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Desert Hunters (Chapter One)1

2020-09-21 18:09 From:www.xuemo.cn/en Author:Xue Mo Culture Browse:5152049Times

Desert Hunters

Xue Mo

Translated by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin

Chapter One

1

The wolf sauntered at a leisurely pace. Mengzi mistook it for a wolfhound at first, and he knew that dogs passing down a road did not bite.

The lonely white sun hung in the sky, more like a moon. Bright light burst through a cluster of clouds suspendedbeneath the sun, casting fleeting shadows on ground that shone one minute and darkened the next. The children shouted, “Grandpa Sun is visiting villages.”

With insatiable childlike curiosity, the sun was always out visiting villages. See how enormous the shadow of that cloud cluster is, like a magic carpet that dwarfs the wolf and turns it into a louse.

“Aiya!”someone cried out. “It’s Uncle Blackbeard.”

Mengzi had not noticed until then that the animal’s tail was hanging straight down between its legs. It was a wolf, he realized, but strangely he felt no fear. He knew thata wolf is a dog to the Earth God, who sealsits muzzle so it won’t bite. The wolf was in no hurry; it just sniffed around, as if it couldn’t care less about the world. With a leisurely air, it might as well have been out sightseeing.

Wolves were common in their village. No one bothered with them, and they never attacked the villagers. The wolves were the Earth God’s dogs, to be greeted by the villagers’ owndogs.

“Go get it!” the children shouted at their dogs.

“Go get it!” the adults echoed.

Several dogs dashed out to chase the wolf away, but it ignored them as it continued sniffing around, never losing its composure or quickening its pace. The dogs, on the other hand, did not dare to close in on the wolf, which turned and grinned,baring its fangs.

Everyone came out of their yards to watch the wolf travel through their village. Look at it, a carefree animal, but with an overbearing attitude.

“Uncle Blackbeard!” someone shouted.

“Uncle Blackbeard!” Others echoed the shout. To the ethnic Uighurs, a maternal uncle iscalled a “bone master,” ranking only below one’s father. The villagers followed the custom of calling a wolf Uncle Blackbeard.

The wolf glanced at the villagers, grinned and bared its fangs. Unperturbed by the barking dogs nearby, it continued to amble along, swaying its ample body, stopping only to catch a clumsy rat every once in a while to fill its belly.

Mengzi knew that rats area wolf’s favorite food; it will notgo after other animals so long as there are rats to feast on. Rats are blood-sucking lice on the EarthGod. Wolves are its dogs.

The rising sun shone down on the wolf like a searchlight. It looked up at the sun and howled, either to thank the sun or to curse it for meddling. The dogs chased the wolf, butbacked off when it turned around; they barked, but still did not have the nerve to get close.

Villagers lit fires at their gates to ward off the uninvited guest. Their ancestors had passed down the belief that wolves areafraid of fire, but this one swaggered around the flameswith no fear. Smoke from the fires permeated the air, even blocking out the sun.

“Go get it,” the grownups and their children shouted at the dogs, “go get it.”

The wolf ignored the animals that were supposed to “get it,” for they were nothing but dogs,and they only barked and growled when their human owners were nearby. The racket they set up finally got the wolf to turn its head and grin. The dogs scurriedoff. The wolf continued on its unhurried journey, ignoring everything around it, as if only it and the sun lighting its wayexisted in the world. Neither the fire and smoke nor the barking dogs could make it hasten its pace even alittle.

With the sun away visiting another village, theirs was soon blanketedby gloomy cloud shadows. The fires crackled and the smoke rose, while the wolf ambled on, like a triumphant general whose return is greeted with pyrotechnics of smoke and fire.

The wolf sauntered off, amid the smoke, around the fires, and through the village, before disappearing into the vast desert.

Mengzi laughed, experiencing good feelings toward the wolf.

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