When he was hungry, he would take out a pancake he brought from home and take a bite or two. When he was thirsty, he would drink the water from his water bottle. As long as he did not succumb to exhaustion, he absolutely refused to allow himself to stop! Even if the machinery stopped, he still wanted to continue working! It was for nothing else but for his daughter!
The scene changed again. Cao Can dragged his exhausted body and went home on a bus.
The lights at home were dim. In order to save money, they had deliberately switched the high wattage bulbs to ones with smaller wattages.
“Auntie Liu came today for our debt. I said we will pay her in a few days, but she’s quite unhappy.” Cao Can’s wife sat on the stove bed. Beside her was the little girl, Cao Xueke. Cao Xueke was lying in bed, sleeping soundly. The man did not dare speak loudly as he gently fanned the child. He also chased away the mosquitoes that were buzzing around them. However, it left him covered in sweat.
After Cao Can heard his wife, he whispered, “Wait a little longer. We should have the money soon. After this month’s salary is disbursed”
“If we repay the money, what do we do about our daughter?” Cao Can’s wife, Li Xiang, interrupted him. She stared straight at Cao Can, her eyes with a sharp, questioning look, as well as having some hints of despair and pain to them.
Cao Can fell silent. He bent his back and sat on the stove. He wished to lie down to rest for a moment since he was exhausted, but he did not do so. He continued sitting there. He felt as though the family would not collapse as long as he did not lie down.
Cao Can did not sleep much that night. Early the next morning, he packed his things and went down into the mines again.
But three days later, Cao Can was carried back by others. They said that he had been down in the mines for too long and had fainted from exhaustion. His employers asked him to rest for a few days at home before returning.
Li Xiang immediately cried in anguish as she hugged Cao Can, feeling lost for words. She wiped Cao Can’s face, cleaned his body, and fed him. These were the only things she could do. Anymore, and she would be lost.
Cao Can did not know how long he had been unconscious for, and when he woke up, the first thing he said was, “I’m fine. What time is it? I’m not done with work. One day less is one day’s pay gone.”
With that said, Cao Can got up and headed out. But after taking two steps, his body began to falter. Li Xiang rushed over when she saw this as she hugged Cao Can’s back, “Don’t go. Don’t go today! Let them deduct it. We can think of other means to earn money.”
Cao Can gave a wry smile, “Why are you saying such silly words? Don’t I look fine? Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I’m just a little tired. I’ll rest on the bus. It won’t affect my work.”
“No, you can’t go. You have been unconscious for a day!” shouted a sobbing Li Xiang.
Cao Can was taken aback. A day? He was not concerned that he had been unconscious for that long. He was only concerned about how much of his wages would be deducted if he did not go for a day!
At that moment, something grabbed Cao Can’s pants. He looked down and saw his daughter, Cao Xueke, hugging his leg. She looked up and said, “Daddy, can you not go? Stay at home to play with me. You said that you would find time to play games with me. You also said you would give me a present. Daddy can’t you not go? Mommy cried the whole day yesterday. It hurts my heart.”
Cao Can looked at his wife, Li Xiang, who was trying not to cry. She forced a smile, “No, I didn’t The child is talking nonsense.”
“Our Xueke doesn’t lie,” Cao Xueke said as he hugged Li Xiang’s shoulders tightly.
The scene changed again. Cao Can was playing in the yard with Cao Xueke. At that moment, it was unknown which family was having a funeral procession, but a group of people were carrying a coffin, blowing trumpets, and scattering paper money as they walked by.
Cao Xueke asked curiously, “Daddy, I think I wouldn’t need such a big coffin in the future.”
Upon hearing that, Cao Can’s tears instantly gushed down. He turned his back immediately and wiped his tears. He squatted down and smiled, “Xueke, you wouldn’t need that.”
“I know everything. I heard what you discussed with Mommy. But I’m not afraid! With Mommy and Daddy by my side, I’m not afraid of anything!” Cao Xueke hugged Cao Can as she beamed. Cao Can knew that Cao Xueke still did not know what death meant. He did not wish for her to know what it meant and could only hug her.
“Alright, go find Mommy. Let’s see what she’s doing,” whispered Cao Can.
Cao Xueke nodded obediently and ran into the house.
As for Cao Can, he turned around and walked out. He knew he could not rest any longer. At the very least, he could not afford to rest so extravagantly! He needed to work! He was in need of money!
The scene changed again. At his workplace, Cao Can heard people discussing something while at the loo.
“Did you hear? Old Wu’s matter has been settled. It didn’t blow up.”
“What? Such a huge matter with the family coming to cause a stir didn’t blow up?”
“Old Wu’s death is not our mine’s fault. He did not listen to our exhortations and ended up dying in the mines. Besides, I heard that our boss compensated his family with three hundred thousand! Think about it, he’s already dead. What’s the point of the family causing a stir? It’s not like they can kill our boss, right? Once the money is in place, what should rest will rest.”
“Who did you hear this from?”
“Believe it or not, it’s not some secret. You will know if you ask around. Alright, cut it out. Let’s go back to work.”
Upon hearing the conversation, Cao Can fell into deep thought. That day, Cao Can did not work as hard as he usually did.
When night fell, Cao Can returned home amid the darkness. He ate more than usual and even drank two cups of beer. However, he spoke very little. It was as though his entire being had relaxed.
“Old Cao, you were told to rest a few days before going. Why did you go? Don’t you care about your body?!” Li Xiang said with a sobbing tone. She had held back her words and only exploded after Cao Can was done with his meal.
Cao Can patted Li Xiang on the shoulder, “Alright, alright. Don’t think too much. Everything will be alright. Don’t worry, with me here, everything will be alright.”
“Okay,” Li Xiang listened to Cao Can’s repeated assurance that everything would be alright. Although she knew that the odds for everything to get better were low, she nodded to let Cao Can feel better.
However, there was suddenly a knock on the door. Someone shouted outside, “Cao Can, I know you are back. When are you returning the money you borrowed from me? I know your family is going through tough times and we have dragged out the repayment, but how long can this keep going on?”
Li Xiang trembled when she heard that. She tugged at Cao Can and shook her head slightly. Her intention was to not make a sound, pretending that no one was home.
However, Cao Can forced a smile at her. He patted her shoulders and went out.
Li Xiang next heard Cao Can’s voice, “Auntie Liu, don’t worry. I’ll return the money at the end of the month. We won’t delay the payment any further.”
“If that’s what you say, I’ll believe you once more.” Then, Auntie Liu’s footsteps faded away.
“Old Cao, where Where are we to get the money at the end of the month? If you pay her back, others will ask for their money back too. When that happens Sigh, if there’s money, we should try to cure Xueke first.” Li Xiang was so gripped by anxiety that she was close to tears.