A gust of cold wind blasted through the cracks in the half-open door, making me involuntarily shudder. But it bothered me none as I stormed out against the headwinds in a rage, slamming the door shut to give vent to the frustration in my heart.
I had just quarreled with my wife over a petty issue, but my unforgiving wife, making a storm out of a teacup, kept pestering me about it. I had to leave her alone and try to find an escape in this white world of dancing snowflakes. I tried to find a small tavern, but with the heavy snow coming down, the broad street was almost empty except for a few pedestrians, like a small lane in my hometown at nighttime. So, I ambled aimlessly down the quiet and deserted street. My wife and I had been married for years, and we lived in harmony most of the time without bickering over trifles. Though an earthquake had further softened our hearts, our tempers had grown obviously worse. Today, for example, we got into a bitter quarrel over an issue as small as a sesame seed. I tried to calm down and bring things under control, but my wife was furious, I had no choice but to slam the door and storm out.
A small car drove by slowly in the dim street lights, the driver looking sluggish and lackadaisical, as if there was something unpleasant going on in his mind as well. As the night darkened, the snow came heavier and faster, the streetlights gave a frail, helpless halo.
It was then and there that I saw a man-powered freight tricycle coming toward me. Because the tricycle rider was a man wearing thick clothes covered in thick snow, it was hard for me to see his face clearly, but the woman sitting behind him was very visible. Under the streetlights, her red cotton-padded coat was a sharp contrast against the white snow.
Maybe because the road was too slippery or the tricycle was too heavy, the man, bending forward, weighed his body almost entirely over the handlebar as the wheels moved slowly under his pedaling feet. When he came up a slope, the tricycle snaked ahead like an "s."
Suddenly, I saw a hand show up next to each of the man’s ears, and the hands wrapped up the ears tight. Obviously, the hands belonged to the woman riding on the back of the tricycle. When the tricycle was passing me, I saw the hands slowly rubbing the ears back and forth. With a surge of heat in my heart, I felt my soul was touched by something indescribable and I followed the couple around subconsciously.
As the slope became steeper and steeper, the tricycle slowed down drastically. The man’s back bent more, and the breath he panted out turned into a faint white column in front of him. The woman pressed herself up forward, leaving her back to the mercy of the chilly winds, while her hands firmly wrapped up the man’s ears. The road flattened out after reaching the top of the slope. The man and the woman became a great view in the snowscape.
I followed them on and on, not knowing how far away I had walked from home. I found myself fully merging into the night and the invaluable scene. The man finally pulled up at a curb near a group of cabins built after the earthquake which served as temporary shelters for victims.
The man parked his tricycle securely and helped the woman get off before placing a walking stick under her armpit.
In the next instant, I was shocked to see that the woman had only one leg intact. Her other leg was truncated from the knee down! Maybe due to the slippery conditions of the road, the woman wobbled and was about to fall, when the man quickly extended her his right hand, which she held steadily in both hands right away. My heart literally dropped the moment I saw an empty sleeve fluttering on his left. The man had only one arm!
Next, the man held the woman by clenching one of her hands in his armpit. The woman nestled up to the man and the two moved slowly towards the cabin.
Up in the sky, the snow came down even heavier and faster. I inclined my head backward and simply let it wet my face.
After a long while, I looked homeward and quickened my pace. I felt compelled to get home as fast as I could to tell my wife what I had seen.
I thought, by the time I finished telling her the story, the blizzard would probably have stopped already.
Selected from Chinese Flash Fiction, complied by China Flash Fiction Society, and published by New World Press.