Happy Heroes 13 Print
Friday, 11 July 2008 11:17

Chapter 12 – Men and Cats

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In the rear courtyard, there was a firewood shed.

It seemed that firewood sheds were not used to store firewood but rather, to hold prisoners. Every household that captured a thief seemed to wind up locking him in the firewood shed. This firewood shed had spiders, mice, dog feces, cat urine, broken pots and bowls, leftover cinders… It had nearly everything you could think of, everything except for firewood. There was not a single log inside.

Nor was there a single person.

NanGong Chou, who had been bound up like a zongzi, was gone. All that remained was a pile of rope on the ground.


Guo DaLu stared at the scene in surprise for a long while. He picked up a piece of the severed rope and looked it over. “It was sliced through with a knife.”

Yan Qi: “And it was a fast blade.” Only a fast blade could slice through rope and leave such a straight and smooth cut.

Lin TaiPing’s brow creased as he thought out loud, “If that is the case, then that means he did not break out by himself. Somebody must have come to rescue him.”

Guo DaLu snorted, “I cannot believe that someone like him would have friends.”

Yan Qi: “Do you think it could have been those two little rascals?”

Guo DaLu: “Couldn’t have been. They neither have the ability or the courage. And…” he suddenly snickered, “kids have something in common with women.”

Yan Qi: “What is that?”

Guo DaLu: “Kids do not talk loyalty… they don’t understand what it is.”

Yan Qi eyes glared daggers at him, but Lin TaiPing had already interrupted, “Could it have been Golden-Coat Pekingese?”

Guo DaLu: “Why would you suddenly think of him?”

Lin TaiPing answered, “That day, I never did see Golden-Coat Pekingese. Maybe NanGong Chou had already set them free, or maybe they were in cahoots the whole time.”

Guo DaLu shook his head in disagreement. “Given the type of person that NanGong Chou is, he may have the gall to do anything, but there is one thing that he will never do.”

Lin TaiPing: “What would that be?”

Guo DaLu: “He would never leave someone around to share the loot with him.” He let out a laugh before explaining further, “If there were three bowls of rice on the table, even if he was full and could not eat any more, he still would not leave a single bowl for anyone else. He would rather explode and eat every last bit himself.”

Lin TaiPing queried, “You suspect that he has already murdered JiaGun and Golden-Coat Pekingese?

Guo DaLu nodded a quick response. “I’m hungry.” This statement was completely unrelated to anything they had just been talking about. You would never have thought that, in such a situation, anyone would say something like that.

Lin TaiPing gawked at him with wide eyes. Wang Dong and Yan Qi’s had fixed their gaze intently on him also, as if they wanted to analyze him to see if this person was made-up of something different from other people.

Guo DaLu gave a little chuckle. “I realized I was hungry when I was talking about those three bowls of rice. Then, when I actually started talking about eating the rice, I remembered that none of you had eaten for at least most of the day.”

Wang Dong: “Your mind wanders to whatever you are talking about, doesn’t it?”

Guo DaLu: “It seems like it.”

Wang Dong: “So when you start talking about dog feces, will you need to go…” Guo DaLu sprinted outside before the sentence was even finished – towards the toilet.

Wang Dong stared after him, his eyes bulging in astonishment. Yan Qi heaved a lengthy sigh but could not help giggling, “That guy is a real prodigy.”

Lin TaiPing chortled, “A prodigy such as this one, there are not many in the world.”

Yan Qi: “Not only are there not many, I suspect that there is only one.”

Wang Dong finally recovered from his shock. He sighed, “Thank goodness there is only one.”

This was also a conclusion.

If there were more people like Guo DaLu out there, the world would very likely be a happier place.

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Among all animals, the one most intimate with humans would likely be the dog or the cat. Some people would rather raise a dog, others think that there is no difference between having a dog or a cat.

In reality, there is a significant distinction between the two. Cats are different from dogs: they do not take pleasure in running around outside. Cats enjoy lazing around the house and especially lounging by the fire. They love eating fish, particularly the fish’s head. They also like lying in your arms as you gently stroke their neck and ears. If, everyday, you feed a cat on a regular schedule and gently rub it, it will grow to be extremely fond of you and will become your friend.

But do not think that it just loves you, that it belongs only to you. Cats are not faithful as dogs are. The instant there is no fish left in your dish, it will sneak off to another person’s house and furthermore, will become that person’s friend. The next time you see your cat, it may not recognize you and in fact, may have already forgotten who you are.

Cats, of course, do not look as vicious as dogs, but they are much crueler. When a cat catches a mouse, even if it is starving, it will not eat the mouse in one gulp. It will first toy with the mouse until the creature is dizzy and shaky before slowly savoring it.

The “hands and feet” of a cat are soft and supple. Not a sound is heard when it walks. But should you provoke it, those soft “hands” will suddenly bare a set of sharp claws that will scratch you until your face is bleeding.

If cats are not like dogs, then what are they like?

Have you ever seen a woman? Have you watched how a woman eats fish? Observed her when she lies in her husband or lover’s arms?

Do you know why many men’s faces have scratches on them? Do you know why some men commit suicide? Or go insane?

If you say a cat is like a woman, then you are wrong. In actual fact, cats are not like women, but rather, many women are similar to cats.

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This cat was black. Its coat was shiny and smooth, so that the black color glistened. Guo DaLu was scrutinizing the cat carefully.

A person who is lightheaded from hunger is not in the mood for studying cats. A starving person is not in the mood for studying anything. Obviously Guo DaLu had already eaten his fill. As with the previous day, food had been laden on the table and they heard the cat ringing the bell.

Guo DaLu suddenly observed, “This cat looks well fed, and moreover, has always been well fed. A cat that has constantly suffered from hunger would not look like this one.”

Yan Qi chuckled as he an asked, “You have been analyzing it for the large part of a day and that was what you were studying?”

Ignoring him, Guo DaLu carried on, “Supposing that all these household items, this food, and the coffin were all sent by this person, whom we will call Mr. Nice, then this cat must be his as well. So…”

Yan Qi: “So what?”

Guo DaLu: “So this Mr. Nice’s house must be very well-off and lavish, otherwise the cat would not be so well fed and healthy.”

Yan Qi blinked in confusion. “So what does that have to do with anything?”

Guo DaLu: “If I was a cat and I had such a rich owner, I would not want to go with anyone else.”

Yan Qi: “Therefore…”

Guo DaLu: “Therefore, if we let the cat loose, it should run back to where its owner is.”

Yan Qi’s eyes lit up with excitement as he asked, “So why are you still holding onto it?”

Petting the cat lightly on its neck, Guo DaLu murmured, “Brother Cat, oh Brother Cat. If you lead us to your owner, I will promise I will feed you fish heads every day.” He set the cat down outside of the door.

But to their surprise, the cat gave a “meow,” jumped back into his arms, and began licking him lightly on the hand.

Yan Qi: “I think that this cat must be a female, and it looks like she fancies you.”

Guo DaLu picked the cat up by the back of its neck and set it back down on the ground. The cat still stayed next to him. Guo DaLu frowned. “Why will you not leave? Don’t you miss your owner? He has always treated you well.”

Wang Dong let out an unexpected laugh as he stated, “A cat’s memory may not be very good but its mind is clear.”

Perplexed, Guo DaLu echoed, “Mind is clear?”

Wang Dong clarified for them, “Since it knows that there is good fish to eat here, why would it run off to anywhere else?”

Guo DaLu: “But I’m not its owner. Why is it following me?”

Wang Dong: “You fed it some fish just now, didn’t you?”

Guo DaLu nodded.

Wang Dong: “Whoever feeds it fish, whoever is its owner.”

Lin TaiPing all of a sudden spoke up, “What if there is no fish here to eat?”

Wang Dong: “Then he might go home.”

Lin TaiPing chuckled, “I just hope this cat recognizes the way home.”

 

The cat did know how to go home. No matter where it was, if it did not have anything eat, it would very quickly be able to find the route back.

Afternoon.

From the morning to the afternoon, there had been nothing to eat. Regardless of cat or human, no one would be able to withstand the hunger. By now, even if Guo DaLu wanted to cuddle the cat in his arms, the cat would not allow it. Like a wisp of smoke, it scampered away.

Guo DaLu chased after it. Yan Qi followed Guo DaLu, while Lin TaiPing trailed behind Yan Qi.

Wang Dong: “It would be best if you didn’t follow too closely.”

Lin TaiPing: “What about you?”

Wang Dong did not respond but instead, gave a sigh, as if Lin TaiPing’s question was terribly stupid. He lay down.



On the left of the mountainside was a lonely graveyard. Even during Qing Ming Jie[9] , very few people came to sweep the tombs here. Those buried here were people who, when they were alive, had not been noticed and when they died, were quickly forgotten. The poor usually do not have many friends or relatives to begin with, let alone the deceased poor. Guo DaLu would often feel emotional and sorrowful when he came here. But today, he did not have time for sorrow.

The cat was running away quickly. It scurried speedily into the graveyard, then darted out again. From far away, it looked like a trail of black smoke.

Anyone who is chasing a cat will realize that it is not an easy thing to do. Your attention is only focused on the pursuit so that you cannot afford the time to think about other matters.

The same goes for pursuing girls. Or perhaps the reason why anyone would chase them is because no time was afforded to think. If they actually took the time to think through it carefully, they would turn around and abandon the chase.

Next to the graveyard was a grove of trees. Within the grove was a quaint wooden house. It was a grove of date trees. The house was constructed of wood from these trees. Guo DaLu had roamed through the grove before, but he had never seen this little house. It seemed that it had only been built within the last couple of days.

The cat darted through the trees and suddenly disappeared. Waves of delicious aromas drifted out to them from within the house. It was the smell of simmering pork.

Guo DaLu wiggled his nose, a smile appearing on his face.

A fire burned inside the house. Meat was stewing over the fire. An old man squatted next to it, fanning the flames while an elderly lady poured a thick sauce into the pot. Crouching off to the side was a long-haired girl who kept hurrying the two of them.

The cat dashed into the house, straight into the girl’s arms. She was obviously this cat’s owner. Guo DaLu had finally found the person he had been searching for.

His chase had just taken him to the door of the house when she turned her head around. Their eyes met. Both were startled with whom they saw.

Then Guo DaLu cried out, “Sour Plum Soup, it is you?”

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[9] Qing Ming Jie is a major Chinese festival in early spring where people pay their respect to their ancestors and sweep the graves of family members who have passed away

 

The pork had been stewed until it was soft and had been cut into cubes. As it turned out, each cube was the perfect size for Guo DaLu to eat in one mouthful.

The cat lay by Sour Plum Soup’s feet. This was a very easygoing cat. It did not insist on eating fish and did not protest to eating simmered pork. When the belly is empty, be it human or cat, he will not refuse simmered pork.

Guo DaLu gulped down seven or eight pieces before he finally sighed, “Even in my dreams, I would never have thought it would be you.”

Sour Plum Soup pursed her lips in a little smile.

Guo DaLu: “Is everything that you do always cloaked in mystery like this?”

Sour Plum Soup lowered her head and smiled again. “I had wanted to give everything to all of you personally, but I was afraid that you would not accept.”

Guo DaLu replied coldly, “There was no need for you to give us all those things.”

Sour Plum Soup: “You helped me out a lot. I had to find some way to express my gratitude.”

Guo DaLu: “But we still cannot accept all those things.”

Sour Plum Soup: “Why?”

Guo DaLu: “Because… because you’re a woman.”

Sour Plum Soup: “Women are people too.”

Guo DaLu shot a look over at Yan Qi and chortled, “Her manner of speaking is similar to yours.”

Yan Qi, a dark expression on his face, said “We would not accept if a man gave us that many gifts either.”

Guo DaLu continued for him, “And plus, we already feel embarrassed that we have eaten several meals from you.”

Sour Plum Soup blinked. “Well, let’s just say that I am storing all that stuff at your place.”

Wang Dong: “Then you will need to pay rent.”

Sour Plum Soup: “I’ll pay it.”

Wang Dong: “And a storage fee.”

Sour Plum Soup: “I will pay that as well.”

Wang Dong: “Ten liang of silver per day.”

Sour Plum Soup: “Alright.”

Wang Dong: “You have to pre-pay.”

Sour Plum Soup giggled, “I’ll pre-pay ten days, is that okay?” She reached in and pulled out a silver ingot of one hundred liang.

Wang Dong did not move. He only gazed at that big silver ingot as if mesmerized.

Guo DaLu and the others, though, were staring at Wang Dong. They were starting to discover that this guy was absolutely absurd and unreasonable. Someone had, out of the kindness of her heart, given them food to eat, chairs to sit on, beds to sleep on, and even decorated their rundown house so that it looked like new, but he still wanted charge her rent and even wanted it prepaid.

“This frigging guy is an absolute b*stard!” The words nearly slipped out of Guo DaLu’s mouth as he glared at Wang Dong.

Wang Dong’s eyes had left the ingot and were now fixed on Sour Plum Soup. He suddenly said, “Are you sick?”

Sour Plum Soup paused in shock. “Sick?”

Wang Dong: “Not just sick. Seriously sick.”

Sour Plum Soup: “I am eating well and sleeping fine. How could I be sick?”

Wang Dong: “Maybe your sickness has arisen because you eat too much.” His face did not show any emotion. “You spent money to buy all those things, put in a lot of effort just to send them here, and now, you are perfectly willing to pay rent to me. If you were not sick, why would you do such things?”

Guo DaLu guffawed. He was starting think that Sour Plum Soup really was sick, and in fact, was very sick.

Sour Plum Soup’s eyes flickered between them. “Would you believe me if I told you the reason why I did it was because I felt I am indebted to you for your kindness?”

Wang Dong looked over at Guo DaLu. “Do you believe her?”

Guo DaLu: “No.”

Wang Dong: “If even he doesn’t believe you, I don’t think anyone in the world will believe you.”

Sour Plum Soup let out a sigh. “That’s why I did not say that.”

Guo DaLu: “So what are you planning on saying?”

Sour Plum Soup’s eyes darted back and forth. She nibbled on her lip nervously and asked, “If a man fancies a woman and wants to marry her, will he do many strange and unreasonable things?”

Wang Dong: “Yes.” A man would nearly do anything for the woman he loves.

Sour Plum Soup: “Women are the same.” She carried on, “If a woman likes a man and wants to marry him, she, too, will do many strange and unreasonable things.” Her face suddenly flushed red as she lowered her eyes and whispered, “I… I am eighteen this year.”

An eighteen year old girl’s mind will usually turn to one thing: marriage. What eighteen year old girl is not filled with thoughts of romance? This is very natural.

Guo DaLu laughed again. “You are not sick. A boy who has come of age should take a wife; a girl who has matured should marry a husband.” He thrust out his chest confidently. “But who is it you have taken a fancy to?”

Yan Qi threw a look of daggers at him and answered for her in a cold tone, “Of course it must be you.”

Guo DaLu chuckled, “Well, not necessarily.” His lips may have said “not necessarily” but the expression on his face was one of certainty. A man like him was not easy to find. Even if you banged loudly on a gong, one may not show up. If Sour Plum Soup was not attracted to him, who else could she be attracted to?

At that moment, Sour Plum Soup’s eyes were actually on him, but she was shaking her head. Hiding her mouth behind her hand, she giggled, “Perhaps it is you, perhaps it isn’t you. I cannot tell you right now.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

Sour Plum Soup: “Because right now is not the appropriate time.”

Guo DaLu: “When will be the appropriate time?”

They could see her eyes moving beneath her eyelids. With her head lowered, she murmured, “I still have to observe to see if he truly is very good. This is an important decision in my life. I cannot afford to not be exceptionally careful.”

Guo DaLu: “You still haven’t been able to figure it out?”

Sour Plum Soup: “I… I still want to wait, to observe a bit more.”

In a flat voice, Yan Qi interrupted, “From what I see, you should observe a bit quicker. Someone is already anxious to death.”

Guo DaLu smiled. “It doesn’t matter. Take your time and observe. A good person will always be a good person. The more you observe, the better he looks.”

Sour Plum Soup chimed sweetly, “When I have finished observing and have figured it out, you will definitely be the first one I tell.”

Yan Qi stood up unexpectedly, turned his head, and walked out.

Guo DaLu called, “Why are you leaving? We are all chatting here. You don’t find it nice?”

Yan Qi: “What is there to chat about?”

Guo DaLu: “You have nothing to say at all?”

Yan Qi: “I have only one sentence that I want to say.” He did not even turn his head as he stated, “Girls nowadays are getting more and more brazen.”

Guo DaLu watched as he walked out before shaking his head. Smiling, he apologized, “That guy’s temperament may be a little eccentric, but he is a good person. Suan guniang [*guniang = "Miss;" a form of address for a young woman; recall that Sour Plum Soup in pinyin is Suan MeiTang], please do not be angry with him.”

In a sweet voice, Sour Plum Soup said, “My surname is not Suan. It is Mei.”

Guo Dalu asked, “The ‘mei’ in plum blossoms [*mei hua = plum blossoms]?”

She nodded. “My name is Mei RuNan.”

Guo DaLu chuckled, “There’s plum blossoms and orchids in your name. Practically enough flowers to open a flower shop.”

She giggled as she corrected, “Not ‘lan’ as in orchid [*lan hua = orchid]. It is ‘nan’ as in man [*nan ren = male/man].”

Guo DaLu repeated, “Mei RuNan. This name is a tad strange.”

Mei RuNan explained, “Xian fu [*respectful way to refer to one’s own father who has passed away] gave me this name with the intention of reminding me, ‘You must be like a man. You cannot be indecisive. If you want to do something, do it. If you want to say something, just say it.’ ”

Wang Dong all of a sudden remarked, “Should the spirit of your father in the netherworld be aware of things here, he will certainly be extremely pleased.”

Mei RuNan: “Why is that?”

Wang Dong: “Because you definitely have lived up to the expectations he placed on you.”

Mei RuNan blushed. “You…you really think that I act like a man?”

Wang Dong: “You’re a woman?”

Mei RuNan had to laugh.

Guo DaLu joined in with the laughter. “The way you do things truly is more manly than even some men out there. For example…” He dropped his voice down to a low whisper, “… our friend, Yan Qi, sometimes behaves like a woman. Not only is he a little sissy at times, he also will frequently throw tantrums for no reason.”

Mei RuNan asked him, “Do you think women frequently get angry without any reason?”

Guo DaLu did not answer and only smiled.

Mei RuNan: “Women are the same as men. If they are upset, there is a reason behind it. It’s just that men don’t know what that reason is.” A little giggle escaped as she added, “In reality, men are not as smart as they think they are.”

Guo Dalu wanted to say something, but he held his words back. He had resolved not to argue with her. If he was to argue, he would wait until she had revealed who she had a crush on. He would then inform her that, even though men may not be as smart as they thought of themselves, they were at least much smarter than she realized. And by then, she would believe him for sure.

A grin had spread on his face as if he could already imagine that tender, glorious moment when Sour Plum Soup would lie in his embrace and tell him that he was “the one.”

“Then she’ll know who the truly smart one is.” Guo DaLu was grinning so widely he practically could not close his mouth.

Lin TaiPing was beaming also. Was he envisioning the same scene for himself?

A man who does not know how to intoxicate himself with his own fantasies cannot be considered a real man. Perhaps, it can even be said that he cannot be considered a real person. Humans are superior to other beasts because of their ability to capture themselves within their own imagination.

Mei RuNan suddenly broke into the daydream. “Actually, it is not a bad thing to be slightly effeminate.”

Guo DaLu: “Why?”

Mei RuNan: “At least those types of guys usually are not uncivilized or boorish and in fact, are often more gentle and considerate.”

Guo DaLu stood up unexpectedly. With his hips swaying back and forth, he walked outside. Turning his head, he addressed Wang Dong, “Do you think I am a little effeminate?”

Wang Dong: “You are a man?”

Laughing loudly, Guo DaLu replied, “I thought I was, but now, I am a little unclear myself.”

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Moon. The moon was very bright. The round moon hung above the treetop.

Yan Qi sat alone beneath the tree, staring off into the distance. Walking over, Guo DaLu sat next to him. Yan Qi’s brow creased into a scowl, and he glared wide-eyed at him as he snapped, “What do you want here?”

Guo DaLu: “To chat.”

Yan Qi’s face darkened. “What do you have to chat with me about? Why don’t you go find that Mei guniang?”

Rubbing his chin, Guo DaLu observed, “You do not seem to be very fond of her.”

Yan Qi: “There are plenty of people already who are fond of her. There is no need to add me into that number.”

Guo DaLu did not say anything.

Yan Qi threw another fierce stare at him. “You guys seemed to be enjoying yourselves during your conversation this afternoon.”

Guo DaLu: “Mm.”

Yan Qi: “So if you were having so much fun, why are you bothering to come find me now?”

Guo DaLu suddenly burst out in laughter. “You’re sipping vinegar [*a way of saying that someone is jealous, usually of a rival in romance].”

Yan Qi’s face seemed to turn red for a brief instant. “Vinegar? Who would I be jealous of?”

A knowing grin on his lips, Guo DaLu answered, “You know the one that she likes has to be me but you really like her, so…”

Without waiting for him to finish, Yan Qi stood up to leave. Guo DaLu reached for his hand, but Yan Qi shook it off. Grabbing his hand again, Guo DaLu said, “I came here to talk to you about serious matters.”

Frowning, Yan Qi retorted, “Serious? What type of serious matters could possibly come from your mouth?”

Guo DaLu: “I think you once said that there is a family that lives nearby with the surname of Mei. The young master is called ‘Stone Man’ Mei RuJia.”

Yan Qi: “Yes, I had said that.”



End of Chapter 12

Last Updated ( Friday, 11 July 2008 12:02 )