Home Short Story Magnolia Coco – A Short Story from Vietnam

Magnolia Coco – A Short Story from Vietnam

Magnolia Coco – A Short Story from Vietnam
Magnolia Coco’s Flowers

Dinh Duc Cuong

author DINH DUC CUONG-Vietnam-Sindh CourierDinh Duc Cuong, lives in the Dong Trieu district of Quang Ninh province, Vietnam. He is a veteran, a businessman and had been member of Quang Ninh Provincial Literary and Arts Association. He has published many books of poetry, notes, short stories and novels such as “Love Market”, “Hunter Guy”, “All the way to life”, “A corner of war”. He is winner of a number of Quang Ninh province’s literary awards. Most of his works are intertwined with war themes as well as his stories associated with mining life with breathing contemporary life.

Short story “Magnolia Coco” has been translated by translator Hoang Yen.

Magnolia Coco

Tam drove a pickup truck to Ha Long city, the streets along on both sides of the road are glistened through the car’s glass. Tam drive to the old ferry station, stopped the vehicle and turned off the engine. Then slowly walked to the water’s edge, where ferries diligently went back and forth on both sides of the green gate in the past, the creaking sound of tip of the ferry’s tip hitting the concrete edge, and then cars and people rushing to get on the ferry across. The sound of the waves crashing against the side of the ferry was lapping with white foam.

Now there are no more old ferries, instead of there is a cable-stayed bridge that curves like harp, connecting Bai Chay with Hon Gai by spanning the two banks of the bay reflecting on the sea surface, like a graceful dot.

Tam drove across the bridge to Ha Tien mine where he has many fond of memories during a mining time, but it took forever to find the path leading to the top of Ha Tien Mountain. Light a cigarette, observe the whole city of Ha Long, there is nothing left of the old Hon Gai town, the workers’ villages, the dusty roads running along the mountainside, with the small, low, mossy dark roofs. The sea has receded to give way to high- rise buildings. The whole city was bright in the sun, the four- or five-lane roads were full of traffic. There is nothing left of the coal region that was once associate with the sobs and vibrations in the early year of life. The Ha Tien mountain range seems to be lower in front of the sky-scraper buildings.

That day, after graduating from the transport driver class, Tam was assigned to work at this Ha Tien coal mines with his enthusiastic of youth.

Tam was received KPA3 (so call “k rat”) vehicle, which is called grandmother bear truck of Soviet’s aid at that time. This type of car was the mainstay of the coal industries, sitting in the car in summer as in a roasting pan. It is better in winter because the car does not have air condition.

The glaring sunlight that sometimes rises above forty degrees Celsius upstairs is a great challenge for the open pit miner. The sun scorched coals, soil and rock crumbled into dust under the wheels. Cars loaded with soil and rock or coals roared up the slopes. Blackened smoke mixed with and heat from the exhaust pipes, the air seemed dense surrounding. The rising heat burned the air like baking. it is scorching hot. Every driver was sweaty, his back burned cause of leaning on the hot leather seat. Especially when one car got out of the other’s way, the dusty slams into the face with full of sticky sweat.

After driving, he looks like coming out of a pile of dust. Tam’s strong and muscular young body is tanned with the imprint of a tank top because sitting in a car, the sunny is still slanting.

The country needs coal like babies need mother’s milk; Coal production as the army fighting the enemy.

People put those slogans everywhere, and then there are competitions to increase the number of trips. People cut red and pink paper to make flowers, sometimes its lack of white paper to apply red medicine, putting those flowers on the chests of miners, drivers… over pass the labor productivity quota, they stood throw out one’s chest so that foreman, union presidents and youth union secretaries put those confetti on their chests.

An honor and pride in so many eyes, they listened to the loudspeakers saying the names of advanced individuals and talked among themselves:

– That guy, that one is leading

– Still no one can overpass…

The name Nguyen Van Tam: driving a car number… is always mentioned first and foremost. And later, the car that Tam drove was considered as a symbolic display of Ha Tien coal mining.

That morning, driving up to the clear blue sky and cool wind, Tam lowered all the windows of the car, a light wind blew into the cabin, a seductive fragrance filled the cabin, making Tam ecstatic. Unable to resist, Tam stopped and jumped out of the car to look for that scent, his sense of smell brought his eyes to a big green bush with brilliant ivory-yellow flowers that looked like small chicken eggs. , have just open the pure petals early in the morning.

“Magnolia coco” Tam exclaimed, this is a woody flower that grows singly, each branch raceme has only a flower like an egg. The petals are arranged in turn to bloom, giving off a passionate and seductive fragrance. This plant only grows in rare primeval forests. Tam knew it thanks to his geologist friends.

Tam reached out to pick 5 flowers that had just bloomed, then returned to the car and drove upstairs; came to sharp bend in the road, met a group of four girls repairing the road. The road in the mine has huge ditches and potholes cause of many vehicle and raining, to ensure the safe for mean of transport a group of more than a dozen girls called the road repair team, are constantly on duty on the whole route with the task of using hoes, shovels, shovels to fill potholes and ditches for cars to run. The driver usually jokingly called a road patching team.

When Tam’s car arrived, they all wore safety working clothing and covered their faces with veils with only two eyes left. Tam stopped the car and showed four flowers to the girls. Giving these sisters and giving the bouquet to the nearest girl, the girl reached out to receive the flowers, her face was tight, only her black eyes awkwardly stretched across the four eyes that met, shining like a flash of lightning. The girl blinked two eyelids, slightly closed and glanced away like a meteor.

– Thank you. What flowers are so beautiful and fragrant, Mr. Tam! Three girls competed with each other, the girl held the flower bouquet to share with the other girls.

– Magnolia coco

– Oh, it looks like a real chicken egg and smells so good.

– Thank you Mr. Tam.

– We pay you Ms. Huyen, they smiled while pointing at the slender girl who received the flowers from him.

 – Slightly again glanced away like a meteor.

The shooting star glanced sideways again and then turned around and punched flapping her friend’s back.

– Well, I’ll go, the shooting star flashed in Tam’s eyes again.

At the end of  afternoon shift, it was still scorching sun and cloudy suddenly come, the wind blew strongly on the top of the hill, the wind blew left and right, blowing away lap dress with the sweat drops.

It’s raining, then took the raincoat quickly, the girls group and Huyen quickly pulled out the young plastic sheets and put them on, the rain poured down, the first raindrops fell on the burning and dusty ground, causing tiny patches of dust and noises, sizzling over the hot stone, a slight puff of steam rose.

Then the rained with a cascading noise was filled with millions of water marbles pouring down, the rain was pouring down the whole ground, the water was pouring violently, That the sky was blurred in the rain making white area become opalescent, the wind swirled the raincoats, four girls standing with their backs to the rain, holding their hats and raincoats motionlessly as four landmarks, briefly it was dark and the rain and wind rumbled like lightning.

The road has become a giant water python, where white and black water rolls along the road, along the mountainside, the water pours violently like a herd of wild horses, the torrential water swept away dust, soil, and rocks, spilling over the ditch along the road, overflowing to the edge of the cliff, rolling rock, soil  in the clamping of the wind and rain…

Tam just drove up from the pit to dump the last rubbish in the working day, turned the car back to the top of the slope when the rain poured down, the rain hit the glass on the cabin, creating a chaotic sound. In front of the window, only the rain and water were blurred, there were four human shadow standing motionlessly. Tam hurriedly braked the car and lowered the window and called out:

Time was up, the sisters went up and I take you go home, the rain was so heavy that I didn’t know when it would stop. The four girls struggled holding their hats and raincoats in their hands but could not hold a shovel, the rain poured down from the thighs to feet. Tam quickly jumped down to pick up all the hoes and shovels and threw them on the clattering trunk and opened the side door for the girls to get in the car despite the rain hitting their backs. The cabin for only three people now became cramped. Especially, the girls moved to find out a place to take off their raincoats, hats overlapped. And it was okay from thigh to bottom, all of them were soaked.

Tam got into the car with his whole body and hair soggy, his hair stuck to his forehead, and the water running on his neck on his tanned face, Tam took a large towel to wipe his face and gave it to Huyen Bao:

– The sisters temporarily wiped the sweat away, so it was very smelly!

That holding the towel Tam gave, Huyen lightly dabbed drops of water on her face, the strong smell of sweat wafted up her nose at first, pungent and sour, then feeling the euphoria from young men as if awakening the instinct of girls, Huyen hide to take a shortness of breath of that scent to feel the mark that scent in her memory.

The rain was still pouring, after stabilizing the position, Tam said:

Let’s go and start the gearshift engine, because it’s narrow space and the gear lever is long, it’s entangled in the middle of it, and the right hand suddenly touch Huyen’s thigh, the wet black pants stick to the thigh. When the right hand unintentionally touch her thigh like an electric current. That makes both of them to blush slightly, the car slowly road- roller, the steam in the narrow cabin, the heat rising, caused the girls to take off their face covering.

Glancing at her face that is fair and white skin because of the heat, black eyes fluttering, a graceful long – nose, charming straight white teeth as ivory, the passionate scent of a girl hidden with an indescribable scent, full breasts was throbbing with the breath, making Tam felt ecstatic.

When the weather cleared, the car also returned to the collective zone, everyone got out of the car in a hurry, Huyen got down last.

-Good bye! Huyen said softly, the confused eyes seemed to look attentively at Tam’s face and chest, making him feel numb.

Tam came back to completely deserted the collective zone, now that the two people who to work in shifts, others finished eating, they have all dispersion, only Tam stayed alone.

Take his clothes go out to the water tank behind the bathroom, wash himself cleanly, then put his clothes on and go to the collective kitchen.

Returning to Huyen’s room, she took off her clothes discreetly and took the egg flower Tam gave her this morning, it had withered and dried up from her chest, when Huyen rained the flower and put it in her bra, the head of the flower stalk came back from time to time. Rubbing against the indescribably tickling breast, holding the flower that was withered and damp with moisture, Huyen put the flower in the corner of the closet to let it dry, the faint scent still lingered on her body, the female worker’s bathroom was lying on the side. Through the chest-high window, inadvertently looked down at the fleet’s bath.

Nobody cares whenever anyone goes or comes back, who freshen up, sometimes they just tark naked go to the bathroom, that bathing fray or naturism in bathroom is common sense at the mining.

Huyen saw that Tam was pouring water on his body, the muscular body was nearly six feet tall and muscular like a kick boxer. It made her feel like there was an electric current running through her hands, circling all over her body, blood rushing to her face, soap slicking along her hands as if it had seduction, the smell of sweat, the smell of a young man’s body that was reminisced by the sense of smell. It made Huyen like a fever.

Let’s die! Lovesickness with him, is that right?

 And a light hit on the back of her friend, Huyen turned around and turned to her friends bathing who were also full of soap and snatched Huyen. She got embarrassed. Through the window, they saw Tam bathing.

– Ah, look at him lovesick and them to weigh down on Huyen to massage.

– How red Huyen’s nipple are.

Just like that, with many comments, Huyen got up to take a bath, put on her clothes and ran out of the bathroom.

Dinner at the kitchen was only Tam and four road girl repairing, everyone had eaten up, and the waitresses were still waiting for workers here to eat in shifts regardless of sooner or later. Tam just brought the tray of rice out and put it on the table, when the four girls came, they joked loudly and took rice to eat, 3 girls thrust Huyen into the Tam’s table, Huyen gently invited Tam.

The rice bowl has only a few pieces of meat, full of braised pork fat and beans, and a bowl of water morning glory. Huyen use chopsticks to picks up two pieces of fatty meat as three fingers to Tam’s bowl.

– Let’s eats for me, Mr. Tam. It’s too satiated!

-Please eat, I have my standard, but Huyen kept her chopsticks not allow Tam to pick up again, Tam had to eat, in fact with Tam’s youth, He has to eat a kilo, but the miner’s life that is higher than the average level of the people in country. For them, everything reserved the front line, for the liberation of the South, the girls at the table next to them who had finished their meals and left, leaving only Tam and Huyen, four eyes looking at each other and then quickly looking down.

– Where is your hometown? Tam asked.

– Yes, I live in Tu Ky Hai Duong, I have an uncle who has been working in mining coal for a long time and asked to come here to work as an escapist worker, I don’t have any expertise, so they were assigned to the road repair team, everything is new to the rice countryside. Busy with toil and moil, also called a little better….

The two people left the dining room when the moon had risen, after the rain, the cool air from the sea breeze blew in, a pleasant feeling of refreshment. At branching roads of the house Huyen took the initiative to hold Tam’s hand. Come back, have a good night and run away in the silver moon, Tam felt nostalgic this is the first time a girl holds his hand so affectionately.

The American enemy frantically bombarded the North in the 2nd phase, they blocked the harbor, and they hit the mines, raiding everywhere.

“Working during the day is not enough to take advantage of the night” the car switched to night driving, but the headlights turned on Which become the goal for the plane, an initiative was devised, using waste oil to burn discarded wood, into coal Small persimmons spread along the shoreline as a dart for the vehicle to run. Huyen was assigned task is maintaining embers in the second shift, so they had a chance to meet each other on that mountain pass.

That day, running the last trip of the second shift, it was ten o’clock at night, Tam drove the car back to the corner and still saw Huyen next to the pile of wood – embers.

– Why haven’t you come back yet? – Tam asked.

– I am sure that you will come back now, so I will wait for you to come back and to hitchhike.

Tam opened the cabin for Huyen to get in and drive on the mountain pass back to the warehouse’s parking lot, the car stopped Tam didn’t say anything Huyen stopped to kiss Tam on his cheek.

– Good night! – Then she jumped out of the cabin, Tam put his hand on his cheek where Huyen’s lips just placed there was still the taste of lovely girl. With a slight smile He closed the car door and come back to the collective zone.

Huyen received a message from a workmate which reminder Huyen back to her uncle’s house cause of important job. On Sunday morning, she wore black silk pants and a lotus leaf collared shirt and cycled to her uncle’s house in Hon Gai at nine o’clock in the morning. Huyen’s uncle and aunt are warm, Huyen let’s come here to help us to cook at home with guests.

-What are the kind of guest?

– The Guest is important to your future, no one else.

– What future!

– Why, well, do you want to patch the road until the rest of your life?

Huyen went to the kitchen to help her aunt prepare a meal and she whispered: Your uncle knows a man who works in the department of organization and personnel in mining coal, handsome and unmarried, ask him to transfer you to work indirectly and if he agrees, let you get married. Don’t worry about each other.

I don’t know how people does to agree.

– Oh, just meet and like him right away.

Just then, the voice of his uncle, oh dear Duong, invited him into the house to drink a cup of tea. Huyen, bring for me a thermos of water.

– Yes, come up now. Huyen take thermos went upstairs to see a man with a scholarly appearance, a white shirt, black pants, and shiny black shoes.

-Yes, hello, Huyen stammered, four eyes met each other.

-Introducing to Mr. Duong, this is my granddaughter Huyen, working as a road repair worker. And this is Mr. Duong, an officer in the department of organization and personnel of mining. I can only count on you helping me to take her work indirectly.

Duong was stunned by the girl’s natural beauty without makeup, his mouth was open and looking at Huyen without blinking, Huyen turned to the kitchen, he kept watching.

-Behold, invite you to drink a cup of tea, Uncle Huyen took a cup and gave it to him, he woke up.

-Yes, thank you, I will take care of my sister Huyen’s work, I will choose some girls to go to nursing classes in the near future. If you agree that I will take care her going to medicine school and going to work at the mining’s clinic, and then I will calculate.

Well, that’s great, thank you, she’s still young and naive, but she’s pretty and obedient. He glanced at him with a smirk, he knew he was already in love with his granddaughter.

Huyen has decision to go to a nursing class quickly and did not have time to say goodbye to anyone in the morning, having decision in the morning and gathered in the afternoon, at that time Tam was working…

After graduating from nursing school, Huyen returned to the mining’s clinic to work, with a white blouse and white hat she was like a pure swan amidst the chaos of black coal, Tam knew but looked at that purity, then looked down at her hands. Also sticky with coal dust and grease, guilt grew in his heart and there was no reason to be sick to visit Huyen, having a reputation for being close to each other but the distance was getting farther and farther away.

In the last months of the year, the emulation movement of the mining and the coal industry to fly a kite, people propagated and encouraged the production of the mine’s 700,000 ton of coal, the whole mine enthusiastic in that movement.

Tam still persisted to increase the number of good carrying trips so that no one could believe that, the next shift is higher than the previous one, the first shift was done for two weeks in a row, the red flowers people put on his chest more and more, he became an excellent, advanced individual. Tam’s face become darker and beard is growing, the director, secretary, and president of the trade union come to every warehouse to take Tam as a model.

When the 700,000th ton of coal was completed, the next day everybody saw Tam’s car parking on the side of the road for too long. When getting in the car, Tam lying on the steering wheel as hot as a charcoal, feverish. Everyone took Tam to the infirmary.

How long has not been met Tam, today meeting him again in this situation which makes Huyen extremely sad. She took care of Tam carefully wiping each oil and coal stain on his firm face, but she saw that Duong’s pale face was less and less wobbly in her. From the day she took Huyen to nursery school and then returned to the dispensary to work, Duong took care of and managed Huyen very closely. Partly her gratitude to Duong however her heart did not vibrate, every night the smell of sweat and the taste of the first kiss on Tam’s cheek still surged intensely.

Passing through the window of the infirmary’s room, Duong glanced in and saw Huyen sitting by the bed holding Tam’s hand and caressing it with a loving gesture, Duong stretched his lips as in smiling and walked straight.

At the end of the year, Tam was elected as the emulative soldier of the mining, the pride, honor and eager of standing on the podium to receive the emulation soldier’s certificate and the flower from the mine manager. He had to bend over to put the flower on Tam’s chest on a white shirt, Tam stood out on the podium, making many girls covet, Huyen was agitated, she glanced at Duong to see Duong’s face full of jealousy.

The war spread, the coal industry manufacturing sector shrank.

General mobilization order announced. Tam was on the enlistment list of the coal army.

– The country is in danger, the President ordered a general mobilization, at this time the army needs typical, excellent individuals, emulative soldiers, we will choose for the army excellent people and drivers brave enough to pass Annamite range.

Duong’s voice melodious, the applause was thunderous…

After dinner party to tomorrow morning the group depart.

Huyen went to Tam and put a piece of paper in Tam’s hand. After the party was over, I’ll see you. Then she quickly turned away.

After a lot of congratulation, it was time to disperse for everyone, enlisted brothers gathered five to three to talk and talk loudly, Tam looked around but he did not see Huyen, he slipped out into the yard and disappeared in night. Huyen is waiting for Tam there!

– Your appointment, what’s something the matter? Tam asked. Huyen is a little sad,

– You are so stupid – she took Tam’s hand – You’ll go tomorrow and bomb like this, when we will meet again.

– I will be fine, I will come back to you, set your mind at rest.

Huyen held Tam’s hand, big and strong hand, she placed it on her cheek, as if there was an electric current in his whole body. Tam constricted he seem infatuated, and then instinctively aroused he reached out and stroked Huyen’s cheek, just the moonlight came out of the clouds in time, whole Huyen’s face was full of moonlight, Huyen leaned his head against Tam’s solid chest, two warm soft udder pressed under Tam’s chest, making him feel like he was asphyxiate, choking. Taking a risk Tam bent down to kiss on the cheek and reached for Huyen’s lips, both of them fell asleep, and then Huyen reached out to unbutton her bra to reveal her full white breasts that were full of lust under the moon, her heavy breathing was urgent. : I’ve loved you for a long time but you don’t know anything. You are going tomorrow, I’ll devote for you. Please remember me.

Tam’s hand placed on her full chest, the two rushed into each other, a new feeling came to both of them, and they were entangled in each other as if they couldn’t go.

When the rooster crows in the morning, they left in nostalgia, Huyen attaches a deep kiss to Tam’s lips and whispers: I will wait for you to come back…

Tam went into the battle with excitement with Huyen’s image. Which like a drunken drug, stimulating Tam and the coal army in the battles…

The South was liberated, the coal corps lost too much during the war. A few people who returned to the mines. Many people said that Tam make sacrificed for the fatherland, unable to return to Tam’s hometown to learn about the fact, Huyen silently endured and thought that Tam is dead. Duong pursue drastically and finally Huyen get married with him as a fate.

The Tam’s leader saw Tam’s qualities, he decided to send him to study officer which help him work permanent in the army. After graduate, Tam was assigned to work in the south. There were also a few times going to the North to finish work in a hurry. The traveling conditions were difficult, so that intention to return to visit the mine, visit Huyen again. Through a Tam’s friend. He understood her torments of waiting for, knowing that Huyen was married to Duong, they had two daughters together. Duong is now a big leader of the coal industry, working in Hanoi, and her two daughters go to study abroad, for the reason had a son to maintain the continuity of a family line. They divorced.

Tam spends many years in Cambodia’s fighting which kept dragging his youth forever.

Huyen is still working at the mining coal, where having fond of her sweet memories in early life. Where the smell sweat and magnolia coco has followed her during more than half of her life…

“I will wait for you to come back” that sentence still resounded in Tam’s mind. The cigarette burned so close to his hand that Tam startled woke up.

Yes, Huyen is still here, but everything is different from past, whether rouse Huyen from her quiet life, Tam comes here in the right magnolia coco season but there are not trees anymore, everything has changed. The mountains have to displace, the sea is still fill up, and the romantic past has receded, now it’s the busy life of a new era, so why dig up the past.

Only the vast space with a faint smell of magnolia coco’s flowers, the scent of a girl, and the passionate smell of sweat still seems float in the air to remain unchanged.






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