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Something New

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I remembered my strong thirst for sleep as I stepped out into the moon lit hallway from my bedroom. It was nothing special, but the anxiety and pain-struck of that day made every memory and observation of that day significant.

That morning I remembered the dirt that glazed across the tile floor veiling the glisten white linoleum of my grandmother's home.
Abnormal.
Or at least it should have. For the last four months the abnormality was no longer peculiar or at least consciously aware of.
The only reason for the vivid memory was for how confused I was. Early morning was masquerade by the dark sky. It was too early. Even on a school day, early was five−it was three.
'Grandma,' I whispered into the darkness of the hallway from my bedroom door.
No one answered.
My body crept through the hallway silently. The night sky were filled with crickets and the soft breeze whistling through the leaves of my grandmother's palm trees.
Nothing unusual.
But that day, the addition of a low raspy tone blanket the normality. I walked through the hallway quietly. My body was atoned to be quiet in the morning, because it knew the chances−the chances of them being here. I crept further into the hallway. Right there in front of me laid the living room. My days of excitement and happiness prior to that day dissipated quickly as I stood in the hallway. My eyes sternly focused on the figure lying on my grandmother's couch. Legs hung over the arms of the couch under khaki uniform. It made it quick to decipher the figure was a man. I peered down to his boots−where dirt was still drifting from its soles.

The house was a lot larger than most. Build with brick walls to keep in the heat. Encompass by a wooden fence, the property was occupy by palm trees that were large enough to hide anyone from the burning rays of the sun. On top of that, a small fishing pond positioned several meters from the house.
Grandmother's home was like a hotel. Except rather than a ton of people, the home was only affiliated by men in uniform. It was where the men conducted their meetings or sleep. I never was aware of what war made of Vietnam until that day when a group of uniformed men marched toward the front gates of the small home of my grandmother. It was four months ago, when I was four, but still the memories of that day are strongly vivid.
Men in khaki-colored uniforms marched with uniformity. The fact that they worked under Ho Chi Minh made everything about them easily appealing⎯it was like watching musicians playing: synchronize and in harmony with the addition of their handsome war uniform.
'May I come in?' The lead man asked with a velvet and smooth voice.
Another reason for my feelings of pure adulate toward them. I glanced around. A few villagers were doing the same. Most of the positive atmosphere radiated from the younger villagers just as I. For those, like my grandmother, their eyes filled with the cumulation of sweeten and sadness.
'Yes, you may come in,' My grandmother spoke with no hesitation. Her voice and warming facial expression masqueraded the hidden sadness that I believed I saw.
The group of uniformed men silently walked inside.
'Close the fence,' the lead men called out. Two men from the end of the line obeyed.
After the fence closed it was like a different world. Hidden away from the crowd, their 'godlike' expression were no longer present. Their smiles were replaced by frowns and grunts. Behind them they trudged in dirt. Even a sweep of lightbreeze blew the dirt even further into the house.
Arrgh! I cried silently. I had worked on the floor all night and it was destroyed in the matter of seconds.
'Please clean the floor when you're done,' grandmother said.
'Talk to Lord Minh,' the lead man scoffed.

For the past four months, I had learned to accept the intrusion and destructive life that roamed around me. It became so natural that sometimes I had to remind myself to be cautious.
The backyard was through the door several feet beside the couch. I had to walked passed him. As young and careless as I was I tiptoed with my best attempt, but my eagerness to leave the room quickened my strides to the point where my sandals smacked against the linoleum loud enough for the floor to echo.
Smack! Smack!

My grandmother put her finger to her lips sternly ordering me to quiet down. I obeyed and after a minute I had covered forty-six dong finally reaching the back door. I quickly glanced back and let out a quiet breath of relief of my escape.

I exited the living room into the cool breeze of the dark sky⎯sunlight would not arrive for another hour. It was rare for me to be out when the only creatures that were awake were usually nocturnes or insects. The smoke from the mopeds has subsided; the absence of the gaseous atmosphere had left only the crisp fresh air. My body relaxed as I fully intake it into my lungs.
The cool air skimmed over my tan and patches of burns that covered my face and arms⎯the areas that were uncover by the beating sun during the long hours of work in the rice fields.

'Where are we going?' I asked Grandma.

'To the supermarket.'

The idea would have sound more plausible if it wasn't five in the morning, but as I look down at my dirt-covered toes that stuck out my sandals I could imagine the distance on foot.

'Are we going somewhere new?'

'Yes,' she quietly whispered. 'We are going somewhere different. Please stay quiet child.' As she handed my backpack to me.

As we withdrew from the cover of the palm trees in the yard of my grandmother's home the moon's face revealed a clearer pathway. Townhouses were laid out on both sides of the dirt road. The large home of my grandmother was a mansion compared to the rest of the neighborhood.

Ever since the war started a few were lucky enough to live in two level homes. Each level was about fourteen square feet ' sixteen if you were lucky. Many villagers had the idea of using the first floor for a business. I guessed that idea was really great, andsoon after the first business the idea extended through the whole neighborhood. Names of businesses were written neatly on wooden planks that hung over the doors of the homes⎯Thach Ch' Thiển Kh'nh, Binh Minh, and B'nh M' Thanh Bạch.
Next to one board a poster was ripped from its nails. A few of the corners were still in intact. The corners were bright red, a color I remembered seeing above the blackboard in my classroom. Every morning in school all students were required to stand and pledge to the flag. It was red. And in the center of the flag was a man's face'a thin man with a long white beard.


We turn into a small-arm-span alley formed by two townhouses. I carefully pulled my left hand out to the side feeling for a rough surface.

'Grandma, what are we doing?' I whispered.

No one answered.

'Is this the boat?' I heard grandmother's voice behind the blanket that hung from the clothesline in the alley. I was about ten feet into the alley.
'No, it left five minutes ago,' a raspy voice answered. A man's voice.

'But they told me it would come at five.' Grandma sounded frustrated. 'She needs to go before the suns come up.'

She needs to go? I reran the voice over and over in my head. It didn't make any sense. Is she saying she doesn't love me? My sudden response made me ashamed. No, I knew my grandmother would die for me if she must.

I was forty feet into the alley now.

'I can take her though.' The raspy voice came up again.

'When will you go?'

'About five-forty. The sun shouldn't come up until six.'

The small alley wasn't difficult to walk through, I only had to walk straight forward. But as my fingertips guided me through the dark alley I felt my eyes build up with moisture. I quickly wiped it away before I exited the alley.

'Grandma?' I called out. My eyes winced as they adjusted to the light. I was eager to get away from the sightless walk.

'I'm here Huong.'

I was urging to hear her voice again. I spun around.

'Grandma!' I cheerfully yelled as my eyes met hers. Her eyes glistened under the moonlight. Tears flowed from her eyes outlining the silhouette of her face.
I was desperate to remove those sadden tears from my grandmother.
'I'm not going anywhere, Grandma,' I assured her as I wrapped my arms around my grandmother's waist. 'You don't have to be sad anymore.'
'There's no future here for you,' Grandma quietly told me. 'It's better for you to go when you're still young. You can come back when this is all over.'
'What do you mean,' I was confused. Angry. 'There's nothing wrong, grandma!' I wanted to scream, to break the silence from that darkening and solemn night, but my voice was barely audible as I pushed my voice from under the tearful swells in my throat.
My grandma pulled my arms from her so she could kneel down. Her eyes filled with tears and joy. 'Mail me when you get there, OK?'
She squeezed me in her arms. 'I'll be here waiting for you when it's all over.'





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