The Statue of Bud­dha Liv­ing in Tile-roofed House

泥塑木雕住瓦屋

Special Focus - - Contents - Yuan You­cai 袁有才

It was un­der the cam­phor tree at the en­trance of the vil­lage that my grand­fa­ther chanced to meet my grand­mother. One af­ter­noon in the early au­tumn of that year, my then 25-year-old grand­fa­ther, as usual, slipped out of the house to en­joy the cool air un­der the shade of the cam­phor tree af­ter lunch.

Grand­fa­ther was the only son for three gen­er­a­tions. As the ap­ple of the fam­ily’s eye, they felt he should get mar­ried and have chil­dren as early as pos­si­ble to carry on the fam­ily line ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal cus­toms. How­ever, my grand­fa­ther, be­ing no more than 1.6 me­ters in height with a flat pump­kin-like face, a pair of small eyes of gar­lic chive width, and swarthy com­plex­ion, in­sisted on tak­ing a woman like Xi Shi (a beauty in the late Spring and Au­tumn pe­riod) as wife, which seemed like reach­ing out and touch­ing the moon in the eyes of oth­ers. His re­fusal of a dozen girls that fam­ily match­mak­ers in­tro­duced to him wor­ried my great-grand­mother a lot, who, like feed­ing an ever-hun­gry group of mice, kept nag­ging him ev­ery­day. But this ex­erted no ef­fect on grand­fa­ther. He was nick­named as “the sharp-eyed blind,” which meant he was al­ways slow­paced to­wards every­thing. Even when din­ing, he picked up the chop­sticks as if spearfish­ing in a field ditch, wait­ing for just the right mo­ment to pick up a grain of rice.

The sun burned hot like a stove, and the cam­phor tree cast a moun­tain-like shade on the ground. Grand­fa­ther bent down to blow away the dust on the black flag­stone, dust­ing it with his sleeves, and then sit­ting on the stone with a tilted body. The black flag­stone was hot.

Al­most every­thing in the world goes like this, what is com­ing will come at last. Af­ter sit­ting for a while, grand­fa­ther felt his foot on the stone got numb. He stretched him­self, lift­ing the other foot propped on the ground to the stone while low­er­ing the numb foot down to the ground. No sooner had he fin­ished this se­ries of ac­tions in slow mo­tion than a girl from the south with a load of fire­wood on her shoul­der en­tered into his nar­row field of vi­sion.

Prob­a­bly tired, the girl stopped un­der the cam­phor tree. She took the bun­dle off her shoul­der. Then she bent down to free her­self from un­der the fire­wood, bal­anc­ing the car­ry­ing pole with two hands, stand­ing in front of grand­fa­ther el­e­gantly.

By judg­ing from her skill­ful ac­tions, grand­fa­ther af­firmed that this girl came from the val­ley, for girls from farm­ing fam­i­lies in neigh­bor­ing vil­lages would by no means take on such hasty man­ner.

The mag­pie perch­ing on the branches had flown away, and the shade of the cam­phor tree was creep­ing to the east. Sev­eral pedes­tri­ans came to and fro in a hurry. When the girl freed up a hand to wipe the sweat off her face, the car­ry­ing pole be­gun to twist, and the stick that served as a prop started to tilt as well. The girl rushed to bal­ance the stick, but it was too late: The girl had had her hands full, and the two bun­dles of fire­wood, like two mangy dogs, threw them­selves onto the ground in tan­dem, rais­ing a cloud of yel­low dust all around.

The stick un­der the car­ry­ing pole flew through the air, rolling to grand­fa­ther’s feet.

The girl frowned at the two bun­dles of fire­wood ly­ing on the ground, heav­ing a sigh. Be­neath her thin eye­brows was a pair of grape-like eyes, round and light.

Grand­fa­ther felt a heat from head to toe, as if he were drink­ing a bot­tle of rice wine. He jumped up from the black flag­stone, and for the first time in his life he acted at a light­ning speed, strid­ing to the girl while say­ing, “Take it easy, let me help you.”

The girl was pan­ick­ing, for it was hard to put the load back on her shoul­der by her­self. She had seen that grand­fa­ther was sit­ting on the stone but was too shy to ask for help. Now grand­fa­ther’s of­fer of help was ex­actly what she wished for. In a mo­ment she nod­ded with

con­sent, “Thank you!” she said.

Grand­fa­ther’s arms and legs were tired and soft, but he strained ev­ery nerve to help her up­lift the fire­wood, his both hands sup­port­ing the car­ry­ing pole while his feet trem­bled. The girl bent down to stand un­der the car­ry­ing pole and straight­ened up and the load fell upon her shoul­der steadily.

Grand­fa­ther de­liv­ered the stick to the girl, ask­ing her, “Sell fire­wood?” His voice sounded like a mos­quito’s buzzing.

The girl smiled to him in ap­pre­ci­a­tion, nod­ding her head, “Yes.”

Grand­fa­ther still wanted to say some­thing, but his throat was dry with ner­vous­ness. By the time the girl had walked

three or four steps away, he fal­tered, “Take……it……easy.”

The girl, bur­dened with a load of fire­wood on shoul­der, walked to­wards the direction of the county mar­ket at a good pace. Grand­fa­ther saw her long braid rhyth­mi­cally swing­ing on her rounded hips. Her fig­ure grad­u­ally faded away, un­til com­pletely dis­ap­peared from his nar­row sight.

On the black flag­stone, grand­fa­ther sat down then stood up again, re­peat­ing this five or six times. He kept run­ning through the im­age of the pretty girl in his mind over and over again. His thoughts raced: Which vil­lage was she from? Was she mar­ried? Why did she sell fire­wood alone? Her fam­ily should be poor for she was wear­ing straw san­dals, and her fam­ily couldn’t be far away from here since she was car­ry­ing a whole load of fire­wood.

Sud­denly, an unimag­in­ably queer idea dawned upon him like a streak of light­ning: She would pass the cam­phor tree to go home af­ter sell­ing fire­wood. So, I would wait for her at here, then I could follow her se­cretly to find which vil­lage she lived in. If she was un­mar­ried, I might ask a match­maker to pro­pose a mar­riage. We had cows, land, and a house, and we could pre­pare more be­trothal gifts……we could take this slowly.

Hav­ing waited for three hours un­der the cam­phor tree, she walked past. He fol­lowed her covertly for eigh­teen li. It took grand­fa­ther one and a half hours to follow grand­mother to her thatched cot­tage on the hill­side in Xu­ji­agou. Grand­mother was just over eigh­teen when she mar­ried grand­fa­ther. The men in the vil­lage would rank newly- mar­ried brides ac­cord­ing to five cri­te­ria: fair skin, black eyes, plump breasts, rounded hips, and long hair. Grand­mother was ranked No.1 for ten years in suc­ces­sion.

The story of my grand­par­ents un­der the cam­phor tree was not only a much-told tale in ev­ery house­hold in Wanghu vil­lage, but also used as a ve­hi­cle to tease my grand­fa­ther.

(From Lit­er­a­ture Port Mag­a­zine, Issue 3, 2017)

我爷爷是在村头的大樟树下认识奶奶的。爷爷二十五岁那年初秋的一个中午,他吃过午饭,偷偷溜出家门,去村头的大樟树底下乘凉。爷爷是一颗三代单传的“夜明珠”,按农村的风俗习惯要早一点结婚生子,完成传宗接代的使命。可是,他海拔不过一米六,脸型像一个扁南瓜,皮肤黑得如木炭,眼睛只有韭菜叶子一样宽,却癞蛤蟆想吃天鹅肉,硬说自己要讨个西施一样漂亮的老婆。村里的媒婆已经介绍了十多个姑娘,他都对不上眼,急得我太奶奶心里像养着一群饥饿的老鼠,整天唠唠叨叨的。可爷爷不管,爷爷有个绰号叫“亮眼瞎子”,他做什么都摸摸索索的,就连吃饭时拿一双筷子也像在田沟里捉泥鳅。太阳猛得像盆火,大樟树下的树阴像山一样大。爷爷弯下腰,用嘴巴吹了吹青石板上面的灰尘,再用袖子掸了掸,斜着身子,轻轻地坐到青石板上。青石板热乎乎的。世上的事大都如此,该来的总是会来。爷爷坐了一会儿之后,放在青石板上的脚有点发麻。他欠了欠腰,把支在地上的脚慢慢地抬到青石板上,把青石板上的脚轻轻地放了下来。他这个慢镜头一样的动作刚刚完成,一个挑着柴担的姑娘从南边过来了,渐渐地闯入他窄窄的视线里。这个姑娘大概是累了,到大樟树下停了下来。她利落地把木棍从肩膀上拿下来,支在扁担的中间,欠着腰从扁担底下钻出来,双手扶着扁担,亭亭地立在爷爷眼皮之下。爷爷看到姑娘的动作十分熟练,断定这个姑娘是山沟沟里钻出来的,邻村种田人家的姑娘是不会有这副风风火火的架势的。不知是有意还是无意,姑娘用柴担挡住了爷爷的视线。枝头的喜鹊飞走了,树阴偷偷地向东爬行着。几个行人来去匆匆。爷爷刚要眯上眼睛的时候,意外发生了。这个姑娘抽出一只手去擦脸上的汗水,扁担转动起来,支在扁担上的木棍也慢慢开始倾斜。姑娘赶紧去扶木棍,但是,柴担的重心已经偏移,扁担成了一根跷跷板,一头慢慢升高,一头渐渐低落。姑娘顾了这头顾不了那头,两捆柴如两只癞皮狗,一前一后扑在地上。柴捆的四周飞起黄色的尘灰。扁担下的木棍也弹了出来,旋转着滚到爷爷的脚底下,静静地躺在他的跟前。姑娘拧了拧细细的眉毛,看着地上躺着的两捆柴,轻轻地叹了口气。眉毛下是一双黑葡萄一样的眼睛,又圆又亮。爷爷像一口喝下了一瓶加饭酒,从头到脚热了起来。他像弹簧一样从青石板上跳起来,生平第一次三步并成两步,一边走一边说着:“慢

慢来,我帮你把柴担抬上去。”

姑娘心里正在发愁,一个人是很难把柴担放回到肩膀上去的。她看到爷爷坐在青石板上,又不好意思向爷爷开口。爷爷说要帮她,姑娘是求之不得。她马上点点头说:“谢谢你。”

爷爷的手脚都软得像一个熟透了的柿子。在帮姑娘抬起柴担的时候,他使出吃奶的力气,双手支着扁担,两只脚像弹棉花一样发抖。姑娘弯下腰从扁担下面钻进去之后,挺直腰,柴担老老实实地落在她的肩膀上。

爷爷把木棍递给了姑娘,声音像蚊子在叫:“去卖柴的吗?”姑娘感激地向他笑笑,微微点了点头说:“嗯。”爷爷还想说点什么,可喉咙像塞着一团棉花。等姑娘已经走了三四步,他才支支吾吾说:“慢……慢……来。”

姑娘挑着柴担,健步如飞地向县城方向走去。爷爷又看到那条大辫子有节奏地在姑娘圆鼓鼓的屁股上左右摇摆。她的影子越来越淡、越来越小,最后消失在他扁扁的眼眶中。

爷爷在青石板上坐下又起来,起来又坐下,反反复复五六次。他脑子里不断勾勒着这个姑娘的倩影。爷爷的脑袋像陀螺旋转起来:她是哪个村的人啊?她结婚了吗?她为什么一个人来卖柴呢?她脚上穿着草鞋,家里条件肯定不好。她挑着柴担经过大樟树去卖柴,她的家不会很远。

蓦然间,一个匪夷所思的念头像一道闪电从爷爷脑袋里蹦了出来:她卖掉柴回来,一定还会路过大樟树的。我等着她,到时候,我悄悄地跟在她背后,先去打探她是哪个村子的。如果她还是个姑娘,我就托媒人过去。我家有牛有地有房子,多给点彩礼……慢慢来。

我爷爷在大樟树下熬了三个小时,悄悄地跟着奶奶走了十八里路,花了一个半小时,侦察到奶奶的家在徐家坞半山腰的茅草屋里。奶奶嫁给爷爷时,刚满十八岁。村里的好事者会把娶来的媳妇排名次,评判的标准有五项:皮肤白、眼睛黑、胸部大、屁股圆、头发长。每项二十分,按累计得分排名,我奶奶连续十年排名第一。

爷爷在大樟树下和奶奶的故事,既是王湖村田头巷尾的美谈,也是他们戏弄爷爷的笑料。不知谁说了一句:“慢人有慢福,泥塑木雕住瓦屋。

(摘自《文字港》2017年第3期 )

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.