As a service to our readers, Khmer Times is pleased to publish the full version of Ek Tha’s latest book Long Love, Short Life. The book is published in sections every Friday. Below is the fifteenth portion of the series. Last week, Duongchan told Dara how and why he stole Mr 7 January’s rifle. This week, Dara drinks a bit too much palm juice as he walks with Duongchan.
Check out the Thirteenth portion here:
But when they get closer to the old lady, Duongchan laughed at Dara given the old lady’s left cheek had a mark of her wound from shrapnel when she was caught in the middle of a gun battle between the communist Khmer Rouge and the pro-American Khmer Republic led by Lon Nol. Dara was mum as his girlfriend looked at him, saying: “Do I end your answer now?”
They both spent about an hour talking and helping the old lady, in her 50s, to get her rice spread in the open space.
They moved on. Dara drove, and instead of going to the national route, entered into another village and parked his scooter under the tree and walked across three rice fields to buy the palm juice from a local who sold him at a cheap price since they were his first customers.
The palm juice collector told them to stay away from this village after dark as Khmer Rouge will patrol the area. The man had not yet finished his talk when Dara interrupted and replied sarcastically, “No problem, I can handle it.”
“What do you mean by that?” the man asked.
“I have a gun,” Dara pointed to his gun hanging on his scooter. Duongchan tugged his sleeve and whispered, “Do not talk nonsense Dara, since we do not know who is who.”
The muscled man, in his 30s, who climbs the palm trees up and down more than 10 times a day, told them, “please, drink the juice faster because I have to climb other trees over there.” Dara poured the remains of juice and spilled on his shirt down to his trousers like leaking urine, attracting bees and flies to follow him.
“Why do you like so much palm juice? You drank and drank one before at school after military training… now you did again… can you drive?” she asked.
“Of course, not drunk, but I feel pain in my stomach given my stomach is full of palm juice… so let us walk slowly… and drive slowly as much as we can… ok?” Dara slowly with both hands holding his belly from shaking as he walked arduously in the fields.
“I ask you to please not drink too much next time as it hurts you… is that ok? I drink too but not much as you did.”
Dara replied, “… because you are the girl and I am the guy, that is the difference in drinking the juice.”
“Ah, after two bottles of palm juice, now your endless answers return. Did you smell the bottle made of bamboo? It smelled smoky, I think it is from the man smoking tobacco, don’t you?” Duongchan asked.
Dara smiled, “I smelt nothing. You can tell I smiled after swallowing the juice. You did not see that?”
It took them about half an hour as Dara tried to slow down as he needed to talk with his girlfriend as much as he could. It was now almost lunch time, Dara still drove slowly from one village to another, one after another.
Not long after, his happy time turned horrible. He got a flat tyre and he could not find a repairman. Now Dara had to walk his scooter all the way across the three villages and heading to national route 2. Duongchan could not stop laughing, saying “had I cycled, I would have been home a long time ago.”
“Yes, you are right. You would have been home as you said, but you would not have had side trips as much as we do today and you would not have had a good time by touring the villages from one to another and much more than that, we have had a great time of drinking juice,” said Dara who was sweating and turned back to see Duongchan walking behind and carrying his gun like a Viet Cong’s female soldier leaving the battle field.
“If I had camera, I cannot wait to shoot your picture and you will only see the picture of you today which will be gold treasure in the future. As my mom told me, some old stuff will be gold in the future. But at the same time, my dad told me, some old stuff can bring you to jail. Remember my dad was jailed and grilled by the Vietnamese authorities who suspected him of working for the CIA after they found some old documents he carried with him from his work’s records in the 1970s from Cambodia,” Dara said.
After nearly two-hour walking, they found a sleepy and drunk scooter repairer sleeping in his hammock under two trees where he tied hammock strings from one end to another tree. Dara woke him up by shaking the hammock. The repairer slowly opened his eyes and Dara saw his eyeballs were red and he was sure that the man was so drunk by the power of palm juice worse than he was before.
The repairer, in his 40s, said in slow motion with his eyes closed, “I am quite dizzy now so I cannot do it. I tried to get up before you arrived, but I saw the earth turned upside-down like I was on another planet.”
Dara was tired and sat leaning onto the trunk of the tree while Duongchan looked at him and joked, “it is not bad at all. The young drunk man who is you is now witnessing the older drunk man who is the repairer in the hammock. This is the power of palm juice.”
“Please stop talking nonsense… I need a bit of rest to recharge my batteries,” Dara pleaded with her.
It was now almost 4pm. Luckily, Duongchan saw from a distance a Vietnamese military truck which had broken down about 50 meters away. She woke up Dara to go and talk with the Vietnamese troops. Dara woke up, got up, and walked slowly as if he was a zombie. Once he reached there, he did his best to speak in Vietnamese and told the troops that he spent his childhood in Vietnam, making the soldiers have sympathy and help him to fix his scooter.
The views and expressions in the said novel Long Love, Short Life are entirely a work of fiction, and it is the personal work of the author.