Whenever New Year’s Day came around, a father used to change some savings into stiff small bills and put them out of sight. He would give them out to his children and nephews on New Year’s Day. One year, he found that some bills were missing while he practiced his ritual. He learned that his youngest boy, who then attended elementary school, stole the money from his father. A few days later, the father questioned his son on the matter. As the young boy played innocent, the father told him to kneel on the ground. The son kept denying his fault, which only led his father to slap him in the face. It was not until he got slapped several times that the son acknowledged that he stole the money to buy some bread. Then, the father stopped beating him up and turned his head away without saying anything. When the father turned his head back again, his eyes were full of tears.
One day, the troublemaking son stole some cucumbers from a neighbor with his naughty friends, some of which even stole some money. The neighbor visited around the village, saying that he only wanted money back. He said that he earned the money by selling cucumbers on the market to get a year’s corns and grains. When the neighbor left, the father quickly concluded that it was his son who stole the neighbor’s money. Kneeling on the front garden, the son was questioned and got slapped by his father. However, he was innocent. The son was so frustrated that he skipped dinner and went to bed early. In the middle of the night, the father woke him up and appealingly asked, “You are sure that you did not steal the money”. When the son nodded, his father gave a gentle pat on the son’s cheek and turned his head away. After a while, the father came out to the garden and sat on the chair, which lay in a corner of where his son got beaten up on his knees, staring into space with his empty eyes. When the son dozed off and woke up again, he watched his father still sitting on the chair with the morning dew on his shoulders.
When his father passed away many years later, the son unexpectedly realized that he found some consolation in his memory with his father getting him beaten up. He unknowingly gives a pat on his son’s head every moment he misses his father. It is a childhood story of Chinese novelist Yan Lianke, who is often mentioned as a likely winner of the Nobel Prize.