Xun De is a small fishing village in northern Fujian. Of course, since Fujian is one of China’s southern provinces, it’s usually warm. On hot days, the smell of fish is everywhere; like a heavy blanket covering our town. Even though I lived there, sometimes, the smell took my breath away.The hot wind came rolling in from the sea and seemed to bring even more of the fishy scent with it.
Most of the men in the village were fishermen. My father used to be one too before he left. Almost every day, he would leave before dawn and return after the sun had gone down. After he left, mother made ends meet by working for the fishermen in the village. She would cut and dry the fish that they brought in and sometimes help mend their nets. They paid her a little bit of money and sometimes gave some of the fish to her as well.
Most of the fishermen were very friendly with my mother. I didn’t remember father having so many friends. But, once he left, the fishermen came by quite often to chat with mother.
She would always try to bring up Father when she talked with me and my didi. My little brother started walking early and was always busy exploring something. “Your father will hit your bottom with a broomstick when he returns. You’ll see. I’m going to tell him that you’ve been naughty,” she would say, trying to scare him. Unfortunately, didi didn’t remember Father too well. So he would continue whatever he was doing, unafraid of this mythical father person.
I soon realized that since Didi was unafraid of consequences, I could use him to help me take things I wanted. After I figured this out, I decided to try it on one boring day.
“Didi, want to play a game?”
“Sure, Gege,” he would reply, nodding excitedly.
“Let’s see how quickly and quietly you can take some candy from Auntie Yen’s store. I’m going to count now and wait outside. I’ve done it before in less than the count of forty. Let’s see if you can do it faster,” I told him.
“Hao de,” he said, nodding seriously.
“Get ready,” I said. He crouched into a runner’s position.
Didi ran into the store quickly. I heard some commotion and a woman’s voice shouting. A crash followed by a yelp could be heard from where I was standing next to the door.
“Come back here, you little rogue!” a woman yelled.
A little blur in the shape of my brother appeared next to me with three packages of penny candy in his hands. His face was white and he looked about to cry.
“Quickly! Let’s go!” I shouted, running and looking back to make sure he was behind me.