Friday, February 19, 2016

Brother - ch10

Translator: ayszhang
Proofreader: happyBuddha
Chapter 10 of Brother!


You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

–Matthew 5:13-15

The cranky, bald math teacher, Mr. Ma, was still screaming from his spot behind the podium when the bell rang.
“I only made the test harder by a tiny, weeny bit, and everyone fails! The lowest mark was nine! NINE! Is this even possible for a student your level?! Huh?! Even a blindfolded pig would score higher than this! You think you’re still in kindergarten? You’ll be taking the junior high entrance exam this year! You won’t get into a good senior high if you don’t get into a good junior high, and if you don’t get into a good senior high, you won’t get into a good university! And if you don’t get into a good university? Hah! I’ll be frank with you, your life will be O-V-E-R, over!”
Xu Ping raised his right hand.
“WHAT?!” Mr. Ma yelled.
“The bell rang, Mr. Ma,” Xu Ping stood up and said.
The classroom went silent and the entire class turned their eyes to the boy.
Ma Guozhong slapped the podium. “Are you implying I’m deaf?! So what if the bell rang? You all have to sit there in your seats until I dismiss you!”
Xu Ping replied very calmly, “But, sir, I can’t sit down, my butt hurts. I have to go home and take a shit.”
The class burst out in laughter.
Ma Guozhong was so angry his lips were shivering. He flipped through the papers on the desk, planning to pick on Xu Ping next. But, when he found the boy’s examination, he saw that Xu Ping had scored seventy-six, a high score in the class. There were only maybe four or five kids who had higher scores than he did. Unable to express his rage, he became even more furious.
Then, someone sneered. “Take a shit? You mean go looking for that retard in the outhouse?”
The laughter soon died down as everyone sneaked nervous glances towards Xu Ping.
It was then that Ma Guozhong recalled this class’s homeroom teacher telling him about a student whose brother had gone missing. The family was going through a tough time and she had asked him to look out for the student.
Xu Ping turned around and answered indifferently, “That’s right, everybody knows! My brother’s a retard who was kicked out of school. He can barely remember the way home. My mom died and my dad has a tough job, so I have to go looking for my brother as soon as school ends. We don’t have any other family. He might be a retard but I can’t just leave him, can I?”
The classroom fell silent. Every student’s face burned with a strange sense of shame that made them uncomfortable in their own seats.
Even Mr. Ma started to feel bad. He tidied the papers and his books while spitting, “Just you wait till tomorrow.” Then, he left out the door.
After Xu Ping packed his own bag, he looked up to find quite a few eyes on him. He cracked a smile at them and they all whipped their faces around as though burned by his gaze. No one dared look him straight in the eyes.
Almost every single student in this class had badmouthed Xu Ping’s retard brother. Now that his brother was missing, the gossip became evil curses and Xu Ping’s smile became spiked with judgement.
As he was leaving, Lu Jia was coming back in from the bathroom with a bucket of water since he was on cleaning duty. The two met in a standoff at the stairwell.
Xu Ping stuck his right hand into his pant pocket where he had the folding knife that he used to sharpen his pencils.
He looked at Lu Jia from the corner of his eye with an indifferent expression as though waiting for the other boy to react first.
Lu Jia wanted to snort and call him a piece of shit like he had done before, but for some reason, his hairs stood on end. There was something different about the skinny boy, but Lu Jia couldn’t put his finger on it.
A leg stuck out from nowhere and the bucket tumbled down the stairs, splashing water everywhere.
Lu Jia turned and screamed, “Who the fuck was that?!”
Beside Xu Ping was a tan, burly boy with a buzz cut who looked at him with a nasty sneer, “Me. Got a problem with that?!”
Lu Jia’s gaze bounced between He Zhi and Xu Ping before finally nodding. “I see how it is. Just you wait.” Then, he went downstairs to get his bucket.
He Zhi gave a scoff and wanted to give chase, but Xu Ping stopped him.
He Zhi spat on the ground in disgust. “Asshole.”
Xu Ping nudged him before heading downstairs himself. “Relax. I don’t need you to stick up for me, okay?”
He Zhi rushed after him. “I don’t know what I saw in that guy. I’d thought he was a good friend.”
Xu Ping didn’t respond.
Then, He Zhi kept babbling to Xu Ping all the way until the school entrance. Xu Ping asked, “What can I do for you, Da-Zhi?”
He Zhi scratched his head. “I thought I’d go looking for your brother with you.”
Xu Ping was touched, but he still refused. “You know what my brother looks like? Alright, just drop it. The police are on it, anyway.”
He Zhi looked at the other boy like he had something else to say, but Xu Ping interrupted him impatiently. “I’ll see you later then.”
All He Zhi could get out of his mouth in the end was “okay.”
His friend seemed to have changed into a different person in the past few weeks. Like a water bottle refilled with erguotou, it appeared transparent like the water that was previously present but it was bound to explode sooner or later.
As he watched the other boy shrinking into the distance, he suddenly shouted, “Ping-zi!”
Xu Ping didn’t look back and only waved his hand half-heartedly.

Xu Ping paid five cents for a local newspaper from a street vendor.
He shook out the pages as he stood on the street. He skipped over the headlines, the international events on page two and the economy section on page three to the local news.
“House caught fire this morning. One dead, three wounded.”
“Regular bus pickpocket arrested by undercover officer while passengers cheered.”
“Free admissions at Beijiao Zoo in accordance with October 4th International Animal Day attracted numerous visitors.”
After skimming everything, he found nothing on missing children or child trafficking. Xu Ping went through the ad section slipped in between the other sections and found the “Missing Person” ad that his dad had been posting for the last three weeks.
“Xu Zheng. M. 8yo. Last seen Tieshan Dist., City of X, Sept 8th 1983, wearing red tank top, blue shorts. Reward for persons with info. Pls contact Xu Chuan.”
Below it was a black and white photo of Xu Zheng and the address and phone number of his dad’s workplace.
The newspaper flapped loudly in the cool autumn breeze. Xu Ping folded the newspaper back neatly and put it in his bag.
Autumn was right around the corner.
The poplar leaves had turned gold and gently floated down to the ground along with the refreshing west wind. The apparel on the streets was no longer white tank tops but blue Mao suits that had four square pockets on the front. There was the occasional soldier wearing green army attire, too. Street vendors began to sell baked sweet potatoes and fried chestnuts, the rich, sweet scent of which could be smelled from a ways off.
Xu Ping stood on the street watching the people walking to and fro.
Reporting to the police, posting ads, putting up flyers on power poles….
They had done all that could be done, yet Xu Zheng still had not returned.
Dad asked for a month-long break and went out searching every day. Xu Ping did not want to go to school either, but he got scolded by his dad when he brought it up.
Suddenly, Xu Ping’s hand darted out for a kid who walked past him. The kid jumped in fright and turned around with a startled expression, but the small eyes and thin brows were as different from Xu Zheng as could be.
Xu Ping let go of the poor child. “Sorry, wrong person.”
The kid’s friends pushed him along their way while grumbling under their breaths.
The old man selling newspapers asked, “Looking for someone?”
“Yes,” Xu Ping replied, “I’m looking for my brother. He’s missing.” Meanwhile, he took out the newspaper he had just put away and pointed at Xu Zheng’s photo. “Have you seen him, sir?”
The man put on his glasses and squinted before shaking his head. “No, ‘fraid not.”
Xu Ping thought he would be disappointed, but perhaps the disappointment so far had been too much. He just nodded as though he had expected the answer. “Thank you.”
The old man pitied him. “Ya called the police yet? Times are a-changin’, I tell ya. My boy was sixteen when he joined the Great Linkup and went all the way to Guangzhou, and he came back safe and sound. A lotta traffickers nowadays, y’know, and when they see a nice lookin’ kid they grab ‘em and sell ‘em out in the boondocks. They don’t care if the family’s sad or not.”
Xu Ping wanted to say something back but he couldn’t find his voice.
He remembered that the police came knocking one night saying that they had fished the corpse of a child from the river and they wanted Xu Chuan to go into the station to check. Xu Chuan rushed off and didn’t come back until late in the night. When he did, he collapsed on the weave chair and stayed there for a long time. Xu Ping clung to the door frame and his legs were weak and trembling by the time Xu Chuan spoke with a sigh.
“It wasn’t your brother.”
Xu Ping said goodbye to the old man and wandered around, grabbing anyone who looked like Xu Zheng from behind. Several times he saw the parents holding hands with the child, but he still rushed forward with a tiny spark of hope.
He had always hoped that he didn’t have to go home after school and accompany Xu Zheng to the sandbox, but now he had lost the reason to go home. He was too scared to even look under the table whenever he walked by the living room – his brother’s red bucket was under it. Seeing it made him think of Xu Zheng waiting for him every day with his legs tucked in on the chair, and this tortured Xu Ping so much he was racked with pain.
The sun was setting when he finally headed home.
It was the same Xinmin Road, the same comic book stand. Xu Ping walked past it indifferently; he did not want to read that stuff anymore.
A thousand heroes could not compare to that stupid brother of his.
He paced into the courtyard of the Cultural Troupe’s complex with his head down only to bump into a familiar someone wearing black square-framed glasses and a grey jacket.
It was Zhang Jinmin running in such a rush that his glasses were slipping off his ears. He rejoiced when he saw Xu Ping.
“Where have you been?! I’ve been looking for you for ages! Hurry! Come home with me now! The police found your brother!”

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For more information:
The Great Linkup (page 41)
More on Mao pop culture
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ayszhang: Xu Zheng's back!!!....or is he?!

WE NEED PROOFREADERS!!! If you have received formal education in English (the more the better!) or are adept at prescriptive grammar, please email Dairytea at chinesebl(at) It takes me a lot of time to read over my own translations multiple times to find mistakes, so please pitch in if you can! <3 Thank you!


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Brother - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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