Viet Nam News -
by Vũ Văn Song Toàn
Maya was tiptoeing like a cat. Her white feet were clearly seen on the grey nylon carpet. She craned her neck forward to walk to the kitchen. A pair of high-heeled shoes were in her left hand, the broom in her right hand; she moved a few steps more before she struck the broom onto the corner of the house. She said aloud:
“It seems there is a mouse in the house!”
Trác was having a cat-nap. Maya lay down next to him and whispered in his ear:
“There’s a mouse in the house, you know!”
Maya was the most beautiful super model in the city. She had a doll face, looking like a Japanese doll in the shop windows on Kyoto Street. Her boyfriend was Trác. He got a PhD in history in the US at the age of 26. His parents were Governmental senior officials. His life was quite comfortable.
Having heard Maya, he embraced her and bit her ear, whispering:
“There isn’t any mouse in this Emerald condominium.”
“Oh, isn’t there? Look, is this a mouse?”
Trác lay on top of Maya, making her tremble. She felt weightless, as if she was falling into an immense silver water space.
Maya got up and pulled the window curtain. The last sun light of the day was blinking in the West. Outside, the Osaka tree was in full bloom with white flowers swaying in the wind. She opened the door and walked to the balcony to look down to the ground from the 16th floor. Those cars were like the beetles moving quickly along the streets. Then she watered the water lilies before walking into the room. She looked in the mirror, took a basket and took the lift downstairs. A black car was waiting for her. Maya hopped in and the car sped away.
Maya often performed on the catwalk from 9 o’clock in the night to 4 o’clock in the morning. Trác came in when she was about to go to work and he often slept there. He usually got up when she came home and bit slightly at his ear. Then she went to bed and he went home without her notice. Maya often got up at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. They continued this cycle in a precise way.
Tonight Trác felt a tickling on his ear and by instinct he opened the eyes and switched on the light. He saw a black and white object. It was a cat. Maya was determined to catch the mouse, because there was a large hole in her Birkin handbag.
“No, it’s not a mouse bite. There must be a gigantic water mouse that did it” – Trác said, bursting out laughing. The cat got jumpy and ran away.
Maya lay down next to him in a pink silk sleeping gown.
One day Maya got up 30 minutes later than usual. Maya sat next to her driver David, who was driving to the centre of the city. Maya was speaking on the phone:
“I’ve just got a cat!”
“What? A cat? Who will tend to it?”
“Nobody! Do you think all the lions in the desert are to be tended by a man?”
David was silent, driving the car to the centre.
They arrived at Martini Bar in a luxury hotel. The guests were the same, a group of models, some famous; some were high-class prostitutes. The guard in a black suit bowed to her and opened the door for her and David. She looked at the menu and then glued herself to her phone. Sometimes she talked with David before she returned to the phone. David was drinking gin on the rocks in silence. Maya was familiar with the brightly-lit stage, with the flickering camera lights and the parties through the night. She could see the sun twice a day; she went to bed when the dawn was coming and she took to the street when dusk was falling. Day in and day out, she repeated this rhythm of her life.
Now she looked out onto the street, and her head was empty. Suddenly an idea came into her mind. She wondered what Trác was doing at this time of the day. He had never said this to her. All of a sudden, she stopped using her phone and said to David:
“What would a man do at this time of day?”
“Gin on the rocks or whisky, or possibly lemon juice.”
“If he isn’t drinking?”
“He could be making love!”
Maya suddenly remembered something. She ran out of the bar, leaving David sitting there with his mouth wide open. She ran straight to the road and took a taxi. David continued to drink with his dark eyeglasses on.
Maya walked upstairs and opened the door. She tried to do it as quietly as possible. The cat jumped away, wailing in fear. The light switched on. Trác was still lying there in the yellow light. He was surprised when Maya came home so early. He got up and sat at the head of the bed. She opened the fridge as if looking for something. Then she opened wide the wardrobe and then the toilet door. Trác looked at Maya, gaping.
“What do you do when I am not here?”
“I read books!”
“Anything interesting reading books?”
“Yes, there are people in the books!”
“People? People in the books?”
“Yes, there are, of course. They go to and fro and talk with each other.”
“Are they making love with each other?”
Trác lay on top of Maya as usual. Maya felt as if she was weightless, drifting in an immense, silver body of water.
Maya opened the car door in a hurry, signaling to David to get out. She hopped into the car and drove it.
“Have you got a cigarette?”
David quickly lit a cigarette and handed it to her.
“No, not this cigarette. I want to smoke the cigarette you rolled!”
The car was still speeding down the road. Maya stopped the car under the foliage of a peach tree by the roadside. She inhaled the cigarette and then exhaled a trail of light blue smoke. Then she threw it into the grass.
“I have just killed it.”
“A mouse! It was a very big mouse and I killed it with a knife, but I failed. Oh, my cat!”
Maya suddenly cried, and then she laughed. She took the paper and rolled a cigarette herself. David lit it for her and she smoked it again. She laughed a horse laugh. Blood smeared her short skirt. Blood was on her thigh running down the knee. David asked:
“What’s the blood?”
“The blood of my cat.”
“But it’s red, very red, you see! It cannot be the blood of the cat.”
“I thought the blood of the cat is blue!”
She threw quickly down the cigarette ashes onto a bush of irises. She rushed into the car and started the engine. The car sped away into the rain.
She came back from unconsciousness in the hospital. She felt her head was numb. A feeling of elation and relaxation overtook her. Beside her was a middle-aged woman. She rubbed her eyes, asking:
“Why are you here, mum?”
“Oh, God, you’ve been unconscious for three days, you know!”
“Why am I unconscious, mum?”
“You got into a car accident.”
Her mother was bringing a bowl of soup to her. She tried to remember, but she could not. She remembered nothing. The smell of the soup made her vomit. She asked her mother:
“Where did they find me, mum?”
“Do try to eat, my dear! You haven’t eaten anything for the last few days. You were found on the avenue west of the city. Thank God, the front of the car was completely destroyed, but you were alright!”
She remembered that it rained heavily then. It was all pink outside. She stepped on the gas in the rain and she was now lying here.
“What about David?”
“You drove it yourself. There was not any David! And when did you buy the cat? When I came to your flat, the cat cried for hunger. It had not eaten for two days.”
She closed her eyes, but she did not sleep at all. Her head was empty. Her mother sat there, reading the Model magazine. She stopped at page nine upon seeing her daughter’s photo for a commercial of a six-star hotel in Singapore. She was embracing a nude plaster statue. That statue was called David.
“Are you still tired, daughter? Look, daughter, yesterday I came to Emerald condominium and found police there. The flat next to yours was filled with people and very noisy. I was told that a young man named Trác was killed. He was stabbed with a Thai-made knife in a state of complete nudity. His mouth was stuck with a piece of red leather, probably from a Birkin bag. The floor of his room was strewn with burnt cannabis leaves.”
The mother handed the paper to her and asked:
“Do you know this man?”
She bit her lips in deep thought. She shook her head.
“His name was Trác. He’s been your neighbour for almost a year now, you know!”
She tried to remember everything, but she only found the pink colour of the rain or the grey colour of the smoke. She could not be losing her mind; she still recognised her mother, anyway!
She had a splitting headache. She remembered she had killed the mouse. The mouse was dead instantly; it did not have time to cry and blood smeared her thigh.
For the past few months, the cannabis she had used to cure her insomnia had been lost. It turned out that the mouse had eaten it stealthily.
Yes, it was exactly that – the house had a mouse.
Translated by Mạnh Chương