I didn’t know that Lin Liuren was a retired athlete until the second employee, Xue Dabao, arrived. Xue Dabao was neither tall nor old, but he was smooth and sophisticated in a way that wasn’t in line with his age.
When he came to apply for the job, he looked like he could definitely take on us three bosses, but I knew that those who showed this kind of expression were all fighting five scum (1). If I put just a little bit of pressure on him, I knew he wouldn’t be able to think straight at all.
I hired him because he cooked good food, especially when it came to the local dishes. Although Fatty had learned a lot, the locals still preferred to eat local food once they had eaten lots of nonnative food.
His sea mussels boiled in chicken stock were especially delicious, but Fatty said he didn’t like him because he couldn’t pronounce the middle character of the dish name (2). He thought that Little Xue had put an obscene word in the dish’s name, but I told him that the word was fine and he was the one with the problem.
Little Xue said he knew that Lin Liuren was an athlete because athletes walked differently from others. One side of their body was generally asymmetrical to the other side.
“Isn’t it just from doing physical labor?” I asked.
“There’s more than one way to tell,” he replied.
These traces also showed up in how Lin Liuren ate and how he went to the toilet. They were all typical behaviors of an athlete from a provincial team. Little Xue said he had probably been a kayaker.
Fatty looked at Lin Liuren, who was washing the dishes, and said, “No wonder he can sit still for a long time. It turns out that he’s a professional.”
“Don’t pry if he doesn’t want to talk about it,” I said.
“No way, I just wanted to know what happened to him to make him want to wash dishes,” Fatty said.
I touched my chin and asked myself, is it like a typical TV drama where he got hurt and gave up on himself?
Based on Lin Liuren’s age, it should be the prime time for athletes, but Little Xue said that there was something wrong with his left leg.
In that case, he’s not part of the Zhang family, I thought to myself.
I carefully observed Lin Liuren’s left leg and felt that there was something wrong with his knee. He really did like to sit as much as possible, so washing dishes was especially suitable for him.
“Be careful,” Little Xue said to me. “He might claim a false work injury.”
Little Xue was the kind of person who was self-confident. In other words, he had to be the boss’s favorite person, so he’d try his best to create this kind of atmosphere.
I didn’t like him, but I knew that some qualities were just inherent in people. Little Xue also liked to be lazy, but his food was really delicious and he had a kind of dignity when it came to cooking.
I looked him in the eye and nodded. He was very happy and probably felt that he was a little closer to me now.
I went over and sat next to Lin Liuren, who looked at me. I tapped his knee, “How did you get hurt?”
He looked up at me and said, “It’s nothing.”
“I know you have a story. You can tell me if you want. Or don’t. It’s up to you,” I said to him.
He looked up at me again, “An accident. Don’t ask.”
I nodded. It seemed that there was a story there, and one that left a lingering pain in his heart. I got up, found Fatty, and told him the ins and outs of the matter.
“He’s suffering and wants to wash dishes,” Fatty said. “I know you care a lot, but don’t interfere in his business.”
“I won’t, but do you really think he can sit there for the rest of his life?” I asked. “He doesn’t belong here.”
“Three thousand yuan says he doesn’t belong,” Fatty said. “Try to up his wages to three hundred thousand a month and see what he does.”
“Then I’ll be gone.”
As Fatty patted me, I said to him, “We’re ordinary people, ordinary people. We’ll limit the meddling.” He nodded, walked over, and hooked his arm around Lin Liuren’s shoulder.
About twenty minutes later, Fatty came back and said to me, “Little Xue was right, but it wasn’t kayaking. He did track and field. He injured his knee, so he lost his chance to compete. After waiting for three years, his knee still wasn’t getting better, so he became desperate and left. He doesn’t plan on going back. He’s feeling really sorry for his parents and for himself.”
“Can his knee really not be healed?” I asked. “What happened to it?”
“I looked at it and think it’s unlikely that it’ll heal. The team doctor probably didn’t tell him the truth at that time. In fact, he also knows that it’s impossible for him to go to the national team. He just wanted to compete in the National Games one last time so that he could say goodbye to his athletic career. God is so cruel to do such a thing.”
There was no rhyme or reason for why such disappointments occurred in the world.
After I nodded to show that I understood, Fatty asked me, “So what do you think?”
“The past few years weren’t useless, even if they took him in a direction that was different from what he wanted,” I said.
Time was an extremely powerful thing, and Lin Liuren would eventually come to realize that.
(1) This is an abbreviation of the sentence “scum with only a combat effectiveness of five”, which the character Raditz from “Dragon Ball” said when he met a farmer. It’s generally used to describe the meaning of low combat effectiveness, insufficient ability, etc., which is equivalent to the often said “weak and explosive” fighting power.
(2) Per Tiffany: the Chinese characters of the dish are“鸡汤汆海蚌”. “汆” means “boiled”, and it is a character that isn’t commonly seen, so Fatty couldn’t pronounce it and thought it was profanity.