Salad Days - 4.2
I actually bought the physical copy of the Salad Days novel that was mentioned in the last chapter many months ago. I’ll include a picture of the stickers at the end of this page. It includes a Q&A by the author about The novel, too.
When Jiang Shen came in from outside, he heard the room packed with laughter, but didn’t know the reason for it. He had dance lessons in the afternoon, and at noon he waited for his father to bring lunch before wolfing down his food. For the sake of time, he spewed water carelessly on his muddy legs from a hose near the field, then rode in Goumao’s electric bike, rushing home.
Tan Lingling’s sharp eyes caught sight of her son, “Say hello to the guests…… and your shoes are in your room!”
Jiang Shen called out to both aunties in courtesy, not having the spare time to ponder why they’d come to his house. He went to his room to get his ballet shoes, hung them over his neck, and hurriedly dashed out of the house.
Tan Lingling chased after him and yelled, “Bring a little cash!”
Jiang Shen had to go back and dig out the scraps of change.
Miao Huaer questioned, “What’s he about to do?”
Tan Lingling spoke as she walked back, “He signed up for dance lessons at the Children’s Palace and he’s going to class now.”
Even Li Zhou was fairly amazed, “Shen-zi can dance?”
Tan Lingling waved a hand casually, “He’s just learning!”
The ribbons from the ballet shoes that hung off of Jiang Shen’s neck swayed back and forth as he ran as hard as he could into the fields of the countryside, passing by them and a clear, rippling canal. The old man from the book store had a cigarette in his mouth while using a staff to weigh down a newspaper that was being blown away by the wind. As soon as he lifted his head, he caught a glimpse of Jiang Shen running in the distance. With a raised voice, he said, “Slow down!”
Jiang Shen spun around to face him and waved, the breeze ruffling his bangs as sunshine sprinkled on them.
The previous shuttle that was headed to the city was just about ready to drive off. Jiang Shen shouted as he chased after it, “Wait! Wait!”
The driver came to a full stop, and Jiang Shen boarded with frantic strides.
“Be careful! Don’t trip!” the driver scolded him kind-heartedly.
Jiang Shen gasped for air as he thanked him, and put away the shoes dangling off of his neck, sitting amenably in the back row.
In the end, he was a little late when he arrived at the Children’s Palace. Coach Lin said nothing but let Jiang Shen change his clothes first.
There were a dozen or so girls in the class, and Jiang Shen was the only boy. He wore a sleeveless vest and shorts that Coach Lin had hemmed for him. There was no heating in the corridor from the locker rooms to the dance studio, so Jiang Shen hugged his arms together as he jogged through, shivering.
When Coach Lin introduced him, all the other girls gazed at him curiously.
Jiang Shen had never had so many girls staring at him at the same time. His face reddened unconsciously.
“He’s so tanned,” a girl from the front row whispered.
Another girl added, “It’s because he’s a boy.”
Jiang Shen didn’t know where to place his hands and feet.
Coach Lin said sweetly, “Come stand in first position” and clapped her hands. “We’re warming up now.”
The girls dispersed into doing leg stretches in groups of twos and threes. Jiang Shen stood woodenly off to one side, before suddenly remembering the bridge stretch and the splits from before. He did them one by one in order, and just when he’d finished the reverse bridge, one of the girls stared at him again.
“Can you do the splits?” one girl began.
Jiang Shen nodded his head, “I can.” He finished speaking, then, as if he was afraid that the one right in front of him wouldn’t believe him, he promptly did a vertical split.
The girl split horizontally, “Like this.”
Jiang Shen did it once through as shown. The girl rose to her feet and went round behind him, “I’ll help hold your back down.”
Jiang Shen only felt the back of his body sink down, and in an instant, his whole upper half was fastened to the floor.
“Woah,” the girl was a little stunned, “You’re so flexible.”
As soon as her voice fell, all the girls came and surrounded him, some kneeled beside him, leaning their heads in to see if his front had truly touched the floorboards.
“This is the first time a boy’s been so flexible,” one of the slightly older girls said.
Jiang Shen was puzzled, “Are there any other boys?”
The girl said, “It’s just you here, but there’s an all-boys boxing gym next door.”
Like little birds, they helped pull Jiang Shen to his feet, and ran over next door to cluster around where over yonder, a class had also just begun. More than ten boys stood to attention in two rows with hands behind their backs.
“They can’t even do the splits,” the girls said proudly, “See that boy? He looks about the same age as you.”
Jiang Shen looked in the direction that they were pointing at, and the boy who stood at the end of the first row suddenly turned around.
Before Jiang Shen got a clear view, the girl’s ducked their heads down, “He’s looking over here!”
“He even glared at me……”
Jiang Shen struggled for quite a while underneath the girls’ arms until he was freed.
“You mustn’t be like them,” the girls encircling him were gravely serious, “They’re filthy and stinky all day long. We can’t stand them.”