Thursday, December 22, 2016

Brother - ch39

Translator: ayszhang
Editor: Marcia
Chapter 39 of Brother!
Happy Holidays!


The dust receives insult and in return offers her flowers.

–Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds

Nearly none of his colleagues knew Xu Ping’s birthday. The only exception was chief editor, Wang Zedong.
He called Xu Ping to his office and gave him a tie as present.
To Xu Ping’s surprise, it was a red silk tie with a diagonal pattern. The packaging was exquisite, and the label was written in Italian.
Xu Ping knew Wang Zedong hated bright coloured ties, preferring to wear only blue and black ones himself.
“My wife picked it. Hand-crafted in Italy. The name’s long – something ‘la’ – I can’t remember now.” He scratched his sparsely thatched scalp. “I wanted her to buy a blue one, but she said red was better. You know my wife. She’s ruthless when it comes to shopping, so I just went along with whatever she said. You’re young and thin, so maybe this will indeed look good on you.”
Xu Ping knew Wang Zedong had “wife-itis.” He would back down at the slightest sign of discontent of his wife.
With a smile, he brought it up to his torso for show.
“How about we go for dinner tonight?”
Xu Ping shook his head. “You know my brother. I can’t be away at night.”
Wang Zedong nodded, as he hadn’t expected Xu Ping to agree. He had more important matters to address.
“My wife arranged things with Ms. Fang. You’ll meet next Friday. We’ll find the location for you.”
Xu Ping paused. “Who is Ms. Fang?”
Wang Zedong rubbed his palms together. “I told you last time I’d introduce you to the accountant at my wife’s company.”
Xu Ping pulled a wry smile.
Wang Zedong eyed him. “Do you have a good suit? I can find one for you if you don’t.”
“I do.” Xu Ping nodded.
“Then it’s settled. You go clean yourself up. Get a haircut. Polish your leather shoes. Give the lady a good first impression.”
Xu Ping didn’t bother to argue back anymore.
Wang Zedong raised the tie box up to Xu Ping’s torso and said contently, “And just wear this tie. My wife does have a good eye. You have fair skin, and the black suit would look great with this tie.”

Xu Ping was late picking up his brother.
Feng-shifu called Xu Ping before he left work and said he had some urgent matters to deal with and had to leave early. He would leave Xu Zheng with the bicycle shop next door.
Similar things had happened before, so Xu Ping was not too concerned.
He left the publishing house right on time. Most of his colleagues were middle-aged women who chit-chatted about their husbands and children, and Xu Ping didn’t share anything in common with that. Few people ever invited him for any activites after work. Not that Xu Ping minded. His life was very simple. The repetitive nature might seem boring to a lot of people, but Xu Ping found within the monotony a sense of stability, and that stability made him content.
The sky was gloomy when he boarded the bus. The pale grey lead colour pressed downward. Dragonflies scurried close to the ground in chaotic circles. The bus was stuffed with commuters returning home, and the humid air was saturated with sweat and dirt.
The city was becoming bigger and bigger, more and more tightly-packed. The workers abandoned their farmland and surged into the cities looking for a life for themselves. New buildings were underway everywhere; yellow crane signs were around every corner.
Whoosh! The bus stopped at a stop. The person behind Xu Ping stood up from his seat and left the vehicle, and a boy wearing a senior high school uniform tried to squeeze into the empty seat. Xu Ping discreetly blocked his way, and a dried up old man holding a bag took it. The tall boy glared at Xu Ping and cursed under his breath, “Fuck!”
Just then, lightning struck across the sky. Then one or two seconds later, a boom of thunder seemed to resonate through the earth.
Rain started to come down in buckets.
The bus driver stepped on the brakes throwing all the passengers forward.
The driver stuck his head out into the rain.
There seemed to be a huge traffic jam that congested this side of the street. No vehicles could move for some time.
The impatient driver shut off the engine and hopped off to investigate.
Soon, he came back dripping wet. Wiping his face, he announced, “There’s an accident up ahead. A worker was killed by a car. There’s blood everywhere.”
After a moment of silence, the entire bus burst with clamour and discussion. Many passengers stuck their heads out to look.
They couldn’t see anything through the storm and mist.
The sound of an ambulance siren was approaching. A police car and ambulance then drove up on the other side of the road against the natural flow of traffic.
Xu Ping grabbed on tightly the handle above his head. Goose bumps appeared all over his arms.

Holding his briefcase over his head, Xu Ping dashed from the bus stop to the watch repair shop.
It was raining so hard that Xu Ping’s back hurt from the fat droplets hitting him.
The rain gathered in small muddy puddles. His leather shoes sent brown water splashing into the air.
There were few pedestrians, and most of the shops had pulled down their metal shutters. The water dripped down from the roof edge in one continuous column and became streams flowing around the steps towards lower ground. The pagoda trees on either side of the street swayed and swooshed in the storm.
His brother was standing in front of the repair shop holding a small sheet of clear plastic as shelter from the rain. His clothes clung to him, completely soaked.
Briefcase on his head, Xu Ping stopped before him.
“Why are you all alone?”
“Everybody left,” Xu Zheng answered.
The shutter of the bicycle repair shop was drawn down. Even the sign that usually hung outside had been taken down.
Xu Ping looked at his brother holding the piece of plastic up with two hands. The man looked like he had just climbed out of a swimming pool; even his hair was wet.
“No one gave you an umbrella?”
Xu Zheng shook his head.
For a second, Xu Ping felt furious that his brother was abandoned by the door like a stray dog without even a place to hide from the rain! But the anger was soon replaced by sorrow.
He touched his brother’s hands. They were very cold.
“We’re going home right now.” He pulled his brother along.
Xu Zheng moved the plastic sheet over Xu Ping’s head.
Xu Ping turned around. Most of his brother’s body was directly exposed to the elements, and he could barely keep his eyes open in the rain.
Xu Ping looked at his brother, unable to speak a single syllable.
The wind blew a corner of the sheet up, letting in the rain. Xu Zheng hurriedly pressed it back down.
Xu Ping grabbed his hand.
He yanked the plastic out of his brother’s hand throwing it aside. The wind soon took hold of it and whipped it far away.
They now both stood in the rain. Xu Zheng looked back at him dumbly.
He flashed a smile.
A taxi came from the other side of the street. Xu Ping reached out his hand.

Although Xu Ping had planned to celebrate his birthday by dining out with Xu Zheng, it was all ruined by the storm.
They both were completely soaked. The taxi driver had mumbled the whole way, complaining about how they made his car all wet.
Other than the house that Xu Chuan left to his sons, there was less than two hundred thousand yuan in his bank account. He had planned to leave behind a larger estate, but his illness had taken more than half of his savings. Xu Ping’s salary was not very high, and he had to care for his brother, so he was extremely wise with money. He would never take a taxi to go to or from work.
The sun had set when they arrived home, but the rain had not ceased.
He ushered his brother into the bathroom for a hot bath while he changed out of his clothes and made dinner.
Dinner was light – tofu, green vegetables and seaweed eggwhite soup – there wasn’t any meat because Xu Ping didn’t even have time to buy it.
Thunder was still rumbling outside. The television was not turned on.
Xu Ping noticed that his brother was sneaking glances at him, but when he looked up, Xu Zheng would be looking elsewhere.
He placed a piece of tofu in Xu Zheng’s bowl.
Xu Zheng buried his head in his bowl eating.
Xu Ping chuckled. “Do you know what today is?”
Xu Zheng lifted his head up slowly.
“It’s my birthday. I’m thirty five.”
No cake. No candles. Xu Zheng looked down and gave a nod.
Xu Ping got up and cleaned up his bowl and chopsticks. He ate less and more quickly than his brother. He rubbed Xu Zheng’s head when he passed by.

His brother’s mind was wandering off somewhere the whole night. Glancing at the clock on the wall every now and then with an excited yet anxious look, Xu Zheng seemed like a middle school boy about to go on his first date.
Xu Ping saw it all but didn’t point it out.
It wasn’t even ten o’clock yet when Xu Ping started yawning.
His brother was still watching television.
He stood up and made to say good night, but Xu Zheng grabbed him.
“Aren’t you tired?” Xu Ping bent down and asked softly. “I want to go to bed.”
Xu Zheng held on to his brother’s wrist somewhat tightly. “Watch TV with me, Gege.”
Xu Ping looked at his face for a while before finally sitting down.
The local channel would always play foreign artistic movies at ten o’clock on Friday nights. Whether it was Italy or France, or an ancient town with blooming flowers, they were all places many never even dreamt of visiting. The sorrow and joy, the love and hate, the long, panning shots, the slow music, the mysterious and elegant tongue, all of this was like a lullaby to Xu Ping.
Xu Zheng laid his brother’s head onto his lap.
For a split second, Xu Ping’s eyes fluttered open. He caught that familiar scent and the warm hand stroking his neck, the coarse fingers scraping softly along his skin. He felt calm and at peace and fell into a deep slumber.

Xu Ping was woken up by his brother ten minutes before midnight.
Xu Ping rubbed his eyes. “Is the movie over?”
Xu Zheng shook his head.
“I have a present for Gege.”
Xu Ping smiled, not surprised at all.
“Close your eyes.”
Xu Ping used his tie as a blindfold and let his brother lead the way. He felt the large knuckles on his brother’s hands wrapped tightly around his fingers, swerving around the table and chairs. He smiled.
His brother led him into his bedroom and untied the blindfold.
Xu Ping opened his eyes.
On his brother’s desk was an oak-coloured clock carved in the shape of a house. In the centre was the round clock face and around it were trees and flowers. To the left of the face was a blue bus, and in the background were tall buildings. To the right of the face were two people hand in hand.
Surprised, Xu Ping turned to his brother.
Right then, the window above the face opened, and a white dove flew out and chirped twelve times before music started playing. The wheels on the bus started turning, the sun rose above the buildings and the two people walked from the right to the left and boarded the bus. Then, as quickly as it began, it all returned to the original position.
“You made this?” Xu Ping asked.
Xu Zheng nodded.
He pointed at the two figurines. “Gege. Me.”
So this was his brother’s little secret.
He touched the clock face and slid across to the two tiny people on the side. The faces were hard to make out, and there were still some wood shavings stuck to it. The shorter one had on black suit pants and a white short sleeve shirt. The taller one was wearing a blue tee shirt and jeans.
Xu Ping laughed out loud. He did not tell his brother that it was very inauspicious to give someone a clock as a birthday gift, but he didn’t care. Honestly, this was the best birthday gift he had ever received.
“Thank you. I really like it,” Xu Ping said with a smile.
Xu Zheng solemnly placed the clock in his brother’s arms.
“I have another present,” he whispered.
Now Xu Ping was caught off guard.
His brother appeared nervous.
“Close your eyes.”
Xu Ping did so but didn’t hear a sound for a long time.
He took a curious peek.
“You lied, Gege!” Xu Zheng yelped.
Xu Ping giggled. “Fine, fine, fine. I’m sorry. I’ll close my eyes now.”
But his brother didn’t trust him and blindfolded him again with the tie from before.
Xu Ping stood waiting in the darkness. The clock was not light by any means, and his arms soon grew sore from holding the weighty gift.
The darkness gave him strange illusions. He felt as though he was standing naked in a field of snow, and a shapeless person was caressing him lovingly.
It was then that he felt his brother’s palm on his face. He could smell his brother. It was a scent that he would not mistake out of a hundred thousand.
He felt his brother caressing the eyes beneath the tie, touching his nose, his cheeks, his ears.
The warmth from his brother seeped through the air to him.
Xu Ping panted shallow breaths.
He tilted his head slightly to the right, unsure if he was trying to avoid or approach.
His pale neck was clean and slender, and the tilt only added a hint of mysterious grace.
Xiao-Zheng,” he called quietly.
His brother kissed him.
And time seemed to stop.
In the dark, his senses heightened. The pressure of his brother’s lips on his lips. The warm, wet breath. The caresses that seemed to be filled with tenderness. But the temporary joy in the dark seemed all the more transient. Xu Ping thought he might have fallen into some nameless dream as he had on many nights, desiring something he could never obtain.
He lost track of how long his brother had been kissing him. It seemed long and gentle, but it also felt like a string of short, sweet pecks. He succumbed to the sensations and fell into the fantasy, the gap between real and counterfeit.
Only after his brother slowly undid his blindfold did the world return to her original self under the light. The various clocks and watches tick-tocked away steadily. The movie score was playing from the television in the living room.
Xu Ping was still Xu Ping. Xu Zheng was still Xu Zheng.
His brother held his face wanting to kiss him again, but Xu Ping stepped back.
He stayed silent with the weighty clock in hand.
“Thank you for the birthday present.” He stared at a spot on the wall. “Good night.”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ayszhang: The first of the holiday releases! >u<


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

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