The Love of Life

77. Ladies in the Pigpen


The capital of Anhui province has a funny name: Hofei. That means Together Fat.

Nearby, in P’ait’ou Village, Hsuan 4 was a hog butcher with over twenty years’ experience. He had made a lot of money in this business, and saved it carefully, so he owned three houses. He lived in one and rented out the other two. He also owned a hundred acres of good crop land.

In other words, he really had enough money to retire and take it easy. But few people know when they’ve had enough. As a matter of fact, Hsuan was so used to killing hogs that he felt something was wrong if he let a day go by without killing something. On holidays, he kept himself busy sharpening his knives.

He got up early one morning as usual to begin his day’s work. His wife went into the outhouse, which in old houses was always right next to the pigpen. She happened to look in, and let out a scream that brought her husband running.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”

“I looked into the pigpen, and I saw two ladies lying there, not pigs! I thought I must be imagining things, so I rubbed my eyes and looked again, and sure enough, two ladies it was!

“I think this is an omen, dear. Please, don’t kill any more pigs!”

“Ha, ha, ha!” Hsuan 4 laughed. “You sure have a strange sense of humor! You just hadn’t got the sleep out of your eyes!”

Mrs. Hsuan saw he wasn’t going to take her advice, so she grabbed his knife and threw it down the toilet, straight into the cesspool. Ugh! Hsuan 4 didn’t kill any pigs that day, but he went out shopping for a new knife.

The next day Mrs. Hsuan asked her parents to come talk with her husband. “Look, you already have more than enough money to see you through the rest of your life. Why don’t you just listen to your wife and take it easy?”

“But it’s my job to kill hogs.”

“If you can’t stop it, our daughter is going to move out.”

Hsuan thought back on all their years of married life together, and all the money he made killing hogs.

“I guess she’ll have to move out.”

Hsuan gave his ex-wife half of their property, and she got custody of their child. When everything was settled, Hsuan went back to work, and slaughtered those pigs in the pen, the ones his wife had thought were ladies.

He slaughtered their piglets, too, and just as he finished, someone came running up with the message that his child had suddenly dropped dead.

Hsuan was remorseful, but he was too stubborn to admit he had been wrong. He started gambling to take his mind off his cares. In a short time, all the local gamblers knew that when Hsuan came to the table, their pockets would be filled up, because every time he gambled, he lost.

Before long, he had gambled away all of the property he had left.

“So what?” he said, “I can always go back to butchering, can’t I?” He scraped together some money and bought some pigs to raise and slaughter, but before a month was out, he was flat on his back, sick in bed.

He had some strange disease. The blood and pus coming out of his nose hurt so much that he screamed. The people who heard him said he sounded just like a stuck pig!

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