The Statue of Bud­dha Liv­ing in Tile-roofed House


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)











(摘自《文字港》2017年第3期 )

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