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畅销名著《白鹿原》英译本 第一章 | Jooyee 聚译网

畅销名著《白鹿原》英译本 第一章

Bai Lu Yuan

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白嘉轩后来引以豪壮的是一生里娶过七房女人。

Bai Jiaxuan took pride later in his life on having married seven different women.

 

娶头房媳妇时他刚刚过十六岁生日。那是西原上巩家村大户巩增荣的头生女,比他大两岁。他在完全无知慌乱中度过了新婚之夜,留下了永远羞于向人道及的可笑的傻样,而自己却永生难以忘记。一年后,这个女人死于难产。

His first marriage was just after his sixteenth birthday. It was with the oldest daughter of Gong Zengrong, who was from a wealthy and powerful family in Gong Jia Village—village of the Gong clan, on the West Plateau. She was two years his senior. His first night passed in panic and fear that left him scarred forever with the shame of his silliness. The woman died a year later in childbirth.

 

第二房娶的是南原庞家村殷实人家庞修瑞的奶干女儿。这女子又正好比他小两岁,模样俊秀眼睛忽灵儿。她完全不知道嫁人是怎么回事,而他此时已谙熟男女之间所有的隐秘。他看着她的羞怯慌乱而想到自己第一次的傻样反倒觉得更富刺激。当他哄唆着把躲躲闪闪而又不敢违坳他的小媳妇裹入身下的时候,他听到了她的不是欢乐而是痛苦的一声哭叫。当他疲惫地歇息下来,才发觉肩膀内侧疼痛钻心,她把他咬烂了。他抚伤惜痛的时候,心里就潮起了对这个娇惯得有点任性的奶干女儿的恼火。正欲发作,她却扳过他的肩膀暗示他再来一次。一当经过男女间的第一次交欢,她就变得没有节制的任性。这个女人从下轿顶着红绸盖巾进入白家门楼到躺进一具薄板棺材抬出这个门楼,时间尚不足一年,是害痨病死的。

His second marriage was with the youngest daughter of Pang Xiurui, a well-off man in Pang Jia Village—village of the Pang clan on the South Plateau. She was a cute girl with sparkling eyes, and coincidentally two years younger than he was. She was ignorant of how marriage worked at that time, but he was by then experienced in the nuances between the sexes. Her looks of panic and shyness, not unlike his first time, only served to make him more excited. It wasn’t moans of pleasure but cries of pain that he heard as he coerced the cowering yet obedient young wife down under, and only after he stopped in exhaustion did he feel an agonizing pain in his inner shoulder, where she had bitten through his skin. He was starting to get quite annoyed with the spoiled girl as he checked his wound, but before he could react, she grabbed his shoulders and hinted for round two. She became relentlessly addicted after her first time. It took just under one year from when she first married into the Bai family in red wedding gowns, to being taken out of the household in a cheap coffin. It was tuberculosis.

 

第三个女人是北原上樊家寨的一户同样殷实人家的头生女儿,十六岁的身体发育得像二十岁的女人一样丰满成熟,丰腴的肩膀和浑圆的臀部,又有一对大奶子。她要么是早熟,要么是婚前有过男女间的知识,一钻进被窝就把他紧紧搂住,双臂上显示着急迫与贪婪,把丰满鼓胀的奶子毫不羞怯地贴紧他的胸脯。

The third woman was from the North Plateau. The oldest daughter of a rich family in Fan Jia Village, she was as plump and mature as a 20-year-old at the age of 16, succulent shoulders, round buttocks, and a great pair of tits. She either matured a bit too fast, or had gotten familiar with the ways of sex before marriage; she held him tightly as soon as they came under the sheets; her arms were eager and full of lust, and she pressed her large, full breasts against his chest without any signs of shame or shyness.

 

当他进入她的身体时,她嗷嗷直叫,却不是痛苦而是沉迷。这个像一团绒球的女人在他怀里缠磨过一年就瘦成了一根干枯的包谷秆子,最后吐血而死了,死了也没搞清是什么病症。

She cried out as he entered her body, not of pain, but of deep pleasure. Somehow, this soft and plump young woman turned into a twig after one year in his lustful arms. She died of unknown causes after having hematemesis.

 

第四个女人娶的是南原靠近山根的米家堡村的。对这个女人他几乎没有留下什么记忆。她似乎对他的所有作为毫无反应。他要来她绝不推拒,他不要时她从不粘他。她从早到晚只是做她应该做的事而几乎不说一句话。她死的时候,他不在家,到镇上去了。回来时看见她的嘴死死咬着被角儿,指甲抓掉了,手上的血尚未完全干涸,炕边和炕席上凝结着发黑的血污和被指甲抓抠的痕迹。说是午后突然肚子疼,父亲找他不在就去镇上请来冷先生急救。冷先生断为羊毛疔,扎针放血时血已变成黑色的稠汁放不出来。她死得十分痛苦,浑身扭蜷成一只干虾。

The fourth woman was from Mi Jia Bao Village—village of the Mi Clan’s Fort on the South Plateau, near the foot of the mountains. This woman left almost no impression on him. She seemed to have no reaction to whatever he did. Never said no when he wanted it, and never bothered him when he didn't. She did what she did from beginning to end without one extra word, then she died while he was out into the town. When he came back, he saw that she had bitten tightly onto the corner of the blanket, nails torn and blood still fresh on her hands. The heated bed and sheets were full of bloodstains and scratch marks. It was said that she had a stomach ache in the afternoon, and Jiaxuan’s father went into town to find Dr. Leng when Jiaxuan was away. She was diagnosed with a typhoid disease called Yangmaoding, and was treated with bloodletting from the rash spots. However, by then it was already too late, as her blood had coagulated. She died in severe agony; her dead body crumpled up like a dried shrimp.

 

连着死了四个女人,嘉轩怕了,开始相信村人早就窃窃着的关于他命硬的传闻,怕是注定要打一辈子光棍了。他的老子秉德老汉为他张罗再订再娶,他劝父亲暂缓一缓再说。秉德老汉把嘬着的嘴唇对准水烟壶的烟筒,噗地一声吹出烟灰,又捻着黄亮绵软的烟丝儿装入烟筒,又嘬起嘴唇噗地一声吹着了火纸,鼻孔里喷出两股浓烟,不容置疑地说:“再卖一匹骡驹。” 第二天上午,秉德老汉就牵着骡驹上白鹿镇去了。回来时天已擦黑,扔下那条半截铁链半截皮绳的缰绳,告诉儿子说:“媳妇说成了,东原上李家村木匠卫家的三姑娘。”这个女子是一个穷家女子,门不当户不对已经无从顾及。木匠卫老三养下五个女子,正愁养活不过,只要给高金聘礼,不大注重男人命软命硬的事。这时候,远远近近的村子热烈的流传着远不止命硬的关于嘉轩的生理秘闻,说他长着一个狗的家伙,长到可以缠腰一匝,而且尖头上长着一个带毒的倒钩,女人们的肝肺肠肚全被捣碎而且注进毒汁。那些殷实人家谁也不去考虑白鹿村白秉德淳厚的祖德和殷实的家业了,谁也不愿眼睁睁把女儿送到那个长着狗逑的怪物家里去送死; 只有像木匠卫老三这种恨不得把女子踢出门去的人才吃这号明亏。当婚事按照祖传的严格程序和礼仪加紧筹办的重要关头,秉德老汉自己却突然暴死了。

Four women dead in a row. Jiaxuan was starting to get scared of becoming forever alone; village rumours of his cursed life were starting to feel very real. Despite his father, Bingde, eager to get him married again, he asked his father to give it a rest for a while. But the old man put his lips around the mouthpiece of his water pipe, blew hard so the ashes flew out. He then snatched some soft and shiny yellow tobacco, stuffed it into the bowl, and lit up the fire paper.

“Go sell another mule foal”, he said firmly, as smoke expressed from his nostrils.

The next morning, old man Bingde took the mule foal to the town of Bai Lu. The sun had just set by the time he came back. He threw down the rein made of half iron chain, half leather. “You're getting married again. Your wife will be the third daughter of the Wei family, carpenter of Li Jia Village on the East Plateau.” He told his son. This time, the girl is from a rather impoverished family, as Jiaxuan’s marital situation was getting a bit too tough to worry about marrying with the right social class. The carpenter Wei had five daughters, and he was far too worried about keeping his daughters alive to think twice about marrying a man with a cursed life, as long as the bride price was right. At this point, villages from far and wide told rumours about Jiaxuan that even his cursed life paled in comparison. People spoke of him having a dog’s dong that could wrap a full circle around his waist; at its tip was a poisonous hook that shreds the insides of women and injects them with poison. All decently off families were no longer interested in the vast fortunes and benevolent reputation of Bai Bingde from Bai Lu Village; who would want send their daughters to die from the monster with a dog’s dick? Only people like the carpenter Wei who would do anything to get rid of daughters could pull such a stunt. However, at this crucial time for traditional rituals and wedding proceedings, old man Bingde dropped dead.

 

那是麦子扬花油菜干荚时节,刚交农历四月,节令正到小满,脱下棉衣棉裤换上单衣单裤的庄稼人仍然不堪燥热。午饭后,秉德老汉叮嘱过长工鹿三喂好牲口后晌该种棉花了,就躺下来歇息会儿。每天午饭后他都要歇息那么一会儿,有时短到只眨一眨眼眯盹儿一下,然后跳下炕用蘸了冷水的湿毛巾擦擦眼脸,这时候就一身轻松一身爽快,仿佛把前半天的劳累全都抖落掉了; 然后坐下喝茶,吸水烟,浑身的筋骨就兴奋起来抖擞起来,像一匝一匝拧紧了发条的座钟; ~等得鹿三喂饱了牲口,他和他扛犁牵马走出村巷走向田野的时候,精神抖擞得像出征的将军。整个后晌,他都是精力充沛意志集中于手中的农活,往往逼得比他年轻的长工鹿三气喘吁吁汗流浃背也不敢有片刻的怠慢。他从来不骂长工更不必说动手动脚打了,说定了的身价工钱也是绝不少付一升一文。他和长工在同一个铜盆里洗脸坐一张桌子用餐。他用过的长工都给他出尽了力气而且成了交谊甚笃的朋友,满原都传诵着白鹿村白秉德的佳话好名。秉德老汉刚躺下就滋滋润润地迷糊了。他梦见自己坐着牛车提着镰刀去割麦子,头顶呼地一个闪亮,满天流火纷纷下坠,有一团正好落到他的胸膛上烧得皮肉吱吱吱响,就从牛车上翻跌到满是黄土草屑的车辙里。惊醒后他已经跌落在炕下的砖地上,他摸摸胸脯完好无损并无流火灼烧的痕迹,而心窝里头着实火烧火燎,像有火焰呼呼喷出,灼伤了喉咙口腔和舌头,全都变硬了变僵了变得干涸了。他的女人大约听到响声跑进屋来抱他拉他都无法使他爬到炕上去,立即惊慌失措呼喊儿子嘉轩和长工鹿三。三个人把秉德老汉抬到炕上,一齐俯下身焦急而情切地询问哪儿出了毛病。可是秉德老汉已经不能说话,只是用粗硬的指头上的粗硬的指甲抓扒自己的脖颈和胸脯,嘴里发出嗷嗷嗷呜呜呜狗受委屈时一样的叫声。嘉轩和母亲全都急傻了,只有长工鹿三尚未混乱,忙喊:“快去请先生!”嘉轩得到提醒随即跑出院子,奔白鹿镇请先生去了。

It was the time of flowering wheats and drying rape pods—just entering the fourth month of the lunar calendar, or “Xiaoman”. Though most may feel a chill during this period where people change from cotton jackets to just a single layer of clothing, it was scorching hot for a farmer. After lunch, Bingde ordered his farmhand, Lu San to plant the cotton after feeding the livestock, then he lay down. He always took his nap after lunch every day, sometimes just a few minutes of a shuteye would suffice. Afterwards, he would hop off his heated bed and freshen up by cleaning his face with a cloth soaked in cold water. As his exhaustion from a whole morning of work subsided, he would then sit down, sip some tea, smoke his water pipe, and turn into a fully cranked-up clock from all that stimulation. By the time Lu San finished feeding the livestock, the old man would become as vivacious as a general riding out to battle, with his horse on reins and a plow on his back, setting out from the village to the farms. The entire afternoon would be comprised of him concentrating on the farm work at hand, forcing even his much younger farmhand, Lu San, to work without a moment’s rest even when sweat poured like a storm. Bingde never scolded his workers, let alone beat them; they were paid the exact amount both parties agreed upon, not a penny less. He even used the same brass basin as his workers to wash his face, and ate at the same table. All of his workers became friends with him, and did their hardest at work; the whole plateau spoke of the good name of Bai Bingde from Bai Lu Village.

This time, however, the old man fell into an especially sweet slumber as soon as he lay down. He dreamed that he was riding in the oxcart with his sickle, ready to harvest the wheat. All of a sudden, the sky flashed and fireballs rained down onto the earth, one of which struck him directly on the chest and left his flesh sizzling from the flames. He fell off the oxcart into the garage filled with dirt and hay. He jerked awake, and discovered that he had fallen off the bed and onto the brick-lain floor. There were no burns as he checked his chest with his hands, but it felt like he had swallowed a fireball; his heart burned as though flames were coming out, charring his throat, tongue and mouth, turning them numb and dry. His lady may have heard the noise and rushed into the room to try and get him back into the bed, but failed, and yelled for his son Jiaxuan and the worker Lu San in panic. The three lifted Bingde back into bed, and bent down to ask with panicked concern what was wrong. But by then the old man was unable to speak; he scratched his neck and chest with his long, thick fingernails while whining like a hurt dog. Jiaxuan and his mother were frozen from the shock, and only Lu San remained calm, and shouted “go get the doctor”!

After this reminder, Jiaxuan rushed out to get the doctor from the Town of Bai Lu.

白鹿镇在村子西边,一条小街,一家药铺,冷先生坐堂就诊,兼营中药。冷先生听嘉轩说了病状,心里就明白了八九成,从抽屉里取出一只皮包挂到腰带上,急忙赶到白家来。冷先生是白鹿原上的名医,穿着做工精细的米黄色蚕丝绸衫,黑色绸裤,一抬足一摆手那绸衫绸裤就忽悠悠地抖; 四十多岁年纪,头发黑如墨染油亮如同打腊,脸色红润,双目清明,他坐堂就诊,门庭红火。冷先生看病,不管门楼高矮更不因人废诊,财东人用轿子抬他或用垫了毛毯的牛车拉他他去,穷人拉一头毛驴接他他也去,连毛驴也没有的人家请他他就步行着去了。财东人给他封金赏银他照收不拒,穷汉家给几个铜元麻钱他也坦然装入衣兜,穷得一时拿不出钱的人他不逼不索甚至连问也不问,任就诊者自己到手头活便的时候给他送来。他落下了好名望。他的父亲老冷先生过世的时光,十里八乡凡经过他救活性命的幸存者和许多纯粹仰慕医德的乡里人送来的金字匾额和挽绸挂满了半条街。冷先生坐上那张用生漆漆得黑乌锃亮的椅子,人们发现他比老冷先生更冷。他不多说话倒不怠慢焦急如焚的患者。他永远镇定自若成竹在胸,看好病是这副模样看不好也是这副模样看死了人仍是这副模样,他给任何患者以及比患者更焦虑急迫的家属的印象永远都是这个样子。看好了病那是因为他的医术超群此病不在话下因而不值得夸张称颂,看不好病或看死了人那本是你不幸得下了绝症而不是冷先生医术平庸,那副模样使患者和家属坚信即使再换一百个医生即使药王转世也是莫可奈何。

The Town of Bai Lu was to the west of the village. One tiny street with one pharmacy, where Doctor Leng both conducts his diagnosis and sells his herbs. After hearing Jiaxuan’s descriptions, the doctor was already more than 80 percent confident of the situation. He brought a parcel that he hooked onto his belt and hurried off to the Bai household.

He was a well-respected doctor of Bai Lu Yuan, or the "White Deer Plateau". A man in his forties, he wore a well-tailored beige silk shirt with black silk pants. His hair was black as ink and glistened as though the strands were waxed; with a healthy red glow on his face and bright eyes, he sat in his office, and diagnosed an endless stream of patients. No one was restricted from his service; the rich would take him in a litter, or at least an oxcart lined with a fur rug, and the poor would bring him on a donkey, or walk to the household for those who could not afford even a donkey. He took payments of any kind or value, whether gold and silver from those with wealth, or a few coins from the impoverished. He would not even bother to ask the dirt poor for payment, and waited for them bring some cash much later on.

Such actions won him great reputation. At his father’s funeral, countless former patients whose lives he’d saved, along with villagers who had heard about his great reputation from far and wide came to honor his deceased father with plaques written with gold ink and ritual-silk to be hung all over the street. Dr. Leng sat on his glossy, lacquered black chair, even more rigid than his late father. Despite his few words, he was capable of treating his restless patients very well. He always had a confident expression on his face when dealing with anxious patients, and their even more anxious family members. Regardless of whether he was able to treat the patient or not, people believed if he was able to rid someone of an illness, it was because of his extraordinary skills and further praise would be unnecessary. If he wasn’t, it was because the patient was fated to die from a mortal illness, and no other doctor, not even God himself would have been able to save that person.

 

冷先生一进门就看见炕上麻花一样扭曲着的秉德老汉,仍然像狗似的嗷嗷嗷呜呜呜地呻吟。他不动声色,冷着脸摸了左手的脉又捏了捏肚腹,然后用双手掀开秉德老汉的嘴巴,轻轻“嗯”了一声就转过头问嘉轩:“有烧酒没有?”嘉轩的母亲白赵氏连声应着“有有有”,转身就把一整瓶烧酒取来了。冷先生又要来一只青瓷碗,把烧酒咕嘟嘟倒入碗里,用眼睛示意嘉轩将酒点燃。嘉轩满面虚汗,颤抖的双手捏着火石火镰却打不出火花来。鹿三接过手只一下就打燃了火纸,噗地一口气就吹出了火焰,点燃了烧酒。冷先生从裤腰带上解下皮夹再揭开暗扣,露出一排刀子锥子挑钩粗针和一只闪闪发光的三角刮刀。冷先生取出一根麦秆粗的钢针和一块钢板,一齐放到烧酒燃起的蓝色火焰上烧烤,然后吩咐嘉轩压死老汉的双手,吩咐白赵氏压紧双腿,特别叮嘱鹿三挟紧主人的头和脖颈,无论发生什么情况都不能松动。一切都严格按照冷先生的嘱咐进行。冷先生把那块钢板塞进秉德老汉的口腔,用左手食指一分就变成一个V形的撑板,把秉德老汉的嘴撬撑到极限,右手里那根正在烧酒火焰上烧得发红变黄的钢针一下戳进喉咙,旁人尚未搞清怎么一回事,钢针已经拔出,只见秉德老汉嘴里冒出一股青烟,散发着皮肉焦灼的奇臭气味。冷先生一边擦拭刀具一边说:“放开手。完了。”随之吹熄了烧酒碗里的火苗儿。秉德老汉像麻花一样扭曲的腿脚手臂松弛下来,散散伙伙地随意摆置在炕上一动不动,口里开始淌出一股乌黑的粘液,看了令人恶心,嘉轩用毛巾小心翼翼地擦拭着。这时候,秉德老汉渐渐睁开眼睛。四个人同时发现了这一伟大的转机,同时发现了微启的眼睑里有一缕表示生命回归的活光,像是阴霾的云缝泄下一缕柔和的又是生机勃勃的阳光。三个人同时惊喜地“哦呀”一声,不约而同地转过溢着泪花的眼来看着冷先生。冷先生还是惯常那副模样,说:“给灌一点凉开水。”三个人手忙脚乱又是小心翼翼地给那个阔大的嘴巴灌了几勺开水,秉德老汉竟然神奇地坐了起来,抓住冷先生的手说开了笑话:“哎呀!冷侄儿!我给阎王爷的生死簿子上正打钩哩!猛乍谁一把从我手里抽夺了毛笔,照直捅进我的喉咙。我还给阎王爷说‘你看你看这可怪不了我呀’!原来是你。”三个人流着眼泪笑出了声。秉德老汉嗔怪老伴说:“还不快给先生拾掇茶饭——”白赵氏带着怠慢了恩人的歉意慌忙离去了,灶间传来很响的添水的瓢声和风箱声。

As soon as he entered the door, Dr. Leng saw Bingde on the bed, crumpled up like a pretzel, still whimpering like a dog. The doctor showed no expression; he checked the old man’s pulse on the left hand, pressed his stomach, then pried open the old man’s mouth with his hands, and gave a “hm”. He then turned to Jiaxuan.

“Do you have any soju?”

Jiaxuan’s mom, Mrs. Bai Zhao replied quickly “yes, yes we do”, and then brought over a whole bottle.

Dr. Leng asked for a celadon bowl, poured soju into it, and signalled Jiaxuan to light up the bowl of alcohol. Jiaxuan was dripping sweat and his hands shook constantly due to being nervous; he kept failing to get a spark going with the flint stone. Lu San took over and lit up the fire paper with a single strike, and got a flame going with one quick blow. As the soju was lit, Dr. Leng took off the parcel on his belt, unbuttoned the flap, and exposed a row of knives, awls, needles, and a shiny triangular scraper. He took out a steel needle as thick as a straw along with a steel plate and put both on the blue soju flames; he then asked Jiaxuan to hold down Bingde’s hands, Mrs. Bai Zhao to press down her husband’s legs, and specifically told Lu San to steady the head and neck of his master, no matter what happens. Everything proceeded as the doctor asked, and Dr. Leng stuck the steel plate into Bingde’s mouth, made a V-shaped ridge that held Bingde’s mouth open as widely as possible with a press of his finger, then took the already-past red-hot needle that was on the flame, and stabbed it down the old man’s throat. Before the others could figure out what had happened, he took the needle out, and smoke came out of the old man’s mouth along with a putrid odour of burnt flesh.

“Let go, we’re done” Dr. Leng said as he cleaned his tools.

The old man Bingde untwisted his arms and legs, and then spread out completely relaxed on the bed. A nauseating dark mucus leaked out of his mouth, and Jiaxuan cleaned it off carefully with a cloth. The old man opened his eyes slowly, alarming the four others to this turn of events. His eyes glowed with signs of having been brought back to life, like a ray of sunlight piercing through a crack of the stormy sky. Three of them cried out in excitement, and turned to look at Dr. Leng with tears in their eyes. He was calm as usual, and said, “Get some cold water in him.”

The three frantically but carefully got a few spoonful of water into the wide-open mouth. Soon Bingde miraculously sat up, held the doctor’s hand and joked, “Leng! My son! I was just ticking my name off Yama’s list, and suddenly someone grabbed the brush from my hand and stuck it straight down my throat. I was just telling Yama that ‘well there’s nothing I can do about that’. Turns out it was you all along!”

The three burst into laughter still in tears. Bingde told his wife, “Go get some tea and lunch for the doctor!” and she rushed out with an apology for mistreating the honoured saviour; noises of splashing water and howling bellows came out of the kitchen.

 

冷先生坐下也不说话,接过嘉轩递给他的秉德老汉的那把白铜水烟壶就悠悠吸起来。白赵氏端来一只金边细瓷碗,里面盛着三个洁白如玉的荷包蛋。冷先生只用一个手势就表示出不容置疑的坚决拒绝。白赵氏还想说什么体己关照的话,秉德老汉的手脚随着身子的突然仰倒又扭起了麻花,而且更加剧烈,眼里的活光很快收敛,又是一片垂死的神色,嗷嗷呜呜狗一样的叫声又从喉咙里涌出来。已经完全解除了心里负载的女人儿子和长工大惊失色,骤然间意识到他们高兴得太早了,危机并没有根除,一下子又陷入更加沉重的二次打击中。冷先生依然不慌不忙照前办理,重新在燃烧的烧酒的蓝色火焰里烧烤钢板和钢针。三个人不经吩咐已经分别挟制压死了秉德老汉头手和腿脚。通红的钢针再次捅进喉咙,又是一股带着焦臭气味蓝烟。秉德老汉又安静下来,继而眼里又放出活光来,这回他可没说给阎王生死簿上打钩画圈的笑话。三个人的脸上和眼里的疑云凝滞不散。冷先生收拾起那只磨搓得紫红油亮的皮夹,重新系到裤角带上,准备告辞。嘉轩和母亲以及长工鹿三一齐拉住冷先生的胳膊,这样子你咋敢走?你走了再犯了可咋办呀?冷先生不动眉平板着脸说:“常言说,有个再一再二没有再三再四。再不发生了算是老叔命大福大,万一再三再四地发生……我夺了他打钩画圈的笔杆也不顶啥了!”说罢就走出屋门走过院子走到街门外头来。嘉轩一边送行一边问父亲得下的是啥病,冷先生说:“瞎瞎病。”嘉轩几乎无力走进门楼。“瞎瞎病”不言自明的确切含义是绝症。

Dr. Leng sat down, and without a word, he started to smoke using the old man’s white brass water pipe that Jiaxuan handed over. Mrs. Bai Zhao brought over a porcelain bowl with gold lining, contained therein three boiled eggs, each white as jade. However, Dr. Leng made a gesture that showed absolute and complete rejection of this offer. Just as Mrs. Bai Zhao was about to say something like “take care my dear”, Bingde suddenly fell over; his arms and legs began twisting up again even more fiercely than before. The life in his eyes faded and looks of death remerged along with the same dog-like whimpering. The three fell into terror as they had just let down their guard. The second strike hit much worse—they got happy far too soon for the crisis to subside. Dr. Leng took care of business calmly as usual; he began heating the steel plate and needle on the same blue soju flames. The three held Bingde down even without instruction. Again the red-hot needle was stuck down his throat, and again came out the revolting blue smoke. Bingde settled down as life came back into his eyes, but this time he didn’t crack a joke about stealing Yama’s brush. The three were puzzled, but the doctor tidied up his shiny purple leather parcel, re-strapped it onto his belt, and was ready to leave. Jiaxuan, his mother and the worker Lu San grabbed Dr. Leng by the arm, “How can you leave at this time? What if he’s at it again?”

Dr. Leng said with his poker face, “My help is only a temporary solution. I can rob Yama’s brush these two times, but if he’s meant to go, he’s meant to go and there’s nothing I can do if it keeps on happening!” He then left the room and went out onto the street.

Jiaxuan rushed out to bid farewell, then asked what his father was sick with.

“Xiaxia disease.” Dr. Leng said.

Jiaxuan was almost powerless to walk back inside. The doctor’s words meant a blind disease. In other words, unknown and fatal.

 

白秉德老汉死了。父亲的死是嘉轩头一回经见人的死亡过程。爷爷在他尚未来到人世就死掉了,奶奶死的时光他还没有记忆的智能。他的四个女人相继死亡他都不能亲自目睹她们咽下最后一口气,她被母亲拖到鹿三的牲畜棚里,身上披一条红巾,防止鬼魂附体。父亲的死亡是他平生经见的头一个由阳世转入阴世的人。他的死亡给他留下了永久性的记忆,那种记忆非但不因年深日久而暗淡而磨灭,反倒像一块铜镜因不断地擦拭而愈加明光可鉴。冷先生掖着皮夹走回他在白鹿镇上的中医堂以后,嘉轩和他妈白赵氏以及长工鹿三在炕上和炕下把秉德老汉团团围定,像最忠诚的卫士监护着国王。他和母亲给病人喂了一匙糖水,提心吊胆如履薄冰似的希望度过那个可怕的间隔期而不再发作。秉德老汉用十分柔弱十分哀婉的眼光扫视了围着他的三个人,又透过他们包围的空隙扫视了整个屋子,大约发觉冷先生不在了,迟疑一下就闭上了眼睛,再睁开时就透出一股死而无疑的沉静。他已预知到时间十分有限了,一下就把沉静的眼睛盯住儿子嘉轩,不容置疑地说:“我死了,你把木匠卫家的人赶紧娶回来。”嘉轩说:“爸……先不说那事。先给你治病,病好了再说。”秉德老汉说:“我说的就是我死了的话,你当面答应我。”嘉轩为难起来:“真要……那样,也得三年服孝满了以後。这是礼仪。”秉德老汉说:“‘不孝有三无后为大’。你把书念到狗肚里去了?咱们白家几辈财旺人不旺。你爷是个单崩儿守我一个单崩儿,到你还是个单崩儿。自我记得,白家的男人都短寿,你老爷活到四十八,你爷活到四十六,我算活得最长过了五十大关了。你守三年孝就是孝子了?你绝了后才是大逆不孝!”嘉轩的头上开始冒虚汗。秉德老汉说:“过了四房娶五房。凡是走了的都命定不是白家的。人存不住是欠人家的财还没还完。我只说一句,哪怕卖牛卖马卖地卖房卖光卖净……”嘉轩看见母亲给他使眼色,却急得说不出口,哪有三年孝期未过就办红事的道理?正僵持间,秉德老汉又扭动起来,眼里的活光倏忽隐退,嘴里又发出嗷嗷嗷呜呜呜的狗一样的叫声,三个人全都不知如何是好了。嘉轩的一只手腕突然被父亲捉住,那指甲一阵紧似一阵直往肉里抠,垂死的眼睛放出一股凶光,嘴里的白沫不断涌出,在炕上翻滚扭动,那只手却不放松。母亲急了:“快给你爸一句话!”鹿三也急了:“你就应下嘛!”嘉轩“哇”地一声哭了:“爸……我听你的吩咐……你放心……”秉德老汉立时松了手,往后一仰,蹬了蹬腿就气绝了。嘉轩一声哭嚎就昏死过去,被救醒时父亲已经穿上了老衣,香蜡已经在灵桌上焚烧。鹿三说:“你不能再哭了,先安顿丧事。你不做主旁人没法举动。”嘉轩当即和族里几位长辈商定丧事,先定必办不可的事:派出四个近门子的族里人,按东南西北四路分头去给亲戚友好报丧;派八个远门子的族人日夜换班去打墓,在阴阳先生未定准穴位之前先给坟地推砖作箍墓的准备事项;再派三四个帮忙的乡党到水磨上去磨面,自家的石磨太慢了。下来就议到乐人的事,这需得主家嘉轩做主,请几个乐人?闹多大场面?继续多少时日?嘉轩说:“俺爸辛苦可怜一世,按说该当在家停灵三年才能下葬。俺爸临终有话,三天下葬,不用鼓乐,一切从简。我看既不能三年守灵,也不要三天草草下葬,在家停灵‘一七’,也能箍好墓室。叔伯爷们,你们指教……”远门近门的长辈老者都知道嘉轩命运不济,至今连个骑马坠灵的女人也没有,都同意嘉轩的安排。一位伯伯朗然说:“人说‘瞻前顾后’,前后总是不能兼顾,就只能是先瞻前而后顾后;生死不能同时顾全,那就先顾生而后顾死。”事情当即定下来,派一个人到临近村里去找乐人班主,讲定八挂五的人数,头三天和后一天出全班乐人,中间三天只要五个人在灵前不断弦索就行了。

The old man Bingde died. His father’s death was the first that Jiaxuan had seen with his own eyes. His grandfather passed before he came to this world, and his grandmother too before he had any intelligence. His four wives took their last breaths away from him, as his mom always dragged him into the livestock shed (barn***) with a red blanket over his body to prevent him from getting possessed. His father was the first person that he had seen to pass from this life onto the afterlife. The death left him a permanent scar, a memory that did not fade over time, but rather like a bronze mirror that shined brighter as it was wiped over and over.

After the doctor left, Jiaxuan, his mother and Lu San gathered around Bingde like the most loyal of guards keeping their king safe. He and his mother fed the sick man a spoonful of sugar water, scared like a person treading on thin ice of Bingde’s third strike. Bingde glanced over the three of them with a sad and tender look, then peeked through the gaps between their bodies to check around the whole room. Perhaps he had discovered that Dr. Leng was no long around, he closed his eyes after a moment’s hesitation, and as he opened them again, a deathly silence fell.

Time was limited, he thought. He stared at his son Jiaxuan, then stated firmly, “After I die, go get married with the carpenter’s daughter.”

“Dad…we’ll talk about that later, let’s get you well first, alright?” Jiaxuan said.

“I’m telling you my last wishes, you have to comply right here and now.”

Jiaxuan was feeling awkward, “If it must be done, then I will do so after three years of bereavement based on our traditions.”

“There are three ways a son is unfilial; among the three leaving no offspring is the worst. Have you forgotten everything you’ve learned? Us Bai’s do not lack in wealth, but we do lack in population. Your grandfather was an only son who had an only son, me, who again, had only one son, you. Men in the Bai family always had a short lifespan for as long as I can remember. Your great grandfather lived to forty-eight, and your grandfather to forty-six. I had lived the longest, breaking the fifty-year mark. Three years of traditional bereavement means you’ve done your duties? No, you would have done nothing filial if you never have any kids!”

Jiaxuan felt cold sweat beginning to gather on his forehead.

Bingde kept going, “The fifth wife will come after the fourth. Those who have passed were never meant to be with this family. They were gone because they hadn’t finished paying back what they owed. I’m only going to say this once, even if we have to sell our cattle, horses, land, house, each and every bit we have…”

Jiaxuan saw his mother signalling him to talk, but he could not. Who would ever have a wedding before the three years of bereavement passes?

The old man began to twitch again in their argument; the life in his eyes faded in and out, and the whimpers started again. The three were clueless on what they should do. Suddenly, Bingde grabbed one of Jiaxuan’s wrists; his nails dug hard into his son’s flesh, unwilling to let go. A look of savagery appeared in his eyes despite him already foaming at the mouth, and tumbling all over the bed.

His mother was getting anxious, “Talk to your dad!”

Lu San felt uneasy too, “Just say yes!”

Jiaxuan cried out, “Dad…I’ll do as you say, I promise…”

The old man immediately let go, tilted back his head, kicked a bit, and stopped breathing.

Jiaxuan fainted after a loud cry. By the time he came to, his late father was already in his grave clothes, and candles were lit on the altar. Lu San said, “You really should stop crying now and get the funeral started. We can’t take action until you take charge.”

Jiaxuan got started on the funeral process right away. He started by discussing with the elders of the clan, then moved onto the things that had to be done: send out four closely related clan members to announce the news to other friends and family in the cardinal directions. Eight less related clan members were sent to get bricks for setting up the gravesite after the Yin Yang master has determined a good location. A couple of helpful neighbours were asked to go to the water mill in town and get flour ready, since the stone mill at home was too slow. Finally, it was time for Jiaxuan to decide on the number of musicians. How many would be required, for how big of a reception, and how many days?

Jiaxuan said, “My father worked hard in a lifetime of anguish; usually we should not bury him without three years of soul-resting at home. However, my father said before his death, that we should bury him in three days, no music, and no extravagant rituals. I say we take the middle ground, not a three-year wake, and not a simple burial in three days. Let’s have him stay home for the first seven days, which would give us time to stabilize the tomb. Uncles and great uncles, I hereby await your instructions…”

The elders of the clan were aware of Jiaxuan’s hardships—a man without a child to arrange his own eventual funeral; they agreed with Jiaxuan’s decisions. An uncle told him calmly, “No one has eyes in the back of his head. You must look forward towards life, and not backwards towards death.”

The group achieved agreement. A person was sent to get a group of musicians in a nearby village, “eight by five”, they ordered. That is, eight musicians to play for the first three days and the last day of the funeral, while five musicians for the three days in the middle, just to keep a tune going.

 

整个丧事都按原定的程序进行。七天后,秉德老汉就在祖坟坟地上占据了一个位置,一个新鲜的湿漉漉的黄土堆成的墓圪塔。他的坟堆按照长幼排在父亲坟堆的下首靠左的位置,右边不言而喻是留给白赵氏将来仙逝时的安居之地。这件悲凉的丧事总算过去了。屋里走了父亲一个人,屋院里顿然空寂得令人窒息。母亲一个人在上房里屋,他一个人在厦屋。长工鹿三一个人在马号里。如果母亲不咳嗽一声,这个有着三进房屋的四合院里整个晚上和白天都没有一丝声息。这天晚上母亲问他打算啥时候娶妻,他说起码得过了头周年以后。母亲说不要等了,等也是白等,家里太孤清了;况且她一个人单是扫屋扫院洗衣拆被做饭都支应不下来,再甭说纺线织布等家务了。他说:“那就过了百日再办吧。”母亲说:“百日也不要等了,‘七七’过了就办。”实际的情况是过了两月,当麦子收割碾打完毕地净场光秋田播种之后的又一个仅次于冬闲的夏闲时节里,他娶回来第五房女人──木匠卫老三家的三姑娘。新婚之夜,溽暑难耐。嘉轩插上了厦屋木门的门闩,转过身就抹下了长袖布衫和长裤。端坐在炕席上的新娘突然爬跪在炕上,对他作揖磕头,乞求他再不要脱短袖衫和短裤了。他问她怎么了?她说她生来就命苦,在穷苦人家里的三姑娘就更苦了①。他似乎意识到一点什么,就追问她是不是听到什么闲话了?她说她知道他娶过四房女人,都死了。她还说她听人说过他不光是命硬,而且那东西上头长着一个有毒汁的倒钩,把女人的心肺肝花全都捣得稀烂,铁打的女人也招不住捣腾。她竟然瑟瑟抖颤着身子哭起来:“俺爸图了你家的财礼不顾我的死活,逢崖遇井我都得往下跳。我不想死不想早死想多多伺候你几年,我给你端水递茶洗脚做饭扫地缝连补缀做牛做马都不说个怨字,只是你黑间甭拿那个东西吓我就行了,好官人好大哥好大大你就容让我了吧……”嘉轩一下子愣坐在椅子上,新婚之夜的兴味荡然无存。他早已听到过这个荒诞的流言却无法辩解,又着实搞不清别人的与自己的那个东西有什么区别。他曾经在缝集赶会时的公用茅厕里佯装拉屎尿尿偷偷观察过许多陌生的男人,全都是一个逑样又是百逑不一样,结果反而愈加迷惑。这个木匠卫家的三姑娘可怜兮兮地乞求饶命,不仅没有引起他的同情,反而伤害了他的自尊,也激怒了他。他从椅子上站起来,一步跨上炕去,三下五除二就扒光了衣裤,把自己的东西亮给她看,哪有什么倒钩毒汁!三姑娘又羞又怕又哭又抖。她越这样他越气恼,赌气扒下她的衣裤。事毕后他问她伤了什么内脏,却发现她已闭气。他慌忙掐住她的人中。她醒来后就躲到炕角缩作一团。他好气又好笑,亲昵她爱抚她给她宽心。无论如何,她的心病无法排除,每到夜晚,就在被窝里发虐疾似的打颤发抖。半年未过,她竟然神情恍惚,变成半疯半癫,最后一次到涝池洗衣服时犯了病,栽进涝池溺死了。

The funeral proceeded as planned. Seven days later, a new grave was drawn for the old man on the ancestral graveyard, with a brand new tomb tower made of fresh yellow earth raised. The tomb was just one row below that of Jiaxuan’s grandfather based on traditions, slightly to the left. The area to the right was, of course, left empty for Mrs. Bai Zhao when she ascended to heaven.

Finally it was all over. Without his father, the household became so quiet that it was suffocating. His mother stayed in the master bedroom on the north side of the homestead, he at a side bedroom, and Lu San at the stable. The household made no noise all day and night, besides an occasional cough from his mother.

One night, his mother asked him when he was planning to get married. A year after his father’s passing, he said. His mother suggested that he should stop waiting around; the household was too quiet and dreary, and she was getting quite overwhelmed with housework like cooking and cleaning, that she really needed an extra hand to help out so they could do more things like weaving and spinning thread.

“How about after the first one hundred days?” He asked.

“Don’t bother”, his mother told him, “A hundred days would be too long, just do it after the first seven weeks of prayer.”

In the end, it took two months for him to get married again, this time with his fifth wife—the third daughter of the carpenter Wei. By then it was already a short off-season during the summer after harvesting, threshing, cleaning, and planting the autumn wheat. Night of the wedding was hot and humid. Jiaxuan locked the doors to his bedroom, and took off his outer garments in an instant. His new wife who was sitting firmly on the bed suddenly got up and kneeled on the bed, bowing and begging him to stop taking off his undergarments. He asked her what was going on, and she answered that being born as the third daughter in a poor family meant that she would have a miserable life. Alarmed as he suddenly realized something, he asked her if she had heard any rumours. She said that she knew he had been married four times and all of his wives died. She also heard that not only was he cursed, he had a venom-filled hook on his thing that would grind up the insides of a woman—heart, lungs, liver and all. Even a woman made of iron would be decimated.

She trembled and cried as she spoke, “My dad got greedy over the bride prize to the point that he didn’t even care if I lived or died; he’d tell me to jump off a cliff if he had to. Can you please, please let me live for a few more years, I can take care of you, get you tea, give you baths, cook, clean, sew, I’ll do anything as long as you don’t take that thing out! Please oh please honey, my beloved, my daddy…”

Jiaxuan was stupefied. He lumped in a chair in dismay. The joy of a wedding’s night was gone without a trace. He’d long heard about this ridiculous rumour but there was no way he could prove or disprove if his thing was any different from other peoples’. He even checked out other men’s penises while pretending to take a leak or a dump in public outhouses during a festival. That only served to make the confusion even worse since all of them were the fucking same but still seemed different. The act of the carpenter’s daughter begging for her life not only failed to gain his sympathy, but seriously hurt his pride. In his fury, he stood up from the chair, leaped onto the bed and stripped himself clean to show her what it looked like. “Where is the hook and venom?”

The girl was scared and embarrassed. She shook and cried in fear. The more she did, the more enraged he became. He ripped off her clothes and did the deed. Afterwards, he asked her if her internal organs are okay, but found that she had long fainted. He panicked and pressed her philtrum to wake her up. The girl cowered into one corner of the bed as she came to. He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, but still went over to hold and caress the girl to soothe her. Yet it was all in vain. She could not get over her trauma no matter what he did. Each night she would have a seizure as though she had contracted malaria. She fell into a trance and turned half-mad before their marriage could reach its half-year mark. She had a seizure one day as she was doing laundry at the water hole, fell in, and drowned.

埋藏木匠卫家的三姑娘时,草了的程度比前边四位有所好转,他用杨木板割了一副棺材,穿了五件衣服,前边四个都只穿了三件。自然不请乐人,也不能再做更大的铺排,年轻女人死亡做到这一步已经算是十分宽厚仁慈了。嘉轩所以要对她稍显优厚待遇,完全是一种难以述说的心理因素。在这个女人被涝池奇臭难闻的淤泥涂抹得脏污不堪的身子行将就木之前,他心里开始产生了一种负罪感。结婚那天,他在新房里揭去她的盖头巾的一霎,发现她不独漂亮而且壮健,红扑扑的脸膛,黑如乌珠似的两只机灵的眼睛,透着强健气魄的手臂。她的手掌上竟然有一层薄茧儿,那是木匠出门揽活挣钱,由她和母亲操持田间农活的印证。劳动练就的一副强健的体魄终究抵御不住怪诞流言的袭击……当他又是一个人躺在厦屋炕上的每一天夜晚,都挥斥不开她在新婚之夜给他磕头哀告的情景,总是想到她在他怀里瑟瑟发抖的冰凉的手和冰凉的腿,她肯定从未得到过做爱的欢愉而只领受过恐惧,她竟然无法排除恐惧而终于积聚到崩溃的一步。他现在有点心灰意冷,从田间回来就躺到空寂冷落的土炕上。这个土炕接纳过五个姿态各异的女人,又抬走了五具同样僵硬的尸体。定娶这五个女人花费的粮食棉花骡子和银元合计起来顶得小半个家当且在其次,关键是心绪太坏了。他躺在炕上既不唉声叹气也不难过,只是乏力和乏心。他觉得手足轻若纸片,没有一丝力气,一股清风就可能把他扬起来抛到随便一个旮旯里无声无响,世事已经十分虚渺,与他没有任何牵涉。他躺在炕上直到天黑,听见母亲叫他吃晚饭他说不饿不想吃了。母亲又喊鹿三。鹿三不好意思独自吃饭,跑进厦屋来开导他。他劝鹿三快去吃饭不要等自己。鹿三在院里葡萄架下吞食饭食的声音很响,吃得又急又快。他想不出世上有哪种可口的食物会使人嚼出这样香甜这样急切的响声。

Her funeral was treated with much more respect than the previous four. He made a poplar coffin, and put on her five layers of grave clothes. The other four only had three. Naturally he made no arrangements for musicians or further spending; it was already extremely generous for the death of a young woman. The reason for this slightly-more-generous funeral was psychological. He felt seriously guilty from the day her corpse was reeled up, all smeared with stinking mud, to the moment she was put into the coffin. He remembered that on the night of the wedding, how amazed he was at her beauty and her strong physique as he took off her red veil. Her eyes, large and bright as black pearls; her arms were strong, and her hands were callused—monuments of her hard work at the farms with her mother while the carpenter was out at work. Even a strong body was no match for the powers of dirty rumours…he could not get the image of her begging for her life on the wedding night out of his head, and it flashed back to him during each of those lonely nights he spent on the heated bed of his room. How her ice-cold hands and legs twitched as he took her in his arms. How she had never felt the pleasures, but only fear from sex. How she eventually collapsed from the collected fear. He felt rather hopeless, to the point that he turned his life into only laying down on the cold, earthen bed, and working at the farms. This heated earthen bed had held five women of different shapes and sizes, which turned into five cold, hard corpses that were strikingly similar. Compared to the despair, the vast amounts of silver dollars, food, cotton and mules spent on these marriages meant little to nothing. No sadness, no sighs; just exhaustion, both physically and mentally as he rested on the bed. He felt light and powerless as a feather, that a light breeze would lift him into the air, and throw him into a little corner without a stir. The worldly tasks were so far-fetched that nothing at all concerned him. He lay on his bed until it became dark. His mother asked him to have dinner, but he told her he wasn’t hungry. Then she called for Lu San. He was far too shy to have dinner alone, so went into the side bedroom to talk some sense into Jiaxuan, but Jiaxuan remained adamant, and told Lu San to eat alone and stop worrying about him. Lu San made an unbelievable amount of noise as he sat under the grape vines, chowed down the food, fast and furiously. Is anything in this world that would make people gorge it down while making such a satisfying noise? Jiaxuan thought.

母亲拾掇完灶间的事在院子里扑打身上的尘灰,喊他。嘉轩走进上房里屋,母亲坐在父亲在世时常坐的那把简化了的太师椅上,姿势颇似父亲的坐姿。他在桌子另一边的椅子上坐下,尽量做出不在心亦不在意的样子。母亲说她准备明天一早回娘家去,托他的舅舅们给他再踏摸媳妇。他劝母亲暂缓一缓。母亲问他为什么要缓?二十几岁的年龄了还敢缓!母亲说着就上了劲儿:“甭摆出那个阴阳丧气的架式!女人不过是糊窗子的纸,破了烂了揭掉了再糊一层新的。死了五个我准备给你再娶五个。家产花光了值得,比没儿没女断了香火给旁人占去心甘。”嘉轩再没有说什么。第五天,母亲从舅家归来,事情已有定局。南原上的一户姓胡的小康人家,赌场上掷骰子一夜之间输光了家当,赌徒们赶到家来,上楼灌净了囤子里的粮食拉走了槽头的犍牛和骡子,用犍牛骡子拉着装满粮食的牛车走掉了。女人气得半死,赌徒羞愧难当,解下裤带吊到后院的核桃树上幸被人发现救活。这样一来答应以女儿许人,聘礼之高足使正常人咋舌呆脑,二十石麦子二十捆棉花或按市价折成银洋也可以,但必须一次交清。这个数字使嘉轩脊梁发冷,母亲却不动声色地说她已经答应了人家,下来该由充当媒人的二舅按照定婚的惯常程序去履行手续就是了。嘉轩惊异地发现,母亲办事的干练和果决实际上已经超过父亲,更少一些瞻前顾后的忧虑,表现出认定一条路只顾往前走而不左顾右盼的专注和果断。这样,赶在父亲的头周年忌祀到来之前一个月,正当桃花三月的宜人季节,第六个媳妇在呜哇呜哇的唢呐喇叭的欢悦的喜庆曲调里走进门楼来了。

His mother called him over after she had cleaned up the kitchen and the dirt on her clothes. He went into the master bedroom, and saw his mother sitting on the simplified “Tai Shi” armchair that his father used to sit, in a way that reminded him of his dad. He sat down on the chair across the table, and tried to look nonchalant. His mother told him that she was planning to go back to her family next morning to ask her brothers to find him potential partners. Jiaxuan asked her to take things slower.

“Why should I?” His mother asked. She kept on going as she became more excited. “You’re already over twenty years old, there’s no time to waste! And stop putting on that gloomy face; women are just like the paper that covers windows; a broken piece of paper is meant to be replaced. Five dead? I’ll get you five more. Spend everything we own? So be it, still better than someone else taking over your land if you die without children.”

Jiaxuan was left speechless.

Five days later, his mother returned from his uncle’s with news of a settlement. A decent family on the South Plateau, the Hu’s, lost all their money when gambling. The gamblers went into their home, took all their grains, cattle and mules as payment for the money the man owed. The woman of the house was embarrassed half to death; the man, in his shame, took off his belt and hung himself on a chestnut tree in the back yard. Luckily he was saved by people that went by. He thus asked for a huge sum of bride prize for his daughter—20 dan of wheat, which was roughly 2000 litres, along with 20 bundles of cotton, or the market-price equivalent in silver dollars, lump sum. These figured sent a chill down Jiaxuan’s spine, but his mother told him blankly that she had already agreed to those terms. Following the talk, his second maternal uncle acted as the matchmaker and conducted the marriage as per usual. Jiaxuan discovered in surprise that his mother had already exceeded his father in her tenaciousness and directness when taking action. Once she had chosen her path, there was no looking back, no hesitation, and only going forward. Just like that, the sixth wife came in through the doors with the celebratory tones of suona horns, all during the perfect season of March where the peach flowers bloomed, and one month before his father’s one-year death anniversary.

第六个女人胡氏被揭开盖头红帕的时候,嘉轩不禁一震,拥进新房来看热闹的男人和女人也都一齐被震得哑了嘻嘻哈哈的哄闹。这个女人使人立即会联想到传说中的美女,或者是戏台上的贵妇人娇女子。当嘉轩从新房挤出来到摆满坐椅饭桌的庭院里的时候,有人就开始喊胡风莲了,那就是秦腔戏《游龟山》里一位美貌无双的渔女,几乎家喻户晓人人皆知。晚上,当他和她坐在一个炕上互相瞄瞅的美好时光里,她的光彩和艳丽一下子荡涤净尽前头五个女人潜留给他的晦暗心理,也使他不再可惜二十石麦子二十捆棉花的超级聘礼。然后同衾共枕。他很快发现事情并不美妙。他抚摸她搂抱她亲她的脸亲她的嘴她都温顺地领受了,当他的手试图拉开她的短裤的系带时她跳了起来,从枕头下迅即摸出一把剪刀执在手中。那剪刀显然经过用心的打磨,锋利的刀刃在蜡烛的红光里闪出一道道血花。她跪在炕上,裸着两只翘翘的雪白的奶子,把剪刀的刀尖对准他说:“你要是敢扯开我的裤带,我就把你的那个东西剪掉。”

He was stunned after he took off her red veil. Even the partying men and women who gathered in the bridal chamber too had stopped their jittering. The woman, Hu, was beautiful like the women in folk tales, or like an aristocratic lady in a theatre. As soon as Jiaxuan squeezed himself out of the bridal chamber, people started yelling “Hu Fenglian”. That was the name of a character in a well-known Qinqiang, a Shaanxi Opera called “Trip to Guishan”; she was a gorgeous woman in an angler’s family.

The two sat on the bed at night, a time of wonder as they took peeks at each other. Her radiance completely dispelled the darkness left on Jiaxuan by his five former wives, and he no longer felt even a hint of regret over the huge bride price. They lay down together; he held her, felt her, kissed her on the cheeks and lips. She accepted everything gladly. But he soon discovered that things were not as wonderful as he thought. While he was trying to take off the belt from her underwear, she jumped, and quickly grabbed a pair of scissors from under the pillow. The scissors were obviously carefully sharpened; they shone bright red as the sharp blades reflected the red candlelight. She kneeled on the bed, with the sharp tip of the scissors pointed at him, while her perky white breasts were still left bare. “I’ll snip it off if you ever dare taking off my belt.”

 

他妥协了让步了依允了胡氏。他觉得有这样一个女人陪睡在身边该当满足了,却又止不住夜夜遗憾。他甚至开始真的怀疑自己那个东西里头流出的货是否有毒,偷偷把那货抖落到猪食里观察猪吃了以后的动静,共计三次,猪的活动毫无异常。他把自己的心事述说给冷先生。冷先生听了就笑了,说他早就听到闲人们说的这个闲话了,纯属子虚乌有无稽之谈。在他行医的二十多年里经见过有精无精死精水精的男人,还没见过一个生有倒钩毒精的先例。冷先生笑毕说:“兄弟!干脆来个将错就错将计就计吧!”说吧铺纸捉笔蘸墨,开下一剂滋阴壮阳温补的药方,一次取了七服,并嘱连服百日。嘉轩拎着一捆药包回家交给胡氏,说这药是除毒的。胡氏喜不自胜,每日早晚煎熬,看着男人饮下。这一晚她偎在男人的怀里动情地说:“你就忍着苦喝到百日,只要除了毒,你想咋样你要咋样就咋样,我一点为难你的坏心都没有。”嘉轩大为欢心,喝那苦咧咧的药汁如同喝着蜂蜜。百日尽头,嘉轩经过药物补缀,容光焕发,胡氏解除了心头忌讳也就扯去了裤带,俩人一样热烈一样贪婪一样不觉满足也不感困乏,直到把两页炕面的土坯弄塌,俩人又嘻嘻笑着挪一个地窝儿。

He compromised. Such a woman sleeping beside him was enough, he thought, despite the pity he felt for himself every night. He was really starting to suspect that the stuff out of his thing was poisonous, and secretly put some into the pig fodder. The pigs acted just fine after him having experimented three times. He told his concerns to Dr. Leng. The doctor laughed, and told him he had long heard about this rumour and that it was completely false and ridiculous. He had seen in his twenty years of practice men with all sorts of semen; normal, none-at-all, dead, or bleak, but never a penis with a hook and semen with toxin.

Dr. Leng said after he had finished laughing, “Know what bro? Let’s just play along with it!”

He put down some paper and inked his brush, prescribed Jiaxuan a formula that strengthens his body and sex organs, seven doses in total, to be brewed into tea and ingested for the next hundred days. Jiaxuan took the herbs home and told his wife that it was to rid the poison. She was overjoyed, and brewed the herbs day and night, then watched her man drink it down. That night, she lay in his arms and told him amorously, “Just a hundred days of pain and bitterness, and you can do whatever you want with me when you’re no longer filled with poison. I never meant to give you a hard time.”

Jiaxuan was delighted. The bitter tea tasted sweet as honey. A hundred days passed and Jiaxuan glowed with strength and vigor from the herbs. Hu loosened her belt as her fears were resolved; the two went at it in all their lust and greed; they felt no exhaustion nor were they easily satisfied, and kept going even when the heated bed fell apart—they just giggled and moved to another location.

胡氏放开腰禁后的狂热持续了整整三个通宵,俩人都累坏了。第四天夜里再也折腾不起,相依相偎着进入睡梦。酣睡里一声尖叫把嘉轩惊吓得不知所措,清醒后发觉胡氏紧紧缠抱着自己,浑身抖索如同筛糠,大气也不敢出。他急忙点着油灯,看见胡氏的眼睛里满是狐疑惊恐之色,目光恍惚游移不定。问她怎么了,她嘴里支支吾吾,好半天才挤出一句:“有鬼!”说罢把头埋进被窝,更加用力死抱住嘉轩。嘉轩听罢,顿觉头皮发麻后脊发冷,浑身暴起一层冷森森的鸡皮疙瘩。他问:“鬼在哪达?”胡氏颤着声说:“我不敢说,越说越害怕。”嘉轩挣脱开胡氏的手,勾上裤子光着上身赤着脚跑出厦屋爬上楼去挖来半升豌豆,一把连着一把摔打下来,从顶棚打到墙角,从炕上打到地下,一把把豌豆密如雨下,刷刷刷的响声令人毛骨悚然,炕上桌上地上洒满了绿莹莹的豌豆粒儿。小时候父亲就这样驱鬼为他压惊。经过这一番折腾,胡氏真的缓过气来,眼里有了活色,抱住他呜呜呜哭了起来,身子不再抖颤了。他抱着她坐到天明,她才敢于开口说出昨晚梦见的鬼怪。她说她看见他前房的五个女人了。那五个女人掐她拧她抠她抓她撕她打她唾她,都争着拉他去睡觉。令嘉轩大惑不解的是,胡氏并没有见过死掉的任何一个女人,而她说出的那五个死者的相貌特征一个一个都与真人相吻合!嘉轩说给母亲,母亲当即说:“今黑就去请法官,把狗日的一个一个都捉了。”

Their passion lasted for three full days and three full nights; on the fourth day they were finally worn out, and went into a slumber in each other’s arms. Suddenly a loud scream woke Jiaxuan up and threw him into panic. As he came to his senses, he found Hu clinging to him tightly, trembling and breathless. He quickly lit up the oil lamp, and saw fear and confusion flashing back and forth in Hu’s eyes. He asked her what was wrong, and hesitantly, she murmured “Ghosts”, and then buried her head back into the blanket while holding Jiaxuan even tighter.

After hearing those words his scalp turned numb as a chill went down his spine, and goosebumps raised all over his body. He asked, “Where are the ghosts?”

Hu replied, her voice trembling, “I can’t. I’m too scared.”

Jiaxuan shook her hand off, put on his pants, and dashed out of the room still half-naked and barefoot. He went upstairs, dug up half a litre of peas, and threw handful after handful of them down, raining the peas from the roof to the corners, from the bed to the ground. The flushing sound of peas dropping were loud enough to send people shivering. His father used the same method to calm him down when he was little and saw a ghost. As the bed, tables and ground became filled with peas, Hu miraculously became calm and lively again. She held him and cried, no longer trembling. He held her as they sat there until morning, when Hu finally gathered enough strength to tell him about the ghosts she saw in her dreams last night. She told him that she saw his five ex-wives, pinching, grabbing, scratching, beating, and spitting on her; they also squabbled to sleep with him. What truly puzzled Jiaxuan was that Hu had never met any of the women, but was able to describe how they all looked like perfectly! Jiaxuan told his mother, and she said without hesitation, “We’re getting an exorcist tonight, and we are gonna catch each one of these fuckers.”

法官隐名瞒姓,人称一撮毛,左腮下一颗神秘的黑痣上缀下尺把长的一撮毛。嘉轩诉说了闹鬼的经过。法官只问了他的住址就催他回去,说自己随后就到。嘉轩知道法官行路坐鬼抬轿神速如风,就急急匆匆小跑回家来。法官果然随后就到了,刚到门口就把一只罗网抛到门楼上,乃天罗地网。法官进得屋来,头缠红帕腰系红带脚登红鞋,扑上楼去又钻到脚地。胡氏吓得蒙了被子。法官最后从二门的拐角抓住了鬼,把一个用红布蒙口扎紧了脖颈的瓷罐呈到灯下,那蒙口的红布不断弹动,像是有老鼠往外冲撞。法官吩咐说:“给锅里把水添足,把狗日煮死再焙干!”鹿三和嘉轩俩人轮换拉扯风箱,锅开水滚后,一股臭气溢出来令人作呕,嘉轩先吐了,鹿三接着也吐了,吐了之后再烧,直到把那半锅水烧得一滴不剩,法官接了偿钱提了瓷罐收了天罗地网又坐鬼抬轿回岭上去了。此后果真不再闹鬼。胡氏的精神却再也没能恢复过来,日见沉郁日见寡欢日见黑瘦下去,吃了冷先生几十服中药也不见起色,直至流产下来一堆血肉,竟然卧炕不起,不久就气绝了。

The exorcist remained anonymous, but people called him “Hair Strand”, because he has a strand of hair that measured about a foot long on a mysterious mole under his left cheek. Jiaxuan told him the ins and outs of the haunting. After asking him for the address, the exorcist told him to go home and he’ll be there right away. Jiaxuan jogged back through a shortcut, as he knew the exorcist rode a ghost litter that was fast as the wind. Sure enough, the exorcist arrived right after he did. The exorcist threw a net over the gatehouse as soon as he got to the doors, “the net that covers the heaven and earth”. He went in, wore a red headband, a red belt and red shoes, and ran up down the stairs. Hu covered herself with a blanket in fear. The exorcist eventually caught the ghosts at the corner of the second set of doors in a pot. Under the lamp, the red cloth that sealed the pot fidgeted constantly, as though there were mice were trying to escape. The exorcist instructed them, “fill a wok with water, and we’re going to scald these fuckers dead then bake them dry!”

Lu San and Jiaxuan took turns manning the bellows. A disgusting stench came out as soon as the water started to boil; Jiaxuan threw up, followed by Lu San, but they continued to boil the water until the last drop turned to air. The exorcist took the payment, the pot, the net, and headed back to the mountains in his ghost litter. Since then, no haunting ever occurred. Yet it impossible for Hu to recover. She turned more gloomy, more morose, and thinned down by the day. Dozens of dosages from Dr. Leng were ineffective at making her well again. Eventually, she had a still-born, fell bedridden, and died soon afterwards.

嘉轩完全绝望了,冷先生开导他说:“兄弟,请个阴阳先生来看看宅基和祖坟,看看哪儿出了毛病,让阴阳先生给禳治禳治……”

Jiaxuan had completely given up. Dr. Leng tried to guide him, “Bro, get a Yin Yang master to check out the house and your ancestral graves, see what the problem is, and have him sort things out.”

 

 

Notes:

X Jia Village (X家村): other translation includes X Village, but the former translation is more commonly used.

Plains/plateau (原): having had to ride a motorcycle up the road for 30 to 40 minutes to get there, I am sure it is a plateau, not plains.

Kang (炕): I chose to simply use bed or heated bed, as similar bed devices exist in many cultures.

Litter (轿): the vehicle brides and some aristocrats would use for travelling, usually carried by several men.

Soju (烧酒): another possible translation is baijiu, but as the original text says “soju”, I chose this as the translation.

Yama (阎王): the figurehead of the underworld, Yama is the translation from Sanskrit.

Yin Yang master (阴阳师父): a person that combines feng shui geomancing, exorcism, spirit detection, etc, based on Daoist traditions, typically.

Red veil (盖头): the face-cover a woman wears on a wedding in Chinese traditions

Tai Shi armchair (太师椅): a traditional Chinese armchair

Dan (石): a measuring unit of about 103 litres during the time of this novel. The other pronunciation is “shi”, however, most rural folks prefer to say “dan” instead

Death anniversary (忌祀): a yearly ritual to honour the dead

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