My father got dead drunk and was reeling home, speaking rubbish for the
whole night. My house was so small that it could fit only two beds.
Mother knew what Father would do to her when he was drunk. He was going
to beat her black and blue.
At the age of forty, I still liked to be seen as an ageless lady.
"Mad! Liar!" I imagined people would say if they knew. You could
possibly call me mad - but a liar? Not really! I was a psychologist, so
why would I need anyone else to diagnose me?
She and I would say farewell. That was why we were having dinner
together. She sent me a text message: "Let's eat together tonight. I
have something to tell you. Something important."
The scorching June sun made the surface of the asphalt road seem to melt
in a dim wisp of vapour which was flickering up slightly. Even our
wooden plank bed was too hot for me to lie down on. On such a day I
usually hung my grandfather's hammock on two strong branches of the
sapodilla tree at the end of the veranda to enjoy the cool fresh air
from the river nearby.
At age eight, I was given a good hiding by Father because I had left the
buffalo hungry and tried to get near a classroom. When I was 10, I was
given another good hiding because I had helped a boy next door solve a
problem. For women and girls in my family, being literate was a sin.
When old Coc Loong, a cancer patient, was sent home by the provincial
hospital authorities, his clan was greatly worried. He was not only a
descendant of the famous Luu lineage, but also a respected resident of
Na Luong Village due to his special ability.
Having dropped the net, old Ngu swam one more round before he
reached the shore and rested his head on a tuft. A cluster of hyacinth
flowers was floating lazily towards him, like the vague memories that
were drifting into his mind.
Come what may, the confrontation between the old mother and her
daughter-in-law remained unresolved. Every week, she had to sweep her
mother's room and endure the nauseating stench of her chewed betel quids
and uncared-for toilet.
Dien had a close shave the other day at a railway barrier that ran
through the city near her office. The barrier guard was in great fear
when he saw the girl appear out of nowhere and stand motionlessly in the
middle of the rail.
One early morning in late autumn, Hau caught the express train from
the South to Ha Noi, then went upstream to the mountainous district
capital of Yen to pay homage to her ex-husband Hien, who had just died
of a brain haemorrhage.