The Love of Life

59. Look, Look, They're Free Again


Li Chingwen was very kind. He would go to the shore and ask the fishermen, “What have you caught today? Fish? Crabs? Turtles?” Then he would pull out his money and buy the fishermen’s catch, and let all those fish and crabs and turtles go free. Maybe you think he had a lot of money to throw away, but actually, he wasn’t rich. He just enjoyed saving doomed animals.

Whenever he let those animals go, he would smile happily and say, “Look, look, they’re free again!” He would be happy for the rest of the day.

Mr. Li was an alchemist — that’s like a chemist and a psychologist and a philosopher all in one. He experimented with all sorts of unknown chemicals. Occasionally he even swallowed some of them to see what would happen. You can guess what happened. He ended up poisoning himself. He got a great big boil on his back, and no medicine could cure it. It hurt so much he could barely sleep at night.

He was tossing and turning in bed. No matter which way he lay, his back hurt. Then he seemed to see fish and crabs and turtles blowing bubbles across his back. They licked his back and he felt indescribably comfortable. In a short time, his aching bones stopped aching, and his back was all right. He jumped out of bed. “Wow, I can walk! See, I’m okay again!”

The doctor couldn’t believe it. No boil that bad could be cured so quickly! But the boil was gone, and all the poison was out of his system. As a matter of fact, he was even healthier than he had been before his sickness.

For the rest of his long life, whenever Li Chingwen had a bit of money, he went to the docks and the market and politely asked the fishermen if they had caught anything — fish? crabs? turtles? Then he would get out his money and take the fish and crabs and turtles to the shore and let them go. With a big smile on his face, he would say “Look! Look! They’re free again!” and watch until the last one was out of sight. Then he would turn and walk home happily.

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