A Magical Old Woman
He lived in the suburbs, about two miles away from where he was working. His life was simple and quiet: He lived with his mother, who was in very poor health; he had a young wife and a four-year-old daughter; his boss treated him nicely. Although he had little money, he was happy.
One day the boss assigned him an urgent business trip and he had to leave right away. Since there was no time for him to go home and bid farewell, he made haste to write a few words on a paper, then bade his colleague to deliver the paper to his family.
The place he went was far from his hometown. He had already stayed there for more than two months, from end of summer to mid-autumn. The weather was getting cold, he had nothing warm to wear but his summer clothes. Moreover, he missed his family very much. He left in a hurry, didn’t know how much rice was in the urn and whether his family got enough food to eat or not; he didn’t know how his mother was after having tried the new medicine since he was gone; his kid was so little, would his wife be able to take care of the whole family alone? The boss’ business went very well, but he still had no clue about when he could return.
With all these worries, he couldn’t eat and sleep well, and got thinner every day. One morning he felt so upset that he decided to take a walk nearby. Somehow followed a small path, he came out of the town. Under a big fig tree, he sat down on a rock for some rest. Then an old woman came across, he got up and bowed to her. The old woman asked, “I am glad to see you. Are you thirsty? Are you hungry? I have some tea and food ready on my table, why not join me? I am too old to finish them all.” She pointed her little cottage to him, which was right behind the tree. Beside his empty stomach, this old woman looked so kind and her face in some sort reminded him of his mother, he accepted her invitation with delight.
The house was clean, the tea was just brewed, the fresh peach pie tasted as wonderful as the ones his mother did before. He felt like he was home. Tears started glittering in his eyes, which surprised the old woman. After he explained the reason, she comforted him with, “Don’t worry, my dear child. They are fine, and you will be back soon. I know that.” She signed to him to follow her to the rear of the house, where a well was. “Look inside.” She instructed.
He did. The water in the well was smooth, reflecting his face like a mirror. But in a flash, his face disappeared; instead, surrounded by a lot of peach trees, his house was shown, a curl of cooking smoke rising from the chimney. He widened his eyes, as the image drew closer, he could see from the window that his wife was in the kitchen, busy pouring boiled herbal medicine into a clay bowl. Then the footage followed her to the bedroom, where his mother was sitting in bed, smiling; and by her bed, his daughter was singing. His wife placed the medicine bowl on a small table, reset the pillow behind his mother’s back. At the same time, his daughter tiptoed, trying to reach the steaming bowl. He screamed, ”Look out, it’s hot!” All of them seemed to have heard him—They froze for seconds, after that began to look around for him. He was about to say something again, accidentally, a little pebble fell in the well. The water rippled, when it finally resumed its calmness, the images of his family and house were gone, only his own face could be seen.
The old woman smiled at him, “Did you see them? I told you not to worry.” She inspected the clothes he wore, “I happen to have a jacket of no use. I think its size suits you. Let me take it out so you can try it on.” He declined, but she insisted and forced him to put on the jacket—It was made with the same fabric which his wife bought for him in spring; she intended to make him a jacket exactly like this one. Though feeling much warmer, he tried to take the jacket off. The old woman stopped him, ”Wear it, and don’t thank me. One day you will find out why by yourself.”
Another two weeks passed after this encounter. Unexpectedly, his boss sent another colleague to replace him so he could return. Before he set off, he revisited that old lady’s place. However, to his shock, the house was completely gone, while the fig tree, the rock, and the well remained there. Out of curiosity, he went to the well and looked in it—Nothing was there but weeds and rocks.
He arrived home, was overjoyed to see his mother picking vegetables in the yard with his daughter, and his wife was hanging laundry in the sun. They looked happy and healthy, which lifted all the heavy loads off his mind. They told him that his boss and colleagues had helped them a lot in the past months; the new doctor’s medicine worked very well so his mother could get off the bed. At last his mother inquired: “Where did you get this jacket, my son?” He told them his adventure. His wife listened, then checked the jacket and cried out, ”This is our lost one! I embroidered a little yellow chrysanthemum inside the pocket, look!”
They also recalled that on the very same day, the number of the peach pies they kept in a basket was mysteriously short by a couple of pieces; and they all indeed heard his voice “Look out, it’s hot!”.