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湘悟 (窟燕晩豚:2010-07-09 15:37:56 堋響繁肝:1540 指鹸方:0)

  Chapter 18

The First Time Return Home in the early 90s

1, Being Checked for ID card and temporary residence permit in Beijing

I opened the letter. It said ^On behalf of your family, I inform you that your father is suffering from cancer´ ̄

The one who was ^on behalf ̄ of my family was not exactly a member of my family, but the girl who always ^on behalf of my family ̄ to write to me or call me, seeing me off or meeting me at stations when I travel out or coming back. That girl was no one else but Mei Mei, the next-door neighbor girl with whom I spent my childhood and grew up together.

After some sadness, I started to imagine that might be my last opportunity to show my success in front of my life rival, I decided to go back home to see him before I go to USA.

I quickly tried to dress myself up according to the image of what the most overseas-Chinese would look like by the most Chinese people at that time, to put it in another word, the standard overseas-Chinese image appearing in the movies or TV by the time. I got myself into a white suit with a black bow tie. Looking at the mirror for a self-appreciation, to my astonishment and disappointment, I looked somehow like the old gentleman always standing in front of KFC.

Meanwhile my wife Marianne came home. She opened the door and saw me dressed up like that, thought I just came back from a funeral, nervously asked me ^who died? ̄ Knowing that I was preparing for returning back to China, Marianne made a sigh of ^I see ̄ look, and then could not help laughing. However, after laughter she solemnly reminded me ^dressed up like that going to China, you not afraid of catch a cold? ̄

^What do you mean? ̄ I puzzled.

^Being robbed ̄, Marianne then told me a story about how a Taiwanese was robbed and stripped to underwear so that to caught a bad cold in the mainland. Marianne continued ^So nowadays for safety it is wise for home-going overseas Chinese be deliberately dressed up and appear to be just like mainland Chinese. You are a mainland origin, why on the contrary make yourself look like a western antique. That equals to deliberately make you a living target! ̄

Although I said I was not afraid, but inside me I felt what Marianne said was very reasonable. In addition, I never have ^fever ̄ for ^bad-cold ̄.

Talking about disguising to be a mainland

Chinese to go to China in order not to be robbed, I had no need to be disguised, as I am from mainland China, only to put on those old clothes I brought from China, those were the most fashionable and the most avant-garde, such as black shoes with white silk socks, corduroy bell-bottoms trousers, white zipper jacket, black artificial leather bucket bag. I thought with those cloths, not only would not be cheated, robbed, but also to bring those cloths back home to give them to relatives. Really, none of those clothes are patched, and I have little chance to use them abroad anyway. It would be a pity to waste them.

Since it took time for Marianna to resign her job at the University, Marianne could not take the same flight to China with me. I took Finair from Oslo to Helsinki then to Beijing.

When I arrived in Beijing it was already dark therefore impossible to catch another flight from Beijing to Hunan. Being worried to be recognized coming back from overseas, I carried my luggage with a cheap old violin case (in it a worth 50 thousand dollar old Italian violin), walking from the international arrival hall to domestic arrival hall, and from time to time I turned my head over to see if I was being followed.

When I got to the domestic arrival hall, I found my supposed to be the typical Chinese way of dress was very different from others, because apart from me, no one was wearing black shoes with white silk socks, corduroy bell-bottoms trousers, white zipper jacket, and not to mention black artificial leather bucket bag.

At the hall gate I ran into a young woman with a small child. I said hello to her in order to ask her if she knew somewhere a reasonable guest house to stay overnight. Learnt she was a wife of a came overseas Chinese, and came to Beijing from countryside for applying a visa to go to reunite with her husband, I was relieved. From her she information there was a small guest house not far from the airport, I immediately suggested going there by a taxi together. The lady thought a little, perhaps calculated two sharing the taxi fees would be as much as a bus fee, and she accepted my proposal. As the lady had a lot of baggage, I naturally had to help her. A man and a woman with a child, it would not be easy not to be mistaken as a family.

On the taxi, I saw the fee meter showing initial fee to be 10 rmb. I clearly remembered it was 2 rmb when the year I went out from China. I could not help asking ^Hey, I say comrade; your meter (I did not know what was that meter called in Chinese) might be out of order, as the initial fee should be 2 rmb. ̄ The driver did not answer my question but laughed a little. I laughed too to cover my embarrassment. I started to think that I had been out of the country for some years; it should be naturally the price going up. But how much, I was not sure. Then I asked him again "Comrade, I mean Master, how much do you earn a month? ̄

"How about you Sir? How much can you get a month? ̄ He kicked the ball back to me.

I remembered the time when I went abroad, the basic monthly wage was 68 rmb. Therefore I took a courage saying ^200 rmb, plus ... ... ̄ I could not think of what to plus.

The driver smiled and said: ^I say Sir, you got to be joking, ah, one month 200, that¨s not poor, but abject. ̄ Then he looked at me conjecturing in an absolute non-offensive tone ^Mr, listening to you talking your accent sounds like our great leader...(Mao and I come from the same province) You must be in there for about ten years ... at least!  ̄

^What do you mean? ̄ I did not get him.

^As a taxi driver, I have seen so many, all kinds of people. When I see some one as somebody, I wouldn¨t be too wrong. ̄

After I repeatedly saying I would not be angry, he proudly started his analysis ^First of all, you look very pale, it shows you are lack of sunshine for a long time; Secondly, your clothes, all about a decade-ago-fashion, yet they look still very new, I assume they are looked after by the prison all the years you were in; the third is the way you are talking, complete the language a decade ago´ ̄ Then he kindly advised me: ^just got out, listen more, less talking, so that you wouldn¨t reveal your secret so easily. For example, nowadays, who use the title `comrades¨? Instead we say Miss, Boss, Mr´  ̄

Before the conversation ended, we arrived at the guest house. The woman shared the taxi with me asked how much the half fee would be, seeing I was paying for the whole thing, she took her baby quickly got out of the taxi, and ran toward the doorman asking for help with her luggage. I knew she was terrified that I was a just released criminal. I stopped her, showed her my old working certificate of Hunan Radio and Television, made a story saying I was a TV actor, for the sake of playing a role I deliberately practice outside. The woman looked at my work certificate; in addition she should not forget that I just paid for her part of the taxi money, she reluctantly said ^I said you do not look like a bad person. ̄ Although she repeatedly said ^no thank you ̄, still I helped her with her luggage that she could not possibly carry into the guest house by herself.

I said to the young lady by the front desk ^Comrade, oh no, Miss, please chick in. ̄

^Identity card. ̄ The front lady even did not raise her head but kept her eyes on a fashion magazine.

I quickly handed her my working certificate of Hunan Radio and Television. The lady gave me an evil eye ^No room for playing games, show me your ID card. ̄

I turned around and saw the woman with me holding a credit card sized thing in her hand, I immediately said to her ^After you. ̄

That front lady took a look of the woman's identity card, confirmed ^Two adults and a baby? ̄

^Oh no, we are not husband and wife ... ̄the woman quickly explained.

^Without marriage certificate you two can not stay in the same room. ̄ Before the woman trying to say something, the front lady added ^Nowadays too many have kids without being married. Who cares? ̄

"It¨s OK to have separate rooms, I snore badly, please get us two. ̄ I cut in.

"Two rooms deposit 100 rmb, two rooms cost 200, total 300rmb. Do you need a receipt? Hey, where are the receipts? ̄ That front lady was pretending looking for receipts. (Without giving customer receipts, they can cheat state¨s tax.)

^Oh no, we are not ... ̄ the woman was eager to explain, but stopped when she saw 300 rmb in my hand.

^We do not need receipt. ̄ I added.

^Even no receipt I can not give discount, it is the same price, total 300 rmb. ̄ The front lady took the money from my hand, counted twice, then repeated check the authenticity of the bills, and then threw two keys on the table in front of us. From beginning to the end she did not bother to take a good look at us.

I took the woman with her baby to room 203, found the heating was out of order, then changed them to room 204. After settled them down, she tried to comfort me by saying she believed I was not a bad man, otherwise would not help her to pay for the taxi and room fee. I had no need to explain to her that I pay for her room was neither trying to be Jesus nor a big wealthy man, but to reward her for her cover of my foreign identity. After I said ^good night ̄ like a real gentleman, she smiled with confidence ^I thought I ran into a lady-killer. ̄ I turned around; couth the sight of her stuffing her big dark nipple into the baby¨s mouth, embarrassed, felt to use words like ^lady-killer ̄ on her, was too much flattery to her own. Watching me walked out of the door, she suddenly asked me if I was a fugitive of a corrupted officials? Before I could deny, she comforted me ^Do not worry, I will not betray you, now just too many corrupted officials running. In fact, my husband could be counted as half such an official. ̄

After said good night to the woman, I got myself into room 203. Without heating the room was dreadfully cold, I had to talk to the front lady ^Miss, could I have an extra blanket. ̄ The lady again gave me a cold eye, and then ignored me. I was somewhat offended, raised my voice ^I said Miss... ̄

Before I went on, the lady shouted at me ^How dare you call me Miss, and ask ME to give you a blanket? You got a wrong person. ̄

Of course, by that time, I had no idea in China ^Miss ̄ was also meant prostitute, and ^add an extra blanket ̄ could also mean to get a prostitute. ̄

This time I got really angry, shouted back at her ^Yes, I call you, Miss, ask YOU to give me a blanket. Is there something wrong about it? You need money I give you, how much you say it. If you can¨t do the job, ask someone else´ ̄

My voice was so loud that caught attention of the doorman. He ran towards me and asked ^What¨s wrong? ̄

I was a little afraid of getting myself into trouble, so quickly explained ^I was just asking for an extra blanket, but this Miss... ̄

Before I even finish what I was saying, the front lady jumped up and roared ^Who is Miss, your mother is Miss! ̄

I was shocked by the extreme rudeness of the front lady, the doorman said to me with a mysteries voice ^there is no Miss here, guest please go back to your room and rest. ̄

^But I need an extra blanket. ̄ I still did not want to give up my reasonable request.

^An extra blanket! ̄ That doorman put his voice even lower ^You go back to your room and rest for a while. ̄ He winked at me.

^But´ ̄

The doorman patted my shoulder, and softly whispered ^Don¨t make such a big fussy, we don¨t offer blanket service here, you go back to your room and wait, but keep quiet. ̄

Oh, I got him. He must be afraid my yelling would be heard by other. If everyone would ask for extra blanket´ So, I winked back to him, though might be very awkward, as far as I could express ^I understand ̄ would be enough.

I went back to my room and waited. Soon, someone knocked on the door.

^Who is it? ̄ I asked a no meaning question.

^Be quilt. ̄ A woman¨s voice.

I was so pleased that I jumped out from the ice cold bed, was grateful to the doorman did it for me. But when I opened the door, there was just a young woman but no blanket.

^Where is the blanket? ̄ I said what I thought.

^Quickly let me in, others would see me. ̄ The young woman pushed the door in. ^Yo, your room is so cold ah! ̄ Spoke with a Sichuan accent the young woman was sitting on my bed. She went straight ^100rmb for me and 50 for the front. If you want me to stay over night, another 50, total 200 rmb. We don¨t bargain here. ̄

^What do you mean? ̄ Although I understood exactly what she meant, I still pretended.

^Yi, Was you who wanted a Miss, wasn¨t you? It¨s safe here, not to worry. ̄ The young lady began to take off her coat.

By that time in China, prostitution was supposed to be illegal.

I just got back to my home country after so many years; I certainly did not want to get myself in trouble. Therefore I had to go on with my performance ^What! You want to use this room over night, asking me to pay you 200rmb, why? ̄

^Dare you play games with your big sister, just wait and see. ̄ The young lady got very angry, put on her coat that she just took off and rushed away.

Soon after that, the friendly doorman became very unfriendly; he came with other two people wearing red armbands intruded into my room, shouted to me: ^Security check security check, show your ID card and temporary residence permit. ̄ (By that time, today too perhaps, people coming to big cities, need to apply a ^temporary residence permit ̄ with fees.)

That situation left me no choice but to show my passport. As soon as they saw my passport, everything ended very smoothly and quietly. I was not only given a better room with good heating, but also a thick blanket. It was the front lady brought the blanket to me, with a nice friendly respectable smile.

Less than 24 hours back to my motherland, I strongly felt such a fact, the fact that no matter how hard I was trying to be an ordinary Chinese, I had become very foreign. In addition to the change of myself living overseas for years, more significantly my country had changed radically, so radically that it became hard to recognize. In other words, it certainly was not the homeland I had remembered.

2, My Father in a Hospital Corridor

Arrived in my home town Changsha; it was Guoxiong, an life-long friend of my elder brother Danjin who came to pick me up by his private car at the airport. Besides him there was another person, the person was not exactly my family member, yet had been always on behalf on my family to see me off and pick up at the stations, that person was, of course Mei-Mei. According to Mei-Mei, both my brother and his wife were in the hospital taking care of my father, therefore could not come to pick me up. I recalled back to the time during the Cultural Revolution, one of our relative uncles paid a visit from the United States to his home land, he was received very warm welcome from the local government and the entire family, I felt a little unfrequented.

No see for some years, Mei-Mei turned to be a woman. But that did not concern much, as I did not remember her last appearance, or should I say I had never seriously paid attention to how she looked like, or not had the desire. Moreover, the feeling of her changing of appearance was only by the first sight, once she talked; all went back to the past.

On the way to the hospital, by chatting with Mei-Mei I got to know that she had taken her father¨s job position and working for the place as her father and my mother did, the same place (Panjiapin) where we grew up together. After my mother¨s retirement, Mei-Mei naturally became the link between my mother and her former working unit.

Did I mention GuoXiong came to pick me up with his own car? Yes, he came with a Volkswagen Santana, the car disappeared years ago in Europe became best selling cars in China in the 90s. In 90s someone owns a private car; that was something, no need to mention a foreign car. Imagine it was in the same country the same generation where and when posses private property was thought to be a kind of crime, even to grow some vegetable under one¨s windrow outside was considered to be wrong doing.

Since Deng¨s Open door policy, and the slogan ^to let a small portion of people get rich first ̄, China changed dramatically. GuoXiong had been working for the foreign trade company; that should explains everything that he was one out of the ^small portion of people ̄ to let to be rich first.

Guoxiong drove us directly to the hospital, said ^Mei-Mei will take you to the sickroom, all your family are there. Your stuff (my luggage) I will take to the guest house for. ̄

^Thank you so much, you may take everything for me accept the violin. ̄ I said that embracing my violin about to get off his car.

^What are you bringing a violin to the hospital for? Can¨t you trust me? I have been the closet friend of your brother for more than 30 years. ̄ GuoXiong said.

^It is not that I do not trust you, my brother Guo. It is that this is a very precious violin, that worth 50 000 dollars it! ̄ I deliberately put stress on the words ^50 000 dollars ̄ slowly, loudly and clearly.

Carrying my violin following Mei-Mei we went to the hospital¨s hospitalized building, one floor after another, each floor the aisles were filled with temporary steel-wire bed, folding chair, looked very disordered. When we reached the fourth floor, it looked as bad as the other three floors we just passed, the corridor was choked. I was about to make complain something like ^blocking traffic ̄, Mei-Mei pressed her mouth with index finger to indicate me being silent, and then pointed a steel- wire bed in our front, said ^your father. ̄

My father¨s face was covered by a blanket therefore I could not see him. Beside the steel-wire bed a woman was sitting on a small stool. The woman looked up and called my name ^Danjiu ̄. This woman, of course, could only be my brother's wife Panjie (her nickname meaning ^Fat Sister ̄). Thinking back of the past at the 5/7 cadre¨s school I witnessed those disgusting affairs between she and my father, I did not want to talk to her more than just one sentence ^where is my family? ̄ By saying that with that tone meant I was still refusing to accept her as one of ^my family. ̄

^Mom went out to buy food, and brother (her husband) went to talk to someone at hospitalized department office. ̄ The Far Sister answered.

^How about one more person? ̄ I did not want to say the word ^younger brother ̄, for saving face of no dialogue between us for many years.

^Well, my son is going ... ̄

^Oh no, not your son, I mean... ̄ I interrupted her.

^Oh, you mean younger brother Danfeng. He is preparing for acrobatic shows abroad, very busy lately. ̄

In fact I was not really paying much attention to what she was saying, as I was shocked by the sight, could not possibly believe what I was seeing, my father, my great and proud father, after all these years of revolution struggle, ended up shrink in a steel-wire bed by the corridor of a sick house. The scene brought me back to the Cultural Revolution when my father¨s superior Minister Wang threw himself into a pond and killed himself, I really started to wonder the significance of what my father¨s whole generation had been fighting for all their lives?

Heard our conversation, a little movement occurred in the steel-wire bed, Fat-Sister quickly helped father to remove the blanket from his head in order to expose half of his face. Then, I heard a very vague and husky voice from father ^you are here. ̄

I replied with a very low voice ^En. ̄ Fortunately, it was rather dim, so that I could not see father's face clearly, only felt his emaciated body lying there like a dry skeleton. Seeing I put no action, Mei-Mei pushed me towards from my back. I reluctantly moved half a step forward, was about to squat down, a nurse came over and yelled out ^There is only one person from each family being allowed to be here at a time, so many people here how can I walk. ̄ This time I was the one really in the way. Though I complained rudeness in words yet inside my heart I was grateful to the nurse, for saving me from hardness, which is face to face with my father.

^Take Danjiu home and rest first, here leave to me. ̄ Panjie said as she handed the house keys to Mei-Mei. This time I really became a family guest.

Mei-Mei brought me to an old dormitory building, skillfully opened the door lock, smiled and said ^Please come in. ̄ That tone, seemed to be ^on behalf of my family. ̄

My brother¨s family was living in the ground floor, two rooms with a small kitchen, no sanitation, which means neither bathroom nor toilet, outside a small yard raise two hens for the purpose of laying eggs. There was a decent bed in the inner room of the two rooms. That is of course the main bedroom. Supposedly the outer room was a living room, but also a sofa bed. Looking at the things on the bed, it was obviously mother's bed. My eyes swept a circle in the room, and saw many familiar items that I rather prefer to forget. I was trying to find a place to sit down, but felt full of thorns everywhere.

"What would you like to drink? Tea, cola or 7-happiness...? ̄ Mei-Mei asked as she opened the refrigerator.

^What is 7-happiness? ̄ I never heard such a drink. I looked towards the fridge, ^Oh, that¨s seven-up. In fact this is not even 7-up, this is called SPRITE. Ok, I take sprite, what you call 7-happiness ̄ Mei-Mei passed me a can of Sprite. To my mostly astonishment, the can was warm.

Mei-Mei explained: ^This refrigerator of your brother¨s was out of order a long time ago. Now it functions like a cupboard. Just drink it. It doesn¨t concern." Mei-Mei poured the sprite into a glass for me.

^It doesn¨t concern ̄ is a language widely and most frequently used in China and by the Chinese communities all over the world. But warm sprite, it might not concern to Mai-Mai, but it certainly concerned very much to me.

^If you don¨t want 7-happiness, what did you call it, S-pri-ge? We can have tea instead. ̄ Mi-Mei was about to make tea.

^Don¨t bother; we can have our drink at hotel? ̄ I said in a snobby tone.

^Hotel? Why? Brother has already arranged you a room in his working unit guest house. ̄ Mei-Mei explained.

^No to guest house, we are going to stay in the Hunan Hotel. ̄ I emphasized.

^Hunan Hotel! That¨s expensive. Why must stay there? ̄

^Yes, it must be Hunan hotels ̄ I said it again.

Mei-Mei, of course did not know our family historical story, the story that when I was little, my father and mother took my brother Danjin to Hunan Hotel for New Year Celebration Event and left me all alone home with coldness and anger´It was by that time, I took a vow, when I grow up, I must stay in the Hunan Hotel once all by myself.

^If you Insist to stay in a hotel instead of a guest house, The new HuaTian Hotel is a better one. ̄ As Mei-Mei went on her speech I was out of the door of my brother¨s. Because regardless where to stay, all would be better place than the home of my brother¨s. After Mei-Mei trying to convincing me repeatedly, I agreed to stay at the guest house, for one night, and one night only.

Followed Mei-Mei we arrived at the guest house of my brother¨s working unit. As soon as I settled down, finished my rest-room affairs, Mei-Mei said ^if there is nothing else, I would go. ̄

^Go where? ̄ I asked.

^I don¨t know. Maybe to the hospital to replace your sister-in-law, or go back to your brother¨s place helping your mother cooking. ̄ Mei-Mei replied.

^Aren¨t you working? ̄ I asked.

^I¨m working, but took a day off today. Your sister-in-law is no longer working, she had an early retirement. ̄ Mei-Mei told me.

^Retirement? Only in the early fortieth, retire? ̄ That is unbelievable to me.

^The business of her working unit wasn¨t very good, in addition she always took long-term leave to look after your father. So she was persuaded to retire earlier from her working position. But ^retirement ̄ is a good way to put it. In fact, it equals to off-working-position. ̄ Mei-Mei explained.

^What is off-working-position? ̄ I asked.

^One has lost one¨s job, unemployment. Oh, yes, do you have children, yet? ̄ Mei-Mei asked me jokily.

^Oh no, I mean not yet, but sometime later, perhaps. ̄ I answered.

Mei-Mei ^Why not have any yet? Don¨t you want children? ̄

I said ^Not yet, in addition Marianne couldn¨t have child, some physical inconvenience. Why suddenly you ask me this? ̄

^Nothing particular, just chat, casually. ̄ Mei-Mei smiled with some meaning behind, as if Marianne¨s physical problem could do her any good.

I asked her back ^Now let me casually ask you, do you have children yet? ̄

^Yes, I will have. ̄ Mei-Mei smiled again.

I asked again ^How about a man, have you got yourself a man? ̄

^Yes I will have. Bread will be there, and milk will be there. ̄ Mei-Mei said as she walked towards to door.

All the memory of the past spontaneously came back. I pulled her in front of me, letting her sit on my legs. She did not refuse, just like in the past, only not as natural as before. I easily removed her silver necklace, the necklace with my English name ^Daniel ̄ engraved, that I gave to her many years ago.

Spontaneously ^gone with the wind ̄ we went on, doing nothing new, but the same thing we used to do in the past. As soon as we finish the doing immediately I went sleeping.

3, Chen Family's Last Reunion Dinner

When I Woke up I was surprised that the person in the room was not Mei-Mei but my brother Danjin. After all these years he looked very much the same, with honest and kind smile, still healthy and strong, not like me becoming rather full figured. My very first question was ^how could you throw Baba in the corridor? ̄

Danjin sighed deeply; and then told me helplessly that it was arranged by my old school mate Wang Shi-Yi¨s father.

Heard this I felt insulted and furious, thought how could this Wang Shi-Yi so impersonal to do such a thing. But after my brother¨s explanation I was grateful for having such an old friend like Wang Shi-Yi.

In China, the government cadres are divided into various ranks, from certain class to class, is classified as high rank, or middle rank, or geranial rank. My father¨s class was just one grade away from high rank; therefore he was not given the privilege to stay in a Senior Cadre¨s Ward. The General sickrooms had always been overcrowded, simply no beds were available. The people in the corridor have to wait for someone die to make a vacancy. This is to say, some family¨s joy comes from another family¨s tears. Even to be able to stay in the corridor (waiting list) needs to have some kind of relations, a very popular word was ^back door ̄.

My father¨s back door was Wang Shi-Yi¨s father, as he was one of the authorities with influence of the hospital. It was him who claimed that my father's disease had scientific research value, therefore needed to be observed every day, closely. And with great effort Dr. Wang managed to get my father in the corridor ^waiting list ̄ waiting for a young man inside the room to die to get his bed.

Looking at me being rather shocked and puzzled, my brothers choose a relaxed tone said ^let¨s eat first. ̄

^OK, OK, where to eat? I do not really like Huo Gongdian(a quite known restaurant in town). ̄ I intentionally talked high.

^Today we eat at home, because of your coming back, mother started to prepare a week ago. She began to cook from yesterday, made many dishes you like, such as rice powder steam pork, fried liver etc. You will see by your eyes, a whole table. ̄

^What? Take me as someone just out from prison? ̄ I laughed, with complicated feelings.

Carrying my violin with my brother Danjin we went to his home. Just at the entrance we ran into our younger brother Danfeng padding a tricycle which is used for food shopping of unit meal hall. There were two persons sitting on tricycle, my father and Danjin¨s wife Panjie. After so many years my younger brother Danfeng was no longer a small pile of bones covered by a sheet of thin skin, instead turned into a bruiser. Yet our used to be strong father, then, on the contrary became a small pile of bones with thin skin.

Under such circumstances I concentrated my attention too much to my younger brother Danfeng¨s facial expression just in case not to lose an opportunity to say hello to him, after so many years non diplomatic relation, to think of how great the natural power it was to reverse things and humans. Sadly Danfeng pretended to be too busy to greet at me. Obviously it was not ready for our diplomatic relation to be normalized. Therefore I had to pretend nothing had happened and went into Danjin¨s home in front of them.

Seeing Panjie and Danfeng were to let our father sitting on the sofa I immediately removed my violin from the sofa, purposely murmured ^don¨t sit on my precious violin. ̄ I looked around looking for some better place to put it but failed.

^How about put on the cupboard, together with your old broken white violin. ̄ Danjin suggested.

Mention my THAT ^broken white violin ̄ my heart startled. It brought me straight back to the old days when I made it and my father smashed it during the Cultural Revolution. But the atmosphere there did not allow my thoughts to go any deeper, in addition I was so eager to show off my precious expansive violin to the whole family, to make them proud of me, or regret what they had done to me, or envy my success. For that purpose I pretended to be angry with Danjin for what he said, ^how could you think of the same of this violin and that violin, this is an old expensive Italian violin, worth 50 thousand dollars. It is US dollars I¨m talking about. ̄ Again I stressed ^50 thousand dollars ̄ slowly, loudly and clearly. However, the pity was there was no one in the family seemed to be impressed by the sum of money, except the pretty wife of younger brother Danfeng's. What a disappointment!

Mother and Panjie were busy at the narrow kitchen, Mei-Mei was also busy transporting dishes from kitchen to table, a rare family reunion dinner was about to begin. Three brothers plus Danfeng¨s wife sat down around a table. Danjin gave an opening speech ^Now Danjiu (my name) is back. We come to discuss what and how we could to do to help our father? ̄

Honestly, I was not prepared for Danjin¨s proposal, as Mei-Mei wrote in the letter father was dying, so I thought I was called back to do farewell business. By the way Danjin looking at me, I had no way to escape but saying something ^What and how we brothers can do with father¨s disease? What about the hospital and the doctors, besides, when we were small, father always said that we brothers were all unreliable, if he was to be sick, he could rely on his communist party and the socialist system. ̄

Heard that Danfeng ^dong ̄ stood up, looking at not me but the ceiling, as if he is going to make some action. His wife pulled his arm ^what are you doing? Stupid. ̄

^WC, I have to go. ̄ Brother left the table and went out.

Danjin was obviously let down by my words, but he kept himself calm and added softly ^It is alright to SAY depend on the party and the system, but when the reality comes, it is a different story. Nowadays the government is work on health care reform, who knows what kind of changes they are going to make? ̄

^No matter what changes they are going to make, it could only be better for the government and worse for the people. Many work units have in fact abolished free medical care system. Though by principle all Baba (father)¨s health fees should be covered, but in reality only some basic cost could be reimbursed, any slightly better medicine, or something with nutrition have to go on our own expenses. ̄ Guess who made such a comment? It was my mother. She said that when she was carrying the last dish to the table. What she said, and the way she made the speech literally surprised me, made me wonder, my mother, the most revolutionary woman of the new China, how and when changed to be what the Chinese say ^society disaffection"?

All the dishes were on the table. Mother Panjie and Mei-Mei were all also on the table. After heard the topic of health care reform, Mei-Mei inserted a sentence ^I heard that soon the whole nation should implement an individual buying health insurance policy. ̄

Father made a bitter laugh, removed the dentures out from his mouth, and vaguely said something no one understood. Panjie quickly stopped him by saying ^no more about that. ̄

^What did Baba say? ̄ Danfeng's wife asked.

^Baba said we do not have to worry about his health insurance. For when the time comes, he would have completed his mission of human contribution, should have already met Mr. Marx." Panjie interpreted, but also added a sentence ^Don¨t listen to what he says. Nonsense! ̄ Panjie put one piece of meat into her mouth chewing softer, and then put it back to a spoon, and then fed father, and she said to father ^We wouldn¨t let you go. You should co-operate, trying to eat more nutritious food, do not worry about money, especially now Danjiu is back. ̄

The scene in front of my eyes brought me back to 5/7 Cadre¨s School. Looking at this disgusting love-affair woman and man, now actually be together openly at home in front of everyone. If this can be tolerated, what else can¨t? I intentionally made a clearing throat sound, and said to Mei-Me ^where is that 200 rmb I threw to you before I went abroad, did you used all to buy lollipops? ̄

^How could I use your money, kept all for you. Besides, I never eat lollipops. ̄ I just knew that Mei-Mei was a good girl, don¨t have to mention 200 rmb, even you leave my life to her, I knew she could be trusted.

^You still kept them for me, how great! Please pass the ALL 200 yuan to my brother, to use them all as my father¨s nourishment fee. ̄ I deliberately put ^200 yuan ̄ and ^all ̄ very stressed.

^Baba is ill, you give 200 yuan, ONLY? ̄ Danfeng's wife said to me as she held down her husband from jumping.

^200 yuan is not enough? It is a lot, filled in a large envelope when I received, I counted, three bills of one yuan, 21 bills of fifty fens, and the rest were all small notes and coins. That¨s all I got from our parents for supporting me of my university education and abroad further education. Now I gave ALL back to him to pay for whatever needed? Wasn¨t it fair? ̄

^Do you think to save 200 yuan was easy for us? ̄ Mother clipped out a piece of fat meat from a dish, (she could use chopsticks to catch meat, it meant mother was recovered quite well from her stroke during the Cultural Revolution) angrily said to me ^that 200 yuan was saved out one cigarette to another from your Baba¨s mouth for many years. Remember you pick-up cigarette ends for Baba when you were a little? Baba save all the money for your education since then. ̄ Heard mother said that, it also reminded me that father seemed never buy cigarettes. No matter he came back from countryside of what kind of political campaign, he would always bring back tobacco leaves. He dried the leaves, spraying some alcohol and heated them by a pot, and then rolled up tightly, finally sliced them and put it inside a small rectangular iron box ready for use. I had always wondered why father did not take it easy just to buy a package of cigarettes instead. Then all clear was trying to save every single fen of money, for my education.

So that is! Such a touching story how could I not to have thought about? Instead, I looked down on that envelope, disregard it, and didn¨t know in it not only filled with small money, but also great hardship and affection for many years from father. I even threw it to Mei-Mei just before I board to my air plan and asked her to buy her some lollipops... I then I understood how valuable that 200 yuan was. The real magnificence was not the amount itself, but my father¨s feeling and wish of supporting my education, and passed the message to me that he did his best. Thinking of that my mouthful food tasted nothing.

I was busy with what in my mind; mother went on what in her mind ^the doctor said your Baba¨s cancer was resulted of a long-term cheap bad smoke. ̄ She clipped the big fat piece of meat making a circle in the air, not to know was to strengthen her point or to draw my attention, then that piece of fat meat down into my bowl. I lowered my head to hide my shyness and made complain to hide my embarrassment ^when we growing body needed fat meat, you gave us vegetables, and now we want to lose weight need vegetables you give us fat meat. ̄

Danfeng's wife quickly agreed what I said ^the fat meat is really too oily, you see you see, oil is dripping off, to use all this oil can make another side dish. From now on, no need to use so much oil. ̄

Danjin laughed and sighed, said to his young sister-in-law ^think of the 1960s we were all dieing from starvation, one would understand why people in our age are so hunger for oil. ̄

Taking about oil, I took the difficult-to-get opportunity making the family historical joke of Danfeng frying oil beans without fire when he was 3 or 4 years old. The friendly approach received no response from Danfeng. That made the very funny story not funny at all.

Father seemed to understand my effort; he made an ugly smile, and a gesture. Panjie immediately interpreted ^Baba says we all help our selves, do not need to pass food to each other. ̄

Seeing Panjie acted as father¨s spokesman It grew my anger again, and I said ^how come this woman turned to be our old man¨s stomach worm, the old man make a gesture she would know what kind of gas (fart) he wants punch out! ̄

^How could you say like that? It is all thanks to Panjie¨s help the family are still in shape. ̄ It seemed Mother for a long time would like to praise Panjie, Then was a golden opportunity, of course she wanted to say more ^I am not well myself, like a mud-made Buddha crossing a river unsure the safety of itself, eldest son has to work; second son is abroad couldn¨t do any good; the youngest one lives far away, our family, depend all up Panjie to glue us together. ̄

Danjin smiled modestly and said ^All these are what my wife ought to do for the family, for it was she who wanted to ask for all the trouble to be one of our family members. The real person we appreciate and should thank is Mei-Mei. Although she is not our family member, over all these years have been acting like one in our family. ̄

The youngest of the family Danfeng could not help talking after all the silence ^who said Mei-Mei is not our family member? To me she has always been my big sister, and never treated her as politely as to others outside of the family. ̄

^What do you exactly mean? Just spit out. Stupid! ̄ Impatiently Danfeng's wife said.

^What I mean, we should be grateful to Mei-Mei, grateful to Panjie´ ̄ He stopped, paused, and then looked at his wife.

The wife was certainly not a fool. She, of course, understood every single word what her husband was trying to say. She talked back ^you namely talking about Mei-Mei and Panjie, but what was the under meaning, spit it out. ̄

Danfeng waited for his wife finishing all she wanted to say, took a careful look at his wife, gingerly said ^It¨s good someone can read the under meaning. To compare one know the differences. Come everybody, I propose a toast, to Panjie and Mei-Me. ̄ He stood up, raised his glass in the air, and then put close to his mouth about to drink. While at exactly that moment, his wife pushed the glass a little; half of spirit out from the glass went into Danfeng¨s nose. This time, he really needed a WC.

In my impression, Danfeng has only a serious face like a sheet of iron. It was until that day, I realized he could be quite funny, sometimes. ̄

Being praised by the family, Panjie of course was very pleased. But she did not show much on her face, rather brought the conversation back to our father¨s situation. That made it as she was the one worried about father¨s disease the most. She said ^It is useless thank me for at this moment. Someone has to find a back door to move father into a senior cadres¨ ward. If we wait for the young man to die in order to get his bed, I wonder when that would be. ̄

After saying that Panjie chew some beans in her mouth and then again put it back to the spoon to feed father. I noticed her mouth was really busy, in all functions.

Father smiled, but his mouth did not receive the soybeans from the spoon, but vaguely muttered something. Panjie stopped him before he finishing, she said ^not again, `communist party member not afraid of death, what else could be afraid of¨; to give body to the hospital for medical testing in order to contribute to the country¨s medical research...¨ I have been listening to these quotations so often and so many times that I can recite by heart. ̄

Followed Danjin bit my ear in a very low voice, explained to me that it was because the cancer expert Wang Shi-Yi's father once said father's disease had some kind of characteristics, therefore had a research value. But that was purely a made up story, for the excuse to get father in a waiting list, waiting at the corridor. But father took it seriously, and repeated with great solemnity ^As long as I can contribute to the medical research of my motherland, my life has a meaning to go on. For that I would rather give up a quick die, but to live with pain. ̄ What was more, father wrote in his will that ^after my death I would donate my body to the country¨s medical research. As I am communist part member, I live, is party¨s human, I die, will be party¨s ghost ̄ and so on.

Panjie took her husband¨s topic, said to father "I say comrade Chen, please get realistic. Who cares so much your party or country anymore? You have devoted almost all your life to the revolution. Now is the time to think of your own. Eat more, and have your disease cured. When you go back to your work unit, try to get promoted for one higher class. So that next time, you could stay in a senior cadres¨ ward, not a corridor in a general sick house like now. ̄

Panjie¨s speech sounded rather sarcastic to me. My anger pushed me to grab this chance to attack her hard. I said loudly ^who caused that mass at the 5/7 Cadre¨s School? If it was not because of that, our old man would be promoted to be a high rank senior cadre years ago. ̄

Danfeng "pon" smashed his chopsticks on the table ^say it more clearly, what does that mean? ̄

^Why that girl cares for our old man so much. What do you think, learn from Lei Feng.(Lei Feng was a Mao-made-finger who only do good things never bad things to people)  ̄ I did not want to show my weakness so easily.

Danfeng ^dong ̄ once again stood up. Danjin was quickly trying to put off the fire by saying ^come on brothers, we family meet not so easily, now finally we meet´ ̄

Not wait until Danjin finish, Danfeng roared ^who want to meet him. Remember that year, who broke our family into pieces? `Doing nothing good but spoil everything', all Baba said about him couldn¨t be more right. After this thing disappear finally we become more like a family again, why ask this thing coming back to spoil us again. ̄

^Sit down, how could say things like that. ̄ Danjin was doing his best by saying that to Danfeng.

Danfeng sat half down, but not stop his angry ^Wasn¨t I tell the truth? Doing nothing but sarcastic comments. I've said no need to tell him anything about the family, just think as if we don¨t have such a thing in our family, so that we would live much more peacefully. ̄

Being said like that by the younger brother, as the elder brother, I felt much lose of face. But looking at his strong body, all the huge muscles, I understood if we exchange fire I would in no way his opponent, remembered I used to bully him so much, be sure not to be foolish enough to give him a chance of revenge. Moreover, I just came back from the west, had to show some elegancy and class. Therefore I could do nothing but laughing dryly to cover up my embarrassment.

Perhaps trying to keep the balance, Danjin argued with Danfeng by saying ^how could you say that Danjiu doing nothing? He dose come back to discuss things with us. ̄

I finally seized an opportunity to save my face a little, I said ^I'm not coming back to discuss things with you guys... I was... ̄ I could not go on because if I went on to say ^I thought I was wanted for the funeral ̄ it equal to lit the fuse to Danfeng¨s bomb. Therefore, I had changed to ^What could we possibly do to help father away from his disease? In reality, isn¨t it enough for that woman (Panjie) taking care of him? ̄

^Do you think it is easy to take care of a sick person? ̄ All of a sudden, mother went back to her natural bad temper ^every meal has to be fed spoon by spoon, change diapers several times a day, when stool couldn¨t not get out fingers had to be used to dig, going up or down stairs he has to be carried on the shoulder... ̄ The more words mother got worse excited.

In such a matter of principle, I simply could not give up fight. I also went back to my original rude feature, shouted at mother ^Dose this man (father) deserve respect from you, and the whole family? All what he did with that woman (Panjie) at the 5/7 Carder¨s School, that ugly shameful disgusting scandal, God knows ghosts know. ̄

Danfeng jumped up again, this time unavoidable a fight with physical. Danjin quickly stepped forward to stop his youngest brother about to hurt his younger brother, several trying seemed to be in vain, Danjin had to leave this arduous task to the youngest brother's wife. That made things much easier, only an eye stare of the wife, the husband had to obey, reluctantly though.

By then, Panjie cried out, said ^taking this chance when everyone is here, let¨s make the whole matter clear, otherwise Baba has to carry this injustice blame all his life. ̄

Unexpectedly, the truth is, actually a very touching story.

4, The Touching Story of Father and Panjie

The truth was, Panjie and father did have a kind of special relationship, but the relationship was not something between ^man and woman ̄ as I thought, but a pledged relationship as ^father and daughter ̄.

The story went like this. Not long after Panjie went to countryside as one of the re-educated youths from the millions, her father passed away. The countryside where she went was the same place father¨s 5/7 Cadre¨s School was. At that time another cadre named Shen of higher class of father had a special interest in Panjie. Of course, cadra Shen was not only interested in Panjiu, but many other young girls at Panjiu¨s age. When Panjie turned to father for help, father figured out a way to stop cadre Shen. That was, he asked Panjie to wear his watch, eat dinner together very often. That gave people an impression, that Panjie already had an owner. That would stop cadre Shen from stupid temptation. The rumor went to the top, which resulted father receiving a disciplinary act from his superior, delayed his returning to the city, missed an opportunity of getting promoted a class higher.

Extremely grateful to father Panjie proposed a willing-father-daughter relationship, and vowed to take care of father all her life. Panjie¨s proposal was like a dream to father, as he always wanted a daughter, but we all came out as sons. Therefore having a daughter like Panjie, to my father, nothing could be more exciting and satisfactory. In order to avoid jealousy among the family, the ^father and daughter ̄ thing kept confidential to all our brothers.

For the sake of becoming a legal and real permanent member of our family, and having an everyday life with father, as soon as Panjie returned to the city she started looking for a target among our brothers. I was told to be a bad boy, and the younger one was too little, the elder brother Danjin left the only choice.

By chance Danjin was just going through a heart broken critical period of time. He just parted from his girl friend. It was a question of ^to be or not to be ̄ to my brother, by this time Panjie appeared. Of course in the beginning there was not much about love between them. Panjie had her purpose; Danjin has always been a very good hearted boy and could never reject anyone. Gradually, Danjin started to realize Panjie was a good girl, at least far better than he expected. Although it was not hot love story like all the movies, but as good friends or even life companions was not entirely impossible. Yet there was one question that worried Danjin a lot. That was ^Am I good enough for that kind lovely girl? ̄

Later, it was the rumor about Panjie and father that pushed Danjin to make his final decision. Of course rumor was ugly, rumor hurts, once Danjin was pushed to the edge of collapse. What worse was he could not even ask father if the rumor was true. After went the Southern Mountain alone, through quietly thinking, Danjin brought to following conclusion ^if that rumor was true, as a son he should take the responsibility to accept the girl with bad reputation because of one¨s own father. If the rumor wwas false, he was also willing to take the injustice blame for father. As a son who lost love, it would be better to do something good for the family than just to disappear from life.

Like that, Danjin married Panjie. Just before they got married, Panjie insisted to take a physical medical examination. This proposal was quite beyond Danjin expectation. Of course he didn¨t know, to have a physical medical examination was something Panjie really wanted to do. For hundreds explanations or statements for their innocence wouldn¨t be as good as one word from the doctor¨s result. That word was ^virgin ̄.

However, the best part of the story was not all listed above, but my brother Danjin was wrong about one thing. That was he thought his love in his heart died. With the marriage Danjin started to be in love with Panjie, and believe his life could never be better or happier than to be with his wife Panjie. Panjie of course felt the same, not only become a member of the happy family, but also got the best husband in the world.

Someone calls our family being a ^happy family ̄? ! If that was the case, Am I not a guy of ^in fortune but not aware ̄ ?

After hearing this story, I paid a respectable look at our thin and shrink father on the sofa, suddenly felt he became greater.

Perhaps this story was too emotional, after that everyone was dead quiet, each eat one¨s own food and chewing one¨s own feeling, except the pretty young wife of Danfeng¨s, from time to time asking me ^do foreign countries have this, or that? ̄ Although I had no idea what her intention was, at least lubricated the atmosphere.

The dinner was about to end, but the discussion of father¨s problem ended no where. Therefore Danjin had to make some accent to his closing speech ^about our father¨s situation, there is no one we can rely upon, except the brothers of ourselves. ̄

This dinner, became the last reunion dinner, of our Chen family.

Just before I walked out of Danjin¨s home, my pretty sister in law reminded me suddenly ^don¨t forget your expensive violin. ̄ I realized how much my mind went lost. It seemed this time I came back to see my father, the violin was brought in vain. Watching me carrying my violin carefully, the young wife confirmed ^are you sure the violin in that ragged case worth 50 000 U.S. dollars it? Boast it, aren¨t you? ̄ This question would be meaningful if it was coming out from my father¨s mouth.

5, Something Has to Be Taken Seriously

I expected Mei-Mei to walk me back to the guest house, but Danjin took her place. Back to the guest house, Danjin said to me gravely ^there is one more thing that I wanted to talk to you for a long time, which is Mei-Mei. We are all growing ups now, no one need to listen to another, therefore I could only express my hope, hope you could take the relationship with Mei-Mei more seriously, though I know you have Marianne there in Norway. ̄

^The relationship between Mei-Mei and I has never been serious, how could I take it more seriously. ̄ I quibbled over.

^But I can¨t see anyone who is more seriously to you than Mei-Mei. ̄ He paused, sighed, and added ^at least you should pay more attention to her health. Sadly, there are things that I am not authorized to tell you. ̄

^What things? ̄ My curiosity was brought up.

^Well, you look tired, plus you might still have some jetlag, take a good rest first. ̄ Danjin brought the conversation to the end.

I always hated people saying things stopping at half way and always do not give up until I get the whole thing. But on that day, I did not. May be just I had too many things in my mind. I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling, recalling what happened the whole day.

Through the whole day, there were a couple of things I had to admit. First of all, the story of 200 rmb that saved from father¨s tobacco was indeed touching. Think about that, the wages of our parents were not that much. Besides parents had a long-term separated life that required two expenses, in addition they had to raise four children, where and how could they afford big money for my education. So, to pass that many-years-saved money from tobacco to me was a message from father saying ^sorry, son, I have done my best. ̄ Therefore I really shouldn¨t measure the value by the number of 200.

Secondly, Panjie's story was even more impressive. That showed father was not at all a bad man, in fact a very good man, just not a very good father, be precisely only not a very good father to me, perhaps. Or, should I turn my way of thinking around, that it wasn¨t that he was not a good father, but I was not a good son?

^Am I not a very good son? ̄ No, that should not be the case, for if so, how could one explain my father¨s quotation ^I don¨t like Danjiu by nature. ̄ That was the phrase hurt me so bad and made me so sad and caused my heart in darkness for so many years, since I first over heard their conversation when I was a little.

In short, the story of 200 tobacco money, and the real relationship father and Panjie made the image of father much better in my heart. But still was not enough to change my opposition mode and emotions towards him.

However, as the matter like that, I thought it would be better to find ways helping father to move to a Senior Cadres¨ Ward, on one hand to express my gratitude to that 200 rmb, secondly, to show off my ability to the whole family.

Nevertheless, there was one thing I was not aware much by that time, that is I decided to do that, beyond doubt, the mostly coming from the power and affection of the blood linked relationship being Father and Son

To be continued




畜 鷹(駅倬)
炎 籾(販吭)
坪 否(1000忖參坪夕頭哈喘鯉塀:[img]夕頭銭俊仇峽[/img])

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