The following is a translation of Yue Zhu’s curious story “格林大夫的遭遇“ . It’s a strange mixture of Borges and Dahl that I think you’ll enjoy. The translation went a little better this time, though it took a lot of time. Please tell me if you find typos.
Dr. Green paced about in his private clinic, sullenly looking over the floor, the light red medicine stains catching his eye. He went to the window and pulled the dark green curtains closed. As he did so, he caught a glimpse of Gelb the butcher crossing the plaza and heading towards him and this apartment he rented. Intuitively, Green knew that Gelb was coming to him as a patient. And sure enough, not five minutes later, the clinic doorbell rang. Green shook off his mood, put on a slight smile, and opened the door.
Without even waiting for Green to speak, Gelb entered at a brisk pace, pulling the door closed as he did so. His face was ashen, his lips swollen like small eggplants. Green noticed that Gelb’s corpulent figure seemed stiff with rickets, as if he couldn’t even manage a stretch.
“Looks like you’re in bad shape, Mr. Gelb. What’s happened?” Green indicated that Gelb should take a seat.
“Take a look and tell me what this is” said Gelb as he pulled off his jumper and turned around, letting Green see his bare back.
“God, what is it?!” Green retreated two steps. On Gelb’s back, there was a small, flesh-colored house, which was actually an enormous growth.
“It looks like a house, doesn’t it?” Gelb twisted his head around and asked.
“It does indeed look like a house, but there’s nothing to it, it’s only a growth with a special shape and nothing more”, Green regained his composure, and drank what whiskey remained in his glass with a single gulp.
“No, it’s not just that, it’s really a house.” Gelb frowned and shook his head back and forth despairingly.
“Come here and climb up on the surgery table, I’ll cut it off for you, but first I have to make some preparations.” Green deftly washed his hands with disinfectant, put on gloves, and got out the surgical instruments.
“Wait, Doctor, Wait… listen….”
Green had already prepared the anesthetic and was a bit impatient, but nevertheless went over and lowered his head to listen closely. From inside the flesh house came the sound of singing, one male voice and one female. Green thought he must be mistaken, and stuck his ear in a bit closer. It was “Ode to Joy”, but a little off key.
“Is that you singing?”, Green looked over at Gelb.
“Of course not. A boy and a girl live in that house. They’re brother and sister and always chatting.”
“Well then, this is a bit complex. We’ll first need to need to cut these residents off you; they are the tumor’s soul.” Green pondered this, feeling that his own words were a bit ridiculous.
At this point, the flesh house’s door opened and from inside emerged a little tumor boy who circled round the house as if he were planting seeds. Then, he went back inside and closed the door with a bang. Not long after, the area surrounding the flesh house grew little red flesh sprouts.
“I planted some roses, what do you think?”, the boy said. The flesh house’s window opened and a tumor girl stuck out her head, “They’re beautiful! You’re the best brother!”
Green gave Gelb a shot of anesthetic and then grabbed a shiny silver scalpel , cutting off all the flesh sprouts in a single motion. From inside the flesh house came the sound of a girl crying. Green calmly surveyed the flesh house, thinking over the next step of his strategy. Suddenly, his nose began to itch and he raced to the mirror where he saw that his entire nose had grown little red flesh sprouts. Clenching his teeth, he cut the little sprouts off one by one, with blood gushing forth. He applied a cotton swab to stop the bleeding, wrapped his nose with gauze and adhesive, and picked up his scalpel to approach the flesh house anew. He furrowed his brow at them, but the two of them just started to laugh. Gelb, hearing the laughter let out an angry roar.
Green thought up a plan. He went to the kitchen, stirred together a little bit of flour, milk, and sugar, and put this mixture into the oven. Shortly thereafter, it turned into a peculiar, fragrant little cake. By way of decoration, Green took a cherry and put it on top of the cake, then placed it on Gelb’s back, that is, in front of the flesh house’s door.
“Brother, take a whiff, it smell so good!”, the girl said.
“Hmm, it does smell good, but it could be a trap.”, the boy said.
Green took his scalpel and quietly squatted beside the surgery table.
“Brother, I’m hungry; go bring that cake in here.”
The door opened and the tumor boy carefully stepped out. His feet and the skin of Gelb’s back were attached to each other, so that as he took a step forward, Gelb’s skin was pulled upward. Just as the boy lowered his head to take the cake, Green sprang up, and raising his hand to bring down the blade, cut him right off. Only a sad, shrill little cry of pain could be heard. The tumor boy rolled down onto the surgery table, dripping in blood and twitching uncontrollably.
“Brother, what’s happened?!”, the girl cried out.
Green and Gelb roared with laughter. Green laughed until his stomach hurt, proudly looking at his own scalpel as if entranced. “You killed my brother?” The girl pushed open the door and charged out, furiously staring at Green who was doubled over with laughter. Green once again raised his hand and brought down his blade; again there was cry of pain, and the tumor girl rolled down next to her brother’s body. She died without time to close her eyes, and she still glared at Green just as before. Green bundled them up in some gause and brought them over to Gelb.
“These things are really disgusting, they wreak of stinking fish!’, Gelb covered his nose with his hand.
“Now it’ll be easy to deal with that house, I’m going to pull it out from its roots!”, Green said as he brought his knife to the flesh house’s door.
Suddenly, an old woman’s voice came from within, “As long as I’m still here, don’t even think about knocking down my house. Get my grandson and granddaughter and give them back to me.”
Green and Gelb were stupefied. Before they could recover their senses, hundreds of tumor men and women poured forth from the flesh house. They sang as they went to work. In no time, there appeared on Gelb’s back, a fleshy town. There was a clock tower, plaza, church, city hall, commercial district, and so on. Green even thought that in the midst of it he caught a hazy glimpse of the apartment building where he had his clinic. After completing the construction, the tumor people gathered in the public square, stomping their feet in unison and singing a majestic martial ballad. Green had the feeling that he’d heard this song in his youth, but couldn’t come up with its name.
“Save me, Doctor! Save me!” Gelb squealed like a pig being slaughtered.
Green went once again to the window and opened the curtains, looking out at the plaza. His ex-wife was just then leading two fair-skinned children to feed pigeons in a corner of the square. A pigeon landed on his daughter, who shrieked and ran with laughter. Green tore the gauze off his face, and let the sunlight shine down on his nose. He felt that this might disinfect it.
Gelb did not continue howling; he might already have been dead or have already accepted his fate. Green pushed open the window, stood on the dust covered windowsill，looked at his watch and the clock tower at the end of the plaza, then stepped off the edge.