Waiting by Ha Jin
Updated: Jan 21, 2019
When he arrived at the plant, it was already dark; all the houses had their lights on. Without difficulty he found Unit 12, which had been assigned to Hua recently and was in the middle of a dormitory house. Hearing his daughter singing from inside, he didn’t knock on the door. He couldn’t make out what she was singing, perhaps a dance song.
It had begun to snow lightly. From a tall smokestack in the south, a loudspeaker was announcing the evening news after the music of „The East Is Red, the Sun Is Rising”. Outside the plant a few firecrackers exploded on the balconies of some residential building.
Uncertain whether he should go in, he remained at the window, whose panes had almost frosted over. He bent forward and looked in with one eye through an uncovered spot. Inside, Shuyu, in a white apron and a green cotton-padded jacket, looked healthy and happy. Mother and daughter were making pies together. A round bamboo grid on a kneading bowl held three rows of pies. Hua was rolling out the dough with a wooden pin, while her mother was using a spoon to stuff the pies with sugared red-bean paste. Shuyu looked younger now, somewhat urbanized; she reminded Lin of a professional cook. For some reason he was overwhelmed by the peaceful scene, and his throat tightened. He straightened up, looked around, and saw a few white cloth sacks, which must have been filled with frozen dumplings and pies, hanging outside some windows of another dormitory house. He remembered that back in their home village each family would make thousands of pies and dumplings at the end of the year and have them frozen in the storehouse, so that they wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time preparing meals during the holiday season. Winter was the time to relax and enjoy themselves, and many men would gamble and get drunk everyday.