Who’s Knocking at the Door?
Fang Zhaoxiang 方兆祥
Two families, both with only one son, lived next door to each other. One of the sons was extremely intelligent, while the other was thickheaded. One day the father of the dimwit went knocking at the neighbor’s door, and a voice came from inside the house: “May I ask, who is out there?”
Hearing this reply, the father thought: “Hey, who’s this so cultured and polished?” and promptly replied, “It is me!”
As the door swung open, it was the clever little kid standing there. Seeing it was the man from next door, the kid immediately bowed to him and said, “It is the esteemed presence of his Excellency. Please excuse me for not coming out to meet you.”
Upon hearing this, the man was even more impressed with the child’s upbringing and manners. He was utterly thrilled. Remembering whom he was there to see he hurriedly asked, “Is your father home?”
The child replied, “My father has gone to the other side of the mountain to play chess with the master monk.”
“Oh, when will he be back then?”
“If he comes back early, it will be at sundown; if late, he will room with the master.”
As the child talked so eloquently and respectfully, the man thought of his own son, who couldn’t even hold a candle to the neighbor’s kid. Upon returning home, he scolded his own child for all the things he couldn’t do right, right in front of his wife.
His wife said, “You’d better not use other children’s ambitions to destroy our son’s dignity. You’re only talking about a few sentences, as if our son couldn’t learn to say the same way.”
A few days later, the lady from the next door came knocking at the door of the dimwit child’s home. His father got him to answer the door.
From behind the door the child asked, “May I ask, who is out there?”
His father, listening, thought that everything was going according to plan, and even began to feel that his son was not as dull as he had reckoned, for his son mastered what he was supposed to say straight away.
The woman outside replied, “It is me.”
The man’s son opened the door immediately, and gave a bow, “It is the esteemed presence of her Excellency. Please excuse me for not coming out to meet you.”
Hearing this, his father felt that his son was really quite mannered.
The woman asked, “Is your mother at home?”
The kid, without hesitation, replied, “Mother has gone to the other side of the mountain to play chess with the master monk.”
His father became anxious, as his son messed it up and began to talk waffle.
The woman, slightly taken aback, asked, “Oh, is that right? When will she be back then?”
The kid, assuredly, replied, “If she comes back early, it will be at sundown; if late, she will room with the master.”
Before the woman realized what had happened, the father of the dimwit had already become so angry that he frothed at the mouth and fell to the floor. (From Ramblingsofa
Secretary , Anhui Literature and Art Publishing House. Translation: Sam Bowden)