- The Resurrection of Ma Jun
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Mother bends over Older Sister and hovers above Qian as if she is searching for a secret to keep from us: Father in his newly bought Li-Ning winter jacket and me, Little Brother, though I don't call myself Little Brother outside because my parents don't want to call more attention to us as a two-child household. It's good to be better than the people around you, but not too much better. [End Page 55]
Mother's ear rests just below Qian's neck. Any minute now, Older Sister will rise up from the cot and shrug off Mother's touch. She'll tear the IV from her arms and say, "Mother, stop that. I'm not a little girl anymore," the way she always does. Or maybe Mother is counting the beats of Older Sister's heart, each one another two seconds lost.
Three days ago, Father stood in the doorway, half in and half out of Older Sister's room in Ward 6, after the two-inch gash on her forehead had been stitched closed, leaving only a deep bruise and her fractured leg set into a cast. "She looks like she's sleeping," I said.
"She is sleeping, for all purposes." The doctor seemed to be talking more to the nurses than to us. "It's tricky when the head gets hurt," she said. "We've cleared Qian of the most severe damage," she continued, speaking slowly at us, keeping her words simple because we looked like peasants—because we are peasants. "Her brain looks fine; all we have to do is wait for her to wake up."
I was surprised that the doctor was young and pretty. It was the first time I had seen a girl doctor. "It's remarkable that it wasn't worse. A miracle, you can say," the doctor said, and she waited for Father to respond, but he just stood there in his blood-covered Mao suit, unbuttoned at the chest to reveal a shirt yellowed with sweat. By this point, Mother was about to arrive; it took her a while because she had to find an emergency storage space for her pancake cart, which was usually parked outside the kitchen-knife factory. The thought that she would now miss the after-work sales crossed my mind. We would be out at least two hundred kuai because of that, and I would need to work more and skip school again. I was thinking about everything and nothing.
The nurse, an older no-nonsense type, tried to get Father to sit; they were probably scared of his silence. He hadn't washed his hands when he entered the hospital or worn a face mask, despite all the signs posted on the wall. Older Sister's blood, which had pooled in his arms and then streaked down his legs as he carried her from the road onto his motor-bike, had dried into dark imprints of misshapen butterflies.
"You're a very lucky man, Mr. Ma," the doctor said. Father still didn't seem to hear her, and the doctor gave him a strained smile. "Excuse me," she said. "I have other matters to attend to, but I will continue to monitor your daughter's condition." Father nodded, and I couldn't help but be a little ashamed of his muteness and helplessness. Of his unblinking eyes, bared chest, oily hair, and stubble. [End Page 56]
At the time, I didn't believe that it was Qian in front of me. It was some other girl who looked like her. It couldn't be her, because if Qian was gone, then I'd be alone with Mother and Father. I thought about talking to Father, but I couldn't remember the last time I had spoken to him without being addressed first. I tried to imagine the sound of our two voices together like we were some other father and son.
When Mother finally arrived that night, she collapsed right onto the tiles of the corridor. Father and the nurses rushed to aid her...