Fiction in response to Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
September 2018

During the Winter and Rain

By Karen Wu

Nobody ever went to school during the winter or when it rained, because the building was rickety, and it let in all sorts of bad weather.

 

For example, today: Shufen was sitting at home, helping Ma-ma clean house. She wanted to go to school, but Ma-ma told her if she did, she would catch pneumonia like Zhihao. Zhihao was the second-best student in the village, right after Shufen.

 

Shufen was bored. The only books in the village were at school.

 

“Ma-ma,” she said as she swept some dust off of a shelf. “Please let me go. If I don’t go, Teacher Zhou will be lonely.”

 

Ma-ma snorted. “Teacher Zhou is probably at home, drinking tea. Look how bad the rain is outside! Who knows, maybe it will even pound down the roof of the school.”

 

Shufen swallowed. “But if the roof falls down, will there still be school?”

 

“Who knows! Ma-ma needs to make dinner now. Go cut the lettuce and the mushrooms.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Sighing, Shufen put down her cloth and picked up the knife. As she cut the lettuce, her mind began to wander. Why couldn’t the village just fix the school? Teacher Zhou said it was because there wasn’t enough money. But still… maybe someone could fix it…

 

Winter was creeping in like a wolf, its frosty breath slowly claiming the land. All of the students sat in the one-room school building. It was getting colder and colder, but day after day, the students came because they loved learning so much. One day, the mountain god was looking around because he was bored, and he had nothing to do. His fierce, eagle-eyed gaze landed on the students doing their best to study despite the winter. He thought, I must do something about this! So, he picked up rocks and trees from his mountain, and with them, built a new schoolhouse that was warm in the winter and didn’t let in rain.

 

Shufen grinned as she swept the lettuce into a pile and moved on to the mushrooms. Wouldn’t it be so nice if that happened? Or… what if the village got enough money to fix the school on their own?

 

She was walking through the woods, looking for mushrooms. The fiery autumn leaves made the forest look like a painting come to life. She walked, breathing in the fresh air. Suddenly, Shufen tripped over something hard. She yelped, rubbing her ankle. Shufen got up to look at what it was. It looked like wood that was covered by dust. That was odd Shufen dusted the wood off and found that it was a lid. What could it possibly be? She opened it, and inside, there were millions and millions of renminbi-

 

“Aiya!” Ma-ma was glaring at Shufen with her hands on her hips. “Look! You cut the lettuce all messy!”

 

Shaking her head in disappointment, Ma-ma grabbed the knife from Shufen and began to fix up the vegetables. Shufen slunk away to go dust the cupboard, feeling bad. Ma-ma was constantly busy; she didn’t need Shufen to add to her problems.

 

As Shufen cleaned, she looked outside. The rain was still pounding down mercilessly, its furious beat like the marching of an invading army. Shufen knew that her fantasies would probably never happen. The school would stay the way it was, and during the winter and the rain, Ma-ma would tell her to stay home.

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