Hierbij het tweede en laatste deel van A Yi’s
excerpt uit “The Curse”.
The Curse (vervolg)
“She’s faking it, Wu Haiying said.
“Just shut up,” her husband suggested. She wasn’t finished, though, even as he dragged her inside. “You all heard her; she said I stole her chicken. Strike me down if I did.” Now Zhong Yonglian sat up and stabbed a finger in her direction: “If you stole my chicken, your son will die this year. If you didn’t, my son will.”
“If I stole it, my son will die.” Wu Haiying accepted the terms of the curse.
“I still don’t believe her,” Zhong Yonglian muttered. Even as she cried herself to sleep that night, she felt that having the last word had mitigated some of the injustice of the encounter.
The next morning, the chicken came home, slick with rainwater, like a shabby hermit back from a retreat, scrabbling away at the ground, a red rag tied around its leg. She carried it inside and quietly killed it.
Zhong Yonglian felt guilty whenever she saw Wu Haiying, until one day she realized that even if Wu Haiying hadn’t stolen her chicken, it didn’t mean she was a good person, or that she wasn’t a thief. She remembered the salty bitterness of her bloods and tears, of Wu Haiying pulling her down to the concrete by her hair.
Whenever the two women encountered each other, Zhong would strive to match her antagonist ‘s look of contempt. She stretched some sheet plastic over the fence around the chicken coop, to prevent the birds from flying away, and asked her son-in-law to write “Death to thieves” on the strip of red cloth wrapped around every chicken’s leg.
The two women took care to have nothing to do with each other.
As the final month of the lunar year came round, the village spoke of nothing except the return of Wu Haiying’s son from Dongguan. He’d come back driving a white Buick that had rolled noiselessly over the frozen grass and stones of the road into the village. He pulled on the hand-brake and slammed the door shut behind him, with a perfect Politburo swagger. He tapped the remote control and the still car yelped, as if with fear. A girl – no local, for sure – somewhere in her early twenties also emerged from the vehicle, gazing adoringly at him. Her soft, white face could have been caught in a single handspan; her eyes shone with the luster that the villagers associated with foreign, not Chinese girls. Her hair – dyed sunset-red – was cut in a dense crop. Although it was winter, she wore nothing but a tight grey t-shirt and a pair of black leather trousers, her clothes clinging to her slim curves and long legs. She smiled guilelessly at her audience, revealing pearl-like teeth.