The Love of Life

50. The Revenge of the Field Chickens

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Once there was a barber named Liang Chiashou in Wuwui, Anhui. His head was kind of pinched on top like a deer’s, and he had beady eyes like a rat. He was no beauty. Outside beauty doesn’t matter so much, but he was no beauty inside, either. He always wrangled and dickered. He never tried to improve his behavior or his attitude.

He was greedy, too. His favorite dish was frog — what some Chinese call The Chicken of the Fields. He couldn’t eat a meal without some field chickens. He knew a dozen ways to prepare frog meat. He had a bunch of friends who were no better than he was, and they all said that field chicken fixed by Liang Chiashou just couldn’t be beat!

The more they praised his cooking, the more frogs Liang killed, as if they were enemies he wanted to wipe out. He kept this up until he was in his forties, a middle aged man.

One night, he was sound asleep. Then he felt itchy all over. He seemed to see that his whole bed was covered with frogs. Frogs all over the blankets! Frogs all over the pillows! Al1 over the bedstead! Frogs everywhere!

“Strange,” he said to himself. “Well, I know what to do with frogs.” He gathered up all these frogs and put them into the wok. Then he went back to his bedroom, and again he found his bed covered with more frogs!

Liang spent the whole night this way, collecting frogs from his bed. The next day, he got some friends over, and told them how he had spent he night harvesting frogs from his bed. His friends couldn’t figure it out, either. Suddenly, Liang grabbed his shoulder.

“The frogs are back!” he shouted.

“I don’t see anything,” one of his friends said.

“Here, right here, there’s a frog on my eyebrows! Now there’s one in my hair!” Liang was panicked, but his friends were confounded. They didn’t see a single frog. What they saw was Liang running around and hacking off his eyebrows and hair with his razor. But nobody saw a frog at all. “He must be crazy,” they whispered.

From then on, Liang saw frogs attacking him every day. He tried to defend himself with his razor, but the frogs kept coming. He begged his friends to help, but only he could see those frogs. He lived like a madman for six more years before he finally died.

Was he worn out from fighting off the frogs? Had the frogs finally taken their revenge? Or was he just out of his mind? Nobody could tell. But everybody knew that Liang certainly wouldn’t have suffered so terribly if he hadn’t cooked so many frogs.


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