AN AMERICAN PRISONER IN VIETNAM

Chapter 34

The clear water is rustling through layers of rock scattered across the brook. Down from these blocks of rock, the stream flows gently under the summer sun. Among these blocks of rock is one that is flat and smooth. The water from upstream runs through little cracks between the blocks and splashes down on this smooth rock, making beautiful white threads so pleasant to the eyes. The brook seems to be playing a melodious symphony about the joy of adventure. James wants to jump down and swim in the brook, but Chi Mai won’t let him. She wants to see if there is any trap waiting for them on the other side of the brook. The forest on that side is sparse and full of sunshine. Chi Mai is afraid of spacious areas where there isn’t much space for them to hide. She asks James to cross the brook and take a close look at the other side. He walks a long way into the forest and returns, telling her that there seems to be no signs of any humans in the area.

The two lovers are lying side by side listening to the music of the brook. James puts his arms under her head as a pillow. Both of them are tired. James’ two hands and arms are cut severely from the thorns. She holds his hands and kisses those cuts, which are still stained with blood. He turns sideways to put his other arm around her to hold her tight and kiss her.

– “There are a lot of fish in the brook, James.”

– “I’ll catch them.”

– “Don’t boast, James. First, tell me how you’re going to catch them?”

– “I will sharpen the end of a straight branch and use it as a spear.”

– “Like those cowboys in the Western movies?”

– “Something like that.”

– “We don’t have a director here who will put a fish into the spear for you to pull up. James, let me tell you an easy way to catch them. Use this dagger and dig under the rotten leaves over there. Get me some earthworms, please.”

– “What for?”

– “We use them as bait to catch fish. I’ve brought along some lines and hooks.”

James digs up the earth under the rotten leaves. Having been in a dungeon with rats, snakes, and frogs, James is no longer afraid of insects. He brings back a handful of worms for Chi Mai to put in a plastic bag, which already contains some fishing hooks, and lines.

– “We shall fish after taking a bath,” she says. She takes off her web belt with gun, ammunition, and dagger, and hangs it on a branch by the brook. Then she takes off her boots and continues to undress. James stands there, awed by the beauty of her shape. He made love to her many times, but this is the first time he sees her whole body. James has undressed himself. It seems like the wonderful silk of her skin has hypnotized him. Her legs are slender and beautiful. James goes to her and kneels down to embrace the lower part of her body, placing his face on the inside of her thighs, enjoying the fragrance of her skin. The tired feeling has left him.

– “James, I would like to take a bath.”

He stands up to pick her up into his arms and slowly slides into the stream. The water is only up to her chest. The two of them immerge in the cool, refreshing brook, which has a magical power to invigorate them.

James takes her to a flat, smooth rock in the middle of the brook. She is lying on her back, with outstretched arms and legs. The sunlight is dancing in the magic woods nearby. Tiny drops of crystal water from the rocks are spraying on her. Adam is on top of Eve now. Human sins begin at the lips. He bites her lips. He gnaws on her tongue. He swallows the pristine stream of honey. The water is splashing on Eve’s face. Adam drinks more from the spring of Paradise. He loosens his grip and slides further down. Adam enjoys the left peach, then the right one. The brook continues playing its melodious music.

He slides down a little more, and a little more. The little sprays of water from the brook weave a fancy net filtering the golden sunlight. Adam and Eve are covered by an iridescent water net. It seems as if drops of enchanting music were pattering on their flesh. Her hair is soaked in water. The brook is caressing it, whispering to it. Adam tastes the second source of honey. Like a hungry bear finding a beehive, Adam is gulping down the honey. He lets his tongue wander in the fragrant source of honey. And he slides up again. With the stinger of an amorous bee, he thrusts his longing into the heart of the flower. Another melody is added to the harmony of nature. Humans and Nature join together in delight. The brook is rustling between the rocks. The brook is rustling inside the two lovers. On that enchanting rock in the middle of the brook, the American soldier has found real Paradise after his three million years in a real Hell.

James Fisher is lying beside Chi Mai. She lays her head on his arm. The two lovers are looking at the water net above them.

– “James…”

– “Yes, my dear.”

– “I don’t think there is a myth about fairyland in American literature like the one we have in ours. Do you know the difference between heaven and fairyland, James?”

– “No. Tell me.”

– “If we do good and are truthful all our lives, we shall go to heaven to meet all the wooden and stony saints.”

– “What about fairyland?”

– “According to the Vietnamese myth about fairyland, this kingdom only opens its gate once every million years to welcome human beings. The two Vietnamese, Mr. Luu Than and Mr. Nguyen Trieu were once welcomed to fairyland. They fell in love with some fairies, very much like you fell in love with me.”

– “Do you mean I am in fairyland now?”

– “Yes, darling. You’re the only American who can define what happiness is. You will become a legendary character in the fairy tale a thousand years from now.”

– “There’s no brook like this in America. It doesn’t exist anywhere else in this world. And this bed of rock, my dear, neither communism nor capitalism is able to lead people to it. But a Vietnamese has succeeded in bringing an American to it. When human beings cease to be deceived by stupid ideologies, they will take one another to the fairyland.”

– “That’s pure dreaming, James. In reality…”

– “Let’s forget reality, my dear.”

– “When you’re hungry, you will no longer be dreaming.”

The two lovers leave the rock and go back to the bank of the brook. Adam takes her clothes and his to wash. Eve goes to fish in the part of the brook where the water flows gently. Adam wrings out the clothes and puts them down on the sunny grass to dry. He swims toward where she is. Chi Mai is putting a worm onto the hook of the fishing line. She ties the end of the line to her fingers and drops it into the water.

– “Where did you learn to do this, Chi Mai?”

– “From the survival training given to all of our soldiers. They used to go south through the mountainous areas in Central Vietnam. US planes often dropped bombs on them, dispersing them. Most of our soldiers were from the countryside; so they were quite skillful in adapting to the environment. As animals in the forests were also driven away by the bombs, there were very few left. Our men dared not shoot them for fear of being discovered by US Special Forces. They had to survive by trapping small animals and fishing. Every one of them had some fishing hooks in their backpacks when they went to the battlefield.”

She jerks the fishing line gently and pulls out a fish bigger than James’ hand. He grabs the fish and removes the line from her fingers.

– “The Americans lost the war because they didn’t know how much the Vietnamese were able to endure.”

Chi Mai pulls out another fish from the second line.

– “The Vietnamese were the only people in the world who defeated the Mongolian forces in the thirteenth century. I hope the rest of the world will leave Vietnam alone and let our people live in peace with our poverty.”

James adds,

– “And with their noble love, too.”

Chi Mai catches four fishes at last. They walk to where they left their backpacks. She cuts a few small branches and sharpens the ends of them while James goes around to gather a bundle of dried branches. Chi Mai clears away some rotten leaves and starts the fire with a few plastic bags. The dried branches burn easily. She puts the little sharpened branches through the mouth of the fishes. Chi Mai and James wait until the flame dies down into quiescent red embers before they grill the fish from the point of their daggers. She sprinkles a few drops of fish sauce in each puncture. James slowly turns the fish over. All of them are well cooked, and look appetizing. James removes the fish from the ember bed before putting on more dried wood. The fire flickers on into the night. The two lovers eat the grilled fish with their hands. Chi Mai says,

– “Since we don’t have white wine, can you make do with some whisky?”

James sips the liquor slowly. He finds the meaning of life right here. They eat the two remaining fish, and that’s enough for an evening meal. Filled with joy, Chi Mai takes a drink out of the bottle. They go to the brook to wash their hands and throw the fish bones into the water. They dried their clothes over the fire and put them on, along with the shoes, dagger, and gun. The fire is extinguished.

Chi Mai gets on the hammock. James sits at the side to watch over her. He wishes their love could go on forever, right here.

– “Chi Mai.”

– “Yes, James.”

– “I wish we could stay here for a few days.”

– “I’d love to. But we have to go my dear. There will be more brooks like this one. Now will you fan away the mosquitoes for me, James? I’m sleepy.”

He gently swings the hammock and waves the fan over her face. The brook rustles its music nearby. James looks at her sleeping and feels an intense love rising in his heart. At midnight, the moon pours its golden light profusely over the woods. James doesn’t know that today is the day of the full moon. Under the summer moon the brook seems to be covered with a layer of silver. The screen of water coming out of the rocks looks so marvelous. James suddenly hears the rustle of dried leaves on the other side of the brook. Chi Mai gets up at once. The two of them lie on the ground covered with rotten leaves, their guns in their hands. The rustle comes nearer and nearer. James and Chi Mai wait, their eyes wide open…

Some deer are going to the brook to drink. Both of them sigh with relief. The deer have their drink and look around in bewilderment. Then there’s a roaring sound that seems to shake the whole woods. The deer all run in disarray.

– “It’s the tiger, James.”

– “Tiger?”

– “Yes. We shall have to walk through an immense field of elephant grass, the land of tigers. But there’s nothing to worry about, because they sleep in the daytime. We shall leave at dawn tomorrow. Now, it’s time for you to sleep, my dear. I’ll fan ad keep watch over you.”

– “I’d rather watch you sleep, Chi Mai.”

– “No, you must sleep, James. I insist. We’ll have a long walk tomorrow.”

He gets on the hammock. She sits by to fan away the mosquitoes and keep watch. James falls fast asleep. She listens to the music from the brook, waiting for daybreak.

—> 35

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