After the New Year’s celebration, it seemed as if time had accelerated. In a flash, the lantern festival arrived which meant the start of the new term. Teacher Lin had not yet appeared. I had gone to the primary school many times, and there were no signs of activity in the school.

Although that big “firework” on New Year’s Eve had almost frightened me to death, it also made me find a new joy. Of course, I wouldn’t dare to again set off a similar great “firework”, but there was no harm in trying out all sorts and varieties of seal script characters. Nowadays, not even paper or brush is needed, and I can just use finger to trace them out in thin air. However, it’s not possible to succeed everytime, after all, I am unable to succeed every time even with the paper and brush, moreover the success rate is not high. Tracing out characters in thin air is still even more difficult.

The 水 (Water) character is one which I managed to draw out successfully, as it remained floating in the air, the air in the surroundings immediately became moist, and very quickly, a sparkling ball of transparent rain water began condensing in the air. This water was even clearer than well-water. Under the azure sky, it looked like a spherical azure crystal. On the outside layer, the layer of water flowed like liquid metal. Sunshine, when passing through this ball of water, refracted into a rainbow. Too beautiful! I was enchanted by this beautiful thing that I had formed.

“Yang Yang!” Grandpa upon not seeing me, shouted out for me in the yard.

I naturally wouldn’t do these kinds of things out in the open, and was instead hiding behind the fruit trees located at the back of our house.

I felt panicked in my heart, naturally the control over the seal script character became a mess. That ball of water came down with a pop, and upon hitting the peach tree besides me, splashed water in all directions, leading to me ending up dripping wet.

I walked out somewhat annoyingly.

“You, this kid, how did you end up dripping wet?” Grandpa who saw me completely soaked from head to toe, immediately began grumbling.

“Don’t blame this on me. Just now when I had gone into the forest, a lump of snow which hadn’t melted suddenly fell down onto me. I was wet by the time I heard a sound.” I naturally didn’t dare tell the truth.

“Is there any snow on the trees?” Grandpa looked at me with suspicion. Within the village by this time, all the snow had almost finished melting. Only the roofs in the northern side had some sporadic snow. Moreover, the leftover snow from the snow day had been stacked up in a corner, or had been piled up into heaps by children. Teacher Lin and I had also piled up that Snow man, even after I scamper in all directions repeatedly to come up with snow to patch it up, but it looks like it would still be very difficult for Teacher Lin to return to the village.

“There was snow, blocked by tree leaves, which hadn’t melted. How could I have known that it would suddenly fall down when I walked underneath it. You are shouting incessantly, but if I hadn’t been running so fast, then I wouldn’t have gotten hit.” I said grumbling.

Grandpa also didn’t pursue the issue of whether there was snow or not atop the trees.

“Did you complete your winter vacation’s school assignment? Enrollment must be done right away, if you don’t finish your school assignment, then when the time comes, the Teacher won’t enroll you.” Grandpa asked.

My face darkened, if Teacher Lin didn’t come back, then would I ever encounter any teacher that would treat me the same way as Teacher Lin?

Grandpa was obviously aware of my thoughts: “YangYang, Teacher Lin is a city person, even more she is a cultured person, how could it be possible for her to stay in our poor mountain ditch of a village for a whole lifetime? I had heard Mr. Han say that Teacher Lin had originally been sent by the Education bureau provisionally. Maybe this term they will send an official teacher.”

“I know.” I was not interested in this topic, thinking about such facts only made me sad. However, in my heart, there was still hope that Teacher Lin would come back.

I recalled the snow man that Teacher Lin and I had built, and secretly thought in mind, “Perhaps if the snowman is allowed to melt, Teacher Lin would come back.”

In fact, I was actually very worried that Teacher Lin would leave me and go far away so that I would be able to see her anymore in the future, just like my parents.

Grandpa was preparing to take advantage of the weather which had started becoming nice and warm. Going down to the fish pond to block the culvert, and closing off the pond water, and waited for the fish to sprout, so it can be used to breed fish. This fish pond last year had brought tremendous benefit to me and Grandpa. This year, we were prepared to go all out.

“Second Uncle, it’s so cold today, how are you able to go down into the water? Didn’t you have foot disease? If by chance the illness festers, then how would you maintain your entire farmland?” Thirteenth Uncle said while facing Grandpa who was labouring in the fish pond while he squatted ashore besides the pond.

“Cheng Golai, you first go have a seat in the room. I will just finish this in a short while. You need not worry about my foot illness. I don’t know how, but my feet haven’t suffered from the illness this year. As if they are already well.” Grandpa only then noticed that his leg illness had already gone away without him being even aware of it.

“Well? This your old illness, how could it become well so easily?” Thirteenth Uncle asked in disbelief.

“Did you not want your Second Uncle’s feet to get well?” Grandpa was not happy with the way Thirteenth Uncle was looking.

“It’s not that, Second Uncle, I had no such thoughts. I was just anxious whether your leg illness might have flared up?” Thirteenth Uncle quickly explained.

“Why so tense? Your Second Uncle has still not gone senile! Go, sit inside the house.” Grandpa smiled as he washed the mud off his feet, before coming to the shore, putting on slippers and immediately walking towards home.

While entering through the door, Grandpa yelled out to me: “Yang Yang, pour some tea for your Thirteenth Uncle.”

“Yang Yang, no need to pour tea, it’s not the first time I have come to your house.” Thirteenth Uncle pulled me to his side. “Yang Yang, you have grown so quick. You look like a 10 year old kid.”

“His laziness has also grown.” Although these words came out of Grandpa’s mouth, the words were infused with pride.

“You, this kid, such a young boy, how did you manage to understand so many things? You even know how to raise pigs, ducks, geese and even fish. Even the grownups in the village wouldn’t know more than you. Tell your thirteenth uncle, do you miss your Papa and Mama?”

I tightly pursed my lips, and also didn’t nod.

“You shouldn’t blame your Papa and Mama too much, it’s not easy for them to live outside. If one goes in search for job outside from our village, not being literate, one can only do physical labour to survive. The wages are also not high. Your parents have even brought your younger brother there, the pressure upon them is tremendous. Everyday they are needed to work overtime. Working overtime during the new year gives overtime wages in addition to red envelope. Do you really believe they do not think of coming back? They also think.” Thirteenth Uncle patted me on my shoulder.

Thirteenth Uncle had come to our house mainly to help take my parent’s things. Years ago, Grandpa had smoked some good bacon, and had also air-dried some ducks. Two live chickens had been placed into a cardboard box in preparation. There was also a large sack chocked full with Ba Jiao village’s local produce.

“It really is embarrassing that making you carry so many things over. However, they were the ones who committed wrong remaining outside. Without passing over, I felt somewhat uneasy.“ Grandpa somewhat embarrassingly said.

Thirteenth Uncle promptly said: “Second Uncle, where is the need for all these words. We also have a lot of people going, the car is prepared and ready to be packed. This little bit of things will just occupy a bit of space in the car that’s all. The car will go directly to our house. Seventh Elder Brother will come at that time to take them. I wouldn’t need to waste even the slightest bit of energy.”

“This cured duck is for you. Yang Yang’s raised duck, it tastes good, and you should also try.” Grandpa used another plastic bag to pack a duck.

Thirteenth Uncle glanced around in the house, he would naturally know that this big sack of things is already this family’s entire belongings.

“What are you saying, Second Uncle? We are one family, what is the need for doing this? Although me and Seventh brother are not blood related, we are not really that different from blood brothers. If you are like that, then i won’t take these things for you. You can give them to whomever you’d like to pass it on.” Thirteenth Uncle said angrily.

“Thirteenth Uncle. This fresh duck is really to let you taste it. It’s flavour is really distinct. You need not worry about me and Grandpa not having things to eat at home. During the new year’s time, I bought a lot of chickens and ducks from the town on the way back. There are also several hens in the house, that have started to lay eggs. Later on, I will have eggs to eat with Grandpa every day. We also have a lot of cured fish in the house.” I said hastily.

“Silly kid, still saying that you do not miss your father and mother. Clearly this bears a lot on your minds. Ok, I will accept this duck. Your father and mother were not at home, there wasn’t anybody who would have given you new year’s money. Last year, you came first in the final exam, so take this reward from your Thirteenth Uncle.” Thirteenth Uncle took fifty yuan out from his pocket and squeezed them into my hand, “work hard on your studies. After growing up, you must move away from Ba Jiao village. For us people in the village, studying is the only way out. Otherwise you can be like our generation’s people, and do coolie work outside.”

I didn’t want to take Thirteenth Uncle’s money, Thirteenth Uncle said unhappily: “If you are not willing to take Thirteenth Uncle’s money, then thirteenth uncle will not pass on the things to your Papa and Mama. Also, I won’t take your cured duck meat.”

I was somewhat hesitant. Grandpa spoke at this time: “You need to accomplish a lot. Yang Yang, you accept it. Remember your Thirteenth Uncle’s words. You must study well.”

On the day when Thirteenth Uncle was to go to Guangdong, Grandpa and I took Old Yellow to see off Thirteenth Uncle to the town.

“Second Uncle, Yang Yang, you can go back. Yang Yang, you must listen to what your Grandpa says. Must strive for excellence, and in the future must gain admission to a University.” Thirteenth Uncle patted me on my shoulder.

I followed Grandpa as we both walked back with our mouths sealed shut. I didn’t know what to say. After seeing off Thirteenth Uncle, there was a somewhat empty feeling in the heart.

“Ai, ox puller, ox puller.” A forty-fifty year old middle-aged man chasing after us while calling in our direction.

Grandpa and I stopped.

“Uncle, I want to ask you one thing.” That middle-aged man came forward, while giving a cigarette to Grandpa.

“What thing?” Grandpa asked.

“This lowly one is called He Dachao. Last year, weren’t you the one in town who sold several free-range chickens in cages?” He Dachao introduced himself.

“Indeed, why?” Grandpa asked somewhat puzzledly.

“Old Sir, you need not worry. I just wanted to ask if your house has some more free-range chicken to sell? I have opened a restaurant in the town. I bought several chicken from your hands on that day. Do you still remember?” He Daochao’s body was a bit chubby, and as he smiled, he looked someone easy to be close to.

I immediately thought: “Indeed, you were the first person who bought our chickens.”

“Right Right Right, it was me.” He Dachao nodded.

“Now what? Do you want to buy more chickens? However, our family altogether raised twenty or so chicken. All are sold out now. The lot being raised from the New year’s time have still not grown up.” Grandpa said.

“No problem, No Problem. I will give you my phone number. When your chickens are grown up, you call me. I will buy your free-range chicken raised by you at a high price. Also, they must be as good as those I bought last year.” He Dachao said.





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