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Nguyen Phong story

Thursday, 30/05/2019 10:29



(The old soldier with silver hair

Told Nguyen Phong story a hundred times)

A typical yellow taxi of New York city pulled over to the curb. The taxi driver is about seventy years old with brown silver hair and a red face like fighting-cock looking away and smiling at him.

He said, "Bring me to Tarrytown”. The taxi driver said, "That place is far away. It cannot be measured by speedometer. Let me see the price list. " As he spoke, he drew a thick book like a dictionary to look up. He lifted up his head and asked: "Do you pay by cash or by card?" He replied, "Cash." "Then it is $150." He nodded.

Turning to the big guy, he whispered in Vietnamese, "it is the same everywhere, everyone likes cash to avoid taxation." The big guy just laughed and commented nothing. He has been studying here for three years, living on his family allowance, so he does not care about tax matters.

As the car escaped from the dense intersection like the chess-board line, to the freeway, it seemed freer, the old man began to talk: "Are you Japanese?" "No. Vietnamese". He shouted for a minute, then asked: "Sai Gon?". He shook his head: "Hanoi". "I have come to Vietnam," he bragged.

He knows the feeling of foreigners is often very bad after traveling to Vietnam, so did not ask more. The old man found that he was not interested in, then he stopped to talk and occasionally looked at him through the rearview mirror.

The car slowed down. The old man held his hands over his head, saying: "This place is often blocked!" It is unclear whether he wanted to talk to him or just feel for himself. Before putting his hand back on the steering wheel, he tilted slightly and adjusted the soft cap which is put neatly over the dashboard.

Until this time he noticed the hat. Apparently, it was deliberately placed. The visor is on the back forwarding the passenger side. On the forehead of the cap, there are embroidered emblems of two crossed green rifles. With a line of yellow word: Veteran - Vietnam War (2). He accidently knew what to talk to the driver.

He began: "So, you joint the fight in Vietnam?". As just waiting for that question, the driver drove his chest pounding a loud sound, his chin slightly raised, his eyes watching through the mirror, said: "Division 4". He asked: "How long had you been in Vietnam?" The old man answered, "Three years."

The elder with headphones nodded to the music from the iPhone.

The life full of fire was traced throughout the way to go to Tarrytown by the old driver. It seems he has narrated many times that makes him memorized it all. He listened intently, occasionally asking for unknown passages. He looked at the elder. The big guy closed his eyes as if sleeping. His foreign language skill is just a little, intending to ask the big guy some difficult words but he stopped when seeing this scene.

He knew the elder was not interested in hearing the old man's story. As his story, the children also do not want to hear. They said: "Daddy's stories are so boring ", "Daddy, forget these stories" ... He yelled: "You are the new generation of bored, forgetful."

He asked the old man, "Do you know why you lost?" The old man shrugged, saying, "I know, because we fought the greatest generation of your country." He thought for a moment and nodded: "Well, maybe."

He opened the wallet, took money to pay the old man, winked, and said: "My father fought with you, he nearly died". The excited face of the old man suddenly turned to be glassy. He stammered: "It’s war, war, not my fault."


* *

In the summer of the seventy four, at the age of five, he was in kindergarten. That afternoon, from the class, he jumped to his feet, pulling a branch of wood that was tied with a rope to make a car. At the beginning of the alley, the children in the neighborhood announced: "Your daddy’s back." He forgot the "car", ran as flew to home. Sitting next to the table talking with neighbors was a skinny man, with blue skin, wearing military uniforms but lacking army rank, withour medal on the chest. The right pant was neatly fold, but with no visible leg. A wooden crutch was next to it.

He just stood in the middle of the door. "This’s daddy, say hello to daddy" the elder remembers.

He stared at the man. This is my father? He still imagined that his father won the match back, with a command car stopped before the gate. Step down with majesty. Head with a rolling hat. A pistol with brown skin cover on the hip. Black leather shoes hit the ground after every step. Children's neighborhood kids running behind the accusations. He will be held by his father, swagger with other kids.

But no ... Why this thin man with wooden crutch is my dad?

The man was still sitting on a chair, holding the hands in his direction with a distorted smile: “My little son, come here to me for a hug”. The elder pushed his shoulder, urging: "Come back to Daddy". He walked slowly, dumbfounded and terrified. This is the first time he has seen his father in flesh skin.

His father was seriously injured, lost a lung, four ribs and his right leg saw on the pillow.

Daddy’s life full of fire in his in memory remained only like that. Years later, Dad was a bicycle repairman. Bright morning in crutches, picking up tools in a blue box ammunition moss to come to the corner of the alley. Where two power poles stands close to each other with a piece robe is stretched in the middle to prevent them from rain and sunshine. That is the "agency" daddy work for until his death.


* *

Tarrytown is a suburb of New York City, placing on the sloping hillside holding the edge of Hudson River. Impressed by the white painted wooden houses under the dark green foliage. The streets are deserted. It is so empty that the deer sometimes rushed through the streets to the forest on the other side. They are not afraid of people. Small baby shy like squirrels are also not afraid of people. Apparently not paying attention to the presence of human beings like him, they leisurely, slowly found food on the streets. He folded his pants, the elder immediately said: "Dad do not give food to them. Fine 50 dollars". He said: "I fed them, not arrest them for slaughter, what penalty?" The elder explained, "They will depend on humans and lose their instincts if they are fed." He muttered, "Freedom is for animals also. Surreal! "

Due to unfinished business, father and son must stay overnight. They lie at a hotel at the edge of town. Each hugged an Ipad because there was nothing to say to each other. The elder chatted with friends, and giggled, he’s almost 20 years old.

The Internet is flooded with news of the South China Sea. The situation is tense day by day.

He log-on Facebook. The atmosphere there is hotter than at the scene. The young men commented noisily as if ready for battle. He glanced through the pages of the elder but could not read anything. He activated privacy mode with friends and definitely not make friends with him. He really wanted to know what he thought about this event.

The newsletter informmed that there are two new messages. The first one was of an old comrade: "When will you return? You don’t plan to stay there forever, do you? "

He replied: "I do not know yet".

The second message was of the liitle girl: "Dad can not eat the Western food, then toldthe elder to take you to China Street for Vietnamese food". She was born in two thousand, belongs to the generation which only eat soup alone, not eat together with rice.

He replied, "I can eat US’s steak, girl".

In the next bed, the elder snored. Shoes were still on the foot, protruding from the bed. He took off these shoes for the elder. The socks odor stinks. At times like this, he just wants to kick him.

It was late at night outside, the wind was loud. The wind was strong here, and the trees twisted like storms.

He had something to say to the elder that does not know how to start.

The elder was dreaming, his lips smiled to reveal white teeth. It looks so relaxed. The cheeks are blushed pink. Let dream, son, have beautiful dreams!

At the age of the elder, he hugged the gun lying in the basement, slept fitfully in the sound of artillery fire which tears rafts of space, whether actual or ambiguous.


* *

The elder enlisted the army in seventy eight.

On the day the elder left, my father brought him a silver backpack from the battlefield. My brother said: "I was given a new backpack." "Believe that this is a lucky backpack, maybe…, obeyed me", father said. My brother obeyed, sneaking a new backpack, using his father's old backpack to get on. He was nine years old at that time, skipping around the elder. Touching his hands and feet, saw that the brother grew up. Mom was happy, made out a big party. Father took a day off to stay at home to talk with neighborhood. He whiz tobacco continuously.

The elder stationed in Lang Son, has not visited home anytime.

It was dark earlier in winter. It was not clear at six p.m. Father has just come home from work, was putting hot water into the tea from the morning. The loudspeaker on the pole in his "working place" sniffed for a moment before starting the voice of the announcer: Please compatriots welcome important news in a few minutes.

The loudspeaker’s sound was swept away by the north wind, far and near, shoving against the walls making a sound like the ghost bounced each other.

Father grabbed the crutch, huddled to the head of the alley, stood right under the loud speaker waiting for clarity.

At six thirty, the announcer's voice said: Early this morning, some points on the northern border of the provinces of Lang Son, Hoang Lien Son, Lai Chau were attacked suddenly ...

Father swang on crutch, fluttering back home. The head dangled, his hair torn in the cold wind.The neighborhood is as bustling as the market. One man ashed another if they know more information? When will let children evacuate?

Father said that he was tired, then went to bed and tucked. Mom grease a fiddle for Dad. Sitting beside, she was trembling as getting a cold. Outside, the children ran noisily shouting: "Fighting already, brethren". For children, war is like movies watching on television.

The whole family looks forward to news of the elder. Sometimes Mom screams at me, urging my father: "Brother X, Y brother in the neighborhood, just ran home. You asked if he knew anything. "

Each time like that, after dinner, father was on the crutch and left. When he returned, everyone asked about but he just shook his head without any word.

Half a year later two soldiers came to the house. When they entered the alley, dad was stabbing the car to fix the car should not notice. When he saw the blue shirt, he stood up and chased after the crutches. He hoped step by step, mouth gasping: "The dear ... the dear". The leg of the leg was pulled out, entangled in the dust of the glove pulling him down. Gau said scratching blood flowing face.

Two soldiers gave him a new backpack, inside a new clothes. Mom weeping cry: "Oh baby." Dad did not cry but his eyes closed, his face shrinking.


* *

On a drilling rig in the South China Sea, Mom called him into the chamber. She took him money stored in the box of cracked iron battered western iron, thanks: "Your father bought her little gold help." He joked, "You bought some pounds?" Mom said: "Father! This place is more than just ". He said: "She charged, gold is also very fast. Where is your ring? Do not remember again. Mom smiled, touching her belly: "She pulls her pants. Fear to run again forget. "What are you running? You listen to miscellaneous ". Mom looked out the window. The eyes are as opaque as the watercolor.

Before his arrival in the US, she asked, "What's your father's story?"

He took her old hands, sat down next to him, reassured: "Mom rest assured, I will talk to it." His head is also hundred knots.


* *

Brother Hai walked five or eight.

On the day of enlistment several days, his Mom urged him to take a portrait of the city to look at home to help remember. Brother also said Mom too. His portrait is now on the altar, smelling of yellow smoke at a corner.

Father sitting at the table reception guests. The plow drilled.

After three months of training, Hai was back home. The clothes were released on the road was in the silver faded, soaked red hills.

Father asked his place, then finger on the map on the wall, muttering: "Well near the border!" Hai Hai said: "It is far away, tens of trees."

At home playing the day, brother Hai must return to the unit. Mom made a few pounds of salt to carry, telling: "For the brothers on it!"

One day early in the summer of eight years, the teacher called him to the office and gave him the letter. Blue ink in the envelope is the letter of Hai. Strange! Why do not you send them home as usual?


He was on the road to Ha Tuyen, the fight again. He wrote a few lines for him. Do not say anything to your parents. This father is weak, prompting his father not to smoke more pipe tobacco. Mom still whispers at night. Do you know?

TB: If you do not return, you instead take care of my parents.


He ran to the classroom, dropping the letter to the pair. My heart was as empty as the battle. Still not assured, he removed the paper cover wrap, insert the letter in the middle and then wrap it. He scared the children know, open to read to his parents. All that day, he heard the lecture without knowing anything.

Dad regularly read the People's Army Newspaper. Put down the newspaper, he thought thoughtfully. Newspaper reported that Chinese troops shelled and encroached on the border of Ha Tuyen province. He said wistfully: "Brother Hai's house on Hoang Lien Son dad". Dad did not answer, raising the plow to the whistle like the hen.

Mom asked, "Still writing to you? Never received your letter. " He said: "Unit reclaimed, planted cassava in the forest, it is easy to send Hai Hai mail."

No more letters of his Hai. Brother Hai died on the twelfth day of July in the year eighty-four during the battle to recapture the high positions occupied by invaders at the Battle of Vi Xuyen.

Months after his death. A military tank car rattles at the alley. Dad is doing the "work", tightening the rear axle for the bicycle to the brim. Seeing two soldiers come down, he fires an hour. The blue-tinged arm tugged at the flag handle. The screw is over force, lace loose liquid.

They gave back to Daddy. This time, his relics Hai, inside the home letter is wrapped with a rubber band.

Dad sitting on a chair. The hands rub the clawed backpack on the lap. His head bent, eyes closed, wheezing hard. The voice of the soldier came to deliver the relics equally, sad as sad chanting: "Battle too fierce attention. He's on the platoon's door. The enemy artillery fired so much that we could not get up. Central team to open lone fight at the same level sacrifice nobody. A few nights later we dug into the death of the dead.

Dad said softly: "I understand!"

Mom came back from work, saw that scene, and did not ask any questions have collapsed, fainted.


* *

The big guy's corner at 27th street intersects 7th Avenue, fifteen minutes walk from the hotel. Yesterday, he said: "About the hotel with his father." He asked: "Dad came here a few days?". He replied: "About a month, the job is about." He exclaimed: "Heaven! Dad is so long.

A week passed that he did not know how to start the story. I do not understand you are the eternal story of generations. An invisible wall between you and it. He was trying to climb over. You need to understand it better.

The wind still blew through the window. Rain again. The tree trembled trembling sparks of light from the hotel light with the leaves soaked.

The big guy turned, hand down to drop the iPad on the floor. The screen light up, Facebook's chat window is still open blinking. Your daughter's message.

She: "Hello! The boring old man took the lunar old man out to play? "

Big boy: "Ha ha. Today I go to work. He followed. "

Baby: "Buy a house? See her say that.

Big guy: "Not buy! New to go see.

Baby: "Make sure to buy a house near the street shopping (3)".

Big boy: "Here you take the deer to go shopping."

Little girl: "Fuck! Near the forest? I fear the mosquitoes.

Big guy: "The central area is very expensive. Ha ha ... "

"Buy him a pair of Rick Owens leather (5), send him back home."

Baby: "Sleep nod? Why not see the answer. Alo Alo…"

Placing the big boy's Ipad on the table, he sat face down on his palm for a long time and opened the door to the balcony smoking. The rain stopped. At the end of May it was still cold at home. The cold sneeze from the Hudson River made him shiver.

The shudder made him realize he was a coward. He did not dare face himself, not to find out how to talk to the big guy. There are no walls at all, and you are running away from yourself so try to believe that there is such a wall. His face was hot with shame.


* *

In the eighties he joined the army. His parents knew this only two days before they left. Mom blanketed, white face. His father was silent about the tobacco pole, slowly stuffed into the cigarette. His hands shook the flames several times to fire.

With a thunderbolt of smoke rising to the sky, Dad asked: "Do you know which unit to take troops?"

He replied: "Looks like 325, stay ..."

"I know," he continued. Bac Giang".

That night, he heard the tear of her Mom's tears out. Her tongue whiz through the teeth, small but prolonged and powerful: "Shelf ... it ... oh ...".

The next morning I get up early in the morning, carrying a chicken. Mom made nearly ten tray rice. Meet people who are familiar also invited to eat farewell to the youngest team.

Mom took the black silk shirt to wear. Mom urged him to take photos.

He said, "The war is over. Why do you have to do that? “Mom burned incense to the two brothers, then said: "Brothers also think that the end of the war. Now I do not know where. "

Quit, like crazy, her Mom threw a long cry. Dad sat at the table, holding the bowl thrown to the ground shattered, shouting: "Im ... mouth ...". Mom covered her mouth, and then hurried as the banana leaf was hit by fire.

Tired tired, reception guests only smoke.

The war is not over yet. His teammates still fell, and he was lucky to return.

In ninety years he came out. Go home for a month, then his father.

Before losing his father called him into the chamber. His drowsy eyes looked at him dull, his lips dry and he said, "Remember to bring your clothes down for you. Teams sent to save him. "

Dad shook his bony hands, nails grease, times from his head to his feet. He seemed to want to check again his body heal not then peace of mind closed eyes.

When preparing the cabinets to prepare personal items for his father to return with him, he learned that he was awarded three times the title of American killer. A medal he took in a wooden box mold. I never saw her wearing a medal and told stories.


* *

Early the next morning he told the boy: "Go to New York! Redeem for Daddy soon. As soon as possible". He broke straight: "Quit watching the house huh? I do not know what to do with you. He stared at the quarrel for a match. But it is justified.

Day change is not difficult because business class always have seats available.

Big boy bought her shoes. He flipped the card to see the price, roared: "You have not made money, but this pepper break my father." The big man smiled and said, "I'm sure you are."

Big boy waved the taxi parked near the hotel to take him to the airport. Drive back to the old man last night and go to Terrytown. Seeing him, he recognized immediately and repeatedly said, "Are not you angry at me?" He laughed, repeating the old man's words: "War!"

In the car two children do not say each other. He absentmindedly looked at the soft hat on the dashboard, remembering the old man's lost explanation and thought of the untold story, thinking of the black mantle he wore before his enlistment. Now, in this situation, he understood how she had suffered. Mom was afraid he did not return so he died.

Before he entered the exit area, the big man hesitated: "Daddy! I know what you want. I'm sorry father. If the situation is bad, you will go home to join the army. "

He turned away quickly, quickly merged into the stream of people without daring to answer it. The whistling sound of his father's teeth echoed in his ear: "Shelf ... it ... oh ...".

The security guard asked him, "You got dust in your eyes?" He shook his head, laughing.

The Boeing 777 took off from JFK airport, gliding around like New York. He looked out the window, beneath the skyscrapers in Manhattan (6), the yellow cabs that went like hogs. There's a big guy down there. Maybe it's time to go to school!

Hanoi, July 2014



(1) Nguyen Phong Story: The victory of the Dai Viet military in the first resistance war against the Mongols marked the work of King Tran Thai Tong in 1258 (or the 7th Nguyen Phong). King Tran Nhan Tong later recorded his grandfather's grandfather's triumph with the poem Xuan Chieu Lung, including:

Bạch đầu quân sĩ tại

Vãng vãng thuyết Nguyên Phong

(The old soldier with silver hair

Told Nguyen Phong story a hundred times)

(2) Veteran - Vietnam War: Veterans of the Vietnam War.

(3) Shopping.

(4) Leather shoes: Leather shoes are painted another layer of color out. After a period of use, peeling paint reveals the real skin color. The natural peeling of the paint causes the shoes to look different. Young people in the world are prevalent in this type of shoes.

(5) Rick Owens: Born in 1962, American nationality, he is considered a talented fashion designer with a design style that breaks the rules of fashion.

(6) Manhattan: Downtown New York City.

Translated by LE HOA


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