Xu A Qin’s village, Zhao Shandu, was also beside the mountain stream, but the stream was very wide there so it had a ferry at that time. When the bridge was built later, the ferry was abandoned, but Zhao Shandu’s name was still used. (1) The bridge was ancient and covered in herring reliefs that were said to be about something from the town’s stream. Legend had it that there were originally stone carvings of turtles at the bridge head, but they were later stolen.
We got in my car and drove over, listening to Uncle Two’s story the entire way. I noticed that Uncle Three’s expression changed while we were talking about the stone carving of the turtles, so I asked him if he did it. “I’m ashamed of not catching up,” he said. As far as he knew, his old man—my grandfather—may have been the one who did it. If not, he at least had a part in it, because Uncle Three saw similar things at home when he was a child.
Biao Gong didn’t come with me—my little car couldn’t hold so many people—so it was only Uncle Two, Uncle Three, and one of Uncle Three’s buddies that tagged along.
Zhao Shandu definitely wasn’t far from here. Looking up at the mountainside from the entrance of the village, we could see that a temple belonging to Zhao Shandu was upstream. But driving would kill you. The mountain road tested my driving skills to the extreme, and I had gone less than twenty yards before it was already noon.
This was the time when the ancestral tomb was going to be reburied. I didn’t want to take part in it, so I gave myself an excuse to be a driver and ran away. Biao Gong said that we should withdraw since our birth dates were inauspicious so my father was the only one who took part. He looked much better today, but he was resting before and didn’t know about all the bad things that had happened.
When we arrived at Zhao Shandu, we asked if anyone knew a centenarian named Xu A Qin. It turned out that he was very famous, so we were told where he lived as soon as we asked. The village wasn’t large, and we soon arrived at his home.
It was a very shabby wooden house with half of the tiles gone and looked almost transparent from top to bottom. Entering the gate, I saw a wire in the courtyard with a lot of pickles hanging from it and a dish I didn’t recognize still sitting on the ground. A withered old man huddled in the doorway to bask in the sun, dressed in blue linen and a fluffy hat.
“Damn it, Number Two, who said eating pickles makes you short-lived?” Uncle Three muttered.
“Call me Second Brother, not Number Two,” Uncle Two said.
I refrained from laughing and followed them in. The old man looked up at us, obviously a little surprised. The moment I saw his face, I felt my heart clench.
I had never seen such an old face before; the feeling was indescribable. I had seen many old people including hundred-year-olds before, and I could accept those people’s faces, but this one made me feel a little scared. That face was too old. Was he really only over a hundred years old?
When Uncle Two explained our purpose for being there, Xu A Qin didn’t react at all or even stand up. He just nodded and moved his toothless lips as if he were thinking. After waiting for two minutes, he began to speak in a pure old Changsha dialect, “I don’t know if I can remember something from such a long time ago.”
“Please think about it,” Uncle Two said.
“If you buy some of my pickles, I’ll think about it.” Xu A Qin pointed to the pickles hanging on the wire.
My Uncle Two and I were both stunned. Despite being so old, I understood this man very well. We looked at each other and Uncle Three asked, “How much is it?”
Uncle Three was thinking that when Xue A Qin said this, he meant it as a cover and was really asking for money. Of course, the price wouldn’t be the real price of a pickle, but something very high. This was essentially a way of getting ripped off.
“Two yuan each.”
We looked at each other again, feeling that the old man really just wanted to sell some pickles. “Ok, then we’ll buy three,” Uncle Three said, then motioned for me to pay.
Damn it, he was making me pay again. But I was too embarrassed to say no so I felt around my pockets. When I only came up with a hundred and five yuan, I reflexively said, “Five yuan for three pickles.”
Uncle Three smacked me on the head, “You’re trying to fucking bargain at a time like this?” He took the hundred and handed it to the old man. “Master, I’ve bought all of them. Please think quickly.”
Xu A Qin received the money with trembling hands and held it up to the sun before saying, “What did you ask me just now?”
<Extra 1.17> <Table of Contents><Extra 1.19>
(1) Per Anon in the comments below: The “Du” in Zhao Shandu means ferry and Zhao Shan can mean mountains besides a village where the residents’ surname is Zhao. So even though the ferry is no longer used, they still keep the “Du” in the village’s name.
6 thoughts on “Chapter 1.18 A Qin (Extra)”
He was shocked to see the old man’s face. Later, he becomes more shocked when he sees the face of someone is called Xiao Ge who is older than this man.
“Damn it, Number Two, who said eating pickles makes you short-lived?” Uncle Three muttered. “Call me Second Brother, not Number Two,” Uncle Two said. I refrained from laughing and followed them in.
I dont know whether it is the same in the English speaking country. But in China, Lao Er (number two or second child) is a slang for cock….So that is reason why Wu Xie wants to laugh. Somehow DMBJ is a comedy for me rather than a thrilling story😂
It’s funny in English since number two is a euphemism for poo.
The Du in Zhao Shandu means ferry. Thats the reason why NPSS later explained the name with ferry. Zhao Shan can mean mountains besides a village where the residents’ surname is Zhao.
Thanks, I made a footnote
Despite being so old, I understood this man very well.
What Wu Xie is complaining in his mind here is that although Xu A Qin is so old, he is actually very clear-headed ( because he is still calculating and thus absolutely no signs of senile dementia). I think it is a foreshadow of NPSS.