Fiction / December 2017 (Issue 38: Writing Hong Kong)


by Christophe Tong Yui, translated from Chinese into English by Chris Song


You have a doll like this,

don't you?

Like this

all those lost memories

surface as shards.


"Don't pick up the coin in the dirt. It's from roadside mourning. It'll draw ghosts."

Some people passed away, but were always here. Grandma's voice still rang in my ears, as if she were holding the backpack in her arms, sitting on the murky stone bench in the park. The stone bench was part of a bigger flowerbed, but with a kapok tree in it, black and solid. In the spring, its petals fell into a crimson blanket on the ground. Sometimes, when I was following the bench to walk around the flowerbed, I could spot the glitter of a coin in the dirt. Grandma was gone now; I went to pick up that coin and headed straight to the grocery store in the market place through the passageway where some old men were always playing chess.


"Play alone if you've finished your homework."

I remembered Mom always uttered this line when she was shutting the collapsible door. She would throw the keys back in, stretch her hands through the gap and close the wooden door on the inside. My sister was in high school. Before she came home, I'd have to play alone and get along with this quiet apartment. Sometimes, I played a piece of clothing and folded myself into the closet, where I had intimate chats with other clothes and bedding. Sometimes, I brought a folding stool to the balcony and played a pot plant. I acted mature and listened to a pair of white sneakers on a hanger counting the water droplets to remember the roads they had walked on. When I played a toy, all other toys under the bunk bed would come alive. The Sunkist cardboard box was a world of wonders. The rainbow-coloured slingshot came down the stairs by itself; the SUV, once turned over, was able to turn back on its own; the Rubik's Snake, with red and white stripes and a Coca Cola tag on it, would curl into a sphere or transform into the shape of a pistol. Perhaps, everyone had a box of toys like this. It's a mini-universe. They existed before we realised their existences, but would someday disappear mysteriously.

The doll that was able to talk belonged to my sister. I asked her several times, but she had no idea at all. I recalled she was wore a light-yellow fleecy sweater; her cry once its pacifier got pulled out; her mumbles. One day, her batteries ran down and their acid spilt. I replaced them with new batteries, but to no avail.

However, when I acted like a toy and asked—"Will you be good alone in the apartment? I have a lot of homework today. I can only be with you for a little while. High-school homework is really difficult. But I can learn in advance and teach you when the time comes."—then it would come alive. Even if I pulled out her pacifier, she wouldn't cry. She was now able to speak fluently and started with this line every time: "Do you still remember?"

"Do you still remember? There were lots of things in the grocery store in the market place. Alcohol on the higher racks; sauces on the lower racks. Salted fish hung on a red nylon cord; cured meats hung on a white nylon cord. All the sieves, red or blue, were used as lampshades, in which the lightbulb shone over the eggs. Near them were peanuts, sunflower seeds, dried shrimp and a small red plastic bucket that held all the change. On the other side were the counter and a clattering abacus. You used to suspect that those beads were actually black Mentos. You had really wished to take a bite and find out. What you cared most about were the many bells, sorted and numbered according to size, on cardboard behind the counter. The biggest one had a curious luster. You always implored Grandma to give you change so you could draw to win that bell. But you never did win. One day, Grandma didn't have any change, and you were so pissed that you ran to the fish stall just across the street. You tramped through the ditch on purpose, so that Grandma would be washed over by scales. After she was gone, you had to go home alone after school. But you went back to that store and stood there stupefied for half an hour. The storekeeper liked you and handed you candies. I stayed there and chatted with her until the day turned dark, until your dad in a panic finally found you there. She told Dad it was dangerous to let you be at home alone, and that she was willing to look after you for a while after school. When Grandma passed away, you were in third grade. At the time, we were still living in the shabby estate where all kinds of people came and went."


I had always treasured this wonderful doll that told me many things of the past, but I didn't keep it at home as I feared my friends might laugh at me when they found out. So I wrapped it up and hid it behind the alcohol in the farthest end of the highest rack in the store. Just now the little girl's father was about to bring her home. He said they would move to a new estate on Sunday. She had kept me company at the store all these days. I figured I should give her something memorable. I took the doll out from the rack and gave it to her.

"Don't lose it. Don't lose the memory."

She nodded, perhaps not knowing what I really meant.

The fishmonger was washing away the scales on the ground. They glittered like many ten-cent coins. I realised, tomorrow, I might not need to go back to the kapok tree in the park.

















而只要我將自己變成了一件玩具,雙層床底下的一箱玩具就會立即活過來了。那個新奇士橙的紙箱是個奇妙的世界,裡面住著一條會下樓梯的彩虹色彈弓圈、一輛翻倒了又會自己爬起來的越野車、一條紅白相間,印著可樂商標,能扭成球狀,又扭成手槍的扭計骰蛇,之類之類。我們,大概都擁有過這樣的一箱玩具吧? 它就像個微小的宇宙,在我們對當中的東西有所意識以前已經存在;但同時,它們又將在某天,莫名其妙地從裡面消失。


可是,當我把自己也想像成一件玩具時,例如,當我對它說:「妹妹,你自己在家有乖嗎? 姐姐今天有不少作業,只能陪你聊一會,中學的作業都很難,不過姐現在先學了,以後就可以教你。」,它就會活過來了,這時候就是拔下它的奶咀它也不哭,而且還能有條不紊地說起話來,而它每次說話,都總是以「姐姐你還記得嗎?」開始。

「姐姐你還記得嗎? 那街市裡的士多辦館,高架子上的洋酒,低架子上的醬醋;紅尼龍繩上的咸魚,白尼龍繩上的臘肉;紅筲箕,藍筲箕,都改造成了燈罩,罩下一盞電燈泡,將雞蛋照得通透。旁邊是花生,是瓜子,是蝦米,是用繩子吊起用作找贖零錢的紅色小膠桶。另一邊的帳檯上,有一副滴滴達達的算盤,你曾思疑過,那一顆顆串在上面的,其實是黑色的萬樂珠,很想去咬一口嚐嚐。但令你更在意的,是帳檯後一紙板大大小小的掛鈴,它們按號碼掛著,最大的那個,更是閃著漂亮的奇異光彩。所以你總鬧著要抓籌,鬧著跟婆婆要零錢,但你卻總是抓不中。有次婆婆沒零錢,你就生氣跑到對面的魚攤子踏水窪,濺了婆婆一身魚鱗。後來婆婆走了,你一個人放學回家,仍舊拐到那店去,傻傻地站在店前面,一站就是半小時,那店的嬸嬸喜歡你,給你糖,你就在店裡跟她聊天,一直聊到晚上驚惶萬分的爸尋著你為止。嬸嬸跟爸說你一個人待在家很危險,要是他願意,可以在你放學後替他照顧你一陣子。那時婆婆剛走,你念三年級,我們家還住在那個人口比較複雜的老屋邨。」






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