Three samples stories, taken from A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Ancient and Contemporary Romance, Social Ills, Twists and Turns in Life, A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Satire, Love and Marriage, and A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Surprises, Wisdom and Philosophy
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“A Woman Hostage” by Sun Fangyou, taken from A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Ancient and Contemporary Romance, Social Ills, Twists and Turns in Life
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.
“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 listen to you. I will take you out of here and start a poor life with you.”
Deafening shouts were heard from all directions. Out came numerous men, who knelt in front of him, begging in one voice, “Boss, you can’t go.”
“It’s a blessing for me, Ma Fang, that I’ve got Bao Niang today,” he said calmly. “Brothers, forget about me!”
Some began to reach into their pockets for a donation for him. Before the new couple was a patch of radiance. Looking at the radiance, Ma Fang knelt down to bow with one hand clutching the other and said, chokingly, “I’ll never forget your kindness, brothers, but you risked your life for every dollar you’ve got. I won’t accept one single penny.” With this he respectfully drew out the revolver and placed it on the ground.
She walked over to help him to his feet. Then she picked up the revolver, saying, “You have been a chieftain. You may get into trouble, so you’d better keep it for self-defense, just in case.”
He started crying.
They both went down the mountains.
“The “Drunkard” Dog” by Xiao Jianguo, taken from A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Surprises, Wisdom and Philosophy
Lao Fang kept a pet—a drunkard dog. What does it mean? That is, just like the owner, the dog drinks three times a day—when it eats. Without a drink, he would behave perversely: he would lie barking on the floor and refuse to get up, just like a little child.
It was all Fang’s fault. He was a gatekeeper for a realty company, who had too much money to spend but too few things to do. Because he indulged in drinking, he was never clear-headed anytime of the day. His wife could not stand the alcohol smell from his body all year round, so she went away with another man. To reduce his boredom, he raised a dog. In the beginning, his dog did not like alcohol. Despite all his tactics of coercion and cajolery, the dog did not give in, refusing to lick one single drop.
This indeed offended Fang. “F–k you! Aren’t you just a dog? You think you are a human who has bottom lines?” The angry Fang then leashed the dog and starved him. All he gave him was a bowl of alcohol. “Just lick it once and I will give you food,” he said to the dog. But the dog would rather starve to death than lick it. He just looked straight ahead, ignoring the alcohol altogether.
Three days later, the severely starved dog began to vomit white foam. Lao Fang could not stand seeing the dog dying, so he quietly mixed some alcohol into the meat fried-rice and put it against his mouth. The dog could not resist the tempting smell of the food and began to gulp it down. Thus, he gradually fell into Fang’s trap.
Every day, when mealtime came, Fang and his dog would each have bowl of alcohol (the dog would be given a little less), and they would indulge in the pleasure of their eating and drinking. Soon Fang discovered that a drink would make the dog a great worker. For example, to open the gate, theoretically his dog could not reach the button that was about three feet from the ground, even if he raised his front paws. However, after an alcoholic drink, the dog could jump—just high enough to touch it. His push would then slowly open the power-controlled steel gate. If Fang did not serve him alcohol at mealtime, however, the dog would not even move if he was told to open the gate, and might even yap at him in hostility. Gradually everyone inside and outside the company learned that Fang had a drunkard dog. Whenever they passed by the gate, they would stop to look at the dog. Some even wanted to photograph him, in which situation he would pose for the camera like a relaxed star.
At one dinner, Fang just had enough alcohol for himself in the bottle, so he did not pour any for his dog. The dog disliked his treatment and kept rubbing against Fang’s legs back and forth, growling his extreme displeasure. Unable to enjoy his dinner, Fang said, “You son of a bitch, it’s not because I don’t want to give you any, but there’s no more. If you want any, go buy it yourself.” The dog immediately popped out his head from under Fang’s legs and said, “Woof, woof.” Fang thought for a moment, drew out a ten-yuan note and threw it onto the floor. When the dog saw it, he picked it up in his mouth, wagged his tail and ran out at once. Before long, he came back happily with a plastic bag dangling from his mouth. Fang took over the bag and opened it, finding not only a bottle of whiskey, but also the change. Merrily surprised, Fang opened the bottle and poured out a bowl for his dog. The dog was so happy that tears welled up in his eyes. While he was drinking, Sister Flower, the convenience store owner, ran over to tell Fang how clever his dog was. “Your dog is really incredible. As soon as he entered my store, he put down the money, pointed to the whiskey bottles and began yapping. He would not take anything else I tried to give him. Only when I had finished packing up the whiskey bottle for him did he stop yapping. He has nearly become a demon now.” Sister Flower’s lavish praise made the drunkard dog even more famous.
For the May holiday, Fang cooked several delicious dishes, and it goes without saying that he also drank a bit more. An elated Fang also poured an extra bowl of whiskey for his dog. Unexpectedly, the dog got drunk this time, and even had a drunken fit. He not only prolonged his woofing and sang canine songs, but even tried to please people he saw by raising his two front paws and joining them to make a slight bow. Seeing a car coming from outside the company he jumped up quickly to open the gate, and before it had crossed the gate he jumped up again to close it. Good heavens! The car was nearly caught in the closing gate. Fortunately its driver responded quickly by pressing hard on the gas pedal, managing to escape from the imminent damage. Fang immediately came out to apologize to the driver as he gave his dog a sound scolding.
Still in his drunken fit, the dog was chasing Sister Flower’s egg-laying chickens, sending the flock flying in all directions. Feathers from the frightened chickens flew all over the place. Sister Flower came out swaying her hips when she heard her scared chickens squawking. Seeing the drunken dog harassing her chickens, she grabbed a wooden stick, intending to beat him. The dog saw her wearing a short blouse with short sleeves that exposed much of her white skin, and his eyes started to glow as he woofed and charged at her. Sister Flower was stupefied, standing there like a motionless puppet. In a split second the dog jumped upon her with his front legs landing upon her breasts, his hard penis sticking out from under his hips. Luckily, Fang stopped him before Sister Flower could see it.
The new general manager who happened to have seen everything kept laughing at the drunken dog. The next day, he came to Fang and told him he wanted to buy his dog. That became a headache for Fang, who did not really want to sell his pet, but if he did not, he would offend his superior. Finally, he said, “If my dog agrees, I have no objection.” With this, he tied a rope around the dog’s neck and led him over to the general manager. When the drunkard dog saw this, he became upset. He opened his mouth and started howling, wanting to attack the new owner. Fang’s boss realized he could not take the dog forcibly. Rolling his eyes, he hit upon an idea. From that day on, whenever mealtime came he would come with a bottle of alcohol. His alcohol was of fine quality, including name brands such as Fen Jiu, Lao Yao, and Xiao Bai Gan. The moment he opened his bottle, the sweet smell would assail your nostrils. He would pour half a bowl for the dog each time. After drinking the better alcohol, the dog did not like Fang’s cheap drinks anymore. Several days later, he walked away with the general manager obediently.
Then one night, the dog suddenly came back to Fang, barking nonstop. Fang saw his groin covered with blood, so he felt it to find out what had happened. God, the penis was gone! Fang burst into heartbreaking sobs as he clutched the dog in his arms, “You son of a bitch, why did you easily fall in love with that sip. You betrayed me just for a drink of better alcohol. You deserve it. You do deserve it!”
The dog died at midnight. Lao Fang quit his job the next day. No one ever knew where he had gone.
“Mosquito Punishment” by Sun Fangyou, taken from A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Surprises, Wisdom and Philosophy
Chenzhou, nicknamed “Water Town,” was surrounded by lakes covering tens of thousands of hectares. At the horizon, the water merged with the sky in one color. There was patch after patch of cattails and countless lotuses everywhere, infested with mosquitoes in the summer. At dusk, mosquitoes would swarm from one spot to another, and wherever they gathered, they would blacken the sky, while their buzzing could be heard a hundred feet away.
With long stingers, large wings, clear bellies, and legs that resembled snakes, mosquitoes in Chenzhou were known as “snake-legged mosquitoes,” or “flying snakes.” Their bites were nearly painless, but would swell, then turn into hard lumps, the itching of which was simply unendurable.
Throughout the summer evenings, smoke curled up into the sky over Chenzhou from households burning mugwort to repel mosquitoes. Outsiders who came to Chenzhou had to learn to endure the mugwort; otherwise, they could not stay. You had to bring your burning mugwort when you took a bath. As soon as you made a circle overhead with your mugwort in one hand, you began to rub your body with the cleaning powder with the other. If you were a bit too slow, you would find a black coat all over your chest and back. When you hit them with your hand, you would get a handful of blood. When you had a bowel movement in the evening, you needed your mugwort all the more. After taking off your pants you held them with one hand, and with the other you swished the smoldering mugwort around the body.
Otherwise your buttocks would be covered with a coat of black and instantly gain a layer of “fat.” The worst that could happen was that the mosquitoes would bite your fragile parts. Once bitten, that parts would swell like a balloon and you would wet your shoes when you urinated. It is said that the famous Bao Gong had to endure this pain when he came to Chenzhou. Luckily, the common people didn’t want to darken the name of the decent government official. That is why the story has been told by word of mouth only and never found in print.
Thanks to its unique effect, the local mugwort had great value.
In ancient times, Chenzhou was once a city, but in one unknown dynasty, it was reduced to the county administrative level.
The first magistrate of the county was called Jia. As for his given name, nobody ever knows, and there is nowhere to find it out. Jia was a vicious man who extorted money from his people by every means possible, so he was nicknamed “Snake-Legged Mosquito” by the locals. Every summer, he would engage in selling mugwort protected by his own policy that nobody, outsider or local, was allowed to engage in the same business. Being the sole business owner, he raked in shameless profits from easy sales.
Businessmen and the local villagers all coveted the fat returns from the cheap investment in the mugwort business. A wholesale bundle cost very little, but its profit was handsome, so some of them broke Jia’s rules. Whenever a mugwort seller was caught, the magistrate would sentence him to mosquito punishment.
Mosquito punishment, as the name suggests, was being bitten by mosquitoes. Jia would have a prisoner stripped, then tied up, put in a boat and rowed to the middle of the lake. The guards would sit watching him from inside mosquito nets in separate boats surrounding the prisoner’s. If the prisoner died of mosquito bites by five o’clock the next morning, he deserved it. If he was so fortunate as to survive, he would be released right on the spot. Nevertheless, most of those sentenced to mosquito biting could not stand it until dawn. Their bodies would soon swell up, and they would die.
The magistrate also punished bandits and hardened thieves in the same way. Though businessmen and the villagers who had secretly sold mugwort could not but receive Jia’s punishment obediently, the bandits were no easy people to deal with. They swore to avenge their brothers on Jia if they caught him one day.
One night in July that year, a group of bandits launched a sudden attack on the town and succeeded in seizing the magistrate. After reaching a certain spot, the bandits pushed him out. The chieftain glanced at the magistrate and smiled bitterly, ordering, “Mosquito punishment for him.”
On hearing the order, several bandits stripped Jia, exposing his white, fat body, which looked like that of a pig without bristles. One slapped him on the buttocks, the clear sound of which started a roar of merry laughter among the bandits, but when they stared at Jia, they found the same imposing appearance, with no fear of his imminent punishment. The furious chieftain then shouted, “Let his punishment begin!” Acting accordingly, the bandits tied up the magistrate, pushed him onto the deck of the boat and rowed him to the middle of the lake.
It happened to be a midsummer night, and there were numerous mosquitoes. In the moonlight the bandits all sat in a large boat protected by a mosquito net, eating meat and drinking wine as they laughed at the greedy official who would soon go to the other world. Jia’s body was immediately covered with three layers of mosquitoes that turned him into a beehive. Before long, Jia became much “fatter,” as if a black snowfall had buried him completely. The deathly quiet Jia did not move until dawn, when the bandits untied him, thinking that he was dead. To their surprise, though he was so badly bitten that his face was almost beyond recognition, he was breathing. “How come you are still alive?” the bandits asked in astonishment, as he got up abruptly.
“Mosquitoes are lazy insects,” he laughed. “They sleep after they’ve eaten and drunk their fill. I pretended to be asleep throughout the night in order not to scare them away. In this way, other mosquitoes couldn’t land on me. Those over my body had already drunk their fill. It was they that saved my life. When I tell you how I managed to survive, you may not understand it. It’s called ‘Endure what you cannot cure.’“
“Nonsense!” roared the chieftain. “How come our brothers were bitten to death?”
“It was their own fault. The Mosquito Act clearly stipulates that ‘those who survive until dawn shall be released.’ Yet they couldn’t stand it. When the first swarm had just drunk their fill, your brothers started to shake their heads and bodies, driving all of them away. Then came another swarm. Throughout the night, mosquitoes came and went, swarm after swarm. How could you save a drop of your blood this way?”
The bandits were all astounded.
The chieftain understood it now and immediately freed the magistrate.