The Embroidered Shoes

BOOK: The Embroidered Shoes
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About the Author

Copyright Page

 

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TO

QINGYIAN ZHANG

AND

TO

ALFRED JANSSEN

In Memoriam

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Several of these stories have been published previously in Chinese and/or English. The following stories have appeared in the mainland Chinese journals noted: “The Embroidered Shoes and the Vexation of Old Lady Yuan Si” in
Seagull
(
,
H
ǎ
iōu
), November 1986; “Apple Tree in the Corridor” in
Bell Mountain
(
,
Zhōngshān
), June 1987; “Two Unidentifiable Persons” in
The Writer
(
,
Zuòjiā
), February 1989; “A Strange Kind of Brain Damage” in Special Economic Zone Literature (
,
Tèqūwénxué
), January 1990; “The Child Who Raised Poisonous Snakes” in
Harvest
(
,
shōuhuò
), June 1991; “Anonymities” in
Beijing Literature
(
,
Běijīng wénxué
), March 1994.

In addition, the following stories have appeared in the U.S. literary journal
Conjunctions:
“The Embroidered Shoes and the Vexation of Old Lady Yuan Si” and “The Child Who Raised Poisonous Snakes” in issue 18 (1992); “Two Unidentifiable Persons” in issue 21 (1993); “A Dreamland Never Described” and “Anonymities” in issue 23 (1994); and “Homecoming” in issue 28 (1997); and an excerpt from “Apple Tree in the Corridor” has appeared in
Grand Street
(1997).

THE EMBROIDERED SHOES AND THE VEXATION OF OLD LADY YUAN SI

My neighbor, old lady Yuan Si, is a garbage collector. Though her business is nothing more than picking up trash, she is an iron-willed old dame.

Not long ago, old lady Yuan Si started to terrorize me. Every night after I turned off the light, this woman would barge in, her hair disheveled. She'd ransack my bedroom, smashing mirrors and cups, and then the light reflecting from the shards would drive her into a rage. She'd tear my quilt from the bed rudely and stare into my eyes with a flashlight for a long time. After all this, she would pee right there in the middle of my room. I was totally exhausted by her incursions, which were causing me to grow thinner and thinner, and weaker and weaker, day by day, until finally I was nothing but skin and bones.

Once I tried to lock my door and even pushed a table up against it to block it. As a result, she could only scream and shout outside. Then she found a hole and started to dig away at the brick wall of my house making heart-stopping, thunderous sounds. In the end, I had to open the door and let her in. Another time, I locked my door as early as dusk and hid myself in my neighbor's house and slept the whole night. Early in the morning I returned home. As soon as I opened the door she dashed in ahead of me. It turned out that she had waited throughout the night just outside my house.

Suddenly she stopped coming, and this lasted for more than ten days.

*   *   *

Tonight she came on schedule, but she behaved differently. She hopped about on one foot for a while. She giggled and laughed in the darkness, then suddenly took off her shoes and sat on my bed. She grabbed my shoulder with one hand and with the other she chopped at me with force. It hurt so much that I jumped up in pain. Then she said, “The most difficult part is persistence, hey?”

“…”

“The whole truth about this business is going to be revealed, and I am overjoyed! Have you noticed the shoes I'm wearing?”

“Huh?”

“Let me tell you about it in detail. For more than ten days, I've been hunting for them in your room. I was suspicious of everyone and felt terribly upset. It was not until recently that an idea came to me out of the blue: I would adopt a strategy of subtle indirection—and unexpectedly the problem has been completely solved. The focus of the problem is this pair of shoes, this pair of shiny, brilliant embroidered shoes. This pair of shoes is the fate of my life. Now that the objects have returned to their original owner, everything will be as clear as daylight. Justice will win a victory and the bright sun will shine over my head…”

“So you mean you don't need to come to my place anymore?” I asked hesitantly, secretly hoping for a positive answer.

BOOK: The Embroidered Shoes
12.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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