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Xu Zhao subconsciously counted the time, then lifted his gaze towards Mother Xu and asked, “Mom, isn’t the Mid-Autumn Festival on the 15th of the 8th lunar month arriving soon?”
“No, there’s still more than a month,” Mother Xu said.
Xu Zhao thought for a second then asked, “A month or so later, won’t we have to cut the soybeans? Will we be cutting the soybeans around the same time as the Mid-Autumn Festival?”
“That’s right,” Mother Xu said as she ate the noodles.
“Will it still be hot then?” Xu Zhao asked again.
“The mornings aren’t that hot, but the afternoons are. When cutting the soybeans, there are still a lot of people eating popsicles. However, at the end of the eighth month, they won’t eat them anymore because the autumn rain will start by then and it’ll become a lot cooler,” Mother Xu replied.
Xu Zhao made a faint sound of reply and immersed into his own thoughts, starting to think of the idea that had passed through his brain earlier. He once again integrated it and extended the idea, and his heart couldn’t help but feel excited. Previously, he also wanted to do something else. Something that could make him money and let him develop and make even more money.
It was just that in this era, they were short of all kinds of supplies. He couldn’t solely rely on the business model from the 21st century, and he couldn’t sell something just because he said he would. If he didn’t understand the market, he would make a loss.
However, the Mid-Autumn Festival was a traditional holiday that wouldn’t change. According to the feelings and habits the Chinese had for the holiday, this period would be a very good business opportunity.
Xu Zhao looked towards Mother Xu again.
Mother Xu’s chopsticks stopped moving as she asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Mom, our whole family will head to the county town tomorrow,” Xu Zhao said.
“What for?” Mother Xu asked.
“To watch the shop. I’ll let you get used to the situation at the shop first. When it’s time to pull the weeds at the field, I’ll go with you to pull the weeds.”
“I’ll be going to the county town starting tomorrow?” Mother Xu asked again.
“Mn. In any case, you’ll have to go eventually.”
“All right.” In any case, she had promised her son a while ago. She was willing to do anything as long as she could help her son.
However, Mother Xu was secretly nervous all night. She was afraid that she wouldn’t do a good job and cause some losses for her son.
The next morning, Mother Xu got up early to cook breakfast. After eating and taking care of the housework, she looked herself over in the house’s only mirror which was cracked. She used a comb to comb out her grizzled hair one stroke at a time, combing it out so she didn’t have a strand of stray hair in sight. Afterwards, she used a string to tie up her hair and coiled it around the back of her head, making it look clean and neat.
Mother Xu not only tidied herself up this way, she also dressed Father Xu up neatly and clearly, then went to Xu Zhao and asked, “Xu Zhao, will dressing like this be okay?”
“Yes,” Xu Zhao said. Mother Xu had already tidied herself up very well, looking very exquisite.
“I won’t be mocked wearing this, right?” Mother Xu worriedly asked.
“How could you be mocked? You look very good.”
Mother Xu then pulled Father Xu to Xu Zhao’s side and asked, “Then does your dad look okay?”
Xu Zhao earnestly examined Father Xu and really didn’t find any problems and said, “Yes.”
“T-then let’s go.”
And so, Mother Xu pulled the ox cart as Xu Zhao pushed the bicycle. Father Xu and Xu Fan both followed next to the ox cart, and the whole family stepped on the dirt road that led to the county town. Once they were tired, Father Xu and Xu Fan would sit on top of the ox cart as Mother Xu pulled it. Xu Zhao would push the bicycle with one hand and help pull the ox cart with the other.
It seemed like a harmonious scene, but in fact, Mother Xu was extremely nervous. Every few steps, she would have to pat her hair and tug her clothes, afraid that her image would be messed up and causing Xu Zhao to lose face.
“Mom, don’t be nervous. It’ll be fine. You look great,” Xu Zhao helplessly said.
“I’m not. I’m not nervous,” Mother Xu said.
She said that but once they arrived at Fan’s Little Shop, she was still fidgety. As soon as someone came to buy a newspaper or something, she would immediately tense up from nerves. Xu Zhao couldn’t watch any longer and handed the goods list to Mother Xu. Although Mother Xu couldn’t read many characters, Father Xu was about to recognize a lot of characters.
Therefore, Xu Zhao taught Mother and Father Xu how to sell things at the same time. If Mother Xu couldn’t remember the price, Father Xu could help her look at the goods list then tell Mother Xu the price.
Mother Xu was responsible for handing out the goods, collecting the money and giving back change. Mother Xu was an expert at settling accounts, so Xu Zhao wasn’t worried.
Half a day later, Mother and Father Xu did pretty well. Their bodies which were once pulled tight like a bow slowly relaxed. The two people spoke and did things a lot more naturally now.
Two days later, Xu Zhao started teaching Mother and Father Xu the process of acquiring stock. He just wanted them to understand the process and not actually have them go acquire stock since it was too far and exhausting. Xu Zhao planned on helping Mother and Father Xu bring back more stock when he had time while they just needed to sell the items in Fan’s Little Shop.
After three to four days of studying, Mother and Father Xu were basically experts. Even if Xu Zhao left for a bit, Mother and Father Xu could still hold their own.
At this time, the weeds in the crop fields were just about all grown. Xu Zhao notified Cui Qingfeng then stayed in South Bay Village for a few days. Father Xu, Mother Xu, and him went to the fields to pull weeds everyday.
Of course, Xu Zhao and Mother Xu were the ones pulling the weeds. Father Xu couldn’t work and Xu Fan didn’t know how to work. Therefore, Xu Zhao and Mother Xu were the ones who pulled the weeds from the fields while Father Xu and Xu Fan puttered around the edge of the field.
Occasionally, Xu Fan would run to the middle of the field to pull weeds, huffing and puffing as he used his child strength and pulled out two soybeans that still had mud on them. He was reprimanded by Xu Zhao, then drooped his head as he went back to the edge of the field to play. It just so happened that the children of the other villagers were also playing there.
Xu Fan ran up to play with the other children. As they were playing, he started fighting with a three year old child. After the fight, the two children started wailing. After crying, they started playing together again. When Cui Qingfeng came to sell popsicles, Xu Fan gave the three year old child a bite of his popsicles. The two became lively friends again.
Cui Qingfeng hadn’t seen Xu Zhao in many days and especially took out three popsicles to hand to Xu Zhao, Mother Xu, and Father Xu.
“Why are you selling popsicles in the countryside again?” Xu Zhao asked.
“To make more money,” Cui Qingfeng said.
“If you’re here to sell popsicles, then what about Fan’s Little Shop?”
“My dad helped watch it,” Cui Qingfeng said.
“Can Uncle Cui walk now?”
“Yes, he can walk. He can also sell things.”
“He recovered really quickly. Then you should quickly go sell the popsicles. Use the chance while everyone is tired from pulling weeds to sell more. Go home once you’ve sold everything so Uncle Cui doesn’t get too tired.”
Cui Dingchen rode the bicycle all around to sell the popsicles. When he came back, Xu Zhao and the others weren’t by the field anymore. He was a bit disappointed and rode the bicycle back to the Cui residence. Cui Dingchen had also come back at this time.
Recently, Cui Dingchen was staying in the county town longer and longer.
“Youngest uncle, I’m back,” Cui Qingfeng said.
Cui Dingchen nodded, then said, “Why is your dad watching the shop on the intersection?”
“Because I went to the countryside to sell popsicles today,” Cui Qingfeng replied.
Cui Dingchen paused for a moment then asked, “Where’s Xu Zhao? Why isn’t he here?”
“He’s at home,” Cui Qingfeng said.
Cui Dingchen raised an eyebrow towards Cui Qingfeng and asked again, “What’s he doing at home?”
“Pulling weeds. His family has three mus of soybeans, so they need to pull weeds.”
“Can’t they just use pesticides?”
“He said pesticides are too expensive and not as thorough as pulling weeds themselves.”
Cui Dingchen didn’t speak. He turned around and headed to his room. His room was very simple and crude. It had a bed with a plaid bed sheet, a row of cabinets, a desk, and a chair. However, it was very neat and tidy. Once he entered the room, he sat on the bed and changed into his slippers out of habit. In the corner of his eye, he caught sight of the Chienmen cigarettes on the desk, and he suddenly recalled Xu Zhao on the day he wore the white short-sleeved shirt.
Xu Zhao was currently bathing Xu Fan under the bright sun at this moment.
Xu Fan stripped naked and sat his plump body into the large iron basin as he cried loudly.
“Don’t cry,” Xu Zhao said.
Xu Fan flattened his lips, holding back his tears, feeling very wronged. His Daddy said he couldn’t play in the water, so he didn’t. He and Da Zhuang didn’t play in the water, but in the mud. They wanted to catch mud loaches, but didn’t catch any in the end. The two children had fallen and covered their whole bodies in mud, then were taught a lesson.
“Don’t you know that this is the only outfit you have?” Xu Zhao said.
Xu Fan was silent.
“Once you’re done bathing, you’ll run around naked in the courtyard.”
“I have my old clothes,” Xu Fan said.
“Your old clothes have already been cut up by your Grandma to make shoes.”
And so, Xu Fan stayed at home while naked, waiting for his clothes to dry before putting them on. It was already afternoon at this time so Xu Zhao and his family went back to the fields to pull weeds again, working for another half a day before the three mus of weeds were finally all pulled. When they returned home, their hands were covered with weed juice. They used soap to wash it for a long time, but weren’t able to completely wash it off.
Xu Zhao washed for a long time.
The next day, Xu Zhao brought Mother Xu and the others to Fan’s Little Shop, then Xu Zhao went to the Cui residence. The first thing he did was use soap as he squatted next to the well to continue washing his hands. He rubbed his hands until a few soap bubbles were made. As he was about to rinse them off, he realized that there was no water inside the porcelain basin and he hadn’t brought the ladle to scoop out some water from the water jar. As he was about to call for Cui Qingfeng, Cui Dingchen, who was currently standing by the entrance smoking and thinking, suddenly spoke up, “Let me.”
Xu Zhao was stunned, then said with a slight smile, “Thank you, Youngest uncle.”
Cui Dingchen extinguished the cigarette and threw it into the trash. He took the ladle that was on top of the plastic cover of the water jug, opened the water jug, and scooped out a ladle-full of water. When he was about to splash it on Xu Zhao’s hands, Xu Zhao quickly said, “You don’t have to splash it on my hands. You can just pour it in the porcelain basin.”
Cui Dingchen paused for a moment, glanced at Xu Zhao, then turned his arm in a certain direction to pour the ladle of water into the porcelain basin. Afterwards, he was going to scoop another ladle of water when he heard Xu Zhao speak, “Thank you, Youngest uncle. It’s enough.”
Cui Dingchen hummed in acknowledgment and pulled the ladle from inside the water jug and placed it on top of the water jug.
“Thank you,” Xu Zhao said again.
“Then, Youngest uncle, you should go do what you need to,” Xu Zhao said with a smile.
Cui Dingchen stepped away.
When Xu Zhao entered the popsicle room, he started making popsicles with Cui Qingfeng. When they were just about done, he said to Cui Qingfeng, “Qingfeng, I want to go to the city in a few days.”
Cui Qingfeng was surprised and asked, “Go to the city? Why do you want to go to the city?”