Short stories by Nguyen Dinh Tu from Vietnam

Επιμέλεια: Εύα Πετροπούλου Λιανού

His biography: Born in 1974 in Kien An, Hai Phong, Vietnam. Member of Vietnam Writers’ Association. Writer Nguyen Dinh Tu graduated from Hanoi Law University in 1996. He was trained as an officer at Military Region 3 Military School in 1997. From 1997 to 2001, writer Nguyen Dinh Tu worked at the Military Region 3 Military Procuracy. In 2001, writer Nguyen Dinh Tu worked at the Department of Literature – Military Arts and Letters Magazine. Currently, writer Nguyen Dinh Tu is the head of the Writing Department of Military Arts and Letters Magazine.

Literary awards:

– Award of the Military Arts and Letters Short Story Competition 1999 – 2000 with the works On the banks of the streams, Crossing the river, The boys who live with bitter flowers.

– Fiction Award from the Ministry of Public Security in collaboration with the Writers’ Association in 2002 with the work Record of a death row prisoner, in 2010 with the work  Version, in 2015 with the work “Co Mac Sau”.

– The Ministry of Public Security’s 10-year literary award for the novel Record of a death row prisoner

– The Ministry of National Defense’s 5-year literary award for the novel By the Sorrowful Face river.

And many other national and local awards.

Major works published:

– On the banks of streams (A collection of short stories, 2001)

– It couldn’t be otherwise (A collection of short stories, 2002)

– Record of a death row prisoner (Novel, 2002)

– Unrelenting obsession (A collection of short stories, 2003)

– Dances in the Night (collection of short stories, 2005)

– By the sorrowful face river (Novel, 2006)

– Dance of the townspeople (collection of short stories, 2006)

– The restless forest (long story, 2007)

– Draft (Novel, 2008)

– Soldier’s Story (A collection of short stories, 2007)

– Version (Novel, 2009)

– Closed (Novel, 2010)

– In prison outside of crime (record,  2 volumes, 2012)

– Discussion of a General and Soldier (notes, 2013)

– Purification (collection of short stories, 2013)

– Wild Heart (novel, 2013)

– Mortal body (novel, 1014)

– The boy with the red backpack (Long story, 2016)

– Hunting grounds (Novel, 2 volumes, 2018, 2019)

Broken wedding night

At 19:30, he and his wife were present at a ravishing Nha Trang beach motel. The girl at the reception took the young couple to room 220 with a smile. When handing over the keys to him, she also said: “Wish you guys a great holiday!”. The two were embarrassed as if she had guessed their nervousness.

While his wife put things in a small wardrobe in the corner of the room, he went to the bathroom. The flight had ended after two hours, but now he had the feeling of flying into bad weather. He poured water on his body not to wash away the dust from a long distance, but to let the drops of water keep him awake. If it weren’t for that obnoxious afternoon the other day, he would be more at peace now, thinking only of the magical moments of the wedding night that was about to take place on this windy beach.

“Owie…”. He felt a sharp pain as he let the shower head touch the wound on his right arm. “What’s the problem?” – His wife asked from outside the door. “Ah, it’s okay, I left the water a little hot.” He replied that to reassure his wife and then gently tied the wound tightly, trying not to let the water flow in.

He didn’t want to take a shower right now. He just wanted to find a hidden corner to calm down. When they were on the plane, his wife found out that he was injured. He said it was a small scratch made by the doorknob of his room. His wife commiserated to see the wound. He said “It’s okay, just a small bandage is fine, no one can see through the shirt, I stil can be l a good groom.” It was true that he still made a good groom. Still wearing a suit, still standing, still holding flowers to the bride’s house to pick up the bride on time and walking calmly in front of the two families in an affectionate look.

After the wedding party, his wife went into the small room to change the bride’s clothes, then turned around and got into the car of a friend who worked at Ha Thanh Securities Company, and went straight to the airport. The day before, he asked him: “Where do you want to go on your honeymoon?”. He smiled politely: “I’ve asked for three days off, but I don’t know where to go.” The friend said: “Then let’s go to Nha Trang. Alright, after the wedding party, we will fly immediately.” Taking the couple to the airport, he pushed a pair of round-trip tickets from Hanoi to Nha Trang and patted him: “Have a nice trip. Enjoy your new destiny.”

His high five made him winced in pain.

Only then did his wife find out that he was injured. But, it was a small matter, the main thing was that he and his wife got there. The plan was detailed by his wife. The couple would spend a day to visit the cultural and spiritual tourist attractions of Nha Trang such as Ponagar Tower, Long Son Pagoda, Stone Church, a day to visit the islands and Van Phong Bay, a day of wandering in Doc Let ecotourism area. That’s the end of three days. It was also a three-day honeymoon for the couple to discover each other. Thinking of this he blushed slightly.

His wife was a literature teacher. Beautiful, sensitive and seductive. Radiant face and smooth skin. She must also be very excited to dedicate herself to him. The look in her eyes as she exchanged the wedding ring was so affectionate. Her cheeks were rosy not because of cosmetics, but because of the sudden increase in body temperature. Her chest throbbed with the rapid heartbeat of love. The curves of her body ignited a fire as if ready to wait for the storm coming from him. He’d hugged her tightly many times, used to attach passionate kisses to her lips, used to breathe in her neck, nape, and ears. But that’s all. Her body was still a mystery to him. His body was also a mystery to her. And Nha Trang beach would be the place where they needed to finish the must-dos of the eternal bond of man and woman.

When he stepped out of the bathroom, his wife was already waiting to ask about the wound on his arm. He brushed it off, pretending it was no big deal. He urged his wife to take a shower and then went to dinner. The receptionist showed him and his wife the restaurant right next to the motel, according to her, it was a great place, “nice seats, near the sea, fresh seafood which is delicious and cheap”.

And now the couple had a full stomach of fresh seafood. Really delicious and cheap. He brought a bottle of wine that his friend, who worked in the stock market, prepared for him when he was still in Hanoi. “The wedding night wine, just for you.” His wife also took a small sip. Wow, she smacked her mouth, as if pouring fire into her mouth. He looked at her with an amused smile. The two people sat huddled together looking out at the trail of cable car light stretching from the mainland to Vinpearl Island. The sea was dark in front of them. “Do you know what the sea is doing now?” she asked him. “It’s sleeping,” he replied. “No. It’s in love with the sand.” It was true that the waves were still crashing on the shore with endless waves.

They returned to their rooms at ten o’clock at night. The guesthouse was very quiet. The suites were all closed and only a few lighted rooms remained. She changed into a light pink nightgown and jumped on the bed and turned on the television. He also changed his clothes and turned off the light. She wrapped her arms around him, inhaling the scent of his body, stroking every fiber of his body. The two of them leaned back against the edge of the bed, half lying, half sitting. Their lips are glued together. Fingers caressed and searched. Her virgin chests pressed against him. He suddenly pushed her down. The phone rang. He groped for the mobile phone that was under the bedside lamp. The friend working in the stock market’s voice sounded: “I’m just kidding, you still pick up the phone? Have you returned to your room or are you still walking by the beach? Hello the boy in you, tomorrow you will be a man. Remember to open my wedding night wine!”

He turned off the phone and sat up to light a cigarette. His wife curled up in a thin blanket, waiting. It’s time to say the hardest words to her. Give her the reason that he is being injured? He had been a groom all day today and he had traveled all the way in here without showing any problem with his arm, now it was the time to make love, it would be nonsense to say his arm was hurt. Or he could say he drank too much, he was sleepy to delay this? No, just now, when sitting on the beach, he accidentally told her this was the wedding night wine, the two eagerly drank to wait for the time to do it, now relying on alcohol to avoid it, it was also difficult to say.

What about saying that the past few days of worrying about the wedding made him tired, he needed a sleep to regain strength? “If you’re tired, go to sleep,” she said from the blanket, getting up to tell him. So she opened the way out for me, he thought. He quickly got into bed and leaned back on the thick mattress. She pulled the blanket over his stomach. He closed his eyes and wished for a quick sleep. But he couldn’t sleep. He was not tired. The wedding today was simple and brief, and did not affect the health of a twenty-eight-year-old young man, who was burning with the energy of youth like him. He also yearned for her body like crazy, but one thing was for sure he wasn’t allowed to touch it right now.

Well, damn wound!

He could not have joined the investigation team yesterday afternoon if only as a scout or an investigator. But he played the role of a bait. Cases related to drugs required a bait. Many appointments, many transactions, many times of hooking, but the subject still refused to believe, did not bring the goods. Suddenly, the other day, the subject had an appointment with him again. The operation committee assessed this as a large octopus tentacle protruding into the capital. From this tentacle, each brick of heroin would spread to every corner of Hanoi, contributing to gradually killing the young men of Hanoi who accidentally fell into drugs. He had to play the role of a shopper, having been to the Central region, even to Laos, looking for ways to build trust for the white-death traffickers. But they were very cunning.

They have tested him multiple times but still refused to deliver. But now they’re calling him again. They said that the goods had arrived in Hanoi, it was staying in a small hotel right by the Sword Lake, he must bring the money right away to receive the goods. His teammates did their best to create a special cover for him, now it’s time to tear that cover to catch the big net. What was that cover? An rising trader by investing in stocks and real estate. In his hands, there were many projects of real estate, finance, banking… What business is a young man like him doing?

It was just that he was hiding under those business forms to launder money from big drug deals. They knew that. And they had repeatedly tested his “extravagance”. They knew that he was the type of “not bothering to get involved if it is under 10 bricks of drugs”. But they still refused to put their trust in him to decide to open a large trading network. This octopus tentacle was still sniffing. There had been many such tentacles that have been cut off. Now they were more cautious. And they only agreed to do business with him the day before yesterday. Yes, he still knew that in three days he would get married. But he could not pass the opportunity to fight crimes that teammates were looking forward to. He reported to his superiors, according to the plan, they must cut off the hideous octopus tentacle that had reached this Sword Lake.

He drove the car to the meeting point.

From a distance, the subject saw him leaving the car, carrying a briefcase, and entering the hotel. He went up to room 303. The door was open, the object was not there, only a woman with a small child watching TV. His phone vibrated again. Subject told him it was wrong, go to hotel next to this one, still room 303. Well, so they tested him again. His teammates had to change plans again. The hotel staff, who were reconnaissances of the Anti-Drug Team, had to change locations with him. He slowed down a bit, trying to buy time for his teammates to reach the new location. Then he showed up at the door of room 303.

When he raised his hand to ring the bell, the subject walked over from the end of the corridor and pulled his arms to room 305. “I’m in this room,test you for the last time, now rest assured, you can check the goods”, the subject was around thirty years old, big, with a grumpy face. He calmly opened a brick of heroin to check. The subject held out his hand in front of him: “Give me your cell phone”. Holding his phone in his hand, he removed the battery and put it back in his chest pocket. “Please forgive me. During the transaction we absolutely do not use any form of communication. This is how we work.” The subject was very clever, but he was not easily fooled.

His teammates attached a small chip to the ring on his finger. Wherever he went, the screen of the Project Command Committee would stick to the image of him going there. Subject told him to go to room 303 but sent him to room 305. Before entering room 305, he raised his hand to swipe the room number for his teammates to notice. And when he counted each brick of heroin, it was also the time when the screen of the Project Command Committee  showed the evidence of the case. An arrest warrant was issued immediately.

Three hotel attendants used a special lock-breaking tool, threw open the door of the room, pointed a gun at two people who were carrying out the act of trading drugs in large quantities, and issued arrest warrants. Subject was like a wild animal, struggling to escape to the back door. A struggle took place. Suddenly, the subject reached for the knife that he and he had just used to cut the heroin cake. He used one of his hands, grabbed the blade, clawed it hard. With that bloody blade, he pressed a reconnaissance’s neck to control, demanding to open a way out…

He shivered and opened his eyes.

His wife hadn’t slept yet. Under the faint pink light, her eyes gazed at him passionately. “You’ve been sleeping for a while. I’ve sat and watched you sleep.” He reached out and hugged his wife. His feelings of love rose intensely. He was dying. He wouldn’t be able to stand it anymore. His wife’s warm breath brushed against him. Her skin skimmed over the opening pores on his body. She was like water and he was thirsty. She was like fire and he was cold… While she was crawling into his lap, entwining with him, he quickly rolled out of bed. “I’m sorry. We can’t do that at the moment. I will explain later. Please understand for me, go to sleep!”

His wife laid down, pulling the blanket over her head. He went to the bathroom and splashed water on his face, then turned around.He gently laid down next to his wife. Should he ask his wife’s permission to use… condoms? So odd. Who does that on wedding night? Besides, where can he go to get a condom at this hour? But how can he talk to his beloved wife? He tilted his head slightly and put his arm under his head. The pain in his arm throbbed again. How whimsical. He looked to the side to see his wife lying still. She must be asleep! He closed his eyes…

…When the subject raised the knife, he said a cold sentence: “I have been infected with HIV for a long time, whoever wants to die with me, just rush in?”. At that time, he was still playing the role of the person who came to buy goods, and was in the same boat with the object. He pretended to beg: “Please spare us, money and goods here, please take it, let us have a way out”. When he and the subject approached the door, he turned his back. He took the opportunity to jump in and break the subject’s neck. But the subject was too strong. He struggled and swung the knife again before being neutralized by him and his teammates. That cruel knife cut a long slit on his arm…

He cleaned the wound.

He had it tested.

He had an emergency vaccination.

But the official results had to wait.

Negative or positive?

Infected or not infected?

He went back to getting married. And now he was facing a grim wedding night like this.

He opened his eyes as light shone on his face through the curtainless window. It turned out that he was sleeping soundly without knowing it.

The night has passed a long time ago.

Daylight was bright.

His first impression was that his beloved wife was no longer in this room. He quickly got up and opened the closet door. His clothes were left there and the suitcase was taken away. He quickly put on his clothes and ran down to the front desk. The motel staff smiled brightly with him and said: “She booked the ticket early and took a taxi to the airport.” He pulled out his phone and called. The number cannot be dialed.

So a wedding night was broken!

(Translated into English by Vu Linh Chi)