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‘The General Retires [Wiss wrote thse Hines 1 sired up some emotions which ime had eflsced in few fende of min, and wene fir to dtr the peace of my fers grave. Iwas faced o do this by a fesing that U had to defend my ther memory andi is fortis reaton that I ask my cea forgive my inadequate pen My fiher, Thuan, was the olde child ofthe Nguyen family. The Nguyen family was a very Inge one, and its male descendant outnumbered those of ll the other f= ies in the village, except posbly for the Vu. My grand far had lef the villge to become a Confucian scholar sie ner eter to teach, He fd ewo wives. His fie wif Beds fw days slice ing birth 60 ony Ether and so be fon ber All that I heard aboot her was that she wit a very vel woman. Living with his tep-mosher, my fther had Such 2 biter childhood that he ran away fom home when he was weve. He joined the army and acy came home ‘Of coune, air several years, he cate Bak to the vilage to get married, But ths marmage was ceinly sot 3 love hd tn See eri a great deal ope 6 a Spaataldpirleone sep pen yesen Av gow up I dda’ know anything bout my fither a all. Po sre my mother knew just aside about him, fo his ‘whole had been devored to wat. T got a job, mnrred, had children. My mother aged. My Sher wa ill vay on f-Rung campaigns. Now and then, he pated by, but his visits were always shor. His letter, svete alo short, though rading between the fines fle they contained slot oflove and concern Twas the fine child and have to tale myer for verthing, was able to study and to tavel overs. Th material well-being of the family was also due to the arrangements he made. My house i on the outskins of Fanos twas bul eight yeas before my ther reted. Is 2 handsome, but rather uncomfortable country house. 1 built fom the plans ofa well-known architect wha wa fiend of my Ether. He war colonel whose only exper gases boast ee 1 the ge of seventy. my Ghee reed withthe tuk of Major-Gener Even though I knew he was about to retire, 1 wa ill amazed sehen he came home, My mother wis lead stile (Ghe war ix year der than ny Ger, and 40 wa the only one with special feng about is cturn. The cilden vere all young, and my wife knew very litle about hien 2 lag time daring the war Nevers, my ther aheays hud poston of honour and pie in the fy AI the rel ative and everyone cle in the ville placed great ore on My father retursed home wi very Few belongings: He swat good health. He sid: My i's work oven Tid "Yeu! He lnighed. A mood of excitement sus hoagie ‘out the hott and the long drawn-out welcome Mowe lef everyone overeought fora couple of weeks. With our Me in dsorde, there were day when we dit et the evening ‘meal unl midnight, Vito: Rocked to dhe howse, My wit 116 we ceyenat arTings AND OTHER STORIES sad “This can't go on? Ua a pig shughtered and went 10 Invite everyone in the village to share in the excitement Akiough my village is near the city, the cotoms ofthe ‘ountrsie are sil ery song. e wast unl 2 sont Iter tar I ily had the oppor tunity to sit down and have + family discusion with ay father Two Before 1 continse with the story, permit me ro say some thing bout my fly. Tam thieyscven years old, and work 2: an engineer the Physis Tnstitte, My wife, Thuy, is 2 doctor a€ the Maternity Hospital We have two daughters, one fourteen, Se mcve, Ar Te indicated, my old mother is muddled Sd pends her tine siting the same place al dy. ‘Amaet from this, the howichold includes Mr Co and Mis La his doy daugher neue ‘Me Co is sixty years old and comes from Thanh Hoa. My wwile met hion and bis daughter afer a ire had burt down Thee howe and lee them dewirte. Because my wie felt they were gpod people, she took pty on them and aranged for deen to live with ue They ive separately dove in the fetbulling and keep 0 themselves, but my wie provides fr them, They are not regtered inhabitants of the house- Hold, and so ike other people in the city, they aren't i- {ble for the provision of base rations and necesities om ie sae TMs Go is gentle and paint, He takes responsibly for the gave, the pis the chickens, and the dog. My. wae has 2 busines essing Abatian dogs. At the beginning, tl "ae caNenALnerines 17 didn’t suspect that this business would be so profitable However, it has become our main source of income ‘Although Mis Lai simple, she is ill ale to work ard tnd is good at houschold chore, My wife caught er how to cook pork crackling and mushrooms and braked chicken ‘Miss La ssid T never est tht kind of food” I's toe, she docs either Neither my wife and I nor the children have to worry about housework. Everything from the cooking £0 the ‘washing is given to Me Co and hie daughter to attend to My wie keeps ight rein om our expense. lays busy with something and I'm presently devoting mye to an cnginceing project that involves che application of electro Ins. “There is something che I should say: the relationship ‘between my wife and me is amicable. Thay is well educated and lives the feof a modem woman. We each hive out ‘own way of thinking, and our view om le ane ecatively simple, Thuy sa wel in control of ee family economy st She is ofthe children's education. As for met scents tome that 'm old-shione, swkward, nd il of contradictions, ___ Three To ret to the family dacusion 1 was having with my fithee. He ssid "Now that I'm retired, what sill 1 do? "Wate your memoir I sagged. "No!" he sepid. Breed purrs, ssid my wife, Around town, many people were breeding parrots and nightingale. "Breed them to make money?” my fither asked. My wife dida’t newer, ‘We'll see!” id my fier He gave everyone in the hous, inchiding Mr Co and a 118 Te ORVERAL RETIRES AND OTHER STORES Mis Lai, four metes of mary cot. "You are very egal iain I joked, “Thats my rl of life he replied. My wife tac "With everyone in a uniform the house will become & tracks” Everyone burst out lughing My futher wanted five in 2 room in the outbuilding ike my mother but my wife wouldn't hear oft. This sad- ‘ened my fer, e sould him eat my mother Hived and Ste by herlf ‘This t became she i disurbed,” my wife explained My fier brood Teouldse understand why my two daughters rarely went eat theie gandlther. lee them stay foreign languages nd music. They were always busy. On one occasion my Father sid “What books have you gis got for me to read?” Mi smiled and Vi said: ‘What do you Tike co read, Geandtather” “Whatever's ex. repied my father, We Ihnen’ got any Books like thas the gis sid in unison. 1 took out a stbscrption forthe daly paper for him. He Aida’ like literature—-he found today's literary styles fico apprecote “One day wien I got home from work, my father was standing near the row of Kennels and chicken coups my trfe had setup for her business. I could sce he was not Toppy and sit “What's the mater? Me Co and Miss La fave 2 very har lif,” he answered. “Their work is never Site. I want fo give them 3 hand i'll righe” “Let tne ask Thuy" I sand. "Father was general’ replied my tif "Now that he erste he i sila gener. Father is Teommander i he act like an ordinary soldier, eventing ‘ei be thrown into onder’ My ither sai nothing. “Although my father was rctird, be bad many vitos, This surprised and plersed me, But my wile: ‘Don't be so glad, Father. They are only relying on you for help. Don't ee younelE” My fther laughed: “i's nothing a al Poly writing lees ike thi one: “Dear N, Commander in Chie of Miary Disc... Tm wring his lene ‘yous en over iy yan ths se fe ne Tare Celerted the third dy of the eid month under ny own took When We weet onthe atl eon ame, et... Do you remember the vilge onthe se of te road where Mis Hoe made some dmpliog with tmouldy fou? She got i allover hee, even her be ‘Thee is penon hee I know amed M. who wats work under your command, et” Cane tw lees the ea Ye" wt ik No, ou cn My ther scratched his chin ICs oa sal eqs they asking of me,” he said, 3 rpg ‘My fcr wally pt hi ters in i ofl cave 20 cm by 30 em, marked. "Ministry of Navona Denes and gave them to somone reable to deer Aer dee Imonths he wat out fail envelope: He then made it ‘own with exerci book coves of the cane a, 20 cn by 30 cm. A. yeat te, he put his letersi the ondary velop that ae on lea the pot alice counter tt for fve dong In uly of hat year, tht tece months air my Ether setred one of my uncles, Me Bong held a weding for his Four Me Bong and my father are hal brother. Bons som, Tuan, ‘works an or-ct. Both Bong and his on ate alarming cats acters theyre as big a ants and they talk like dude ‘This was Tuan’s second marriage. His fist wife wouldn't take his beatings any more and Ie him. In couche testified that she tad eft him for someone ec, and the court wat 30 ne cevena nas hn rian sroRses forced to rele him. Hit wif-to-be, Kim Chi, taught at kindergarten, She was fom a well-educated fay, but had somehow got involved with him, Ie was sid he'd made her pregnant. Kim Chi isa beautifil gi and as Tan's wife t ‘was cerainly acne ofa sprig of jasmine in il of ufo Shit Bascal, we aren't fond af Me Bong and hit xo. The luouble is that blood is thicker than water, and we can't avoid them om important anniversaries and ferival, [Nevertheles, we nore them mos ofthe tine ‘Bong ike oy: ‘Damn thewe intellect! They despise ‘working people! Its only because | have respect for tir father that I haven’ kepe clear ofthe house." Even though he spoke lke his, Bong still came to boerow money. My wile was sit and aways forced him to ig accu note ‘This made him very indignant. Hed sy Tm their unde, yet if overlook a debe dhey behave js ike landlords” He sal overlooked many otis debe ‘Bong talked with my father about hit son's wedding “You must act a the Master of Ceremonies, Kim Chi father is + Deputy Chief of a Department, you are 2 General, you two are of “the same social class". The bride and groom need to have your blessing. What value am I as an ox-cartcoolie?” My father consented. The wedding on the edge ofthe city was ridiculous vulgar Mir. Thee can. Feed ciaretes that were replaced by roll-your-ow towards the end ofthe dinner There were Siti trays of food but ewelve were left untouched, The Iidegroom wore black mit and 2 red eI had to lend him the bes i in my wardrobe. 1 say end’, bat I wasn't sore 1 ever ge it back. The bese men were six youths ‘wearing identical khaki outfes and wild beards. At the begining of the wedding dhe arches played “Ave Maris One fellow ffom the same ox-cart co-operative at Tua jumped up and sang 3 gl ol: ‘We ANERAL nerines ma ©... eh... my poor tide uted chicken Te wandered ll ove the word Looking find sane money (© mone, tomy poche Ores. mya rosed chicken, ‘fer ht it was my ft’ tm He was bowed and ane. He had overprepared speech Act pone, tuted each ence by Sing py ae exh al op. Fuca weat of oy, Young chen vied oneal comment. MY Ste hel the prs pas ‘Ne body embled, nd he sped vee tm of ae sph He was haan ghned bythe matey na te Ile rund nd werner toh pee Hs ‘ew rie, the Depoty Deparment hich ae bea fighened, and pit wine all over the bie’ dress You could’ her» thing The band drowned even ‘ue wth happy songs othe Bes an Aa Aer hat my thr becae involved in something, the ss of whch he had never experienced tre Ti we when Kim Chi tad» bby ony few dy ae he es ding. Mr Bong amy we thrown ino has, Boao drunk and dew te ide om ofthe howe, Tuan sek life and sabbed at hier who foetouy dpped once and avoided the atack. As she dnt have ay sy of eeping heel; my ther had fo take in is bothers dhughterio-law. My ly bad wo extra mouth fo fe My wie wy hig Min a adore es ves forsnse that ar well 3 being simple, the : simple he alo ed 122 rar cenenAL Ret AND orHen STORIES Five (One nighe I was reading the Rassian magazine, Sputnik when my fier came in quel T wane eo dics some ‘hing with you,” he aid. T made some coffee which ny father didn't drink. “Have you been paying attention to ‘what Thuy’ been doing? he aed eves me the creep ‘The Matenity Hospal where my fe worked erred cout shortion. Every day, she put the aborted facts into a ‘Thermos fisk and brought them hoine. Me Co cooked them for the dogs and pigs. {had infact known about thi but overooked its something f no iesporance. My fet led me out tothe kitchen and pointed ea por fll of math i which thete were sll lamps of fot. 1 kee sent. My father cid. He picked up the Thermos fk and hurled i atthe pack of Abatians: "Vile! I don'e need wealth thas Iade of this" The doe barked. My fither went off upto the house. My wife came in and spoke to Mr Co: ‘Why Aidat you putt through the mest grinder? Why did you Father ge i? Mr Co stammered ‘I irgot, Fm sory, Aunt In December, my wile called someone and sold the whole pack of Alsatian. She sid: “Stop smoking those imported Gala cigarewcs. Tis year ost income down by 27.000 dong and our expenditre i up by 18,00, leave ing us 45,000 out of pocket" ‘Kim Chi recovered from the bith ofthe child and went to work‘ gatefl to evegone here, ae sad, but now T mus leave,’ “Where will you go? Tasked, for Tuan had ‘ben thrown into peson for being 2 hoodlum, Kim Chi took her child back to er pusnts’ howe. My fither accom nied her and went as Gr ashing pve tox for the fp. He abo took advantage of the occasion to spend the shy with Kim Chis tthe, the Deputy Deparinent Chie HE cxvEna Reuss 5 ‘He had jut come bck om a isin naan gave my fither a ice of primed alk ad iy rao ope a My fer je the ako Mis Lata te oe a Mr Co. ance SEE heat Before New Yeu?s Day Me Go si omy wife and me‘ wish wo ak you bo vour”“What eked ay ns Mr Co bathed the subject in 2 rooaioue eg Bey he wanted to vs is home vile: While Wing wean $x yin, be ad mde an flo pur some ey 2nd in cod with eam, be mew go ek zhane his wif enain and bury thes in So ‘cr so lng sy, he we sete pre of cafe Ce have fen "Felt to the ded ror fie day he oa Swotng an ncintaphorim. Af ving so Leg in Cy, be alo waned sh vile to te els fel happy dat he remembered them Heal brea nent longtime now, but even fs been dead thee sen fox looks tack othe moun’ My wie carts Se he do you want to go Mr Co raved she a forte dy al eta Hane on the nd bane New Yew’ My wie made» clculon ‘Al igh The {Thuan sy name) do you think you can gettone ene AF work "Thinks, Tak Mr Co continual, We ee like to invite your tater wo come with ot he pe Sid dow ike that Mes. What woul he tye sat responded. ‘He's already agreed said Me Co, “Wehtnn him, I woukd' have thought of moving my wis pene “How mich money do you have? laguacd ayfove, Me Go rep "have 300 dong. your ter pe ie 2000, that makes 5,000." My wife sai ‘Allright. Don't take the 2.000 fom Pathe, TI make it wp and give you 5,000 more, That means the thee of you wil have 10,00. You'll beable tog. efor they lef, my sie cooked s big diner. The entire family, including Mr Co and Miss La, sat down to ea ‘Mi La was very happy, wearing pew dees tha was made fom the military mater my fer had piven her when he retumed home, Mi and Vi sued her: "You're the pres, Tai” Mis Lai lughed gently: "No, Tm noe. Your mothers the pretest.” My wife sid eo her: "When you go, make se you look afer my fther-inaw onthe tp’ My father ‘Si "Perhaps I shouldn't go?” Me Co was concemed by ths ‘comment. "Oh Dest he ered, ‘ve already sent tlegram {oy you'te coming. I wos mish your reputation.” My | fcr sighed "What reputation have Igo to lose?” Seven ‘My father went to Than Ho with Me Co and Mis Lai on 4 Sunday morning, On the Monday night, 1 as watching television, when I heard 2 hump’ and an quickly ouside fo find tht my mother had colsped ina comer of the a en. She had been helps forthe ls fr years she had be fed and taken outside, Each day, Mis La had atended to her without any trouble, But thi day, with Mie Lat gone, Ind vem her her meal, but forgotten to take her 0 he toilet 1 elped my mother inside with her head smped flown on her che. 1 coulda ace any sgn of an inary. stayed awake hal the night watching hee. Hee body was ‘very cold and her eyes were wi Iwas afaid and called my vile. Thay sad “Mother is ol.” Next day, my mother Tey ee Ee "HE GaNERAL RETIRES 1s sould xt, The dy al ht she sil wos’ et and amide no atempe 1 g9 out washed her undcrven an changed her seeping mt. Some dys ths happened a ddoren times. kaew that Thuy and my two deaghes onl sand fh, so Talways ated nd chang het eloher—rin the howe but down athe aa She cs Snel ge mens ok On the Saturday, my mother suddenly stood wp. She ‘sent by ene for sol sound then, She ws teat. sid “The makes me happy My wae det sy anything and, that aernoon, Isher pt aay et cos ‘of white doh and heard her cl the crpeney, ‘Prope ‘ese you Ted My wile replied No Two day ater, my mother fll api, She rejected fo and had wo be helped out othe tle Beso, Si vent ito 3 rapid decline, exeeing sinking tek bows gui. poured her some ginseng. My wie sui “Don't 8¥e Mother any ginseng ell only-make het wore Sted Icha ben a vey log de sce I ered ke tt My wile was len hen she is up You Mr Bong came over vst. He sas The way she thes around on the bedi tebe He th aed Sy tothe: Hey tere, do you secogize me, She" My ‘mother sid "Ye" "So who am IP Bong aed spe enon sid my mother Mr Bong ced ut So you ee forme the mos. The whole igs ene ke xg, wie cll me an caf My son, Tuan, call me sounded Only you call me pero, ‘This was the int te sen this mannered, vem ‘urciome xe dover tr nos child Bele my eee Eight Ry tc: aE a oy marie Mr Co and Mis Lai were dhe. "Tes oar fl If we been at home, Grandmother wouldn't have died.” "Nomsense sid my wife. ‘Oh Grandma Miss Lai erie, “you've cheated me! Why didn’t you ee me look afr you? Mr Bong laighed, "You want ro look afer her, but you went away. Fl elose the coffin.” As he prepared iny smother’ body for the shroud, my Eicher ered and asked Me Bong: ‘Why di she lenve uso soon? De alo people ie wt wrtchedy-at- thi’ "You don't know what Youre ‘ying’ Mr Bong replied. “Every, chousnde of people in ‘ou country di in shame and pain and sortow. For you sl fier, is diferent: one shot —"bang”™—that' a wee ay 0 Thad a temporary shelter built and told the carpenter to make a coffin. Me Co busied Kineelf around the pile of Cimber my wife had ew the day before. Are you aad we steal che wood? the carpenter yelled out. Mr Bong asked "Er hick ae the oar? “Four atte Trop What!" exelimed Mr Bong, “You could furnish 2 whole rage pe Wine been ee eee er a such good wood? When you move the grave, make sre you give me these boards” My father at silently and looked eepy pained. ‘Mr Bong called ou: "Hey, Thuy, boll mea chicken and cook me a pot of seamed rice’ “How many measures of ee, Uncle?" said my wile. ‘Good heavens sid Mr Bong, wil you continue to speak so sweety afer try? Theet Sessirs? My wie tarue ec wad sk “Ob your sce ties re ded? Mr Bong siked me: “Who controls the finances i thie howe? “My wif, answered, Mr Bong sid "That the Ee en oe {HE GOMERAL RETIRES 127 vey expenses Im aking about who's foking fr the funeral expenses’ My wif’ Ianoweed. Me Bong wi Good heavens, my boy! That can be. She of diese flesh an ood. speak to your fret set Mr Bong sai: Give me 4000, How many ays of foo to you intend 1o serve at the funeral fst? Ten toys Tr Atwered, "Thats not enough to Touch the inde ofthe ‘olin beers’ sil Mr Boog ‘Go and ek to yous i You nce fry T gave him 000 dong and wen nt te ous. My wif st "ve aca heat i cong hy raya 00 dong ache eights ee twengy 24,000, Other expenses, 6:00. Tl worry about fet te food. Miss Lai can aang the banquet: Don’ Tats Bong. He's an uncouth old man.” “Mr Bong has sendy taken 4,000, id. "You dsappine me so snuch ome ined my wie. ad fri bell igh? Tad “Le 0 she sid. "Regard 3 payment for hi serves The ‘ki man’s good enough, but hes poe” ‘A tatonalorchera of Tour musicians arived, My Sher went out mest hen jst before my mothers body ‘wx pliced in the cofin afr inthe seoon, Me Boog Peder mouth open and pact nine dong mide oh 2 cin bering the Enperoe Kh Die and an aa, / nium dime. "To tke You onthe fry’ he mi ede placed » pack of sorted plying cards imide the coe ‘She alway ued to play candy” Mr Bong sed fe good “That night, {hep il over ny mothe’ ali, with my ‘nind wandering in amie though. Death wl ome to al to each and everyone of ‘Onc in the couryed, Me Bong sat playing cade withthe coffin bears. Whenever he gots ka and Bera ad tent low in payer bee my mater alin Bo yon, Sater, please help me ln out ther pockets” 128 Te ceNuAL netines AND OTHER STORIES Mi kd: My daughters Mi and Vi kee vig with me, Mi ask Why tt you py to goon dea fry? And wy pat ty ia nar a Ve: on no you, ate” "ou chile ep it in your mouth et dont - dren don endeneand Tid tough my tea. dont ndentnd either fa sapetien Visi unde Te fe peopl don't know how mich mene they ned In death rth me ek very lone So did my dates, So dil the whole crowd of ge. Sod my aero. Nine esa only 500 meus in icine rm my house wo the cere the ns ph ot thug the lag ee fan fortwo llores The path was too arom cane, an 0 the cf fad be care Tiny bee tool nur cay the cin nny of whom dt iow: They cai the cll witht any seme ofthe sci ih hh hy ee ay fo os “They chewed bee, moked, nd chads they went ‘When they rte, hy sod att wlio he colin. One of thm sic ot on the pov ad sad Se tin rac I we wee ‘ould nap here lng” Me Dong ued then ley there he aid een we've sil gto ge ack oe ies So the procenion moved on. Supported by « walking sk oe nt i tce with the pope cum, Mr Bong sit "When ‘ny cain bears wil al be gables pock wel be served tthe fine ee Dog met il “Oh Bt, oa a TE GENERAL REtanes 129 3 mot joking ata time like this are you? my tthe sai say. Mr Bong fll sen, then ced: ‘Dear See! Youn cheated me by going like this... You've abandoned sme.” | thoughe Why chea? Is it realy pone for the ead to cheat the ving? Is this cemetery flo hese ‘Af he burl everyone reamed to the house, Twenty ‘ight ts of food had been placed out for the gues, A 1 looked at them, I was fll f admiration for Mis Las week Each table called out: ‘Where's Mis La 'Hlere... Hock she twitter, running out with trays of wine and sexe ‘When evening came, she had a bath and changed toto ok clothes She went to the fiily alar and reds “Oht Grandmether, plese forgive me, for not being ble pe ‘company you to your la tesing place... The other day you waned toca rb soup, but | wat too lay toceek ete You. When I go to the maket, fr whom cin I bay ood ow? ..." Lf very biter. Thinking back over the previous {en yea realized Pd never bought Mothers inead oll ae Packet of sweet, Mis Lai ced Would you be dead now Grandmother, 1 sayed at home?” My wifes Stop cxying” ‘Let her cry retorted angrily. ‘A Seal sito, {he sound of sobbing would be very sd indeed. Whe hee / ‘or family cries for Masher?” My wif did nt cem te hee ime and ait: “Thicy-