Excerpt of Sky Burial by Xue Xinran
(Page 4 of 4)
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He had been so strong, so talkative, so full of life when he set out for Tibet.
An army doctor wouldn't have been directly involved in the fighting. What
"incident" was this? How did he die? Why could nobody give her any
information? They had not even added a few words to testify that he died a
revolutionary martyr as they always did for soldiers who fell in battle. Why
In the flood of buoyant "Reports of Victory from the People's Liberation
Army on Entering Tibet," there had been no mention of an incident in which
Kejun could have died. Staff at the military office responsible for comforting
the widows and orphans of fallen soldiers had told Wen privately that they
hadn't received any of the standard battlefield bulletins from Tibet.
Wen stood in the Suzhou street, unheeding of the rain. The busy life of the town
continued around her, but she noticed nothing. An hour passed, then another. She
was soaked in sorrow and bewilderment.
The chiming bells of Cold Mountain Temple called her back from her grief.
Returning to the hospital where she worked, truly alone for the first time, a
thought flashed through her mind. What if Kejun had simply been separated from
his unit, like all those soldiers who were mistakenly reported dead when they
were actually on their way home? Perhaps he was in danger or had fallen ill. She
couldn't leave him in Tibet, alone.
The idea, conceived in that chill rain, that she should go and find Kejun proved
to be so powerful that, despite all the attempts of her family, friends, and
colleagues to talk her out of it, Wen was determined to join her husband's
regiment and travel to Tibet. She rushed around every government office she
could find, tearfully thrusting her marriage certificate, Kejun's parting note,
even his few personal possessions--his towel, handkerchief, and tea mug--at
everyone she saw. "My husband must be alive," she insisted. "He
wouldn't abandon his new wife and the future mother of his children."
Excerpted from Sky
Burial by Xinran Copyright © 2005 by Xinran. Excerpted by permission of
Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part
of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing
from the publisher.