别动那张餐桌 Leave that dining table alone
My wife was taking breakfast one morning; all of a sudden, she sprang up a question: ’Do you still remember that old dining table of ours? It’s worth easily 800 Yuan in the flea market!’
We moved to a new house a year ago, so we rented out the old house and we conceded a lot on the rental conditions. Our tenant was a couple with a child from the rural area, now working in the city and they looked hardscrabble. When we discussed the rent, I told them: ‘See how much you can pay, we don’t really mind.’ However, under the table, my wife’s warning trample almost fractured my toes. She’s a kind woman, but she insisted that I should be taken advantage of openly, otherwise I may look like a stupid coward.
Now my wife thought that the rental contract did not specify the supply of furniture, so the dining table could be taken back and sold; resources should not be left idle, she claimed.
So, I went to the old house at noon. The family was having lunch; on the table were a plate of radish, a plate of cabbage and a pot of tomato and egg soup, the child was greedily and noisily gulping the soup. Circles of hot steam were hovering over the table and then rising into the air; this I considered was the basic minimum living standard, but I could feel the happiness radiating from their eyes, and passing it among themselves just like a relay baton.
The woman had finished her meal and habitually started to wipe the table, which became sparkling clean. While she was wiping, she said: ‘You’re all good people, let us use such a good dining table; you see, how nice it is, marble top, teak wood, and these four drawers…….’
I pondered for a moment, hesitating to speak. I could not ask them to discard all the dishes and take away the table. The family was looking at me gingerly, as if my long stare at the table had exposed my ulterior motive to them. So I stood up and bid them farewell, telling them I just dropped by with no particular reasons.
Maybe I should find another suitable occasion. So in an evening a few days later, I reckoned this might be the right time as dinner should be already over. I knocked on the door and was let in. There was a reading lamp on the dining table, the yellow light barely illuminated the darkness. The family members were sitting around the table, the child was doing his homework, biting at the rubber on top of his pencil. The woman was knitting a sweater. The man stretched out his massive hand, holding an inferior cigarette, and tenderly gazing at his wife and kid. As a man myself, I could understand the expression of another man’s eyes: gratified and contented, as well as protective.
The woman indicated to the drawer, and I saw a light scratched mark. She apologized: ‘My son did it with a penknife. It hurt me so much I couldn’t sleep; so I gave him a thrashing and he cried for the whole afternoon.’ It wrung my withers(注一) after hearing this. I stroked the boy’s head and told the mother that it was okay to let him scratch with the knife, this was the nature of little boys. Meanwhile, I told myself I had to leave immediately, because I worried that maybe one look or a remark would leave a scratch in their hearts. Back at home I warned my wife to leave that dining table alone, no explanation; suddenly I found myself very firm on the issue.
An obsolete dining table, if taken back, it could be disposed of only in the flea market. But if it was kept there, it could be a sacred object to that family; they enjoyed the sense of happiness three times a day at the dining table. After a day’s exhausting work, the dining table summoned them around, taking meals, doing homework, knitting sweater, talking, exchanging with expressions of the eyes, a brief joy, a moment of delight, these were what they should savor after a day of toil and moil（注二）. Maybe, if we moved the table a bit, the ultimate equilibrium in their hearts might be off balanced.
习惯用语：注一：wring sb.’s withers引起某人极大的痛苦和不安; 令人同情
注二：toil and moil辛辛苦苦地工作，辛劳