Salad Days - 4.1
Long time no see… (^_^;) This chapter was never released by the team and I because we all were too busy at the time to continue working on Salad Days, but we did finish a decent rough draft of chapter four, so I thought I’d share it.
After the seasonal chill of April and May had passed, there were a few episodes of rain, temperatures rising faster than the growth of the wheat crops. A single asphalt road led to the town, with lush leaves sprouting from the branches on both sides. Goumao’s winter vacation had ended, and his family bought him a new electric bike.
Wanting to show off, he chose to drive back for more than 20 kilometers during the weekend, and while passing through the fields, purposely slowed while approaching Jiang Shen, who was immersed in transplanting the rice seedlings, yelling, “Shen-zi! I’ll send you back home!”
Jiang Shen raised his head and waved at Goumao. His calves were buried in the dirt, and he wore an oversized woman’s sun hat. Goumao wasn’t able to drive onto the fields, so Jiang Shen slowly plodded towards him. “I still have to work and my feet are all dirty. Besides, isn’t your bike new?”
Goumao exhaled, “Just ask my family if you can borrow our rice transplanter, I’ll tell my dad when I get back!”
Jiang Shen pursed his lips, “What if your mom doesn’t agree?”
Goumao’s voice got caught in his throat. He thought for some time before bluntly parking his car by the roadside. Rolling up the cuffs of his trousers and taking off his shoes, he said, “Come on, I’ll help you plant these.”
Jiang Shen quickly stopped him, “Nah, it’s okay, I’ll be scolded if my dad sees.”
Having taken his shoes off, Goumao didn’t feel like putting them back on, and sat down cross-legged in the field to chat with Jiang Shen. “Are you going back to the Children’s Palace later?”
Jiang Shen nodded, “I’ll go once I’m done working.”
Goumao furrowed his brows, “Why are you going and learning some kind of nonsense too… What on earth are you learning anyways?”
Jiang Shen stalled and refused to answer; Unexpectedly, Goumao didn’t pursue the matter. His bare legs looked cold against the wind, raising a layer of fine goose bumps. He suddenly said, “Why don’t you go to Shubao’s to borrow a rice transplanter?”
Speaking of rice transplanters, though Jiang Luoshan had a “tough guy” character, he had borrowed one from the other families a few times when his back was bad two years ago.
Goumao’s mother, Miao Huaer, was a well-known “fierce lady” in the village. When she married Chen Laoshi, her temper was so bad that she nearly kicked over a brazier. The village women typically had no other entertainment besides farming, and when they were free, they liked to gossip at the cards table. Miao Huaer had a bad temper and a foul mouth, but those who hung out with her were soon used to it.
Tan Lingling played cards occasionally with Miao Huaer and they had a pretty good relationship. Two years ago, they even borrowed a rice transplanter from the Chen family.
Come to think of it, there was a complicated grudge that arose, related to Shubao’s mother, Li Zhuo.
Unlike the locals, Li Zhuo was a city girl. Though she married into the countryside, she was still a financial manager of a large company in the city, even holding shares. Even if her husband’s harvest had been poor one year, Li Zhuo made enough money to feed the family.
Shu Bao’s father’s harvest was poor, but Li Zhuo made enough money to feed the family.
Li Zhuo was not close to anyone in town either, and never bonded over poker with other women. Miao Hua’er always saw her as unpleasant, and felt that people in the city were arrogant and looked down on others.
Tan Lingling heard her gossiping cruelly about Li Zhuo the next time, and couldn’t hold back as she argued: “Shubao’s mom is not that kind of person. Don’t say that, Hua’er-jie.”
For the first time, someone dared to refute the always controlling Miao Hua’er, and she immediately flipped. Tan Lingling was naturally not easy to push around, either. After that, she stopped going to the poker games and returned the rice transplanter to the Chen family.
Miao Huaer truly regretted flaring up at Tan Lingling. Despite having a bad temper, she was also logical — seeing the rice transplanter returned, she felt uncomfortable, but couldn’t swallow her feelings of pride and spent the rest of her New Years’ in distress. Seeing that it was already April, nearing May, Mao Huaer couldn’t help but go visit them while thinking of Tan Lingling’s family situation and Jiang Luoshan’s back.
After hesitating for some time, she decided to head over to Tang Lingling’s after lunch. She crossed the yard while calling brightly, “Ling-mei!”
Tony, the chicken, squawked twice in reply but was shushed by Miao Huaer immediately. She called out again and marched into the living room. There she spotted Li Zhuo, not Tan Lingling, sipping on tea with an imperturbable smile on her face.
With Miao Huaer’s personality being the way it was, since it had come to this, she couldn’t just leave now.
Tan Lingling was airing her laundry at the time, and was a little surprised by Miao Huaer’s sudden appearance. “What brings Huaer-jie here?”
She truly hadn’t minded the disagreement that had unfolded at the cards table previously, and only returned the rice transplanter because she was worried that Miao Huaer would take offense. Not to mention, her family had already intended to purchase one, so she didn’t see the need to keep troubling her.
“Come sit, I’ll pour some tea for you,” Tan Lingling urged eagerly, topping up Li Zhuo’s cup as she explained, “Zhuo-jie’s just here to lend us the rice transplanter, and we were having a simple chat…”
Miao Huaer glanced at Li Zhuo with slight distaste, before sheepishly muttering, “So she’s already agreed to the borrowing….
Li Zhuo sipped her tea in her civil, neat way that differed her from the working women of the village. Her countenance was especially reserved and polite, “We only have a small one at home.” Her voice was soft, “If Huaer-jie is willing to lend a bigger one, I won’t take ours out and disgrace you.”
It was the first time Miao Huaer had heard Li Zhuo speak, especially commending her. She felt warmth in her heart and blushed in perhaps shyness or guilt, hurriedly speaking, “Of course, of course. No big deal! C’mon Ling-mei, how come you didn’t tell me earlier?”
Tan Lingling’s gaze circled between the both of them many times, and the sound of snorting laughter came out of her, “Even though you two have the heart of Bodhisattva, you’re still this formal with each other?*”
T/N: “Heart of Bodhisattva”- bowels of compassion (or pity): kind-hearted; merciful; compassionate
Contrarily, Miao Huar no longer blushed. Her temper was frank, and she fake-slapped herself a few times, speaking towards Li Zhuo, “Goodness me, always so chatty. Zhuo-mei, please don’t take offense.”
Li Zhou giggled too. Although she appeared to be delicate and frail, she winked as she said, “I know nothing of the sort.”
Just as her words were spoken, she began to laugh. Tan Lingling saw her laughing and joined in, teasing Miao Huar, “Mrs. Zhuo’s so good at cards, next time I’ll take her to deal at your table, so make sure to bring more money.”
“Oh no, it looks like I’m losing,” Miao Huaer mentioned as they played. Her temper became resolute, and her mouth more crude, “Watch it, grandma, I’ll knock you guy’s pants off!”