The cooking station (or cooking pit) at my uncle’s country estate was on the left hand side by the entrance. A giant black (raw iron?) wok permanently sat in the built in pit (tuzao 土灶). We used the wok to steam, to sautée, make soups, and to boil water; seldom frying because we did not have enough cooking oil. Wood (? couldn’t really remember .. ) was used to fire up the pit. The flame not only cook the meals but it also heat up the kang (炕 – a heatable brick bed ) which is through the tunnel [connecting the pit and the kang]. Both pit and kang were built in fixture.
One day I was cleaning the pit. The ladle or spoon slipped through my grip and dropped into the wok. I tied to grab it but wasn’t quick enough to catch it. It was broken. And my right index finger was cut. My uncle heard the sound and walked in.
I was very scared and sorry; did not know what to do or say to him. He looked at the broken spoon and my bleeding finger, said
“Don’t you think that you cut yourself to avoid scolding.”
“Uncle, I did not cut myself on purpose!” Till this day I could not figure it out how did I cut myself. Years later when school started teaching physics, from Newton’s apple I tried in vain to figure out how and why I cut my finger. Unfortunately, till this day I have not yet solve the puzzle.
“Who would believe you? You’re a liar.”
The cut did nothing to me but his accusation did.
I used a piece of fabric to tight my finger and used my left hand finished cleaning. My two cousins saw me working with one hand, asked why. Their father said, “Her usual old trick. Cut herself on purpose to earn sympathy.”
“Why are you always so tricky? No sympathy for you!!” My cousins shouted to me.
The cut was pretty deep but I bite my lips and did the usual house chords. The hurt from the water was nothing compare to his accusation, which hurt me tremendously. Deep down, I wanted to do well to show them that I was not lazy and willing and capable to do as much work as they assigned me to. But it was never the case. I felt no matter how hard I tried, I was never up to their standard, which was no standard at all. If I managed to finish ten house chords today, they would have eleven or thirteen the next day. It’s instantiable hole I was not able to fulfill. It was frustrating and rattling my self esteem.
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