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The Home of My Soul




Portrait in Memory (2) 原创  

2006-08-01 01:16:13|  分类: 记忆中的肖像 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Later, we moved to Taihe. As life was really hard Stepfather gave me away to a military officer of Kuomintang to be a child servant. The everyday works were pouring excrement, urine and leftover; fetching water and sweeping the floor, etc. No pay but only offer food. It was as in hell since I had been there. Somewhat amiable at first but gradually often be beaten and vituperated. When the paralytic was going to raise a hand to someone you would never know beforehand: Asking you to do something and when you came near him he would draw out a stick all of a sudden from the head of his bed and beat at your head and your body, making you at a loss what to do. Still more, punish you to kneel on blinding (broken stones), with big brick carrying on the head, for one or two hours and forbade you to move. Often, the knees were knelt to gall and bleed, and unable to walk. In addition, what was far more brutal was that the paralytic had a henchman with him who was especially in charge of me. Whenever they were not satisfied he would pretending to be kindhearted exteriorly and fool me into going up a barren hill, then took off my dress and thrashing with barbed thorn branch until the skin was torn the flesh gaped and rolling on ground begging for pardon. And would be threatened and intimidated not to tell anyone else after beating, otherwise the punishment would be doubled. In the end, should pretending that nothing had happened, swabbing up tears and went back. Under such brutal torture I could do nothing but forbear silently. I had no dear ones to voice to and dare not to flee; the only things had in mind were Mom and home (only missed Mom and home in my heart). Worked and lived gingerly in a blue funk every day. On the other occasion, when serving the tea, because of the cowardness, the trembling hands broke the cup on the table. The paralytic suddenly threw one of the broken porcelain pieces to me and accurately hit the top of my forehead, with that, the blood effused out and flowed along the hairline to the neck and garment. He saw the case and smiled sinisterly because his really accurate throwing satisfied him. And there is a deep scar on my head as yet. The paralyzed soldier lay in bed all day and felt humdrum (fastidium), so he managed to get a mynah and a cage and asked me to feed the bird and have it to bath. To have it to bath would go to the pond beside the village, it was like this day in and day out. Once, when I was a little bit careless, both the bird and the cage were out of my hand and floated toward the center. No matter how I tried, the cage could not be hooked. Feeling that the situation was serious, I pounce into the water to grasp the cage desperately. Choked with the water (drowned) the body sank to the bottom but I was still worrying the catastrophe that would come to me after losing the bird. With the thought I turned about and climbed desperately up along the bottom towards the poolside. At last be blessed by Providence I climbed to the poolside and got out of the water. Sat on the bank and cried with being adrip at every pore, the bird and the cage were still floating on the water. Later a passerby was touched by my weeping and helped me to drag them out with a long bamboo pole, and so escaped the catastrophe by a hare’s breadth. Wearing the wet dress and trembling with fear I went back with the cage and flooded belly. Fearing be beaten again I dare not to pipe my eyes and much more less courageous to say, only to change the wet dress and wash stealthily. As time went on, all the neighbors in the village who witnessed and heard all the misfortunes I encountered showed compassion, sympathies and loving care for me stealthily. Several aunts often made appointments to take me to their houses and offer me meals, comfort and tears (shed tears for me). Being afraid of my unsophistication they exhorted me again and again, “ Be sure not to let them (the military officer of Kuomintang and his henchman) know, whenever you are hungry or whatever problems you have just come here, we will manage to help you”. The neighbors’ compassion and sympathies brought me, a helpless orphan in the world, some warmth and made me had still a gleam of hope in the abyss.

Although my life was bitter but fairly not easy to lose, fortunately I was not agonized to death here. The paralyzed soldier and his henchman began to be conscious of the discontent of the exoteric mass for they so bloodily vandalize a child and had to send me back to my stepparents. On the way home an occurrence hurt me deeply and made it unforgettable in my mind: Still, it was the paralyzed soldier’s henchman who tortured me to sent me back. In the intense heat of July in Jiangxi the scorching sun shone people be scant of breath (hard to breathe) and the over twenty li’s laterite hill path made people both tired and thirsty, and what was more, I was small and hungry. The man who sent me home could no longer bear, too, so he sheltered from the burning sun under a dilapidated wayside pavilion beside the path and bought three small bowls of Chinese quince jelly (or papaw jelly water alike, I don’t know exactly) to quench thirst. But I could only stood on the scorching land and looked at him; waiting him to mop up. The grim fact stabbed me to the heart and could not refrain from falling heartrending tears. The sob brought about the amazement of many people who were taking breath and enjoying the cool (cool off themselves) here and ceaselessly cast eyes at him and then at me guessing the relationship. Maybe he was somewhat embarrassed at that moment, so he reluctantly bought one bowl of quince jelly and very unwillingly handed it in front of me. A fit of heartrending and humiliating (insulting) feeling came to me. Resolved be a man; would rather die of thirst than eat his jelly. Then he returned it to the jelly seller and with that we went on to walk (walked on)...

There were a lot of things to do after coming back to Stepparents’ house: Going out to sell the twisted dough sticks in the day and carry water; sweeping the floor and buy alum; getting up early to make fire before dawn in the morning. Being beaten and vituperated was the potluck (being accustomed) but was much better than at the paralytic soldier’s place. Stayed at home for approximately not a long time, then Stepmother said to me, “ the family is badly off, staying with us you will only have rough time. It would be better to help you to find a family and to be their nominal son. We have found a wealthy family after had asked a good many people to help. The family likes you very much. If you are docile, your board and your wearing apparel will be no problem, much better than at home”. And now, Stepfather’s attitude  became benignant as well. I could not premonish what destiny was waiting for me. They (Gu and his wife) were my sole dependence now, even if it’s a pit of hell before me I had to jump in. I remember that it was stepmother who sent me there in person. It was a remote countryside; I do not know what village it was. The courtyard of the family was very big and the house was high, merely, for the example, the door bank was so high that I could not stride (step over). At the first few days the environment was fresh and the people were warm. Everything changed few days later after Stepmother had left; again do the things of pour excrement, urine, carry baby on back and make fire (burning the stove). Beat or scold whenever they were slightly not satisfied, never be let to have enough meal and not be allowed to have meal at the same table with them but fill one bowl and then squat under the wall and eat. Never dared to fill again after eaten up. Evidently, Stepmother had sold me here. I was filled with despair, just had fled from tiger’s mouth but again fell into wolves’ den. Due to being unfamiliar with the place and the people, far away from home and did not know the way I had no choose but submit to humiliation and live a life worse then that of beasts of burden. Later people in the village gradually learnt my derivation. Little fellows and oldsters were all coming to ask my life experience and felt sympathies for me and shed tears for me. Once, a little fellow came and stealthily told me, “ someone will go to Taihe to handle affairs, he is willing to help others. Please go and beg him to take you home in Taihe.” So I rapidly went to sob out and beg. The heartrending scene of asking for going back home affected him. Being afraid of asking for trouble he dared not agree at first. Later, seeing me cried so miserable he said sympathetically, “ Ok, I’ll take to go in the early morning tomorrow. You wait for me at a road junction so as not to be found. Anyway, a child doesn’t have to buy the train ticket, in case of being found be sure do not say that I took you!” and I declared never betray him. So I successfully arrived Taihe town. After debarkation I ran directly toward Stepfather’s house in a hurry without saying thanks to the man who brought me back. At the doorway Stepparents looked at me quite surprisedly and asked how I came back. I said I caught hold of a train and then cried heartrendingly, “ They never treat me as a son but a servant. Not only be asked to do many things but also often be beaten and scolded and never be let to have enough meal. Really could no longer stay there so I came back”. Stepmother still wanted me to go back, but, no matter how they prevailed on me, I persisted not to go and said, “ I will run away if being hustled to go back”. Seeing my attitude was firm they did not compel me to go. Soon after we moved to a small street at the side of Taihe and rented a penthouse facing the street. As facing the street we still do the dicker of selling the twisted dough sticks. My job still was sweeping the floor, carrying water, doing miscellaneous works and selling the twisted dough sticks. Across the street we lived in there was a coppersmith store (workshop), which was making repairs and supplying replacements of keys and locks, and doing some simple sand-casting concurrently. The boss, whose surname was Yu, was somewhat undutiful, and was a whoring going and gambling craving rakehell. He had a wife who was very young. The couple often quarreled and fought with each other. He hired a worker and had two apprentices. Stepfather apprenticed me to him soon, and came to an agreement that the apprenticeship would be three years, no pay but meals. My job were Pouring excrement and urine, sweeping the floor and doing the cooking for boss and his wife the first year, and only be allowed to operate the air chest and see the overman sand-costing and melting cuprum the next year. Be asked to work more than ten hours and the clothes were so dirty that they became thick and bright. Mouth, nose and hands were all black and there were no clothes to change. From head to toe nowhere was clean except eyeballs. At times, had to work overtime at night after worked and tired all through the daytime. Yet, the boss was at ease: Dining and drinking, going whoring, gambling, eating opium smoking outside and did not back home day and night. So the couple often quarreled and fought with each other and made the store in a filthy mess, and then vented their anger on we apprentices afterward. Once, because of incaution, I clamped a copper-melting jar too hard and broke it, and the boss gave me a head-on blow with the handle of a brush and struck me seeing stars, the head was stunned and the hands and feet tingled. Such circumstance would be met from time to time. Moreover, the work should be slogged and the meals were never replete: a small terrineful of rice and two dishes of freshwater vegetable (with no salt and oil) for five persons each meal and there would be no food when only were underfed (undernourished). Once, again, it was my turn to cook the meal, not knowing when the boss had stealthily put a loaf of soap into the cooker and did not melt, I unluckily filled it in my bowl. Chewing in my mouth it was stinging and astringent, so I cried childishly. The boss immediately slapped me in the face and bawled ferociously, “What can be the storm in a teacup to eat a loaf of soap? Just spit it out!” The apprentices and hired workers who were dining together were just keeping silence, and I was unable to see the real meaning of the slap then. At the end of the next year the boss and I were recruited into the weighing and measuring apparatus’s factory of Jiangxi and worked in the foundry shop. The labour was heavy but the food was coarse chaff, unpolished rice and boiled euphrasy for every meal. Here though I had salary but was drawn by Boss Yu every time, I could never get them and Boss Yu only paid my board. In the factory thievery was very common among the workers. Once, in the copper foundry shop I saw an apprentice was stealing the ready copper beside my furnace so I cried out, and, as a result, his overman ran to me and beat me up. My boss Yu went to him and argued. One or two days later his overman asked my boss Yu to drink tea and chatted for a while. After the boss came back he said to me that I had made a mistake and asked me to admit that I had made a mistake. Over two years passed and less than one year I would finish my apprenticeship. Maybe the business of Stepfather’s family was better and was shorthanded, Stepfather came and brought me back. After getting home it was same as before: Getting up at five in the morning and sweeping the floor, mopping the table and making fire till daybreak and then going out to sell one hundred twisted dough sticks, buying alum and flour and carrying water, etc. It was like this every day. During the course, not knowing how many days, because of could not sell out the rated quota I dragged out staying outside till the night screen had hung down, and still had not had a single meal when myriad lights were twinkling in the town. The twisted dough sticks were numbered; if there was any shortage it could not be account for, only to drag the starved and fatigued body back nervously. The severe censure of Stepfather was not avoidable plus the incitement of Stepmother, and always reckoned that my being too fond of playing outside caused it. After being beaten and scolded I had to go to the town with an empty stomach to buy alum. The long-term unbearable hunger made me unavoidably deducted some money from the money for alum to buy something to eat: the caldron sweetbread of cow or goat one bowl each time. Being afraid of being found as time went on I put a stone under the alum to make up the number. It was not found and all passed smoothly until one day when I came back from shopping alum. After it was reweighed, undone and poured out by Stepfather in person the stone was found and the matter was exposed. Seeing the poor situation I started to run outside immediately and Stepfather ran after me closely. Kid, naturally, can not run as fast as the adult can, so, I made use of the agility of smallness and the familiarity with the way and the alleys and pulled away after several corners. Where should I go after pulling away? All were at a loss and there were no considerations, only wanted to get over the disaster. Herefrom, my blindfold vagabondage had begun. Cadged from door to door and wandered at the daytime. And when the curtain of night hung down I optionally looked for a place under an eave beside road or a worn-out sentry box to huddle up for the night. It was autumn, when I was hungry I could go to the riverside (Kan) and collect the rotten oranges to eat, or went to the field and dug sweet potatoes and radishes to eat. It was lasted approximately for over three months. During the time my minds and sentiments were extremely complex: Miss my own home, miss Mom and often cried whenever recalling my misfortunes especially when the myriad lights were twinkling and saw the other children had the warm and bright home and be dearly loved by parents, and saw myself was left out in the street suffering cold and hunger… Why God was so unfair to me? At daytime, I passed by schools and saw crowds of pupils went into classes. Heard the orotund voice of reading books, and saw them playing happily, these made me both admiring and sad. And it was a kind of comfort when I saw there were far more than tens of comates of the same fate in the streets and lanes——I am not alone. One day I went into a thatched cottage casually. There was an old couple lived in and they had no children. After learned my situation they liked me very much and took pity on me. They hid me up, not to show up outside. And in normal times I lived with them. It was a thumping good turn that a gamin who was fed up with hunger and vagrancy would wish for. But it’s a pity that good times don't last long: not long after, Stepparents learnt the dope and immediately called on. The old couple was so frightened that they rushed to let me out through the back door. Again, I came back to the street and led a vagrant life. Thence never dared to go this “home” because Stepparents were often on the gad there.

One day, I chatted with several comates on a newly built bridge on the side of Taihe. During the course of chatting, a  comate  mentioned something about orphanage. He asked me to go together with him to the Society Department of the Provincial Government and beg them to let us go to orphanage. And agreed that if they persist in refusing to take us we would sleep outside the gate for three days and nights and would not go away no matter been driven or beaten. We did so for two days and begged again and over again but they persisted not to take us in. Then a meddlesome canteen worker came to ask our status. I did not know how Stepfather learnt my tidings and hurried here and look for me. I was so scared that I ran straightly inward and begged the doorman not to let them (my stepparents) in. Seeing I was so frightened, the doorman and the onlookers sympathized with my situation and hooted them away. I was accepted after this disturbance. As to the partners who went there together with me were not accepted then. It appears that the appearance of Stepparents helped me to realize my desire of going into the orphanage. I waited at the gateway of the Society Department for quite a while until a stout in a blue Chinese tunic of khaki came at dusk. Someone asked him to take me to the orphanage. Generally he was fairly enthusiastic but wagged his tongue on the way that how he saved me and how difficult it was to be accepted by the orphanage. And asked me not to forget his favor in the future, do not behave ungratefully, should how and how to requite him in the future and do not behave like some of the children who even did not greet him when met each other later after entering (the orphanage). At the beginning I listened to his words carefully, later when it was getting too much I gradually felt antipathetic for the content of what he repeatedly babbled was the same, but I could do nothing other than following him patiently and quietly. I lodged in his house that night. He house was in a street of the town beside the river. His wife was a rice merchant; very young and with a baby in her arms and she did not say anything to our advent. The supper was had in his house. He filled a small bowl of rice for me and helped me with some cabbage, few pieces of sausages and asked me to eat at a small table. In the end I was given some remains of soup. And it was still the old saying: Do not forget his kindness and endeavor to requite him when the soup was being poured. I did not have enough meal that night.


To be continued

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