[TN Note: Goes right before Extra 6 (The 2017 New Years Special), so definitely after “Ten Years Later”]
Zhang Haike and his party were traveling to Fujian and stopped by to visit the patriarch. Their arrival made me a little uncomfortable, although they followed tradition and brought many gifts for their elder.
There were all kinds of medicinal liquor and caterpillar fungus from Hong Kong, and even melatonin (1). I wanted to make a joke at the time that melatonin by itself wasn’t good for their patriarch’s brain and now he’d have to wear Zhengyang green ice jade to get better (2).
They stayed in the village for two days. Fatty really liked Zhang Haike and asked him for all the gossip while several others arranged a genealogical chart. In addition to hearing the appalling stories of the old Nine Gates and Crescent Hotel’s real background, I also learned some sporadic clues about my Uncle Three. But since it had been such a long time, it was impossible to string them all together now.
Over the past few days, Fujian was absolutely freezing. My HVAC didn’t work right, so even though the heat would come on, the moisture wouldn’t be pumped out. Fatty totaled the gifts up and said to me, “There are so many people here. We can’t just make them leave after receiving their gifts, right? We at least need to be friends with them. There are so few people left in their family, and the widows and orphans also need a chance to relax. Widow Li has stopped by several times already. It’s going to arouse suspicion if all the relatives have long fingers and eight-packs. It’s better to organize some activities.”
I looked at Fatty with narrowed eyes and asked, “What do you want to do?”
I shouldn’t have bothered asking. Fatty shoved everything off on me little by little. On the third day, I drove them to a hot spring hotel in Liancheng County, Longyan. With all the men lined up for the hot springs, it was like an engineering group’s annual party.
I was a little nervous when I was with this group of people since we had an unpleasant history, and I knew that they would never show mercy if we had a falling out. We could be considered as friends right now because of our relationship with Poker-Face, but the Zhang family was too eccentric. I didn’t want to get to know them any more than I already had.
With the exception of Zhang Haike, hardly anyone spoke.
Almost everyone’s tattoos showed up since we were in the hot spring, which made the atmosphere really awkward. I was alone in the corner, debating on whether I should run away or not.
But I also made some new discoveries. I found that the overseas Zhangs’ tattoos were quite different from Poker-Face’s. When I asked Zhang Haike, he told me that the overseas Zhangs’ traditional tattoos would make it inconvenient to move around, so they had more freedom. He just had a translated Sanskrit poem tattooed around his neck: “Wutong trees and midnight rain. They know not the grief right now at parting. Leaf by leaf, sound by sound, they drop on empty stairs until the morn (3).”
You act like you’re so artistic with words, I said to myself. Fortunately, however, it couldn’t be seen at ordinary times. Considering we looked the fucking same, I didn’t want to carry around that kind of black mark (4).
In the evening, various group activities such as karaoke and mahjong were arranged. I glanced at Poker-Face to see what his reaction was, but he was still looking at the genealogical chart on his phone with a thoughtful look on his face.
2. Old IOUs
After soaking in the hot spring, our group met back up in the lounge. It was still too early to separate for activities. I was dizzy and unwittingly followed Fatty and his group to the hot spring hotel. There was a karaoke room decorated in gold and a large number of champagne mirrors. It had been decorated a long time ago, so many old stains could be seen, and there were a lot of cracks on the sofa. There were some gaps between the gold-colored floor tiles that were greasy and black. A mixed smell of disinfectant and detergent seemed to be coming from the middle of it.
Fatty ordered a fruit bowl and a few bottles of wine and then started ordering songs. Fortunately, the system here was very old, so I recognized all the songs. I felt a little dazed as I saw the song titles. At that moment, I realized that all the songs I remembered were new songs at the time, but now they were a thing of the past. Poker-Face leaned against the corner of the sofa and quickly fell asleep. Zhang Haike started to let himself go with the third song, singing the chorus of “Wish Upon a Star” (5) with Fatty. I knew that when it came to Fatty, there was one song that he would never order (6).
As I slowly became sleepy, I took out my phone and scrolled through my friends’ WeChat Moments. I saw some photos of Wang Meng in Nanjing. He sent me a separate photo of an old IOU with my Uncle Three’s signature on it.
I continued sleepily scrolling through the WeChat Moments. Wang Meng’s was full of game updates and instances that he had cleared. He occasionally took selfies that made him look like he was in an anti-drug documentary. I soon fell asleep amidst Fatty’s rendition of Tuvan throat singing (7). When I woke up the next day, I was lying on the sofa in the private room, surrounded by a circle of hungover Zhangs. Poker-Face was gone. He must have gone back to his room to sleep alone. As I trudged carefully through the group of people, I wondered what had happened last night.
Being a member of the Zhang family must have been really depressing. Was this the only way they could get high? I didn’t drink last night and exercised every day, so I felt refreshed when I went back to my room. I checked my phone and saw a group message from Beijing. There had been a commemorative event for the Nine Gates in Beijing last night, and the setting sun in the photo looked especially red.
Fatty got up at noon and had an accident. When I went to the infirmary to check on him, I saw him carrying a cat and saying that he had fought with it for some reason.
I noticed that Fatty’s thigh had been stabbed three times and asked myself, why are you fighting with a cat and why are you hurt in that spot? I wanted to take him to the hospital in town to get a rabies shot, but Fatty refused. He said that he would be fine even if he were clawed by wolves. Moreover, if he went to the hospital for a mere cat scratch, he would definitely lose face.
In the end, he drank too much that night and came knocking on my door, “Let’s go.” When I asked him what happened, he said, “I just saw a pile of dog shit on the road and wanted to eat it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Fatty fell asleep in a plastic waiting chair in the hospital while getting the shot. I couldn’t move him, but I also wanted him to get some sleep so I squatted on the stairs by the hospital entrance. I looked out at the quiet town in the middle of the night and chatted with Zhang Haike. I asked him if he could go through changing his whole face again, but he sighed and changed the subject. He asked me if I knew that Black Glasses was so poor that he became a Didi driver. Isn’t he going blind? What the hell? I thought to myself.
When Zhang Haike left, Fatty waved his hand in farewell and sent him off to the expressway. I squatted by the roadside guardrail and watched him, feeling like his soul had followed after Zhang Haike. Zhang Haike and I appeared to have such a deep relationship on the surface, so maybe Fatty had the illusion that I had disappeared for a while, and now this old helpless and retired man was just a phantom. Fatty turned back, scratched his head, and asked me what we were doing today. I sighed. It was still too early to leave for Nanjing, so I might as well plan a trip.
<817 Special: Barbell Laughter> <Table of Contents><Extra: Wrong Genealogy>
(1) Caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis), is a fungus that grows on insects. It’s mainly found in the Tibetan Plateau. It parasitizes larvae of ghost moths and produces a fruiting body that’s valued as an herbal remedy and is used in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s now considered an endangered species in China because of overharvesting and overexploitation. According to this page, it’s taken as a generic immune booster, or to treat a growing list of conditions, including cancer. But its anti-tumor properties have never been tested in a clinical trial. More general info here. Melatonin is most commonly used for insomnia and improving sleep in different conditions (like jet lag or trying to fix your sleep cycle). Some info here.
(2) Since melatonin helps you sleep, I think it’s considered a “yin” medicine. I couldn’t tell for sure, but I think green jade is considered “yang”. Apparently, you can wear jade as “medicine”, since the qi of the jade flows into your body, and your body qi flows into the jade. I found some info here.
(3) It’s Wen Tingyun’s poem “Water Clock”. I found 2 different translations, which I kind of merged to suit my own tastes lol. Wikipedia one here and then this person’s here.
(4) Remember, tattoos are highly looked down upon in a lot of Asian countries. People will think you’re in a gang or something lol. Wu Xie is upset since Zhang Haike is still going around looking like him and has this hipster tattoo where everyone and their mother can see it if it shows up. He might not be so embarrassed if it was a cool one like Poker-face’s lol.
(5) It’s a song Cecilia Cheung sang in the 1999 movie “Fly Me to Polaris”. Youtube link to the song here.
(6) Per Tiffany: some readers speculated the song Fatty would never order is “The Most Dazzling Folklore”. The lyrics include: “You’re the most beautiful cloud in the sky, and I’m going to give it my all to keep you.” Cloud here pronounces the same as “Yun Cai” in Chinese.
(7) It’s known as khoomei. It’s a particular variant of overtone singing practiced by people in Tuva, Mongolia, and Siberia. The performer produces a fundamental pitch and one or more simultaneous pitches over that. More info here
3 thoughts on “Extra: The Daily Life of the Iron Triangle in Rain Village”
Fighting with a cat and bonding with Zhang Haike because he have same face as Wu Xie and talkative, fatty, could you be more reliable, Wu Xie is right behind you😂
He doesn’t want to get acquainted with more of this family, but he cannot because right now his destiny is tied to this family. (More precisely one of them) 😊
I think He is a little nervous because he afraid they snatch Xiao Ge from him and annoyed because in this situation fatty prefer Zhang Haike (it’s not Fatty fault, with these two people around him, it’s not hard to guess why he attached to Zhang Haike) 😅
I wonder if Zhang haike isnt the little bro zhang from Miao people’s extra (the one who talk a lot)? with the snakes and all? Because they never met?
I didnt think fatty would like him hahahaha