By Zong Pu[ 1 ]
Tr. by Taylor Brady, Haiyan Lee, and Sylvia Yang
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August 2013)
Lulu was sitting on the ground, howling disconsolately. A new moon pierced through the foliage, sprinkling mottled shadows of the trees and dim moonlight on the brick floor of the courtyard. The sound of his sad cry passed through the walls of the courtyard, and in this small valley village caused an uproar of barking. The sound of dogs baying in the deep night was miserable enough, and Lulu’s voice also carried agony and despair, like a sharp knife slashing through the warm, smooth spring evening.
He wailed loudly, drawing out the sound for a long while. It was heartrending. Could his departed master hear him? Where was he? Lulu felt he was once again lost in the wilderness, an utterly empty space, so all he could do was to bark just to prove his own existence.
On the north side of the courtyard there were three old rooms. The one to the east was still lit, and the one to the west was dark. After a while, a rustling sound came from the western room. Soon the door opened and out crept two children wearing homespun pajamas. The sister, around ten years old, was holding a little bowl of food. When they came near Lulu, her little brother, around six, hid behind her back, tightly clinging to her blouse.
“Lulu, have something to eat. There’s a lot of meat here.” Sister placed the bowl at Lulu’s side. There was already a bowl on the ground, but Lulu hadn’t touched the food.
Lulu looked at the siblings with a forlorn gaze and quieted down. He looked like a fox: his four legs were very short, his muzzle pointed, and he was snow white all over, with not a single hair of a different color. He wore a leather collar, from which hung a rope fastened to a big tree.
Lulu had belonged to an old Jewish man who lived alone in another part of the village. He had died two days ago. His death, just like his birth, had no impact whatsoever on the world. His funeral was handled quickly. There was only this white corgi keeping vigil outside his house, refusing to leave. People beat him, but he simply went around the house. The landlord suddenly had an idea, “Let’s send him to Mr. Fan. This foreign dog can only be raised by downriver people.” This little village was accustomed to calling all outsiders “downriver people.” So Lulu had been dragged to Mr. Fan’s house and been tied to the tree for three days.
Lulu and the children had been friends before. They used to visit the old Jewish man’s place and were probably his only guests. The old man made paper houses with rooms full of furniture. The children brought a glass marble and pretended it was a baby girl frolicking inside the paper house. The old man would also tell Lulu to shake hands with them; Lulu would then offer up a front paw and shake hands repeatedly with each in turn. Lulu would often jump onto the wide arm of the old man’s armchair and rest his snow-white head next to the old man’s snow-white head and stare at the children. Back then, his gaze was kind, gentle, almost suggestive of a smile.
Now the old man was gone, leaving Lulu behind, poor lonesome weepy Lulu.
“Lulu, stay with us. Do you understand Chinese?” Sister asked softly. “Can we hold hands?” She had repeated this many times for three days. Each time Lulu would suddenly let out a cry, and wouldn’t offer his paw.
But this time Lulu did not cry, only panting as if at the end of a long run.
Sister put out her hand to touch Lulu’s head, but Brother immediately pulled her back. Lulu was known for biting people. Without any warning, he would go for their heels. “He won’t bite me,” Sister said, “will you, Lulu?” Then she put her hand on his head. Lulu began to tremble and his hair half stood on end. The old man would always stroke him, running a large firm hand from his head down his spine. Sister’s little hand was very light, but her gentle petting calmed him down. Still panting, he offered his front paw to her.
“Good Lulu!” Sister happily shook hands with him. “Mom! Lulu’s willing to stay with us!”
Her mother walked out of the house and, with her daughter’s introduction, shook Lulu’s paw, so did Brother. Mother gently reproached Sister, “How could you give all of the meat to Lulu? What are we going to eat tomorrow?”
Sister hung her head and didn’t say a word. Her brother piped up, “Tomorrow we won’t eat anything!”
Mother sighed, “There’s also your father; he needs to rest. You two should have already been in bed. And Lulu, you can’t bark anymore tonight, okay?”
Every member of the Fan family was asleep. Only Father was still writing beneath a kerosene lamp. For some time, Lulu wanted to cry again, but seeing the shadow on the windowpane of Father bent over the table, he swallowed his mournful cries. He let them rumble in his throat and come out as a low growl.
Lulu began to eat. Although once in a while he still howled, his mood clearly made a turn for the better. Mother and Sister unleashed Lulu and repeatedly warned Brother not to open the courtyard gate all the way. This little courtyard was inside a large temple complex where there were many houses crowded together cheek by jowl. Many townspeople had moved here to escape the air raids, so the once tranquil temple now rang with people’s chatter and laughter.
Sister brought Lulu to see Father. She commanded Lulu to sit down, put up his two front paws, and join them in midair to courtesy. “Salute! Salute!” Brother called. Lulu had not so rallied that he wanted to play, but he did as he was told. “He understands Chinese!” The children were elated. Lulu put his front paws down and, of his own accord, shook hands with Father. Father, who usually turned a blind eye to everything, sized up Lulu and wondered aloud, “What does Lulu mean? Is it a Yiddish name? He looks like a fox. He should be called ‘silver fox’.” At school, Father’s words carried a lot of weight, but at home, he was quietly ignored, so Lulu was still called Lulu.
Lulu quickly befriended Feifei the cat. Feifei was terrified of him at first, warily retreating with her back arched while hissing to show that she wasn’t to be trifled with. But Lulu had absolutely no hostility toward Feifei. He knew that he should protect everything that belonged to the family. The children couldn’t stop laughing when he offered his front paw to the cat. Finally, Feifei understood that Lulu was a friend, and they sniffed each other to announce their willingness to live in peace together.
After ten days had passed, the family felt that Lulu could be allowed to leave the courtyard. He would take a stroll outside and return in a short while, so there was no cause for worry. One day, Lulu went out the gate, hesitated for a moment, and then suddenly took off for the old Jewish man’s house. The door there was locked, so he sat down and started howling again, still full of sorrow and desolation. He reflected on his misfortune and his love for the old man whom he had lost. He thought hard about where the old man could have gone. In no time a few people gathered around him. “What are you howling at? You mongrel!” They threw rocks at him. He got up and darted off, but he didn’t go back home. Instead he ran all the way down the hill toward the town.
Lulu ran and ran, with his tongue hanging out. His legs were short, so he could not run very fast. Yet he ran as fast as he could because he had a riddle that he had to resolve.
The country road didn’t have any automobiles, and few passersby. On both sides of the road were wild shrubs that formed natural hedges. The white dog looked like a feather floating between the bushes. Now and then a Shiba Inu dog would run toward Lulu. Above each of their eyes was a small patch of white fur, so the locals called them four-eyed dogs. They wanted to sniff his nose or pick a fight, but Lulu dodged them all. He kept on running, running to solve his riddle.
He ran for more than half a day, and reached the town at dusk. He stopped in front of an old western-style house. The gate was closed, so he sat next to it and waited, occasionally letting out a long, mournful wail. This was Lulu and the old Jewish man’s former residence. Had master moved back here? How could he not hear Lulu’s cry? Someone pushed open the window, and another walked out to take a look at Lulu, but none of them had the old man’s weathered white hair. They said, “This is that old foreigner’s white dog.” “How did he come back here?” But nobody asked what had happened to the old man.
Lulu squatted in front of the gate for two days and two nights. The residents became angry and determined to deal with him. Early in the morning on the third day, they walked toward Lulu carrying ropes and clubs. One of them called “Lulu!” and threw a bone to him. Lulu didn’t move. He was hungry and thirsty and exhausted. He thought about the homespun beige-colored clothes, the food bowl held by gentle little hands. He looked at the door one last time, hoping that right at that moment the old man would walk out. But nothing happened. He jumped up, rushed through the scrum, and bounded out of town.
The answer to his riddle was that he would never see the old man again. He didn’t know the place where the old man had gone was the place where everyone, even Lulu, had to go eventually.
Mother and Sister blamed Brother for letting Lulu go. Acting like a tough guy, he played by himself under the big tree. He didn’t say a word, but he was sad inside. Silly Lulu! How could you leave people who love you? Mother walked over, stacked Lulu’s food bowl and water bowl together, and prepared to throw them out. It was already the third day and it was getting dark; Lulu would never be back. But Sister unstacked the bowls. It had been only three days, Lulu would come back.
Right then something was scratching on the courtyard gate. Mother cautiously walked over to the gate to listen. Sister suddenly shouted “Lulu!” and rushed to open the gate. And indeed it was Lulu sitting in front of the gate, panting and looking at them. Sister bent over to hug his head, and he licked her hand. “Lulu!” Brother also came running to welcome him. Lulu licked his hands as well, and ran around him twice, taking care not to knock him down. He rubbed against Mother and saluted her with his paws together. But he didn’t lick her, for he knew she didn’t like it. He also knew to go into the house to find Father, burrowing under his desk to rub against his leg. That night the whole family was overjoyed. Even Feifei welcomed Lulu, coming to timidly sniff noses.
From then on Lulu became a member of the family. He faithfully watched over the house and obeyed all orders. Aside from frequent outings at night, he was perfect. He went above and beyond the expectations for a dog, even helping Feifei catch mice. The mice hid in a small ditch, and Feifei anxiously ran back and forth, afraid that they might escape. Lulu stood guard at one end, and Feifei at the other. Lulu stuck his pointy muzzle into the ditch capped with a flagstone, and growled to make the mice come out the other end right into Feifei’s claws. Father saw this and speculated that Lulu must be a hunting dog, or at least a descendant of one.
When Sister and Brother went down the hill to buy tofu, Lulu always followed. He liked to hold the basket in his mouth, but he was too short, so he just ran along without it. He often ran in front of them and disappeared into the bushes only to burst out in a flash. But he always slowed down so as not to knock down the children. The old man who sold tofu sometimes threw Lulu a bone, then Lulu would bow to him, making the old man laugh heartily. When Sister and Brother sometimes played with the village children, Lulu would sit patiently to one side, as if he too were very interested in the game.
There was a glimmering stream by the edge of the village, and on the banks grew wildflowers and grass and willow trees with their thick canopies. The three of them often came here, frolicking in the shade of the willows or sitting down to tell stories. Uncle Tang, one of Father’s good friends, once came to visit the Fan family from T City in the neighboring province. Seeing the two children clad in homespun clothing in the company of their white corgi under the green willows at the river’s edge, he sighed and wished he had been a painter, for he would have painted the peaceful scene to heal the scars of war. Uncle Tang also said Lulu must have a purebred pedigree, but the Fan family weren’t interested, and neither was Lulu.
But Lulu didn’t always like to listen to stories. He often jumped into the stream to swim. He was a natural swimmer, keeping his pointy muzzle effortlessly above the surface of the clear water. Mother, however, didn’t approve of them playing by the stream. Every time Lulu got very wet she would reproach him: “Where did you take them again? What if they fell into the water?!” While she spoke, Lulu perked up his ears, as if he were the oldest child.
Even though Mother reprimanded them, because Sister and Brother promised not to go in the water, they could still go play at the stream regularly, and it didn’t count as misbehavior. One time Lulu did commit a real mistake. Father went to the town where he worked three days a week as a teacher. Mother went to a neighbor’s house to look after a sick child. Since she had attended two years of nursing school, in this mountain village she was obligated to be a doctor. Right before she left she repeatedly said to Lulu, “If you weren’t here, I would not leave the kids at home. Having you puts me at ease. I’ll turn them over to you, okay?” Lulu listened knowingly and wagged his tail. “You mustn’t go out at night. You can sleep in the house, alright?” Lulu felt the force of her hand petting his back. He had never betrayed her trust.
At night, Lulu often went hunting in the nearby mountain. The forest on the mountain was dense, with lots of wild rabbits and squirrels. After a night of running he would return in high spirits, his fur moist and glistening. That was the glory of living freely in the wild. His catch supplemented the diet of moldy rice that was given to Father as his salary. The smell of the mold overpowered any flavor the rice might have had. Neither the rice nor the worms, which could be scooped up by the handful, interested Lulu. These few days, however, he followed the children closely and refrained from going out at night. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the fourth day was market day and the three of them went to the market, Lulu wouldn’t have revealed his canine weakness.
The road at the foot of the hill was the market for the nearby villages, and twice a week it became bustling and lively. Chicken, fish, meat, eggs, crockery, even birds and cats were for sale. Sister came to buy bundles of braided pine needles for lighting fires. As soon as she made her purchase, she grabbed her Brother’s hand and walked away quickly, not looking at the nice things she knew they couldn’t afford. Brother went along with her, quickening his small steps. As they were walking, they noticed that Lulu was missing. “Lulu!” Sister called softly. Then they heard the noise coming from the butcher’s stall. “The white dog is doing tricks! Come on! Roll over! Can you?” They quickly squeezed through the crowd and saw Lulu sitting on his haunches begging for meat.
“Lulu!” Sister yelled out sternly. Lulu immediately stood up and ran to her side, still turning his head to look at the beef. In the butcher’s stall also hung pork, lamb, donkey, and horse meat. But beef was the most enticing. Oh, how he wanted to have a bite! The tender, juicy meat he once ate everyday. The smell of raw meat reminded him of the thrill of the chase: the close combat, the freedom, and the victory. Thinking about the endless mountains and forests made him dizzy.
The meat vendor who knew the siblings said with a smile: “The foreign dog is now living in Mr. Fan’s house.” He cut off a piece of meat and stuffed it into Sister’s basket. The villagers all felt sorry for the poor teachers who were so knowledgeable but could not afford to feed their dog. Sister would not accept the meat, notwithstanding all the coaxing. She pulled Brother away. Suddenly Lulu jumped up from the side, snatched the meat, and bounded away on his four short legs. “Lulu!” Sister clutched the basket full of pine bundles and, huffing and puffing, gave chase. Brother trailed behind. The onlookers burst into good-natured, bemused laughter. But it embarrassed them.
When they ran back home, Lulu was sitting there, staring at the meat he had placed in front of himself. He greeted Sister ingratiatingly, clearly wanting her approval to eat the meat. Sister threw aside the basket, covered her face with both hands, and broke into tears.
Brother nervously gave her his handkerchief. Then he stomped his foot and rebuked Lulu, “If you want to eat meat, then get out of here. Go to the mountain, go to somebody else’s house!” At this Lulu became anxious and walked around Sister, extending his front paw to scratch her lightly, rubbing his head against her, not giving the meat another glance.
Sister buried the meat under the tree in the courtyard. Mother later paid for the meat but didn’t reproach Lulu. It was useless to blame him since what was done was done. Unexpectedly, Lulu began to get used to life with less meat, and only went hunting once every few nights. Compared with the excitement of life in the wild, he seemed more attached to the warmth of the family’s love. As Father put it, dogs too can bear a life of simplicity.
Lulu also committed another grave error that could not be redeemed. He and Feifei were good friends and loved horseplay. He would nudge Feifei with his nose, causing her to roll over a few times, whereupon Feifei would jump back and continue to fight. On chilly nights, Feifei would leave her basket and curl up beside Lulu. This year Feifei had a litter of kittens, which made her fierce toward Lulu. Lulu, not being very tactful, stuck his snout in Feifei’s basket to sniff the kittens. With one swipe of her paw, Feifei tore Lulu’s nose. This made Lulu cross and, half-jokingly, he picked her up in his mouth and tossed her out the door. Feifei let out a blood-curdling screech, flopped on the ground a few times, and promptly stopped breathing. Panicked, he ran to Feifei and nudged her with his nose. She rolled over a few times, but didn’t leap up like she always had, and didn’t move again.
When Mother came out of the house, she saw Lulu sitting at Feifei’s side, moaning audibly. For an instant, he stared at Mother blankly, and then he crouched down and began inching toward Mother’s feet with his belly rubbing against the ground, all the while stealing furtive glances at her. Mother was furious: “You damn dog! You think it’s a joke? What are we going to do with the kittens? Leave them toyou?!” Mother picked up the cat’s basket and thrust it right in Lulu’s face. Frightened, Lulu backed away, still crawling. Sister and Brother both pleaded for Lulu, but Mother insisted on hitting him. Lulu slowly retreated into the back room. Everybody thought he was trying to get away, but when they followed inside, they saw him at Father’s feet. With a pitiful expression, he stood on his back paws saluting Father, begging him to intercede. Father patted his head, sized up Mother’s anger, and counseled: “Hit him as you wish, but not too many times, alright?” For the first time ever, Mother accepted his plea and said she wouldn’t be too harsh. However, Lulu was a dog; if you didn’t hit him a few times, he wouldn’t remember the lesson. She struck him only three times, but with a heavy hand. Lulu whimpered, but obediently lay prone on the ground to receive the blows. The door to the house and the courtyard gate were both open, but Lulu didn’t have any intention of running away. Father even got up from his desk and, gazing down at Lulu, mused aloud: “If you use too much force, the person runs away; the right amount and he accepts it. But this dog wouldn’t go even if you beat it to within an inch of its life.”
Lulu took the beating and went back to lie down in his kennel. Mother said he needed to repent, and wouldn’t let Brother and Sister pay any attention to him. Sister grieved for Feifei and her kittens, but also felt sorry for Lulu. She knew that Lulu hadn’t done it intentionally. There was no dinner for Lulu, but Sister smuggled some water and leftovers to him. Lulu whimpered as he licked her hand.
Compared to his mistakes, Lulu’s merits were much more numerous. One afternoon, a family asked Mother to come attend to a pregnant woman. She originally had an appointment to deliver medicine to a patient in a village further away, so she tasked Sister with the delivery. Sister gladly packed up the medicine. Brother and Lulu both wanted to accompany her, but because the village was far, and also because Brother wasn’t feeling so well, it was decided that Lulu was to remain at home to look after Brother. Mother and Sister left the house together and went on their separate errands. Lulu and Brother saw them off as far as the temple gate, watching Sister’s beige-colored blouse disappear into the green thicket.
When Mother got to the pregnant women’s home, she found that she was near her time. So she stayed to supervise the delivery of a squawking baby and didn’t leave until everything was settled. When she reached home, it was already past ten o’clock at night. Lit by a kerosene lamp, the house was eerily quiet. Lulu was pacing around the house, making a low whining noise. Bathed in tears, Brother threw himself at Mother as soon as he saw her. “Sister,” he wailed, “sister still hasn’t come back home…”
Father wasn’t home. Mother composed herself and then immediately went to her nearest coworker’s house and woke up the husband, a teacher. She also roused the landlord, and finally they woke up just about everyone whom they thought they should wake up. Everyone was nervously lighting lanterns and torches. Lulu stayed at Mother’s side, still whining and repeatedly stepping on her feet to draw her attention. Brother suddenly spoke up, “Lulu wants to go look for Sister!” As if stung by a revelation, Mother called out, “Run! Lulu, run!” Lulu shot straight out of the house like an arrow and was quickly swallowed by the darkness.
Lulu ran with all his strength, guided by the fragrant aroma of the herbs Sister had carried, mixed with the scent of her body. Nothing else existed for him. The black night, the trees, the running brook by the road, all of them were illusory; only Sister’s scent, faint as mist, was real to him. Yet surprisingly, he broke away from the scent for a time. Instead of crossing the bridge ahead, he took a shortcut and jumped into the water; he swam across the stream and got on a footpath. There he picked up the scent again. Lulu didn’t give a single thought to his own cleverness; he concentrated on his stride and before long reached a village in a neighboring valley.
The whole village was pitch black, and everybody was asleep. He ran to the gate of a house, and nervously scratched at it. Evidently Sister had gone inside because the scent was cut off here. He scratched the door a few times, then went around to the back gate. Suddenly the scent returned, minus the aroma of the herbs. Sister had left by the back gate, exited the village, and gotten on a winding path that led into the mountains. Lulu dashed off immediately, running at top speed with his tongue hanging out. There were denser trees and taller grass. The pungent odor of nighttime plants confused Lulu, but he strove to hang onto the familiar scent through the thicket. Startled by Lulu, the little creatures in the bushes scampered in all directions. Lulu had no time for them. Even if the tastiest prey had appeared right in front of him, at that moment he wouldn’t have touched it.
Finally, beside a large rock under a tree, Lulu espied the beige-colored homespun clothes. Sister was leaning against the rock fast asleep. Lulu was so happy that he pranced about giddily for a while before sitting down to fix his gaze on Sister. He then circled her twice and finally nudged her with his front paw.
Sister awoke. She looked around in surprise and saw a new moon shining on the dark green trees, the bushes, the mountain, and the rock. Suddenly she spoke with urgency, “Lulu, we had better go home. Mother must be worried sick.” She wanted to hold him by the collar, but she had already grown too tall, so she tied her blouse to Lulu’s collar instead. Lulu obediently led the way. Every so often, he would look back at her and emit a joyous yelp.
“You know, Lulu, I was trying to have a dream like Rip Van Winkle.” She confided, “I didn’t expect it to be this late, although it was not nearly as long as twenty years.”
When they reached the riverbank, they glimpsed flashes of light in the distant grove. Soon, people’s voices reached a feverish pitch; it was the search party. They saw snow-white Lulu first. Many voices began to call him and ask him questions as though he could answer. His answer was to lead Sister to them. When Sister threw herself into Mother’s arms, he sat and watched anxiously. He was afraid that Sister would be punished, because anybody that upset Mother was normally punished. But Mother only hugged her, and gently said, “Weren’t you afraid that once you woke up you’d never see Mother again?” “When I was about to fall asleep, I was suddenly afraid that I wouldn’t wake up for twenty years. But I couldn’t stop it, and I was asleep before I knew what was going on.” Everyone burst out laughing. They talked about the wolves on the mountain and how dangerous it was to sleep there. Nobody took any notice of Lulu.
When Father returned from town, he sought out Lulu to shake his paw and thank him. Yet Lulu had already forgotten his feat, and only noticed that these last few days his food actually had beef in it, which made him very happy.
Not long afterward, Sister and Brother began going to a nearby school. The school was also a transplant from the town to the village. Sister was in middle school and Brother was in elementary school. Every day, Lulu stood at the temple gate and watched them leave for school, and waited by the hillside for them to return. He still trotted across the meadow to accompany them to buy tofu. There was a period when Sister would often get sick, and every time she was bedridden Lulu would be very restless, as though he anticipated some sort of danger. The old man who sold tofu made a special visit to tell them that Sister had likely offended the mountain spirits, and that they should make offerings to the spirits in the spot where Lulu had found her. Father and Mother thanked him, but said that she probably had tuberculosis or was malnourished. Lulu didn’t understand their words, for if he had, he would have gone in Sister’s place to call upon the mountain spirits.
Fortunately most of the time Sister was up and about just like everyone else, so Lulu’s fits of restlessness were usually short-lived. Days drifted past like the small stream by the village, calm, unhurried, and contented. If Lulu had fallen ill and died then, he would have died the happiest dog on earth. But Lulu was very healthy: shinny was his long snow-white fur and erect and graceful was his muscular body. Nobody knew Lulu’s age, but they could see that he was far from his twilight years.
The stream by the village flowed quietly, oblivious of the great waves that were roiling rivers and oceans. Finally, one day, the news of Japan’s surrender reached this little village, and the collective euphoria quickly reached a crescendo; never had any market day been so boisterous. People thought it was the end of their suffering. Father hugged Mother tightly, surprising the other three members of the family. With tears streaming down his face, Father said: “It has been hard for you, very hard.” Mother wept. Then Father took Sister and Brother in his arms as well, and the four of them embraced while Lulu hurriedly squeezed his head in between their legs. How could this loving little family, which had weathered so many storms, be the same without Lulu?
“Let’s go back to Beiping!”[ 2 ] Brother declaimed triumphantly. Sister, who had grown into an elegant young woman, crouched down and clasped Lulu’s head. It never occurred to them that Lulu wouldn’t be able to go with them.
The Fan family had hardly any possessions to speak of but for the two precious children and the manuscripts that Father had written in the past few years under the glow of the kerosene lamp. Leaving was very simple, but there was Lulu. They couldn’t just abandon Lulu here—he would go crazy. Eventually they decided to take him to T City and leave him with Uncle Tang, who loved dogs.
After a period of rushing around, the family finally got on the bus. During all the bustle, Lulu was very restive, dreaming endlessly at night. He dreamt that Father, Mother, Sister, and Brother all left. Only he remained, darting about by himself in the wilderness. What’s more, he couldn’t pick up any scent whatsoever, which made him hurt and afraid. He would shriek loudly in his dream, and Mother would come shake him awake. Afterward she discussed it with Father: “Can dogs dream?” “I think so . . . at least Lulu can.”
Surprisingly, Lulu also got on the bus. He was elated, and extremely relieved. To win her favor, he rubbed vigorously against Mother’s body. “Go! Go away! The bus is shaking enough!” Lulu immediately burrowed between Sister and Brother and the three companions swayed with the jolting bus together, watching the indigo mountains slowly fall away. Ahead, the road suddenly vanished, only to reappear around the bend, stretching endlessly ahead of them.
The second day on the road, Sister got sick. Father said it was unfortunate that she wasn’t able to enjoy this scenery. She lay down on the seat, and when they reached an inn, she lay down there as well. Lulu was more fidgety than ever. He crouched by her feet, never absent for a moment. His eyes were full of fear and anxiety. Mother took this as a sign of bad luck and became ill-humored: “Nothing will happen to our child. Don’t you worry, Lulu.” She drove Lulu out of the room, so he stood guard in the doorway. Brother sympathized with Lulu and took it upon himself to explain to him the situation, saying that once they were in Beiping Sister’s illness would be properly treated, and that the conditions of transportation didn’t allow them to bring Lulu with them, which broke his and Sister’s hearts. He also said that Uncle Tang was a kind man, and that he and Lulu would surely get on well. Lulu didn’t understand any of it, but he listened quietly, licking Brother’s hand from time to time.
Near T City there was a famous waterfall whose rumble could be heard ten miles away. When the bus reached there most people got off and went to a pavilion to take in the sight. Sister had a fever, but she still insisted on going, so her parents held her hands, Lulu led the way and Brother brought up the rear as they walked to the pavilion. The water cascaded down from a precipice hundreds of feet high, forming a lake in the middle of the green mountains. Mist from the falls rose all the way up to the pavilion, forming a cloudy atmosphere. To Sister, the thick, white, and translucent curtain of water and the thundering explosions it made seemed far away. She tried to get closer, but they seemed farther and farther away. Finally, she couldn’t see anything, and passed out on Father’s shoulder.
Lulu never saw Sister again. Within a few days, he began to look pallid and thin, and his white fur lost its luster. The Tangs always gave Lulu beef with his food, but he would just sniff it and walk away, no matter how much Brother coaxed him. Brother was already taller than Sister then, so Lulu could not knock him down. One day, Father and Brother took him out walking, and they stopped for a while in front of a large building. Lulu abhorred the odor of that building. He whined and tried to pull away. If he had known that Sister was inside that building looking down at him for the last time through an upstairs window, he would willingly have stayed there for an eternity.
When the Fan family left, Uncle Tang told somebody to lock Lulu in the garden. After the Fans picked up Sister at the hospital, they went directly to the airport. Sister and Brother cried together, knowing that they would never see Lulu again. They couldn’t have heard Lulu’s hysterical howls in the garden, nor could they have seen the bare patch on his neck he made from straining to free himself from the rope. They were flying high in the sky, leaving behind their childhood companion.
Lulu madly searched for his masters, and this persisted for so long that Uncle Tang thought that Lulu had really gone crazy. Again and again, Uncle Tang tried to shake hands with him, sympathetically and politely saying, “Didn’t we already agree that you would live with us, Lulu?”
At last Lulu settled down, till the day he disappeared. After half a year, when everybody thought that he had already left this world, he unexpectedly turned up again at the Tang residence. He’d grown skinny, gray, and mangy, his pinkish hide visible in many spots. Taking the place of his leather collar was a dog tag from the province where the Fan family used to live. Evidently, he had gone back, trying once again to find the answer to his riddle. If Lulu had been able to write, he would have written about how, braving frost and dawn chill, he climbed mountains and forded streams; how he bore beating and entrapment to continue his thousand-mile trek; how he saw the old temple on the hill again, but didn’t find the masters that used to live there. Perhaps he couldn’t have written anything because he simply didn’t notice how wretched the world was; he only wanted to resolve the riddle in his heart. He had left, only to overcome myriad hardships to return, so as to obey his masters’ wishes. Of course, no one, not even a dog, could know how he felt when all was said and done.
The Tang family had long heard tall tales about Lulu, but they didn’t know that he also had a habit of watching waterfalls. He often left the city to sit before the big waterfall, gazing intently upon the white cascading curtain of water, and letting out anguished, heartbreaking howls.
Translators Taylor Brady, Haiyan Lee, and Sylvia Yang
[ 1 ] Translated from “Lulu” (鲁鲁), in Zong Pu 宗璞 (Beijing: Renmin wenxue, 1990), 56-69. See also http://tieba.baidu.com/p/261433872. The translators would like to thank the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford University for funding this translation project with a faculty grant. In the final stage, we consulted Hugh Anderson’s loose translation “Lu Lu,” in A Wind Across the Grass (Ascot Vale, Victoria: Red Rooster Press, 1985, 105-116).
[ 2 ] From 1928 to 1949, Beijing (北京) was known as Beiping (北平) under the Nationalist government whose capital city was Nanjing. (Translators’ note).