When A-Mu and A-Gong’s first clutch of four chicks finally hatched, they were all very cute.(1)
I felt very refreshed and happy when I woke up in the morning and saw A-Mu walking around in a circle with a group of chicks that were still quivering.
Based on how things were usually done in the countryside, the chicks were fed millet at the beginning. The millet had to be soaked in water and then drained, so Fatty got up early in the morning to do it. He immediately became transfixed as he watched the chicks eat.
“This is the last batch of chicks we can grow attached to,” I said to Fatty. “Otherwise, we won’t be able to eat any of the ones that are born later.”
“It’s fine. As long as they grow big enough to be stewed, we can kill them one by one without any problems,” Fatty said. “They’re cute now, but in the future, they’ll be delicious. There’s nothing to worry about.”
The chicks couldn’t travel at this time since they had to be at least old enough to eat insects, so our life in the village had entered a state of extreme tranquility. This could be regarded as a brief pit stop from our usual state of travel, which enabled us to take in the wonderful sights of dragonflies, butterflies, swaying rice fields, and clouds as soft as ink.
At this time, the village committee in Fujian also instructed Xilaimian to present two programs—one for language and one for performance—to support the upcoming Douwei Festival.(2)
In fact, we had escaped that catastrophe last year, but it seemed that we wouldn’t be able to do so this year.
At midnight, Fatty was watching TV while I sat at the table by the door and wrote a crosstalk(3) script for the language program. As for the performance program, Poker-Face and Fatty could do acrobatics.
I didn’t know anything about Quyi performances.(4) The audience basically just watched the young men from the village go on stage together, but they didn’t really want to see a formal crosstalk so the thirty-minute performance time had to be filled with enough gags and nonsense to make them happy.
The essence of comedy was tragedy, and it needed to be understood by everyone. As I thought hard about what to write for the script, I realized that it was very difficult to be a creator.
The chicks grew up day by day, and the script got longer day by day. Every time I wrote an act, I’d coordinate with Fatty to rehearse the lines and record it.
The first part of the script went like this:
Wu Xie: Happy Douwei Festival, everyone. I’m Wu Xie, a crosstalk actor, and this is my partner, Fatty Wang. Today, we’re going to perform a traditional crosstalk for you, which is called: Scrolling on Your Cell Phone. I hope you like it.
Fatty: Wait a minute. Doesn’t “scrolling on your cell phone” sound too modern?
Wu Xie: Who are you? Where’s security?
Fatty: Didn’t you just introduce me? Why are you pretending like you don’t know me? The security guards are backstage, preparing for the next show. Don’t bother them.
Wu Xie: You haven’t answered my question. Who are you?
Fatty: Am I not your partner, Fatty Wang? You just introduced me.
Wu Xie: Oh, did I say that?
Fatty: We’re recording right now. Do you want me to rewind the video for you?
Wu Xie: There’s a video? Oh, then there’s no need to call security.
Fatty: You’re not acting dumb on purpose, are you? Am I not your partner anymore?
Wu Xie: [show indignation] If you’re my partner, how can you ask such a basic question? What do you mean it sounds too modern?
Fatty: Nonsense. How can “Scrolling on Your Cell Phone” be a traditional program?
Wu Xie: Why can’t it be a traditional program?
Fatty: Since cell phones are a product of modern invention, and their history is only a few decades old, at most, they can be regarded as a new version of a traditional program. So, this crosstalk can’t be called a traditional program.
Wu Xie: Oh, that makes sense.
Fatty: Obviously. As a matter of fact, isn’t this common sense?
Wu Xie: Then today, we’ll be performing a new version of a traditional program, called “Scrolling on Your Cell Phone”. I made a small language mistake just now; sorry everyone. I hope you all understand. In fact, I’m not a professional crosstalk actor. This is my first time acting, and I’m a little nervous. My real job is—ah, just thinking about saying it aloud makes me especially sad [wipes tears].
Fatty: Aiya, why are you coming up here and crying on such a happy day?
Wu Xie: Saying it makes me sad; I can’t suppress the pain.
Fatty: If you keep crying, I won’t give you those two baskets of eggs from the village that you’ve been waiting for.
Wu Xie: [immediately smiles].
Fatty: You’re too quick.
Wu Xie: Children from poor families can cry quickly.
Fatty: What kind of nonsense are you talking about? Are going to act or not?
Wu Xie: My real profession is an explorer.
Fatty: Oh, this job actually sounds pretty good. Why are you sad?
Wu Xie: Because we often have to explore in particularly remote places, such as Huangguoshu’s Big Waterfall, Huangguoshu’s Big Cave, and Huangguoshu’s Big Quilt [place special emphasis on the last one].(5)
Fatty: Are you sick? Why are you yelling all of a sudden?
Wu Xie: I’m excited.
Fatty: You’re excited? You almost gave me a heart attack!
Wu Xie: I believe everyone who hears about these wonders of the world will be just as excited as I am.
Fatty: Wait a minute, are there really that many places in Huangguoshu? How come I haven’t heard of them?
Wu Xie: It may not necessarily be right. I can’t remember all the names. Anyway, they all have the Chinese character for yellow in the name.
Fatty: Oh, the color is right.
Wu Xie: Yep.
Fatty: What’s the story behind Huangguoshu’s Big Quilt? Tell me about it in more detail.
Wu Xie: Why do you want to hear the story of Huangguoshu’s Big Quilt instead of Huangguoshu’s Big Cave?
Fatty: Because you didn’t yell out the first two, but you yelled out this one. It seems like you were particularly impressed with it.
Wu Xie: Based on your expression, it looks like you think I’m guiding the audience.
Fatty: Nonsense. If you don’t want people to misunderstand, don’t yell like that. Now, what kind of adventure can there be in Huangguoshu’s Big Quilt?
Wu Xie: That’s a name we chose based on that place’s characteristics to show how dangerous it is.
Fatty: Hmm, so did the place have a lot of yellow or did it look like a quilt?
Wu Xie: [glaring] You’re a cultural laggard. So many characters make up that name, yet you only hear these two things? Did you not hear the word “big” or the word “guoshu”?
Fatty: Oh, my mistake. Please continue.
Wu Xie: The danger of this place is mainly reflected in the words “big quilt”.
[Give the audience time to react]
Fatty: I’ll stop mocking you. I’m tired; do whatever you want.
Wu Xie: In that place, it rains all year round and there’s a family nearby that always raises chickens. From time to time, an aunt stops by to make long-distance calls. It’s a very dangerous place, so you need to make a lot of preparations before trying to enter.
Fatty: Wait a minute.
Wu Xie: Now what?
Fatty: This big quilt you mentioned, is it yellow with a checkered pattern on it?
Wu Xie: Hey, so you’ve been there, too. It looks like you’re also an explorer.
Fatty: No, I think the place you’re talking about is my bed.
Wu Xie: Ah, what a coincidence.
Fatty: Coincidence, my ass! Why do I feel like you’re setting me up?
Wu Xie: Impossible. What benefit would I get from setting you up? Besides, that quilt is amazing. It was white before, but then it turned yellow. Is it really the same as yours?
Fatty: You got me.
[Give the audience time to react]
End of the first act.
When I showed it to Fatty, he thought that maybe it would be better if we swapped the words around.
That would make it even more difficult to write, so I could only pray that I could collect some jokes in the future.
Time flew by, and after nearly ten days, Agui’s family was back on track and it was time for us to leave. Our next destination was Hainan, which wasn’t too far from here. We would get there after crossing the Hainan Strait, and then head back to Rain Village.
As usual, everyone gathered together for a big meal. We loaded A-Gong, A-Mu, and the chicks into the truck, along with the six breeding ducks Agui had given us. After loading all the animals into the truck, we then set off for the Beibu Gulf.(6)
This was the last stop on our journey. The weather was getting hotter and hotter, so we put on tank tops and shorts and got ready to see the sea and bask in the sun.
(1) Just FYI, there were 3 eggs incubating back in chapter 31.
(2) I wasn’t finding anything so I think this is just a local festival NPSS made up.
(3) Just a reminder, but crosstalk (aka Xiangsheng or comic dialogue) is a traditional performing art in Chinese comedy. It’s typically performed as a dialogue between two performers. The Xiangsheng language, rich in puns and allusions, is delivered in a rapid, bantering style, typically in the Beijing dialect (or in Mandarin Chinese with a strong northern accent). The acts would sometimes include singing, Chinese rapping, and musical instruments.
(4) Quyi is a folk musical theater show. It’s an integrated performance art that tells stories, shapes characters, and expresses thoughts and feelings by combining narrating and singing. It’s also one of the art categories with the longest history and most profound traditions. Here’s a good exposé.
(5) Huangguoshu Waterfall (黄果树大瀑布, literal translation “Yellow-Fruit Tree Waterfalls”) is one of the largest waterfalls in China and East Asia located on the Baishui River in Anshun, Guizhou province. FYI, huang (黄) can mean yellow or pornographic and guoshu (果树) can mean fruit tree. The Chinese characters for what I translated as quilt are 被窝 and the pinyin is bèiwō. The characters can have the following meanings but I used quilt and bed based on the context: quilt wrapped around the body as a tube (traditional bedding) / (contemporary) bedding / quilt / blankets / cover / bed.
(6) Hainan Strait is also called Qiongzhou Strait. Beibu Gulf is also called the Gulf of Tonkin. The black circle on the map is the strait and the bit of ocean to the left is the gulf:
I’m assuming Wu Xie’s crosstalk skit is funnier in the original Chinese but I just felt like I lost a few brain cells reading it lol. I think he has better luck making random stuff up to overthrow evil cults, but maybe that’s just me. In any case, there might be an update tomorrow, might not. I have to make 10 pounds of mashed potatoes from scratch (God help me) and the next chapter is long so I might not be able to get it done in time. Just in case, for those who celebrate, happy Thanksgiving! For those who don’t, it’s still an excellent excuse to eat a crap ton of food (b ᵔ▽ᵔ)b Til next time~~