His first thought had naturally been to ask for assistance from the city’s emergency relief agencies. He dialed 119. A sweet young woman’s voice answered him, in contrast to his image of tall, strapping men in their fluorescent safety helmets and heavy, bear-like waterproof and fireproof coats. He told the girl that he had the corpse of someone who had just passed away, and he wished to donate her corneas and kidneys. (Or perhaps there were other organs that could be donated?)
The girl patiently explained that the transportation of
corpses (or the donation of remains) did not seem to fall under
the purview of 119 emergency relief; he should probably contact
the hospital to which he wished to donate the remains directly
and arrange for them to send an ambulance.
Oh, okay, I see. Thank you. He said.
The girl said, perhaps I can help you contact the hospital you’re thinking of donating the remains to. . . .
No, that’s not necessary, I understand what I need to do
now. Thanks for your help. He stammered, hanging up the
He lifted his mother into the wheelchair. Her body was
smaller and lighter than he expected. Just before his mother’s
death, when she had given up the will to live, she had silently
and obediently allowed him to arrange her body as he wished;
she seemed like that now. There doesn’t seem to be a clear
demarcation between life and death. He thought wearily.
He put a wool knit cap on the corpse and wrapped a scarf
around its neck, then draped her dark grey, open-collar woolen
sweater over its shoulders.
He recalled the last time he brought his mother back from
the hospital on the Mass Rapid Transit. When his mother saw
her own reflection in the window of the automatic closing doors
of the train she seemed to have received a shock:
“How have I become this thin?”
She muttered to herself over and over. She looked like a
Now he was wheeling his mother’s corpse out the door. His mother’s grey eyes were wide open and staring as if she were alive, looking as if she had gotten a fright.
Later, he recalled that it was the last MRT of the night. The deserted entrance hall’s four gleaming metallic walls exuded the desolate atmosphere of a science-fiction movie as he pushed his mother into the cold, vast subway station.
The temperature that night was cold, cold enough that when you breathed on the glass of the window next to your seat within the train, a white mist obscured your own reflection. Despite fact that he knew he wasn’t pushing a slab of frozen pork, he
couldn’t help thinking about things like the corpse thawing out,
giving off a stench and watery blood. He didn’t take the regular
escalator down to the platform; instead, he took an elevator
reserved specially for the handicapped or those in wheelchairs.
As his mother was being pushed into the elevator, she suddenly
opened her mouth, giving him a real fright—perhaps caused by
the wheelchair going over the gap between the floor and the elevator?
She wouldn’t stick her tongue out after they got on the
train, would she? He wondered. Thereupon he used a wool
blanket (which had been stuck in a pocket hanging behind the
wheelchair) to cover his mother’s upturned face and slightly
open mouth in the elevator.
As the elevator doors opened, he heard a loud piercing
whistle, the final warning sound that the subway car’s doors
were about to close. He rushed madly, pushing the wheelchair
through the automatic doors a split second before they closed.
Under cover of the woolen blanket, he saw his mother’s head
shaking forward and back, and then the train started off.
It was at this moment that he realized that this was the last
Luckily he had made it. He realized sadly that, although he
and his mother together had completed the journey rushing from
the elevator across the platform to the train seemingly non-stop,
leaping across in an instant, at this moment only he was panting
for breath (feeling lucky and relieved).
What if he hadn’t made it?
At worst, it would have meant not donating the remains.
Those parts of this body in front of him worth plucking or cutting
off, such as the corneas and kidneys, would be like a saranwrapped
package of cut fruit which has passed its expiration date—one sniff and into the trash bin with it. He’d just have to
push his mother’s corpse out of the subway station and back to
If that were to have happened, he damn well would have
had a good, long sleep (he hadn’t closed his eyes for ages). Put
the corpse to one side, have a good sleep first, and then figure
out what to do next.
But anyway, he’d managed to catch the last train.
The train rocked side to side. He felt that the rocking
motion seemed to shake the car’s fluorescent light, . . . .