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Manoa 15.2 (2003) 162-167

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Death Narrative

Yu Hua

I hadn't planned on driving the truck in that direction in the beginning, so this was all predestined by fate. I had just driven the truck to a fork in the road and saw a sign pointing right: QIAN MU DANG60 KM. So my truck took a right turn, and from then on I was in trouble. This was my second big trouble. The first was in the Wannanshan District of Anhui Province, about ten years ago. At that time, my Liberation—not the Yellow River truck I got later—hit a boy off a narrow mountain pass and into a reservoir more than thirty meters below. I had no choice. When my truck hit the boy, I was winding around the pass, coasting downhill after completing the seventh bend. Suddenly I realized that, not more than three or four meters in front of me, was a boy on a bicycle coasting downhill as well. I didn't even have time to brake—only thing I could do was swerve left or right. But turn left and I'd hit the cliff wall, my Liberation would explode, burn up; no need to worry about a cremation—I'd be ash anyway. Turn right and my Liberation would head straight into the reservoir, the sound of that clunky object hitting the water would really be frightening, waves splashing up so heavy and fat, and there'd be nothing I could do but drown. I had no choice except to knock that kid into the reservoir. I saw his panicked look as he turned his head around to glance at me, those two eyes black and shiny. Even long afterwards, I could remember them so clearly. I just shut my eyes, and those two black, shiny things immediately jump out. That kid only shot one glance at me, then his body arced up horizontally and his clothes—some kind of work uniform for adults—billowed in the wind. I heard a shout—Daddy!—just one shout, and then nothing. His voice was sharp and loud, ringing twice in the mountains, the second time echoing off the cliff wall. The echo sounded unreal, as if it had floated down from the clouds. Scared stupid, I didn't stop the truck. Only after I left the pass and was driving on the broad, flat road did I finally come to, so surprised was my heart that I hadn't fallen off the mountain. Of course, when people zone out, their hands do not, and after all, I'd been driving trucks for many years. But this is something nobody knows about, and I never said anything. I guess that kid was the son of one of those timber workers on the mountain. I don't know if the father, when he was pulling his kid out of the [End Page 162] reservoir—did he cry or not? Maybe that man has lots of children, and one dead didn't really matter. Those people in the mountains are always having kids. I think he was around fourteen or fifteen years old. For his father to raise him to that age couldn't have been easy, and he must have spent a lot of money doing so. That kid's death is just too bad. And the family lost a bicycle, too.

I'd forgotten about this business a long time ago, forgotten it clean, but when my son grew up, turned fifteen, and started pestering me about wanting to learn to ride a bike, I taught him. The little guy was pretty smart, and before long he could ride in circles by himself, didn't need my help at all. When I saw my son's spirit so happy, my heart felt happy, too. The way the little guy was when he had just been born—he really scared me then, didn't look human at all, more like some toy you'd buy in a department store. In those days, he'd just lie there in his cradle...


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