c Zhou Yiqing

In the Name of the Father

Translated by: 
Nicky Harman



Winter is coming and a bitter cold assails us. It’s carried on the wind. The winds have carried something else too: malicious gossip that Fuhai fucked someone else’s woman. What amazes us is not that he did something so vile but that he could get it up at all. He’s a wrinkled old man, with a prick that shrivelled up a long time ago. We have no idea who leaked the rumours, or whether they’re true, but they just get louder and more vicious. We look around us and see only Fuhai’s unmoving face, like winter’s coming. A bitter cold assails us, carried on the wind. The jagged gusts slam into the old house, bang open the door, sweep inside, make it lurch heavily to one side.

The old house had never had an owner or a courtyard. It squatted at the back of the village, knocked about by the wind. Lamplight could burst that old house apart. In the puddles in front of the house we could see bits of sky reflected, a uniform leaden grey. There were cracks and crannies in the walls, and a rotten smell leaked out and into the village. That wind taught the weeds that grew between the tile cracks what struggle meant, sweeping them flat like corn, never to rise again. Fuhai’s grandson used to play outside the house. The little brat was a complete nuisance, grabbing your leg and wiping mud or snot all over it. You couldn’t pry him off. If Fuhai wasn’t around, we used to kick him out of the way. But now, the boy was nowhere to be seen. We splashed through the puddles, and went inside. The roof letin the sun and the rain, depending on whether it was a clear day or a wet one. With a bit of light, we could just about make out Fuhai, a wizened figure with clouded eyes, which made him look like he was aging right before our eyes.

We’d known for all our lives that Fuhai never went far from home. But one day he was up early, dragging the boy out of bed with him. Then he left, the child pattering behind him, his footsteps sounding like dripping roof eaves after rain.

Grandpa, where are we going?

To Zhengzhou.

Will my dad be there?

My son will be there.

Fuhai left Sun Hai Village, Cao County and, finally, Shandong province behind, and arrived in Zhengzhou City. It was still autumn and the vile thing had not yet happened.


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Translated from Sun Yisheng’s collection How Many Dragon-Fields Has Your Family Got? Baihua Literature and Art Publishing House, June 2016.

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