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Wang Hao’s Good Furniture

2020-02-20 16:46:00 Source:China Today Author:YUAN XINGMEI
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After sweeping several roads and returning to her rented bungalow, Wang Hao was in need of some rest. She had been up since dawn. As she closed her eyes, the crying of the neighbor’s child pierced through the thin walls and shattered her moment of peace. Lying in bed, she thought about how it was time to visit her husband Li Bing again, and found it even more difficult to sleep. Li had been hospitalized for several months, without any sign of improvemnet. Wang was so worried that she sat up, staring at the gray window for a while. Then she remembered Li’s wish of having the furniture rearranged. She got up slowly, tears streaming down her face, and began to move the furniture about.

Li liked to arrange furniture, something which bored Wang to distraction. She thought it a pointless waste of time. However, Li did not think so and encouraged Wang to assist him. Li compared it to playing cards. After shuffling cards, you will always have expectations of the kind of cards you will get in your hand. Wang would say angrily, “I think I always get a hand of bad cards no matter how many times I try.”

Li would laugh and say that bad cards demand no effort of the player but bring people relaxation. He was convinced that the frequent rearranging of furniture would make the house look new and make him feel happy.

Who would have thought that such an optimistic person could get sick? In order to make money, and also for the convenience of taking care of Li, Wang found a job as a cleaner for a community and rented a small bungalow in the village close to the city. Every Friday, she would visit Li and tell him every detail about her job. She would also talk to him about the furniture arrangement, while he listened carefully. He even drew an arrangement on a scrap of paper and offered Wang advice. He thought that the flat TV cabinet and corner cabinet should be placed on the east side, while the sofa and tea table should be put on the west. When Wang got back home she followed Li’s suggestion, and rearranged the furniture according to his drawing.

When Xiaofu popped in, Wang was hard at work pushing the corner cabinet. Li shared a ward at the hospital with Xiaofu’s husband. It was Xiaofu who had found the bungalow Wang had rented. Xiaofu leaned on the door and asked if Wang was sleepy.

“I will sleep tonight,” said Wang.

“Are you not tired?” asked Xiaofu.

“Of course, trying the sweeping work, you’ll know!”

“You are tired, so why do you still fiddle about with these things?” asked Xiaofu.

Wang gave her a supercilious look and lightly kicked her furniture. “Why do you call it ‘things?’ Take a good look – this is good furniture.”

Xiaofu felt a wave of sadness come over her. “You’re full of love for life, and work hard, you should enjoy a good life, and should not suffer from this terrible disease,” she said, her eyes brimming with tears.

Wang chastised her for shedding tears so easily and said, “Tomorrow is another day, and there are still days in the almanac,” she said.

This was Wang’s pet phrase. She always said that as long as there are days in the almanac, she was not afraid. In fact, Xiaofu admired Wang with all her heart – this plump, simple woman was brash and spoke loudly, but was tenacious and had a big, kind heart.

Wang pushed the flat cabinet to the head of the bed and moved the TV cabinet under the window, saying that she had no time to watch TV. Pushing and pulling with all her might she could barely move the TV cabinet and turned to criticize Xiaofu for not giving her a hand. When she looked up, she saw Xiaofu’s eyes filled with tears again and asked her what had happened.

Apparently Xiaofu’s mother-in-law had called and said it was time for her child to go to school. Xiaofu said that a primary school student would have to pay almost RMB 1,000 of tuition fees. Wang took out a few notes from her wardrobe, and said that it was the wages she had just received. “Send this money home so that your child can enter school,” she said. Xiaofu refused and said, “Where do you get spare money to lend me. You still need money to pay for your husband’s medical care,”

Wang looked at her. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I am not afraid, as long as there are days in the almanac.”

After all the furniture was arranged according to her husband’s instructions, Wang stood at the door and looked at the cramped bungalow. It had really changed and took on a fresh look as her husband had predicted it would. It seemed as if life was full of hope, so she was happy. Waving her arms and pulling at the corners of her mouth, she kept repeating that as long as there were days in the almanac, any difficulty could be overcome.

Xiaofu watched her pat the flat cabinet and the large wardrobe. The way Wang carried on anyone would have thought the furniture was made of rosewood. In fact a flat cardboard box made up the flat cabinet, a rough white board packing box was used as a TV cabinet, the corner cabinet was a slender cardboard box, the tea table consisted of several small cardboard boxes, and four cardboard boxes piled high in the corner were Wang’s so-called wardrobe. Only the two-person sofa was real. Wang had rescued it from the garbage when sweeping the road. She could sit on it, but with great care. Once Xiaofu sat down and sank into the broken springs and worn cushions, it took her a while to extricate herself and stand up again.

Wang asked Xiaofu to wash her hands and make dumplings.

Xiaofu said suddenly, “No matter what happens in the future, we can all get through it.”

Xiaofu’s words struck Wang like a hammer to her heart. Wondering what had happened, Wang still smiled and said that when Li recovered she would ask him to buy a new set of furniture for her to push about.

“As long as there are days in the almanac, I am not afraid,” said Wang smiling.  

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YUAN XINGMEI is a member of China Writers Association.

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