The remaining threean animated Poet Zhao, a pork-rump butt, and the other jerky-flat buttthen grabbed Baldy Li and hauled him to the police station. They marched him through the little town of less than fifty thousand, and along the way the towns other Man of Talent, Success Liu, joined their ranks. Like Poet Zhao, Success Liu was in his twenties and had had something published in the culture centers magazine. His publication was a story, its words crammed onto two pages. Compared with Zhaos four lines of verse, Success Lius two pages were far more impressive, thereby earning him the nickname Writer Liu. Liu didnt lose out to Poet Zhao in terms of monikers, and he certainly couldnt lose out to him in other areas either. Writer Liu was on his way to buy rice when he saw Poet Zhao strutting toward him with a captive Baldy Li, and Liu immediately decided that he couldnt let Poet Zhao have all the glory to himself. Writer Liu hollered to Poet Zhao as he approached, Im here to help you!
Poet Zhao and Writer Liu were close writing comrades, and Writer Liu had once searched high and low for the perfect encomia for Poet Zhaos four lines of poetry. Poet Zhao of course had responded in kind and found even more flowery praise for Writer Lius two pages of text. Poet Zhao was originally walking behind Baldy Li, with the miscreant in his grip, but now that Writer Liu hustled up to them, Poet Zhao shifted to the left and offered Writer Liu the position to the right. Liu Towns two Men of Talent flanked Baldy Li, proclaiming that they were taking him to the police station. There was actually a station just around the corner, but they didnt want to take him there; instead, they marched him to one much farther away. On their way, they paraded down the main streets, trying to maximize their moment of glory. As they escorted Baldy Li through the streets they remarked enviously, Just look at you, with two important men like us escorting you. You really are a lucky guy. Poet Zhao added, Its as if you were being escorted by Li Bai and Du Fu. . . .
It seemed to Writer Liu that Poet Zhaos analogy was not quite apt, since Li Bai and Du Fu were, of course, both poets, while Liu himself wrote fiction. So he corrected Zhao, saying, Its as if Li Bai and Cao Xueqin were escorting you. . . .
Baldy Li had initially ignored their banter, but when he heard Liu Towns two Men of Talent compare themselves to Li Bai and Cao Xueqin, he couldnt help but laugh. Hey, even I know that Li Bai was from the Tang dynasty while Cao was from the Qing dynasty, he said. So how can a Tang guy be hanging out with a Qing guy? The crowds that had gathered alongside the street burst into loud guffaws. They said that Baldy Li was absolutely correct, that Liu Towns two Men of Talent might indeed be full of talent, but their knowledge of history wasnt a match even for this little Peeping Tom. The two Men of Talent blushed furiously, and Poet Zhao, straightening his neck, added, Its just an analogy.
Or we could use another analogy, offered Writer Liu. Given that its a poet and a novelist escorting you, we should say we are Guo Moruo and Lu Xun. The crowd expressed their approval. Even Baldy Li nodded and said, Thats more like it.
Poet Zhao and Writer Liu didnt dare say any more on the subject of literature. Instead, they grabbed Baldy Lis collar and denounced his hooligan behavior to one and all while continuing to march sternly ahead. Along the way, Baldy Li saw a great many people tittering at him, including some he knew and others he didnt. Poet Zhao and Writer Liu took time to explain to everyone they met what had happened, appearing even more polished than talk-show hosts. And those two women who had had their butts peeped at by Baldy Li were like the special guests on their talk shows, looking alternately furious and aggrieved as they responded to Poet Zhao and Writer Lius recounting of events. As the women walked along, the one with a fat butt suddenly screeched, having noticed her own husband among the spectators, and started sobbing as she complained loudly, He saw my bottom and god knows what else! Whip him!
Excerpted from Brothers by Yu Hua Copyright © 2009 by Yu Hua. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, 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.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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