Writing Chinese

外島書/ Offshore Island Bible

(Excerpt. Translated and published by Darryl Sterk.)

天地玄黃,宇宙洪荒。
是他胸前的繡字,是她心底的地老天荒。

Earth was brown and sky was blue
when space was young and time was true.
On his breast a yellow sewn on word,
and in her heart a dream of love deferred

1 第六張黑牌

1. The Sixth Black Card (or The Lottery)

這個月來一直板著惡臉的凶酷班長,態度突然和善了起來。在我從籤筒抽出那隻籤後,他把我叫到連辦公室,拆了一包軍用長壽香菸,請我抽了一根,自己也叼了一根。我們隔著辦公桌相對而坐,沒什麼話說。他的菸才抽一半,我就把整根菸抽完了。我主動又拿了一根菸,他默默幫我點上。又抽了半根,還是沒什麼話聊。我心裡仍想著剛剛在營餐廳抽籤的景象。

The squad leader’s attitude had changed completely, and all of a sudden. Menacing and merciless, he’d worn a nasty expression on his face for a month, but now he was playing Mr. Nice Guy. After I drew that lot from the box, he called me into the company office, cracked a pack of military-issue Long Life cigarettes, and offered me one, dangling another from his lips. We faced each other across the desk, nothing much to say. I’d finished the whole cigarette and he was still halfway through his, so I helped myself to another without asking and he gave me a light without comment. I’d smoked another half a cigarette and still no conversation. I was still thinking about the military lottery in the mess hall just now.

這次外島籤不算很多,比例差不多一半。和我分在同一組抽一般籤的人有六十四個,外島籤共有三十支。我排在倒數第八個抽,前面的人運氣似乎特別糟,三個上去有兩個是外島。我和其他人一樣,引頸看著餐廳講台上掛著標記有各單位籤數的大海報,當有人抽中外島時,沒有人鼓掌叫好,只在心中暗暗扣掉一張代表噩運的籤牌。叫到第四十二號時,我的目光移開海報,看向站在籤筒前的那個人。他叫郭正賢,住在我家附近,是我國中五個死黨之一。我們國中一起到公園打籃球,高中他讀第一志願,我讀的是城市邊陲的學校,但還是經常一起到西門町和冰宮把馬子。大學考完成績單寄來,他總分高得不得了,共三百八十四分。我找他交志願表時,發現他只填了八個志願,最後一個志願是清大核工。「填八個已經太多了,最後一個志願我還是選校不選系哩。」他信心滿滿說。我低頭看著自己的志願表,勉強過錄取標準的分數讓我用B2鉛筆密密麻麻劃滿四大張共一百六十二個科系。雖然他讀自然組,我讀社會組,但此時還是有種奇怪的感覺,覺得他好像不是我熟悉的同學,而是被上帝造來專門讀書的變種資優怪物。「絕對不行!」我說:「只填八個太危險了,好歹也要填到二十個。」我們吵了一架。我不知道他在堅持什麼,也不知道我在堅持什麼。最後,他終於拿起鉛筆,在志願表上又畫了兩劃。「填這兩個志願算是給你面子。」他說。

There weren’t many lots this time for the offshore islands, just less than half. There were sixty-four guys in my lot-drawing set, and a total of thirty lots for the offshore islands. I was eighth last in line. The guys ahead of me seemed to have particularly terrible streak of luck. Two out of three were bound for the offshore islands. Like the others, I was craning my neck to check the poster on the podium that showed how many lots there were for each unit. Instead of clapping or cheering when someone called out a lot for the offshore islands, we would only mentally subtract one lot of bad luck from the total. When No. 42 was called, I looked away from the poster towards the fellow standing in front of the box. His name was Kuo Cheng-hsien. He lived in my neighborhood, and was one of my five best buddies in junior high school. We used to play basketball in the park. He got into the best high school in the country, while I went to a school near the city limits. But we still often went together to the roller rink in Hsimenting to try to pick up chicks. When we got our results for the college entrance examination, he got a very respectable score of 384. Next we chose departments based on our scores and filled in our academic department preference lists. I discovered there were only eight departments on his list when we went to turn our forms in, and the final one was the Department of Nuclear Engineering at National Tsing Hua University. “Even eight is too many. For the last one I’m choosing the university not the department,” he said, with absolute confidence. I lowered my head and looked at my own list. I’d filled in four densely written sheets with a 2B pencil with the codes for 162 departments. Having barely made the qualifying standard, I had no other choice. I now had a strange feeling that Kuo Cheng-hsien wasn’t my familiar junior high school classmate anymore. He was a scholastic mutant whom God had created to do nothing but study. “That won’t do!” I said. “Only eight is too risky. You’d better fill in at least twenty.” We got into a fight over it. I don’t know what he was trying to prove, or what I was trying to prove. In the end, he penciled in two more. “I’m only adding these two to save face,” he said.

放榜後,他考上第十個志願交通管理系,從此和交通事業脫離不了干係。

When the names of the successful applicants were published in the newspaper, he got his tenth preference: the Department of Transportation Management. From then on his fate would be tied to transportation.

我常想,或許我就是改變他一生命運的那個人。如果當時我不逼他多填兩個志願,他就會很可笑地以高分落榜,流落南陽街頭,現在就不會和我一樣因為大學延畢而晚一年當兵,不會剛好分到同一連,又被安排在同一組抽籤。

I often think that maybe I’m the one who changed the course of his life. If I hadn’t made him fill in two extra preferences, he might have ironically gotten rejected despite having such a high entrance mark and ended up on Nanyang Street close to Grand Central, where all the students who don’t make the grade go for a year of remedial. And he wouldn’t be here with me now serving his military service a year late because he’d delayed graduation like me. We wouldn’t have been assigned by coincidence to the same company and then put into the same lot-drawing set.

在營餐廳的抽籤會場,我目不轉睛看著郭正賢報出自己兵籍號碼,轉身背對主持抽籤的人事官,右手向後伸進籤筒。「十四號」。他大聲唸出籤號。不須對照講台上的圖表,我就知道這個號碼代表關渡師,離家最近的單位。他笑了,我沒注意他在抽籤之前臉上是否也有這樣的笑容。他轉頭看向我這邊,還來不及對我比出勝利手勢,就被旁邊協辦抽籤的士官推出餐廳了。看著他加入餐廳外嬉鬧的同梯同學中,我心中又升起五年前填大學志願時的那種奇怪感覺。

In lot drawing area in the base mess hall, I was all eyes as Kuo reported his serviceman’s ID, turned around and faced away from the personnel officer presiding over the lot drawing, sticking his right hand behind him into the box. “Fourteen,” he called out the number on the lot. I didn’t have to check the chart on the poster to know that fourteen meant the Guandu Division, which of all the bases in Taiwan was the closest to our neighborhood. He smiled. I hadn’t noticed if he had been smiling like that before drawing the lot. He looked over, but before he had the chance to show me the victory signal a non-com assisting with the lottery pushed him out of the hall. I watched as he joined a group of guys who were all from the same batch of conscripts horsing around outside. I had the same strange feeling I’d had five years before when we were filling out our university department preference lists.

大學時代,我們一北一南分別交到了要好的女友,我們的女友彼此也成了好朋友。在入伍的前一天晚上,我們四個人在夜市的海產攤叫來酒菜替自己餞行,半打啤酒下肚後,他提出一個賭注:在兩年服役期間,誰的女朋友跑了,到退伍時那個人就要拿錢出來請客。

While in university, we’d both met steady girlfriends, in northern and southern Taiwan respectively, and our girlfriends became good friends, too. The day before we were enlisted the four of us had held a farewell dinner for ourselves at a seafood restaurant in the night market. After we’d downed a six-pack, he’d proposed a bet: if either of our girlfriends took off during our two years in the service, the jilted lover would have to treat the other guy to dinner when we were discharged.

「要是兩個都跑了呢?」我問。

“What if both of them betray us?” I asked.

「那就我們兩個就都拿錢出來,吃更好的一頓。」

“Then we’ll both pay. We’ll be able to afford a feast.

郭正賢以微醺的迷濛眼神看著我說。

Kuo Cheng-hsien looked at me with a slightly glazed eyes.

他抽中關渡師,在這場無厘頭的賭注中已先贏一步。尚未抽籤的人只剩最後十二個。我們十二人一起站起來到講台前排隊。講台掛著的圖表顯示,外島籤只剩四張,本島形勢大好。我前面四個人上前抽了籤,報出的號碼經過對照,居然都落在本島。我的心一涼,但也注意到,這四個人把手伸進人事官手執的傾斜籤筒中都沒有攪動,直接從左下角摸出籤牌。輪到我了。外島籤四支,本島四支。比例又回復到當初的一比一。我忘記事先想好的該用左手或右手,本能反應跟著前面的人,從左下角拿出摸到的第一支籤。這支籤上的數字不太對勁。「幹什麼!報出號碼呀!」人事官在我身後吼叫。「……三……三十六號……」我喃喃說。人事官拿著長棍往對照圖表一點。「三十六號,九洞六七四!下一個!」我被台下的士官推出餐廳,郭正賢帶著微笑向我走來,但走到我面前,他臉上的笑容便消失了。

When he chose the lot for the Guandu Division, he’d already taken a step towards winning that absurd bet. Now there were only twelve guys left. The twelve of us went together to line up in front of the podium. According to the chart, there were only four lots left for the offshore islands, so I had a good chance of going somewhere on Taiwan. But when the four guys ahead of me reported their lots, they turned out to all be on Taiwan. I shuddered, but I had noticed that when these four guys had stuck their hands into the box that the personnel officer was tilting up, they just picked a lot right from the bottom left corner instead of mixing the lots. Now it was my turn. There were four lots for bases on the offshore islands and four on Taiwan. I had a 50-50 chance, about the same as at the start. I forgot to decide in advance whether I should use my left hand or my right to draw lots. On instinct, I pulled out the first lot I felt at the bottom left corner, just like the guy ahead of me. The number on this lot didn’t look right. “What are you waiting for! Report the number!” the personnel officer howled behind me. “…th…irty…number thirty-six…,” I stammered. The personnel officer pointed at an item on the chart with his baton. “No. 36: 90674! Next!” I got pushed out of the hall by the non-com beneath the podium. Kuo Cheng-hsien was smiling as he approached, but by the time he walked up to me his smile had vanished.

我的班長把我帶進連辦公室,拿菸給我抽。照規定,新兵在訓練中心是不能抽菸的。他所以破例,是因為我們這一班十二個人中只有我抽到三十六這個號碼,還有,是因為我剛才在營餐廳外眾目睽睽下便大哭起來。在這麼多人面前痛哭我還是平生第一次。我本來可以不哭的,都是因為看到郭正賢在營餐廳外等我,才忍不住流下淚水,就像跌倒的小孩憋到母親過來才放聲大哭一樣。不過我不是想對他撒嬌,而是想到我們在夜市海產攤的賭注,想到未來兩年將一個人留在台灣的伊。

My squad leader took me into the company office and offered me a cigarette. According to regulations new conscripts like me in the training center were not allowed to smoke. The reason he made an exception was because out of the twelve people in our squad, I was the only one who had drawn the number thirty-six, and because I’d just started crying outside the mess hall. This was the first time in my life I’d bawled in front of so many people. I wasn’t meaning to cry, and it wasn’t till I saw Kuo Cheng-hsien waiting for me outside that I did, like a child that trips and holds his tears until he sees his mother come over. But I wasn’t thinking of acting like a big baby in front of him. I was thinking about the bet we’d made at the seafood stand in the night market, and about my paramour: she’d have to spend the next two years alone on Taiwan.

「你哭什麼?」班長直到把菸按熄才開口。「想留在本島?上次叫你加入士官隊為什麼不幹?怕操想賭運氣?現在好了吧。你不想去,現在去簽轉服啊?」在新訓中心,我們有三個可以不必去外島的辦法。一是轉服,改簽四年半的志願役,受完短期軍校訓練,出來可以選擇離家近的單位當軍官;二是主動加入中心的士官隊,受完三個月訓練可以留在中心當教育班長;第三種是被來選兵的單位挑中,就可以不必參加抽籤。班長說的沒錯。我不想簽下會把原來兩年的兵延長一倍多的轉服,也怕加入三個月豬狗不如非人訓練的士官隊,再加上(plus)兩次的選兵大會都沒被挑中,才會落得現在的下場。

“What were you crying for?” The squad leader only spoke after he put out his cigarette. “You want to stay on Taiwan? Why didn’t you join the cadet corps last time like I told you to? Afraid it’d be too hard? Wanted to test your luck? So what now? If you don’t want to go then you can sign for a transfer.” In the training center we have three ways of wriggle out of the offshore islands. One is a service transfer: you sign on for four and a half years of voluntary, and after a short training course at the officer academy you can choose a base close to home. Two is to join the cadet corps here at the training center. After you finish three months of training you can stay on as an instructional squad leader. Three is to get chosen by one of the units that come to select personnel. That way you don’t have to take part in the lot drawing. What the squad leader had said was perfectly correct, except that I didn’t want to sign on for a service transfer that would more than double my two years of military duty, I was afraid of the three months of inhuman training for the cadet corps, and I hadn’t been chosen in either of two big personnel selection assemblies. Hence my present predicament.

「算了吧,想開點。留在本島馬子就不會跑嗎?」班長說:「你別做夢了。看看這個。」

“Forget it then. Accept it. You think your chick won’t take off if you stay on Taiwan? Stop dreaming,” the squad leader said. “Take a look at this.”

他掀起透明桌墊,抽出壓著的一張相片遞給我。相片上是一男一女在溪邊的合照。男的打赤膊,牛仔褲捲過膝蓋,一頭燙得極卷的長髮;女的穿白襯衫,灰色窄管七分褲,撩在頭髮上當髮箍的太陽眼鏡反映著耀眼的日光。男的蹲在女的身後的大石頭上,雙手向前摟住女生的腰,皙白而靦腆的笑臉枕在女生的肩上;女的笑得亮麗璨爛,細秀雙臂直伸向前,纖纖十指全張,像歌劇女高音接受觀眾喝采時的姿勢。

He lifted up the transparent plastic desk cover, took out a photograph pressed underneath and handed it to me. It was a shot of a man and a woman by a stream. The man was stripped to the waist, and his jeans were rolled up past his knees. He had long tightly curled hair. The woman was wearing a white blouse and slim gray capris, with a pair of sunglasses lifted up on her hair and serving as a hair band. The sunglasses reflected a brilliant sun. The man was squatting on a big rock behind the woman, holding the woman’s waist from behind. His fair, bashful, smiling face rested on the girl’s shoulder, and the girl was beaming. She was holding her slender arms straight out and had her delicate fingers extended, like a pose a soprano might adopt when accepting a standing ovation.

「她一個星期沒寫信來我就撕掉一張,還沒破冬,就只剩下這張了。這是她笑得最開心的,我撕不下去,你幫我撕掉好了。」

“Every week she failed to write me a letter I ripped a picture up, and before winter came all I had left was this photo. Her smile in this photo was the happiest of them all. I couldn’t bring myself to rip it up. You do it for me.

班長的話讓我感到有點錯愕。這一個月來朝夕和班長相處,從沒聽過他提起女友的事。他還剩五個月退伍,如果剛才他說的是事實,那麼相片中的女生可能在他入伍不到半年就跑了。

The squad leader’s story left me a bit taken aback. I’d lived with him night and day for a month and had never heard anything about any girlfriend. He had five months until he would be discharged. If what he’d just said was true then the girl in the photograph might have run off less than half a year into his service.

我抬起頭,看了班長一眼。眼前的他一臉黝黑,剛理過的平頭底下泛著頭皮的青光,和相片中的那個人一點也不像。我注意到在他面前的透明桌墊下,相片原本所在位置的墊布顏色比旁邊青綠,在大片已變淺近灰的綠色墊布上,明顯而突兀形成一個長方形痕跡,像猛然被撕掉的一塊貼布。我可以想像一年多前的他,剛結束士官隊三個月的苦難,頂著光頭和一身炭黑膚色回到部隊,在歡喜掛起下士軍階的同時,卻接到女友變心的惡耗。想到這裡,我突然覺得自己很可笑。和他比起來,我所擔憂的算是未來式,可能僅是一種假設,也許直到把兵當完也不會發生,而他卻在入伍後便經歷了所有男人在當兵時最害怕的遭遇。現在的我為一件未來可能發生或不發生的事而哭泣,似乎是很愚蠢的事。

I looked up and took a good look at the squad leader in front of me. His face was swarthy, and with a fresh brush cut, I could see his shiny scalp. He didn’t look at all like the fellow in the picture. I noticed that the rectangle where the photograph had been pressed under the cover was greener than the surrounding area. It was a conspicuous and abrupt rectangular mark on the big plastic cover, which had faded from green to grayish. It was like the mark left behind when you tear off a bandage. I could imagine him over a year before. Having just finished three months of torment in non-com training, he’d returned to the base with a buzz cut and skin tanned dark as coal. At the same time as he enjoyed strutting around with the corporal’s insignia, he’d also had to face the awful news of his girlfriend’s betrayal. At this thought I suddenly felt I was being ridiculous. Unlike him, what I faced was future tense, only a kind of hypothesis, something that might not come to pass even by the time my military duty ended. He had had to face every soldier’s greatest fear soon after being conscripted. Now I’d been crying over something that might happen or might not happen. It all seemed silly of me.

我默默把相片還給他,他接過去隨手丟在桌上,又點了一根菸。他沒多提女友,開始告訴我外島的事。中心有規定,抽籤時只讓你知道抽中哪個部隊的郵政信箱號碼,對於這部隊的番號駐地則完全保密。不過班長還是告訴我,我抽到的九洞六七四是「救指部」,駐地在東引。

I returned the picture to him without saying anything. He took it and tossed it right on the desk, then lit a cigarette. He said nothing more about his girlfriend, and started telling me about the offshore islands. The training center had a rule that when you draw your lot you only get to know the P.O. Box number of the unit you’ve drawn. The name and location of the unit was supposed to be strictly confidential, but the leader told me anyway: I’d been assigned to a unit called ACNSC located on Tongyin.

「救指部是什麼?」

“What’s ACNSC?”

「反共救國軍指揮部。」班長說:「不在台北松江路,別和救國團搞混了。」

“It’s the Anti-Communist National Salvation Command,” the leader said. “Don’t get it mixed up with the Anti-Communist National Salvation Corps for do gooder college students.”

「東引在哪?」

“Where’s Tongyin?”

「在馬祖北邊,是國土最北疆,離台灣約一百海浬……沒多遠,大概台北到彰化的距離而已。」

“It’s north of Matsu Island. It’s the northernmost point of our national territory, about a hundred nautical miles from Keelung. It’s not that far, only about the distance from Taipei to Changhua.”

於是,我第一次對自己未來二十一個月將要生活的地方有了初步概念。當兵前根本沒聽過這個地方,學生時代的國高中地理課本也完全沒提。班長說他雖然沒去過,但是聽從那邊回來的人說,東引島很小,沒水沒樹,夏天熱得讓人想把皮剝掉,冬天冷到水壺的水都會結冰。很難想像那是什麼樣的一個地方,也不知道為什麼國防部要把我送到那個地方去。班長說,抽中外島的人明天就會被送到韋昌嶺,那是基隆山上的一個營區,在那裡或許還有幾次開放家屬探親會客的機會。至於什麼時候上船他就不知道了。有人在那等了一星期,有人當天就走,一切都得看船期而定。

That was the first time I had any idea about the place I would be living for the next twenty-one months. Before going into the army I had never heard of Tongyin. Our geography textbooks had never even mentioned it. The squad leader had never been there, but he’d heard from people who’d returned from Tongyin, and apparently it was really small, had no trees or fresh water, and got hot enough in summer to make you want to tear your skin off and cold enough in winter to make the water freeze in the tower. It was hard to imagine what kind of place it might be, and I had no idea why the Ministry of National Defense would want to send me there. The squad leader said guys who’d drawn the offshore islands would be sent to Weichang Ridge tomorrow. Weichang Ridge was another military base, a halfway house for conscripts bound for the Matsus. It was situated on a hillside in Keelung, a port in northeast Taiwan. Maybe there would be a couple of chances for relatives or friends to visit. He did not know when I’d get be getting on the boat for Tongyin. Some guys wait a week there, others leave the same day. It all depends on the boat schedule.

「反正,到外島清心寡慾就對了。」班長最後說了這句話。他把剩下半包多香菸送給我。

“Anyway, when you get to the offshore islands, there’s nothing to do and you lead a simple and peaceful life, got it?” said the squad leader. That was all he had to say. He handed me the rest of the pack.

我走出連部辦公室,班上和我要好的幾個弟兄都在門口等我。晚餐開飯時間還有一個小時,連上還有人抽籤沒回來,已抽完的人擁有入伍後難得的自由活動時間。我向他們揚揚手中的香菸,六個人一起到營舍三樓頂陽台的曬衣場,坐在水塔旁抽菸。我們是第二排第六班,班上雖有十二個人,但我們六個人都排在前面,睡上下左右鋪,自然習慣有事沒事就聚在一起。其中和我交情最好的是排在我旁邊的062號,他是獸醫系畢業的,假日營區開放會客探親,別人盼的都是家人和女友,他卻只等他養的那條母黃金獵犬來看他,甚至叫家人不必每次探親就全家總動員,一次只要叫一個人把狗帶來就行了。「你知道嗎,狗是人類最好的朋友。」他不止一次跟我這麼說,接著便是一堆狗經。有次出完公差大家躲到福利社休息,他又用這句話開了頭。我聽煩了,回他:「這句話早用爛了,不必由你這個獸醫說吧?」他愣了一下,搔搔臉上被狗舔出的青春痘,然後說:「至少,我敢保證我這條狗絕對不會兵變。」「你這句話很有哲理,可見人不如狗,女人不如母狗。」讀哲學系的064號搖晃著頭說。「屁啦,你這條狗在你當兵期間被幾條公狗幹了你也不知道。」讀牙醫的065號反駁。「你們牙醫系的怎麼不替自己洗洗牙?嘴真臭」062怒道,像狗一樣朝他呲牙咧嘴。062和065雖都學醫,但常常因為小事吵架。讀法律系的061號說這叫「人獸殊途」,但馬上被讀中文系的067號糾正。「別亂用成語,應該是『人鬼殊途』。」「沒錯,我是人,他是鬼。」065號拍手說。

I walked out of the company office and saw the squad-mates I was closest to waiting outside. There was still an hour until dinner, and there were still some guys in the company who hadn’t gotten back from the lottery yet. The guys who had already drawn their lots now had some rare R&R. I waved the pack of smokes, and the six of us went up to the roof over the second story of the barracks where we hung our clothes out to dry. We sat up there and smoked by the water tower. We were 6th Squadron, 2nd Platoon. There were twelve guys in the squad, but the six of us lined up side by side in formation, and we all bunkmates, so it was natural for us to hang out together. No. 62, who lined up right beside me, was my best buddy. He graduated from veterinary medicine. On visiting days when other guys looked forward to seeing family and girlfriends, he would just be waiting for that yellow golden retriever bitch he’d raised. He even told his folks they didn’t have to mobilize the whole family to come see him every weekend. Just get someone to bring the dog. “You know what? A dog is man’s best friend.” He didn’t just tell me once, and that was only the beginning of a book of canine lore he could have written. One time we ducked into the canteen for a rest after completing a public mission and he tried to use it again to start a conversation. I’d had enough. “Enough!” I said. “It’s a cliché, this pet phrase of yours. A veterinarian like you shouldn’t have to keep saying that, should he?” For a moment he was stunned. He scratched the pimples his golden retriever had given him by licking his face, then said, “At least, I can guarantee that my dog would never leave me while I’m doing my military service.” “How insightful! It clearly follows that dogs are more honorable than humans and, ergo, that female dogs are more honorable than female humans,” said No. 64, a philosophy major, shaking his head. “Bullshit! If this bitch of yours had gotten screwed by a couple of male dogs while you were away you’d never know,” retorted No. 65, who had studied dentistry. “Why don’t you wash your mouth out with soap, dentist? Your mouth really stinks,” said No. 62 angrily, baring his teeth. Both members of the medical profession, 62 and 65 often fought over trivial matters like this. No. 61, who was in law, said that the relevant principle was, “Different are the ways of man and beast, and never the twain shall meet,” but he was immediately corrected by No. 67, the Chinese major in our midst, who said, “Don’t abuse the apothegms of the ancients. The dictionary says, ‘Different are the ways of man and ghost.’” “Exactly. I’m the man, and he’s the ghost,” said No. 65, clapping his hands.

我們六個橫成一排坐著,一起看著漸漸偏移到操場司令台旗杆上方的夕陽。他們剛才都已打聽出自己抽到什麼單位。律師和哲學家抽到花東,獸醫抽到關渡,牙醫在選兵時被軍醫院挑中,不必參加抽籤,中文老師還沒問到自己的單位,有人說他抽到傘兵,他說寧可到外島也不要去跳傘。他這句話還沒說完,就被坐在他旁邊的律師用手肘撞了一下。我知道他們心裡都認真在想著安慰我的話,但其實我現在心情已不像剛抽中籤時那樣難過,或說,原本十分難過的情緒,現在已有三分分散到班長身上,另有三分分散到即將離別的夥伴身上。我想告訴他們班長女友的事,但想想又忍住沒說。這件事班長從來沒提,而且明天大家就要散了,說出來對大家也沒啥好處。我抽著菸,和他們一樣,專心看著西方的落日。來金六結一個月,竟然要到離開的最後一天,才有機會細看蘭陽平原的夕陽。不過,我們這群大專兵倒是在中心過了一個月的快樂生活。入伍前就聽過「血濺關東橋、魂斷車籠埔、淚灑金六結」的恐怖傳言,沒想到進來後才發現比五年前上成功嶺還輕鬆。嚴格說來,我們還是有被操到,不過只有剛入營那三天。多虧七營二連的一個和我們同梯的新兵,他入伍第三天就中暑死了。隔天他媽媽來營區大哭大鬧,但根據檢察官和法醫驗屍調查結果,原來是那個新兵本來就有多汗症或狐臭之類的問題,他媽媽擔心他體味不佳影響到他在群體中的人緣,便在他入伍前給他服用抑止排汗的藥。結果在大太陽下連續操三天,他一滴汗都沒流,第三天晚上便休克死了。雖然沒涉及不當管教,但開訓三天就死了人還是讓師長冒了一身冷汗。於是師部下來一道新命令:只要戶外溫度超過攝氏三十二度,所有課程就改在室內舉行。命令剛下來的那幾天,每次我們戴上鋼盔紮好S腰帶領完五七步槍在走廊整好隊準備出操上戰鬥教練前,就會見到一個班長拿著溫度計在大太陽底下的連集合場跑一圈,然後回來向值星官報告溫度計刻度,之後全連就帶進中山室吹電風扇看錄影帶。我們這一梯是八月一日入伍的,正好是盛夏最熱的季節,一過上午十點氣溫便很少低於三十二度。整個月下來,我們幾乎天天在中山室吹電扇,一邊看放了數遍的教學錄影帶,一邊偷寫信給女友。班長沒事就罵我們是大專豬,根據老家在新竹關西的061號說,他家的神豬還真的每天得吹電扇才養得肥。

The six of us sat side to side in a row and watched the sun setting over the flagpoles on the podium by the drill field. They had all just found out where they’d be serving. The lawyer and the philosopher would be staying on the east coast. The vet would be at Guandu in Taipei. The dentist had been chosen by a military hospital at the personnel selection, so he didn’t have to participate in the lottery. The Chinese major hadn’t been able to find out what unit he’d been assigned to. Someone said he was going to be a paratrooper. He said he’d rather be assigned to the offshore is…, but the lawyer elbowed him before he could finish his sentence. I knew they were all trying hard to think of things to say to cheer me up, but actually I wasn’t as sad now as I had been when I’d just drawn the lot. Or I’d reallocated my sorrow, directing part of it at the squad leader, and another part of it at my departing comrades. I was going to tell them about the leader’s girlfriend, but on second thought I resisted the urge and didn’t say anything. The leader had never mentioned it to the others, and tomorrow we’d all go our separate ways. Saying it wouldn’t do anyone any good. Smoking my cigarette, I watched the sun setting like everyone else. We’d been in the conscript training center at Jinliu Grange a month, and only on the last day did we have the chance to get a good look at the sunset over the Lanyang Plain. But we college boys had actually lived the easy life in our month there. Before our service started we’d all heard the verse that had scared many about the nature of conscript life:

There’ll be blood at Guandong Bridge

Your back will break at Chelong Plain

Grown men cry at Jinkung Grange

Only after we got there did we discover to our great surprise it was even easier than boot camp at Victory Ridge five years earlier. Actually, we’d still been worked pretty hard at Jinliu Grange, but only for the first three days. It was all thanks to a new soldier who started in the service at the same time as us. He was in 2nd Platoon, 7th Company, and he died of heatstroke on the third day after we were enlisted. The next day his mother came to the base and made a big scene, but the results of the prosecutor’s investigation and the coroner’s autopsy showed that the guy had a physical problem, a combination of hyperhidrosis and body odor. His mother worried that his peculiar smell would hurt his popularity, so before he’d been enlisted she’d given him special antiperspirant pills. As it happened, we were drilled for three consecutive days under a blistering sun, but he did not sweat a single drop. The third evening he went into shock and died. Though there was no question of excessive or improper discipline, the division commander still broke into a cold sweat when a trainee dropped dead after only three days. Then there was a new order from division command: if the outdoor temperature went above 32∘C, all training activities would take place indoors. In the first few days after the order was issued, every time when we’d put on the metal helmets and gun belts and lined up on the field in formation with M16s in our hands, ready for battle training, we would watch a squad leader with a thermometer in his hand run a loop around the company assembly grounds and then report how high the mercury had climbed. After that the whole company would get led into the Sun Yat-sen Hall and shown videos with the fans on full blast. We’d gone in on August 1, in the middle of high summer, when the temperature rarely stays below 32 degrees after ten in the morning. We spent almost every day that month in the Sun Yat-sen Hall with the electric fans blowing, watching training videos we’d seen over and over and surreptitiously writing letters to our girlfriends. Whenever he got the chance, the squad leader would call us college pigs. According to No. 61, who came from Guanxi in Hsinchu on the west coast, the sacrificial pigs his family raised had really had to spend time every day cooling off under the electric fans or they wouldn’t fatten up.

「操!抽什麼籤嘛,大家好不容易才混熟,就要散了。」牙醫開口說。

“Fuck! Lots schmlots! They’re splitting us up just when we’re getting to know one another,” the dentist said.

「你又沒抽籤,學人抱怨什麼?」獸醫說。

“You didn’t even participate in the lottery. What exactly are you complaining about?” the vet asked.

「他說的沒錯,」律師提出仲裁:「這樣的確很不人道。」

“He’s right,” said the lawyer, attempting to arbitrate: “This is hard on everybody.”

「誰不能人道?」哲學家問。

“Who can’t get a hard on?” the philosopher asked.

「不用抽籤的都不能人道。」獸醫說。

“Anyone who didn’t have to participate in the lottery can’t,” the vet said.

「你在說誰?」牙醫怒道。

“What’s that supposed to mean?” the dentist asked angrily.

「說到哪去了?」律師很不高興說:「你們怎麼滿腦子歪思想。」

“What the hell are you guys talking about?” the lawyer said, displeased. “Such dirty minds!”

本來想好好安慰我的五個人又吵了起來,直到六點班長吹響集合哨音,他們還在爭論不休。我默默跟著眾人下樓去集合,走在樓梯上,只覺得腳步輕輕飄飄,體內好像有某個原本占有不少質量的東西逃逸出了。在我感覺哀傷的時候,總會像現在這樣變得漫不經心,整個人似乎一分為二。站在隊伍裡的我僅是軀體空殼,真正的我則遠遠站在一旁,冷冷看著面無表情、眼神空洞的自己。我又遠遠看著排在我身邊的幾位好友,雖只看一眼,難過的程度卻加深了十分。從明天開始我們將不會再聯絡,在大家都還不知道會分發到哪個連隊單位的情況下,就算想寫信也沒有辦法。留家裡的地址電話吧,但等兩年退伍,這個月的熟稔早已淡去,通訊錄上的人名資料可能只變成一串勾不起回憶的符號。然而這個月培養的情誼是如此真實,真實到我曾不只一次想過這些朋友如果能維持到退伍後所能得到的好處。牙齒壞了可以找065號醫牙,被人告了可以請061號辯護,心理若出現偏差也能找064號諮商,如果以後有養狗養貓的話就更棒了,有了062號當獸醫,等於為寵物辦了健康保險。062號這個人還真不錯,感情比要人張嘴硬生生拔出血淋淋牙齒的065號來得豐富。在抽籤之前我們放三天假,他到陽明山來找我,我和伊加上他三個人拿出撲克牌玩了一會兒大老二後,他突發奇想,想要先來測驗一下抽籤時的運氣。他把牌洗了又切,攤開來要我抽,說抽到黑牌就代表會抽到外島,紅牌則表示本島。而且,為求客觀準確,要我連續抽十張,看是黑的多還是紅的多。我依他的話抽了。第一張黑桃Q,第二張梅花十,再一次梅花三,又一張黑桃七,第五張黑桃A抽出來時,他把撲克牌一抹,連說不玩了,不讓我再抽下去。他窺見我和伊臉上都結了層霜,便說:「這是反兆,別在意,事情都是這個樣子的,你已把壞運用完了,後天抽籤肯定大吉大利。」

Intending to comfort me, the five of them had ended up quarreling again, and they were still at it when the squad leader blew the whistle for the 6pm assembly. Not saying anything, I followed everyone down to the assembly. Walking down the stairs my steps were light as air, as if something massive inside my body had escaped. I always got a bit spaced out when I was feeling blue, like now. It was like the whole of you getting split in two. Standing in formation, I was just a hunk of flesh, an empty husk. The true me was standing off to the side, coldly observing the man I had become, a slack-faced fellow with a blank look in his eyes. Then I distantly regarded my buddies standing beside me. One glance and I felt ten times sadder. After tomorrow we wouldn’t see one another again or even keep in touch. Nobody beside me knew what unit he’d been assigned to, so even if we wanted to write to each other we wouldn’t know where to send the letters. You’d think we’d note down one another’s home addresses and telephone numbers, but two years from now when we were finally discharged, the rapport of a month together at Jinliu Grange would have faded. All the names and contact information in the address book might just become a string of signs you couldn’t hook a memory to. Yet the friendship we’d cultivated during this month had been real, so real that I kept thinking about the perks I could enjoy if we maintained the friendship until after our two years in the service. If my teeth went rotten I could go see No. 65 for treatment. If someone sued me I could get No. 61 to defend me. If I had psychological problems I could go get therapy from No. 64. If I kept pets it’d be awesome, because No. 62 was a vet and knowing him would be like applying for health insurance for my pets. No. 62 was such a swell guy. He had more fellow feeling than No. 65, who had people open their mouths so he could yank their bloody teeth out. Before the lottery we’d had three days’ vacation, and No. 62 had come to Mt. Yangming in Taipei to visit me. He, my girlfriend and I got out a pack of cards, and played a round of deuces. Then he had a whim to see what our luck would be like when it came time to draw lots. He shuffled and cut the deck and spread the cards out and had me choose a card. He said if I chose a black card it meant I would draw a lot for the offshore islands, and if I drew a red card it meant I would stay on Taiwan. And to make it objective and accurate, he wanted me to choose ten cards in succession to see if there were more red cards or black. I did as he said. The first card was a queen of spades, the second a ten of clubs, then a three of clubs, and a seven of clubs, and when I drew the fifth card, an ace of clubs, he swiped the cards away saying we weren’t playing anymore. He wouldn’t let me keep drawing cards. A sidelong glance told him that a layer of frost had formed on my face, and on my girlfriend’s. He said, “This is an inverse sign, so don’t worry about it. I’m telling you, you’ve used up all your bad luck, and the day after tomorrow when you draw lots it’s going to be very auspicious. It’s a sure thing.”

他應該讓我把十張撲克牌都抽完的。我無法不這麼想:如果命定要我連續抽中十張黑牌,第六張我抽中了外島,在這之後,還有四張未知的噩運在等著我。

He should have let me draw all ten cards. I couldn’t help thinking that if fate wanted me to draw ten black cards in a row, then the sixth card was the lot I drew for Tongyin. And that meant that I still had four more black cards of bad luck to go.

2 韋昌嶺

2. At Weichang Ridge

抽完籤隔天一起床,感覺營區有種異樣的靜謚。沒有班長催促吼叫,沒有別連整隊踏步的軍歌聲,就連大夥在寢室整理內務時也不像平日喧鬧。直到大家在中山室集合時,才發現連上少了一些人。幾個眼溜的人趁班長沒注意時偷偷從營舍窗外看出去,發現外面多了幾部將官的黑頭車。原來昨天半夜發生了兩件事,一是約在凌晨兩點的時候,營舍附近的崗哨有人開槍自殺,二是抽中南部軍團的人,已在清晨四點被叫起床集合出發離開金六結。我沒聽見夜半的槍聲,也不知道連上這些人什麼時候走的。有人說那個自殺的人是因為抽中外島,但這謠言不攻自破,因為我們這些新兵昨天根本不必站衛兵,就算要站,也只配拿刺槍術用的木槍,不會有真槍實彈。

The base was strangely quiet the morning after the lottery. No squad leader rushing or yelling at us. No soldiers from other companies singing military cadences as they marched in formation. Taking care of “internal affairs” in the living quarters, the boys weren’t as boisterous as usual. Only when everyone had gathered in the Sun Yat-sen Hall did we realize that a few guys had already left. A couple of us stole a glance out the window when the squad leader wasn’t looking and discovered that there were a few black sedans parked outside, which meant there were high ranking officers on base. Turned out two things had happened the night before. The first was that someone had shot himself to death around two in the morning in the sentry post near the barracks. The other thing was that the guys who’d drawn either of the army corps in south-central Taiwan in the lottery had already been called out of bed at four in the morning to assemble and leave Jinliu Grange. I didn’t hear the gunshot in the middle of the night, nor did I notice when those guys in our company left. Someone said that guy killed himself because he drew a lot for the offshore islands, but this rumor scotched itself, because we new conscripts didn’t have to do sentry duty, and even if we did, we’d only get issued a wooden gun used for bayonet drill, not a real gun with live ammunition.

我還是沒打電話給伊。班長給了我幾次機會,但我仍然沒有行動。要怎麼告訴她呢?就算我的口氣再平穩鎮定,她一聽到還是會哭的。她一哭,難保我不會跟著哭起來。昨天我己丟過臉了,不想再一次在眾人面前出糗。

I still hadn’t called her. The squad leader had given me a few chances but I didn’t take action. How was I supposed to tell her? Even if I could keep my voice steady, the tears would come as soon as she heard the news, and as soon as she started crying there was no guarantee that I wouldn’t start crying along with her. I’d already humiliated myself the night before. I didn’t want to do that again.

中午開飯前,又有一些人集合走了,裡面有抽中關渡師的062號和我國中同學郭正賢。我站在三樓走廊向他們揮手道別,但他們似乎都沒有看見。到了下午兩點,換到我集合出發了。我揹著已整理好的黃埔大背包站在連集合場,出發到司令台前和別連一樣抽中外島的同梯弟兄會合。連上還有人沒走,他們全擠在三樓走廊欄杆前,揮手吼叫著和我們道別。我們經過昨夜出事的那個崗哨。黑頭車已經開走了,只剩兩個憲兵端著M16步槍站著,不讓任何人靠近。我們忍不住頻頻轉頭往出事地點窺視,但除了崗哨外一圈幡幡飄揚的黃色封鎖線,沒瞧見遺體或血跡之類的東西。

At noon before lunch was served, some other guys assembled to leave, among them No. 62 and my junior high classmate Kuo Cheng-hsien. I waved at them from the railing on the roof of the barracks, but they didn’t seem to be able to see me. At two pm it was my turn to leave. Wearing the Whampoa rucksack I had packed, I stood in the company assembly, then set off for the review stand at the drill field to meet the conscripts in other companies who had drawn lots for the offshore islands. There were still guys in my company who had not left yet. They were all crowded in front of the railing on the roof, waving and calling goodbye. We passed the sentry post where the accident had supposedly happened the night before. The black sedans were already gone, leaving only two military policemen holding M16s. They weren’t letting anyone near. We couldn’t help glancing over, but aside from the yellow cordon fluttering around the sentry post, you couldn’t see any human remains or blood or anything like that.

我們從宜蘭金六結出發,抵達基隆的韋昌嶺營區時,天已經暗了。我們和其他抽中馬祖各島的新兵一起在韋昌嶺的操場上整隊,有一位陌生的中年軍官站出來,要我們放下背包就地坐下,說了一些安慰或勉勵我們的話,不過沒人仔細聽。離開了中心,編入這個臨時的單位,加上即將去外島的不爽壞心情,使所有人都陰著臉,在隊伍裡三兩私下開扯,完全將紀律留在訓練中心。台上的軍官火了,罵了幾句髒話,要所有人起立立正站好。隊伍裡只有少數人被他嚇到,立刻五指伸直併攏直挺挺站著,多數人都懶懶散散起身,不甘不願站出三七步,斜眼睨視台上的中年矮胖男子。軍官說不下去了,又罵了幾句說從沒見過這種沒紀律沒教育的部隊之類的話,之後就把部隊交給一個士官長,自己氣呼呼走了。這個士官長沒揹值星帶,帽子也沒戴,草綠軍服最上緣的扣子有三顆沒扣,露出白條條沒穿內衣的胸膛,看似剛被人從床上挖起來臨時客串值星官。他沒斥責我們,分配過各單位今晚要住的營舍後,就叫伙房抬出幾大桶炒米粉,打發我們吃了算是晚餐,並宣布在晚點名前都是自由活動時間。「還有,很重要的一點,那就是明天上午八點營區開放探親會客。」他操著台灣國語說,「對了,再補充一點,明天營區會設立捐血站,請各位弟兄踴躍嚮應。」在大家的噓聲中,他下令隊伍解散。

We finally left Jinliu Grange. It was already dark out when we reached Weichang Ridge in Keelung. We all lined up in formation, all the guys who’d drawn the Matsus in the lottery. A middle aged officer we’d never seen before stood up on the platform, asked us to take off our bags and sit at ease on the ground, and gave us a pep talk, but nobody paid very much attention. We’d left the new conscript training center and joined this temporary unit. And what with the rotten moods we were in after drawing the offshore islands in the lottery, everyone looked pretty grim. Some guys were talking among themselves in twos and threes, having left all military discipline behind at the training center. The middle aged officer was pissed at us and yelled a few expletives, exhorting everyone to stand at attention. Only a few guys were startled into standing straight, heels together, shoulders squared. Most guys got up lazily and grudgingly and stood at ease, looking at the fat middle aged guy up on the podium out of the corners of their eyes. The officer couldn’t go on. He swore at us another couple of time, saying he’d never seen such undisciplined and uncivilized troops. Then he turned us over to a Sergeant Major and walked off in a huff. The Sergeant Major did not have the duty officer’s Sam Browne belt on. He wasn’t wearing a hat or an undershirt, either, and the top three buttons of his green army uniform were unbuttoned, exposing his skinny white chest. He looked like he’d just been dragged out of bed to act as a body double for the duty officer. He didn’t excoriate us, just assigned each unit sleeping quarters for the evening and told the cooks to make carry out a few pots of fried rice noodles. That was dinner, I guess. Then he announced that we had free time until evening roll call. “One more thing, and this is very important, tomorrow at eight in the morning the base will be open to visitors.” He spoke Mandarin with a heavy Taiwanese accent. “Right, and there’s something else, tomorrow there’ll be a blood donation station set up in the camp. Please give generously.” He dismissed us amid a chorus of boos.

我們這一梯抽中東引的共有六十二人,連上除了我,還有其他五位弟兄,他們和我不同排,雖不認識,但這一個月來彼此的臉都看熟了。隊伍解散後,我們便自然而然待在一塊。其中有個方臉大耳,表情似笑非笑的人,他叫沈詮,是第一排的,台大氣象系畢業。我之所以知道他讀的科系,是因為當我們圍成一圈蹲在地上抽菸抱怨自己的壞運氣時,他自己親口說的。抽籤時他和我不同組,他抽的是「專長籤」,全營只有四個人抽。「原本以為讀氣象或許有特殊單位需要,媽的,到抽籤場地才發現另外三個人有兩個是老師,另一個是讀心理學的。」他雖在抱怨,但臉上始終掛著自嘲的笑容。「沒想到這四支籤中竟然有一半是外島,真他媽的臭屄。」他字正腔圓脫口說出這句祖傳的髒話,立即曝露自己的籍貫,大家都知道他老爸是山東人。聽完他抽籤的經過,我的心情頓時更加低落,覺得自己的運氣比他差——他是在二分之一的機率下中彩,而我卻在本島籤多於外島的情況下摸中。不可否認,即使在一樣抽中外島、運氣看似一樣糟的一群人中,命運也有好壞之分。就像蹲在我右邊一直唉聲嘆氣的傢伙,我雖不知道他名字,但認出他是連上第三排那個會吹法國號的人,也記得他在選兵被國防部示範樂隊挑中後整天笑嘻嘻的神情。奇怪的是,他也出現在我們這群外島兵的隊伍裡。他才是真正由天堂掉入地獄的人,使我不由得同情起他,主動和他親近起來。這是我的壞習慣,總喜歡和命運比自己乖舛的人在一起,害怕接近那些傑出、優秀、運氣強過我的人物。

Sixty-two guys in my batch of new conscripts drew a lot for Tongyin. Besides me, there were five other guys from my company, but in different platoons. I’d never talked to them but we had seen each other a million times. Naturally, we stayed together as a matter of course after the troops dispersed. There was one guy with big ears, a square face, and a wry smile. His name was Shen-chuan, and he was from 1st Platoon. He’d graduated from the Department of Meteorology at National Taiwan University. The reason why I knew that was because he’d told us when we were all squatting down in a circle smoking and complaining about our rotten luck. He was in a different lottery set, the “specialty lots” set. In the whole company there were only four guys who drew specialty lots. “I assumed that maybe there was some unit somewhere that would need a meteorology major. Christ, when we got to the lottery I discovered that there were three other guys in my set, two teachers and a guy who’d taken psychology.” He was grumbling, but with a tone of self-mockery. “Never thought that two of those four lots would be for the offshore islands. Ain’t it yo mama’s stinky snatch!” He’d learned this charming curse from his father, and given the clarity of his enunciation there was no doubt about his background. Everyone knew his old man must be a mainlander, from Shandong Province. Hearing about his experience suddenly made my bad mood even worse, because it appeared my luck was even more rotten than his. He hit the jackpot with fifty-fifty odds, while I’d won it with the odds in my favor. Though we all drew the offshore islands in the lottery and were apparently all equally unlucky, some of us were more equal than others. Like the fellow crouching to my right sighing and whining, for instance. I didn’t know his name, but I did know he was in 3rd Platoon and could play the French horn. I remembered the happy expression he’d had the whole day after getting chosen for the National Military Marching Band on personnel selection day. Strange that he should appear among the conscripts assigned to the offshore islands. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for this kid who’d fallen from heaven down into hell, and tried to be nice to him. This is my bad habit. I like hanging out with people who are even worse off than me. Misery loves company, I guess. I’m afraid to get close to personages who are more exceptional, brilliant, or better off than me.

這位天堂來的孩子提議去排隊打電話。我說我不想,其實是害怕,害怕聽見伊接起電話的聲音,但同情心還是驅使我陪他去了。電話亭有四具公用電話,每具電話前都排了十幾個人。我想轉身回去操場抽菸,但拗不過他央求的目光。排了十幾分鐘,前進到隊伍的前半截,開始能聽見前面的人講電話的內容。多數人都是聯絡親人明天來會客,並交待他們要帶來的物品。只有一位,不知道是哪一連的人,在三分鐘通話時間結束之前一直和家人扯不清。「媽,我阿龍啦,我抽到東引了……不是東瀛啦,是東引……對啦,要坐船啦……啥?沒有要出國啦,東引不是東瀛,還是台灣啦……什麼沒關係?你以後要坐車來看我?……跟你說我要坐船了,你聽不懂?……不是去日本啦……喂……喂……?」電話斷了,他拿著話筒,茫然望了排在他後面的人一眼,掛下電話,默默走到隊伍最後面重新排隊。

The kid who’d fallen down from heaven proposed going to line up to make phone calls. I said I didn’t want to. Actually I was scared to hear her voice. But sympathy forced me to go with him. There were four pay phones in the kiosk, and a dozen guys lined up in front of each phone. I wanted to go back to the field to have a cigarette, but I couldn’t bear his imploring look. After waiting over ten minutes, we made it near the front of the line and started to be able to hear what people were saying. Most of them were telling family members to come visit tomorrow and what things to bring. There was only this one guy from some other company who couldn’t get his mother to figure out what he was saying in a three minute call. “Mom, it’s Ah Lung. I drew a lot for Tongyin… No, not Tokyo. It’s Tongyin… Yes, I’ve got to take a boat… What? No, I’m not going abroad. It’s Tongyin the island not Tokyo. I’ll still be in Taiwan… What do you mean no big deal? What do you mean you can take the bus there? I told you I’m taking a boat. Don’t you get it? No, I’m not going to Japan… Hello? Hello!” His three minutes was up. He was left holding the receiver, looking round blankly at the people lined up behind him. He hung up, walked to the back and waited for another turn.

我同情地看著他,旋即擔心等會伊接到電話的反應會不會和這個人的母親一樣。天堂小孩正在我前面,摀著話筒低聲說話,但我還是聽見他說的內容。「……對啦,我要去馬祖了……媽,妳快打電話給舅舅啦,叫他去查……對啦,是國防部示範樂隊……有啊,那時候有啊……我也不知道為什麼……快找舅舅,不快就來不及了……」他越說越焦急,到最後聲音已變成嚶嚶嗚咽。他伸手拉下話筒支架,轉身伸長手把話筒遞給我。我遲疑了一下,看見他鼻翅泛紅,眼角微濕。換我了。我深吸一口氣,用最快的速度,害怕按鍵會突然放出強電似的,壓下一連串按鍵。

I looked at him understandingly, then started worrying whether her reaction when she took my call would be the same as this guy’s mother. The kid from heaven was right in front of me, covering the mouthpiece to muffle the sound. He was speaking in a low voice, but I could still hear what he was saying. “… That’s right, I’m going to Matsu now…. Mom, quick, call Uncle Sam and tell him to check for me…. Right, it was the National Military Marching Band… Yes, that was the arrangement… I don’t know what happened… Call Uncle Sam right now, or it’ll be too late…” His tone became more and more urgent, until he started whimpering towards the end of the call. He pulled down on the cradle to end the call, turned round and held out the receiver to me. I hesitated. His nose was all red, and there were tears in his eyes. Now it was my turn. I took a deep breath and pressed the telephone keys lightning quick, as if I was afraid they’d give me a shock.

嘟……嘟……

The phone was ringing.

伊知道我抽中外島會有什麼反應呢?

How would she react when I told her I’d been stationed on Tongyin?

嘟……嘟……

Ring…ring…

一定會馬上急哭吧?

Would she burst out crying?

嘟……嘟……

The phone kept ringing.

我該說什麼話安慰她呢?

What should I say to reassure her?

嘟……喂?

Ring… Hello?

不是伊的聲音。是她隔壁的樓友。伊不在,可能打工去了。「要留話嗎?」伊的樓友說。

It wasn’t her voice. It was her dormmate, the girl next door. She wasn’t in, might be at work. “Would you like to leave a message?”

「不……」我說,「啊,不……等一下,幫我留句話吧。」

“No,” I said. “No, wait. Yes, I’d like to leave a message.”

「等等。」稍停片刻。「請說。」

“I’ll get a pen.” A moment later, “What’s the message?”

「明早八時會客。韋昌嶺。帶暈船藥。兩包菸。」

“Visit tomorrow 8am. Changwei Ridge. Bring seasickness pills. Two packs of cigarettes.”

我掛掉電話,回到操場加入我的弟兄們,一群人在操場上晃逛如遊魂。

I hung up and returned to the field to rejoin my brothers. We wandered around the field like a pack of lonely ghosts.

3 捐血

3. There’ll Be Blood

上午營區大門一開,伊就來了。她和媽一起坐火車到基隆,再換計程車到韋昌嶺。其實她並不知道韋昌嶺代表的意義,是看到「暈船藥」這三個字,才意識到我們最擔心的事已發生了。她哭著打電話到我家告訴我媽,約好天一亮就坐車到基隆。到基隆車站,她們問站前計程車司機說抽到外島的人在哪等船,司機便毫不猶豫載她們來韋昌嶺。

In the morning she got there right when the gates opened. She took the train with my mother to Keelung, then took a taxi up to Weichang Ridge. She didn’t actually understand what Weichang Ridge meant. It was only when she saw “seasickness pills” on the note that she realized our biggest fear had come true. Crying, she told my mother the news over the phone, and they arranged to take the first train in the morning. When they got to the Keelung, they asked the taxi driver in front of the station where the conscripts bound for the offshore islands waited until their boats arrived. Without the slightest hesitation, the driver took them to Weichang Ridge.

入伍的那一天,到松山車站送我的也是媽媽和伊。上了火車,我在窗口向站在月台上的她們揮手道別。「去啊,去摸摸他的手。」媽媽碰了一下伊的手肘說。火車開動了。伊遲疑了一下,上前兩步,但終究追不上火車前進的速度。媽媽後來到中心會客時說,那天火車一離開月台,伊便哭了,哭著離開車站。

The day I was enlisted, she and my mom came to Sungshan Train Station in Taipei to send me off. I got on the train and watched them waving at me through the open window. “Go hold his hand,” my mom said, nudging her elbow. The train started moving. She hesitated, then walked two steps forward, but it was already too late: she could never catch up to a moving train. One time when mom came to Jinliu Grange to visit me, she described the scene that day. “Tears rolled down her face the moment the train departed, and she was still crying when we left the station.”

那是一個多月前的事。現在,伊又笑嘻嘻地坐在我面前,完全看不出昨夜哭過的樣子。而我,這次要去的,是一個比宜蘭更遠的地方,是一個無法在假日搭火車來會客的地方。人家說,在外島兩年只有兩次休假的機會。如果平均分配,下次再見到伊,最快也得等到明年,至少是半年以後的事了。

That was over a month ago. Now she sat smiling in front of me. I couldn’t see any sign of her having spent the previous night crying. And this time I was leaving for a place much farther away than Ilan, a place you couldn’t take the train to on the weekend. Folks said that in the two years a soldier spends on the offshore islands there are only two holidays. If they were evenly spaced out, the earliest I’d get to see her was next year. That was at least half a year away.

「哈哈,抽到外島也好。」我對伊說。在新訓中心的時候,她每星期天都會來看我,坐的都是普通車。她大學還有一年才畢業,一個月的零用加上工讀的錢只有幾千塊,自然付不起莒光號或自強號的錢。每到星期天,她前一天晚上會先下山住在我家,再搭一早的普通車,花三個小時從台北到宜蘭,在營區陪我到四點,再搭三個小時火車回台北。「以後妳就不必那麼辛苦來看我了,可以省下不少交通費。」

“It’ll be better this way,” I told her. When we were in the training center, she would take the regular train to come see me every Sunday. She still had another year of university. Her allowance plus the money she made at her part-time job only added up to a couple of thousand dollars a month, so there was no way she could afford to take the Chu-kuang fast train, let alone the Tzu-chiang express. Every Sunday, she would take the bus from her house on Mt. Yangming down to Taipei and stay with my family the day before. The next morning, she’d ride the early train three hours from Taipei to Ilan, hang out with me until four pm, then face another three hour train ride back to Taipei. “From now on you won’t have to make such sacrifices to come visit me. You’ll save loads on transportation.”

「外島不能去嗎?」

“Can’t I go to Tongyin to see you?”

「不行吧。」

“I don’t think so.”

「不是有交通船?」

“Isn’t there a ferry service?”

「那是軍艦,一般人不能坐。」

“It’s a navy ship. They don’t take civilians.”

「真的沒辦法過去?」

“There’s no other way to get there?”

「可以啊,如果妳會游泳的話。」

“Sure there is, if you know how to swim.”

「那你什麼時候回來?」

“When can you come back and see me?”

「半年後吧。」

“Half a year from now I think.”

她低著頭,看著漆成綠色的木桌,不說話了。

She looked down at the green paint on the wooden table and fell silent.

「吃啊,快吃啊。」坐在一旁的媽媽說。

“Come on. Eat something,” said my mother, who was sitting to one side.

媽媽照例帶來滷蛋、雞腿、蘋果、鱈魚香絲、可口奶滋和好幾瓶可樂,數量足以擺滿一個供桌。我一口也不想吃。部隊才剛開過早飯,這種時候也沒有享用美食的心情。媽媽總是這樣。我看向四周其他有家人會客的弟兄,每人面前桌上都堆滿食物零嘴。媽媽們都是這個樣子,老是喜歡拿東西塞我們的胃、我們的肚腹,好像我們隨時都會餓著一樣。我看著桌上擺著的媽媽連夜準備的食物,看著伊早上六點敲開西藥房鐵門買來的暈船藥,只覺空氣中似乎有什麼東西綿綿不斷滲入我的身體,把我像個氣球般灌得鼓漲飽滿。人家說,憋笑會內傷。我不知道現在我憋住的這種情緒有什麼危害,會不會在什麼時候把我吹爆撐裂。我很想站起來大吼大叫。

As usual, my mom’d brought a feast: marinated eggs, chicken legs, apples, fish snacks, Tasty brand biscuits, and lots of cans of soda pop. There was enough to cover an altar table with offerings to the gods. But I was in no mood to eat. We’d just had breakfast in the camp, and besides who feels like eating at a time like this? Mothers are all the same. I looked around at the other guys who were receiving guests, and every table was loaded with food and snacks to stuff down our throats, as if they were afraid we might get hungry at any time. Looking back at the provisions my mother had prepared overnight and the seasickness pills she’d bought from the pharmacy at six am by banging the iron shutter until she woke the owner up, all I felt was something seeping into my body and blowing me up like a balloon. People say you can hurt yourself by stifling a laugh. I don’t know what kind of damage holding in this emotion would do to me. It might make me explode. I really felt like standing up and yelling my head off.

「啊,你在這兒,」有人拍了我肩膀。「我到處找你。」

“Aha, here you are,” someone patted me on the shoulder. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”

我回頭看,一個黑臉雀斑矮個兒站在我身後。這個人瞇著眼笑著,眼角笑紋長得快延伸到耳朵。我愣了一下,才看出他就是那個從天堂掉下來的小孩,他的臉上少了悲哀愁容,害我差點認不出他。

“I looked round and saw a short, dark-faced, freckled fellow standing behind me. He was beaming, squinting his eyes so much that the crow’s feet stretched almost all the way to his ears. I was confounded at first, until I realized that here was the kid who’d fallen down from heaven. Without that miserable expression on his face, I almost didn’t recognize him.

「你家人呢?來了嗎?」我問,眼睛卻盯著他背上的黃埔大背包。

“Your family? Are they here yet?” I asked, but my eyes were on the rucksack he was wearing on his back.

「來了,都來了,」他咧著嘴說:「我舅舅也來了。是他們搞錯了,我舅舅說。我本來就該被選到國防部示範樂隊,怎麼會跑到韋昌嶺?他帶了國防部的人來,現在我要和他們走了。」

“Yeah, they’re all here,” he said, grinning. “My Uncle Sam’s here, too. He said they made a mistake. I was supposed to be selected by the National Miliary Marching Band. No way I should’ve ended up at Weichang Ridge. My uncle brought some people from the Ministry of National Defense, and now I’m going with them.”

「喔……」

“Oh…”

「這是你女朋友?」他偏著頭,看向我身後。我跟著回頭,看見伊微微向他點個頭,笑了笑。「不錯哦,要好好把握,別讓她跑了。」他笑說,用手肘撞了我胸口一下。

“Your girlfriend?” he said, giving her a sideways glance over my shoulder. I looked back, too, and saw her nod politely at him. “She’s a keeper. You better hold on tight. Don’t let her get away,” he said, smiling, and elbowed me in the chest.

「嗯……」

“Yeah…”

「對了,差點忘了,」他說,轉身卸下背包,從裡面掏出蝦味先、香菸、蘋果和魷魚絲,一股腦全堆在我桌上。「這是我媽帶來的,但現在我用不到了,全送給你。」他把背包綁好,重揹上肩。「我走了,你要保重。」他又拍了我肩膀一下,轉身走了兩步,又回過頭,伸出食指指著伊。「別讓她跑了哦。」

“Right, almost forgot,” he said, turned and started unloading his rucksack. He got out the shrimp treats, then the cigarettes, the apples and the dried squid strips, and unloaded all of it onto my table. “My mom brought all this stuff for me but now I’ll never eat it. It’s all for you.” He fastened his rucksack and put it back on. “I’m off. Take good care of yourself.” He patted me on the shoulder again, turned and walked a couple of steps, then looked back and pointed. “Don’t let her get away.”

我看著他走向營區大門。門口端槍的衛兵喝住他,但旁邊樹下立刻走出兩個人,其中一位穿軍禮服戴大盤帽軍官模樣的人拿出一張文件,衛兵便放行讓他們出去了。他們上了在門口等待的一輛黑色轎車,車門砰砰關上,冒出一陣青煙走了。我左顧右盼。營區裡仍喧鬧不已,各角落坐著一堆堆的新兵和家屬,所有人皆忙著會客聊天道別,沒人注意到門口發生的事。我頹然坐下,看著桌上已變成兩倍的食物,只覺得剛才被他撞了一下的胸口還隱隱作痛。

I watched him walk towards the main gate. The gun-toting guards called him to a halt, but two men immediately walked out of the trees to the side, one of them wearing in an officer’s uniform and a saucer cap. The officer produced a document and the guards let them go. They got into a black sedan waiting outside the gate. The gate slammed shut, and the car was gone in a puff of smoke. I looked left and right and the camp was still bustling with loads of conscripts and parents in every corner of the camp. Everyone was busy chatting and saying farewell, but no one had noticed what had just happened at the gate. I sat down dejectedly. I was looking at the food on the table, which had now doubled, but all I felt was a painful throbbing in the spot where the kid who had fallen down from heaven had elbowed me in the chest.

© Copyright Leeds 2017