CHAPTER EIGHT: How My Not-So-Sweet Home Turning Sour and Pitter
To see my status in my parents heart through fighting with Schoolmates
In preceding chapter I mentioned during the first year of my learning the violin, father like most of the time “the family man rarely with the family” was still at the 5.7 Cadre School to be reformed, for better or worse. Therefore at home were only the “family woman” and we three kids.
As I also wrote I always wanted to be the number 1 at home. Unfortunately Danjin seldom took my provocation bait, even if he did, it mostly resulted rather quickly “to win or to lose is common occurrences to the fighters” (a Chinese proverb for losers to excuse themselves) Although I do have a younger brother, but that little monkey had a powerful backer supporting him. Whenever I laid my finger on him, Mom always punished me by beating my flesh and scolding my feeling. That continues abuses made me feel not being treated fairly at home. Therefore the home to me had never been so sweet.
My not so sweet home turned to be sour and bitter from my physical fight with my schoolmates.
In chapter 5 I introduced my middle school as used-to-be a girl school, we were historically the first boys to be in that school, and we were only 6 boys out from 30 in the class, and half of the 6 were girlish. On the other hand the class next to us not only had more boys, but also each of them like tiger like lion, and they all lived at the same street. They soon became the overlord gang of the school.
One day without knowing why my male classmate Jiang had a quarrel with the next class boys. That group of tigers and lions incredibly chased Jiang up to our classroom. Watching Jiang was fisted and kicked severely the male classmates backed away with fear and left only girls trying to moderate the violence by words.
At this point one of my girl classmates named Ou Yangmin shouted at her boy classmates, “Come on, how can you guys watching our classmate to be beaten, where are your balls?” (I know where their balls were, all pressed tightly between their legs, mine too were between my legs but not pressed as I squatted at a toilet.) Ou Yangmin had a nickname “tomboy”, she showed the braveness at the key point. Her shouting encouraged the boys. They tried to stop the fight but stopped before doing so as no body took the lead. Seeing the boys pressed their balls even more tightly Ou Yangmin shook her head and rushed forward the crowd herself but blocked by another girl classmate Yu Xiaobing.
Yu Xiaobing was our class flower, the prettiest girl in the class. She looked delicate, weak and unobtrusive. But beyond everybody’s expectation her bell ringing voice sounded, “Stop!”
Do you believe that? The gang stopped, watched the flower poked her way into the crowd to help classmate Jiang standing up from the ground. She instantly won a burst of acclaim. The aggressors looked at each other in blank dismay. The head of the gang felt a huge lose of face therefore became more aggressive from the embarrassment. He ordered loudly, “Why stop? Come on.” Followed the fists were like rain falling on Jiang’s body. The flower Yu Xiaobing tried to protect Jiang with her stretched arms, but was pushed down by the gang. Seeing the flower down the tomboy Ou Yangmin rushed up with fury, “Dose it make you heroes by beating girls? I fight you guys to death.”
Almost at the same time I heard the news and dashed back to my classroom from the WC. Seeing the invaders trampled my flower on I lifted a chair overhead and rushed into the crowd. A couple of my other boy classmates saw my fight-to-death attitude also raised chairs. The head of the gang realized the situation changed to be disadvantage to them he ordered, “Withdraw, wise fellows don’t care a short-term loss.”
I put the chair down, hurried to embrace Yu Xiaobing, however did not notice at all to have stepped on the buttock of classmate Jiang, only felt the ground was not quite flat. Hence, the all class burst into applause, again for the second time. Like that, I became the class hero admired by more girls than ever. To me more importantly it was from that moment Yu Xiobing and I became the best classmates, and we kept in touch (never physically) even today.
Nevertheless the conflict was not over. On that day after the school, the gang was waiting for me outside of the school entrance. That cruel strikes and severe kicks I still feel the pain when I recall it. I remember the only words I said to them repeatedly were, “I have an elder brother, and he wouldn’t let you off.”
About my “elder brother” was evidently my consolation, since how could it possible for my gentle and kind-hearted brother Danjin to fight with others, for my problems?
Back home Mom was very upset to see my broken pants rather than my deformed face and colorful body, “You are the only trouble maker in the family. You see you see, you made two holes on your new pants that I made only two years ago. Today your father will come home. You talk to him yourself.”
Almost a year since I saw my father last. He picked up this moment to come home, must be God’s will. I purposely did not clean up my wound in order to make he feel pain for me. Yet I miscalculated. Father came back very late at night. He was eating as he heard my grievance. To express my pain I “hun,hun” while narrating, expecting he might feel sorry for me. But all the efforts seamed to be in vain, as he responded nothing throughout my entire story only one sentence by the end, “You are troublesome”.
“Your fresh and blood has been abused. You do nothing to help me but criticize. Are you really my father?” I queried.
“What can I do to help you? Go to your school to fight with your schoolmates? Children fight with each other is a common matter happens all the time. Ask your mother to write a letter to your school tomorrow. Only the school authority can deal with such matters.” Father put his chopsticks on the bowl meaning the issue was concluded.
“You don’t help me now, wait until you are old, to whom can you rely upon?” I rumbled to threaten him.
Father “Ha” sneered. He took off his glasses and wiped them clean and put them back again on his nose, and stated very seriously, “When I’m old, I no need to rely upon you. I no need to rely upon anyone. I’m a communist party member. I can only rely upon my Party, the great correct and glorious Party. Since I joined the Party, I totally committed myself to it. I do nothing else, nothing else at all except what the Party asks me to do.”
“Did your Party ask you to manufacture so many children? Also did your party ask you to produce children but not to take care of them personally?” I assailed him.
“That’s right.” Mom chopped in, “It was the Party called on to have as many children as possible for the sake of war. At that time every woman wanted to be a heroic mother. ‘More people greater strength’ as it says. If it were not for those words …”
Though mother did not finish her notion, but from her tone I understood that she somehow regretted having got into the Party’s trap to give birth of four products.
Father immediately caught mother’s words as if he wanted to cover up the Party’s cabal, “Good kids many are not enough, bad kid one is too many, in our family, just one too many.” As soon as he finished saying that, he gave a sign of “meeting over”, and arranged his body in bed.
My heart was smashed and tore into pieces by his disdaining words. To compare with that the pain from my wounded body became nothing. I loudly roared at him, “I swear I will overthrow you dog-shit Party. I want you and your nonsense Party to realize what a great mistake you people has made to have manufactured me as the one too many.”
At that time I found nothing else to pour out my emotion but to fiercely curse his Party, that so-called “great correct glorious and everlasting Party”.
Seeing me being sorely enraged the old man revealed his satisfaction as the winner by a quiet sneering “ha”, followed he made a yawn and turned his back to me. But when I was about to leave him he soliloquized, “Overthrow my Party? Hen! The Chinese communist Party can never be overthrown, unless, it falls down itself.” Soon after that he fell down himself, horizontally in bed.
The next day, mother gave me a letter and asked me to hand it over to the school authority. I really wouldn’t like to go to the school; to be more precisely, I really dared not to go to the school. I wondered a few circles outside the school, found there was nowhere else to go besides the school. Meticulously I walked to the school entrance but still dare not to get in. Meantime I saw my classmate Ou Yangmin with her father walking towards me, I mean towards the school entrance. She looked just like me, with a swollen face and colorful arms most probably legs too.
“Are you too being beaten?” Ou Yangmin looked at me in surprise, “Alright, let’s go to tell the Worker’s Propaganda Team together. (Worker’s Propaganda Team was the authority in all Chinese schools at that time)”
By then I learnt I was not the only one beaten by the gang. Ou Yangmin’s father was a worker, the highest-class rank of the Chinese society at the era. Immediately I felt to have caught a powerful backer. I took my mother’s letter from the schoolbag and held in hand, vigorously followed them to the school administration office.
On the way I made a chance to boast to Ou Yangmin, “My father also wanted to come with me. It was me stopped him, because I knew he had an important meeting to attend.”
Before I even finished my hot air my face turned hot, hotter than being beaten the day before, hot enough to cook an egg.
After a few words between the workers (Ou Yangmin’s father with the leader of the school Worker’s Propaganda Team), the four representatives of the gang were kneeling on the ground of the school administration office. The leader of the Worker’s Team enquired the four boys what social class their families were. Three out of the four were from worker’s families, only one from a right-wing family. (Right Wings were anti-revolutionaries) Right away the leader of the Worker’s Team slapped twice on the face of the right- wing-family boy. An old worker simply removed one of his shoes to whip the boy’s back repeatedly, “How dare you to beat the working class junior.” The other three boys were scared to death.
“To use violence to stop violence.” That was the sort of education the workers taught us. Unfortunately I don’t think that was the worker’s patent, as my Mom also did it to me to stop me abusing my baby brother. Doesn’t it also apply to the world politics?
Though I was gloated in the beginning, but soon could not stand the fact that adults beating teenage, especially when I remembered teacher Li’s voice “love and forgiveness”, I subconsciously raised my right hand (the hand with my Mom’s letter) to show my opposition.
Ou Yangmin noticed the letter and asked, “What’s in your hand?”
I quickly grasped the letter into a paper ball, prevaricated, “you mean this? Nothing, toilet paper.”
While I saying those words, I was very jealous about my classmate Ou Yangmin, envy her to have a father willing to protect her.
The gang of four was brought to our classroom to admit their guilt and being forced to apologize. When Ou Yangmin and I went into the classroom, we received a huge welcome applause like heroes. But there was one classmate who did not applaud. That one was Yu Xiaobing. She not only did not applaud, but also did not show her face to us by bending her head to the table all the time.
When the lesson was over, I went to talk to Yu Xiaoibng I found she also had a panda eye. Ou Yangmin rushed to ask her, “Why don’t you ask your dad…?” Yu turned her face away from us to avoid the question. Her blood brother, or should I say “blood sister” Wang Xiaoan stopped us from further questioning, later she told us Yu Xiaobing was from a capitalist class family, and her parents were perished by the proletariat class a long time ago. Yu Xiaobing was brought up by her maternal aunt. She had always been a good sensible girl, no matter what happens she would keep it for herself and never wanted her aunt to be worried about her.
Though I really felt sorry for Yu Xiaobing, still I thought I was worse. Because there was nothing Yu could do with the fact that she had no father, yet I did have a father but no difference from being without a father, if not worse. That makes a big difference between Yu and me!
Why play the song “home, sweet home” away from home in a rain?
(A direct conflict between father and me because of the violin)
My father stayed home for a few days. In that period I could not practice my violin because my hand was enlaced with bandage.
Although I felt wronged and acted rashly to my father I was afraid of losing the opportunity to show off my violin playing ability in front of him, because I did not forget that that was a part of my very original purpose of playing the violin, to impress him, make him acknowledge my talent, and respect me.
It was only two days left before father return to his 5.7 Cadre School. I play truant and returned back home in the afternoon. I took off the gauze from my hand, and endured the pain trying to practice an old European folk song “home, sweet home”.
I stood by the window, peeped outside all the time expecting father to show up while I practiced the violin. A surge of satisfaction gushed from my heart when I imagined the surprised face of my father’s. At last I saw my parents walking towards home. I quickly moved to the back room lest father found out my intention of showing off. I forgot the pain, concentrated all my technique and musical feeling to play the song “home, sweet home”. Perhaps I was too excited I could not control my bow from trembling. I regretted so much by the thought of being laughed by him.
The door “peng” pushed open. Hastily I asked for excuse, “I did not do well. I’ll do it again.”
My father was certainly surprised, through not the way I hoped. He did not praise me, nor criticized me, but uttered very seriously with his eyebrows wrinkled, “What nonsense are you doing?”
“Not nonsense.” I was still in my intoxicated mood, “It is a European song called ‘home…’”
“What ‘sweet home’?” Father did not wait for me to finish my explanation; obviously he wanted me to know that he knew the title “home, sweet home”. Then he fixed his eyes on my hand-copy violin method Hohmann in my bed. Until then I started to realize the thing could go wrong. I used my buttocks to caver the Hohmann by sitting on it. But that was too late. Father not only caught the Hohmann, but also found the music records I picked up from teacher Lao’s “trash bump”.
Father had a quick glance of all the things, jawed, “Where did you get all these? Mozart Beethoven Liszt Tchaikovsky, all the bourgeoisie nonsense.”
Originally it was I wanted to impress my father, but now being impressed by my father. Since he could recite so many great names so smoothly, he should be bourgeoisie enough himself. Wrong?
Father took my hand-Written copy Hohmann and the records to the front room and slammed them down on the dinning table like booty. Oddly was not towards me, but towards my mother he enquired, “Look what he is doing at home! Why don’t you do anything?”
Mom looked as if she did not care so much. She replied, “He never listen to me, what else could I do? I know it’s noisy. The neighbors complain a lot. But he is a member of the School Mao Propaganda Team. His playing the hand-lin (violin) has not cost the family so much. Why not let him be.”
“Comrade…” Father paused, perhaps did not find an appropriate vocabulary to criticize Mom, if there were any. He swallowed his mouthful phlegm, changed a gesture and continued his bureaucratic jargon, “Money money money, all you know is money. Where is your class consciousness gone.”
Father started to turn the pages of my hand-written copy Hohmann, “Look, look, what Ayida, Carmen, serenade. How could he learn all these if no one taught him? This is a new tendency of the class struggle happening in our family, and it is the concrete phenomenon of the capitalism fighting for the next generation with us.”
“Alright alright alright, I’m no good at educating him, I entrust you to do the job, totally, entirely and completely.” Mom poured out her chagrin, “You are never home. I have to work and at the same time taking care of the four, each of their eating drinking shitting sleeping and going to schools etc, when have I got the time to look at his… his bean sprout (music notes). Now you are home. You do whatever you want.”
Mom’s speech shut father up. Therefore he diverted his spear directly to me. Very sternly he interrogated me, “Give me a black or white answer. Where are those things from?”
“What things?” I pretended.
Father raised my hohmann over his head, “First, say where is this from?”
“Hand-copied.” I confused.
“I know it is hand-copied. I’m asking from where it is hand-copied?” Father questioned closely
“Copied from a school mate…” I was toothpaste-squeezed.
The old ginger is always more spicy than the young ones. By the end father found the hohmann was from Ma Xiaomao and the records were from teacher Lao. He wrapped the Hohmann and records up together with a few used newspapers and about to walk out.”
“Where are you going? It’s supper time.” Mom tried to stop him.
“This is far more important than eating.” Father said to Mom, and then to me, “you, go to the school together with me.”
“I’m not going at supper time. There is nothing more important than eating. ‘The good health is the capital of revolution’ our representative Chuan always reminded us.” I rejected my father.
Ladies and gentlemen, think of that, when I wan beaten, he, as the strongest man in the family refused to go the school for me, but then he wanted to go to my school to accuse me because I played the violin. What an earth was that? Of course this is what I’m thinking today, while at that moment, I thought nothing but to protect my Hohmann and records. I stepped forward father and scrabbled for my treasures from his hands. Father was not in the mood to contend with me like someone in my age, he released my treasures and went out.
“Go with your father. To take the chance also sorting out the fight with your schoolmates to your school authority.” Mother ordered me.
“No no no, I’m not going.” I am obstinately back talked.
“You, trouble making son, you, stubborn little devil…” Mother’s pinching and beating at my wounded body turned those spots from blue to red again. And what was far worse she started to grip my treasures away from my hands.
To me, to be beaten by mother was like everyday meal that I was so much used to. But to take my music away from me was something absolutely not tolerable. Mother tried her endeavor to pull my Hohmann, and I desperately did not let go. During the refuse to budge mother lost her balance and fell down with her hands still grapping my music book.
Danjin quickly went up helping Mom to stand up.
My eight-Year old baby brother rushed out shouted loudly towards father, “Dad, come back, the number two is beating mother.”
Seeing father was turning, the baby swooped into me like a little lion and opened his mouth biting on my arm. Both of my hands were tightly holding my music book therefore had no extra hand to fight with the lion, all I could do was trying to get off his teeth by swing my arm, yet the result was just opposite, the more I swing the worse painful I was. So I had no alternative but to use my last resort. However, regardless how hard I kicked; the baby lion did not let his teeth off me.
Meanwhile father strode in. He asked mother to give up her grip and helped her sitting by the table, and then he ordered the little lion to release his weapon and embraced him standing by the mother. And then he took my music treasures from my hands by force and smashed them on the ground.
“You, get out, our family don’t have such a son.” Father shouted heavily as he pushed me towards the doorway. Mother took the advantage to pick up my hand-copied music notes and tore them page by page, that sound, simply worse than a knife cutting my heart. Just as I was pushed out of the home I heard a smashing sound of my music records. That sound too just like a bomb blowing up inside my body.
I was outside of my home away from my family, peeping through the window I saw my baby brother brought the bed-Wetting basin. Mom put all the tore pieces into the basin. Father lighted up a cigarette with a match, and quickly he passed the left over burning match to Mom. Mom did not catch it but pushed father’s hand, the match dropped into the basin, instantly a red terror growing.
That was how I saw my hand-Written copy Hohmann, my a few months’ painstaking efforts, those hard work days and nights, those stroke by stroke and page by page emotions, my joy and love burning to ashes in front of my eyes.
I yelled with all my strength, “Stop! Don’t!…” But nobody heard the sound except myself as I bit my lips so tightly that it started to bleed.
My brother Danjin witnessed the whole process. He was in a state of chock that he stood there with his mouth half open.
I waved my hand to him, the only person in my family I might turn for sympathy. Danjin got my hint and quietly moved to the back room. I quickly ran to the back door. Before I asking Danjin had already opened the back door with my violin in his hand, “You get in now you will be dead. Take your stupid thing and run.”
Before I even showing my appreciation to Danjin he shit the door with an angry sentence, “They burned my foreign folk-song book too. All your fault.”
I held my violin, ran straight to the Xiang riverbank.
The flowing river water brought me back to my childhood. My uncle Din’s out-of–tune singing with the wrong lyric, “The eastern sun is declining down the western hill…” sounded. I could also hear my aunt’s calling, “Danjiu, the supper is ready.”
Talking about supper, a band started to play in my stomach and sour water gushed in my mouth.
It started to rain. I’m not making a movie. The rain really poured out, and getting heavier and heavier. Though I was very cold I had to take off my over clothes to wrap up my violin. I hid my self under an extended eave of a storehouse. “To suffer from coldness and hunger under a roof cover my head” was a literal and vivid depiction of my situation.
It turned to complete dark. The rain was gradually getting weaker. I left the riverbank and walked subconsciously towards home.
“If you can go back, why ran out at the first place?” A voice asked me.
“If not home, where else could I go?” I answered that voice, rascally.
But when I reached the railway where I used to practice my violin nearby home, I stopped, not because I was too tired, but too afraid, and did not want to lose face as well. Looking at the faint light from that home window I was trembling from incomparable chilliness.
The rain finally stopped. I sat on a railway and my rain-wetted body began to feel the pain from schoolmate’s punch marks as well as Mom’s nail marks and little brothers teeth mark. I needed to do something to anaesthetize my body from the pain. I opened my violin case. With my shivering hands I played the unfinished song “home, sweet home”. I hoped someone in my family would listen, hoping one of them, or even a neighbor coming to call me back, a call with tiny little volume in a distance would be enough. I even extravagantly imaged when I return home a bowl of steaming hot noodle would be waiting for me. If so I would certainly put more peppers and an extra spoon of lard in it. Please don’t laugh at it. I was just turned to 14, a boy at his awkward age.
When I write this section today my heart starts to bleed again from the old wounds. But, please save your tears for the later.
On that night, I waited and waited; the dream of “someone calls me back” finally did not come true. I held my violin and lay my head on a pillow, sorry, on a rail; slowly I brought myself into a dreamland.