Proofreaders: happyBuddha, JS, Kai, Lee, m@o, Marcia
Chapter 23 of Brother!
a bit of nsfw
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Xu Ping had very nice writing style and even won first place in a pen calligraphy competition in junior high. The prize was a notepad, the inside cover of which bore a huge “PRIZE” stamp and a note from the head counsellor: Congratulations Xu Ping! May you continue to achieve greater heights!
Xu Ping later on ripped out every page of that notepad to teach Xu Zheng paper folding.
Xu Zheng was not slow at learning things that didn’t require abstract thinking. Folding, pulling open, pressing flat, flipping over – the two brothers carried the armful of paper airplanes to the balcony and sent them out into the warm, gentle afternoon breeze, watching them glide and swirl like dandelion fluff. Only the very first unsuccessful airplane was kept. Xu Ping wrote on its wing, “Xu Zheng, July 1985,” and safe kept it in a box.
There were many more memorabilia inside that box.
It was a blue pastry box made of some kind of metal, a gift from a fan of their dad’s. The precious imported item was covered in a flowery script of a foreign language. Each treat inside was wrapped in lily-white macramé lace. His dad had given it to his six-year-old brother without taking a single bite, but his brother in turn offered everything to him.
Xu Ping shut the lid tight and stuck the box into the cupboard.
The light was off in the room he shared with his brother. Xu Zheng was probably asleep.
He grabbed the doorknob, but after a moment of thought, he retracted his hand.
Xu Zheng was silent the entire way home. Xu Ping tried to talk many times, but it was as though his brother did not hear a word.
Normally, he would do homework at the table outside while his brother played with the radio in the bedroom. That night, Xu Zheng sat on the couch with the radio refusing to leave. At first, it was the inconsistent sound of the radio switching frequencies. Then it was the low voice of a male newscaster reporting the news before quickly seguing into a female opera singer’s shrill voice singing “My Motherland.” Caught off guard, Xu Ping stabbed a hole in the paper with the tip of the pen. The ink blot was so big he could not wipe it clean.
“Xiao-Zheng, go play inside. I’ve got work.”
Xu Zheng’s head bobbed up once, but no response came.
The radio went silent. Xu Ping dug into his mock exam, ignoring the minor fit his brother was throwing.
The final question on the exam was a very complex algebraic proof. Xu Ping had had no luck going at it from several directions, and after filling three pages with brainstorming, he still had no idea. He was so frustrated he tore a few hairs from his head. He glanced at his watch to find it rather late, and he had not completed even a half of what he had planned to do. The frustration bugged him to no end, like caterpillars crawling all over.
He turned to his brother.
Radio parts were lying all over the coffee table and the couch. Screwdrivers, pliers, and red and yellow wires attached to the battery and circuit board. The speakers had been taken apart from the radio set. Xu Zheng paid no attention to the mess and was walking in circles around the couch.
“What’s wrong?” Xu Ping frowned.
Xu Zheng kept his head down without answering.
Although his rational mind told him to ignore his brother and hurry with the mock exam, Xu Ping still stood up as though he suddenly developed OCD.
“What are you looking for? I’ll help you.”
One of the four screws securing the circuit board had fallen. Smaller than a pea and coated with black paint, it was nearly invisible against the cement floor. Lying on his stomach with his arm stretched underneath the couch, Xu Ping had to search inch by inch until he found it. He was covered in dust, and his knees were sore, but when he gave the nail to his brother he didn’t receive a thank-you or a smile.
Taking the screw from Xu Ping’s palm, an unhappy Xu Zheng sat back on the couch and continued his project with the radio.
Xu Ping paused with his brows furrowed wanting to say something, but in the end, he stopped himself.
Forty wasted minutes later, he still could not find the solution to the final question on the exam. He glanced at his watch. It was his brother’s bedtime. The unproductive night left Xu Ping feeling rather defeated.
He threw the pen down and said in an exhausted tone to Xu Zheng, “Time to wash and get ready for bed.”
If Xu Ping could say that his brother ignoring him earlier was his imagination, then now he could say for certain that Xu Zheng was working against him on purpose.
When undressing to take a shower, two buttons popped off because the younger boy was too rough with the shirt. Xu Ping saw and tried to help but was hit in the eye by the sudden lift of an elbow. More than once the boy had been told not to touch the hot water, but once Xu Ping looked away, he twisted the tap. The boy was fine, but Xu Ping got his arm burned from protecting his brother. Xu Ping bore the pain and washed his brother, but Xu Zheng kept knocking over the shampoo and soap as if he had hyperkinetic disorder.
By the third time he had to pick up the soap, Xu Ping was angry. “What the hell is it with you?!”
Xu Zheng looked down and did not speak. His damp hair clung to his head. His body might have become strong like a man’s, but his face still carried child-like innocence.
Doing his best, Xu Ping managed to push his fury down.
He hurriedly clawed his brother’s scalp knowing it would irritate his brother, but he only hoped to clean the boy and send him off to bed sooner.
A lot happened today. Intensive periods of writing mock exams, then reviewing them, then writing more exams. The talk with his homeroom teacher. Picking up his brother, and the talk with his brother’s teacher. Running into Huang Fan who was head of the student movement. His brother getting jealous. The bicycle breaking. Breaking the news about university to his brother, and his brother’s difficulty accepting that fact. His brother throwing a fit…
By then, Xu Ping’s physical stamina and mental patience were nearing depletion. What he wanted more than anything was to jump under the blankets and sleep like there was no tomorrow.
But clearly Xu Zheng did not plan to cooperate.
After the forceful shower, Xu Zheng’s expression only became worse. Shutting the water, Xu Ping asked his brother to step out and dry off. Xu Zheng stayed in the tub, dripping wet. He pulled on his brother’s shirt sleeve but looked in another direction. “Sleep with me, Gege.”
Xu Ping faltered for a moment before casting his eyes down. “No.”
“But you always did before.”
Xu Ping replied coldly as he took the bath towel from the shelf and shook it out, “I won’t anymore. You have to learn to sleep alone, and you have to learn to take your own showers. I won’t always be with you, so you have to learn to take care of yourself.”
Xu Zheng stayed silent with his head down, but the next moment, he shoved Xu Ping and ran out, still dripping wet.
Xu Ping fell back on his butt and only saw the watery footprints on the ground when he recovered.
When he chased after the boy with the towel and a change of clothes, he found his brother sitting with his legs splayed wide open on the couch, showing off his dick.
Xu Ping felt something snap.
“Close your legs! What do you think you’re doing?!” Xu Ping barked at his brother.
Xu Zheng glared back.
Xu Ping did not back down. “What’re you looking at? You think you’re in the right?”
Xu Zheng whipped his head around so as to not see his brother.
Xu Ping tossed a pair of underwear to Xu Zheng. “What’re you doing naked? Put some pants on!”
Xu Zheng held the garment for a moment and then threw it on the ground.
Xu Ping froze as the fury boiled inside him.
“Pick it up.”
Xu Zheng tilted his head while looking at him. Xu Ping discovered for the first time that his mentally challenged brother could show such a defiant expression.
“Are you going to pick it up or not?”
Xu Zheng turned his head back around without a care.
Xu Ping scoffed out of anger.
“Xu Zheng, if you pick up the underwear and put it on now, I can pretend like nothing happened tonight. But if you don’t…”
Xu Ping trailed off.
Xu Zheng considered with his head to the side and then stood from the couch. Xu Ping thought the boy was going to grab the underwear and was about to breathe a sigh of relief when his brother put one foot on it. The boy flashed a challenging glare before jumping on it repeatedly.
“Gege is liar! Liar!”
“What did you say?!” Xu Ping was infuriated. “Say that again!”
Paying no heed, Xu Zheng kept shouting. “I don’t wear pants! You don’t like me wearing pants! You like my weenie! You touch it at night while I sleep! I know!”
As though struck by lightning, Xu Ping stood there, gaping.
Ever since he had the unspeakable dream, Xu Ping had moved out of their bedroom. But even so, he would still wake up with a fright in the middle of the night having dreamt a similar dream. Sharing a loving kiss with his brother, stripping each other naked and caressing each other’s bare skin – just that was sufficient to make him tremble with so much excitement in the dream that he could shed tears of joy. He clearly understood that it was wrong and kept it at bay during the day, but at night it all spilled out. He would masturbate furiously while calling out his brother’s name while the boy was asleep in the room. As long as he imagined that the hand around his penis belonged to his brother, he was able to achieve orgasm very quickly. During the day, he had to play the good brother who took care of his younger brother, but at night he lusted after his brother’s body. Many times he made up his mind to stop this shameful behaviour, but time and time again he failed to do so.
“I let Gege touch my weenie. Gege sleep with me!” The boy who understood nothing of this world kept shouting.
Xu Ping was shaking all over while he cradled his head.
“I like when Gege touch me.”
“Sneaky Gege kissed me, too.”
“Shut up! Shut up! I told you to shut up!”
He leapt over the couch to beat the boy, but his brother dodged it nimbly. When he lunged forward, the boy would back away. Every time he thought he had cornered Xu Zheng, the boy would always find a way to deftly slip out of his grasp.
Seething with anger, Xu Ping grabbed the glass ashtray from the television shelf and hurled it. Xu Zheng ducked, and the ashtray smashed into the wall. A fragment flew over his shoulder, leaving a long gash along his neck. His hand flew to the wound to find it wet with blood. He froze with shock.
Taking this opportunity, Xu Ping jumped on his brother, both of them falling to the ground, and planted a heavy punch while holding down his shoulder.
Xu Zheng’s head flew to the side.
Xu Ping struck again.
“What do you know?! Nothing! You idiot! Idiot!”
Holding his own face, Xu Zheng turned his head around, his eyes full of hurt, fury and disbelief.
“You are! I hate you! I hate you as a brother!”
Xu Zheng stared at his brother for a silent second and then, letting out a roar, he kicked Xu Ping over. The naked boy straddled his brother and began pounding his face. Xu Ping raised his arms in defence but had his arms pushed aside. The younger boy was extremely strong. He restrained Xu Ping’s wrists with one hand, and Xu Ping could not break free. A fist repeatedly smashed into Xu Ping’s face, and his teeth seemed to come loose.
The crazed boy only was bent on venting his fury and hurt and kept throwing punches with all his strength. It was all a big lie – Gege whom he relied on and adored, Gege who promised he would always be with him, the only existence in his life, the most precious light in his world. He might not have known what the “university” that his brother spoke of was, but he knew his brother was going to abandon him for it. Xu Zheng felt a pain in his chest that he could not bear. He wanted to scream, but he couldn’t. It felt like a part of him had been carved out, but when he checked everything was still in place.
His hands, his legs, none of them were his anymore. He beat the boy underneath him as though he were possessed. Only when blood came spewing out of Xu Ping’s mouth did he come to a halt, his illusion dissipating.
The glass lens on Xu Ping’s eyeglasses was cracked, and his eyes were swollen. He lay there for some time before weakly reaching a finger into his mouth, checking each of his molars.
Wiping away the blood around his mouth, he spoke quietly with a lisp. “Thankfully the teeth are intact. I just bit my tongue.”
He panted for a while longer before lightly nudging his brother who was still sitting on him. “Get off.”
Dumbly, Xu Zheng stood up.
“Put on your clothes.”
Xu Zheng picked up the underwear and clumsily pulled it up his legs.
When he returned, Xu Ping was attempting to stand.
Xu Ping felt a whirling sensation.
It’d better not be a concussion, he prayed.
He evaded the hand stuck out to help him. He grabbed on to the table leg and stood up, took two steps and felt sick to his stomach.
Standing helplessly to the side, Xu Zheng appeared surprised, pained and afraid.
Xu Ping did not respond.
Xu Ping sat resting in a chair for some time. Then he suddenly started laughing towards the ceiling. The action pulled at the injury in his mouth turning the laugh into pained hisses as he inhaled.
Xu Zheng might have been the most stupid person in the world, but even he knew he did something terrible.
Xu Ping scoffed, “You should be happy that you won a fight. Why the puckered face?”
He flipped over a glass on the table and poured himself some water to wash away the rusty iron taste.
Xu Ping wanted to stand up, but his legs were soft like noodles.
The wall clock rang twelve times. Xu Ping realized that the day in fact had only just ended.
“Shut the hell up!” Xu Ping snapped as he slapped the table.
Xu Zheng hung his head low and dared not make another sound.
Xu Ping said to himself.
Don’t be like this. He’s just a dummy. No need to get angry with him! You should be happy! Look how well you’ve taught him! All these years, all the efforts you spent on him, telling him not to take a beating, wasn’t it all for this? He’s grown up now, and he can protect himself without you beside him.
He sprawled onto the table with his face in his arms.
I’m not sad. He thought. I’m just tired. So tired. It’s been too long of a day today. I think I need a rest.
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My Motherland (youtube and wiki)
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ayszhang: Ugh, listening to that song brings back so many memories...and not necessarily good ones lol. Can you imagine, they still perform this at the year-end concerts for Chinese New Years =.=
Brother - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.