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Mother Xu’s happy face glanced at Xu Zhao, and had on a rare teasing expression as if to say “take a guess.” It was definitely something good. “Is it regarding the greenhouse vegetables?” Xu Zhao probed.
Mother Xu finally spoke, “Yes. Those two people called.”
“Which two people?” Xu Zhao continued to ask.
“The two who came to the village a few days ago, one was short and the other tall. I thought they weren’t going to buy vegetables and was vexed about those two people.”
It was the two managers from Jiang Ping Restaurant!
“They want to purchase vegetables?” Xu Zhao asked with surprise.
“Mn. They left a phone number and told me to tell you to call them when you get back so you could discuss in detail.”
Although Mother Xu didn’t know many characters, her rich life experience allowed her to jot down ten Arabic numbers. Xu Zhao didn’t doubt this in the slightest and asked, “Where is the phone number?”
Mother Xu pointed to the west wing room and said, “Besides the telephone.”
“Okay, I’ll go call them back.”
Xu Zhao helped Xu Fan off the bicycle, then quickly parked the bicycle and rushed to the west wing. He quickly took the crooked numbers beside the telephone and dialed Jiang Ping Restaurant. After discussing with the other party, he hung up the phone and saw Mother and Father Xu with faces full of expectation.
“How did it go?” Mother Xu hurriedly asked.
“Really well,” Xu Zhao said with a slight smile.” Starting tomorrow, we’ll deliver about 10 Yuan worth of vegetables to Jiang Ping Restaurant every morning.”
“10 Yuan!” the two elders exclaimed in shock.
“Mn.” Xu Zhao was very happy. He never thought that the little idea he had randomly thought up, one where he would sell vegetables at Fan’s Little Shop, would actually turn into a huge business. He would make 10 Yuan everyday.
“So much!” Mother and Father Xu said again at the same time.
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “Mom, Dad, this can’t be considered a lot. This will make sure that we won’t be living in poverty. We’ll hit the jackpot later on.”
Although it had been set that they would deliver vegetables to the steel factory everyday, the steel factory couldn’t be considered as hitting the jackpot. Moreover, the vegetables they were currently delivering to the steel factory were to repay the money owed for the steep pipes.
“Jackpot?” Mother Xu asked with doubt.
“The jackpot from selling vegetables. We’ll have to rush for the Minor Spring Festival.”
“The Minor Spring Festival.” Mother Xu secretly calculated it and said, “It’s still too early. There’s still over a month, almost two months. With so much time, there’s no need to rush.”
“We have to rush.”
“Why do you say that?” Mother Xu asked in confusion.
Xu Zhao patiently explained, “During that time, everyone will be preparing merchandise for the New Year, candy, meat, clothes, and everything will increase in price. Lots of people will be buying, and our vegetables will also increase in price. The jackpot we’ll be making is from the days surrounding the festival.”
“Can we really earn that much?” Mother Xu was still half in doubt.
“Yes. Just wait. I’ll make sure to plant the vegetables well. Once the Minor Spring Festival comes, we’ll definitely be able to earn money.”
Xu Zhao had just finished speaking when a small chubby child came in through the door—Xu Fan.
“Daddy,” Xu Fan shouted with an embarrassed expression.
What happened? Why did Xu Fan’s style suddenly change?
Xu Zhao was puzzled and asked, “Sanwa, what happened?”
Xu Fan wobbled to the west wing door, placing his small hand next to his mouth. His voice was very low as he said, “Daddy, give me a penny.”
“You’re buying pickled plum powder again?” Xu Zhao asked.
“Even Da Zhuang bought some.”
“You’ve bought it three days in a row. Don’t buy anymore.” Since Xu Erwa had learned how to ask for money from adults, Xu Fan would ask for a penny every day, then run to the small shop inside the village. He didn’t think it was tiring at all.
“Buy,” Xu Fan said.
“Don’t buy,” Xu Zhao said.
“Buy…” Xu Fan said.
Xu Fan was reluctant, and he very pitifully leaned against the wooden door, looking as if he was going to cry without actually shedding any tears. His meaty hand clung to the wooden frame as he grumbled in a whisper, “I want to buy. I want to buy pickled plum powder. I want a penny.”
Xu Zhao: “…”
“Baobao, come here. Grandpa will give you a penny,” Father Xu said.
Hearing this, Xu Fan’s watery eyes turned to Xu Zhao, asking for permission.
Xu Zhao nodded.
A sunny smile immediately blossomed on Xu Fan’s face as he quickly ran to Father Xu.
Father Xu pulled a coin out of his pants pocket and handed it to Xu Fan.
Once Xu Fan took it, he looked at it and said, “Grandpa, this isn’t a penny.”
Father Xu smiled and said, “That’s right. This isn’t a penny. This is 5 cents.”
Wasn’t it a good thing to have more money?
However, Xu Fan’s milky voice sounded, “Grandpa, I don’t want 5 cents.”
“Why not?” Father Xu curiously asked.
“I want a penny,” Xu Fan said.
“You can also spend 5 cents and buy pickled plum powder,” Father Xu explained.
“I don’t want 5 cents, I want a penny.”
“…” This child wasn’t greedy in the slightest.
In the end, Xu Zhao gave Xu Fan a penny. Xu Fan grabbed the penny and immediately ran with Daddy to the small shop inside the village. When he came back, he grabbed the bag of pickled plum powder and ran in front of Xu Zhao. “Daddy, for you!”
“Daddy won’t eat this. You eat it.”
“It’s really good!”
“Since it’s good, you eat it.”
Xu Fan repeatedly nodded. “Mn, I’ll eat it all!”
Xu Fan’s small mouth skillfully ate into the pickled plum powder bag biting into a corner. His small meaty hand used force to pull and a “whoosh” sound came. The pickled plum powder bag had split in half.
Xu Zhao: “…”
After Xu Fan cried out, his small meaty hands pinched the corners of the pickled plum powder bag. He looked at Xu Zhao and said, “How embarrassing.”
Xu Zhao suspected that he heard incorrectly and asked, “What?”
“How embarrassing,” Xu Fan said again.
“…” This child learned things too quickly. Last time, Xu Zhao had Xu Fan memorize poems. Xu Fan insisted on singing and even asked Xu Zhao if it sounded good. And to that Xu Zhao replied, “I’m not going to pay attention to you. I’ll let you be embarrassed by yourself. Don’t you find it embarrassing?”
He didn’t expect Xu Fan to be able to use it today already, and he even used it while sounding so solemn. It made Xu Zhao question his own intelligence. The child was smart, really smart. Xu Zhao smiled and pinched Xu Fan’s little round cheeks. He then went with Mother and Father Xu, and Da Zhuang’s father to the greenhouse to pick vegetables.
The weather had gotten colder, so they placed the vegetables at home for the night after picking them. This way, it wouldn’t affect the taste the next day. Therefore, at dusk, using the time before the sun had set, Xu Zhao, Da Zhuang’s father, and Mother Xu went to the greenhouse and picked and weighed the Chinese cabbage, spinach, garlic shoots, spring onions, cilantro, celery, as well as the pumpkins that were planted outside of the courtyard.
The next morning, Xu Zhao brought the warmly dressed Xu Fan and delivered vegetables to Fan’s Little Shop, the steel factory, and Jiang Ping Restaurant, before going to the vegetable market to sell the rest of the vegetables.
After getting close to 20 Yuan at once, Xu Zhao felt truly happy. He rode the bicycle and asked, “Xu Fan, it’s almost your birthday. What do you want as a birthday present?”
Xu Fan sat on the front handlebars and asked, “Daddy, what is a birthday present?”
“It’s what you want for your birthday?”
“I want pickled plum powder.”
“…Xu Baobao, let’s think bigger and bolder to find an even more amazing present, okay?”
“Okay, Daddy. I want Second Grandpa Cui’s big car!”
The corners of Xu Zhao’s mouth twitched as he said, “…Can we be a bit more realistic?”
“What does realistic mean?”
T-this method of speaking that made others speechless inexplicably made Xu Zhao think of Cui Dingchen. He suddenly thought if he should ask Cui Dingchen over for Xu Fan’s birthday?
Forget it, he was too busy. He should head to the city himself to buy Xu Fan a birthday cake. It was unlikely that he’d be able to hear what Xu Fan wanted for his birthday right now, so he said, “Xu Fan, Daddy will buy you another pair of shoes later. After the New Year and Daddy has made money, I’ll buy a three door wardrobe with a mirror so that you can stare in the mirror everyday, okay?”
“Okay. Big mirrors are handsome.” The word “handsome” was also taught by Xu Zhao to Xu Fan.
The father and son chatted like this all the way to South Bay Village. When they arrived home, Mother Xu was making cotton clothes with Da Zhuang’s grandma at the entrance of the main hall. Main hall made Xu Fan a small cotton-padded jacket. Da Zhuang’s grandma made Da Zhuang a small cotton-padded jacket. The two elders never ran out of things to chat about.
They started by chatting about Xu Fan and Da Zhuang all the way to how they didn’t have anything to eat in the 60s, lamenting the miserable years where they had to nibble on tree bark and whatnot. They never thought that they’d be able to live good days. The topic of conversation then landed on Xu Zhao.
After Da Zhuang’s grandma left, Mother Xu came over with a huge smile on her face as he spoke about the blind date. She said that in Da Zhuang’s maternal grandma’s village, there was a man that had a good background. He was older than Xu Zhao by two years and was also an intellect. Although he hadn’t completed secondary school since his family was poor, he now worked at a factory in the city. He made 20-30 Yuan a month. Moreover, he didn’t mind that Xu Zhao had Xu Fan.
“He’s like you and also went to Provincial Agricultural School for secondary school,” Mother Xu said.
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “Mom, how could I think about a partner now?”
“Mother Xu asked, “Why can’t you think about it? The vegetable business is already stable, so what are you afraid of? You’re not young anymore. You’re 23 now—”
“Mom, I still owe Qingfeng’s youngest uncle 3,000 Yuan.”
3,000 Yuan was a huge debt. Mother Xu paused for a second.
“Let’s talk about this again after the New Years, okay?” Xu Zhao said.
Mother Xu thought about it then said, “Fine. Then I’ll let Da Zhuang’s grandma know.”
Xu Zhao sent off Mother Xu. When he turned around, he saw Xu Fan’s watery eyes staring at him with a blank expression. It was very cute. Xu Zhao reached his hand out to Xu Fan and said, “Come here. Daddy will hold you.”
Recently, he had been too busy and hadn’t had time to hold Xu Fan.
Xu Fan immediately threw himself into Xu Zhao’s embrace.
Xu Zhao hugged Xu Fan and went to look at the vegetables in the big greenhouse. This place had still been a vacant land over two months ago, and now it was full of lush green all because of Mother and Father Xu and Da Zhuang’s father. The three people were very experienced in handling crops. At the same time, he also had the books Cui Dingchen had given him to use as guidance. That was why the vegetables were growing so well, and also the reason why the two managers from Jiang Ping Restaurant had taken a liking to them.
Xu Zhao happily looked at the string beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. These crops had produced a lot. It is said that the yield per mu of tomatoes could reach around 1,500 to 2,000 catties. Xu Zhao obviously didn’t plant that many tomatoes, but it also wasn’t a small amount. Once they all matured, it would be a huge revenue.
“Daddy! Look! Green eggs!” Xu Fan’s meaty finger pointed at the tomatoes as he said.
“That’s not a green egg, it’s a tomato,” Xu Zhao corrected Xu Fan.
“Tomatoes can be eaten. Daddy, I want to eat.”
“You want to eat it? You can’t eat it.”
“You really want to eat it?”
And so, Xu Zhao walked toward the tomatoes and deliberately picked a red tomato, rubbed it a few times, and handed it to Xu Fan. Xu Fan immediately bit into it, and once he ate it, his little meaty face immediately wrinkled. It was so sour, so bitter. He quickly spit it from his mouth and looked at Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao was to the side, covering his belly as he laughed.
Xu Fan’s entire body didn’t feel good. He wrinkled his little face. He held the little tomato and handed it to Xu Zhao. Xu Zhao had laughed enough and accepted it. He picked another two tomatoes, then held Xu Fan’s small meaty hands as they left the greenhouse. “Let’s go home. We’ll have Grandma cook the tomatoes,” he said.
“I’m not eating,” Xu Fan immediately said.
“It’ll be very delicious.”
Xu Zhao laughed again. When they were eating tomato egg stir fry later that night, Xu Fan really didn’t eat any. After being coaxed for a bit, he finally ate some of the eggs from the tomato egg stir fry.
After they finished eating, Xu Zhao felt that it had gotten colder again. In order to ensure the temperature inside the greenhouse, Xu Zhao found Da Zhuang’s father and used a grass curtain to cover up the big and small greenhouse.
The next morning, the temperature really did drop a few degrees. Xu Zhao felt that it was freezing, and even Xu Fan couldn’t wake up early. Xu Zhao didn’t call him either, instead asking Mother Xu to help him put on more clothes later. He went by himself to deliver and sell the vegetables. Afterward, he placed the bicycle at Fan’s Little Shop and planned to go to the city.
“Why are you going to the city?” Cui Qingfeng asked.
“To buy a cake for Xu Fan,” Xu Fan replied.
“You’re really going to buy one?”
“Mn. I’ll also buy one for Da Zhuang. Although Da Zhuang’s birthday has already passed, it isn’t good not to eat cake for his birthday.”
“Why don’t you have my youngest uncle bring it back for you?”
“Youngest uncle is really busy. I can just go by myself.”
Cui Qingfeng thought about it. With Fan’s Little Shop there, he couldn’t go with him. And so he said, “Then you should go quickly and come back early.”
Xu Zhao got on the bus by himself. He didn’t know why there were so many people, and since there were no seats, he stood the whole way to the city. Once he got off the bus, a cold wind passed by him, causing Xu Zhao to tremble. He felt that his coat was a bit thin, but he didn’t like wearing the cotton-padded clothes Mother Xu had made either. Wearing it made him look like a ball.
Endure it for two more days. After two more days, he’d buy a good looking coat. It would be considered a reward to himself for working so hard.
Thinking like this, Xu Zhao walked the streets of the city, and after asking around, he found a cake shop beside a restaurant. He immediately went inside the cake shop. He didn’t notice that there was a person inside the restaurant who was staring intently at him.