My Mister Ostrich - novelonlinefull.com
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It was the fourth year of his studies and Gu Mingxi was getting ready to head back into the work field.
His professional foundation was very solid, and since he was a lot older than his cla.s.smates, his artwork generally left a deeper impression. A few of the younger professors had even become pretty good friends with him. They often had lunch together and went to art exhibits together.
Gu Mingxi was working on a fine arts degree in painting. After graduation, people would probably work in an art studio or for the design department in a company. Some even accepted teaching jobs at primary schools and even high schools.
He was already 31 years old. While he’d continued making books, Gu Mingxi had never let go of his intent to return to teaching.
Currently, Gu Mingxi had already completed the fourth book of his ‘Xiao Chuan’ series. He was busy with school, and because he also had to spend time with his wife and son, he could only guarantee one book release a year. Still, his ‘Xiao Chuan’ series was selling very well. The series followed the young boy, Gu Xiaochuan, as he grew up, and the character was already a 13 year old boy. A lot of animation companies had already locked their eyes on the story. After Gu Mingxi discussed with Pang Qian and Jiang Qi, they picked out a strong company to sell the rights for an animated adaptation for the first three books in the ‘Xiao Chuan’ series.
During the past few years, he’d made quite a bit of money from selling the rights to his works. ‘Mister Ostrich’ had become very popular in the book, film, and animation markets. The only thing was that he never revealed his ident.i.ty and appearance to the public. Though many people knew about his situation, everyone was in agreement to keep that knowledge secret. To this day, Mister Ostrich was still a very mysterious person that fans scrambled to find out more about.
Gu Mingxi left all the money he earned in the care and management of Pang Qian. As an industry insider, Pang Qian completed this task beautifully. One day, she opened up their online account and looked at the startling number on the screen. Then she ran over to Gu Mingxi and hugged him, swaying back and forth.
“What’s going on?! Pang Pang?” Gu Mingxi asked in surprise.
Pang Qian closed her eyes and giggled foolishly. “I wanted to see what it felt like holding onto a money tree.” (Note: The phrase she uses refers to a legendary tree that drops coins when you shake it)
Gu Mingxi laughed and asked her, “Do you know what it feels like now?”
“It’s more wonderful than words can express!”
Because she’d given birth, Pang Qian took a gap year in her second year of studies. She was currently faced with interning in her third year of studies. Of course, for someone who’d already had work experience like herself, she wasn’t overly concerned with internships or future job prospects. She’d already chosen the company she would work for after graduating.
Over the past few years, Pang Qian had continued to stay in contact with Zou Liwen. She would be graduating soon, so she invited him out for a meal and expressed her interest in a job. Zou Liwen was still working in E City at Jialai Investments. While the company indeed had a vacancy, he felt that the salary wasn’t fitting of Pang Qian’s experience and academic background.
He hadn’t expected for Pang Qian to so gladly accept the offer. She said, “My son is still young, and my husband works too much. The important thing for me is to be able to spend more time with them for a few years. It’s better not to be too busy when I first return to the workplace. Team Leader, let me get myself readjusted first. After two years, when my son starts school, I’ll think about my plans again.”
Zou Liwen nodded his head. Then he said, “Actually, in the past two years, I’ve had some other thoughts.”
Pang Qian’s eyes shined. Hesitatingly, she asked, “Team Leader, are you… planning on starting your own business?”
She’d already been working with him for nearly ten years. Although they were polar opposites, they’d developed a working rapport through the years. Zou Liwen looked at Pang Qian and asked, “If I were, would you come along and help?”
“Of course!” Pang Qian seemed to be more excited than him. “Team Leader, you should’ve done this a long time ago!”
Zou Liwen said, “But, if you follow me, I probably won’t be able to match the salary that Jialai’s currently offering.”
Pang Qian shook her head. “That’s okay. I’m not the breadwinner in our family anyway. What’s important when it comes to work is that you enjoy it. You should face challenges and grow, and most importantly, you should have a good team leader.”
Zou Liwen stared at Pang Qian for a long time, then he narrowed his eyes. “Pang Qian.”
“Have you ever considered not being my subordinate?”
Those words were really quite ambiguous. Pang Qian’s head grew muddled. “T-t-t-team Leader, what do you mean by that? If I’m not your subordinate, what would I…”
“Business partners.” Zou Liwen gave her a very clear-cut response as he crossed his legs and took a sip of his coffee. “Be my partner and venture into this together with me. Pang Qian, I hope you’ll seriously consider it.”
Pang Qian went home and told this story to Gu Mingxi, asking for his opinions. She originally thought that he would be against it because starting their own business would require a lot of work. Instead, Gu Mingxi actually showed his approval of the idea.
“When you’re still young, you can push yourself a bit,” he said. “Moreover, you’ve been working together with him for a long time. You must know pretty clearly about his abilities and his contacts. Although I haven’t talked to him much, I can tell that he’s not an impulsive person. Without having made serious considerations, he wouldn’t have put forth such a suggestion.”
He leaned to Pang Qian and said quietly, “Most importantly, I think that you also want to give it a try.”
He really understood her. Pang Qian raised her eyes to look at him. “Aren’t you worried I’m going to lose all your hard-earned money?”
“Oh… I’ll allow you to take half of it. It’s fine if you use it all up.” Gu Mingxi laughed. “Starting a business definitely has its share of risks. The economy changes so quickly. Even Zou Liwen can’t predict it with a 100 percent guarantee. So I have to leave a backdoor for me and my son.”
Pang Qian reached out and tapped his nose. “Coward.”
He was still smiling, when he suddenly thought of something. He said, “I also have something to discuss with you.”
“What is it?”
Gu Mingxi slowly told Pang Qian that he’d also settled on his job plans. Teacher Dai helped arrange for some school interviews. She’d made certain that they didn’t mind his physical condition and would allow him to student-teach. There were two schools.
“One is Sunny Middle School. I would be helping to teach art for the junior high students. If I end up staying, the work will be relatively leisurely and the salary isn’t bad. I’ll have abundant time to work on my own projects as well.”
He paused. Seeing that Pang Qian didn’t respond, he continued. “The other is an elementary school. Wenzheng Elementary. Have you heard of it?”
Pang Qian thought for a moment. Surprised, she said, “It’s a school for the children of migrant workers.”
“That’s right,” Gu Mingxi nodded. “All the students there are kids of migrant workers. The princ.i.p.al there looked over my work history and saw that I’d previously taught in Sanya. They hoped that I could go to their school and not only teach art, but also English or math as well.”
Pang Qian looked at him with wide eyes. Since she still hadn’t responded, he asked, “Where do you think I should go to work?”
Seeing how careful his expression was, Pang Qian suddenly smiled. “Gu Mingxi, why are you playing dumb! You already decided which one you want to work at, didn’t you?”
Gu Mingxi couldn’t help smiling. “Mm, I already gave them a response.”
“You definitely picked Wenzheng.”
“Mm,” he nodded. With a somewhat regretful tone, he said, “It’s just that the work there will be a lot busier than at Sunny Elementary.”
Pang Qian hugged him and said, “No matter what choice you make, I’ll support you. I think that it’s more fitting that you go to an elementary school rather than a middle school.”
Gu Mingxi asked, “Why?”
Pang Qian replied righteously, “Junior high’s full of 15 and 16 year old girls who have just started learning about love. Seeing a handsome teacher like you, how dreadful would that be! I know how risky that is. But elementary schools are full of little girls, so I won’t have to worry.”
Gu Mingxi was nearly in tears from laughing. “Says who? Haven’t you seen Haichuan when he sees w.a.n.g Song’s daughter? He immediately turns into a servant. He told me before that he really liked her and would marry her when he grew up.”
Pang Qian stared in disbelief. “My goodness! He’s only 2 years old!”
After National Day, Gu Mingxi, Pang Qian, and their son returned to E City from Shanghai, ready to start their ‘graduation fieldwork.’ Pang Qian entered Jialai, still working under Zou Liwen. Gu Mingxi started teaching at Wenzheng Elementary, just an art teacher for now.
On the first day of cla.s.s, Pang Qian helped him put on a long-sleeved navy shirt and a beige knit sweater. She carefully helped him b.u.t.ton it up and then tidied up the hem and sleeves. Gu Mingxi looked at his reflection in the mirror and asked, “How do I look?”
Pang Qian raised her thumb. “Handsome!”
The first cla.s.s that Gu Mingxi taught was Grade 4’s Cla.s.s 2. The head teacher brought him to the cla.s.sroom and all the students stared, dumbfounded.
After the head teacher left, Gu Mingxi turned to face the blackboard. He slipped off his right slipper and raised his foot to the board. He easily picked up a piece of white chalk and wrote down three characters: Gu Mingxi.
He put down the chalk and turned back to face the cla.s.s. Standing up straight, he smiled at the cla.s.sroom of kids. “My name is Gu Mingxi. I’m 31 years old this year, and starting today, I’ll be your art teacher.”
Seeing how astonished the students still were, Gu Mingxi smiled even more brightly. “I’m sure you all find it kind of strange. You must be thinking that this Teacher Gu doesn’t even have arms, so how could he draw. But I really can draw, and I use my feet to do it, in just the same way that I wrote my name on the board. Oh, student.”
He looked at one of the male students and smiled. “You think I’m just talking big, don’t you? How about this. Why don’t you guys give me one cla.s.s period to prove myself?”
A few of the students nodded slightly. Gradually, more students started nodding. One student even had the guts to shout out, “Okay then!”
Gu Mingxi stood at the lectern and bent over, flipping the page of his book with his mouth. “Then, let’s start cla.s.s.”
When the cla.s.s ended, a group of kids circled around him, scrambling to ask questions.
“Teacher Gu, how do you eat?”
Gu Mingxi answered seriously. “I use my feet. My feet are really amazing, and they can do a lot of things.”
“Can you put on your clothes too?”
“Teacher Gu, why don’t you have any arms?”
“When I was little, I was a naughty kid. I climbed onto a pole and got shocked with electricity and lost my arms.”
“How old were you?”
“6 years old.”
The students started a commotion. One girl suddenly asked shyly, “Teacher Gu, do you have a girlfriend?”
Gu Mingxi smiled. “I’m already married and I have a 2 year-old son.”
“Wow…” A few girls started laughing and pushing each other. Gu Mingxi asked, “What are you laughing about?”
The girls stood around the first girl who’d asked the question and all started talking at once. “Lu Xiaofang was just saying how she thought Teacher Gu was so handsome!”
“When did I say that?!” Lu Xiaofang’s face turned red. One of the boys pursed his lips and then pulled on Lu Xiaofang’s sleeve. He said, “Hey, I’m going to buy snacks. Do you want to come?”
Lu Xiaofang found a way out and walked off with the boy. The group of girls chased after them, full of laughs and then split up into their own groups of twos and threes.
The cla.s.s representative helped Gu Mingxi carry his tools back to the teacher’s office. As they walked down the corridor, Gu Mingxi turned and saw Lu Xiaofang and the boy carrying their purchases back.
The boy’s hands were empty. As they walked, he kicked along a pebble on the ground. Lu Xiaofang was carrying a bag of snacks, eating with pleasure.
Gu Mingxi looked at her a bit and then turned to head to the teacher’s office.
And like that, he worked as an ordinary art teacher at Wenzheng Elementary, with none of his colleagues or students aware that he was the famous Mister Ostrich. Working as the art teacher was pretty leisurely. After two months of teaching, Gu Mingxi started to teach English for Grade 2. He’d never taught students that young before, and he felt that it was really too interesting.
He was naturally well-liked. No matter what cla.s.s he taught, his students all really liked him. At the end of the term, Teacher Gu, who only taught art cla.s.s once a week, beat out the language, math, English, and other teachers as the favorite instructor for the six cla.s.ses of Grade 4 and 5 students.
Gu Mingxi and Pang Qian both grew busy with work, so Gu Haichuan was taken care of by his (maternal) grandparents. Pang Qian tried not to work overtime. Then she would pick up Gu Mingxi from Wenzheng Elementary. They would have dinner at her parents’ house before taking Baby Gu home.
One day, after dinner, Pang Qian was washing dishes in the kitchen. Gu Mingxi and Jin Aihua were playing with Baby Gu in the living room.
Pang Shuisheng slipped into the kitchen and asked Pang Qian quietly, “Old Gu gave me a call today.”
Pang Qian suddenly became alert. She asked, “Mm? What did he say?”
“He asked if Haichuan was well, if you you and Mingxi were well, if you’d settled your jobs. If Mingxi was having a hard time finding work, he could help to arrange something. He still has two years before he retires.” Pang Shuisheng closed the door to the kitchen and lit a cigarette. “He wants to see Haichuan. He said the last time he saw him was when you came back over summer, so it’s been several months.”
Pang Qian lowered her head without a word.
Pang Shuisheng sighed. “Qian Qian, now that you and Mingxi are back for work, find some time to take him to his (paternal) grandpa.”
Pang Qian thought for a moment and then said, “Okay, we’ll visit. But Dad, I hope that you won’t put any pressure on Gu Mingxi about this. The problems between him and his dad can’t be resolved by just a few words from us. I know that Uncle Gu is older now and he wants to see his grandchild and he’s concerned about Gu Mingxi and Haichuan. But where was he when Gu Mingxi needed a father the most?”
Pang Qian turned to look at Pang Shuisheng. “I’m definitely not going to try to convince Gu Mingxi to repair his relationship with his father, because I know that he doesn’t hate Uncle Gu. It’s just that he’s unable to love him, respect him, or understand him. It’s not my business how sad Uncle Gu is now, or how poor Gu Ziyue’s grades are, or how poor her temper is. The only thing I care about is whether or not Gu Mingxi is happy. You don’t know how vexing it is every time we have dinner with Uncle Gu and his family. I don’t think Gu Mingxi can be happy in the midst of all that. Gu Mingxi’s relationship with them is beyond saving. Do we really have to force Gu Mingxi to be a ‘filial son’, to be such a ‘magnanimous’ person?”
Pang Shuisheng pondered on Pang Qian’s words. He nodded and sighed. “I understand what you’re saying. How about this. In the future, if Old Gu wants to see his grandson, we can invite him over during the day. We can all have a meal together and he can play with Haichuan. The two of us can even reminisce on the old days. And then you won’t have to get bullied by their family.”
Laughter suddenly sounded from the living room. Pang Qian and Pang Shuisheng walked out of the kitchen and saw Baby Gu running around the living room, his b.u.t.t naked. Jin Aihua was chasing behind him with his pants.
“Rotton kid, hurry up and put your pants on! You’ll get sick!” Jin Aihua yelled at Baby Gu.
Baby Gu ran over to hide behind Gu Mingxi. Suddenly, he was caught in Gu Mingxi’s feet and propped onto the sofa.
Gu Mingxi grabbed onto Baby Gu and tickled him with his toes causing Baby Gu to squirm on the sofa, laughing. Then he got tired and climbed over to rest on top of Gu Mingxi.
“Daddy,” he whined. “I want to pee.”
“Mm?” When Gu Mingxi realized what he meant, it was already too late. He felt something warm and wet on his leg and then cried out, “Gu Haichuan!”
The bare b.u.t.t Baby Gu seemed to be urinating quite happily. Then he used his hands and feet to get up. He shook his little birdie and then turned to Jin Aihua. “Grandma, I want to put my pants on.”
Pang Qian and Pang Shiusheng nearly went mad from laughter.
One summer day the next year, Gu Mingxi and Pang Qian graduated.
Gu Mingxi was formally hired by Wenzheng Elementary and became an official state-employed teacher.
Fudan’s masters and postdoc graduation ceremony was held first. Pang Qian wore her master’s cap and gown and received her diploma from the dean. She stood together with her peers and looked down from the stage. She saw her parents, her husband, and her son.
She looked over at them, and Baby Gu in Jin Aihua’s arms waved at her. “Mommy!”
Pang Qian, who’d brought her son along to the graduation, had caught a bit of attention. But the real attention-grabbing event occurred two days later.
Gu Mingxi’s graduation ceremony.
A 32 year old married man with a 2 year old son. He had no arms, but he was already signed on to teach at an elementary school. Fresh graduate, Gu Mingxi, had already become a legend at school.
On the evening before his graduation, Gu Mingxi returned to his dorm. He wanted to spend his final day as a student in the school.
When the sky just started to brighten, he woke up. Fu Qinfeng hadn’t woken up yet so Gu Mingxi quietly got out of bed and went to wash up. He carefully shaved. When he combed his hair and brushed his teeth, he spent even more time than usual. When he was done, he smiled at himself in the mirror. Seeing the row of white teeth, he finally put away his rinse cup.
Fu Qinfeng helped him put on his graduation gown. The large gown draped over his body, obscuring his missing arms. It really made Gu Mingxi look like a tall and handsome man. Fu Qingfeng helped him put on his graduation cap as well. After tidying up the ta.s.sel, he smiled and said, “Old Gu, congratulations on graduating.”
Xu Shuanghua had hurried back in order to attend Gu Mingxi’s graduation ceremony. Because of him, even Pang Qian and Haichuan were allowed into the preparation hall.
Before Gu Mingxi headed to the stage, Pang Qian helped him neaten his cap and gown. She looked around at the young men and women, who had obviously relaxed a great deal. Then she looked at the man in front of her. He wasn’t that young. His eyes weren’t so willful, and his expression not to stubborn. He smiled warmly, the corners of his eyes crinkling, marking the pa.s.sage of time.
Pang Qian told Baby Gu in her arms, “Haichuan, what do you have to say to Daddy?”
Baby Gu cried out, “Daddy, congratulations on graduating!”
Gu Mingxi didn’t have someone else accept his diploma for him. He held the diploma between his cheek and shoulder, smiling as he took a photo with the school president.
After the ceremony ended, everyone flocked outside the hall. Gu Mingxi’s cla.s.smates quickly surrounded him, each one of them wanting a photo with him.
Some girls hugged him and cried, “Old Gu! I’ll miss you!”
The boys kept saying, one after another, “Old Gu, when we go to visit E City, you have to come out for a drink with us!”
Gu Mingxi smiled. “No problem. When you guys come to E City, I’ll act as your tour guide. I’ll take you around and treat you to a meal! We’ll stay out ’til we’re drunk!”
“We want to go to your place! To eat your specialty dishes!”
“It’s a deal!”
A lot of people attended Gu Mingxi’s graduation ceremony. Afterwards, they waited outside the auditorium. Pang Shuisheng, Jin Aihua, Shark, Xiao Le, Tian Tian, Xu Shuanghua… Everyone took a photo together. Then the cla.s.s president called for all the students to get a photo together and everyone circled around Gu Mingxi again. Pang Qian carried Baby Gu and watched them, and she realized that he’d been smiling the entire time. He was smiling so much that he couldn’t close his lips.
After posing for a serious group photo, they started to take silly pictures. Pang Qian carried Baby Gu and walked over to them. Baby Gu raised his head and looked at the cap on Gu Mingxi’s head. “Daddy, I want to wear your hat.”
Pang Qian helped Gu Mingxi take off his hat and put it onto Baby Gu’s head. It was a bit big and dropped down to cover Baby Gu’s eyes. All the girls on the side couldn’t stop laughing.
Baby Gu laughed along. “I’m also a college student.”
Just then, someone said, “Let’s toss up our caps!”
“Ugh, you’re so old fashioned!”
“This is called tradition!”
“Old Gu, come on then. Have your son help you throw it up!”
Pang Qian held onto Baby Gu and let him stand on his dad’s shoulders. She told him to hold the cap in his hands. She looked over at Gu Mingxi and realized that he was looking at her as well. A pair of clear, dark eyes, full of happiness.
Gu Mingxi asked his son, “Are you ready?”
Baby Gu nodded his head.
The person taking photos said, “One, two, three!”
Countless caps flew into the air. With Pang Qian’s help, Gu Haichuan’s little hands went up and Gu Mingxi’s graduation cap flew up into the sea of caps.
Above their heads was the June Shanghai sky. Clear, blue, with floating white clouds.
A school of birds flew past, flapping their wings with their might, headed into the distance.
This story hasn’t ended.
Perhaps one day, you’ll turn around and see Mister Ostrich and Miss Crab.
They exist right beside us, just as all the other people in this story.
So please, do not cry for them. And please, live a good life.
Each and every one of us should live our own romantic story.