An earthquake has hit Beichuan County in China just as Yang was thinking about how to punish his fourteen year old daughter, Bing Li, who had not swept the courtyard. He doesn't yet know that many children have been trapped underneath slabs of concrete. Peach tree petals fall on his head. His daughter arrives home from school asking for money to send to the victims at the center of the earthquake. He feels a need to quickly donate blood and goes to Beida Hospital to donate. His wife, Gong, reminds him to get a certificate proving that he's donated. He doesn't.
Yang is a successful businessman now but had been "re-educated" decades earlier and his wife had tried to convince him that it is honorable to have money and nice things. "She had given up trying to explain to him that to be rich was glorious and there was no shame in having means. Even total strangers felt a sense of relief and pride in the presence of success."
The neighbor lady, Old Gao Lin, is the self-appointed police of the hutong. She issues tickets when someone has committed an infringement of neatness etc.
Rabbit, Yang's business partner, wants Yang to donate money. The workers at their metal plant want money donated. There is a lot of mistrust and bribery and suspicions. Yang is having a mid-life crisis along with the earthquake crisis.
Several themes, for me, include, mid-life crisis, governmental official bribery, self-image, people worry about their own well being rather than others, hypocrisy, lack of satisfaction, misplaced anger, mistrust, natural disasters can bring out the worst in people's behavior and national pride.
"Donate!" is a complex story that explores a host of behaviors and universal truths about people.
"Wind chimes clattered in the still air."
Jack Livings' web page
NY Times review of The Dog, his debut short story collection