There was a dirt alley not too far from our house. One afternoon, aunt Sung took brother Vinh and me for a walk in that alley. We had to walk by the Japanese soldiers who occupied the only villa and some of the houses in the neighborhood. The soldiers looked serious with stern faces, long rifles and swords. They talked but like they were yelling to each other. Two Japanese women in their colorful kimonos walked by them hastily into the villa.
I didn’t know to whom that villa and those houses belonged before the Japanese soldiers moved in. Later in life, I learned that many residents in the area had left the neighborhood to seek refuge in the countryside when Americans bombers started to drop their load over Japanese targets in Saigon. The armies of Japan occupied Vietnam in 1940 but allowed the French to continue to govern the country. Japan surrendered to the Allied in August 1945.
The dirt alley branched out several narrow passages. Vinh and I followed aunt Sung into one of those. We walked along the smelly sewer line covered with cracked cement blocks. We didn’t have to walk far. There were rows and rows of banana trees in the open field next to the vacant homes. Aunt Sung cut down a couple of bare plants. She trimmed the leaves off and took the trunks home. Once we got home, she used a knife and trimmed the trunk in a way to have 5 or 6 flaps on its topside. She was careful not to cut the flaps completely off. The inner end of each flap was still attached to the plant. The flap looked like the upper part of a duckbill. Using my left hand, I would lift the plant to shoulder level and parallel to the ground. Then with my right hand, I raised the cut end of each flap to form an angle jus...
... middle of paper ...
...hose words stayed with me. I can only remember what I saw.
The Big Prison was destroyed in the late 1950s, and its site was home of the National Public Library. The tribunal that tried Father remained as a tribunal but those French magistrates were long gone. The Catinat Police Headquarters was also flattened in the late 1950s. On its site was built the Main Office of the Ministry of Interior.
In the 1940s, Father fought for the Viet Minh who later declared independence from France as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. He was severely wounded, captured, and beaten by the French. In the 1960s and 1970s, his children who grew up in the South, served in the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam and fought against the Democratic Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. Two of his children were imprisoned in the victorious
Re-education Camp for several years.
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