Sample stories from A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Ancient and Contemporary Romance, Social Ills, Twists and Turns in Life

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Excerpts of “Marrying the Guangxi Woman”

Written in Chinese by Lin Ruqiu
Translated by Harry J. Huang

Bringing along a woman with beautiful eyes from Guangxi Province, Ah Lai snuck like a cat into the village when dusk was falling, but he still bumped into his third great-uncle.

         “Jeez!” sighed his senior, shaking his head.

         Many villagers thought Lai was a lucky man in love affairs. The new woman he had found was even more beautiful than the previous two. Nonetheless, she did not look very elegant, for her clothes seemed too loose to fit her. His third aunt, the only one who had exceptionally sharp eyes, quickly dragged him over.

         “That’s someone else’s child,” she said, pointing with her chin at the new woman’s belly. “Why did you bring her here?”

         “What difference does it make?” Lai laughed gaily, showing his thick lips. “When she is my wife, her child will be mine too.” His aunt was furious.

         Though the villagers made all sorts of remarks about Lai’s new woman, Lai miraculously seemed to have changed into a new man after her arrival. Now he shaved almost every day; his clothes were neatly ironed; his shoulders swayed when he walked. He found the ax and hoe in his hands as light as if they were stage props he was playing. He even became polite and greeted people he met. “Have you eaten?” he would say, exposing his yellow teeth.

         As ridiculous as it could be, less than three months after her arrival, the Guangxi woman gave birth to a strong, dark boy in Lai’s cold, bare old house. Throughout the first month, Lai busied himself slaughtering chickens, cooking noodles, peeling longan and the like for the mother, who was supposed to rest completely and have the best nutrition available.

Whenever the villagers met Lai, they would say, “Ah Lai—” Then they would start giggling instead of finishing their greetings. Lai did not blush; neither did his heart throb. He would just show the whites of his eyes and say, “Isn’t it easy? I am now a father!”

         When the baby was one month old, Lai carried him around the village. He played with him, dropping noisy kisses on the little boy in front of everybody. Those poor women who had failed to give birth to a boy watched in jealousy and clenched their teeth, calling him “Bastard!” right behind his back.

         A person of few words, the Guangxi woman was good at household chores, including feeding the pigs and the chickens, picking vegetables and cooking. During the busiest farming periods, she would bring snacks to Lai when he was working in the fields. The villagers would tease him priggishly whenever they met him: “Lai, what a happy man you are! In which life did you cultivate it?”

         “Nobody ever taught me how to cultivate it. It has to be my bachelor years, I guess,” he would laugh happily.

Lai’s home was now filled with life. Talking and laughing could be heard along with cattle and poultry noises. The little boy started to laugh, though he could not speak yet. Lai eagerly yearned for the day when he could call him “Daddy.” But when the boy started calling “Mommy,” but not “Daddy” yet, his mother began to cry, heartbrokenly. The terrified Lai knelt on the floor and kept kowtowing to the woman: “My goddess, in what ways have I treated you badly?” But she shook her head, saying she was just homesick. Only then did Lai feel relieved.

         “Homesick?” he said. “Go and see your relatives. Then come back. That’s all.” Then he gave her 1,000 yuan, half of which was borrowed from his third aunt.

The tearful woman left with the boy in her arms. Lai counted his fingers every day, waiting for her to return, but she never did.

         One day, the idiotic-looking Lai was standing at the entrance to the village waiting for the surprise return of the woman. He was looking into the bumpy mountain path that cut through mountain tops and slopes, leading to the county town. Then he really caught sight of somebody, but it was the postman, who brought him a letter with a money order. The letter was written by the woman’s husband, in which he said he wished to express his heartfelt thanks to . . .

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©Copyright 2019 by Bestview Scholars Publishing. All rights reserved.​

Excerpts of “A Woman Hostage”

Written in Chinese by Sun Fangyou
Translated by Harry J. Huang​

He kept playing with the revolver, skillfully. When he had had enough, he drew out a bullet the size of a peanut. After putting it in his mouth for a second, he glanced at it in the bright sun, then threw it up into the air and caught it firmly.
      “It will depend on your luck,” he said as he looked at that woman with hill-like breasts, at the moment when a breeze swept across her, blowing up her qipao dress and exposing her sexy thighs. The white light seemed to have burned his eyes. He stayed stunned for a moment, feeling fire burning all over his body.
      “Isn’t our boss thinking of fun?” Out came lewd whistles from the depth of the reed marshes.
      The woman saw the stubborn corner of his mouth pulled up by the quivering on his face, deforming his young face momentarily. He raised his revolver, whose cylinder looked like a small wheel, or a beehive, that could hold six bullets. The cylinder could turn freely counter-clockwise, but when the trigger was squeezed it could also rotate clockwise. She saw him loading it with that bullet. After that he turned it counter-clockwise several times, saying, “It depends on your luck. It’s only loaded with one bullet. If the chamber happens to be empty, I will take you as my wife.”
      She stared at him in contempt.
      “You know, we bandits don’t kidnap women. Women are not worth much. Rich men play with women like playing cards and will never pay a big ransom for you.” He raised his gun as he spoke, but suddenly he put it down again, adding, “I’ll let you know this before you die. We wanted to kidnap your husband, but my brothers got you by mistake. We aren’t lustful bandits and will not keep a woman to bother us. However, if I take you as my wife, nobody will bother you. But I don’t really want to marry a rich man’s third mistress, either. So heaven will decide everything for us.” With this, he rotated the cylinder a few more times before he slowly raised his gun.
      The woman closed her eyes calmly.
      The slope of the island in the middle of the lake was quiet. Only a water bird that had landed beneath the woman’s feet was shaking its head and fluffing its feathers. The hungry eyes hidden throughout the reeds were fixed at this spot.
      Gritting his teeth, he fired his gun.
      Nothing happened!
      “I beg you to fire another shot,” she said after she opened her eyes at him.
      He shook his head. “No. I said I would fire only one shot,” he said as he walked over to her. “It happened to be empty. That means you are lucky, and it also means we are meant for each other.”
      “Isn’t it too good for you?” she smiled bitterly.
      “What do you want then?” he asked, surprised.
      “I wanted death, but didn’t die. I want fate to decide for me, too,” she answered as she glanced at him, gently shrugging her shoulders and combing her messy hair with her fingers.
      “I’ll fire one shot at you, too!”

      He was stupefied, staring at her unbelievingly for quite a while. Then he burst out laughing, “Awesome! It’s damned awesome! No wonder that old guy Chen Youheng liked you! I have finally met a real match. It’s worth it even if I die.” With this he gave her his gun, drawing out another “peanut.”
      Upon receiving the bullet, she pushed it into the cylinder and rotated it expertly before walking toward him.
      She raised her gun, with a graceful posture.
      He was shocked, his mouth wide open.
      “Big Brother, we hear she is an expert shooter!” shouted the people in the reeds in chorus, their voices filled with worry and fear.
      Smiling, she rotated the cylinder again and said, “If there’s no shot, I’ll be your wife.” With this she raised the small revolver again. Her hand a little shaky, she aimed at him for a long time, but suddenly put down her gun in dejection. “I won’t accept what fate decides anymore,” she finally said. “I only beg you not to be a bandit anymore and to start a new life with me.”
      He was stunned, staring at her blankly as if making up a dream.
      “You were born with a bad life, but I’m willing to be your wife and suffer with you,” she said, tears mysteriously welling up in her eyes.
      Perplexed, he walked over, picked up his gun for a look, and was dumbfounded.
      “I rotated it two times, but each time the bullet landed at the breech,” she cried. “At that moment, I really wanted to kill you, but when I thought of your miserable life, I felt a little sorry for you. You don’t know, but I also have had a bad life.”
      Out of rage, he fired his gun. The shot broke the silence with a clap of thunder inside the Reeds Lake.
      Dejected, he lowered his revolver, saying to her, “All right then. I will . . .

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©Copyright 2019 by Bestview Scholars Publishing. All rights reserved.​

Excerpts of “Renting a Son for New Year”

Written in Chinese by Zong Lihua
Translated by Harry J. Huang​

His eyes brightened up at the ad.

      The content of the ad was unique: “Looking for a loving boy who likes relatives to spend the New Year’s Eve with us.” It was signed by “A Senior Couple.”

      He laughed—doubtless that was the best place for him for the time being. So he called the old couple to express his interest. At the other end, the woman was exceptionally excited. He overheard her saying, “Old man, we have finally got a call!”

      He knocked on the door as soon as he found the house at the address he was given. It was a common small siheyuan[1] house in a remote town. The couple who received him appeared to be older than he had expected. Their hair was all gray, and they walked very slowly.

      He was wondering how to address them when the red-eyed hostess called out, “My child, you are finally back home!”       He saw the corner of her mouth twisting when she spoke.

      He felt as if somewhere inside his body had been struck by a heavy blow, his eyes becoming wet. “Mom, I’m home!” He called out uncontrollably, thinking of his own mother.

      As a matter of course, he was flanked into the house by the parents. Once inside, he found himself in the atmosphere of a home filled with family warmth. His “mother” dusted his clothes for him, while his “father” quietly handed him a cup of brown sugar water. He started to play his role. The mother led him by the hand, saying, “We’ve had your room ready for you for a long time. It’s all the same as before. The washroom is on this side and the kitchen is over here. Wash yourself first, then we’ll make dumplings together.”

      After washing his face, he dried it with a towel as he walked into his room. An unexpected, enlarged photo of a young man, twenty years old or so, came into his sight.

      “That’s our son.” The young man turned about and found the old man standing behind him; the old man kept his mouth shut after saying that.

      At this moment, the mother shouted from outside. “Have you washed yourself? What are you doing in there, you slowpokes?”

      “Yes. We’ll be with you right away,” he said, as his face instantly changed into a smiling one.

      The dumpling filling had been long prepared. The mother was rolling out the wrappers now. The rolling pin under her hands was making happy sounds. Rolling up his sleeves, the son sat down to knead the dough. That was what the family had done in the previous years. The father was in charge of boiling the water, which was an easy job. All he did was fill the pot with water, turn on the stove and that was it. After that he sat by the side, quietly watching mother and son happily making dumplings. The mother started to talk about some trivial matters, which the son was not interested in, but knowing the mother liked them, he listened. Occasionally, he would ask her a question; she would stop working to answer as she stared at him.

      It was their custom to set off firecrackers before they got the dumplings out of the pot.

      The mother’s excitement reached its peak at this point. As she stood under the eaves watching the colorful fireworks in the sky, her face beamed with happiness. “Now we can light up our firecrackers, too,” she commanded. So he did. She walked to the courtyard clapping her hands, jumping like a child at the sounds of the exploding firecrackers.

      After that, together they ate their dumplings, chatted, laughed and watched the “New Year Eve’s Party” on TV, until she was tired. “I am really overjoyed, but I am very tired now,” said the mother.

      “You should take a rest now,” said the father after he came over to her.

      That night the son had a sound sleep, which dispelled all the fatigue he had had during the past few days. The next morning, he woke up all of a sudden when the sun shone through the window. Only after sitting up for quite a while did he realize what had happened.

      Today the old couple appeared to be in poor spirits. The old lady walked over to his bed, buttoned up his coat and said, “My child, I know that I can’t replace your mother in your heart no matter what. Remember, even when you are living a wandering life away from home, you should still find time to call your parents and go visit them . . .”

      He felt heat circling the rims of his eyes, seeing the old lady’s tears rolling down her cheeks. So he raised his hands and wiped them for her gently. “I know.” He nodded.

      Walking him out of the house, the old man quietly drew out . . .

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©Copyright 2019 by Bestview Scholars Publishing. All rights reserved.

[1]Translator’s note: A siheyuan is a compound with a traditional one-story Chinese house built with gray bricks and tiles covering the four sides of the courtyard.

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