- The Woman Yang
[End Page 78]
Yang Fenfang absentmindedly shoved the last bite of rice into her mouth.
“How about some more?” asked her sister, Yang Wanfang.
“I can’t eat another bite.”
“It’s hard to get good rice these days. Have some more, Fenfang, as a favor to me.” Speaking was the guest, Captain Liu Qingsheng, who was a company commander in the army.
The host was Yang Wanfang’s husband, Zhao Yonghai. Even with only four persons there, the occasion was as solemn as a large, formal banquet. The atmosphere was serious, as if they were about to make an important decision and wanted to commemorate it with a meal.
In fact, they had made a significant decision, and the planning had begun long before the dinner . . . [End Page 79]
Animated and lovely, Yang Wanfang chaired Shibi Commune’s Women’s Association. When she was still in pigtails, she had caught the eye of Zhao Yonghai, the commune’s deputy party secretary. It happened quite naturally. Every time she went to the commune office, she chatted with the old man in the dispatch office, and her laughter—like a silver bell—always drew the attention of Zhao, who stood nearby reading newspapers and books. Recently promoted to his position, Zhao Yonghai was now looking forward to a successful career. He was interested in this girl, but he wasn’t planning to marry and start a family anytime soon. When he inquired about her and learned she was still a high school student, he thought, Good. There’s no rush. When he inquired further, he learned that her parents had both passed away and she had only one sibling, a sister. He thought, Even better. It would save me the kind of trouble that a big family like mine usually has to deal with.
Zhao Yonghai was tall and fine featured, bright and modest. After graduating from high school in the county seat, he couldn’t continue his education. Instead, as the eldest child, he had to help his parents bring up his siblings. His teacher felt sorry for him, because his grades in both math and physics had been quite good. The teacher tried to persuade Zhao’s parents to let Zhao go on with his schooling, saying, “It’s virtually certain that your son could get into a teachers’ college, and he wouldn’t have to pay tuition. He’d also be able to get a stipend.” Zhao Yonghai vacillated. Meanwhile, just when Shibi Commune was short of accountants, the commune officials heard about his math skills. The officials let the family know that if he stayed and worked there, they would guarantee that he’d become the village accountant.
After Zhao Yonghai’s parents heard this, they were excited and urged him to stay. They pointed out all the advantages. The most important and the main advantage was, they said, “You’ll be called a cadre, not just a commune member. You’ll get extra work points. When you go to a commune meeting, you’ll get work points. When grain, potatoes, and straw are distributed, you’ll get a bigger share than others receive. When you attend a commune meeting, you’ll have meat to eat. You’ll have so many sunflower seeds to eat that you can even bring some home . . . ” They went on and on. Although Zhao Yonghai was tired of listening, he was persuaded and decided to stay. [End Page 81]
Zhao Yonghai was courteous to everyone, and at commune meetings he simply sat in a corner without saying a word. When he was asked his opinion, he said shyly, “I can only do the accounts. I don’t know about anything else.” And so this young man quickly won the favor of all those around him. Before long, Zhao Yonghai became the commune’s accountant.
One day, as he was putting his predecessor’s accounts in order, Zhao Yonghai found irregularities. He privately told the old party secretary about it. The party secretary asked, “How do you plan to handle this?”
“I can straighten out the books for now, but I can’t...