My Beloved Neighborhood

My community is divided into four small villages according to their directions. My village is adhered to the name “WestVillage,” and its people are called “Western villagers” because it lies in the west of the community. Besides, it has the nickname “Pig” because almost all of the villagers earned money from raising pigs. The villagers usually heard pigs’ cries at meals’ times or at periods when old pigs were sold and new babies were bought. As a result, many people formed the habit to predict meals’ time according to pig’s cries. Nobody can say who were the first ancestors of this village, but since the first day of my life, I have heard many stories about the neighbors who connected their lives with this village tens of years ago. In fact, I absorbed their stories so deeply that I learnt their family trees by heart.

Needless to say, Miss Hoa’s house was conspicuous in my village because it had a large garden in front where children used to gather there and play games. Moreover, because of its location—at the end of the village, Miss. Hoa’s house functioned like a brick connecting my village with the South one. Every night, the villagers would gather in her garden to tell stories. While the eldest woman murmured the stories about old days when her peers and she took care of buffaloes in muddy fields, took baths in large, green rivers, and fried fish in big fields, the others listened carefully and sometimes moved their legs to avoid mosquitoes. After her childhood’s stories, the stories about her girlhood sustained being told. She was always proud of her prosperous girlhood when she had been chased by both “Western boys” and boys in adjacent villages. She wouldn’t stop saying until her face was hurt by mosquitoes’ bites, and her throat was dry. In my village, houses shared walls with houses, so nothing could happen without the notice of the villagers; therefore, parents felt safe enough to allow their children to stay up late to hear stories providing that they weren’t tardy for class the next day.

My village was so close that information was transmitted quickly without the help of the Internet. Understanding that sooner or later, every secret would be disclosed although they were kept tightly, the villagers chose to share their secrets publicly. One day, Mrs. Binh, who was notable for her fertility; indeed she gave birth to 11 kids, would cry, “My daughter gave birth with a boy in the near village.” Immediately, all the women stopped doing their household chores, ran to Mrs. Binh’s house and quested about the baby’s father. Such the curiosity was so effective that some minutes later, Mrs. Binh’s cries would change into laughter.

However, from time to time, such the reliability to share secrets would change into competitions and even revulsion. Whenever a child got good marks, his or her friendship with the friend next to the door was liable to be shaky because the parents somehow put the definition of arrogance and shame in their children’s heads. They taught the children the lesson of the winners, who were wise, and the losers, who were stupid; therefore, the children were in fond of showing their talents off and were ashamed of not being perfect.

In the middle of the village, there was a mango tree, which was a cradle of horror tales; in fact, the adults usually told stories about huge ghosts with long hair, tongue, and fingernails, who would cannibalize disobedient kids. Consequently, in the evening, many mothers fed their children in the tree’s roots.

Opposite to the tree, in the right hand, there was the house of an old widow, who rarely lived in peace. Every day, from day to night, the villagers heard her complaints and reprimands. I felt as if she preferred to die than to keep silent. However, everyone ignored her complaints; they even sometimes took time to visit this lenient widow. After I many times insisted, one day, I was told the story about this miserable woman. She had had a fantastic life of which many women had been jealous: an affluent family with kind husband and cute children. However, when waking up one day, her life was reversed: her husband and son were informed to be killed in the American-Vietnamese war; her only daughter eloped with an American soldier and was killed on her way to America. The widow decided to move to another village to escape from the memories of a miserable past, but she returned soon with the reason that she couldn’t live away from the land of her ancestors. One month later, she sold her house, which was near the entrance of the village, and bought her current house.

Mr. Sy, who was the head of the village, became the owner of her house. Next to his house, in the left hand, there was an empty field that was used to park tractors and cars. Now and then, this field was used for celebrating parties to welcome officials who came to investigate the environment, the population, and living standards of the villagers. This field was named “Mr. Duc’s diaper,” and everyone, from a kid to an old man, knew the origin of this name. One day, in a party that was held in this field, Mr. Duc drank so much that he seemed unconscious, and no one could bring him to home. When he woke up, his pants were filled with his urine. After that accident, people called him “Baby,” and this field became “Duc’s diaper.”

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