“I have one foot in the grave!” Toan moaned. “We’re so old now, we haven’t got long left” he burst out laughing coldly. “Well, still see Hien, don’t you? In my heart of hearts I still have a deep hatred for him.”
(Nov 19, 2017)
It was about half past eight in the evening. The only bakery in the little town was almost closed. To, the shop owner, and his assistant stayed back to lock up when all the other employees had left. To’s wife lay in bed on the first floor with the flu. While To was taking the rubbish out he saw a young man of about twenty with short hair, in summer clothing that seemed rather unfashionable, slowly approaching him.
While walking through the cave suddenly I saw a ferocious-looking hunter a few metres in front of me. He had unkempt hair, a bushy beard and hairy arms, with a gun in hands aimed at me. I hid behind a tree trunk, frightened to death.
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I finished my breakfast at 8 o’clock with a cup of coffee and the sonata Moonlight. Then I began my working day by reading a scientific report “The Preservation of National Cultural Heritage”. But I could not continue as I was struck by a sneezing fit. I stood up and walked toward the window, looking down onto the street. It was already autumn and Hanoi was drenched in golden sunlight that reflected off the young, nubile students in elegant áo dài dresses.
The weather forecast said that today’s temperature might hit 39 degrees Celsius and that it was the hottest spell in the year of our lord 2016. Worse still ,a power cut plunged the whole town of Đong Thinh into darkness. In the daytime, the eternal hum of the cicadas made the atmosphere even stuffier.
According to local practices, adead person’s coffin is laid in the middle of the house for five nights before being buried. On the first and second evenings, many neighbours and relatives pay homage to him. During the thirdand fourthdays, fewer visitors come and on the last, there isalmost none, except for a few standingvigil. They staylate playing cards, not for money, but to dispel thedreary atmosphere, along with a few drinks. Then deep at night, the host cooksgruelto fight their enemies; hunger and sleep.
A siren was echoing from the ferry landing. Huong was busy cooking. It was her daily chore, from early morning to late at night. When she lived with her parents, she did field work, and now with her husband’s family, she had to farm. She planted maize, beans, chili, pepper and cucumber. She was always busy, day in day out. But she was used to it. Every woman she knew was in the same boat.