A Little Hike

litbonanza.jpgFADE IN:

Dialogue in Mandarin with English subtitles. An impoverished rural village in contemporary China.


MAMA, a single mother of three children in her mid 30’s, walks along a dusty dirt road into a meek wooden house lugging a heavy pail of water.

A shabby cloth hangs in the doorway in place of a door.


A one-roomed house furbished with a couple of fold-out chairs and a few pieces of old wooden furniture.

One large wooden bed is in the far corner.

WEI, Mama’s youngest son aged 5, is lying in the bed being watched over by his GRANDMOTHER, a fragile little woman of 70.

Mama hovers over a small CRACKLING fire, cooking a small tin pot of rice over it. She fans the fire and looks over at Wei.

LU, and YUAN return to the house and walk towards Wei. Yuan places a wet towel over his face.

Lu is the eldest son, 11. He wears a faded undersized t-shirt with a corporate soft drink logo on it. Yuan, 9, is the only daughter.


AUNT LING, a nosy middle-aged neighbour, is conversing at a small fold-out table with Mama.

AUNT LING: You know, your health has been deteriorating ever since Jiang died. You can’t support this family by yourself. You can’t keep running to me for money.

MAMA I’m desperate…Wei is sick.

AUNT LING: You can’t pay me back.

Aunt Ling glances at Lu, who is teaching Yuan simple words by drawing the characters on the dirt floor.

AUNT LING (CONT’D): Lu looks pretty healthy and strong. You know, I heard a man is looking for healthy children to work for him. They pay pretty good. Up front too.

MAMA: …I don’t know…

AUNT LING: Look. You need money. He’ll give you the money and it’s a long-term contract. Just a little hike.

MAMA: He’s far too young. I can’t just ship him off to the unknown…

Lu watches the two women as they reason with each other. They are too engrossed in the conversation to notice.


Lu sits at the bed and watches Mama wash clothes in a plastic tub. He walks over and looks intently at her.

LU: Mama, I want to go work.

Mama, surprised, narrows her eyes at him.

MAMA: No. You’re not going. It’s too dangerous.

LU: I heard you and Aunt Ling talking. If I don’t go, how can we survive? I’m old enough to know I can help.

MAMA: I’ll find a way…you’re still a child, Lu. You don’t understand how complicated this is. There’s a lot of work involved. And you’ll be away for a very long time.

LU: Fang’s mother just sent him to work too. We haven’t heard from him yet, but I know it will be hard. I’m prepared to do this for our family. I can save Wei.

Mama looks at the floor. She slowly brings her gaze to Lu’s eyes. There are tears in her eyes. She hugs Lu and holds his head to her chest.


The whole family stands outside the house. Lu takes a long look at his home. He turns and embraces his younger sister, brother and grandmother.

He is carrying a cloth bag stuffed with essentials.

They have an emotional farewell, and Mama guides Lu away from his siblings.

Their figures shrink as Yuan, Wei and the grandmother stand watching them as they disappear down the dirt road.


Mountainside. Dense forest. A steep rocky trail.

Mama and Lu trudge along a narrow pathway leading up the mountain, periodically dodging branches and roots growing onto the road.

The pair hike in silence. The branches SNAP under their weight.

They are surrounded by lush trees and wilderness.


Mama slips — Lu lunges to her side to break her fall.

MAMA: Let’s take a break and have some food.

Lu takes a couple of stale buns from his cloth bag and hands one to Mama. They sit and take in their surroundings.

MAMA: Lu, you don’t have to do this…

LU: I told you Mama, I do. It’s my duty to help the family. I can’t sit back and watch this happen.


Travel-worn, Mama and Lu arrive at a wooden cabin surrounded by thick brushwood. It is almost hidden.

MAMA: I think we’re here.

She knocks on the door.

A RUDE MAN, mid 30’s with a beard, flings open the door.


Mama and Lu are sitting at a table talking to the man. Three other men are in a small bedroom to the right of them.

RUDE MAN: Two thousand Yuan for him. That’s a great deal.

MAMA: When can I visit him? What is he going to be doing? When does he get to come home? Where are you —

RUDE MAN: — don’t worry okay? Look, do you want the money or not? I don’t
have all day. Take it or leave it.

Mama faces Lu. He holds her gaze and nods reassuringly.

LU: I’ll see you soon okay Mama? Don’t worry about me. I love you.

She squeezes him tightly and kisses his forehead. They both fight back tears.


Mama stumbles down the mountain. Tears stain her face. She stops and looks fixedly at the money in her hand.


Mama re-enters the cabin. No one is in the room.

She peers into the bedroom on the right. The door is half shut.

She sees Lu’s cloth bag near the door and moves closer to the room.


Lu is lying on a wooden table. The rude man stands with his back against the door, leaning over Lu. Blood is DRIPPING from the table into a puddle on the floor.


The man, startled, turns and reveals a motionless Lu. Lu lies with an open wound in his abdomen beside a bucket of ice.

Mama’s eyes grow wide and streams of tears fall down her face. She drops the money and starts to WAIL uncontrollably, running towards the room.

Men run out of the room with a BANG and hold her down. She kicks and YELLS and SOBS, bites a man, and manages to free herself.

She runs to her son. The rude man lunges after her with his scalpel. Mama SCREAMS.


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Vania Chan is currently an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia. She is interested in culture, especially film and music, as well as social issues and the way in which these two elements relate to one another.