The Love of Life

87. Old Hsu's Knees


Old Hsu came to work at the Kao’s as a servant when he was about 50. He worked hard and always did his duties quickly, without any complaining or back talk. The Kaos thought a lot of him.

One day, though, the sun was already high in the sky, but Old Hsu was still in bed. He was usually the first up in the morning, so this was odd. Another servant went to his room to see what was the matter. First he knocked, then he pounded on the door. Finally, Old Hsu came out, limping. He seemed to be in pain.

“Something wrong with your legs?” the other servant asked.

“Look at this, my knees are all red and swollen. I must have boils,” Old Hsu said, pulling up his pants.

He continued, “I had a weird dream last night. I saw thousands and thousands of eels. Two of the biggest ones came rushing at me and bit me in the knees. It hurt so much I woke up, and found I couldn’t move. That’s why it took me so long to answer the door.”

Mr. Kao said, “That is an odd dream. Do you know what it’s about?”

Old Hsu thought a bit. “When I was 20, I opened a noodle shop in Tungkuan. My eel noodles were famous. I killed dozens of eels every day to meet the demand.

“After thirty years, I had saved quite a bit of money, but I was getting pretty sick of cooking noodles day in and day out, so I decided to invest. I started hoarding stocks of oil to sell at high prices when supplies ran out, and everything was all set. Then a fire broke out in my warehouse and wiped me out. Thirty years of work b urned out overnight! I didn’t have anything left. That’s why I came here to work as a servant.

“Do you think my dream might have anything to do with my knees, sir?” Old Hsu asked.

“That was just a dream. Don’t worry, I have just the thing for you.” Mr. Kao got out a certain ointment that was his family specialty, and rubbed it onto Old Hsu’s knees. Before long, Old Hsu was up and walking around again. But a few days later, he got boils on his knees again.

This time Old Hsu couldn’t even get up to open his door. They had to come in through the window. Old Hsu showed them his knees. The flesh was almost all rotted off his bones.

“I’m doomed,” he sobbed. “They came for me again last night. It hurts! I can’t stand this much longer.”

Within a few days, Old Hsu had died of the pain.

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