Wild Goose Pass
Murder at Zhuangyuan Bridge Market

Murder at Zhuangyuan Bridge Market

Excerpt from The Water Margin, chapter 3

Read the original here.

Master Zheng had a two-room butcher shop, with two chopping blocks and several cuts of pork hanging on display. He was sitting at the cashier’s counter in front of the door, watching a dozen or so assistants preparing orders for the customers.

Lu Da walked over to the entrance and called out: “Hey, Butcher Zheng!”

The butcher recognized Lu Da immediately. He jumped up and ran over to greet him. He then asked his assistant to bring the major a stool, saying, “Major, please take a seat.”

Lu Da throws the dumpling filling in Butcher Zheng’s face, woodblock edition, ca. 1610–1640

While the assistant went to fetch the stool, Lu Da said, “The garrison commander wants ten jin of lean minced meat, without a single speck of fat.”

The butcher turned to his other assistants, saying, “Choose a good cut and prepare ten jin. Be quick about it!”

“I don’t want those filthy assistants handling my order,” Lu Da replied. “You do it.”

“Or course!” The butcher went over to the counter, selected ten jin worth of pork, and began mincing it himself.

Meanwhile, the guesthouse clerk, his hair covered up with a headscarf, had come to the shop to speak to the butcher about Old Jin, but when he saw Lu Da sitting in front of the entrance, he didn’t dare draw any closer.

Half an hour later, Butcher Zheng had finished preparing the order and wrapped it up in a lotus leaf. “Shall I have this delivered, Major?”

“Delivered? The order’s not complete. I want another ten jin, but this time I only want minced fat, without a single speck of meat anywhere!”

“Minced meat can be used for dumplings, but what are you going to do with minced fat?”

Lu Da gave the butcher a look. “The commander is giving you an order. You dare to question him?”

“Well, if you can use it, who am I to say no?” The butcher selected ten jin of fat, minced it carefully, then wrapped up the order in another lotus leaf. By the time he had finished, it was already time for lunch. The clerk from the guesthouse dared not approach, and even the butcher’s other customers all stayed away.

“Shall I have someone deliver this to the garrison, Major?”

“I want another ten jin of minced cartilage, also without a single speck of meat.”

The butcher laughed, saying: “Did you come here just to make fun of me?”

When Lu Da heard these words, he jumped up from his seat and grabbed the two packages of filling off the counter. Looking the butcher in the eyes, he replied: “That’s right, I did come here just to make fun of you!” He threw both packages at the butcher’s head, showering him with the meat filling.

The butcher’s rage rose from the soles of his feet to the top of his head; a seething fire burned in his heart. He grabbed a boning knife from the chopping block and ran out into the street, where Lu Da was waiting for him.

Not a single person from the nearby shops dared to intervene. Passers-by on both sides of the street stood motionless; the guesthouse clerk was stunned. The butcher held the knife in his right hand, while reaching out for Lu Da with his left. The major grabbed the butcher’s hand, pulled him close, then with a quick kick knocked him down. Lu Da stepped forward and put one foot on his chest. Raising his fist like a bowl of vinegar, he looked down and said, “I was the inspector of five western circuits under General Zhong, yet even I wouldn’t call myself ‘Lord of the West.’ You’re just a meat-slicing butcher who’s no better than a dog, and yet you dare to give yourself such a title? What gave you the right to cheat Jade Lotus Jin?”

He punched the butcher in the face. With just one strike, it was as if Lu Da had opened up a condiment shop: salty, sour, and spicy sauces all began to flow from the butcher’s broken nose at the same time.