Part Three: The Infamous Outlaw (江洋大盗)

Life Update: I’m tossing up whether I want to do a Masters in Translation/Interpreting.

I’m not sure if it’s worth it (time + money wise). It’ll be minimally helpful for my career (though deeply personally interesting) and I’ve been told by the course coordinator it is not a degree designed for part time study.

Surely 1-2 subjects a semester is manageable though? I’m not sure, but I’d like to at least explore this idea a little further – watch this space.

Start here for Part One.

The thief looked at the boy in contempt one last time, decides there is nothing worth stealing, and knows it’s finally time for her to head out and test her skills in the wider world.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if her family is full of the poorest souls.

Now that she is making her own way in the world, the budding outlaw saw possibility around every corner. Why she could steal all over the globe from family and friends to complete strangers. The world is so big and much is ripe for the taking.

Filled with gusto, her fingers twitch with excitement.

《白云堂》an ancient Chinese poems gives her the ability to steal mountains and disguise water. Master Shao, a traditional artists gift her gardens filled with lush greens and a wide varietyof insects, fish and birds to catch. It’s rare to find 《制乐小集》, a musical album, at the market but she buys some beansprouts instead. “Taipei People” accompanies her to the United States as the thief stealthily chews on modern literature. She tip toes around Old Master Q, a comic-book character, as he snoozes, hoping the English poems jingling about in her rug sack do not wake him.

When Mr Cai, a famous astronomer was not paying attention to the observatory, the thief extends her crimes to the galaxies, stealing the stars and moon to illuminate her path of notoriety.

Fang Xinzheng’s “Sleep on the Gale” led the thieving girl to search for Linda’s last summer among the willow trees. She watches as a young man whistles out of tune and trims Whitman’s hair, grown into the grass on his grave. Homer began to sing blindly at some point, please don’t tell anyone else it was me who reached into the window and stole his soul. Aesop, previously a slave, I merely ate his flesh but skipped over the quack toad he speaks of.

Sha Linjie hunted in the fields, but he could never capture half these precious treasures I have. I justified it all too, why Hemingway, if I didn’t kill him now, he will kill himself in the future anyway. Picasso’s circus, Gauguin’s girl, Cézanne’s apple, Van Gogh’s sunflower, all were consumed by me on the grass for a well-balanced breakfast. I also pocketed Dali’s melting clock, a useful tool to improve the precision of my crimes.

That was not all. “The Brothers Karamazov” are all stolen one by one. “The Hunter’s Diary” she also took, though her guilty conscience made her refrain from “Crime and Punishment”.

Little by little, her diet became these squares, squiggles and lines that she could swallow whole.

You may ask why this thief is so focused on literature and art. These cheap and rotten things, what use do they have? Oh, don’t look down on her for her hunger, these are just to tide her over, the good stuff is yet to come.

Over the course of the next few years, the girl’s crimes piled up into a small mountain and she truly earnt the title of the infamous outlaw. One day, she stole a plane ticket, said goodbye to her family, crossed the oceans to embrace new adventures that awaited her.

“Oh lord help us, the infamous outlaw is coming!”

The thief chuckled coldly as shrieks from the people pierced the skies.

She meets a fellow thief in a cornfield. A lone wolf by nature, this was the first time the thief has met a colleague. She quickly gave him a handful of her popcorn.

The other thief bursts out in laughter at her offering, “It is not honourable to steal food, that is for the most squalid of creatures!”

“What do you steal if not food then? I am the empty-bellied thief, out to consume all there is for the world to offer.”

“Well you’ve spent all this time and effort to come here, why not steal… a doctorate?”

“A doctorate? What use does that have? Is it more savoury or sweet?”

“Hah, a doctorate is not food!”

“If it is not edible, it is not my style. I do not wish to steal it.” The thief takes a closer look at the man in front of her. Really he was just sallow skin holding onto sharp protruding bones yet on his back was a huge, bursting backpack.

“Is it a doctorate you have in there? Why do you not eat it?”

“Oh you swine! All you know to do is to eat, do you really not know the benefits of a doctorate?”

“No, please enlighten me.”

“The stealing of this doctorate took all my blood, sweat and tears but now that I have it, it brings me plenty of benefits. At the very least, I can swap it for a beautiful bride. Do you understand now?”

The thief took a look around for eavesdroppers before she lowers her voice and whispers: “You see, yours truly is an empty-hearted thief. Things I cannot eat, are much too heavy and cumbersome for my tastes. Even if it may be used to purchase love in the future. Thank you for your guidance, farewell now.”

After she left the corn field, the thief flies again, three thousand kilometres surrounded by clouds and right past the moon. There was no turning back. From taking Taipei’s Huang Liang’s dream to stealing Don Quixote from the Spaniards. She pockets Mona Lisa’s smile from the French, pumpernickel she accepts from the Germans and umbrellas and shelves are borrowed from the British.

From white people she takes sunscreen from black people, toothpaste. Truly there is no one she wouldn’t steal from and nothing she wouldn’t steal.

Deep down, the empty girl knew she could not wash her hands of her work until she got a taste of the good stuff.

One day, after a day’s of diligent work amongst the crowd, she saw the perfect man wearing worn out shoes walk towards her. In this sea of people, finally, she meets him.

The infamous outlaw’s eyes lit up, without a second thought, she chases the man down a dark alleyway, drags him into the silent corner and in a bloodied haze, swallows him whole.

Feeling her full belly, she was so excited she began to cry. Twenty years of hard work later, finally she is complete. Amen.

And what a completely holy combination of flavours – “shameless, fake, selfish, greedy, weak willed, vain, heartless, quick to betray, heart of a wolf, lungs of dog…” she was so excited she called a taxi straight to the Emergency wing to take an x-ray.

The empty girl is finally rid of her shame.

As the doctor looks at the slide, he begins shouting, “no good, no good!”

The empty girl’s face grows pale, she asks, softly, “what do you mean?”

“What do I mean? Everything is good here except for whatever you just ate, it is rotting your organs. The stench is unbearable. Quickly, nurse! Let’s prepare for surgery, it’s time to save a life.”

“No, no what I just ate was good!” The thief protests, “don’t take it out! I won’t sign a waiver or consent to this, don’t perform surgery!”

No matter how much she screamed and begged, she felt the needle enter her and soon she was knocked out cold.

During her slumber, the doctor took out the treasure she has been longing after for the past few decades. After she awoke, she began sobbing uncontrollably. Having lost her mind, she sprinted to Heaven to tell her tale to God.

God looks at this little sheep returning to the flock. He decides she would re-join the other 99 he was looking after and God was ecstatic. After he captured the little black lamb, he did not want to ever let her go.

After two years passed, short as a sigh, this little lamb began to get restless. She couldn’t possibly spend the rest of her life on the meadows, taken to the waterhole when she was thirsty and laying down on the grass when she was tired.

No. She wanted another chance, an opportunity to rise again in glory. One day, as God fell asleep as he counted his sheep, the little thief knew the time was right. With her woollen hoof she took out a touchstone she has tucked under her bosom. This was to be the most beautiful heist known to the Heavens. She will steal a heart made of a granule of real gold. Unfortunately as soon as she had her hands on her prize, God awoke.

He shouted in disappointment, “Oh Sanmao, Sanmao, I have never punished you for eating rotten fruit from my garden, but now you try to do something like this…”

The thief immediately falls to her (now human) knees, terrified, “Oh Heavenly Father, I have not eaten the apple for I know you are saving that for Newton.”

“Stealing hearts is not good too. I give everyone one heart, how dare you take two?” God chides..

“I don’t plan on just stealing it, I plan on gluing together my broken heart and exchanging it.”

God sighed and shook his head. “One is an idiot, the other a conman. I don’t want to see either of you, get out of my garden.”

Even more scared by God’s command, the kneeling thief cries harder “but where shall I go, Father?”

After thinking for a second, God says “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. You get back to Earth and roll around in the mud down there.”

The thief continues to cry and weakly responds, “that place, you haven’t been there to observe its state for a long time father. It is a man eats man world filled with blood-thirsty carnivores ready to consume the weak. How could you return me there, just for me to swifty die?

God was benevolent and kind. He raises a hand and says, “Dear Child, get up, I will tell you what is a good place to go.”

The thief quietly listens and her heart fills with a mixture of joy and trepidation. She bows to him four final times, quickly drinks from the pool before covering her body carefully with banana leaves ahead of her journey.

With《换心人》, the heart changer, under her arms, she hums as she leaves, “to the south I go, to a carefree land with few visitors, I shall be next to the woods, a guest of the desert, turning over soil at dawn and singing like a sheep again as the skies dim into night” without turning back, the infamous outlaw bounds towards the Sahara Desert.

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