I actually had an older brother who was hacked to death by Jiao Lei because he was leaning against a telephone pole in a thunderstorm. I still remember the scene when my mother and sister stumbled to collect my brother’s body.
My elder brother was handsome, and he was chubby and likable. He Yuejin, the maker of “Fangyankou” in the neighboring village (the person who makes paper horses, paper figures, and paper sedan chairs for the dead), liked him very much, saying that he was a lucky boy who came out of New Year pictures.
But I was as thin as chopsticks, so I envied my brother very much. Sometimes, I would compare my brother with the fat doll in the New Year pictures, and they really looked alike, and I gradually became a little jealous.
One day, after school, my brother called me from a distance: “San’er, look!” Then he shook a yellow thing in his hand to me. I thought it was a certificate of merit, so I murmured in my heart, because my brother’s grades are not as good as mine, if he wins the certificate of merit, I will fall out of favor a lot in front of my mother.
When he got closer, he saw that he was holding a painting in his hand. The painting is a chubby child with two big dimples and two curved eyebrows, so much like a brother.
My brother proudly said: “He Yuejin drew this for me. I’m a model.” He whistled all the way, and I followed behind sullenly, holding on to the buttons of my school uniform with both hands.
That painting was enshrined in the main room by my mother and sister like a Bodhisattva. Sometimes I would secretly stare at the painting viciously, venting my unhappiness: Once my brother and I quarrel, my brother will kill me , my mother and sister are protecting my brother.
Once, my brother and I played “Take a picture” and I won. In a fit of anger, my brother tore up my picture. I looked at Zilong, the “Saint Seiya” who had been dismembered on the ground, and felt aggrieved. I turned around and went to my sister’s room to find a knitting needle, and stuck it on the New Year painting that my brother was proud of.
It’s weird to say that what I pierced was the calf of the doll on the New Year painting, and my brother’s calf was bitten by some strange insect that night, and it bled.
From then on, I often pricked the New Year painting with a wool needle, and the corresponding parts of my brother’s body would suffer accordingly.
The day my brother was struck to death by lightning, I was having an awkward dispute with him. He clearly knew that I liked brother Xiaohong at the west end of the village, so he wanted to kill me , and even said bad things about my bedwetting in front of Xiaohong.
I remember that the rain fell very hard that day, and the impatiens outside the window fell in large pieces, and my dog Ah Huang barked until his voice became hoarse.
It was very dark in the room, so I stole a small white candle from my sister’s drawer and lit it. Then, I ignited a cannon and threw it in front of my brother’s New Year painting.
“Crack” the moment the cannon exploded, a flash of purple lightning suddenly flashed outside the window, cracking the entire sky, followed by a loud thunder.
When the news of my brother’s death by Jiao Lei’s bombing reached home, the white candle still had the last sliver of candle oil.
The mother and sister rushed out the door crying, looking for the body of the brother. I was the only one left in the room, sitting blankly on the ground, watching the cannon blown to pieces on the ground.
When people from the village brought my brother’s body home in the rain, my house caught fire—the piece of candle actually ignited the New Year painting, and the flames raged on the counter.
The villagers put out the fire, only to find that the only thing that was burned was the painting and a knitting needle.
After my brother died, it was the maker He Yuejin who came to release the “flaming mouth”. He sat on the threshold of my house for a long time, making paper ingots. His face was pale, like a paper man.
That day I kept watching him from behind the door frame, and I always felt that he was not a person.
When burning paper ingots, he stood at one end of his elder brother’s coffin with a gloomy face, and said to me at the other end, “This baby is so thin, come, come, come, I will draw you a New Year picture when I have time!”
Suddenly, as if I had received an electric shock, I threw myself on my brother’s coffin, feeling overwhelming fear in my heart.
Since then, I have never dared to buy New Year pictures again.
Many years later, I met a man who looked very similar to He Yuejin in the square by the Huangpu River, except that he had braids. I saw the man and ran away. The man laughed silently behind him: “Sir, you are so thin, like a knitting needle…”