W7-Fang+Shumin-The+Moon+on+Frosty+Morning

W7-Fang+Shumin-The+Moon+on+Frosty+Morning - Fang Shumin see...

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Unformatted text preview: Fang Shumin see Unlike the writers of the older generations, the younger authors in China tend to be known only through their work. We may suppose that Fang Shumin is a young writer from Hopei province, since that is where the stories in his 1964. collection. Lanterns in the Snow [from which ‘The Moon on a Frosty Morning” is takan are set. ‘The Moon on a Frosty Morning” reflects the acute struggles in the villages brought about by the bad harvest years of the early Igfios, when collective agriculture came under great strain but was finally saved by the determination of such peasants as Cassia in this story. It is also a sign of the times that a woman is shown as one of the village leaders, a sharp contrast with the passivity of the heroine in ‘Slaves” Mother”. The Moon on a Fro 1‘ Morning til" Cassia had just fed her one-ycar-olg baby and was covering her head with a towel to go to the fields, when her four-year—old son Shigour said to his granny, ‘Why are you making shoes for my father? Hc”s away.” ”I”m not making them for that spineless father of yours.” She rubbed the awl against her hair and thrust it hard and angrily through the sole of the shoe. ”I”m making them for your mother.” ‘But her feet are too small lbr those shoes,” Shigour protested solemnly. ‘Cut of the way, brat.” With Shigour driven away the old lady handed her daughter-in-law the black canvas shoes for which she had just finished making the sole. ‘Oh well,” she said, smiling till her eyes creased right up, ‘you can”t blame the boy. You”ve been so busy these last few months rushing all over the place through mud and water. No wonder these great boots aren”t proper women”s shoes. Try them on.” THE MUCH DH A FHflSTY MDHNIHE 221 Cassia tried on the new shoes and found that they fitted perfectly. Even she could not help laughing. Then she tucked a sickle in her belt and hurried off to the threshing- ground. The threshing-ground lay to the north of Bean Hamlet, as the village was called. It was bigger than last year, and heaped within new fencing in the middle of it were two huge mounds of bright red sorghum that had yet to be milled; the corn-cobs stacked in frames built of sorghum stalks gleamed in the autumn sun like a golden palace, and the piles of late millet were pushing at the fence round the threshing-floor, making it lean like an overhanging cliff. The rich li'agrancc of grain drifted across the threshing-floor. Although it was now late autumn and the light north-west wind blowing across the fields was reminding everyone that the cold season had begun, Cassia felt only warmth at the sight of the fine harvest on the floor as she cut off the sorghum tops with her sickle. Eyes sparkled as people returning to other counties from market passed the threshing-floor. They sighed with admira- tion and said, ”What a good harvest they”ve had in this team.” ‘Indeed,” somebody agreed awkwardly. ‘Looks even better than the Cherry Orchard Team we passed earlier.” ”A fat lot you know. They left the famous Cherry Orchard Team behind months ago.” “Which team is this then i”” asked the ill-informed man with anether sigh. ‘Bean Hamlet.” ‘At last. So this is the famous “poor Bean Hamlet””,” a voice said with a hoarse chuckle. ‘Thc paupers have managed a decent harvest this year—like a blind man catching an ecl.” This last remark stung Cassia as she worked. There was an explosion in her head as she flung a bundle of sorghum tops to the ground, flicked her short, untidy hair back and shot a furious glare at the hoarse, middle-aged man. He blushed in fear and embarrassment. She softened her expression, suddenly realising that she had no reason to lose her temper like an eighteen-year-old. A woman of thirty-two should he more tolerant; besides, she was deputy work-team leader. She waved 222 FANG EHUMIH tn the men in the read and smiled at them. ‘Are yen thirsty, fi‘iendsi” Take a rest en the threshing-Beer.” ‘Ne thanks,” ene ef them replied. ‘Leeks like a geed harvest yeu”ve had this year.” ”It certainly is,” she sheuted happily, stepping back with her streng legs. An eld man in a little felt hat jumped eff his grey denkey and creaked, ‘Hey, cemrade, Ceme here, cemrade.” A cheeky yeuth beside him whe was grinning all ever his face grabbed him and whispered: ‘Yen”re asking fer treuble, yen shameless eld devil. Yeu”re net en cemrade terms with her.” When Cassia heard this she ran tn the fence and said te the eld man, “N ever mind that nensense, uncle. Yen ge ahead and call me “cemrade” as held as yen please. What de yen want te say?” The eld man shifted the pench-sack en his sheulder befere relaning and letting himself reply. ‘I came threngh here en the way te market during the fleeds in July, and the eeeans ef water cevering the fields made me think that yen”d been washed ent again. After twe had years running I was sure yeu”d be geing hungry again this year. I”d never have dreamed yen ceuld get this geed a harvest.” Cassia waved her sickle and laughed, her eyebrews raised. ‘Yen can”t have been te market since then. Yen may have seen the fleeds, but yen didn't see hew we feught against them.” The eld man new apparently understeed everything. He teek eff his hat, nedded, jumped back en his denkey, and rede away. Cassia smiled as she watched them ge elf tewards the IGrand Canal ferry. The full evening snn cast a gelden light ever her tanned face. The beundless plain beyend the village and the fields ef green wheat sheets that eevered it gave her a feeling ef eapansc and excitement. At the same time she was a little depressed. She had wanted badly te tell these strangers whe did net knew the stery hew their village had feught against the fleed. But she must put all such ideas ent ef her head. Anyene weuld think that Bean Hamlet was net teugh enengh. As she gazed inte the distance deep in thenght she saw a trail efyellew dust rising frem the read behind the brick-kiln. She knew it came frem a rider and trembled as she realised that it must be Big Wn galleping at that speed. Just then she heard seme THE MDDH DN A FHDSW MDHNIHE 223 wemen en the threshing-finer crying eut, ‘It’s Big We,” I‘It”s him, it”s Big Wu.” Unable te think ef anything else she drepped her sickle and ran after the ether wemen and the children te- wards the read. Shielding her eyes with her right hand she made cut a chestnut herse pennding threngh the dust, and the bare- chested man astride it was indeed Big Wu, the team leader. ‘Big Wu.” She was waving and sheeting. The chestnut herse carried its rider tn the fence. The tall rider, a man in his ferties, dismeunted with a leap inte a cleud ef dust and put his hand en the herse”s back. ‘Have yen been impatient waiting fer me te eeme back? Ceme and take a leek at enr herse.” Cassia was the first te reach it. ”It”s a fine sturdy beast,” she said. ‘It”s kicking,” shented Big Wu, deliberately frightening the wemen and children se that they scattered like chickens. Cassia alenc stepped ferward and grabbed it by the mane. When it sheek its head vielently, she pinched its nestrils shut and ferced its meuth epen. ‘Be quiet, yen devil.” It whinnied, pawed the grennd, and then calmed dewn. ‘What did yen want te make it de that fer i” she said te Big Wu, adding, ‘Tell me quickly, hew eld is it 3”” ‘Sia. It”s a streng ene all right.” As she kneaded the herse”s back she cenld net held back her praises. ‘And such a glessy ceat. What breed is it i‘” ”It”s Mengelian—frem beyend the Great Wall.” ‘Geed.” Then she amtiensly asked, ”Have we benght her yet?” ”I paid en the nail and I”ve get the papers te preve it.” ‘Geed.” Cassia tugged at the reins as she said, ”Yesterday Ticdan and I built the stable, and last night Grandpa Baishun was chesen as steck-keeper. He”s se pleased he”s spent the merning ceeking and relling feed. I”ll take him aleng te be watered and fed. I”ve get the cart with iren-rimmed wheels ready at the granary deer te take the state grain, se yen”d better ge there and check the grain. New that we”vc get enr herse we must lead the cart temerrew merning, and I”m geing te drive it. After twe years en relief grain frem the gevernment eur team must be first te deliver.” 224 FANG SHUMIN ‘Fine, fine,’ Big Wu nut in. The take him ever tn Grandpa Baishun fer a feed, and I’ll be with yeu when Ilve eheelted the grain.’ just as they were abeut te mnve Big We suddenly re- membered semething. i*‘Classia," he shented. ‘Wait a mement. I’ve get geed news fer yea.” ‘I didn’t hear a magpie this merning,’1 she said, turning her head, ‘se I den”t see hew there ean be any geed news fer me.: it ‘Shigeur’s dad, year husband Waiai, is enming baek frem Cherry Orehard tenight.’ Gassia was shattered. This sudden news was like being hit en the head with a brink. Try as she did te eentrel the anger that surged up inside her she eeuld net help her thee turning pale and her veiee shaking as she replied, ‘Dnn’t yeu dare mentien his name. Our family is getting aleng very well witheut him.’ ‘Keep ynur temper, Gassia,’ said Big We. ‘Ifhe’s seen he was in the wrnng and is willing tn eeme baek yeu sheuld be ready tn help him. The return nf the predigal is semething te be pleased abnur.’ ‘Se am I eapeeted te send a bridal ehair with eight perters te feteh him i” Cassia asked indignantly. ‘lf he had the nerve te leave he ean have the nerve te sleep nut in the village’s reed beds.” ‘Hmm,’ said Big Wu. ‘Waiai wasn’t in that sert nf mend at all. When we met at the market he grabbed held nl' me and weuldn’t let me ge. And when he asked me abeut his mether, yeurself, and the twn kids, his eyes were red altheugh he is a grewn man.’ IIt’s nene ef his business,’ Cassia nut in, snunding as if she were gnashing her teeth. ‘We haven’t starved tn death.l ‘Listen,’ said Big Wu. ‘ “Waiai,” I said te him, “yeur wife has ehanged. These last menths she’s really been deing things. She’s a eandidate Party member and has been eleeted deputy team leader.” ' ‘Yeu seem tn have enjeyed gessiping with him, yeu eld gas- bag,‘ she interrupted again. ‘The best part ef the stery is still te eeme,’ grinned Big Wu. ‘I-Ie hung en te my hand until I said, “Let me ge, I’ve get te buy a herse fer the team.” Tears were pouring dnwn his eheeks, 1 A magpie is thnnght tn bring lnek in China. THE MDUH D” A FHGST‘I’ MUHMING 225 se I asked him if he wasn’t all right staying with his in—laws. "Den’t ask me abent that,” he said. “I’ve heard all the news frnm Bean Hamlet. If they’ll have me baek again I’ll. . . .” “What’ll yen de '3'” I asked him, and he started hewlin g. “Never mind, Waiai,” I said. “If yeu knew yeu've gene wrnng yeu shenld eeme bank and admit it; frem new nn yeu must ferge ahead with all the rest ef ns. I’ll bael; yeu up this time. ‘When will yen be eeming heme ?” His answer eame baek like a shet: H} "Tnnight . Cassia was sn angry that she stamped her feet and flung nut her arm. ‘I never signed any undertaking te have him. Even if he dees eeme I wen’t have him baek.’ ‘Oh well,” said Big 1Wu, still trying tn win her rnund, ‘yeu sheuld at least let him stay tenight. He’s eeming baek this evening, whether yeu let him stay en can be deeided later. After all, we ean‘t ignnre him new he’s turning ever a new leaf. Leek! The herse is eating Old Deng’s fenee. Take him away this mnmentl’ It was night by new. The nnrth-west wind that had been blewing aeress the plain had drepped, and the freaen stars shivered in the late autumn eeld. Cassia let the herse relieve itself, then watered it beside the well. Grandpa Baishun tethered it in its newly-built stable and fed it as earefnlly as if he were fingering ajewel. A mement later Big Wu was there, standing under the swinging hurrieane lamp and saying happily, ‘Mmm. That feed smells geed.l With a ned tn Grandpa Baishun he said te Cassia, ‘I’ve eheeked the state grain. The stuff in the saeks is all up te standard—first—rate stelT—se it ean be taken in first thing tnmerrew. When I’ve had a drink ef water I must be eff tn the river bend tn hear hew the labeurers frnm eur village are getting en with the eanal. Whieh ef the men sheuld take the earti" She stretehed eat her arm. ‘I teld yeu I was geing te drive, didn’t Ii” He shet a sideleng glanee at her and, seeing the determined way her eyebrews were raised, eenld enly smile. It wenld have been a waste ef time te say anything mere. She was a leng time settling in the new herse with Grandpa Baishun befere geing heme. As it was the end nf the lunar 225 FAME EHUMIM month there was not even a sliver of moon above the trees. She felt her way into the eourtyard and grimly remembered to wedge the gates shut by stinking a pole hard against them. In the house she heard her mother-in-law ask sleepily from the darkness, ‘Is that you baeki” Shall I light the lamp?” ‘No,’ Cassia replied quiekly. ‘Are the ehildren asleep? My are you still awake i” ‘I roeked them to sleep. Why did you have to make sueh a i noise shutting the gates? We haven”t used the date—wood pole for months, so why shut the gates with it tonight?” ‘I thought the wind would blow them open.” Tool,” the old woman went on, ”idiot. Didn”t you notiee that the wind had dropped ages ago i" Cassia did not want to tell her motherdin-law that Waiai was eoming baek that night in ease the news gave her a seizure and killed her. She elimbed on to the hang, but no matter whieh way she lay she eould not get to sleep. She gritted her teeth and hardened her heart, longing to hear him trying to foree the gates while she lay there on the hang and would not get up to open them. He eould freeze—he had asked for it. As she lay there her heart would start to pound at the slightest sound from the yard, but as she waited she heard no loud noise to follow. An evening injuly flashed before her eyes. That night when, with one eloud-burst following another, she had waded home from a team meeting through the floods, her feet heavy with mud, supporting herself with diflieulty on the vegetable-garden fenee. Just as she and her mother-in-law had been looking for a big spade in the shed they had heard squelehing footsteps in the yard. She had opened the door and said, ”Clh, you”re baek.” The stoeky Waiai had eome in and was wiping the mud oil” his feet while she lit the lamp and asked him, ‘Where”ve you been? We shouted ourselves hoarse trying to get you to the team meeting.” ”I went to Cherry Orehard,” he had said. ‘that a thing to do,” she had replied, flaring up. "You just don”t eare about the team”s erops. Big Wu”s been eleeted team leader and he”ll be a good one. He”s taken men and women from I "‘- 1.‘ -' mi 'I 1 I I . i I ' 1 I. THE MDDH DN A FHDSTY MDHMIHG 22? our village down to the river bend as fast as they ean go to drain the water out. But you had time to go and visit the ehildren”s granny. What do you mean by it at a time like this i”” “You want to know what I was doing?” said Waiai with a laugh. ‘I was negotiating. It”s all settled. Tomorrow the whole family moves to Cherry Orehard.” Cassia had been stunned. Ililihati' What did you say i” ‘What”s the point of thinking about nothing but work all the time? Can”t you see that this poverty-ridden hollow has been a frog pond for two years running? Even the team's donkey has starved to death. Now this year”s rains have drowned us again. There”s nothing to stay for. The sooner we find some dry land the better.” Cassia had realized at onee what he was thinking. ”Fright— ened of starving '3‘” she had said. "Want to sneak off, don”t you ?” Waiei had tilted his head to one side and replied, ‘Say what you like as long as you understand that tomorrow we”re shutting the plaee up and going, bedding and all. ‘Whob going?” she had asked. ‘All of us,” he had said. At this she had flared up and shouted furiously, “You ean elear off by yourself. You may have it all nieer worked out, but nobody”s going with you.” The stoeky Waiai had rushed forward and grabbed her. ‘Stay where you are. Where are you going with that spade?” ‘Get away from me,” Cassia had said, breaking away from him. ”I”m going to drain off the water and guard the dike with Big Wu. This is a erisis. I”ve got no time to waste talking to you.” Waiai had raised his hand, but Cassia had moved her spade instantly to parry it, sereaming l”Don”t toueh me. If you lay a finger on me you”ll get a dose of this.” With their quarrel the room had felt as hot as a kiln; gongs were being beaten outside to tell everyone to go to the dike at onee, the boy was erying, and the adults were shouting at eaeh other. It had been too mueh for the old woman, who released a torrent of abuse on him: ‘Worthless wreteh, evil son, get the hell out of here and eat and drink as well as you ean.” When Cassia had eome baek the next day from her work at the river she had tried to win him round, but he was so set in 223 FANG SHUMIN his twisted ideas that when she had finished he just replied, ‘The flood waters are here to stay. This dump won’t ever get rich. Are you coming with me or aren’t you?’ ’No,’ Cassia had said, steeling herself, ‘I won’t go.’ ’If you’re not coming that’s your lookout. Mother and Shigour are coming with me.’ The old lady had jabbcd her finger at his nose and said, ’You’re not going to take even a hair of any of us, not one hair.’ Red-faced and hoarse, Waisi had issued his last warning: I’lf'ery well ththl; don’t come if you don’t want to. But don’t expect me to be nice to you when you come begging from me in the autumn.’ This had made the old lady angrier than ever: ’If that’s how you’re going to talk to us you’d better clear out at once. G0 off and hatch your plans, my fine lad. There may not be much flesh on us but our bones are hard, really hard.’ Waizi had wrapped up his bedding and gone, his pipe be- tween his teeth. His last superior glance at them was deeply etched on Cassia’s mind. The thought of it still made her almost burst with indignation; she gave an involuntary and contemptuous snort. This woke her mother-in-law, who rolled over and asked: ’Are you cold?’ ’No, mother, I’m boiling hot.’ She tried as hard as she could to calm herself down as she lay there in the dark, her eyes wide open, struggling to drive away the image that flickered in front of them. But it hovered there more clearly than ever. She imagined him coming back and apologizing to her. She would tell him straight out that what he’d done had been completely wrong, and it had all been because he had not had confidence in the group and the people’s commune. . . . She fell into a dose. When she woke again a little later there was still no sound from the courtyard. ’He hasn’t come back,’ she thought. The crescent moon setting in the south-west was filtering its light through the window, and she could hear the first cock-crow of the morning. She could stay in bed no longer. The old lady leant over to her and said: ‘Why are you tossing and turning so i" . J .I: ,_ tr. THE MDDN ON A FFHZIST‘IIr MORNING 225 ‘Keep your voice down, mother.’ Cassia sat up smartly and felt for her clothes. ‘I’ve got to get up early to take the tax grain in.’ ‘You’ll be frozen right through this early in the morning,’ the old lady said, ’so mind you wear a jacket over your green tunic. I finished the soles of your new shoes last night and put them by your pillow. Have you found them?’ ’I’ve put them on,’ Cassia replied. ‘It’ll be a long, cold journey, so wait till I’ve boiled you some noodles and egg.’ ’No thanks.’ Cassia got down from the lung. ’1 must be on my way before the third cock-crow. I can get something to eat on my way through Zimu township.’ She groped lightly for her child’s head, kissed his lips, and went out. She felt the cold in the courtyard at once, pulling her warm hands straight away from the frozen window-sill and sucking in her breath. There had been a frost that night, the first since last winter, and the young crows perched in the locust tree in the yard were cheeping miserably. Some dead leaves, covered in white, were drifting to the ground. She looked up again at the golden crescent of the moon in the south- western sky and at the stars shimmering in the cold air, over- come with a warm feeling of pity. It had been the height of summer when Waisi left wearing only a thin shirt and trousers. He would choose the cold season to come back, the pig-headed fool. Well, if he wanted to come back he’d have to change his way of thinking. She regretted her anger of the previous night. He hadn’t come back, so she need not have blocked the gates so securely. She went over and worked the heavy date-wood pole loose. As she stepped through the gates all her courage could not stop her from gasping with fright: there was somebody squatting in the shadows outside. ’Who’s that?’ she called. The man did not look up. He stayed there with his arms clasping his shoulders and his head buried in them. There was no need to ask any questions. The faint moonlight was bright enough for her to see that it was Waizi. 29 Orteéar 1962 ...
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This note was uploaded on 02/06/2012 for the course ASIAN 261 taught by Professor Kaldis during the Winter '11 term at University of Michigan.

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W7-Fang+Shumin-The+Moon+on+Frosty+Morning - Fang Shumin see...

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