Photo Credit: Design elements from VCG, illustration by Xi Dahe

Elastic Girls | Short Story

A tale of Old Shanghai, fluid identities, and the unreliability of memory


My grandmother made a wish on her eightieth birthday. She wanted to go to Shanghai, and she wanted me to come with her. I was already on my summer break, and I’ve always liked reading novels about Old Shanghai, so I jumped at the chance to help her make her birthday wish come true. I had heard from my mother that my grandmother had never really traveled. In the 1960s and ’70s, she had stewed at home for years on end, not even crossing the threshold, unless someone dragged her out.

“She’s had a hard life, your grandmother. Treat her well.” My mother had repeated this to me since I was a child. She said it again before the trip, too, and handed me 1,000 yuan in cash. She told me to take care not to lose it. After I bought the train tickets, the rest of the money would be enough to cover our expenses. I promised to look after the money. “Look after your grandmother,” she added. “Make conversation with her on the way there. You were always her favorite.”

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Elastic Girls | Short Story is a story from our issue, “Small Town Saga.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Wang Mozhi (王莫之)

Wang Mozhi is a music reviewer and fiction writer based in Shanghai. He has published a short story collection and two novels, as well as a number of short stories in various literary magazines. Shanghai’s culture and history, as well as the music industry, are his constant inspirations.

Translated By
author Dylan Levi King

Dylan Levi King is a writer and translator. His most recent translations are Cai Chongda’s “Vessel” (HarperCollins) and Jia Pingwa’s “The Shaanxi Opera” (AmazonCrossing).

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