The Old Lion
((End Chapter Story to “The Vanquished Plantations) (2002))
Ly, now is a very old lady, 102-years old, she survived through the war years, as she had told her friends, now and again: “Wars are won in the will, and lost that way also, you find the root and strike the will.” She has an old stiff upper lip, from hating that nephew of hers, the one that died back some thirty years now, Danh, she even out lived him, she says “Some battles are won by just out waiting the other person, not outwitting him, they can see that coming.” She knows she wasn’t named Ly for nothing (in Vietnamese, it means Lion). But back to Danh, he was her antagonist, if ever she had one. She called him “The Bad Seed”or“The Rotten Apple…there’s one in every bunch…!” among other names. She doesn’t miss him, but she does An, his brother, the one he killed, like Cain and Able.
After the boys were dropped off—back in ’79, and left for her to raise Danh had went crazy, he had become big on drugs, took them even in public. A lot of people in the neighborhood had been cheated out of something by him, a lot of nasty stories. She had told her neighbors if not a hundred times, “I really loved him at first, and then liked him as long as I could.” And she meant what she said.
But here she sits, in that same old kitchen, it is 2002 now, at the same old table, the very one she had thirty-years ago, no—forty years ago or so, she bought it ten-years before those two girls, Zuxin and Ming, tricked her into taking the boys, oh, she doesn’t blame them, they didn’t have any of their blood in them, anyhow. But there she sits, with a beer—twisting the glass in a circle with her hands, wondering I suppose however she made it thru those trying days with Danh. One thing for sure, she’s no longer hesitate to get up and see who’s coming through the front door, and running out the back if its is Danh—he’s long dead. She’s no longer smoking cigarette after cigarette either, wondering when he might come back.
She’s fiddling with her hands now, thinking: he was like a wolf. Like the plague, she had asked him to leave once, but he never did. But the think she hated the most, even more than his punishing her, and robbing her, was killing those nasty rats: let me explain this, the way she told her neighbors:
“He’d take rats—yes rats, where he got them I’ll never know, perhaps down along the river bank—he’d take a half dozen of rats, or one or two, as many as he could carry in a sack, and carry them into the house, over to the sink, a heavy butcher’s block was always there, by the edge of the sink, he’d put the rat one at a time, onto the block and put wax paper into the sink, then he’d pick up the meat cleaver, the heaviest one I had—a kind of stubby thing, but it had a thick and solid wooden handle—it cut right trough bone and meant like butter, or hide—clean through. Anyhow, he’d play with the rat some, grab him by the tail, the rat would try to pull away, spreading all four on the block, then with the cleaver over its head, he’d bring it down hard, then all I’d hear is a loud whack--as the cleaver hit the block. He’d then hold the headless rat by its feet, over the sink, still wriggling for a moment, and he’d watch the blood drain out of its body. He’d do this to each and every rat, one to six, whatever number he had.”
No: 707 (1-19-2011)