You can’t make this up

Really. Very, very funny and even more revealing.

The Discussion: 3 Comments

A Very Good Short Story I Read On A Chinese BBS

The Final Business Run

Bit by bit, the sand dust that fills the sky is receding. The azure sky and and the scorching sun once again hang over the desert.

He is on the road, driving his beat-up yellow cab. The sides of the road are littered with wreckages of vehicles. Columns of smoke in the distance tell him that a war is being raged throughout his country.

It’s a fine day despite the choking heat. Not a puff of wind is blowing. A convoy of vehicles is travelling towards him, carrying many passengers. The scene reminds of him of the market days in this country when throngs of trucks transport folks to the markets; the only difference is, this time, they are not trucks, but tanks, carrying foreigners, guns in hand. He stares at them. They stare back. So they pass by one another.

“The damned war,” he cursed. Two days ago, a missile fell on the market in front of his house, destroying nearly everything in sight. He survived by a stroke of luck. He decided then and there that he would give up this cab business. This will be his final run. After this, he will leave this place to see his wife and children. “Shala and my children, we’ll soon meet each other again, after I’m done here.” He turns his head to take a glance at a photo of his wife and children. The glass on the frame is shattered, but their smiles in the picture do not fail to provide him the only consolation that he has.

Shortly he arrives at a checkpoint. Tanks sit by the side of the road. Their long cannons and polyhedron-shaped towers send a chill through his spine. A bunch of soldiers armed to the teeth stand by. A foreign soldier signals him to stop. He calms himself down and pulls over. During the past few days, nearly no civilian vehicles come out of the capital city, his car is the only one on road.

A few foreign soldiers come up to him, one, two, three, four, five. The leader stooped to have a look at the old car, then at him. “Where did you come from and where are you going?” With a smile on his face, he answers with a broken speech in the tongue that the soldiers can understand, “Sir, I come from the capital, I’m leaving that place because it is a very dangerous place to be, with the war and everything.”

While talking, he hands a cigarrette over to the soldier, then light it up for him.

“When will the war end?” he asks.

“It won’t take long. We’ll soon liberate all of you in the capital.” The soldier enhaled deeply. He seems to have spotted the photo in the car, “The cigarette is not bad at all. Are those your wife and kids? I have two of my own, roughly the same age.”

“Oh, yes, they are mine and they are constantly on my mind. They left the city a bit earlier, I’m on my way to be reunited with them. Driving a cab around during war times is too dangerous. I’m giving up the business.” He looks at the soldiers, still smiling.

“After we overthrow your dictator, you won’t have that to worry about, you can come back and pick up your livelihood again.” The soldier is leaning on the door of the car. It is perhaps the first time in many days that he has seen a happy face among the local people. It cheeres him up.

“Maybe, but I have to go to see my family. If you would pay us a visit, my wife will prepare a good meal for all of you. Come with me, this is going to be my last business run and I won’t even charge you.”

“Can’t make it. We’re on duty. Give our regards to your wife and kids.” The soldier is a bit excited, thinking, maybe quite some locals have open arms for them after all. “Oh, yes, I almost forgot, the south is battle-infected, where IS your family?”

Still smiling, he picks up the broken picture frame, presses a kiss on the photo, then turns around, not quite himself from the excitement, he looks at the soldier in the eyes, still smiling.

The last thing he saw was the dazed, fearful, contorted expression of the soldier, and the cigarette butt droping from his fingers.

No one knows who wrote this short story, but it created a sensation in China’s online world, and was nominated for the national book prize for the best short story in 2004.

January 7, 2008 @ 1:15 pm | Comment

Excellent story. Compare to Saki’s “The Easter Egg.” Saki takes the time to paint a detailed scene. This one is more compact and leaves much more to the imagination.

January 7, 2008 @ 2:17 pm | Comment

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