War and History Fiction posted September 10, 2010


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
a strong Asian woman

Kim

by AlvinTEthington


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
Kim could hear her stomach grumbling. There was no memory of the last time she ate. She hadn't caught any fish for a few days. As well, she wondered about the health effects of eating raw fish as a constant diet. She had started drinking her own urine; she had run out of water.

There was water all around her in the South China Sea, but it was salt water, not fit to drink. She wondered how much longer she could survive here. Her years of hard work in the vegetable garden had given her a muscular body and her nondescript clothes made her look like a man. That probably was a mistake. She would be more likely to be picked up as a refugee as a woman; but who knows what men would require of her? She had been through enough pain because of them.

There was a cool salty breeze, and she did not need to lie down to rest to escape the afternoon heat. She could stand up in the boat, as the man who sold it to her at a very inflated price also included a rock for balance. She had learned, though, that she could hallucinate even whilst standing.

"Open up! We know someone's in there!"

Kim heard the cruel voice of soldiers from the North. She hoped the baby would be quiet. She stayed extremely still.

They kicked the door down. Kim could hear the sound echoing in her mind.

"Your neighbors tell us you collaborated with the round eyes and that you are a half-breed yourself."

So some of her neighbors, who hated her half-French parenthood, had given information to the soldiers, probably for money or rice; food was very scarce.

Kim said nothing. She thought that was the right action.

"Say something, bitch." One of the soldiers hit her hard across the face with his rifle.

The noise woke the baby. He started crying.

Kim could taste the blood dripping from her face. She remained stoic, focusing on meditation to be calm. Despite her father's protestations, she had never become Christian. She was a devout Buddhist, concentrating on right thought and right action.

"You have a round eye baby? You whore."

"We are not going to rape you; we would not want sloppy seconds that have been polluted by round eyes. But we will make you suffer, you traitor."

One of the soldiers unsheathed a knife. The baby was crying furiously now.

The soldier stuck the knife through the heart of the baby. The crying ceased. Blood appeared everywhere. Kim wanted to cry, but couldn't. She was numb.

"All right, let's get out of here. We'll leave her to clean up the mess of the American half-breed."

The soldiers slammed the door behind them as they left.

Kim drew a bucket of water from the well outdoors, and washed the dead baby's body. Now she would never be able to let him choose a Vietnamese name; she hated the name Richard.

With her own hands she dug a grave in the plot in back of the small house, and buried her only child.


Kim came to, still standing. She had had that terrible hallucination again. Will it ever stop? She closed her eyes and tried to meditate. Om, Om she chanted aloud. Yet still another hallucination came.

Richard had been ecstatic over the birth of their child. He insisted his son be named Richard, though Kim wanted a more traditional Asian name. Unlike her father, who had insisted Kim be baptized (or so her mother told her), Richard cared nothing for religious ceremonies.

She had a good life. Her neighbors hated her for collaborating with the Americans. She had been an outcast all her life, as she was half French. Yet she was not as much of an outcast as the women in town who had been raped by the Americans and left pregnant and homeless. Richard had a temper, and when he was angry, he called her a gook. But he never hit her, as her father did her mother when he was drunk. There was always money, and from what he gave her from his pay, she stashed away a pittance at a time.

Her father had taught her mother to prepare elegant French food for him and how to prepare it well. Her mother, in turn, taught her to cook. She was working as a chef at the Officer's Club when she met Richard. His Commanding Officer took him there; he was not high ranking enough to enter on his own. However, the C. O. liked her cooking, so she cooked coq au vin that night. She wanted to impress all the Americans; she thought if an American fell romantically for her, she could escape the hell of being a half-breed in Vietnam and live in tolerant, rich America. How naive she was!

As usual, the C.O. wanted to thank her personally, so he ordered the staff to have her come out. Shyly and demurely, she entered the dining room. Her English was not good. Richard told her he had grown up in northern Vermont and he knew Quebecois French. She could understand it, but just barely. She had no idea where Vermont was, and had never met an American who could even attempt to speak French.

Richard fell for her immediately; she could discern that in his eyes. He did not refer to her as almond-eyed, as so many Americans did, even when they tried to be complimentary. When the C.O. was gone from the table, Richard asked for her address. He told her he would be by the next night.

He did come by, and she cooked a cassoulet for him. He loved her cooking and made love to her that night. He was slow and gentle; she did not hear the rough grunts that she had overheard as a child when her father made her mother have sex with him. She liked Richard; perhaps he would be her liberation.


She came to again, realizing she was in a rickety boat in the South China Sea. There was nothing near her for kilometres. All she had was a rock to steady the boat, a net to catch fish, a makeshift aquarium, and a water jug to obtain salt water to keep the fish alive until she was ready to eat them. She had no fresh water and currently no food. She hallucinated again.

"I'll go with you to see you off, Richard. Then you can come back from America for me and for our son."

"Kim, I don't think it's a good idea you go."

"You don't want me to kiss you goodbye one last time? We may be apart for a long time."

"Oh, all right, come."

Kim didn't like the tone in Richard's voice; it was almost one of annoyance.

When they arrived at the airlift, the pilot started calling off names. He reached Richard Bouvier.

"Richard, is that you?" said the pilot.

"Jacques?" Richard said with amazement.

"Yes, how have you been? You survive this jungle and joke of a war? I'll bet you're glad to be going home to Michelle."

Who was Michelle?

Richard's face turned ashen.

"Kim, there is something I haven't told you."

Kim had heard this happening to other Vietnamese woman, but it couldn't happen to her. Not with Richard, not here, not now.

"I have a wife in America. I won't be coming back. Take good care of little Richard. I'll send money if I can." He boarded the plane.

Kim would not let herself cry. She remained stoic. She knew she would never see Richard again or receive any money from him.


She came to one final time. She had survived so much in her life. She was a person, not a half-breed, not a round eye, not an almond eye, not a gook. She was on the path of right action.

She thought she saw a rescue boat's light in the distance. Knowing little of geography, as she had never been outside Vietnam until now, she wondered if the boat had come from Thailand, which she had heard meant "land of the free." She would never let herself be subject to the machinations of Western men again.


Strong Character contest entry

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This placed third in the September 2010 Strong Character Contest.
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