Chapter 1 “I’m Not Interested in You”

Zhuang Jie first took the high-speed train from Shanghai back to Beijing, and then changed trains at the station to return to Nanping Town. She works in Shanghai, making medical equipment, but due to a minor stomach operation, she had to take vacation time and return to her hometown to recuperate.

     She walked quickly. Easily taking two steps to the top, while others took three. When she reached the ticket gate, seeing that it was still early, she took out her cell phone to check a missed call. After hanging up from the voicemail, she laughed, twice. The laughter was so crisp and clear, that even the passers-by couldn’t help but give side glances. Then, she replied while quickly browsing the shops on both sides.

     It was time to take her medicine, and she wanted to buy a bottle of mineral water.

     As soon as she saw what she wanted in a small shop, the intercom announced that it was time to check the tickets. She strode over to the shop, scanned the QR code and grabbed the water. She made it back, just in time to make it to the end of the line.


     In the train cabin, she found her seat, took a thermos out of her luggage to get some hot water. She came back, sat by the window, mixed in the mineral water, and took out the medicine to take it when a lady nearby yelled out to adjust the seats; her family was in the front row.  Then, she noticed a man in a suit with leather shoes sitting down, with his legs crossed casually, his hands rested on his knees and his eyes closed.

     Zhuang Jie looked at him while drinking, her eyes fell on his slender fingers, and she asked casually, “Are you from Nanping?”

     The man didn’t answer.

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     The man looked back.


     Zhuang Jie smiled generously, “I’m Zhuang Jie.”

     Chen Maidong looked confused and didn’t answer.

     Zhuang Jie motioned to her left calf, “Zhuang Jie, from Class 5 of Town Middle School, I have a prosthetic.”

     Chen Maidong looked at her calf, thought for a while, and finally replied: “I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you just now.” His tone was not sincere, as if this kind of connection wasn’t a good reason to stop him.

     Zhuang Jie tapped the tip of her eyebrow with her fingertips, “I only recognized you when I saw the scar on the tip of your eyebrow.”

     Zhuang Jie was transferred to their class in the third year of junior high, and the two of them never had much contact with each other. Plus, they hadn’t seen each other for fourteen or fifteen years, so it was normal not to recognize each other. It was just Chen Maidong’s change that surprised her. He was a jerk when he was studying, saying that he couldn’t even get into a decent university.

     Zhuang Jie didn’t really care either, she just wanted to hitch a ride, “Is your car in the parking lot?”

     “Yes.” Chen Maidong nodded, and then said politely: “Well, talk to you later.”

     “Sure, we’ll talk later.”

     Same old nonsense. Zhuang Jie looked at his back and cursed in her heart. She came back this time on a whim, and there was no one at home to pick her up.

     Carrying her luggage, she was about to take a taxi, when a few motorcyclists drove up wildly. They told her that it would cost twenty-five yuan to go to Nanping Town, which would be the same amount, only if the taxi didn’t turn on the meter..

     Zhuang Jie glanced at the bus stop sign, and they interjected saying that the bus stop schedule was inaccurate, and sometimes it only departed every half an hour.


     She smiled, and casually knocked off ten yuan, saying that she was not a tourist, but a native of Nanping Town. One of them saw that her face did seem familiar, and asked if her family sold roast chicken in the town center. Zhuang Jie responded in the affirmative, and they turned the motorcycle around, “Come on, come on. I will take you back. You don’t even have to pay. Our houses are right next to each other.”

     The motorcycle passed down a long, rural road, which was only repaired in recent years. Along the asphalt road, freshly harvested corn was drying on both sides. Some were still on the stalks.

     The driver of the motorcycle pointed to the machine next to the corn stalks and said against the wind: “That’s a straw grinder. It crushes corn stalks. City people don’t often see machines like this.”

     “Where does the corn stalk go after it’s crushed?” she asked. Zhuang Jie went to the city in high school, so she didn’t know much about the crops in the village.

     “It’s returned to the field,” he said.

     “Returned, what?” The wind was so strong that she couldn’t hear clearly.

     “The straw is returned to the field!” The driver said loudly. “The straw was burned down, and now it gets crushed into the soil as fertilizer!”

     “That saves a lot on labor cost.” Zhuang Jie brushed her hair that was tousled by the wind.

     “However, there are fewer farmers now, and the land is polluted and rented out to build factories.” The driver tried to speak louder, “This summer, Alkali Sulfide discharged from an industrial factory, burning all the corn in the neighboring village and the people in the village complained to the authorities.”

     “Did the industrial factory get shut down?” Zhuang Jie asked loudly.

     “On the surface, it’s stopped, but factories with backing secretly work at night. Everyone has their own way of doing things, though. These past two months things have been more strict, and the higher-ups are working to pull their equipment.” 

The driver changed the subject again, “Are you the eldest daughter of the old He family?”



     “Are you the eldest daughter of the old He family?” the driver asked loudly.

     “Yes, I am the eldest.”

     “It’s rare to see you come back.”

     “I’m busy with work, so I only come back two or three times a year,” she said.

     “Not sure if it’s because you are really busy or not. My son and daughter-in-law are in Hangzhou, and they come back once a year.” The driver said right as they entered the archway of Nanping.

     Zhuang Jie pointed to a large construction site, “What’s going to be built?”

     “Ski resort. It’s said it’ll be the largest ski resort in Asia! Our industrial factory has been shut down, and Xiaxi Village has turned into a tourist village. Others rely on mountains to survive, and we depend on tourism to survive! Anyway, it’s alright. It’s been more than half a year, and nothing has happened yet!” The driver’s voice changed again and he said, “Old He always praised you for doing well in Shanghai. When we asked him what you did,  he only said that you deal with hospitals all day long. He never is able to say  specifics. What exactly do you do?”

     “I sell medical equipment,” she said quickly. Afraid that he wouldn’t understand, she added the old saying, “That’s right, sell endoscopes. When you go to the hospital for gastroscopy, you only need to take one capsule.”

     The driver patted his thigh, “Oh girl, can you sell me one? Who in our town has bought them? I heard there are a few thousand!”

     Zhuang Jie laughed loudly, and then told him to several hospitals, saying that if he went to the medical examination and mentioned her name, it would be good. Not that it would save him money, but it will never let him spend money wrongly. After speaking she pointed to an intersection for her to be let off.

     “Girl, it’s still a good distance from your home, I can drop you…”


     “No need. I want to surprise my mother.” Zhuang Jie smiled.

     “Okay.” The driver was very content and refused to charge her money. Seeing that Zhuang Jie walked like an ordinary person, he sighed in his heart. It is good to have money and be able to spend tens of thousands of dollars to afford a new leg. Her mother said on the street a while back that her daughter spent tens of thousands of dollars on a prosthesis, so that she can run, jump and climb mountains. The key is that it was money she earned on her own.

Dian'r [Translator]

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