The moped ran through the night rain, and Lu Ying delivered orders for an hour before he could catch his breath and return to the pizzeria to watch his son play with the blocks while waiting for the next order. The chubby boy, who had been very obedient, suddenly sighed, and when Lu Ying heard it, he knew Zaizai was up to something again.
“What’s wrong?” Lu Ying asked with a smile.
“I told you a long time ago not to cook noodles. They’re delicious but it’s easy to get hungry again.”
Lu Ying, who was reprimanded by his son, snorted, “So many excuses for wanting to eat. Say, what do you want to eat?”
The fat boy sniffed and muttered in a small voice, “The boss’s pizza smells so good, I think it must be delicious…”
Lu Ying frowned and whispered in his son’s ear, “Little fool, how can pizza be as delicious as shaobing or guokui? Isn’t it just that foreigners have not succeeded in learning to make our pancakes so they made their own strange-flavoured ones? Dad will buy you two guokui, one sweet and one salty.” Of course, both pizza and pancakes were delicious, but pizza was more expensive than pancakes, and not just a little bit more expensive.
Lu Ying turned around, bought pancakes and gave them to his son. Two for eight yuan, it was not cheap. The price of guokui had more than doubled since the previous years. Seeing prices soar and wallets empty, what could anyone say but ‘sad’?
If he hadn’t been working several jobs, it would be difficult for him to stay in the city. Fortunately, his hard work allowed him to stay here with the child as he wished. Zaizai enrolled in a good kindergarten, and in September of the coming year, Zaizai would go to primary school and officially enter the compulsory education stage stipulated by the state. This was Lu Ying’s biggest goal in bringing them out of the mountains to live in the city.
Kindergartens were free to choose whether to attend or not to attend, and where to attend. Primary school included in twelve years of compulsory education was not free to choose but the primary school in their village was too depressing. There were only six students and one teacher in the whole school and no hint of a school atmosphere at all. All responsible parents had sent their children out of the village. Naturally, Lu Ying couldn’t bear the thought of his son attending such a primary school, which, in his son’s own words, was not lively at all. Before moving to the city, Lu Ying worked in the city every day and in the evenings took the kid from the kindergarten back to the distant village to rest while Grandpa Lu waited for them at home. In those days though, a lot of time was wasted on the road as they travelled back and forth. But it was satisfying to work for the sake of the family and lively to return home.
It would be nice if Grandpa Lu was still around, so Zaizai would have someone to keep him company at home when Lu Ying was busy.
At around ten o’clock when his shift ended, Lu Ying went home with his son who was already asleep. The father and son slept on a one-and-half-metre bed, which was more than enough, warm and comfortable. Lu Ying set the alarm clock and went to bed to have a good night’s sleep.
At 3.30 in the morning, he woke up at the first sound of the beeping phone alarm clock. Lu Ying got up nimbly, tidied himself up in less than ten minutes, touched his son’s chubby sleeping face and locked the door to go out for his first morning shift.
At four in the morning, apart from a few cars, there were only sanitation workers on the empty roads. The job was so tiring and dirty that no young people were willing to do it. The staff was getting old but most still had to work; the people at the bottom really had no choice. Lu Ying, however, was not picky and was grateful to Auntie Wang from the community committee who introduced him to this job. Although he was only a temporary worker and could not be transferred to a regular job and the hours were the most tiring, his job was over as long as the streets were cleaned of trash before people got up.
Lu Ying was quite satisfied when he took over the job. For one thing, the working hours were often short; he was so quick that he could usually finish in two hours at the fastest and four hours at the slowest. Then he could go home and take the kid to the kindergarten and go to work at the shopping mall by nine o’clock. Secondly, it was the only job where he didn’t have to deal with too many people and it was quiet and comfortable for him. Thirdly, money-wise, it was a good job. He now had a steady grasp of three jobs a day, earning over 10,000 a month, had no mortgage or car loan, and apart from the annual kindergarten tuition fee of around 20,000 yuan and the usual living expenses, he saved the rest for his son’s future studies.
Lu Ying’s biggest goal at the moment was for his son to grow up healthy and become a university student, so that Zaizai could earn money more easily in the future and gain a firm foothold in human society.
This was what he had been thinking about for his son for a long time. Zaizai couldn’t be like him, who had never gone to school for a day, and all the reading and arithmetic he knew had been taught by Grandpa Lu at home. He even had no primary school certificate. He was not smart enough, nor was he very eloquent, so there were not many jobs to choose from. But Zaizai was very lucky to be able to go to school. For this reason, even though he worked almost all year round, Lu Ying was still very motivated. In the future, when his son could stand on his own two feet, he could make further plans and go to a night school, adult university or something to cheer himself up. Brother Yang said that the most important part of being a human was to study. People studied from childhood to adulthood before they could become useful in society. The ones like them, who came out of the mountains, needed to study more if they wanted to live like human beings.
Lu Ying had been making a living in the mountains for almost ten years, with only one year off in between. During these years, he had had some understanding of human nature and the modern world. In short, lack of education blocked all the ways; it was very difficult to find a job, and he was insulted and ridiculed for no reason. In the past, he didn’t think much about it; it was fine as long as he could eat enough. But… after having tasted happiness, anger, joy and sorrow, he knew he was becoming more and more of a human being.
The essence of being a human in one word:
On Sunday, Lu Ying had to work as usual.
On weekends every week, the child had nowhere to go. Staying alone at home for a long time was not good. Fortunately, the fifth floor of the shopping mall where he worked had a children’s play area. Lu Ying got a discount card when it opened. On Saturdays and Sundays, he put the child there to play. He would have a meal with Zaizai at noon and take him home after getting off work. It was also convenient.
Today, he didn’t need to pick up the child from kindergarten, so it saved him some time. Lu Ying went straight to the fifth floor after work at four o’clock, “Zaizai, Dad will take you to the supermarket to buy some delicious food.”
Zaizai, who had been playing in the playground with a red face, immediately jumped out, put on his shoes neatly and babbled: “Yes, yes, yes, I want to buy jelly! Little fish biscuits, piggy chocolates, canned oranges…”
“It depends on the situation. If there’s anything on sale, we’ll buy more. Sister Xiao Li, Zaizai hasn’t been naughty today, has he?” Lu Ying touched his son’s hot face with a smile and asked the sister who was checking the tickets.
Sister Xiao Li was about forty years old. She smiled heartily when she heard the question, patted Zaizai on the shoulder and said, “How can he be naughty? Your Zaizai is very good. He can have fun by himself and can take little brothers and sisters to play with him. This child is very sensible and considerate. It’s rare for a young father like you to raise a child so well.”
The corners of Lu Ying’s mouth would turn upwards whenever his son was praised: “I have very little time to teach him. It is because his grandfather laid a good foundation when Zaizai was little.” This was the truth; since the boy was born, he was basically brought up by Grandpa Lu. Lu Ying had no choice but to go to the village to earn money to buy milk powder for Zaizai. At that time, he could only see his son at night; and now that he had the child with him, he still didn’t really have much time to spend together.
Sister Xiao Li probably knew Lu Ying’s family situation and sighed when she heard it: “It’s not easy for you, but it doesn’t matter. You’re diligent and willing to work hard, and the child is obedient and sensible. Life will get better one day.”
After chatting for a little while, Lu Ying left. As Sister Xiao Li watched the father and son leave, her eyes filled with regret. Lu Ying was a young man she admired, and his diligence was hard to find these days. Coupled with his incredible appearance, he was a walking illustration to the word ‘heartthrob’. For a while, she tried frantically to find a match for Lu Ying, but there were few suitable candidates. Lu Ying was too poor, an orphan, without any family property and actually uneducated, having never even studied in primary school. She found two suitable people with difficulty, but to her surprise, when she asked Lu Ying, he didn’t agree and didn’t want to remarry at all!
Lu Ying entered the lift with his child in tow and chose the -1 floor where the supermarket was located. Reaching the fourth floor, the lift stopped and several staff members in suits came in. Manager Zhang was his immediate boss. Lu Ying sighed inwardly; what bad luck.
Manager Zhang was in her thirties and was a capable married woman. Although she had only been in office for a few months, her colleagues were all very impressed with her.
She looked at Lu Ying and smiled, “Off work?”
The rest of the staff were silent, pretending not to notice anything.
Fortunately, Manager Zhang and her companions soon walked out on the second floor.
Lu Ying reached the -1 floor when his mobile phone text message alerted him. His head ached when he clicked on it. It was not the first time that Manager Zhang had invited him to watch a midnight movie. Since Manager Zhang had come over, he kept being ‘asked out’ privately from time to time. Lu Ying had encountered similar situations over the years and there was a reason for someone who was hard-working like him to change jobs frequently.
Lu Ying sighed quietly, rubbed his chin and asked his son, “Zaizai, isn’t Dad very handsome and charming?”