After the foundation was finished, I didn’t plan on using cement. Instead, I started connecting the wooden pillars and partitions with tenon and mortise joints. In other words, it was time to test our skills.
Ancient carpentry families passed down their skills through the ages, so the ability and creativity of using mortise and tenon joints were basically the embodiment of a craftsman’s ability. But if you worked on mortise and tenon joints yourself, you’d quickly realize that this wasn’t a test of one’s handiwork but of your ability to utilize geometry and space.
When I was in college, we were given a hypothetical about a four-dimensional mortise and tenon joint. We were told to try and understand the structure of the mortise and tenon joint in this four-dimensional space.
Of course, I didn’t want to abuse myself, so I could just use the simplest mortise and tenon joints for everything.
After we built a simple scaffold, the two caissons were removed perfectly intact. I didn’t know how Poker-Face did it, but there was no denying the fact that he was so fucking cool. In addition to his fighting moves, I found his extreme concentration and skills really enviable.
I thought of myself and wondered what I was good at. Looking at people’s hearts? This kind of skill didn’t give off a cool feeling.
I numbered the wooden pieces all night and then made two temporary cubbies out of wooden planks. After putting the parts inside of them, I sealed them with oil paper to help preserve them.
As I looked at the old wooden mortise and tenon pieces in the two cubbies, I seriously doubted whether these caissons could be put back together again.
I didn’t finish until one in the afternoon the next day. Fatty hadn’t stayed to help, so he went to open the shop during the day while Poker-Face went to man the register. I slept the afternoon away and finally woke up in the evening. I knew that if I went on like this, I’d start to suffer from an autonomic nervous disorder. Once I started doing things, all kinds of accidents would start to occur in my life, which would make me uneasy. So, I forced myself to let go of the caisson business.
I had done a very good job of preserving it, so it would be fine whenever I chose to study it or if I decided to make use of it. My main thing now was to focus on getting our house built.
So, I went back alone in the middle of the night and started pulling out wires. I made seven or eight woven strands of lightbulbs to hang on the pillars and started doing some carpentry.
I was very unskilled at first, but I slowly got the feel for it. I eventually finished the wood-structured load-bearing column and set it up myself. By this time, I felt exhausted and wanted to leave, but I suddenly saw a mud-covered motorcycle drive into the yard.
The motorcyclist looked very strange, but when I took a closer look, I realized that it was Chen Xuehan (1).
Why is he here? Based on the condition of his motorcycle, he must have come directly from Motuo.
I was just about to go over and greet him when I saw another man get off the back of the motorcycle. It was a lama, one of the younger ones who used to entertain us in Motuo back in the day. He was a middle-aged man now.
When he saluted me, it almost felt as if Motuo’s snowflakes were rushing over my face.
I quickly returned the salute. Even though we were on the edge of a bamboo forest in Fujian, it almost felt as if we were seeing each other for the first time in the snowy mountains.
“Teacher has passed away,” the lama told me calmly. “I have something for the distinguished guest. I brought it with me.”
Ah, I felt my heart clench a little bit. Yes, it’s this age.
“I’ll take you there,” I said as I noticed a big package on the back of their motorcycle.
When the three of us went back to the village, Poker-Face was just returning home. He immediately stopped when he saw us.
The lama went over, gave Poker-Face a big salute, and presented the package to him while saying something in Tibetan. When Poker-Face took the package, the lama and Chen Xuehan quickly got back on their motorcycle and left.
They must have traveled a great distance to get here from Tibet, but they didn’t bother stopping for long and just headed back.
Chen Xuehan was like a monk now and didn’t have a sense of nostalgia.
When we opened the package and saw a portrait, I felt my heart warm. Ah, it’s that painting.