, and a colorful wild pheasant. He threw his prey down at Little Sister’s feet and said: "Get going! Marinate these in salt and hang them in the window so the wind can blow on them. I’ll invite Squad Leader Li over to eat one of these days.”
      It’s worth noting the scene when Squad Leader Li did come to eat. He wore a new gown and clean army shoes. He came to the door with both hands behind his back, his head down and his skinny shoulders straight. "Old Tang," he called timidly.
      Old Tang, his wife and daughter were busy at the stove and didn’t hear him. He stood there slowly turning his head, looking all around intently. Something startled him and he quickly jumped back a few steps toward the rear of the house, but he seemed to calm down after a moment. His body started to relax from the neck down, and as a result he squatted down slowly. His eyes were looking at some unharvested reeds by the river.
      Rainforest and Little Sister took turns going to the door to look for him, since it was already past time to eat. Rainforest was anxious. Little Sister said, "He couldn’t have fallen into the river, could he?" Rainforest was about ready to cuss her out when he heard his daughter shout out happily in surprise, "I found him." She’d found Squad Leader Li behind the house and had ahold of his sleeve, dragging him forward.
      Rainforest and Little Sister both laughed.
      During the meal, Rainforest and Eastern took the opportunity to reach an agreement. Rainforest wouldn’t have to work for the time being, but he’d take care of the few riffraff in the team for Eastern. Those few scoundrels were always hanging around the market, drinking, gambling, and disturbing public order.
      Little Sister drank more than the other two combined at this meal. Pleasantly tipsy, she bypassed her husband and whined directly to Eastern. "Say what you will, but I want to get out of this place. I’m a straightforward person and I tell it like it is. Why do I speak the truth? Because I was the youngest child in my family and my parents spoiled me. That’s why I’ve got guts and don’t worry about offending anyone. I was born blessed and have never suffered. You’re peasant class and I’m working class. Well, peasants and workers should both tell the truth. I'm going to offend you. A wildcat wouldn’t shit in this place of yours. You got nothing here. I’ll bet you people have never even seen dumpling soup or shrimp shaomai.”
      Eastern was charmed. "What’s shrimp shaomai?" he asked.
      Rainforest had never been able to control Little Sister. He stood up and told the good-tempered Squad Leader, "She ought to be slot dead for those comments. I’ll leave her to you to teach her what’s what. I’m out of here." He went out in a snit, carrying his shotgun.
      He returned home in the evening without having bagged anything. Little Sister was asleep in their room, her round face pink from sleeping. Eastern sat dawdling in the kitchen. His expression didn’t change when he saw Rainforest come in, but he stood up and left. Rainforest stood outside the room and asked his daughter, "What’s with your mom this afternoon?"
      “Nothing,” she replied.
      Of the three men, Rainforest, Sima and my father, father was the benevolent one, Sima the wise one, and Rainforest the warrior. The warrior was the only one of the three to have a two-sided nature: He had a dauntless heart of stone, but also felt compassion for the state of mankind wherever he was.
      Rainforest went to patrol the market every day in accordance with the agreement between him and Eastern. It really was touch and go dealing with those punks, but Rainforest was some kind of man. He scared them and buffaloed them, and within a few days he’d convinced them not to bother regular people any more.
      He’d gone so far as to use force when his anger wasn’t in fact enough. He put his shotgun aside, plucked some willow branches and beat their butts until they scattered. Later he put on a show of gun usage for them; talked to them about life in the city, its customs and costs; and made braised wild duck casserole with pheasant and watermelon, things like that.
      Before six months was out, he was a frequent guest in the homes of some of those punks. There were many things they liked to do together, such as hunting, gambling and just hanging around. They all thought that fate had brought them together.
      Rainforest told them, "Sometimes I’m your friend...." The punks responded, "Our friend!"
      "Sometimes I'm your father," Rainforest continued. The punks echoed him again: "Father!"
      This sort of hierarchical relationship certainly brought the greatest joy to Rainforest. Otherwise, why would he have spent so much time away from home? He didn’t even think about Little Sister’s fried sunflower seeds or the Five Scents Biluochun tea he’d brought from Suzhou.
      And so Little Sister was left out in the cold.
      She was really getting in good with Eastern by this time. Something that seemed extremely unlikely to happen did happen, something irrational, something to test human intelligence. It was not the first time such a thing had happened, and neither will it be the last. We rack our brains to understand whenever that sort of thing happens. It’s a great challenge to our intelligence. We can only surmise: This is something abnormal.
      One day early in summer Rainforest, as per usual, went to see the punks at one of their homes. He was carrying his gun. They sat under a chinaberry tree outside the kid’s house until late that night, drinking, playing drinking games and having a good time. When he felt the dew getting thicker, and told the punks, "Let’s call it a night."
      The punks stopped him. "Didn’t you say you were going to stay here tonight, Pop?"
      "When did I say that?" Rainforest wondered.
      “You did say it,” the punks responded.
      Rainforest was in a fog. He scratched his face while he thought for a moment. Then he stood up and said decisively, "No, I didn’t. I’m going home."
      He said he’d leave, and he did.

***

      The punks followed behind him, pleading, "Stay here, Pop! Stay here! Sleep fifteen minutes more and it’ll be light. No one’ll care whether you run home right at this moment."
      Rainforest ignored them. All he could think of was getting home. Suddenly he found out that the world was so vast, it made him think of some rather disturbing things.

***

      He walked vigorously for a moment before getting the feeling that something was wrong behind him. He looked back and saw that all the punks were following him. They were walking soundlessly, like a group of ghosts. It was no wonder he hadn’t heard them.
      He was angry. He took the gun from his back and raised the stock to his shoulder as if he were going to shoot. This time, the punks didn’t scamper away from the scene as he’d expected. They didn’t move at all.
      “Well then, we won’t go with you the rest of the way, Pop.”
      “Watch your step, Pop. Take your time.”
      “No matter what, Pop, you’ve got to come and drink with us tomorrow.”
      The fog deepened and spread over the surface of the road, covering Rainforest’s feet. The wheat in the fields all around him was dripping wet.
      The soggy wheat sprouts were still awake in the deep night and gave off an odd odor. A slight breeze was blowing, not enough to move the thick fog, but enough to chill Rainforest’s face.
      He arrived home.
      Home was three grass huts, warm in winter and cool in summer. They took their meals on the west side; his daughter's cot was set up in the middle; his and Little Sister's bed was on the east side. That was his heaven.
      The strange noise in heaven was the reason the punks had escorted Rainforest home step by step.
      Rainforest stood at the window, stunned.
      He heard two sentences: First was Little Sister saying, "My Rainforest says my skin is like velvet." The second was Mr. Eastern Li saying, "I’d like to be your toilet paper."
      Rainforest leaned his gun against the wall under the window and walked to the next-door neighbor's house, where some straw from last year was piled. He sat down and cuddled up in the grass. It was his habit, if he wasn’t home by twelve, to stay the night elsewhere, and he regretted that he’d come home that night.
      He slept straight through to dawn, then trudged home. Little Sister was in the kitchen making porridge. He walked over to her, sat down and leaned the gun against the wall. “Come over here,” he said.
      She glanced at him and said firmly, "No."
      "Come here!" he ordered once again.
      "No." She refused again.
      Rainforest ordered her several more times. “Come here!”
      Little Sister turned him down, “No!” each time.
      So he asked her, "Is it because you’re more principled than me?”
      "I want to finish making the porridge," she answered without looking at him.
      “All right,” he said, not having any other choice. "After you finish the porridge I’ll beat the crap out of you."
      “So beat me!"
      Before long she finished making the porridge. She put some pickled vegetables and a pair of chopsticks in front of Rainforest, filled a bowl to the brim with hot porridge and brought it over. She knelt down, quite earnestly, put the porridge on the table, and held her face up to him. "Hit me,” she said. “Once you hit me, everyone will feel better."
      Rainforest thought, “If I start it with such a woman, I’ll be giving up any hope for a normal life because of her. A good-looking woman can hassle a man to death, and a simple-minded woman can, too. This simple-minded woman will kill two men.”
      He reached out to touch her unkempt hair and said with a heavy heart, "You’ve signed that man’s death warrant!"
      The warrior Rainforest pulled Little Sister to him with one hand and sat her down on his lap. He picked up the bowl of porridge and drank it down in a “whoosh”. Then he pushed the bowl away with one hand and pushed Little Sister away with the other, picked up the shotgun and left.
      He waited three days on the dirt road where Eastern would have to pass. When Eastern showed up on fourth day, his hands were empty. His face looked gaunt and his pant legs and sleeves looked even emptier than before. The "T" shaped man was a whole lot smaller. Oddly enough, even with a shotgun in his face, his expression was calm and his eyes still shone like crystals – not the same shininess as before, though. Previously they’d shone with conscientiousness, and now it looked a bit like malnutrition. Rainforest knew that three days had been long enough for this son of a crazy woman to find a way to avoid his doom. He was more tenacious than his mother.
      Rainforest lowered his gun to let him speak.
      He spoke. His tone of voice was neither haughty nor humble, neither warm nor hot. There was nothing in it that Rainforest could fault.
      "I should die." He seemed to be talking about something that had nothing to do with him. "But there’s one thing I don’t get, and I’ll die with it on my mind."
      Rainforest nodded.
      Without changing his expression, Eastern asked, "What is velvet?"
      Rainforest raised his gun again. “Velvet is a kind of fabric.”
      Eastern looked numbly at Rainforest’s gun.
      Rainforest thought, “No doubt this is a ploy. He’s begging for his life.”
      "A glossy fabric,” he said. “Sort of like grass, sort of like flour."
      Eastern’s face showed some confusion at this, a look Rainforest was familiar with. It was the kind of real confusion he could seldom conceal in daily life. Rainforest thought, “This really is a ploy, an uncommon trick. There are things that you can’t get around in his ploy. You can’t let a man die when he’s got unresolved issues. Besides, this guy had that kind of a mother.”
      Rainforest lowered his gun and nodded. Eastern went away slowly.
      The question now was whether Rainforest had to make Eastern understand what velvet was before killing him. If Eastern refused to understand, Rainforest's plan would become unrealizable for the foreseeable future.
      Rainforest took his gun and went home. He never regretted it.
      Rainforest and Eastern were both quite busy during this period. One was busy teaching, and the other learning. The learner didn’t always understand, and the teacher could never get him to. Fortunately neither one was in a hurry.
      People in the village saw the hang-dog attitude of the two men during this period. They often asked Eastern, “What’ve you been doing?” Depressed, he’d tell them “I’ve had something on my mind.”
      Someone asked Rainforest “What’s your family up to, old fellow?”
      “Thinking,” he replied curtly.
      Many people therefore said that they were both thinking about Little Sister.
      A month passed like that. Rainforest knew Eastern
really had no way to understand what velvet was. That guy Eastern had already gotten past the fear of death and was focused on research about one thing. This was a trait he shared with his mother. Toughness and fragility are separated by a thin line, and self-defense and self-defeat can proceed at the same time.
      Rainforest was clear on these points and felt compassion for Eastern. Besides which, he didn’t have a choice.
      After another month it was already getting hot. One evening Rainforest was standing in front of his house taking in the sunset. The colors in the western sky changed smoothly, a long, sweet sigh from red-orange to yellow-orange, then in sequence from yellow-orange to rose, to purple, to blue and to gray, like the fleeting colors of rippling leaves in autumn. Then smoke began to rise from kitchen chimneys, expressing the simple aspirations of life. Every kind of crop grew in the fields, every tree, every bush and herb, all exuding the breath of life. To have such vitality laid out in the open, where it could be taken in all at one glance, was very moving.
      Rainforest set out that evening on a trip back to Suzhou. His heart was getting softer day by day. If he didn’t do something, he might let Eastern off the hook.
      He went to Suzhou first, but none of the fabric shops had what he wanted. Then he went to Shanghai where he had some well-established relatives. As a child, he’d seen velvet articles made by various women in his family. When he couldn’t find anything there, he continued on to Beijing. He had relatives and friends there who were mid-level officials. They said that the kind of fabric he wanted was hard to find, and only relatively distinguished officials could get the ration coupons to buy it.
      He came home having accomplished nothing, but he did bring a silk hair ribbon for Little Sister, a small doll for their daughter and a few bottles of booze for the punks. It was evening when he got back, just like when he’d left. He’d wanted to arrive at a time when no one would know, but he couldn’t swing it. He’d seen Eastern get off work and start tending the vegetable fields behind his home.
      Rainforest took his gun and went out. Little Sister followed behind him for a ways, until she didn’t dare follow any farther.
      A moment after that, Rainforest and Eastern saw each other. Eastern was squatting in his vegetable patch and looked at Rainforest, who seemed to have come out of nowhere, with a touch of panic. High, dense reeds surrounded him. It was like he was in a – a green chasm.
      Rainforest said regally, "I could travel all over China and not necessarily find that kind of thing. What do you think we should do?”
      Eastern rose up slowly from his crouch. With his normal voice he told Rainforest, “You don’t have to look any more. I’ve thought it through and now I know what velvet looks like." Then he added, "It’s like Little Sister’s skin."
      Rainforest raised his gun. Like a peal of thunder so sudden that you don’t have time to cover your ears, he shot Eastern dead. He’d finally got a chance to act, and he knew that if he didn’t do it right away, he might never have another opportunity for the rest of his life.
      It was all over. Rainforest went to prison and, to this day, he’s still spending a long, dark night there. My father thinks of his old friend every year on New Year’s Day, and feels an ache in his heart like a woman grieving the passage of time. One interesting aspect of this murder: if Eastern had denied understanding what velvet is, would Rainforest have let him live out his days continuously looking into the muzzle of a shotgun?
      The answer is yes. Everyone says so, because Rainforest was a chivalrous man, a knight in shining armor. If he’d wanted to kill Eastern, he’d have set to it right away. There was no point in waiting until a certain time. You could even say that Eastern Li sought his own death.
      In 1999, some years after Eastern's death, in England, Great Britain, the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, said in a hotline conversation with his lover Camilla, "I hate that I’m not your tampon."* This made us think back to that time years ago when the son of a crazy woman, a country rube who died without ever knowing what velvet is, went so far as to paraphrase the Prince of England: "I want to be your toilet paper.”
      And this made us think that, in this life, we’re really all the same.

*[Fannyi – Not an accurate quote. After suggesting that he could “live inside your trousers or something”, Prince Charles told Camilla: “God forbid (I’ll come back as) a Tampax. Just my luck… to be chucked down the lavatory….” See
here. Chinese writers are not known for their research skills.]


21世纪中国文学大系;2002年网络写作, 第16页
21st Century Chinese Literature Compendium; 2002 Short Stories, p. 16
Translated from 豆瓣电影 Douban Movies,
https://movie.douban.com/review/1208268/





Tweet comments to Fannyi@Fannyi5, or Email Fannyi@Chinese-Stories-English.com
To get Chinese text by return email, send name of story to jimmahler1@yahoo.com