The rocks under his rump were making his back sore so he got up and stood in the water’s edge. Mr. Chen walked deeper and deeper towards the middle of the river. The water reached up to his chest. He stepped up onto a large boulder, but it was slippery, so his foot slid off making him fall completely into the water, dunking his head, and making his hat fall off. A spirit bird flew down, nabbed Mr. Chen's hat, and dropped it on the bank. The river, with its mighty arms twisting and turning Mr. Chen's body, swept him downstream.
Mr. Chen floated down the river, and swimming only kept him on top of the water but would not bring him to the bank. He continued floating downstream, passing a footbridge, then a large hanging branch, which he tried to grab without luck. He saw clouds pass by, heard children playing in the distance, and the sound of a stringed musical instrument. Finally, he snatched a small log that stuck out partly into the river, but it pulled loose and it held him afloat as he continued to swiftly go farther and farther away from his fishing bank by the money tree.
Mr. Chen became so weary that he lay across the log and shut his eyes. Time passed and he heard a voice – a soft, gentle, but concerned female voice. “Are you alive?” He cracked his eyes open and saw a small woman standing over him from atop a rope bridge. She had reached down towards him and had grabbed his shirt, and caught him like a fish from out of the water. Dragging him to the bank she said, “I am Shu, who are you?”
He stuttered, as if in a dream, and choked on the water for a moment. “…Mr. … Chen,” he replied, exhausted. Shu took him to her village and aided him to regain his health. They had many conversations, for many days, very long and in-depth, and entirely fascinating. Mr. Chen was drawn to this little woman Shu, and felt she was part of him. He knew things were okay, and he thought about his home back at the money tree, by the riverbank. Before retiring for bed he told Shu of his home, and where he was from in detail. “You are well enough to go home,” Shu said, “but I will see you tomorrow by the water.”
That night Mr. Chen went to sleep in Shu’s village, but when he awoke he saw the underside of the leaves of the money tree he was so familiar with at home. He sat up quickly; the sun was rising. Panicked, he looked all around, and got up and called out for Shu, but she was nowhere to be seen. Did she take him back home in the night while he slept? Did he even meet her at all? Was it a dream? Was he alive or dead?
He noticed his cane pole by the water’s edge, so he sat down cross-legged, put on his hat that still laid on the riverbank, and began to fish. Missing Shu he put his bare feet in the water and wondered if he would ever find her again, and he considered what would happen if he went downstream. He shook his head, figuring she was lost to him in time and space. He could not remember how far away Shu’s village was. Shu had caught him out of the water as if he were a fish when his eyes had been closed.
Right then the little spirit fish came and nibbled on his feet, looked up at him and said, “Are you alive? I am Shu, who are you?”
Mr. Chen jumped! Then he realized he must be dead, and so calmed down, sat down, crossed his legs, and picked up his cane pole. The only thing left to do would be to fish.
May be this time he could catch Shu out of the water…