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Xa Pho's son

Monday, 12/08/2019 15:54

. THE THIRD PRIZE SHORT STORY OF THE MILITARY OF LITERATURE AND ART (2015-2017)

Whimper, the teeth of the children hit each other's as rushed. Chin puts firewood in the stove fully, blow the fire. The flames flare up; the children fluttered their hands out to fire. The little hands, flushed with cold. The snow on the mountain has not yet melted. The mountain is undulating, white like the silver buttons between the skies.

The old lady nearly seventy, Chin' s mother wore old plastic slippers, which was muddy from where. It' s been a long time since have't been wearing shoes so i' m embarrassed. It' s good slippers. The children are called healthy. It' s got slippers, but it' s torn, it' s a piece of a piece, now it' s empty. Chin' s daughter eight - year - old sat on her chair, threw her chest out. It' s just warming up the face, the back still very cold. Chin look around. Three walls of the cave wall warped the mountain, winds strong. The house has no valuables in the two beds Chin made and the cooking pot from parents when Chin leave home. The son was five years old squatted, strangled his neck, sliced his tongue with a pair of chapped lips, bleeding. He say warm, but in the stomach still cold. Chin knows he hungry. Usually, warm days, cooked two breakfast meals and night to go to the slope. Since the snow fell on the mountain, the cold price came back, not go to work should skip breakfast, eating lunch. The old woman stood against her knees, pulled an old shirt. She took the knife cut out of two strips of fabric still healed, careful rolling two feet of cold. Leg and hand are numb, num hard. Seat an hour still dont know what is warm fire. The children saw the rags in her leg, and laughed. Their noses are like rabbits noses.

Seeing Chin find out something in the kitchen, the daughter raised her nose and asked. "Fish, huh Dad?". Chin holds the last dried mouse skewer and brushes over the soot dust. The children enjoyed and ring up. Thanks to grandmother, they were eaten rat meat. Since in the winter, dry streams, for months pots and knives have not smelled of fish. Chin breaks the coal, puts meat skewers dried on two sticks for baking. By the way, bake a few chilis. The old lady covered her mouth, her eyes glancing at the wine jar to the corner of the house. Rice wine keep for the New Year. She craves alcohol. " Heady temper, the person do not like alcohol also craves, so how about a person alcoholism"? When the meat is ripe, the fragrance spreads, the kids were drowning in saliva. Mice after cut, cleansing, salting and picking up to yellow, then drying up in the kitchen for guests and food reserves. In harvest season, the mice are very fat; someday go to see the trap Chin counted nearly twenty mice. How many mice in the corn outside the field of loss much. During the month, only have sour bamboo shoots to make soup and white salt soak into small chili peppers only, heartbreaking it.

A generous lunch is served next to the fire. Chin and his mother drinking. Three children, each holding a grilled mouse, gnawing at their neck tipped back to eat, legs and hands stick fat of mice. Sa rush eats rice with a little bit spicy chili salt. Fried rice eat with chili salt is also delicious. The more drink, the more cold.

But very sad, no drink cannot. Old lady said. "All furnitures were old ". Chin looked at all the furniture, food containers woven with old bamboo and rattan, looking up again at the knife on the wall. The villagers left the knitting job for several years. The hands of talent only to burn forest plantation has gradually forgot the job. The forest is more and more recede a few paces, go back high. Now, going to the forest is hard. Because the field near the stream flooded on the whole rock, the rice trees is no place to standing. Nam Sai people have to burn forests, put the rice trees go up. The rice trees get higher, the greater flood. The smell of the mice made Sa run to the yard to vomit. Chin put the wine jar down. He snorts his nose is aching because of cold. The gaze was a bit ruthless to glancing up the stairs. "You are the only one cold? You want to end all vomit will be right ". Chin's mother puts the wine glass down the tray. The glass of wine is one pipe section of silky bamboo, sawing and smoothing, smaller than what uses to drink water a little bit. She whispered with Chin, her voices were half scaring, half threatening. "Not cold". He shivered and looked at to the dark sky.

Chin's family is too poor. The house were torn, lack of food to eat, debt, no have the radio to heard. Chin did not dare to wish for something to say and sing for him. Chin only wishes someone listened to him and could answer his questions. The village of Chin, most are poor households like Chin, per year, the seeds and breed are received from the government. Warm clothes, blankets and children's books are also mostly donations. Life to rely on, depending on others are tired. Chin was sad, now got more anxious. When alcohol does not make him less sad, Chin often remembers one person. He wants to say something to a person.

It's afternoon, colder, only a few degrees. Chin with head bare, bear feet, to tear wind go to the end of the village. His hairs are dry, pale lips. Chin found out Ho is drying corn in the tent. Ho is Chin's old lover. "Come in, it’s been a long, long time the weather is very cold like this so nobody go to the fields" Chin shakes his head: “The villagers do not see, but the ghost of village still see, not nice. Ho brushes off smoke to get up and step out. The two of us were like two saplings standing on the edge of the fields in the mountains, cannot come close together anymore. Chin asks in the breath: “Do you want to have more baby?”

Ho shakes her head: “No, have two children already, if more get more trouble. What can i give for them to eat, to wear, and to study? If give birth again, will be cut funding, will be fined”. Chin is dumbfounded: “Really?” Chin looks at Ho carefully, saw her pale face, Chin asks: “Your back is better, now?" Ho shakes her head, she wrapped her arms around her back and punched her on the waist: “There is no money to buy drugs so still pain.”

 

Chin looks around, no one. Only heaven, earth and two people. Chin removes out a set of 3 silver necklaces on his neck, he chooses the largest necklace to give to Ho: “Sell this one to take money to buy drugs”. Then look at the bare foot of Ho: “buy slippers, too”. Ho refuses. Chin pressed the necklace to Ho's hand and turned back. Ho called Chin back and gave him the small cell phone, the phone is flaking off paint, and the keyboard is worn out. Ho said, from now, we dont need meet again anymore. When sad, call Ho to share. Chin goes home with a very strange mood. Chin puts the remaining two silver necklaces to look at them. The sky inside the silver necklace is limpid and clear cloud. It was colder and deeper. It looks like snow on the mountain is melting.

 *

                                                                       *        *

After the festival of sweeping the ghost, the cold as well as the ghost running to the mountain. The sunshine of spring lightly going down the rooftops. The mother hen flaps the wings, pat, the dirt and the husk flying. Small cat kick up the dug up their butterfliesfell to the ground rolled over several rounds cheery. The black pig is like a banana flower forest; its fur is upside down like a hedgehog come out from ground floor, it run here and there on the small courtyards. Clothes are washed, squeezed long nests. Three children were taken out by the mother to shower they are afraid of water, fleeing around. Make this child calm down, and then lose the other. When gather three children standing next to the bucket of water just brought up in the stream mixed with hot water, the sun was off. The children happily ran up the floor. So do not have to shower

This is sunshine of this village, that's it spring but the days of sunshine very rare. Sunshine here is more important than the sorcerer. Be welcome, waiting, looking so hight as the top hight. Reached the neck also break down. When not invited, then suddenly came, when people put the firewood to bare, suddenly disappear.

Chin did not know that the sun was running away, he raised his leg and scolds his wife. Do not you shower them? Sa knew he was finding a pretext. He finds a pretext for the children go to the yard and scolds Sa. Yesterday, in the stream, Sa has block Ho's way to take back the silver necklace that Chin has given to Ho in this year.

Chin like that, he is not getting mad at your wife. If give somebody something will never regret. Respects by love so silver just nothing? What' s the money? Don' t know Sa has beat Ho but saw Ho flushed face. Ho running to Chin's houses' pissed off. Ho goes to the place Chin lying and returned to the five bracelets and fifty thousand. Chin's legs are sick because he stepped of terracottas outside the stream. The legs are swollen, fever, burns like coal. Now my ex - girlfriend humiliated by his wife, Chin got head sick. Because the head is overworked. Though how to talk make wife understand. And don't know how to make the girlfriend less sad. Ho has a husband and two children, Ho older than Sa. But loves who comparing age or child? Her husband Chin no care too. Chin has been fighting with Ho husband. That “ I loves Ho before you, the whole mountain villages know too”. Ho husband try to explain'' But she is my wife”. Chin flare up. “ I don' t know, she' s my lover before she' s become your wife. I still love her now. I' ve got a wife, i can' t take it to my wife anymore, i accepted. Ho husband was a little cranky for a while. The love in the stomach. Nobody knows. Let it go. Like the wife, heating the same kitchen, sleeping with the same bed and makes the children.

Well, let them love. Say that, Ho husband is jealous too. He looked at the big silver on his wife' s neck and asked '' Chin gave you"? Ho said yes " What does his wife know about it? ”. Ho says. “ Return back". He ran to the tip with Sa of the silver ring that Sa thought my husband was selling it to get the money for that ugly phone. Sa's very angry. Chin full set silver can take out of one for others, not for his wife.

Illustration by Thanh Chuong.

Now there are two, one on your neck. Asked Chin, if it' s any consolation i' ll redeem you, but my husband told give it to you. I' m going to need it back. Man, when he' s drunk, he' s crazy, he' s as a kid, and he’s telling you it was not real. If you don' t return, you' ll be responsible. Sa said had the end, Ho burst into tears.That day, Ho was carrying wood from the forest, and Sa was waiting on the stream. Sa said has something wanted to say. From the beginning was the silver that the parents wore Chin. Several times off as how many time Chin sick, and leave the house, lost souls.

Ho though say that day Chin wasn' t drunk, but she kept choking. Ho removes the silver bracelet from her neck and throws it on the ground. Sa picked up the bracelet and bring back. Ho refusing a great thing to give everything backs to Chin. The five silver bracelets were Chin give to Ho when in love. Chin goes to the stream, the slot to get seeds on the string. And fifty thousand was the time Ho sick, Chin gave to Ho for drug because Ho also poor girl. Sa saw the beads necklace and fifty thousand for the top of the bed understands the situation. Screw your guy, who says yours don' t know what' s right or wrong. Who told the phone put on the ear, murmured chat. Have love ever each other will love forever? Say that Sa also can enjoy love. But the children give to whom, the mountain village give to whom go for love, Chin thinking both same place so in and out also see then can’ t hate each other? Sa pregnancy, Chin didn' t ask any questions. Did Chin know that Sa wept tears? How many times have Sa tried to procure abortion? Chin dressed made by Sa own - planted suit of cotton, weaving fabric, dyeing indigo but hanging hearts on other loom?

Chin legs pain so easy hot tempered. A little bit shouted at the children. Let' s get out of the way. But it' s cold, run out to the yard, out on the street for a while, their lips are black and the two feet hard without slippers so they are ran in. Chin eldest son was old enough to go to school two years ago, but still at home. They're playing make messy of the story ten years ago that Chin trying to rearrange. Chin tries to arrange. In the past Chin love Ho, that day Chin bring Ho go home, it's sunny can cure the rice, not this cold. Ho steps though the door sky become dark, the sun is gone, day turn into night. Chin's father said, it's ominously; you're going to have to take the wrong wife so God warning. Chin Burn the cocaine, rub it in Ho face, see Ho two eyes scattered red Chin scare throw whole cocaine ran. Ho heard Chin father said that, now Chin just do so angry, ran down the yard…

It' s glowing in the yard the weather was bright. Chin family was full of suspicion, and the more believe that Ho is the perpetrators of the dark. Ho accept others, Chin lose his wife. He’ s a chỉn. Chin still in love Ho, so Chin just hanging around Ho house. Until he gets married with Sa, his love for Ho was less.

Recently, since the phone, Chin told Ho a lot of things in the world. Even things can’ t tell Sa. Chin ask still angry about the sun was disappear? Does Ho know that' s eclipse? Did Ho know Chin blame himself, know how hard Chin was to torment himself? Two people have been eating together, sleeping together nights, it' s like married couples. Ho finished three dresses, dyed two indigo gowns and keep them in the beautiful box to wait become Chin's bride. However.... Ho.

Since Sa got back the silver ring, Sa see Chin phone just died right then. Lying around in bed, kids don' t play. Sa holds up click, it' s dead. It's died because no one heard it, no one answered it. Because it' s been in love with sweet love that you two people stealthy each other every day, not the same as the normal phone. Sa just happy and sad. Cause it looks like the circle isn' t coming back, like Chin going to die same the phone. Sa husband' s, father - in - law comforted the daughter in law. Love lots, hate many. Don' t know when Chin going to hate and forget Ho?

Chin tries to walk, legs still hurt. The buffalo or the horse that has a leg like this is flesh. People don't, especially Chin. From the day no chat with Ho the conversation with Ho, the elaborate questions for Ho higher like mountains. Chin those questions to the chief and elders. The elder’s regulation on the state is that, who does it wrong will be fined. The old village sat quietly drying in the white beard on the smoke. The village elders said Chin grew up, thinking about it. Chin ask his father, father scratch his head and scratching his ear to replace answer.

And then father borrowed the buffalo for Chin and Sa grazing, when it drop Chin get profit small buffalo, father said grazing have time to think of many things. Chin grazing buffalo but look like buffalo grazing Chin. Because the buffalo goes anywhere when buffaloes eat full Chin just follow. Sa was very sad. A love affair Chin two times, must invite A Pho for help.

If cannot cure, it' ll be a third, fourth and miserable. Sa knows, Sa reclaimed from Ho the silver ring would be humiliating. If it' s another, maybe she' ll eat dead finger. She' s dead Sa guilty. Over here, Sa don' t die, but let' s go through the family Lo bowed head but no talk anything. It' s less than two dozen rooftops.

People go to the stream so wife and children have eat fish, and Chin go to stream only wet and wet. A lot of people tell us that you don' t even have a fling at the water, so you can' t fish. People go to the forest get bamboo shoots, mushrooms, rats, handles, and Chin go to forest get footprints, roe deer. They say Chin abandoned the forest sacrifice should be punished. Chin as the people eat a drug addict Ho going to send over the phone. Chin has been eating that enchantment for months. It' s hard to resist now. Sa love but the love not as persistent, not smoldering. Sometimes it' s hard to yell at all the bitter truth to wake up Chin.Anyway, it' s the same person he' s unlucky, Sa and Ho are the same.

*

*        *

Mr Chu stands in the middle of the house scratching his head. Hair is shaggy, dense; the cold day is replacing the hat, replacing the head warm, now just to cover the rain. He asked the daughter in law. "Where is Chin"? Sa looked at father in law, to falter out. “ He's … go to the buffalo". Mr Chu put both hands in his hair. “Call him back”. Sa ran away. While waiting for a corrupt son, Mr Chu goes into the kitchen. How' s the kitchen going in private, still it? The kitchen full cobwebs, there' s no food. The rice has not yet been harvested, having another child. How do they eat? It' s obvious that husband and wife also work it; tails that fall all year round not play. His son, he knows well each person. Four sons, Chin is the third, like him. From love to hate. He passed in love with the crime, he knows. It' s three sides but still. Every time a stalemate, torn, it' s a lost soul. Chin lying on the rocks on the side near the stream next to the rice mortar silence throughout day and night. Lying there but Sa calling five sentences, ten words don' t listen. Be deaf. Sa seized his eczema with his hands. He keeps his hands on the waistband. Sa scratch at his feet. He sat up. So there' s only feet are awake.

“Go see Dad”. Sa says only this. Chin stood up. A sad face. But not as sad as two feet, feet don' t lift up, keep on sweeping the grass. Sa nose near to Chin mouth to smell alcohol. There' s no wine but he walk like drunk. Chin don' t go home but go back to the fountain. Sa pregnant heavy following. At the falls of Ca Nhay. This season is full. Fish wriggle violently, Splashing water in the ground like trying to wake sleeping people, but Chin still want to sleep again. The bushes of forest trees near the red flower. Two kingfishers are nibbling at the top of the banana branch, leaning on the couple and then calmly prying. There' s a squirrel waving its wet tail on the rock, seeing Sa in the water and hurry to rush into the shore, and hiding in the bushes. This place was Chin fail in love with Sa and then held a hand on the circuit on common hut of the village. That young man and woman have gathered enough, boy blowing the trumpet, girls dancing, and they chose each other. Is the waterfall having Chin awake?

Chin walked hardly pear step into the house. Mr Chu sitting on a couch that' s two strong vines lying together. “You sit down”. Chin sit, stare at Dad. Both just keep quiet like that. Suddenly Mr Chu closed his mouth'' Still have wine"? Chin takes a look at Sa. Sa ran hurriedly into the kitchen, took the tube hinged on the jar, hit the chum, was filled with a wine pipe, gave it to Chin. Finished Sa goes out the door; take a look back at it sometimes.

Sa had swollen both legs, throat dry. Don' t see thier two talking. Just saw both handed over the pipe and drank. All right, Mr Chu get up, wipe his mouth, go to the door. Seeing Sa, he clears the voice. “ I told him already, from now both of you protect each other do business" Sa was a surprise because of the words where father in law, but don' t dare say anything. Sa went to the house; saw the drunkard cause love, the old man who was lying on the bed like lying on the rocks outside stream. Sa sat in the kitchen, waiting for the change from Chin. Did father - in - law have put anything in the drink? Chin lying until Sa set the table then wakes up. The bowl rises, the bowl goes down. The third time, Chin just a piece of rice. The rice grains fall out of the crumbling mouth like a clatter. Sa left the bowl too, quietly left the front porch, squatting with an embroidered for new baby. For a while, Sa back of the pain, stood up, leaning back into the column. Chin just open the door goes to yard. Chin' s hurried footsteps made Sa cry. Getting dark where is he going? How long have Sa been looking for Chin? Right now, Sa just only want thing that' s going to do is leave it all behind, never come back to this house. A long time ago, the house was like a market tent, a two - day meeting in two meals, and each person at a time, each one thought not the same. When it is not a house, Sa not bothers. But before leave, Sa going to have a separate incision clear with Ho, then unrelated, no debt anymore. Sa brought a bad phone to give back Ho. No have Ho, only Po there. He' s Ho husband. Po look up the sky and laughed. Seeing Sa dazed he said" That phone.it doesn' t have batteries, doesnt have a sim that die or a live?

Chin is crazy, just talking by that phone. Sa did not understand, hurry back. From the gate, Sa saw Chin walking into the house with two pairs of straw. To be in tears. Oh, Chin went to shelter Since Sa was pregnant Chin not asking any questions so how he know she enough day or enough months?

Midnight, Sa quietly left the room, carrying a box of old - neonatal side of the straw drum made by Chin near the kitchen. Chin also rushed up, barefoot running down the stairs. Out to the gate, the gate is the five cork nets such as the buffalo stall is fixed by holes, Chin open all five of the tree.

In the middle of the month, the moon was bright, Chin walking as just running away, afraid not catching up. Chin talking in the breath, the midwife closed her eyes open with the basket on her shoulder, followed Chin. When they were come back to the kitchen, they saw Sa pulled up her skirt on her stomach, squatting on the straw, sweat prone, hairy ears. Sa bites her teeth to compress her pain. The midwife swiftly blanket underneath picked up a small baby. Sa sits and push. If the Dao women’s were standing give birth and they were crying with a baby, the Chin women's were sit down give birth and do not cry because fear of agitation to ghost forest. The midwife encouragement Sa. “Come in baby, our nation only have a few thousand people God gives the goats will give the grass. If God doesn' t give grass, we make grass, do not worry ”. Chin tears instead for his wife welled from tears to the chin. All the time Sa give birth Chin been busy drink alcohol, reached home baby already delivered and cry finished. Look at the sweat dripping on the forehead, on the face of the Sa, looking at the pale lips tightened Sa, looking at the body' s ragged Sa.

Chin feels love tenderly Sa. Never knew that the woman give birth tear herself apart like that. How much love Sa, same how much angry himself, Chin want to bang the head to the mast to punish himself too.

The baby came out of Sa. The cry was deafening, the midwife a voice was lost.'' Chin Lo, this is a boy" Xa Pho people have another son."

The stake outside the gates of the children' s cap to the signal to signal the spirits not to enter the courtyard. On the wall, red pepper swings to each bundle to stop evil. On the twelfth day, the shaman was picked up to name the child. The two of you are still lying in the straw. She asked father father in law cross the wall.

"What did you say to my husband? ”. Mr Chu laughing. “ I did not say anything, just drink". Sa stared into the wall. The pieces of tiles are hard, the cracks in the wall very large. The fire pushed the shadow of a man; the fire leaning down as a drunken man in the bamboo woods fluttered his shadow. His voice is like water flowing into the mortar.

“He so worried about so being sick. Add more and more poverty. If guilty of the same kind of race, the ancestors. Xa Pho people are a little, small, inferior to many..." I' m not sure Sa ever understood father in law deepest word, but Sa tears are silent fell down her chin, falling into the boy nose.

Chin went back from the forest, carried a bamboo rat. Three children playing out the yard, they saw the father bring a bamboo rat, they so happy and scream, follow behind. Chin bring the bamboo rat come to the place where Sa and her mother are holding each other, Chin’s eyes sparkled: “This one is very fat”. Finished talk, Chin bring the bamboo rat out to the kitchen, three children also follow. Sa looks follow Chin, her tears poured out. Oh, people are sad to cry, but why I crying when I'm happy?

Ngoc Han Tong

Translated by HUU BAC

Editted by LE HOA

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