This is Part 4 in a translation of the 1956 reportage fiction piece 在桥梁工地上 (At the Bridge Construction Sites) by the Chinese writer 刘宾雁 (Liu Binyan). Liu wrote the piece during Mao’s Hundred Flowers Campaign (百花运动), and was soon victimised for it and labelled a rightist in the following Anti-Rightist Movement (反右派运动).
At the Bridge Construction Site
四月底，黄河的水发黑了。 At the end of April, the water of the Yellow River had turned black.
这是警报，洪水就要来了。 This was a warning: the floods were coming.
这一带，造桥的人每年要两次面对自然的威胁：春季的洪水和冬季的流冰。 In this region, those building bridges had face natural threats twice a year: the spring floods and the winter ice flows.
眼看着水位一天比一天高，流速一天比一天急。 You could see the water rise higher and the current get stronger every day before your eyes.
工人们的心比水还急：不赶快把桥墩抢修出水面，就要扔掉半年时间，到秋天，洪水退了，才能继续施工。 The workers were even more hurried than the water: if they didn't rush to build the bridge blocks above the water, they would lose six months' work, and wouldn't be able to continue construction until autumn when the floods reduced.
工作速度一鼓劲地加快了。 The construction rate surged immediately.
洪水也不让步。 The floods were not going to give in.
它要抢先。 They wanted to win.
它横冲直撞地朝桥墩工程袭来，要冲倒立在河心的钢板桩。 They surged forwards towards the bridge construction sites, trying to flush out the bridge pillars in the middle of the river.
水文站每天几次来电话通知水位，流速的发展。 The Hydrology Office received several phone calls a day asking about the development of the water level and flow.
能够安全施工的日子屈指可数了。 The days in which construction could continue safely could now be counted on one's fingers.
但黄河上两座大桥，有两个桥墩还在施工。 But the two bridges over the Yellow River still had two blocks under construction.
钢板桩有被冲垮的危险。 The steel plate pillars were at risk of cracking under the pressure.
五月七日这天，拱桥的一号墩钢板桩迎着水头的那一面： On the 7th of May, the first steel plate pillar of the arch bridge met the water:
有点向后倾斜了。 it tilted backwards slightly.
继续施工？还是先去把钢板桩加固？ Should they continue construction? Or first reinforce the steel plate pillar?
主管工程师拿不定主意，向队部请示。 The engineers in charge couldn't settle on a plan, and asked for instructions from headquarters.
罗队长跑到桥头看了看，又跑回来，愁眉深锁，忧虑重重： Luo Lizheng ran to the bridge head to have a look and then ran back, his eyebrows locked with worry, his anxieties layering up:
继续施工吧，不一定能抢修得出来，钢板桩被冲垮或是水淹了人可怎么办？ if they continued working, they might not make the repairs in time, and if the steel plate pillars broke or people were submerged then what would they do?
停止施工吧，万一洪水来得太猛，以后无法把桥墩抢出水面，这责任谁负得了？ If they stopped construction, and if the floods came too fiercely, there would be no way to keep the bridge blocks out of the water, and then who would be to blame?
需要决定，即刻作出决定。 He needed to make a decision - an immediate decision.
可是这太困难了啊：无论怎么决定，都没有十分把握，倒有七分犯错误的可能。 But it was too difficult: no matter how he decided, he couldn't be totally sure of it, and there was actually a 70% chance of making a mistake.
要负责任，这责任可担待不了啊…… He had to be responsible, but this was a responsibility that he couldn't bear...
急中生智：请示工程局！ But he had his wits about him: ask for instructions from the engineering office!
再没有比这更如意的办法了。 There couldn't be a more ideal solution than that.
只要处长或局长说话，一切问题，一切困难就都不存在了。 He only needed the section chief or head of the office to say something, and then all the questions and difficulties would go away.
于是，罗队长拿起电话耳机来。 So Luo Lizheng picked up the phone.
处长不在，副处长也不在。 The section chief wasn't there, and neither was the deputy section chief.
第二次拿起耳机，仍然不在。 They still weren't there the next time he picked up the receiver.
第三次，交换台算是从会议上把处长找来了。 The third time, the exchange finally located the section chief in a meeting.
可是，罗队长总算还在河边看过，处长却看也没看见水势怎样。 But whilst Luo Lizheng had seen everything at the riverside, the section chief had not seen how powerful the water was.
自然需要考虑。 Naturally, it needed to be considered.
约好了，夜里来电话，通告处理的意见。 They arranged to speak by phone that night and then announce their ideas for dealing with it.
就在罗立正站在电话机旁着急、对话的时候，黄河的水朝河心的钢板桩一次又一次猛力打来。 Just as Luo Lizheng was fretting beside the telephone, whilst he was speaking the waters of the Yellow River were surging powerfully against the steel pillars, again and again.
下午五时，就是罗队长好容易在耳机里听到处长声音的时候，圆圆的钢板桩变扁了，整个朝后仰过身去。 At 5pm, just as Captain Luo was having difficulty hearing the section chief's voice over the phone, the round steel pillars were getting flattened, getting turned back completely. *[?]*
河岸上的工人张罗着要上去抢救里面的机器。 The workers on the bank were busy trying to save their machinery.
可是这已经确实要冒险了，谁也不放他们上去。 But it was already getting risky, and no-one would allow them to go onto the bridge.
五点半钟，便桥的木头吱吱嘎嘎地响了起来。 At 5:30pm, the temporary wooden bridge head began to creak and groan.
下午六时，钢板桩前面的便桥叫河水给冲断了。 At 6pm, the temporary bridge in front of the steel pillars was broken by the water.
七点钟左右，周副队长仍然在办公室等着电话，外面传来群众惊呼、忙乱的声音。 At about 7pm, Deputy Director Zhou was still in the office on the phone, with the chaotic sound of mass shouting coming in.
罗立正不看就知道出了什么事。 Without looking, Luo Lizheng knew what had happened.
但他还是跟着众人朝河边走去。 But he still went to the riverside with the masses.
他走到河边的时候，钢板桩已经没有了影子。 When he got to the riverside, there was already no trace of the steel pillars.
在他身旁，一个工人哭了。 Next to him, a worker started crying.
“一百多根钢板桩，怎么打捞啊？” "Over one hundred steel plate pillars - how can we salvage them?"
‘不打捞也不行，桥墩还得修在这块地方……’ "We have to salvage them - the bridge has to be built here..."
“抽水机也给冲走了……” "The water pumps have been washed away as well..."
工人们议论着这次灾害造成的损失。 The workers discussed the losses incurred in this disaster.
队长比他们清楚得多，他早都想过了。 The captain understood it much more clearly than them - he'd thought about it all before.
打捞费、材料费、工时损失费…… 你如果要，他可以在十分钟内就计算出来。 The salvage costs, the material costs, the loss of labour... If you wanted, he could calculate all of it for you in ten minutes.
他想的是另一回事： He was thinking about something else:
“万幸，万幸，电话总算打通了——不管怎样，我请示过了……” "So lucky, so lucky - the phone call went through in the end - no matter what, I asked for instructions..."
就在这同一段时间，凌口大桥上发生着另一件事。 At the same moment, the Lingkou Bridge was experiencing something different.
凌口大桥离大拱桥有十几里路远。 The Lingkou Bridge was three miles away from the arch bridge.
打在拱桥桥墩上的洪水，几分钟以后就朝河口大桥的桥墩上冲来了。 The arch bridge washed away in the flood rushed passed the Lingkou Bridge a few minutes later.
五月七号早晨，曾刚从桥头帐篷里走出来的时候，河水快跟五号墩桩子扫平了。 On the morning of the 7th of May, when Zeng Gang came out of his tent by the bridge, the water had nearly reached the fifth bridge block.
下面，基础还差六寸多就可以落底。 Below, the foundations were only six inches away from being submerged.
但是洪水每分钟都可能冲垮便桥，断绝工人的后路，随时都可能打进桥墩工事，把工人埋在里面。 The flood water might topple the temporary bridge at any moment and cut off the workers' escape route; it might breach the bridge fortifications at any time and bury the workers inside.
“桥墩不出水，就要影响通车！” "If the bridge blocks don't come out of the water, it'll get blocked off!"
“瞧这水头，快有你高了。” "Look at the water level - soon it'll be higher than you."
“怎么着也得把它抢出来！” "We have to beat it no matter what!"
工人们议论纷纷。 The workers discussed it in disorder.
曾刚马上召集积极分子开会讨论：能不能继续施工？如果能够，有甚么办法保证安全？ Zeng Gang immediately gathered the enthusiasts together for a discussion: can we continue construction? If we can, how can we guarantee safety?
还没等会议开完，这天早晨接班的基础工就成立了突击队。 Before the meeting was over, the work for that morning's shift workers was to set up a special squad.
这群小伙子穿上胶皮衣裤走过颤颤悠悠的便桥去上班，并不是不担心：只要洪水耍个急躁，就准保有去无回呀。 These guys put on rubber clothes and went onto the quivering temporary bridge, and they were far from relaxed: all it needed was for the floods to show their temper, and they would definitely go in and never come back.
但是谁都知道这八小时多么重要，也相信主管工程师和老工人们有办法，不会叫他们吃亏。 But everyone knew how important these eight hours were, and trusted that the responsible engineers and workers would find a way and wouldn't let them come to grief.
前一天，就作了准备。 The day before, they had made preparations.
修理了便桥，检查了一切钢索，调换了钢板桩下的抽水机，在钢板桩中间加了一道支撑，上面还加了一圈土口袋。 They prepared the temporary bridge, inspected all of the steel rods, swapped out the pumps underneath the steel pillars, added struts to the steel pillars and put sandbags on top.
这天的会议上又想了许多办法，方针是： At the meeting that day they thought of many more ideas, which in general were:
能坚持，就多坚持一分钟；水情剧变，就立即停止工作。 If they could persevere, then they could last one more minute; but if the water situation changed rapidly, then they would stop work.
党团组织在工人中间也作了工作。 The Party members also worked among the workers.
水下，破碎机加快了凿岩速度，响声连成一片。 In the water, the pneumatic hammers *[?]* sped up their digging, and the sound blurred into one.
梯子上设置了专人注视着岸上，手里紧捏着电门——岸上一摇旗，他就要关死绿灯，打开红灯，命令工人们撤退。 People were assigned to watch the shore on ladders with electric switches in their hands - if the people on the shore waved flags, they would switch off the green lights and turn on red ones, instructing the workers to retreat.
工人们却谁也顾不得仰头去看灯。 The workers couldn't help raising their heads to look at the lights.
河上水涨一点，沉井下面马上就觉得出来。 The water rose a little on the shore, and immediately came out of the bore holes. *[?]*
到中午，水都没了工人们的膝盖。 By midday, the water still hadn't reached the workers' knees.
下午二时，钢板桩的支撑被洪水硬给挤断了，水从钢板桩的缝子里扑扑地淌进来。 At 2pm, the struts for the steel plate pillars snapped in the water, and the water began trickling in through gaps in the steel plate pillars.
工人们不敢挺直腰板——一挺身，就灌一脖子水。 The workers didn't dare to straighten their backs - if they did, the water trickled down their necks.
水一股一股地涌进来，抽水机的大管子都抽不干了。 The water came in gradually, and the large pipes from the water pumps couldn't be kept dry.
工人们仍然支持工作，沉井缓缓地下沉着…… But the workers were still in favour of continuing to work, whilst the bore holes slowly filled with water...
这个时刻，分队办公室里电话响了。 At the moment, the telephone in the unit office rang.
没人接。 Nobody answered it.
过了几分钟，又响了。 After a few minutes, it rang again.
还是没人接。 Still nobody answered it.
电话执拗地响个不停，一个过路去接班的工人进来拿起了听筒。 The telephone stubbornly carried on ringing, and a shift worker who was walking past went in and picked up the receiver.
电话里说，据了解，凌口大桥的便桥不行了，必须马上拆掉。 The person on the other end said, according to our understanding, the temporary bridge at Lingkou Bridge is on the point of collapse, and must be torn down immediately.
这工人告诉它，便桥昨天早已修好了，要拆也不行——沉井下面的工人们怎么回来啊。 The worker told them that the temporary bridge had already been repaired, and couldn't be torn down - how would the workers below the bore holes be able to get back?
电话里的声音沉默了一会儿，又说，必须停止施工，等待局里指示，还要找曾工程师说话。 The person on the other end was silent for a moment, and then said that they had to stop working and wait for instructions from the office, and that they wanted to speak to Engineer Zeng Gang.
这工人放下耳机，朝工地走去。 The worker put the receiver down and walked towards the construction site.
他在桥头上见了曾工程师，想叫他来接电话，可是又一想，算了，抢工要紧，现在就是要谁放弃工作他也不肯干的，于是，就脱下棉衣，换上胶衣，走上了便桥…… He saw Zeng Gang on the bridge head, and was about to call out that there was a phone call when he thought, the work is urgent - no-one would be willing to stop working at this moment - and so he changed from his cotton clothes into his rubber clothes and went onto the temporary bridge.
电话还在办公室里等着，就再也没人理会。 The person on the phone in the office waited, but nobody took any notice.
沉井下面，水还在上涨。 Under the bore holes, the water was rising.
人们工作四小时，就疲劳了，石粉呛人，空气也不是味道。 They had worked for four hours and were nearing exhaustion; the dust was choking and the air smelt bad.
曾工程师下令，把三八制工班改成四六制，另外随时准备一批人接替疲乏过度的工人。 Engineer Zeng gave the order to swap Units 3 and 8 for Units 4 and 6, and to prepare a group to take over from over-tired workers.
……天刚扑亮，沉井落底了。 As the sky began to darken *[?]*, the bore holes fell in. *[??]*
最后一班工人顺梯子爬上水面时，耳朵震动得甚么也听不见了。 When the last shift of workers climbed up ladders to the water level, they were shaken so hard that they couldn't hear a thing.
心里呢，可着实欢哪，就像烧了把火似的。 But in the hearts they were truly happy, as if *[???]*.
一上来，没顾水面已经把便桥给浮了起来，就扯着嗓子朝岸上喊： As they approached, the water had already risen and had lifted the temporary bridge up, and they yelled back to the shore:
“提前啦——！” "Get ready!"
“交——出去啦——！” "It's met - it's going out!"
“这边没问题啦——！” "This side's ok!"
岸上，人们早已在等着这个消息了。 On the shore, people had been waiting for that news.
事情可还没完。 But it wasn't over.
砌石工接着就爬上了桥墩砌镶面石。 The brick layers climbed up on top of the bridge blocks.
说也紧张，工人在上面砌，水在下面涨；石头起一层，水涨起一层。 They spoke nervously - the workers were laying bricks on top, and the water was rising below; as they added each layer of bricks, the water rose a level.
刚把镶面石作完，水就淹上来了…… Just as they finished laying the bricks, the water flooded over...
人们都轻松地喘了口气：就靠这二十四小时，真险哪！ Everyone breathed a sigh of relief: in these twenty-four hours they had really faced danger!
但他们没有欢乐多久。 But they weren't happy for long.
几分钟以后，他们得到一个丧气的消息： After a few minutes, they received disheartening news:
拱桥的一号墩叫洪水给冲垮了。 The first bridge block of the arch bridge had been toppled by the floods.