The Century under Fire: Thirty Stories of Wartime Kinmen─〈Muddy Pond〉
When Kinmen reinforced its defense against the Communist Party of China in 1976, Lin Bo-nong, a Taiwanese young man came to the island to do his military service. Lin’s job was checking fishermen’s ID cards to avoid any Communist soldiers sneaking into Kinmen from the sea. At work he met a fisherman’s wife, Yu Neng-ren.
Young as she was, Yu already had a little daughter. Lin noticed that Yu’s subtle sorrow was disproportionate to her youth. As they slowly established a rapport, Lin gradually learned about her personal history.
Yu once mentioned an episode that happened when she was seven: One day she almost drowned in a muddy pond while trying to pluck the wild vegetables her parents told her to retrieve. On the following day, the parents insisted that she do the same job. The little girl got up the nerve to cross the pond and in doing so, ended her own short childhood. She grew up without anybody’s warmth or care, and finally married a man she did not know at her parent’s request. That was all. That was her life.
After hearing the story, Lin thought about Yu’s life all the time. He saw her illusion in moonbeams. He also paid special attention to Yu’s husband while checking his ID card.
One day, a storm broke out in the open sea, threatening to wreck the Kinmenese fishing boats that were out there. When two corpses were found along the coast, Lin could not help praying secretly that Yu’s husband was one of the dead bodies so Yu’s loveless marriage could come to an end.
When it was Lin’s turn to stand guard, he spotted someone crawling out of the sea. Thinking it might be a Communist soldier, he aimed his gun at the person, but found out at that very moment that it was actually Yu’s husband. Should Lin pretend to mistake Yu’s husband for an enemy soldier and shoot him? Or should he lay down his gun and let Yu reunite with the husband?
<Muddy Pond> successfully depicts the tension in war, the sexual passion of soldiers, and the lifestyle of common Kinmenese during wartime. The envy, possessiveness and desire on the battlefield together compose this question: Is humanity crueler than shells and bombs?
Although the word count of <Muddy Pond> is merely about 3000 Chinese characters, the plentiful relevant materials provided by the original book 《The Century Under Fire》 make it a short story suitable for and worthy of adaptation.
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