On the 24th of every month, the family ran out of food. In the afternoon, my grandmother, my mother, my brother or I would bring money and a bag of flour and go to the grain store and stand in a long line.

Of course, we also had to bring our food stamps. In those days, everyone had a food ration, and the square-sized food stamps were more important than money. When I first started high school, I was the “flower of the motherland”, and the government gave us a monthly ration of 24 and a half catties, or 8 taels a day on average.

Nowadays, Beijing children can never eat 8 taels of staple food. Except in poor areas. That’s how strange things are: the poorer you are, the bigger your appetite is. At that time, the whole China was in famine, food was scarce, and oil, vegetables and meat were even scarcer. Every day we ate only a little carbohydrate. As time went on, everyone became hungry wolves.

Still, the government was compassionate and allowed the people to eat all the food in the morning – the food stamps for the following month were activated after noon on the 24th of each month. So, as soon as it was past 12 o’clock, my grandmother, my mother, my brother or I would bring money and a pocket of flour and go to the grain store and stand in a long line.

In the evening, the family gathered to separate the rations they bought and put them into paper bags. We had to divide the rations according to the number of days, so we had to eat the rations for a few days; we had to divide the rations according to the number of meals, so that the rations were thin in the morning, dry in the afternoon and thick in the evening, and we had to divide them according to the types: coarse and fine grains were combined. In short, it is a planned economy, and the goal is to stick to the 24th of next month.

The ration is a fixed number, but the number of days per month is different. This month 31 days, grandma sighed; next month 30 days, we jumped; the most compassionate in February, the same ration, only have to deal with 29 days, or even 28 days. It is really a great advantage.

Gluing paper bags can also take advantage, because it is necessary to “glue”, and use white flour. Shake the white flour pockets clean, soak in water; soak out the pulpy water, and then add more or less flour, put in a pot, cooked until the bubbles, it will stick. When gluing the paper bags, you can take advantage of the situation and smear the glue that should be on the paper into your mouth. After the paper bag is glued, there will always be some glue left in the pot, so the siblings can openly bend their fingers to scrape and stick out their tongues to add it.

There are four siblings. I am the second. It is said that the oldest is loyal, the second cunning. My practice has tested this truth. I was always hungry, so hungry that the early festival is not safe, came up with a bad idea.

That month to buy rations, I grabbed to go. Grandma let buy 30 pounds of stick noodles, but I only carried back 28 pounds. Naturally, I paid the difference at 30 pounds. The family is also divided by 30 pounds of bags.

The next few days, I was a thief and kept a high level of vigilance. The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you have a good idea of what you are doing. The actual fact is that you can find a lot of people who are not able to get a good deal on this. I do not dare to count the depth of the spoon, the bowl of thinness, but also try to slow down the speed of drinking porridge, as if the cornmeal fell more than usual.

Luckily. No one noticed that the ration was deducted. Anyway, it is not enough to eat at all times, and it is rare to have a filled stomach for comparison. The food stamps and money that were deducted were also safe and sound: I put them in my book jacket one day and under the backing of my watercolor box the next, but I didn’t dare put them in my coat pocket – my mother sometimes had to do my laundry.

Finally, I was relieved and decided to be extravagant. The dream is a kind of “senior snack”: a small plate with seven or eight small pieces, pay a couple of food stamps, 50 cents, and pour it to you with a clatter. A classmate bought it. His father is a high cadre, earning more money, but also received a top grain to eat the “small ball of algae” …… I can not, embezzled stick noodles money a total of 20 cents, buy half a plate of senior snacks are not enough. Of course, I also have pocket money, my mother gave me to rent small books to read, a penny a day, can rent a thick, or two thin. But even if I didn’t go into the Little People’s Bookstore for a month, I could just about get enough for a plate of premium snacks, so what about the remaining one pound and nine taels of food stamps?

I returned to the planned economy: to buy big fires. I bought one in 3 days, which is good for a month. Wait until the next month to buy food waiting ……

But did not wait for the next month.

The next month, not waiting for the next month, the big fire has become tasteless.

In the beginning, of course, the big fire is extremely delicious: hot, crispy, fragrant. After school, line up, walk to the courtyard entrance, I said goodbye to my classmates, and went into the doorway. But I didn’t go home, I saw that the line was far away, and then I ran out in a flash, straight to the mouth of the hutong. There was a small restaurant at the entrance of the hutong. There was an old grandfather in the restaurant. The old grandfather was sad for a while after the “public-private partnership”, excited for a while when “overtaking the British to catch up with the United States”, to “three years of difficulties”, and then listless.

“Buy a fire!” I was so enthusiastic. The old grandfather looked at me suspiciously …… I handed over the hot food stamps and money, he did not look at it, accepted it. The people of that time can not be counterfeit, there is little sense of precaution.

Of course, my food stamps and money are real. I do not fool outsiders, only my own people.

I took the fire and went out into the street, leaning against a telephone pole, watching the trams go by and devouring them. Sometimes I go to the Little People bookstore and chew on the children in the glass window. And sometimes, I bring my afternoon meal to the early morning and stand in front of the school, chewing beautifully …… The big fire not only fills my stomach, but also allows me to hold up my belly and face the stares around me: envy, jealousy, suspicion …… and that high cadre of kids who see them as kindred spirits. affection.

Unfortunately, the good times did not last long.

Grandma steamed a drawer of vegetable dumplings with a stick dough crust and a cabbage bang filling. The largest one was reserved for her mother, and the smallest one she ate for herself. The same was true for the gold and silver rolls or the pancakes. The four of us brothers picked the middle one. My sister is a girl; my brother is not in school yet. The competition was mainly between my brother and me. My grandmother loved my brother and said he was the eldest grandchild and should pick first. My mother favored me, saying that I was often sick and needed more nutrition. Mother and daughter each have their own arguments, and as a result, a compromise agreement was reached: my brother and I took turns picking, one at a time.

That day, it was my turn to pick. I had just eaten a hot pot outside, so I picked a smaller one.

It’s not because I’m full. 3 days plus a hot pot doesn’t add much fuel. To let me eat openly, I can also put a drawer of vegetable dumplings are wrapped round. But I just feel …… weak, timid and uncomfortable, so I picked a small one for the first time.

The old lady was puzzled and touched my head: “What’s wrong? Do not feel well?”

I had a hard time saying anything, giggling. When people have something to say, they tend to pant, pant for a while, often panting out falsehoods, often beautiful falsehoods …… “Big brother is bigger, than I can eat ……”

Grandma was pleasantly surprised: “This child …… understands things ……”

At night, I was under the covers when my mom came back. The grandmother, who loves to complain, uncharacteristically, opened the door and reported: “This child, Xiaozheng, understands things!”

My father was working in Tianjin, and my mother was in charge of the family. Mom was a sand turner, heavy physical labor, and the factory was far from home, plus she was always competitive and enthusiastic about social activities, so she came home every day, exhausted. Sometimes, when we were asleep, or when she thought we were asleep, she would scavenge a little bit of food from each paper bag and give mom a small bowl of “fish” or “lump soup” or something. Maybe she could even turn out an egg to lie in.

Then, grandma went to pee for my sister – she was still small and cried when she peed. Sometimes she woke me up. When I woke up, I wanted to pee too.

My mother brought the bowl to my mouth: “Eat a mouthful of egg.”

I resisted. Not only because I heard my grandmother sigh.

“Easily eat not …… fast, eat and then sleep.”

I ate.

Then I couldn’t sleep. I heard my grandma snore and listened to the rats chewing gorilla paper on the roof. The rest of the food stamps and money are being stuffed in the cracks of the wall. I hope the rats can’t find ……

In the following days, I became more diligent. I helped my grandmother pour the ashes, helped my mother wrap the wool, carried water with my brother, and even poked the stick that carried the water towards him, and put more effort into my studies. However, it’s not enough. It’s as if a 5 today doesn’t offset the 2 yesterday. Counting the remaining food stamps. There are still 8 taels left. But I don’t want to eat 4 more big fires.

I came up with another way to get rid of it.

After school, I lined up and walked to the entrance of the courtyard, I said goodbye to my classmates and went into the doorway. Seeing that the road queue was far away, I suddenly made a surprise appearance and rushed into the house in a flash. “Grandma, grandma, grandma! I picked up four taels of food stamps!” I cupped two food stamps and waved them in front of my grandma’s eyes.

“Really? Where did you pick them up?”

“Right in front of the courtyard! Under the steps!”

Grandma was so happy that she bared her false teeth and repeatedly rubbed the crumpled food stamps: “…… this child, his eyes are really good …… enough to boil a pot of vegetable porridge …… alas! …… also not who is so big-hearted …… lose what should not lose food stamps ah ……”

That night, when drinking vegetable porridge, in front of my brother and sister and brother, my grandma snapped the bottom of the pot into my bowl: “Don’t be angry! If you have the ability, you can also pick two food stamps to go!”

I still have two more. I didn’t want to give them all away, but I wanted to surprise the whole family a few more times. So, the next day, I repeated the same trick and made a big noise again.

This time, after the surprise, grandma frowned again: “The same place you picked?”

“Ah! Just under the doorway steps!”

“Evil …… didn’t see it yesterday?”

“Ah ……”

“Maybe the wind blew it over the night before …… and thanks to the wind not blowing again last night ……”

It’s also a good thing I don’t have food stamps anymore.

In the night, my mother shook me awake. The factory issued overtime snacks: half of the baked yellow eyes of the big nest.

I was allowed to eat it all by myself.

This time, grandma not only did not sigh, but also gave me a glass of plain water: “Eat slowly, do not choke.”

Both grandma and mom watched me eat and laughed at me.

I really like to see them laughing.

On Sunday, a classmate named Liu Yong asked me to go catch crickets. We went to the western suburbs. There were many crickets in the western suburbs: the crickets in the haystacks were big, and the crickets by the railroad tracks had hard teeth.

However, before we found the crickets, we found a strange group of people – a large group of people dressed up in city clothes were picking and plucking eggplant seedlings in the vegetable field with their backsides puckered. An old farmer, with a black face, was skulking around, shouting.

“Be more careful with your hands! Clean up this field in the morning! I’ll say it up front: when you’re done, you’ll get five pounds of eggplant per person and go home. If you can’t finish, you’ll go back to the city empty-handed!”

Suddenly, I seemed to see my grandmother and mother’s smile again.

“Go!” I encouraged Liu Yong, “Let’s also earn five pounds of eggplant!”

There were a lot of people earning eggplants, men, women and children. Liu Yong and I blended in and were not noticed by the black-faced uncle.

However, after a short time, we couldn’t stand it anymore. The ground was too dry, and the eggplant seedlings were hard to pull; our hands were too tender, and we got blisters after pulling a few times; the black-faced uncle was extremely hateful, directing everything, and his mouth was not clean, and he kept on talking, saying that city people are no good: lazy, stupid, useless, and full for nothing.

So, even tired and angry, I came up with a bad idea – this time I have to blind the outsiders.

The eggplant should have been put into the bamboo basket, and the seedlings should have been carried to the ground. Liu Yong and I put the eggplant seedlings and the eggplant together and threw them into the trench at the head of the ground …… Hey, after a while, we broke away from the labor force and reverted to catching crickets. No crickets, eggplants!

I had the black-faced uncle down.

He didn’t find us, but he found the eggplant. He didn’t think it was us, but he took out his anger on all the “city people”: “Hungry and crazy, right? You’re used to stealing, right? Fine! When the time comes, each person deducted a pound, four pounds! Not even one more!”

I have all the city people.

Watching black-faced uncle fury, listening to the city people complaining, I am more boring, sitting on the ground. Liu Yong asked me what happened. I said my stomach hurts.

Liu Yong suddenly also cunning, although he is not a penis. He told me to keep on hurting, hurting hard, hurting out of shape, preferably grunting. He went to find Uncle Blackface.

The black-faced uncle looked at me without moving, making me scared. It was more natural to grunt again.

Black-faced uncle asked: “You two do not have an adult with you?”

I first nodded and then shook my head.

Black face also nodded first and then shook his head: “Go to the bubble thin, home go! Don’t do it.”

Liu Yong stammered: “That we did half a day ……”

Black face no longer speak, from the large basket near the rattling out some of the smallest, most ugly eggplant, thrown to us. Thinking about it, he pulled them into two again and walked away.

Liu Yong and I also walked away – he pretended to hold me, I pretended to be unable to straighten up.

We took those eggplants with us, of course. Smaller, more ugly, but still eggplants.

A total of 10. 5 per person. I still remember it clearly.

We walked far away before we laughed out loud.

Grandma went out that day. Mom didn’t seem to be feeling well and was resting on her bed. When I came back with the eggplant, she suddenly came to life and told her siblings to gather at the head of the bed.

Mom cut the raw eggplant into thin slices and distributed them round by round. She ate them herself, asking me about the origin of the eggplant as she ate.

I concealed the deception, highlighted the labor, and showed the blood blisters on my palms.

Mom smiled all the time, but her eyes grew red.

It was as if I had grown up and had developed a sense of mission to share my family’s worries. Since then, I have made the family a few more times, even with my brain and hands.

I went to the Summer Palace to pick mulberries: I didn’t buy a ticket, I went through the breach in the fence and went to the west embankment – where there were fewer people and more mulberry trees. The first thing you need to do is find a short stick, tie an iron hook, climb the tree, hidden behind the leaves, eat enough, and then pick enough. When the triumph, to put on the gloves, cover the mouthpiece, so that the park management will not find the purple hands and mouth.

I went to Shichahai to touch the mussels: just in time for dredging, the water is all dried up. It is said to be dry, but also stained with mud and water. A foot down, chirping straight to the knee, pull out are quite hard. I used my toes to probe the bottom, to explore a round, naked thing, is the mussel, and then the arm deep down. Three times, the body is covered with black stink, as if people now smeared with “Dead Sea mud”. “Dead Sea mud” is rich people play, can beauty, beauty. I, on the other hand, got back a bunch of old mussel meat that I couldn’t stew and chew, and came out all red and itchy with small bumps.

I also picked sour dates, broke willow buds, dug up horse spooner vegetables (amaranth), fishing for small white strips …… and once a dead crow appeared on the roof, my brother and I picked it off with a long bamboo pole, stewed it like a chicken and ate it. The crow is extremely thin, probably also starved to death. The meat is pathetic, like bad wood, and a little sour.

In the summer, I went to Beihai with Li Wenhu.

Li Wenhu is also in the same class, I am extremely special a partner: study is very poor, extremely good health; family than I poor, hand wider than me; righteousness, flowing; for my good, take me bad …… I wrote about him in the novel, this chronicle series, there are also about him in the selection. This article will not say more.

I went to the North Sea with Li Wenhu. There is a garden within a garden in the North Sea – Hao Pu Jian. There are ancient paintings in the pavilion, birds chirping among the grass and trees, and nice fish in the pond.

We went there for the fish, not for the beauty, but for the taste. It’s been a long time since we’ve eaten fish at home. The last time was the Spring Festival, eating with fish, with the side food book to buy: three people below a catty; five people above two catties. The next rationing, probably have to wait for the “eleventh”.

Li Wenhu can help me smell the fish in advance. He prepared a line board, a fish hook, a piece of nest.

He let me fish. He gave me a lookout. He said he had good eyes and could see nosy people.

I sat on the edge of the pavilion, pressed the line board under my butt, and then quietly primed the line and followed the gap in the rocks to renew the hook into the water.

Okay. Just waiting for the line to suddenly taut. Before that, I can pretend to rest, pretend to look at the scenery, pretend to recite the text “The Golden Fish Hook”: “The old class leader made a fish hook with a sewing needle” …… or, without pretending, really do something, let’s say sing: “Let’s swing the double pulp” ……

I love to sing this song, I used to sing it when I could get enough to eat, and now I still sing it even when I can’t get enough. The first time I sang it was in Beihai. At that time, I had just joined the team, had a team day, visited the garden, rowed a boat, and visited the hydroelectric power station for children and youth. The hydroelectric power station is just behind the Hao Pu Jian children ……

The fish line suddenly straightened out and bounced around! I lifted the line so hard that my fingers hurt from the pull. I was able to pull my fingers to the point of pain. A big carp came out of the water! It was more than a foot long! I used to fish for small white fish like willow leaves, but I never thought I’d find such a big guy. The fish was so big that it made an even louder sound, so loud that the whole world could hear it. I was flabbergasted and let the fish wrestle with itself on the rocks ……

Li Wenhu ran over and held the fish down.

He also took off his shirt, the fish with hooks and lines together with the cover, wrapped up, to my arms a stuffed, pulling me on the run.

He did not find the nosy people. An old lady called up: “No fishing here …… Hey, those two kids …… someone stole the fish …… “

Li Wenhu’s light spine led me to run, the faster I ran.

Have been running out of the park entrance, look back, only to find the eyes of two janitors chasing us. We were scared to run faster.

Fortunately. No one came after us. I still don’t know if the two janitors were too stupid, too lazy, or too nice.

Anyway, I’m not too nice anymore.

That day, back home, the fish was still alive. According to Li Wenhu’s prior instructions, I opened the live fish. The fish’s intestines and stomach were hollowed out, still able to move, and finally, rolled his eyes at me.