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Chapter Ten
作者:Liu Renqian      更新:2024-02-23 10:27      字數:3546
    Hunchback Tan stole fish in Yang’s Village, was caught on the spot.

    Er Kuazi didn’t know about it until people talked about this when buying things in his store. Normally, Hunchback Tan was very friendly and kind-hearted, how could he go and steal fish from someone’s family fishing pond? He would not believe it if it were only some rumour. Hunchback Tan and he were old brotherly friends for many years, although he was much younger, they were in the same generation. Whenever “Black Vegetable Melon” saw him, he would call “Uncle”. In ordinary days, when he had guests at home, he would ask his wife to go to Hunchback Tan’s house to buy some fish, with money or not, he never cared, or asked to get paid. In fact, Hunchback Tan knew well about every pond and ditch, where to catch fish. As long as he really wanted to help you, he would sure catch fish after going out for a while.

    When Hunchback Tan had guests, he would also go to Er Kuazi ’s store to buy some barley liquor. Sometimes he went by himself, Er Kuazi would go out to meet him and say, “Why not ask your son to do it? You don’t have to come yourself. Don’t you trust me?” The son Er Kuazi mentioned was “Black Vegetable Melon” . As he didn’t have children of his own, he regarded him as his son. “Black Vegetable Melon” was teaching in the school next to his store. It’s very convenient for him to buy and take home. Er Kuazi always got the barley liquor from a small jar under the counter, not from the big tank in the front counter. He filled the bottle to the full. The best part of the barley liquor was precious. He kept them only for VIP, such as the secretary Xiangyuan, the accountant, and close friends like Hunchback Tan.

    Even with honest and simple customs in Xianghe Village, it was definitely true that Hunchback Tan stole fish. Er Kuazi got evidence from “Black Vegetable Melon”. It turned out that the evening before, Hunchback Tan rowed the boat out of the village, saying that he was going to throw a fishing net in the Coal Golden Marsh,but actually he went to Yang’s Village instead. To do net fishing in a publicly owned pond, it was much faster, in a moment, his small boat was full of piles of white fish. He was so busy fishing that he didn’t even have time to unbutton his trouser to make water. Just as he got the time to urinate, someone found him in the pond. With the bright moonlight, the man saw his boat full of fish.

    The man was a security guard on the earth field. He didn’t expect to find this  man stealing fish before he went on duty at night work. He quickly went back to  the village, got seven or eight strong men. When they got to the pond, Hunchback  didn’t row too far away. “You thief, you won’t be able to escape!” “Behave yourself and stop. Otherwise you will get a severe beating.” People shouted out to him. He  realized people were chasing him, he had not chance of escaping. “Shit. No wonder  my eyelids were jumping all the time before I left home. I am in trouble now.” Hunchback Tan stopped rowing as expected. The villagers knew running was faster  than rowing a boat. Rowing to escape was useless.

    After the boat stopped at the edge, several strong men got on the boat, grasped Hunchback Tan on the collar, dragged him to the shore. “Folks, folks, I kowtow① to all of you. Keep cool.” Hunchback Tan got down on his knees. Everyone calmed down, found out it was the famous fish catcher Hunchback Tan. “Isn’t that the father- in-law of Agui?” People from Yang’s Village recognized him. It was good that he avoided a good beating. “We heard that you were a kind-hearted man. Why do you think of fishing in the pond where we depend on the fish for the Spring Festival in the new year?” “Well, now, things are getting ugly. Since you are nasty, do not blame us for being unkind.” All talking at once, they pushed Hunchback Tan to the village office…… The boat was rowed back by the people from Yang’s Village. Passing by the pond, someone shouted at the cowshed, “Old man, did you sleep to death? You didn’t know that someone was stealing fish?” The old man ran out with his eyes still half closed, “Where? Who?” When he saw Hunchback Tan, he cried out, “Oh, my God. It’s finished.”

    It turned out that Hunchback Tan had been net fishing in the ponds of Yang’s Village for two years. The leaders in the village had agreed with him that he could get five hundred jin of fish every year, no more, no less. If too much, by the end, when the members dried the pond, got too little fish, they would have found out the secret. If too less, those village leaders would not get enough benefits, not profitable.

    It was OK for the watcher to have a look at it every time he did net fishing. Five hundred jin of fish was sold, the money was paid to the leaders by 30% off. He kept the rest of them. Nothing to do with the leaders whether the fish price went up or down. The leaders of Yang’s Village shared the profits based on the amount of money and fish. Other things were taken care of by Hunchback Tan. There was one more thing that was agreed between the two parties. The watcher was the lookout when Hunchback Tan did fishing, he would tell people the leaders needed fish for an emergency in case it was discovered. If much worse, Hunchback Tan had to accept the loss, admitted stealing fish. Never gave out the secret. Even if he told what went behind the scene, no leaders would admit it. All these were done in words as a gentleman’s agreement, no evidence.

    Hunchback Tan was so surprised to find out one night destroyed all his good reputation, although nothing happened in the past two years. No body knew how he did it wisely. He placed the fish he got separately in linen nets in different places in the river, remembering how much and what kind of fish in each net. So whenever the villagers asked him for fish, he would go out, get what kind of fish they wanted quickly.

    The men in Yang’s Village found out this had something to do with their team leaders, thinking that they couldn’t solve the problem, so they took Hunchback Tan directly to Director Wang in the Commune. Director Wang sent two people for investigations in Xianghe Village and Yang’s Village. After the investigation, Director Wang raked things up against Hunchback Tan for the past two years. Several uniformed men stood on both sides of his house, no one was allowed to go out. When he came out, two shiny things were put on his wrists. The villagers had never seen this stuff, no one knew they were handcuffs for criminals. The accusation was to dig the foot of the socialist walls.

    Someone might ask, what about those leaders in Yang’s Village? Weren’t they guilty? Well, you would not understand this. Director Wang thought about this clearly. How could he listen to what a criminal said? Was he trustworthy? Didn’t he have any revolutionary consciousness? Hunchback Tan had an ulterior motive, throwing mud at the leaders. But the watcher was also punished for poor revolutionary vigilance, not taking good care of the fish pond, dismissed from his post. Thus, the whole incident ended in a satisfactory way with Hunchback Tan’s arrest and dismissing of the watcher. It was said that Director Wang had been to Yang’s Village in person after the incident to extend his regards to the two investigators, praising them on the spot. He said, “The young men did very well, with strong working ability, high political consciousness, well organized concept, they are promising.” then he continued, at the dinner table, asking those leaders to carry out all kinds of work successfully in Yang’s Village, try to be advanced among the villagers in the commune.

    Hunchback Tan was arrested. His wife Xiangyu became worried, crying to death. Even in ordinary days, she looked down upon him, never cared for him, sometimes had sex with other men, but after all, he was her husband. It was good to have him in the house no matter how ugly he was. Now he was taken away. She panicked and cried. Why was the government unreasonable? “Black Vegetable Melon” became very upset because of his father’s crime. You could imagine, his own father lost face in his father-in-law’s village, how would he as the new son- in-law go there? He was very sorry, complaining his father. But he didn’t know his father paid lots of money to help get the teaching job. Most of the money was from that dirty deal. Hunchback Tan had thought of getting another large sum of money to have the wedding for his son.

    As the saying went, Autumn was a period of troubles. Many things happened in the village in Autumn. Only a few days after Hunchback Tan’s incident, a current counter revolutionary “Little Pigtail” came out.

    Not many people could remember the real name of “Little Pigtail”. He was in his fifties, with a face like an eggplant, a big nose, small eyes, a sharp mouth. A pigtail on his head, not too long, but very small. Most of the time, it was on the top of his head. All the people in he village felt strange that a man had such a thing, not a second man like this could be found in the village.

    So someone gave him a nickname as “Little Pigtail”. Most of the villagers had a nickname. As long as one called it, all the people knew it, spreading very fast. “A village as small as a bowl, a lane as short as chopsticks.” One thing could be spread out like the wind, so easy. “Little Pigtail” had become his nickname, no one cared about his real name. Every one called him by this name, he didn’t mind being called this way. It was just a symbol, nothing important.

    “Little Pigtail” was a blacksmith, but more exactly he was a bamboo basket maker. Because most of the things made by him were bamboo products. Why was he called blacksmith not a bamboo basket maker? It was all because of himself. Listen, here came “Little Pigtail”——

    “…… Basket, rice basket—— baskets……”

    In the countryside, it was obvious that a bamboo basket maker was often called blacksmith. After a considerable period of time, the villagers became used to call him blacksmith. In fact, not many villagers wanted to have new baskets made, only to have them repaired.

    The cry was approaching, then his shadow could be seen, next he showed himself in front of the villagers. He was carrying his stuff on the shoulder, with a tool box on one end, and material shelf on the other. The toolbox was made of wood, oval, the size of a basin, with cutting knives, scrapers, prying knives and hammers in it. The toolbox could also be used as a stool to sit on. The material rack was open to hold many materials such as bamboo pieces, baskets, surrounded by ropes so that they would not fall out.

    “Little Pigtail” lived on this load. He was very handy. He took care of all the repairing for the broken baskets and such other things in the village. Every one was satisfied with his work. It was said this was handed down from his ancestors. He would always check out the key problems before taking actions to repair. He was very good at using knives to work. The villagers were surprised at his skills.

    But you could not forget one thing him : Take things and money. In fact, to repair things for the villagers, few people would pay in cash, most of the time paid with two eggs or half a bowl of rice, etc. He lived on these, a complete craftsman, a blacksmith. His shouts floated in the village all day, “Baskets, rice baskets, ……”

    “Sister-in-law Xiang, I will repair your baskets after finishing my job in hand. Very soon.” He said as he showed her with his hand. That was the dump wife of Xiang Dashao. More strictly speaking, she wasn’t completely dump, only half dump. She spoke very slowly, sometimes could make her understood. Don’t look down upon her as she was very clever and deft. She knew everything clearly, was not confused although she couldn’t speak. Especially when she did needlework, not many women in the village could compete with her.

    Every day, he walked around the village with his load, earning his own living. After school, the children saw him, very curious about his pigtail, would go up to him, call him, “Little Pigtail. Little pigtail.” He thought they were calling him, so he replied. Then came a shout of laughter. The children were teasing him. But he never got angry with them.

    Everything went on smoothly, nothing special. But just at this moment, something happened to him. He became a current counter revolutionary.

    That day, Little Pigtail was carrying his load, cried as usual in the Lane,

    “Baskets, rice baskets……”

    “Please come and have a look at our rice basket,” Grandma Three asked, she was a cook in the Medical Station in the village. The rice basket was too old and worn to use. She couldn’t cook without a good rice basket.

    He saw it was Grandma Three, so he stopped and put down his load. “Something wrong with the rice basket?” He asked. “It was on the stove in the kitchen. Please do me a favor to repair it. I will have to wash those spinach.” Grandma Three sat at a small stool, pointing to the kitchen. “No problem.” So he bent down, went into the kitchen. A “Bang” was heard before he came out of the kitchen. “Be careful. Don’t upset the oil bottle on the stove.” Grandma Three warned him of the accident. There was no response of him in the kitchen. “Is there anything falling down? Even if you really upset the oil bottle, I will talk to Mr. Wang. He is a nice man. We can pay for it.” She said as she stopped her work, went in to check out. She said so just to make him feel relieved. But if it really happened, he had to apologize to Mr. Wang. You might never believe that the villagers didn’t have enough grains to eat, neither enough oil to cook, although they had good harvest. Grains and oil were very precious.

    Grandma Three didn’t see the broken oil bottle on the floor, felt relieved, “Ok.  OK. I thought you had upset the oil bottle.” She said like this, but “Little Pigtail” started to cry, “Grandma, it would be all right if I upset the oil bottle, but I got into  big trouble.” Grandma Three just cooked for them. She only cared about the oil  bottle. But as she heard what he said, she saw Chairman Mao’s plaster statute in  different places, broken. Then she looked at him, standing there without a move,  stupid.

    It turned out that Mr. Wang in the Medical Station was so revolutionary that he not only put up a large photo of Chairman Mao in the hall where he saw patients, but also a plaster statute of Chairman Mao on the stove in the kitchen. That was a place for the god of Stove, not the right place for Chairman Mao because in her heart, Chairman Mao was far greater than god of Stove. The plaster statute of Chairman Mao was placed in the Shrine in every household. She had never seen this. Mr. Wang didn’t take her advice, on the contrary, criticized her, saying that she was a Feudalist. He further explained that it was very meaningful to put the statute on the stove. Why? The stove was the place to cook. Every day when they cooked, they had to think of Chairman Mao who led them fight for the happy life today. Otherwise where could they get rice or porridge? They might still be living a life worse than that of cattle and horse. Grandma thought Mr. Wang was right, but not right. It was wrong to forget Chairman Mao’s kindness, which was to forget the class origin. But Mao had also had them live on Chinese cabbage with rice bran. That didn’t not happen in the old dark society. Grandma Three would never forget those hard and difficult days. Many people in Xianghe Village couldn’t have bowel because eating too much rice bran; Others became swollen all over, their lips went green, at last couldn’t bear it, died. Could they forget those bitter days?

    In spite of these, Grandma Three still loved, was loyal to Chairman Mao. Looking at the broken plaster statute on the floor, she was anxious, stamping her feet, “What should we do? What should we do?” Just as they didn’t know what to do, the battalion commander in the village passed by, overheard it, so he bent down into the kitchen.

    It was not necessary to explain the details thereafter. The loud speaker  sounded out. Xiangyuan was shouting in it, “Dear Commune members, I am now  broadcasting the new trends of class struggle in Xianghe Village.” “Little pigtail’s’’ name was first heard from the speaker. All the villagers who heard the broadcasting  became very annoyed. How could he treat our great leader of Chairman Mao like  that? The people in the village would give one thousand refusal, ten thousand refusal.  Giving him a hat of current counter revolutionary was more than appropriate.

    So Director Wang came for an investigation, paying much attention to the new trends of class struggle in Xianghe Village. Not only did he come himself, he brought a group of people, made deep investigation, analysis, finally found out that “Little Pigtail” had been dreaming of restoring ancient ways. His pigtail could be one of the evidence. What was a pigtail? That’s feudal superstition, it was what the old and young men of the past dynasty liked. People from higher level of leadership had a more profound way to look into problems. Leaders in Xianghe Village (including the secretary Xiangyuan) admitted with regret that they were not as good as them, had to make a deep self-criticism. The string of class struggle was not tight enough, allowing “Little pigtail” of the old and young men of the past dynasty to be the blacksmith in the village. Xiangyuan took the lead to respond that they must learn from the teaching, deeply disclosed and criticized.

    His pigtail was not cut off, nor put on his head, but made straight down, with a high hat on which were written “Down fall the survivals of bygone ages!” The load on his shoulder was gone, but a blackboard was added to his neck, on which were written in chalk these characters, “Current Counter Revolutionary”. The characters were big and striking. Behind him a group of the Red Guards, armed with red tassel guns, chanting slogans, “Down with the survivals of the bygone ages!” “Down with the current counter revolutionary!” The struggle was going on. But not long after, while the class struggle was getting higher, one night, without the attention of those Red Guards, “Little pigtail” hanged himself on the pillar of the Brigade Department, committed suicide.

    “Basket, rice basket, ……” his calling disappeared forever in the Lane of Xianghe Village.