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“Watch the shop? What shop?”
“The small shop on the intersection in the county town,” Xu Zhao replied.
“You want me to watch it?” Mother Xu used an expression of disbelief to look at Xu Zhao. As a person who had lived in the village since birth and the amount of times she had gone to the county town could be counted on one hand, how could she go to the county town to watch the shop and sell things? Wouldn’t she just cause trouble?
Xu Zhao nodded and said, “Yes.”
“Do you think I can do it?” Mother Xu asked this with a smile.
“Don’t talk nonsense,” Mother Xu said with a smile. “If you wanted me to work in the fields and cut wheat, I could do it. But I definitely can’t watch the shop. The amount of words I can read is less than 20. How could I watch over a store?”
“But Mom, you’re very smart and capable,” Xu Zhao said with a smile.
“How am I smart and capable?”
“You can settle accounts, you know how to talk, and you can do housework.”
“How can that compare to going to the county town to sell items?”
“Why can’t it? This stuff is a lot more amazing than selling stuff. Mom, are you not going to help me?”
Mother Xu’s hands stopped as she asked, “Xu Zhao, are you not going to be serious?”
“I am serious. Why wouldn’t I be? Mom, I really need your help.”
Her son spoke up and said he needed her help—
Mother Xu was silent for a moment. In fact, she was quite afraid of interacting with the people in the city. Although the county town was small, the people in the county town would still look down on villagers like her. She was afraid of embarrassing her son. However, her son needed help, and as a mother, she couldn’t refuse. She looked at Xu Zhao and said, “Then I’ll give it a try. If things don’t sell well, don’t blame me.”
“I won’t blame you,” Xu Zhao smiled and said.
“All right. You can call me when you need me and I’ll take your father with me. Now let’s light the fire and start cooking.”
Xu Zhao took out a box of batches from a small hole on the stove. He fished out a match, stuck it to ignite it, and sent it to the stove to light the straw. Seeing the stove raging with fire, his heart was also burning.
He must first stabilize Fan’s Little Shop so that they had income to support his Dad, Mom, and child. After that, he can try doing something else to make even more money. That way, he’ll be able to buy fall clothes, winter clothes, as well as quilts so that they can pass the winter a bit more comfortably and warmly. They won’t go hungry or get frozen.
However, before Mother and Father Xu could help out at the shop, he needed to discuss it with Cui Qingfeng first, organize the goods at the small shop, as well as plan what they would do next. Only then could he hand over the shop to Mother and Father Xu.
And so the next morning, he brought Xu Fan to the Cui residence. Before leaving, Mother Xu pulled Xu Zhao aside and urged him to go to the east of the village to Old Wang’s house to get his hair shaved. Old Wang would help you shave your hair bald. Xu Zhao wasn’t willing and planned to get his hair trimmed at a barber shop inside the county town as well as get Xu Fan’s hair tripped as well. Afterwards, in accordance with Mother Xu’s wishes, he would buy some new clothes. Only then did Mother Xu let Xu Zhao and Xu Fan leave South Bay Village.
When they arrived in the county town, Xu Zhao first went to the Cui residence. After finishing their work, he had Cui Qingfeng watch over Fan’s Little Shop.
Xu Zhao took Xu Fan to the barber shop to get their hair cut. The barber shop was very simple and crude, with only two mirrors, two stools, and two tables inside. On the tables were a comb, scissors, hair clippers, as well as shampoo and hair mousse. It was very simple, but the barber was still very serious in his work. The haircuts he gave Xu Zhao and Xu Fan were quite good. Afterwards, Xu Zhao took Xu Fan to buy new clothes.
This time, it wasn’t for Xu Fan but Xu Zhao himself.
Xu Zhao visited two or three clothes shops, then bought a white crew neck short-sleeved shirt and black pants. He wanted to buy other colors but there weren’t any. He wanted to find something else like more fashionable patterns but they didn’t have it. The outfit he purchased was already one of the best. In total, he spent almost 5 Yuan. He originally wanted to buy another pair of leather shoes, but the cheapest pair of leather shoes were 25 Yuan. He didn’t have the money and couldn’t bear to buy it anyway, so he continued to wear the cloth shoes Mother Xu made him. In any case, Mother Xu will make him another pair in a few days. After that, he carried the clothes and brought Xu Fan back to the Cui residence.
On the road, Xu Fan asked nonstop questions. “Daddy, why aren’t you wearing the new clothes?”
“I’ll wash it first then wear it,” Xu Zhao said with a smile.
“Then you should quickly wash it,” Xu Fan urged worriedly.
“Okay. I’ll wash it when we arrive at your Uncle Cui’s house.”
“Daddy, you look so good wearing the new clothes!”
“Yep! Daddy is the mooooost handsome person in the whoooole village!”
The son really knew how to compliment others. A beautiful man like him was dubbed the most handsome man in the village.
Xu Zhao bent down and picked up Xu Fan, then returned to Fan’s Little Shop.
“Oh! Xu Fan, you shaved your head?” Cui Qingfeng immediately exclaimed.
“Yep!” Xu Fan earnestly nodded as if he was happily asking for praise.
Cui Qingfeng opened his mouth and said, “Wow, your face looks so big now.”
Xu Fan: “…”
Xu Zhao: “…”
“Xu Zhao, your haircut looks very good.” Cui Qingfeng didn’t dare directly look at the handsome Xu Zhao, so he turned around and started sorting the newspapers.
“I also think it looks good,” Xu Zhao said with a smile, then after greeting Cui Qingfeng, he brought Xu Fan to the Cui residence to make popsicles. While there, he also washed the new clothes and let it dry inside the Cui residence’s courtyard. Once the popsicles were finished, he took Xu Fan to deliver the popsicles then went to pick up the cigarettes. Once that was done, they went to the noodle factory to pick up the noodles. Coming from the noodle factory, the father and son were covered in flour
It was a good thing Xu Zhao had new clothes and it had already dried, so Xu Zhao changed his clothes.
“Wow! Daddy, you look so good!” Xu Fan’s eyes were gleaming, his mouth open as he looked at Xu Zhao. “Daddy, you look so so good!”
Xu Zhao couldn’t help but pick up Xu Fan, kissing his soft and fat cheeks as he said, “How are you able to boost up Daddy’s confidence so well?”
“Daddy, what does boost mean?”
“It’s—It’s nothing. Let’s go to Fan’s Little Shop to sell popsicles.”
Xu Fan patted his tiny belly and said, “But, Daddy. I’m hungry. I want to eat rice crispy.”
Rice crispy was a traditional snack. The main ingredient to make it was glutinous rice, white granulated sugar and a bit of peanuts. Because the county town doesn’t produce this kind of rice, rice crispy was very expensive. A lot of people loved eating it, but only a few of them would be willing to buy it. A small piece would cost 50 cents. However, if Xu Fan wanted to eat it, Xu Zhao would buy him a small piece. Afterwards, he carried Xu Fan to Fan’s Little Shop.
Cui Qingfeng was currently standing outside the store handing someone a popsicle. He didn’t even turn back to look before saying, “Xu Zhao, where did you go?”
“Went to buy rice crispy for Xu Fan.”
“Sanwa really does love to eat!” Cui Qingfeng said to Xu Fan, then turned to Xu Zhao and said, “Xu Zhao, it’s fine for my dad to take his medicine. I need to go home and see if he took it yet or else my youngest uncle will yell at me once he gets home.”
“Sure, you should go back,” Xu Zhao replied.
“I’ll be right back.”
“No worries. Go take care of your matters.”
Cui Qingfeng covered the small quilt over the foam box and covered the lid. When he turned around, he didn’t see Xu Zhao but saw Xu Fan’s laying against the window. His two hands were holding the rice crispy, greatly resembling a small dog gnawing on a bone. His small face was very plump, making Cui Qingfeng’s heart move. He went up to pinch his check and said, “You big foody.” Once he finished pinching, he ran away. Even after he had run quite the distance, he could still hear Xu Fan shout.
Once Xu Fan finished shouting, he called out, “Daddy! Uncle Cui is a meanie! He pinched me!”
“Where did he pinch you?” Xu Zhao asked as he picked up the penny on the ground.
“On my face!” Xu Fan puffed out.
“It’ll be alright. Don’t let him pinch you next time. Be good and eat your rice crispy.”
Speaking of eating, Xu Fan’s anger naturally dissipated. “Mn, the rice crispy is so good.”
Xu Fan continued to gnaw on the rice crispy.
Xu Zhao sat next to him, thinking about some matters while he sold popsicles.
The business at Fan’s Little Shop was good. There was always an endless stream of people buying things. When it was almost noon, the store was finally empty. Xu Zhao packed up, preparing to hand the store over to Cui Qingfeng and take Xu Fan home to eat when a black car suddenly stopped in front of the shop.
Xu Fan was immediately excited, his small body moving about as he said, “Daddy! Daddy! Look! It’s the big car! The big car is here!”
“Mn, don’t be so excited. It’s a compact car,” Xu Zhao said.
“It’s the big car!”
“…” Fine, it would be called a big car from now on.
Xu Zhao was too lazy to argue with Xu Fan and looked back at the compact car.
The door of the black car opened. Cui Dingchen wore a casual short-sleeved shirt, long pants, his posture straight and firm as he walked forward towards the window of Fan’s Little Shop.
“Second Grandpa Cui!” Xu Fan energetically called out.
“…” Being called Second Grandpa Cui again. Xu Zhao seemed to be able to feel the jaw line on Cui Dingchen’s jaw stretch a bit more.
“Second Grandpa Cui, you’re here!” Xu Fan was completely excited.
“Mn,” Cui Dingchen calmly replied.
“Second Grandpa Cui, you drove the big car back.”
“Mn,” Cui Dingchen answered again without a trace of emotion.”
Xu Zhao reached out his hand and gave Xu Fan a popsicle. Since he was worried that it would harm a child’s body if they ate too many popsicles, Xu Zhao had prevented Xu Fan from eating popsicles a long time ago. He was only allowed to eat half a popsicle once every week or every other week, or else he would have his booty smacked. Therefore, it had already been two weeks since Xu Fan had a popsicle. Once he saw the popsicle, he immediately stared at it. Grabbing the popsicle, he sat by the stool by the window and sucked on the popsicle while his wandering eyes continued to stare at the back compact car.
Xu Zhao made a slightly depressed expression as he turned to Cui Dingchen and greeted him, “Youngest uncle, you’re back.”
Cui Dingchen hummed and said, “Give me a pack of cigarettes.”
“Youngest uncle, didn’t you smoke Chienmen before?” Xu Zhao asked.
Cui Dingchen raised his eyes, the light in his pupils stared profoundly at Xu Zhao as he said, “The Chienmen brand then.”
Xu Zhao handed Chienmen a pack of Chienmens.
“How much is it?” Cui Dingchen asked.
“50 cents,” Xu Zhao said.
Cui Dingchen fished out 10 Yuan from his pocket and handed it to Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao accepted it and turned around to grab the change. However, after searching all four corners of Fan’s Little Shop, he realized that 10 Yuan was still quite a huge denomination. Xu Zhao opened the change box, and even after adding up all the change they had, it didn’t equal 10 Yuan.
He originally had enough change, but after buying the clothes and rice crispy, he didn’t have enough. Therefore, he handed the 10 Yuan back to Cui Dingchen and apologetically said, “Youngest uncle, I don’t have enough change to give back to you.”
Cui Dingchen put away the 10 Yuan and nodded as he said, “I’ll owe you 50 cents then.”
“Okay.” Xu Zhao slightly smiled.
Xu Zhao always thought that Xu Fan’s smile was very stunning and healing. However, he didn’t realize that Xu Fan had learned the smile from him. Moreover, with the two faint dimples by the side of his mouth, it was truly breathtaking.
Cui Dingchen glanced at Xu Zhao, then grabbed the Chienmen and suddenly said to Xu Zhao, “The new clothes look good.”