The Gift of Understanding

The Gift of Understanding
鱼儿(余芬)发表于2009年10月08日 19:33

I must have been around four years old when I first entered Mr. Wigden’s candy shop, but the smell of that wonderful world of penny treasures still comes back to me clearly more than a half-century later. Whenever he heard the tiny tinkle of bell attached to the front door, Mr. Wigden quietly appeared, to take his stand behind the candy case. He was very old, and his head was topped with a cloud of fine, snow-white hair.

Never was such an array of delicious temptations spread before a child. It was almost painful to make a choice. Each kind had first to be savored in the imagination before passing on to the next. There was always a short pang of regret as the selection was dropped into a little white paper sack. Perhaps another kind would taste better? Or last longer? Mr. Wigden had a trick of scooping your selection into the sack, then pausing. Not a word was spoken, but every child understood that Mr. Wigden’s raised eyebrows constituted a last-minute opportunity to make an exchange. Only after payment was laid upon the counter was the sack irrevocably twisted shut and the moment of indecision ended.

Our house was two streets from the streetcar line, and you had to pass the shop going to and from the cars. Mother had taken me into town on some forgotten errand, and as we walked home from the trolley Mother turned into Mr. Wigden’s.

“Let’s see if we can find something good,” she said, leading me up to the long glass case as the old man approached from behind a curtained aperture. My mother stood talking with him for a few minutes as I gazed rapturously at the display before my eyes. Finally Mother picked out something for me and paid Mr. Wigden.

Mother went into town once or twice a week, and, since in those days baby-sitters were almost unheard-of, I usually accompanied her. It became a regular routine for her to take me into the candy shop for some special treat, and after that first visit I was always allowed to make my own choice.

I knew nothing of money at that time, I would watch my mother hand something to people, who would then hand her a package or a big, and slowly the idea of exchange percolated into my mind. Sometime about then I reached a decision. I would journey the interminable two streets to Mr. Wigden’s all alone. I remember the tinkle of the bell as I managed, after some considerable effort, to push open the big door. Enthralled, I worked my way slowly down the display counter.

Here were spearmint leaves with a fresh minty fragrance. There, gumdrops-the great big ones, so tender to bite into, all crusty with crystals of sugar. In the next tray were fudgy chocolate babies. The box behind them held enormous jawbreakers which made a satisfying bulge in your cheek. The hard, shiny, dark-brown-covered peanuts Mr. Wigden dished out with a little wooden scoop——two scoops for a cent. And, of course, there were the licorice whips. These lasted a long time if you let the bites dissolve instead of chewing them.

When I had picked out a promising assortment, Mr. Wigden leaned over and asked, “you have the money to pay for all these?”

“Oh, yes,” I replied, “I have lots of money.” I reached out my fist, and into Mr. Wigden’s open hand I dumped a half-dozen cherry seeds carefully wrapped in shiny tinfoil.

Mr. Wigden stood gazing at the palm of his hand; then he looked searchingly at me for a long moment.

“Isn’t it enough?” I asked him anxiously.

He sighed gently. “I think it is a bit too much,” he answered. “You have some change coming.” He walked over to his old-fashioned cash register and cranked open the drawer. Returning to the counter, he leaned over and dropped two pennies into my outstretched hand.

My mother scolded me about taking the trip alone when she found me out. I don’t think it ever occurred to her to ask about the financial arrangement. I was simply cautioned not to go again unless I asked first. I must have obeyed and, evidently, when permission was granted for me to make the trip, a cent or two was given me for my purchases, since I don’t remember using cherry seeds a second time. In fact, the whole affair, insignificant to me then, was soon forgotten in the busy occupation of growing up.

When I was six or seven years old my family moved to a new community where I grew up, eventually married an established my own family. My wife and I opened a shop where we bred and sold exotic fish. The aquarium trade was then still in its infancy, and most of the fish were imported directly from Asia, Africa and South America. Few species sold for less than five dollars a pair.

One sunny afternoon a little girl came in accompanied by her brother. They were perhaps five and six years old. I was busy cleaning the tanks. The two children stood with wide, round eyes, staring at the jeweled beauties swimming in the crystal-clear water. “Gosh,” exclaimed the boy, “can we buy some?”

“Yes,” I replied. “If you can pay for them.”

“Oh, we have lots of money,” the little girl said confidently.

Something in the way she spoke gave me an old feeling of familiarity. After watching the fish for some time, they asked me for pairs of several different kinds, pointing them out as they walked down the row of tanks. I netted their choices into a traveling container and slipped it into an insulated bag for transport, handing it to the boy. “Carry it carefully,” I cautioned.

He nodded and turned to his sister. “You pay him,” he said. I held out my hand, and as her clenched fist approached me I suddenly knew exactly what was going to happen even what the little girl was going to say. Her fist opened, and into my outstretched palm she duped three very small coins.

At that instant I sensed the full impact of the legacy Mr. Wigden gad given me so many years before. Only now did I recognize the challenge I had presented the old man, and realize how wonderfully he had met it.

I seemed to be standing again in the little candy shop as I looked at the coins in my own hand. I understood the innocence of the two children and the power to preserve or destroy that innocence, as Mr. Wigden had understood those long years ago. I was so filled up with the remembering that my throat ached. The little girl was standing expectantly before me. “Isn’t it enough? She asked in a small voice.

“It’s a little too much,” I managed to say, somehow, over the lump in my throat. “You have some change coming.” I rummaged around in the cash drawer, dropped two pennies into her open hand, then stood in the doorway watching the children go down the walk carefully carrying their treasure.

When I turned back into the shop, my wife was standing on a stool with her arms submerged to the elbows in a tank where she was rearranging the plants. “Mind telling me what that was all about?” she asked. “Do you know how many fish you gave them?”

“About 30dollars’ worth,” I answered, the lump still in my throat. “But I couldn’t have done anything else.”

When I’d finished telling her about old Mr. Wigden, her eyes were wet, and she stepped off the stool and gave me a gentle kiss on the cheek.

“I still smell the gumdrops,” I sighed, and I’m certain I heard old Mr. Wigden chuckle over my shoulder as I swabbed down the last tank.

收获

第一次走进威格登先生的糖果店时,我也就四岁左右的样子。可大半个世纪过去了,那些物美价廉糖果美妙的香味儿,我至今都清楚地记得。只要听到门口小铃叮当的响声,他就会悄然出现在糖果箱旁。那时他很老了,长着细密、雪白的头发。

从来没有这么多的美味诱惑摆在一个孩子的面前。这让人很难做出选择。在想象中我把.每种糖果都挨个给品尝过了。当我瞅准的那些糖果倒进一个小小的白色纸袋里时,我总会有那么一阵深切的惋惜:或许另一种更好吃呢?不至于很快就吃完呢?威格登先生总会用勺子把你挑的糖果舀进袋里,然后停下,一语不发,但每个孩子都明白他扬起眉毛时,就意味着你可以最后再挑一次。只有在柜台上付完款,袋子最后拎紧系好了,犹豫不决的时刻才结束了。

我们住的地方离电车道有两个街区远,还要经过那家门前总是车来车往的商店。记得母亲有时候进城有事也带着我,坐电车回来的时候,就顺便逛了逛威格登先生的糖果店。

“瞧瞧有啥好东西。”她说着领着我走到一个长长的玻璃柜台前。这时一个老人出现在布帘后,母亲站在那儿和他聊了一会儿。这当儿我盯着眼前的糖果,乐不可支。最后母亲为我买了一些。

每个星期母亲去城里一两次,而由于那时还没有听说什么保姆,通常我都是跟她在一起。对她而言这已经成了一种惯例:作为某种优待,才带我去糖果店。而且第一次过后,我就可以去挑自己喜爱糖果了。

那时我还没有钱的概念。我看着母亲把些什么东西交到别人手中,然后那人递给她一个包裹或袋子。慢慢地,交换这个概念在我脑中形成了。大约在那当口的某个时候我做了一个决定:独自一人穿过街道去维京先生的店里。我记得自己按响了门铃,又费力地想推开那扇大门。就像是着了魔一样,我慢慢地朝展示柜台走去。

这儿是橡皮糖,好大一颗啊!软绵绵地,真想咬一口!它们外面都裹着一层晶莹透彻的糖衣。那儿,有老大一颗的硬糖,丢一颗到嘴里,腮帮就鼓得老高老高的,那感觉真是妙啊!。当然啦,还有坚硬,闪亮的黑褐色的花生糖。威格登先生会用一个小木勺子舀出一大堆来:两勺才要一分钱。

我挑好一大堆看上去很好吃的糖果后,维京先生俯身问:“你有钱买这么多吗?”

“哦,当然。”我答道,“我有很多钱。”我伸出拳头,抓了半打樱桃种子倒在威格登先生张开的大手上:它们包在闪闪发亮的锡纸里。

他站在那里,凝视着自己的掌心,然后探寻似地瞧了我半天。

“不够吗?”我急了。

他轻声叹了口气,“我看是多了呢,”他答到。“我还要找你一些钱。”他朝自己的老式收银台走去,喀嚓一声拉开了抽屉。回来后,他俯身放了两个硬币在我手里。

母亲找到我时,责骂我不该独自外出。我想她从来没有想过我从哪里弄来的钱买糖果的。她只是警告我:没有她的许可,不可以再出去了。我当时一定是很听话,有事实做证:我可以一个人出去玩时,她会给我一两分钱了。因为我记得没有再用樱桃种子买过东西了。事实上,这整件事,在当时对我并不重要,很快就在忙碌的成长岁月中被我遗忘了。

六,七岁时,我家搬到了另一座城市,在那里我长大成人,结婚后有了自己的家庭。我和妻子开了一家店,专门伺养和出售从外国引进的鱼。这种生意在那时还很新鲜,而且大部分鱼都从亚洲,非洲和南美引进。一对一般卖五美元。

一个阳光灿烂的下午,一个小女孩和她的哥哥一起走了进来。他们大概五六岁的样子。我正忙着清洁水箱。两个小家伙站在那儿,又大又圆的眼睛盯着那些宝石般美丽的小东西在清澈的水中游来游去。“天哪。”男孩喊着,“我们可以买一些吗?”

“当然,”我答道。“只要你们付得起钱。”

“哦,我们有很多钱,”小女孩信心十足。

听了她的话,我一愣。这话好熟悉啊。看了一会儿鱼,他们边沿着水箱往下走,边指指点点,挑中了几对不同种类的鱼。我把那些鱼网进一个移动的容器里,倒进一个袋子里系紧以便带走。然后交给男孩。“拿好。”我叮嘱到。

他点了点头,转向他妹妹说:“你付钱吧。”我张开手,当他攥紧的拳头伸向我时,我忽然想到下面要发生什么了,我甚至知道小女孩要说什么。她的拳头松开了,往我的掌心倒了三个非常小的硬币。

刹那间我感到了多年前,威格登先生那深刻的一课给我所带来的巨大的影响。直到现在我才意识到当年我给这个老人出的难题,明白了他当时处理得多么的漂亮。

看着手中的硬币,我仿佛又站在了那个小糖果店里。我清楚这两个孩子的天真,还有我拥有呵护或毁灭那天真的力量。正如威格登先生多年前就已经体会到的。这记忆充盈着我的脑海,以至于我的喉咙梗塞起来。小女孩满怀期待地站在了我的面前。“够吗?“她小声地问。

“还多了一些,”不知道为什么,我喉头发紧,几乎说不出话来。“还要找你的钱。”我在抽屉里翻了翻,放了两个便士在她的手上,然后站在门口。看着小家伙小心翼翼地抓着他们的宝贝鱼儿走了。

回到店后,妻子正站在一个凳子上重新整理水箱里的水草,水浸过了她的肘子“能告诉我这是怎么回事吗?”她问。“你知道你给了他们多少鱼吗?”

“大约三十元的。”我答着,我的喉头还在发紧。“但我没办法不这样做。”

我说完老威格登先生的故事后,她的眼睛湿润了,她跳下了凳子,在我的脸颊上轻轻地吻了一下。

“我仍然闻得到泡泡糖的香味儿。”我叹了口气,清洁完最后一个水箱,我仿佛听到了老威格登先生在我身后暗暗发笑。

 

—大四时翻译的短篇,现在读着,仍是非常喜欢,深受感动。世界上有着这样的人,我们一定会拥有温暖的人生。

—题目的翻译,想了许久仍没有很满意的答案,读过的朋友也帮忙出出主意哦~


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