I followed Fatty up the mountain road until we reached another village. Then, we went further up the mountain until we reached the place where we usually fished. There was a huge crowd of people—the group of girls from that afternoon and more unknown people—gathered around the stream, making paper lanterns and boats.
They put candles in the paper boats before placing them in the stream one by one. Since there was such a dense cluster of people and they were all dressed in traditional Chinese clothes, they looked very beautiful. Everyone was taking pictures.
I glanced at Fatty and saw that several of the girls called out greetings to him.
“What’s going on?” I asked him.
“This afternoon, they asked me where they could put boat lights into the stream, so I recommended this place.”
“You can go to jail for lighting a fire in the forest.”
“They’re all electric candles.”
“Then what about fishing?” I took a look at the stream. You’d have to be quite skilled to catch any fish today.
“We can’t catch any, which means the village head’s son can’t catch any,” Fatty said a little viciously. He and the village chief’s son had been at odds with each other for a while now, so when I thought about it, I realized what he had done. The village chief’s son had been fishing here, so Fatty specially offered this place to these girls and asked them to light up a bunch of lanterns. The fish would surely be scared away, so the village chief’s son wouldn’t catch anything tomorrow.
Fatty then began to hand out our farmhouse’s business card to everyone while saying, “What a coincidence that we ended up meeting each other here! Come and eat at our place tomorrow. We’ll go fishing tonight, so our stone pot fish will be especially fresh for you tomorrow.”
I wasn’t interested in looking at those beautiful girls, so I focused on finding another fishing spot upstream. I gave Poker-Face a look, and then the two of us continued to go up the mountain until we were further upstream.
From this spot, we could see all of the boat lights forming a streak of light downstream, but we couldn’t hear the voices. Poker-Face and I baited our hooks.
At this time, I saw a boat light drifting down from a spot further upstream from us. A girl, estimated to be about seventeen or eighteen years old, followed the boat light with a cigarette in her mouth. She was jumping from rock to rock as she followed the boat downstream.
She was probably the type of girl who liked to be different from others. It might have been a necessity since everyone wanted to be different from the general public. At that time, I had also pursued this feeling of being alone in the world.
But with the exception of the person beside me, no one could truly live alone in the world.
The girl let out a startled sound when she suddenly noticed us fishing in the dark, and immediately said, “You can still fish here.” After that, she squatted beside Poker-Face and quickly put out her cigarette butt.
She was carrying a small electric lantern, which let out just enough light to illuminate the flower patterns on her clothes. I realized that she was actually very young, not even seventeen like I had initially thought.
Do kids start smoking so early these days?
I leaned against a tree, facing the direction where mine and Poker-Face’s hooks had landed in the water. When I glanced over at Poker-Face and the girl, I couldn’t help thinking that they looked just like a father and daughter pair.
The young girl watched for a while and then left. After that, about a dozen more girls intermittently passed by us, squatting down to watch for a while like that first girl did.
We were kind of like the landscape here; to them, it was almost like we existed in two parallel times and spaces.
After I had caught six or seven catfish and carp, I realized that Fatty had been right. Fishing tonight really was the right choice. As we carried the fish back, we passed by people sitting by the stream and singing as they watched the boat lights. When the three of us got back to Rain Village, I kept the fish in a basket in the stream by our door and then washed up before going to sleep.
It was already three o’clock in the morning, so if we actually slept in a bed, we wouldn’t be able to get up on time. The three of us had developed the habit of taking short naps on these kinds of nights. We would just lie on the bamboo lounge chairs, cover ourselves with a blanket, light the stove to keep warm, and take a nap.
At this time, however, Poker-Face suddenly took out a note from his pocket and frowned at it. I was surprised to find that the girl had apparently slipped the note into Poker-Face’s pocket at some point.
When did that happen? Didn’t Poker-Face notice it? Oh, his clothes were hanging on a tree branch at that time.
He was completely uninterested in reading it, so I grabbed it, lay down on my lounge chair, and unfolded it, only to find that it was the girl’s cigarette butt wrapped in a napkin. She probably didn’t want to throw it on the mountain, so she stuffed it in Poker-Face’s pocket.
I used my finger to flick the cigarette butt into the middle of the yard.
Girls nowadays were very mysterious. There was no way I could try and guess what logic was running through their heads.
Forget it. In addition to taking care of the farmhouse, I’ll just focus on getting that concrete tomorrow.