There was another condemned man standing beside Li Minchu on the platform. The other condemned prisoner, who was said to be a former navy captain and as strong as a horse, had been caught while swimming toward the other side of the lake wearing a pair of shackles. He struggled now, and let out a cry, for which he got a mouthful of sand. His face turned purplish. He was shaking madly. By comparison, Li Minchu looked as calm as if he had no idea why he should be standing there on the platform facing his fellow inmates’ frightened stares. Because of his calmness, they didn’t stuff anything into his mouth. But I found Li Minchu had changed into another man, as if he no longer cared about his fate. In my memory, he was timid. When someone threatened to report on his wife’s bringing in a piece of cake inside a hollowed bar of soap, he gave half of it to his cellmates in exchange for keeping the secret; when we were seated on the platform at the detention house to be sentenced he was the only one who cried. But now he was as calm as a man waiting for an award. He kept standing straight even after the other condemned man collapsed on the platform and wet his pants.
more from Xiaoda Xiao at Guernica here.