By the village road’s side, Grandma Xiaochun’s house’s door was open with the light shining through.
After sunset, there was still a hint of light in the sky. An old man carrying a basket walked over slowly. He was one of the residents who stayed in the row of old houses.
Out of curiosity, the old man looked to the open door. He saw the house fully occupied with people; Grandma Xiaochun had a rosy complexion. He was temporarily stunned.
Most old people had a hunch on their lifespan. The closer they were towards the end, they became more alert.
“Old Niu, have you come back from fishing?” Grandma Xiaochun walked to the door and smiled at the old man carrying the basket.
“Ah, Sister Chun, why are you…” Old Niu seemed to realize something.
Grandma Xiaochun smiled and said, “Come in and join us for dinner. That way, you don’t have to go back and cook for yourself since you live alone. Come, come.”
Looking at Grandma Xiaochun, Old Niu nodded silently, stepped over the doorstep, and saw all kinds of people in the living room.
Was she sad? Old Niu himself was also very sad. As he got older, the people he had known, laughed, quarreled, went to the field, and made rice cakes together would eventually leave the world.
Maybe the next one would be him.
So, Old Niu looked at the children and grandchildren of Grandma Xiaochun, who were gloomy even when they tried to force a smile, “Then I, as an old man, would have some simple home-cooked meal. Come, Luo Shan, Luo Ming. Please get me a bowl of rice.”
“Uncle Niu, have a seat.” Luo Shan quickly let out of a seat and beckoned the old man to sit down.
Grandma Xiaochun had taken out a bottle of wine from the cabinet in the living room, smiled, and said, “Old Niu, drink more. I’m still waiting for you to sing a song!”
After several glasses down his belly, Old Niu took a peanut and chewed it in his mouth, squinting his eyes and wondering. After a while, Old Niu sang a Qinhuai folk song that was passed down from generations.
The children did not understand the song. They clamored to watch TV since they were not interested. The older children did not dare to voice out their discomfort. However, they also felt depressed.
Luo Shan’s eyes turned red as he listened because his wife’s eyes turned watery before him.
Luo Shan’s eldest brother, Grandma Xiaochun’s eldest son, held a small wine glass. A liquor bottle was being carried in this way as he remembered how a theatrical troupe came to the village when he was very young.
Most of the time, he was immersed in the memories of the early years.
Only Grandma Xiaochun was holding her youngest granddaughter, who was only two-years-old. She gently patted the child’s back. From time to time, she put her face near her granddaughter’s red cheek.
After all, this was the youngest child. She fell asleep a while ago.
Grandma Xiaochun squinted and laughed as if she was trying to say that this kid was well-behaved.
“I’ll answer the phone.”
Luo San suddenly picked up the phone and spoke gently next to her mother. She stood up while pointing at the phone in her hand and walked away.
Only when she had just left the house, she could not help but covered her mouth, ran out of the field outside the house, and squatted there alone.
But, she realized that she could not remain in this state. So, she quickly wiped her eyes absent-mindedly, stood up, then saw that someone was sitting on the small fence near the field for quite some time ago.
Luo San only then reacted. It seemed that not long after the meal started, Luo Qiu had unknowingly disappeared from everyone’s sight… At the same time, no one seemed to have noticed this.
“What are you doing here?” Luo San approached him, speaking with a strong nasal sound.
Luo Qiu glanced at Luo San, took out a pack of tissues from his clothes, and gave it to her. Luo San felt awkward for a while, as she knew that the previous scene just now was probably seen by Luo Qiu.
It’s better to wipe my tears. I can’t go back like this. While thinking about it, she took the tissue.
Luo Qiu suddenly looked at Luo San and said, “I’m taking pictures.”
Luo San only noticed that there was an antique camera with a golden shell in Luo Qiu’s arms. At this moment, Luo Qiu walked towards her, “Would you like to see?”
In front of the camera, a faded yellow picture was flashed. It was facing the door of the house. Luo San had no knowledge of cameras, but she felt that this camera was not something that a beginner would use.
“I… Can I take one picture?”
“Sure, of course.”
“How… how do I use this?”
Boss Luo smiled, then showed Luo San how to use the camera.
Luo San approached the doors and quietly took a photo of the jam-packed living room. Before she knew it, she felt cold, sliding down on her face.
“You…you turn around.”
Luo Qiu nodded. As he turned around, he felt a slight pressure on his shoulders. It was Luo San who was resting her head on his shoulders with her palms behind her back.
“My parents have always been outside working. Since young, my grandmother was the one who took care of me.”
“Do you want to let Grandma Xiaochun stay with you forever?”
“Who doesn’t want their loved ones to always be with them forever?” Luo San asked while sobbing softly. She then asked, “But, life and death are impermanent. Changes occurred naturally. What else can one do? I saw many relatives of patients in the hospital who were hopeless when facing this type of situation. When we cannot save a person, we can only let nature take them away completely. In the face of death, we are the weakest person.”
“A doctor’s rationality,” said Luo Qiu softly.
Fortunately, there is a way… The boss thought of it silently.
“What do you mean? Are you saying that I am cold-blooded?”
“No.” Luo Qiu shook his head. “I just feel that Grandma Xiaochun is fortunate to have a descendent like you.”
“What’s good about that…” said Luoshan softly. “What can be good about it?”
“In this village…” said Luo Qiu calmly. “Except for Luo Zheng, I saw that you are also young. Although I met others today, all of them were called back. You work in the town hospital. It’s a long way from there, and it’s a bumpy trip, right?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Luo Qiu said softly, “In the daytime, I feel that the new houses in this row on the opposite side of the village road look prosperous. But, at night. You see that there are not many lights on. It is not much different from the old houses on this row.”
“Of course, these new houses are all built under the policy, and because there are subsidies, each household has only started to build their own house.”
Luo San wiped her eyes with the tissue paper that had been rolled into a ball, while shifting her sight towards the front at the same time, “For those who are well-off, they moved to the town a long time ago. For those who aren’t well-off or want success, they are outside working. Within one year, there are many times that they can’t come back. The remaining ones are just like Uncle Luo Shan, who insists on farming, but not many do so. So, isn’t it normal that the town will be empty?”
“Then, why are you staying in this town? I heard Luo Zheng mention something about it, saying that you got a job at the town’s hospital because you quit your job at a good hospital.”
Luo San felt a slight chill. She held in her hands and shook her head, “You can be a doctor anywhere. The job is the same…but here, it’s too deserted.”
On the other side of the village road, only two or three lights in three households were on. There were very few human voices. All that was faintly heard was the sound from the TV. The children occasionally laughed or cried. It was indeed deserted.
“Isn’t it ridiculous?” Luo San sighed and looked up at the wholly dimmed sky. “Forget the fact that all of them have children and grandchildren, but there are also close relatives. They should have enjoyed their twilight years, but instead, they only see them a few times throughout the year. I don’t know whether such development is good or not.”
“It’s almost time. Can you help me with something?” Luo Qiu asked suddenly.
It was Luo Qiu’s old house. The location was the kitchen. Steam was coming out from the massive iron pot on the stove, and the room was full of sweet and fragrant odor.
The fire below the stove was bright red with orange light. It was not vigorous, but it lasted long.
“What’s this?” Luo San frowned.
Luo Qiu uncovered the lid and used a large spoon to stir gently in the iron pan, “The boiled osmanthus flower syrup has already been simmered…Well, have you seen the bottles outside? Please help me fill the bottles with the syrup.”
“Why are these at your house…” Luo San subconsciously looked towards Luo Qiu.
Luo Qiu said, “Grandma Xiaochun still has to cook. Since there are so many people, naturally, there is not enough space. So, I might as well as make the syrup here.”
“But…but it’s not so fast, right?”
“Well, a little special method was used.” Luo Qiu played down the methods. He then used the spoon to scoop out some syrup. “Try it. It should be the same.”
Luo San subconsciously used her little finger to dip into the syrup. She then put it in her lips.
“Grandma Xiaochun said that this is left for all of you.” Luo Qiu whispered. “It’s the only flavor that she felt can be left and preserved for all of you for a longer time.”
“So, that’s why you… you picked so many?” Luo San looked at Luo Qiu. Her gaze became tender, and her voice trembled.
Luo Qiu did not answer, but smiled and asked, “Sister Luo San, aren’t you here to help fill the bottle with these osmanthus flower syrup?”
Luo San suddenly realized that she was missing something.
“Is this the bottle with the most osmanthus flower syrup?”
The two came out carrying a bottle of osmanthus flower syrup. Luo San stared at the basket in Luo Qiu’s hand and suddenly asked.
Luo Qiu laughed and said, “Didn’t you compare them all?”
Luo San snorted, “I always feel that the bottles on your box have more syrup than mine… Let’s swap. This is mine. I want the biggest share!”
Grandma Xiaochun was leaning against the door in front of the door and smiled knowingly when she saw the two walking back with their baskets in a playful manner.
Grandma Xiaochun looked at the two and said, “It’s time for the reunion dinner.”
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