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Ambush

  If it were not for the black birthmark on his forehead so conspicuous, I would not have recognized him as Wanwu. He was short and tilted his head to look at me, perhaps the prison life made him cautious. I still saw him as a child from that gray face. He slid past my hand like a fish.
  The birthmark on Wanwu’s forehead was uncomfortably large, and as far as I could remember, it wasn’t that big. I kept staring at it, like the birthmark was the cause of everything.
  He said, “Do you have a cigarette?
  He sat down on the couch and looked at me thoughtfully. I shook my head. He took out a box of crushed “Red Plum” from his pocket. He was still smoking “Red Plum”, cheap and strong. His hands were shaking a bit, and he fumbled to take a cigarette out of the box and light it up. I sat across from him, one hand in the other, arms folded. I didn’t know what to say.
  I gave him a bowl of egg noodles, and the way he ate them was a real breeze. I watched as he poured the bowl of noodles into his stomach. After eating and drinking, he lay on his back on the couch, staring at my wedding photo. It was like he was surveying a posthumous portrait.
  He suddenly asked why we didn’t want children.
  What should I tell him? I said we were not going to have children in our life, and we would live like this until we die. However, many things are changing quietly, and as I see more and more children appearing in our neighborhood, I start to feel sad that the vows I once made are becoming ridiculous. My wife went to America, and every few days we would video chat, and she looked like a different woman on the computer. She was doing well over there, refreshed and more attractive than ever. She had cut her hair short, short in the ears, and she was quite proud of herself, as if she was planning to start over, which, of course, gave me the opportunity to start over. But I didn’t feel her leaving, it seemed like she was always there, especially when I would wake up in the middle of the night and suddenly feel like she was sleeping right next to me, within reach. I think, I can’t separate from her in this life.
  The first time I saw her, I thought she was going to be with me. He was so serious that I had the illusion that he was sent by my mother. The most unlikely person she would have sent was Wanwu. My mother was dead set on me not wanting a child, and all she could do was sneer at those who had had children. He said this and it made my eyes water a little. He is not the villain who raises a shiny knife to people, he is Wanwu, my cousin Wanwu, who grew up with me.
  I remembered our childhood together in the village west of the big pit around. I pretended to be the Monkey King, and he could only be the Piggy Bank, which no one wanted to play, and he was reluctant, but he listened to me, and he was quite like the Piggy Bank. He called me Lang a moment, a moment to call me Monkey. The big pits in the west of the village were vast for us to fly to and fro. The first few years I went back to a trip, the pit has long been razed to the ground, the flat land up a few houses, as if there was never that big pit.
  Wanwu said, Kui’er should get a wife. He was talking about his son, which is his and Huihui’s only child. I asked him how the boy was doing, and how everything was okay. Wan Wu said, he does not like to talk, a person always at home bored, I want to bring him to meet you, he said he was afraid of you, Hui Hui has also said so. Maybe it’s my scruffy look, a beard.
  At this point, Wan Wu suddenly asked me coldly, Lang, do you know where Hui Hui is. He would suddenly turn his face away, he looked at me for a moment, as if he wanted to kill me.
  I said, how can you ask that, where did Hui Hui go, I am the least likely to know.
  Wanwu said, I want to ask her, what happened? The way he gritted his teeth reminded me of Wanwu’s father, my aunt, who lived alone on the embankment and slept next to the Guan Gong Temple. He spent his days wandering on the dike, a forest ranger, living off some hairy aspens. He had a cowlick, and I couldn’t figure out how my aunt had fallen in love with him at that time. I heard my grandmother say that they once fell in love at first sight. Perhaps my grandmother was trying to clear the air, my aunt’s next series of tragedies had nothing to do with her, it was my aunt who was to blame. My aunt believes in God, she can be at peace with all the people in the world, but she can’t stand Wanwu’s father, saying he is the devil. The devil should be treated with teeth for teeth, blood for blood, this is the only place where my aunt can be fierce.
  My phone jumped a little, and when WeChat came, it jumped a little. Very few people look for me anymore, and I don’t look for others, I don’t know who to look for. I envy Wanwu, Wanwu gritted his teeth like he was laughing at me, at least he knew what he was doing and what he wanted to do. I’m nestled in this two-bedroom apartment every day and seem to be waiting, even I’m not sure what I’m waiting for. I was waiting for maybe this weibo, and I was a little impatient to know who was looking for me. I guessed correctly, it was the little quail.
  She said, “What are you doing?
  I said, my cousin is here.
  She quickly said back, then you busy.
  I said, he has killed people, I want to take you to see him. It thrilled me to scare her so much.
  She said, then I want to meet him, I’ve never seen a murderer.
  Two
  Little quail named Wei Fengan, looks a bit like Hui Hui. Only the eyes are more gleaming, like a bird, always rotating the head to stare at you dead. I do not dare to look at her eyes, for fear that she will see through. She is the kind of little girl who looks like a woman, less than twenty but looks like she is thirty, she is old and sophisticated, but gives the impression that she is pretending, as if she is clumsily imitating another life, but she does not know what kind of life it is. She wasn’t striking, but I knew she’d be a hottie if she got naked. Her charm was cunningly avoided. She didn’t want anyone to know, or she didn’t know at all.
  Nothing ever happened to us, but I was obsessed with the idea. Once I dreamed she was naked and swaying over me, her body glistening above me like a layer of glitter, and I didn’t want to wake up, but I wasn’t in a hurry to make my dreams come true. Sometimes I feel like she doesn’t really like me, more like a game of cat and mouse chase. She plays a forty year old man for laughs, just to satisfy her own vanity. More than anything, she wanted me to fall in love with her, in spite of everything, and then pull out and take me for a joke, which made me defensive of her.
  The two of us met because she made a fool of me at a literary lecture. It was my literature lecture, at the city library, about literature and life, and I really didn’t know what I had said. She suddenly stood up and interrupted me, saying that I had taken someone else’s point of view for myself. I had forgotten to attribute a certain point of view when I stated it. Of course, this was intentional, trying to make myself appear more extraordinary. I made a mistake and then had to admit that I had plagiarized someone else’s idea. She was caught off guard by how quickly I admitted my mistake, but she was somewhat impressed. From then on, we didn’t get to know each other. After we got to know each other, she talked about that day when she couldn’t listen to me anymore and said I was always clamoring for attention. She is a graduate student at another university, studying botany, I do not know much about it, she said she does not know much about it either. She likes literature.
  The little quail asked me to go singing and asked if I wanted to bring other students. She was testing me again, and I said whatever. She said to bring a guy then, and I said whatever. She brought a male classmate, the boy was tall and thin, and she stood together, looking a little strange, but it seemed somehow harmonious. I was extraordinarily frustrated that they were a good match. When I thought that she had come to tell me that I was out of luck, that I was out of luck from the start, I suddenly didn’t want to go singing and wanted to turn around and leave.

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